January 3rd, 2007 is a day I remember very well. It was the day I entered my local comic book shop, browsed the new release shelf, and stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing the cover art for Scalped #1. It was Jock's beautiful art that intrigued me, followed by Vertigo's label that promised some good-ol' explicit content. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra were two individuals I'd never heard of before, but since it was a Vertigo title, I was willing to take a chance and shelled-out the $2.99. If it sucked, at least I got to enjoy some pretty Jock cover art. Little did I know I'd end-up worshipping Aaron & Guéra five years later, gladly throwing my money at them month after month.
When I seriously started reading comics on a weekly basis, I was mostly playing catch-up with the other legendary series of the time; Y: The Last Man, Preacher, Ex Machina, Fables, etc. I wasn't present at the very beginning of an epic run, being fortunate enough to say "I was there when it started! I've been a fan since issue one!" but I feel that Scalped was one of the first successful series that I can genuinely say that about. Immediately I was hooked from Guéra's gritty art and Aaron's last page cliffhanger, and upon returning to my local comic shop a week later, I demanded that Scalped be added to my pull-list. When the first trade was eventually published, I gladly double-dipped (a few times actually), and tried getting my friends interested as well, despite the fact it wasn't a Marvel title. The setting was one I had never dreamed of a comic taking place before; an Indian reservation set in modern times, where alcoholism and crime are abundant. How could one man write about such a cesspool without actually living there, and in such detail that even Native American readers were convinced that this Aaron fellow was an actual resident?! For the longest time I too was convinced that Aaron was 100% Mighty Chock-Taw or something, and this was a loosely-based memoir of sorts.
There are very few series out there that can surprise you at the end of every issue. You reach that last page, think you've seen it all, and then BAM, the rug is swept-out from under your feet. That's what it was like reading Scalped every month; trying to keep your balance on a lake of ice, thinking you finally had things sorted out, but at the very last moment as you tip-toed across to land, you slip-up and crack your skull open. And candy comes out. Because while you're in a state of shock from the twist you just read, the endorphins replace pain with pleasure, as you mouth "Holy Shit!" and go back to re-read the entire issue again. And to read it all in one sitting, a la trades? A constant thrill-ride. I remember when Scalped was first starting out, Aaron had a deal with readers that if they purchased the first trade and didn't like what they read, he would mail them their money back (something like $10 I believe). I don't remember hearing about swarms of people getting free money for shipping back the trade, but I'm sure maybe one or two people took him up on the offer, just because some people are like that. With such an awesome product like the first trade Indian Country, it's no wonder why people will follow you with blind loyalty from series to series, month after month.
For Aaron, things only got better because of Scalped. Marvel editor Axel Alonso was a fan of his works on both The Other Side and Scalped, and he was hired to write a few issues of Black Panther (my favorite Secret Invasion crossover), Wolverine, and Ghost Rider (he made that series enjoyable again). One Marvel exclusive contract later, and he's been one of Marvel's top writers to this day. The fact that his Marvel work never tarnished his work on Scalped impressed me as a fan, because the guy started taking on quite the work load. With everything he touched turning to gold, it seemed like it would be a matter of time before something else gave-way, and I always feared it would be the thing that made me fall in love with his writing in the first place. Because of Aaron, I started reading Marvel comics after swearing them off for such a long time. His work on Ghost Rider and PunisherMAX completely blew my mind, because everyone thought there was no one who could acquire that same essence of those two characters like Garth Ennis did.
With the release of Scalped #60 today, it went out on a high note, wrapping-up some storylines that have been ongoing from the first issue, and leaving a few loose-ends hinting at what's to come in the future at the Rez. The characters have constantly been growing and evolving throughout the series, and it goes to show that some people can change, and some simply can't escape their real selves despite the mile of shit they wadded through. I enjoyed seeing where each character ended up, for Aaron made it feel so natural to say 'good-bye' at the end of this issue and come to accept that this series is finally over. I didn't shed any tears, but I did take a moment of silence to just absorb it all. Also to pay my respects to the person in the coffin.
Vertigo will continue to make publish great ongoing series, but I can't imagine any of them will take the top ranking in my mind that Scalped currently holds. Sweet Tooth currently comes the closest, but it still feels like it just started despite the fact that it's wrapping-up here soon as well. It was reported that R.M. Guéra has been offered two different Jason Aaron projects (one Marvel, one Vertigo), so it makes me extremely happy to know their chemistry will live on in a new series sometime in the future, because the five year collaboration together on Scalped was a thing of beauty (Brubaker & Phillips, watch your backs!).
In closing, I highly recommend you pick-up the first trade if you haven't already, for it's one of the best crime series you'll ever read in comics. I'm expecting Vertigo to do the right thing and start collecting the trades as Deluxe Editions, because these trades definitely deserve it. Will this series ever be adapted as a television show or movie? As much as I'd love to see it happen, I'm of the mindset that it would only work if you strictly stayed with the already established story and characters, and have it run a few seasons on a network like Showtime or HBO. The Walking Dead is an entirely different beast, where anyone can die and a new path to a safe haven can naturally happen. With Scalped, you stick with the same characters and situations as the comics, or else it wouldn't flow as smoothly, and important plot-points wouldn't pack the same emotional gut-punch.
Thank you Jason Aaron, R.M. Guéra, Jock, Davide Furno, John Paul Leon, Jason Latour, and Francesco Francavilla for five years of amazing storytelling. I am forever in your debts.