27 Artists Brilliantly Reimagine the World's First Asian-American Superhero


Meet "the Green Turtle."

Image Credit: Jason Caffoe

Not the toughest name for a crime fighter, plus his costume leaves little to the imagination:

Image Credit: Jonathan Hill

But make no mistake: The man will hurt you.

Image Credit: Box Brown

And according to Angry Asian Man, he's the first Asian-American superhero in the history of global comics, first debuting in Blazing Comics in 1944.

Background: The Turtle now appears in The Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew.

Its publication has also inspired promotional art from 27 commissioned illustrators, which Angry Asian Man compiled as a list. The results are nothing short of glorious:

Image Credit: Tropical Toxic

Image Credit: Chris Schweizer

Image Credit: Robb Mommaerts

The legend: Author Gene Yang tells of the character's genesis on his website:

According to his account, a small publishing company called Rural Home enlisted Chu Hing, a Chinese-American artist, to create a new superhero in 1944. The result was the Green Turtle, a masked crime fighter who stalked the streets of Chinatown in the 1930s.

Image Credit: Steve Lieber

There was just one problem: Hing wanted the hero to be Chinese-American. The publisher wanted him white.

Image Credit: Dan Santat

So, in a clever act of defiance, Hing responded by rendering the Turtle with his face hidden as often as possible – thus enabling him to "imagine his hero as he originally intended, as a Chinese American":

Image Credit: Comics Alliance

The comic was canceled shortly thereafter.

Image Credit: Fabio Moon

But: Those trademark calf-boots and spandex undies were unleashed once more on an unsuspecting public on July 15.

The fact that the Turtle was never given a "proper origin story" left his character open to interpretation. The Shadow Hero colorfully reimagines him as Hank Chu, a young Chinese-American who "wants nothing more than to work in his family's grocery store" but whose mother "has more ambitious plans" for him, according to Yang.

Image Credit: Paolo Rivera

At its core, the author saysThe Shadow Hero is really about the immigrant experience in America:

"Take at look at Superman," he writes. "His parents sent him to America in search of a better life. He had two names, one American (Clark Kent) and the other foreign (Kal-El). He wears two sets of clothes and lives in between two cultures. He loves his new home, but a part of him longs for his old one."

Image Credit: Greg Ruth

It's a story as old as comic books themselves.

Image Credit: Kazu Kibuishi

And paired with Muslim heroine Kamala Khan's introduction to the Marvel universe, fans should take heart that the Green Turtle has been resurrected to inspire a new and more diverse generation of readers.

Image Credit: Roger Langridge

Image Credit: Thien Pham

Image Credit: George O'Connor

Image Credit: Leland Myrick

Image Credit: MK Reed

Image Credit: Lark Pien

Image Credit: James Kochalka

Image Credit: Derek Kirk Kim

Image Credit: Chris Giarrusso

Image Credit: Faith Erin Hicks

Image Credit: Jeffrey Brown

Image Credit: Ben Hatke