America first appeared in Marvel's "Vengeance" in 2011
America and her writer, Gabby Rivera, are lesbian Latinas
Punch-throwing across dimensions wasn’t enough for her.
America Chavez is shattering barriers in the comics universe and beyond. She is the first lesbian Latina superhero with her own Marvel Comics series.
Who is America?
The 18-year-old, who also goes by Miss America, has long, curly hair and a wardrobe of stars-and-stripes jackets. She attends Sotomayor University, and between classes, she picks fights with evil aliens.
She isn’t the typical heroine, and she isn’t the Latina you usually see on screen.
Miss America was created in 2011 by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta and has been a regular in Marvel’s Young Avengers and the Ultimates series.
Now she’s starring in her own series that debuted last month. The series, written by Gabby Rivera with artwork by artist Joe Quinones, has America alternately fighting evil villains and enjoying time with her friends.
Putting aside her extraordinary speed, strength and her ability to punch through dimensions, America is just a sweatshirt-wearing teenager who’s trying to figure things out.
And so far, fans agree that Marvel is doing it right.
“You can’t call America Chavez a spicy Latina,” said Brianna Jimenez, a comic book fan in Richmond, Virginia. “She’s so strong and she’s a bad*ss. She wants to help others and she’s doing her own thing.”
‘This is her moment’
She’s also part of Marvel Comics’ push to become more inclusive and diverse.
Over the past decade, fans have been introduced to the first Muslim Ms. Marvel; a female Thor; a young, female African-American Iron Man; and a new black Captain America.
No Latino characters have had their own Marvel series.
“This is her moment,” Rivera said. “You can’t turn and point to another character like this in Marvel.”
From the cover pages to the production teams behind each book, Marvel has diversified its comics.
Rivera is among a small group of Marvel writers with no comic-writing chops. They are known for their long-form literary work and the voices portrayed in their writing.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of “Between The World and Me,” has been writing the revival of the Black Panther series. Roxane Gay, another book writer, and poet Yona Harvey are the writers of a Black Panther spinoff, “World of Wakanda.”
Who is behind America?
Superpowers aside, America and her writer have a lot in common.
Rivera, 34, works as a project manager for a national nonprofit focused on ensuring safe schools for LGBT students. She is lesbian and a Puerto Rican from the Bronx.
She might not have super speed like America, but last year, she published her first book, “Juliet Takes a Breath.” It’s a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of a lesbian, Puerto Rican teenager who leaves home after coming out to her family.
A Marvel editor read it, liked it and emailed Rivera about writing America.
Rivera thought the email was spam.
“It didn’t make sense,” Rivera said of the email. “Then, I just kind of screamed and called my mom.”
For the past six months, Rivera has been busy, working her regular job while learning as much as she can about comic writing, America and Latino culture.
“I’m really trying to listen to my community,” Rivera said.