For over twenty years, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez has delivered exemplary graphic designs and artistic visions to globally-renowned clients — as a means to create awareness of issues that trouble the Latinx community.
The virtuoso serves as the creative director and owner of the Brooklyn-based production and creative services studio, Somos Arte. With his expertise in instituting visual identities, graphic novel production, and art exhibition curation — Miranda-Rodriguez has shattered several barriers obstructing a view of the art world for Latinx people. His profound co-signs include Atlantic Records, Darryl DMC McDaniels, Columbia University, John Leguizamo, Sony Pictures, Marvel, and more.
The list of Miranda-Rodriguez’s masterful compositions combines the curation of Award-winning composer, lyricist, and performer, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s The Hamilton Mixtape cover artwork, and the critically-acclaimed and best-selling graphic novel La Borinqueña. “When people read our books I hope that they see a reflection of themselves. I want them to feel validated, recognized, and affirmed,” he told The Knockturnal.
Withal, the Puerto Rican philanthropist remains a man of the people. His work is rooted in integrity. “Our narratives are so often overlooked in mainstream media, so much that we’ve been marginalized as urban or diversity because the word ‘mainstream’ is synonymous with white,” Miranda-Rodriguez continued. His artistic activism has been documented by Latina, Washington Post CNN, Comin-Con, The New York Times, and NPR, to name a few. Moreover, his altruistic accomplishments are consistent and not limited to those attached to his professional pursuits.
Miranda-Rodriguez is timely! Most recently, the creative director assured his loyalists that his La Borinqueña character and Wonder Woman would protest side by side. The superheroes soon suited up to march and demand Governor Rosselló’s resignation in Puerto Rico. “We are an independent brand that stands for familia, cultura, y justicia,” he added.
Where there is injustice, Miranda-Rodriguez is creatively at the forefront, making sure Latinx voices are amplified and heard across large-scale platforms. The Knockturnal caught up with ingenious mogul before he received the 2019 Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award at this year’s Comic-Con Eisner Awards in San Diego. You don’t want to miss what Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez had to say.
The Knockturnal: Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico the anthology features contributions from writers and artists within the comic book industry, and many Latinx celebrities. Was there a standout contribution you were particularly surprised by at the beginning of its creation?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: When I started working on Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico, I was also undergoing chemotherapy for my cancer. It was challenging to work through my treatments because it left me immunocompromised. My doctor warned me about traveling to Puerto Rico. Still, I wanted to visit the island, to volunteer, and help. However, my health wouldn’t allow me.
So, I utilized my resource as best I could. A close friend who survived hurricanes Maria and Irma told me to help by talking about Puerto Rico. She asked me to continue the discourse about the humanitarian crisis affecting our beloved island, and so I did. I poured my time and energy into this project bringing together over 150 contributors.
I was blown away by the love and support from various celebrities both in Hollywood, and the comic book industry, that worked on this project. However, it was vital that I also give artists on the island an opportunity to tell their stories too. I, therefore, invited journalist Ivelisse Rivera (San Juan) to contribute her story. She was a journalist in Puerto Rico that among dozens of others, were laid off after Hurricane Maria. This occurrence was due to the blackout on the island.
She is a single mother of two, and her story, “Living in the Dark for 144 Days: A Graphic Novela” about Puerto Rico was a personal account of survival. I paired her up with two local artists, Eliana Falcon (Canovanas) and Francisco Javier Rodriguez (Caguas). Both of these artists worked on their contributions during the blackout with power generators. They are well-known throughout the island and have celebrated careers. Still, their stories are a true representation of the reality of Hurricane Maria and the power and resilience of Puerto Rican people.
The Knockturnal: La Borinqueña has teamed up with some of the most iconic comic book heroes from DC COMICS. What did your recent viewing party of Spider-Man Far From Home at the Williamsburg Cinemas mean to you?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: La Borinqueña is reaching a new level of recognition. This is not only from fans but also from major studios and publishers. D.C. Comics became aware of our work only one year after our existence. This development led to the crossover benefit team-up: Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico. Sony Pictures Entertainment recognized the impact and the very specific demographic that my work reaches — Latinx people, women, and families. They asked me to host a premiere of their films like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, too. On our film screening invitations, you’ll see La Borinqueña and Spider-Man team-up as an affirmation of the power of our brand. We are an independent brand that stands for familia, cultura, y justicia.
The Knockturnal: What do you want fans to feel when they see La Borinqueña?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: When people read our books, I hope that they see a reflection of themselves. I want them to feel validated, recognized, and affirmed. Our narratives are so often overlooked in mainstream media, so much that we’ve been marginalized as urban or diversity because the word “mainstream” is synonymous with white.
It’s important when mainstream media outlets highlight my work. Still, it is genuinely empowering when institutions like the Smithsonian exhibit La Borinqueña‘s books, art, and costume in their museums — alongside historical artifacts, and heroes like Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Batman. This shows the world that La Borinqueña truly does have value.
The Knockturnal: As the director and owner of Somos Arte Studio, you have implemented some groundbreaking work. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: I hope to continue publishing additional La Borinqueña books, curate art exhibitions. To add, more importantly, I wish to sustain and build up our La Borinqueña Grants Program. Doing so would allow us to continue to support local grassroots organizations in Puerto Rico. These organizations are performing heroic work every day. I also hope to continue my work as a public speaker.
I lecture at universities, museums, and across the U.S., engaging audiences in a real discourse around the decolonization of Puerto Rico. 2020 will be the 125th anniversary of the Puerto Rican flag, the original light blue triangle version, which was first introduced in New York City in 1895. This introduction came from Puerto Ricans living in exile after participating in El Grito de Lares in 1868, a staged revolution against Spain. March of 2020 will also be an imperative month in Puerto Rico because it will be when Puerto Ricans with U.S. citizenship get to vote in the Democratic primary. This development was moved up from a May date, earlier this year.
This will bring issues related to the island to the national discourse. Although island-born Americans can vote in a primary election, due to Puerto Ricans second class citizenship, we are not permitted to vote in the general election for President. Additionally, Puerto Ricans can not have an elected official in Washington D.C. that votes on legislation. This legislation affects the lives of over 3.3 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico.
The Knockturnal: You are a family man. How does having a tribe and support system uplift your art?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: My family is my superpower. My wife, Kyung, is my business partner. She is the executive director of our La Borinqueña Grants Program. My oldest son helps me run our table at Comic-Con and recently started cosplaying for our special events. At our most recent Sony Pictures screening, my son, Kian, cosplayed as Miles Morales — to give fans a one-on-one experience with Spider-Man. That truly made the event memorable.
The Knockturnal: La Borinqueña was a star at this year’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade. What does doing the work mean to you?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: When cultural institutions celebrate my work, it reminds me of how important it is to have created La Borinqueña. For generations, young people of color have grown up with heroes that don’t look like them, talk like them, or even have the same cultural references as them. Representation is critical in the development of a child, of a people. I dream that this new generation of young people will learn from my work. I hope they will be inspired to accomplish any goal they set their mind to.
The Knockturnal: You are gearing up to receive the 2019 Humanitarian Award at the 50th Anniversary of the San Diego Comic-Con for your philanthropic work in Puerto Rico. How are you preparing for this high honor?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: The San Diego Comic-Con is the industries penultimate event for popular culture. For this institution to recognize us for our work is truly humbling. However, I also recognize that this stage is affording me an opportunity. I will be able to take my message to a broader audience.
The award is a validation of the continued work that my family and I are committed to. As a Puertorriqueño living in the U.S., I recognize the access to resources that my fellow compatriots on the island do not have. It’s a great responsibility, and I do my best to live up to it for my patria.
The Knockturnal: You were raised in the Bronx, New York. In what ways do you feel the borough’s contributions to the culture remain invaluable?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: The birthplace of hip-hop is internationally recognized as the Bronx. B-boy icon and activist, Crazy Legs, is from the Bronx. He established Rock Steady For Life which produces the Puerto Rock Steady Music Festival. Graffiti legends and kings, the Tats Cru, have their studio in the Bronx. Casa Amadeo, antigua Casa Hernández is the oldest, continuously-occupied Latinx music store in New York City. The music store is based in the Bronx, having opened in 1941.
There is a rich cultural heritage in the Bronx that connects to the Puerto Rican diaspora and history. George Perez, comic book legend, and an icon who created close to 70 original characters for Marvel and D.C. Comics, as well as, Justice Sonia Sotomayor are both from the Bronx. It’s an honor to have been raised in the same borough that birthed and celebrates our global culture.
The Knockturnal: Lastly, what is to come at the 2nd Annual La Borinqueña Grants Award Ceremony?
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: My wife, Kyung, is currently working with her advisory committee reviewing applications for our 2019 grantees. We are being supported this year by San Juan’s Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz. She will be providing us with the historic Biblioteca Carnegie to host our ceremony. There will also be a dedication by Mayor Cruz for the first La Borinqueña mural in San Juan, my family’s hometown. This trip will especially be memorable for our family because we’ll be touring the entire island visiting our 2018 La Borinqueña Grantees from Culebra to Boquerón.