American Indian comic book wins award

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The American Indian-focused comic book PEACE PARTY won its second Puffin Foundation grant.

The newest, a $500 grant from the foundation, follows a $1,000 grant in 1997 for the popular new comic book. The award honors PEACE PARTY for "continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people.

"It was a revelation to see an intelligent, thought-provoking comic book for youngsters dealing with important issues that excluded gratuitous sex and violence. We need more of this type of reading material in today's angry and often violent society," said Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, executive director of the foundation.

"The Puffin Foundation is proud to have had a small part in PEACE PARTY's birth. We wish you great success with this worthy enterprise and are delighted to see our grant award put to such outstanding use."

PEACE PARTY's audience ranges from teens to adults and is targeted to those who want a more sophisticated, challenging story than found in most comic books. The multicultural theme is neither dark nor fantasy, but touches on political, social or cultural issues, writer-publisher Rob Schmidt says.

"So the prime reader may be the average comic book reader who is 17 to18 years old these days. But I've heard from 50-something adults who said they loved PEACE PARTY. And I've heard from two adults who said their kids 10 and under loved it," Schmidt said.

The purpose of the comic is to enhance awareness of American Indian history, culture and youth issues. Another goal is to increase the reading desire of the students or adults who may not read material that does not relate to them.

There is a plan to print version of the comic book in various tribal languages, Schmidt says in his printed material.

Jim Northrup, author of Fond du Lac Follies, gave the books "3.5 moccasins." About.com called the comic a "one of the best sites for non-white comic characters." Comic Retailers Forum said of the comic, "Strong comic book storytelling and solid artwork."

Schools carry the book in libraries and teachers are successfully using the comic in classrooms, Schmidt said.

"It's borderline adult oriented. It's not gritty or dark. It's mainstream action/adventure done in a real world where cultural, social and political issues inform people's lives.

"The example I always give of the level I'm aiming for is "The Simpsons" TV show. That has sophisticated satire for adults, but cartoonish high jinks for kids. That's what I want to do: an intelligent but accessible comic."

Teachers are encouraged to use the book as a teaching tool in the classroom. The comic book is used by some teachers to assist teaching English as a second language. Some use the book as a tool in history classes and other teachers were encouraged by the publisher to collaborate and have the students create stories of their own and illustrate them. They could then be put on the book's web site, Schmidt said.

Schmidt admits he is non-Indian. But, he says, after many years working and living in Indian country he has developed a knowledge and sensitivity to the issues and the cultures. His organization also lists a formidable lineup of American Indians in the arts, writers, lawyers and professors who act as the advisory board and screen all material for sensitivity.

For more information on PEACE PARTY, log on to http://members.xoom.com/peaceparty.