A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Iron Justice Versus the Fiends of Evil” (in Masked
Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories Ed. Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa, Tyche Books LTD., 2013)
Many superhero stories in the golden age of comics tended to focus on young, white, straight, able-bodied men. Silvia Moreno-Garcia seeks to disrupt that exclusionary notion of the ‘regular’ superhero by injecting some diversity into the superhero serum. Iron Justice is a retired Mexican wrestler, who, in his youth fought vampires, mummies, and other monsters that threatened humanity. Now, he and another aged superhero, La Colorada, have to solve a crime in Vancouver as the city gradually begins believing that the criminals are a South Asian group called the Tcho Tcho, and begins preparing to do racialised violence against people because their cultural customs differ from the Vancouverite majority. As much as they desire to solve the crime and find out which monsters are responsible, they are also working to prevent hate crimes based on a society’s need for easy answers and an outsider group to direct violence toward.
Moreno-Garcia’s “Iron Justice Versus the Fiends of Evil” explores issues of cultural commodification and appropriation as well as simultaneous abjection and hatred directed toward people who are depicted as culturally “other”.
She unmasks the racism and lack of diversity in the portrayal of superheroes by portraying her hero as one who defies comic book tropes. He is non-white, and rather than just stealing cultural characteristics from culturally diverse cultures (as many superhero figures do – stealing their powers from the tombs of people that are culturally distant from them), he is, himself, of Mexican birth and embraces the cultural history of the portrayal of Mexican wrestlers. Iron Justice is also gay in an era when few superheroic characters are portrayed as queer-oriented, and those that do inspire controversy and are often relegated to an alternative universe, a less popular super team, or are rarely depicted in same-sex relationships for fear of losing comic book fans.
Although comics generally portray heroes trapped in a consistent state of youth, afraid to explore the question of “what happens when my body is no longer what society considers the peak of bodily perfection”, Iron Justice and La Colorada are aged, suffering from bodily pains, and having to fight in different ways to keep their bodies from being damaged.
As aged characters, they face a world that has changed, modified, and inconsistent with the characteristics of the world of their youth. Villains have changed – they are no longer the monsters of the past but became instead drug-dealers, embezzlers, and white-collar criminals. Their nostalgia reminds the reader of their own nostalgia for the comic books of their youth, but filtered through the lens of diversity Moreno-Garcia has applied to the story, readers recognise that the comics they are nostalgic for were inadequate, not presenting the diversity of experience, but rather the power structures at the time. One looks backwards and notices the absences in past super stories, the underrepresented and deleted people.
To read more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia and her work, you can visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/ . You can find out more about Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories on Tyche Books’ website at http://tychebooks.com/ .