INTERVIEW: Gene Luen Yang and Bernard Chang On Bringing the Monkey King to DC Comics

Page featuring the new Monkey Prince character from DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Collection. (Photo credit: DC Comics)

By: Hannah Han

DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Collection is DC Comics’ newest comic book anthology celebrating Asian Superheroes comes just in time to celebrate Asian Pacifiic American heritage in May.

This is an exclusive interview with writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Bernard Chang, who have contributed a special story introducing a brand new DC superhero, Monkey Prince, as the main event of this 96-page anthology commemorating some of DC’s beloved Asian and Asian American characters.


In the excerpt of The Monkey Prince Hates Superheroes from DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration, we only really got a small window into Monkey Prince’s world, but it’s really so richly depicted and vibrant, and I loved all of the references to Chinese mythology.

When you are drafting the story, what were your sources of inspiration, especially when giving Monkey Prince his distinct personality and background? Did you pull any inspiration from your own lives at any point?

Gene Luen Yang: I think I speak for both Bernard and me that even though we worked on The Monkey Prince for a few months, we’ve actually been working on this story all of our lives. Bernard and I have thought about the Monkey King since we were little kids, since we’ve heard these stories from our parents. Again, being both Monkey King fans and superhero fans, we’ve thought about the connections between superhero stories and ancient Chinese mythology for years and years and years. In a lot of ways, this project felt like we were just pouring all the stuff out onto the page that has been with us since we were little kids.

Bernard Chang: Both of us grew up with our parents reading bedtime stories about the Monkey King to us. Growing up in America, we’re first introduced to a lot of American superheroes with these powers to fly and [with] super strength and all these things. And when our parents would read to us about the Monkey King, it was our own superhero that we could associate with.

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This is What Marvel Executive Jeph Loeb Wore to the Iron Fist Panel at San Diego Comic-Con

Jeph Loeb at the Iron Fist panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2018. (Photo credit: Twitter / Charles Pulliam)

Marvel is quickly making a name for itself as the comic book company of unadulterated racial insensitivity and Orientalism.

While comic book fans from around the world gather in San Diego this weekend at the annual San Diego Comic-Con, attendees to the Marvel’s Iron Fist panel bore witness to a breath-takingly boorish stunt by Marvel Television head, Jeph Loeb. To kick off the panel, Loeb appeared to introduce the second season of the Netflix television show. In apparent reference to criticism of the show’s first season, Loeb came on stage dressed as Daniel-San from The Karate Kid — complete with karate gi and headband — and joked that he had trained with Mr. Miyagi in preparation for hostile fans at the panel. Shortly thereafter, actor Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing) — who may or may not have been in on some sort of pre-scripted act with Loeb — demanded that Loeb remove the outfit, and Loeb obliged.

There is nothing that excuses the racial insensitivity of this pointless and ugly stunt.

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The Resurgence of Cassandra Cain

Currently, Marvel X-men’s Jubilee is the unofficial face of Reappropriate. At one time, it was DC’s Cassandra Cain — a neuroatypical, mute Asian American adoptee who was the first Asian American and woman of color to take on the mantle of the Batgirl. She is also undisputedly one of the best martial artists in the DC Universe, owing to her abusive childhood when she was deprived of auditory language (or any form of social contact) and instead immersed in deadly martial arts training.

I grew up on Jubilee through her appearance in the 1990’s X-Men cartoon series. Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl occupies a different space in my fandom: her journey of self-exploration and self-agency as the newest Batgirl entered my life when I was just setting out to discover my own budding political activism. Cassandra’s efforts to reconcile her troubled past with her new life as part of the Bat-family resonated with my own exploration of political and personal identity. I love Jubilee; but, in many ways, I identify with Cassandra Cain.

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Power, Privilege, and “Reconciliasian”

"Reconciliasian" by Joshua Luna. (Photo Credit: Joshua Luna)

By Guest Contributor: Heath Wong

Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, artist Joshua Luna published a web comic titled “Reconciliasian” addressing gender relations in the Asian American community. This post is a response to that comic.

I deeply respect Joshua Luna as an artist and as an activist. But, I find the framing of his latest comic – Reconciliasian – problematic. The comic juxtaposes two panels: one depicting an Asian man and the other depicting an Asian woman. Next to each character, Luna lists the way each has “been hurt” (for Asian men, systemic emasculation and desexualization; for Asian women, systemic fetishization and hypersexualization), and how they’ve “hurt” the other. Luna laments how Asian men display “complicity and/or participation in patriarchal misogyny against Asian women under the guise of racial justice”; Asian women, says Luna, are guilty of “complicity and/or participation in white supremacy against Asian men under the guise of racial preference.” Luna concludes that both Asian men and Asian American women should “choose reconciliation over retribution.”

By the very nature of the symmetrical dichotomy presented by the comic’s layout, Luna implies equivalency. That apparent premise – that Asian women and men suffer equally and have also hurt each other equally, if in different ways – is used to argue that we must reconcile with each other to resist our true enemy.

The problem with that premise is that the equivalency depicted in the comic is false.

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C.B. Cebulski’s “Apology” for Pretending to be a Japanese Comic Writer is Entirely Bullshit

Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski

It’s a headline that might have described the antics in an episode of “Family Guy”: White guy pretends to be a Japanese guy to work as a comic book writer, and keeps the charade going for two years until he one day kills off his Asian altere-go when it outlived its usefulness. And, as with so many “Family Guy” subplots, the story has an overtly racist undertone.

No one would imagine that not only would this happen in real life, but that the White man in question would be named this year as Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief — one of the top positions in the comic book industry. But yes, earlier last month, Bleeding Cool broke the news that newly-promoted Marvel Comics EIC C.B. Cebulski had spent two years between 2004 and 2005 writing several prominent Marvel titles under the invented guise of “Akira Yoshida”. Adding insult to injury, most of the stories written by Cebulski-as-Yoshida are Asiaphilic fables involving White protagonists immersed in the hyper-saturated colours of Orientalist fantasy.

For two years, Cebulski — a White man — donned literary yellowface to objectify, appropriate, commodify, and caricature all things Japanese for non-Asian comic book audiences. In so doing, Cebulski displaced actual Asian American comic book writers who still struggle to break into an industry that is an estimated 79% White and mostly men.

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