Back in 1993, Fernando Balderas Rodríguez created the kind of comic book character he could have used in his youth: a Mexican-American superhero. And he didn’t just stop at one, he actually created a pair of crime-fighting cousins – Tony Torres and Tony Avalos – who for the past 24 years have come alive inside the pages of Aztec of the City. The black-and-white comic book fuses bits of history with fictional events, with the purpose of representing Latino readers in a positive light and teaching them about their own background. Balderas Rodríguez has maintained these lofty goals for the last two decades by self-publishing three volumes of the comic book, and now he’s turned to Indiegogo to make Vol. 4 a reality.
Aztec of the City exists because of Balderas’ sheer determination. As a lifelong comic book reader, he understood the makeup of a comic book, but nothing beyond that. “Publishing the first Aztec of the City was very raw in that I didn’t really know what we were doing technically,” he told me in a message. “We didn’t use the proper professional art pages as I just went full steam ahead with putting together a Mexican-American hero in an industry where they were lacking – a genre and medium I know so much about and have always been passionate about.”
The comic book follows cousins Torres (Super Chicano) and Avalos (Aztec of the City). Though the two have a deep bond, neither knows that the other is a superhero. Using his extensive knowledge of comics, Balderas Rodríguez – who describes Aztec of the City as the first Mexican-American superhero –includes reverent references to the Avengers and X-Men. But the comics have changed throughout the years. For example, Avalos goes from being a construction worker in the first two volumes to being a college freshman in the third volume. Avalos also no longer flies, because as Balderas Rodríguez’s college professor told him, “if he were a true Aztec, he wouldn’t fly around like Superman.”
The target audience for the work has also changed. Initially, Balderas envisioned creating something for elementary aged children. There were only about 70 to 80 words a page initially, but at comic cons he realized that the simplicity discouraged older readers. So he cast a wider net, and now the pages contain about 200 to 300 words of text.
But what hasn’t changed is Balderas’ commitment to using his work to reflect the experiences of Mexican Americans. In Vol. 4, the Tonys visit Los Angeles and are on the verge of being mugged when the Brown Berets – who are portrayed almost like superheroes themselves – show up and save them. Immediately after the cousins encounter the organization, the comic delves into the group’s origins – serving as a mini history lesson on Chicano culture. Vol. 4 also includes vignettes on La Llorona and the Adelitas.
Balderas is looking to raise $4,000, so that DeLilia Images can print 3,000 copies of the issue. As of now, Balderas is 80 percent of the way there. “Aztec of the City is still a very low-key, underground comic book that very few people know about. Those who have discovered AOC and its heroes get very excited and generally comment that it’s about time or that it was long overdue. We not only need this issue now, but we need every issue as we fight for our rightful place in mainstream comics, film, and television.”
Support Balderas and Aztec of the City by donating to his campaign here.