"Our stories matter." That's been the motto of the Texas Latino Comic Con, which will return for its sophomore year July 28 in Dallas.
According to Hector Rodriguez, it was a successful mantra for the debut show. "We had a lot of positive feedback," he says. "... We had kids that felt they were represented in the comic books. They saw artists that looked the way they do and spoke the way they do. All of that is very empowering, especially for kids that feel unrepresented in the medium."
The primary goal of the convention is to lift up Latino voices in the comic book industry, both on the creative and consumer sides. It's also free to attend, opening the doors to low-income families that might not be able to afford to go to other geeky events in the D-FW area.
Rodriguez, a comic creator himself and co-founder of the Texas Latino Comic Con alongside David Doub (who also started Women of Wonder Con), says he was overwhelmed with the "amazing success" of last year's event.
"There's never been anything like that in Texas," he says. "The fact that it was free meant that there were no financial barriers. It was accessible for everybody."
This year, the event will be open longer -- from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- to get more people in the door. Theoretically, the convention can keep getting bigger as long as people keep showing up."We feel like we have room to grow, but we don't want to grow too fast," Rodriguez says.
Like before, there will be special guests, most of which haven't yet been announced. Rodriguez did tell us about one, though: Lalo Alcaraz, a political cartoonist, the creator of the comic La Cucaracha and an advisor on Pixar's award-winning film Coco. Rodriguez says it will be the artist's first appearance in Dallas as a convention guest. "He's always been a great mentor of mine, as an artist. Someone you look up to in the Chicano culture."
One focus of this year's convention will be getting more Latina creators involved, Rodriguez says. "Usually when you think about comic books and art, you think about male artists, but there are a lot of Latinas that haven't had a platform. So we're balancing our artists, because we want them to have that platform to share their stories."
The folks behind the convention are also collecting free comic books from around D-FW to give away, because, as Rodriguez says, it's an important form of literacy. "Comic books are a form of literature that is universal and accessible for all ages," he says. "So with Texas Latino Comic Con being free, we break those barriers down and it becomes accessible as literature."
Not a member of the Latino community? That's OK. The convention welcomes a diverse crowd, but it's not going to shy away from its roots, either.
"Spanish is not really a foreign language if you're a Texan," Rodriguez says. "You grow up being exposed to Spanish, even if you are a non-Spanish speaker. We're very proud of our Latino, Chicano roots, our Texan roots. We have Latino stories with a Texan flavor."