With all the talk about comics and racial stereotypes, this show running at NYU sounds like a must see. MARVELS AND MONSTERS looks at images of Asians in comics from the stereotyping of World War II through to the 80s. Curator Jeff Yang has some installation in progress photos on his Facebook Page. Sadly we missed the opening talk and reception last night but it looks to be a very comprehensive show, looking at different stereotypical roles including The Alien, the Kamikaze, the Brute, the Lotus Blossom, the Guru, the Brain, the Temptress, and the Manipulator. How well we know all those. The show runs until August 19th. Deets below:

Location: The Tracey/Barry Gallery
The NYU Fales Library & Special Collections
70 Washington Square South, 3rd Floor
Photo ID required for building entry
Gallery hours: M-F 10am-5pm

Curator: Jeff Yang
Co-Curator: D. Daniel Kim
Installation Design: Public Assembly

Over four decades that included some of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, science fiction author and cultural studies scholar William F. Wu painstakingly gathered an archive of comics distinguished not only by its size and reach, but by its scope: It is perhaps the world’s only, and certainly the largest, collection of comic books featuring images of Asians and Asian Americans. The exhibition Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 draws from this important collection, recently donated with the help of A/P/A Institute to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.

The pulp phantasmagoria of Wu’s archive isn’t just a treasure trove for fans of graphic fiction, it’s also a unique and fascinating look at America’s evolving racial and cultural sensibility showing how images that began as racist and xenophobic propaganda during times of war and nativist unrest have coalesced into archetypes that in many ways still define America’s perception of Asians today.

“When I began this collection, it was because I realized that popular culture reaches virtually everyone,” says Wu. “These iconic images good and bad can have real-world effects on people’s perception of themselves and those around them.”

Marvels and Monsters takes the most potent and indelible examples of such images from the thousands in Wu’s collection, and organizes them around the archetypes they reflect and sustain The Alien, the Kamikaze, the Brute, the Lotus Blossom, the Guru, the Brain, the Temptress, the Manipulator while placing them within both a historical context and a discourse with contemporary Asian American writers and creators.


  1. If they talk about Yellow Claw, I hope they talk about Jimmy Woo in Agents of Atlas! Although I guess just Yellow Claw itself was an amazingly contradictory series; I was really amazed when I read the first issue (in the first AoA hardcover) and saw that there was actually an Asian American hero in a 50s comic! While the colorist made him literally yellow, there was nothing offensive about his portrayal. His titular nemesis, on the other hand… still, you don’t expect even a half-good record on race when it comes to works of that time, in comics or in other mediums.

    Still, Parker’s series is a great re-writing of the whole thing.

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