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This Month in Asian Americans in Comics 
13th-May-2010 04:04 pm
jedi
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, so perhaps it's fitting that yesterday, Marvel released the first issue of Prince of Power, a new series starring (finally!) long-time fan favorite character Amadeus Cho. Amadeus Cho is arguably one of the most popular Asian American characters in American pop culture.

I have a feeling Prince of Power might be a litmus test and it's success might result in the introduction of more characters of color in leading roles, so if you're interested in comics, check it out. According to reviews, Prince of Power #1 is a good starting point for the uninitiated!

And now, DC Comics. Last week, skemono shared Chris Sim's editorial on the way DC has been treating it's characters of color. Sims noted that DC has created "new" versions of old heroes who are people of color, but now, a worrying trend is to revert to the original (white) character and sideline the newer iteration of the character. For example, Sims wrote that the modern Atom, Asian American Ryan Choi was "shoved into limbo" to herald the return of the original Atom, Ray Palmer. Sims expressed disappointment in this decision, arguing that Choi was one of the most complex, non-stereotypical Asian American characters to be featured by DC in years.

Well, this week--on the same day Marvel's Amadeus Cho's star launched-- Ryan Choi's character was killed off, unceremoniously, off-panel in Teen Titans, a book he's not actually in.

On Twitter, fans gave DC a hard time, including accusing DC of having a racial motivation to killing off Choi. Teen Titans writer Eric Wallace spoke to CBR about the decision to kill the character of Ryan Choi.

CBR: Do you have a message for the twitterati and fans of the character that are angered/saddened/upset by his death, because some are even saying this death was racially motivated?

Wallace: Only that I, too, will miss Ryan. He was a great hero all the way until the end, and that's how I'll always remember him. I hope others will, too.


Was the "killing" of the Choi comic book character "racially motivated"? Not in the traditional hate crime sense, not out of bigotry or an outright desire to wipe characters of color off the map--at least, I'd hope not. CBR's Bryan Cronin speculates that "Wallace was simply given a list of heroes that were notable enough that their death would matter but NOT notable enough that they could be killed off without it being a major blow to the DC Universe." This is likely the case, but we should finish that thought.

Killing characters off is a popular convention in comics, in movies, and in TV. (Fans of a certain television series with a diverse cast currently running up to it's final episodes know what I'm talking about.) As a storytelling device, it at once hooks the audience and lets the audience know the storyteller is serious. Stakes are raised and emotions run high.

Even so, it's important to note why characters of color are frequently the ones who are considered the right "fit" to be selected to be killed off. Why are characters of color often the ones who are "notable enough that their death would matter but NOT notable enough that they could be killed off"?

It's not because creators are bigoted towards people of color, it's more that characters of color and actors of color are less likely to take precedence, be the main character, to be vital to the stories being told. This isn't a coincidence, it's an ongoing trend.
Comments 
14th-May-2010 03:45 am (UTC)
Not exactly relevant to the whole killing off PoC; but I thought this is a cool comic that's going to be coming out soon.

http://www.radicalpublishing.com/titles/comics/aladdin

Going back to the killing a character off thing. In my opinion it's often done to much in comics to the point it's becoming too cliche. Especially when they kill off the main character and then bring him back. That gets so old so very fast.
14th-May-2010 09:49 am (UTC)
augh, like I told someone over at scansdaily...DC just doesn't want me as a consumer, all they want lately are the old white guys. Screw the minority readers. Ryan's death really sent that message home. Silver Age fans are really getting on my nerves now.

I can't wait for it to be 20 years from now when most of that generation will be too senile to keep buying from DC. Hopefully, more of my generation will be involved in the creative staff. (Methinks, DC will then be more diverse and experience less white privilege)

Anyways, more outrage over Ryan's death at ScansDaily... if anyone's curious...
14th-May-2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
I read this this morning and nearly flipped out.

Not even a Ryan Choi fan, but this is outrageous.

Racialicious is talking too.
14th-May-2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post. It's a really good distinction to make --

t's not because creators are bigoted towards people of color, it's more that characters of color and actors of color are less likely to take precedence, be the main character, to be vital to the stories being told. This isn't a coincidence, it's an ongoing trend.

Because often people take 'racially motivated' to mean that it was intent, or conscious or marketing pressures or something. When really this is exactly what it means when people say 'institutionalised racism'. It's so ingrained into US and/or Western culture that white (straight, male) characters are inherently 'more interesting' or have 'more value' than other characters.

I love that point Sims makes about origin stories. It's exhausting to find yet another character of colour in a comicbook who is black and therefore comes from 'the streetlife/ganglife/ghetto'; or is Asian and therefore has mystical Eastern powers; or is African and is therefore tied to their ancient African tribal roots. Gyah.
15th-May-2010 07:37 am (UTC)
In "Fans of a certain television series with a diverse case currently running up to it's final episodes know what I'm talking about," should "diverse case" be "diverse cast"?
16th-May-2010 01:54 am (UTC)
Yes.
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