By Spencer Ackerman
Aaron: It may have been that the Lakota were the tribe I knew the most about coming into the thing. I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the Plains Indians and the history of the American Indian Movement in the ’70s. Those were things I read about before I even had the idea of doing something like Scalped. The imagery of it, the history of it, it all seemed perfect for everything I wanted to do and it all clicked into place.
Wired: What was the research process for creating Prairie Rose?
Aaron: Just a lot of reading and talking to people. I’ve never been to Pine Ridge or Rosebud in South Dakota, which are obviously the reservations that inspired Prairie Rose. I have connections to people who do live on reservations. Like I said, it was something I had been fascinated by for a while. It wasn’t something I had to come to fresh and start reading about.
Once I had the idea for Scalped and continued reading and researching it, there were things that came out about it that I had no idea about before. The Shunka story [an account of Red Crow's underboss], where we find out he’s gay, part of that was the history of Two Spirits, this long history of gender and sex roles in Native American tribes, which was something I had no idea about before I started researching Scalped. I didn’t know that about Shunka when I started. That story, in another form, had been around for a long time and I almost did that story earlier in the run, but if I had done it then it would have been an entirely different story.
Wired: What feedback do you typically hear from Native Americans?
Aaron: I try not to let that influence my stories. That’s a dangerous rabbit hole to start going down—changing what you do in response to what you read on the internet. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Not everybody is a fan of the book, it’s not going to be to everybody’s taste—it’s a crime series where characters are morally ambiguous. I’ve never shied away from some things that are stereotypical, like having Indians who drink too much; the book has one of those. Certainly there are characters that are extremely violent. But I don’t think you can look at Scalped and say it’s a book that portrays Native Americans as savages.
Wired: Have you always known how the series would end?
Aaron: I didn’t know exactly when it would end, what issue we would end at. I knew pretty much exactly where the midpoint would be. Around issue No. 33, No. 34, we were halfway there. I had a huge document sketching out those first 30-something issues from the get-go. I put that together as I was working on the second arc.
Beyond that, yes, I knew what the ending point was, and how we would get there, although I didn’t always know how to get from No. 35 to No. 60. I knew where all the characters were heading. Now some of that changed a little bit. There are a couple of characters I realized I either didn’t want to die or wanted to die. A couple characters went in different directions than what I had envisioned. Certainly Red Crow’s ending changed. [His daughter] Carol gets an ending that people may be expecting now but back in that first trade paperback people probably didn’t expect. Dash’s ending has been the same the entire time, Dino’s ending has been the same the entire time, Catcher’s too. The main thrust of the ending has been clear before I put pen to paper on Issue 1.
For more on SCALPED, see Aaron Looks Back at SCALPED and SCALPED to End in 2012.
Below: Nice to see SCALPED ends with a cover that isn't as a stereotypical as the first cover was.