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.
#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?
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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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