Campus Ghost Story

When I was in college, there sure as heck weren’t zombies, ghosts, and incredibly beautiful people having a bunch of sex with each other. Okay, at least there weren’t a lot of zombies and ghosts.

Filmmaker Quentin Lee has teamed up with artist John Hahn to write and illustrate an online graphic novel entitled Campus Ghost Story. Both Asian American, Lee and Hahn have set out to create a “fun and sexy horror story” that “[at] the heart of it is about how young adults construct their identity and fear against issues of race, gender and sexuality”.

Since I’m y’know me, I pretty much jumped at the idea of a couple of Asian American creators making a comic book about race and gender. And who doesn’t love a good comic with sexuality, right?

So, since I’m sitting here at my desk waiting for tissue to digest (I won’t bore you with the science-y details), I decided to check out the 13-page preview of Campus Ghost Story (which, it seems, represents the first of eight chapters in the book).

The first 13 pages of CGS set the environment for the tale. The opening panel shows the college quad at night, dominated by a large clocktower which, as I assume, is really the focus of the piece. And I was immediately drawn into the world of CGS; I could swear to you that artist John Hahn was given pictures of my alma mater (Cornell University) at night from which to draw his inspiration. Although, to be fair, Cornell’s clocktower isn’t (at least to my knowledge) haunted by the ghost of a dead student wearing a hoodie.

The rest of the chapter introduces us to one of the three primary protagonists: red-haired Julian who is feeling overwhelmed by college. His best friend / roommate, pudgy and Asian American Mark, wants to ditch his nerdy past and hopes to pledge a frat so he can be cool, but Julian is totally not interested. Further complicating matters is the implication that Julian is gay, although it’s not clear if he’s out to himself (let alone to anyone else).

After (literally) running away from a hot topless guy in the men’s locker room (which, I gotta say, was a little – uhm – on the nose) Julian meets a handsome guy in a hoodie named Darren. Flirty, tense, Dawson’s Creek moment later, and cue the climactic scene we kind of all knew was coming from the get-go. I’ll leave it to you to read that part for yourself.

CGS is definitely noteworthy for the art, alone. I’ve never really seen Hahn’s work before, but the stark line art that he uses in CGS nicely complements the story’s stated sociopolitical themes; the style reminds me, in part, of mid-twentieth century political and propaganda posters. This effect is augmented by the colour palette, which is particularly well-implemented during the story’s “spooky” scenes. Despite a few awkward panels (particularly in the third page of the preview chapter), Hahn’s art is generally subdued, while simultaneously gorgeous.

And, I certainly do like that the story focuses on a gay male protagonist, where his “gayness” (so to speak) isn’t entirely central to the story. Yes, Julian is attracted to Darren, and appears to be ramping up for some serious “coming out” angst, but the story doesn’t spotlight Julian’s homosexuality in a hokey and over-done way. It’s also noteworthy that Lee chose to write a story that, at least from the preview pages, includes Asian Americans in its cast of characters but that doesn’t beat us about the head and shoulders — sledgehammer-style — with classic APIA tropes and archetypes (as too many minority comic book and filmmakers feel the need to do).

That being said, it’s also clear that CGS is Lee’s first foray into comic book writing. While the overall story appears to be interesting, there are issues of pacing and dialogue that appear clunky for the comic book page. Either the art (or the page design) are simply inadequate to communicate some of the subtle interactions between characters (a problem that betrays Lee’s background in film) while some of the initial pages of this preview chapter drag on in slow (and seemingly meaningless) interactions between Julian and supporting characters. Some panels are crowded with dialogue (particularly the early scene at the frat party); furthermore, very little of the speech is written in a comfortable, colloquial fashion that would be believable emerging out of the mouths of blonde, beer-guzzling frat Neanderthals. In fact, few of the characters (Julian’s friend Mark being a notable exception) speak with a unique voice at all.

Also, the feminist in me winces at the fact that of the four women in the first chapter of the book, two are (apparently) APIA, and yet both of them are depicted in sexualized contexts. I’m hoping that’s not an indication of how APIA women fare, in general, on Lee’s campus. 

Nonetheless, I will admit that some of my criticisms aren’t entirely fair: in all likelihood, the issues of pacing and characterization might be resolved if I were to read further into the book, and many of my other issues are nit-picky quibbles that would diminish as Lee’s experience in the comic medium increases.

Over all, I’m delighted to see the growing democratization of the comic book medium as more and more independent artists choose to use the comic book format to tell their stories, and (in the grassroots spirits of the Interwebs) publish their work online. And, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of CGS to see how Lee tackles the issues of race, gender and sexuality; conceptually, the book has me hooked.

Certainly, to me, the most exciting preview of CGS came from the trailer video (which I’ve embedded above), which shows some truly stunning panels from Hahn, and which suggests that CGS has a lot more blood, gore, and sex to offer than the rather minimalist first chapter suggests.

Campus Ghost Story‘s website contains links for reading the free preview chapter, and you can download digital copies of the full book for an (extremely) reasonable fee over at (the whole thing would cost you less than $2.00). You can also buy the book in print at Amazon for your comic book collection.

Support Judge Edward Chen

Take a minute to read this letter from Keith Kamisugi of Asian Americans for Obama:

Dear Friends, 

I’m writing to ask for your help in sending a letter in support of Magistrate Judge Edward Chen of California, whose nomination by President Obama to the federal court, Northern District of California, has been attacked despite having an excellent record as a judge.

 It just takes 15 seconds to send Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada a letter in support of Judge Chen through an online form at …

President Obama has to re-nominate Judge Chen this month because the Senate did not take a full vote on the nomination, despite it being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The President originally nominated Judge Chen to the federal court in August 2009 on recommendation from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

Judge Chen’s character has been attacked despite his mainstream values and a demonstrated record serving as a balanced, fair and unbiased jurist. He has received extremely positive support from a diverse group of individuals and organizations, including a “Unanimously Well Qualified” rating by the American Bar Association.

Judge Chen’s nomination deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate and you can help make that happen by sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Complete the very short online form at and your letter with be sent at no expense to you.

The site also has links to more information and ways that you can keep in touch with this effort.



According to the Asian American Bar Association (via Asian Pacific Americans for Progress):

Chen would be the first Asian American district judge on the bench in the 150-year history of that district. He was also the first Asian American magistrate judge when he was appointed to that position on April 23, 2001.

Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, federal judges require confirmation by the U.S. Senate and serve with lifetime tenure. Magistrate Judges have limited terms and serve as judicial officers of the district courts and exercise the jurisdiction delegated to them by law and assigned by federal district judges.

“I’ve known and worked with Judge Chen for more than 37 years and seen him become a great attorney and an outstanding jurist,” said attorney Dale Minami of Minami Tamaki LLP, who worked with Chen on the successful case to overturn the wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu for defying President Roosevelt’s internment order.

Garner Weng, President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) noted that while there were a number of excellent Asian American candidates, “Judge Chen earned this nomination for his record of public service and his experience as a federal magistrate. We are extremely proud of his nomination and of his participation in AABA over the years.”

“Judge Chen will be a tremendous addition to the bench and has a wide range of support from diverse groups, including the public interest, law enforcement, legal, and minority communities,” said Edwin Prather, President of the Asian Pacific Bar of California and a former clerk for Chen. Prather also said that Chen received the 2007 Barristers Choice Award, an honor voted on by the membership of BASF’s Barristers Club and awarded to a jurist who has made extraordinary efforts to educate and encourage lawyers new to the courtroom

Harvard’s Basketball Superstar: Jeremy Lin

Harvard Crimson's basketball superstar, Jeremy Lin

The headline for the article in Time Magazine is “Harvard’s Hoops Star is Asian. Got a Problem With That?” Why, no. No, I don’t.

It’s been 64 years since the Crimson appeared in the NCAA tournament. But thanks to senior guard Jeremy Lin, that streak could end this year. Lin, who tops Harvard in points (18.1 per game), rebounds (5.3), assists (4.5) and steals (2.7), has led the team to a 9-3 record, its best start in a quarter century. Lin, a 6 ‘3″ slasher whose speed, leaping ability, and passing skills would allow him to suit up for any team in the country, has saved his best performances for the toughest opponents: over his last four games against teams from the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference, two of the country’s most powerful basketball leagues, Lin is averaging 24.3 points and shooting nearly 65% from the field. “He’s as good an all-around guard as I’ve seen,” says Tony Shaver, the head coach of William & Mary, which in November lost a triple overtime game to Harvard, 87-85, after Lin hit a running three-pointer at the buzzer. “He’s a special player who seems to have a special passion for the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the NBA one day.”

A Harvard hoopster with pro-level talent? Yes, that’s one reason Lin is a novelty. But let’s face it: Lin’s ethnicity might be a bigger surprise. Less than 0.5% of men’s Division 1 basketball players are Asian-American. Sure, the occasional giant from China, like Yao Ming, has played in the NBA. But in the U.S., basketball stars are African-Americans first, Caucasians second, and Asians . . .somewhere far down the line. (One historical footnote: Wat Misaka, who is Japanese American, became the first non-white person to play in the NBA in 1947.)

But, while Lin scores one against the stereotype of nerdy (and short) Asian American men, it looks like we’re still not in that dream of a post-racial America (surprise, surprise).

Jeremy won a state championship as a senior in high school, but he received no Division I scholarship offers (Ivy League schools cannot give athletic scholarships). Yes, he was scrawny, but don’t doubt that a little racial profiling, intentionally or otherwise, contributed to his under-recruitment.

Some people still can’t look past his ethnicity. Everywhere he plays, Lin is the target of cruel taunts. “It’s everything you can imagine,” he says. “Racial slurs, racial jokes, all having to do with being Asian.” Even at the Ivy League gyms? “I’ve heard it at most of the Ivies, if not all of them,” he says. Lin is reluctant to mention the specific nature of such insults, but according to Harvard teammate Oliver McNally, another Ivy League player called him a c-word that rhymes with “ink” during a game last season. Just last week, during Harvard’s 86-70 loss to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., McNally says one spectator yelled “sweet and sour pork” from the stands.

“Sweet and sour pork”? Really?

So, last night, Arizona got creamed by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. But, as pissed as Arizona fans were at University of Nebraska players, yesterday, who finds themselves yelling food items at players? “Screw you, Nebraska!! Corn and beef, muthafuckas!!” as they exit the field? Really, has it all come down to this?

Okay, so maybe the racists are hampered by their general lack of knowledge of all things Asian. But tha doesn’t take away from the coolness of athelets like Lin, Manny Pacquiao, and Michelle Wie who rise to the top of their sports while simultaneously dismantling the stereotype of the Asian American as nothin’ but nerd.

Asian Pop’s 2009 Year in Review

2009 — what a crappy year for Asian Americans.

Every year, Jeff Yang contacts high-profile Asian American bloggers (and, inexplicably, me…) to act as muses for his popular (and often hilarious) end-of-the-year wrap-ups. This year was no different, and after compiling my email to him, I toyed with the idea of writing my own end-of-the-year “Best Of/Worst Of” list.

But then, Jeff published his — a far more exhaustive and witty piece than I could hope to come up with. What’s more, he had to put his to verse! I give up, dude, and I bow down to the master!

Here are some choice excerpts:

‘Tis the day before New Year’s, a date that reminds us
Of all that we saw in the year that’s behind us
So to give an assessment that just can’t be ducked
Two-thousand-and-nine? Well, mostly, it sucked

Recession, rescission, Iran and Iraq
Swine flu, banker bailouts, and plummeting stock
Ponzi fraud, acts of God, sky-high unemployment
Not a lot to look back on with too much enjoyment

In fact, all in all, we’d much rather forget
This horrific year; is it January yet?
Oh well, it’s our duty, so let’s start at the top
And review ’09’s “Best and Worst” in Asian Pop

Galactica“‘s end put Grace Park fans in shock
(But “Stargate” has Ming-Na’s new lesbian doc)
John Cho lent “Flash Forward” his eyebrows and glare
While in “Star Trek” he sat in George Takei‘s old chair

Pixar’s “Up” made us all want to think, laugh and cry
While making a star out of Jordan Nagai
Ong Bak 2” proved that Tony Jaa rules modern action
No one else so creatively puts guys in traction

But the far-from-good “Goods” chose to laugh at hate crime
Hey, at least Ken Jeong works almost all of the time
A half-dozen films in ’09, plus he’s featured
On the new hit “Community,” as a weird Spanish teacher

Whatever you might think of Reality
At least in those programs, an Asian can be
More or less normal, and still a scene-stealer
Okay, I’m not talking ’bout Tila Tequila

Or the guy for whom Kate plus eight wasn’t enough.
Thanks a lot, Jon Gosselin! Asian dads had it tough
Before you gave tabloids a bailout by cheatin’
And choosing to act like an aging frat cretin

And how about Tiger, golf’s King Cablinasian?
By proving he too has tail-chasing persuasions
He traded his family and billions in green
For fore! play and strokes and, um, holes in 14

(To be fair, Asian mothers aren’t looking much better
What Balloon Mom put Falcon through really should get her
Not just jail time — three weeks in the pen plus probation —
But psych help and a permanent husband vacation.)

This is all just the tip of the iceberg of shame
That we saw in a year for the Lame Hall of Fame
A year in which Texas state Rep. Betty Brown
Made a modest suggestion for our proper nouns

“You Asians have monikers we can’t repeat
Why not change ’em to something sweet, simple and neat?”
(The person she said this to, named “Ramey Ko
Must have thought, “Even shorter? How low can you go?”)

A year in which immigrant kids in South Philly
Were battered — and told that their fears were quite silly
A year where teen idols chose to honor us Asians
By teaching the “slant-eye” to new generations

Still, we hate to close out the year toasting with whine
So here are a few things we loved in ’09
Gojira’s the World Series MVP now!
The world’s greatest boxer is Manny Pacquiao!

But, definitely, check out the full article to get a complete dose of Jeff Yang’s awesome.

Also, don’t forget to read the email quotes that went into the making of the article. I especially love how mine are like fourteen-sentences long — God, if that isn’t me, I don’t know what is!