Comics/Graphic Novels

Comics Recommendation Engine: Junot Diaz

Kris Saldaña

Staff Writer

Kris Saldaña writes comics. When he isn't writing or collaborating, he's reading, attempting to cook, occasionally Netflix bingeing or starting more projects likely to fuel his imminent meltdown. Follow him on Twitter: @kris_saldana.

In the last year, Junot Diaz has rocketed to the top of my favorite author’s list. His writing and short stories represent everything I believe is wonderful about Hispanic culture. What I love about his work is how honest it is about relationships, love, family and the American dream for Latino people. What’s also cool is that Junot is a comic book fan. His book of short stories, This is How You Lose Her, actually has a special hardcover edition with illustrations by acclaimed Hispanic creator, Jaime Hernandez and throughout his work Diaz references Jack Kirby, He-Man, the X-Men citing them as sources of comfort and inspiration for his characters. All that being said, I thought it would be dope to put together a list of comics for fans of Junot Diaz to read.

1. Love Bunglers – Jaime Hernandez

Love Bunglers

Besides the fact that Jaime Hernandez collaborated with Junot Diaz on This is How You Lose Her, his book Love Bunglers, touches on so many of the same things that Diaz does in all of his stories. Focused on Maggie from Love and Rockets, another series of comics I recommend you check out, Bunglers moves through past and present, exploring themes of family, sex and love and the consequences that come with running from them. It’s honest and brave and that’s what I love about the book the most. Coming out of the book you won’t feel as if you missed out on an experience, you won’t feel cheated. It’s pulls no punches and that’s okay, because even though you’re never ready for any of them, Hernandez tends to your bruises. It’s a great primer for other Hispanic comics and writing, hopefully inspiring you to move deeper into the genre.

2. Universe! – Albert Monteys

Universe! is an incredible indie book written and illustrated by acclaimed Albert Monteys. You can grab it on PanelSyndicate, Brian K. Vaughan’s comic publisher, in the same way you can with his acclaimed web comic, Private Eye; pay what you want and you’re able to download the PDF. It is a sci-fi comic which is a genre that Junot Diaz’s characters identify with and read in his writing. Set in the future, this comic follows an engineer put in charge of recreating the big bang. Tons of diversity in this book with the main character being gay and the ideas explored leading to a real depth of thought on how our Universe works. What’s really special about this book is how it’s formatted. You can download it in English or in Spanish which is important for a couple of a reasons. I feel that if a Hispanic creator is going to create a comic, it’s only right for the audience experience it in the way that they intend and is familiar for them. It’s also great entry into comics for Spanish readers who don’t read them already. Universe! is very special, just like Diaz’s work. You can find the comic here and download it once you donate how much ever you feel is right. Also, the art is just gorgeous.Universe 1

3. X-Men – Marvel Comics

I know it’s broad, but what I’m recommending is not so much a book about the X-Men, but the idea behind them. The X-Men are a group of outcasts with great power, fighting against and coming from under hate. Junot Diaz writes similar characters, fighting for similar things, but also giving them their own identity. Their identity is their power and that is essential to understand especially for Hispanic readers. Junot Diaz embraces Spanish culture and celebrates it simultaneously not hiding the struggle for Latino people in America. In this way, his writing reflect so many ideas and problems that the X-Men face in their comics. Reading both X-Men and Diaz, it isn’t hard to come across these themes being that their both crucial to their stories. So when I recommend reading the X-Men I’m recommending more the idea behind them. There is a wealth of good X-Men comics out there. Finding a good one shouldn’t be hard. 

That’s it, those are my recommendations! Hope I’m doing Junot Diaz’s writing some justice.

Bonus: Here is Diaz talking about some of his favorite old and new comics.