The world stopped with the news of the death of American comic book writer and publisher Stan Lee. The creative genius behind Marvel Comics was considered a real-life superhero by comic book readers around the globe. While he retired in the 1990s, Lee remained a figurehead of the company and remained active as chairman (he also made cameo appearances in most Marvel Studios movies!).
By creating or co-creating heroes like Black Panther, he helped spark conversations regarding representation in his comic books. He used his artful stories as social commentary on discrimination, bigotry and racism. Below are the eight (of many) Marvel characters of Latinx descent you should know about.
1) Hector Ayala (White Tiger; El Tigre Blanco), 1975
The first superhero of Latinx descent in Marvel’s history, Hector Ayala (aka White Tiger), appeared in the mid-’70s in Deadly Hands of Kungfu issue #19. Created by George Perez and Bill Mantlo, Ayala was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and attended Empire State University in New York (where Peter Parker went!). As a student, he discovered the tiger amulets thrown out by the Sons of the Tigers, who were three martial arts students. His strength increased and he gained superhuman fighting skills when he wore all three amulets at the same time. As a superhero, Ayala fought alongside Spider-Man and Daredevil. Although he was eventually killed off, members of his family assumed the role of the next White Tiger.
2) Ava Ayala (White Tiger), 2011
Ava Ayala is the original White Tiger’s younger sister. Created by Christos Gage, she assumed the role after her niece, Angela del Toro. She first appeared in Avengers Academy issue #20. Enrolled as a student at the academy, she condemns her classmate Reptil (Humberto Lopez) for not being active in the Latinx community. Like her older brother, her powers consist of enhanced strength and martial arts prowess; her speed, balance, coordination and stamina also increase when wearing the amulets. Ava believes she is a family legacy and embraces her superhero role with honor.
3) Bonita Juarez (Firebird), 1981
Bonita Juarez was a devout Catholic born in Taos, New Mexico. Walking in the Albuquerque desert, she came into contact with a radioactive meteorite fragment that had energy waste from an alien’s scientific gadgets. The radiation altered her DNA causing her to have the power to generate flames and fly. She accepted the Firebird moniker believing her powers were God-sent, has fought alongside the Avengers and joined forces a group of Southwestern superheroes called the Rangers. Juarez’s storyline was created by Sal Buscema and Bill Mantlo.
4) Miles Morales (Spider-Man), 2011
Eleven months before Peter Parker’s death, Miles Morales discovers his superhero powers after being bitten by a spider. He is the first black and second Latinx person to assume the Spider-Man identity, formerly carried by Miguel O’Hara. Morales is also the first Afro-Latinx superhero and works toward being the best hero he can be. The creators Sara Pichelli and Brian Michael Bendis were inspired by former president Barack Obama and rapper-actor Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) for the character. In the comics, Morales is a Brooklyn native of Afro-Puerto Rican descent. Although he has similar powers to the original Spider-Man, his senses aren’t as acute. However, he has two powers that Parker did not have, the “venom strike” that immediately paralyzes anyone with a single touch and the ability to camouflage himself in his surroundings.
5) Anya Corazon (Araña; Spider-Girl), 2004
Anya Corazon is a 17-year-old superheroine who went by the name Araña (Spanish for spider) and later became Spider-Girl. The fictional character has Mexican and Puerto Rican roots. On her first day of high school in Brooklyn, she gets caught between the mystical groups the Sisterhood of the Wasp and the Spider Society, resulting in her being seriously wounded. In order to save her life, a member of the Spider Society performs a ritual on her that gives her a spider tattoo. This initiates Anya’s status as a hunter for the society. Despite multiple offers, Anya creates her own costume, pairing red and blue sneakers with sweatpants, and a red book and goggles as an accessory. Her costume changes over time.
6) America Chavez (Miss America), 2011
America Chavez, also known as Miss America, is Marvel’s first LGBTQ superhero of Latin-American descent to have her own series, America. Created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta, Chavez first appeared in the Marvel world through the Vengeance series. She was raised in the Utopian Parallel, an alternate universe of women, overseen by beings known as the Demiurge, from whom she received her various powers, such as flight. At 6 years old, she loses her mothers when they sacrificed their lives in order to seal a black hole. She ran away, using her abilities to travel through different realities, and has since proven herself as a superhero.
7) Roberto Reyes (Ghost Rider), 2014
Straight out of East Los Angeles, Roberto Reyes is the title character of the All-New Ghost Rider issue #1. This new Ghost Rider was purposefully created by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore to be different from the five former Ghost Riders — Reyes drives a car instead of a motorcycle and doesn’t have a floating skull for a head. His origin story: As a teen, he enters a street race to the win cash that will help his family move out of their dangerous neighborhood they lived in. He transforms after he is gunned down by soldiers who are after pills that were in the trunk of the 1969 Dodge Charger he took to race. Needless to say, he is revived into a vengeful demon hero with, yep, a flaming head.
8) Victor Mancha, 2005
Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, Victor Mancha is the only Latinx member in the Runaways team. He is a cyborg, a being with both organic and biomechatronic parts, created with the DNA of his mother, Marianella and the technology of evil robot mastermind Ultron. He was discovered by the Runaways when a future version of a team member traveled back in time to warn the rest that Victor would become a villain named Victorious, destined to wipe out all superheroes and that he needed to be stopped while still a teen. Victor, whose superpowers include electromagnetic force and automated self-repair, rejects Ultron and gains the trust of the Runaways.