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.
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.
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!
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.