Originally posted at NerdyGal.com
by Amy Chu
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.