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Video by New Mexico PBS

How comic books centered on Native heroes inspire young readers

Albuquerque, N.M. — Lee Francis IV is a self-proclaimed "Indigenerd."

The comic book writer, a member of Laguna Pueblo, helped establish Albuquerque's Indigenous Comic Con several years ago, and believes storytelling can create a "really deep, magnificent understanding" of different communities. Francis contributes to this mission by showcasing indigenous superheroes, among other Native heroes, in comic book stories.

Francis, who owns his own comic book shop Red Planet Books & Comics in Albuquerque, said his comic work acts as a "counterpoint" to the way Native people have been portrayed in popular media over the last 400 years. And that, it "creates another dynamic for Native identity and perceptions within the global society."

"My comics are really about how we can create positive and dynamic representations of Indigenous people," Francis later told New Mexico PBS. "That is my driving mission of all the superheroes, space rangers and monster slayers that I create and promote."

Some of the comics that Francis cited that centered on Native heroes. (L to R) "Deer Woman Anthology," created by Elizabeth LaPensée; "Thunder Eagle," created by Jon Proudstar; "Code Talkers, Volume 1," edited by Arigon Star, cover illustration by Roy Boney Jr. Images courtesy of Lee Francis IV

Francis said, when creating a comic, he's thinking about the audience he wants to reach, which is "first and foremost Native young people and the communities I have worked with throughout my life."

When asked about his fascination with the art form, Francis said the "way to make change is through young people."

"When young people discover a comic, especially a comic that looks like them, and a superhero that looks like them," he told New Mexico PBS' "¡COLORES!" "then they begin to find those ideals that they can view on how they want to change the world."

Another one of Francis' great passions was to help create an indigenous comic-con. Francis said he wanted to "bring together all of these different worlds that were very siloed." That meant creating a space that welcomed comic book creators, sci-fi and fantasy writers, and game designers from different Native communities.

"We never all got together," Francis said. "And part of my inspiration, or perhaps selfishness, or whatever was I wanted to hang out with all these people. It was a way for us to create a show on our own terms."

This report originally appeared on New Mexico PBS' "¡COLORES!"

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