Library of Congress names graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang (“Boxers and Saints”) as Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

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New York Times (by George Gene Gustines):

Gene Luen Yang often mines his life for his graphic novels. He has explored being a first-generation American, and harnessed his love of computer programming. Starting this week, he will have a whole new experience to draw on.

On Monday, the Library of Congress is to name Mr. Yang the national ambassador for young people’s literature, the first graphic novelist to be so honored since the post was created in 2008.

When I was coming up in the ’90s, the comic book industry and the book industry were largely separate — they had their own awards, distribution systems and stores,” Mr. Yang said in a telephone interview from his home in San Jose, Calif. But now, “these worlds are really converging in interesting ways.”

Mr. Yang’s stories leapfrog genres and often pose questions about acceptance, identity and culture. Perhaps his best-known graphic novel is “American Born Chinese,” about Jin Wang, a boy who has trouble fitting in when he moves to a new school in the suburbs. The New York Times greeted the book as “a dark exploration of Asian-American adolescence” that blends two cultures “in inventive, unexpected ways.”

An excerpt from Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “American Born Chinese” (2006). CreditGene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese,” published by First Second in 2006, achieved a couple of firsts for a graphic novel: It was a finalist for a National Book Award and it won the Michael L. Printz Award. It also received an Eisner Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the comic book world, for best graphic album.

His other books include “Boxers and Saints” (2013), a work of historical fiction with dollops of mysticism set during the Boxer Rebellion in China; and “Secret Coders” (2015), illustrated by Mike Holmes, about students solving mysteries at an unsettling school. (The text slyly teaches readers basic computer coding.) In June Mr. Yang joined the group of writers working on Superman for DC Comics.

Mr. Yang, 42, the son of Chinese immigrants, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He began drawing at 2, he said, and “I basically never stopped.” His gateway for comic books was Superman, which he began reading in fifth grade. Marvel’s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man soon followed. He started creating his own comics. “I was always interested in telling stories through drawings,” he recalled.

At the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Yang majored in computer science partly to please his father, who wanted him to pursue something practical, and minored in creative writing. He worked as a computer engineer for two years after graduating and then began teaching computer science at a high school, a job that lasted 17 years. He gave it up only when his travels in support of his books began to involve too much time away.

Secret Coders,” released in September, was inspired partly by his teaching experience. “What I wanted to do was combine a narrative with lessons,” he said. “You ought to be able to do basic programming from reading the first volume.” Mr. Yang is also running an art contest related to the book to encourage readers to try some basic programming.

Mr. Yang also taps his background for his work with DC Comics. “When DC approached me, ‘Superman as the prototypical immigrant’ was one of my first thoughts,” he wrote in an email. He noted that dual identities are a daily reality for the children of immigrants. “Many of us use one name at home, another at school,” he said. “We move between two different sets of expectations the way many superheroes do.” When he recounted Superman’s origin story in an issue published in November as part of an adventure set in Oakland, Calif., he gave the superhero some immigrant anxieties about belonging.

In reflecting on his new role as ambassador, Mr. Yang said he found his wife, Theresa, a development director for an elementary school, a tremendous resource. He said that he was inspired by her program for encouraging students to read and write in different genres and that she was enthusiastic about the ambassadorship. His children — a son and three daughters — are a little harder to satisfy.

It is difficult to impress any kid that you see on a daily basis,” Mr. Yang said. The same is true of his children’s reactions to his books, though all of them are avid readers. “They tell me they like them, but they like other people’s books better than mine.


Boxers & Saints author Gene Luen Yang to take the helm of DC’s Superman

Gene Luen Yang will be writing DC's Superman. Where do I sign up?
Gene Luen Yang will be writing DC’s Superman



Last year, Marvel announced efforts to broaden the diversity of their superhero lineup; only to run their main Marvel universe through the shredder this year and possibly erase all those gains. Meanwhile, both DC and Marvel have been criticized that even when they elevate the profiles of non-White and non-male superheroes, previous efforts have stumbled due at least in part to failures to implement behind-the-scenes diversity initiatives; thus, earlier announcements have come across as transient pandering that lacks connection to the actual experiences of women and minorities while failing to produce opportunities for minority creators.

Last week, DC announced its own radical shift that would be taking hold of the DC superhero universe in the coming months. No, not another Crisis: DC announced a major roster change in the creative teams behind several ongoing titles as well as the launch of several new books, all with the general goal of “broadening” the focus of the DC universe. In layman’s terms? DC is diversifying their superheros, and it turns out that they’re going to do it the right way: behind-the-scenes as well as in front.

MarySue is all over the news, highlighting the launch of two new titles that feature strong female superhero protagonists –– Black Canary and Starfire. This will be Starfire’s first solo title, and notably, she’s received a costume redesign that (finally) covers her top half (although, of course, she’s still wearing booty shorts).  In addition to a limited run Harley Quinn/ Power Girl (which may feature the new Power Girl, Tanya Spears who is Black and also apparently awesome) miniseries, these newly launched female-led titles will join ongoing series featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, making DC’s newly announced efforts one of the most inclusive comic lineups with regard to women.

Starfire’s new look.

With regard to racial diversity, a few (but not that many) characters of color will also be promoted to solo title status; most notably, Cyborg will get his own series, written by current author of Shaft, David Walker. The cover of We Are Robin also features several Robins, including both women and people of colour. The new title, Midnighter, will focus on a gay male lead character.

But the real news here is what’s going on behind-the-scenes: DC’s newest slate of creative teams features an almost unprecedented number of women and minority creators. For the New 52 relaunch, less than 1% of DC’s writers were women. In this new announcement, six women (or 17% of all writers, a big deal in the traditionally male-dominated comics industry) will be women. Even more importantly, several of the female writers will be writing female protagonists: Meredith Finch will be writing Wonder Woman, Gail Simone will continue her work on Secret Six (which includes several female characters), Amanda Connor will co-write Harley QuinnStarfire, and the Harley Quinn/Power Girl mini-series, and Genevieve Valentine will write Catwoman.

Today’s announcement is also a big deal for Asian American comic book writers and artists. Greg Pak, who has done phenomenal work for both DC and Marvel, will be continuing to write Action Comics and Superman/Batman. The big news is that Gene Luen Yang, author of several award-winning comic books including American Born ChineseBoxers & Saints, and The Shadow Hero will be making his DC Comics debut to take over the ongoing Superman series. DC reports that Yang will be charged with helping to depict Superman “in a more contemporary light”. Ming Doyle, one of the industry’s few Asian American female talents, will also be joining Constantine: The Hellblazer as a writer, and Dark Universe as an artist.

Teamed with artist John Romita, Jr., Yang will be the first Asian American to write the tale of DC Comics’ flagship superhero in his eponymous title; this is also symbolic because Superman’s story — with its immigrant narrative overtones — has long spoken to Asian American fanboys. As Will West put it:

This is a pretty big deal. An Asian American is writing the American Dream superhero.

(Of course, Pak has been writing Superman through both Action Comics and Superman/Batman or some time, but you get the gist!)

Yang’s writing is just superb and stellar; I’ve been a fan for years. I haven’t been buying comics in a number of years; the addition of Yang and Doyle to a writing staff that already includes Pak’s strong work is making me change my mind on that decision.

As far as Asian American creative talent are concerned, Yang, Pak and Doyle will also be joined by several Asian American artists in driving the behind-the-scenes work for DC. Talented Asian American artists Bernard Chang, Sonny Liew, Ardian Syaf, Annie Wu and Billy Tan will pencil Batman BeyondDr Fate, Batman/Superman, Black Canary, and Green Lantern, respectively; Irene Koh is also working on art for Black Canary although she’s listed by BleedingCool and not included in  DC’s official announcement.

DC says:

“This heralds in a new era for the DC Universe which will allow us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.  “Whether you’ve been a DC fan your whole life, or whether you are new to comics – there will be a book for you beginning in June.”


27 artists celebrate the first Asian American superhero

Epic fan art gallery dedicated to Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s ‘The Shadow Hero’


Angry Asian Man:


Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew‘s fantastic new graphic novel The Shadow Hero is the revival of an obscure Golden Age comic book character known as the Green Turtle. Originally created by artist Chu Hing for the short-lived Blazing Comics, he is arguably the first Asian American superhero. In The Shadow Hero, the Green Turtle is given a proper origin story and re-imagined as a young Chinese American crimefighter.

To celebrate the recent release of The Shadow Hero, Gene and Sonny enlisted the help of twenty-seven different artists who each offered their own awesome, unique take on The Green Turtle throughout the month of July. So, I present this gallery compiling all of their Green Turtle fan art.


Check it out:


Tuesday, July 8
Paolo Rivera

Wednesday, July 9
Roger Langridge

Thursday, July 10
Jason Caffoe

Friday, July 11
Box Brown

Saturday, July 12
MK Reed

Sunday, July 13
James Kochalka

Monday, July 14
Jeffrey Brown

Tuesday, July 15
Steve Lieber

Wednesday, July 16
Dan Santat

Thursday, July 17
Fabio Moon

Friday, July 18
Greg Ruth

Saturday, July 19
Chris Schweizer

Sunday, July 20
Leland Myrick

Monday, July 21
Thien Pham

Tuesday, July 22
Kazu Kibuishi

Wednesday, July 23
George O’Connor

Thursday, July 24
Jonathan Hill

Friday, July 25
Robb Mommaerts

Saturday, July 26
Lark Pien

Sunday, July 27
Derek Kirk Kim

Monday, July 28
Chris Giarusso

Tuesday, July 29
Faith Erin Hicks

Wednesday, July 30
Tomer Hanuka

Thursday, July 31
Ben Hatke

The Shadow Hero is available everywhere now. For further information, visit Gene Luen Yang’s website.



New graphic novel tells the story of The Green Turtle, the first Asian American superhero

Angry Asian Man:

At long last! Evildoers cower and flee! It’s the triumphant return of the masked crimefighter known as the Green Turtle! Wait… who? What, you mean you’ve never heard of the first Asian American superhero? Then you must read The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, on shelves this week from First Second.

Okay, if you’ve never heard of the Green Turtle, I can’t really blame you. He’s an obscure Golden Age character that briefly appeared in the pages of Blazing Comics during the 1940s. While the character’s run was short-lived, what makes the Green Turtle interesting is his creator, Chinese American artist Chu F. Hing.


Legend has it, Chu wanted to make a series about a superhero of Asian descent, but his publisher wouldn’t allow it, because, you know, America. So Chu found a weird, passive-aggressive way to make the character Asian: he never showed his hero’s face. If you look at the old comics, the Green Turtle is always drawn so that his face is obscured, either hidden by shadow, or blocked by a piece of furniture or even his own arm.

Gene, the award-winning graphic novelist behind American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints, was intrigued and inspired by the lore of the Green Turtle, and saw it as an opportunity to tell a great story about the first Asian American superhero. With art by Sonny Liew, The Shadow Hero revives the character, and spins an all-new origin story for a new generation of comic book fans.

The Shadow Hero tells the story of Hank Chu, a Chinese American teenager growing up in 1930s Chinatown. Hank wants nothing more than to work in his family’s grocery store, but his mother has more ambitious plans. She wants him to embody the excitement of their new home. She wants him to become a superhero.

From the obscure depths of what should have been a mildly curious footnote in comics history, Gene and Sonny have extracted and crafted a marvelous, heartfelt, unmistakably Asian American superhero tale. They’ve even managed to weave some of the weirdest elements of the character (seriously, what kind of superhero name is “Green Turtle”?) into their inventive origin story. 

Best of all, this is not just a comic book tale about powers, masks and villains, though it’s got all that great stuff.The Shadow Hero is also a story about the immigrant experience, explored through the genre of superheroes. I expected to love this book. (Yes, I judged it by its cover.) I didn’t expect to be so moved by its heart.

The trade paperback of The Shadow Hero is now available from booksellers everywhere, including Amazon. You can also download digital issues from Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple iBooks. For further information about The Shadow Hero, visit Gene Luen Yang’s website.

To celebrate the release of The Shadow Herotwenty-seven different artists are doing their takes on the Green Turtle, one a day through the end of the month. Check out the first few drawings here.


Comic Book news: Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew’s six-issue miniseries revives the Green Turtle, the first Asian American superhero


Angry Asian Man:

Look out, criminals! Beware evildoers! Fear the fist justice. This city is protected by the Green Turrrtllllle! Wait… um, who? The Green Turtle. Believe it or not, he’s the first Asian American superhero, sort of.

Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew‘s graphic novel The Shadow Hero re-introduces the Green Turtle, an obscure Golden Age comic book character that has fallen into public domain. Created by Chu F. Hing in the 1940s, and first appearing in the pages of Blazing Comics, he is arguably the first Asian American superhero.

Legend has it, Chu Hing wanted the Green Turtle to be a Chinese American superhero, but his publishers didn’t find that idea very marketable. So Mr. Hing conveniently got around this by drawing the character so that we never saw the Green Turtle’s face — we could imagine the hero as the artist intended: Asian American.

The Green Turtle’s original run only lasted a few issues, but Gene and Sonny have revived the character with an all-new Asian American origin story, exploring the immigrant experience through the genre of superheroes. I was fortunate enough to receive an early look at the book, and it’s thrilling, hilarious and moving. The story of the first Asian American superhero is so much better than I could have even imagined.

The first issue of The Shadow Hero debuts this week, and will be released over the next six months as digital editions, available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Apple iBooks for $0.99. A trade paperback collecting all six issues will be available from First Second Books on July 15, just in time for San Diego Comic-Con.

In honor of The Shadow Hero’s debut, Gene has been sharing some really cool behind-the-scenes material from the making of book on his blog. Check out this links to see side-by-side comparisons of the script, thumbnail sketches, as well as Sonny Liew’s final art:

Secret Origin of The Shadow Hero Part 1

Secret Origin of The Shadow Hero Part 2

Secret Origin of The Shadow Hero Part 3

Secret Origin of The Shadow Hero Part 4

Shadow Hero Character Sketches Set#1

Shadow Hero: The Backgrounds Strike Back

Shadow Hero: Enter Mr.Han?

For further information about The Shadow Hero and Gene Luen Yang’s other books, visit his website.

Check out this link:

Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew’s six-issue miniseries revives the Green Turtle


Gene Luen Yang explains his graphic novel “The Shadow Hero”

In the U.S. comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comic book characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity… The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The Green Turtle comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for this forgotten character. Hank just wants to enjoy his quiet life running the family grocery store with his father, but his mother has other ideas for him… she wants him to become a superhero, and to clean up their Chinatown neighborhood!

With artwork by Sonny Liew, this dazzling, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore.



Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “Boxers & Saints” receives nomination for National Book Award


It’s a double dip for Gene Luen Yang today, as his two volume Boxers & Saints—an intertwined graphic novel telling the story of the China’s Boxer Rebellion from the POVs of two different teenagers—has made the list of finalists for the National Book Awards, which will be presented on November 20.

This is Yang’s second nomination for the National Book Award. The first was back in 2006 in the Young People’s Literature category, for American Born Chinese — the first graphic novel ever to be nominated for the award.

Check out this link:

Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “Boxers & Saints” receives multiple nominations for National Book Award