Oscar Wao is an overweight nerd in New Jersey who dreams of one day becoming “the Dominican JRR Tolkien.” More than anything, Oscar wants a girlfriend, but the gals are sadly not impressed by his gargantuan vocabulary and mastery of role playing games. The novel is a contemporary epic that spans two countries and three generations: Oscar’s travails have their roots in a family curse, which got his grandfather imprisoned under the dictatorial Trujillo regime in the DR, and later left his mother for dead in a canefield until she found salvation in a mystical mongoose.
I just read Nameen Gobert Tilahun’s excellent article in Fantasy Magazine about a recent list of top 25 Black superheroes. 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. And of course it got me thinking, “who are the biggest Latino superheroes?” Here’s my personal top 12, ranked according to a highly unscientific combination of popularity, importance, and my own personal fondness (or lack thereof) for the characters.
#12 Rictor/Richter (X-books): Rictor is a relatively minor character in the X-universe, but I remember him fondly from my 80s 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 (X-terminators, New Mutants, X-force, and I think recently he’s back with the current incarnation of X-factor.) Rictor was cool (at least at first) because 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. Doesn’t sound very promising, and if it was written by Liefeld, I doubt it was handled with any subtlety.
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?
Considering that the X-books are single-handedly responsible for like 75 percent 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.
#11 Isaac Mendez (Heroes): From the first season of Heroes Isaac had the power to paint the future. His heroine addiction (he could only paint the future while high) was a bit of a stereotype as well as a low-hanging fruit for the writers, but Santiago Cabrera’s performance was strong, and I thought the character had potential until they killed him off.
No, I didn’t include Maya and Alejandro from season two of Heroes … they were just way too annoying for me.