Tag Archives: Secret Identities

Blacklava Lights Up Asian America For 20 Years

By Guest Contributor Ken Choy, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Blacklava founder Ryan Suda

Blacklava has been a reliable support system for Asian America. If one has an indie film, she’d go to Blacklava to help promote it. If one wants to expand a business, t-shirts created by Blacklava is the obvious choice. And if non-profits and live events need more bandwidth, no wider audience is to be found than Blacklava’s. Throngs crowd around the company’s booth appearances at Comic-Con just as much as they do at the Nihonmachi Street Fair.

Originally geared toward the surfing community, Ryan Suda created his company 20 years ago. He segued into Asian American-focused items when he created the “Asian is Not Oriental” t-shirt and was continually asked, “Hey, where can I get one of those?” And since then, Blacklava has been a reliable source of support and socially conscious sustenance for the Asian American community. Throughout the years, Blacklava has partnered with the likes of AngryAsianManSan Diego Asian Film FestivalEast West PlayersNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalSecret Identities, and over 150 other collaborators–including our own Hyphen Magazine.

As he prepares to open a 20th Anniversary Exhibit in Downtown LA’s Hatakeyama Gallery which includes an Opening Night Gala, I caught up with the soft-spoken entrepreneur and philanthropist with a huge heart.

Continue reading

Secret Identities Superhero Contest Winner: Hush

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

I apologize that this took so long… At long last, here’s the final winner from our Secret Identities Superhero Contest, where readers were asked to submit their own original idea for an Asian American superhero. We would have posted this sooner, but understandably, superstar comic book artist Bernard Chang is a busy man. So without further ado, here is Hush by Juli Martin, as rendered above by Bernard Chang.

EDITORS’ NOTES

We apologize for the long delay, but we were set on having Bernard Chang, the superstar artist behind Greg Pak’s THE CITIZEN in SECRET IDENTITIES, bring this last winning hero to life–in part because he also happens to be the artist for DC’s WONDER WOMAN, making him the perfect guy to visualize this powerful female hero. Unfortunately, as you might guess, Bernard’s a busy guy!

As for why we picked Hush as a winner in our contest: We loved the uniqueness of Hush’s background–how many other lesbian, transracially adopted superheroines are there in comics? Not enough!–and the rich emotions at play in her characterization. We did end up editing aspects of her power and origin, however, both to make her code name make sense and to bring her power away from that of other characters.

We also liked the notion of turning a vulnerability into a power: In this edit, Jane goes from self-imposed isolation and emotional repression to becoming superhumanly empathic; we thought that it was really interesting that such an ability would turn her into a formidable opponent. Think about it: If you could instantly read a person’s emotions and responses, and react with exactly the right physical or verbal cue, you’d be both a killer hand-to-hand combat artist and a devastating manipulator, wouldn’t you?

All in all, a great character, like the other three we discovered through this contest. With any luck, this won’t be the last we’ve heard of any of them!

HERO DESCRIPTION

Abandoned as a newborn, Jane was adopted from Korea by a wealthy white couple at four months. After unexpectedly having two biological children, Jane’s adoptive parents feel they have no use for her, and when she comes out as bisexual at age 13, they kick her out. She is shuffled through the foster care system until aging out, at which point she moves to The Center, a cooperative home for homeless LGBTQ youth. Abandoned so many times, she now calls herself “Jane Doe.”

Jane is a queer femme woman, slim build, 20. Her black hair is cut choppy and asymmetrical, streaked with electric blue. Her style is edgy and futuristic, in black, gray and blue. Continue reading

Pop Mythology, Buying and Selling: A Report from the First Asian American Comic Con

by Guest Contributor Joesph Shahadi, originally published at Vs. the Pomegranate

On my way out the door to attend the first-ever Asian American Comic Con in New York City last week I turned on the TV to keep my (awesome, but needy) dog company and suddenly my apartment was filled with the Owen Wilson/Jackie Chan vehicle Shanghai Noon. I averted my eyes (I can’t look at Owen Wilson’s face… I am sure he is a nice person who loves his mom but his nose, with its various planes and levels, is like an SAT math question). I changed the channel but not before Wilson could point that dodecahedron at the camera and say “She’s not the killer. She’s just a very, very, very, hot confused Chinese girl.” I looked at the dog and said, “Boy, these personal ads just write themselves, don’t they?” The dog gave me nothing so I settled on a soothing infomercial about mineral-based makeup, and left for the Con. But the random intrusion of that orientalist/sexist joke was a weird preface to the rest of the afternoon.

The Asian American Comic Con was presented by Secret Identities Media (the folks who gave us Secret Identities: the Asian American Superhero Anthology), The Asian American Writers workshop, Greg Pak’s Asianamericancomics.com and the Museum of Chinese in America, in whose beautiful new building the event was held. While it was modest compared to the San Diego Comic Con International, which has become the mother ship of pop culture, the first year of the AACC was impressive in its scope. The Con was designed along three separate workshop tracks: “Reading Comics”, “Making Comics”, and the “Spotlight Track”, which featured comic book industry professionals like Pak, Khoi Phan, Larry Hama and others. Organizing the event this way acknowledges that comic books have become a force in setting trends for mainstream pop culture and in a more academic sense, as models for looking at stuff like ethnic representations in popular media. According to the program, “ You might want to think of the ‘con’ as representing not ‘convention’, but ‘conference’—or even ‘conversation.’” Hmm. Interesting. Continue reading

Missing Identities: Racialicious Revisits Secret Identities

By Guest Contributor Sunny Kim

secret2 I first learned about Project Secret Identities over two years ago when a call for story submissions started to float around my corner of the interwebs. My excitement was limitless! No more waiting for some white guy to come save me! Now I could have my own superheroes. Secret Identities promised to fill the need for comics that cast us as the superheroes and I waited with bated breath for the release.

Here we are in 2009 and the book has been released to much fanfare. And yet, I feel disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the nerd specs on the pleasing green cover (I rock my own pair everyday). There are some real gems in this anthology including the oft-cited “The Blue Scorpion and Chung” (Bruce Lee hated being Kato) and the true-to-life stories in the section From Headline to Hero (“Taking Back Troy” re-imagines Vincent Chin’s story in a way that doesn’t let us forget it). Despite the many great stories found within this anthology there are some glaring holes that I can’t seem to fly over.

The editors of the book tell us that Asian Americans have more in common with Clark Kent than just his geek chic appearance and as such present an opening for our superheroes. Yet the editors define Asian American by the stories they chose, and it seems like they define Asian as “East Asian with a sprinkling of Filipino and a drop of Indian.” In other words Secret Identities is more East Asian than Asian, and Shen and Yang have — I’m sure unintentionally — deleted most of the Asian continent in their selection process.

Continue reading

The Secret’s Out: Secret Identities Is Here And It’s Awesome!

by Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate

The first few pages of Secret Identities chronicle an exchange between Jeff Yang (writer of Asian Pop! at the San Francisco Chronicle) and Keith Chow (freelance writer) that originally inspired the Asian American superhero anthology released today. Yang, researching his now well-cited article on Asian American pop culture and comic books (Look… Up in the Sky! It’s Asian Man!), asks Chow about the appeal that comics have had for Asian American youth. Chow replies: “Comics have always been a refuge for kids who are shy or socially awkward. And I think for Asian Americans, the parallels are even stronger. You’re an outsider. You don’t fit in. But then you go to school and meet other people like yourself. You discover your secret heritage – the thing inside you that makes you special.”

Yet, it is frustrating that the comic book industry has failed to identify and acknowledge their loyal Asian American fan-base. While the number of Asian/Asian American superheroes has slowly increased over the last few decades, these heroes remain massively overshadowed by an overabundance of Caucasian protagonists (for a chronological listing of Asian/Asian American superheroes in comics, check out my site Outsiders). Those Asian/Asian American superheroes who do achieve the pinnacle of comic book success – their own ongoing title or mini-series – are frequently written in a one-dimensional (or even stereotypical) manner (often by non-Asian writers overwhelmed by the pressure to write a realistic portrayal of a person with a hyphenated racial and cultural identity). Instead, many contemporary Asian American superheroes end up as a tragic East-meets-West cliché, before they (or their title) meet an untimely (but ultimately predictable) end.

Enter Secret Identities, an anthology of comic short stories about Asian/Asian American superheroes written and illustrated by a superstar cast of Asian/Asian American comic fans, and edited by Yang, Chow, Jerry Ma (founder of Epic Proportions, an independent studio) and Parry Shen (Better Luck Tomorrow). A whopping 190 pages, Secret Identities runs the gamut from classic origin stories of a variety of Asian American superheroes (e.g. Sampler by Jimmy Aquino and art by Erwin Haya) to quirky commentaries on the roles Asian American characters play in today’s mainstream comics (e.g. The Blue Scorpion & Chung by Gene Yang and art by Sonny Liew). And what an amazing diversity of stories it is! Secret Identities is a spirited and gleeful act of protest against the invisibility of Asian Americans in the pages of mainstream comics: each story is a fresh reminder that we Asian Americans can be iconic superheroes, too. Continue reading