Forget Roy Lichtenstein. Acción Latina’s Juan Fuentes Gallery is full of giant comics. Black and white, dotted like vintage newspapers, but with manga stylings, “The 90s Matter in the Mission,” is an art show that transforms the archive of El Tecolote into XXL comics.

I, Yano Rivera, your comic-slinging-narrator, and R.A.I.C.E.S-artist-fellow didn’t just skim El Tecolote’s archive for this show; oh no. I went full data nerd, classified every 1990-1994 article into a spreadsheet, and fed it to a data visualization tool. The spreadsheet let trends emerge, like archaeological stratigraphy: arts & culture, politics, community profiles, crime, editorials, Latin America -these topics dominated El Tecolote’s pages in the first half of the ’90s.

Armed with this trend map, I curated and drew the XXL-sized comics. The Loma Prieta earthquake, First Gulf War, Encuentro del Canto Popular – each panel zooms into a microcosm of El Tecolote, and -with the accuracy and precision of the trends map- reflects the macrocosm of the whole.

That said, the show is not about analytics. It’s about citations. Each panel cites its sources to allow easy verification within El Tecolote’s archive. For instance, a panel about the aftermath of the Loma Prieta Earthquake includes the names of Bob Morales and Frank Velazques, from the Teamsters Union 350, and the SFPD, respectively, who helped out with earthquake relief efforts. If you search through El Tecolote’s archive, you can find the article referenced in the first issue of 1990, on page 11. And if you hunt around Google you can find pictures of them, and see my comic portrait is an exact approximation.

I chose a visual style, influenced by Katsuhiro Otomo (author of Akira) and the scale of Roy Lichtenstein (American pop artist) for their style and amplifying effects. They make art wild and big. My reasoning? I want people to understand, dementedly and largely, that newspapers are credible, reliable, authoritative, accurate, impactful, sources. I’m using Otomo and Lichtenstein, not so much for their visuals, but for their functions as amplifying & attention-grabbing mediums. The goal: to celebrate the professional spirit of ethics in journalism… specifically El Tecolote, and the community of the Mission District.

Some visitors unexpectedly find their ’90s selves (or their family) in my exhibition. One such example is Leticia Alcantazar, an environmental activist featured in a 1992 interview about lead poisoning. Upon seeing her likeness and words in the XXL comic on the wall, Leticia was surprised! After the initial shock, I thanked her for her contributions to the community. We appreciate and honor all the good people on our pages. Thank you for the work you do.

A cartoon of the art show, “The ‘90s’ Matter in the Mission,” showing a meeting with Leticia Alcantar and Yano Rivera. Illustration by Yano Rivera

“The 90s Matter in the Mission” is at Acción Latina, 2958 24th Street, with a closing reception on January 26th from 5 to 8 PM. As the 2023 R.A.I.C.E.S fellow, I, Yano Rivera, am deeply honored to draw history from the archive.