Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chicanonautica: Hey, Muchacho/as! Lowriders in Space!

by Ernest Hogan

Cartooning is a big thing among Chicanos. You see a lot of it on walls and in the schools, in and on notebooks. We don't usually get published, though. Most Chicano cartoonists get it beat out of them and end up in real jobs to support their families – if they're lucky they can get away with drawing on the backroom walls of their workplace.

Check out Lalo Delgado's poem, “Stupid America” for more on this subject.

Meanwhile, Lowriders in Space, written by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third, materialized in the library where I work. It's a comic book – I'm the only one who thinks that the term “graphic novel” is pretentious? – for kids, shelved just after the middle reader/chapter books, for the under 12 crowd. At that age, I prefered real comic books – the kind you bought at the neighborhood liquor store, but this one looked like a bit of Chicanonautica for the new generations, so I checked it out.

It's a cartoony fantasy with talking animals in the barrio. Their leader is female, Lupe Impala. And flipping through it, I noticed references to Cantinflas and renderings of customized cars that reminded me of my school days – Raúl inks with ballpoint pens, hijacking the available technology! I was also reminded of Hot Rod Cartoons, and CARtoons, the gateway reading between Mad Magazine and underground comix. Upon reading it, I was won over.

Though not hard science, this fantasy encourages the imagination to go wild with art and technology, working to create your own future instead of buying it off the rack. A bit of lowrider philosphy that will help the muchacho/as of the 21st century.

It also has educational footnotes and a glossary, explaining the Spanish words and lowrider culture.

This is a book that can be read to younger kids, be read by the beginning readers, and enjoyed by adults.

It can also help enlighten people in places like Arizona, where some gringos think that lowriders practice human sacrifice and cannibalism.

“Book 1” on the cover suggests that more are in the works, which gives me hope for the future.

Ernest Hogan isn't a lowrider or a cannibal, and does not practice human sacrifice, but will probably never win a Hugo or a Nebula award. 

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