SAGUARO

Monthly, B/W, 16x21 cm, 96 pages.

 

- Who is Saguaro?

 

A Navajo with a retiring and difficult personality, who’s looking for himself, while fighting crime to protect his people.

He’s a Navajo. Thorn Kitcheyan is his name, but he often goes by his nickname: Saguaro. His best friend Nastas Begay sticked him with this name when they were kids, and Thorn never managed to get rid of it. Some people think the Saguaro is just a thorny cactus, while others (particularly the Tohono O'Odham, a tribe whose blood is partially running in the veins of our hero) believe this plant to be a valuable source of life. In a way, Saguaro is the incarnation of both these aspects: quick-tempered and dangerous, he’s also ready to sacrifice himself for a just cause, and more than often his intervention is decisive and vital.

Saguaro is a veteran of the Vietnam War, after being released toward the end of the hostilities for the wounds he suffered in action. In fact, he’s more inclined to action than to talk; trained to survive in extreme condition, he is able to hold his own in every situation and is good at finding finger marks, tracks and other clues. But he’s not the typical thoroughly upright hero; Saguaro lives a constant state of contradiction — seemingly cynical and sceptical, he’s ready to bend over backwards to help other people; while he’s not a believer in tradition, he knows it and honors the people who respect the old customs; he’d rather live alone, but he can’t stay away from the place he was born in, and the people that showed him love and respect. He’s far from infallible: sometimes he lets rage guide his actions, committing mistakes and paying for it. After living for years with the White men, Saguaro seems to have lost the classic balance of Navajo philosophy of life, and appears to be out of touch with his original land. After getting back to his hometown, Window Rock, he will go on a long adventurous and spiritual trail.

 

- Saguaro’s friends

 

HOWI BENALLY

Howi is an old Navajo who runs the Buen Retiro ranch, once owned by the Kitcheyan family. As a young man, he worked as a homesteader for Saguaro’s father, and Saguaro grew up listening to his advice and watching him perform his rites. Yes, because Howi is a "hataalii": a singer, a medicine man whose task is performing traditional rituals and songs, more often than not organized in complicated cerimonies, for chasing away evil, bring luck, or more simply give back to the ill persons their harmony with the world around them and the Sacred People. Howi is a well-respected figure in the Native world, although he seems more comfortable as a complaining and ailing old man than in his “official” role.

 

KAI WALKEN

The daughter of the Captain of the Window Rock Tribal Police (Alan Walken, a white man) and of a Navajo woman, Kai is, at least at the beginning, a policewoman as well. She will soon be trusted by Saguaro and she’s ready to help him with his Federal investigations. Kai is a strong woman, with a tough and resolute approach. Clever and keen, she knows how to hold her own, verbally and phisically. A good shot and a brave woman, in some situations she prefers to use her mind. On the contrary of Saguaro, who’s ready to break rules to attain his goals, Kai is quite faithful to her duty.

 

MIGUEL & HERMILA

Miguel Aguilar is an 11-year old Mexican kid, who’s entrusted to the care of his aunt Hermila. Bright-eyed and with a contagious smile, Miguel is very curious, and he often finds himself in trouble because of this. Aunt Hermila is the sister of Miguel’s father’s: a diminutive but great woman, she’s skinny and seemingly stern, but she’s very strong-willed.

 

ART PARKER

A lawyer working for the court that rules about the Native-on-Native crimes, Art is an old friend of Saguaro and Howi’s, and they often engage in passionate discussions. Art and Howi have a different approach to life in the Reservation: while Art is totally rational, Howi is a traditional (and “mystical”) man. While considering himself as a ”modern” Native, Art has an utter respect for his land and history; but he knows that, in order to protect his brothers’ rights, it’s necessary to fully understand the laws of the White man.

 

CLIVE WATERS

Vice-chairman of the Federal Bureau in Albuquerque, Clive is a cultured, intelligent and open-minded person. He’s often clashing with his boss, the obtuse Russel Green, a member of the "old school" FBI, not too inclined to follow the recent openness politics of the Goverment toward the Natives. Clive, instead, counts several Indians as his best friends, such as Art Parker, the lawyer (who was a college friend of his).

 

JUDE TOWANKA

Reckless, stubborn, young and impetuous, 22-year old Jude was practically “adopted” by Saguaro’s mentor, Howi. The young man grew up in a local fosterhouse and he never knew his parents, but he’s sure his mother was a Navajo, and he’s actively trying to find his origins (and his tribal “clan”).

 

LITTLE EYE

A Harris hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), also known as a wolf-hawk, because it usually lives in "families" of several individuals that hunt as a pack. Differently from his peers, Little Eye prefers to live alone — a common trait between him and Saguaro. Little Eye doesn’t take part in Saguaro’s adventures, but the hawk can be considered as a friend for him: it was the first living creature to welcome Saguaro back when he returned to Window Rock, and it still goes to pay a daily visit to his isolated and dusty mobile home, between the rocks and the road.

 

- The enemies

 

NOAH FOLSOM

Folsom is a rich White landowner, who’s utterly scrupleless and used to manipulate people. He loves living large and doing things in a big way. He settled in the Navajo reservation years ago, buying land and investing money to create an image of respected benefactor. His purported activity is import-export trade, farming and breeding. But he really lives on smuggling, drug peddling and other dirty deeds. He has corrupted Tribal policemen and above-suspicion FBI agents on his payroll.

 

ALAN WALKEN

Captain Walken is a no-nonsense, rough White man. After marrying a Native woman, he was accepted by the community and managed to become chief of Window Rock Tribal Police. With the sudden death of his wife, Walken lost his direction and became an alcoholic. In the past, the chief arrested the hot-headed Saguaro more than once and now he’s convinced that, though he lived for many years outside the Reservation, the man hasn’t changed. Alan Walken deeply loves his daughter Kai, although he doesn’t understand her thoroughly, the same way he never accepted the complicated local tradition. The only laws he abide to are those determined by the government and Tribal Council.

 

COBRA RAY

Aka, Ray "Cobra" Brest: his muscled body is for the most part devastated by bad burns. It was his comrade in arms, Saguaro, to provoke the burns, during a dramatic action in Vietnam. Since then, Ray’s mission has always been to make Saguaro pay for it; his goal, though, is not to kill him, but to strike him through his loved ones, transforming Saguaro into a “monster”. A sadistic, cunning and intelligent man, Ray knowns the dark sides of Thorn’s personality and past, and his only goal is revenge.

 

NASTAS BEGAY

Little brother of Howi’s helper, Yanaba Begay, Nastas has the same age of Saguaro and had been his best friend during their “forays” as young men. At the time, Saguaro and Nastas shared some ideals, but not all: Thorn Kitcheyan already refused to follow the rules of the People. In time, they took different paths and lost contact. Today, Nastas is a member of a group of activists for the rights of the Natives, openly against the Federal government, that has connections outside the Navajo Reservation. Disillusioned by life and the institutions, Nastas is seeking revenge for the way his people is treated.

 

- Saguaro’s world

 

In the early 1970s, America feels fragile, shaken by the last aftermaths of an unprecedented military defeat and by the turmoil still brooding in the different social strata. The same period is a dramatic time for the Natives, left alone or vexed by unjust governative politics. The Indian Resistance is active, though: after the demonstrations of the 1960s, groups of activists occupy Alcatraz Island (1969), march on Washington (1972) and take other, sometimes desperate and dramatic, actions, aimed to awake public opionion (such as the armed occupation of the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973). In this difficult times, Saguaro goes back to Arizona, after a long series of adventures in the army, ended by the release after the wounds he suffered in Vietnam. Our hero goes back to Window Rock, the capital town of the Navajo Nation, and finds the great reservation mainly unchanged: most of the Natives still live in poverty, the landowners still do what they want and the corporations exploit the lands notwithstanding the treaties, with the collusion of the local politicians. Due to the shady relations with the central government, the powers of the Navajo Tribal Police are restricted and the most important cases are entrusted to White federal agents who don’t know the reservation, the language and the local traditions. The vice-director of the Federal Bureau in Albuquerque, Clive Waters, through their mutual friend Art Parker, asks Saguaro to create a special unit, that will have its HQ next to the Tribal Council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This way, Waters hopes to “communicate” with a complicated and closed world, that has its own codes and history, and an underground current of rage and desire for revenge. Saguaro, who lived with the White men for a long time and seems to have steered away from the Navajo “Way of Beauty”, will soon find out he needs to reckon with a painful past, the land he was born in, and, above all, his own conscience.

 

*****

 

AUTHORS:

 

- The creator of Saguaro

A brief biography of Bruno Enna

Bruno Enna
Born in Sassari in 1969, since 1995/96 begins his collaboration with Disney Italia, writing scripts for several series (Topolino, W.I.T.C.H., PK Paperinik New Adventures), articles and news for weekly supplements, and for the licensing and books sections. He also works with Edizioni IF. In 1999, along with Mulazzi, Fasano and Barbucci, he creates the Disney character Paperino Paperotto. In the following years, besides working for Disney (also as a writer for the series Monster Allergy), he collaborates at Lys (Tridimensional) and is the supervisor for the series Angel's Friends (Play Press). Enna work sas a scriptwriter for two TV animated series: Winx Club and Monster Allergy (Rainbow). In 2010, he works for the French editions Soleil, publishing the volume "Coeur de papier", with art by Giovanni Rigano. Along with Greppi, Di Genova and Lucchetta, he’s the creator of the TV animation series Spike Team, broadcast by the RAI channels. His début at Sergio Bonelli Editore was in 2004, with a story for Dylan Dog, "L'uomo di plastica", in Maxi Dylan Dog n.7. In the same year, Fumo di China gave him the prize for the best humoristic writer. At present, he writes for Topolino and Dylan Dog and is working on the series Saguaro, published by Bonelli since May 2012.

 

- The collaborators

All the authors of Saguaro

Bruno Enna, writer

Paolo Armitano, artist

Elisabetta Barletta, artist

Busticchi & Paesani, artists

Marco Foderà, artist

Davide Furnò, artist

Italo Mattone, artist

Alessandro Pastrovicchio, artist

Luigi Siniscalchi, artist

Fabio Valdambrini, artist

Ivan Vitolo, artist

 

*****

 

F.A.Q.:

Bruno Enna answers

What’s the origin of the name Thorn Kitcheyan, and the nickname Saguaro?

There’s no "symbolic" connotation to the surname, while the thorn in the name is in some way one of the reasons he got his nickname. The Navajo usually have several names: besides the one on the official ID, they have a “secret name” (used in the religious cerimonies and known by a few trusted persons) and one or more than one nickname.

Did you have a precise physical template that you used as an inspiration, in creating the character?

In the beginning, my choice was between several actors, but they only had some of the physical/personality traits I had in mind for the character. I liked Adam Beach, Val Kilmer and Dwayne Johnson. Following a suggestion by Sergio Bonelli, I finally choose to try to "Indianize" actor Tom Berenger. The artist, Alessandro Poli, used him as a reference, creating a new and original character.

Where do his adventures take place?

Our hero lives in the huge Navajo Reservation, between Arizona, Utah and New Mexico (and part of Colorado, too, though that is also the place of the Utes Reservation). More in detail, Saguaro lives in Window Rock, almost on the Arizona/New Mexico border. It’s home to the Navajo Tribal Council, a people with a long tradition of self-determination. It’s also the seat of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs): a liason office between Federal government and Tribal Council.

Which was the documentation you used to create the series?

Comics-wise, I mainly looked at Tex, Mister No and Blueberry. I read anthropology and history books, specialized magazines, devoured a good number of novels (the “mandatory” ones by Cormac McCarty, but also Tony Hillerman’s good thrillers, that take place in the Navajo Reservation, by the way) and watched documentaries. Movies had a relevant part, new ones like “No Country for Old Men”, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”, and less recent films like some New-Hollywood flicks of the 1960s-70s, such as "Jeremiah Johnson", “Badlands", "Vanishing Point", "Easy rider" and so on.

In Saguaro’s modern West, what’s his favorite ride?

Thorn loves his bike: a 1940s Harley Davidson Flathead. This is his “horse”, but, due to the great expanse of the Reservation, he often drives a sturdy Power Wagon Dodge pick-up truck.

 

*****

 

AN INTERWIEV WITH BRUNO ENNA

When and how did you conceive the idea for this series?

I had the idea a couple of years ago, when I was reading a news story about a group of Native Federal agents that work along the border between Arizona and Mexico. I soon decided to “invent” one myself, but with very different traits, and put it inside the Great Reservation, the (political and economic) core of the Navajo Nation. The leader of this group should be a very charismatic character (Saguaro himself), who ideally would have been the hero of a graphic novel and maybe of a miniseries. Sergio Bonelli, then, decided to “upgrade” him, making a series about the character.


To visualize the appearance of the hero, which were your instructions to Alessandro Poli, who’s the graphic author of Saguaro?

I wanted him to be a Native American all-around, with bronze skin and a fierce and athletic appearance. But I asked Alessandro to dress him as a White man, with a very recognizable baseball jacket. My intent was to make his “duality” very clear and immediate: Saguaro is a Native who lost his identity, a Navajo that isn’t “Walking in Beauty” (as the "diné" say) anymore, and who needs to find back his balance.


Is there a peculiar characteristic of your project that struck the imagination of Sergio Bonelli, making him think it had the strenght to become a “regular” series?

I think what impressed him was the core idea: a new hero, a Native American, living in a time not so “explored” by our comics.


Saguaro’s adventures take place in Arizona, in 1972: why that time and place?


That’s the period when the Natives were trying to make themselves herad, demonstrating and fighting for their rights, alway trampled on by the White man. They fought to salvage their cultural heritage, to ask respect for the treaties that were signed in the past, against the pillaging of the land by the mining corporations and, generally, to take a stand against the American capitalistic logic. The place was chosen for narrative reasons: Window Rock is the capital town of the Navajo Nation and that’s where important decisions for the life of the Natives are taken.


Continuity will play an important role in your stories? Will they be closely connected adventures or can we read them separately?

Besides some "double", and connected, stories (just like in Tex), most of the adventures will be self-concluded. You will be able to read them on their own, with no fear to lose something. To join them all, though, will be a narrative underline that will divede Saguaro’s adventures in different “seasons” (more or less like in the TV series).
After a long experience with the Disney series, and with our Dylan Dog, how did you approach the challenge of creating your own “Bonellian” series — and such a decidedly adventurous series?

I think that adventure is in the DNA of every single Bonellian author. Writing Saguaro was almost natural for me, but I admit that I had some difficulties in the beginning (mostly regarding the managing of the many action scenes), that I’ve been able to overcome thanks to the experience and the great professionism of the editorial staff and the artists working on the series.

 

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