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Native Comic Strips vs. Comic Books

Indians in comic strips
A history of Indian comic strips probably begins with Western strips that featured "savage" Indians as villains. Other continuity strips such as Tintin and Li'l Abner worked in Indians as a weird, primitive "other." in the 1940s, the Golden Age of comic art, Indians such as Chief Wahoo got their own strips or books.

In the '70s and '80s, the grotesque Tumbleweeds began abusing the classic stereotypes. Another strip "satirizing" Indians in a similar vein is Redeye. As its official description puts it:

Redeye was created by Gordon Bess in 1967 and, is now written and illustrated by artist Mel Casson.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate to 100 newspapers nationwide, Redeye is a warm parody of the Western genre. It portrays the world of the eccentric chief of the bumbling Chickiepan Indian tribe. The overweight, somewhat befuddled Redeye is confounded in his quest for glory by his uppity mustang, Loco; his practical-joker son, Porky; and his daughter, Tawnee, who is in love with the tribe idiot, Tanglefoot.

Presently, the best comic strips—if not the only comic strips—dealing with Indian subjects fairly are La Cucaracha (references to Latinos' Native roots) and For Better or For Worse (aboriginal characters at Elizabeth's school). Wee Pals includes a Native boy named Rocky. Other strips that use Indians tend to be stereotypical or downright offensive, although they occasionally make valid points.

Some highlights and lowlights from non-Indian attempts at Indian comic strips:

Mother Goose and Grimm (8/8/06)
Brevity (8/2/06)
Maurice and Earl (6/1/06)
In the Bleachers (1/22/06)
Bizarro (12/15/05)
Bizarro (10/15/05)
Brevity (10/5/05)
For Better or For Worse (10/3/05)
For Better or For Worse (10/1/05)
For Better or For Worse (9/30/05)
For Better or For Worse (9/29/05)
For Better or For Worse (9/28/05)
Non Sequitur (9/24/05)
Hip Shot (9/1/05)
Dennis the Menace (7/28/05)
Mother Goose and Grimm (7/13/05)
Rhymes With Orange (7/2/05)
Bizarro (6/13/05)
Mother Goose and Grimm (4/29/05)
La Cucaracha (4/16/05)
La Cucaracha (4/15/05)
Mr. Boffo (3/25/05)
La Cucaracha (3/13/05)
La Cucaracha (3/5/05)
Mr. Boffo (3/3/05)
Mother Goose and Grimm (2/11/05)
Mr. Boffo (2/8/05)
Non Sequitur (1/16/05)
Bizarro (1/16/05)
La Cucaracha (1/9/05)
Boondocks (12/21/04)
Rhymes With Orange (11/23/04)
Bizarro (11/21/04)
Non Sequitur (11/21/04)
La Cucaracha (11/21/04)
Bizarro (11/8/04)
Mallard Fillmore (10/24/04)
Candorville (8/17/04)
Candorville (8/16/04)
La Cucaracha (7/18/04)
Bizarro (7/4/04)
Bizarro (6/15/04)
Non Sequitur (6/15/04)
Non Sequitur (6/12/04)
Herman (5/23/04)
La Cucaracha (5/23/04)
Non Sequitur (4/1/04)
Bizarro (3/28/04)
Bizarro (2/24/04)
Bizarro (2/21/04)
Bizarro (12/28/03)
Bizarro (12/17/03)
Bizarro (12/13/03)
La Cucaracha (12/2/03)
La Cucaracha (12/1/03)
Non Sequitur (11/30/03)
La Cucaracha (11/16/03)
Bizarro (11/13/03)
Zippy the Pinhead (10/27/03)
Frazz (10/13/03)
La Cucaracha (10/12/03)
Bizarro (9/21/03)
La Cucaracha (9/2/03)
La Cucaracha (8/31/03)
Bizarro (7/8/03)
Herman (7/8/03)
Non Sequitur (7/6/03)
Bizarro (6/27/03)
Bizarro (4/20/03)
Rhymes With Orange (3/31/03)
La Cucaracha (3/7/03)
Herman (1/29/03)
La Cucaracha (1/29/03)
Bizarro (12/14/02)
La Cucaracha (12/3/02)
Redeye (10/12/02)
For Better or For Worse (9/23/02)
Zippy the Pinhead (9/10/02)
Zippy the Pinhead (9/9/02)
Bizarro (8/29/02)
Herman (8/9/02)
Bizarro (7/21/02)
Mixed Media (7/16/02)
Family Circus (7/11/02)
Doonesbury (6/10/02)
Non Sequitur (6/7/02)
Bizarro (5/16/02)
Family Circus (4/20/02)
Bizarro (4/7/02)
Herman (3/26/02)
Mr. Boffo (2/14/02)
Mr. Boffo (12/28/01)
Bizarro (12/28/01)
Herman (10/31/01)
Herman (10/21/01)
Dennis the Menace (10/11/01)
Mother Goose and Grimm (8/01?)
Herman (4/29/01)
Close to Home (9/19/00)
B.C. (8/31/99)
Don McGregor's Zorro—daily
Don McGregor's Zorro—Sunday
Kickapoo joy juice from L'il Abner
Tintin in America
Tintin en Amerique

Commentary on Native-themed comic strips and cartoons
Better, not worse
Johnston's Better Is Best of 2005
Rascally Rabbit and Bear Paws
The Best (Only) Native Character
Best and Worst Strips of 2003
Redeye, For Better or For Worse
More Loony Native 'Toons
Bizarro and Boffo Cartoons
"True Path," False Piety
Unfunny Sunday Funnies
B.C. Uses Tired, Old Stereotypes

Indians in political and editorial cartoons
A related category is political cartoons featuring Indians. These are single-panel cartoons—like some newspaper comics. They intend to make a political, rather than humorous, point.

Political cartoons featuring Indians
Indian Country Today's political cartoons
Stereotypical Baxendale cartoon
Farley property-buying cartoon (9/6/04)
Meyer San Pablo cartoon (8/26/04)
Ramirez Thanksgiving cartoon (11/28/02)
PEACE PARTY political cartoons 2001)
PEACE PARTY political cartoons 2000)

Political cartoons in the Stereotype of the Month contest
Horsing around with Horsey
Benson cartoon shows arrows, hatchet assaulting Gonzales
New Yorker cartoon shows Eskimo "retired" to die on ice floe
U. of Florida cartoon:  NCAA scolds Gator killing Seminole
Digest cartoon shows totem poles holding slot machines
Cartoon:  Native with tracking guide can't spot murder clues
Cartoon portrays Rumsfeld as victim of arrows in his back
I-892 cartoon depicts Indian saying "keep 'um cigarette tax"
N&O cartoon implies Lumbees seek recognition for gaming
Cartoon:  Teepees surround worried "Vanishing American"
Cartoon shows men in suits doing a rain dance for money
Cartoon:  Chief wants to "Save Our Graves" to build casino
Meyer cartoon shows tipi as casino offering "loose slots"
Cartoon:  Fat Indian is addicted to slot machine donations
Chronicle cartoons show crying Indian, teepee with dice
Cartoon:  Owning a Winnebago enough to open a casino
Wisc. GOP party's cartoon:  Taxpayers were "scalped"
S. Lait cartoon shows teepee atop California state capitol
Cartoon:  "Greedy Indians" reject corn, keep $1.5 billion
Ramirez cartoon:  "Chief" Gray Davis sells Calif. for $24
Cartoon implies California Indians want state for casinos
Cartoon:  "Braves" protesters dress like Plains Indians
Cartoon shows chief and boy wanting to be mascots
Cartoon implies Indian history isn't valid school subject

Of course, a lot of the supposedly humorous strips in the first group, above, are making political points. Some are doing it whether the cartoonists realized it or not. As someone once said, to be an Indian is to be political. Therefore, to be an Indian cartoon is to be a political cartoon.

Strips or books?
Someone asked me about Indian comic strips, thinking PEACE PARTY was one, to start this topic. My response:

Comic strips appear in newspapers and are generally humorous. Comic books are standalone publications and are generally serious. They're related but different art forms.

There have been several comic books starring Indian characters. Those that come to mind include TUROK, ARAK, COYOTE, AZTEC ACE, TIMESPIRITS, SCOUT, THE BUTCHER, SHAMAN'S TEARS, GHOSTDANCING, TRIBAL FORCE, THE ADVENTURES OF BROWSER AND SEQUOIA, and of course PEACE PARTY. LIke all comics, these vary in quality. Only BROWSER AND SEQUOIA would qualify as humor, and it's the only one of these published recently. (As you may know, we slipped a few yuks into PEACE PARTY, though it's a serious story.)

You can find two good Native comic books at the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe site. They're more educational than entertaining, but they're clearly authentic. You can find Indian comic book characters at the Super Native Americans List. Many of these were supporting characters rather than stars of their own comics, but it's a comprehensive list.

I'll mention any Native comic books I come across in Indian Comics Irregular, so keep your eyes peeled for that. (Peeled eyes...ouch!) As for Native comic strips, you'd have to check tribal newspapers for them. For instance, Around the Rez and Skinz run in Indian Country Today.

Addendum (4/2/01)
Also, I believe someone does a Mutton Man strip for the Navajo Times. I mentioned the first Aztec comic strip in Indian Comics Irregular #39. And Robert Freeman has drawn some funny one-panel cartoons about Indians and collected them in a book titled For Indians Only.

More on Indian comic strips
Redeye and Tumbleweeds
Redeye cartoonist dies
First Indian cartoonist in a mainstream newspaper?

Related links
Ethnic humor and the "Joke of the Day"
Hilarity, Histeria, and Huck Finn
Comic books featuring Indians
Blue Corn Comics graphics

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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