- Indian Comics Irregular #90
For the third time in a row, skinwalkers are in the news. First
there was the "Skinwalkers" PBS movie, then the SKINWALKER comic
book, and now an episode of "Smallville" titled "Skinwalkers."
The WB TV show "Smallville" relates the adventures of Clark Kent
(Superman) when he was a teen. The 11/26 episode featured a Native
storyline. A grandfather protested construction on a sacred site,
his granddaughter discovered underground paintings of a visitor
from the sky, and a human in wolf form (guess who?) terrorized the
Unfortunately, "Skinwalkers" was riddled with flaws and stereotypes.
Let's take a look:
The good: Seeing a Native theme on mainstream television is still a
rare treat. The sacred-site topic has been done often but is still
worth exploring. Joseph Willowbrook (Gordon Tootoosis) and Kyla
(Tamara Feldman) didn't have stereotypical names, speech patterns, or
The bad: Kyla was an exotic princess type a la Pocahontas. When
she wasn't imitating Lara Croft, she dressed in Indian chic: leather
accessories and silver turquoise jewelry. The whole
grandfather/grandchild relationship was a cliché. (Whatever
happened to middle-aged Indians?) Radioactive green meteorites
supposedly changed the Indians into shapeshifters centuries ago, but
Superman's planet Krypton, the source of the meteorites, exploded
only a decade ago. The idea of someone's turning into a white wolf,
complete with muted colors showing the animal's point of view, was a
direct steal from last season's "Wolf Lake."
The ugly: There's no such tribe as the Kawatche ("skinwalkers") in
Kansas. But there is the Kansa or Kaw tribe, whose name means "wind
people." So "Smallville" replaced the noble-sounding people of
the wind with the nasty-sounding skinwalkers.
That a Midwest tribe would call itself skinwalkers--after the evil
Navajo spirits found in the Southwest--strains credulity. Many
Natives consider them taboo and won't even mention them, much less
adopt their name. But "Smallville" showed no awareness that
skinwalkers are considered unholy figures.
To script and fiction writers, I suggest giving the skinwalker
concept a rest. Creators have used it so much it's becoming another
cliché. Find a fresh Indian legend to exploit--I mean use.
For more on the show, visit
With five entries in the Stereotype of the Month contest, "Bizarro"
was the worst newspaper cartoon in 2002. It beat out "Herman,"
"Family Circus," and "Zippy the Pinhead," which had two entries
each. That doesn't count the continuing stereotypes in the
Native-themed comic strip "Redeye." To see the "winners," go to
Led by "The Fast Runner" and "The Business of Fancydancing," Native-
themed movies did well last year. For a roundup of the articles I
wrote for Victor Rocha's Pechanga.Net in 2002, including reports
on "Christmas in the Clouds" and "Skins," go to
For my article summing up the "State of the Native Art(s)," go to
The Winged Tiger Flies Again
Issue #12 of WINGED TIGER, Phil Yeh's comic book about creativity, is
out. It features a cameo appearance by Billy and Drew of PEACE PARTY
(drawn by Theo Tso, Navajo/Southern Paiute). Check it out at
Blue Corn Comics