We are just one day out from New York Comic-Con, and if you plan to be in the Big Apple this weekend, be sure to stop by booth #2010 to find the SIUniverse at our joint booth with Epic Proportions! It’s a bittersweet occasion since Jerry has announced this will be his last con as an exhibitor. But don’t fret! You’ll still find him in Artist Alley in the near future. In the meantime, we’re going to help Jerry go out in style and make this the biggest con ever for SIUniverse and Epic Props!
I’ve been asked how a newcomer such as myself ended up collaborating with the legendary creator Larry Hama, a respected veteran of the industry for the new Asian American comics anthology SHATTERED. Here’s the actual story:
It was exactly two years ago from today, funnily enough. My very first encounter with the writer/artist and former DC and Marvel editor wasn’t at a convention or store signing. It was at a very crowded cocktail fundraiser at a Manhattan art gallery for the Asian American Arts Alliance, a nonprofit community organization. I happened to be invited at the last minute by Ken Chen, the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers Workshop and a lifelong comics nut ( I believe he did his masters thesis on Chris Ware). Larry was good naturedly circulating anonymously in the crowd until Ken spotted him and introduced us. It came out in the conversation that in the ’70s young Larry had been part of the Basement Workshop, an arts activist and social justice group which spawned many of the New York City Asian American arts nonprofit organizations you see today. As someone who worked in the Asian American non profit sector for years, I was tickled to death to find we had several friends in common because of this.
Larry, who is known for his work on GI Joe, Bucky O’Hare, Elektra, Wolverine, is a pioneer for fighting racial and gender stereotyping in comics characters. He has a long history of creating unapologetically strong female characters like G.I. Joe’s Scarlett and pushing characters like the ninja Storm Shadow beyond the typical villainous Asian caricatures of the time. A genial and charismatic guy, he had a neverending stockpile of amazing and entertaining stories of those days. We had a terrific conversation.
Fast forward several months. My original pitch in collaboration with the very talented Toronto based artist Craig Yeung had been accepted by the folks at SHATTERED but I was told there was another story with some similar themes. Could I change the setting somehow? I didn’t really have any good ideas.
In the meantime the New York University Asian Pacific American Institute selected Larry as their Artist-in-Residence and in January of this year I was invited along with others like Greg Pak (Hulk, Vision Machine), long time letterer letterer Janice Chiang (Archie, Smurfs) and SHATTERED Editor in Chief and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang to participate in a blog session about the Asian American experience. Over dinner several ideas and personal anecdotes were thrown around. Larry started talking about something that sparked an idea in my mind. His parents had been incarcerated in the infamous Japanese American internment camps in California during World War II. I knew SHATTERED would be distributed to schools and public libraries and that this subject should be in the Anthology somehow. It was perfect. I quickly rewrote the story and emailed Larry to thank him for the inspiration. His response was pretty short and immediate: Who’s drawing it? My heart stopped a little reading that. I’m not sure of the last time anyone has seen Larry pencil a story. I immediately sent him the script and held my breath. His next email said he thought he might me able to do it in collaboration with Craig. Craig has inked quite a bit including Runaways for Marvel. And with Janice Chiang on board to do the lettering, it worked out perfectly. Craig ended up doing the pencils for my original story which became the title story for my own first short story anthology Girls Night Out through Alpha Girl Comics. And Larry was the easiest guy ever to work with – even offering to redo any panels if I wanted.
SHATTERED: The Asian American Comics Anthology published by The New Press is available Nov. 6 through Amazon, bookstores and comic stores and also features the work of longtime creators like Cliff Chiang, Sean Chen, and Bernard Chang.
San Diego Comic Con 2009 was a huge success and 153 lucky people walked away with their newly purchased copies of Secret Identities.
With each signing we had everyday, an artist sketched either an existing Asian Superhero or one in “Secret Identities” as a part of a collage/jam piece to be raffled off to one lucky winner at the end of the convention (although Snake Eyes gets a pass on the Asian theme since hey, it’s a Larry Hama original and “Asian Hulk” in the b.g. by Bernard Chang as well — unless Hulk scribe Greg Pak writes it into reality at Marvel?).
However in order to get an entry, folks needed to first show us at least 10 collected signatures in their copy of “SI” from the 22+ contributors spread throughout the convention.
In the end, 30 folks had collectively compiled over 300 signatures/sketches and the winner is… Cecil DeClaro or Orange, CA. So thanks to everyone for playing along and great meeting you all!
Thanks to all the artists who jammed on this: Bernard Chang, Jimmy Aquino, Benton Jew, Tiffanie Hwang, Jerry Ma, Ming Doyle, Larry Hama, Gene Yang, Walden Wong and Sonny Liew.
SIUniverse Media, the company behind the groundbreaking graphic novel Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, in association with the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW), Asian CineVision, AsianAmericanComics.com and Diamond Comic Distributors have joined forces to organize the First Annual Asian American ComiCon (AACC), a celebration of the unique contemporaryrole and historical legacy of Asians and Asian Americans in the world of graphic fiction.
The event will be held on Saturday, July 11, 2009 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the brand-new, Maya Lin-designed home of the Museum of Chinese in America. The Asian American ComiCon—the first of its kind—will be the first major event to take place at MOCA’s new two-level, 14,000 square-foot facility at 215 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan.
The day-long event will bring together leading Asian and Asian American creators, fans and readers of mainstream and alternative graphic fiction, and creative leaders of the larger Asian American community for a one-of-a-kind gathering, incorporating education, dialogue, spontaneous creativity, intergenerational outreach and the chance for established and emerging talent to show off their work. Tickets for the nonprofit event are $15 for students, $25 for adults (18 and older), and $75 for a special VIP Pass, entitling the bearer to priority reserved seating at all panels and workshops, a complimentary Asian American graphic novel, signed by its creators (courtesy of Diamond Comic Distributors), and an original sketch from one of the artists participating in the event’s Artists Alley.
Note: All passes may sell out before the day of the event.
“The thing that makes this different from traditional cons is that it’s designed to bring down boundaries,” says Jeff Yang, co-chair of the event and Editor-in-Chief of Secret Identities. “We’re bringing together creators from inside and outside of the comics world; exploring how film, literature, and history interact with graphic fiction; looking at the connections between Asia and Asian America, and we’re giving attendees ways to meet, interact and engage with creators as they never have before. For this event, ‘con’ doesn’t stand for ‘convention’—we like to think it’s short for ‘conversation.'”
“Central to the Museum of Chinese in America’s mission is its goal to promote dialogue that transcends generational, geographical and cultural boundaries,” adds AACC co-chair Beatrice Chen,MOCA’s Director of Education. “The Asian American ComiCon, with its focus on exploring culture, identity and history through the world of comics, offers a compelling and accessible way to foster that dialogue.”
In addition to an exhibition room and an Artists’ Alley, the Asian American ComiCon will feature three concurrent programming tracks:
·The SPOTLIGHT features high-profile comic creators in one-on-one settings discussing some of the ways in which the comics and non-comics worlds are overlapping and interleaving. Scheduled to participate in these sessions are Derek Kirk Kim (The Eternal Smile, Same Difference & Other Stories) and Larry Hama (G.I. Joe: Origins, Barack the Barbarian).
·READING COMICS, curated by AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen, explores comics as literature, as texts, and as cultural artifacts, with speakers including non-comics creators and critics as well as comics artists and writers.
·Finally, MAKING COMICS, programmed by Marvel writer Greg Pak, allows creators to share their insights on the industry and profession with those wanting a behind-the-scenes look at comics or advice on how to pursue a career in the field.
“Everyone knows that Asian Americans love comics, but no one’s ever asked why” says Ken Chen. “That’s why we organized the First Annual Asian American ComiCon as a mash-up of a fan convention, an Asian American Studies conference and a literary festival. The ComiCon will be a one-of-a-kind event that’ll put superhero comic artists, professors, and novelists at the same table to discuss how we read comics today.”
“I love the fact that Asian Americans are doing amazing work in every corner of the comics industry,” says Incredible Hulk writer Greg Pak. “The Asian American ComiCon will give fans the chance to hear from indie superstars and superhero fan faves alike about creative choices and the practical reality of building a career. We’re also hooking in a few behind-the-scenes comics executives who’ll provide unique perspectives that I can’t wait to hear!”
Among some of the top comics industry professionals scheduled to attend the First Annual Asian American ComiCon include:
—BERNARD CHANG (Wonder Woman)
—FRED CHAO (Johnny Hiro)
—SEAN CHEN (Iron Man)
—CLIFF CHIANG (Green Arrow/Black Canary)
—LARRY HAMA (G.I. Joe)
—DEREK KIRK KIM (The Eternal Smile)
—JERRY MA (Burn)
—CHRISTINE NORRIE (Breaking Up)
—GREG PAK (Incredible Hulk)
—KHOI PHAM (Mighty Avengers)
—MISAKO ROCKS! (Biker Girl)
—CHRISTINA STRAIN (Runaways)
—TAK TOYOSHIMA (Secret Asian Man)
The officials behind the launch of the AACC feel that the time is ripe to celebrate the contributions of the Asian American community to the comic book industry. To that end, the event will climax with the presentation to G.I. Joe creator Larry Hama ofa special award recognizing his incredible career and the influence he’s been on his peers and a generation of rising creators. “I’m honored,” says Hama, “as long as you don’t call it a ‘lifetime achievement’ award. I’ve still got a lot to do!”
Student (with a valid ID) and Senior (65 and over): $15
Child (age 10 and under): Free with Adult
*The tax-deductible VIP Pass not only helps to support MOCA, it also guarantees the richest possible experience at this event! Including:
·Priority reserved seating at all panels and workshops
·One Original Sketch drawn by an artist from the AACC Artists Alley—artist availability based on first-come, first-serve basis
·One Asian American graphic novel, signed by its creators—choose from:
Secret Identities: The Asian American Anthology (The New Press),
Good As Lily (DC Comics),or
Johnny HiroVolume 1(AdHouse Books)
·Admission to the invitation-only, post-Con VIP Reception
The First Annual Asian American ComiCon is presented by:
The Museum of Chinese in America (www.mocanyc.org): Founded in 1980, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States. Through innovative exhibitions as well as educational and public programs, MOCA promotes dialogue and understanding among people of all cultural backgrounds.
SIUniverse Media (www.secretidentities.org): SIUniverse Media is the editorial and production team behind the pioneering Asian American superhero anthology Secret Identities, as well as its affiliated video, online and educational resources. Committed to raising up new voices from the Asian American community and creating original, authentic and engaging stories with an organically multicultural perspective, we strive to create work that pops eyes, drops jaws and opens minds, all at the same time.
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop (www.aaww.org): Founded in 1991, the Workshop is the largest non-profit devoted to the creating, publishing, developing and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans. A community of readers and writers and the country’s preeminent authority on Asian American writing, the Workshop dedicates itself to empowering emerging writers of great promise to make the transition to a career in the literary arts.
Asian CineVision (www.asiancinevision.org): Asian CineVision is a nonprofit media arts organization dedicated to promoting and preserving Asian and Asian American media expressions by helping to develop and support both emerging and experienced Asian American film and video makers and other media artists working in a range of genres and styles; and helping to ensure that the full spectrum of Asian and Asian American media works reach diverse audiences in Asian American communities and beyond.
Asian American Comics (www.asianamericancomics.com): Edited by Greg Pak, writer of Incredible Hulk and creator of the Marvel superhero Amadeus Cho, AsianAmericanComics.com is devoted to spreading the word about Asian American comic books, comic book characters and comic book creators. We hope AsianAmericanComics.com will help neophytes find interesting reading material, point existing readers towards new creators and books and provide fans and pros a place to read all the latest news. For more about Pak’s work, visit Pakbuzz.com.
Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. (www.diamondcomics.com): The world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books and related merchandise, Diamond Comic Distributors is based in Timonium, MD, with strategically located Distribution Centers servicing more than 4,000 specialty retailers worldwide.