Café Con Comics Provides Representation over Comic Con Weekend
Café Con Comics has a breakout star.
While all the buzz was surrounding Comic Con in New York this past weekend, not far away another comic book showcase was taking place. Cafe Con Comics, launched and curated by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez showcased the contributions of Puerto Rican artists to mainstream comics since the 1940s.
The creator and artist behind La Borinquena, Miranda-Rodriguez made a great effort to create a character that could not only act as a symbol of empowerment for Puerto Ricans but also positively represent the average woman as a whole rather than the idealized version typical comics depict their female superheroes.
“I’m independently putting this out right now because of what’s going on in Puerto Rico with the debt crisis. And I believe, given the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans that live on the island that the millions of other Puerto Ricans throughout the entire diaspora and throughout the United States should be well invested in what’s going on in Puerto Rico” Miranda-Rodriguez said in an interview with Hot 97.
La Borinquena is set to be released on December 22 but she was the star of the Cafe Con Comics event that took place on Friday. The panel featured 4 illustrators and colorists in the comic book industry and highlighted their experiences working for companies such as Marvel and DC Comics on character stories from Batman and Spiderman to GI Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The panel featured: Chris Batista, illustrator; Emilio J. López, illustrator and colorist; Will Rosado, illustrator; and Félix Serrano, colorist.
Will Rosado who does storyboard work and has also worked for Marvel and now works on La Borinquena spoke about how La Borinquena inspired him before he began working on the project.
“With the book, with La Borinquena, it was just a chance. I reached out to Edgardo because I saw all of the buzz surrounding the character. People were sharing links to various articles and news and interviews he had been doing but there was no product. And I just thought it was amazing he was able to generate that much buzz around the character.”
As Comic Con in New York boasts another record year, jumping from the previous years’ 167,000 attendees to 180,000 the attendance looks more female and more diverse than ever before. This is despite many of the characters not being female or people of color. With Luke Cage reporting 3,518,000 viewers and ranking as one of the top 5 of the Netflix original programs, the superhero fan base continues to expand.
Speaking about the lack of representation, Will Rosado mentioned how La Borinquena has functioned as representation for many. “The characters don’t represent people of color. There’s a handful of characters that are. Luke Cage came out on Netflix and it crashed Netflix. That shows the interest and I guess hunger for representation in media,” Rosado stated.
“We were at a store… one of the women who worked in the costume store overheard our conversation so he showed her the character and he first words were, ‘Oh she looks like me.’ And you know, she’s a 20 year old latina, dark-skinned. And that was her first reaction and you know, you don’t get that with a lot of these characters. They’re very idealized but this character, she’s very much a regular girl going to school pursuing her interests and she has power,” Rosado said.
The lack of representation does not reflect those who actually contribute to the creation of these comics as the Cafe Con Comics panel and gallery highlight. “When I was a kid, I would see Spanish names in comics. Not all of them were Spanish some of them were Filipino […] George Perez was a big one for a lot us my age growing up and starting to read comics in the late 70s early 80s. George is a native Nuyorican and he’s pretty much the focal point for a lot of us. Beyond George Perez, I didn’t really. When you see the names, they don’t list their origin,” Rosado said of comic artists who inspired him growing up.
The panel, housed by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at CUNY, provided a space for Puerto Rican artists to acknowledge past and present contributions to the comic book industry.
“We were surprised by the amount of people that showed up. People were standing in the room. It became a standing room only event. I was surprised by that. I didn’t know half the people would show up. [...] I think the takeaway is just that the interest in not only just Puerto Rican artists who make comics but the interest in the character Edgardo created and his reason for creating her… It seems like [people] appreciate it and welcome it,” Rosado stated.