ARIGON STARR AND THE SUPER INDIAN
Arigon Starr: “Oklahoma Today” is a bi-monthly magazine publication from the office of Oklahoma tourism. You can click here to read more about the magazine: oklahomatoday.com
1st: I see that the first Super Indian comics story (in full colour) first ran (I presume) in the magazine ‘Oklahoma Today’, in the July/-August 2019 issue. I’m therefore wondering, how many pages was the Super Indian comics story, IN that issue, in the comics section? I’m asking because one of the Super Indian comics pages runs on page 69 (sixty-nine) of that issue of Oklahoma Today.
Did it run in Oklahoma Today, for more than one issue? In other words, is it an ongoing thing?
Arigon: “Super Indian” wasn’t a part of the eight-page comic story I did for “Oklahoma Today.” That story, “The Policeman” was a comic I wrote and drew, based on a short story I wrote a few years back.
Or, is it just a comics series within the title Oklahoma Today? (Which is fine, too!)
Arigon: “Super Indian” began life as a webcomic, in April 2011. I finally had enough content to publish a full volume (64 full color pages containing three issues) in 2012 as “Super Indian Volume One.” I continued the webcomic as I worked to complete “Super Indian Volume Two,” which was published in 2015. Both books were published by Wacky Productions Unlimited. They’re both available online through our website, or via Amazon in print, and through ComiXology for mobile devices.
For now, the webcomic Super Indian is on a hiatus, until I complete the work on “Super Indian Volume Three.”
1st: I’ve only seen four sample pages of Super Indian, thus far, but from what little I have seen of it, sent to me as a PDF file, it looks intriguing! Can you summarize the plot/story for me a little more in-depth, than from what little I see here, in the four-page comics PDF file? And, not to be taken in any wrong way. As I said, this looks very, very interesting, to me!
Arigon: “Super Indian” is the story of a young Native American boy, Hubert Logan. Hubert ate tainted commodity/government cheese, and he then gained superpowers. The superhero story is definitely played for laughs, but it is also about some hard truths about contemporary Native American life.
“Super Indian” is based on a series of radio plays that were commissioned from the Native Radio Theater Project and Native Voices, at the Autry.
In 2006, both organizations had a funding grant to train Native American radio and theater professionals in creating audio theater projects.
I was part of a group that traveled to West Plains, Missouri for the annual National Audio Theater Festival. The ten-minute pilot episode of “Super Indian” was broadcast live on National Public Radio in the U.S.
The two production companies wanted more episodes of “Super Indian,” so I wrote ten more 5-minute episodes that were compiled into a one-hour radio special that was syndicated across the U.S., by Native Voice One public radio service. Six more scripts were commissioned, but not recorded.
I took those scripts and learned to adapt them for comics, and started the webcomic, first.
“Super Indian” is set on a fictional reservation (Leaning Oak), where Hubert/Super Indian is surrounded by friends and family, who he always defends against evil. Super Indian’s two main enemies are Wampum Baggs, an evil scientist, and Derek Thunder, a young Native man from the same tribe, much like Superman’s foe Lex Luthor.
Super Indian doesn’t battle alone – his sidekicks are his best friend General Bear (who becomes ‘Mega Bear’, with no superpowers), and his dog Diogi (pronounced Dee-OH-gee). Diogi also ate the tainted commodity cheese and has superpowers and superior intellect. The dog can also speak, but only Super Indian can hear him.
1st: How did you happen to come up with the story synopsis for Super Indian, and was Oklahoma Today the first magazine you had submitted it to?
Arigon: As mentioned before, “Super Indian” isn’t connected to “Oklahoma Today” magazine.
1st: The main character in the comics title SuperIndian, a former
police officer named Bucky Lomer, has an incredible secret, one that perhaps he isn’t too anxious to share with anyone (I suspect), especially to a reporter — in this case, a reporter named Peggy Cornell, who I understand is a “Muscogee creative writing coach and sometimes author.”
Another supporting character, I understand, is Rainey Lomer. He’s the nephew of Bucky Lomer, right? What can you tell us about each of these characters?
1st: I’m basing my next question – to follow – off of your own surname, Starr. Would I be assuming correctly, that you, yourself, are a First Nations Aboriginal?
And, if so, what can you tell me about that?
By the way, my wife, Sharon, is a First Nations Aboriginal (Canadian) Indian.
Arigon: I’m a Native American/American Indian. I don’t mind either of those terms. My father was a full-blood Kickapoo Indian from Shawnee, Oklahoma. My mother grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and she is a Muscogee-Creek, Cherokee and Seneca Indian. My father was in the military (U.S. Navy), and I grew up all over the US. However, most of my relatives live in Oklahoma, so our family spent a lot of time there, during holidays. I am tribally-enrolled in the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma.
ALL of these topics interest me. What can you tell our audience about these things, it sounds fascinating!
Arigon: My first entry into the entertainment business was working behind the scenes at television production companies like Viacom and the cable network, Showtime. I worked in the legal department and the publicity departments, and I learned so much from my bosses, who were generous with their experiences in the business.
When I wasn’t on the job, I was writing songs and performing them in front of small audiences in the coffeehouses of Los Angeles.
At one point, a friend of mine who worked for the Disney Stores asked me to be one of her commissioned artists; she took existing Disney characters from “101 Dalmations,” “Winnie the Pooh” and “Lion King”, and worked them into designs for their tee shirts and denim embroidered shirts, that were then sold in their stores. All I had to do was draw the characters coming out of a pocket design, and fax them to her. This freelance work enabled me to quit my corporate job and become a working artist.
I recorded my first music CD project in 1998. The CD “Meet the Diva” was self-released, and it garnered a lot of radio airplay across the country, generated interest in live performances, and it eventually won a “Best Independent CD” award from the Native American Music Awards.
I continued to record and tour from 1998 through 2004. Another friend in Los Angeles encouraged me to audition for a stage role for a play being produced by a theater company called Native Voices, at the Autry.
The theater company is dedicated to nurturing Native actors, playwrights, and theater professionals. It’s also the only Native theater company in the U.S. that’s a signatory to Actors Equity, the large union that represents professional actors. I auditioned in 2002, but I didn’t actually work in one of the productions, until 2004.
That led to a series of leading roles, then entry into two professional actor’s unions (Actors Equity and Screen Actors Guild), a Hollywood agent – and then, a commission to write a one-woman show.
That play, “The Red Road” was a musical comedy where I played eleven different parts and sang in a variety of characters. The show was about the day a country music superstar comes to Sapulpa, Oklahoma in the 1970s, to tape her 10th anniversary TV show.
The show was well-reviewed in the “Los Angeles Times” and “Daily Variety”; it toured across the U.S. and Australia. The CD soundtrack featured a who’s who of country musicians who usually perform and record with acts like Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Dwight Yoakam, and Marty Stuart.
As mentioned previously, my association with Native Voices at the Autry led to the commission of the first “Super Indian” script. And that’s how I got into comics.
1st: How long have you been involved in all of that, and how did you get started in these things? Do you play musical instruments, as well? And, if so, which ones? I only sing in the shower, sometimes, and it is probably painful to hear, to
1st: Can you tell us how long you have been an artist, how you got started with
that, and how long you have been at it?
I’m impressed that you both wrote and illustrated this comic. Did you colour it, also? Or if not, who was the colourist? It’s a beautiful-looking package, based on what I’ve seen, thus far! Where did you go to school for art, or are you, like me, self-taught?
Arigon: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. Both of my parents were very supportive of my artistic skills and bought crayons, pens, paper, paint, canvas, etc. on their very tight budget. I started drawing comics when I was a teen as well. They were mainly just to keep me from being bored in class!
I am a self-taught everything. I taught myself to draw, sing, write and play instruments. I am thankful for my Grandpa in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who took me and my sister to the five and dime store and let us buy comics. My mother and father also loved comics, so they encouraged my work.
When the commission ran out on the “Super Indian” radio project, I was so sad. I loved creating that world, and I wanted to do more with those characters.
I started going to every comic convention I could, and I would chat with folks who had booths set up, and I asked a lot of questions.
Some of the best advice I got was from Richard Starkings and J.G. Roshell of Comicraft, who said, “Don’t think of publishing a book until you’ve built an audience.”
That’s how “Super Indian” was online, first. I originally wrote and drew a 23-page origin story of “Super Indian”, based on my radio script. However, I knew it wasn’t good enough to publish.
I kept drawing, and finally, I found a formula that worked for me.
Then, I found the book by Freddie E. Williams – and switched my art process, completely to digital.
After I write my comic scripts in Final Draft, I start the thumbnails in Photoshop, then I do the tight pencils and inks. Then, using the Hi-Fi Coloring method, I color my own comics in Photoshop. I also letter my own work in Illustrator, then I import everything into Adobe InDesign, and prep my files for the printer.
I am thrilled to tell folks that JG Roshell is the designer of the “Super Indian” logo. He did such a wonderful job with it. I am proud, every time I see it!
1st: Is Super Indian your first comic’s story? And, if not, what else have you done in that field?
Arigon: “Super Indian” is my first published story. I am also the editor of the award-winning anthology, “Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Volume One.” I also wrote, drew, colored, lettered and designed much of the 118-page book, titled “Tales”, which also includes the work of many talented Native American comic writers and artists, including Roy Boney (Cherokee), Johnnie Diacon (Muscogee Creek), Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo), Jonathan Nelson (Navajo), Michael Sheyahshe (Caddo), and many more.
I have also completed a series of comics posters for the Healthy Aboriginal Network in Canada, I’ve been a writer for the first “Moonshot” anthology, an artist for “Native Graphic Classics,” a writer/artist for (the Canadian comic book company) Oni Press’ “Draw the Vote”, and several stories for Pop Culture Classroom in Denver, Colorado.
1st: Is the Super Indian comics story in the July/-August 2019 Oklahoma an ongoing thing, in that magazine? And are comics a feature in every single issue of Oklahoma Today?
Arigon: As mentioned before, “Super Indian” is completely separate from “Oklahoma Today.” “Oklahoma Today” commissions comics every few years. My friend and colleague Roy Boney did a stand-alone 8-page comic for them about three years ago.
1st: I’m also wondering if you happen to know what the circulation numbers are for that magazine?
Arigon: Check the earlier link I provided for “Oklahoma Today.” I think the circulation numbers information is on their website.
1st: Ms. Starr, I was really very, very impressed with your Wikipedia article on the World Wide Web, as I searched there, for still more fascinating information bout you, and your career. Or, should I rather say, your various careers, plural. And therefore, for our readers, here is still more information about Ms. Arigon Starr.
Thank you very much for taking the time in participating in all facets of this interview. It’s been a real pleasure for me! And, I’m sure our readers will find this absolutely fascinating, as well!