Gene Yang revives the first Asian-American superhero in “The Shadow Hero”

ShadowHero-Ecover-1-rgbBay Area creator Gene Yang is arguably one of the most consistently celebrated modern graphic novelists. His 2013 two volume novel Boxers & Saints was a finalist for a National Book Award, landed on numerous end of year lists, and was noted as one of the best books of the year by Library Journal. His 2006 book, American Born Chinese, was also a National Book Award finalist, received both a Printz and an Eisner, was named 2006/2007 Best Book by the Chinese American Librarians Association, and was noted on numerous lists.

Yang is finally applying his craft to the realm of superheroes with The Shadow Hero. He’s teaming up with illustrator Sonny Liew to resurrect Chu Hing’s Golden Age hero the Green Turtle. The Green Turtle made his appearance in issues of Blazing Comics and is considered the first Asian American superhero. Yang recently conducted an email interview with Publishers Weekly and he explained the publishing history of the Green Turtle.

Rumor has it, Chu Hing wanted to make his character a Chinese American, but his publisher didn’t think it was a good idea. Chu subverted his publisher by drawing the Green Turtle so that we almost never see his face. In those original comics, he usually has his back to us. When he is turned around, something – a piece of furniture, another character’s head, his own arm – blocks his face from our view. Supposedly, Chu did this so that we could imagine the Green Turtle as he originally intended, as a Chinese American.

Yang goes on to say that the Green Turtle wasn’t very popular and only lasted five issues of Blazing Comics. As a result of his short life in pulp the back story of the hero has never been told. That back story is what Yang is telling in his new comic.

The comic is first being released as a six-part digital series. That six-part series will be published by First Second in a trade paperback format this July. The Publishers Weekly article has more details on The Shadow Hero. Yang has also been writing occasional behind-the scenes posts at creation of the comic on his blog. The digital issues are available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, and Apple iBooks.

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