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There’s More to People’s Culture Than Food, but DC Comics Didn’t Get the Memo

Jessica Cruz Green Lantern on DC Super Hero Girls looking at the DC logo (super imposed in her hand.) Image: DC, and edited by Alyssa Shotwell.

Back in June and well ahead of Latin American Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), DC Comics released images for variant covers of current stories featuring several Latinx characters, written and illustrated by talented creatives of similar backgrounds. These characters include two Green Lanterns (Kyle Rayner and Jessica Cruz), Hawk Girl, Renee Montoya, Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), and more. While there was initial criticism, it went under the radar until this past weekend, when a growing number of critics pointed to a weird similarity between all of them: the need to tie their relationship with their respective cultures to food.

Every single variant features a hero or villain chowing down or on their way to eat some culturally significant food, from tamales and burritos to plantains. And while some of it may just be due to the artists’ choices, it seems that in at least some cases, this was a decision made above the artists’ heads.

That aside, though, if it were just Bane’s cover for Task Force Z (by artist Chris Batista) or the heroes that make up the Blood Syndicate (by artist Jorge Corona), even that would make sense. Bane is a big dude who needs to keep eating to stay bulky (even pre-Venom). Also, the Blood Syndicate is a multicultural vigilante team and families eating together so that works, too. These make the most sense, but also, a single issue would’ve worked as opposed to a running theme.

However, when it’s every single cover, it looks like a big mess. On TikTok, the Houston-based creator @BigDaddyPancho talked about how he was looking forward to purchasing the issues for his daughter so that she would grow up with images in comics showing the full breadth of her cultural heritage represented. However, he’s not feeling as excited at all now.

@biggdaddypanchoyt There’s no good caption here #Hispanictiktok#Hispanic#DC#Marvel#ComicBooks#Comics#ComicTok#Spiderman#MilesMorales#AmericaChavez#greenlantern#bluebeetle#greenscreen ♬ original sound – BiggDaddyPancho

While it’s unclear how all the individual artists felt about this, there’s at least one person who has spoken up about this editorial decision. We know this because the final cover wasn’t even the original artwork—the food was made more prominent in edits.

This wasn’t the original vision

The Green Lantern art (of Mexican/Irish hero Kyle Rayner for Titans United: Bloodpact) comes from Mexican artist Jorge Molina, and the original pays tribute to Jalisco artist Jorge González Camarena‘s painting La Madre Patria (The Motherland). Camarena was part of the Mexican Muralist movement, and the original painting is recognizable to some as it served as a cover for many students’ (free) civic textbooks for about a decade in Mexico. Molina shared his thoughts and original drawing back in June, and these same tweets were shared over the weekend. Molina has since said that if anything good came out of this, it’s that he appreciates the love his original illustration has received.

Food is an important part of all cultures, but to make someone’s culture come down to a single aspect like this, as some kind of theme, is very gross and feels like a parody. Most understand this when it comes to various non-white cultures, but it isn’t exclusive to people of color. Americans have used this stereotype towards many ethnic groups before they were largely folded into whiteness, such as Irish, Italian, German, and Jewish people. It’s no wonder there have been so many memes of this choice to use food to represent those of Latin American heritage by DC editorial.

A person (or DC character) is just as valid in their experience in their particular ethnicity, whether they’re donning overt cultural signifiers (including dress, language, hairstyles, body art, etc.) or if they’re “just” doing anything else that doesn’t necessarily tie them specifically to their cultural background. This should serve as a reminder to DC Comics that it’s not just the artist and writers, but that all the way up, there needs to be cultural competency and staffing diversity. These decisions got past so many people, including editors, project leads, marketing teams, and more.

(via Twitter, featured image: DC Comics)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)