A literary superhero himself and an indigenous legendary comic creator, a proponent of Native Pop Culture, and creator of a new Native publishing venture, I am excited to introduce to you Dr. Lee Francis IV and his publishing house, Native Realities.
What kind of press is this? Think Comics, books, interactive. Native American authors and artists. Think Indigenous Comic Con.
This new publishing house is an indigenous imagination company dedicated to producing high quality media that dramatically changes the representation of native and indigenous people through popular culture.
Native Realities publishes books and comics featuring superhero tales of indigenous icons, First Nations freedom fighters, Aboriginal astronauts, and Native American superheroes. In addition to editing and contributing a story to the graphic anthology Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Dr. Lee Francis is the author of the comics Sixkiller, Native Entrepreneurs, and the upcoming Moonshot Vol.3.
Dr. Lee Francis is also the founder of Indigenous Comic Con, now a nation-wide event that was held this summer in Denver, Colorado, and will be in Albuquerque in March 2020. Indigenous Comic Con highlights and celebrates the imaginative new pop-literature being created by young Native artists and authors. Literature presented in comics is accessible, fun, surprising, and challenges past stereotyping. Native Realities has brought the indigenous experience to the world of popular culture and to readers of all ages.
Dr. Lee Francis IV was born in Virginia as an only child, from a remarkable family, who were and continue to be leaders and activists in politics, culture, and literary arts. Lee’s father, Elias Lee Francis III, was the founder of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Lee’s grandmother, Ethel Haines, was of Laguna Pueblo / Anishinaabe and Scottish descent. His aunt, Paula Gunn Allen, was a scholar of both English and American Indian literature, a professor at UCLA, and one of the foremost voices in Native American literature. And Leslie Marmon Silko is Lee’s Laguna cousin.
Dr. Lee Francis IV carries on the spirit of his family in many ways, especially innovative ways that speak to young readers. I was fortunate to meet with Lee at Red Planet Books and Comics in Albuquerque and ask him a few questions:
What was the passion that gave you the courage to form a brand new press?
The passion was really about my students. I wanted them to have dynamic and positive representations of Native people in the media they were engaging in. I wanted them to see themselves in the comics they were reading. I wanted to cultivate their imaginations and I was tired of waiting around for some one else to do it. So I started publishing.
What is most rewarding about being a publisher?
Being able to explore topics and ideas no one else is writing about. Being able to see a finished product, to hold it in my hands, to see someone else taking a copy home for their own library. Most rewarding, indeed!
What are your challenges as a publisher?
Always distribution. As Native folks, we are incredibly creative but there are still gatekeepers that control access to the market.
What are your visions and hopes for the future of your press?
More books, more publications. We’d like to branch into toys and especially more games — tabletop and roleplaying!
Who do you hope is reading and talking about your books?
Really, everyone! Oprah? Obama? Influencers of every sort? LOL. But seriously, my hope is always that Native kiddos and Native families are reading and talking about our books and how they have impacted them in a positive way. (But Oprah would be very cool.)
Tell us about a few of your recent publications and why they are unique.
Deer Woman: An Anthology is the only graphic anthology completely created by Native women. Native Entrepreneurs is a fun comic and entrepreneur workbook rolled into one. Ghost River (December 1 release) is an incredible history and teaching graphic novel about the massacre of the Conestoga people in Pennsylvania. Very proud of all the things we have worked on over the years.
How does one order books from Native Realities?
You can find all our books as well as many more through Red Planet Books and Comics.We have lots of great titles and have begun to focus on distributing Native-centric, Native-authored content (books and comics) for institutions.
For further reading, enjoy Cynthia Leitich Smith’s interview with Dr. Lee Francis IV
or “The Stan Lee of Indian Country: Comics Publisher Dr. Lee Francis,” published by Indian Country Today.