La Borinqueña's Trip To The Smithsonian
I didn't know what to expect when I agreed to read this special issue of La Borinqueña. I knew of the comic and I loved the art and the reason for her creation and enjoyed the work her creator Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez has been involved in (Daryl Makes Comics). But I'm still always leery when it comes to Puerto Rican (or any Latinx) representation in genre storytelling. Even if the people behind the comics are my ethnic group. There hasn't been a great track record when it comes to superhero comics and most genre comics and those positive images that do exist aren't exactly front and center.
Which is why when I finished reading this comic I was glad it alleviated all my worries. The story was a lot of fun. The art, colors, and lettering are top notch. It reminded me of the Ditko and Lee era of Spider-Man along with Milestone Comics Static. It also covered a very important topic of environmentalism and some important political issues in Puerto Rico but all without coming off overly preachy and Saturday morning special.
Here's a bit of info on the character. That might even get you interested in the comic. Especially the bit that reminded me of DC Comics Captain Marvel.
La Borinqueña is a patriotic symbol presented in a classic superhero story. Her powers are drawn from elements and mysticism found on the island of Puerto Rico. The fictional character, Marisol Rios De La Luz, is a Columbia University Earth and Environmental Sciences Undergraduate student living with her parents Flor De La Luz Rojas and Oscar 'Chango' Rios-Velez in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She takes a semester of study abroad in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico. There she explores the caves of Puerto Rico: Ventana, La Cueva del Indio, Las Cuevas de Camuy, La Cueva del Viento and the caves at the Julio Enrique Monagas National Park. At each of these caves, she finds five similar sized crystals. Atabex, the Taino mother goddess, appears before Marisol once the crystals are united and summons her sons Yúcahu and Juracan. Yúcahu, God of the seas and the mountains gives Marisol her superhuman strength. Juracan, god of the hurricanes gives her the power of flight and control of the wind.
Now the one-shot I read isn't the first issue of the comic. The first issue goes on sale December 22nd of this year. The issue I was given and the reason for this article and interview is because Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez was commissioned to do an original La Borinqueña 12-page story for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's CTRL+ALT pop-up exhibition in New York City on November 12 and 13. He'll be giving away copies of the comic book at the exhibition as well. The comic book allows him to give his character La La Liu, a Chinese-Dominican college student a back story and an adventure! This story will also be included in the first full-length issue of La Borinqueña that he is self-publishing under his studio, Somos Arte.
Outside of that how about we get to that interview with Edgardo and Sabrina Cintron the penciler of the one shot and one of the artists working on the upcoming first issue as well.
Marco: What was the inspiration and need for you Edgardo behind La Borinquena?
And Sabrina how did you get involved and what does this character mean to you?
Edgardo: I saw over the last year that Puerto Rico was drawing closer to a major crisis economically. It's a complicated matter that has been developing over decades, but especially received a major downward spiral when Congress closed the tax loophole for pharmaceutical companies that had been active for close to 40 years. I wanted to help bring awareness to the island, given my background as an activist. I decided the best way to reach a larger audience was via comic books. I'd recently had some good buzz off my first graphic novels with DMC and my first story with Marvel. I decided to channel that buzz into my first creator owned project. Puerto Ricans are innately patriotic, and I strongly felt that a patriotic hero could resonate on a level that has never happened before.
Sabrina: Well it all started with a tweet. A hashtag was going around called #visiblewomen and its purpose was to bring attention to female comic artists and artists in general. I thought it was an awesome idea so I tweeted
https://twitter.com/sabcinart/status/762084500444684288 and soon after I received an email from Edgardo. He liked my work and immediately brought up info on his latest project, La Borinqueña. I was completely drawn in. A Puerto Rican superhero was something I had never seen before. Her design and her story were so refreshing to see. Edgardo was looking for Puerto Rican artists to work on the project so he asked me to do a few character studies of La Borinqueña. At this point I was nervous. I knew that this could turn into a huge opportunity. So, I sent over my studies and maybe a week later I got the news that he wanted to move forward with me as penciler on the project. I was ecstatic, to say the least. For me, La Borinqueña has always represented a way for me to connect to my culture and learn more about my heritage. I hope Marisol can teach me a little Spanish too!
Marco: How did this issue of La Borinquena that will be available at the Smithsonian pop up event come together? Besides, the obvious of them commissioning it. Give us the behind the scenes details.
How does it feel Sabrina to be involved in such an event like the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's CTRL+ALT pop-up exhibition in New York City?
Edgardo: The Smithsonian National Museum of American History's Omar A. Eaton-Martinez, their Program Manager, reached out to me when he first saw my animated piece on the Young Lords Party featuring art from Carlos Pacheco and Chris Sotomayor (). When he read all the press La Borinqueña was receiving, he invited me to come to Washington, DC to give a lecture to the Smithsonian interns and fellows. It was a packed house of over 200 attendees, including representatives from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. They loved my work, my message, and asked me to be part of the show they were curating in New York City on November 12 and 13.
Sabrina: It's crazy to think about honestly. I wouldn't have believed it a year ago, just drawing and posting my art to Instagram and Tumblr hoping at least a few people would like my work. Now I'm a part of this amazing collection of artists in New York City! It blows my mind and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. I'm very excited about the exhibition and I hope to learn as much as I can from the artists around me.
Marco: I always ask this question. Generally, it's the first question I ask but I decided to change it up. This is for the both of you. What made you fall in love with comic books? And how did you get your starts in the industry?
Edgardo: My brother Axel Miranda and late cousin Santiago De Jesus. The two of them loved to draw and both encouraged me to draw. Santiago had copies of Marvel's first trade paperbacks, Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee. After that, I was hooked. I'd collect cans and bottles to save up enough money to buy my own comic books. My friends in grammar school would commission me to write and draw stories for them for 50¢ each.
Sabrina: Growing up I'd always have my nose buried in manga or Japanese comics. Not so much American comics until recently. I was constantly drawing characters from Dragon Ball Z, Naruto…etc. Pretty action packed stuff that wouldn't normally be associated with a 12-year-old girl. I loved these stories full of cool powers and fight scenes but also of strength and struggle to overcome obstacles. However, I never thought I could be a comic artist. I was looking more to the field of conceptual art for feature animated films. That's where I was when I was approached about La Borinqueña. I thought about it and I knew I wanted to tell amazing stories with my art. This was my chance to do so in this medium that's been such a huge part of my journey as an artist. So, I decided to switch gears and go on this superhero adventure. La Borinqueña is my first publication so it is, in fact, my start to hopefully a lot of awesome things in the future.
Marco: What do you both hope La Borinquena will do for Latinx representation in comics and genre storytelling?
And Edgardo tell us a bit about Lauren 'La La' Liu. Given that this issue was designed to spotlight her what makes her so important to you in the world of La Borinquena, and Latinx culture?
Edgardo: I create stories because I want to see myself, my family and friends. For too long have I had to search through pages to see someone remotely resemble me. I also wanted to create a character that was not a derivative of a man or another hero. Puerto Rico, Latinos, deserve heroes that celebrate our culture, heritage, and mythology. I created Lauren 'La La' Liu because of my family. My wife, Kyung Jeon-Miranda, is Korean-American and my youngest son is Puerto Rican and Korean, or as I like to say, Koricua! My goddaughter Raisa Lin Garden Lucerna, is Chinese American and raised by Puerto Rican/Dominican/Filipino parents. The Asian Latinx community has always been part of our heritage and I feel that creating this character not only affirms that but shows the world that Latinx in the words of José Vasconcelos are indeed the cosmic race, a sancocho of all the races in the world. It's beautiful to see us celebrate our diversity. In addition, I wanted to write a story about two best friends. I wanted to introduce two strong young women that have each other's back and don't fall into the stereotype of needing a man to save them.
Sabrina: Everyone deserves to be represented and to have stories that resonate with them. I hope La Borinqueña will give a voice and a sense of pride to the Latinx community. And be a catalyst for more Latinx characters in comics.
Marco: So, we know the comic debuts next month but will it be an ongoing series? A mini-series? And what else can we expect from the two of you (in comics) together or separately in the future?
Edgardo: The first issue of La Borinqueña officially debuts next month on December 22, the 121st anniversary of the Puerto Rican flag. Many don't know this, but the island nation's flag was designed in New York City. I find that very fitting given that this comic book and character were conceptualized and produced by me in Nueva York. I'm hoping to go immediately into production on the second issue after a few months of promoting the first book. I'm already being booked to speak at colleges, conferences and art spaces to talk about La Borinqueña and to sell copies which will help me fundraise for the second issue. Beyond that, we'll have to see how the public responds and supports the project.
Sabrina: Well it would be awesome to continue working on this project with Edgardo. In the meantime, I'm going to keep drawing and keep putting art out into the world.
Marco: This is what I like to call the pimp yourself section. In your own words tell the Bleeding Cool viewership why they should head down to the pop-up event in NYC (for those who can) and why they should check out La Borinquena when it's released.
Edgardo: CTRL+ALT is going to be a historic art exhibition with over 40 artists including myself exhibiting their work. It's our chance to not only share our work with New York City, but it's an opportunity to tell stories about our shared experiences and heritage. To see comic book artwork displayed alongside fine art is amazing. I'm very honored that the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center enjoys the work I have created. I hope that everyone that comes enjoys it as well. I'll be doing book signings over the next few months, so follow me on social media if any of these events will be near you. The book itself will be available online at www.laboriquena.somosarte.com so you can get your choice of one of the many variant covers created by a who's who of Puerto Rican comic book professionals featuring the talents of Wilfredo Torres, Will Rosado, Felix Serrano, Gustavo Vazquez and Christopher Sotomayor.
Sabrina: It's going to be an amazing collection of artworks from all different kinds of artists. And it's also a community of creatives coming together to share their craft with one another. I'm very proud to be a part of it.
Well, that's a wrap. I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Don't forget to let us know how you feel below.
And if you wanna follow Edgardo via Instagram and Twitter then do so via @LaBorinquenaComics and @MrEdgardoNYC.
The URL for the art show is http://smithsonianapa.org/alt/
Here's also the press release for the exhibition itself:
Marco Lopez is the co-owner of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly webcomic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Bill and Ted in tights. Also hosted on the site is Marco's web strip series Orion's Belt that follows an Afro-Rican family of adventurers in space and his anthology series A Shot of Whiskey. Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.