Monday, February 05, 2018

NAMH 2017: Comic Books

I did finish my Native American Heritage Month before Black History Month, and I started that list, so hey, I am doing pretty well.

However, there were things about the month that were different this time. I am going to go in a different order, some of which is to avoid building too much momentum before I am ready to get to it. There's a lot.

It works well for this because last week I was writing on comic related thoughts, so going over the comic book portion of my Native American Heritage reading today can make for a nice transition.

Last year I held off from reading Michael A. Sheyahshe's Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study. I decided at the time that it would give me too much to read, and I didn't have the time for it then, catching up on all my other comics backlog. This year I believed that reading it would point the way to lots of comics and I was excited to dive into them. That was not exactly how it worked out.

I did find titles that interested me. Many of them were not easily available, though I was able to get a couple of interesting anthologies from our library by searching on author names:

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 1

Graphic Classics, Volume 24: Native American Classics

Sheyahshe was a contributor on Moonshot. Also, reading his book made me view Graphic Classics much more critically.

Nothing was contemporary in Graphics Classics. Based on reading it, Native Americans are relegated strictly to the past.

I would not have thought about that before. It is respectful in many ways, and the subjects are treated sensitively. Offensive speech stereotypes (like "heap" and "ugh") were not used, and different people were allowed to have distinct personalities, so it could have been much worse. There was just no place for imagining that they continue into modern times and belong there.

(Moonshot, in contrast, had two science fiction stories setting Indians into the future and on other planets.)

Perhaps it's time to return to Blue Corn Comics:

I have looked for reading material there before, but there is so much that it is overwhelming, and it is often not clear what the quality of any particular title is. I can find titles there, and I have titles I am interested in from reading Sheyahshe's book, but in addition I need a clearly defined goal.

Reading older literature that honors the history while relegating Indians to the past can have value, but it needs to be done with an awareness of that. Even reading the work with harmful stereotypes could be useful in terms of remembering how mindsets have been.

Every year I try and work within designated months and turn my attention toward groups who contributions are often overlooked. That's been working out for me, and I like that.

I also like comic books, and so incorporating reading comic books along with regular books is also something that seems reasonable.

Do I want those comic books to teach me history? Do I want them to reflect the contemporary culture? Do I want the focus to be on making sure that I am reading work by indigenous creators, and supporting that they get a voice too?

I think I am leaning toward the third one. Some of that is probably remembering how much I hated Scalped, and then how off it felt to find out it was written by a white guy. I mean, what was the point of him writing it?

I have no idea what I am going to find next year when November rolls around again. (I hope I can finally find a copy of Darkness Calls.) Regardless, I know that I have better tools for evaluating what I read now, and I appreciate that.

And, if you get a chance to check out Moonshot, do so. Some of the artwork is absolutely luminous.

For more from Michael Sheyahshe:

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