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Native & nerdy: Indigenous Comic Con focuses on Native American pop culture

Explore Native American pop culture during the second annual Indigenous Comic Con.

The three day event, which kicks off today at Isleta Resort & Casino, features a mix of vendors, artists, cosplay contests and games.

“This year, we’ve got a little bit more active activities that are going to be part of the Comic Con,” said Lee Francis IV, founder of Indigenous Comic Con. “We have some padded weapons tournaments and demos. We have some martial arts demonstrations. We have some more video games. We have a little bit more space in terms of what we’re doing. We’re going to have a whole makers station where you can make your own ‘rez zombie killer,’ and you can make a light saber. We’ve added a lot more stuff for families and for kiddos. … We’ll have a little (infrared reader) shooting gallery as well. That’s actually new this year. We sort of added the festival expo approach to this, really focusing on pop culture and really expanding that dynamic of indigenous pop culture and Native American pop culture.”

Artist Rod Velarde, from the Jicarilla Apache Nation, stands next to a unique Stormtrooper he created. (Courtesy of Indigenous Comic Con)

The event has 80 artists, vendors and exhibitors and has some major sponsors, including Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf and the Albuquerque technology company Aquila.

“It’s a mix,” Francis said of the participants. “We have some folks that are doing independent work (like) Dale Deforest. He works with us, but he also runs other art-type of things. And then we have Native professionals like Jim Terry and Jeffrey Veregge who work for Marvel and some of the independent comic books. I think Jim works for one of the bigger independent companies, but Jeff has done covers for Marvel and IDW.”

A boy dressed up as his favorite superhero poses in front of an Indigenous Comic Con logo wall at last years event. (Courtesy of Indigenous Comic Con)

This is more than a regular comic con, with its unique focus on Native American pop culture.

“I think the idea for us was to create a place to celebrate Native and indigenous peoples’ contribution to popular culture,” Francis said. “As we’ve said from the beginning, everyone is welcome, but here is some really fun stuff. If you think of something like Indian Market, when the Indian Market ends where they’re really showing, engaging, avant-garde type of work. Well, we wanted to do that except within the world of pop culture and zombies and fantasy and dragons and all those other things that we have here. … You know, Native folks are more than just historical relics, so more often you see Native folks in sort of the cowboys and Indians motif. We wanted to present something where there is another side to that, which is the modern Native that likes to dress up in cosplay and enjoys Thor, who plays video games, and there’s some really compelling and awesome work by these artists that is really fun and fabulous, so it’s really just a joyous celebration of all of these wonderful contributions with Native folks who are indigenerds.”

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