26 March 2009

Why There Aren’t More Asian Superheroes?

How come Publishers Weekly's book-publishing articles are so staid while its Comics Week articles are so opinionated and lively (and poorly copyedited)? Take Anne Ishii's review of Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology:

A popular question posed in the anthology and at the eponymous discussion panel at the 2009 New York Comic-Con: "Why are there so many Asian-American writers and artists and so few Asian-American characters?" . . .

Gender bias is the elephant in the collection as far as I’m concerned, a greater shadow on character than racism. In fact, gender bias might even be the real answer to why there aren’t more Asian superheroes. . . .

there is plenty of female and Asian representation in the world of comics, namely in manga (original English and otherwise). And far be it from me to say what’s more offensive: American portrayals of Asian women as sexy servants or Asian men as diminutive brainiacs, but I would posit that because the stereotypes of Asian-American women are not antithetical to universally proscribed gender roles, the narratives in the penultimate section of the anthology--"Girl Heroes" (emphasis added)--felt freer, the art felt more buoyant. . . .

Superhero comics in general, are ensconced in a male sexual persona embodying virility and literal largesse (read: compensating for falsely accused deficiencies), so Secret Identities leaves the identity issues of Asian women largely intact. The women in this anthology are smart, no-nonsense people who happen to have super powers and a great sense of humor.
And then the essay goes on to a metaphorical comparison of "a Hummer" and a high gas-mileage Honda Civic." You just don't see that in PW's coverage of prose.

Here's the Secret Identities website and collective blog.

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