Thursday, May 29, 2014

Western Comics Focus on SCALPED

Troy D. Smith

Scalped is a comic book series from DC that ran from 2007 to 2012. It was originally envisioned as a modern-day updating of DC's 1970s American Indian character Scalphunter (which we discussed HERE), but wound up being something completely different: a hardboiled, noir crime series set on and around an Indian reservation, that many critics compared thematically to the hit TV show Breaking Bad (interestingly enough, the comic series also had a 60-part story arc.)

It was written by Jason Aaron with art by R. M. GuĂ©ra. Aaron has said the over-arching plot was inspired by the story of Leonard Peltier and the 1970s conflicts between AIM (American Indian Movement) and the FBI- and if you follow it, you will clearly see the connections.

The series stars Dashiell Bad Horse, who is returning to the (fictional) Oglala Lakota reservation called Prairie Rose after many years away. Bad Horse, a "borderline sociopath with deep-seated anger issues," is promptly hired by corrupt tribal president Lincoln Red Crow to serve on the tribal police force, which is really an arm of Red Crow's many illegal activities. Bad Horse's mother and Red Crow had both been heavily involved in radical Indian activism on the rez in the 1970s. What Red Crow does not know is that Dashiell Bad Horse is actually an undercover FBI agent, there to not only get info on Red Crow's criminal empire but solve the decades-old murder of an FBI agent.

The series has garnered a lot of praise from critics. It really is a very well-written, gritty crime series- if it sounds like it should be on TV, just last month it was announced that WGN will be producing it as such in the near future.

On the other hand, I've heard a lot of criticism about the series, from Lakota friends in particular, due to the fact that it focuses so heavily on poverty, crime, and corruption, thus reinforcing a lot of general stereotypes. Such complaints, in my opinion, should be honored and acknowledged. It'll be interesting to see how WGN handles these issues in their television series.

The entire comic series has been collected into ten graphic novels, all available from online booksellers:


Collected material
1Indian Country

Scalped #1–5
2Casino Boogie

Scalped #6–11
3Dead Mothers

Scalped #12–18
4The Gravel in Your Gut

Scalped #19–24
5High Lonesome

Scalped #25–29
6The Gnawing

Scalped #30–34
7Rez Blues

Scalped #35–42
8You Gotta Sin to Be Saved

Scalped #43–49
9Knuckle Up

Scalped #50–55
10Trail's End

Scalped #56–60
Source for this table: Ye Olde


  1. Fascinating stuff. The series should be interesting. The whole 1970's events were something to live through. I think that was why I liked "Thunderheart" the film which seems to have a similar theme as the comic series. I might have to look into that.

    Thank you for another interesting area of research. Doris

  2. Troy, I agree with you. Why cover something up and try to hide it? Corruption, poverty, and shady dealings go on in every segment of society--no need to try and sugarcoat it. This sounds like a very interesting series--one I'll be glad to watch when it comes out on TV, and maybe in the meantime, I'll have to go in search of these graphic novels you mention...