by Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate
The Backstory: This interview is the first in a series of interviews with the editors of Secret Identities, an anthology of comic short stories about Asian American superheroes from Asian American writers and artists. Secret Identities hit bookshelves last week, and in case you haven’t heard, it’s awesome.
In This Issue: I spoke with each of the editors one-on-one for about an hour, chatting about a variety of topics from the making of Secret Identities to their favourite comic books when they were a kid. These interviews are based on those conversations.
I thank each of the editors for taking time out of their busy schedules (and their jam-packed book tour) to chat with me.
I first met Parry Shen back in the spring of 2004, when he visited my undergraduate alma mater for a workshop on his experiences as lead actor in Justin Lin’s debut film, Better Luck Tomorrow. At his workshop, I learned a lot about Shen’s experiences as an Asian American actor in a predominantly non-Asian Hollywood. I learned about the difficulties for minority actors in the casting process and the sense of futility, cynicism, and defeat that many Asian American actors ultimately succumb to before leaving the industry altogether. And, I learned about the breath of fresh air that an independent film like Better Luck Tomorrow represented for a large community of struggling Asian American actors, directors and producers. Better Luck Tomorrow was a shot of pure adrenaline; it established to a disillusioned community of Asian American entertainers that a socially-conscious, Asian American-focused project could be made in a profit-driven mainstream Hollywood, and that our community would come out in full force to support it.
Six years later, Shen is hoping to do it again.
Although Shen is the first editor I interviewed for this series, he was the last editor to join the board of Secret Identities. A daily reader of Phil Yu’s Angry Asian Man blog, Shen was thrilled when Yu posted a call for submissions for a collected anthology of Asian American superhero comic stories written by Asian American comic book legends and fanboys alike. A long-time comic book fan, Shen immediately responded to the call for submissions (two of his pieces appear in the book: Hibakusha, a story about a group of young Hiroshima survivors who develop awesome powers, and 16 Miles, a story based on the death of real-life Asian American hero, James Kim). The anthology’s editors were so impressed with Shen’s creativity and enthusiasm, that they invited him to join the board as Managing Editor.