Q&A with “Scalped” creator Jason Aaron

Jason Aaron is the writer of two new Vertigo comic series. THE OTHER SIDE is a five issue mini-series showing two sides of the Vietnam War — with an eerie twist. SCALPED
is a new ongoing action-thriller series set on a corrupt Native
American reservation. The final issue of THE OTHER SIDE and the second
issue of SCALPED come out the week of Feb. 7.
In the following Q & A with Aaron, Comics on the Brain quizzed the writer on his inspirations and plans for the future.

Comics on the Brain: How did you pitch SCALPED to Vertigo? What about THE OTHER SIDE?

JA: I pitched THE OTHER SIDE just by emailing editor Will Dennis
out of the blue and somehow convincing him to read the first issue
script.  A few months after Vertigo gave the greenlight to THE
OTHER SIDE, he and I were talking about other possible projects, and I
mentioned the idea of doing a crime story set on a modern-day Indian
rez.  Will and I are both huge fans of Michael Mann’s “Crime
Story” TV show and of the film State of Grace (terrific little movie,
if you haven’t seen it), so those were some of the first influences on
SCALPED.  Since then, HBO’s series “The Wire,” probably my
all-time favorite TV show, has been a huge influence as well.

CotB: Is SCALPED strictly an action-thriller comic or will their be abit of Native American mysticism involved?

JA: No, it’s not strictly an action story.  This first arc
is more action driven, but overall, I’d call it more of a dark,
character drama.  There will be some elements of Native mysticism
that come into play at times, but not a heavy dose.  Token
mysticism has been a stereotype of Native American stories for a long
time, so I’m trying not to overuse it. 

CotB: Did you name Dashiell Bad Horse after writer Dashiell Hammet?

JA: Not really.  “Dashiell” is the name of my 19-month-old
son.  And “Bad Horse” is the last name of my cousin who lives on a
Cheyenne reservation in Montana.  But I am a huge Dashiell Hammet

CotB: What draws you to writing about a Native American protagonist?

JA: I’ve been fascinated with Native American history and
culture since I was a kid.  And storywise, it’s a very fertile,
largely untapped setting.

CotB: What sort of research did you do for SCALPED? Do you live near a reservation?

JA: I live in Kansas City, but SCALPED is set in South
Dakota.  I researched SCALPED like I did my Vietnam War series THE
OTHER SIDE: mostly just by reading everything I could get my hands on,
from portraits of modern day rez life and Native American history books
to old western comics like Scalphunter and Pow-Wow Smith.

CotB: Have you got any feedback from Native American readers? What are they saying?

JA: I’ve received lots of feedback from Natives, most of them
excited to see a book that addresses the deplorable state of most
modern day reservations.  But there have also been some negative
comments.  I think some people are just uncomfortable with the
idea of setting a crime series on an Indian rez.  They fear that
readers will assume all Natives are corrupt and murderous, like a lot
of the characters we see in SCALPED.  But I give Vertigo readers
more credit than that. 

CotB: Speaking of research, your Vietnam tale, “The Other Side,”
has ahealthy dose of communist rhetoric. How did you come up with that?

JA: A lot of the NVA propaganda speak for the book is actually
taken directly from historical documents, mostly published statements
by the National Liberation Front.

CotB: THE OTHER SIDE is filled with FULL METAL JACKET-style
insults and lots of  four-letter words. Is this inspired by
personal experienceor what you’ve
seen in the movies?

JA: Well, I was never in the military, so I’ve never actually
been through boot camp.  But according to everything I’ve read and
the actual vets I’ve talked to, that’s pretty much the way it was back
then.  FULL METAL JACKET is just a great reflection of that.

CotB: There hasn’t been too many comics that focus on the Vietnam War.Why do you think that is?

JA: It’s still a terribly unpopular subject.  And it’s just not a suitable setting for traditional, gung ho type war stories.

CotB: SCALPED is an ongoing series, but THE OTHER SIDE is a miniseries, does that mean that he finally listens to his rifle?

JA: You don’t really want me to tell you how the book ends, do
you?  You can find out for yourself the first week of February
when THE OTHER SIDE No. 5 comes out.

CotB: Your first comic work was for Marvel’s “Amazing Fantasy.” What did you do?

JA: Actually, my first published work was an 8 page story in
WOLVERINE No. 175 that I got to write after winning a Marvel Comics
Talent Search.

CotB: Damn my research assistant! I’ll be sure to thrash him
good for that mess-up! Anyway, are you a big fan of Marvel or were you
just jumping at a chance to show your stuff?

JA: Yeah, I’m a Marvel fan.  Garth Ennis’ current PUNISHER series is one of my favorite books.

CotB: After THE OTHER SIDE ends, will you be working on another book?

JA: I’ll be working on SCALPED until they pry it from my cold,
dead hands.  As of right now, GuĂ©ra is putting the finishing
touches on SCALPED No. 7.  I have the book plotted out to around
issue No. 30, and hopefully we’ll run a lot longer than that.

CotB: What’s your dream job in comics?

JA: Pretty much any job writing comics is a dream job, as far as
I’m concerned.  But writing a couple of creator-owned series for
Vertigo is particularly dreamy.

CotB: Aw come on! You gotta give me a better answer than that! What character or concept would you like to mess around with?

JA: I would’ve killed to do a SON OF SATAN book, but Marvel’s
already doing one.  If I could someday work on ATARI FORCE with
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, then I’d die a happy man.

Visit Jason Aaron’s Web sites at:


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