Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Comics, diversity and the ‘Asian superhero’

Silk #1

Silk #1

Comics | Keith Chow, editor of The Nerds of Color, responds to the New York Times opinion column that questioned the very concept of an Asian superhero, pointing out that there have actually been a number of successful Asian superheroes, several of whom debuted this year; that contrary to what the writer Umapagan Ampikaipakan says, there are a lot of superheroes in manga; and that the story of Superman, the original superhero, was essentially an immigrant story. “Coincidentally, Ampikaipakan derisively refers to Kamala Khan’s storyline in ‘Ms. Marvel’ as ‘merely another retelling of the classic American immigrant experience,’ and therefore not worthy of the universality of the superhero archetype,” Chow writes. “I guess immigrant experiences only matter so long as the immigrant isn’t brown.” [NBC News]

Keith Knight

Keith Knight

Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna asks why newspapers aren’t hiring black cartoonists, pointing to talented creators such as Keith Knight and Darrin Bell: “On one hand, cartoonists who can articulate firsthand racism are a valuable voice in the national conversation; indeed, Knight rightly received an NAACP History Maker award this year for his police-prejudice comics. Yet on the other hand, in this era of raised voices for Tamir and Trayvon and Freddie Gray, one journalistic stat stands out to me: Not a single full-time staff political cartoonist on a major American daily newspaper is black, according to the industry’s national professional organization.” [Comic Riffs]

Creators | Chag Lowry talks about his graphic novel Soldiers Unknown, a fictional tale about Native American soldiers in World War I. [Eureka Times-Standard]

Comics | Jennifer M. Contino interviews Craig Yoe about the making of his hefty retro anthology, The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories, which includes work by John Stanley and Walt Kelley as well as a rare comic by Richard Scarry. [Sequential Tart]

Year in review | Industry pundit Rob Salkowitz rounds up the most important comics and pop culture stories of 2015. [Forbes]

Best of the year | And Salkowitz is back at ICv2 with a list of his favorite comics, events and artist of 2015. [ICv2]



Best of the year | What’s the best of the best of the year? ICv2 compiles a list of the graphic novels that made almost everyone’s lists this year. [ICv2]

Conventions | The comics convention held in Bettendorf, Iowa, the weekend before Christmas sounds tiny — the local news reports that there were “dozens” of fans in attendance — but there were more than 60,000 comics on display. [WHO TV]

Retailing | LeAnn Sukman, manager of Bedrock Comics in Missouri City, Texas, talks about the influx of women fans; she has been working for Bedrock for 20 years and started off reading Archie and Richie Rich comics as a kid, moving on to The Sandman and Strangers in Paradise. [Houston Chronicle]

Retailing | The Baltimore-area comics shop Collectors Corner is opening a third location, in Mt. Vernon. Owner Randy Myers says his mini-chain is thriving because it carries a variety of items, including comics and graphic novels, figures, art supplies and games. [Baltimore Business Journal]



A New York Times Op Ed piece in this day and age is the equivalent of raw sewage. Chow shouldn’t waste time responding to it.

Americans should stop to be so egocentric, is be decade then asian have their own heroes is their own country.

“New York Times Op Ed piece in this day and age is the equivalent of raw sewage.”

As compared to Rupert (FoxNews) Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal or NY Post, which aren’t even good for compost OR sewage?

I just read the op-ed piece in the NYT and I actually think it raises some interesting questions. I have not read Chow’s response (it was not linked in the article and I did not have the time to go through NOC to find it, but I will do that later) so I can’t say anything about the points he has raised. But the point that the NYT writer is making is that Asian cultures are much more collectivist and shame/family oriented than US culture. What he is arguing is that US superheroes are very strongly based in their sense of individuality, something that will not work in the context of Asian cultures. He argues that the fact that the superheroes he grew up idolizing were American/white/individualist is what made them work. By contrast, Asian superheroes from Asian cultures could not operate in the same way. I think that this argument is wrong – individuality does exist in Asia, after all, and the very fact that the author felt drawn to US superheroes as a child says something – but it is an interesting argument and one that invites further debate. I don’t think that it says much about the experiences of Asian immigrants to the US or other Western states and that is something that author acknowledges when he talks about Kamala Khan. I, myself, as a comic fan of Asian background, think that Kamala and other non-white, Asian superheroes are long, long overdue. But this does not mean that the question of cultural context is not relevant. US values are not universal and it is worthwhile considering how a superhero originating in another culture with other cultural values would handle issues of conflict.

Kamala Khan is American, and her story emerges from the tradition of American superhero comics. Superficial differences aside, she shares more with Clark Kent, Peter Parker, or Steve Rogers than with any native Asian heroic character. I don’t see why any young fan today couldn’t react to Kamala Khan in precisely the same way as Umapagan Ampikaipakan reacted to white male American superheroes in his youth.

Captain Librarian

December 31, 2015 at 7:01 am


Yeah, I think the Op-Ed is wrong headed but raises some interesting points there too. I was disappointed to see none of the responses I saw interacting with that. One of them quoted several lines, responded, then abruptly stopped interacting with the piece as he got to that point, so it almost seemed like a willful choice to ignore a part of the argument.

Celebrating racially diverse superheroes is great but poor or deliberately bad reading comprehension in the service of your polemic grinds my gears.

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