Jose Holguin

  • Last week, with Ms. Marvel and America, we began to shift our attention to comics with more commentary on race. Whereas every comic we’ve read before last weeks has dealt with fantastical or cosmic powers, this […]

    • This is the first comic book that we’ve read this semester that wasn’t under the Marvel or DC umbrella. Most of us in the class are not comic book experts and often it’s daunting to read a comic that is a part of an ongoing story that’s stretched decades. Did its independence from the two big publishers have any impact on your enjoyment of the comic book?

      I’m not sure if it is specifically because this story is not part of a longer, ongoing one, but I enjoyed this comic more than any other we’ve read so far (I think that’s true…. It might be tied with Marvels, and I also really liked Watchmen! But the point is… I enjoyed this more than many of the others). I’m wondering if this is, in part, because it is less reliant on images to propel the narrative, and my natural instinct is to gravitate towards text first (I’m curious to know if others also feel this way about text/image in this comic). I also found it humorous, although of course now that I’ve read Chiu’s article and this summary of it, I feel a bit guilty for this. Also like Marvels, it is set in a realistic environment, but after last week’s class (“You want a text to be relatable? Get outside yourself!” – and I agreed with this!!) I feel guilty for that, too!

      Does Hank go through too much emasculation in this story? Considering that movie portrayals of Asian men often depict them as weak or effeminate (if they’re not a martial artist), is his characterization helpful or hurtful towards Asian male characters? Essentially, what do you think of the humor at his expense in the story?

      I can understand where criticism regarding Hank’s portrayal as effeminate comes from; initially, his mom bosses him around and his first attempt at superhero-ing fails because the woman he is meant to be defending actually defends herself and then tries to escort a badly injured Hank to the hospital. However, I didn’t see this as emasculating; instead, I saw it as empowering for women – how lovely that the assumed “damsel in distress” is actually the savior! I suppose in any superhero narrative there has to be a victim and a savior, and no one wants to be the victim. Hank’s relationship with his mother also did not strike me as emasculating or effeminate, but as a humorous depiction of a mother/son dynamic in which the mother, who is meant to have the upper hand in this power structure, takes her influence perhaps a bit too far. As the story progresses, Hank’s character only becomes stronger. He renames his superhero identity and restructures his costume so it is no longer his mother who has orchestrated the character; instead, Hank is self-motivated and completely re-envisioned her alter ego. He uses a combination of wit and physical force to emerge from “The Ceremony” and is approached by Red Center to take a leadership role because, as women, she and her sisters are not taken seriously – implying that Hank is perceived as a viable, “manly” option.

    • Great job, Jose, dealing with a problematic subject and problematic character in a problematic way!

      I don’t have too much to add, I’m running on empty this semester, but your comments gave me a thought:

      “Do the authors have much to say about the Chinese American experience besides saying that it exists?”

      Maybe… it’s enough? For the moment at least. Considering the lack of prevalent mainstream Asian characters in DC and Marvel comics, maybe it is enough to just have this existing. To me, the comic works best as a bit of a history lesson. The most interesting aspect was showcasing the actual Green Turtle issue in the back of the book and emphasizing how his race was hidden. It kind of just works as a big reminder at how crappy the industry has been and how the way the industry is continually evolving to include more representation is appropriate and justified.

      And there will be more. Can’t fight the tide. And more Shadow Hero too.

    • I think that the Shadow Hero is a very enjoyable book outside of the DC or Marvel umbrella. According to Monica Chui “surprisingly, the unusual origin story resonates exceedingly well with themes typifying recognizable superhero figures.” In my opinion I think as long as it resonates what being a superhero is in its own creative sense is what bring my attention to enjoying the comic. She continues in which she states the creativeness that the Shadow Hero comic portrays “It does so by visualizing what is alien and what is native and by the process of animating masking and revelation.” When it comes to race and culture the Shadow Hero portrayal of those topics is what I also find interesting.

    • Do you feel that the goals of this comic are different than that of Ms. Marvel’s and America’s? All three comics deal with race and feeling out of place in a world of white superheroes. However, what makes these stories different for you?
      Excellent analysis Jose, I think besides from the obvious race aspects, these comics differ from the comic narrative because they try to portray the superhero self-discovery. By that, I mean that all the superheroes analyzed their superhero identities along with the responsibility that entails to be a heroe. It is like dating your superhero self and discovering the true reason to embrace this type of relationship. In other comics like Spider-Man, Peter follows the the action and later on he ponders on the consequence, whereas in Ms. Marvel this is not the case she questions everything and changes certain characteristics of her superhero persona to fit her identity.

    • “Chiu states, “The persistence of Asian American types is commensurate with the rigid trajectory of the publishing industry in which mainstream superheroes are never Asian American, and those artists who create them do so as flimsy counters to their absence in popular culture (98). Can you imagine the Shadow Hero as a major superhero character in modern times? Does he at least pave the way for future Asian American superheroes to reach the mainstream?”

      As I read this question, I found myself thinking back to a character who was popular in the 70s named Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. While originally a ripoff meant to capitalize on Bruce Lee movies and the tv show with David Carradine, its quality was elevated with the addition of Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy as the writer/artist team. While the premise of the comic was based on Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series, it took on a life of its own and is notable for being one of the first major comics to feature an Asian protagonist. Since Shang-Chi was integrated into the MArvel Universe, even teaming up with Spider-Man in one issue of MArvel Team-Up, it could be argued that he fits Coogan’s superhero definition in the sense that Nick Fury, Punisher, or similar characters are as well. So there is a precedent for the Shadow Hero already. I don’t know if he is the character to launch a marketable Asian superhero but that might be a constraint of him NOT being a product of DC or MArvel.

    • Those were some great questions, Jose! I have to say, I really enjoyed “The Shadow Hero.” I thought it was a really compelling comic. It was the first comic of this semester that made me laugh, and unlike Chiu, I thought it was a very well-done origin story. I loved the dichotomy between Hank and the Tortoise Spirit, and their banter was pretty fantastic. However, while reading it, I couldn’t help but think…is this conducive to Chinese-American representation? This question, of course, echoes back to the conversations we had last week about cultural stereotypes and representation in comic books. Whereas Todd said America Chavez reminded him of one of his Hispanic relatives, Aylar suggested that “Ms. Marvel” was too stereotypical with regard to Muslim culture, and as a reader this week, I found myself once again at an impasse. It seems whenever writers depict cultural stereotypes, they walk an uncomfortable border in between “representation” and “offense;” where one reader could read “The Shadow Hero” and really identify with Hank’s life and feel pride in cultural representation, another reader could read it and feel offended.

      I think one character to consider for this text and the nature of racial stereotyping is Hank’s mother, Hua. Hua is an interesting character; as argued by Chiu, she “resigns herself to occupying the role of a typical, self-sacrificing Chinese mother as well as an overpowering, zealous tiger mom who, in this humorous version idealizes a profession for her son not in the expected fields of law or medicine but in superheroism” (94). I think Hua’s depiction in the comic relates to this “uncomfortable borderline” that we’ve been discussing. In one argument, Hua is an unabashedly stereotypical character. She stuffs porks buns in her bra; she pushes masculine characters around all the time, and she is so blinded by ambition that it leads to the detriment of others (namely her husband’s death). On the other side of the argument, it could be said that she represents a serious factor in the lives of young minorities. While all parents want their children to do well, as Chiu points out, Hua symbolizes those mothers who become obsessed with raising their children to achieve vocational greatness. Hank, originally, wants absolutely nothing to do with superheroism; he is content to run the shop with his father and continue his ordinary life. His mother cannot fathom the idea of having a “mediocre” or “regular” son. My family was only slightly disappointed in my declaration to study English as an undergraduate; for some young adults, their parents would practically disown them if they didn’t go into the medical and legal field.

      So to answer the first part of your second question, Jose, I’m not sure. I’m not sure about the function that stereotypes play in this kind of narrative. I don’t know if this gives accurate or offensive representation, and I can see the substantial qualities of Chiu’s article.

    • This is the first comic book that we’ve read this semester that wasn’t under the Marvel or DC umbrella. Most of us in the class are not comic book experts and often it’s daunting to read a comic that is a part of an ongoing story that’s stretched decades. Did its independence from the two big publishers have any impact on your enjoyment of the comic book?

      I can not say that it was the publishers that impacted my enjoyment of this comic, but I definitely enjoyed this more than others. While reading other comics, except Watchmen, I felt like I was missing out on an inside joke of some sort because there were so many background stories at play with characters. In Shadow Hero, I felt included in the story telling process, I knew what was happening and wasn’t being excluded because I didnt’ know the plot of issue blahblah #72. That being said, I think the story was interesting and fast moving. However, after reading the article I felt somewhat guilty for enjoying the comic… Not sure if anyone else feels that way.

      Also, is there a reason in like every origin story a parent ends up dead?
      Looking forward to our discussions tonight – everyone be safe in your travels!

    • Very good observations Jose.
      Like our readings last week, your questions raise more questions and an ever continuing discourse.
      “Thus, the origin of one of Hank’s so-called superpowers is a humorous riff on the serious phenomenon of race as a visible entity, or race as empowering or disempowering” (94).
      I laughed at this book just as Maria did but then asked myself if this was not an inappropriate reaction. But how can you not laugh at a third boob and your mother pushing you into chemical sludge? In that vein I’d like to point out that Hank’s origin as the Shadow Hero is different than all the ones we’ve read so far. It is not his agency that shapes his destiny but his mother’s.
      “The Shadow Hero is thus both a cultural product of comics’ history and a critique of it” (90).
      Dare I say it, Chiu is being a “revisionist” in re-introducing components of the Orient in all their truths. One that you mentioned is Hank’s emasculation and his parents’ relationship dynamics. Readership will be divided just as it is with Ms. Marvel at least as far as our class discourse led me to believe. I don’t know if I’d say if Yang and Liew are “embracing” culture that has been portrayed in western media, but they are not shying away from it. To me that makes this believable, funny and very brave. Simultaneously I know this opinion will undoubtedly be divided.
      As far as the Asian American (or non American) super hero outside of a Chinese Community such as the urban Chinatown, yes..introducing them into a Metropolis or a Gotham would go a long way in furthering their arrival into the mainstream and resist being thought of as the “other”.

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 5 months ago

    “Are comics like Ms. Marvel and Miss America simply created to pander and generate $$$? Or are they as important as we want them to be? Or both?”

    I think every that every cape comic is created with the intention of generating a lot of money. Especially considering this industry was in very big trouble until recently with the rise of superhero…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 5 months ago

    Marc Singer says, “that Morrison’s Superman resists the ‘realistic’ Superman of earlier time periods” (3). However, at the end of the comic Superman is presented as a golden-godly figure that helps the machinery to keep the sun running. Do you consider that a proper realistic transition? Or do you think Morrison’s view of Superman transcends…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 5 months ago

    I think that when Carney talks about “loss of innocence”, he’s talking about the world changing events of conflicts like World War II. During this time period in Marvels, the world was in total chaos, even if Phil was hoping that there would be a return to normalcy. Then this world throws an even stranger curveball in the form of Captain America…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 5 months ago

    Great job Aylar.

    I’d say it’s accurate to think of Watchmen as a revisionary superhero narrative. The characters are supposed to be different perspectives on real DC heroes. Like Dr. Manhattan is supposed to be Superman and Rorschach is supposed to the be the Question, with a hint of Batman. After the release of this series, fans started to…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 6 months ago

    Awesome work, Maria.

    I thought it was a good choice to add more realistic elements to Batman’s story in TDKR. I think Batman’s rescaled age was meant to align with Miller’s own age. I think shortly before writing this story, Miller had reached the typical Batman, being typically around 29 years old. So for older fans, it was meant to be a…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 6 months ago

    Ken, wonderful analysis. I would say that besides the examples of certain mutants looking notably different (like Nightcrawler) I would say that there is also the feeling of displacement felt by the X-men themselves. Non-mutants would fixate on how their physical talents were not “earned” by them, but rather they were born with them by a stroke of…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 6 months ago

    Mark, I think you raise very good points about how Marston possibly undermined himself later on. Though I don’t think that completely cancels out his intent to create a more forward thinking character. He created the character under the premise that she would not abandon her “feminine traits” despite being in an action oriented genre. He wrote…[Read more]

  • Jose Holguin commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 7 months ago


    Wonderful analysis.

    I think the appeal of Superman has changed over the years. I would imagine that in his earlier years, the appeal of Superman was to see justice acted in increasingly fantastic feats. That’s why early Superman stories had been told in a “slice of life” format, instead of slow build to a climactic fight with the…[Read more]

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