A new edition of Adafruit’s comic reading list — this week, in recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month it’s a review of some Hispanic comic characters by shipping impresario Zay!
When Brian Micahel Bendis destroyed the bloat of 90s comics by bringing in his grounded, emotionally complicated character work and trademark Mamet-inspired snappy dialogue to the Avengers, he really wanted to bring Daredevil to the team. But Bendis came to prominence writing the Hell’s Kitchen defender, and knew there was no way Matt Murdock would leave his neighborhood unprotected to go off and fight with the bourgie heroes and their cosmic antagonists. Bendis filled Murdock’s roles with Maya Lopez.
Maya Lopez is deaf, but she has the ability to perfectly mimic any physical action she sees. The power first manifested when she replicated the performance of a concert pianist, but she was soon recruited to use her talents to more lethal ends. She reformed, and Bendis brought her in as a counterpoint to the likes of Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. Unlike most heroes there’s an equanimity to her relationship to antagonists. She can understand the marginalized, the liminal, the emotionally damaged. She is their echo.
This is one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite books of all time, The Invisibles. Hilde Morales is a trans woman, born in Brazil, imbued with the magical powers of her family. Fanny was male-assigned at birth and given the name Hilde Morales in Brazil in 1972. This angered her grandmother who was the most feared bruja in the RIo and wanted her lineage continued. Since men could not become witches, Hilde’s grandmother saw Hilde’s gender identity, and raised the child as a girl.
Hilde embraces change, and her very character outlines what the great evil of The Invisibles is: rigidity, dogmatism, binary thinking. Hilde uses all the magical power she’s earned in her difficult life to fight for the users, as long as they’re willing to dance deep into the night.
In a classic comic book whitewash, Christopher Nolan turned the Hispanic genius into Tom Hardy with a funny voice. Comic book Bane is Antonio Diego. He was born in the fictional Caribbean Republic of Santa Prisca, in a prison called Peña Duro. His father, Edmund Dorrance (better known as King Snake), had been a revolutionary who had escaped Santa Prisca’s court system. The corrupt government, however, decreed that his young son would serve out the man’s life sentence, and Bane’s childhood and early adult life were spent in the immoral penitentiary environment.
Though he was imprisoned, his natural abilities allowed him to develop extraordinary skills within the prison’s walls. He read as many books as he could get his hands on, spent most of his spare time body building in the prison’s gym, and learned to fight in the merciless school of prison life. Because of the cultural and supposed geographical location of Santa Prisca, Bane knew how to speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin. Despite his circumstances, he found teachers of various sorts during his incarceration, ranging from hardened convicts to an elderly Jesuit priest, under whose tutelage he apparently received a classical education.
Antonio Diego was always meant to be a crime-version of Bruce Wayne. The Nolan version lost all of that.
Created by Richard Dominguez, Francisco Guerrero is the grandson of the original El Gato Negro, a former luchador-turned-adventurer, Francisco works as a social worker in Edinburg, Texas and devotes most of his free time to community service. Driven by the gruesome murder of his best friend at the hands of drug-smugglers, Francisco becomes the new El Gato Negro in order to wage war on crime. He possesses no superpowers and instead makes use of his own athletic abilities, accumulative knowledge, detective skills to fight crime.
The notion of community service present in the world of Daredevil is made literal, and far more grounded, with Francisco’s job as a social worker. Through his day job and superhero moonlighting, Francisco’s in a unique position to see the danger and fault lines in his neighborhood. He’s an on the ground hero like no other.
When Brian Michael Bendis killed off Peter Parker and replaced him as Spider-Man with the very young Miles Morales, there was some frustration in some quarters. Bendis had broken Spider-Man. Bendis was pandering to political correctness. Bendis has politicized comic books. They might have forgotten that above all else Bendis is an American writer. An American artist without political passion is like water without the hydrogen: missing an essential element.
Because the truth is it was time for Peter Parker to go away. He wasn’t the hapless, self-doubting, lost little weirdo we identified with way back when. Peter Parker used to be one of us, but then he grew up and turned into Tobey Maguire.
Miles Morales is struggling to do right in a desperately unfair world. Miles Morales has gotten used to being told he’s worthless. Miles Morales can be selfish and angry and confused and mean. Miles Morales wants friends. Miles Morales wants to be smart. Miles Morales wants his father back. Miles Morales doesn’t think he deserves power or responsibility. Miles Morales hasn’t even begun to understand how dangerous, empty, and painful this world can be.
In other words for today, for us, for the kids growing into this complicated 21st Century, Miles Morales is more Peter Parker than Peter Parker has been in a long time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you like Spider-Man, go hang out with Miles Morales. He’s here to help.