The Shadow Hero: giving an origin story to comics' first Asian-American superhero
Gene Luen Yang has made comics history with his graphic novels about race and identity, now, with Sonny Liew, he goes back in time to reinvent the first Asian superhero in the history of comics. Cory Doctorow reviews The Shadow Hero and presents an exclusive excerpt.
Back in October 2013, I posted a video in which comics creator Gene Luen Yang introduced his next project, The Shadow Hero, a graphic novel that invents an origin story for The Green Turtle, the first-ever Asian-American superhero who featured in a short-lived, five-issue series in 1944.
The Shadow Hero is out in stores today, and it's a provocative, exciting adventure that lives up to the promise of a collaboration between Yang (whose work, like the award-winning American Born Chinese, has been fearless in its willingness to engage with tough issues of race) and illustrator Sonny Liew, whose work I came to love through Malinky Robot.
Yang and Liew's backstory for the Green Turtle is a golden-age comics whiz-bang adventure story that unflinchingly faces the widespread racism against Asian-Americans that rose to a fever pitch in WWII, while skewering modern stereotypes of Tiger Mothers and nose-to-grindstone Chinese kids. It walks a fine line between slapstick and commentary, to great effect -- reminiscent of the work of Will Eisner or Harvey Kurtzman in its blending of broad humor and sly digs.
At the same time, Shadow Hero is a terrific story, full of the kinds of timeless dilemmas about responsibility, power, and duty that makes the superhero motif so enduring.
The book ends with a powerful essay by Yang in which he discusses his motives for writing the book, and then a reprint of one of the original Green Turtle comics from its 1944 run.
The Shadow Hero
The Shadow Hero
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