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America Chavez, Marvel Comics’ first queer Latina superhero, is now featured in the groundbreaking solo series “America.” The comic was written by Gabby Rivera, who has a lot in common with her title character. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano sat down with Rivera to talk about how her personal life contributed to the conception of Marvel’s latest superhero.
Author Gabby Rivera hasn't always been a big comic book fan, but growing up in the South Bronx, she had her fair share of exposure to superheroes at home.
My parents were huge Marvel comic fans, and X-Men fans, and my brother too. And so through them, comics have had, like, some sort of place in my life.
So when Marvel Comics approached her about writing its newest series — "America" — her reaction was more than enthusiastic.
They approached me via email, and I totally screamed, and, like, ran around, like, "Oh my God, it's Marvel." And at first I thought it was like a scam email. Like, "Oh, like, I'm a Marvel prince and I have, like $100,000 for you," or something like that. But it wasn't. So they talked to me about this character, America Chavez.
"America Chavez" is a gay Latina superhero, raised by two mothers who sacrifice themselves saving her homeworld. Rivera's storyline has Chavez attending college and learning to use her powers — which include superhuman strength and the ability to travel through time and between dimensions.
A Latina that can just go where she chooses is, like, pretty revolutionary, I think. She has, like, ownership of her own body and her destination, and that's like a gift that not many of us are afforded.
As a self-described queer woman of Puerto Rican descent, Rivera sees a lot of herself in America Chavez.
We have this queer, Latina superhero character, but there's also a queer Latina writing this story. Is there something significant about having the person producing this also represent this experience?
Yes, 100 percent, hands down. It's important that, like, I inhabit the identities I do, queer, brown, like, nerd burger, you know what I mean? Like and I get to write America, and so there's this authenticity in the voice.
Rivera says she's been writing stories since her mother taught her to read and write as a child, and America Chavez isn't the first queer latina character she's written.
She's also the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novel, "Juliet Takes a Breath," about a young Puerto Rican lesbian from the bronx trying to answer questions about her sexual identity, gender, and family background.
How does that sort of writing inform your writing for this project?
I think that irreverent nature of also young adult fiction, and the, like, absolute capacity for anything to happen in, like, the comic book world work really well together. And it's so much fun. The voice of Juliet is fresh and curious. She's just, like, this young, free-spirited again, like, Latina from the Bronx, right? So when I'm writing America, there is that energy in there. That, like, spirit of one-liners, and being tough, and a little irreverent and spontaneous. And so they work really well together.
For Rivera, the implications of a gay person-of-color as a superhero go beyond a single character. She hopes Americans will embrace a broader range of people in comics and pop culture.
Who doesn't connect to the principles of, like, Superman or the loyalty of a group like the X-Men? And, I think, now is the time where people are even more vocally saying, "Hey, but it can go a step further, and there's room for more stories, and there's room for more identities." If you can have folks that are, like, giant blue beasts and, like, you know, mutants, then there's room for a story about a little, like, Latina lesbian punching through other dimensions, you know.
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Ivette Feliciano shoots, produces and reports on camera for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Before starting with NewsHour in 2013, she worked as a one-person-band correspondent for the News 12 Networks, where she won a New York Press Club Award for her coverage of Super Storm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast in 2012. Prior to that, Ivette was the Associate Producer of Latin American news for Worldfocus, a nationally televised, daily international news show seen on Public Television. While at Worldfocus, Ivette served as the show’s Field Producer and Reporter for Latin America, covering special reports on the Mexican drug war as well as a 5-part series out of Bolivia, which included an interview with President Evo Morales. In 2010, she co-produced a documentary series on New York’s baseball history that aired on Channel Thirteen. Ivette holds a Master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in broadcast journalism.
Zachary Green began working in online and broadcast news in 2009. Since then he has produced stories all over the U.S. and overseas in Ireland and Haiti. In his time at NewsHour, he has reported on a wide variety of topics, including climate change, immigration, voting rights, and the arts. He also produced a series on guaranteed income programs in the U.S. and won a 2015 National Headliner Award in business and consumer reporting for his report on digital estate planning. Prior to joining Newshour, Zachary was an Associate Producer for Need to Know on PBS, during which he assisted in producing stories on gun violence and healthcare, among others. He also provided narration for the award-winning online documentary series, “Retro Report”.
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