By Arturo Conde, NBC News
The first issue of a new Marvel series aims to focus on the powerful, rich and uplifting stories of a largely overlooked and diverse cast of Latino superheroes.
“This book is a gateway through which you could find your way to all the comics that have been building stories around the Latinx community,” author and comic book scholar Frederick Luis Aldama said about the first print and digital issue of “Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades” (Spanish for “communities”), released on Wednesday.
“Comunidades” assembles a compendium of Latino heroes created by Latino writers and artists.
While Latino superheroes have been part of the Marvel universe for decades, without continuity, many of them are often overlooked, said Aldama, best known for his award-winning book, “Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics” and the director of the Latin X Pop Lab at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I knew personally from reading comics that we had an abundance of Latinx superheroes,” said Aldama, who wrote the “Comunidades” forward. “But the Marvel encyclopedia didn’t even mention them. So there is a story that has been almost willfully ignored, or a history that we need to tell.”
One of the Latino characters featured in the first issue of “Comunidades” is Ghost Rider — a student mechanic-turned-superhero who drives a muscle car with his skull lit on fire. Karla Pacheco, the Latina and Native American Marvel writer who wrote the one-page story of the demonic superhero, says that she wanted to base it on a personal story about her father teaching her how to make tortillas.
“It’s a short story about growing up and learning how to make something,” Pacheco said. “It’s about remembering not to use measuring cups because your cupped hand makes a measuring cup for the flour, and you pinch your fingers just right to get the amount of salt, and then you flip it without a spatula off the cast iron really fast because you can’t be afraid of fire.”
For Pacheco, being able to bring her personal story to a Latino superhero is a significant step forward, because, she said, many diverse characters have not been written by writers of color before.
For Mexican Marvel writer Juan Ponce — who wrote a “Comunidades” story about a Brazilian sorcerer from the 1950s named Nina the Conjuror — discovering a character like Superman who came from another place and was adopted by a new family was enough to resonate with his own immigrant story.
“Obviously, he was a Caucasian man, but he was an alien. And his values and family really spoke to me,” he said. “I never really saw Superman different from my dad. They were both these men who really put a lot of emphasis on doing the right thing for the family and grew up in a farm. And that was the moment where I wanted to write stories about someone like that and carry my values to the page.”
Terry Blas, a Mexican American who wrote a “Comunidades” story about a young magician named Eva (she’s also the cousin of Reptil — a superhero who can turn into a dinosaur), was driven to tell stories for readers who shared common values.
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