August 18, 2012

Julie Jennings reviews TEX WILLER

As longtime readers may recall, I looked at TEX WINTER, the Italian comic book about the Old West, a few years ago. Here are my postings on it:

Analysis of TEX WILLER
Best friends in TEX WILLER
The TEX WILLER comics

Now Julie Jennings, a Native colleague who lives in Italy, has reviewed them. Her comments are similar to mine:

How I Came to Know Tex Willer, Italian Comic Book Hero of the Old American West

By Julianne JenningsI was first introduced to Tex Willer while attending a pow wow in Italy; yes Italy—where Indians are served cheese lasagna and vino as opposed to frybread and lemonade for their participation after a days-worth of dancing and drumming. Dinner conversations varied depending on with whom and where you sat. Mine was with an Italian gentleman by the name of Domenico, who happened to be a Tex Willer enthusiast. “I started reading and collecting Tex in 1950, he says.” I asked, “Who is Tex?” He explains, “It’s a monthly comic book series of Western stories that give Italians an opportunity to experience the American frontier (with action taking place primarily in Arizona), and one of the few publications to showcase Indian people in a more favorable light at that time.”

Claudia Haddad (Mi’kmaq) has a different perspective. She says, “Tex offers an unreal prejudicial belief of white superiority by race and gender through cartoon illustration of militant devotion and glorification of colonization, and fanatical patriotism. It’s all about them and not about us!”
And:Indians are portrayed wearing buckskin, feathers and beads among the colorfully illustrated, 200 page gag cartoon, emphasizing positive and negative aspects of their culture. The writers also attempt to incorporate, what they believe, exists a singular “Indian language” using words like, “how” and “ugh,” supplemented by hand signs, or smoke signals, just like our ancestors did many moons ago. In reality however, there are hundreds of Native languages and dialects in North America—a degree of linguistic diversity much greater than Europe, and comparable to all of Eurasia. American authorities, like the US Army, politicians, business-men, sheriffs or the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are also woven neatly into this comic book classic.

Tex had a son, named Kit Willer (who would become a ranger too), by a woman, named Lilith, the daughter of a Navajo Chief (she would later die of smallpox). Later, Tex himself went on to become the Chief of the Navajo tribe, known as Eagle of the Night. By using the character name Lilith the author is perpetuating an unproven Christian myth of Adam’s first wife (also named Lilith), who was put away for flagrant adultery, thus implying the Chief’s daughter was also an adulteress, and by extension, all Indian women.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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