April 18, 2014

Scalped in development for TV

WGN America Adapting DC Comics' 'Scalped' (Exclusive)

"Banshee's" Doug Jung will adapt the crime noir drama set on a Native American reservation.

By Lesley Goldberg
WGN America is looking to DC Comics' Vertigo imprint as it bolsters its development slate.

The cable network, which will bow its first original scripted series on Sunday, has put in development an adaptation of Scalped from DC Entertainment's Vertigo imprint, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Scapled is described as a crime noir set on a Native American reservation. Banshee's Doug Jung will pen the script and executive produce the Warner Horizon Television drama.

The book launched in 2007 as a monthly and ran for 60 issues, ending in 2012. Jason Aaron penned the comic, which was illustrated by R.M. Guera. The series focused on the Oglala Lakota inhabitants in the fictional Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in South Dakota as they grapple with organized crime, poverty, drug and alcohol addiction and local politics while trying to preserve their cultural identity. The plot was partially inspired by Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was arrested for gunning down two FBI agents on a reservation in 1975.

The Scalped series is highly regarded within the comics industry and a critical darling. It ranks as one of the longest-running series in comics history with a nonwhite protagonist and largely nonwhite cast. The series was named one of Comic Book Resources' Comics You Should Own and was "a deeply flawed masterpiece."
'Scalped' Comic Book Is Coming to TV; Native Actors Need ApplyScalped, a Vertigo (DC) comic book about crime on a fictional Indian reservation, will be made into a TV series, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter.

Scalped ran for 60 issues, from 2007 to 2012, and won praise from critics for its gritty portrayal of Native mob bosses and thugs, as well as characters trying to do the right thing in a world of poverty and addiction. And there was a lot of killing. A lot of blood. Scalped was often described as The Sopranos on the rez.

The question of whether Scalped was exploitative and harmful was raised from the get-go. (If you want to get a sense of the critical reaction from issue no. 1 and read some thoughts on what was wrong with Scalped, ICTMN contributor Rob Schmidt has a page at his Blue Corn Comics website on it.) Scalped's creators, writer Jason Aaron and artist R.M. Guera, aren't Natives, and whether the world they depicted ultimately treated Native people fairly in the course of their series is a topic for debate. What outrage there was over Scalped seems to have died down as the series gained momentum, winning a place on many critics' "Best of" lists year after year.
And:Filmmaker Steven Judd, Kiowa and Choctaw, tells ICTMN he is optimistic about a TV version of Scalped. "I remember reading that it was supposed to be like Sopranos set on the reservation," he says. "After I read the first issue, I thought Donnie Brasco set on a rez would have been a more accurate description. I felt the first issue alone would have made a really cool movie. I for one will watch this when it comes out. I'm sure there will be opportunity for our Native actors to get work on it; I only hope they hire some Natives for behind the camera on crew and above the line. It would be cool to see a Native director get an opportunity to helm an episode, my vote would go to Jeff Barnaby [of Rhymes for Young Ghouls], I think the aesthetics of this story fits nicely into his wheelhouse."

Casting will be key, as Scalped will be a chance for Native actors to see screen time on prime time TV. A 2012 blog post at iFanboy.com suggested Michael Spears as the main character Dashiell Bad Horse, and Graham Greene, Irene Bedard, Q'orianka Kilcher and Adam Beach in the other major Native roles.

Some tweets following this article:

ICTMN Arts ‏@ICTMN_Arts Apr 17
"Scalped" series should put several Native actors in prime time. Who would you cast? http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/04/17/scalped-comic-book-coming-tv-native-actors-need-apply-154489 … pic.twitter.com/nfgEIH01Jb

BlueCornComics ‏@bluecorncomics Apr 17
@ICTMN_Arts "Several" Native actors? "Scalped" should be almost completely Native a la "Blackstone." Hiring only a handful would be weak.

ICTMN Arts ‏@ICTMN_Arts Apr 17
@bluecorncomics not suggesting they would hire only a handful for whole show -- meant several native *lead* actors. Ah the haiku of twitter

BlueCornComics ‏@bluecorncomics Apr 17
@ICTMN_Arts I figured that's what you meant. But it's a key issue. They may hire 5-6 "name" Natives and the rest Latinos, Asians, wannabes.

BlueCornComics ‏@bluecorncomics Apr 17
@kjescalanti If they eliminate the ugly stereotypes and cast Native actors, the "Scalped" series could be good. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Talkin' about Scalped

A Native acquaintance posted on Facebook that she was investigating Scalped. This led to the following discussion:

By all accounts, it's quality writing. If you ignore the endemic crime and corruption on this reservation, that is, which exceeds anything in reality.

It should resemble Blackstone, except a couple of times more extreme. And I question whether any US network will use Native actors the way Canadian shows have done.What about the scantily clad women in headdresses?Are you looking at the first cover image, or what? The man in a headdress is supposed to be ironic. Like, this is what the Lakota used to be, but look at them now. They're mired in a morass of drugs, sex, and violence with only a few good people trying to set things right.

I suppose the series could turn out great. Or it could lead to a Johnny Depp-level of controversy and protests. Natives should be prepared to tackle this if it doesn't turn out right.

I believe it avoids most of the obvious stereotypes. The question is whether its "poverty porn" take on rez life is accurate.I've been talking to someone who's read it and he said there's women in bikinis with headdresses on. I'm obtaining copies. I don't currently know enough about it to judge either way.Oh. Well, I've read only the first volume and it was almost a decade ago. Yes, there may be a scene with drunken Native women--prostitutes or drug addicts--wearing headdresses at a party.

I'd say that's not representative of the whole series. The headdresses, that is, not the degraded Native women. And Jason Aaron the writer probably would say the headdresses were ironic, again. Much like the drunken white girls at Coachella who also claim to wear headdresses ironically.

I'd be fascinated to hear your take on the series after you read some of it. Many Natives have cheered it for its "realistic" take on rez life. I suspect they're cheering for the age-old reason of seeing themselves in the media, not because they've analyzed the stories' content.

Here's an academic discussion of Scalped. The first few paragraphs that mention Aaron and me are interesting, before it starts going into detail.

I've been one of the most vocal critics of Scalped, if not the most vocal. So you should take my comments with a grain of salt.

A typical (?) drunken party on the Prairie Rose rez:

We should get a campaign going to ensure Natives are involved in every stage of the production. Since the comics are almost 100% an inside view of rez life, and from an outsider.

Scalped vs. reality

The same woman posted another message relevant to Scalped:People say a lot of bad things about Indian country, especially non-Natives. They focus on the negative; and yes the issues we face are real and can seem overwhelming at times, but they aren't seeing the whole picture. Everyday I see thousands of intelligent, resilient, beautiful Native people who work hard to raise families, blaze new paths, and give back to their community. I see relatives who never surrender no matter the odds, and embody the strength of their ancestors by mobilizing to protect land and water. I see people learning their Native languages and teaching them, babies in regalia dancing and singing with the drum, and young people beating seemingly insurmountable odds to go off to college. I see single moms with more energy than I can fathom, and Native dads who are excellent fathers. Who tells their stories? We need to hear more about them. About you. Just so you know, I see you. Thank you for sharing your journey with me. I'm proud to know you. You renew my sense of hope. We're going to be just fine.Let us know how many of these people you find in the Scalped series. <grin>

Bottom line is I'm keeping a somewhat open mind. The show may be less stereotypical than the comics were.

In any case, people need to be aware of it no matter what. If it's headed in the wrong direction, the only way to stop or change it is to protest it now, before everything is set.

For more on Scalped, see "Native Spiritual Adviser" Warns Rob and Aaron on Ending Scalped.

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