Legends never die: Jeffrey Veregge’s legacy lives on in his formline superheroes

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After three years of constant hospitalization due to acute renal and respiratory failure caused by undiagnosed lupus, acclaimed artist Jeffrey Veregge passed away on Friday, April 12, following a heart attack. He was 50 years old. He is survived by his wife Christina and their three children.

Following his passing, Christina posted on their shared Facebook account, “We’re heartbroken to share the devastating news that our beloved Jeffrey passed away, unexpectedly, this morning from a heart attack. Our family is in shock and trying to process this unimaginable pain. For 1,025 days he fought lupus like the superhero we knew him to be. The strength, determination and courage he showed while being in the hospital for a total of 925 days was an inspiration to us all. He will be missed more than words can express. This world was a better place because of him.”

A proud member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Jeffrey will be remembered for the remarkable imprint he made on lovers of comic books, action figures, and all things superhero related through his unmistakable, formline reimagining of iconic Marvel and DC characters.

As a Tulalip News reporter, I’m so grateful to have had two opportunities to interview and profile the self-described Salish Geek, first in 2015 at PechaKucha Seattle volume 63 and again in 2020 after his Native American heritage collaboration with Marvel Comics. Using the best parts of those previous interviews, I now share with our readers a profile on the man, the myth, the legend, Jeffery Veregge.


About Gods and Heroes.

Jeffrey Veregge is an award winning Native American comic book artist from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, located in Kingston, Washington. His work uses Coastal Salish and contemporary graphic design techniques that created the look dubbed ‘Salish Geek’ by his creative peers. Along with his work for IDW Publishing, he has appeared in numerous websites and publications such as Fast Company Magazine, Cowboys and Indians, and Wired Magazine. His works and commissions are part of some prestigious collections located at Yale University, Washington State University, The Burke Museum and the Seattle Art Museum. He’s also the pop and nerd culture contributor for Indian Country Today Media, where he is known as NDN Geek.

“I was raised and spent a majority of my life on our Port Gamble reservation known locally as Little Boston. Although I am enrolled there, I am also both of Suquamish and Duwamish ancestry,” said Veregge of his Native American roots. “I am an honor graduate from the Art Institute of Seattle, and I have had the privilege to study with Tsimshian master carver David Boxley for a short time, learning the basics of Salish formline design.”

Veregge has been an artist since the moment he was able to hold his first action figure and created stories of his childhood superheroes on paper with whatever art utensils were available. That creative fire and passion for superheroes and comics never faded and eventually led him to the Seattle Art Institute where he studied industrial design technology. Later, he was fortunate to study with Boxley to learn Salish formline design, a traditional style that he would blend fluidly within the Marvel and DC universes

“My most popular works are a reflection of a lifetime love affair with comic books, toys, TV and film; taking my passions and blending them with my Native perspective,” he said.

After graduating from the Seattle Art Institute, Veregge had a great job at an advertising agency for eleven years. Working in advertising allowed him to tap into his creative side, but the Native artist within wasn’t satisfied, he needed something more. He went to art school to be an artist and to have fun, not to have his inner artist constrained by the everyday politics of advertising.

12th Man.

For him, being an artist wasn’t just to sell art and make money; it meant having fun, it meant viewing a blank piece of paper as a magical canvas to express the imagination of a cluttered mind of a Native American who loves comics, movies, Sci-Fi, and action figures. So, he left the advertising agency and embarked on an artist’s mission to create something truly unique. The search for a new, personal and bold direction in his work resulted in Veregge remixing iconic comic superheroes with his now highly tuned hand for formline.

“For me it wasn’t just trying to create art as a geek or nerd, but as a Native I felt like I had something unique to offer,” Veregge said. “That’s my appreciation for all art and design, my passion for heroes, robots, aliens and monsters, and my pride in where I came from.

“My origins are not supernatural, nor have they been enhanced by radioactive spiders. I am simply a Native American artist and writer whose creative mantra in best summed up with a word from my tribe’s own language: ταʔčαʔξʷéʔτəν, which means get into trouble.”

Following that mantra, constantly testing his creative boundaries, and, yeah, getting into trouble a time or two ultimately led Veregge to one solo exhibition opportunity after another to showcase the wonderful world inside the mind of a Salish Geek. Multiple exhibitions of his work were held from 2009 to 2020, the pinnacle of whish was the Smithsonian’s 2018-2020 show at the National Museum of the American Indian, Of Gods and Heroes, featuring two 50-foot murals of Marvel’s heroes battling the Celestials. 

Space Needle.

“For thousands of years, Native and non-Native storytellers have used art as a means to share the tales of their people. For me, I am carrying on a tradition that started with my ancestors by simply using the means of today and all its modern conveniences to share the tales that I love. Art evolves, tools get better, but the essence of what I do is the same as those who did it on the canvases nature provided for them to tell the stories of gods and heroes long, long ago” stated the Salish Geek on his website prior to Of Gods and Heroes grand opening. 

His explosion onto the highest levels of the art scene eventually meant his one-a-kind designs reached the game-changing creatives at Marvel Comics. It was perfect timing, too, as the comic book goliath was in the midst of developing an all-new collection titled Marvel’s Voices.

“Marvel’s Voices started and evolved from a popular Marvel podcast into a larger program within our comics,” explained Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief, C.B. Cebulski in a press release. “Our first anthology in this program was released this past February and the reception from fans was incredible. It was clear we needed to do more to lift up more voices and talent and increase representation in and behind our stories. This is the first step of our next expansion of the program to discover new writers and artists who can bring their voices to our characters, both old and new. And this is only the beginning.”

In a cosmic shift for Native American representation, Marvel celebrated Indigenous history in November 2020 with a landmark special, Indigenous Voices #1. Written and drawn by some of the industry’s most renowned Indigenous talent, including none other than the Salish Geek himself, Jeffrey Veregge. Now a celebrated artist, he is leading this super powered movement alongside a team of creators to explore the legacy and experiences of Marvel’s incredible cast of Indigenous characters.

Iron Man.

In addition to the Indigenous Voices comic series, Veregge illustrated Native American tribute variant covers for other popular comic titles featuring Dani Moonstar, Black Panther, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and others. All depicted in his signature Salish style.

“I am truly grateful for the platform that Marvel has not only provided for me and my work, but with this edition of Marvel Voices, all of Native America,” said Veregge. “This is an opportunity to share the cultural influences that we as Native artists and writers grew up with that will add more depth and dimension to the Native heroes in the Marvel Universe.”

From blockbuster movie goers, animated series streamers, and a very devout base of comic book enthusiasts, there are hundreds of millions of Marvel superhero fans globally. The exposure to the limited-edition Indigenous Voices series and the must-have Native Heritage tribute covers illustrated by Veregge offered immeasurable cross-cultural learning experiences to the traditional Native storytelling and the thriving art scene that is Salish formline. 

In a world severely lacking in authentic representation of Native American culture, Veregge reached the highest pinnacle of his craft while elevating Salish formline into the bold and vibrant worlds of comic book lore and museum quality art exhibitions.

Within the pop culture realm, there’s a saying that goes something like “There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” The Salish Geek is a f*cking legend.