Anyone can be an indigenerd, Lee Francis 4 says. “You don’t have to take a DNA test. For me, an indigenerd is someone that is interested in seeing dynamic portrayal of indigenous people in popular culture.”
Francis coined the term “indigenerd,” and also is the superhero behind Indigenous Comic Con, Nov. 2–4 at Isleta Resort and Casino. His company, Native Realities, produces the event, publishes indigenous books, comics and merchandise, and also runs the Albuquerque-based Red Planet Books and Comics shop.
Indigenous Comic Con will offer three days of programming with workshops, film screenings and panel discussions, as well as the chance to visit with dozens of artists, vendors and special guests.
Now in its third year, the event remains true to its original mission, Francis says, which is “providing space for audiences to really see the amazing things that native and indigenous folks are doing in pop culture.”
The programming reflects the desire to “make it worth the participants’ while,” he says, by providing multitudinous types of experiences.
“It’s why our tag line is: ‘not your “traditional” comic con.’ The idea is, it’s not just showing up and you get to meet some of your favorite folks and pay some people to buy things, maybe dress up. . .We want to encourage the experience people are having.”
Attendees will find something for every interest. Workshops include sessions on game design and zine creation. Panel discussions will tackle topics such as how artists can decolonize their money, colonialism through the lens of horror films, and the future for indigenous creators. Additional panels focus on tips for cosplayers, zombie fighters and comic writers and more. Special events include live wrestling with native wrestlers, and a cooking demonstration and VIP dinner with renowned Diné chef Brian Yazzi, being held in collaboration with Toasted Sister Podcast, a radio show that focuses on Native American food.
And of course, there will be plenty of cosplay, laser tag and, yes, a Batmobile. Attendees can choose from a variety of ticket packages.
Francis says in developing this year’s programming, organizers followed various “pathways.” For example, this year, “we’re definitely leaning toward indigenous futurism, and wanting to provide. . . the understanding that we’re not people of a past. We’re people of an amazing, bright incredible future, and we carry our traditions and culture with us where we go. It didn’t stop in 1890, it didn’t stop in 1680, it didn’t end with the code talkers in World War II; we’re still here as native and indigenous people and we’re continuing to push forward into whatever this amazing utopic future looks like.”
Creators are at the heart of the event, which will provide an incredible showcase of work in a variety of mediums. Denver-based artist and educator Kristina Maldonado Bad Hand and her husband Rafael, also a graphic novelist, will have a booth at Indigenous Comic Con for their publishing company áyA Studios. The company published Rafael’s comic Pilla, and this year will release Kristina’s book Kaui, a Polynesian version of Beauty and the Beast. Maldonado Bad Hand says an earlier version of Kaui published in 2015, but her new hardback 100-page book has gone through revision and expansion since the original with collaboration from Hawaiian artists, as well as a focus group and academic feedback to ensure the book was culturally accurate and responsive. Her future projects include a Lakota version of Pinocchio — Maldonado Bad Hand is Sicangu Lakota and Cherokee — and an Inuit take on The Little Mermaid.
“Everyone has that connection with fairy tales,” she says. “…but no one has reimagined them from a native perspective or through a native lens.” Doing so is a chance to shine a light on present-day culture. “I think a lot of the issues in our country natives face are being overlooked,” she says. “… We’ve taken this interesting place because before we were romanticized and lifted up as this mystical creature and it caused people to think we didn’t still exist, but now that we do still exist, things are being hushed over…” The works also provide her a chance to “give opportunities to other native artists. . . to create the exposure for artists of those respective tribes.”
In addition to her art and educator work, Maldonado Bad Hand — who first met Francis at Denver Comic Con in 2013—also is the ground director for the new Denver Indigenous Comic Con, which will take place in July 2019.
Indigenous Comic Con will also draw vendors presenting other types of creative work. Zuni artisan Kandis Quam co-owns Natachu INK with her cousin Elroy Natachu Jr. Their work — ranging from painting to clothing to embroidery and more — melds “traditional and contemporary together,” Quam says. They will helm a booth at event for the second time. It’s fun to branch out from art culture to meet with others and talk about their work and heritage. Plus, Quam says. “My parents were artists and I so I grew up on the art circuit and people watching is kind of my past time.” In addition to being an artist, Quam also has a degree in cultural anthropology or “professional people-watching,” she says. And Indigenous Comic Con is “great people-watching.”
And inclusive. “The biggest thing I can say is everyone is welcome,” says Francis (whose debut comic SixKiller published a few months ago, which he describes as “Alice in Wonderland meets Kill Bill set in Cherokee country).
“Everyone should come out to see some amazing native art, some really cutting edge stuff and just be a part of this monumental event.” And, he adds, “What better way to kick off Native American Heritage Month?”
Meow Wolf is proud to be an executive sponsor of 2018 Indigenous Comic Con.
Photos courtesy of Indigenous Comic Con