SCALPED and the Savage Trend
- Indian Comics Irregular #162
Just when you thought it was safe to read Native comic books, the murderous Indian savage is back. Suddenly we're seeing protagonists who resemble Magua or Injun Joe--who carve up their opponents as if they were so many Thanksgiving turkeys. These killers are no better than what George Washington called Indians in 1783: "beasts of prey."
One example of this surfeit of violence is last year's notorious SCALPED (ICI #150). SCALPED isn't a slasher comic, but it's raw enough to fit the trend. The first issue featured a scalping victim lying in the blood seeping from his own skull.
SCALPED is also relevant because writer Jason Aaron has reimagined another Indian character: Ripclaw, an Image hero from the 1990s.
Ripclaw is about what his name suggests: a Wolverine wannabe who rips and claws his foes. But in RIPCLAW PILOT SEASON #1, Aaron has taken the concept to a new level. Now Ripclaw piles up more bodies than a morgue attendant.
No doubt Aaron was encouraged by all the praise he's received from readers who don't know or care if he stereotypes Indians. Here's what I wrote about his over-the-top portrayal:
Aaron's Ripclaw is nothing more than your typical killing machine,
the kind of "hero" we've seen a dozen times before. What we
haven't seen is the explicit violence: decapitations,
dismemberments, bodies slashed open to the bone, fountains and
rivers of blood, etc. If this were a movie, it probably would be
rated NC-17. It's quite possibly the most violent comic I've ever
Amazingly, an even nastier Native comic soon surpassed RIPCLAW: Jeffrey Nodelman's THE FOURTH HORSEMAN. Even horror fans couldn't stomach this loser. As one put it:
[T]he end result is something that's so far from good that it's
scary. Nodelman's introduction of the first Horseman of the
Apocalypse, the White Rider, is nothing more than seeing the
character rip and tear and cleave his way through everyone in his
Like Ripclaw, this Horseman is a generic Indian with no history or culture. His people live in stereotypical teepees. The woman of his tribe are slender, sexy babes. He collects the scalps of his victims and proudly displays them.
Indians who slaughter and scalp their enemies: just the kind of PR today's Native people need.
More Death-Dealing Indians
Even mainstream comic Indians have grown darker and deadlier. At Marvel, Thunderbird's brother Warpath has become a knife-wielding brute and Echo a sword-wielding ninja. At DC, the new Black Condor is a bad-ass and the new Super-Chief snuffed his grandfather--literally. Dynamite Entertainment's version of Tonto thinks nothing of killing people.
In JONAH HEX #23, a recent DC Western comic, the Indians are mostly--you guessed it--murderous savages. The following lines describe them:
Their leader was of truly daunting size, with a razor-sharp,
sinister face. ... [They raised] a howl as dreadful as if a
THOUSAND DEVILS had escaped Hell itself.
What are we to make of this trend? Are Indian "warriors" becoming more brutal to mirror our brutal invasion of Iraq? Are they getting this treatment because of jealousy over their casinos? I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine.
Looks like we need PEACE PARTY's nonviolent approach to problem-solving more than ever. Fortunately, it's on the way. Stay tuned.
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