“Native Realities: Superheroes of Past, Present, & Future” at Form & Concept

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“In the Spirit of Spirit,” 2016, Ryan Singer, Acrylic on Canvas, 24″ x 18″
Photo: courtesy Form & Concept

Attacks on prayerful Water Protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline echo in Form & Concept’s small but mighty satellite of the Indigenous Comic Con that just blew up Albuquerque. This all-eclipsing environmental and sovereignty issue, America’s latest “Indian War,” threatens life, holy land, and drinkable water. The selfsame colonialist=corporate anarchist stratagem of military aggression against powerfully peaceful Protectors fossil-fuels illegal US aggression worldwide. A readily evil supervillian (with a 500-year backstory of genocide and enviro-degradation) makes the metaphor of Water Protectors as Superheroes simple to draw, though the mad skills conveying the messages aren’t as easily acquired.

Arigon Starr, an ICC organizer and creator of Super Indian, renders Mega Bear and Diogi riding shotgun as the Rez Rocket speeds our hero towards Lakota lands. A banner at the bottom of the image declares, “Super Indian Stands with Standing Rock… Water is Life.” Citizen Alert: Super Indian (and Susan Sarandon) urge divestment from creepy Wall Street Banksters! Joining your local Credit Union puts you one step closer to North Dakota, on the path to protecting human rights to clean water, earth, and air. Ryan Singer’s In the Spirit of SPIRIT confronts the viewer with a ready warrior sporting a ‘NO DAPL’ armband, while in Ricardo Cate’s Heroes of Standing Rock 2, an indigenous girl places a feather into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle. Weshoyot Alvitre offers perspective in Lakota Skywalker, in which a lone figure walks away in a jacket referencing the American Indian Movement and Wounded Knee, in both ’73 and 1890. Tee Bird, a ceramic super-grrl by Kathleen Wall, strides confidently forward, while Jonathan Nelson’s Frybread Warriors and Zombie Sheep bring the intricate levity so vital to resisting oppression.

Comics created by Native children from the Zuni Pueblo Superhero Project give us Mr. Clean, Mr. Garbage, Graffiti Man, and Kira who “… grew up… honoring her traditional Zuni Culture and 21st-Century lifestyle.” A lifestyle that currently includes being attacked by untrained dogs and compression grenades, being maced, pepper-sprayed and shot repeatedly with rubber bullets and water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures. Kira clarifies that Standing Rock’s superheroes have secret identities as ordinary human beings (525 captives taken at this writing) who want what’s right for all people of the planet.

—JON CARVER