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Multicultural Comics

From Zap to Blue Beetle

Edited by Frederick Luis Aldama

Publication Year: 2010

Multicultural Comics: From Zap to Blue Beetle is the first comprehensive look at comic books by and about race and ethnicity. The thirteen essays tease out for the general reader the nuances of how such multicultural comics skillfully combine visual and verbal elements to tell richly compelling stories that gravitate around issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality within and outside the U.S. comic book industry. Among the explorations of mainstream and independent comic books are discussions of the work of Adrian Tomine, Grant Morrison, and Jessica Abel as well as Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s The Tomb of Dracula; Native American Anishinaabe-related comics; mixed-media forms such as Kerry James Marshall’s comic-book/community performance; DJ Spooky’s visual remix of classic film; the role of comics in India; and race in the early Underground Comix movement. The collection includes a “one-stop shop” for multicultural comic book resources, such as archives, websites, and scholarly books. Each of the essays shows in a systematic, clear, and precise way how multicultural comic books work in and of themselves and also how they are interconnected with a worldwide tradition of comic-book storytelling.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture Series

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Foreword; Or Reading Withing the Gutter

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pp. ix-xi

Although not solely an image-based medium, comics get most of their power through their visuals, the ways in which authors construct the representations we see on the page or computer screen. Such art should not be taken lightly, for as history literally illustrates, the attitudes and prejudices of a culture can be greatly shaped by its caricatures, cartoons, and other forms of manipulated iconography...

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Multicultural Comics Today: A Brief Introduction

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pp. 1-25

All walks of life are on display in today’s alternative and mainstream comic book worlds. I do not just mean those politically astute anthropomorphic lions that strut through a U.S.-invaded, bombed-out Iraq, as seen in Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon’s Pride of Baghdad (2006). Off the cuff , I think of: the dyspeptic Asian American Ben Tanaka in Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings (2007); the bipolar Latino Omar Guerrero...

Part I: History, Concepts, and Methods

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Chapter One: Race and Comix

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pp. 27-38

The uncensored stories, colloquial dialogue, and caricatured drawings in old underground comix provide a rich and psychemucky vein of evidence for reimagining what was going through young people’s minds during a pivotal period in American history. Although racial issues were not a central preoccupation of underground comix, those comix in which race plays a role shine a lava light on how people were thinking during a confusing turning point...

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Chapter Two: "Authentic" Latinas/os and Queer Characters in Mainstream and Alternative Comics

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pp. 39-54

In May of 2006, DC Comics announced with fanfare that two well-established superheroes, Blue Beetle and Batwoman, would undergo a metamorphosis of identities and be recast as a Latino teenager and a lipstick lesbian, respectively. Doubtless a move to capture emerging niche markets, DC Comics’ decision came on the heels of the most recent visual depictions of Latina/o and queer characters on popular television programs...

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Chapter Three: Native American Narratives from Early Art to Graphic Novels

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pp. 55-72

Native Americans today are more than warriors and sidekicks, just as comic characters are more than superheroes and villains. The old dichotomies of understanding once dominant in America are being subtly revised by graphic storytellers. Blending ancient...

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Chapter Four: Liminality and Mestiza Consciousness in Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons

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pp. 73-92

While most Filipino American artists have yet to register on American culture’s radar screen, one Pinay has single-handedly redefined and influenced American popular culture for over twenty years. Hailed by the Village Voice as “one of the greatest cartoonists in the world,” Lynda K. Barry, born in 1956, is best known...

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Chapter Five: Black Nationalism, Bunraku, and Beyond: Articulating Black Heroism through Cultural Fusion and Comics

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pp. 93-104

One of my colleagues was out one day with her niece when they saw some Spider-Man decorations. Asked if she would be interested in decorating her room with Spider-Man paraphernalia, the little girl exclaimed, “Spider-Man is for boys!” A proper feminist, my friend...

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Chapter Six: Birth of a Nation: Representation, Nationhood, and Graphic Revolution in the Works of D. W. Griffith, DJ Spooky, and Aaron McGruder et al.

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pp. 105-119

This essay explores subtle intertextual relationships between D. W. Griffi this film The Birth of a Nation (1915), DJ Spooky’s performative “remix” of the film, and the comic/graphic novel Birth of a Nation, written by Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin and illustrated by Kyle Baker. Griffith’s film, repeatedly hailed as a classic, influential contribution...

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Chapter Seven: Lost in Translation: Jessica Abel's La Perdida, the Bildungsroman, and "That 'Mexican' Feel"

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pp. 120-131

Published serially by Fantagraphics between 2001 and 2005, and collected by Pantheon Books in 2006, Jessica Abel’s graphic narrative La Perdida has met with widespread acclaim. It earned her the 2002 Harvey Award for “Best New Series.” One reviewer praised the novel as a “realistic drama for adults told in a straightforward manner,” and as a “focused examination of the relationship between foreignness...

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Chapter Eight: Same Difference: Graphic Alterity in the Work of Gene Luen Yang, Adrian Tomine, and Derek Kirk Kim

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pp. 132-147

Although Asian Americans have been working at the highest levels in writing and drawing mainstream superhero comics for some time now, Asian American characters have remained largely invisible in the pages of these comics. And yet, the past decade or so has seen the emergence of independent and alternative Asian American comics creators interested in exploring...

PART II. A Multicultural Comic Book Toolbox

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Chapter Nine: "It Ain't John Shaft": Marvel Gets Multicultural in The Tomb of Dracula

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pp. 149-156

“Multicultural” and “Marvel” are not usually included in the same sentence, at least not in an affirmative way. Though Marvel introduced Luke Cage, the first black superhero with a series all his own, in 1973, it has been dismissed by critics on the multicultural front. Marvel has been charged with modeling Cage...

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Chapter Ten: Invisible Art, Invisible Planes, Invisible People

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pp. 157-172

This essay will investigate three varieties of the invisible: the invisible art, an invisible plane, and invisible people. Ever since comic creator and theoretician Scott McCloud dubbed comics “the invisible art” in his famous book Understanding Comics, I have been stuck to the term. It underscores...

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Chapter Eleven: Wondrous Capers: The Graphic Novel in India

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pp. 173-188

The graphic novel is a relatively recent phenomenon in India, and the existing body of work has little in common with the flourishing mainstream comics industry. The most widely read Indian comics series is Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), with around four hundred titles...

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Chapter Twelve: Chronology, Country, and Consciousness in Wilfred Santiago's In My Darkest Hour

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pp. 189-201

In many ways, Puerto Rican American Wilfred Santiago’s In My Darkest Hour (2004) seems destined for this volume on multicultural comics. Having noted the author’s name and dedication—“To you, Mami”—and read the epigraph from seventeenth-century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca, we find protagonist...

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Chapter Thirteen: Finding Archives/Making Archives: Observations on Conducting Multicultural Comics Research

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pp. 202-219

As the study of comics has grown as an academic field, scholars, librarians, and curators have worked to define the canon(s) of graphic storytelling. While the word canon is rejected by some scholars as a means of making value judgments that exclude a variety of texts produced by “Others,” the value of a living canon—one that changes over time—is that it tells the story of what various ...

Works Cited

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pp. 221-234

Contributor Notes

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pp. 235-237


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pp. 239-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780292784840
E-ISBN-10: 0292784848
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292722811
Print-ISBN-10: 0292722818

Page Count: 271
Illustrations: 44 b&w photos, 1 table
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture Series