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date: 16 April 2021

Asian American Graphic Narrativefree

  • Monica ChiuMonica ChiuUniversity of New Hampshire
  •  and Jeanette RoanJeanette RoanCalifornia College of the Arts


Asian American graphic narratives typically produce meaning through arrangements of images, words, and sequences, though some forgo words completely and others offer an imagined “before” and “after” within the confines of a single panel. Created by or featuring Asian Americans or Asians in a US or Canadian context, they have appeared in a broad spectrum of formats, including the familiar mainstream genre comics, such as superhero serials from DC or Marvel Comics; comic strips; self-published minicomics; and critically acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels. Some of these works have explicitly explored Asian American issues, such as anti-Asian racism, representations of history, questions of identity, and transnationalism; others may feature Asian or Asian American characters or settings without necessarily addressing established or familiar Asian American issues. Indeed, many works made by Asian American creators have little or no obvious or explicit Asian American content at all, and some non-Asian American creators have produced works with Asian American representations, including racist stereotypes and caricatures.

The earliest representations of Asians in comics form in the United States were racist representations in the popular press, generally in single-panel caricatures that participated in anti-immigration discourses. However, some Asian immigrants in the early to mid-20th century also used graphic narratives to show and critique the treatment of Asians in the United States. In the realm of mainstream genre comics, Asian Americans have participated in the industry in a variety of different ways. As employees for hire, they created many well-known series and characters, generally not drawing, writing, or editing content that is recognizably Asian American. Since the 2010s, though, Asian American creators have reimagined Asian or Asian American versions of legacy characters like Superman and the Hulk and created new heroes like Ms. Marvel. In the wake of an explosion of general and scholarly interest in graphic novels in the 1990s, many independent Asian American cartoonists have become significant presences in the contemporary graphic narrative world.

Defining Asian American Graphic Narratives

“Asian American graphic narrative” as a concept, a critical designation, and an object of scholarly study has come about only since about 2000. A broad academic interest in graphic narratives—a term encompassing various types of long-form comics, including but not limited to nonfiction graphic memoirs, graphic journalism, and fictional graphic novels—has since then emerged and captured the attention of Asian American studies scholars. Issues from within the Asian American studies community, for example, the relationship between identity and cultural production, the real-life effects of derogatory fictional representations, and the transnational turn in Asian American studies, have shaped the definition and study of “Asian American graphic narratives,” in addition to long-standing caveats about the category “Asian American” itself as an umbrella term that references a wide range of ethnic groups with diverse histories, traditions, beliefs, and politics. For the purposes of this article, the term Asian American graphic narrative will be used to loosely reference graphic narratives that are either produced by Asian American creators or feature Asian or Asian American characters, themes, and stories set in the United States or Canada.

The study of contemporary Asian American comics creators and of representations of Asians and Asian Americans in comics is an emerging subfield in both Asian American studies and in the relatively new but rapidly growing field of comics studies. Academic interest in comics is evident in the rise of specialized journals in comics scholarship; the large number of comics-oriented publications from the University Press of Mississippi, a leading publisher of studies on comics and cartoonists; a growing interest in comics studies from other university presses; the array of undergraduate and graduate courses that are either dedicated to graphic narratives or include them on their syllabi; the myriad of conference panels addressing graphic narratives at the annual conventions of the Modern Language Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the American Studies Association, and Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS); and the recent formation of the Comics Studies Society, an international scholarly association based in the United States. The history and analyses that follow demonstrate that Asian American graphic narratives can provide a productive arena for the exploration of many of the critical concerns central to Asian American studies and bring needed attention to representations of race and ethnicity to comics studies.

Historical Works

A history of racist representations, specifically those of Asians in the United States and Canada, haunts many Asian American graphic narratives. Late-nineteenth and early-20th-century popular-culture caricatures of Asians, as well as their contemporary derivations, are familiar topics in Asian American studies, though they are not yet part of the standard narrative of the history of comics. The Coming Man: 19th Century American Perceptions of the Chinese collects some of the earliest popular illustrations of Asians in the United States, from publications such as Puck, The Wasp, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper’s Weekly.1 Typically single-panel scenes, some of these illustrations documented instances of the Chinese at work, living their lives in Chinatowns, and practicing seemingly exotic rituals; others were explicitly racist caricatures that helped to bolster legal and political impediments to Asian immigration to the United States. In Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, Robert G. Lee examines these early caricatured representations for their role in perpetuating stereotypes of Asian immigrants as a racialized labor force. Sheng-mei Ma offers critiques of Yellow Peril typing in comic strips in The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity.2 Jared Gardner writes that these representations are the images against which cartoonists work, and he argues that the static nature of single-panel comics is more conducive to stereotyping as compared to sequential narratives.3

However, since the first decades of the 20th century, Asians in the United States and Canada have been producing alternative representations. Possibly the earliest that can be considered an Asian American graphic narrative is Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama’s The Four Immigrants Manga.4 The book, which Kiyama self-published in 1931 in San Francisco and printed in Tokyo, is based on the experiences of Kiyama, who had traveled to the United States to study art, and three of his friends, all of whom arrived in San Francisco in 1904. The original work was written in both English and Japanese. Although Kiyama had intended to publish it as a newspaper strip, instead, some of the original pages were shown in art exhibitions of his work before The Four Immigrants Manga appeared in book form. Many of the narrative’s episodes, each presented in twelve panels across two pages in the 1999 English translation by Frederik L. Schodt, chronicle the young men’s experiences of historic events, such as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The book also documents the challenges Japanese immigrants to San Francisco faced: working as “schoolboys” for white American families, trying to make money farming rice, searching for companionship and starting families by marrying picture brides, dealing with racism in everyday life, and contending with the effects of anti-Asian legislation and anti-Asian violence.

Like Kiyama, Miné Okubo was trained as an artist, but in the early 21st century she is best known for Citizen 13660, a moving documentation of her experiences and observations of the incarceration of Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II, first in a detention center in Tanforan, California, and then in a camp in Topaz, Utah. Okubo’s work was first published in 1946 by Columbia University Press, and it was one of the earliest public accounts of the Japanese American wartime incarceration.5 Her collected black-and-white drawings, printed one to a page with narratives ranging from a sentence to two paragraphs beneath each illustration, depict the conditions in the imprisoning barracks and the internees’ subtle rebellions in the well-guarded “camp towns”; she included her own rebellion when she posted a “quarantined” sign on her barrack door to prevent closer inspection by American soldiers during their rounds. Cameras were not permitted in camp, and so Okubo’s illustrations are an important record of the Japanese American evacuation and incarceration, and when Okubo testified at a public hearing held by the US Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in New York City in 1981, she presented the commission with a copy of her book in addition to providing oral testimony. Kiyama’s and Okubo’s nonfiction narratives in comics form hardly seem unusual in 2018, when nonfiction graphic memoirs are commonplace; but in the historical context, their depictions of the challenges and joys of everyday life, even in traumatic settings like Japanese internment camps, serve as early examples of the possibilities of graphic narratives as an expression of and from Asian American lives.

Superheroes and Stereotypes

The Golden Age of comics, an era that saw the introduction of many of the 21st century’s most familiar superheroes (including Superman in 1938), also included many stereotypical Asian characters. Scholarship on Asian and Asian American representation in mainstream US comics has not been as robust as the writing on Asian American graphic novels has been, but the topic was taken up in the 2011 museum exhibition Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942–1986. The exhibition was co-curated by Jeff Yang and D. Daniel Kim, produced by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, and built around the William F. Wu Collection at New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections.6 It usefully distilled the history of the representation of Asians in US mainstream comics from World War II to the mid-1980s. The displays included pages and covers from select comics, organized according to recurring archetypes, alongside commentary by contemporary Asian American comics artists and cultural critics.7 The comics on display included familiar superhero titles, such as The Amazing Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America; war comics, such as Air War Stories; and lesser-known serials with titles like Yellow Claw. The exhibition was grouped into sections based on the following comics archetypes: the Alien, the Kamikaze, the Brute, the Lotus Blossom, the Guru, the Brain, the Temptress, and the Manipulator. These types resemble those that many scholars have catalogued in other realms of mainstream US cultural production, such as film or television.

Although mainstream genre comics have featured stereotypical caricatures of Asians, the industry has also included Asian American artists in its ranks. However, Asian Americans who worked on these earlier titles, and even many of the writers and artists who continue to work for mainstream publishers such as Marvel or DC Comics, do so as part of a team. Wall text for a section of the Marvels and Monsters exhibition titled “Beyond Stereotypes” pointed out that “given the collaborative process of comics creation . . . and the work-for-hire nature of the industry, the [Asians] who were there didn’t always have complete control over how their characters were depicted.” Some artists, such as Whilce Portacio, have included signifiers of their heritage in their work without explicitly addressing that heritage in the story. Portacio, one of a number of Filipino artists who came to the United States to work for comic book publishers, drew the Russian mutant character Colossus wearing a jacket with the Philippines flag emblazoned on the back in Uncanny X-Men #290, penning the word makulit (meaning “persistent” or “nagging”) above the flag.8 He also reportedly originally conceived and designed the character Bishop of the X-Men as Filipino, though the artists were later directed to make him African American.9 In contrast, Larry Hama was able to expand on the story arcs of the characters in Marvel Comic’s G. I. Joe: An American Hero, using the Hasbro toys on which the comic is based merely as a point of departure. Hama has said that he was unhappy that Storm Shadow, initially the only Asian character in the story, was a villain. Hama’s revised Storm Shadow narrative made it possible for the character to eventually join the G.I. Joe team as a hero, albeit one with divided loyalties.10 Storm Shadow, a Japanese American whose real name is Tomasiburo “Thomas” Arashikage, was eventually given his own title, G.I. Joe: Storm Shadow, which ran for seven issues in 2007.11

Perhaps the highest profile Asian American in the mainstream comics industry is the Korean American Jim Lee. Although his work does not explicitly highlight Asian American characters or narratives, the curators of Marvels and Monsters noted that his support of other Asian American comics creators, such as Portacio and Brandon Choi, and his role in forming Image Comics and the subsequent rise of independent comics, helped to pave the way for the success of Gene Luen Yang, Derek Kirk Kim, Kazu Kibuishi, and other creators. Asian American representation among superheroes is only one side of the issue. There is also the lack of scholarly focus on influential Asian American comics creators, such as Portacio, Jim Lee, and Larry Hama. The fact that Hama, a forty-year veteran of the comics industry who, in addition to his work on G.I. Joe has also written for the series Wolverine and Elektra, has rarely been mentioned in studies of Asian American graphic narratives illuminates the ongoing challenges with respect to both the stereotyping of Asian Americans in comics and the neglect of their contributions in the creation of comics.

Two edited collections, Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology (2009) and Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology (2012), implicitly critique the stereotypes catalogued by Marvels and Monsters. They offer an Asian American take on the superhero genre (Secret Identities) and an argument that the medium of comics can be used in the expression of Asian American history and culture (Shattered).12 Both anthologies feature many established and emerging Asian American comics creators, who contribute a wealth of short narratives featuring Asian American heroes and address themes related to identity, history, and representation.

Jeff Yang and Jef Castro begin Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology with a preface featuring a mock comic book cover for a team called “The Y-Men,” with the tag line “The Lamest Stuper-Zeroes of All!” and copy promising “Faburous ‘oligin’ issue . . . ‘You readee . . . you rikee.’”13 After this parody of superhero prose and jab at the orientalist imagery in the superhero genre, they go on to recount in a short comic that the editors of the anthology came together not only because of their shared love of superhero comics, but also because of their disappointment at the lack of Asian American superheroes. The character Keith says, “Go to a comic book convention. A quarter of the kids are Asian. A lot of the top artists are Asian American too.” But when the character Jeff asks, “So why aren’t there more Asian superheroes?” Keith doesn’t have an answer except to express his desire to write an Asian American superhero comic.14 Shattered: An Asian American Anthology, the 2012 follow-up to Secret Identities, furthers some of the narratives that were introduced in the first collection and adds a new, overarching narrative told in several parts and featuring a number of shorter comics. As the title suggests, Shattered continues in the vein of demolishing stagnant representations, often replacing them with the outrageous—exaggerations of exaggerations—as a way to combat the types. The anthology also offers a series of stand-alone Asian American superheroes conceived and drawn by Asian American artists and writers.

One graphic narrative that revises an actual but short-lived Golden Age superhero stands out: The Shadow Hero.15 It was written by Gene Luen Yang, the creator of the immensely popular American Born Chinese, and illustrated by Sonny Liew, the Malaysian-born, Singapore-based artist best known for the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.16 Yang and Liew bring back the character Green Turtle, who some assumed to be of Chinese origin, created by Chinese American comics illustrator Chu Hing and published in Blazing Comics in 1944.17 The original series ran for only five issues,18 but the Green Turtle is reanimated in The Shadow Hero, endowed by Yang and Liew with an origin story set in a fictional 1930s American city called San Incendio, which is humorously replete with tongs, a dragon lady, mythical Chinese spirits, and an orientalized casino that doubles as a tong master’s den of iniquity. Yang and Liew’s tongue-in-cheek narrative mocks the ossification of orientalism and alienation (in fact, it introduces an actual alien, the Anchor of Justice, who assures the Shadow Hero, “My parents aren’t from around here either”) as it strategically challenges cultural assumptions about Asian American immigrants, women, and heroism.19 However, as Monica Chiu has argued about The Shadow Hero, these Asian American imitations no more than gently tap at the boundaries of negative racial representation. For example, when Gangster Mock Beak and his Asian American tong associates laugh at the Shadow Hero, who is dressed in gwailou (Western European) tights and a cape, does their incredulity about the idea of an Asian American superhero reinforce the same sentiments that prevented the Green Turtle from being explicitly depicted as a Chinese superhero and finding commercial success in 1944?20 As both a riff on various histories (of Asian immigration to America and Asian American representations in popular culture) and as a humorous superhero narrative, The Shadow Hero critiques as it recreates.

On the heels of The Shadow Hero, Yang was hired as a writer, first for the continuation of the “Truth” storyline for Superman and then as writer and creator of DC Rebirth’s New Super-Man comic, illustrated by Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend and featuring the seventeen-year-old character Kenan Kong from Shanghai, who is given Superman’s powers by the Chinese government and who is a member of the Justice League of China.21 In the Marvel Comics universe, in 2005, Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa, in Amazing Fantasy #15, debuted Amadeus Cho, a Korean American teenager, identified as the seventh smartest person in the world.22 Cho assumed the mantle of the Hulk in The Totally Awesome Hulk series beginning in 2015.23 The Totally Awesome Hulk #15 showcases an Asian American superhero team-up of Cho, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jake Oh, Shang-Chi, and Silk (Cindy Moon), all brought together by secret agent Jimmy Woo, head of the Agents of Atlas. These superheroes appear together at a charity event to appeal for more Asian Americans to register as bone marrow donors. They then head to Manhattan’s Koreatown for a Korean barbecue dinner, where they discuss their differences and their similarities (such as being the children of immigrant parents), fight over the check, laugh about Asian stereotypes, and end the evening at a karaoke bar. These characters play both with and against type.

The most well-known and critically acclaimed of the new Asian American superhero serials is Ms. Marvel, conceived by Sana Amanat and written and drawn by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, respectively. Character Kamala Khan is a Pakistani American Muslim teenager in Jersey City who significantly refashions the American and Asian American superhero.24 Although Kamala idolizes the blond-haired, blue-eyed Carol Danvers, whose Ms. Marvel series debuted in 1977, she successfully navigates between her adherence to family, her culture, Islam, and the demands of being a superhero by, for example, making practical use of a burkini as a piece of her superhero attire. If the nearly total lack of Asian American superheroes, until recently, ossified the characterization of Asians in mainstream comics into culturally recognizable Fu Manchus, Dragon Ladies, submissive Lotus Blossoms, or Charlie Chans,25 the 2010s have seen a new generation of Asian American comics creators revise the racial parameters of superhero stardom by imagining, and drawing and writing into existence, innovative heroes that are part of increasingly diverse mainstream comics universes.

1990s Explosion and Beyond: From the Alternative Fringes to the Mainstream

The critical and commercial success of graphic narratives such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1986, 1991), Alan Moore’s Watchmen (1987), Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2000, 2003 [English translation]), Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (2006), and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2007), along with changes in the publishing world, enabled the emergence of a new generation of independent Asian American comics creators, many of whom have become well-established figures.26 Some of these writers and artists have tackled issues of Asian American identity, history, and culture; many others create works that do not feature explicitly Asian American characters or themes.

Gene Luen Yang, one of the most established and prolific Asian American comics creators, has addressed Asian American identity, representation, history, and culture throughout his career. His best-known work, American Born Chinese, interweaves three stories: one about the mythical Monkey King from Chinese classics; one about an Asian American boy struggling to adapt in a US middle school; and one about a high school student whose embarrassing cousin Chin-Kee visits the student’s family and attends his school as both the model minority and the racial abject. The cleverly constructed narrative about identity and acceptance references images from 19th-century racist cartoons as the basis for the controversial Chin-Kee, a pig-tailed, buck-toothed Chinese character who speaks English in an exaggerated Asian accent and is also a model minority of 20th-century academic excellence. Although Chin-Kee is offensive to some readers, he strategically exemplifies how such stereotypical images persist in contemporary perceptions of Asians and Asian Americans. American Born Chinese is widely taught in high schools and college classrooms and written about by scholars. It was also the first graphic novel to be named a finalist for the National Book Award, and it won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Many of Yang’s other works have also focused on racial identity; for example, he redrafts the white superhero as a Chinese American one in The Shadow Hero and sets sweeping histories in China in Boxers and Saints.27 Yang has been recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2016, he was appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress.

According to Hillary Chute, “the cross-discursive form of comics” communicates racist and sexist trauma by showing and telling topics that were once relegated to secrecy and silence.28 Lynda Barry is best known in Asian American literary contexts for her graphic memoir One Hundred Demons,29 though she established her reputation in the long-running alternative-newspaper series Ernie Pook’s Comeek. One Hundred Demons records the joys and challenges of growing up in a Seattle-based, mixed-race neighborhood as the red-haired, fair-skinned child of parents of Norwegian, Irish, and Filipino heritage, whose cultures often clashed with those of her peers. Barry marks the difference between protagonist Lynda’s pale, freckled self and her brown-skinned peers and Filipino family members. Many vignettes reveal the racism she encounters from the neighborhood kids and the stigma attached to being Asian, and there is also a childhood scene of sexual abuse. Both funny and poignant, Barry touches a nerve that reminds readers of the bittersweet memories—and often ugly traumas—of childhood. However, Barry’s later workbooks and guides to creative thinking, writing, and drawing, including What It Is, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, and Syllabus, are eclectic books that move away from explicit discussions of race, gender, and sexuality and into the nature of human creative conjuring.30

Outraged by popular culture’s representations of Asian Americans, specifically in animation, Lela Lee created Clara: “Angry Little Asian Girl” in 1994, a vulgar-mouthed, sassy cartoon character, drawn first in magic marker, who has subsequently been featured in a comic strip, on a TV show, in books, and on T-shirts and other merchandise.31 The popularity of Lee’s Angry Little Asian Girl illustrated the need for innovative art to continue its work of combating racial stereotyping, a recurrent theme among artists. For example, Tak Toyoshima’s syndicated comic strip Secret Asian Man, which began in 1999 and is centered on Osama “Sam” Takahashi, also explicitly addresses issues of racial and ethnic difference in the United States.32

Like Asian American prose fiction, Asian American graphic narratives were initially dominated by stories by and about Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Korean Americans. After 2010, graphic narratives by and about Southeast Asian Americans began to appear. Pulitzer Prize–winning author and critic Viet Thanh Nguyen argues, in Nothing Ever Dies, that “through rituals, parades, speeches, memorials, platitudes, and ‘true war stories,’ the citizenry is constantly called to remember the nation’s own heroes and dead, which is easier to do when the citizenry also forgets the enemy and their dead.”33 Two notable graphic memoirs do not forget the complexities of the traumas inflicted on the Vietnamese by all sides during the first and second Indochinese wars: GB Tran’s Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey and Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir.34 These narratives are about history, memory, and identity, assimilation into US culture by Southeast Asian refugees, and the politically charged framings of a former home country after war.

Marking thirty-five years since the end of the Vietnam War, Villard Books published GB Tran’s Vietnamerica to critical acclaim. The book is taught frequently in Asian American studies classrooms. Tran’s large cast of characters, dizzying shifts of time, impressive assemblage of drawing modes, a one-page collage of photographs, and use of various color palettes and lettering styles have encouraged scholarship that not only addresses content (the confusion of war, survival, miscommunication, and regret), but also frequently hones in on its formal qualities, which are often overlooked in the scholarship on Asian American graphic narratives. Bui’s The Best We Could Do uses a quieter style of drawing and a monochromatic, earthy, reddish-brown wash in its lyrical reflections on motherhood and on the inheritances from one generation to the next. Her recounting of her family’s histories in Vietnam, a refugee camp in Malaysia, and in the United States is both an empathetic portrait of her parents and an effort to account for the personal and political costs of war, displacement, and resettlement.

These two narratives from the Vietnamese diaspora clearly engage with Asian American characters and contexts, but other Asian American comics creators fluctuate between accentuating and downplaying the effects of race on their characters, a strategy that suggests differing perspectives on questions of racial signification and their import on raced subjects. The opening argument in Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings between protagonist Ben Tanaka and his girlfriend Miko about what makes good art speaks to expectations that works by Asian Americans should address certain kinds of subject matter, especially when they are being celebrated in Asian American venues. At the same time, Ben wrestles with his own unresolved issues around race, gender, and sexuality, and he refuses to grasp the very racial issues that depress him. Ben’s resistance prompts Sandra Oh to inquire of Shortcomings, “What does it mean for racialized subjects, figures who, with varying degrees of comfort and enthusiasm, accept their racialized identities, to work so actively against the cultural and ideological structures that undergird and enable that very same identity?”35

Tomine, popularly known for his New Yorker cover art, in his graphic narratives turns his eye to the characters’ psychological interiors, often using the motif of voyeurism. In works such as Sleepwalk and Other Stories (1998), Summer Blonde and Other Stories (2003), and Shortcomings (2007), which are all drawn from his minicomic series Optic Nerve, Tomine’s urban, twenty-something protagonists struggle to connect in a world of fleeting relationships and sometimes overt, but more often subdued, racial politics.36 Fittingly, many of these stories conclude ambiguously, pressing readers to wonder to what extent race and other identity markers do or do not operate for his characters. Tomine has expressed discomfort with the way in which Asian American audiences receive Shortcomings, in particular, with the intense criticism that some readers level at the character Ben for his sexual dalliances with white women and interest in pornography featuring white women.37 Tomine’s guarded position on the relationship between his racial and ethnic identity and the subject matter and themes of his work cautions against expectations that all Asian American comics creators work exclusively with Asian American subject matter.

In the essay “Masticating Adrian Tomine,” Viet Thanh Nguyen writes of his appreciation for the way Tomine’s Summer Blonde “shows that race isn’t what we think it is, and that race isn’t all there is to see.” Nguyen suggests that at a moment when “more Asian American authors are writing about non-Asian Americans,” Tomine “not only writes and rewrites the stories of race, but draws and redraws the look of race as well.”38 On similar grounds, Min Hyoung Song begins the introduction to The Children of 1965: On Writing, and Not Writing, as an Asian American with a discussion of the opening argument of Shortcomings, and he includes a chapter titled “Comics and the Changing Meaning of Race.”39 Song argues that the literary designation “Asian American” can be stifling, a rigid classification that guides readers in particular, fixed directions, even though “race more often than not turns out to be a source of creativity in the pages these [Asian American] writers are producing.”40 Indeed, a number of contemporary Asian American comics creators only indirectly reference race in their works, in direct contrast to the “by, for, and about” criteria that once defined Asian American literature.

Derek Kirk Kim’s most well-known graphic narrative Same Difference only obliquely concerns identity as his youthful protagonists set out to unravel a mysterious love letter that falls into their hands.41 Other of his works, such as Good as Lily and Tune, feature Asian American protagonists but also critique contemporary and earth-centric notions of postethnicity as they depict fantastical circumstances rather than everyday life in the racially diverse arena of the San Francisco Bay Area as does Same Difference.42 Although Jason Shiga’s early work Double Happiness featured Asian American characters in a Chinatown setting, his other books, from the choose-your-own-adventure-style comic Meanwhile to the more recent Demon, are not explicitly about Asian American identity or issues.43 Yet he has made a conscious decision to feature Asian American protagonists in all of his stories.44

Cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki’s critically acclaimed collaborative work Skim, about a Japanese Canadian teen exploring her sexual identity, represents racial identity in a subtle, nuanced fashion. Their This One Summer does not identify the characters as Asian (North) American in this narrative of adolescence, sexuality, and identity, though Mariko Tamaki has said publicly that the father in the story is hapa, or part Asian.45 Jillian Tamaki’s other titles, SuperMutant Magic Academy and Boundless, also make no explicit reference to race, though at least one character in SuperMutant Magic Academy could be read as Asian or part Asian, and despite the title Boundless, the stories within suggest that boundlessness is still tied to acknowledged boundaries.46 Mariko Tamaki has also been hired by DC and Marvel Comics for mainstream superhero titles such as Supergirl, The New Super-Man, and She-Hulk and by Dark Horse for Tomb Raider; with the exception of The New Super-Man, these are not about Asian or Asian American issues or themes.

Contemporary authors and artists of Asian American graphic narratives create works in a variety of formats, on all kinds of themes and subjects. Kazu Kibuishi is arguably one of the most popular Asian American comics creators of the 21st century, though he has received virtually no scholarly attention. Kibuishi’s comics challenge and engage young readers with narratives of loss, danger, mystery, and wonder set in other worlds. His bestselling Amulet series follows the adventures of two children, Emily and Navin, in a fantastical world full of robots, elves, incredible creatures, and powerful forces.47 Kibuishi’s popular webcomic Copper, featuring a brave and inquisitive boy and his fearful, neurotic dog, was collected in book form in 2010.48 He is also known for his work as the editor of the well-regarded comics anthologies Flight and Explorer.49 Finally, many readers know Kibuishi as the creator of covers for the fifteenth anniversary editions of the Harry Potter series.

Other Asian American comics creators play with form (for instance, Thien Pham’s Oubapo-inspired Sumo or June Kim’s Original English Language manga 12 Days), and they investigate topics ranging broadly from melancholia and modern life (Michael Cho’s Shoplifter) to ethics in the gaming world (Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow’s In Real Life).50 In the realm of science fiction and fantasy, Fred Chao’s Johnny Hiro series features a superhero sushi chef of sorts, who manages to save his girlfriend and his city multiple times despite his lack of any overt superpowers.51 Bryan Lee O’Malley’s average protagonist Scott Pilgrim series features spectacular battles between Scott and his girlfriend’s evil ex-boyfriends.52 O’Malley’s Seconds is about a young chef named Katie who discovers a way to erase her mistakes and rewrite the past.53 In 2017, Marjorie Liu, who has a thriving career as a young adult novelist and as a writer for Marvel Comics, published the second volume of the Image Comics title Monstress, a fantastical story centered on a young woman with mysterious powers.54 Given the history of Asians in America, references to power, or lack thereof, continue to resonate subtly in many contemporary Asian American graphic narratives and superhero comics, yet as these titles demonstrate, this theme can play out in an almost infinite variety of contexts and genres.

Non–Asian American comics creators have also produced compelling representations of Asian American protagonists, as in John Layman’s and Rob Guillory’s bestselling Chew series, featuring Tony Chu, a cibopath who receives psychic impressions of anything he eats.55 As Jeanette Roan argues, unlike many popular-culture representations of Asian Americans, Tony is shown to be part of an extended family that reinforces his racial and ethnic identity, and the comic as a whole challenges racist discourses of Asians and food.56 Issue #6 of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet is devoted to the backstory of Meiko Maki and features an explicit critique of the fetishization of Japanese culture and women.57 Familiar stereotypes, however, still circulate among graphic narratives about Asians and Asian Americans. Danica Novgorodoff’s exquisite watercolors in The Undertaking of Lily Chen test 21st-century feminism in an ancient oriental landscape and culture, and Craig Thompson’s visually intricate (but also arrestingly orientalist) Habibi features an exotic and eroticized woman living in a region that vaguely references the Middle East.58

Discussion of the Literature

While race always has been central to Asian American studies, the same cannot be said of comics scholarship. Only a handful of edited anthologies and special issues of journals have been devoted to race and ethnicity in US graphic narratives, such as Multicultural Comics: From Zap to Blue Beetle and the fall 2007 special issue of MELUS on the theme “Coloring America: Multi-Ethnic Engagements with Graphic Narrative,” both of which include some work on Asian American graphic narratives. Several book-length studies of African Americans and comics have been published, for example, The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation, and Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime.59 However, Monica Chiu’s edited anthology Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives is currently the only collection devoted to Asian American graphic narratives. This edited anthology ranges across work by well-known creators like Yang, Tomine, Kim, and Tamaki and Tamaki, as well as less familiar creators and texts. To date, no book-length monograph has been devoted to Asian American graphic narratives or to a single Asian American comics artist except Susan E. Kirtley’s Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass.60

If academic attention to Asian American graphic narratives is nascent, it also is rapidly growing. Works that explicitly address issues of Asian American identity and history have received greater attention from scholars. Yang’s American Born Chinese, Tomine’s Shortcomings, Okubo’s Citizen 13660, and Barry’s One Hundred Demons are currently the field’s most frequently discussed texts in journal articles and book chapters. Yang’s American Born Chinese offers rich material for the discussion of adolescent identity formation and anti-Asian racism against the backdrop of the mythical Monkey King. Rocío G. Davis’s and Min Hyoung Song’s articles on American Born Chinese discuss the uses of history in relation to ethnicity.61 Those who resist the predominantly celebratory tenor of arguments about this particular graphic narrative include Kuilan Liu and Michael Cadden. Stella Oh takes up Yang’s controversial humor.62

Okubo’s Citizen 13660 appeals to a history of comics and the internment. A 2004 issue of Amerasia Journal subtitled “A Tribute to Miné Okubo” features essays on the author of Citizen 13660.63 Since then, Elena Tajima Creef’s book chapter “Beyond the Camera and between the Words: Inserting Oneself into the Picture and into Japanese American (Art) History—Mine Okubo’s Citizen 13660 and the Power of Visual Autobiography” discusses how Okubo’s “visual autobiography” is about visual witnessing, gender, and patriarchal authority.64 Both Chiu and Xiaojing Zhou discuss metaphorical and literal space in the graphic narrative, and Sara Dowling insists that Okubo’s humor is overlooked resistance.65

Barry advances the visual witnessing of trauma in the childhood memories of a mixed-race Pinay. In addition to Kirtley’s monograph, scholarship on Barry’s comics has appeared in journal articles and book chapters. Hillary Chute devotes a chapter to Barry’s One Hundred Demons in her book Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics.66 In her essay “Liminality and Mestiza Consciousness in Lynda Barry’s ‘One Hundred Demons,’” Melinda L. de Jesús argues that the comics avatar Lynda is “caught between her physical appearance and her racial identity as a mixed-race Pinay” and that the protagonist thus “must negotiate the double-edged sword of her whiteness and its significance within US racial formations.”67

Since its publication in 2010, GB Tran’s Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey has been capturing scholars’ interest in investigating its rich visual signifiers: vivid colors denoting flashbacks, different lettering styles designating different characters’ voices, and various foods as visual and sensual signifiers of culture. Taking up notions of the sensory and the body, for example, are Timothy K. August, who writes about Tran’s “somatic brand of [transnational] ‘Vietnameseness,’” and Rocío G. Davis, who argues that Tran’s life writing is an embodied intervention into accepted history.68 Diaspora, postmemory, history, and genealogy are terms frequently used in discussions about this transnational graphic narrative.69

Works by Asian American comics creators that deal with themes other than racial or ethnic identity or that are in minicomics or serial form have been less reviewed and studied. The academic study of Asian American graphic narratives also has been dominated by scholars trained in literary studies, which is true of the field of comics studies in general. This may explain the emphasis on graphic novels, which fit more easily into existing frameworks for the study of literature. Scholars in art history and visual studies have been less engaged in comics studies than one might imagine considering the medium’s use of both words and images. The reasons for this imbalance are many and complicated, among them the relatively fewer scholars and studies of the visual arts in Asian American studies as compared to the number of scholars and studies of Asian American literature. Thus, scholarship about Asian American graphic narratives is typically situated more explicitly in literary studies than in existing visual studies or comics studies perspectives. Such studies are rich in thematic criticism, revisionist histories, and identity concerns, though with relatively less attention to questions of aesthetics and medium specificity, including histories of comics. Comics provide ways of seeing while reading, which foreground debates about race and visibility. Contemporary works by Asian American comics creators in a wide range of genres and formats thus continue to challenge and provoke scholars to rethink the meanings of race and representation in words and images.

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

  • Chiu, Monica, ed. Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015.
  • Choy, Philip P., Lorraine Dong, and Marlon K. Hom, eds. The Coming Man: 19th-Century American Perceptions of the Chinese. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995.
  • Creef, Elena. “Beyond the Camera and between the Words: Inserting Oneself into the Picture and into Japanese American (Art) History—Mine Okubo’s Citizen 13660 and the Power of Visual Autobiography,” Imaging Japanese America: The Visual Construction of Citizenship, Nation, and the Body. By Elena Creef, 71–92. New York: New York University Press, 2004.
  • de Jesús, Melinda L. “Liminality and Mestiza Consciousness in Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons.” In Multicultural Comics: From “Zap” to “Blue Beetle,” edited by Frederick Luis Aldama, 73–92. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.
  • Gardner, Jared. “Same Difference: Graphic Alterity in the Work of Gene Luen Yang, Adrian Tomine, and Derek Kirk Kim.” In Multicultural Comics: From “Zap” to “Blue Beetle,” edited by Frederick Luis Aldama, 132–147. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.
  • Kirtley, Susan E. Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012.
  • Oh, Sandra. “Sight Unseen: Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve and the Politics of Recognition.” MELUS 32, no. 3 (2007): 129–151.
  • Song, Min Hyoung. “Comics and the Changing Meaning of Race.” In The Children of 1965: On Writing, and Not Writing, as an Asian American. By Min Hyoung Song, 127–151. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
  • Tensuan, Theresa M. “Comic Visions and Revisions in the Work of Lynda Barry and Marjane Satrapi.” Modern Fiction Studies 52, no. 4 (2006): 947–964.
  • Zhou, Xiaojing. “Spatial Construction of the ‘Enemy Race’: Miné Okubo's Visual Strategies in Citizen 13660,” MELUS 32, no. 3 (Fall 2007): 51–73.


  • 1. Philip P. Choy, Lorraine Dong, and Marlon K. Hom, eds., The Coming Man: 19th-Century American Perceptions of the Chinese (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995).

  • 2. Robert G. Lee, “The Coolie and the Making of the White Working Class,” in Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, by Robert G. Lee (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999), 51–82; and Sheng-mei Ma, “Imagining the Orient in the Golden Age of Adventure Comics,” in The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity, by Sheng-mei Ma (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 3–37.

  • 3. Jared Gardner, “Same Difference: Graphic Alterity in the Work of Gene Luen Yang, Adrian Tomine, and Derek Kirk Kim,” in Multicultural Comics: From “Zap” to “Blue Beetle,” ed. Frederick Luis Aldama (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010), 132–147.

  • 4. Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama, The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco, 1904–1924, trans. Frederik L. Schodt (Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 1999).

  • 5. In 2014, the University of Washington Press (Seattle), which published Okubo’s collection of captioned drawings in 1983, issued a reprint. See Miné Okubo, Citizen 13660 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983).

  • 6. See New York University, “The William F. Wu Collection at NYU Fales Library: MARVELS AND MONSTERS: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942–1986; Exhibition runs May 26–August 19, 2011,” news release, May 24, 2011.

  • 7. The exhibition Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942–1986 at the Museum of Chinese in America in New York City, September 27, 2012, to February 24, 2013, was shown with an accompanying exhibition titled Alt.comics: Asian American Artists Reinvent the Comic, curated by Yang, which featured the work of contemporary Asian American comics artists.

  • 8. Scott Lobdell, Uncanny X-Men #290, penciled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Scott Williams, coloured by Kevin Tinsley, lettered by Lois Buhalis, ed. Bob Harras (New York: Marvel, July 1992).

  • 9. Brian Cronin, “Comic Book Legends Revealed #542,”, September 25, 2015.

  • 10. Brian Cronin, “Comic Legends: The Surprising Reason Storm Shadow Joined G.I. Joe,”, April 7, 2017.

  • 11. The first five issues are collected in Larry Hama and Mark Robinson, G. I. Joe: Storm Shadow, vol. 1: Solo (Chicago: Devil’s Due, 2008).

  • 12. Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow, and Jerry Ma, Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology (New York: New Press, 2009); and Jeff Yang, Perry Shen, Keith Chow, and Jerry Ma, Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology (New York: New Press, 2012).

  • 13. Jeff Yang and Jef Castro, “Preface: In the Beginning” in Yang et al., Secret Identities, 7, emphasis in the original.

  • 14. Yang and Castro, “Preface,” 11.

  • 15. Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, The Shadow Hero (New York: First Second, 2014).

  • 16. Sonny Liew, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (New York: Pantheon, 2015).

  • 17. As Yang and Liew point out in a brief discussion of Chu Hing’s superhero, because we never see the Green Turtle’s face, perpetually hidden behind his arm, swirling cape, or ducked from view in a fight, we cannot definitively determine his racial identity. Yang and Liew, Shadow Hero, 155.

  • 18. Yang and Liew, Shadow Hero, 154.

  • 19. Yang and Liew, Shadow Hero, 152.

  • 20. Monica Chiu, “Who Needs a Chinese American Superhero? Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero as Asian American Historiography,” in Redrawing the Historical Past, ed. Martha Cutter and Cathy Schlund-Vials (Atlanta: University of Georgia Press, 2018), 87–105.

  • 21. Gene Luen Yang, New Super-Man #1, illus. Richard Friend and Victor Bogdanovic, New Super-Man 2016 series (Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2016).

  • 22. Greg Pak, Amazing Fantasy #15, penciled and inked by Takeshi Miyazawa, colored by Christina Strain, lettered by Dave Lanphear, ed. Mark Paniccia (New York: Marvel, 2006).

  • 23. Totally Awesome Hulk #1, by Greg Pak, illus. Frank Cho (New York: Marvel, 2015).

  • 24. G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel vol. 1: No Normal, ed. Sana Amanat, illus. Adrian Alphona (New York: Marvel, 2014).

  • 25. John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats, Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear (New York: Verso, 2014), provides a comprehensive collection of such racist images, cataloging historically typical anti-Asian imagery in American popular culture since the mid-19th century.

  • 26. Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus (New York: Pantheon, 1996); Alan Moore, Watchmen (New York: DC Comics, 1987); Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis (New York: Pantheon, 2007); Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese, coloring by Lark Pien (New York: First Second, 2008); and Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Boston: Mariner, 2007).

  • 27. Gene Luen Yang, Boxers and Saints, coloring by Lark Pien (New York: First Second, 2013). Yang also is known for his work on the Airbender series based on the Nickelodeon television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, Feb. 2005–July 2008. See, for example, Gene Luen Yang, Bryan Konietzko, et al., Avatar: The Last Airbender Part 1 (Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2013).

  • 28. Hillary L. Chute, Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 2.

  • 29. Lynda Barry, One Hundred Demons (Seattle: Sasquatch, 2002).

  • 30. Lynda Barry, What It Is (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2008); Barry, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2010); and Barry, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2014).

  • 31. See Lee’s website, Angry Little Asian Girl.

  • 32. Tak Toyoshima, Secret Asian Man: The Daily Days (Tak Toyoshima, 2009).

  • 33. Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), 11.

  • 34. GB Tran, Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey (New York: Villard, 2010); and Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir (New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2017).

  • 35. Sandra Oh, “Sight Unseen: Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve and the Politics of Recognition,” MELUS 32, no. 3 (2007): 129–151, 147.

  • 36. Adrian Tomine, Sleepwalk and Other Stories (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 1998); Tomine, Summer Blonde (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2003); and Tomine, Shortcomings (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2007).

  • 37. See Hillary L. Chute’s interview of Tomine. Hillary L. Chute, Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 195–215.

  • 38. Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Masticating Adrian Tomine,” American Book Review 31, no. 1 (2009): 12.

  • 39. Min Hyoung Song, The Children of 1965: On Writing, and Not Writing, as an Asian American (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

  • 40. Song, The Children of 1965, 10.

  • 41. Derek Kirk Kim, Same Difference (New York: First Second, 2011).

  • 42. On Kim and postethnicity, see Ruth Y. Hsu, “Asian/American Postethnic Subjectivity in Derek Kirk Kim’s Good as Lily, Same Difference and Other Stories, and Tune,” in Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives, ed. Monica Chiu (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015), 49–67.

  • 43. Jason Shiga, Meanwhile (New York: Abrams, 2010); and Shiga, Demon, vols. 1–4 (New York: First Second, 2016–2017).

  • 44. Jeanette Roan, “‘I Love Second Acts in Comics’: An Interview with Jason Shiga,” Comics Journal website, June 20, 2016.

  • 45. Mariko Tamaki, Keynote speech, Queers and Comics Conference, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, April 14, 2017, YouTube video, June 20, 2017.

  • 46. Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Skim (Toronto: Groundwood, 2010); Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, This One Summer (New York: First Second, 2014); Jillian Tamaki, SuperMutant Magic Academy (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2015); and J. Tamaki, Boundless (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2017).

  • 47. Kazu Kibuishi, Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper (New York: Graphix, 2008).

  • 48. Kazu Kibuishi, Copper (New York: Graphix, 2010).

  • 49. Kazu Kibuishi, ed. Flight: Volume One (Orange, CA: Image Comics, 2004); and Kazu Kibuishi, ed. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (New York: Amulet, 2012).

  • 50. Thien Pham, Sumo (New York: First Second, 2012); June Kim, 12 Days (Los Angeles: Tokyopop, 2007); Michael Cho, Shoplifter (New York: Pantheon, 2014); and Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow, In Real Life (New York: First Second, 2014).

  • 51. Fred Chao, Johnny Hiro (Richmond, VA: Adhouse, 2009); Chao, Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero (New York: Tom Doherty, 2012); and Chao, Johnny Hiro: The Skills to Pay the Bills (New York: Tor, 2013)

  • 52. Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, vol. 1(Portland, OR: Oni, 2004).

  • 53. Bryan Lee O’Malley, Seconds (New York: Ballantine, 2014).

  • 54. Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda, Monstress, vol. 2: The Blood (Portland, OR: Image Comics, 2017); and Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda, Rus Wooton, and Jennifer M. Smith, Monstress, vol. 1: Awakening (Portland, OR: Image Comics, 2016).

  • 55. John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, vols. 1–12 (Portland, OR: Image Comics, 2009–2017).

  • 56. Jeanette Roan, “Tasting Is Knowing: The Aesthetics and Politics of Disgust in John Layman’s and Rob Guillory’s Chew,” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (November 27, 2017).

  • 57. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Taki Soma, Bitch Planet #6 (Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2016). Also see Jeanette Roan’s blog post, “How Does Bitch Planet Challenge Popular Portrayals of Asian Americans as the Model Minority?,” in “Caged and Enraged: Bitch Planet Comics Studies Round Table (Part One),” ed. Osvaldo Oyola and Qianna Whitted, on The Middle Spaces: Comics, Music, Culture, blog, March 6, 2018.

  • 58. Danica Novgorodoff, The Undertaking of Lily Chen (New York: First Second, 2014); and Craig Thompson, Habibi (New York: Pantheon, 2011). The rise of Arab American representations in Asian American studies finds traction in the emerging field of West Asian American studies.

  • 59. Sheena C. Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II, eds., Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013); Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015); and Frances Gateward and John Jennings, eds., The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015).

  • 60. Susan E. Kirtley, Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012).

  • 61. Min Hyoung Song “‘How Good It Is to Be a Monkey’: Comics, Racial Formation, and American Born Chinese,” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 43, no. 1 (2010): 73–92; and Rocío G. Davis, “Childhood and Ethnic Visibility in Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese,” Prose Studies 35, no. 1 (2013): 7–15.

  • 62. Kuilan Liu, “When the Monkey King Travels across the Pacific and Back: Reading Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese in China,” in Chiu, Drawing New Color Lines, 109–124; Michael Cadden, “‘But You Are Still a Monkey’: American Born Chinese and Racial Self-Acceptance,” Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature, 17, no. 2 (2014); and Stella Oh, “Laughter against Laughter: Interrupting Racial and Gendered Stereotypes in Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese,” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 8, no. 1 (2017): 20–32.

  • 63. “A Tribute to Miné Okubo,” special section, Amerasia 30, no. 2 (2004).

  • 64. Elena Tajima Creef, Imaging Japanese America: The Visual Construction of Citizenship, Nation, and the Body (New York: New York University Press, 2004), 71–92.

  • 65. Monica Chiu, “Sequencing and Contingent Individualism in the Graphic Postcolonial Spaces of Satrapi’s Persepolis and Okubo’s Citizen 13660,” English Language Notes 46, no. 2 (2008): 99–114; Xiaojing Zhou, “Spatial Construction of the ‘Enemy Race’: Miné Okubo’s Visual Strategies in Citizen 13660,” MELUS 32, no. 3 (2007): 51–73; and Sara Dowling, “‘How Lucky I Was to Be Free and Safe at Home’: Reading Humor in Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660,” Signs 39, no. 2 (2014): 299–322.

  • 66. Hillary Chute, Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

  • 67. Melinda L. de Jesús, “Liminality and Mestiza Consciousness in Lynda Barry’s ‘One Hundred Demons,’” MELUS 29, no. 1 (2004): 220.

  • 68. Timothy K. August, “Picturing the Past: Drawing Together Vietnamese American Transnational History,” Global Asian American Popular Cultures, ed. Shilpa Davé, Nishime Leilani, and Oren Tasha (New York: New York University Press, 2016), 165–179, 165; and Rocío G. Davis, “Layering History: Graphic Embodiment and Emotions in GB Tran’s Vietnamerica,” Rethinking History 19, no. 2 (2015): 252–267.

  • 69. Long Bui, “The Refugee Repertoire: Performing and Staging the Postmemories of Violence,” MELUS 41, no. 3 (2016): 112–132; Caroline Kyungah Hong, “Disorienting the Vietnam War: GB Tran’s Vietnamerica as Transnational and Transhistorical Graphic Memoir,” Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies 5 (2014): 11–22; and Alaina Kaus, “A View from the Vietnamese Diaspora: Memories of Warfare and Refuge in GB Tran’s Vietnamerica,” Mosaic 49, no. 4 (2016): 1–19.