Desiree Rodriguez is a writer, editor, and unapologetic Latinx geek. Rodriguez edited an upcoming comics anthology, Puerto Rican Strong, for which the proceeds will go to the Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria. She also works as an editorial assistant at Lion Forge Comics, and her writing can be found in the upcoming Ricanstruction Anthology by SomosArte.
Rodriguez spoke with SYFY WIRE about her work, Starfire, and representation of queer women of color in comics.
Can you talk about a couple of the Lion Forge titles you're working on?
We have Summit by Amy Chu, and I'm sure everybody knows Amy Chu. It's about a Jewish lesbian superhero named Valentina, and she kind of has a survivor complex in addition to dealing with new powers after surviving a blast (also known as the Catalyst Prime Event) that she believes killed her fellow teammates in space. Amy Chu did the first four issues of the book, and Jan Duursema — who’s probably most well known for her Star Wars artwork — is amazing on it.
[Then there's] also Kino by Joe Casey.
Tell us a little bit about the premise of Kino?
The main character of Kino is Alistair Meath, who was one of the astronauts that got sent up to space in the Catalyst Prime event, which was by written by Joe Illidge and Christopher Priest. Alistair gets essentially kidnapped by this mad scientist named Aturo Assante, and he ends up being put into this virtual reality world that develops and tests his new, enhanced abilities. But the cool thing is that the virtual reality is based all on Golden Age and Silver Age comic books. So it's like the big costumes and the bright capes and that old golden-tan palette for all the pages [in that world].
And then there's another character, Gilmore, who is basically trying to get back Alistair's body. So it's kind of a part-spy, part-superhero story.
Now I remember hearing you on Keith Chow's DCTV Classics podcast once, and you are quite a comic book fan. What’s the first comic you remember reading, and what’s your favorite character?
Oh, gosh. Well, this is easy. I count manga as comic books, so my first comic book was Tokyo Miu Miu, which is a terrible manga. It's like if furries met Sailor Moon, it's not a great comic book, but it was the first one I bought from Suncoast.
My first Western comic book was New Teen Titans by Marvel’s Wolfman and George Perez. And I was like, "This is really cool, this is really neat!" Because I was always a fan of the DC cartoon shows. Dwayne McDuffie’s Justice League and Static Shock are amazing, but I never actually bought a comic book [back then] because you always hear about how girls are treated in comic book shops and I was in middle school or high school and I was scared to go. But yeah, Teen Titans was my first actual Western comic book.
And then my favorite comic character is Starfire, hands down. I fricking love Starfire. I own one actual statue, and it's of Starfire and it's gorgeous. My friend got it for me for my 25th birthday, and she's absolutely gorgeous. She was designed after the Starfire by Amanda Conner for Rebirth, the one she did with Jimmy Palmiotti. And then I just got a Starfire FunkoPop.
And I love Renee Montoya. I loved her as the Question. I loved her in Gotham City Central. Like what Greg Rucka did with her I thought was just brilliant, because you never got a chance to see queer characters be really flawed. They were either stereotypes or almost untouchable angels, in a way.
Or target practice.
Exactly. Especially queer women, you know, this whole trope about them getting shot and stuff all the time. Renee got to be a police officer. She got to be a queer woman of color who lived. She was one of the few Latina characters in comics who I saw and I read about regularly. She got to have problems and she got to mess up and she got to build herself back up and have complicated relationships. So she's definitely one of my favorites. And then Tim Drake as Red Robin was great. I really wasn’t into his New 52 incarnation, but I’ll always have the original Tim Drake in my heart.
So, tell us how Puerto Rico Strong came about and how you're involved with it.
What had basically happened was, it was Marco Lopez’s idea. He wanted to do an anthology to raise money for the victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane still without power. Kind of like the DC Love is Love project that raised money for the Pulse victims. He had already brought on Derek Ruiz and Neil Schwartz as co-editors when he brought me on and then eventually brought it to Lion Forge. Then Lion Forge picked it up and decided to publish the property, and they brought in Hazel Newlevant, another editor from Lion Forge, because Hazel has a lot of experience with anthologies. She's done Comics for Choice and Chainmail Bikini.
One of the things that was super exciting was that I was an actual editor, not an assistant on this one, and it was really great — but it was also the hardest project I've worked on so far in my career.
That's awesome. But why do you think it was the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
To publish an anthology, you really need a stretch of at least six months to a year, because you just have so many contributors. But we gave ourselves maybe three months to get to print.
Chasing down talent for an ongoing issue can be difficult. Chasing down 40 people for this was even more difficult. So yeah, I was so lucky to have people like Hazel and Marco to help me. We all work together really well. And because Derrick, Marco, and I are all Puerto Rican, this was a very personal project for us as well.
I'm really proud of what we did, and I'm proud of the stories that we have in it. I'm glad that we were able to fill the book with mostly Latinx creators and Puerto Rican creators.
Are you interested in doing more than editing comics? Do you want to write, too?
Funny you should ask, because I’ve written a piece that is coming out in another Puerto Rican relief anthology called Ricanstruction by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. And I’m really excited, because all these great people are in it, like Rosario Dawson and Ruben Blades. It’s really amazing.
Oh my gosh, I'm like this little, little 4-foot-11", 'Rican girl from Jersey, and I have an actual career in comics. I'm not used to saying that.
All Lion Forge profits from the sales of Puerto Rico Strong will go to the Early Childhood Relief program. These specific initiatives in Puerto Rico to help the children and families and provide hope include:
- Early Childhood Centers: Creation of Reading Corners
- Early Childhood Centers: Psychological Support for traumatic stress after a natural disaster
- Early Childhood Centers: Re-establishment of non-profit childcare facilities (Furniture, Materials, Equipment, Structure)
- Community Schools and Health Care Centers