As part of our ongoing Indigenous Comix Month feature, we’re looking at how Indigenous comics creators are doing their work and supporting each other. We’re honoured to be joined by Lee IV of the Indigenous Narratives Collective for a discussion on culture, diversity, stereotypes, and supporting one another in the industry.
How did the INC come to be, and what is the goal of the collective?
Lee: “Originally pitched as an idea by Arigon Starr, Jacques La Grange (San Carlos Apache) and Theo “Teddy” Tso (Las Vegas Paiute) at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con, a group of Native American comic book writers, artists, designers and creators convened at the annual Phoenix Comic Con in June 2012. The goal was to bring together Native American and Indigenous comic book artists and writers to create comic books that were representational of Native peoples in an authentic and meaningful way.
“The collective released its first teaser comic book in September 2012 and we will be releasing several titles this year (2014). We wanted to have an organization that would promote the work of Native comic book artists/writers and give them a chance to develop their professional skills to 1) change the stereotypical imagery associated with Native peoples, especially in comic book representations, and 2) allow Native folks the chance to hone their skills so they would be able to find employment within the comic book industry.”
How do INC folks help to support each other in an industry that continues to resist diversity in many ways?
“We try and build community and support the work. Right now, our artists and writers aren’t getting paid for their work (not yet, anyways), but they are dedicated to the cause, if you will. They are dedicated to promoting Natives as more than just historicized caricatures. We trade ideas and we get each other gigs when we can. Part of our efforts include working with Native students to access comic books and graphic novels, so we find ways to get into the schools and do that work.”
Were there any quintessential comic book characters that you were inspired by, growing up? Indigenous or non-Indigenous…
“I was always an Iron Man fan. Loved the technology. I am still enamored by technology, though as I have gotten older, I find myself drawn less to characters and more to the story or the way the characters are used in service of a compelling narrative.”
Indigenous people deal with stereotypes so much–in large part because they are so sparsely represented in conventional media.. What do you think comics (and Indigenous comics creators) can do to help with this?
“First, by being the creators. We have unique perspective of Indigenous culture, our own backgrounds of growing up Native in the dominant society. This comes out in our stories, our art.”
“Second, comics are part of the mainstream collective consciousness and if we can begin to change that, we can at least provide alternatives to the stereotypical narratives of Native people. For example, we can put our characters in space, give them superpowers (not derived from some mystical/Native/earth powered origin), have them fight zombies, or giants, or whatnot. We can tell fun stories that are not a rehash of something in a history book, but imagine a what if (what if Geronimo had access to teleportation technology which is why he could not be caught for so many years?). We can use the medium to tell more accurate and authentic stories in a way that captivates a reader and helps to break the stereotypes by putting Native people squarely in the mainstream of popular culture.”
For more from the INC, check out their website: INCOMICS.COM!