Tag Archives: Korean

Asian-American Creators in Comic Books As Of July 16th: 2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad

The last time I wrote a post that was titled in a similar format was back in 2013, which followed another the year before. Both were written because at the time events had occurred in the comic book industry that touched on LGBT representation. Given the fact that Western comic books don’t necessarily have a dearth of Asian creators [Gene Luen Yang, Annie Wu, and Jerome Opeña being just a few examples] it’s actually sort of surprising that it wasn’t until this week that I felt justified in putting together a similar post.

What’s unfortunate is, as you can probably tell by the title, that it’s not all good news. With that in mind I’m going to go with the classic “sandwich” delivery, with the positives buttressing a negative. That said, and without further ado-

Greg Pak’s Totally Awesome Hulk #15 Brings a Tear to My Eye

I should probably clarify that I have not read the 15th issue of Totally Awesome Hulk. That won’t actually hit stands until this upcoming October. That said, the cover was released in the Marvel NOW’s Previews Magazine this past Wednesday [with leaks hitting the internet a little earlier]. You can see the cover below in all of its glory-

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Cover art by Mukesh Singh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Clockwise from the very top of the cover is: Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel [Pakistani-American], Shang-Chi/Master of Kung Fu [Chinese], Amadeus Cho/Totally Awesome Hulk [Korean-American], presumably SHIELD Agent Jimmy Woo [Chinese-American], Cindy Moon/Silk [Korean-American], and lastly a character I can’t place who Bleeding Cool cites as being Winter Soldier [which I could not confirm through my own research].

What struck me was that this is a comic book cover from one of the the two major publishers [DC and Marvel] on which every one of the many characters depicted is Asian. It’s also not an established team of Asian heroes like Big Hero 6 [the film adaptation of which you know my exact feelings about]. This is especially notable in light of the fact that other comics like Sam Wilson: Captain America #10-

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #10. Written by Nick Spencer, illustrated by Angel Unzueta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cover art by Marguerite Sauvage.

-and the cover to Black Panther #7 [as seen on the right] communicate the ideas that a) Black heroes exist within this universe and b) just like in many real life situations, Black people can and do congregate together.

Even before these respective examples came to light most of these heroes were fairly recognizable by the public [Storm and Black Panther, Nick Fury Jr.], but they also shine light on the lesser-knowns [Misty Knight, Doctor Voodoo, Spectrum].

The cover to Totally Awesome Hulk #15 is the first major step in my recent memory to bring a similar awareness to Asian representation in comic books, and it’s very clear that a conscious decision was made by Greg Pak [a Korean-American himself] to do this. It’s no exaggeration that just seeing the cover made me emotional, and I cannot wait until October to get my hands on the issue.

Frank Cho Stirs Continues to Stir Up Controversy Over Wonder Woman Variant Covers

There’s no such thing as the perfect week.

Frank Cho, a Korean-American artist and the initial collaborator with Greg Pak on Totally Awesome Hulk [their similarities to the titular character further discussed here], announced two days ago that he would be walking off Wonder Woman as variant cover artist with Issue #6. Deciding to go to Bleeding Cool, Cho explained that:

“All the problem lies with [author] Greg Rucka.

EVERYONE loves my Wonder Woman covers and wants me to stay. Greg Rucka is the ONLY one who has any problem with covers. Greg Rucka has been trying to alter and censor my artwork since day one.

Greg Rucka thought my Wonder Woman #3 cover was vulgar and showed too much skin, and has been spearheading censorship, which is baffling since my Wonder Woman image is on model and shows the same amount of skin as the interior art, and it’s a VARIANT COVER and he should have no editorial control over it. (But he does. WTF?!!!)

I tried to play nice, not rock the boat and do my best on the covers, but Greg’s weird political agenda against me and my art has made that job impossible. Wonder Woman was the ONLY reason I came over to DC Comics.

To DC’s credit, especially [Art Director] Mark Chiarello, they have been very accommodating. But they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

I just wanted to be left alone and do my Wonder Woman variant covers in peace. But Greg Rucka is in a hostile power trip and causing unnecessary friction over variant covers.”

For those who are not familiar with comic book journalism websites, Bleeding Cool excels in tracking a lot of what goes on behind the scenes in the industry. That said, they’re also known for rumour-mongering, a practice with a so-so success rate. They have also devoted many an article to the artist’s last controversy over covers, noting each time one of the illustrations made its way online.

While Rucka has made no official response to Cho or to anyone else asking for comment save for the following tweet:

As far as an actual example of the “censorship” Cho is decrying, pictured below is the aforementioned cover to Wonder Woman #3, with the final cover on the left and the original art on the right:

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Notably absent is the character’s panty line, shown on the right. Apart from the cropping, the art appears untouched.

It should be restated that Cho was not fired from the gig, but instead chose to leave of his own volition. As a creator doing work-for-hire the people at DC comics had every right to ask for edits to be made to whatever iss submitted to them. It was also his choice to approach the comic book journalism site most likened to a tabloid to announce the reasons behind this. The true irony is that the artist’s sensitivity over what occurred feels out of line with his approach to the outrage others have felt about his own work.

Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man #1: This Man of Steel is a Boy From Shanghai

Particularly worth spotlighting as the first-ever DC book I’ve decided to buy issue-to-issue, New Super-Man comes from the same writer of one of my favourite graphic novels, American Born Chinese. That book proved that Yang understands a lot of the innate conflict in being Asian-American, living your entire life in a country but never quite feeling like you fit in.

Cover art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

Cover art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

With that in mind, several months ago he wrote a blog post for the DC Comics site in which he admits almost immediately that “I’ve only visited China twice, so my understanding of Chinese culture is through echoes.” That said, he wants to do everything he can to make his portrayal of the character as authentic as possible, and the majority of the post spends time picking apart exactly how and why he landed on the name “Kenan Kong”.

It’s but one example of how committed he is to the authentic portrayals of Asians, and it can be strongly felt throughout that first issue, which was sold in comic stores everywhere this past Wednesday.


It’s my hope that this isn’t the last such blog post that I piece together, and that part of the reason for that will be even more Asian creators working in both mainstream and indie comics. While the news won’t always be positive, the dream is that with even more talent we’ll be able to see the best that they have to offer, especially in regards to pushing representation in my favourite medium.

2 Broke Girls, S5E18 “And the Loophole”: A TV Review

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So apart from Max heckling customers, which the show hasn’t used to grace a cold open in quite some time, and every character besides Han poking fun at the diner’s general hygiene, the typical setting of 2 Broke Girls has rarely been a source of specific humour in the way, say, Sacred Heart hospital was on Scrubs, et cetera. We generally know it’s a dump, but the joke doesn’t extend far beyond that.

Honestly, I didn’t even know what I was missing until I got a taste of it [pun only somewhat intended].

It all begins with Oleg calling out that a “tuna malt” is ready to be served, which is honestly such a ludicrous miscommunication that I couldn’t help but smile.

In addition to that there’s the blackboard of specials, which Max’s atrocious handwriting has turned into a list of food that is . . . well, not as special as Han would probably like. They feature such dishes as “Sloppy Jobs”-

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-and “Pork Chips”-

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-and while the characters kind of run them into the ground a little, they’re all pretty entertaining. Just having it say “desert” instead of “dessert” is funny, especially given that no one makes note of it. The Williamsburg Diner may be a disgusting establishment, but it’s nice to see that it can also be a place where incompetence is present in the food preparation and signage as well.

As for the actual episode itself, Ed Quinn’s Randy is back! I don’t mean to keep harping on how Max’s relationship with him had its parallels with her dating Deke, but this just proves how much the show is shying away from that approach. Not only did their breakup have a resolution, it turns out it wasn’t really the end! He’s back in New York and looking to start a little something. To skip to the end with this particular arc, after Caroline expresses enough concern to actually grill him in a mock trial he admits that he’s committing to staying in the city for one month to try to make things work. A surprising turn of events to be sure.

As for the rest of the episode, Caroline’s movie money finally comes in and the two girls decide to make their Dessert Bar a reality. This means finding some real estate as Han won’t let them expand their cupcake shop into the dish room. Not willing to leave them in the lurch, their boss decides to connect them with Evie [Camille Chen], a realtor who apparently digs him.

Now, this is something I could cover in-depth down below under the “The Title Refers To” feature, but I’ll do it now. Essentially Evie wants to remain a virgin until marriage, but wants to have sex anyway. Now I hate to say it [and to use a slightly NSFW gif after the jump you’ve been warned], but this is actually something that generally terrible show House of Lies did in its episode “Bareback Town”, and that it did pretty well- Continue reading

Putting The Martian On Blast – Racebending, Whitewashing, and the Last Straw

The Martian is Guilty of Whitewashing

Last Thursday the Media Action Network For Asian-Americans [MANAA] issued a statement criticizing director Ridley Scott for the whitewashing of Asian roles in his film The Martian. Their judgements are twofold, namely citing that:

  • NASA’s director of Mars operations Dr. Venkat Kapoor as an Asian-Indian character who identifies religiously as being “a Hindu.” The group pointed out that in Scott’s film, his name is changed to Vincent Kapoor, and he’s played by British black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who says his father was “a Hindu” but that his mother was “Baptist.”
  • Mindy Park, described by Weir as Korean-American, is played in the movie by Mackenzie Davis, a white, blonde actress.

Now I wish I could proceed on to the rest of this blog post, but people have asked the question as to whether or not this is, technically, whitewashing. It’s going to take a few paragraphs, but let’s get that out of the way-

Okay, The Martian is Guilty of Racebending/Whitewashing

Let’s start from the very, very, very top. The Wikipedia entry for this can actually be found under “racebending”, with “whitewashing” cited as being [citation needed] a more archaic term. Their definition of this practice is:

“when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more ‘palatable’ or ‘profitable’ ethnicity.”

The reason people have been asking the question as to whether or not this did in fact take place is that The Martian is a film adaptation of a novel by author Andy Weir. As such the source material is devoid of any visual aids in regards to the explicit ethnicities of its characters. Weir himself had a number of things to say about this with MTV News at the Toronto International Film Festival where the film debuted [the interview occurred before MANAA’s statement]:

In regards to writing and describing his characters’ ethnicities-

“So unless a physical description is somehow relevant to the plot, OK, you know he’s missing a leg — something like that, but unless it’s like really important to the plot then I don’t physically describe my characters at all.”

“You can imagine them however you like. Like, for instance, the ethnicity of Mark, I never told you.”

In response to criticisms of Chiwetel Ejiofor being cast as Vincent Kapoor-

“He’s an American. Americans come from lots of different sources! You can be Venkat Kapoor and black.”

In response to criticism of Mackenzie Davis being cast as Mindy Park-

“Whatever ethnicity she has, she’s an American and her family has been in America forever, which is why her first name is just Mindy, but her last name is Park. But Park is also a British surname so the casting people [could have] thought Mackenzie Davis looks like someone descended from Brits. And she did a great job! I’m certainly not complaining about anything related to casting.”

mindyparkWhile not a direct quote, MTV News also shares how Weir envisioned Park while writing the novel:

“He did admit that he’d always pictured Mindy Park as of Korean lineage, but emphasized again that he had never actually explicitly written her as Korean.”

This is all well and good, but problematic in that it doesn’t jive with an interview that took place in May of this year with the blog domesoph. When asked by blogger Sophie Milam about how he approached writing his extensive cast, Weir responded [emphasis added]:

“I didn’t set out to deliberately balance the crew. For the most part, I just wanted them each to be unique enough for the reader to tell them apart without prompting. It’s a real problem in written fiction. You don’t have the face on-screen or voice being heard to remind the audience who’s who. They need to know it immediately from the name.
So there are no two people on Hermes who are the same demographic. There’s one white American guy (Beck), one Hispanic guy (Martinez), and one German guy (Vogel). There are two women of undefined ethnicity (presumably white) but one of them is the Commander, so you won’t get them confused either. Especially since they all call her ‘Commander’.
So it wasn’t any deliberate attempt at diversity. It was really just a shortcut to making sure the reader knew who was who. You’ll find I pulled the same trick with the NASA characters: Teddy (white guy who is in charge), Mitch (white guy who isn’t in charge), Venkat (Indian), Annie (white woman), Mindy Park (Korean woman), Rich Purnell (African American).”

Now I want to be fair and admit that not every author is [or can be] Alan Moore, who has very publicly denounced all film adaptations of his own work. Weir is currently working on his sophomore novel, with The Martian making up the entirety of his current bibliography. As an author with his first-ever book being adapted by Hollwood, and with the film rumoured to be nabbing an Oscar, there are more reasons against than for when it comes to rocking the boat. So let’s discard what Weir has to say, separate from his novel, completely.

All art is open to interpretation regardless of the creator’s intent, so without Weir’s opinions here’s what we know about the characters:

That being said I’m willing to make the concession that free of Weir’s intentions Mindy Park certainly could have been either White or East Asian. When it comes to Venkat Kapoor, on the other hand, most signs point towards him being South Asian, more specifically East Indian. Let’s pull up the definition for “racebending” again:

“when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more ‘palatable’ or ‘profitable’ ethnicity.”

vincentkapoor

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an Academy Award winning actor. He’s also a Nigerian English man, part of a demographic that has not struggled in Hollywood compared to many others. Comparatively speaking I would run out of American films headlining East Indian talent before I ran out of fingers. Are Black men more profitable than Indian men? Everything I know about North America answers a resounding yes. So this is what we’re left with:

Venkat Kapoor was racebent for The Martian.

Mindy Park [given the author’s intent] was whitewashed for The Martian.

To be fair [and I think I have been thus far], East Indian actor Irrfan Khan had been in talks to play Kapoor but had to decline due to another commitment. It’s worth noting that the role had been intended for Khan, and it’s also commendable that- Continue reading

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Unbelievable Dong Nguyen

dongSo after four months of dragging my feet I finally got around to watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a Netflix exclusive show I had been meaning to check out if only to join in the conversation that Em Liu over at Fiction Diversity started surrounding the character of Dong Nguyen, played by Ki Hong Lee. Before I really get into things it has come to my attention that I can be negative, so allow me to preface this post with a list [CAUTION: spoilers from here onwards]:

1. I liked [and continue to like] Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It not only succeeds, but soars on the merits of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s comedy as well as Ellie Kemper’s unbridled performance.

2.  I’m grateful a character like Dong Nguyen exists. Asian characters are rare enough on TV, let alone as romantic leads [something we desperately need].

3. I wish nothing but the best for Ki Hong Lee and have absolutely nothing against the guy. Similar to how I feel about Austin Falk on 2 Broke Girls my criticisms of a character do not affect my opinions about the actor portraying them. I think it’s great that he made #4 on People‘s 2014 Sexiest Man Alive list and hope it’s the first milestone of many.

I also want to mention that Em, whose article I linked to up above, has primarily approached Dong Nguyen as a character who subverts, instead of embodies, stereotypes. That’s ultimately not something I’m going to be delving into. Instead what I’d like to address is how Dong holds up as a believable Asian character, specifically as a Vietnamese person, and how this reflects on the show’s creators. Continue reading

John Cho is Hot on Selfie, and Why It Matters

Roughly six years ago I sat in a guest house in London, England, and complained to a Korean friend about not being attractive. It’s funny seeing it typed out now, and it wasn’t so starkly apparent at the time, but that’s exactly what I was worried about. We were studying abroad with a group of mostly White classmates from a predominantly White liberal arts college, and as an eighteen-year-old I had dating on the mind. That, and the beginnings of the idea that things might not be so easy for me given the colour of my skin.

And unlike John Cho and his suit, my skin does not peel away to reveal more equally-good-looking skin underneath.

My primary source was media and pop culture, and how interracial relationships weren’t showcased much, if at all [not much has changed, 2009!]. I suggested that this might create a life-imitating-art situation, where young non-hyphenated-American women might not be as open to the idea of getting together with an Asian guy due to never seeing it on screens small or large. He brought up that he’d had no problems in the past [being musical, and with that bone structure?], as well as the more damning evidence that neither had I. With that I left the topic of conversation alone, not entirely convinced or at peace with the whole thing.

Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S3E7 “And the Girlfriend Experience”: A TV Review

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First thing’s first, I had every expectation that this episode was going to be super duper racist. It was not, but I’ll get to that in a bit because of how much of a big deal my second point is: Dang, this one lady could not get a enough of the jokes this week. She had one of those high-pitched shrieky laughs, too; it was nearly impossible to block her out and concentrate on the actual episode itself.

Now, if you type “2 broke girls racist” into Google you get 4,310,000 results. That speaks for itself, really. My review of the third episode of this season even received a few comments from an honest-to-goodness Polish person who wanted to assert that they do not believe that cats are the reincarnated souls of people who die outside. To be perfectly fair things were far worse in the first season concerning Han in particular. That being said, racist jokes on this show used to be a problem. They still are, but they used to be, too. Continue reading

Fame Day: 봉천동 귀신 [Bongcheon-Dong Ghost]

If you live anywhere in North America [and judging by the site stats that is more than likely] you are probably very, very aware that today is All Hallows’ Eve, which is what I prefer to call what is more popularly known as Halloween. To be very, very clear, I’m not a huge fan of the holiday. In fact, if yesterday’s post was any indication, easily my favourite part of the occasion is saying that things are “spoo-oo-ooky”; it’s a lot of fun, you should definitely try it out.

For real, though. I do not enjoy being scared, nor do I really get kick out of scaring others. I have seen maybe two horror movies in their entirety, and didn’t particularly like either of them. I mean, I appreciate that Paranormal Activity terrified me, but I’ve been informed by many that it is not scary in the least, which might lead you to believe that I am by no means a good judge of the genre.

Which brings me to Bongcheon-Dong Ghost. Continue reading