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Echo of the Cheyenne

Back in 1999, David Mack and Joe Quesada created Maya Lopez, a Latina/Indian superhero, for Marvel's DAREDEVIL comic. They gave Maya the ability to duplicate any action she sees, whether it's a musical performance or martial arts routine. She's also one of the few deaf characters in comics. Hence her codename Echo, with its double meaning.

Maya's father, a Cheyenne nicknamed Crazy Horse, was an employee of Wilson Fisk, the so-called Kingpin of Crime. The Kingpin killed Crazy Horse, then took Maya in and raised her. She grew up to be a talented young woman, skilled as a pianist, composer, artist, ballet dancer, boxer, martial artist, and markswoman.

Maya met Matt "Daredevil" Murdock and fell in love, but the Kingpin told her Daredevil had killed her father. Seeking revenge against the hero, she almost killed him, but he managed to convince her of the truth. Furious, she confronted the Kingpin and shot him.

The real story begins
In the following story arc, titled "Vision Quest," Maya finally pursued her Native roots. As one website put it:

Unsatisfied and needing peace, Maya turned to the Chief, her father's old friend, noted for his wisdom. The Chief sent Maya on a Vision Quest to calm her soul. On her quest, she met and befriended Wolverine who helped her recover. ... Soon enough, Echo made peace with her past and was back doing performance art.

The most striking aspect of this story is the way David Mack told it. Eschewing panels and balloons, he presented Maya's thoughts as a kaleidoscope of words and images. It appeared Maya had created the collage herself, combining her scribbles and doodles to convey her stream of consciousness.

The result resembled an art student's sketchbook or scrapbook—or the ledger paintings of the Plains Indians. It demonstrated the nonverbal and nonlinear thinking of a deaf person—or a confused Native American. The scattered captions suggested that Maya was reading her handmade diary and reflecting on her past.

In short, it was a vision quest made manifest as a visual search for understanding. Kudos to writer/artist Mack for some of the most innovative comic-book sequences ever.

Maya next showed up in NEW AVENGERS. Disguised as a Japanese warrior called Ronin, she stood in for Daredevil, who was occupied elsewhere. This event is noteworthy because the Avengers are Marvel's premier superhero team. Maya is only the third Native to be affiliated with them. Red Wolf, another Cheyenne hero, first helped the Avengers in 1970. Silverclaw, a member of the fictional Kamekeri tribe of Latin America, became a reserve Avenger in the late 1990s.

A few quibbles
I have only a couple of quibbles with Echo's backstory. Although a previous story established that Willie "Crazy Horse" Lincoln was Cheyenne (I think), the "Vision Quest" story went out of its way to make him a generic Indian. As Lincoln once told Maya, his grandfather came from an Eastern tribe relocated to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. The grandfather married someone from another tribe in Oklahoma to produce Lincoln's mother. She married someone from another tribe to produce Lincoln. He could still be Cheyenne, but now it's unclear.

I've complained about generic Indians before. But if Maya is indeed Cheyenne, she's yet another in a long line of such characters. I criticized the glut of Cheyenne heroes in ICI #26, Why So Many Cheyenne? The point still stands.

Two, the Chief supposedly lives on "The Reservation," which Maya describes as follows:

It wasn't a conventional reservation for a particular tribe, but what seemed like an interzone of all tribes.

A place where various nations of indigenous Americans seemed to pass through....

Is there a problem saying he lives on one of the Cheyenne reservations in Montana, South Dakota, or Oklahoma? Or on any particular reservation? There's no such thing as a "interzone of all tribes." Either Mack was too lazy to do the research or some editor frowned on mentioning a real tribe or location.

Anyway, you can read about Maya's journey in the Vision Quest volume, which is available through Blue Corn Comics in our online store. See also the other Native-themed trade paperbacks I've recommended there.

Related links
Comic books featuring Indians

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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