Aaron Looks Back on "Scalped"
By Dave Richards
Jason Aaron: It was definitely before "Scalped." It's something I've been interested in since I was a kid, really. I don't know what sparked it or where it came from. It's just something that I've been interested in off and on since I was little.
When you first started developing the title, it wasn't originally going to be creator-owned. Instead, it was going to be something similar to "The Losers," which took an existing DC Comics property and re-imagined it with a Vertigo sensibility.
Yeah, it was originally going to be a modern day update of the old DC western hero Scalphunter. I think the original idea was that we were going to have a story taking place in the present day and another story taking place in the past that actually involved the original Scalphunter. I don't have any idea how I was planning on connecting those two tales. When my editor Will Dennis and I started talking, we decided to scrap the Wild West stuff and focus on the modern day story revolving around a casino.
"Scalped" is set "now," but a lot of the action has ties to events in the past. One particularly important event in the series is the murder of two FBI agents in 1975. Now, real life Native American activist Leonard Peltier was arrested for the murder of two FBI agents in 1975--was Peltier's story an influence on "Scalped?"
Yeah most definitely. Peltier's story and the whole story of the American Indian movement of the 1970s had a big influence on "Scalped." For a while, Peltier was in prison right down the street from me in Leavenworth. He's since been transferred. I believe he's in Pennsylvania now.
So he's another aspect of more recent Native American history that I'd been interested in even before "Scalped." The book "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" is a great read that covers the whole stand-off at Wounded Knee and the troubles on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the '70s that lead up to the Leonard Peltier case.
What were some of the other inspirations for the series?
The series was partly inspired by Michael Mann's "Crime Story," which was a great TV show from the '80s about one cop chasing a hood on the rise. That was the original idea for "Scalped." We'd have one undercover FBI agent and follow his struggle to bring down a crime boss on the rise. Once I started working on it, it pretty quickly grew and became about this diverse cast of characters on the reservation.
That focus on crime, community and a large cast of characters has lead many people to describe "Scalped" as the HBO show "The Wire" on an Indian reservation. Was your work on "Scalped" influenced or inspired by "The Wire?"
I was probably just getting into "The Wire" right around the time "Scalped" was coming together, so that certainly had a profound influence on what I was doing.
"Deadwood," another HBO show, was also a big influence. I was already deep into the show at that point. The character of Al Swearengen was a model, in a lot of ways, for what I wanted to do with Red Crow in "Scalped."