- Graphic Borders: Latino Comic Books, Past, Present & Future eds. by Frederick Luis Aldama and Christopher González
Graphic Borders is a welcome collection of essays for anyone interested in the intersection of Latino studies and Popular Culture. Editors Frederick Luis Aldama and Christopher González—who have literally written the book on Latino comics and popular culture-- bring together 13 articles and one interview, organized into five cleverly titled sections: "Alternativas", "Cuerpo Comics", "Tortilla Strips", "A Bird, a Plane … Straight [End Page 119] and Queer Super Lats", and "Multiverses, Admixtures, and More". The result is a collection that is critically astute and timely, and moreover is simply fun to read.
As the title of the text suggests, Graphic Borders, is a collection that is critically aware of itself as positioned in a variety of theoretical and practical borders. Titularly drawing on perhaps the most invoked image in Latino studies, the border, the collection plays not only with the meaning of the border in terms of its political and theoretical framing in Latino studies, but it also plays with the border in a broader context, also suggesting the borders created between the interplay of verbal and visual representations, the borders of the space of the page, the borders between mediums (comics, to films, to television), and indeed the borders between different Latino experiences. As the introduction by the editors note:
The thirteen essays and one interview collected in this volume remind us how resplendent and richly various today's comics are by and about Latinos; they make clear that the culture, history, and experiences of Latinos are varied. They remind us that comics can be just as powerful and sophisticated a storytelling form as the next. The remind us, too, that comics by and about Latinos are made and consumed in time (history) and space (geographic region).(17)
The collection then does work in a variety of registers that are worthy of note. First, it grounds the history of Latino comics by spending the first section "Alternativas" engaged in a critical conversation with the work of Los Bros Hernandez, whose combined creative output has arguably laid the foundation for Latino comics. In the section "Cuerpo Comics" the articles deal in various registers with the racialization of the Latino body in comic books, while section three, "Tortilla Strips" considers the different kind of work that is performed by serialized comic strips, with articles paying specific attention to the Baldo and Ruis comic strips, as well as the collected works of Lalo Alcaraz. "A Bird, a Plane …" considers the presence of queer figures within Latino comics where questions of race, ethnicity, and sexuality intersect. The final section "Multiverses …" tackles the place of Latino comics and Latino comic characters within the larger space of the DC and Marvel comic book universes, and pays close attention to the way that Latino characters are consumed (or not) within the space of dominant culture comics.
Taken as a whole, this collection does impressive work, building on our understanding of Latino comics currently and historically. Moreover, it astutely wrestles with questions of what comics do generally and includes considerations of how comics are shaped by popular sentiment and prejudice, market forces, distribution apparatuses, and changing technologies of production. When pairing these questions with how comics are changed when they are taken up by Latino artists, creators, and consumers the result is an intellectually rich and nuanced collection that does not shy away from difficult questions.