12th Oct 2011
Luchadoras by Peggy Adam
Luchadoras is not your average graphic novel. In the place of Superman, Captain America and their ilk, we find an unlikely hero in the form of Alma, a Mexican woman trapped in a miserable marriage with little prospect of an exit.
The author, Peggy Adam, took the inspiration for Luchadoras from the spate of gruesome murders which have blighted the Mexican border city of Juárez for the past two decades.
The victims are nearly always women, and local residents believe around 5000 murders have taken place since 1993.
The cause is largely perceived to be the misogynistic culture prevalent in the area, with the dead having invariably been subject to brutal sexual and physical abuse before being dumped, and often husbands and boyfriends are the prime suspects.
Whilst Alma’s story was born in Adam’s imagination, her moving tale acts as a proxy for the everyday existence of many of Juarez’s female population.
Luchadoras straddles fact and fiction as Adam borrows from real life, with elements such as the arrest of several members of the street gang Los Rebeldes reflected in the narrative.
Using the framework of reported murders and accounts from locals, Adam has successfully managed to convey the prevalence of the issue without seeming like she was just going after the shock value.
‘Luchadoras‘ is the term applied to female members of the Mexican wrestling community – an apt title for a novel which focusses on a character who is constantly fighting against her husband and struggles against the numbing inevitability of the life she has been born into.
As women are murdered around Alma, it is clear that the females of Juárez are all victims, spending their days mourning their friends and colleagues and fearing that they may be next.
Adam’s use of a single woman as an example of this desperate life allows for a deeper level of empathy, and the protagonist’s sense of hopelessness is mirrored in the feeling of futility the reader is left with upon completion of the novel.
Although Adam has written nine books, Luchadoras is the first which has been translated into English from her native French. Whereas translation can often make or break a novel, this was not such an issue with Luchadoras as Adam has paired the images with pared down text so well that the reader cannot fail to grasp the serious message of the book.
Adam has developed a strong personal interest in the situation and it is her empathy and insights which makes this graphic novel so much more powerful than other examples of the genre. The originality of tackling such a brutal subject in graphic novel form has worked in Adam’s favour and backs up the old adage that sometimes, less is more.
Published by Blank Slate Books, Luchadoras is out now, and is available from Amazon for £11.69.
Recommended for: Fans of graphic novels who prefer real life heroes to superheroes.
Other recommended reading: Those who wish to enter the world of graphic novels should check out Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life by Paul Gravett. For further reading around the brutal murders of this Mexican city, try The Dead Women of Juárez by Sam Hawken.