The late Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League of America) called Secret Identities a “criminally overdue treasure trove …as rousing, uplifting, tragic and funny as our deepest secret fantasies.” Walt Simonson (Thor) called it “a window into truths you never thought of before.” And DC Comics’ co-publisher Jim Lee said of the groundbreaking first anthology, “Fabulous!…I am more than a little in awe.”

Now, three years later, the team behind Secret Identities is back with a new volume — bigger, bolder and more breathtaking in scope. Like the groundbreaking original, the next incarnation of Secret Identities unfurls an ingenious “shadow narrative” of the Asian American experience, set against the larger-than-life canvas of the comic book cosmos.

But while the first collection focused on the conventions of superhero comics, its sequel expands its horizon to include edgier genres, from hard-boiled pulp to horror, adventure, fantasy and science fiction. Using this darker range of hues, Shattered seeks to subvert — to shatter — the hidebound stereotypes that have obscured the Asian image since the earliest days of immigration: the stoic brute, the prodigious brain, the exotic temptress, the inscrutable alien, the devious manipulator.

Creators included in the eclectic and impressive lineup include leading Asian American comics creators such as Gene Yang (National Book Award finalist for American Born Chinese), GB Tran (Vietnamerica), Christine Norrie (Hopeless Savages), Sonny Liew (Malinky Robot), Larry Hama (G.I. Joe), Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman), Bernard Chang (Supergirl), Sean Chen (Iron Man), Greg Pak (The Hulk), and Takeshi Miyazawa (Runaways), as well as film and literary standouts such as Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet), Michael Kang (The Motel) and Tanuj Chopra (Punching at the Sun). The original graphic short stories they’ve crafted cover topics from ethnic kiddie shows to China’s AIDS policy to air flight security procedures; from the untold backstory of Flash Gordon’s nemesis Ming the Merciless, to the gritty reality of a day in the life of a young Koreatown gangster.

The first book has become a must-read book for fans of graphic storytelling — Graphic Novel Reporter called it “entertaining, provocative and powerful,” while Eclipse magazine gave it an “A” grade and called it “tremendously rewarding.” But it’s also been widely adopted as course material in ethnic and cultural studies programs as a unique lens on the frequently overlooked history of Asian America.

Shattered is poised to join its predecessor as a contemporary classic of the graphic novel form, incorporating thrills, chills and delight while exposing the hidden issues and vital truths of the nation’s fastest growing and most dynamic community.

Jeff Yang, the founder of the pioneering Asian American periodical aMagazine, writes the Tao Jones column for the Wall Street Journal and is a frequent contributor on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Parry Shen, best known for his lead role in the hit MTV Films movie Better Luck Tomorrow, lives in Southern California. Keith Chow, an educator and writer, lives in Maryland. Jerry Ma, the founder of the design studio Epic Proportions, lives in New York City.


SIUniverse Blog Parade Day Twelve: Yellow Peril

Walking With Master Hare — Behind the Scenes With Shattered 
Originally posted at Yellow Peril
by Jamie Noguchi

Master Hare
I inherited my love of comics from my dad. He was a huge Marvel fan and when my brother and I found his old collection of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Thor comics, we were hooked. It never really occurred to me as I was growing up, but as I was about college age, I noticed that my favorite comics lacked heroes that looked like me. Though many of my favorite titles were drawn by Asian artists, there were hardly any Asian heroes in the pages. I was pretty disappointed, but the revelation didn’t put me off comics. In fact, I expanded the types of comics I collected because the super hero genre just wasn’t holding up.

I figured that this was going to the be the state of things. Then a few years ago, I heard about an anthology that would feature Asian American super heroes, Secret Identities: The Asian American Super Hero Anthology.

Be Careful What You Wish For

I ordered a copy of Secret Identities and waited with great anticipation. Would this be the Asian American equivalent of the Milestone Universe, a super hero universe featuring Black super heroes created in the early 90s. Would this anthology encourage the big two to feature more Asian American heroes? I conjured all sorts of hopeful maybes.

It arrived at my doorstep and I tore into the packaging like a mad wolverine to get to its contents. I couldn’t wait to read about super heroes that looked like me. But as I turned the pages, I felt my brow furrow. These weren’t hopeful stories of heroes doing super human deeds. These were angry stories that sought to punish the White Man for years of oppression.

To be fair, not every story came from a place of anger. But the overall vibe of the collection was so angry and bitter that I hid the thing in a dark place on my shelf. I couldn’t recommend this to my non-Asian friends for fear that they’d feel like they were being attacked. I mean, I’m a pretty angry and bitter person in general, but even I felt put off by the overall tone.

These weren’t the heroes I was looking for. These weren’t the stories I had been waiting for.

A Second Glance

Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant when the Secret Identities crew contacted me earlier this year to contribute to their second anthology, Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology. I nearly declined, but I felt that maybe I’d have an opportunity to be part of the solution, to tell a story that featured Asian characters that wasn’t bitter or angry. After some soul searching, I agreed.
I was sent a few scripts to consider and already, my fears were put to rest. These were the kind of stories that I had been looking for. The one that spoke to me the most was Howard Wong’s Master Tortoise and Master Hare. As you might guess, it’s a retelling of the classic Tortoise and Hare fable set in ancient China.

One of my biggest concerns was creating a unique look for Master Hare. To me, the definitive long-eared action hero is Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. I was afraid that my love for Stan and Usagi would creep into my Master Hare. I hid all my Usagi books and my Stan Sakai sketchbooks and collected screen shots of Kung Fu villains and photos of hares.

With Master Hare somewhat settled, I went on to design Master Tortoise. Again, I had to push out childhood favorites out of my mind. I drew a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it first hit the airwaves in the late 80′s. Their head shapes, body contours, hands are all second nature to my drawing hand. I can TMNT with the best of them. So I made a concerted effort to lean on my reference photos of actual tortoises. Even so, you can see the TMNT influence in Master Tortoise’s limbs.

I had an absolute blast drawing the story and playing with these characters. I was pretty pleased with the work and couldn’t wait to see how it fit into the rest of the anthology.

Shattered, A Triumph

I was absolutely elated when I read through the preview copy of Shattered that we creators were sent. This anthology is exactly what I had been looking for. Rather than spending time trying to shame the White Man for years of oppression, this collection concentrates on telling good stories that feature Asian leads. This is a comic I would be proud to share with absolutely everyone I know.
It’s a much more subtle statement than the first collection. It’s not trying to shame you for ignoring the plight of Asians in America. It’s telling good stories that are universal in relate-ability and proving that you can do so while featuring minority leads. It’s a powerful statement and one of the reasons I think this is such an important work.

Shattered is on shelves now. If you’re in the DC area and haven’t yet picked up a copy, you can come on down to Busboys and Poets on Monday from 6:30pm to 8:00pm for a signing. I suggest grabbing food at Chinatown Express before to stuff your face full of dumpling and noodle goodness.
And if you’d like to hear from some of the other contributors, here’s a list of us who have blogged about our experiences:

SIUniverse Blog Parade Day Eleven: Kai Ma

Tempest, the Child Assassin Featured in Shattered, The Asian American Comics Anthology, Out Now

by Kai Ma
Her name is Tempest—and no, the moniker has nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy. The name, rather, is a nod to the storm that occurred the night she was kidnapped from her bedroom as a child. She’s a 13-year-old assassin, trained and raised by a covert organization that shaped her into a merciless killer. She’s also the character I created, with artist Eric Kim, for Shattered, the Secret Identities comics anthology that dropped November 6. 
What goes into creating a comics character? This was new for me. My comics background didn’t go far beyond thumbing through Archie and Ranma ½, devouring Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde and Palestine, or watching My Neighbor Totoro as a teen on acid. But I had to start somewhere. I re-read some Ranma, the beloved gender-swapping martial arts Japanese manga series, and Love and Rockets, by alt-comics pioneers Los Bros Hernandez, as well as Shortcomings and the Optic Nerve series by Adrian Tomine—who illustrated this week’s excellent Sandy and prez election-related cover art for The New Yorker.
The story began to unfold, along with Eric’s artwork. On the eve of her 13th birthday, Tempest is nearly the perfect assassin: a killer without ties to others, without even a sense of self. During a crucial battle, she kills her masked opponent. Once she discovers the face behind the mask, she realizes she has made a horrifying mistake and vows to never kill again. She escapes—as depicted in Eric’s early sketches. 

Like her namesake, Tempest is capricious, violent—and deadly. 

She is also a child, but a girl without memories.
Like the assassin-for-hire in Wong Kar-Wai’s Fallen Angels or the real-life hit man Vincent Smothers, Tempest, too, attempts to shed her violent roots. But her upbringing makes that virtually impossible because the organization that trained her had wiped out her memories and all ties to the past. 

Pulling from influences that included Natalie Portman à la The Professional, manga series Path of the Assassin, and artwork by Koji Morimoto, Eric created this near-final sketch. Tempest is “much like the future, which is globalized, chaotic, and made up of so many disparate elements that come together in an individual,” he explained.  

Eric and I went back and forth on Tempest’s weapon, mulling over a long list that included guns, machetes, twin batons, poison darts, crossbows, samurai swords, and ninja stars. I pored over images of Battle Angel Alita, a stunning cyborg that, as my friend Alex Chee explained, eventually absorbed weapons into her body to become her own signature weapon. We studied weapons used by The Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Here’s a sketch of Tempest with various polearms (staffs with blades attached). 
To see the final image of Tempest—and the weapon we chose—check out Shattered, the follow-up to the seminal Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology. She’s also featured, along with several pieces by Shattered contributors, at a twin exhibit called “Monsters and Marvels” and “Alt.Comics” curated by Jeff Yang, Herb Tam, and Ryan Wong at the Museum of Chinese in America. 
For the time being, Eric and I are working on a Tempest series. The first story involves shoplifting, ping pong, graffiti, a botched kidnapping attempt, and a barn own named Meat. Stay tuned.

Kai Ma is the editor of Open City magazine and managing editor at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

SIUniverse Blog Parade Day Ten: Natalie Kim

Chinese female pirate story I wrote is OFFICIALLY PUBLISHED!
Originally published at NatalieKim.com 
by Natalie Kim
Big thanks to Secret Identities (Follow them on Twitter:  @SIUniverse) for letting me write a story for their recently published anthology.
Click the image below to buy the book:


A few years ago, I was in a play called Songs of The Dragons Flying To Heaven (by the most amazing playwright, Young Jean Lee) and while on tour (Portland, Oregon & Rotterdam), I came across this story by Maggie Koerth of CNN.
(@MaggieKoerth  (She was also kind enough to give us a shout out in BoingBoing, here.)
A prostitute from Canton from the 19th century married a pirate.  Later on, after her husband died, she took her husband’s position as head pirate and lead her fleet to rule the oceans of Asia.  The British could not defeat her and they finally offered her amnesty if she stopped her pirating ways.  She lived till the ripe old age of 69 and died a wealthy lady who owned a gambling hall.
This short report resonated with me so strongly and it spoke to my soul.
I quickly forwarded it to Young Jean and she agreed that it was an amazing story.
I folded the paper I had printed it out and put it on a my messy bookshelf and forgot about it.
Fast Forward to 2010
I met cartoonist Robin Ha while I was doing a reading of Dean Haspiel‘s comic at at a Brooklyn arts festival.  We said mumbled hello to each other but that was about it.  
A few months later, I found myself sitting at Robin’s desk at her studio while she wasn’t there.  The kind guys and gals of then cartoonist studio Deep 6 let me do whatever it is I do (a combination of writing, drawing and fretting over minutiae). 
I saw Robin’s artwork at her desk and was blown away.


She draws like an old dude from Disney.  She is very young but she is a master.  She is also passionate about comics I would hear her rattle off all types of comix excitedly with the other master comix creators at the studio.
As a thank you to Robin for letting me sit at her desk, I gave her a book of empowering women fables collected from around the world.  I also gave her the story of Ching Shih.  She too was blown away by it.
Later on I submitted the story to Jeff Yang’s second edition of Secret Identities comic book.  Secret Identities is a compilation comics by Asian American writers and artists. 
Jeff Yang is one of the most talented and genius people I’ve ever met.  He speaks and writes with eloquence and I was totally jazzed about  being part of the project.  (As an aside:  He was one of the reasons I became an actress and continues to have a profound affect on my life and the all other Asian Americans.)
Writing Process and working with Robin
I find that when I’m passionate about a project, the story writes itself and I just get the hell out of it’s way.

The first vision that came to mind was the moon reflected in the sea and a chopped head fell into the water shattering the placid moment.

Next Robin quickly drew character sketches:

When Robin and I got together and she showed me the men, I immediately recognized who she modeled them after:

Tony Leung
Takeshi Kaneshriro

We giggled like schoolgirls with crushes and then discussed the pages.

I wrote the story very quickly and shared it with Robin.  Luckily she liked it. 

We went back and forth with Jeff on the story and hashed it out.  When the story was finally approved, Robin penciled the 6 pages in less than a week.  Then she inked them and it was done before I knew it. 

The Significance of Ching Shih For (Asian) Women
Why is the story significant of Ching Shih?  Because as I said in an earlier blog post, stories like this are non-existent for Asian women.  Usually stories about Asian women talk about major sacrifice and suffering and never ends well for the woman.
You may not think much of this but if you follow Joseph Campbell who believes in the hero’s journey and myth, that stories are created to be powerful guides for people, then you can see why this story is significant.  People need stories to live out their lives and express themselves. 
In ancient times stories were models by which people could overcome great adversity and conquer external and internal demons and dragons.
“Myths are the stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance…”  Bill Moyers

“The very experience of being alive.” Joseph Campbell.
People used these stories go beyond what hardships life had presented them.
Storyteling Now
Sitting around the fire sharing stories is replaced by Hulu, iPhones and sometimes (though rarely) movie theaters.  
We have corporate story tellers telling our kids stories.  These are modern story tellers sit around a table in an office, wearing suits and driving porches.  They are making merchandising deals with McDonald’s.  Their goal is to make money.  This is not a bad thing in and of it self but something to be aware of.  I’d rather be a aware of the stories I allow in my consciousness and the stories I create to be beneficial and empowering. 
This is the very reason why in my comedy web series, SuperTwins, the male Asian-American character, Kai was a masculine jock, was good with the ladies and had faults but ultimately was a good person. 
Most stories presented to girls are not very good ones.  There are no stories of matriarchal societies, Athena or the Amazon Warrior Women are replaced by Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella. The results can be silently devastating.
The above mentioned fairy tales are banned in our house.  I decided that the stories I want to present to my four year old daughter are the ones that will lift her up.  The stories and archetypes that remind her that she can do whatever she sets her mind to, not what society dictates her to.  She can be a leader, she can be fierce, she can be independent. 

I suppose I do this also to remind myself as well.

Has a story and/or character ever influenced your life? 

If so, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Big thanks to Secret Identities (Follow them on Twitter:  @SIUniverse) for letting me write a story for their recently published anthology.
Click the image below to buy the book:
Please read the back stories from other Shattered contributors:

Adam Warrock
Wendy M. Xu (Angry Girl Comics)
A.L. Baroza
Jenn Fang (Reappropriate) and Ace Continuado
Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man) and Jerry Ma (Epic Proportions)
Bao Phi and G.B. Tran
Amy Chu and Larry Hama