Asian Superheroes

Jeff Yang has an excellent article in the Chronicle today summarizing the state of Asian superheroes. He talks about the fascination Asian American kids have with superheroes:

"Comics have always been a refuge for kids who are shy or socially unconfident," says Chow. "The storylines of many titles, like 'Spiderman,' are all about outcasts who are also heroes. For many Asian Americans, the parallels with a title like 'X-Men' are really strong: You grow up in an all-white neighborhood, you feel like an outsider, and then when you go away to school, you meet other people like yourself, you discover your secret heritage, this thing inside you that makes you special. Even if you can't shoot lasers out of your eyes. And I think that's why so much of the fan base is Asian American kids -- go to a comic-book convention, a quarter of the kids are Asian."

And of the special fascination with Superman:

Superman has always appealed to Asian Americans. He has dark hair, his public identity is a meek guy with glasses, he's from a faraway place -- why not? ("Sure there are parallels," says Hama. "But remember he was created by [Jerry] Siegel and [Joe] Shuster. He's a Jewish immigrant fantasy." Jewish, Asian -- same difference.)

I've always been partial to Spiderman myself, perhaps because unlike Superman, Spiderman is human in origin, cursed with powers he cannot control, always self-questioning and chock full of raging hormones. If that's not the quintessential adolescent, I don't know what is. Perhaps other desis feel the same way, why else would there be an Indian version of Spiderman? Ironically enough, the artwork is done in Bangalore.

One more interesting tidbit from the original article:

The real joy, however, may come in the fall, when NBC debuts its new sci-fi-esque thriller "Heroes," about a bunch of normal folk who discover that they have paranormal powers. Japanese office worker Hiro Nakamura, played by Masi Oka, is a member of the super-ized select, while Sendhil Ramamurthy plays Mohinder Suresh, the researcher who uncovers the secret of the hidden talents among us. Wow, two Asian American males in a 10-person ensemble cast -- the success of "Lost" is really revamping the television landscape.

This reminds me of Unbreakable, M. Night Shymalan's tribute to comics, but Alan Sepinwall feels otherwise:

The idea of "What would happen if people got super powers in the real world?" has been done plenty of times before, from "Watchmen" to "Unbreakable," but Kring has a nice spin on it: not nearly as solemn and pretentious as "Unbreakable," but serious enough that it doesn't seem like camp. I particularly liked Masi Oka as the Japanese hero (named Hiro, of course) and Sendhil Ramamurthy as an Indian genetics professor obsessed with proving that humans can evolve into superhumans. Also, director David Semel finds a way to shoot certain scenes as if they were comic book panels without cribbing the visual style of Ang Lee's "Hulk."

Could be interesting!

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- June 1, 2006 8:44 PM // Diaspora , TV