Comic book artist casts eye on his Puerto Rican, South Bronx roots

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez recalls walking on Webster and Fordham Roads nearly 40 years ago and purchasing comic books from local shops and newsstands. As a teenager, he remembers meeting James Shooter, the former editor-in-chief of Marvel, and Bob Layton, known for his work in Iron Man.

On Wednesday, Miranda-Rodriguez, creator of “La Borinqueña,” will be signing the release of a new comic book of Puerto Rican superheroine “La Borinqueña” not far from where his interest in comics first bloomed — at the Chocobar Cortés on Alexander Avenue. Miranda-Rodriguez said he created the comic in 2016 in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the economic turmoil in Puerto Rico. He said the comic book continues to spread awareness and provide resources for residents living on the island.

“I’ve used, and continued to use, my book as a vehicle to raise awareness to Puerto Rico and the 3 million Puerto Ricans living on the island with U.S. citizenship who are continually treated as second-class citizens…,” Miranda-Rodriguez said.

His newest release will be the first centered around climate change. Miranda-Rodriguez said he wants to focus on addressing the issue and educate others on viable solutions on a national level.

The book features actress Rosario Dawson, whose passion for environmental justice made her the perfect partner for the project, he said.

“She gets to literally be herself,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “She’s not pretending to be a character…She’s literally herself, her superpower in this graphic novel is her voice and passion for social justice.”

In addition to the book signing, limited edition Cortés chocolate bars featuring La Borinqueña will be sold. Chocobar Cortés collaborated with Miranda-Rodriguez to create four chocolate bars that include a special edition of the “La Borinqueña” comic.

Miranda-Rodriguez said he wanted the comic strips to share the history and significance of Chocolate Cortés, a 93-year-old family-owned business originating in Puerto Rico. The company expanded to the United States last December, opening in Port Morris.

“The idea for this was let’s use ‘La Borinqueña’ as the vehicle to tell the story of Cortés, and that pretty much was an opportunity to give everyone who has been enjoying this chocolate for generations a real opportunity, a real chance to learn…”

Ahead of the signing, Miranda-Rodriguez reflected on his experience as a teenager meeting Shooter and Layton.

“They didn’t look like me,” he said. “They didn’t represent me. They didn’t speak like me.”

He said he recognizes the importance of representing his career and Puerto Rican identity to communities of color.

“When I see these children and they see themselves and they come up, I recognize it as a responsibility that I have as a storyteller, to engage with them, to hear them out, to encourage them, to remind them that your talent is natural to an extent,” Miranda-Rodriguez said.

All proceeds from the event will support the La Borinqueña Grants Program and Fundación Cortés. Created in 2018, The La Borinqueña Grants Program funds the rebuilding and revitalization of Puerto Rico through its support of local organizations and projects. The Fundación Cortés, a non-profit established in 2012, is an initiative that educates people about the Puerto Rican and Caribbean communities through visual arts.

The book signing will be held at Chocobar Cortés from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6 at 141 Alexander Ave.