As news hit this year about Latine talents like Sasha Calle and Leslie Grace being cast as superheroes in mainstream film and TV projects, East Los Angeles-based Chicana writer and director Kayden Phoenix was excited that there would be more representation throughout the comic book ranks. She also, however, wanted to know why it was taking so long.
“I think these steppingstones are a good start but it’s extremely slow,” Phoenix, 36, told Remezcla during a recent interview. “These characters are good, but where is the universe of Latino superheroes? Why are we waiting? Equality can happen today if we let it.”
In Phoenix’s case, she realized that equality could also happen if she created it herself.
Today, she is the founder of Phoenix Studios and the creator and writer of A La Brava, a Latine superhero graphic novel series currently featuring five distinct Latina characters. Phoenix got the idea when she was deciding on her next feature project to write. When she wrote a script about a team of Latine superheroes, most of the people she shared it with wondered why her newest endeavor didn’t include a comic book.
“I had never read a comic book in my life,” Phoenix said. “But obviously, since everyone was asking me, I thought, ‘I should do a comic.’”
Phoenix adapted her script into a graphic novel and recruited an all-Latine team of artists from the United States and Mexico to make the project come to fruition. In late 2019, she released her first graphic novel Jalisco, named for the main superhero – a Folklórico dancer with sharp blades sewn into her skirt. The character was partly inspired by her mother who performed the traditional Mexican dance style when Phoenix was a little girl.
“I remember going to every one of her Folklórico shows,” Phoenix said. “I remember always carrying her trajes and remember she was always in the changing room with the other ladies getting ready.”
Jalisco, which was dedicated to all the missing women in Juárez, was followed by the release of two more graphic novels. One follows a character named Santa, a border town girl from Texas who fights against ICE. The other features Loquita, a Puerto Rican and Cuban high school student and teen detective from Miami who battles demons.
Three new graphic novels are also in some phase of production. One tells the story of Ruca, an East Los Angeles Chicana whose superpower is “instant karma.” There’s also another superhero character named Bandita, a Dominican gunslinger from New York who can ricochet bullets off surfaces. Both of those graphic novels will debut next year along with another that will bring the A La Brava team together for their first collaborative narrative.
In the future, Phoenix plans to write a second volume for each character. Her overall goal is to see all her graphic novels become live-action or animated feature films or TV shows. When she thinks about young Latine youth reading her stories, she hopes they can see themselves in her characters.
“I’m here to break down stereotypes,” she said. “I hope they know that they can do anything. They can be the president or a judge or even a superhero.”
To purchase the first three graphic novels from the A La Brava series, visit LatinaSuperheroes.com.