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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters
The Santerians
Marvel's all-Latino superhero team

From: "Santerians: Hero Worship: The Art of Joe Quesada" article on "The Santerians" website, presented by The Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (http://www.santerians.com/santerians.html; viewed 21 May 2007):

HISTORY: The son of Latino rights activist and New York City Councilman Hector Rodriguez, young Nestor Rodriguez was an overachieving student in New York's public school system who wanted to be just like his politically-active father. Dedicated to his neighborhood's welfare, Nestor began working in soup kitchens and building housing for the homeless by age 13. When the crime rate skyrocketed within New York's Latino community during the Cross Bronx Drug War, Nestor spearheaded the formation of the Street Angels, a controversial but effective watch group comprised of inner city youths whose popularity soared as the crime rate plummeted. But, unknown to Nestor, his father owed his political and financial success to Wilson Fisk, New York City's Kingpin of Crime. Acting on a hot tip, Nestor infiltrated a shipyard building one night and witnessed his father meeting with the Kingpin. When Hector disobeyed the Kingpin's command to kill his son, the Kingpin killed Hector instead and left Nestor with his father's body.Shortly after, Daredevil (Matt Murdock), who had recently begun operating as a costumed vigilante in Hell's Kitchen, arrived on the scene - but a grieving Nestor informed him he was too late.

Over the next few months, Nestor answered police questions, avoided the media and secretly destroyed any evidence of his father's involvement with the Kingpin. He then disappeared for several years and was introduced to Santeria, a religious system that fuses Catholicism with traditional Yoruba beliefs from the African continent, by a Santerian priest (Santero) he met at his father's funeral. The priest conducts a religious ceremony that allows Nestor to become possessed by Eleggua (the Yoruba deity of the crossroads and communication), granting him the ability to see and understand multiple directions and thoughts, similar to Eleggua, Nestor also has the ability to cause acute confusion and alter the communication abilities of others. Nestor resurfaced as "NeRo" 5 years later, using the vast fortune inherited from his late father to begin his well-chronicled rise as a media mogul.

Today, at age 21, NeRo is one of New York's most eligible bachelors and one of America's top entertainment entrepreneurs, with an independent hip-hop music label, a line of trendy restaurants, a signature clothing line, and even his own cologne. Believing there were not enough vigilantes like Daredevil patrolling the streets to protect innocents, NeRo founded his own vigilante team, the Santerians, who had all served with NeRo's Street Angels as teenagers. Each team member obtained powers through rituals honoring the forces of nature where they were similarly possessed by and named after one of the Orishas, the deities of the Santerian religion. As the team's leader, NeRo took the name of his patron god, Eleggua,. The mischievous Chango, named after the Orisha of fire and passion, can generate electricity from his fingertips and is the most hot-headed member of the team. The giant but level-headed Ogun, named after the Orisha of war, exhibits phenomenal superhuman strength. Named after the Orisha of rivers and streams, Oshun can manipulate almost any form of liquid, even the blood within an organism's body. Finally, Oya, named after the Orisha of the storms, can fly and and control the weather within small, localized areas. Secretly bankrolled by NeRo's finances, the Santerians set out to rid New York's streets of crime in the name of Ol dumare, the skyfather of the Santerian belief system. An inexperienced, street-level team, the Santerians began learning the ropes and patrolling the city via a car and motorbike.

When the serial killer Johnny Sockets began a string of violent murders characterized by the removal of the victims' eyes, Daredevil refused to get involved because the mystery killer had not yet struck in his neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen. Eleggia staged an intervention, hoping that his Santerians could convince Daredevil, whose secret identity was recently exposed by a tabloid, to help bring Johnny Sockets to justice. The intervention soon devolved into a fight, despite Eleggua's efforts to calm the situation, and the Santerians defeated Daredevil. The next night, Daredevil struck back against the Santerians, but the battle ended with Eleggua and Daredevil calling a temporary truce. After the battle, Daredevil used his heightened sense of smell to deduce Eleggua's true identity and confronted NeRo, who revealed the true circumstances of his father's death.

MEMBERS: Chango, Eleggua (Nestor "NeRo" Rodriguez), Ogun, Oshun, Oya
BASE OF OPERATIONS: Tribeca, New York City, New York
FIRST APPEARANCE: Daredevil: Father #2 (2005)

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE A-Z #9 (SEPTEMBER 2005)

From: Keith W., "Chronology Review for Daredevil: Father #3-5", postd 8 February 2006 on "Chronology Project" website (http://www.chronologyproject.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?t=1673; viewed 21 May 2007):

Daredevil: Father #3-5
Written and Drawn by Joe Quesada

Daredevil: Father #3
"Chapter 3: Orisha"
Written and Drawn by Joe Quesada

Appearances:
Daredevil, (Matt Murdock)
Sean Farrell
Maggie Farrell
Foggy Nelson

The Santerians:
- Eleggua, (aka Nestor "Nero" Rodriguez)
- Chango
- Oya
- Ogun
- Oshun

Synopsis:
Pgs. 1-10: Picks up right where we left off last issue. Matt has been attacked by the Santerians, a new group of superheroes in NYC, (their powers are magical/voodoo in origin). The leader of the Santerians, (Eluggua) says that Matt the Kingpin has cleaned up crime in Hell's Kitchen, but he's simply pushed all of the crime into other districts. Eluggua then asks Matt what he's going to do about Johnny Sockets, and Matt says nothing, since Johnny Sockets isn't killing people in Hell's Kitchen. Eluggua calls Matt a fake, and they fight. The Santerians beat up Matt and leave him alone. Matt wakes up in the alley later on, and stepping out onto the street, he hears word that Johnny Sockets has struck again...

Pgs. 11-32: The next day. Matt stays home from work and spends the day recovering from his wounds. He calls up Maggie and Sean Farrell, (his latest clients) and asks Maggie to meet him tomorrow. That night he goes out and tracks down the Santerians, (who are out on patrol), and he starts to battle them again, (to show them who the boss of Hell's Kitchen is).

References:
Pg. 1: Eleggua says, (to Matt), "It takes major cojones to sue a tabloid for revealing your secret identity." That happened in DD#36 and #37. Just another clue that this is set in the present day.

Pg. 11: Matt calls up Foggy and says, "Foggy, cancel all my appointments for today."

If Matt had appointments at his law firm today, then it's most likely sometime during the week, and not on the weekend, (lawyers don't often work on the weekend in the office).

Pgs. 13-18: There is a dream sequence flashback on these pages, showing a montage of images, but as it's a dream sequence, I don't believe these are real events the way the happened in Matt's childhood, (it's more like a nightmare).

Daredevil: Father #4
"Chapter 4: Street Angels"
Written and Drawn by Joe Quesada

Synopsis:
Pgs. 1-9: Picks up right where we left off last issue. Daredevil battles the Santerians again, this time defeating them. They call a truce and go their separate ways.

Pgs. 10-28: The next day. Matt meets up with Maggie Farrell in a park, to discuss her lawsuit. Matt brings up her husband Sean again, and flat out asks her if she's being abused by Sean, (she has bruises on her, as if she's been in a struggle). She denies it and fires Matt.

Cut to that night. Johnny Sockets kills his latest victim, (a man named Stanley Pheiffer). At Nero's residence, Nero is watching the evening news again. Barry Fling is interviewing the new Police Commissioner Chris Gonzalez about the Johnny Sockets crimewave.

Daredevil breaks into Nero's residence and says he's figured out that Nero is Eleggua, leader of the Santerians. He says he figured it out after shaking hands with Eleggua last night, and catching the scent of Nero's personal cologne, (which Matt remembers from having met Nero in person at fundraisers). Daredevil asks why Nero fight's crime, and Nero explains all in a flashback, (detailed below). Nero asks Daredevil to help catch Johnny Sockets, and Daredevil leaves, refusing to help.

As the issue ends, on Nero's TV, we see Randy Firkandi, Candy Cotton, Coco Dior, (all news reporters from Issue #2) discuss the breaking news that the police might have a suspect in the Johnny Sockets case...

References:
Pg. 9: Eleggua says to Daredevil, "You know, for a guy who just won a lawsuit against a tabloid for falsely claiming that he's a superhero, you sure are a trusting man."

That would be a reference to the lawsuit Matt filed against the Daily Globe, back around DD2 36. It was never stated in Bendis's comic that Matt won that lawsuit, (I thought it was dropped after the death of the Daily Globe's publisher in DD2 41 or 42), but I guess it was resolved in Matt's favor.

Pg. 16: Nero's secretary tells him, "I just came to remind you about the Stark fundraiser tonight." To which he tells his secretary to tell them he won't be able to make it. So Tony Stark, (or his company) is having some sort of fundraiser on this night...

Pg. 21-25p4: FB- Nero explains how his father truly died to Matt. In this flashback, we see a young Nero leading the Street Angels, (his gang of kids dedicated to crime prevention). They're on a stake out outside of a warehouse, and Nero sends the others away to go get the police, while he sneaks inside the warehouse. Inside, he finds a bunch of thugs holding a meeting with Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Also in attendance is Hector Rodriguez, Nero's dad and a city councilman, (who's apparently corrupt). The Kingpin orders Hector to kill his son, for spying on this meeting, but Hector turns around and starts to shoot at Fisk instead. But Fisk's men kill Hector and leave, (and they leave young Nero alive). Daredevil, (in his yellow costume) then bursts in through a window, to find only the body of Hector and young Nero/

As Daredevil appears here in his yellow costume, this is in Daredevil's early days. As Fisk appears here as well, I'd say this is before Amazing Spider-man #50, the first appearance of the Kingpin, (this is perhaps when Fisk was just starting to come to power... but it's also around when Daredevil was in his yellow costume... I'm not sure how well that lines up).

Pg. 25p5: FB - This one panel is a continuation of the flashback, but occurs a few days later. Young Nero is burning all of his father's documents, anything that might show he was involved with the Kingpin. Nero keeps his father's crimes a secret, but uses this revelation to go on a quest to become a superhero.

Pg. 27: Nero holds up today's Daily Bugle headline, which reads, "Johnny Sockets Strikes!" There's a smaller headline below that, which reads, "Mets slide continues". That would seem to indicate this occurs during Baseball season.

Daredevil: Father #5
"Chapter 5: Heeeeeere's Johnny!"
Written and Drawn by Joe Quesada

References: There's a series of flashbacks on the first 4 pages:

1p1: A shot of Hector Rodriguez's dead body, lying on the ground.

1p2-1p3: This scene shows the funeral for Hector, which is held a few days later. Nero is approached by some sort of voodoo priest while at the funeral.

1p4-4p2: Later on, this voodoo priest holds a ceremony with young Nero, granting Nero magical powers.

From: Christian Salazar (Associated Press), "Marvel Comics Go With Latino Superhero Team", published 20 May 2007 (http://www.myfoxcolorado.com/myfox/pages/Entertainment/Detail?contentId=3261464&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=7.1.1; viewed 21 May 2007):

NEW YORK -- Like many who become superheroes, Nestor Rodriguez's transformation is rooted in loss: His father, a civil rights activist and New York City councilman, is murdered in front of him.

Yet unlike other superheroes who gain their powers through the bite of a radioactive spider or through birth on an alien planet, Rodriguez is changed through an Afro-Caribbean religious ceremony.

The unusual twist is thanks to Marvel Entertainment Inc. editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, who in his seven-year tenure has shown an ability to push forward comic book tradition by encouraging controversial changes to characters and taking risks on portraying diversity.

"One of the things I don't do here is publish in fear," Quesada said recently, sitting at his desk at Marvel's midtown Manhattan headquarters, a day after attending the red-carpet premiere of the Spider-Man 3 movie.

Under his stewardship of Marvel's marquee characters, Captain America was assassinated, Spider-Man's identity was revealed and Rawhide Kid came out of the closet.

And then there is Eleggua, the character that Rodriguez becomes. Quesada says Eleggua and the team he leads, the Santerians, are the first all-Latino comic book team whose powers are derived from the Afro-Caribbean religion of santeria.

His drawings and sketches of the team from their cameo appearance in "Daredevil:Father" are currently the subject of an exhibit at the Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in Manhattan through July. He said he would return to the Santerians' story in its own series as early as next year.

Quesada writes of the Santerians in a statement for the exhibit that he hoped they would reflect "a more modern and accurate representation of the contributions Latinos from across the spectrum are making in our world today."

The idea of representing diversity has had a contentious history in comics. "Superhero fans are very conservative in their likes and dislikes," said Matt Brady, editor-in-chief of Newsarama.com, a popular comic book Web site. He said attempts to bring greater diversity to comics have often been met with skepticism.

When the modern-day superhero comic book was invented in the 1930s, the characters were white, reflecting the ethnicity of their creators.

By the early 1970s, comics were reacting to the civil rights movements and other changes in society by introducing characters more reflective of a pluralistic society. For instance, Marvel comics introduced Hector Ayala as the White Tiger and T'Challa, the heir to an African dynasty, as the Black Panther.

Still, characters of color have rarely anchored their own titles. In 2004, Marvel created its first comic featuring a Latina superhero, Anya Corazon, a Brooklyn teen with powers similar to Spider-Man. Her series only lasted a handful of issues.

Referring to Anya's series, Gerry Gladston, co-owner of Midtown Comics in Manhattan, said that comic fans didn't seem to take to the stories or art. "The people did not latch onto it. I do believe demand is there, though."

DC Comics, Marvel's main rival, has also featured its share of superheroes of color, notably one version of the Blue Beetle, a Latino teen who lives in El Paso.

Axel Alonso, Marvel's executive editor (the "consigliore" to Quesada's "don," as he describes it), said it is a struggle to balance the push for greater diversity in the comic universe with reader expectation. He pointed to Black Panther, which was re-launched in 2005 and called a success.

"I'm Latino. So is Joe," he said, referring to Quesada, who is the son of Cuban immigrants. "We're obviously interested in having Latino characters in projects."

But he said that such characters have to arise organically. "Joe's story in the Santerians works because the characters are rooted in his past," he said.

For the Santerians and the "Daredevil:Father" comic where they first appeared, Quesada drew on his own experiences. The story came to him as he sat at his father's bedside in a Miami hospital in 2003, reminiscing about his relationship with his father and his mother's practice of santeria.

Quesada, whose father passed away shortly after he came up with the idea for the story, said he thinks his dad would have liked the comic.

"I think he would have dug it," he said. "I think he would have been proud."


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