Spotlight on: Latino Characters in Mainstream Comics
Did you know that Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern, is Mexican-American? There are Latino role models in comics, but they are few and often ill-represented– that is, they rarely actually reference their Latino heritage or culture. Nevertheless, here’s an interesting (and surprising) list of Latino, Latino-American, and Spanish-speaking comic book characters in mainstream comics, provided by readers like you!
I’m sure most of us are aware by now that the newest character to take up the Spider-Man mantle is a half African-American, half Puerto Rican kid by the name of Miles Morales. This was received as pleasant news, of course– it means that the “Big Two” are putting some real effort into showcasing minority characters in their more mainstream titles. Rightly so, considering how diverse the real world is. As alien-infested and constantly-on-the-brink-of-destruction as the comic universe seems to be, one would hope that it was at least a little reflective of that real world we all know and love!
Still, thinking about Miles today got me interested in something else– how many other, say, Latino characters are there in mainstream comics? So, I polled Twitter!
More than a dozen of you responded, and here are just some of your answers:
Sunspot (Brazilian), Spider-Girl (Anya, Mexican/Puerto Rican), Reptil (Mexican) (@dethtron5000)
Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes, Mexican), Power Man (Victor Alvarez, Afro-Dominican), Rictor (Mexican), El Gaucho (Argentinian) (@comicbookchris)
White Tiger (Hector Ayala & Angela del Toro, Puerto Rican) (@IXIGeorgeIXI)
El Gato Negro (Mexican) (@felipegarza)
Spider-Man (Miles Morales, African-American/Puerto Rican) (@anghellzz)
Bane (fictional Caribbean republic), Bat-hombre (South American), Wildcat (Hector Ramirez), Darwin (African/Latino) (@Comicnerd1988)
Kyle Rayner (Mexican), The Darkness, Empath (Spainiard) (@seanachie)
Spider-Man 2099 (Latino/Irish) (@bradcandoit)
The Question (Renee Montoya, Dominican) (@lesvillainettes)
* I realize that some of these, like Darwin, are “generic” Latino characters without a specified country of origin, that others like Kyle are American-born, and that still others, like Bane, are actually European, but I’ve still chosen to include them on the premise that their roots are somehow from a Spanish-speaking country.
Did you know that all these characters had a Latino/Hispanic background? I sure didn’t. And you know what? That’s kind of disappointing. As Jennifer Margret Smith writes, “…For these characters, Latino culture has been pushed to the background to a greater or lesser degree.” At least from what I’ve read, Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle is one of the few whose original run was (I’m happy to say) peppered with references to his culture, including an entire issue in Spanish. It seems the vast majority of these characters are labeled Latino for the sake of… being labeled Latino. Their heritage is rarely referenced or called upon as part of their story. If it is, it’s usually not in a mainstream book.
There’s hope, though! Characters like Miles, with his mixed heritage and prominent position in the Marvel Universe, are definitely steps in the right direction. So, here’s to all my Latino brothers and sisters– we’ve got some comic book heroes to look up to after all, with what I’m hoping are plenty more on the way.
[I’m hoping to make these kinds of entries into a series, so if you have any suggestions for the next topic, feel free to let me know! A spotlight on Asian comic book characters is next.]