Back in Force: Tribal Superheroes Return in Reprised Comic
Be the change you wish to see.
Jon Proudstar pondered that thought for a long time before deciding that instead of being another woulda-coulda-shoulda potential whose dreams remained unfulfilled, he’d bring his to reality. At age 47. In a comic book for Native American youth.
His Tribal Force comic will confront contemporary issues with Indian superheroes, reprising the defunct version that came out with just one issue in 1996. Rumors of a return have been floating around for a couple of years.
“The standard Spider Man and Wonder Woman will be replaced with characters like Thunder Eagle, a god trying to put together a team of Native youth whose mission is to offer positive role models for Native American youngsters who must learn to survive in two cultures,” said Proudstar, who comes from a Yaqui family.
It has been an idea long in germination.
“There’s been a lot of injustices done to my people, and I’ve wanted to address that because in my real-life job of counseling high-risk survivors of violence, I see the byproducts of all that—alcoholism, drug addiction, child molestation, domestic violence—all spin-offs of a huge cancer no one wants to address. Everything I do emanates from those experiences,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network earlier this year.
“One of the reasons I created Tribal Force comics was to provide Native American youth with contemporary heroes,” he said. “Kids need to see success they can relate to so they have an avenue for potential success themselves. I got tired of other superhero story efforts that bastardized Native American culture and wanted to create a superhero theme for us. I went through ceremonies and sweats looking for answers on how I could make a positive change, and ultimately decided I needed to tell these stories myself, as accurately as possible.”
Proudstar feels a sense of urgency born of the high rates of suicide and violence among Native youth, and their distance from tribal elders in cultures that depend on elder wisdom.
“We’re losing kids at an astronomical level through suicide, violence, drive-by shootings, and there’s a monumental precipice between youth and elders,” Proudstar said. “One of the ways we can help save these kids is to give them heroes. Maybe the comic book series can be a bridge to take the culture of the elders and the symbolism in the superhero stuff and create a dialogue with learning outside of the formal textbook context. My heroes are no saints. One is a molestation survivor, another was into drugs, but they are brushstrokes that mirror life. Our story lines will talk about social issues that affect Native Americans and do so in a candid way. We will paint where we’ve been in order to show where we’re going—and how to get there.”
Proudstar is a multitalented model of creativity. He is now working on his 38th film as an actor (as well as being a screenwriter and director), and the comic book venture is likewise a repeat effort for him. His planned series of a Native superhero team sold 12,000 copies in 1996 before the publisher went bankrupt. Now, Rising Sun Comics is bringing a new start.
The comic will be available on June 1, according to Tribal Force’s Facebook page.
“Everything will be re-tooled and re-vamped because so much time has passed and our characters have aged in the process,” Proudstar said.
The stories are there, the adventures and a cast of superheroes are there, enough to see readers through lots of volumes and keep Proudstar producing for many years to come.
“Subtle authenticity will be a key ingredient of Tribal Force characters and themes—no stereotypes or cultural inaccuracies—because everything means something,” he said. “Comic book writers historically created an ‘Indian’ character, but with more than 750 tribes in America, there are hundreds of cultures and attire and language, and our goal is an accurate portrayal that will be indicative of the tribes represented.”
In addition to the uniqueness of a comic with indigenous superheroes trying to do right in today’s society, each issue of Tribal Force will also contain a cultural page to separate fact from fiction.
“We’ll discuss things like the ghost dance symbol and its significance,” Proudstar said. “It will be a modest educational effort, one that’s not overbearing.”
Because of his work with disenfranchised youth, the comic creator feels strongly that any positive effort —editorial or otherwise—is energy well expended.
“When one of these kids steals a car or robs a store and goes to prison, we, as a society, are failing our youth,” Proudstar said. “Children are the last nice thing we have, and, as adults, we’re messing things up and not meeting our responsibilities. Tribal Force will be my contribution to that fight on a mass scale.”
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