IPI #15 – Lee Francis IV
Welcome to another segment of the ever-popular, Indigenous Peeps in the Industry or ‘IPI‘ – my blog series celebrating Indigenous artists, writers, and other Native-creatives working in the comic book and/or video game industry. Today we get down to the nitty-gritty with Lee Francis IV – National Director at Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, CEO of Native Realities, and proprietor of Red Planet Books and Comics – an Indigenous-owned comic book store in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Michael Sheyahshe (MS): Background info: what is your tribal affiliation and where are you from?
Lee Francis (LF): My dad’s side is from the Pueblo of Laguna, the Village of Paguate and my mom’s side is from Missouri.
MS: Did you have a lot of cultural interaction growing up? (Family gatherings, dances, ceremonies, etc.?)
LF: My dad worked for the feds and universities, so I grew up on both coasts. But we always came home over the summer to my grandparent’s house in New Mexico and would be a part of the dances at home and such. We were also connected to many of the social powwows through Dad’s work and maintaining all those incredible Native social connections.
MS: When did you first get into comics?
LF: My earliest memory of collecting comic books was at Duran Central Pharmacy in Albuquerque, NM. They used to have a spinner-rack and I would grab the latest comics, Iron Man, Thor, and the Marvel Almanacs, to while away my time. My dad didn’t have any problem with me collecting comics so long as I was reading.
MS: What is your favorite comic book of all time…something that turns FRI-SUN into a ‘lost weekend’?
LF: Saga, anything by Kelly Sue DeConnick.
MS: What is your specialty in the biz?
LF: Well, I publish comics, sell comics, and write comics. Plus I do some graphic design and wrap around work.
MS: Did you get special training and/or education for this?
LF: Not really. Though I do have a long family history of writing.
MS: What other comics/projects have you worked on?
LF: Tales of the Might Code Talkers, When Raven Met Spider, Indigenous Love, When Rivers Were Trails, Sixkiller, and a few that will be upcoming soon!
MS: Do any comic books with Native American characters in them?
LF: All the comics I have written feature Native characters. I am especially focused on weaving in history and issues as a main part of the narrative of my characters.
MS: Do you have an opinion about Indigenous characters in comics, video games, and/or pop culture?
LF: Yeah, I would like to see more of them. And more of them created by Native people.
MS: Do you know of any other Natives in the “biz” (comics/video game industry)?
LF: Oh, a whole bunch! It was one of the reasons I started the Indigenous Comic Con: to be able to bring all the Native Nerds and creative professionals together in the same space so that’s what I did! It gave me the chance to meet up with some of the best people in the business and I am so grateful for all the support and connections!
MS: Any words of wisdom for others (Native or non) looking to do what you do?
LF: Finish the work and take criticism. You have to be able to complete projects from top to bottom and be able to take feedback from all sources. Create the best thing possible and get it out there in the world!