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U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia to launch a popular arts caucus at Comic-Con

Updated July 23, 2023 at 12:42 PM ET

How does the saying go? "Superheros, assemble!" Well on Sunday, that call-out goes political lawmakers, too.

"When nerds get together, we can do a lot of good things," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia of California.

Garcia plans to announce the formation of the Congressional Popular Arts Caucus at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Sunday.

When Garcia was sworn into office, he did it with his hand on a rare Superman comic book that he borrowed from the Library of Congress.

The superhero was a huge influence in his life, Garcia told NPR's A Martinez during an interview for Morning Edition. The comic book series helped Garcia learn English as young immigrant and acclimate to the country.

"As a young kid, I looked up to these heroes that you read about in the comics, and for me it was Superman," he said. "Also an immigrant, also from a strange place — had a secret identity. You relate to these things."

Garcia said the narratives in comic books, movies, video games and other popular arts drive our culture and national economy.

"For example, issues around piracy are really, really important," he said. "We want to be sure that we're protecting the rights of creators. Issues around censorship abroad are really critical for us. And of course, just making sure that we have a prepared workforce."

One the current events likely to be discussed at the panel event his weekend is the strike that actors and screen writers are participating in over residual payments on streaming content and the role of artificial intelligence and creative rights.

Under the strike rules, union members belonging to SAG-AFTRA or the Writers Guild of America cannot promote their projects at press or red carpet events, so there's little official promotion at Comic-Con for upcoming movies like Dune: Part Two or Blue Beetle, reports NPR's Mandalit del Barco on NPR's Weekend Edition.

Garcia said he's gotten commitments for the popular arts caucus from fellow comic book and video game enthusiasts in Congress: Jay Obernolte (R., Ill.) has a long history in the gaming space, Garcia said. Maxwell Frost (D., Fl.) also loves gaming and popular arts, he said.

"I've assembled, like, the biggest group of nerds in Congress," Garcia said. " I actually think that we kind of get it more than most folks."

The audio version of this story was produced by David West and edited by HJ Mai. The digital version of this story was edited by Erika Aguilar.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.