Move over Spiderman
Comic book creator Eli Hernandez talks about Americo, the world's first Latino superhero
In the popular universe of comic books, fans are often introduced to new characters. Yet, amongst all the fantasy and fiction, the most unbelievable thing is - there has never before been a Hispanic superhero/heroine. However, this September, that is about to change; introducing Americo, the first Latino superhero.
Published on LatinoLA: August 1, 2004
As Americo's creator prepares for the comic's launch, Toby Osborne sits down with Eli Hernandez to find out why the world needs a Hispanic hero...
Eli Hernandez: As a U.S. born Hispanic, of course, I grew up with the superheroes that we?ve grown to love ? Superman, Batman, Spiderman, X-men. And I just saw that there was a lack of representation for Hispanics and Latinos within not only the characters but the stories?
Honestly, when was the last time Superman went to Caracas, or Rio de Janeiro, or Buenos Aires to fight crime ? it never happened. And everything up till now has been a translation; the superhero characters have been translated into Spanish, but none have been created that actually address our cultural needs to date.
Q: All the classic comic books have been around for so long, and you?re obviously starting a new tradition. Where did the idea come from?
EH: I hope it?s a real good tradition... I think it?s a very original idea considering that Americo is, you know, the first Hispanic, Latin created superhero for a new generation. The idea is; it?s time has come. I believe that Hispanic people are looking for a symbol of unity, of pride in their culture and their language, and I am hoping that America will seize that. The Hispanic population is so segmented by nationality that I am hoping that America will be able to unite, and Americo will give us all a sense of pride of who we are and where we?ve came from.
Also, I believe that when people read his story, they will get a sense that Americo is really one of us ? he looks like us, he speaks our language and he understands our culture. He will have adventures throughout, not only North America but, certainly Central and South America and Latin America?
Q: Superman has Metropolis and Batman has Gotham City? Where is Americo?s home?
EH: That?s an interesting question because I don?t think that?s really been determined yet, because I want Americo to be really independent? The stories are being developed and that will probably come out at a later date.
Q: Obviously these are early days but, do you think Americo will be as successful as his non-Latino counterparts?
EH: There?s going to be a very wide appeal for his story. Of course, the children will be drawn to him; they will learn a sense of honor and duty about Americo. The women will love to be attracted to Americo because he will be drawn very sexy. And he will have love interests and he will eventually choose a wife? And the men will of course be attracted to Americo because he is the man that protects the weak, has the manly qualities and, at the end of the day, he wins the girl.
Q: And that?s what we all want, don?t we?
EH: (laughs) That?s right.
Q: The whole night and day aspect of the character is very Americas and Aztec-y. Was that where you gathered your inspiration for his powers?
EH: Sure? Directly from the story of the pyramids, of the sun and the moon; this is what makes Americo original from the other characters. His powers change from day to night ? he?s the only one ? and so does his costume. In addition, it?s the first time that the creator himself is inside the story?
Q: That?s an interesting idea ? Eli Hernandez is the villain in the comic. Are you evil in real life?
EH: (evil laugh) Well, my friends say that I?m evil!
Q: How does that work with you, the creator, being inside the story?
EH: I knew you were going to ask me that question, and I already have an answer for you... You?re going to have to wait and see! It?s part of the whole story, and it?s a grand story of how I immerse myself as his chief opponent. Just like every other superhero has their chief rival, I will be his chief rival. And imagine the drama when he finds out that I?m the creator and I?m the villain! (evil laugh)
Q: Seriously, you?ve got the evil laugh already! Americo will, it seems, have positive stories ? not nearly as dark as some of the underground comics that come around nowadays. It sounds like you are bringing back the values associated with the Marvel comics, is that right?
EH: Let me give you just a quick illustration of that ? Americo will never kill another human being. I think there?s just too much violence for children already; you know, not only in video games, but maybe in some of the movies that are out there. This is what in general makes Americo different; he?ll never kill a human being - instead he?ll have my army of demons to destroy (evil laugh). But as far as human beings ? I?m not saying that he will be non-violent; he will protect mankind. But, he will not kill another human being? because he values life, and protects life, and I want children to know that.
Q: Do you foresee further Hispanic heroes - Miss Americo? Do you see that in the future?
EH: Well, I?m already doing that because the woman that he will choose as his wife will become a superheroine in her own right, and I?m molding her to be a role-model for our young Latinas, our Latina girls and young ladies. So, we?re already developing the character that she will hopefully be a role-model, an inspiration for them that, yes, they can make a difference, because here?s someone that is like them that?s doing it.
Q: Any scoop on her name yet?
EH: (laughs) Not yet, we?re not that far! But, I?m gathering names?
Q: This is such an ambitious project, and you even have plans for an Americo movie? who would be your ideal person to play Americo? Antonio Banderas?
EH: Of course, I?ve been thinking about his first movie and who could possibly play him, but I?ve been more interested in who?s going to play me! (laughs)
Q: You can play yourself??
EH: No, no, no, no, no. But, it?s coming together and you know, of course, the people that I speak with about it; it?s very exciting.
Q: I guess that you do have to think about movies because all of these comic books get bought up and turned into movies so quickly now. So, are you feeling protective towards the character because you know that, obviously, there are a lot of people out there who want to use the character for T-shirts and whatever? Is that something that concerns you?
EH: To be honest with you, yeah. I have been very careful in making sure that I have exclusive rights to the character? we haven?t gone out and distributed his image en masse. If you notice, if you go on the website, you?ll find bits and pieces of Americo, but not the complete image because I don?t want somebody to actually lift it. But, eventually you know I think that imitation is the best form of flattery? We are obviously coming out first, and I think anything else coming out after that will be an imitation and literally just try to compliment what we?re doing.
Q: A comic book series, movies? what else could conceivably be in the pipeline for Americo?
EH: I?ve been asked this question before ? what is Americo?s future? I?m looking for programming, merchandising, and I?m looking for business interest because I feel that?s really going to be the best way to really spread the word about Americo. So, you know, hopefully there?ll be business interests there. And basically, think of everything that Superman has, or Batman has, and that?s exactly what I want for Americo, on that level.
Q: Now, let?s talk more about you? who is Eli Hernandez?
EH: Well, I am the creator, and the owner of the concept and the image contained therein ? that sounds like legal speak, doesn?t it? (laughs)
Q: And you?re the villain, of course?
EH: And I?m a central character, of course. But, I have a team, you know, that is helping me with the drawing, and the web design, but all the stories really are coming out from me.
As I said before, I am a U.S. born Hispanic. I live in Dallas, and I was raised in a Hispanic culture. I spoke Spanish as a primary language and I would say that growing up, I always had a pride in who I am, and my culture, and my background.
Q: Thus, Americo is a Spanish language comic?
EH: I read the other day that the new trends are that there?s programming and television networks coming out catering to U.S. Hispanics that prefer English ? I disagree with that because I think I?ve met quite a few U.S. born Hispanics and Latinos, they want to reclaim and have a pride in their culture and they tell me ?I wish I knew more Spanish? (laughs) you know, ?of course, I speak English because I was born here, but I wish I knew more Spanish.?
Q: That?s kind of ironic, isn?t it? As far as I understand, quite a few Spanish children coming to America use comic books to learn English and ? now ? with Americo, it could be the other way around? they?re learning, again from comic books, but this time about their own heritage?
EH: Exactly right, sure.
Q: Well, before I let you go back to your duties as a creator and a villain, have you any words for the Batmans and the Supermans out there?
EH: No, not yet?. I?m sure they?re looking. I?m sure they?ve taken some notice? Like I said, I?m prideful of the fact that we?re first out of the gate with a very original and unique character that really stands out; it?s not just a rehash of another character. And, to be honest with you, I really hope Americo?s story touches home-base with Latinos, and his story resonates with Hispanics and Latinos.
Americo is being launched officially in July and the comic will be released in September, during the U.S. Hispanic Heritage month. Visit Americo online at http://www.americosuperhero.com.
Toby Osborne is a freelance writer, and his articles have appeared in magazines across North America.