Venezuelan computer engineer Milton Diaz has been raising the profile of diversity in comics with the amazing blog Superheroes In Color. Despite ill health and other challenges, Diaz continues bringing informative links, history and news about heroic POC characters and the artists who bring them to the page and screen. Recently, circumstances have forced this tireless champion of representation to turn to Superheroes In Color readers and followers for crowdfunding to continue his vital mission of celebrating hero diversity online.
DARK MATTERS: What inspired you to create Superheroes In Color?
Milton Diaz: I used to contribute to another very cool general comic blog and eventually tried to include less prominent and more diverse characters that I found interesting — but there wasn’t much of a response and I was feeling a little guilty for the low notes count.
Also there were things besides the art that I wanted to put out there — but as a contributor I didn’t feel that comfortable making those posts in there. And finally, there are only so many times you can post Superman and Batman (which I love) without getting a little bored.
So one day I just searched for some of the things I wanted featured, some of the content I had in my personal blog already, text posts, info on artists and characters that deserved more recognition, started posting and suddenly here we are.
DARK MATTERS: What were your favorite comics growing up?
Milton Diaz: My first comics were an issue of Fantastic Four and one of Spider-man and Daredevil— really old stuff.I became a comic fan through the TV shows: Super-friends, the classic Spider-man and X-Men animated series.
DARK MATTERS: I know you’re in Venezuela — were the comics in English or were there Spanish-language versions available?
Milton Diaz: The comics were in Spanish. There wasn’t really a market for the comic books themselves in Venezuela per se back in the day, but you could always see the characters around in some form of merchandise or another.
DARK MATTERS: What about Venezuelan comic books? Did you follow those growing up? Are there Venezuelan superheroes?
Milton Diaz: In my research, I have found a couple of Venezuelan superheroes, but those were way before my time. There’s a movement of local comics slowly growing, recently, and also very talented Venezuelan artists like Jorge Corona making a name for themselves. Corona is working with DC Comics where he’s doing the art for the upcoming We Are Robin.
DARK MATTERS: When did you become conscious of representation in comics — and/or a lack of representation?
Milton Diaz: These things are always present, and one tends to overlook [it] unless it’s really on the nose. When I was a kid, the most I could aspire to see as a latino was El Dorado (Super Friends) and of course I didn’t see the problems with these characters at the time — I still have a nostalgic love for these old characters.
When I was recovering from surgery last year, I spend a lot of time in bed and began reading, watching YouTube videos. I found White Scripts and Black Supermen and The Nerds of Color channel, which got me more interested in portrayal of diverse characters in comics and popular culture in general.
The final trigger, I must say, was when I was watching Captain America: Winter Soldier, which I loved. There was a scene that really ended up bothering me — when they killed Renata, Alexander Pierce’s housemaid. She was the only vaguely Latina character that I saw in that movie. They don’t come out and state her ethnicity, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. It also reminded me of the stereotype of the Latino as maid, as gardener, as gang member. These images propagate stereotypes and we end up internalizing them.
DARK MATTERS: Did the strained relations between US and Venezuela affect the availability of US comics at all?
Milton Diaz: Not really a problem in that way — the real issue is that due to the economic inflation and monetary devaluation; comic books have become more and more expensive, and it’s not something that an average working person could really spend on. Most of the comic culture here comes from television and movies.
DARK MATTERS: You had a disaster recently that threatened to hold up Superheroes In Color — can you talk about what happened with your computer and how you’ve been working around that to keep Superheroes In Color going?
Milton Diaz: Well, funny thing (not really that funny), around February the blog began to get noticed and people following, and just when this started to happen my old Windows XP computer gave me a blue screen of death, shut down — the hard disc was damaged, the memory burned.
With the hard disk, I lost all my personal and work files and my digital collection of comic images, really old digitized comics — all this I started collecting about nine years ago. After a deep breath, I made the best out of what I had on my drafts and queue and started updating the blog from a friend’s house or when I got a borrowed computer from time to time. Sadly, it has meant that I haven’t been able to do as much research and original posts as I want to. I also had to put on hold a series of authors and artists interviews I was preparing.
DARK MATTERS: Tell folks what the Indiegogo campaign is for.
Milton Diaz: Well, in April I had to get a second surgery so most of my savings were depleted by the medical costs. The Indiegogo [campaign] is to help me get a decent computer equipment to allow me keep working on the blog. I also want to expand the blog with a separate site outside of Tumblr. About three weeks ago Tumblr deleted my main account; my main and side blogs were lost, SuperheroesInColor survived just because I had added a second admin account.
DARK MATTERS: Is there one superhero you identify with more than any other, and if so why?
Milton Diaz: My favorite is Hellboy. It was one of the titles that I started reading as an adult and it was just different from what I’d been reading — it got me to look outside DC and Marvel. About the character — I love his struggle between being a hero and paranormal hunter vs him being Anung Un Rama, Beast of the Apocalypse destined to rule Hell. I love him refusing this fate and other people’s (and demons’) expectations. Besides that, the whole universe of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. is really interesting.
DARK MATTERS: What superhero projects in film or print are you looking forward to in the next couple of years?
Milton Diaz: In particular? Black Panther; it’s long overdue. I’m really exited about the possibilities. In general, I’m looking forward to the Valiant comics film adaptations, big budget comic films and shared universe outside of DC and Marvel.
DARK MATTERS: What has been, in your opinion, the best comics-to-film superhero movie and/or series?
Milton Diaz: Two of my favorites are: Blade II (2002) — without the Blade movies I don’t think we would have all these superhero films around. And Unbreakable (2000) — it didn’t have anything to do with a particular comic, yet I loved how it did a grounded origin story. Also, Mr Glass is my favorite villain.
As far as series? Currently The Flash and Daredevil approach the superhero genre in different ways, different tone, and they are both great in their own ways.
To show support for Superheroes In Color, hit up their IndieGoGo campaign which will be running until July 8!
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