Tag Archives: graphic narrative

Making “WAVE”s or Going with the Flow? – Pinay Thoughts on Marvel’s new Filipina superhero

I posted my first reaction a few days ago upon seeing the first look poster of the very first Filipina Superhero from Marvel.  Since then, some discussion went down over on my Facebook Timeline.  Somewhat heated debate between me and a white Facebook friend (not RL friend) trying to parse out our understanding of the data: that Tagalog is both a Language and a group of people; that people with Spanish heritages are less than 1% of the population; that the artist, although Filipino, displays largely western, marvel influenced comic book art styles, etc.  I definitely outright challenged this white friend’s recollection and knowledge — and also pointed out that her 4-year living in the Philippines as a white person does not give her the same lived experiences as Filipina or Filipina Americans.

In the end, what matters here is not how this one white friend responded, but what my two Pinay educator friends had to say.  In the spirit of being called in (since I’m not Pinay) and calling others in, I’m reposting their salient comments here.  I’d really like to encourage Marvel and the creators of the new diverse superheroes to be courageous: this is uncharted water, but you have the resources to make large waves: do your due diligence and stay true to the cultures you’re representing even if they could be unfamiliar to western eyes.  Create something fresh and unlike all the previous superhero stories!  Don’t just do the same-old, same-old with merely changes of skin tones and costumes! (And please no resorting solely to “oriental mysticism”!)

Maria is an elementary school librarian who also produces and hosts a Theatre Review Show on YouTube to highlight work primarily by women and POC playwrights, actors, directors, etc. :

Maria Paz Alegre Hey all  Pinay here. I’m Kampangan and Tagalog – though little known outside our country, Tagalog is indeed both a language and a people! Props to Roxanne for shining light on that little known fact. TBH my fam usually refer to ourselves as Manilenyos first, a nod to our capital city. I believe Tagalog can be compared to the word “English” – both a language and a people. The idea that we are strangers to our own land, coming from Spain and Polynesia to conquer is false. We’ve ALWAYS been there. Been there long before King Philip and long before Christ. Source: myself, and if experts are needed, my father Edilberto N.Alegre- an award winning scholar and PhD of Filipino Cultural Anthropology. His books are often required reading at the University of the Philippines where he taught for several decades, but feel free to google him if you like.

I’m also the one who made the spray tan comment. I stand by it and it appears I may need to explain.

I was ELATED AF to find out that Marvel made a Filipina superhero, only to feel a kick to my gut when I saw her. If you know my country, then you know all about the systemic bigotry derived directly from white colonialism. The bleaching cream, the rhinoplasty, the upper eyelid surgery, you name it… I cannot stress the havoc that this western standard of beauty has wrought on my people, especially on indigenous tribes like the Ati.

Are there mixed Filipinos with western features? Sure! But they often make up the 1% and are almost always the rich and elite. They do not look like the vast majority of my country people. My stepmother (Joycie Dorado Alegre) has been the Commissioner of the National Commission in Culture and the Arts to the Visayas and Mindanao and she personally worked on campaigns to encourage that “Black is Beautiful. Brown is Beautiful. You are Beautiful.” It’s been a very rewarding but very uphill battle.

So yes, to see the first representative of my race in Marvel with Eurocentric features? It sucks and it hurts.

Spain wins again. America wins again. The Filipinos must take a hit and live to fight another day, again. And while a Pinay character may be a step in the right direction to you, it greatly disappoints me and many others that she doesn’t look like like one. They could have done better.

Justine is a Health and Wellness educator whose Decolonizing Beauty Standards workshop at the People of Color Conference (for educators in Independent Schools) was the highlight for many attendees two years ago:

Justine AF Yo! Pinay here too and glad this convo is happening so thanks Roxanne Feldman for your allyship. I’m feeling like all I need to do though is clap and bow down because Maria Paz Alegre just crushed it with her eloquence. But since I rarely can keep quiet, I’ll add my 5 pesos here:

1. Yay that Marvel is naming a character an identity that matches one of mine.

2. Boo that she looks like the beauty ideal I’ve been told to emulate for most of my childhood. Unless Wave has that nose because her Tita was right about clothes-pinning it and she obeyed, she is the 1%

3. Interesting that the Cebuano artist drew a Pinay that had the more expensive body alterations done when they could’ve just drew the cheaper and more common one by applying Eskinol lotion to lighten herself up.

4. Decolonizing the beauty ideal is not dunking your face in Hawaiian Tropics oil. We’re more than a skin tone.

5. There better be some real Pilipinx words and cultural practices that aren’t all Spanish and American influenced in this screenplay to make up for this. Just saying.

P.S.

And a week later, our differences in opinions did not get reconciled.  Instead of seeing what my Pinay friends expressed, that it would have been wonderful to see a more representational Pinay character, she posted this picture and claims that the woman on the right most “has basically the same shape face and brows of the comic character.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 11.25.17 AM

Perhaps this the case of seeing what you want to see and refuse to see what you don’t want.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 2.12.40 AM Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 3.55.15 PM

I alwo wonder why instead of seeing how most of these women do not look like the artist’s imagining of Wave, this Facebook friend decides to hone in on the one that, to her, makes the point.

 

 

 

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Marvel’s New Filipina Hero – WAVE (First Reaction)

(Reposting from my Facebook)

Good and Bad News at the same time?

YAY – Marvel is debuting a Filipina superhero — WAVE;
HUH? – Why does she look like a Euro-White lady with tan skin?

And the artist is Filipino…

Reported as having “identifiable Filipino “morena” skin” …. my Filipino friends — what are your thoughts?

wave.jpg

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Last Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

It is the last day of the 2016 APA Heritage Month — but it will not be the last time I write about media representation of Asian Americans or about the importance of respect, integrity, diligence, compassion, empathy, knowledge, open-mindedness, inclusion, and collaboration in regards to improving accurate and nuanced representations.

Smoke_and_Shadow_hardcoverToday, I want play an upbeat note and share my adoration to the wonderful Avatar: The Last Airbender series penned by Gene Luen Yang. Currently there are four completed stories, each told in three paperback volumes and also collected in a library binding oversize single volume.  They are: The Promise, The Search, The Rift, and Smoke and Shadow.  Of course, for fans of the Nickelodeon TV show like me, these stories are like lush oases in the parched void left by the ending of the original series.  We get to see Aang and his gang grow up a bit, deal with more complex issues, and find out answers to some questions left unresolved by the show!

avatarthepromiseHowever, I have also observed many young readers encounter these as stand alone series and thoroughly enjoy the adventures, character relationships, humor, and the conflicts.  This is a series that could easily err on the side of “appropriation” because it definitely mimicked the Japanese anime style and the several nations’ customs and philosophies or even “national traits” are loosely and (one might argue) stereotypically based on certain Asian cultures — another potentially incendiary aspect of the show.

avatar___the_search_hard_cover_by_antomori-d6pbo7vInstead, it is accepted and even embraced as appreciation and celebration by viewers from all racial backgrounds, including many Asian Americans — one of the super fans is Gene Luen Yang.

Many factors contributed to why the show worked in building and not destroying positive representations: characters are deftly portrayed as individuals, whether they’re from a specific culture or not, the show creators are always careful when cultural details are represented — all Chinese characters and sentences are correctly written out and composed, and the relationships between characters and nations are complex and nuanced.  Not to mention the artistic rendering of the images and the exciting plot progression through the 61 episodes!

The_Rift_hardcoverThe book series written (not illustrated) by Gene Yang, published by Dark Horse, are equally, if not more, complex, thrilling, and satisfying! Please read them, share them with people in your life, young or not so young, and celebrate everything that works well in these volumes!

For those interested, there are some great questions and answers about the creation of the TV show and the outcry against the casting of the 2009 life action movie based on the show at racebending.com.

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Here by Richard McGuire

hereHere by Richard McGuire

I really love the premise: taking one fixed spot on earth, examining the many years of lives (from prehistoric to contemporary) and living by visually presenting the slices in time: one might see a Native American couple making love and a modern American, white family squabbling on the same or adjacent or consecutive pages, all “cut up” and scrambled, seemingly not following rhyme or reason.  But, of course, there are certain patterns and events clustered by the nature of the happening (holiday celebrations, fighting, loss, new births, etc.)  However, aside from admiring the beautiful and pristine, almost too clinical, artwork and having some moments of revelation (finding out on what ground the current house was built, for example,) I was left not all that impressed or emotionally affected which I definitely was hoping for!

 

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The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman

absolutesandman1Artwork by Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and more.

I decided to use a large cover image here because this hardcover, full-color, glossy heavy pages tome absolutely deserves this “in your face” treatment.

I read the first twenty installments (24 pages each) of Gaiman’s game changing graphic novel series (from 1989 to 1991) in sequence and absolutely loved every page and moment of it! Dark, haunting, gruesome, poetic, enigmatic and yet lucid all at the same time, wrapped in such a handsome package.

Even if so much within is extremely disturbing, Gaiman’s stories and the art and layout design make reading this volume a blissful experience.

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Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search by Gene Luen Yang

avatarsearch1avatarsearch2Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search by Gene Luen Yang (Vols 1-3)
Artwork by Gurihiru
Lettering by Michael Heisler

avatarsearch3My gosh, Gene Yang really is a super fan of the show and the Avatar universe because he totally understands what the fans want. He gives us a satisfying storyline, complete with a cohesive theme of sibling and parent-child relationships, to a long unsolved mystery from the 2005-2008 TV show of one of the beloved characters.  (What am I saying, ALL the main characters are beloved!  The show was that amazing.)  And he gives us new magical beings and great world elements: the Mother of Faces is such a cool creation. Her backstory, tied with Zuko’s mom’s personal history, fits into the Avatar universe seamlessly!

Mother of Faces

Whenever I watch the show, I am always impressed by how well the show creators did their homework.  Every time Chinese writing appears on screen, it is accurate, legible, and usually in perfect and artistic calligraphic form. Dark Horse (the publisher for the GN extensions) did the same: the letter that Zuko’s mom wrote and that we get to read on the background art is in the formal, literary style befitting the imagined time period (China/Asia a few hundred years ago?)  And now I am reading the third extended story: Avatar, the Last Airbender: The Rift.  It’s all about Toph Beifong (my personal favorite character in the show…) and will apparently bridge her story from the 2005 show to the recent Legend of Korra.  Two more volumes to go and another post to follow.

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Marvels by Brian Selznick

marvelsThe Marvels by Brian Selznick

In this third installment of a loosely connected (by form, by theme, and by narrative progression) literary trilogy, following the previous two marvelous titles: The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick once again pours his artist’s soul and a writer’s heart into the tome and brings readers a moving tale. Much like the other two picture-novels, The Marvels features instant and fast friendship among two young characters, a cross-generational relationship that grows from suspicion and uneasiness to faithful loyalty, and the deep and palpable connection a person can have with history.

I had a grand time looking through the pictures and reading the story and was unbelievably moved (to a whole lot of tears) as the truth of the story of the Marvels family was revealed. And also by the fact that Brian’s portrayal of the gay characters is without additional fanfare: subtle and yet you can’t misinterpret.

I imagine the book an instant hit with all my students when it’s published on September 15! Can’t wait to hear their reactions!

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