By Stacy Thacker, University of Montana
Let’s just say it: Frybread is a delicacy that most in Indian Country cannot resist. That also goes for a new Native super hero whose weapons include hot grease and dough.
Frybread Man is a hero who fights for Native American rights as created by Ryan Huna Smith, Navajo and Chemehuevi, of the Mojave Desert. He is a hero for every man, Smith said.
“His humor is real cheesy but that's how I wanted it to be," Smith said in a phone interview.
Frybread Man wears a blue and red outfit like Superman and this helps people identify with him better according to the artist.
The story of Frybread man starts with him eating a piece of radioactive frybread that gave him his power to transform from an every day Joe into a super hero. As a nameless regular guy, the comic book character battles diabetes. But as a super hero the diabetes doesn't exist and like any Native his kryptonite is the delicious crispy and golden brown frybread.
Smith said he wants to use this hero’s story to give insight on reservation life. Most of the obstacles and battles that Frybread Man faces are everyday events that many Natives face, such as his bout with diabetes.
His adventures haven't made their way into comic book form yet, Smith hopes to start work on a book next year. The character started as just a print that Smith originally entered for a humor calendar at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N. M. but was rejected.
However the print became widely poplar and thus the pudgy super hero was born. Smith draws a lot of his inspiration from comics and has used this medium to express his heritage in his own ways.
Smith said he gets a lot of people coming up to him claiming to have seen his print hanging on grandma’s refrigerator. Fry-Bread Man has moved from rejection into the homes of many fans.
This isn't Smith’s only work in progress. He has been working on another Native hero by the name of Gahn. He is an Apache Mountain spirit dancer that started out as a character in another Native influenced comic book, Tribal Force, a one-shot that appeared in the mid-90s.
Tribal Force is a comic created by Jon Proudstar and Smith, it tells the tale of a few Native superheroes coming together to save the reservation and its people from being forced to leave their home because the government wants the land for natural resources.
Gahn's story is less humorous than Frybread Man and has a serious side to it. The idea behind Gahn is similar: to show reservation life as well as explain the culture.
Smith recognizes that Fry-Bread Man is a stereotype. He’s at peace with that notion.
"Everybody relates to fry bread," Smith said.
And whether your Native or non-Native, everybody needs a superhero.