John Leguizamo and Al Madrigal Are On a Mission To Spotlight Latino Superheroes: ‘If we’re 20% of the population, then I want 20% stories’
Recently, Hollywood icons John Leguizamo and Al Madrigal sat down with The Daily Beast to talk about the parallels in their career: both men are comedic actors who are passionate about Latino representation in Hollywood.
And, coincidentally, both men are creating their own Latino-centric content. And as if to prove that great minds think alike, both Leguizamo and Madrigal have just created their very own comic books featuring Latino superheroes.
Madrigal partnered with former Marvel comics editor Axel Alonso to create “Primos,” a comic book about the superhero descendants of Mayan gods who team up to save the world.
Leguizamo co-created the recent “PhenomX” comic, about a young man named Max Gomez who gains superpowers after a toxic government experiment goes wrong. With his new shape-shifting abilities, Gomez uses his powers to navigate a “war” being waged on the streets of New York City.
In their conversation, both men revealed that they were inspired to create their own Latino superheroes after becoming frustrated with the lack of superhero content featuring Latino characters.
“Being a Latin person, you never saw yourself represented anywhere, so you had to extrapolate,” Leguizamo said about being a child and not seeing Latino characters in any of the media he was consuming. “You always had to do that math in your head, like, ‘What if they were Latino? What if they had names like ‘Garcia’ and ‘Lopez?’’ You do that unconsciously to feel included, because you want to fit…I wrote the comic book so Latin kids don’t have to do that anymore.”
Leguizamo explained that his “Encanto” experience (he voiced “Bruno) made him realize just how important it is for children to see their image reflected back to them onscreen.
“I get a lot of ‘gram hits from parents whose kids see themselves in [‘Encanto’]—they have the same hair, or the same skin color, or the same features—and these kids feel like it’s everything,” he said. “And that’s what you hope from a comic book as well—that teenagers see themselves and think, ‘Yes, I can.'”
Madrigal also agreed with Leguizamo that the primary motive behind creating a Latino superhero comic book series, for him, was also so “teenagers [could] go into a comic book store and look and see themselves on a cover.”
Both Leguizamo and Madrigal agreed that although Hollywood is making some progress in Latino representation in the superhero space (Salma Hayek in “The Eternals,” Zoe Saldaña in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Oscar Isaac in the upcoming “Moon Night” series on Disney+), there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“It’s not enough,” Leguizamo said of Latino representation in Marvel and DC. “If we’re 20 percent of the population, then I want 20 percent stories…I don’t want less than that. So, out of 10 characters, two should be Latino in a movie. If there are 10 superhero comic books, two should be Latin superheroes.”
Leguizamo and Madrigal both say that if Hollywood continues to fall short on hiring Latinos and creating Latino-centric stories, they will just have to put in the work themselves.
“Tyler Perry said it best when he said that they’re not going to give us a seat at the table, so we need to build our own table,” said Leguizamo. “We gotta create our own production companies and produce it ourselves…I want to inspire the next generation and create opportunities, so they don’t have to hit that bulletproof, plexiglass ceiling. I want them to have the opportunities that I didn’t have.”
Madrigal added he was also in the business of creating his own opportunities. “If that Latino showrunner [I want] doesn’t exist, I will be him,” he said. “I’m sick of being a pawn in somebody else’s game. I’m ready to be the person making the choices, and they’re going to include a lot of Latinos and Latinas in the process.”
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