Shouldn’t we all aspire to love ourselves? I mean, really love ourselves… regardless of our age, race, sexual orientation, physical limitations, disabilities, and the shape of our bodies? More importantly, how freeing would it be to
ignore reject what society thinks or the labels people place on others? Spend some time with the women from Chunky Girls Comics & Universe and they will have you believing it’s possible.
PopCultHQ’s Kimmy Watts and I got the privilege of meeting and interviewing two amazing and inspiring individuals while at Wizard World Sacramento (June 17-19): Marisa Garcia and Tina Cervantes. Founded by Marisa in 2010, Chunky Girls Comics & Universe is making an impact in Northern California and their message is spreading. A message of acceptance, of loving oneself, of doing what you love despite what others think. If you love it… live it! Like their mission statement says,
“Chunky Girl Comics is changing the standards of what is beautiful in the world of comics, pop culture and cosplay!”
What started as a comic book, entitled “The Heavy Response Unit (H.R.U.),” created by Marisa featuring more realistic and true-to-life characters to which she could relate (“I don’t know anyone who looks like Wonder Woman“), it quickly became something more. Something bigger. Something with purpose. To change people’s mentality on what is beautiful. On how to truly love who you are and what you are passionate about. Throughout this interview, you will find that nothing is standing in the way of these women getting their message out and doing their part in changing the way we look at everything, from body image to diversity to empowerment, as well as getting people to simply accept one another.
Here’s a look at PopCultHQ’s time spent with these most beautiful ladies who certainly left an impression on us at Wizard World Sacramento.
PopCultHQ: I’m here with Chunky Girls Comics & Universe here at Wizard World Sacramento.I’m joined by founder Marisa Garcia and fellow cosplayer Tina Cervantes. Welcome ladies. Good to see you. Thank you for speaking with us.
Marisa: Oh thank you. We appreciate it. We’re having a good time.
PopCultHQ: You’re both locals here, right?
Tina: Stockton, California.
Marisa: NorCal. We travel.
PopCultHQ: Awesome. Do you just travel to conventions? Do you stay local? Are you expanding? How do you get your message out?
Marisa: You know, we would love to expand. We started out locally with local conventions and comic conventions: StocktonCon, Sacramento Comic Con, Sac-Con, and of course when Wizard World came here, we were like, “We gotta get on with Wizard World.” Generally, budget-wise, if we can drive it, we’ll go. We did Wizard World Reno which was…
PopCultHQ: Last November?
Marisa: Yeah November.
PopCultHQ: I remember. I was there for PopCultHQ.
Marisa: Yeah, we did a panel there. The furthest we’ve gone is Stan Lee’s Comikaze down in L.A. It’s not just conventions. It’s branched off into geek fashion. I’ve spoken at anti-bullying rallies for school districts. It’s expanded out.
Tina: (to Marisa) You were a part of the Children with Special Needs.
Marisa: Yes! In Tracy, CA, there’s a beauty pageant for kids with special needs. They’re in their third year. I’ve been asked to come all 3 years and give an inspirational-type message. That’s been really cool. It’s not normally an event we do, but we accommodate.
PopCultHQ: Sure. You never know who you’re going to connect with. Maybe that’s not your typical audience but you could certainly reach someone.
Marisa: Absolutely! I got asked a couple of years ago, “Do you do school workshops?” and I kind of had this look on my face like, “Uh, no.” But then I kinda changed my mind and said, “Well yes I do. Here’s my information.” I went home and developed a workshop on body image and anti-bullying for elementary to high school kids. I’ve actually gone to some schools in Stockton and done these presentations, hands-on workshops, all superhero-themed. It’s been really cool! Because I never thought that… that was never the plan, but if people want it? We are just following the river wherever it takes us.
Tina: And to fill a need.
Marisa: Right. It was through the Lincoln Unified School District and there was a need for it. It was really cool.
PopCultHQ: That’s great. You have these different venues or locales you speak at whether it’s a convention or a school or whatever kind of engagement. Not only that, but I saw you have been covered well by the media these last few years, with magazines, and a piece on Good Morning Sacramento?
Marisa & Tina: (in unison) Good Day Sacramento.
Marisa: The Fox40 morning show, KTVU in the [San Francisco] Bay area. That was a huge deal for me because I grew up watching KTVU.
Tina: And I grew up on Good Day Sacramento. And that was awesome!
Marisa: And it’s really cool to have people seek you out, seek us out. In the beginning, you’re the one who’s always finding people like, “Who wants to talk to us? We’ll talk to anybody!” So the last year, year and a half, it’s been really awesome to have people, and it blows me away every time, people who want to talk to us.
PopCultHQ: So word of mouth, the media, news articles for magazines. If they see you in person, that’s getting people to come to you and seek you out. And obviously it’s been very receptive. That people love your message.
Marisa & Tina: (in unison) Yes, definitely.
PopCultHQ: On your Facebook page, in the Description found in the About section, you wrote, and I just love: “Comic Book Superheroes with curves who want the world to know that superheroes don’t have to be skinny! Superheroes, motivational speakers and plus models!“
So we’re about to enter your panel and you are going to be covering body image and diversity in comics, cosplay and pop culture, which is what we’re all about. 😉 What is your overall message? Your underlying message of, “This is what we are trying to do. This is why we exist. This is why we tour around.“
Marisa: Our biggest thing is acceptance. It started off with body image. When I was growing up, there were no superheroes that looked like me, so I made myself into one. Then I created this group of superheroes that looked like the people in my life. I don’t know anyone who looks like Wonder Woman. I don’t. So I created characters based on the people I know and see every day. So our overall message is [one] of acceptance. Whether it’s age, skin color, body type or size…
Marisa: Ability. I saw a great Little Mermaid cosplay today (at Wizard World Sacramento), a woman in a wheelchair. Clearly you can’t walk around in a fishtail, but she’s in a wheelchair, so you use what you have.
Tina: You adapt to your surroundings.
Marisa: Whether it’s sexual orientation, gay, straight, I don’t care. If you have a costume, or whatever, that you want to wear? Wear it! You’ll see on the panel today my friend Patrick [Loranger], who does drag. His drag name is Charity Kase and he’s here today in his Harley Quinn drag costume. It’ll be great for people [during the panel] because I want everyone to feel included. When you look at us, or you’re out somewhere and you find someone who looks like you or reminds you of you, or “I got big thighs like her and I’m going to rock my costume because she does!” So our overall message is acceptance. All of it.
Tina: Every single part of what we do is acceptance and not be afraid of yourself because a lot of people are afraid, like, “Oh my God, if I put that on, I’m going to be pointed at or laughed at.” Don’t be afraid of that, because [when you are cosplaying] you are that person, yet at the same time you’re not that person. You get to put on a costume and be someone else for a day. Embrace that. Don’t be afraid of yourself. Don’t be afraid of doing what you love just because you are “insert adjective here.”
PopCultHQ: Yeah! I love it! So how did you (to Tina) become associated with Marisa and Chunky Girls Comics & Universe?
Tina: I was actually a fan from the very beginning. I still have one of the original HRU (The Heavy Response Unit) comic books.
Marisa: That’s awesome!
Tina: I bought it at Big Wow!, I think it was.
Marisa: Was it Big Wow!? Oh my gosh!
Tina: Yes. It wasn’t even in Stockton. It was in San Jose.
Marisa: That was 2013 probably.
Tina: Yeah, something like that. I started cosplay in probably 2014 and when Marisa asked me, I was like, “Yes. I am on board 100%. I’m totally into this. Hook, line and sinker. I don’t even care if I’m in the book.”
Marisa: It’s coming. Just not yet. 😉
Tina: I’m just happy to be a part of it and spread this message of self-acceptance and acceptance in general because so many people don’t have that. And people look at me and say, “Oh you’re so confident, you’re so this, you’re so that.” Well, you can be too! It’s not just me. A lot of it is ‘fake it ’til you make it.’ I was good at faking it for a long time. I don’t have to fake it anymore.
PopCultHQ: That’s awesome. Good for you!
Tina: So when Marisa asked me, I was very, very pleased.
Marisa: I have four main characters in the book. I had 4 women, me being one of them and three others, that would go to these conventions. But we couldn’t always be there due to work schedules, family life and all that, so I started thinking, “You know, I don’t just need characters from the storyline, but just women who represent the message as a whole.” Tina was one of the first I thought of because… we live locally, so if no one has a ride or whatever it is, living locally makes it really easy. Tina has been a supporter since the beginning. I’d see her at conventions. I love that she’d show up with her whole family, husband and kids, in costume, or out of costume. It’s great to see that. Tina really represents what we are trying to portray. So I sent her this message like, “Hey, Tina! So I got an idea…” and she was like, “Yup!”
Tina: Yup. Whatever it is. You need me to scrub toilets?
*** everyone laughing ***
Marisa: It was really a great fit. Her husband’s a great help too because some conventions we have a booth. We don’t have a booth here, but when we do, we get called off for a [photo] shoot here, an interview there, or a panel. So we need someone helping out at our table. He’s been our “booth babe.”
Marisa & Tina: (in unison) Ben the Booth Babe!
Marisa: So it’s become a family project.
Tina: I have a 12-year old daughter and a 10-year old son and my son is autistic, so I have a special needs child. With Marisa doing the school circuit and the special needs beauty pageant, it really sung to me. It really affected me because special needs affects my everyday.
PopCultHQ: Of course. It’s something close to you. Very close to your heart.
Tina: Yes, definitely.
Marisa: So really it was a match meant to be.
PopCultHQ: Nice! So just two more quick questions to ask you both. First, what is your favorite character to cosplay?
Tina: Hellboy. Usually I’m painted red but it’s hot, the makeup is sticky, the boots are about 10 lbs. apiece, and I have a giant trenchcoat.
Marisa: (pointing to her cosplay accessories) And this is real. This is not plastic.
Tina: Yes, this is all metal so it’s very heavy. It’s not something small like, you’re not cosplaying Harley Quinn where you can put on the jumpsuit and walk around and you’re Harley Quinn. I have to carry all of these accessories around.
PopCultHQ: Cool. So for Tina it’s Hellboy. Alright, Marisa?
Marisa: I do like my Minnie Mouse. It’s nice to be bubbly and happy and the kids love it. I do love my Princess Tiana (The Princess and the Frog). I’m a Disney nut so I tend to stick with a lot of Disney characters. I do love being Jasper from Steven Universe. It’s kinda cool being the big, bad witch, you know with big hair and boots. It’s nice to be the bad guy sometimes.
Marisa: Ugh. There’s so many!
PopCultHQ: Okay, so take away everything. Say there’s no budget and money’s not an issue, because often that’s the limitation. So what character would be at the top of your list?
Tina: I would probably do Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters.
PopCultHQ: Really? Cool.
Tina: I’m an 80s child through and through. He was my very first nerd crush. When Harold Ramis passed away (2/24/14), it… I had to leave work. It seriously hurt me! So Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, with the full pack…
PopCultHQ: Yeah, yeah And the patch (on his uniform) with his name…
Tina: Oh yeah. And everything works and lights up, and the trap (for ghosts) opens. Yeah!
PopCultHQ: That’s it right there!
Marisa: You know, that’s a tough one. I don’t know if I could answer it. But I do have one. You know in the new movie “Pan“? The one that just came out? Hugh Jackman’s character Blackbeard. I would love to do a chunky female version of Blackbeard. The costuming on that movie was freakin’ amazing. So that’s my current one. I mean, I could list every Disney character, but yeah, Blackbeard would be my dream. All that fabric!
*** everyone laughing ***
Tina: Here I am talking about how heavy Hellboy is…
Marisa: … and I’m like, “I want the hair! I want the cowl!”
*** more laughter ***
PopCultHQ: Well thank you both so much for taking the time to talk with us!
Tina: Thank you!
Marisa: Thank you! This was fun!
To learn more about Chunky Girls Comics & Universe, be sure to check out these links and be sure to follow these amazing women with a powerful message. In this interviewer’s eyes, the biggest thing about Marisa and Tina is their hearts.
Chunky Girls Comics & Universe – Social Media Outlets