The Random Musings of a Random Mind

Secret Identities – Asian American Superheroes

Secret Identities is a comic book anthology that features 26 original stories centered around Asian American Superheroes; stories set in a shadow history of American history, from the opening of the West to the election of the first minority president, and exploring ordinary Asian American life from a decidedly extraordinary perspective.

“What if we told you a tale about a quiet, unassuming guy with black hair and thick glasses? He’s an immigrant, who’s done his best to fit in to a world that isn’t his—one very different from  the land of his birth. He’s got a hidden side to himself that he can’t quite bring himself to show, not even to the popular girl he’s got a huge crush on. If only she knew who he really was—what he could really do—she’d be amazed, he thinks. If only she knew. If only everyone knew…

For many Asian Americans, this chronicle is a familiar one, because many of us lived it. But this also happens to be the story of a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent, better known to the world by his alter ego: Superman. And it’s just one example of the parallels between the cultural narrative of Asian America and the mythic foundation of the comic book superhero.” From the Secret Identities website

This is very thought provoking. As an avid comic reader in my youth and all round nerd I totally understand this parallel between my own upbringing and the Superman myth. I have always treasured the Superman movie as one of my all time favourite superhero movies and now I understand why it held so much emotional resonance for me.

“Your name is Kal-El. You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton. Even though you’ve been raised as a human being, you are not one of them. You have great powers, only some of which you have as yet discovered….

Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.”

Now that I think about it, the depiction of Asians in superhero comics have always been satirical or bordered on whimsical. Even though many of the most prolific comic book artists and writers have been Asian: Jim Lee, Brando Choi, Greg Pak, Bernard Chang, Francis Tsai, Greg LaRocque, Sonny Liew, Kazu Kibuishi, Christine Norrie:, Tak Toyoshima, Jerry Ma, Cliff Chiang, Dustin Nguyen, Larry Hama, etc.

These character always fit several shallow asian sterotypes:

* foreigner from Asian nation (Sunfire from the X-Men)

* martial arts expert (Karate Kid from Legion of Superheroes)

* sexy asian woman (Psyclocke from X-men)

* villain (The Mandarin from X-men)

It is not often that an Asian character is ever the main character or just an Asian American and by extension draws parallels to myself being an Asian Australian. So growing up I have had to idealise western heroes archetypes. My favourites being Superman and Batman.

Even though I was born in Australia, all my friends are predominantly Caucasian. I am the Twinkie.

Yet I have always felt deep down inside that I didn’t quite fit in completely into society. First being anethnic minority and then also being a nerd. That’s kinda like a double whammy.

I applaud the authors, artists and contributors for their work on producing this anthology and will be definitely checking it out.

Visit their website: Secret Identities


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