Loren Javier has done it again; Loren, who excells at exploring race relations in comic books as they specifically affect people of colour and Asian Americans in particular has written a wonderful article exploring the evolution of stereotypes in comics for his One Diverse Comic Book Nation column.
I participated in an interview with Loren to discuss the historical stereotypes of Fu Manchu and others, but Loren did an excellent job placing those stereotypes into context, incorporating characters like Jimmy Woo and Shang-Chi into the chronology for understanding how we have changed over time.
Here're the first two paragraphs:
When I was a child, I was constantly searching for images that represented me, but always had a difficult time finding them. The interesting thing is that people of Asian descent have been portrayed in cartoons and comics as long as the media has existed, but the earliest images were always that of the exotic. Jennifer Fang of Reappropriate and The Outsiders: Asians/Asian Americans in Comics gave me a bit of history of these images. She said, “If you take a look at the earliest Asians represented in American pop culture, you see a lot of exoticist depictions of Chinese and Japanese culture. Even back in the Silk Trade era, travelers to “the Orient” returned with exaggerated tales of hyper-feminized men wearing silk robes and overly-sexualized, masculinized, aggressive females who wore pants instead of skirts and dominated their submissive men.
This was a time when the East was first being discovered, few had a chance to see it for themselves, and the imagination of Europe was focused on this 'New World' that was, by definition, the complete opposite of the West…This fascination could only continue to exist so long as Asians remained fundamentally different, and this difference was underscored with quickly popularized dichotomies: female was male in Asia, male was female, the West was courageous and the East was cowardly, the West was intelligent and the East was bumbling, the West was familiar and the East was foreign, the West was human and the East was animal, the West was heroic and the East was evil.