February 02, 2008


After rereading SCALPED #1-6, a few more thoughts struck me.

On the positive side

  • The basic setup is sound. Lincoln Red Crow and Gina Bad Horse were two of the three Indians in a Leonard Peltier-style shootout. Two FBI agents were killed and the third Indian went to jail for a crime he didn't commit. Now an FBI agent who lived through the tragedy has sent Gina's son Dashiell into the rez undercover. His goal: to bring Red Crow to justice for the murder he presumably committed.

  • If you ignore the stereotypical depiction of Indians, SCALPED is a fine gangster drama. It's full of the moody style and energy you'd expect to see in, say, a Scorsese movie. True, it's not as deep as The Sopranos, but what gangster drama is?

  • A mysterious figure named Catcher (Dream Catcher? Soul Catcher?) adds a bit of a supernatural element. He may be the embodiment of Iktomi the spider trickster.

  • On the negative side

  • With a few changes, the characters could be Italian, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Colombian, or any other nationality with a criminal underground. SCALPED isn't telling us anything about Indians except they speak a few words of Lakota when they're angry.

  • Several times Red Crow or someone else refers to the Indians as "Oglala Lakota." I guess writer Jason Aaron thinks this is a generic Native term for "Sioux." Actually, the Oglala are a specific group of Sioux--the ones who live on the Pine Ridge reservation. So Aaron has tacitly admitted that Prairie Rose is Pine Ridge--that he's fictionalizing a real reservation.

  • Not only is the casino's "Crazy Horse" name offensive, but the comic depicts go-go girls wearing feathered bonnets and g-strings and dealers wearing feathered headbands. Both concepts are flatly ridiculous. They never have occurred or would occur at any of the nation's 220-plus Indian casinos.

  • One big reason the Lakota nations are still poor is because they're too far from any population center to sustain a major casino. Therefore, one of SCALPED's basic plotlines--the opening of a major casino--could never happen.

  • SCALPED's Indians routinely call each other "buck," "prairie nigger," "half-breed," "redskin," "injun," "chief," "Cochise," and "Sambo." If you've lived on a reservation, you tell me: how often do you hear one Indian calling another Indian these names?

  • There's a second-level problem with things like the "Crazy Horse" name, the dancers in feathered bonnets, and the vulgar epithets. No one in the comic ever protests them. The implication is that the Lakota people accept the degradation of their culture because they themselves are degraded. They're so mired in crime, violence, and corruption that they think nothing of these ongoing offenses.


    SCALPED apparently is getting a lot of praise these days. For instance, my local comic shop named it one of the best series of the year. I can sort of see why. If you know little or nothing about Indians, you might think, "Wow, this is a great drama and a powerful indictment of the reservation system."

    These days most comics aren't worth the steep price of admission, in my opinion. SCALPED isn't the exception to this rule. But people should take advantage of Aaron's money-back guarantee and check it out. If you can't get enough of the nonstop violence in books such as PUNISHER or PREACHER, this comic may be for you.

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