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Fighting Crime With a Wing and a Prayer : Comics: Finally, a Latino super-hero. The Lost Angel puts bad guys behind bars and the kids he rescues from gangs back with their families.

August 02, 1995|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

High above la Ciudad de Los Angeles, a heavenly, hulky hunk in the form of a mustachioed Latino with Bee Gee hair and a wingspan wider than a 747 soars to Earth to fight dastardly dudes.

KA-POW!

The Lost Angel, a suburban super-hero who listens to radio titan Rick Dees and takes meetings on Melrose, has landed in a green unitard and yellow knee-high boots at a newsstand near you.

"If anybody ever needed an angel it was L.A.," says creator George O. DeLorenzo, 46, of Hacienda Heights about his crime-fighter comic book that went on sale this week for $1.95 a pop.

The Lost Angel's turf is East L.A. His task: to rescue kids from grimy, greedy grown-ups like Nick Ferno--Satan's son--who tries to entice los nin~os into a life of drugs, gangs and guns.

"I'm passionate about The Lost Angel because just about everything I see and hear is about being negative. 'You can't do this without a gun, you can't do this without violence,' " says DeLorenzo, the father of a teen-age son.

But DeLorenzo's winged warrior is no avenging angel.

"The Lost Angel doesn't believe in killing or hurting someone. His thing is to get the bad guys behind bars and the children he saves back with their families and on the right direction in school."

DeLorenzo also is hoping his fearless flier will shake up the status of ethnic characters in comic-book land, a place where "there are no Hispanic heroes," he says during a lunch break from his receptionist job at Marvel Animation, producer of the "Spider-man" Saturday morning cartoon series.

Comic-book companies "don't want to deal with an ethnic hero," he says. He tried selling The Lost Angel to many, "but they wouldn't touch it. They said he was too corny, too good."

Eugene Henderson, an archivist with the San Diego Comic Book Convention, one of the biggest in the country, says Latino characters are rare.

"The thinking is that most of the reading public is white. More black characters now are coming into the field. But for some reason Latinos seem to be ignored," Henderson says. "I like The Lost Angel because he gives Latino kids someone they can relate to. There's not all this blood splattering over the pages."

It's the angel's nonviolent image (he averts fights by flapping his mighty wings, sweeping away villains) that has gained DeLorenzo supporters.

The Lost Angel shares the pages with two other DeLorenzo super-hero creations, Bad Luck to All Crime and Rick Dees, the Sentinel of Justice--and the namesake of the KIIS-FM radio personality who strongly supports The Lost Angel's positive image.

But soon, The Lost Angel will get his own comic book to be published in English and Spanish; in the last five months DeLorenzo has written 16 books that pit the evangel against evildoers.

DeLorenzo, president of King Comics Inc., a small company he operates out of his home, is discussing with producers a live-action movie based on Angel Lopez, the character's name.

And the Internet (what better place for an angel than in cyberspace?) beckons; a deal is being worked out with an on-line computer service.

*

DeLorenzo says that as a kid, he escaped into the fantasy of "The Shadow," "Superman," "Captain America" and "Batman," often drawing his favorite heroes on notebook paper, bags and napkins.

Later he began sketching and writing scripts for his own heroes, reaching into his collection of nearly 4,000 comic books, many dating from 40 years ago, for inspiration.

DeLorenzo, who grew up Italian in New Jersey, moved to Los Angeles five years ago with his wife and son. He soon found similarities in his and the Latino cultures, another reason to make his character Latino.

"As groups we are similar in terms of family values. We are close to family. We are family-oriented," he says. And besides, he already had an Italian super-hero, Bad Luck. So The Lost Angel had to be Angel Lopez.

In creating his hero, DeLorenzo didn't want him "to be a parody. I wanted him to be more dignified than all the other heroes out there, more levelheaded."

And someone that children, especially younger kids "caught up in oppression, gang violence, drugs, in dysfunctional families, just being let down," can relate to.

"I want kids who read the book to gain a role model and to believe in a guardian angel. If you're a kid in L.A. you never quite know if you're gonna make it back home from school," he says.

Angel Lopez almost didn't.

The Lost Angel's story line begins with Angel, a 16-year-old straight-A student, walking home from school excited about telling his mother he has just aced a test. As he shouts out the good news, a car careens around a corner and Angel gets caught in the cross-fire of a drive-by shooting.

When the teen-ager's soul reaches heaven, God tells him, "It is not your time." Angel awakens in his mother's arms and tells her that the bullets went into his books.

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