Tag: comic books

All Issues Mailed Flat

When I was a kid, I had a tower (and I mean that literally) of my favorite comic books. They leaned against the wall and were braced on either side by sturdy objects — milk crates or chairs or something like that. I seem to recall that the tower reached the ceiling, but I’m sure that’s not possible. It was most likely a few feet high and just seemed imposing to a six-year-old.

In any case, the tower is long gone, but I still have a few of those prized comics, issues of the X-Men and Conan the Barbarian and House of Secrets and the like. Like a lot of Gen Xers, I used comic books as a gateway drug to novels.

But even back in the day, when my love for comic books could not be quantified, I noticed something. It’s the same thing that Javier Hernandez, creator of the El Muerto comic book, noticed.

Hernandez says, “There is one thing I didn’t see in those books. I didn’t see me in there. I didn’t see us, Latinos.”

Nope, there were very few Hispanic characters or stories presented. However, a new generation of writers is looking to Latino culture for inspiration. It’s a full-fledged trend, illustrated by the fact that the Latino Comics Expo was held recently to spotlight Hispanic creators like Hernandez. His creation is a Hispanic hero based on a combination of Aztec mythology and Mexican folklore. I mean, how cool is that?

el muerto

Now, as we all know, comic books often feature thematic elements that appeal to teenagers and/or geeky middle-aged men. These include stories of heroes like the Jonah Hex and Spider-Man, who were outsiders to mainstream culture. It’s not much a stretch to say that Latinos have long appreciated the theme of being a misunderstood minority.

And now that metaphorical subtext is a little more concrete. Comic books from Hispanic authors range from traditional superhero formats to experimental stories to reality-based tales, such as the life of a Latino punk fan growing up in California.

Personally, I’m waiting for a Hispanic version of Wolverine. Now that would be something.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

My last few posts have been, with reason, somewhat dour. So let’s lighten up things around here. Instead of bemoaning the economy and worldwide collapse, let’s reminisce about fond childhood memories.

For example, like a lot of guys, I read whole stacks of comic books when I was a kid. I was unusual, however, in that I was big into horror stories, like the House of Secrets, and gravitated toward anti-heroes like Conan the Barbarian and Jonah Hex. For the most part, costumed superheroes bored me, with their goody-goody ways, and the only ones I liked were the ones who were messed up psychologically, like some of the X-Men.

It’s funny how early our tastes get set, because to this day, I’m much more interested in dark tales than heroic ones. Still, I acknowledge that when most people say the words “comic book,” it’s images of mighty, spandex-clad men and women fighting for noble causes that come to mind.

So I was pleased when I saw an article in Aqui – a great magazine and one to which I have contributed – that profiled Hispanic superheroes. The article was illuminating. I have to admit that despite the many hours I spent pouring over the exploits of Marvel and DC heroes, I could not recall a single Latino flying in to save the day. I remember black-power figures like Cage, and even advocates for the disabled like Daredevil, but Hispanic cape crusaders were nonexistent.

Or so I thought. Aqui pointed out that as far back as the 1970s, Latinas such as Fire (true identity: Beatriz da Costa) were striking down evildoers. Through the years, the White Tiger, Echo, and Vibe have kept us safe from evil geniuses and mutant monsters. For the demographically aware, there’s even a lesbian Latina, the Question, who fights crime. And to my surprise, the future version of one of the most famous heroes (in a series titled “Spiderman 2099”) is a guy named Miguel.

Yes, I stopped reading comics at the wrong time. Otherwise, I would have been more aware of hotties like Arana and Pantha. Then again, La Lunatica would have just freaked me out (it’s hard to get past the ominous name and ghostly skin, despite her rather impressive physical features):


In any case, I thank Aqui for educating me on the subject. And I’m glad that the next generation of kids who spend Saturdays flipping through comic books will not even think twice about the significance of a Chicano lifting cars off people or capturing muggers or fighting off alien invaders. Instead, they will recognize him as an all-American hero. 

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