Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Marvel’s Axel Alonso on rise of Latino superheroes

Miss America Chavez from "Young Avengers"

Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]

Passings | Webcomics and minicomics creator Luisa Felix (Candy Blondell) has died at the age of 60. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]

Billy Dogma

Creators | Sandra Beasley has a meaty interview with Dean Haspiel, in which he talks about his first comics, how he developed Billy Dogma and why he does non-creator-owned comics. [Barrelhouse Magazine]

Creators | Eva Volin interviews Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang. [Good Comics for Kids]

Comics | Drew Goletz of GrayHaven Comics discusses the anthology he’s editing, You Are Not Alone, which was conceived in the wake of the Newtown shootings and collects stories about pre-teens and teens facing difficult situations. [GeekDad]

Strip #1.2

Comics | The British adventure anthology Strip Magazine plans a relaunch in March, bringing print copies to the newsstand for the first time; the first seven issues were a “test run” available digitally and in comics shops. [downthetubes]

History | John Jackson Miller delves into the dark past of Statements of Ownership, Management and Circulation, those fine-print blocks that detailed how many copies of a comic were published, sold, given away, and returned by retailers. It all looks terribly official, but apparently there was quite a bit of hanky-panky, especially at Charlton Comics. [The Comichron]

History | Warren Bernard presents a treasure trove of original documents having to do with Fredric Wertham and the Senate hearings on the supposed evils of comics. [The Comics Journal]

Comics | Brad Keefe and Jesse Tigges count down the Top 10 comics that don’t really exist. [Columbus Alive]

Business | Bill Schanes, vice president of purchasing for Diamond Comic Distributors, will leave his post at the end of April; current executive director of purchasing John Wurzer will be promoted to vice president to replace him. [ICv2]

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Comments

13 Comments

Are there really people out there protesting the likes of Miss America, though? I can’t even begin to understand why, because that kind of character doesn’t need to be white and wouldn’t be more awesome if she *was* white.

Elias Algorithm

February 7, 2013 at 7:33 am

I realize I’m speaking as a white man (my great grandmother was comanche, but even that’s apparently unproven) I’m kind of offended by Alonso’s comments about latinos. I’m not against more latinos in comics, but it should be more organic than he paints it. It shouldn’t be about capitalism. The story is king. Anything else is pandering. Sure, if you can add more any more characters of color that fit, go for it. But don’t just make the character of a specific background because it might sell better. If it occurs to you that might work, by all means. Don’t just do it because you have to meet a quota.

Did you miss this statement? “You can’t go in and say ‘let’s create a great Mexican superhero.’ What you do is let that evolve naturally and when the window of opportunity opens, you strike.”

Bring back La Bandera!

Marvel’s depiction of minorities is well intentioned, but poorly executed. Being of Hispanic descent, I’m often annoyed by the way they portray Latinos in comics. The way they paint in broad strokes is disconcerting. IMO, it’s a little too broad. On the whole, this is not who we are. Latinos are far more diverse than that.

1. Their characters often speak broken English, in Spanglish, or frequently exclaim non-English phrases. Even the non-Spanish speaking Brazilian characters like Sunspot end up speaking Spanish.

Not all of us speak Spanish. Sorry, but it’s true. The longer your family has been here, the less likely it is that you do speak “the mother tongue.” I know that I don’t. My parents barely speak Spanish, poorly at that.

2. Their choice of character names leaves something to be desired. Julio. Roberto, Juan-Carlos, Benito, Miguel, and so on. Really?!? That’s all ya’ got?

My family’s made up of names like Joe, Ann, Ray, Mike, Dan, Henry, Aida, Ryan, Kate, Frank, Rick, Will, & Judith. Barely a traditional “ethnic” name in the lot. Even then, you’ve got to go to my grandfather’s generation and he’s almost 90.

3. A number of their characters come from poor or troubled backgrounds. Gangs. Gun smugglers. ETC. Again… REALLY!?!

Look. I know that not everybody has a privileged childhood. Most don’t. I know. Cash was tight when I was a kid, but raising 3 kids is never cheap, especially when one parent is of the stay at home variety. However, we don’t all resort to gangs or any crap like that. We don’t all grow up in the “barrio”. We’re not all high school dropouts. That’s just a bad stereotype.

My entire family is college and/or post-grad educated. I was never in a gang. I grew up in the burbs. Creative money management put me & my sibs through prep school and colleges like Cornell, Wesleyan, & MIT. We’re a family of artists, programmers, writers, doctors, lawyers, and so on. My dad’s a CFO, chief financial officer. Not a single welfare mom or factory worker in the lot.

4. Physically, they don’t present a true picture of what real Latinos look like. Quick! What does a Latino/Hispanic American look like? According to Marvel/DC, we’re all dark skinned, dark haired, & dark eyed. They’d have you think that we’re all George Lopez. We’re not.

Did you know that, of the 50mil+ Hispanic/Latino people here in the USA, more than 50% of us are white? Yep. You heard it right. Did you also know that 53% Mexican Americans are recognized by the census as white too?

And it varies within a single family too. My family’s Puerto Rican, New York native though. I’m a pale white combo of Gary Sinese and Matthew Broderick. My mom looks like Bette Midler. My dad looks like a tanned Lou Costello. My sister looks like Jessica Alba. My brother looks like a tanned Chris Klein. My great grandmother…. Blonde haired, blue eyed, & alabaster white.

Do you know how many celebs are white hispanic/latino? Tons. Again, Marvel and DC only focus on the George Lopez type, which make up LESS THAN half of the total Hispanic/Latino American population.

5. Puerto Rico is NOT another country. It amazes how many people get that wrong. We’re part of the United States. In fact, Puerto Ricans have been US citizens for 100 years. In a recent vote, more PR residents are in favor of becoming state #51 instead of remaining a commonwealth.

70 years ago, Puerto Rico looked more like Santa Poco from Three Amigos. Dirt shacks. Not much sign of mainland US. More people spoke Spanish than English. Today, PR looks more like Florida or New York. It’s a tourist trap filled with malls and fast food joint. English is far more common than even 25 year ago. Puerto Rico is as much a part of the USA as Washington DC.

I’m 5th generation American. My nephew and niece are 6th generation. I’d hate to think that Marvel and DC are going to continue to feed us p*ss poor stereotypes and misinformation. I don’t want the kids to read that. It’s not who we are. We’re far more integrated and far less identifiable than you think. We share more in common with Cyclops and Jean Grey than Blue Beetle or America Chavez. I wish these comic guys would get that.

Just because you draw cartoons doesn’t mean that you’ve got to write caricatures.

Oh…. WTF is up with the character names for Latino characters?

Toro. Arana. El Diablo. El Aguilla. Machete. Sangre. El Muerto.

Double BLECH!!!

I think they should only introduce white characters if it’s natural and fits with the story they’re telling. All the time I see a bunch of white people shoved at me with little to no reason for them being white. It’s like “c’mon, I get it, there are white people in America.” There’s no need to make a person have a certain background if there’s no reason for it.

Just write good character. That’s what I say. Skin color or ethnicity won’t make a good character any better. However, doing it for the sake of pandering can certainly make them worse. If you’re going to make a character of a different ethnicity, at least use some common sense and adhere to the “people are people” principle.

Want equality? Don’t write your Hispanic or Black characters any different than you would your white one. When it comes down to it, we’re way more alike than we are different. Why no celebrate what binds instead of what divides?

Let’s celebrate the Red, White, & Blue – if you’re American – instead of the White, Brown, and so on.

How would a Hispanic/Latino character written and drawn using Ex Nihilo’s advice be distinguishable from a standard White character? What would be the point of them being Hispanic if they’re just going to look, act and talk like any other white character? If they’re just the same as everyone else, why use them at all?

Andrew Allenpeat

February 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm

“How would a Hispanic/Latino character written and drawn using Ex Nihilo’s advice be distinguishable from a standard White character? What would be the point of them being Hispanic if they’re just going to look, act and talk like any other white character? If they’re just the same as everyone else, why use them at all?”

And why do Hispanic characters need to be treated like aliens? We’re talking about people who are part of America. They vote there. They work there. And they buy comics there. Presenting a view of Hispanic Americans that’s nothing like the reality is counter-productive.

“We want to get more Hispanics to read our comics, so let’s create Hispanic characters that *real* Hispanics can’t relate to.” Yeah that makes a *lot* of sense.

To answer your “What’s the point” question: It’s very simple. You create Hispanic characters for the same reason not every person in a story needs to be a white Anglo-Saxon multimillionaire of indeterminate religious affiliation. It’s more interesting that way. It adds verisimilitude to your story. If the reader can see something of the real world in the story, – even if it’s fantastic – they’re more likely to suspend disbelief.

In short it’s called good writing.

But is it good reading? What I mean is- by ALL means diversify a cast to include non Anglo Saxon heterosexual males, but if they look, act and talk like an Anglo Saxon heterosexual male then what does it add to the story just to have someone different…when they’re the same?

And why can’t real Hispanics relate to Anglo Saxon heteosexual males if they look, act, dress and talk like Anglo Saxon heterosexual males?

I’m definitely more pro diversity than an average comic reader, I’d guess, having grown up in the late 70′s/early 80′s when diversity was FUN and encouraged, before the term Political Correctness was used in a bad way. I honestly get a thrill from having people of diverse backgrounds and outlooks in a comic book superhero team. I’m not against diversity (or diversity just for the sake of diversity), I’m just really interested in how diversity can be achieved in a real sense and am not getting how its achieved by having a Hispanic – or Japanese or African or Eskimo character- if that character for all intents and purposes is the same as a non Hispanic, Japanese, African or Eskimo character.

Using Ex Nihilo’s examples above of family members that look, sound, dress etc just like anyone else, what would it add to the story to have a person pretty much filling the same role? Get what I mean?

Aargh, didn’t explain that properly, sorry for how painful this is to read, everyone!

What I think I mean is- how can a character be written better to be more representative of a real Hispanic person if there’s nothing to distinguish the Hispanic character from a non Hispanic character apart from the pure fact they’re Hispanic?

If I was writing about Ex Nihilo’s sister, Lux Nihilio, for example, how would I make her better representative of a Hispanic character if she doesn’t speak anything but english, doesn’t have a particularly Hispanic secret identity name and looks like Jessica Alba? What would I do to write her in a way that was more convincingly Hispanic? What cultural elements would facilitate a more acceptable representation of her being Hispanic and still come through as authentic rather than a cliche?

I have an automatic agree reaction to everything you’ve said, by the way, Ex Nihilio and Andrew, so please don’t take my position to be in opposition to yours. I’m trying to think through more thoroughly what is mostly self evident, to me.

It’s a catch-22. They’re using the obvious trappings of physical character traits because they feel that coming out and saying, “This guy/girl is Latino,” and moving on, is too pathetic or wouldn’t pass muster (should it? I think a good writer, with a good character, can manage.). MARVEL would’ve been fine if they named their new spidey “Miles” and just told us he was bi-racial. Does he need a Latino-sounding last name? Probably not. But it makes for good publicity.

I think trying to make any character “more convincingly Hispanic” or Black or American Indian (as the AP Style Guide says it should be written…), is inherently problematic. You’ll run into the same trappings as before; wondering what you can do to make characters “Hispanic enough” or “black enough” is a bad, bad idea. When I look at black characters in comics, I ask myself whether the character is like me as a person, not whether they’re like a focus group’s presumption of me.

In the article, Todd Seavey says, “If the character that is Latino seems like a random human being, that’s probably better than if he’s a living symbol of his race or nation.”

Alonso mentions the evolution of black characters in the interview… but some legacy characters are still problematic. It sucks that MARVEL’s most prominent black population are all from the Bronx and curse a lot…

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