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Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

In its effort to continue to uplift and highlight the world of Indigenous creators, superheroes and storylines, Marvel Comics will be releasing “Marvel’s Voices: Heritage #1” this November, Native American Heritage Month.

According to the press announcement by Marvel: “Now in its second year, Marvel’s Voices continues to expand and feature the work and lived experiences of Marvel creators and fans, painting the full picture of Marvel’s ever-evolving universe and showcasing how much Marvel truly reflects the world outside our windows.”

The issue is one of several titles that is part of Marvel’s critically acclaimed and celebrated title works from the Marvel’s Voices line, which has been celebrating — as Marvel cites, “titles spotlighting Black, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, Latino and Latinx creators and characters inspired by the communities and culture surrounding them.”

Two Indigenous writers contributing to this issue are “Rutherford Falls” writer and actor Bobby Wilson, Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota, and artist and writer Steven Paul Judd, Kiowa and Choctaw, both spoke with Indian Country Today.

Both Judd and Wilson had their own reasons for selecting the characters they featured in their own stories.

Judd’s American Eagle and Bobby Wilson’s Werehawk

Judd says after he was approached by Marvel, he wanted to write about an older superhero.

“I wanted to do an old superhero. You don't see that too often,” said Judd. “I wanted to do a story about an old Indian man that was a superhero. Maybe who has still a little gas left in the tank … My story really didn't necessarily require it to be any specific hero. Because it was just a story about a guy who's getting older … I always kind of use my uncles as characters when I think of Indian people, because my uncle has always stayed older than me.”

An exclusive sneak peak of Steven Paul Judd’s American Eagle story. (MARVEL)

Judd read comics when he was younger and then started up again the past few years. His mindset as an Indigenous man caused him to pose several questions that guided his story.

“I could write a comic book that people dig, but what I wanted to write was, ‘What if I picked up a comic book? What would I want to see? How would I want to see a Native person acting on it or being portrayed? I am more of a fan of stories about rogues with a heart of gold-type characters.’’’

Judd ultimately decided to write about the character American Eagle. But Judd says don’t expect stereotypical portrayals of Native superheroes. “I knew I wasn’t going to write — like, there is not going to be a vision quest, there’s not going to be any talking with the wind. I was kind of scared about turning in my script because he didn’t talk with an animal.”

But Marvel accepted Judd’s story. The same goes for Wilson.

Wilson says he was an avid collector of X-Men as a kid and was often sent to the local Tom Thumb convenience store — sent to pick up a carton of Virginia Slims for his mom with a note to approve the transaction — Wilson used the change for comic books. He would Xerox the covers and hang them as posters in his room.

“I didn't want to ruin my comic books, you know?”

Maintaining his comic approach to his writing and acting styles as a contributing writer and actor in Peacock's comedy sitcom “Rutherford Falls,” Wilson decided on the character Werehawk, a lesser-known character who appeared in Marvel’s “The Futurians.”

“His name is Matthew Blackfeather … and his backstory is that he is a tribal attorney.”

Wilson explores a story about the relationship between Blackfeather and his grandmother, and the guilt felt by the hero for his work as a personal injury attorney.

An exclusive sneak peak of Bobby Wilson’s Werehawk story. (MARVEL)

“He just feels guilty because he's like, ‘I should be doing something meaningful, like fighting corporations or pipelines, or working for the tribe.’ His grandma reminds him, ‘No, what you're doing is important. People need what you're doing. You're helping regular people navigate these really corrupt systems as a personal injury attorney.’ While he's talking to his grandma getting this pep talk, he is suddenly teleported to the TVA (Time Variance Authority) where he has been named counsel for a special guest celebrity appearance.”

Last words

Wilson had a few words of insight for future comic writing hopefuls.

“The main thing really is … whatever it is that you want to do, whatever your focus is, if it's writing, if it's art, whatever it is, just do it,” he said. “Ask a lot of questions of people that you respect and admire.”

Judd says though the comic is for everyone who loves comics and loves Marvel, he was thrilled with the prospects of a young Indigenous person looking at the shelves and seeing a Native character.

“This story is for everyone, and anyone can resonate with it, but I definitely do really take it to heart and it's not missed on me. The idea that a Native kid could pick this up and go, ‘wait a minute, this was drawn by an Indigenous person?’”

“This was written by an Indigenous person. And this is Marvel, arguably one of the largest companies in the world. So I think if I were to read it, I'd be like, ‘wait, so this can happen? I could write for Marvel? I could draw for Marvel?” says Judd.

“I think that's the part that I dig is that some kid, whether it's a boy or a girl is going to be like, ‘oh wow, this is attainable.’”

There are seven variant covers by different artists

About Marvel Voices Heritage #1

From the Marvel Press Announcement

Get the full story behind River, the mysterious stranger from the pages of New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s new ECHO series; discover Snowguard’s greatest hopes and fears in a tale by celebrated filmmaker and Snowguard co-creator Nyla Innuksuk; enjoy astounding artwork from returning pencilers David Cutler and Jim Terry, and look out for future announcements with brand-new talent making their Marvel Comics debuts! Plus, purépecha artist Maria Wolf, who made a splash with her first Marvel cover last year, returns for a whole line of variants celebrating Indigenous characters!

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