Aldama, Frederick Luis. Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Ariola to Los Bros Hernandez.

Author:Pozzi-Harris, Ana
Position:Book review
 
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Aldama, Frederick Luis. Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Ariola to Los Bros Hernandez. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2009. viii + 331 pages. Paper, $24.95.

Your Brain on Latino Comics is a valuable introduction to the analysis of comics, with a focus on those created by Latino writers and oriented toward both a Latino and non-Latino audience. The book is divided into three distinct sections. The first part provides an overview of Latino comics and of the scholarship that has addressed them to date. The second part discusses analytical strategies for comics as a whole, using Latino examples. The last part is a collection of twenty-one interviews of Latino comic artists conducted by the author. These interviews constitute the book's most relevant contribution to the scholarship on Latino comics.

The artist or author interview is at the core of social sciences and humanities research, yet Aldama's initiative to publish such a large collection of statements suggests that the real-life experiences of comic book authors has not been a priority in previous studies on the topic. In fact, his literature review indicates that scholars have typically focused on the politics of representation of Latinos in comics (by Latino writers or otherwise), and on the hypothetical experiences of Latino readers. These interviews are bound to prompt a new set of questions and to dispel certain assumptions. We learn, for example, that most Latino comic writers admired mainstream comic superheroes like Superman, the Fantastic Four, or Batman; that Frank Espinosa, the Cuban author of Rocketo, held his first job at Walt Disney Studios and was later art director of the consumer products division at Warner Brothers; and, that many artists make aesthetic choices, like doing black-and-white drawings, purely out of financial need. Contrary to expectation, we also learn that some Latino authors avoid political themes altogether (e.g., Gus Ariola), and that many (e.g., Jonathan and Joshua Luna, or Bobby Rubio) do not believe that their ethnicity affected their experiences in the profession. These interviews provide great insight into the processes involved in comic book making, on the distinct activities of writing and drawing comic books, on the marketing strategies of comic book authors, and on their negotiations with syndicates and animation studios. Aldama tends to ask similar (though not identical) questions to each author, so the comparative information...

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