From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Top 12 Latin Superheroes

I recently read Nameen Gobert Tilahun’s excellent article (published here at Fantasy Magazine) critiquing BlackVoices.com’s list of “Top 25 Black Superheroes of All Time.” It got me thinking about the relative lack of Latino superheroes (though there have been more recently), and the stereotypes and other oddities about the way Latinos are often featured in comics. I wondered, “Who are the biggest Latino superheroes?” Here’s my personal Top 12, ranked according to a highly unscientific combination of historical importance, popularity, and my own personal fondness (or lack thereof) for the characters.


Rictor#12 Rictor (X-books): Rictor is a relatively minor character in the X-universe, but I remember him fondly from the innocent days of my 1980s comic-book-reading childhood. He was a young mutant with the power to create earthquakes, and started out as a trainee with X-factor, and then migrated from X-book to X-book. Rictor was cool because (at least at first) he was a visibly Latino character who wasn’t a blatant stereotype. After I stopped reading X-force (even as a teenager I was turned off by Rob Liefeld’s hackneyed writing), there was apparently some plotline about his Mexican family dealing arms. The allure of Latino characters combined with arms/drug-dealing plots is apparently irresistible for some writers.

Considering that the X-books are single-handedly responsible for something like 75% of the diversity of the Marvel Universe, it’s surprising there haven’t been more X-Latinos. But I haven’t been keeping up well with most of the X-books lately (there are just too many of them), and I’ve heard in recent years they’ve featured some other Hispanic characters, like Empath, Cecilia Reyes, and Skin.

It took me quite a while to find a pic of Rictor as I remember him: a leather vest with no shirt … kind of a hot anti-costume, but could you get away with that even in the 80s?

Issac Mendez#11 Isaac Mendez (Heroes): Isaac had the power to paint the future, but he could only do it while high. At least he was trying to kick the stereotype—I mean, the habit. Despite that, Santiago Cabrera’s performance was strong, and I thought the character had potential until they killed him off. And, no, I didn’t include Maya and Alejandro from season two of Heroes. They were just way too annoying for me.

The White Tiger#10 The White Tiger: The original White Tiger was a B-list Puerto Rican superhero created in the 1970s. That was before my time, and I suspect the early stuff with the White Tiger is pretty dated, but I’m pretty sure he was the first Hispanic hero in the Marvel Universe. More recently, Brian Michael Bendis did a story in Daredevil about the White Tiger’s niece, FBI agent Angela del Toro, who inherited her uncle’s mystical amulets. Angela was initially skeptical and uncertain about the amulets, but after some advice and training from Daredevil, she took up her uncle’s mantle as the White Tiger and was later featured in her own limited series. It was a cool update, making the character relevant in the 21st century.

Echo#9 Echo (a.k.a. Ronin of The New Avengers): Maya Lopez (Echo) first appeared in Daredevil in 1999. She can perfectly imitate any action or skill she sees, whether it’s Daredevil’s acrobatics or flying a Quinjet. This, combined with her deafness, made her an interesting converse of Daredevil’s blind supersenses. Initially, the Kingpin tricked her into going after Daredevil, but she’s now a member of the New Avengers and is one of the more interesting new characters in comics. While Joe Quesada and David Mack created her, it was Bendis who brought her into the Avengers. Kudos to Bendis, Quesada, and other creators who have made the Marvel Universe a bit more reflective of the diversity of our universe.

Kennedy#8 Kennedy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): Kennedy was one of the many young Slayers who popped up in Buffy’s 7th season, and she became Willow’s new love interest after Tara’s tragic death. I don’t think Kennedy’s ethnicity was ever explicitly identified, though she was played by Mexican actress Iyari Limon. Given that, I would say her inclusion in this list is somewhat problematic, but I’m a big Buffy fan so I stretched the point. Of course, the fact that I had to stretch this far for a Latina character from the Buffyverse is a sign that the show was not quite the rainbow of diversity it’s sometimes made out to be. Especially considering this was California, which has more Latinos than some Latin American countries.

Spider-Man 2099#7 Spider-Man 2099: In 1992, Marvel created 2099, a line of comics about superheroes 100 years in the future. The future version of Spider-Man was geneticist Miguel O’Hara. The 2099 universe was short-lived in its popularity, but Miguel was probably one of the first Latino characters to be featured so prominently. Writer Peter David was a few years ahead of his time in actually noticing that there were people of color around.

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28 Responses »

  1. The first omission that comes to mind is Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle.

  2. Jaime Reyes!

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. I kept thinking that he must be number one. He’s definitely far more awesome than Isaac Mendez and Kennedy – who are the only two I’ve seen in action.

  3. And “El Santo”? (Or “sanson” in USA)

  4. In my mind, Zorro is the superhero.

    One tip: as far as early pulp appearances go, if you’ve seen The Mark of Zorro (the silent version with Douglas Fairbanks, not that 40′s dreck) then you’ve pretty much read “The Curse of Capistrano.”

    Also, Dynamite’s current comic book incarnation of Zorro is shaping up quite well in my opinion.

  5. El Santo is a great addition! I completely left out the Mexican wrestler/superhero genre. My friend Rob Hood just sent me this great link: http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/m/mexico.htm

  6. What about Wendy Watson from The Middle Man?

  7. Pretty much the first one I can remember is El Diablo (Rafael Sandoval), which would be from the early 90s (I think) and was a very down-to-earth “superhero” (no powers and no costumed villains to speak of), but dealt with racism and politics.

    Far too intelligent a comic, therefore, to survive…

  8. What, no Firebird (from West Coast Avengers)? Swap Kennedy out for her!

  9. Back in the late ’90s, Milestone Comics, which was mostly-independent but published by DC, featured a LOT of heroes of diverse ethnicity, no few of which were Latin to some degree or another. For instance, the title character of Kobalt was of Cuban descent, and many of the regular cast members of Blood Syndicate were Hispanic.

    While Milestone ceased to publish some years back, DC recently made a deal bringing them into the DC Universe proper, with one of the Milestone prime movers, Dwayne McDuffie, doing the honors. So here’s hoping we’ll see some of those characters in the spotlight again. (And incidentally, Milestone also had a very high percentage of black and Asian characters… folding them into the DC universe would probably triple the number of non-white superheroes running around!)

    Over on the Marvel side, let’s not overlook Living Lightning. He may be fairly obscure, but he’s also gay, which is a bonus.

  10. Nick and Michael – you just teleported me back to another era! Completely forgot about Thunderbird and Living Lightning. I was a huge West Coast Avengers fan back in the day – especially loved the Steve Englehart and John Byrne days. I had no idea Living Lightning had come out – was that storyline in the Great Lakes Avengers series? Sounds awesome.

  11. It was really a blink or miss it moment, where Flatman invites Lightning to join the GLA, and Lightning thinks he means the Gay and Lesbian Alliance and is eager to join until he realizes what he’s really just agreed to join.

    Flatman came out shortly after that, giving us two gay heroes for the price of one quick scene.

    Does Armadillo count as a Latin superhero?

    Other minor Latin superheroes from Marvel included Defensor and La Bandera (killed by Zeitgeist), El Aquila (mutant powers removed), and The Conquistador (eaten by zombies). Sadly, none of them were Top 12 material even when active.

  12. I may have to go out and find the GLA series just for that one scene!

  13. You should be picking up the GLA just because it’s so much fun in general. Good, goofy fun.

    In re-reading your post above, I have two more comments:
    “Marvel recently introduced an all-Latino team of heroes, Eleggua and the Santerians.”
    – I’d never even HEARD of them until now. I had to look them up, and found they were in a Daredevil miniseries I skipped. Go figure.

    “Perhaps in a sign of how depictions of Latinos in comics have begun to shift, Marvel recently re-invented the villainous Tarantula as a female superhero.”
    – Ironically, DC -also- reinvented their version of the Tarantula a few years back, from the white male of the Golden Age to a hispanic woman. Unfortunately, this version may have started out good, but turned bad fairly quickly. Anyone for a face-off between the two Tarantulas?

  14. well yes “el santo” ofcourse he is only the biggest hero in mexico am i know most people wont know who i am talking bout but i just wanted to put “kaliman” the mentalist somewhere near the list

  15. where the hell is the new blue beatle

  16. Special Greetings to fantasy magazine.
    Excellent article.
    I hope that in the next include Selvatico. latinsuper heroes and super heroes first set in the Hispanic world.
    http://www.selvaticosuperheroedominicano.blogspot.com

  17. misterio, with the cape and the eye, he had a latino acsent, he came on Spider-Freinds in the 80′s

  18. Finding Latino actors as well as characters has been a challenge in the mainstream cinema but a lot has changed in the past 10 years. John Leguizamo (Columbian) is one of my favorites because his roles are so diverse. They cover animation “Ice Age the meltdown”,sci fi “Titan A E”, fantasy “Arabian Nights”, comic book “Spawn”, and even a drag queen (which totally counts as fantasy in “To Wong Foo,…” “Sin City” featured two other great latino actors,Benecio Del Toro (Puerto Rican) and Rosario Dawson (Puerto Rican, Cuban, Black, Irish,and Native American). Does Benecio’s role as “Duke the Dog Faced Boy” in “Big Top Pee Wee” count? How about Eva Mendes (Cuban)in 2 comic book genre films,”The Spirit” and “Ghost Rider”. Then there’s Edward James Olmos’ (Mexican) star character “William Adama” in “Battlestar Gallactica”. Also there’s Jessica Alba in television’s “Dark Angel”,and cinema’s “Sin City” and “Fantastic Four”,Selma Hayek (Mexican,Lebonese) as a vampire in “From Dawn To Dusk” and Antonio Banderas (Spanish) as the vampire “Armand” in “Interview With a Vampire”. Antonio’s voice in “Shrek” as “Puss and Boots” should count too. I need a break. I’ll be back with a few more characters later.

  19. Latino actors pt2: “Starship Troopers” cast white actors to portray Latino named main characters,Casper Van Dien as Argentine “Johnny Rico”, Denise Richards as “Carmen Ibanes”,and Dina Meyer as “Dizzy Flores”. Ay least they weren’t killed off the first 30 minutes of the film. Here’s a couple of old school Latino actors cast in Sci Fi/ Fantasy/ Comic book genres: Raul Julia(Puerto Rican) as “Gomez” in the “Addam’s Family” films. Ricardo Montalban(Mexican) cast as “Khan Noonien Singh” on “Star Trek” and as “Armando the circus owner” in the “Planet of the Apes” films. Speaking of “Star Trek” who when have Latino characters on the show(s) are usually played by white actors.

  20. Other Latino actors playing in hero roles (albeit not Latino characters for the most part) are Morena Baccarin, Gina Torres, Zoe Saldaña, Linda Carter, Jorge García (well, my hero at least ;), Jessica Alba, and Nestor Carbonell (hey, Batmanuel!). I enjoy finding out about other Latinos in the genre, and started a blog about them at scifilatino.com. Eventually I’d like to cover them all.

    Thanks for the comic book names! I rarely read comics so it’s nice to know of heroes of Latino heritage I hadn’t heard of.

  21. Zorro is european!

  22. Spanish IS Latino. Oops! I meant Hispanic. ];*)

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