In honor of Pride month, we at ComicsVerse are celebrating one of Marvel’s most high-profile LGBTQIA+ heroes: America Chavez.

America Chavez has been one of my favorite comic book characters for quite a while now. From my first reading of her in the 2013 MARVEL NOW! YOUNG AVENGERS trade edition, eating Korean BBQ and kicking Loki’s ass. I knew this girl had my heart. With her badass personality and sense of fashion, America was pretty much everything I wanted out of a superheroine. She’s brave, strong, loyal, and later on to my  surprise and pleasure, queer. From her comic book origin to her relationship dynamics, there are a number of interesting things that make America Chavez such an essential addition to the complexity of the LGBTQIA+ comic book lexicon.

america chavez
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Miss America’s Comic Book Origin

Towards the end of World War 2, comic book publishers were inspired to create a new onset of superheroines, including a character then known as Miss America. Miss America had made her first appearance in MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #49 (1943) by Al Gabrielle and Otto Binder. In the original conception of her character, America was a Caucasian, supposedly straight girl named Madeline Joyce. This version of America was a teenage socialite who became inspired to fight crime, later joining teams such as All-Winners Squad, Liberty Legion, and the Invaders. It wasn’t until VENGEANCE #1 by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta that the second manifestation of Miss America appeared, more closely resembling the Latinx superheroine we know today.

READ: Looking for more badass Latinx leads in comics? Check out our take on JONESY!

AMERICA CHAVEZ
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

America’s Team Dynamics

An essential part of America’s appeal stems from her dynamics with others. Her relationships range from hostile and aggressive, to devoted and loyal, to sweet and romantic. From her portrayal in YOUNG AVENGERS, it’s immediately clear that America’s instincts as a hero are on-point as shown through her first interaction with Loki, where she is correctly hesitant to mistrust the ambiguously moral teenager who requests her help in “taking out” Wiccan. America often puts up a stoic front, but as the reader sees, it’s not through cheap characterization of “toughness”; rather, it’s through genuine hesitation to trust others, possibly stemming from her own adolescence where she had to survive on her own and choose her relationships carefully.

In each of America’s team dynamics, respect is earned with trust and time rather than gained through blind allegiance; not with the powerful Demiurge in YOUNG AVENGERS or with the older, more experienced members of the Ultimates. Furthermore, despite her young age, America’s teammates always treat her like the veteran she is, having fought battles against evil since she was a child. This shows in her interactions with her teammates who see her as an equal, rather than just a teenager.

As a millennial, it would be easy to look down at America as naive or inexperienced because of her age. When it comes down to the actual battle, heroes like Captain Marvel and Spectrum see America for who she is. She’s someone who’s gained a lot of experience through trial and is more than ready to fight alongside them. Captain Marvel and Spectrum treat her like a partner equal in courage and strength rather than a simply lackey.

america chavez
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Sisterhood is Powerful

Another essential feature of America’s character is her strong, beneficial relationships with women. America always admired her mothers, who built a Utopia for her and willingly sacrificed themselves to save their home. Inspired by their courage and knowing that Utopia didn’t need saving, America ran away from home to become a hero and honor her mothers’ memories.

One of America’s strongest relationships is with Kate Bishop, originally a teammate from YOUNG AVENGERS. In their first interactions together, America and Kate are initially at odds with each other. It’s expected with two girls who don’t know each other very well, as opposed to competing for the same boy. This trope is mercifully canceled out with America’s orientation. However, as the two learn to fight together with their teammates successfully, America and Kate become closer as friends. The sarcasm and teasing traded between each other act as a demonstration of their easy-going friendship, rather than something negative. Often stories pit female characters against each other, usually for the sake of romantic competition. Seeing a strong female character build meaningful relationships with other strong female characters is amazing and fulfilling to see.

READ: Looking for more strong representations of female characters? Hayao Miyazaki’s movies offer just that!

We see this again in ULTIMATES, in which America demonstrates meaningful platonic and romantic relationships. With her teammates, America utilizes powerful alliances with female superheroes, while also maintaining a romantic relationship with her girlfriend, Lisa. In comics like PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT, another wonderful comic known for its ladies, America hangs out with all the female heavy hitters, like Thor, She-Hulk, Squirrel Girl, Spectrum, Kate Bishop, and Hellcat herself. They casually go out for burgers and shakes, showing the amazing normality of female solidarity in the superhero world.

America Chavez
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

America’s Queerness

From the very beginning, America’s story is infused with normalization of the LGBTQIA+ community, from being raised by two mothers, to her own identity as a lesbian. When it comes to LGBTQIA+ characters in fiction, their storylines often follow the same “coming out” narrative; they focus on the major angst of accepting their orientation and society’s hostile reactions to it. While these storylines are important, especially to readers who are personally dealing with those situations, sometimes we simply want the same fun and dynamic adventures that straight characters automatically get. We want stories filled with laughter and romance and badassery, like America’s.

READ: Want more LGBTQIA+ representation? So do we!

Reading the MARVEL NOW! YOUNG AVENGERS trade edition was the first time I saw a mainstream superhero team composed of almost all queer characters. Queerness is so embodied in America’s journey and community to the point that America teases Kate about being the only supposedly “straight” person on the team. The comics further normalize America’s orientation through Lisa, with whom America allows herself to be vulnerable and romantic. Whether dancing in alternate dimensions or talking about her vulnerability; America is a human being with strengths, weaknesses, friends, and love interests, rather than just a token diversity character.

AMERICA CHAVEZ
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Finding Hope in America Chavez

In March 2017, AMERICA by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones premiered as the first Marvel comic led by a queer woman of color. The comic in itself is pretty revolutionary, coming from a company that recently said that diversity is the reason sales are sagging.

The truth is that America Chavez embodies hope. She represents people who don’t often find themselves represented in the medium they love. People like Ludmila Leiva from Autostraddle demonstrate why having America spotlighted as a hero is so important in her article, “America Chaves Gives Me Hope for Queers of Color Everywhere,”:

“I still struggle every day to find and remember my strength in the face of adversity. In all likelihood, having marginalized identities will continue to be a challenge. . . . Even so, when I think of America Chavez — her curvy figure, bushy brown hair, and unapologetic queerness — I can’t help but smile.

It may sound quixotic, but often just knowing Chavez exists helps me stand a little taller and feel a little bit stronger. And while I don’t know if comics alone will have the power to entirely transform our society’s status quo, to me Chavez is indisputable evidence of a brighter future. And, on most days, a little bit of proof is all I need.”

Gabby Rivera and America

For Gabby Rivera, America highlights new opportunities for representation for queer women of color like herself. “A Latina that can just go where she chooses is pretty revolutionary, I think,” Rivera said on PBS NewsHour, “because she has ownership of her own body and her destination, and that’s a gift that not many of us are afforded.”

Some people have taken some issues with the series for its rough storylines thus far. However, I believe it’s important to remember that this is Rivera’s first time writing within this medium after writing prose; it will take time to settle into the transition. I still have high hopes for the series and what it can do, both for America Chavez and increasing the greater diversity of Marvel comics. I wish the creators all the luck needed on America’s ever-continuing prideful journey.

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One Comment

  1. Hassan Ben Sober

    September 2, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Pffft!
    The America Chavez comic is a joke.
    Horrible writing, and except for the covers, the art is atrocious.
    Barely even sells as well.

    Reply

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