Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez On Creating A Superhero For Puerto Rico Graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez joins Stretch & Bob to talk about his comic book series La Borinqueña, Puerto Rican history and how art can be a conduit for activism.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez On Creating A Superhero For Puerto Rico

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez On Creating A Superhero For Puerto Rico

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Graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez is the creator of La Borinqueña, the superheroine and the comic book that bears her name. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez is the creator of La Borinqueña, the superheroine and the comic book that bears her name.

Courtesy of the artist

Like a lot of kids, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez was enthralled with superheroes from a young age.

Growing up poor in the Bronx, N.Y., he was drawn to the escapism offered by comics. But he also loved how their storylines dealt with good people combating the injustices of the world.

"I identified with Spider-Man, because he had brown hair like me, so I thought he was Puerto Rican," Miranda-Rodriguez says on What's Good. "He came from a single-parent household, he was raised by his aunt, he grew up in Queens, so he was working-class poor. He didn't have all the billions to have all these gadgets or a secret lair, and he made his own costume."

As a student at Colgate University, Miranda-Rodriguez found mentors in Puerto Rican community organizers such as Iris Morales and Luis Garden Acosta. The latter founded El Puente community center in Williamsburg.

But it was years later when a meeting with Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada springboarded Miranda-Rodriguez into the comics universe. He wrote one story for Marvel, Guardians of Infinity No. 3, which retold the story of The Thing and Groot through a Puerto Rican lens.

It was such a hit with the Latino community that Miranda-Rodriguez decided to focus on an original series and protagonist, both named La Borinqueña. The character La Borinqueña is a college student from New York named Marisol Rios De La Luz who receives superpowers from a Taíno goddess during a trip to Puerto Rico. (The Taíno are indigenous people of the Caribbean.)

The plotline of his first release was oddly prophetic, climaxing in a massive tropical storm that leaves the island in a blackout with only Marisol to save the day. That first book was released in December 2016, just nine months before Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. As the real Puerto Rico rebuilds, this La Borinqueña storyline has only become more relevant.

Since Hurricane Maria, Miranda-Rodriguez has released Ricanstruction, an anthology of short graphic stories featuring La Borinqueña and iconic characters from the DC Comics universe. Proceeds from the sale of the comics will go to rebuilding Puerto Rico.

Miranda-Rodriguez joined What's Good hosts Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia to reflect on superheroes, his catapult into comic-book fame and writing towards a better future for Puerto Rico.

Interview Highlights:

On acquiring his superpowers

As a child I was always drawn to comics, because I loved the escapism, but I also loved the narratives that were focused around combating injustices. One of my earliest childhood memories was: I was possibly a kindergarten or first grader, and my brother was walking us across a vacant lot ... and we're taking this shortcut, and we get jumped! We just get jumped by knuckleheads, who just want to mess with us for no reason ... we had nothing to offer, and I recall telling them, "You're in so much trouble, 'cause I'm reading comic books now, and I'm learning about my superpowers!" I literally said that. And that was my way of saying: I'm going to combat this injustice, as weird as that was.

On the origin story of the graphic novel La Borinqueña

It's kind of crazy to talk about it, but the first book came out in December of 2016. Hurricane Maria happens nine months later. But the first book ends with her just getting her powers, and the island is hit with a massive tropical storm that leaves it in a blackout. And she flies across the island to help people in Aguadilla when the storm is first hitting, and as she's helping them by actually creating a dam from some of the fallen trees, they see her in her red, white and blue, and automatically start singing the [Puerto Rico] national anthem, but they're singing both national anthems to her, so it's kind of like this fusion of both. And they're actually the ones who name her La Borinqueña.

On why he chose to write a female superhero

I'm a dude, and when I was writing this I didn't want to fall into the trope of writing from a position of patriarchy, 'cause it's super easy and comfortable to do that. I thought to myself, I've been mentored by a lot of incredibly strong women — my mother, my cousin Lillian ... Iris Morales — and I thought to myself: They've done wonders to kind of undo this patriarchy that I've been raised in and infuse me with a sense of matriarchy. So I thought to myself — how could I write this book and undo the patriarchy that's synonymous with comic-book storytelling, or storytelling in general?

On Puerto Rican activism through comic books

I see this, honestly, as an evolution of the work that the Young Lords Party did in the '60s and '70s. I see it as an evolution of the work that Don Pedro Albizu Campos did in Puerto Rico. I see this as an evolution of the thread that Mariana Bracetti used to create the first flag of El Grito del Lares. I see it as that. I just feel that, given the world that we live in now, I think that in order to truly create a sustainable revolution, you need to invoke an evolution. And that's where the comic book comes in.

Michelle Lanz produced this episode.

Impression Session tracks:

Together Forever - Run DMC

Toca's Intro - Tony Touch