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Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

The multi-award-winning Blackfeet author Stephen Graham Jones — known for his 27 published works in the genres of science fiction, horror, crime fiction and more — has recently released his first graphic novel, “Memorial Ride.”

The graphic novel — released in collaboration with the University of New Mexico Press and Red Planet Books and Comics — is a first for Jones. In addition to the writing by Jones, the illustrations are by Maria Wolf, a Native American graphic artist and designer from Chicago.

According to the press announcement, “Memorial Ride” is a “high-speed, ragtag chase across the American Southwest.”

Memorial Ride description:

Cooper Town, a Native American soldier, has returned from the Middle East to attend his father's funeral, make some quick cash off his father's old Harley, and spend a whirlwind weekend with his girlfriend, Sheri Mun. However, when Coop runs afoul of the violent John Wayne gang, he and Sheri Mun have no choice but to twist the throttle back on that storied chopper and make tracks. In the spirit of Billy Jean, but fully aware of Billy Jack, Coop and Sheri Mun's race to survive is full speed ahead with many potholes in their path. Turning the traditional Western on its head, Memorial Ride recasts the genre as a road movie. It's raucous, it's violent, and, scarily enough, it might even be true. In short, this graphic novel delivers the storytelling prowess of Stephen Graham Jones through Maria Wolf's artwork, and the result is a ride you'll want to take again and again.

Jones told Indian Country Today in an email that he wished to address the cowboy-related narrative so often present in Native stories in the world of comic books.

“I'd kind of fallen in a hole where all I could watch was John Wayne movies. The cowboy stuff. But, don't think I was looking for him, exactly, but . . . kind of what he stands for, or how he's used? The main cowboy kind of stands for the myth of the Old West. Which, that myth, isn't very good to the Native people in it. We're always part of the land that has to be ‘tamed,’” wrote Jones.

Lee Francis IV, Laguna Pueblo, is the CEO of Red Planet Books and Comics who co-published the novel. He calls the project “amazingly cool.” “It has been such an awesome experience to work on this comic with Stephen and Maria. It is so awesome to have more comics to fill our shelves. My hope is that in the near future we will have an all Native comic bookshelf (or two or three,)” wrote Francis.

'Memorial Ride' panel

Over the years, Jones has received many awards for his novels, including the Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction and Fantasy & Speculative Fiction in 2020 for “The Only Good Indians,” the Bram Stoker Award for Long Fiction in 2017 for “Mapping the Interior,” and the 2006 Jesse Jones Award for Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters for “Bleed Into Me.”

Jones, who has written 27 novels, including his most recent novel “My Heart is a Chainsaw (2021)” says “Memorial Ride” might be a chance to flip the script for Native storylines and westerns.

“I just want people to have a good time. It's a road story, a chase story. But, maybe, it can also be an Indian and cowboys story,” he said.

“One where the cowboys don't get to win.”

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