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The Shadow Hero Paperback – July 15, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up—Award-winning author Yang and artist Liew tackle a lesser-known aspect of history, breathing new life into the Green Turtle, a 1940s comic book hero. According to lore, the Green Turtle was originally drawn to be Chinese, but publishers quashed artist Chu Hing's plans, and Hing rebelled by drawing his hero so that his face was never visible. The Green Turtle is cast as an unlikely 19-year-old young man, Hank, the son of Chinese immigrants who own a grocery store in 1940s America. When his mother is rescued by a superhero, the loving but overbearing woman decides that it's Hank's fate to become a hero himself, and she does everything in her power to push her son in that direction. Though Hank initially shies away from assuming the role of caped crusader, when tragedy strikes, he's eventually inspired to call himself the Green Turtle, and fight back against gangsters who have been intimidating his family and many others in Chinatown. Liew's scratchy, action-packed illustrations have a nostalgia-tinged vibe ideal for the gritty/hard-boiled setting, and Yang plays expertly with clichés and stereotypes about Chinese culture without ever becoming heavy-handed or obvious. A detail about the four spirits of China, one of whom allies himself with Hank's father and then Hank, injects an element of magic and of Chinese history and mythology that made Yang's American Born Chinese (First Second, 2001) such a layered and complex work. A creative take on the superhero genre. [See author Q&A, p. 20.]—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the 1940s, the golden age of comic books, Chu Hing, a little-known Chinese American cartoonist—very likely the first ever—created the Green Turtle, a superhero tasked with protecting China from invading Japanese forces. Though the comic ran for only five issues, Yang uses Chu Hing’s Green Turtle as a launching pad for this story of young Hank Chu, a Chinese American teen in the 1930s who becomes a hero in his Chinatown neighborhood. In a loving spoof of classic superhero origin stories, Hank is exposed to toxic radiation, visits a mystic, and is bitten by an animal used for science experiments before simply working hard at becoming a good fighter. It isn’t until he is faced with real tragedy and inherits the wish-granting turtle spirit who lived in his father’s shadow that he becomes a real hero, the Green Turtle. There’s plenty of humor in this lively, entertaining adventure story, and it capitalizes on the dashing bravado of golden-age comics, particularly in Liew’s stylish pages, full of inky outlines and dramatic paneling. At its heart, though, this book is a subtle comment on China’s changing cultural landscape and growing multiculturalism in America. A lovingly tongue-in-cheek homage. Grades 8-12. --Sarah Hunter

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Lexile Measure: 420L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (July 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596436972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596436978
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By H. Bala TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've got a new favorite thing, and it's THE SHADOW HERO, a boss graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. And it's the backstory that first got me. It's fascinating stuff: In 1944, during the heyday of the golden age of comic books, the obscure publishing company, Rural Home, wanted to strike while the iron was hot and hired a cartoonist named Chu Hing to create the main attraction for their series BLAZING COMICS. And Chu Hing came up with the World War II costumed vigilante, the Green Turtle. The most unique element about the Green Turtle is that he was the first Asian-American superhero.

The Green Turtle evidenced no obvious superpower, relying mostly on his rocket plane and his two good fists. He went around in a mask and a massive cape with a turtle design. He defended America's ally, China, against the encroaching Japanese forces. One odd conceit about him was that his seemingly ubiquitous shadow resembled a cheerful giant turtle that no one seemed to notice.

The awesome rumor goes like this: Chu Hing was pushing to make a Chinese-American superhero, except that Rural Home ixnayed that intent pretty quick. So Chu Hing went the passive-aggressive route and introduced another odd conceit. He drew the Turtle in such a way that never once did the reader get a good look at his face. Too, whenever the Turtle was about to explain his origin story to his sidekick, Burma Boy, something always came up to interrupt him. Seven decades later, writer Gene Luen Yang notes that even his extensive research is unable to confirm this rumor. But to quote THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Strawn on August 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a great pulp superhero story, the likes of which modern reboots the "The Shadow" or "The Lone Ranger" attempt but rarely succeed in pulling off. I was skeptical of yet another dusting off of a golden age comics character, but Gene Luen Yang is rightfully acclaimed for his past work on books like "American Born Chinese," so I expected it to be well told at the least.

I should not have been worried. Yang and artist Sonny Liew tell a fast-paced and deep story that never gets lost in its own complications. The main character is a lovable doofus, helped along by an equally lovable and also somewhat doofy spirit. The action sequences are clever and well rendered, and early 20th century Chinatown(in what seems to be a fictional version of San Francisco) is lovingly rendered and full of pulp details. Some of the more obvious are the cop with the yellow trenchcoat and lantern jaw, or the genial Superman analog flying around dispensing polite justice. Some concepts are wonderful and original(to my knowledge): the 3 female assassins with color-coordinated names and outfits were a fun and not over-done concept.

Finally, the resolution upends your expectations and builds to something truly moving and thought-provoking. This isn't a reinvention of the superhero; its a superhero told from a distinct point of view within a specific cultural experience.

A final note: this collection includes a re-print of the first adventure of "The Green Turtle" from the golden age. It isn't great, but the commentary points out some very interesting stylistic choices that make it for a fun companion piece.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Shadow Hero"
Written & Illustrated by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
(First Second Books, 2014)
. . . .

The set-up for this one seems almost too good to be true: author/cartoonist Gene Luen Yang rediscovered an obscure WWII-era comicbook character, the Green Turtle, who was apparently created by an Asian-American artist and was intended to be the first Asian-American superhero, a revolutionary step in an industry which primarily depicted Asians as either comedic fools (ala Chop-Chop, in the "Blackhawk" books) or as satanic, bucktoothed heathens (as in every caricature of Japanese soldiers ever...) Legend has it that the book's publisher forbade the cartoonist to make the Turtle explicitly Asian, so in the few episodes published, he always appears with with his back turned to the readers - we can't tell what his ethnicity is, because his face is actually never seen.

Anyway, when contemporary artists Sonny Liew and Gene Luen Yang discovered the Green Turtle, they came up with the idea of revamping and modernizing the character, reclaiming him for modern audiences. They came up with a new origin and placed the Turtle in a comedic yet realistic scenario -- here, he is the teenage son of Chinese-American immigrants, a nice boy named Hank who helps his dad out in the store while his overbearing mother tries to direct both men's lives, even going so far as to push Hank into becoming a superhero proving herself to be the ultimate "tiger mom" (including her acting as his masked chauffeur, ala Cato in the Green Hornet) The domestic backdrop provides the comedy, with playful tweaks of Asian-American stereotypes and the outdated conventions of pulp-era pop culture, such as a family friend with the unfunny but punny name Wun Too, and the like.
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