In American Born Chinese, author Gene Luen Yang's play with time and caricature is an example of what I call identity temporalities at work in comic art. Comics have aesthetic characteristics that equip them to depict the nexus of identity and progress. The building blocks of caricature and sequentiality are in conversation with each other, destabilizing conventional readings of bodies, space, and things in relationship to time. People do not often understand idealization as part of the work of caricature, but as we see with Uncle Sam or well-known comic characters such as Superman or Little Orphan Annie, ideal typologies are also important forms of caricatures. The ability of these caricatures—both idealized and derogatory—to become immediate referents for identity typologies is part of their power. These caricatures travel and resonate in the present because of nostalgia and attachments to characterizations tied to particular moments in history. American Born Chinese demonstrates how we should be attentive to the way that the temporality of comics calls upon readers to read identity—specifically in relationship to time and discourses of racial progress.


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pp. 82-100
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