Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wolf Warriors and Battering Rams

Indian Chief (titled simply The Chief for its first two issues) was published by Dell Comics and ran through most of the 1950s. They were stories involving various Native American tribes and usually didn’t involve white men at all. I’m not sure of the time frame—whether the stories were set before any Europeans were on the scene or if they recount adventures that just didn’t happen to involve any white men. But whatever the case, they were great stories, with strong art work and equally strong characterizations.

Most of the time, an issue of Indian Chief would recount an adventure featuring White Eagle, a clever Sioux chief. And White Eagle was a pretty cool guy, so we’ll take a look at one of his adventures next week.

But a few of the early issues didn’t involve White Eagle. The Chief #2 (April-June 1951), for instance, contained three stories, each with a different protagonist. It’s one of these, titled “The Exile,” that we’ll be looking at today.

The title character here is Fleet Hawk, a young Arikari brave about to be initiated into the Wolf Clan.

Now I’ll admit right away that I have no idea if the Arikari culture is being presented accurately. I  
did only a little research when I decided to review this story, simply looking the tribe up in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I learned they lived near the North/South Dakota border and they both farmed and hunted. That’s pretty much all I know. Their location does mean it makes sense that they’d be enemies of the Cheyenne—as presented in the story—since the two tribes would have lived close enough to each other to occasionally fight. But whether the Wolf Clan or the initiation process are historically accurate—well, I have no idea.

I didn’t dig any farther because I am reviewing this story for its entertainment value, not its historical veracity. And, by golly, it’s certainly not lacking in entertainment value.

Part of the initiation is to beat Fleet Hawk with a stick to see if he cries out. He endures this stoically until the stick hits a recent injury, forcing him to give a yell. For this failure, he’s exiled from the tribe for one year.

But he stays busy. It’s not long before he’s jumped by a wolf and kills it with his knife.  Wearing the wolf skin as a trophy, he then rescues an Arikari woman from some Cheyenne, though he runs away afterwards to hide his identity.

He soon discovers that the Cheyenne are planning a mass attack on the Arikari village after approaching along a river in canoes. To save his people, Fleet Hawk improvises a rather devastating naval-warfare weapon and takes on the Cheyenne single-handedly.

Alberto Giolitti does a perfect job with the art, giving us one riveting action scene after another, while the script (by Gaylord Du Bois) provides us with a realistic and likeable hero in Fleet Hawk.

This is, as far as I know, Fleet Hawk’s only appearance. That’s too bad. Wearing his unique wolf skin and carrying on a secret war against the enemies of his tribe—well, that’s the formula for more than one epic adventure. But if we’re only going to get one story about the young warrior, then this one will do. “The Exile” is a grand adventure tale. It’s available online, so read it yourself at (though you may have to register at the site to access it). 

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