Latinx Series

Meet the man who created the 1st Latina superhero to have her own comic book

Courtesy of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

Comic book artist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez will speak at Syracuse University about “La Borinqueña” on Oct. 3.

UPDATED: Sept. 12 at 1:13 a.m.

Editor’s note: In recognition of Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month, this three-part series spotlights local figures working to increase the representation of the Latinx community in Syracuse and beyond.

In August 2016, the #VisibleWomen hashtag helped highlight female artists in the comic book industry, which is still a male-dominated world. Sabrina Cintron, only 23-years-old at the time, joined the cause and shared samples of her illustrations. Although she received an associate’s degree in fine arts from Valencia College, she taught herself the intricacies of digital illustration.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez saw the Twitter post and moments later asked Cintron to join the team for his upcoming comic book, starring La Borinqueña, a Puerto Rican superhero. She hesitated, but signed onto the project as a penciller soon after she saw the designs for the “badass” character, dressed in red, white and blue.

Miranda-Rodriguez, who grew up in the South Bronx and later moved to Syracuse originally created the Afro-Latina character to debut at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. That December, he self-published the coinciding book, “La Borinqueña,” through his design studio Somos Arte.

He’ll be at Syracuse University to speak about “La Borinqueña” with students on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Bird Library.

Loyal fans and new readers followed Marisol Rios De La Luz, an undergraduate earth and environmental sciences major at Columbia University, as she explored Puerto Rico during her study abroad program. Spoilers granted, she turned into La Borinqueña and embraced her powers to help the environment and her people.

Although he touched upon Puerto Rico’s financial and environmental crises, Miranda-Rodriguez insisted the foundation of the best-selling story lies within Marisol’s college perspective.

“Many people who see the iconography of the character automatically assume that she is already taking a political position in terms of left or right, independence, statehood, whatever,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “When the reality is, when you actually read the story, you begin to understand that Marisol is a student.”

Miranda-Rodriguez credited his undergraduate career for transforming his values and expanding his philosophy. At Colgate University, he learned about the Young Lords Party and Lolita Lebrón, among other Puerto Rican movements and artifacts from upperclassmen.

“We find ourselves. We find more about who we are and what defines us. I learned more about being Puerto Rican, of all places, at Colgate University,” Miranda-Rodriguez said.

“La Borinqueña” is a compilation of his two great passions — comics and social justice. Following graduation, Miranda-Rodriguez continued his advocacy work and became a grassroots organizer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York. He worked with young people and raised awareness on several issues, including gentrification, police brutality and representation.

“When you’re growing up and you’re not being validated, you’re just invisible. It does so much to a young person’s psyche, and so this responsibility is really something I’ve had half my life, which is why I became an activist at such a young age,” Miranda-Rodriguez said.

latinx

Courtesy of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

And his efforts continue to impact the younger generation.

Danny Barreto, an LGBTQ studies professor at Colgate University, introduced “La Borinqueña” to his students and incorporated the comic into the curriculum for his class on Puerto Rico.

“It was amazing. It really brought together almost everything that we’ve looked at the whole semester,” said Barreto.

During class discussions, his diverse group of students identified with the story in a number of ways, and one of the conversations focused on the topic of representation in the comic book format.

“It was interesting in the conversations of people being able to talk about the importance of representation and seeing themselves in someone who even vaguely looked like them,” Barreto said. “And it made other students aware of how lucky they are that they’ve always had comic book characters who looked like them and shared their interests and backgrounds.”

Tai Yang-Abreu, a former student at the University of Washington, also noticed the range of representation in the series after her girlfriend pointed out Marisol’s best friend, Lauren “La La” Liu. Both are Chinese-Dominican and bear a strong resemblance through their looks and their love for skateboarding.

“I was tremendously shocked. That’s not something I typically see in that medium,” Yang-Abreu said.

To thank him for his work, Yang-Abreu messaged Miranda-Rodriguez through Facebook, and a few weeks after their initial conversation, he reached out and offered to speak at her school.

Eager to stretch the limits, Yang-Abreu dressed up as La La, wearing the character’s signature black, leather jacket and bright, red jeans. Soon enough, media outlets like “mitú” marveled at the side-by-side images.

Although Yang-Abreu was not the original inspiration, it’s not a stretch to say she may play a bigger role in the creative process in the upcoming issue set to release this December. Miranda-Rodriguez once joked he would change La La’s hair color after Yang-Abreu had dyed her own short-do.

Going forward, Miranda-Rodriguez believes Americans, especially under the current administration and climate, need to turn to their heritage and their roots.

“I think that’s what makes us a more powerful nation, when we celebrate our diversity, when we celebrate our cultures,” he said.

The story has been updated with appropriate style.

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