BY ERIKA EDDY This isn’t your grandma’s powwow. For three days, “Indigenerds” from different tribes and nations will gather in Albuquerque to celebrate all things pop culture through the lens of Native American creators and stories. The inaugural Indigenous Comic Con will run from Friday, Nov. 18 to Sunday, Nov. 20 at the National Hispanic
BY ERIKA EDDY
This isn’t your grandma’s powwow. For three days, “Indigenerds” from different tribes and nations will gather in Albuquerque to celebrate all things pop culture through the lens of Native American creators and stories.
The inaugural Indigenous Comic Con will run from Friday, Nov. 18 to Sunday, Nov. 20 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
The event will showcase Indigenous people from the worlds of comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, film, TV and graphic novels with 60 vendors, artists and organizations. The 17 special guests include “Supernatural” actor Kaniehtiio Horn, game designer Renee Nejo, comedy group the 1491s, author Stephen Graham Jones and other big names in the Indigenous nerd world.
Organizer Lee Francis IV said he is excited about the interest he has received thus far. Sponsored by Francis’ publishing company Native Realities Publishing and “indigenerdity” site A Tribe Called Geek, the event has been in the works for about a year.
“I just wanted to get together with everyone,” he said. “When we got all the guests in, I thought, ‘Ah, this is just the best!’”
Francis said there are plenty of Native people involved in pop culture who desire positive representations of themselves.
“This strikes the right chord – that, ‘hey, I don’t have to be just the Native guy over here doing this [and] feel out of place. I get to be a part of something and see really cool stuff that looks like me.’”
Francis, whose family is from the Laguna Pueblo, said the idea for Indigenous Comic Con caught on like wildfire, and guests and attendees are expected from all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico. There has been a response from thousands of people, showing that the Native market is viable.
“We want to see more comic creators working at Marvel; we want to see more sci-fi movies coming out of Universal Pictures; we want to see more independent game designers getting picked up by EA (who) are Native,” he said. “The more we can do that, the more we can counteract those stereotypes, the more we can get these representations for our Native youth that shows them being superheroes in the world.”
Positive representation of Natives and combating stereotypes are among the goals of the con. Arrigon Starr, a special guest and panelist at the con, represents her culture with modern, funny stories. Starr created the comic book series “Super Indian” about a reservation boy who ate tainted commodity cheese and gained super powers.
“Native people, by nature, are storytellers – our parents, siblings, aunties, uncles, cousins and friends get together and spin yarns like nobody’s business,” she said. “I know that other Native folks out there want to read comics like this, and feel that they’re not just stereotypes from a Hollywood movie. We are not all stoic on horseback – we all really like to laugh.”
Starr said most people are aware of negative depictions of Native Americans, but they don’t understand the chaos those create within a Native psyche.
“We’re bombarded with images that tell us that we’re drunks, lazy or simply a dead culture and relegated to the past,” she said. “The comic is way for me to talk about contemporary Native American life with a lot of humor.”
Cosplayer Dallin Maybee travels with his family to various cons in different cities to hang out with like-minded people. Maybee, from the Seneca and Northern Arapaho tribes, said creating elaborate outfits for cons fits in with the history of traditional tribal dancing garments. He said he is especially excited to participate in Indigenous Comic Con.
“This [con] is really a chance to showcase what’s happening within our culture,” he said. “There’s a real empowerment that comes from people who speak not only in a language that we recognize, but in a way that can educate and entertain and all those things for non-indigenous readers and collectors.”
As pop culture evolves, it is important that not only the representation of Indigenous people progresses, but their access to these medium does as well. Elizabeth LaPensée said she hopes Indigenous communities get equal access to technology and resources for their voices to be heard.
LaPensée, an Anishinaabe, Métis and Irish designer, writer and artist for games, comics and animations will be coordinating the kickoff day of the Indigenous Comic Con dedicated to games, as well as coordinating a “game jam.” This and other panels and workshops encourage anyone who is interested in making comics, games and other media to just jump in.
“Games are also a brilliant way of sharing teachings, language and stories,” she said. “We all have our voices, and they are all meaningful and needed in whatever form they take.”
On Thursday, Nov. 17, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) in Santa Fe will host a day of workshops, helping developing professionals find success in the gaming world.
The workshop will show how the success of video games like “Never Alone” (an adventure game based on Iñupiak culture and stories) can promote language and culture revitalization and sustainability. Tribal leadership and administrators will also learn how video game development and other new media technology can help tribal economies in the digital age.
“Self-determination for Indigenous media is vital for communities,” LaPensée said. “By bringing together leading creatives, genuine allies, people who appreciate their work in media, and people who want to make media themselves, the Indigenous Comic Con is a space for sharing and inspiring self-expression that surely impacts current and next generations.”
Marty Two Bulls Sr., an Oglala Lakota and editorial cartoonist, will be teaching how he has created a career by mixing words with images. He said he wants to teach Native youths how to get their work published in a time when the market for gallery art is soft.
“You see a lot of young artists, they’re trying to find their voice,” he said. “One of the things I’d like to see is young people able to learn these strategies about medias so that they can bring their voice forward to a larger audience and make a living out of it, which is a tough thing. They don’t have to leave the reservation, they don’t have to leave their families, and they can still make a living,” he said.
The program and more information about Indigenous Comic Con can be found at indigenouscomiccon.com