‘Anybody can be a hero’: Local writer’s comic books promote inclusivity, empower LGBTQ readers

REDMOND, Wash. — For some, comic books are collectors’ items. For others, they are an escape through reading.

But for Fernando Velez, they’re a tangible way to provide empowerment and inclusivity.

“Here, we celebrate humanity as it is,” said Velez. “Inclusive, diverse, full of color.”

For the last eight years, Velez and partner Waiyen Wong have been tirelessly building the Kraven universe and using their two franchises, “Class6′' and “Loas of Kraven,’’ as forces for good — creating superheroes they never had growing up.

“To send a message that anybody can be a hero, that we all matter, we’re part of something bigger,” said Velez. “I decided to create ‘Class6,’ which is about a group of heroes that just happen to identify as LGBTQ, but they have to forgive humanity for the way we’ve been treated.’’

He wants the world to know that these are not your typical comic books — a reminder he gave his team before the first publication.

Aliens and superheroes aside, at the core, each Kraven plot is based in dark reality, covering difficult but meaningful topics like rape, domestic violence and hate crimes.

“We decided to highlight issues that impact our community, to create awareness of what we go through,” explained Wong. “So we don’t sugarcoat the topics we talk about.”

Velez told KIRO 7′s Gwen Baumgardner that his family didn’t accept his coming out, so he left home — moving from Puerto Rico to the U.S. at just 17 years old.

He then overcame homelessness, drug abuse and three suicide attempts, before he found stability, love and a purpose.

“One day I decided I had to stand up for myself,” said Velez. “And that’s when I became powerful. I became (in) control of my life. So for those watching, you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid there is a big community out there that will support you.”

The Kraven team is small but mighty. They have artists and creators around the world, but much of the writing, web design and shipping is done from a home office in Redmond.

While they might not be saving the world in the style of Superman, Velez believes the superheroes they create do hold some real power.

“I have one of the readers who told me that when he was feeling like committing suicide, it was a comic book that stopped him because if the character didn’t give up, why he should give up,” said Velez. “To see that, to hear that, it was a validation of how important it is to have representation in comics.”

He says stories like that validate the work they do, as they continue to compete with some of the larger, more established publications.

“I don’t measure success by how much we make, but by how many people’s lives we can change,” said Velez.

Velez calls this a purpose, not a job, where he fights to help the world one page at a time.