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Friday, February 08, 2013 

There are Latino superheroes, but why no Latino supporting casts?

Axel Alonso spoke with Fox News about Latino characters in comics:
“Come here. You've got a head you don't need,” America Chavez, a.k.a. Miss America, tells established Marvel Comics character Loki, the god of mischief.

With her short shorts, boots and American flag-colored jacket, "tough girl" Chavez is yet another Latino moving to the forefront of a Marvel Comics franchise in Young Avengers Vol. 2 Issue number one.

“People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included,” Axel Alonso, editor in chief of Marvel Comics, told Fox News Latino. “This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.”
For someone who's a potential leftist, and like predecessor Joe Quesada, has allowed overly liberal storylines like Captain America's attack on the Tea Party to be approved for publishing, that sure is pretty rich to claim he's a capitalist. The sad truth is that with awful stories like what's seen in Spider-Man today, it's more like taking advantage of an audience that will buy their books no matter what. The obsessive collecting mentality that's long taken hold is astonishing.

But now, if Alonso really wants to make any minority group feel included, why do they only emphasize the characters who are superheroes proper and not co-stars and supporting cast members? Did it ever occur to him that when minorities begin to realize that there's little or no supporting casts emphasized in mainstream comics, if at all (we have long reached the point where co-stars have become sparse in numbers and almost unrelated to the stories), they might end up becoming as bored with the products they're pitching as they are with the stories now being turned out? Alonso isn't making them feel included so much as he is presenting superficial gimmicks and assuming that minorities will make a beeline for all this no matter the quality of the writing. In which case, it is a PC initiative.
...diversity is making its way into the comic book world, and Marvel Comics has been at the forefront of this change by including scenarios and characters that reflect the changing face of America.

For example, openly gay superhero Northstar married his partner last year in the pages of Astonishing X-Men. And two teenage characters in the Young Avengers, Hulkling and Wiccan, are currently in a gay relationship.
Once again, just what the world needs - diversity, not good storytelling. Even Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, said that these are some of the dumbest reasons to buy a comic book.
The other of the “big two” comic book publishers, DC Comics, has also added Latinos to their roster.

Their Blue Beetle is a Latino named Jamie Reyes, while the Question character is longtime established gay Latina Renee Montoya.

DC Comics declined to be interviewed for this story.
They don't mention it, but after the Flashpoint crossover, Montoya was phased out, and they reverted to the Vic Sage Question. It's just as well, because Greg Rucka's abrupt change to Montoya's orientation was exploiting an established character for his own self-interested goals. And thanks to the brutal way DC got rid of the previous Beetle, Ted Kord, that's why Jamie Reyes has not gained popularity either. Maybe that's why DC wouldn't give any input to Fox for this article.

Interestingly, Alonso says:
Even with a growing number of Latino characters making their way in the comic "multiverses," Alonso and others stress that forcing or championing a Latino character on everyone isn’t the smartest approach.

“We ride the currents of time. We try to stay ahead of the curve as much as we can but we can't force an audience for anything,” said Alonso. “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.”

Quality characters seem to be the way to encourage Latinos to follow Latino characters.
Correction: quality writing is what makes a quality character and encourages anyone to follow them. And that's not what the current crop of writers has at all. One more reason why DC may have declined to give an interview.
Todd Seavey, a writer who has written for DC comics and is currently the comics editor for LibertyIsland.com, says minority characters are best when they are not heavy-handed.

“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,” said Seavey. “I think it's good and the best way to get the fans to accept it is to grow the characters of past stories.”

Seavey said some minority characters introduced in comic books seemed forced, and it turned out to be a disaster.

For example, DC comics once had a character named Estraño, a gay Latino magician who had HIV and referred to himself as “Auntie.”
I don't think I ever heard of that character, and I'm sure no sensible person will want to either. But this explains perfectly what's wrong with Marvel and especially DC today: they're obsessed with diversity - not quality writing - and the whole notion that no minority would ever read their books if they didn't have minority superheroes in them is ridiculous and insulting. The minority heroes we see in today's books, unfortunately, are just what Seavey says is going wrong: they're contrived and forced, right down everyone's throats, long after some of these topics were thought fait accompli. And now, the time is long past, and nothing's new under the sun.
As for a change in the comic book landscape and whether or not Latinos will catch up, Alonso says the evolving audience is ultimately responsible.

“I think that Latinos have been underrepresented in comic books and I think that’s changing rapidly,” said Alonso. “You have to go back to the source material, the original comic books, who they’re created by, who they’re created for, what the audience was. And that audience has grown over time and evolved over time.”
"Who"? I thought they were for everybody, and he comes close to making it sound otherwise, and probably means it too. But he's right that the audience is responsible: they need to make sure whether their output has quality writing (and much of today's has none of that), and whether it's worth supporting critically/financially. And even minorities have evolved and seeing how low the sales on many of the products featuring minorities are, that shows even they aren't enthused about them.

And maybe Alonso doesn't realize, but Latinos are still underrepresented: where are the Latino co-stars? Where is the emphasis on building and developing them? If all they're concerned about is superheroes, they haven't accomplished anything.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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