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Articles > Asian American SuperHeroes

Apr 23, 2011
by Diana Li - Sampan


Asian American Superheroes

by Diana Li on April 22, 2011

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s an Asian American superhero….?  Asian American superheroes are almost unheard of in comics or TV.  However, here are a few surprising Asian superheroes: Psylocke, Sunfire, Jubilee, Atom, Batgirl.  You might be shocked that Atom and Batgirl are in the list as Asian American superheroes, but if you are a comic fanatic, you would know that they were once Asian Americans who got written off and became non-Asian superheroes.  In addition, Psylocke is actually a non-Asian woman trapped inside the body of a Japanese woman.

According to Keith Chow, one of the editors of ‘Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology”, the purpose of the book is “about representations of Asians and Asian Americans in superhero comics throughout the years.”  Chow continued, “[We want to] create a plan to showcase all Asian American talent that would infuse 20 progressive Asian American characters into film, TV, ongoing games, etc.”

If there is a protagonist, there must be an antagonist.  Egg Fu, a villain in the Wonder Woman series, portrayed the stereotypes of Asians – slanty eyes and Fu Manchu mustache.  Chow goes on about Asian Americans in comics are often stereotyped as wearing no shoes or overly sexualized.  Chow wants to change the stereotypes of Asians with his book.

In addition, Chow discusses Hollywood casting of non-Asians in Asian characters, infamously shown in the movie castings of Dragonball and the Nickelodeon hit cartoon, Avatar.  Chow reluctantly defended Hollywood by saying “Nothing says that the Dragonball characters are Asian since it is in a fantasy world.” However, Chow was not able to defend the casting of “Bringing Down the House”, a novel made into a movie called “21.”

Chow despised the movie when he spoke about an interview with Jeff Ma, the basis for the main character of “21.”  When Quint Interview asked Ma on how he felt on the casting, Ma said:

“I never considered “John Cho” or “Chow Yun-Fat” or “Jackie Chan”… I really wasn’t and I mean if I asked you who you would want to play you in a movie, you wouldn’t be thinking “I want the most similar person,” but you would be thinking ”Who’s cool?” or who do you think would personify your personality or who is a good actor or who is talented, so as much as I think people like to look at it at face value like that, the reality is if you ask anyone who they wanted to play you, it wouldn’t necessarily be “Who’s the most ethnically tied to me?”

Chow responded by claiming that “Jeff Mah’s [answer] implies that Asian Americans are not cool enough to play him.  So therefore, let’s cast outside my ethnicity.”  Chow adds that an integral part of the storyline is that because Jeff Ma is Asian, he was able to get away with it at the casinos.  Dealers overlooked things because they assumed Mah and his MIT friends were rich international tourists.

“Secret Identities: Asian American Superhero Anthology” gives people a dosage of Asian American Superheroes and not to be ashamed of being Asian.   Chow said, “[I] saw it as a chance to create Asian characters which is rare [in the comic book industry].”

To learn more about “Secret Identities: Asian American Superhero Anthology”, please visit