Creative Feature: Equinox, DC Comics’ Native American Superheroine by Jeff Lemire
Meet Equinox, DC Comics‘ 16-year-old superheroine from the Cree nation and a member of Justice League Canada.
Created by DC Comics writer/cartoonist Jeff Lemire for his Justice League United series, Equinox is inspired by the kids Lemire met in the rural Canadian communities of Moose Factory and Moosonee.
He was particularly influenced by Miyapin Cheechoo and Cree teen activist Shannen Koostachin, who was killed in a car crash in 2010.
“This shadow of Shannen, looking down on these youth today, is certainly something that would work within the comic book format,” Lemire said.
Equinox, whose civilian name is Miiyabin Marten, obtains her power from the Earth and changes with the seasons.
Lemire, who was aware of of potential controversy as “a white guy from Toronto” trying to tell a Native-inspired story, engaged people from the communities to help him steer clear of stereotypical imagery associated with First Nations peoples.
“I don’t walk around with beads and fringe and feathers and a loincloth,” said Moose Factory musician and comic fan Nathan Cheechoo. “And that was something I wanted to bring to Jeff.” Cheechoo urged Lemire to “get down to basic principles” in his depictions.
“We need diversity and we need different personalities,” Lemire said. “Creating a teenage female superhero was interesting to me because, generally, most superheroes are white males.”
“Although technically we co-created Equinox, Jeff really created the character. But we talked a little bit about what she was going to look like. We didn’t want to do that kind of overtly sexual, teenage character that is somewhat prevalent today. We wanted to keep her looking like a teenager. We didn’t want the costume to be suggestive or revealing or anything like that.
Jeff had lots of reference photos on First Nation traditional dress. So, we talked about it quite a bit — mainly about what we didn’t want to do: be exploitative. I sent in some designs and between Jeff, myself, Eddie Berganza, and Ricky Purdin (our assistant editor), we came up with a very simple, basic costume.
The photographs of the native dresses he sent me were incredible. There are a lot of screen prints, and blue and white seems to be a very popular color combination. I like it, and I very rarely like the things I do!”
The first issue of Justice League United released on April 23, 2014. You can pick up the print and digital versions of issues #0 and #1 at Amazon.com.