Friday, July 24, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Showcase #85

Showcase #85 (On Sale: July 24, 1969) has a very nice Firehair cover by Joe Kubert.

We have a feature-length Firehair origin story, "I Don't Belong Here -- I Don't Belong There" which is obviously a labor of love for writer/artist/editor Joe Kubert. the story opens sometime in the early 1800's with our hero riding bareback across the desert being chased by a gaggle of towns-people shooting in his direction. Firehair is a teen-aged boy in Native American garb, with white skin and glowing red hair in two long tails trailing down his back. he has been shot but continues to ride.

When he reaches a rock face he leaps for it and begins to climb its face. The towns-folk dismount and take aim just as a hand reaches out of a cave in the rock and pulls Firehair to relative safety. The enraged towns-people fire off so many shots that they cause a landslide which covers the mouth of the cave, trapping Firehair and his unknown benefactor. Inside we find a Shaman and Evening Star, a young woman of the Blackfoot nation.

Firehair has been shot multiple times and they cannot move him from the cave, As the Shaman dresses his wounds, Firehair is enveloped by delirious dreams of his past. He sees a tribal fire he never witnessed where the Shaman tells the tribal elders of the terrible destruction of the Blackfoot and their brother nations at the hand of the paleface that he has foreseen. He also speaks of a great warrior who will arise, who will not look like any warrior in the Indian Nations, who will be despised by his own people and those he will seek to help. A great warrior who is the Blackfoot's only hope for salvation.

As Firehair's vision continues he sees the same tribe gathered on a mesa and attacking the wagon train below. Attacking relentlessly until all the pale ones are dead, all save one child with flaming red hair, whom Chief Grey Cloud takes to raise as his own. The resentment and hostility towards the white child runs deep in the village, but to some extent hidden. As young Firehair grows he learns that in order to survive and to prove himself worthy of being the Chief's son, he must be better than all the other children in the village, and so he is. But he is also alone and friendless. The years pass and Firehair reaches the age of manhood and goes off on a vision quest; the only one in the village offering him good luck is Evening Star. He fasts for five days seeing visions of his past, present and future and arises a man.

Back at his village he tells his father he dreamed of others with skin like his and wants to find them, to see if he belongs in their world. And so, Firehair heads off for the town, where he is attacked by a bully in the general store and when he fights back the whole town wants his hide. The town Sheriff steps in to break things up, but Firehair has had enough and breaks away, riding out of town, the towns-people shooting at his back.

His feverish vision ends and he finds himself in the cave with Evening Star, who says that now that he is better they can return home. But Firehair says he does not have a home, not with the Blackfoot and not with the palefaces. And so he sets off to travel the Earth looking for a place where he can belong.

I can not say enough about Joe Kubert's artwork on this book. He obviously spent a lot of time doing research on the Blackfoot nation and culture and you see it in every panel. He littered the book with wonderful detail and employed a grease pencil on every page, some times just a little, some times a lot, to give the pages a look different from any of the other books being published at that time.

Firehair would appear in two more issues of Showcase before finding a spot as a back-up strip in Tomahawk for another three issues. He didn't show up again till the character-packed Showcase #100 and then again in Crisis on Infinite Earths. In 1989 he was in one issue of Swamp Thing and then completely forgotten until the publication of War That Time Forgot in 2008 and where he can still be seen today.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

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