A Tribute to the of

Did you ever select a comic out of simple curiosity, or perhaps because a familiar set of talent produced it? Such is the case with the featured book for this edition of the Silver Age Sage. I'd seen the house ads back in the day, though I'd never seen an actual issue. Just what was Joe Kubert's Firehair all about, anyway? Well, only one way to find out (particularly since they've not seen reprint to date) and that was to obtain my own copy of his debut in the pages of Showcase #85 from September of 1969. The credits are easy enough: Cover art by Joe Kubert. Likewise for the interior art. Script by Joe Kubert and editing by…Joe Kubert. Surely someone else lettered, but that bit of information seems to be lacking at my usual sources. The title of the tale is, "I Don't Belong Here…I Don't Belong There!"

The setting is the American Southwest in the early 1800's. We encounter a wounded youth partially slumped over and riding a horse with gunfire whizzing around him. The youth is stripped to the waist, wearing buckskins and moccasins and has flaming red braids flowing behind him. He is Firehair.

Coming up to a rock, he jumps from his mount and begins a tortured climb up the sheer face as his pursuers gather at the foot of the outcropping and begin some malevolent target practice. Then, a friendly hand reaches for Firehair, pulling him to safety inside a cave. The Shaman and Evening Star, an Indian maiden, tend to their adopted tribesman. As they ponder how to get him out of the cave safely, the youth's mind drifts backward in time.

The time is a gathering of the Blackfoot Indians as they ponder what to do about the encroachment of the white man to their lands. It is foretold at the fire by the Shaman "Read Smoke" that a warrior will rise from death itself to assist them, but that he won't look like others of his kind and in fact will be despised not only by his people, but by those he attempts to aid. The younger braves are having none of this, however. They are intent on action and soon a war party descends upon a wagon train, destroying all in their path, save one survivor, a small, red-headed child.

Grey Cloud stops Little Crow from killing the child, reminding him that they are not the savages they have been portrayed and he suggests this could be the one the Shaman foretold. Grey Cloud adopts him as his son and as Chief, his word was law. Thus is the life of the white child set in motion, living and learning among the Blackfeet, but certainly in the realm of being in the tribe, but not of the tribe. The rejection and loneliness he faced caused him to overachieve among his peers, besting them all in running, shooting, wrestling and the other prized skills, including being the first to "gain coup" by acquiring his own horse from the enemy.

As the seasons passed it became the time for Firehair's ritual to become a man, fasting for days and secluding himself among the mountaintops where visions of the past, present and future came to him. When five days had passed, he, too, had passed from boyhood into manhood in accordance with tradition.

Upon his return he tells his father of seeing people like himself and asking just who he is. Grey Cloud tell him that there is a town of white people not far from their encampment and he must go there to receive answers, despite inevitable heartbreak and pain.

As the Chief had predicted, Firehair's arrival in town was met with surprise, suspicion and derision. Who was this stranger dressed like an Indian, but with red hair and pale features? Firehair discovers the General Store and sees a pipe that his father might like, but as he begins to try to do a transaction, the townsmen intervene with predictable results. The first to strike receives his share in kind, and more from the wiry youth. He is prepared to defend his honor as the son of a chief, but sheer numbers settle the matter until the Sheriff intervenes.

Unsettled by events and with his system on full alert, Firehair makes a break for it, seizing a horse at the blacksmith shop and fleeing across the plains with the mob in hot pursuit. This brings us back to the cave and his current sanctuary where he comes out of his fevered dream and Evening Star explains where he is and what has transpired. She tells him he is safe at home. "Home, Evening Star? Where—is my home? Is it with the Blackfoot…as the Chief's son? While I am looked at with hate by the rest of the tribe? Or is it with the palefaces? Those hwo tried to kill me—because I do not speak their language…and because I wear the garb of the Plains Indian? I am wanted nowhere…my home is no place! But—I will find my place! I will wander the face of the Earth until I do!"

And that closes the introductory story of this young man who is torn between two cultures, setting the stage for future journeys. Unfortunately the journeys were few, despite this masterful tale set up by one of the truly master storytellers, the late, great, Joe Kubert. Firehair returned in the next two issues of Showcase, #86 and #87 and then later was a backup feature in Son of Tomahawk, issues #131, #132, #134 and #136. Beyond that, he has only had the odd appearance here and there in such tomes as Crisis. A genuine shame, too, as the potential seemed very great. In fact, this issue contains a "Declaration of Intent" under the heading, "Smoke Talk," which doubtless evolved into a lettercol:

The character Firehair—a white boy raised by the Blackfoot Indians of the Great Western Plains—was created to revolve around specific ideas and themes.

Throughout the world's history, man has developed scientifically, socially, physically and spiritually. Or—so we have been taught in our learning processes.

To the contrary, however, some philosophers insist that the ironic lesson of history is: The more we change, the more we remain the same!

The thrust of our story is in this direction:

Firehair could have lived in this country one hundred and fifty years ago. We aretold that many settlers' children were adopted and raised by Indian tribes.

Stepping off from this basic concept, the problems that would present itself insuch a situation—would not, we feel, differ radically from the problems we all face today.

There would be the urge for self-identification…as it is today!

The desire to be judged on one's inner qualities, rather than external biases…as it is today!

The desire to be accepted or rejected because of one's own actions, rather thanon the actions of one's contemporaries…as it is today!

Therefore—although our story takes place in "the days of the Wild, Wild West"—it is as modern as it is today, in terms of its theme.

As you can see, Joe had some intriguing and relevant ideas for this feature and it will come as no surprise to his many fans that his layouts, artwork and terrific and innovative usage of panels throughout this story made it a tour-de-force. Details such as reproductions of Navajo sand paintings in side borders and a two-page centerspread are just a couple of the features that made this a most enjoyable read

The general feel of this book inevitably reminded me of Joe's "Rider of the Winds" also in the pages of Showcase, well over a decade prior and reviewed not so long ago here at the Silver Lantern. This undiscovered gem garners an enthusiastic 9 on the 10-pointrating scale. Again, the stories haven't seen reprint, so if you can get your hands on a copy, by all means do so. You won't be disappointed.

Our lines are always open here at the Silver Lantern, your best destination for all thingspertaining to the great Silver Age of DC comics. We always enjoy hearing from you, too, with your observations, accolades and inputs of all sorts, so don't be shy. Take advantage of e-mail contact at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you around tax filing deadline and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2013 by B.D.S.

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