I n the current political climate which the United States finds itself, the battle for immigration rights has reached a boiling point. With stricter immigration policies being introduced – like the Texas SB4 immigration enforcement law – the individuals affected by these actions are in need of a symbol that gives them hope during these dark days. Enter El Peso Hero. Created by Dallas-based grade school teacher, Hector Rodriguez, the superhuman norteño comic book character known as El Peso Hero serves as a protector of the innocent who live the border life struggle. And, from the momentum created by the character’s popularity, the creator set out to launch the first-ever Texas Latino Comic Con this coming weekend.
Originally from a border town called Eagle Pass in Texas, Rodriguez was able to experience the juxtaposition of both American and Mexican culture.“Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have access to a lot of the Mexican movies, entertainment and comics,” Rodriguez told ‘LLERO. “Luckily, my father was fond of both Mexican comics and American comics, so I had a steady stream of El Santo (movies), Grindhouse Mexican movies, El Imán, who is a Mexican superhero, as well as American stuff, like MAD magazine and Captain America.”
It wasn’t until college, though, that Rodriguez began writing, and got part of the inspiration for the story of what would become El Peso Hero after listening to his grandfather tell stories of the origin of the Mexican criminal syndicate known as Los Zetas. The other part of inspiration, which fueled the writer to really push forward with the comic book came after he became a teacher in the Dallas Independent School District.
“I started hearing my students’ stories of coming to the United States, of the trials and tribulations of getting here. One story in particular that touched me was when one of my student’s father got deported,” Rodriguez said. “He was crying at the beginning of class, and I was like, ‘What’s going on, mijo?’ It was difficult, but he finally told me that his father got deported. I consoled him and told him, “I’ll be your dad in the meantime for you in school.’ Then, it just hit me. ‘I need to do El Peso Hero.’”
Rodriguez put ink to paper and, under his Rio Bravo Comics imprint, created a Spanish-speaking, cowboy boots, blue jeans and big belt buckle-wearing Mexican superhero that is strong as a bull, and who helps folks cross over the border safely, as well as tackle other border town issues like human and drug trafficking and corrupt law enforcement practices.
As for the character’s name: “[El Peso Hero] tries to walk the fine line of morality through a very morally ambiguous environment, helping people cross the border,” Rodriguez explained, adding, “The Border Patrol Agents [in the story] look at it as if he’s breaking the law, and as if his heroics are worthless like the Mexican peso. ‘El Peso Hero’ was kind of a put down, and he takes the moniker and says, ‘I am El Peso Hero.’”
El Peso Hero was quickly picked up by major American and Latin American-based media like NPR, Sopitas, Univision, El País and Remezcla, to name a few. His students’ parents even showed support, despite the mature content conveyed in the storylines.
“The parents began approaching me after they saw my story on Univision, and they were proud of me. They were like, ‘Someone’s talking about the things that we’ve come across,’” the grade school teacher-turned-comic book creator said. “Even though these topics are heavy in nature, yes, our kids, our students, our community, they’re in the forefront.”
As a defender of the those in the forefront of this struggle, in 2015, when then presidential candidate Donald Trump insulted Mexico and Mexicans as he announced his run for the White House, Rodriguez decided to combat the racism with a colorful variant cover of El Peso Hero where the superhero is serving Donald Trump with a one-piece (sans biscuit), which was inspired by the iconic drawing by comic book luminary, Jack Kirby, where Captain America punches Adolf Hitler.
“I took it personally,” Rodriguez said. “I have family members that served in World War II and Vietnam. I had the idea in my head like, ‘We need to fight back.’”
He linked up with Mexican artist Chema, who collaborates often on the El Peso Hero books, to create the art piece that rocked the world. Despite getting some backlash from the right, others praised the artists for their creation. Rodriguez was even lauded by those close to Kirby who told him that Kirby himself would have been proud of them.
As is the case with major comic book heroes today, the time came when Rodriguez decided to take El Peso Hero from the comic book pages to the big indie screen. With the help of his brother, director Edgar Rodriguez, as well as Edgar Arreola (Sicario), Billy Blair (Machete) and some other local talents, Rodriguez produced El Toro Pesado, a film inspired by one of the storylines in the comics. The short will screen for the first time ever this coming Saturday, July 29th at the first-ever Texas Latino Comic Con taking place at the Latino Cultural Arts Center in Dallas, Texas.
More on Texas Latino Comic Con after the jump…