October 07, 2007

Ripping into Ripclaw

RipclawRipclaw is a cybernetically-enhanced mutant, with the power to assume animalistic attributes. After his hands were lost and Cyberdata gave him cybernetic replacements, Ripclaw found that he could also control the metallic hands to form claws as his original hands had done. He can also get psychic impressions from what he considers the spirits, such as impressions from a murder weapon, or the coming of evil.His origin:Not much is known concerning Ripclaw's past. Many people believe that he is with the Apache tribe. Although it is true that he spent much of his youth with the Apache, it is also true that he spent just as much, if not more time, with the Cheyenne. He has also lived among the Navajo and the Lakota Sioux. He is in fact descended from a primitive woodland tribe that lived thousands of years ago in what is now the Northeastern United States. He left home after he began to develop his mutation, and injured a fellow student during a martial arts training session. Ripclaw questioned his father over his hands, and his father became evasive, and became enraged when Ripclaw pressed on with his questions, asking his father about why his skin was much paler than that of other students. He left home, seeking answers, and ended up on an American Indian reservation, where he stumbled into a fight and was knocked unconscious. He was found by a powerful shaman, who taught him about his ancestors. They went through a ceremony where Ripclaw experienced a joining and conversing with the spirits of his ancestors and the spirits of the land, who told him that he was Robert Bearclaw, and not Robert Berresford, as his father had always told him. The spirits told him that he was to be their warrior and that he was to lead the Indian People back to the greatness of spirit that they once had. When he finished the ceremony, involving tribal flesh hooks and war paint, the shaman marked him with his blood, and this became the red markings over his skin, reminding him always of the pain and truth of the ceremony that he had been through. He was raised primarily by the shaman after that, who taught him how to use his special talents.Comment:  So Ripclaw's creators didn't care enough to give him any specific tribal heritage or beliefs. Basically, He's a Wolverine clone with a generic Indian origin. In other words, a modern-day savage--the oldest and stupidest of Indian clichés.

If there's an explanation for Ripclaw's pseudo-albino coloring, I don't know what it is. Maybe he's really supposed to be an albino, which does occur occasionally in Native populations. Or maybe the creators thought his white skin was more marketable than brown skin.

Until recently I'd read only RIPCLAW #1 from the 1995 Image series. It was a typical Image comic, which means it was a confusing mess. A triumph of style over substance. Except for a brief scene of Bearclaw as a college instructor, it had no Native content and no redeeming value.

Let's see:  Image was a major publisher at the time. I think it's fair to say Ripclaw is the worst Native superhero from a major publisher in the last 20 years. This character makes heroes such as Super-Chief and Black Condor seem like gems of depth and originality.

Pictured below:  Ripclaw smash! No, wait, that's the Hulk. Ripclaw slash! No, that's Wolverine. Ripclaw scratch?

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