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Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology Paperback – April 14, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Secret Identities Series

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Graphic novels by Mike Mignola
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This anthology about Asian superheroes drawn exclusively by Asian comic artists is a noble concept, but the submissions very greatly in tone, concept, length and overall quality. The book is broken down into sections by theme—historical concepts, one-page hero pitches, a section on girl power and another focusing on ordinary heroes (some of whom happen to have supernatural powers). Many works in the book, such as The Hibakusha—Japanese children born after Hiroshima who gain superpowers—take themselves very seriously. The highlight is The Blue Scorpion & Chung by Yang (American Born Chinese) and Sonny Liew. In a thinly veiled parody of the Green Hornet, the Blue Scorpion's chauffeur is a talented Korean man doing most of the work for his alcoholic employer. The 12-page short effectively confronts race with just the right amount of humor and cynicism, while simultaneously telling a satisfying story. The fake comic cover The Y-Men says everything many of the short stories are trying to, but does so with more effective humor in just one page. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

The editors of this highly alternative (to standard stereotypes, that is) comics collection define Asian American to include not just Chinese and Japanese but all the other heritages from India on east, representatives of which have been sidekicks at best and villains more often in American superhero comics. The first illustrated page establishes the predominant satiric tone. It’s the cover of a comic book, The Y-Men, featuring “The Lamest Stupor-Zeroes of All!”—to wit, Four Eyes; “oriental” vamp Madame X; Riceman, slinging globs of “pork-fried pain”; Kamikaze; and Coolie, whose “sweaty feet . . . are express tickets to Hell!” A standout longer contribution is Gene Yang and Sonny Liew’s “The Blue Scorpion and Chung,” in which the latter is the long-suffering driver-sidekick for a foul-mouthed, drunken, white-caped crime fighter. Uniformly energetic, the art ranges from mainstream-comics bravura to manga-influenced sassiness to alt-comics mannerism, and the kinds of superpowers on view are equally varied. Narrative coherence goes AWOL now and then, but the satire usually amuses and sometimes strikes deeper, to the heart. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 1st edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159558398X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595583987
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,142,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Words are really inadequate to describe the import of this work. Revolutionary, historic, groundbreaking? The feeling I had when it was delivered was like holding an advance copy of Takaki's work, "Strangers From a Different Shore". I was holding something that hadn't been seen before. After reading it, I was speechless, because for the first time in this genre, I saw myself reflected unapologetically in the stories and artwork contained in the pages of this book. I never thought I'd live to see the day where I had the opportunity to read about APA superheroes and eventually, share them with my children. An excellent job by everyone involved in this project, and a "must own" for the personal libraries of anyone interested in Asian-American studies, modern mythology and folklore/oral histories. After picking some copies up for your friends and family, ask your local library to carry it. Smart, witty, and visually stunning, I hope this title is only the vanguard and herald of more to come.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, the Kindle version of this book is too low resolution to make out some of the text. I was only a few pages into it before I ran into a panel with a narrative block and a word bubble which both used small lettering and were both too low resolution to read. I'm using the iPad 2 Kindle app, but I've seen the same sort of problem on the Kindle itself, with some manga and with illustrations in text-based Kindle books. The scan resolution just isn't high enough for fine detail that you could easily read on a printed page. And zooming the picture, of course, just gives you a blurry larger image, so no help there.

I'm returning this and buying the print version instead, which I'm sure will be excellent.
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Format: Paperback
Length: 0:14 Mins
Secret Identities is one of the few comic anthologies I enjoy tremendously. There are 48 chapters, all drawn by Asian Americans -- of course -- but a few are 1-page superhero profiles and stories. So really, there are only 40 longer stories.

For most of the 1-page stories, it's an artist talking about the concept of superheroes, Asian Americans and the influence of Asia on western comics. The longer stories are really fun, bizarre and creative.

The book starts off with a comic book cover art of "The Y-Men", featuring super lame superheroes with quotes like "Feel the suicidal wrath of KamiKazei", "Sweaty Feet of Coolie are express ticket to hell", "The myopic blasts of Four Eyes" and "Special delivery from Riceman pork-fried pain". This pretty much sets the satiric tone for the book, although there are more serious stories as well.

My favourite story is "James", written by Michael Kang and drawn by Erwin Haya. James's power is super-agility and super-strength. His partner has the ability to emit light, like a light bulb. Somehow amazingly, James began to lose the limelight (pun intended) to his partner and his career crashed. In the end, he had to start over going to like N.O.A.S.S* and A.S.S.H.O* networking events. *Which translate to National Organization of Supers and Sidekicks, and Asian Student Super Hero Organization.

My second favourite "A day at Customeco". This family is shopping at a groceries supermarket dedicated to superhero shoppers and suddenly a how-dumb-can-you-get villain strikes! Now imagine every superhero rushing in for the kill.

The story concept and creativity are really commendable. The superheroes are shown in many different aspect of life, in different communities, going about their daily chores.
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By ME on September 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tired of the same old superheroes, that have been around for decades? Tired of most them reflecting the traditional Western heroic ideal, ie, typically White males? Tired of Asian characters mostly being martial arts masters (if they're heroes) or Yakuza members (if they're villains) or sex objects (if they're women)? Well, so were the publishers of this collection, so they put together this anthology to do something about that.

This is a tabloid sized, 200 page, black and white comic-book with almost 50 different stories in it. I wish I had the time, and space, to review each and every one of this stories in here, all of which are entertaining, but I'm just to review my personal favorites.

9066 A 4-page story written by Jonathan Tsuei and drawn by Jerry Ma. This is about an unnamed Japanese-American with undefined superpowers (we see him flying, but don't know what else he can do), who became a public hero in the 1930′s. But when Pearl Harbor is hit, the White superheroes whom he thought were his friends turn on him, and insist he turn himself into one of the Internment Camps. It's kinda sad, but the message of the story gets through, loud and clear.

HEROES WITHOUT A COUNTRY An 8-page story written by Daniel Jai Lee & drawn by Vince Sunico. This also deals with Japanese superheroes during WWII. A top-secret squad of Japanese-American soldiers with super-powers goes on a covert mission to Germany to rescue a Jewish-American superhero who has been captured by the Nazis. To do that, they have to face their opposite number, a squad of super-powered Nazi soldiers. They tell a satisfying story within these 8 pages, but I would love to see it stretched out into a full-length story.

THE CITIZEN is a 6-page story written by Greg Pak and drawn by Bernard Chang.
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