Author and illustrator Terry Blas grew up reading comic books as far back as he can remember. So, when Marvel reached out and asked him to pitch some story ideas to expand on their superhero Reptil, he was surprised that he didn’t know who he was.
“He’s been around for a few years, but I had never heard of him before,” Blas told Remezcla during a recent interview. “So, I started reading everything I could find on him.”
Reptil first appeared in an Avengers comic book in 2007. He is a Mexican American teenager named Humberto López who can transform into dinosaurs. It was a perfect fit for Blas since dinosaurs were another one of his interests as a child.
“He has the power that every kid I know would want,” Blas said. “I wanted to write something to help him become a bigger hero and write something about representation, especially for the Mexican American community.”
This past May, Marvel debuted the first of four comic books for a Reptil miniseries Blas wrote. The second and third comics in the series were released this summer and the final comic book will hit shelves in late September.
Although there have been a few Latinx superheroes who have graced the pages of Marvel comic books throughout its history like Miles Morales (Spider-Man) and America Chávez (Miss America), Blas wanted to create a narrative around Reptil that would really embrace his heritage.
“There are a lot of Latino Marvel superheroes, but I couldn’t easily point to one of them who talked about what being Latino means to them,” Blas explained. “I wanted to create a hero with a comic book that embraced that.”
Blas, who is openly gay, also wanted to write something that could speak on LGBTQ+ issues without trivializing the complexities of it. He gave Humberto a cousin named Julian who is gay and sadly knows a thing or two about keeping a secret about his truest self.
“Julian knows what it’s like to hide,” Blas said. “At the beginning, Humberto is so scared to turn into a full dinosaur. His cousin teaches him that he should learn how to control his powers and not avoid them. It’s about being present and living in the now.”
Blas is living in the now himself. Since Reptil’s debut, he has also written for Marvel’s Voices: Pride, a comic book series that celebrates LGBTQ+ superheroes, and will unveil a new character in the October issue of Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades’, which features characters like Miles Morales, Ghost Rider, and America Chavez. He hopes more kids who read the comics see themselves reflected in his work.
“When young people don’t see themselves, whether it’s a Mexican kid or a queer kid, the message they’re getting is that they don’t exist,” he said. “I hope they can enjoy a story about a kid who may be just like them, only with cool superpowers.”