March 1, 2019
In 1996 artist Laura Molina created and self-published a startlingly prescient comic book. She envisioned a world in which right-wing politicians, cynically lamenting a lost (that is, white) America, target minorities and immigrants and advocate building a border wall. In service to corporations and the superwealthy, they foment discord, deploying Confederate iconography and embracing neo-Nazis.
Molina was responding to the passage in 1994 of Proposition 187, a draconian ballot initiative designed to strip civil rights from undocumented persons in California. Fifty-nine percent of the state’s voters—a distressingly large majority—were in favor of the measure. Most of the law’s provisions were blocked by a federal district court as unconstitutional, triggering years of litigation and appeals by the state. When Gray Davis, a Democrat, became governor in 1999, he chose to settle the conflict through federal mediation. In July 1999 the state agreed to end its appeals, and the proposition was allowed to die.
In 1994 California, then led by a Republican governor, was home to the fearful, racist movement that created Proposition 187. Now, in 2019, California is the epicenter of the resistance, actively fighting the Republican-held federal government and boycotting other states that threaten civil rights. Though right-wing ideologies have been seizing power throughout the world, in California, at least, there is progress.
In The Jaguar, Molina portrays legal scholar Linda Rivera, who assumes the powers of her spirit animal and prowls the streets of Los Angeles, fighting white supremacy. Because of copyright protections, the CSRC can reproduce only a few panels here. If you want to know how the story ends, come to the CSRC Library and tell the librarian that you’d like to see The Jaguar.
Spoiler alert: She kicks ass.
All materials from the Self Help Graphics and Art Research Collection in the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.
Doug Johnson is the Archives Specialist at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. He was previously a processing archivist at UCLA Library Special Collections and at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library. He has a graduate degree in Film Studies from the University of Iowa and a BA in Religion from Williams College.