The 15-year hiatus came about for two reasons: First, the comic’s publisher, Mystic Comics, went bankrupt. The issue had been successful—according to a 1997 story in High Country News, it sold 12,000 copies—and hopes of finding another publisher were justified. But then Tribal Force got a second bad break when the creative team went their separate ways. Writer Jon Proudstar (Yaqui/Mayan/Jewish/Latino) wanted to continue the series, but he couldn’t do it without an artist, and his collaborator Ryan Huna Smith (Chemehuevi/Navajo) was no longer an option.
Proudstar told the Navajo Times he was haunted by his characters Earth, Thunder Eagle and Little Big Horn. “I’m just a writer,” he recalls telling them “The man who drew you, Ryan Huna Smith, has gone his own way. I’m not an artist, and I have no money to hire one.”
The fourth character on the team, Gan, was created by Smith, and will not be in Tribal Force #2.
Yet Proudstar decided he could not resist their pleas, so he took a nearly unprecedented step: He began teaching himself to draw comics, intending to revive the series and his characters as a one-man writer/artist project.
“I was terrified,” Proudstar told the Navajo Times. “Ryan’s such a good artist. I knew I couldn’t make them look like he did. But one day I woke up and said, ‘This is either going to be done or not, and if I wait around for somebody to help me out of the goodness of his heart—because I certainly can’t pay anybody—then it’s not.'”
If the name Jon Proudstar rings a bell, it’s because he’s a successful actor, having appeared in (among other things) the TV miniseries Into the West and Sterlin Harjo’s critically acclaimed films Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Navajo Times article reveals that Proudstar and Smith have reconciled, and will even be collaborating. Although Smith will not be involved with the new Tribal Force, he and Proudstar are joining up to work on a Gan solo comic book.