September 24, 2004

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a … Hispanic

By Ana Hernandez-Bravo

With the current popularity and interest in all things relating to comic books, pop culture icons such as Superman and Batman are finding their way back into the hearts and minds of old followers, all while recruiting a vast number of new fans.

Yet, while flipping through the pages of the most popular comic books, it is very apparent that the world of the beloved superheroes tends to be a rather homogeneous one. Even the most notable “illegal alien,” DC’s Superman, assimilated into the homogeneous society with ease.

Of course comics today are much more diverse than over sixty years ago, but minority characters, especially Hispanics, tend to fill the ranks of the supporting troops instead of the ones with their own title.

Even though these characters are fictional and are made for everyone, it can be hard at times to relate to humanitarian playboys, millionaires, lawyers, princesses, and aliens. However readers who don’t have a character who shares their culture and background might end up feeling alienated or thinking that the only Hispanic superhero out there is El Chapulin Colorado.

Independent comic books have long since embraced the leading minority characters. Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez, Los Bros Hernandez, have a success with their long running series Love and Rockets, which is intended for a more adult audience. It ran in the 80s and 90s, featured many Hispanic characters, and can still be found today in many reprinted collections.

The Internet has also become a haven for Hispanic superheroes and their creators who manage and sell them online. Amigo Man created by Anthony “AO” Oropeza, is one such hero. Americo is another Hispanic superhero that can be found online, but his creator, Eli Hernandez, hopes that the Spanish language comic will be available in print this month.

Dark Horse Comics also utilized the interest in Hispanic characters and had a series starring Hispanic assassins entitled Bodybags and is currently running the series El Zombo Fantasma. El Zombo Fantasma is a luchador who was murdered and returns to earth as an undead guardian for a young girl, Belisa Montoya.

Tony Hamm, assistant manager for Amazing Comics and Collectables in Chula Vista doesn’t understand why the biggest comic companies haven’t used more headlining minority characters especially since the audience is available. “I would say about 60 percent of this [store’s] clientele is Hispanic,” Hamm said.

One of the big names in comics, DC, has had a tremendous cast of supporting Hispanic characters, including two different Wildcats and Vibe who was a member of the Justice League of America, but they were all expendable and their fictional lives ended as they were killed in the line of duty.

DC’s El Diablo series was one of the first to have a lead character that was Hispanic. El Diablo was a schoolteacher from Dos Rios, Texas who also fought crime. This character was reinvented many times.

One of their newer Hispanic characters, the third incarnation of Tarantula also known as Cataline Flores, is currently fighting crime alongside Nightwing, the former boy wonder from the Batman series.

Marvel Comics also had their share of Hispanic secondary characters; including Miguel Santos whose alter ego was the Living Lightning and various members from the popular X-Men series. However, Marvel is making a break-through move in the comic book industry by introducing a new Hispanic female comic book character that headlines her own series.

Anya Corazon made her debut in the first issue of Amazing Fantasy summer 2004. Joe Quesada, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, who is Cuban-American, said “She was created because we realized we haven’t had a strong female character of Hispanic origin.”

Anya Corazon. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

The half Puerto Rican, half Mexican high-school aged Anya earns her title as a super-heroine after she has super spider-like powers bestowed upon her from an ancient mystical clan. Anya climbs the walls of Brooklyn with the same spider-like grace of Marvel’s hugely popular Spiderman.

Yet Anya’s powers don’t take away from the fact that she was designed to be a realistic character so that girls can relate easier to her than the standard female comic book characters. Anya takes to the streets in baggy tee shirts, jeans, and sneakers rather than form fitting spandex.

“There are more Hispanics reading comic books and more women and girls reading comics, so it’s a perfect time to inject a role model with these cultural differences,” Quesada said.

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