Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How Native Americans Were Portrayed in the Comics in the 1970s


& How Native Americans Were Portrayed in the Comics in the 1970s

Firehair comics
If I found myself stranded on that proverbial desert island and all I could take with me were a few of the comic books I grew up reading, I think I'd grab Joe Kubert's Firehair.

Firehair debuted in Showcase #85 and ran for three issues of that title, putting them on sale during the summer months of 1969. Showcase was a proving ground for concepts - The Flash, The Atom, Green Lantern and other DC stalwarts got their start in Showcase. If a feature did well there a place on the schedule was warranted. A good percentage of Showcase concepts resulted in short run series like Inferior 5 and Metamorpho.

Both written and drawn by Joe Kubert, Firehair was a well-crafted graphic adventure with a true Southwestern feeling - the use of a grease pencil to create dramatic effects, decorative borders resembling primitive drawings, even the color and shading was more subtle than you would find in a typical DC or Marvel comic.

Joe Jubert's FirehairThis was the story of a white child who survives an Indian massacre of settlers and is taken to be raised by the Blackfoot Chief as his own son. Racial tensions and cultural divisiveness served as the catalyst in these stories as Firehair discovers he is seen as neither white nor red, truly accepted by no one except the man who 'adopted' him.

The stories were rooted in American Indian folklore, a subject virtually unexplored in comics in any serious manner. Kubert's wife Muriel was of Native American descent and that no doubt served as inspiration.

The storylines were direct and confrontational - in one Firehair must prove his mettle by running the gauntlet to save a hateful white man; in another he questions ancient Indian superstitions and further alienates himself.