Every hero has an origin story.
Growing up in LA’s Boyle Heights and spending weekends watching movies with her grandparents, Kayden Phoenix says she wanted to see a superhero that looked like her. That didn’t happen, so eventually she created a whole team of heroes herself.
Phoenix is the writer-creator of an all-Latina superhero comics team called A La Brava that she’ll be bringing to WonderCon in Anaheim, which kicks off today. The event, which features panels, vendors, cosplayers, Bigfoot hunters and more, returns in-person after two years of virtual events due to the pandemic.
After graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a business degree, Phoenix focused on movies, writing a feature-length script and making a short film about a Latina superhero, but she says people kept asking the same thing: Where’s the comic book?
So, after taking time to study the comic giants, she created A La Brava and its five Latina superheroes, whose stories are rolling out in individual books.
“These are each their origin stories of how they got their name and their power. They’re all different heritages within the Latina diaspora. They come together, they become the team A La Brava,” says Phoenix, who says the books explore issues of social justice such as domestic violence and teen suicide. “They’re all very dark but very female-skewed themes, because as females we don’t get our justice.”
She’ll be at WonderCon to discuss her heroes, which include: Loquita, a teen detective of supernatural phenomena; Bandage, to gunslinger; Ruca, to watchman; Santa, a bruiser who takes on ICE detention centers; and Jalisco, who is described as “a blade-wielding folklorico dancer that uses her culture de ella as her weapon de ella.”
To create the individual comics, she sought out Latina women like herself, “We do exist on and off the page,” she says. Her collaborators include GLAAD and Eisner Award-nominated Eva Cabrera and recent Laguna College of Art and Design graduate Amanda Julina Gonzalez.
“It’s all Latina artists, and that’s very much on purpose,” Phoenix says, before citing her company’s mission statement. “To create a superhero mindset in every marginalized individual.”
The first four titles are out, and another is coming this month before the group teams up in a book arriving this summer. Beyond that, Phoenix says she has plans for a younger-skewing series about princesses and has been taking meetings around Hollywood about bringing her work to the screen.
In the meantime, you can stop by her table at WonderCon (you can see a shot of it above from last November’s San Diego Comic-Con) or visit a local store.
“Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble. Every local comic store in greater LA County and Orange County – I’m in every one of those as well,” says Phoenix.
‘Slow Horses’ will take you on a ride
It used to be that readers of a book series would hear about an upcoming adaptation and feel a mixture of anticipation and dread.
But these days there are plenty of acclaimed adaptations, whether it’s “Bridgerton,” “Reacher” or “Pachinko,” and you can add one more good one to the list, “Slow Horses” which premieres today on Apple TV+.
Based on Mick Herron’s series, “Slow Horses” is a six-episode series about Slough House, a London unit where disgraced spies are sent to finish up their careers after they’ve screwed up. The show stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jack Lowden, Rosalind Eleazar, Christopher Chung and Saskia Reeves. It’s a terrific mix of thrills, drama, and, you know, spy stuff. But it’s also smart and darkly funny; I’ve seen the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Even better? Herron’s written more Slough House books so there’s plenty more where that came from.
What are some of your favorite book-to-screen adaptations? Email me at email@example.com and I may share your comments in a future newsletter.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
‘Overdue’ author Amanda Oliver on the book she shares with everyone
Pushcart Prize-nominated writer Amanda Oliver is the author of “Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library,” and she is a nonfiction editor of Joyland magazine. Along with BA and MLS degrees from SUNY Buffalo, she earned an MFA from UC Riverside and currently lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree.
Q. How would you describe “Overdue: Reckoning With the Public Library”?
“Overdue” is part memoir about my six years of working as a librarian in Washington, DC and part deep-dive into the past, present and future of America’s public libraries. As the subtitle suggests, it is also a reckoning with the incomplete understanding so many have of this beloved institution and also with the many systemic failures that manifest themselves in them.
Q. What could help improve things for libraries and the people who use and work in them?
Libraries are such beautiful models of free and accessible community care, for all, and yet there are very few other places in this country like them, which is why we see overwhelmed libraries and library workers. My hope is that readers of “Overdue” will finish reading with a broader and more complete understanding of the many, many roles libraries and librarians play in our country (in large part because of failed, failing or insufficient social support systems) and it will help them to be more vocal about, and open to and supportive of, free and accessible community care resources and institutions. My ultimate hope is that everyone will learn to think and make choices more like librarians so often do—with empathy, openness, curiosity and a commitment to not just assisting, but understanding others within their local and broader communities.
Q. What are you reading now?
The tower of books on my bedside table currently includes Sheila Heti’s “Pure Colour,” Claire Vaye Watkins’ “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness,” May Sarton’s “Journal of a Solitude,” Diane Seuss’ “frank: sonnets, ” Gabor Mate’s “Scattered Minds” and Renee Gladman’s “Calamities.”
Q. Do you remember the first book that made an impact on you?
“The Green Book” by Jill Paton Walsh. It’s a science fiction novel about a young girl living in a post-apocalyptic world on a new planet that I read in the fourth grade. It was the first time I remember understanding the fragility of life and also the power of storytelling in understanding, accepting and working through and with that fragility.
Q. Is there a book or books that you always recommend to other readers?
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.” It is a book I hope every American reads. It shows how other living beings—strawberries, algae, sweetgrass and so much more—offer us lessons and gifts, even as we’ve forgotten how to hear them. It beautifully digs into ecological consciousness, reciprocal relationship, and, ultimately, how to be better, more present, open, caring human beings. It fundamentally changed who I am and how I see the world around me.
My other “everyone should read this” recommendations are adrienne maree brown’s “Emergent Strategy,” Lacy M. Johnson’s “The Reckonings” and bell hooks’ “All About Love.” When I teach creative writing, I always recommend Mary Ruefle’s “Madness, Rack, and Honey” as well.
Q. Is there a person who made an impact on your reading life — a teacher, a parent, a librarian or someone else?
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Celeste. She created a little station in the classroom where we could “publish” books. There was scrap paper to create drafts on and then nicer paper and a book of wallpaper samples to create a final cover when your drafts were done. It taught me, very early on, that it takes many messy drafts before you are ready for publication.
Q. What’s a memorable book experience — good or bad — you’re willing to share?
In my 20s, the only book I brought along with me on a two-month, 11-country trip through Europe was “Autoportrait” by Édouard Levé. I read it on plans and trains, by every body of water I visited, at little café tables, in hostels. I’ve taken it to five additional countries since. I only read it when I travel and it feels really special every time I do. Like visiting with an old friend.
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What’s next on ‘Bookish’
The next free Bookish event will be the April 15 event with Steve Almond, Maggie Shipstead and David Baldacci.