When I was a kid, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of mainstream Asian American superheroes within my comic books. Most of these characters were reductive stereotypes — ninjas, mystics, or martial artists — and even so, I gravitated to them. I yearned for stories that might add fuel to the fires of my own childhood imagination wherein someone like me might play the role of the superhero. Frustratingly, few of the comic books on my shelves reflected the inner superhero of my fantasies.
This is an experience shared by many nerds of colour, including across the spectrum of the Asian American fandom. Among modern Asian American comic fans, the exasperating dearth of meaningful Asian American comic book characters we experienced during our childhood has forged a shared love-hate relationship with contemporary comics: many of us share a love for the few Asian American characters of our youth (like Jubilee) while we continue to challenge contemporary comics to do better when it comes to diversifying our comic book superheroes.
Thankfully, one comic writer has risen to that challenge. This Wednesday, Totally Awesome Hulk #15 drops. In it, writer Greg Pak (whom I’ve been a fan of since before his mainstream comic writing days when he made the award-winning independent film, Robot Stories) pulls together what seems to be the world’s first (and largest) Asian American superhero team-up in mainstream comic book history.
And, I gotta say: childhood Jenn is all kinds of loving it!
Spoilers ahead! Grab a copy of Totally Awesome Hulk #15 and read it before continuing on!
2015 has been an interesting year for me.
I’ve always identified as a proud fangirl – a lover and connoisseur of all things in nerd and pop culture. I’ve routinely brought my fandom into my writing with pieces that explore the intersection of race and gender with film, television, and comic books. I’ve done my fair share of live-tweeting Walking Dead episodes, and I’ve geeked out with the best of them over comic book superheroes and their live-action incarnations.
But in the last year, I’ve grown disenchanted with mainstream media. I’ve grown to hate the hype. Above all, I’ve developed a frustration with mainstream studios, and our preoccupation as communities of colour with major studio blockbuster films as a backdrop for enacting social justice and racial equality.
Vishavjit Singh, creator of Sikhtoons, has created a cartoon expression of our collective outrage with regard to the recent apparently hate-motivated assaults of Sikh and Indian American men. The cartoon above references the September 8th, 2015 attack on 53-year-old Inderjit Singh Mukker by a teenager who allegedly called Mukker “terrorist” and “bin Laden” before repeatedly punching the older man in the face; Mukker was hospitalized with a fractured cheek, and multiple lacerations and contusions. Police originally investigated the assault as a hate crime. On Friday, the DuPage County state’s attorney announced that the incident was mere road rage, and that they were declining to prosecute the teenaged suspect for a hate crime.
Singh also produced a second cartoon this week, referencing the recent mistrial declared in the federal civil rights case against Alabama police officer Eric Parker.
A mere week after I wrote a post swearing off of sharing fan news, the fandom insidiously pulled me back in.
This week, rumours began circulating that Tilda Swinton was in casting negotiations for Marvel’s upcoming Dr. Strange film starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role. Swinton is being considered for the role of the Ancient One, a nearly-immortal Tibetan sorcerer who becomes the young Dr. Strange’s mystic tutor and personal mentor.
That’s right. Tilda Swinton — a British actor whose Wikipedia article notes that she can trace her Anglo-Scot heritage back to the Middle Ages and who is about as far from “Tibetan” as one might get — may be cast to play a racebent and genderbent version of one of the few Asian characters of prominence in the Mystic Marvel world.
Last week, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, I found the film refreshing for all the much-discussed feminist reasons — although consider for a minute what it says about us as a society that we think a film with a strong female lead who is on equal footing with her male counterpart is unusual and refreshing — but I also found the movie refreshing for another completely unexpected reason: for the first time in a very long time, I had a chance to just fall in love with a movie and its franchise.
I’m a child of the 80’s, but I never saw the Mad Max movies. When the decision was made to reboot the franchise, I knew nothing about it. The first time I saw the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer was in a movie theatre. I was ignorant of any online spoilers or speculation. I knew nothing about the premise or the formula of Mad Max movies. My introduction to the Mad Max character was in the opening scene of Fury Road. As the film unfolded, I was able to discover the Mad Max world and its characters — and the story of the movie (such as it is) — how George Miller intended for me to learn about them: as finished products.
It was incredible. It was amazing. I didn’t even realize how much I had missed that feeling.
And, that’s when I realized how much of what passes for fandom today has spoiled so much of what I love about being a fan.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!