Teaching Through Time Travel
- Indian Comics Irregular #128
A noteworthy Indian comic book debuted earlier this year. As the
publisher explains on its website:
Layne Morgan Media is proud to present our four-issue series of
illustrated youth educational literature created for the Chickasaw
Nation, CHICKASAW ADVENTURES. The Chickasaws have chosen this
exciting tool to educate both the Chickasaw youth and the greater
American youth on its invaluable history, tradition, and culture.
Readers of all ages will be turning the pages following the
adventures of Johnny, a modern young Chickasaw boy, as he travels
through time learning about the history of his ancestors.
By touching magic talismans, the jaded Johnny goes back in time to
key moments in Chickasaw history: the conflict with Hernando de Soto
in 1541, the Battle of Akia in 1736, the Trail of Tears in 1837, and
the land allotment issue of 1906.
The best part of the series is seeing these historical moments in
living color. As far as I know, the Chickasaw people have never appeared in comics before. Writer Jen Murvin Edwards and artist Tom Lyle must have done a lot of research, because the cultural details--names, clothing, buildings--look and feel authentic. Lyle, who previously drew Spider-Man and Robin, renders everything with respect.
Unfortunately, the series has too many problems to recommend it
wholeheartedly. Among them:
The ignorant modern youth and the wise old grandfather are staples,
even clichÃ©s, of Indian comics.
Johnny experiences no real sense of dislocation when he arrives in a
new era. He wonders where he is...a sibling tells him to quit acting
crazy...and that's about it.
The fights in the first two issues seem perfunctory. Both sides boast of their superiority, but the Chickasaws triumph in a panel or two, with no one getting hurt or killed.
Only once, in the third issue, does Johnny use his future
knowledge--and then only to tell a land agent the Chickasaws can grow
their own food. Since the agent already knows this, the effort is
The fourth issue deals unsuccessfully with land allotment. This isn't
an easy subject to fictionalize--and the comics prove it. The
governor is evenhanded to a fault, describing allotment as "a tough
question" and "a complex matter." The only drama occurs when Johnny
meets his ancestors in the flesh.
Perhaps worst of all, the stories hammer home the theme of the
Chickasaws' indomitable nature. "Unconquered and unconquerable,"
people keep saying, as if that's a natural line of dialog. "The
Chickasaws are an amazing example of pride, courage, and stamina,"
adds a text page. This isn't entertainment, it's pro-Chickasaw
At the end, Johnny has learned his lesson: to remember who he is and
where he comes from. The reader has learned another lesson: to beware of comics that try to uplift people. They're likely to be dull and unappealing.
As noted above, Layne Morgan calls these comics "educational literature" and a "tool"--but that isn't necessarily a selling point. Readers may turn the pages once, but I doubt they'll read these stories over and over. And I doubt they'll share them with others.
Rob's rating of CHICKASAW ADVENTURES: 6.5 of 10. For more
information, go to the Layne Morgan site at http://www.laynemorgan.com .
Speaking of propaganda, someone recently labeled PEACE PARTY
"politically correct." Not quite. You can see how I set him straight at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/reviews1.htm .
Blue Corn Comics