It’s 2016 and a lot has changed, but 18 years ago, you would be hard pressed to find any hint of a nerd community in North Hollywood, California. The overall attitude of its occupants back then seemed to be more focused on who was the “top dog”, or the toughest. Of course there was a small population struggling to find its way out of this “bad neighborhood”.
Growing up there was tough for me. My family of 5 was held together by my mother (who worked long hours), so my younger sister and I took care of housework and cooking. We didn’t want our mom to be forced to do any more work than she needed to.
Moving around often made it hard to have lasting friendships, since we weren’t typically in school enough to establish those relationships.
So, having no real place to belong and no sense of identity at the age of 12, I clung on to whatever was available to me – movies, books, and cartoons.
Now, just like any adolescent of the time, I fell in love with shows like Scooby-Doo, Thundercats, Batman and Robin….you name it. I loved sitting in front of my TV on a Saturday morning with a bowl of Fruit Loops, my two younger brothers behind me waiting with equal anticipation for our favorite cartoon to start.
What helped us through the tough times was finding something to relate to.
I felt such a connection to the D.C. heroes. – Batman, Green Lantern and Superman.
I would play superheroes with my younger brothers: we’d become three members of the Justice League stopping the evil Legion of Doom from enacting whatever silly plan we thought they were attempting.
It was fun, but as I grew older, I realized that my taste in heroes was also changing.
Unfortunately given the type of area we lived in, there were problems – usually consisting either of gang wars, or (worse) police profiling.
I myself generally respect law enforcement, and believe there are genuinely good officers trying to keep the streets safe for people, regardless of color. But just as they’re not all bad, they’re not all good – I’ve had a few mishaps, but thankfully, nothing dire.

As I entered Middle School, I became aware of racial issues in the world and wished to escape them for a time by reading JLA or X-Men comics during lunch. Of course being a Latino in North Hollywood is tough, but being a nerdy Latino in North Hollywood, is tougher.
It seemed that people thought that if you lived in the hood, you had to be as tough as the hood.
If you liked anything out of the ordinary, you had to stop to be tough.
If you couldn’t be tough, you’d be taken advantage of and life would just be harder.

Luckily, during my late Middle School years, I managed to find a few friends who were into the same things I was into, which were comics, movies, games, the list goes on. We found ourselves in a small little group who hung out and played trading card games.
It was a major relief to someone like me, who still had trouble finding friends because of the anxiety and depression caused by life outside of school.
The beginning of my high school year was much easier when we moved to Santa Clarita (located right next to Six Flags Magic Mountain).
There, people of color like me and my family were definitely in the minority.
Finding fellow nerds was so much easier however, as we all found a common love in Yu-Gi-Oh cards and video games, and we spent all our time in an outdoor classroom next to the library.

While I was the oldest of 4, my siblings found love in sports, cars, and other typical teenager stuff. Not that we weren’t close at all – the opposite really – but we can only stand each other’s company for so long before we need our own friends to hang around with. And dealing with depression made it a bit hard to talk to my brothers and sister often.

The end of my high school years left with me a group of friends I became extremely close with. We talked about comics, video games – anything my nerdy little heart was interested in at the time. It felt good, but something was still missing from my love of nerd culture.

While I was a fan of so many heroes in comic books and shows, I felt that I couldn’t really relate to them, at least physically.

Fast forward to 2011 (during D.C.’s run of their New 52 universe, and Marvel’s newest universe) – Marvel announced that Miles Morales was to take up the Spider Man’s mantle as the first major superhero of Hispanic and Muslim heritage. D.C. then announced the new Blue Beetle as Jamie Reyes, a witty and extremely smart Latino.

Let me tell you that as I read the first few issues, I was instantly hooked and proud. Of course we had superheroes of color for the longest time, but they were usually left in the dust by more popular white heroes, or were seen only as background characters. Having this come to the forefront as a big topic, both of praise and controversy, or something that should’ve been coming for a long time, was major to me as well.

Fast forward again to 2016, where I am extremely happy to say we have even more prominent superheroes of color:
Sam Wilson as Captain America,
Riri Williams as the next Iron Man (Ironheart)
Luke Cage having a major and praiseworthy show on Netflix,
Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle,
Misty Knight coming back to comics as a major character in the Marvel universe,
Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel,
Amadeus Cho as Totally Awesome Hulk.

If you aren’t aware of any of these heroes, or how amazing they are, please do yourself a favor (especially if you’re a Person of Color) and check these out. You may end up falling in love with them too!

Since coming together as a community of all races is key to achieving inclusion within our hobby, characters representing diverse groups of people should become more and more important to the producers of the media we hold dear. I hope to see this trend stick around, and extend to anime, manga, video games, you name it! For now I’ll be here enjoying Miles Morales (or whoever you enjoy on that list). Though he (or she depending on who you said) didn’t exist when I was young, I hope that more nerdy kids of today can find a better reflection of themselves and their culture in their heroes.

As always,
Be Excellent to Each Other!