June 16, 2008


A blogger named Johnny Bacardi reviews TIMESPIRITS, a 1984-85 comic book about a soul-searching Tuscarora time traveler:

Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby--Day ThirteenTimespirits was one of several new titles that Marvel released as part of its Epic line in the mid-1980’s, sharing this honor with such excellent series as Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta’s Starstruck and J.M. DeMatteis and John Jay Muth’s Moonshadow. It was co-created by scripter Steven Perry (no, not that Steve Perry) and illustrated by Tom Yeates, fresh from his stint on Swamp Thing pre-Alan Moore. It was certainly one of the best and most sympathetic treatments of Native American characters in comics up to that point. Difficult to sum up in a nutshell, it was an imaginative, quirky, warm and winning blend of religion, Native American legend, science fiction and high fantasy which never took itself too seriously and is sorely missed, at least by me.

At its basic level, it’s about the time-traveling adventures of Cusick of the Tuscarora, an aged Native American “Time Spirit”, sporting a fedora, backpack, hiking boots and Sgt. Pepper jacket who functions like an extradimensional Monty Hall–-he trades strange and powerful items for souls, which he collects in a turtle shell until he can release them into the afterlife. It is in the course of one of these transactions, in issue #1, that he meets teenage Doot of the Wawenoc tribe in the early days of the pre-Revolutionary War American colonies.
Comment:  TIMESPIRITS was definitely a step up and beyond the usual Native-themed comic book. There were no brawny warriors or sexy maidens. The shaman-like Cusick was more of a trickster than a wise elder. The featured tribe was the East Coast Tuscarora rather than the Lakota or Apache--perhaps the only time the Tuscarora have starred in a comic book.

This was the era when Native-themed comics such as COYOTE, ARAK, and SCOUT began to present Indian characters as individuals rather than types. But TIMESPIRITS created a whole universe that was as unique as an individual. Even today, only a few comics have presented such a rich "Indian" vision.

It's been a while since I read TIMESPIRITS. I don't recall if the series was "warm and winning." Maybe so. But it was definitely quirky.

TIMESPIRITS was charming enough to coax me to buy three issues. At that point, my frustration at the "anything goes" fantasy outweighed my curiosity to see what happened next. I gave it up as an interesting but unsuccessful attempt at Native storytelling.

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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