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Step Aside, Avengers! New Superhero Takes On Ecological Threat

When Leslie I. Landis embarked on a trip to China, she had no idea that her travels would serve as the genesis for the world’s newest superhero.

But as she observed China’s diverse environment, inspiration struck, and Landis’ concerns about climate change, along with her vivid imagination, combined to give birth to Chendell – a superhero who’s as dedicated to saving the natural world as Spider-Man and Captain America are to saving humanity.

Landis introduced readers to her daring ecological crusader in CHENDELL: A Natural Warrior(, a novel for young people – and older readers as well – that is the first volume in a projected series.

Landis’ hero is a bit outside the norm and, as superhero creators go, so is she. Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster, for example, were teenagers hooked on pulp magazines and comic-strip heroes when they dreamed up Superman. Landis, in comparison, is a 75-year-old Renaissance woman whose talents and passions up to this point have led to her involvement in government, education, finance, television, and marriage and family therapy.

“I wrote this book to inspire young people and people of any age – and do so through compelling characters who were empowered and determined to make a difference,” Landis says. “My story is more than a fight to save our environment. I had fun putting my vision on the written page and making the characters, their dreams and their efforts as real and relatable as possible.”

Creating Chendell – who is really two exceptional young people merged into one super-powered being – was a Stan Lee meets Rachel Carson moment for Landis.

“A superhero is an expression of our best desires to solve our worst nightmares,” Landis says. “So why not a real-world problem? Climate change is at the top of my list. Droughts and floods, hurricanes and storm surges, rising sea levels and plastic ocean garbage.”

Landis’ life reflects an ability to relate to people in many different fields, and in her novel she connects with younger generations, whose world may be adversely affected in the coming decades by the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

She worries about the health and psychological impact of environmental issues on millennials, Generation Z and subsequent generations, and says it’s incumbent on the older generations to listen to their concerns.

“Every day, environmental degradation and the effects of global warming are topics in the media,” Landis says. “There’s an interconnectivity and value of all life, the need to protect our homes, each other, and our planet. But the concept that humans can control nature has only led to the destruction of the natural world.”

Beyond her novel’s environmental message, there’s also a gender-equality theme. Most superheroes have another identity, such as Bruce Wayne for Batman and Diana Prince for Wonder Woman. Chendell has not one but two other identities, being the combination of Jamie Chen and Robin Dell, the novel’s equally strong male and female protagonists. Landis says she wanted to showcase how men and women can work together to solve our biggest problems.

“Why shouldn’t 50 percent of humankind – women – have an equal role in this fight?” she asks. “That is the version of the superhero genre that I wanted to tell.

“Not only are Jamie and Robin equally educated and both are pursuing important career goals, but both of them have super powers on their own. And Chendell – as a combination of Robin and Jamie – is the most gender-equal superhero ever.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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