St. Louis-based comic book publisher Lion Forge is joining the relief efforts to assist those still in need in Puerto Rico after the destruction of Hurricane Maria.
All profits from Lion Forge’s just-released “Puerto Rico Strong” anthology, written and illustrated by some of the top Puerto Rican and Latino talent in the comic book industry, will go to the United Way of Puerto Rico. Lion Forge’s pledge will assist with nonprofit child-care facilities, community schools and health-care centers.
Lion Forge will match the first $25,000 made from “Puerto Rico Strong,” with Diamond Comic Distributors also donating 5 percent of retail sales to United Way of Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico Strong” is a deep dive into Puerto Rican culture. Stories range from Taino warriors taking a stand against colonization and Puerto Rico’s ugly history of forced sterilization to Puerto Rican pride and even space exploration.
Puerto Rico Strong “can be personal stories, it can be stories about Puerto Rico’s history,” Marco Lopez, an editor and writer on the anthology, told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “It can be social political stories or stories based on Puerto Rico’s culture or just fantastic made up sci-fi fantasy stories.”
Writer Vita Ayala (“Batman Beyond,” “Supergirl”) and Deadpool co-creator Fabian Nicieza are some of the familiar comic book industry names attached. The goal from Lion Forge was to create something lasting that would have an impact beyond just making a donation.
“We figured the best way we could help is use what we’re good at, which is making comic books,” said Derek Ruiz, an editor/writer on “Puerto Rico Strong.”
Neil Schwartz, another editor on the anthology, was inspired by the industry veterans’ response to “Puerto Rico Strong’s” call to action.
“When we blew the horn, so many people wanted to answer the call from different walks of life, no matter what their forte was, whether it was comics or Web comics,” Schwartz said. “What we put together is amazing and that diversity is really what speaks to why this project works so well and why it’s important to all of us, because we all felt that passion for Puerto Rico.”
Lopez, Schwartz and Ruiz all agree that integral to the success of “Puerto Rico Strong’s” unifying collaborative efforts was the work of Lion Forge editorial assistant Desiree Rodriguez, who, like Lopez and Ruiz, is Puerto Rican, and felt a special connection to the project. She served as an editor on “Puerto Rico Strong.”
Rodriguez already had a database of the top Latino talent in comics and was responsible for bringing many of “Puerto Rico Strong’s” collaborators on board. As a lifelong fan of comic book culture, she is excited to see “Puerto Rico Strong” in comic book shops, but she says just as important is its arrival in libraries and schools to serve as an education tool.
“There’s so little history taught about Puerto Rico. One of the things I noticed when the hurricane news was at its peak, was that a lot of people didn’t know about the Jones Act. They didn’t know about the economic struggles that [Puerto Rico] has continuously gone through and the history behind that,” Rodriguez said. “One of the goals was to teach people. … That way, people could read this … and can learn about the island through actual Puerto Ricans, because history is so often told through the privileged point of view.”