Jason Aaron Does the Casino Boogie in "Scalped"

Last year, writer Jason Aaron introduced readers to Dashiell Bad Horse in the pages of Vertigo's Native American crime drama "Scalped." The series found the long absent Bad Horse returning to the place on his birth, the fictional South Dakota reservation Prairie Rose. Upon arrival, Bad Horse was recruited by local politician and crime boss Red Crow, but little did Red Crow know that Prairie Rose's least favorite son was now an agent with the FBI. CBR News caught up with the Eisner nominated Jason Aaron to talk about the future of the critically acclaimed series.

Though "Scapled" is a crime drama at heart, part of Aaron's goal in setting his story on a reservation was to address the issues that face Native Americans today. With a heavy focus on Indian gaming, the second "Scalped" story arc is no exception. "Casino Boogie" takes place on the night of the grand opening of Red Crow's new casino. "Each issue is from the perspective of a different character," Aaron told CBR News. "Dash Bad Horse, our troubled young undercover agent; Red Crow, the former Native rights activist turned brutal casino boss; Diesel, a tobacco-chewing, ass-kicking white man who longs to be a Native; Catcher, the mysterious rider; Dino Poor Bear, a young kid just trying to stay clean but usually failing; and Gina Bad Horse, who, as we saw at the end of issue #5, will be dead by morning. Looks to be one hell of a night for everything in and around the Crazy Horse Casino."

"Casino Boogie" marks the introduction of several new cast members to "Scalped." "In issue #7, we meet a couple of the biggest thorns in Red Crow's side, including a corrupt official from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a particularly vicious Hmong street gang who operate out of Minnesota," Aaron said. "Then in issues #9 and #10, we'll meet Dino's grandmother, the strong-willed matriarch of the Poor Bear clan. Overall, I think we've got a pretty damn interesting cast of characters in 'Scalped,' and we'll continue to explore what makes them tick."

Though Red Crow is a decidedly despicable human being, his motivations are not so black and white. The crime lord and tribal elder was once a member of a Native rights organization whose numbers included Dash's own mother, Gina Bad Horse, and the aforementioned Catcher. "These days, [Catcher's] a bit of a recluse and a wildcard," Aaron said. "He seems to consider himself an agent of spiritual forces, but not everyone else on the rez would agree. For more on Catcher, check out issue #9, a story called 'A Thunder Being Nation I Am.'"

Dashiell Bad Horse's past is also spattered with shades of gray. His employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation seems to be something of a forced match; an indentured servitude to work off some as yet unrevealed past indiscretion. But don't expect to learn what it is the Feds are holding over Dash's head anytime soon. "No plans yet for that story," Aaron said. "Poor Dash has got his hands full as it is. And just wait until after his run-in with Diesel atop the casino."

"For the most part, the series will take place exclusively on Prairie Rose," Aaron continued. "But we will get flashes of other locations at times, including an Indian boarding school in issue #7, a West Texas Kickapoo rez in #8 and Leavenworth Penitentiary in #11." Aaron has also pitched to Serbian artist R.M. Guéra the possibility of the artist writing and drawing an issue flashing back to Dash's military tour in Kosovo. "Guéra and I have had a great relationship from the get-go, even though we're very different people. He's very passionate and animated. I'm much more reserved and laid back. Still, we always seem to be on the same page when it comes to 'Scalped.' I couldn't imagine doing the book with anybody else."

The writer admitted that he does keep tabs on fan and critics' reaction to the series, both good and bad. "Thankfully, the response so far to 'Scalped' has been overwhelmingly positive, including great write-ups in 'Entertainment Weekly,' 'Playboy,' 'The Chicago Tribune,' 'New York Daily News' and 'Wizard Magazine,' and on Reznet News," Aaron said. "I've also received e-mails from Native Americans from all over the country (Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Mexico) who are big fans of the series."

Aaron couldn't be more thrilled about his recent Eisner nomination for his other Vertigo title, "The Other Side." "If we win, I'll owe it all to editors Will Dennis and Casey Seijas, artist Cameron Stewart and colorist Dave McCaig, who all worked their asses off on that book," declared Aaron. He also hopes that the increased visibility for "The Other Side" will attract new readers to "Scalped," and vice versa. "They're very different books in a lot of ways, but I think they're alike in that they're both exploring rich settings that for the most part have been ignored in comics. I also have some superhero work coming out later this year that I hope will raise my profile a bit and maybe funnel some new readers to my Vertigo work."

The superhero work Aaron was referring to is "Wolverine" #56 with artist Howard Chaykin, and a one-shot on Top Cow's "Ripclaw," with interiors by Jorge Lucas and a cover by Tony Moore. "Spoiler alert: Claws will get bloodied and people will get killed in both books," Aaron revealed.

"Casino Boogie" begins in "Scalped" #6, hitting stands this June.

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