Friday, August 1, 2014

A Trailblazing Story

Gene Luen Yang
In The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang (Boxers & Saints), illustrated by Sonny Liew, Yang has created an origin story for the Green Turtle, likely the first superhero created by an Asian American comics artist, Chu Hing, during the Golden Age of American Comics. In the Green Turtle's adventures, the superhero always has his back to readers, often casting his shadow large and menacingly.

Why did the Green Turtle always have his back to his audience? Yang suggests, in an author's note, that at that time comics publishers weren't ready for an Asian American hero. In the book, Yang creates situations for young Hank (who transforms into the Green Turtle) that explain, for instance, the superhero's hyperpink skin (a darkly funny scene involving a chemical spill), and in the backmatter, the author includes reproductions of scenes from the original comics to demonstrate just how pink the superhero's skin appeared in the comic book pages.

Yang makes the case that Chu Hing preserves his integrity by remaining true to his vision of an Asian American hero, while also adhering to his employers' wishes by not revealing his character's ethnicity.

The Shadow Hero seamlessly threads together Chinese history, immigration to America after the fall of the Ch'ing Dynasty, and the Golden Age of American Comics into a heartpounding adventure. Yang creates an origin story for a trailblazing hero--who's also very human.

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