The art of resiliency – as seen in comic books

In a world of trying times, Laura Rivera inspires resiliency and hope through her beautifully drawn stories, those star heroines who do not fit in the boxes provided by society. The characters, their dynamics and the plot, cannot help but make the reader smile, as they root for the protagonists.

“It is terrible for me to always see Mexicans as thieves or illegal immigrants. I think seeing more vari[ation] of characters would have been nice to see as a kid,” says Rivera, recalling her Mexican childhood.

Taking part in BC Culture Days event line-up, Rivera will be livestreaming about the process of creating comic books for all ages on Oct.9.

When females become heros

Born in Mexico, raised by a single mom, Rivera is no stranger to obstacles. Through her platform, she tells stories straying away from the narrative that mainstream media is always using. Breaking away from tradition, her stories focus on females that destroy the glass ceiling, who do not fit in gender norms of girls being timid and quiet; but rather wrote characters who know what they want and have a strong personality.

Ninja X is about how to become a female hero. | Photo courtesy of Laura Rivera

“Growing up on TV and movies in Mexico, my understanding of how other people were around the world were dependent more on what I was informed [about] through media,” says Rivera.

Comic heroes are overrun by male heroes, but Ninja X, Butterfly Cape and Project 1126 are here to shake things up, with characters that show that girls are tired of playing the damsel in distress. The characters for all her comics are inspired by people in her life which gives comics another dimension altogether, preventing the reading journey from becoming stagnant.

“In high school, me and my friends were always so hyper, always doing stuff. Growing up [throughout] our childhoods we were always the shy, quiet kids and then in high school [we broke free]. We need more girls like that,” Rivera explains about why her stories are female-driven and the inspiration behind Ninja X.

The stories and the art themselves include elements of Mexican folklore, which is best seen in Butterfly Cape. In a potential project, Rivera plans to have it set in the Sonoran Desert including the tribes who not just survived the desert but built a life there, a piece of Mexican history that is not as famous as its southern counterparts: the Aztecs.

Butterfly Cape is coming out on Halloween, only a couple of days before the Mexican Day of the Dead (Nov 2). This story is set in Mexico, starring Elva, a femme fatale who is learning how to use her powers to help people, as she tries to climb to the upper social class. Unlike other femme fatale stories, this includes ghosts and spirits, shining a light on Mexico’s well-known violence.

Rivera writes about the things she wishes were included in literature that she read growing up.

“Seeing more adventure stories of any kind, so more adventure books with girls in them. More diverse cast of characters,” says Rivera.

Ninja X is about a female ninja, who is learning what it takes to be a hero. Alongside her is Kiev, balancing her out, making this duo a fan favourite. This story is for a general audience but more so geared towards children, whereas Butterfly Cape is directed towards young adults. Then there is Anya in Project 1126, who continues to pursue her education despite the family she was staying with, and gets deported. Studying abroad, with nowhere else to go, she is stuck living in an apartment with three boys from her school. What could go wrong?

Of parents and grandparents

Growing up, Rivera contemplated becoming a doctor but her grandpa knew her, and told her and her family she is meant to be an artist. The person in her life, who made sure that this would happen is her mother, who continues to provide her support today. Her mom gave her books to read, paid for her art lessons and sent her to college, all the while having her back and being her fighter, making sure that nothing gets in the way of her daughter’s success.

Something her grandparents and mom reiterated to her is: “If you have a problem with something, you work twice as hard to solve it.”

This became her mantra and drove her to where she is, ready to change the comic world and provide a diverse range of characters who will not back down, no matter what. The stories she read while growing up, she felt, lacked the diversity of real-life and kept people stuck with stereotypes, so she decided she is going to change it and this will set her apart from everyone else.

As for budding artists, Rivera has simple advice.

“Just do it. There are so many art styles, there are so many art stories. That nothing can be so bad, that nobody’s going to like it because if you like it, you’re not the only person who will like it,” she says, encouraging other aspiring artists to try to come closer to their dreams.

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