James Leask , First Nations writer, presents an insightful article on the revival of Marvel’s First Nations Superhero, Red Wolf. Red Wolf was Marvel’s first Native American superhero. The William Talltrees version of Red Wolf first appeared in the story “The Coming of Red Wolf!” published in Avengers #80 (cover-dated Sept. 1970), and was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema. The character appeared also in the next issue.
The character became the star of the nine-issue series Red Wolf (May 1972 – Sept. 1973). The first six issues were set in the Old West of the 19th century. These adventures featured Johnny Wakely. In issues #7-9, Thomas Thunderhead a 1970s version of the Red Wolf was featured in New York based adventures.
Marvel comics is presently in the process of introducing an “updated” version of the character as it adjusts ( this-is-not-a-reboot ) universe with modifications to its more familiar characters.
It is not clear in what time period this new version will be having adventures. Leask observes, “in the promo image, Red Wolf is dressed like the most problematic stereotype you have ever seen of an aboriginal person. He’s holding a bow and arrow. He’s wearing buckskin breeches. He’s wearing a loincloth on top of the buckskin breeches. He has a bone necklace and a warpaint. He’s not wearing a shirt. The only thing missing from the Injun Stereotype Bingo Card is a feather in his hair. It’s hard to make this more suspect-looking.”
This brings up another principle of Mass Media. While conveying intended messages, Mass Media frequently conveys unintended ones through lack of control of context or an unconscious acceptance of beliefs & values.“Of course, this is just a promotional image. We don’t know how Red Wolf will be included in All New, All Different Marvel or, for that matter, how he’ll be included in Secret Wars: 1872. We don’t know what books he’ll be in, who the creative team will be, or who he will be.”
Without a clear context, the audience is left with a visual image to derive a context & expectation. While the earlier version of the character expressed many of the same stereotypical aspects as this version, there was an attempt to fit the codes & conventions of a superhero. This new portrayal looks out of place next to the diverse contemporary characters displayed in the promo.