He’s exactly the kind of comic book superhero Las Vegas should have, and Theo Tso is exactly the comic book artist to create him.
The superhero is Captain Paiute, whom Tso describes as “indigenous defender of the Southwest.”
The superhero and the comic are rooted in Tso’s life. Born and raised in Las Vegas, Tso is a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. He incorporates into his comics characters and tales he heard from family members and other adults while growing up.
Tso discovered comic books when he happened upon his father’s comic book stash when he was about 12. He’d always drawn as a kid,”but never had a focus,” Tso says. “When I started to look at those books, those colors and the action sequences, I got the idea that’s what I wanted to do.”
Captain Paiute came to him during high school, when he and a group of friends decided to create their own comic book characters and have the characters battle each other.
“I went home and thought of him,” says Tso, who had been frustrated by the absence of both Native American characters and Native American comic creators. He revisited the character occasionally over the years, and four years ago published the first issue of “Captain Paiute” as an independent creator.
He was amazed that the run of 500 copies sold out within about six months. Issues one and two are out — both are sold out in print, but are available digitally — and he’s now working on issues 3 and 4. The comics are available through Tso’s website at warpaintstudios.net or at the Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Smoke Shop, 1225 N. Main St.
Tso grew up and still lives on tribal land near downtown Las Vegas, and views his stories as good reads and a good way to educate others about Paiute beliefs and traditions. He hopes “Captain Paiute” can inspire Native American kids who don’t see their own heritage represented in mainstream comics.
“I wanted to (create) for my own sons and native kids who can say, ‘Look, we’ve got our own superheroes,’ ” Tso says.