Comic books are becoming increasingly diverse, with a black female Iron Man, a female Thor, a black Captain America and other diverse characters capturing headlines. However, the creators of those mainstream comics are still predominantly white males.
The exhibition "Artists Assemble! Empowerment and Inspiration in Contemporary Comics," opening this Sunday at Long Beach's Museum of Latin American Art, is putting the spotlight on comic books and artwork using comic book aesthetics from underrepresented communities throughout the United States and Latin America, the museum's curator of education Gabriela Martínez tells KPCC. It also includes a focus on local Long Beach artists.
"I think it's a really exciting opportunity to see what Latino artists are doing throughout the Americas," Martinez says.
The approximately 80-piece exhibition covers a wide variety of issues, including indigenous rights, police brutality, gender, identity, mental health and more, Martinez says. The work also explores Latin cultural mythologies. It includes mini-comics, zines, comic books, paintings, drawings, sketches, a sketch book, screen prints, lithograph prints, sculptures and other objects related to the different comics, Martinez says.
One of the featured creators is one of the first Latino comic book artists, Rafael Navarro, with his character Sonambulo. The name translates at "Sleepwalker" and is based on a classic pro wrestling "lucha" character.
On a more personal level, there's work from queer woman Cristy Road about her own identity and experience, Martinez says. The Dominican's art looks at body issues and coming out.
"So she's created some self-portraits, and some images of women that kind of have nontraditional bodies, and also some stories that talk about her own relationship with her family and how she felt she couldn't necessarily express herself genuinely to them, and how when she realized that they were going to accept her regardless, how it kind of changed their relationship," Martinez says.
Laura Molina's work combines feminism with superheroes in her character the Jaguar, Martinez says.
"What's really cool is that comic books are generally seen as this very American, almost white male sort of thing, and the two curators that we have are actually two young Latina women," Martinez said.
It's curated by Esperanza Sánchez and Naiela Santana, with help from Gabriela Martínez and Nalini Elias. It's part of the museum's Port To Learning gallery, which highlights both local emerging artists and emerging museum professionals. Both of the lead curators are local students, with a grad student from Cal State Northridge and an undergrad from San Francisco State.
If you want to jump into creating comics yourself, the Sunday grand opening also includes a comics workshop with local Whittier artist Javier Hernández, who created comic book character El Muerto (The Dead One), also known as the Aztec Zombie. They also have programs and workshops based on comic book themes planned, as well as the fifth annual Latino Comics Expo at the museum on Aug. 6 and 7.
The opening reception is Sunday, July 17 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Museum of Latin American Art. An artist Q&A is also scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibition runs through Sept. 18.