By Cy Beltran

Panels at C2E2 2021 kicked off Friday morning with the New LatinX Heroes for the 21st Century panel, an in-depth look at Primos, a new four issue miniseries from the Upshot imprint at Artists, Writers, and Artisans Studios (AWA) coming out this February. The pre-recorded interview was held between moderator and Word Balloon host John Siuntres, writer Al Madrigal (I’m Dying Up Here, All Things Comedy), artist Carlo Barberi (Deadpool, Spider-Geddon), and AWA EIC Axel Alonso.

The panel started off with a quick introduction to everyone working on the book. Al and Axel talked about how they met each other back when Axel was EIC at Marvel, bonding over their kids’ basketball careers, their shared Mexican-American heritage, and San Francisco sports fandom.

Over time, they both realized that they wanted to create more Mexican-American heroes for the mainstream. While DC and Marvel have a few, they wanted to make some that would really reach the forefront of pop culture and stand the test of time. Al pointed out how important it was to have Mexican-Americans actually creating those heroes, as opposed to the white people who are typically getting those opportunities. As a way to be more inclusive, the story will be published in both English and Mexican Spanish.

Carlo talked about how he became involved in the project, recounting a trip to NYCC where he ran into Axel at the AWA booth, where he was instantly drawn into the idea of joining the company and signed up quickly. When Al and Axel were looking for artists for the series, Carlo was their number one choice. They also teamed up with Brian Reber for colors, though he was not on hand at the panel.

Primos took years to develop, but the story comes down to this: While the rest of the world thinks that the Mayan civilization fell apart, the reality was that the civilization moved to space and began exploring the galaxy. After miscalculating when they should return to Earth, the Mayans return in 2022 and discover that their empire has fallen to ruin. Al compared the story to something a crazy drunk uncle would say — except this time, the uncle is actually right. 

Swearing revenge, the Mayans summon their descendants through the lineage of King Janaab to strike back against Earth. However, the descendants learn quickly that they need to fight against ancient Sicarios that have been awakened to destroy the Spanish conquerors and wreak havoc over Earth. 

The descendants consist of: Ricky, a South LA skater who wants nothing to do with superheroes; Javier, a Mexico City cop who has had his family taken from him; and Gina, a woman trying to keep track of her younger sister and escape from a bad family situation. All three characters unlock superpowers, and while Javier and Gina are able to handle these powers well, Ricky has to go through a learning curve to reach his full potential and mature as a person. 

The series is the first in what’s planned to be a continuing narrative, with Axel describing this initial arc as “Primos Assemble!” The characters will grow to a point by the end of the series where they may need superhero costumes and a base, but it was clear that readers would have to pick up the series to find out. Al and Carlo hope to bring the story to movies or TV one day, thinking of a world where Mexican-American kids can have their own heroes to look up to.

Al and Carlo did a lot of research separately to create the book, looking closely into Mayan history, artifacts, and weapons to make sure they could be as accurate as possible. They also tried to imagine what the world would have looked like had the Mayans stuck around through to the modern day, an aspect that the creators felt was very fun to dive into. Carlo brought up how much he loved how easy it was to research with Google, even if he missed working in a library from time to time.

They also talked about Al’s transition from writing TV and comedy to comics and how he reached out to fellow comedians Elliott Kalan (Maniac of New York) and Paul Scheer (Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History) for their advice and scriptwork. The experience has been a learning curve, but each issue has gotten easier to write, since Carlo and Axel were so willing to help out. Carlo talked about how much freedom he had in pencilling the story, since Al wasn’t used to writing elaborate fight scenes yet.

As the panel wound down, the talk moved to Al’s work outside of comics, with a role in Sony’s Morbius (in theaters January 28th) being his next big project outside of raising his teenage daughter. John congratulated everyone on the great work AWA has been doing and concluded the panel.

Primos #1 comes out February 2nd from AWA Studios. 

Miss any of our previous C2E2 ’21 coverage? Find it all here!