America Chavez, Marvel’s first queer woman of color to ever star in her own ongoing comic book, closed out the inaugural issue of America by traveling back in time to World War II, pushing Captain America out of the way, and punching Hitler in the face.
More than just a recreation of Jack Kirby’s cover of the first issue of Captain America, the scene set the stage and tone for what kind of story author Gabby Rivera and artist Joe Quinones are trying to tell. In recent correspondence by e-mail, Rivera discussed how her own experiences as a queer woman of color factor into America’s distinct voice and how she wants to use the character to challenge and complicate the way we think about and use the term “Latinx” when talking about people’s identities.
The following interview has been edited for clarity.
We’ve seen America, the enigmatic, badass powerhouse with the Young Avengers and the Ultimates, but who is she when we first meet her at the beginning of your arc? What are the ideas that are weighing on her mind?
America is still all those things: enigmatic, badass, and a powerhouse. At the beginning of issue #1, we see America doing what she does: saving people. And in the middle of it all, she’s someone who’s experienced tremendous loss and it’s starting to bubble up inside of her. America also thought that she wouldn’t be going on her journey alone and so right up front, she’s dealing with all that it takes to be a superhero, unprocessed grief, and some deep reactions to sudden abandonment.
College is a fresh freakin’ start. It’s a place she must now face alone and that’s hella exciting too.
All that to say, America’s got mad shit on her mind.
When people think of finding themselves in college, they often think of discovering their sexualities and gender identities. Both of those are things that America’s always seemed to have a pretty firm grasp of already, so what sorts of things might she be working through in your series?
Well, one, gender and sexuality are often set and reset. Like what feels right and good in the present might change in the future for some folks, you know? Gender and sexuality might not be issues at the top of the list for America’s series but that doesn’t mean we won’t get glimpses of how America and other characters explore them.
But America isn’t a “coming out” narrative. She’s already out and proud and punching all the things. America is taking on herself in this series. Like she’s wondering if she’s really at the top of her game mentally and physically. Sotomayor University is where she’ll find that challenge she’s been looking for.
Do you see yourself in America? And in what ways have your experiences as a queer, Latinx woman shaped your approach to giving America her voice?
There’s a lot about me and my experience that will inform America’s character, more so than my queerness.
People navigate queerness in their own ways. My queer brown chubby weirdo vibe works for America’s journey. She’s been so serious for so long, and she’ll still be serious but there’ll be so much room for her to be easy.
America’s independent and aloof but also looking to make some deep connections with folks. Also, I like to have fun and build community and love on people, and those are the things I really want to focus on in America’s story.
Even though she’s an inter-dimensional super-being, America’s always been coded as being explicitly Latinx. Do you plan on grounding her in a real-world specific Latinx culture as you explore her backstory?
Yo, of course! Exploring America’s Latinx identity is going to be one of the most thoughtful elements of America. I’m so ready to explore this with her because right now, America’s like “generic Latinx.” She comes from the Utopian Parallel but she left there and we don’t know anything about how she experienced being Latina there.
America isn’t identified anywhere as being Puerto Rican or Colombian or from Chile or Peru (or any other of the many very diverse and distinct Caribbean and Latin American countries/islands/homelands that are connected under the term “Latino/a/x”). She’s just “Latinx” and like, what does that mean? Beyond being a gender-neutral term for Latina/o, what does it mean to identify as such?
The series will dive deep into those issues and flesh out what America feels works for her.
Let’s say America managed to kick her way into our present day universe. What do you think her read on the U.S. would be? Is there hope for the future?
To really get a handle on what’s going on in the U.S., America Chavez would just talk to the people. She’d be on the street corner doing pull ups with folks in the neighborhood. America would be in Detroit rallying with folks for clean water. America would be everywhere, connecting with folks from all backgrounds.
She’d probably be ready to throw some blows knowing that so many people feel unsafe in their country. But like, all she’d have to do is look around at all the people coming together to march and organize for civil rights and she’d know that there’s hope everywhere. America Chavez is part of that hope, you know?