Hispanic & Latino Heritage Month kicked off September 15th, and here in geekland we’re celebrating by shouting out superheroes of Hispanic & Latino heritage. While we’ve given a nod to some of the indie creators writing comics with Latino themes and/or characters in the past, today we’re talking mainstream superheroes, because if we don’t show some love to the Latino heroes already in the mainstream, we might find that the major publishers aren’t to keen to keep up what’s been a nice increase in the diversity of comics. Also, ’cause these heroes mad dope:
The White Tiger identity has now been taken on by five different heroes, though only three of them gained their powers by inheriting the Jade Tiger amulet that endowed the first White Tiger, HectorAyala, with his powers.
First appearing in Deadly Hands of Kung-Fuin 1975, Ayala became the first Puerto Rican superhero in comics and Marvel’s first Latino superhero. A college student at NYU, Ayala found the Jade Tiger amulets and used them to fight crime using a secret identity– White Tiger. He went on to fought alongside big wigs like Daredevil, Spider-man, and Iron Fist. Unfortunately he was later framed for a murder and shot and killed trying to escape capture.
But in 2003, the White Tiger identity was revived by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, when FBI agent and Hector Ayala‘s niece Angela Del Toro discovered the Jade Tiger amulets and the White Tiger legacy. Angela reluctantly takes up the mantel as the masked vigilante under the guidance of Daredevil, and soon finds herself fighting with her uncle’s old friends like Luke Cage, Spider-man, Black Widow. However, she is later magically corrupted and now operates under the influence of The Hand as an assassin.
All hope for the White Tiger legacy is not lost, however, as Hector Ayala had a younger sister… The young Ava Ayala took up the mantle of WhiteTiger in 2011 when Christos Gage and TomRaney wrote her into the AvengersAcademy series. Strongly tied to her legacy and her heritage, she has been critical of other Latino heroes who do not embrace their heritage (namely Reptil). She’s also very likely the dopest and most popular to take on the identity. Though Avengers Academy was later cancelled, she is a regular in the Ultimate Spider-mananimated TV series, and she recently appeared as White Tiger in the brand new, promising (and awesomely diverse) Mighty Avengers series. Though issue #1 opens with her quitting LukeCage‘s new Heroes for Hire revival, it’s looking pretty good that she’ll be back!
Featuring one of the most diverse superteams ever, Al Ewing and Greg Land’sMighty Avengershas been one of the most anticipated comics of the Fall, and this first issue matches the hype with a just the right dose of action and a rich introduction to our new team’s leaders and the motivations of the new team-up.
Brian Michael Bendis really developed the character and storyline for Luke Cage in his New Avengersrun, daring to do something few creators have worked into superhero plotlines — giving him a wife and a child, which not unexpectedly resulted in his retiring from the Avengers. But that didn’t sideline him completely. Cage has still very much been a part of Marvel storylines, presenting a conflicts of interest and new motivations for the character regarding his new role as a family man.
This issue really draws those strings together and gives us a relatable and real reason for Cage’s desire to lead a team again. Aside from the fact that the regular line-up of Avengers is busy fighting alien militia in space, Cage really wants to get back in the game to make his family proud. The brief glimpse we get of Cage’s relationship with the young hothead Powerman promises an interesting dynamic between the two, something of father-son like mentorship that is clearly impacted by Cage’s new role as a father.
In this issue we also get a solid look at the return of Monica Rambeau, who’s underuse in the Marvel universe over that past 10 years has been criminal. An incredibly powerful hero and a smart leader with an interesting backstory, Monica was the first Black female superhero to have her own self-titled comic in Captain Marvelin the late 80’s.
After leading the Avengers in the 80’s when she was Captain Marvel, she quit when she briefly lost her powers and returned to her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite an appearance as the leader of the C-list superhero team in Nextwave,Monica never really quite made it back to prominence. It seems an odd fate for such a smart and incredibly powerful hero. Ewing and Land’sMighty Avengers aims to bring her back with a vengeance… and a perm.
(Not gonna lie, it seems a little out of character to see Monica, who’s always sported natural hair, with her new straightened shaggy bob cut. But it’s great to see her back, no matter the hairstyle.)
In this first issue, Ewing and Land certainly captured just how powerful Monica is, as well as her very serious dedication to her duty as a hero. Despite her new costume and her brand new moniker (that one can only hope she’ll manage to hang on to this time) as Spectrum, she’s still the same amazing Monica.
This issue hints at many of the tensions and dynamics we’ll have to look forward to throughout the series, including that between Luke Cage and Superior Spider-man, who seems anything but on board when the makings of a team start to come together as Thanos’ thugs attack New York. Otto Octavius’s snarky egotism is bound to clash with Cage’s no-nonsense leadership. And the youngins on the team, White Tiger and Powerman, already seem to have a clash of ideas about what it means to be a superhero.
Add to all that our mystery Ronin who Monica seems to have a bit of a past with, and this first issue has knotted this team together intricately and it’s looking to be a ton of fun to unravel.
With Ewing’s historical love for two of the most dynamic Marvel heroes Luke Cage and Monica, it looks like we’re in for a lot more than trash talk and jaw breaking. Mighty Avengers #1demonstrates that Ewing and Land intend to continue the focus on rich character development that Bendis brought to New Avengers. And here’s hoping we see the creative team bring up the tough issues with this awesomely diverse cast of heroes.
Verdict: Get it! Even if you’re a trade buyer, you’re gonna want to own #1 when this series gets all epic. A must-read.
If you know Brian Michael Bendis‘ work, then you know he’s been huge in helping making comics more diverse. He gave us a super cool and hardcore real women in Jinx and Jessica Jones, he made Luke Cage a major player in the New Avengers before hooking him up in an interracial relationship with Jessica Jones, and he even started his own creater-owned comic Takio with sister superheroines one of whom was adopted and of Asian-descent.
But his biggest win for heroic diversity in comics was when he killed Spider-man and made him a mixed Black and Puerto Rican kid, Miles Morales!
It was a insanely dope move on his part, and bold as hell. And as far as I know, Ultimate Comics Spider-man isn’t going anywhere. That said, Miles Morales is an alternate universe Spider-man. Alternate universes have been used to make changes in race and sexual orientation for several superheroes at this point, like Earth2‘s gay Green Lantern and Filipino Captain Steel. And though Spider-man is a big win, the majority of heroes of color or LGBT heroes are part of teams or relegated to the sidelines, like Reptil and WhiteTiger (who’ll soon be joining the new Mighty Avengers) in the recently cancelled AvengersAcademy, and Hulkling and Wiccan in Young Avengers.
The tide is definitely changing and it seems to be most prevalent with the kids.
And Miles Morales isn’t the only kid hero of color with his own comic. In 2011, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness introduced half-Latino Sam Alexander as the son of the superhero Nova…
In case you missed it, this past week Marvel announced a relaunch of an old team with a brand new cast of superheroes. In September this year, an all-new Mighty Avengers will hit the stands, featuring one of the most ethnically diverse casts to see the shine of a single-issue cover. The team includes Luke Cage, Monica Rambeau, Blue Marvel, White Tiger, Power Man, Ronin, She-Hulk, Superior Spider-Man, and Falcon.
That’s a long awesome list of superheroes from all over the Marvel universe, so we thought we’d give a little primer on who’s who for anyone who needs it. Also an excuse to talk about how awesome this team sounds!
Let’s start with the lesser known characters on the squad…
First appearing in 2008 in Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1, a five-issue mini-series, Blue Marvel (aka Adam Brashear) is a relatively new character in the Marvel universe. Created by screenwriter Kevin Grevious (Underworld), Brashear is a former Marine and a veteran of the Korean War, and he has a PhD in Theoretical Physics. During an experiment to develop clean energy went wrong, Brashear is exposed to radiation that turns him into Blue Marvel, endowing him with some of the most incredible powers in the Marvel universe, including flight, regeneration and near invulnerability, super-strength, speed, stamina, and heightened sense. He can also absorb and manipulate energy in various ways He’s so powerful that he was able to go up against the Sentry, which, if you don’t know the Sentry, is a huge deal.
Wearing a full-face-covering helmet, it was not known in the 60s that Blue Marvel was black. After this was revealed in an attack, then President John F. Kennedy asked Blue Marvel to retire, and the hero conceded. Coming to regret this concession later, Brashear returned to action.
The Power Man title has been used by various superheroes over time, including Luke Cage back in the 1970’s. The current Power Man is Victor Alvarez who first appeared in Dark Reign: The List – Daredevil #1in 2010, but doesn’t get his full story until appearing in Shadowland: Power Man#1, which ended after 4 issues. After surviving the deliberate demolition of his building, Victor began using his superpowers as a self-employed hero for hire and eventually took the name Power Man, which, naturally, caught Luke Cage’s attention. He’s been known to dislike Cage, considering him a “sell-out”, so the two working together in Mighty Avengers should be interesting… The son of a supervillain named Shades, Alvarez has the ability to draw energy from those around him thereby gaining super-strength and durability. He was most recently enrolled as a student in Avengers Academy and appeared in several issues of the now discontinued Avengers Academyseries.
Here’s another youngin… Several heroes have taken the White Tiger name. The current White Tiger is Ava Ayala, the younger sister of the first White Tiger Hector Ayala and her Latino heritage is very important to her. She first appeared in Avengers Academy #20in 2011. She inherited the jade amulet that gave her her powers after her aunt Angela del Toro, the previous White Tiger relinquished the amulet. The amulet gives her powers of super agility, strength and speed, making her an incredible fighter. She also has the ability to camouflage herself.
Monica Rambeau (Spectrum)
MONICA RAMBEAU! This superhero is a personal favorite, and one’s who hasn’t seen much action lately. After gaining her powers, Monica Rambeau initially went by the name Captain Marvel. She’s been through a saga trying get a name to stick and has gone through many, including Pulsar and Photon and now it looks like she’s going by Spectrum. Let’s hope this one sticks. Formerly a lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol, Monica gained her powers when confronting a criminal trying to unleash a dangerous weapon. Her exposure to the explosion gave her the ability to transform herself into any form of energy and project that energy to inflict physical damage. These powers are incredibly powerful, but also taxing, and she can wear herself out and need to recharge. She was eventually recruited to the Avengers, becoming the first Black team member and eventually becoming the team’s leader in the 80’s. After temporarily losing her powers and returning to her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana to work for the family business, Monica had a brief stint in her own self-titled comic, before going on to lead a team of C-level superheroes in the hilarious comic Nextwave.It’s good to see her kicking it with the big-guys again.
One of the better known characters on the team and also, like Monica Rambeau, a classic Marvel superhero, Falcon first appeared Captain American #117back in 1969 as the first Black American superhero in mainstream comics. Stan Lee was the co-creator of the character. Black Panther made his wing harness that allows him to fly, and the hero can boast being trained by Captain America himself whom he teamed up with in New York. He later joined the Avengers officially. Always having a strong interest in birds, Samuel Thomas Wilson adopted a wild falcon that he named Redwing. In a confrontation with the Red Skull, Wilson becomes empathically bonded with Redwing when the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube. His affinity and bond with birds only grew over the years, making him more and more powerful. He now has power over all birds. He’s maintained a close relationship with Captain America and the Avengers throughout the decades.
Soo… huge spoilers if you haven’t been following, but… With the end of Amazing Spider-Man in issue #700, Peter Parker more or less died-ish, and Otto Octavius’ mind was transplanted into Peter Parker’s body. Since ten Octavius has been on a quest to prove himself better than Parker, taking down baddies and hitting on Mary Jane. But it turns out some part of Parker’s mind is still in there somewhere, and he’s got a tiny bit of control…
Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin. She became She-Hulk when she received a blood-transfusion from her cousin, giving her powers similar to the Hulk’s but at a reduced level. One of the busiest characters in comics, she’s been on numerous Marvel teams and is also a part-time lawyer, taking on mostly superhero-related cases and often engaging in activist efforts. After sorting out her own rage issues, she eventually decided to stay permanently in the She-Hulk state rather than changing back to her original appearance. After being accidentally exposed to radiation, her She-Hulk state became physically permanent anyway. She first appeared in Savage She-Hulk #1 in 1980 and has most recently been seen in Matt Fraction‘s FF filling in, alongside other superheros, for the original Fantastic Four members while they’re away.
Another iconic Marvel character, Luke Cage has been a major player in the Marvel universe since his first appearance in his own self-titled comic in 1972 Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1.Sent for prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he consented to an experimentation in exchange for parole, and, unpredicted by the scientists, the experiment gave him unbreakable skin. Upon being released he began using his powers for money, selling protection and heroics. He later begins working with the Defenders, before settling in with the Heroes-for-Hire team led by Iron Fist. Eventually he joins the New Avengers where he meets his now wife, and former superhero, Jessica Jones. After the two married and had a kid, he cut back on his superhero activities to be a dad and protect his family.
The first Ronin was revealed to be Echo (aka Maya Lopez), when she was recruited to help out the New Avengers on a special mission in Japan. Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton) later took the name briefly after Echo was taken by The Hand. And finally Black Widow’s ex-husband Alexei Shostakov assumed the identity in an attempt to assassinate Black Widow. Marvel’s announcement indicated that there will be a totally new Ronin joining the Mighty Avengers this September… Who could it be?!