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NATIVE VOICES: Native Realities brings new kind of Indigenous storytelling to comic books

Native Realities
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Native American culture of storytelling is one of the most honest and purest generational artforms, from the beginning of history when our elders would tell creation tales around the fire to the newest generation of Indigenous peoples, those that are using the power of pen and ink to create their own modern day mythologies and beyond.

Founded by Lee Francis IV, Ph.D., the publishing house Native Realities has becomes a total gamechanger; it’s the first comic book company founded by and for Native Americans, dedicated to, as the mission statement reads, “featuring the incredible tales of Indigenous icons, First Nations freedom fighters, Aboriginal astronauts, and Native American superheroes whose stories have long been coopted, unheard or ignored.”

One of their most recent proud contributors is Tulsa’s Johnnie Diacon, a Muscogee Creek writer and artist that happened upon the Native Realities tribe when he attended a comic book workshop at his local Native American Resource Center. For him, to become a part of a project like this was the realization of a longtime goal.

“I just wandered in there with some of my sketches to show them what I could do because I’ve always been interested in getting into comic books and graphic novels,” Diacon said. “They took a liking to my drawings and said they wanted to work with me and it just kind of blossomed from there.”

Diacon’s first project was crafting an entry in the highly-acclaimed first volume of Tales of the Mighty Codetalkers, a collection of biographical and fictionalized accounts and adventures of the Native American war heroes known as the Codetalkers, ranging from World War I up to the Korean War. Diacon’s story is loosely based on two Muscogee Creek soldiers fighting in the Aleutian Islands campaign of World War II.

“There isn’t that much information about them out there, as this campaign was a secret hush-hush kind of a thing; there was not much research I could do,” Diacon said. “I found the names of two men who were involved, and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs actually had to contact the Muscogee Creek Nation Veterans Affairs office to verify these men. There was really no background, so I had to base my story on various collected experiences, which gave me a lot of freedom to fill in the gaps.”

Reviews have been universally positive for this first volume in the Codetalkers saga, with the sales numbers to match. Diacon said that he really “cherishes” the opportunity to be a part of the Native Realities family because “it’s very rare, especially in comics, that Natives get to tell their stories their way.”

In addition to fleshing out an idea for a story in the second Codetalkers volume, Diacon is currently developing a graphic novel with Native Realities entitled Relocation, situated around a Native family in Oklahoma and their relocation experience, following them up until the start of the Red Power movement. Diacon added that it’s a “fictional family, but based on true circumstances.”

“Now we’re in control of our own storytelling and our own images,” Diacon said. “We’re taking it beyond the sidekick stereotype. We’ve got very important stories to tell, and it’s very important that we tell the stories ourselves so it’s honest and accurate. We’re part of the culture too and we need to have a voice in pop-culture. We’re not just a thing of the past…we’re relevant and we’ve got strong voices.”

For more info on Native Realities, check out their website at nativerealities.com.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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