Everyone is bad in SCALPED, but 90% of them are Indians. It's fundamentally false to portray a whole society as bad. The Sopranos didn't do that, and it's the gold standard Aaron is aiming for. Who says a noir comic can't portray a substantial number of people as decent and wholesome--like the friends and families of the Sopranos clan?
CRIMINAL and other comics may present white people as bad, but there are several hundred other comics to balance them out. To give the public a range of views of white folks. No one's looking at CRIMINAL rather than SUPERMAN, BATMAN, or SPIDER-MAN to understand whites.
There's no counterbalance in the market to SCALPED. It's the sole representation of Indians most comics readers will get. To me that implies a social or ethical burden to get it right, not to do what you please.
Otherwise, you're just doing what a thousand creators have done before you: stereotyping Indians as criminals, thugs, and lowlifes because you feel like it. Because savage Indians have sold ever since Wild West shows and Western movies became popular. Because you want to earn fame and fortune by exploiting people.
Let's reiterate this point. Aaron isn't just doing his own thing. Indians in outer space or in a life raft would be his own thing--a creative vision that was uniquely his own. In SCALPED he's doing the same old thing: portraying Indians as modern-day savages. As people wallowing in their own poverty, filth, and despair. That isn't new or creative, it's old and offensive.
Why SCALPED "works"
Take a step back and ask why Aaron set a noir comic on a crime-ridden reservation. And why this is getting praise rather than scorn from critics.
Would you buy a blood-drenched crime comic set in a quaint English village with tea cozies? At a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas? At the Strawberry Fields Forever daycare center? I'm guessing not.
But you have little or no problem believing in crime and corruption on the rez. Why is that? Because you associate Indians (like Italians before them) with crime and corruption. Because this feels natural and "right" to you and other readers.
To sum it up, Aaron is using negative stereotypes, you're buying them, and you're perpetuating them by praising SCALPED. Do you disagree? Because I don't see any way around this point.
You mentioned other minorities. I suspect any comic that portrayed 90% of blacks, Latinos, or Asians as miscreants would get the same criticism. And rightly so. The only comic that wouldn't deserve this criticism is a white noir comic like CRIMINAL. Again, because there are alternatives to it but not to black, Latino, or Asian noir comics.
Rights and wrongs
Whether he intends to or not, Aaron is helping to shape the public's perception of Indians. He'll do more if SCALPED becomes a TV show. He can take responsibility for this or he can deny it, but he's still doing it.
To me that's the issue here. Not his freedom to do whatever he wants, but the effects of that freedom on others. Not his rights, but his responsibilities.
I'm sure the makers of minstrel shows, Birth of a Nation, and old Westerns said they were pursuing their artistic vision too. Does that mean it was okay for them to stereotype blacks and Indians? Most people today would say no. These things were perfectly legal, but they weren't right.
If you ask me, the right to be free of racism and stereotyping is just as important as the right to express oneself. That's why we criticize things even when they're legal, widespread, even "traditional." So school X has the right to choose an Indian mascot. Band Y has the right to dress up as Indians and dance. Store Z has the right to sell "drunk Indian" t-shirts. And we have the right to say these things are wrong.
For more on the subject, see "Cool" Moments in SCALPED and SCALPED = Comic of the Year? For more on the subject in general, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.
Below: A fairly standard scene in a SCALPED comic: whores, a gunman, and dead bodies in a pool of blood.