In -isms: El Peso Hero

By | Thursday, January 02, 2014 2 comments
The Dallas Morning News just ran this piece on schoolteacher-cum-comics-creator Hector Rodriguez. The comic he's created and is currently working on is called El Peso Hero. The character is kind of a Mexican version of Luke Cage, and operates along the Texas/Mexico border. Rodriguez created him because he wasn't seeing any Latino superheroes out there, and wanted something that would be a better reflection of the population he saw every day.

El Peso Hero, of course, isn't the first Latino superhero. Heck, DC's El Dorado got his own action figure a couple years back, and Marvel's Sunspot got one back in 1994! Granted, we're not talking about particularly high-profile characters for the most part; I think the most commercially successful Latino comic book hero (by way of Puerto Rican descent) is probably the Miles Morales Spider-Man. But that it's difficult to name-check Latino superheroes at all, and the ones you can find often have mixed-race backgrounds, says a lot about why Rodriguez felt the need to create his own.

The original stories are both written and drawn by Rodriguez. There's a guests story getting shown now that is still (I think) written by Rodriguez, but drawn by a variety of artists. While I think there's some room for improvement in the art and storytelling, Rodriguez is doing still some interesting things. First and most obviously is that he's addressing issues that are of more immediate concern to people who might live along the US/Mexico border: things like human trafficking. I can't speak to the realism of it, but I suspect there's something at least closer to first-hand experience there than what I've seen elsewhere.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, Rodriguez keeps all of El Peso Hero's dialogue in Spanish. Other characters use Spanish, English or Spanglish as befits the individual, but the main character is resolutely tied to his Mexican heritage. This doesn't impact readability much, as he's not very talkative and tends to be very curt when he does speak, which means people with even a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish can often get the gist of what he's saying. Furthermore, other characters' dialogue does a good job of keeping readers from getting completely lost linguistically.

I don't know if El Peso Hero will capture enough people's imagination to become a huge commercial success. I suspect a number of people might get turned off by the lack of professional polish. But I think it should be given a broader awareness precisely because Rodriguez is trying to say something no one else is in comics. He could sit around and wait for decades to see some real progress towards Latino representation in comics... or he could do it himself. If nothing else, it can help others more deeply embedded in the industry to broach the subject.

Hispanics and Lantinos are the largest minority in the United States, accounting for a little shy of 20% of the popluation, but you'd never know that to look at our media. Rodriguez's just pointing out that omission via his comic might raise some questions in some comic professionals minds, and I think that's well-worth applauding and supporting.

Rodriguez just launched a Kickstarter project to print issues 2 and 3 of El Peso Hero, the latter sporting a cover by Sam de la Rosa. He's only trying to raise $1000, and he's got almost two months to do it, so I'd be sorely disappointed if it didn't happen. But the more voices out there that aren't Caucasian men, the better, so I hope he'll make some progress and bring some attention to this huge void in comic publishing.
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Unknown said...

Thank you for your support. Great article!!!

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