Selves on the Shelves

“Can you remember the first time you saw yourselves represented in comics and can you describe that experience?”


This was a question that moderator Valentino Zullo brought up during our Comics Represent panel hosted by Lake Erie Ink’s Kids Comic Con.


My answer is that I never felt represented in the comics I read as a child. My skin color was never a trait in the characters I adored.


There were the few and far between characters:

We had Shang-Chi starring in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, who’s Marvel (MCU) movie I can’t wait to see. But when I was a child I didn’t care about martial arts-- I wanted super powers! Plus it looked like he was in pajamas, not a slick costume like the X-Men. (I swear I heard creator Gene Yang say something like this but I swear I felt the same!)


Speaking of, there was also Sunfire from X-Men as well as the guest spot in the cartoon Spider Man and his Amazing Friends. He is a Japanese mutant from Japan. Unfortunately, Sunfire was portrayed as arrogant, usually the antagonist and never utilized or well-developed. Sunfire, on the regular, gets a bad rap!


There’s a stereotype that cis white male characters are universally the norm. I see it as very heteronormative, too, in the portrayal of heterosexuality as the default, preferred, or normal mode of sexual orientation. This limits the traits of a main character. Can we have a different looking character instead of another Luke Skywalker, Batman, Harry Potter, Captain America, Superman, Daniel from Karate Kid, etc.?


I like how someone can be “From a galaxy far, far away” or from the planet Krypton and still be a tall white guy with a chiseled jaw.


As I’ve talked about before, I was inspired by my daughters to create a strong character that happens to be Asian and identifies as female. So when I bring my daughters to a local comic shop or book store, they get to see someone that looks like them on the shelves.


I think it’s essential that we see our “selves on the shelves,” but also diversify our reading lists by looking for characters and works from creators who are different from us. One of my favorite artists, Gene Yang, created the “Reading Without Walls” Challenge. This challenge asks you to think about the characters, topics and even book formats and try something outside your comfort zone.


I would love to hear any reading recommendations below in the comments or the first time you saw yourselves represented in comics!


Later, no Gator,


Jay





I was so happy when Dylan Speeg got Xu V. Chau to be the character model for Lilliput. I was even more excited that V was into attending comic cons in Lilliput cosplay!


My inspiration: my daughters and wife coming out to support me at Art on Vine!


At Noice: Norfolk's Original Indie Comics Expo I got to experience a majority Filipino outing to support MeSseD Comics. Granted I'm related to most of these people but I never experienced this before!



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