April 26, 2007

New York Daily News on SCALPED

'Scalped's' Jason Aaron wrote his own ticket into comic books"Like all great crime fiction, the characters you love have some pretty unredeeming qualities and you can't completely write off the characters you hate because they sometimes surprise you with a bit of kindness or nobleness," says Dave Richards, news editor at comicbookresources.com, via email.Comment:  Right. We can't completely write off SCALPED's characters because they're so negative, according to Richards, but we can almost completely write them off. However, creating characters you can mostly dismiss as too negative and stereotypical is an odd goal for a writer.
Even though Aaron has never set foot on a real reservation--and artist R.M. Guera lives in Spain--he pored over every scrap of research material he could find. Most of the email he receives from native readers has been positive, but there has been some criticism, the most vocal from non-native writer Rob Schmidt, who publishes his own line of native-themed comic books. Schmidt accuses the series of being an "ultra-negative" portrayal of life on a reservation.Comment:  I'd love to see Aaron's reading list for SCALPED. The author of this piece accepted Aaron's assertion about his research uncritically. Aaron could've found dozens of books on the Lakota in most libraries or bookstores, but I'm betting he didn't read more than a handful.

I say this because I've read dozens of books and hundreds of newspapers about Indians over a period of two decades, and visited dozens of reservations. Yet I feel I barely know enough to write about Indians authentically. Aaron hasn't been working on SCALPED long enough to do that kind of research, and it shows."There are a lot of people who are just excited to see their neighborhood in a comic book, which is a setting that's been ignored," says Aaron. He received an email from a "guy who grew up on the Rosebud reservation who's a rap artist who sent me his CD.

"He was hoping we could put him in the book and kill him off," says Aaron, laughing.
Comment:  This reflects what I said in response to Aaron's previous comments. Namely, that there's a difference between Natives who are glad to see themselves in a comic and Natives who think SCALPED is an accurate portrayal of rez life. The "guy" Aaron cites seems to fall into the former category.
"I think it just flows down to creating well-rounded characters, no matter what race or country they hail from," says Aaron. "If you just create a character with depth and background, you can get into the character ... as long as you understand the setting and cultural heritage."Comment:  When Aaron creates such well-rounded characters, I'll be the first to praise him for it. Most of his characters have "some pretty unredeeming qualities" with only "a bit of kindness or nobleness," which isn't well-rounded.

To preempt Aaron's possible comeback, I suggest you read my positive review of Oni Press's SKINWALKER. Set on a modern-day rez, this crime series is an example of how to do such series right. It's proof that I'm not biased against all crime stories, but only stereotypical ones.

On the other hand, I congratulate Aaron for his meteoric rise to success. I'm glad he chose to do a series on today's Indians and give them some exposure. It's let us talk about what's good and bad in Indian comics.

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