The creators of the pioneering anthology of Asian American comics, SECRET IDENTITIES, are excited to announce that work is now underway on a second volume of all-new tales set in the grand tradition of heroic graphical fiction: SECRET IDENTITIES VOLUME 2: SHATTERED, targeting a 2012 publication date.
“Sales of the first volume have been far beyond what we could have possibly expected,” says Secret Identities (www.secretidentities.org) Editor-in-Chief Jeff Yang. “And the reaction from readers has continued to pour in: We want more. And we wanted more too.”
The first volume was one of the year’s best-selling books for independent publisher The New Press, which quickly expressed interest in continuing the series. But it was a generous development grant from the Vilcek Foundation that has ultimately made the new volume possible.
“Putting together the first book was a monumental task,” says Secret Identities Managing Editor Parry Shen. “And the more we thought about doing a sequel, the more we realized we had to figure out a way to make it even bigger, better and more boundary-breaking than the original.”
The Vilcek Foundation, whose mission is to honor and celebrate the outstanding artistic and scientific contributions of immigrant innovators and creators in the United States, profiled the unique role of immigrants in comic books in their Summer 2010 Newsletter (http://orsp.in/cBv9oT) — and chose to showcase Secret Identities, whose 66 contributors include creators born in Taiwan, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Philippines among their number, as a unique example of the graphic novel art. Upon hearing that the Secret Identities team was thinking of doing a sequel, they offered to support the lengthy editorial and artistic process necessary to make it happen.
ON THE DARK SIDE
“We already had an idea of where we wanted to go,” says Education Director and Editor at Large Keith Chow. “In the first volume, we focused on using superheroes as a lens through which to expose and celebrate Asian American history and culture. This time, we wanted to expand our perspective to the darker side of the SI Universe, while also incorporating a broader range of comic genres — from hard-boiled pulp to martial arts, adventure and science fiction.”
The idea was originally seeded when, at a 2009 New York Comic Con panel on Secret Identities, an audience member noted that as exciting as the project sounded, it was easy to tell stories about heroes — the real challenge is to tell stories about villains. It was then that the SI team began to consider the possibility of exploring the nefarious, sinister and menacing side of the good guy/bad guy equation in order to upend, reenvision, reimagine — to shatter — distorted or negative images that have shadowed Asian Americans since the earliest days of our arrival in this country.
“The idea of putting a focus on stories that showcased strong and vivid interactions between heroes and villains — even stories with the ‘villain’ as protagonist — opens up so many interesting ways to question the power of perception to shape reality,” says Yang. “It also inspired us to conceive of a narrative that will serve as the framing story for the book — a single long tale whose multiple episodes will introduce each book’s chapter, while allowing us to continue the stories of some of our favorite characters from Volume One.”
THE “LONG ARC”
The framing story will follow the aftereffects of an unfortunate mystical accident perpetrated by the protagonists of Volume One’s “Driving Steel” — Jimson Fo and his young friend (and future American legend) John Henry — which releases a quintet of archfiends into the world, each with the power to reshape reality to conform to its image: The Manipulator, The Temptress, The Brute, The Brain and The Alien. The immortal Fo then takes it upon himself to pursue the demons across the ages, collaborating with heroes of each time period to defeat and destroy these infernal nemeses.
“The two things people told us they wanted most in a second volume were longer arcs and continuations of the stories of some of the characters they loved in the first book,” says Art Director Jerry Ma. “This framing story gives us a way to make that possible. But there’ll be plenty of original stories and characters in Volume Two — including characters imagined by readers and audiences at the many places where we’ve brought Secret Identities in the past few years.”
Since the publication of Secret Identities in 2009, the SI Team has presented a unique workshop at schools, colleges and community institutions across the nation — a session called “Build a Hero,” in which they work with audiences to create original superhero characters on the spot, with editors guiding the crowd to collaboratively weave an identity, origin and backstory while an artist sketches and inks the hero on the fly.
“We think bringing the audience into the book is one of the most important things we’ve been able to do with Secret Identities,” says Shen. “Some of the most interesting stories and characters in Volume One came from people who’d never even tried to write for comics before — but had a brilliant vision of something they wanted to bring to life. We just helped them do it!”
In that spirit, the SI Team is once again soliciting contributions — in the form of brief pitches for story ideas and characters (both heroes and villains) emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Artists are also invited to submit samples of their work or links to their online portfolios for the editors to evaluate.
These stories/characters will be featured alongside already confirmed contributors such as Cliff Chiang (Justice League: Generation Lost), Greg Pak (Incredible Hercules, World War Hulk) and Bernard Chang (Superman, Wonder Woman).
More details on what the team is looking for can be found at http://www.secretidentities.org/site/v2, including a downloadable contributors’ guide.
To schedule interviews with SECRET IDENTITIES’ editors and contributors or to request further information on Volume Two, please email Jeff Yang at email@example.com or Keith Chow at firstname.lastname@example.org.