I was asked which character I would cosplay as if I were given the opportunity to do so and I found myself hesitating. While I can acknowledge that the Asian presence in the American comic book industry has been making quite some progress, the list of Asian comic book characters that I could choose from still felt slim. To prove my point, my friends laughed while suggesting the only mainstream Asian woman character they could think of off the top of their head: X-Men‘s Jubilee (or apparently if I wanted to be daring, I could also be The Walking Dead’s Glenn).
Now one could argue that I don’t have to choose an Asian character just because I’m Asian, but quite frankly thats not the point. There’s a reason why we get so excited when we see even one Asian character pop up in a series. You have to give us a break here- it doesn’t happen all too often.
With that said, the Asian presence is slowly, but surely, increasing in numbers. Writers, artists, and even Asian characters have been popping up everywhere and upon closer examination, I realized that the list of characters to choose from was more than I had originally presumed. Much to my delight, it became clear that there are a number of notable Asian figures making strides in the comic book industry. There are people who are working so that in time, I will have more characters suggested to me aside from Jubliee and Glenn (Don’t get me wrong, of course. I’m sure I’d make a lovely Glenn).
It only feels right that we take some time to showcase and appreciate some of these notable Asian comic book characters and the Asian artists behind these works. Lucky for us, this list seems to be growing more everyday.
Cassandra Cain- A Eurasian fictional character in DC Comics who serves as one of many Batgirls (part of the Batman franchise). A gifted warrior, Cassandra Cain was born and trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. Cassandra was deprived of speech and human contact. Instead, she was taught to read the physical movements of humans in order to determine their next move. Cassandra is the first Batgirl to get her own Batgirl comicbook series.
Jubliee-A Chinese American mutant within Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Known for having the superhuman ability to create “sparkles” from her hands. Although the youngest member of X-Men for quite some time, she was also a prominent figure during the 90’s era. More recently, Jubilee had lost her mutant powers, but was infected with a vampiric virus and currently has the abilities of a vampire.
Psylocke– A fictional character in Marvel Comics most known for her appearances in the X-Men franchise. Psylocke made her first appearance in UK Comic book Captain Britain which stars her twin brother. Psylocke’s mutant powers begin as telepathy and she eventually acquires telekinesis.
Lady Shiva– Mother to Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, Lady Shiva is also a character from DC Comics. She is an assassin known for killing her targets with her bare hands. Her popularity increased when she became more involved with the Batman franchise characters including the famous fights with her own daughter, Cassandra.
Lady Deathstrike– A Japanese Marvel Supervillain. Lady Deathstrike’s father was Lord Dark Wind himself who created the adamantium-bonding process (This is the indestructible metal alloy used on Wolverine’s skeleton and claws).Lady Deathstrike had adamantium bonded to her own skeleton. After her fathers dramatic end, Lady Deathstrike focused on seeking vengeance for his death. She is a foe of the X-Men and aims to kill Wolverine in particular.
Karma– A Vietnamese mutant part of Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Karma was among the “boat people” fleeing Vietnam during the war. Her mutant power is the ability to control the mind of others. She is one of the five founding members of the New Mutants (a group of teenage mutant superheros-in-training) and she is one of the first lesbian characters in such a well-known comic-book franchise.
Ryan Choi (Atom) – A DC Comics fictional super hero. Born in Hong Kong, Choi was a protege of Ray Palmer. Palmer had a sudden disapperance and Choi moved to Ivy Town to take over his Palmer’s position as a professor at Ivy University. What he didn’t expect was to find Palmer’s “bio-belt” which can control the size and density of its wearer. Under Palmer’s blessing, Ryan becomes the new Atom.
Captain Steel– Although this DC Character was not originally Asian, in DC‘s “New 52” reboot which featured a parallel world, it was revealed that Captain Steel was Pilipino. Although DC had Pilipino characters prior to this, Captain Steel was the first Pilipino superhero. Suffering from a congenital defect causing brittle bones, his scientist father created a metal substance to replace his bones and unknowingly gave him super human strength.
Tony Chu– A Chinese character from Image Comics, Tony Chu is one of few Asian American characters who is the lead of his own book, Chew. Chu is a police detective who is a “Cibopath” – he can take a bite out of anything and get a psychic read of what happened to them/it. It is in this manner that he solves his crimes.
Glenn (The Walking Dead)– A young member of the original Atlanta survivor group- a group of random strangers who must work together to survive an undead apocalypse. He is described as a selfless character who takes dangerous risks for the benefit of the group and thus becomes a vital member for their survival. His character increased in popularity due to the hit horror television series based on the comic book of the same name. His character is played by Korean American actor, Steven Yeun.
Jim Lee- Arguably the most known and decorated Asian-American comicbook artist, Korean-American Jim Lee began his career as an artist for Marvel Comics and he became a household name with his work for the X-Men franchise. In 1992, Lee joined forces with serval other artists to create Image Comics where he worked on WildCats. Adding on to his impressive resume, in 2010 Lee was announced as Co-publisher of DC Comics. He has worked on popular franchises such as X-Men, Batman, and Superman.
Leinil Yu– A Pilipino comic book artist who currently serves as one of Marvel’s major Asian-American artists. He began his career at Marvel by working on Wolverine. Pleased with his work, he was then asked to create art for Fantastic Four, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, and New Avengers. Yu has also done some work with DC such as Superman:Birthright with prominent writer Mark Waid. Additionally, he was the conceptional artist for the 2005 film Serenity (written and directed by Joss Whedon)
Whilce Portacio- Pilipino comicbook artist who was discovered in a San Diego Comic-con by a Marvel Comics editor. He was offered a position at Marvel to ink artwork and as a penciller. He is one of the seven co-founders of Image Comics and has also worked with DC Comics. While working on Uncanny X-Men became co-creator of the character Bishop. He has worked on many big titles including Punisher, Batman/Superman, Stormwatch, X-Force, Hulk, Iron Man, X-Factor, Alpha Flight, Batman, The Darkness and he is the creator of the series Wetworks.
Marjorie Liu– A novelist and comic writer most known for her work with Marvel Comics. She has written for the X-Men/Wolverine franchises with works such as NYX, X-23, Dark Wolverine, and Astonishing X-Men. She is also known for writing the first ever gay wedding in comics.
Jo Chen– A comicbook artist and writer most known for her painted comicbook covers. She worked professionally in the Asian comic book industry before beginning her career with DC Comics in 2000. Within DC, she has worked on major titles such as Thor and the Batman & Robin Franchise. She is most known for her work as a cover artist for Runaways (A Marvel comic book series) and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In addition to comics, she has done artwork for videogames such as Fable and Final Fantasy, and has created a manga series.
Dustin Nguyen– A Vietnamese-American comic book artist who has worked with DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Wildstorm. He has worked on popular Batman titles such as Batman, Detective Comics and Batman: Streets of Gotham. His cover art includes other major DC titles such as Batman Beyond and JL: Generation Lost. In addition, he has worked on projects such as Batgirl, Justice League Beyond, and a new digital series titled Batman: Li’l Gotham. When he’s not working on comics, Nguyen is also a conceptional artists for toys, games, and animation.