12 years after his debut in Avengers: The Initiative, the teenage hero Reptil is stepping out on his own and becoming, in Marvel Comics' own words, its "next biggest hero."
May 26's Reptil #1 (of 4) by writer Terry Blas and artist Enid Balám will delve into the life of Reptil, who is known to friends and family as Humberto Lopez ('Beto', for short). In the wake of the new US law which bans teenage superheroes, Reptil is questioning what makes a hero - and more importantly, who you're a hero for.
Writer Terry Blas spoke with Newsarama about this impending solo spotlight for Reptil, its ties into the 'Outlawed' event, and how he's looking to take advantage of the wildly creative idea of a teenager with dinosaur powers while keeping it down to earth with Beto and his family.
Newsarama: Terry, this is your first Marvel project. What made you want to work for the company?
Terry Blas: Writing for Marvel was a goal that I had hoped to one day achieve but I didn't think it would come when it did. I've always wanted to work with Marvel because Marvel comics were the first ones I ever sought out and read as a kid. I imprinted so strongly on so many Marvel characters and I feel that they are relatable and believable, like Stan Lee said, "the world outside your window."
Reptil #1 preview
Nrama: And why Reptil in particular?
Blas: Honestly, I hadn't heard of him before this. And when I was approached with the possibility of writing him I read everything I could that he had been in. What I was left with was the thought: 'How is this character not the most popular character ever? He's a kid who can turn into dinosaurs!'
I also felt that if I hadn't heard of him, I had a great opportunity to help people be more aware of a Mexican-American hero. That visibility and representation is important and it's part of the story too.
Nrama: All the young heroes of the Marvel universe have been affected by the Kamala Law,which bans teenage vigilantes. How has Humberto's life in particular been affected by the events of 'Outlawed'?
Blas: There are a few ways.
I don't want to give them all away but when the book starts it helps him feel like now is the time to help his grandfather, who is getting older, move in with his Aunt and her kids. He figures, if he's not supposed to or allowed to use his powers then it might be time to step back and just focus on family. Obviously, it doesn't exactly go like he plans.
Nrama: Now as a solo hero, what are some stories you were able to explore that maybe a team book wouldn't have the panel time to discover?
Blas: I feel like hopefully what we are able to achieve is a story about what it means to be a hero to a community that needs to see one. What it takes to be strong and in control. Focusing on Humberto allows us to get to connect with his character more deeply which I think strengthens a reader's interest in any team he may be part of in the future.
Nrama: Who are some of Humberto's supporting cast members?
Blas: We definitely get to meet Humberto's extended family.
There's Vicente (or Papa Vic, Humberto's grandfather. And Beto's aunt, Gloria (or Tia Glo).
(We love nicknames in the Latinx community.)
Gloria is a doctor and the sister of Beto's mom. Also, the characters I'm most excited about are the twins, Julian and Eva, Beto's cousins who are excited he's come to stay with them. I don't want to say too much but there will also be something in there for longtime fans of Jack Kirby.
Nrama: Humberto has a pretty unique power set. How did you want to utilize his abilities here?
Blas: I definitely wanted to 'do all the hits,' if you will. T-Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops. But I also wanted to explore how turning into different dinosaurs could be used for different purposes. It's one thing to fight hard, but when Humberto combines that with fighting smart, I think he's pretty unstoppable. Also, there's the idea that when he turns full dinosaur he loses control and the dinosaur mind takes over. That might be explored as well.
Nrama: For Avengers Academy fans, are there any nods to that run or the team in general?
Blas: A few. We do see some in the preview that's been released, and some of what has happened to Beto during Avengers Academy might come into play a tiny bit, but it's not entirely the focus.
Nrama: Are there any threads from his previous appearances you wanted to pick up on?
Blas: Now if I told you that you wouldn't need to read the book as much, would you? But yes. I won't tell you what.
Nrama: Fair enough, what have you learned about the character throughout writing his solo book?
Blas: I think what I've learned about Beto throughout writing Reptil is that we shouldn't forget he's still a kid.
Sometimes I think we as a reader, or even him as a character, forget that he's just 16. He's still not always mature. He still doesn't always know the best thing to do. He still likes things other 16-year-old boys like.
I've also learned that I think he's hiding a lot of pain. He's had traumatic experiences at such a young age and that's affected him in ways we haven't always seen.
Nrama: Marvel has billed Reptil as their "next big hero", how do you feel like he grows into this role?
Blas: Again, I want to be careful about what I say because I think that's sort of this whole story. It's already been said that with Kamala's Law in place, he thinks now might be a good time to leave heroing behind. But he has to learn that, in order to be a hero, you just have to be yourself and be visible. If you're a hero, who are you a hero for?
Nrama: This is a limited series, but are there any plans for more Reptil stories following this? Would you like to write more Reptil?
Blas: I'm not super aware of more Reptil stories being planned, but I can assume Marvel wouldn't want to let this character just fall into obscurity, especially when the Latinx/Latine community is the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, but we have the least amount of representation in books, movies, and television.
Before COVID-19, our community spent the most money on movie ticket sales every weekend, nearly 25%, so that's an entire quarter of the population who will likely support stories like Reptil if they are made aware that they exist.
But the answer is yes. Yes, I'd definitely write more Reptil. I love him.
Nrama: Are there any other Marvel heroes you're dying to write?
Blas: I believe in stating what you want, putting it out there into the universe, and working to make it happen. So, in the spirit of that: I love the X-Men and anything related to them. I was a big fan of Generation X as well. I'd write any of that.
I love Champions. I think it's my favorite title right now.
America Chavez's new book by Kalinda Vazquez and Carlos Gomez is already incredible and giving me everything I want from a story about her. I'd love to write her one day.
And lastly, I was so blown away by Children of the Atom by Vita Ayala and Bernard Chang. I already love those kids and the book was so terrific and surprisingly heart-wrenching. I can only hope to write something that good one day.
Nrama: For fans of your previous work, what do you think they'll enjoy about Reptil?
Blas: I would hope that fans of my previous work like Dead Weight or Hotel Dare, would expect to find teens, queer characters, cool young women who don't take anyone's crap, witty dialogue, magic, and Mexicans. And you know, Reptil has all of that. I expect that hopefully, they and new readers alike won't be disappointed.
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