OSU professor shares story of Latino comics
Steve Skok, The Lantern, 5/21/09
Rocketo is a futuristic superhero who discovers lost cultures and civilizations. Paco Ramone is a street savvy break-dancer who uses sound and music to defeat his enemies. Ohio State professor Frederick Aldama hopes that these characters can teach people about a range of subjects: from the historic representation of Latino characters to how the brain interprets stories and ideas.
Aldama's new book, "Your Brain On Latino Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez," includes 21 interviews with Latino authors. It seeks not only to catalog a variety of comics, but also to examine how the human brain reacts to images and text while reading stories.
"The book not only tells you the story about Latinos in comic books," Aldama said, "it tells you something as foundational as how we can imagine other places, how we can feel, or be emotionally moved by, something that is not in our present tense experience."
Take for example the series "Rocketo," created by author Frank Espinosa. The series takes places 2,000 years in the future and Rocketo is the only person who can navigate Earth after a disaster that shifted continents and oceans.
"The character Rocketo is special because he is the only living memory of spaces, where the different continents are on the planet," Aldama said.
Aldama says comics such as "Rocketo" can be used as an alternative way of portraying actions, events and situations to readers who may not otherwise be able to imagine them.
"Storytelling is one aspect of being able to imagine a hypothetical situation," Aldama said. "It's just that novelists, comic book authors, artists, sculptors, scientists, we've all sort of chosen different ways to educate and refine the direction of that foundational impulse."
One detail unique to comics, which Aldama examines in his book, is the gutter that separates each illustration on a page. Aldama says these gaps allow readers to interpret for themselves what is happening between frames.
"In that movement you might imagine, more clearly, something like a leap, and I might imagine more clearly a step," Aldama said.
Aldama also explained that the book will study different representations of Latino characters over the course of history.
"For the sociology professor, for the history professor it's important because it can tell us something about the kind of audiences that were being imagined by those comic book authors in a particular place and time," Aldama said.
"Your Brain On Latino Comics" will be featured at Comic-Con in San Deigo, one of the world's largest stages for comic books and popular arts. Aldama is confident that it will appeal to academics as well as everyday comic enthusiasts.
"I wrote it with a crossover audience in mind," Aldama said. "What I do is sort of digest all the brain science and stuff to make it very user-friendly."
"Your Brain on Latin Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez," set for release June 1, will be available at the Wexner Center Bookstore. The store will host a book signing for Aldama at 5:20 p.m. on May 22.
Steve Skok can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.