Los Angeles’ Zoot Suit Riots Are Reimagined by Latinx Cartoonist Marco Finnegan

Across America, there’s widespread unrest and growing racial tensions. On the morning of August 2, 1942, the body of José Gallardo Díaz is discovered unconscious and dying on a road near a swimming hole in Commerce, CA. Diaz dies in Los Angeles County General Hospital, without making a statement or even regaining consciousness. Despite the fact that the cause of his death is never determined and there’s insufficient evidence, 17 Mexican-American youths are arrested. On January 13, 1943, twelve of the defendants in what the tabloids called the “Sleepy Lagoon murder” are convicted of second-degree murder. They are sentenced to serve time in San Quentin Prison. 

The Sleepy Lagoon murder provides the backdrop for Latinx Cartoonist Marco Finnegan’s dynamic new YA graphic novel Lizard in a Zoot Suit, his first full-length work as a writer/artist, in which history, race, class, and science fiction collide in unexpected ways. The all-new, original graphic novel is set in LA’s Chavez Ravine neighborhood, two decades before the neighborhood was torn down to make way for Dodger Stadium. In June 1943, long-simmering tensions between the Chicano community and white servicemen led to the Zoot Suit Riots, fueled by months of fear and tension following the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial.

In Lizard in a Zoot Suit, twin sisters Flaca and Cuata have a problem. It’s bigger than being grounded by their strict mother. It’s bigger than tensions with the soldiers stationed nearby. And it’s shaped like a five-foot-tall lizard. When this lost member of an unknown underground species needs help, the sisters must scramble to keep their new friend away from a corrupt military scientist―but they’ll do it in style. 

With striking two-color artwork and snappy dialogue, Marco Finnegan’s full length graphic novel debut re-imagines a notorious event in LA’s history to deliver a timely story about race and social unrest.

Lizard in a Zoot Suit