Marvel's Original Native American Hero Is Back!

by Alex Heimbach

All summer, Marvel's Secret Wars event has been provoking speculation about what the publisher's "All New, All Different" line up will look like. Increasingly, and awesomely, the answer seems to be "impressively diverse." The latest title Marvel has announced is Red Wolf, an ongoing series starring the titular character, Marvel's first Native American superhero. The book will be written by Nathan Edmonson, with art by Dalibor Talajić and covers and consulting from artist Jeffrey Veregge, a member of the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe.

Despite his historical significance, Red Wolf has never been a major player in Marvel lore. He first appeared in two issues of the Avengers in 1970, before going on to headline his own series, which lasted just nine issues. (Sadly, this is more than Marvel's second Native American hero could manage — poor Thunderbird lasted just three issues before he was unceremoniously killed off.) In true comic-book fashion, the title of Red Wolf was actually held by three different characters in these 11 books, each of whom had a wolf companion named Lobo and stereotypically Native American skills like tracking and archery.

The new Red Wolf will have a completely different backstory — he's from an alternate dimension — and new, more grounded powers. "We’ve made him a little bit of a regular Joe. We’re not too beholden to the Red Wolf of old — this is our take on that character," said Edmonson. The writer also describes the hero as the "Jason Bourne of the West," someone who can find his way out of any situation with just his wits.

Despite the changes to the character's backstory, there's not a lot of room for error here. Native Americans remain one of the most marginalized and stereotyped minorities in the US, and pop culture doesn't have a great track record of representing them. (Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, anyone?) Nonetheless, Marvel's earned some faith with the success of characters like Kamala Khan and Miles Morales, and the publisher seems genuinely committed to having a more diverse line up of heroes for its relaunch: in addition to Miles taking over for Peter Parker as Spiderman, Sam Wilson and Jane Foster will continue their runs as Captain America and Thor, respectively, X-23 is replacing Logan as Wolverine, and Korean-American teenager Amadeus Cho will be the new Hulk.

The involvement of Veregge is further cause for optimism — not only does he sound thrilled about resurrecting Red Wolf, his first cover looks fantastic. "There's not a character like Red Wolf out there right now," he told Mashable. "As a native, I’m really excited to see that he can do things, he can figure out things and stand with Captain America, and hold his own in this universe. That’s what’s awesome about it: You have all these characters of different nationalities and ethnicities, but it’s not all about their culture. It’s about them being a hero."