Beyond the Panel: An interview with Arigon Starr of Super Indian, Part One
AS: I grew up on comics and by the time I was old enough to hold a crayon, I was drawing them. When I say “comics” I mean the Sunday funnies, “Archie,” “Mad,” “Creepy” and “Eerie,” plus the worlds of DC and Marvel. Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Dave Gibbons, Neal Adams, John Byrne, Berni Wrightson, and Mort Drucker are some of my all-time favorite artists and gave me lots of inspiration.
RMJ: What drew you to the superhero genre?
AS: The thing I love about superhero stories is someone normal transforming into the extraordinary. How would Wolverine or Wonder Woman be different if they came from an Indian nation? The superhero genre lets you explore the fantastical and have fun while you’re doing it.
RMJ: Technology and nerd culture is a big part of Super Indian what with Tillie's tech geeking, Hubert's blog, Uncle Chester's radio show, the Leaning Oak fan girl club, and the regular Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica references.
AS: I really wanted to show folks this side of Native America. I know I’m not the only Native American who’s attended a comic convention, watched every Battlestar Galactica episode, or debates the worthiness of the Chakotay character on Star Trek: Voyager. Geek culture is alive and well in Indian Country!
RMJ: What would you like people to learn about Native American culture from Super Indian?
AS: I want people to know that Native people exist and thrive in the contemporary world. Generally, Native folks are stuck in amber, always on horseback wearing leather and feathers. Often, we’re depicted as magical shamans or hyper-alert scouts. Even comics like “Scalped” have us looking like rejects from The Sopranos. We’re more than that.
AS: As with a lot of enduring projects in my life, it all started as something that made me laugh. The characters were there from the start—a buffed-out Native American super-hero with a goofy, butterball sidekick and a broken down car.
RMJ: The webcomic community tends towards being overwhelmingly white and male. How do you experience being Native and a woman in an industry that can be racist and sexist?
AS: Right now, I’m invisible. However, that’s partly by choice. It’s taken a long time to get to the point where I feel like “Super Indian” is worthy of a significant promotional push. Now that I’ve got almost a year’s worth of work online, I’m feeling better about it.
RMJ: You’ve got an impressive career that stretches over several media—comics, film, television, and music. Can you tell us a little about your current projects outside of Super Indian?
AS: “Super Indian” has taken priority in my career at the moment. However, I’m working on a new play and still doing gigs around the country. I’ll be heading up to Nez Perce country soon to perform at Lewis & Clark College and work with some of their community on producing new radio/audio theater plays. I’m also collaborating with one of my favorite writers Robert J. Conley on a couple of projects.
For more on Arigon Starr, see SUPER INDIAN Webcomic and Frybread Queen at University of Montana.
Below: Arigon's self-portrait.