A screenshot of a comic book cover for Hispanic Heritage Month featuring Green Lantern holding a bag of tamales, next to a courtesy image from DC Comics of the final cover art. DC drew criticism for the first cover, which DC said was incorrectly reported to be an official cover. Artist Jorge Molina noted online his original image was more in line with the final one, which is an homage to “La Patria,” a work by the late Mexican painter Jorge González Camarena.
Alfredo “Apple” De La Fuente has loved comic books since he was a kid, working at several San Diego Comic-Cons before launching Alamo City Comic Con in 2013. So, like many fans of sequential art, especially Latino fans, he was seeing red when he first laid eyes on the controversial Green Lantern cover pegged to Hispanic Heritage Month.
The cover features DC Comics’ Mexican-American character Kyle Rayner in his signature Green Lantern uniform, chest puffed out as he holds a large emerald flag that reads “Viva Mexico!!” and a shopping bag full of tamales.
Other Latin American food-centric variant covers, which DC previewed in June, include Hawkgirl in a server’s apron carrying plates of food at a “platanitos fritos” cafeteria, Blue Beetle traipsing the rooftops holding tacos, and Batman villain Bane hunched over a plate of flan. The covers were set to be released in September during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
“My first thought was wow, that’s what you think of Hispanics? Just tamales and tacos?” De La Fuente said. “If you’re going to represent or celebrate our heritage, that’s not a way to do it.”
Apparently, some outsiders take “you are what you eat” a little too literally when it comes to celebrating Hispanic heritage.
Who could forget first lady Jill Biden’s “breakfast taco” gaffe in July? During a speech at an UnidosUS advocacy conference in San Antonio, she referred to the Latino community as “distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio.”
First lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Latinx IncluXion luncheon of the UnidosUS annual conference in July in San Antonio. Biden drew criticism for her speech where she mentioned the Latino community “as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio.” Biden later apologized for the remark.
Biden later apologized for her comments, with a spokeswoman tweeting she “apologizes that her words conveyed anything but pure admiration and love for the Latino community.”
On ExpressNews.com: Jill Biden apologizes for San Antonio breakfast taco remarks
As for the illustration of Green Lantern with tamales, artist Jorge Molina posted on Twitter his original unfinished image, which featured the hero holding a Mexican flag minus the coat of arms and his titular lantern instead of tamales. The pose was an homage to “La Patria,” a painting of a robed woman by the late Mexican artist Jorge González Camerena, which he said symbolizes the values of Mexican culture and nationality.
In a statement to the Express-News, DC said it is “part of its internal creative process to receive and develop multiple versions of comic artwork from our artists,” and added some get released while others are never used.
DC said the Green Lantern image was “incorrectly reported” to be an official cover and provided a copy of the final cover art by Molina, which reflects his “Patria” homage and will go on sale Sept. 20. 
“DC is committed to celebrating diversity and is proud to honor Hispanic Heritage Month,” the statement said.
A screengrab of a DC Comics cover for Hispanic Heritage Month features Hawkgirl at a “platanitos fritos” cafeteria. Many critics and fans found the image offensive for reducing Hispanic culture to food.
DC did not reply to a follow-up email asking if the other covers featuring characters with tacos and other Latin-American foods still would be used.
“The problem is that, especially when you’re dealing with mass media such as comic books and things of that nature, they still strongly rely on stereotypes,” said Christopher Carmona, associate professor of Mexican-American studies at Our Lady of the Lake University and author of the young adult series “El Rinche,” which centers on a Chicano superhero in early 20th century South Texas.
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Carmona noted that while there are more comic book characters and creators of color than in decades past, much of the comic book world still is dominated by white males on both sides of the splash pages. He said it was weird that the DC characters shown in the Hispanic Heritage Month covers are of Latin descent, yet DC “went completely in an insulting way” by reducing them and their heritage to food.
“We are in a time now where people are seemingly being pushed to be more sensitive about these issues,” he said. “But when someone like DC, which is a major company, is still representing those images and those stereotypes, it makes you think how little they really think about race or their readership.”
South Texas food writer and historian Melissa Guerra suggested everyone should take the time to experience or at least learn more about the culture they’re trying to celebrate. She noted that food often is the first step to understanding a culture, but should never be the only step.
A screengrab of DC Comics covers for Hispanic Heritage Month features (left) Blue Beetle with tacos and (right) Batman villain Bane with flan. Many critics and fans found the images offensive for reducing Hispanic culture to food.
“We’re really proud of our food, but be a part of it,” said Guerra, who also teaches college writing at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio. “Don’t make a casual interpretation about it. It does define us, but it’s very, very personal. Don’t reduce us to a bag from the convenience store. There are such bigger subjects to discuss, if you want to take us seriously.”
The way De La Fuente sees it, at least two of those subjects in Mexican history are ripe for super-heroic interpretation.
“Don’t you know about our heritage, the Mayans and the Aztecs?” he said, noting such examples as the Mayan calendar and the Mayans and the Aztecs’ respective pyramids and art.
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De La Fuente considers the recent comic covers imbroglio the perfect teaching moment.
“(If) you’re going to celebrate a culture, try to understand it, try to study it,” De La Fuente said. “Try to understand what is involved in it. What are the sacrifices that make the people who they are, and the investments that we’ve given to mankind.”
rguzman@express-news.net | Twitter: @reneguz
René A. Guzman writes about geek and pop culture as well as consumer gadgets and technology. Before joining the Express-News in December 1998, the San Antonio native co-owned a college humor magazine named Bitter, for which he wrote, designed and edited, as well as distributed at various campuses and businesses citywide.

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