When Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended his country’s non-interventionist policy against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chicano comic book creator Héctor Rodríguez took action — and put his Mexican American superhero, El Peso Hero, in a new comic book issue set in Ukraine.
“This comic book is a direct contradiction against Mexico’s current policy on the war,” Rodríguez said about a special 18-page free online issue published Thursday, which calls on readers to support UNICEF’s relief fund for Ukrainian children.
“Mexico’s complete neutrality is very disappointing to me, because it has always been there for humanitarian causes," he said. "So if Obrador isn’t stepping up, then El Peso Hero will do the right thing for the citizens of the Ukraine.”
In the comic, the Red Cross calls on El Peso Hero to help find a missing volunteer in Ukraine. The Mexican superhero is initially reluctant to get involved in a conflict that is a 7,000-mile flight away from his cross-border community in the U.S. But when he arrives in Kyiv, he sees that human tragedy knows no borders.
“El Peso Hero stands as a symbol for what other countries should be doing to help children and citizens in the Ukraine,” Rodríguez said. “Readers will see him facing two bad options. But as a superhero, he always invents a third option that is a force of good, regardless of politics.”
Rodríguez's comic book "El Peso Hero" first gained mainstream fame after the superhero delivered a punch, or “trumpazo,” to presidential candidate Donald Trump on a 2015 cover in response to his campaign announcement, in which he called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.
Dressed in a simple white shirt, blue jeans and a belt with a large buckle, El Peso Hero, created by Rodríguez in 2011, has taken on drug cartels, human traffickers and corrupt officials while standing up for Latino families and immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rodríguez, who’s also a fifth-grade bilingual teacher, is a co-founder of the Texas Latino Comic Con and has been recognized for his contributions to Mexican American and Latino heritage. Having grown up in Eagle Pass, Texas, Rodríguez draws on both family and community experiences for “El Peso Hero.”
He said the new comic's cover pays homage to both Superman and Captain America. It depicts the Mexican superhero lifting a Russian tank away from a Ukrainian family trapped in Kyiv.
“They have no options. And El Peso Hero shouldn’t be there, but he is. And he’s their last hope,” Rodríguez said.
While Obrador has maintained that Mexico opposes the invasion of Ukraine and supports humanitarian aid for refugees through the United Nations, he has declined to impose economic sanctions on Russia. And one month after Russia’s attack, members of Obrador’s political party joined a “friendship” committee to promote economic and political interests between Mexico and Russia.
“I don’t agree on sanctions that have effects on the Russian citizens,” Rodríguez said. “But sanctions against government bodies, oil, ruling oligarchs, military cooperation, yes.”
'We all have a stake in the world'
Beyond the global crisis, Rodríguez said, the comic is also a reaction against the idea that Latino superheroes should be limited to the U.S.-Mexico border and the community's issues.
“Latinx superheroes are in a bubble, like they shouldn’t be put in other people’s tragedies, or they are pigeonholed into a genre or a box that sticks to a personal narrative about standing up for our own causes and our own raza," or people, Rodríguez said.
He said he sees the Russian invasion as a turning point, a blunt awakening that shows how much we need one another to survive.
“What happens around the world isn’t somebody else’s business,” he said. “We all have a stake in the world. And El Peso Hero, like other mainstream superheroes, has a responsibility to offer humanitarian help.”
Rodríguez said the special issue includes dialogue in English, Spanish and some Ukrainian to make its story as authentic as possible.