Lion Forge Helps Make Puerto Rico Strong
Vince Brusio

Lion Forge Publishing will soon be releasing Puerto Rico Strong (978-1-941302-90-3), an all-new comics anthology that examines what it means to be Puerto Rican, and the diversity that exists within that concept. Contemporary writers and artists from Puerto Rico will feature their works in Puerto Rico Strong so that it acts as a benefit book for the island which was ravaged in 2017 by Hurricane Maria.

Here in this exclusive interview, several contributors to the book explain their involvement in the project, and how they hope it becomes a positive force for disaster relief. Puerto Rico Strong is slated for a March 2018 release.

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Vince Brusio: As this book seeks to address diversity in Puerto Rican culture, what are some of the themes that appear throughout the book?

Desiree Rodriguez – Lion Forge Editorial Assistant:  The theme of education is a big one for this anthology. We want to educate readers on who the people or Puerto Rico are and all the diversity that comes with that. There’s so much people don’t know about the history of our community, and we wanted to create something that could be used as an educational source as well as a piece of artwork as well. So history, culture, education, and the strength that comes from all three are tied together in this book.

Vince Brusio: Who were the principles in making this project come together?

Marco Lopez – Freelance Editor: I thought of it when the stark realization hit me that the island I was born in was gonna be hit with another devastating hurricane, and one that was going to be worse than the previous storm that had just left. So, I reached out to Derek Ruiz and Desiree Rodriguez (fellow Latinos and comic industry associates) with this idea to use this business and art form that we love so much to try and help lift Puerto Rican citizens out of the disaster that was soon to come. Derek brought Neil on board (another comic industry vet) and then soon we were off to the races.

Vince Brusio: If you offered your own impression of this book, what would you say about it? What gives it a pulse?

Marco Lopez – Freelance Editor: Puerto Rico Strong is further proof that comics are a very powerful art form. One that can influence people, promote positivity, teach them, connect with the reader at their very core, and ultimately cause change.

Vince Brusio: As this book seeks to address diversity in Puerto Rican culture, what are some of the themes that appear in your story?

Jeff Gomez and Fabian Nicieza – Contributors: Well, our story is very short, but we were able to weave some of the issues that have always both bothered and inspired me about Puerto Rican culture and my personal heritage. The characters in the story are Afro-Latino, but we wanted to point out that many of us are more obviously “Moreno” (dark-skinned, a euphemism for black on the island) than others — even within the same family. We don’t get into the politics of different skin color in the story, as it wasn’t that big a deal for us at the time. But it’s important in a subtler way, because it is one of the many ways the boy Julian is different from his father Miguel.

The biggest conundrum is the issue of machismo. The stereotype is that Puerto Rican men are super high masculine: womanizers, basketball and fast cars, egocentric and self-indulgent. Here’s this boy who got left out of all that. It doesn’t interest him. He’s alienated from his own ethnicity and culture, and these stereotypes embodied in his father make him think he’s right to reject his Puerto Rican identity. But then the magic of Puerto Rico catches up with Julian and enchants him. He starts to fall in love with the island, and that starts to form a bridge of understanding between him and his dad.

Vince Brusio: If you offered your own impression of this book, what would you say about it? What gives it a pulse?

Jeff Gomez and Fabian Nicieza – Contributors: Lion Forge are going out of their way to reach out to Latinos to create the book, and I think that’s truly honorable, because it takes a bit of searching to track down and book us! Based on the working relationship Fabian Nicieza and I had with the editors, we can tell that they didn’t want just fluff. They were looking for authenticity, maybe a bit of an edge to the stories. They encouraged us to use photo reference and distinctly Puerto Rican turns of phrase without over-explaining all of it. So the book is going to feel as diverse and alive as the island itself.

Vince Brusio: What made you want to be a part of this project? Why did you feel this was important to pursue?

Jeff Gomez and Fabian Nicieza – Contributors: Fabian and I have always appreciated what Lion Forge has done. They’ve got this amazing range of titles for every conceivable audience. They deliver terrific art and story every time out. We see faces and hear voices in the books that don’t normally get seen and heard. They’re everything we could want an American comic book company to be. So, even though Puerto Rico needs many millions of times more money than this project can raise, we think it’s important to do what we can to amplify its message. Puerto Ricans are us. They’re beautiful, authentic, passionate people. They have fiery imaginations. Some of them have grown up to make a positive mark on the whole world. Others cherish their simple, spiritual, earthy lives, and like any people, can use a bit of help after a storm.

Vince Brusio: As this book seeks to address diversity in Puerto Rican culture, what are some of the themes that appear in your story?

Vita Ayala – Contributor: My story is about resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, about resistance, and about refusing to be used and erased. This, I believe, is as much a part of the Puerto Rican people as the blood in our veins. You can't kill us, you can't ignore us, we will survive and we will rise.

Vince Brusio: If you offered your own impression of this book, what would you say about it? What gives it a pulse?

Vita Ayala – Contributor: To me the book seems to be about coming together to overcome devastating circumstances. It is about community and about helping each other persevere. 

Vince Brusio: What made you want to be a part of this project? Why did you feel this was important to pursue?

Vita Ayala – Contributor: I was born and raised in New York City, but most of my family is on Puerto Rico. I gave money to charities that promised to help the island and its people, and my mother has been sending care packages, but I didn't feel like I was doing enough. I wanted to be a part of something that would not only help mi gente, but also show the rest of the country how amazing and strong and resilient we are as a people. 

 
Fabian Nicieza
 
 Jeff Gomez
Marco Lopez
Vita Ayala

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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