An avid comic collector and fan for nearly 20 years, Vic started collecting comics around eight years old. Comic investing since the 2000s.
Asian comic book super heroes in American mainstream comics? Asian representation in Hollywood is pretty slim at the moment, but what does it look like in the world of comics?
Once again, key words here are "superheroes" or in that genre. I suppose I should've made clear that most of these characters are of East Asian or of East Asian descent.
When you get anywhere near the subject of who is considered "Asian", things get blurry, especially in the U.S. or most western countries. I hear that most Indians and Pakistanis do consider themselves "Asians". However, many outside of the two do not for some odd reason.
Alright, so "East Asian" it is and I may make some exceptions here and there and include a few South Asians as well. Most of these are Marvel and DC characters.
If you know of more that you think deserve to be on this list then voice your opinion in the comments section below. Let's get to it and hope you enjoy.
The Green Turtle
Created in 1944 by Chu F. Hing, this character has long been forgotten about. Not until recently did The Green Turtle make a very small splash when Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew created a six-issue miniseries The Shadow Hero to revive the character and finally confirm his Asian identity.
The Green Turtle does not have any super-powers, but, then again, nether does Batman. He first appeared in Blazing Comics.
In creating the character, the story goes that Chu F. Hing most likely wanted to make his creation a Chinese American also since he was one. After all, this character would go around and aid the Chinese against the Japanese in World War II. However, it is highly likely that publisher, Blazing Comics, did not allow the character to be overtly Asian.
In keeping with super-hero tradition, Chu F. Hing decided that his character would be covertly Asian then. He was never drawn without his mask, and it's apparent that Hing made a lot of effort to obscure the character's face with objects, people, or various angles.
Armed with his Turtle Plane and sidekick named Burma Boy, Hank Chu ran around and kicked some Imperial Japanese butt in the 2nd World War. For me, that alone is the reason why Green Turtle tops this list and makes comic book history.
My only question: Why a turtle? A dragon I see but anyway.
Speaking of the Japanese, up next is the mutant Sunfire. As an X-Men fan, this guy is definitely on my radar, and I think he should be on yours too.
Like his super name suggests, Sunfire can and does emit...well...fire.
Created by Roy Thomas and Don Heck, Sunfire's real name is Shiro Yoshida, and he is one of the few Asian male super-heroes in American mainstream comics. Not even joking about that.
He is often depicted as arrogant and hot headed. Well, he does absorb solar radiation and convert it into blazing flames better known as "solar fire". With that kind of power, it only seems fitting to be hot tempered, no?
Sunfire had a very short tenure as an X-Man, but did not become a member in his initial debut in X-Men #64. In that issue, we learn that Shiro Yoshida's mother had died of radiation poisoning due to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.
She died giving birth to Shiro, and because of this, Shiro hated the United States. Therefore, Sunfire was actually a foil or baddie when first introduced in X-Men #64.
Not surprising when it comes to that, and Sunfire was cast again as a baddie in his second appearance in Sub-Mariner #52. It wasn't until Giant-Size X-Men #1 when Sunfire was actually on the super-hero side of things and joined the "new" and revived X-Men team along with Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, and Banshee.
His tenure in the famous group was short-lived and he left in X-Men #94, which was only the new team's 2nd appearnance. After that the character didn't appear too much until the later 70s, but he was seen helping the good guys out when he did show up in the pages of Marvel Comics.
Sunfire would later join the Avengers Unity Squad in the pages of the Uncanny Avengers.
The Ancient One
In the comics, the Ancient One is from a fictional and hidden land in the Himalayas called Kamar-Taj. Not really sure of what descent or race the Ancient One is in the actual comics. He may very well be South Asian, or he may lean more towards the Tibetan side.
Anyway, he goes on here and we all know he is the Sorcerer Supreme who trained Dr. Strange. We all know what happened to the character in the actual movie, and there are all sorts of arguments pertaining to why the Ancient One was whitewashed.
Make the character Tibetan and you'll piss off the Chinese or vice versa and you'll alienate a whole bunch of people. Make her a Celtic character because the Ancient One in the comics is an old American stereotype of Asians and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Yeah, I'm saying blah for a reason, because the argument is pure crap. Rebuttal for both the excuses above: Why don't you make the Ancient One black or Latino then? Why Celtic = white?
Also, the argument is extremely weak, because we should all know by now that racist Hollyweird takes liberties with their comic properties, and the movies are usually different from the comics. Casting an Asian actor has no bearing on updating the role or character so it isn't quite so offensive or stereotypical.
To smash any rebuttal for any other lousy excuse: Wong. They updated that character big time from the comics, and in the comics, Wong was Dr. Strange's manservant. In the movie, he's what? A master of the mystical arts. So, yeah, racist Hollyweird, I call bull crap on the whitewash of the Ancient One.
Anyway, the Ancient One is originally from Kamar-Taj, a secret and hidden land concealed in the Himalayas. Aside from training Dr. Strange, the Ancient One also trained Doctor Druid too.
A very important supporting character in the Doctor Strange mythos and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 and it is cover-dated July, 1963. Ancient One was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and may just be the first of Marvel Asian superheroes to have been published for the publisher.
Okay, I am stretching it here with this one. Hear me out.
Okay, the Karate Kid really doesn't have super-powers per say. As stated before, I don't consider a "master" of martial arts a super-power, even if it is pretty bad ass.
Nor, do I consider a master of every assortment of melee weapon known to man. Extremely impressive for sure, but not really a super-power.
However, being a Legion of Super-Heroes member and having a Flight Ring does make him a bit super. With it he can fly and survive in space.
Kinda like how Hal Jordan's ring makes him a super-hero, I'm stretching it for this Silver Age character. Yes, I know, he has some crazy abilities in which he can find weak spots in any object or person and has these super strength blows because of his mastery of the martial arts.
Yes, I know these blows are so strong that they can damage metals and stone and other various hard objects. Sounds pretty superhuman.
So, like I mentioned before, I'm letting this DC character slide on in this list. He was created by Jim Shooter and debuted in Adventure Comics #346. It was cover dated July, 1966 which makes him a Silver Age character.
Could this be the first Asian super hero from DC Comics? Maybe.
Karate Kid is Val Armorr. He is half Japanese and half white.
His father is the most powerful crime lord in Japan. His mother was an American secret agent spying on the Black Dragon.
Somehow they did the hippity dippity and she conceived Val. She tried to conceal the lad from his baddie pops but ended up being killed by the cold blooded villain.
In the end, White Crane or Sensei Toshiak ended up raising and training Val.
We've already seen a weird version of this character in the MCU played by Pom Klementieff in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. Not a huge fan of this version and really just seems like she's just there.
Mantis in the comics is half Asian and half white (German), so I suppose she is an "Asian enough" character to be considered one of Marvel's earliest Asian female superheroes from the publisher. Pom Klementieff is also half Asian and half white.
Mantis is a pretty confusing character. According to co-creator Steve Englehart, the character moved through 3 different publishers other than Marvel. 3 other iterations of Mantis was Willow at DC and then called Lorelei at Eclipse and then Image Comics before going back to Marvel.
She first appeared as Willow in Justice League of America #142 and then as Lorelei in Eclipse Comics' Scorpio Rose #2. These iterations are actually recognized by Marvel, and it seems she was carried over around 1977 when Englehart left Marvel.
Some really neat stuff to know about if you're a comic fan. So, she is the niece of criminal warlord Monsieur Khruul. Her mother's brother did not approve of her mother marrying the German mercenary Gustav Brandt.
He had them hunted and killed his daughter. Gustav became blinded but him and his daughter somehow found sanctuary with the temple of the Priests of Pama. The members of the Priests of Pama ended up being revealed as renegade Kree aliens.
Believing her to be the Celestial Madonna, they trained her in martial arts. These priests were also guardians of a sentient race of telepathic plants called the Cotati.
Therefore, these Kree priests also taught Mantis how to telepathically communicate with the Cotati. This would give her empathetic abilities.
She is a former Avenger. Like in the MCU, Mantis is also a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy too. However, I do not think this happened until more recent comics in the 2000s.
Steve Englehart has expressed his disapproval of how Mantis is portrayed in the MCU. Don't blame him, but her aliases of Willow and Lorelei are listed in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Avengers 2005.
Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu
No, I do not think being a "Master" of martial arts is a superpower. It may be cool, but it's not a superpower. However, it seems that Shang Chi recently acquired the power to make unlimited duplicates of his Kung Fu kickin' self.
I think that counts, so here he is - Shang Chi. Shang-Chi's 1st appearance is in Marvel Special Edition #15. It also contains his origin, despite what the marvelwiki says about Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1 holding that honor.
After all, the issue reveals how Shang-Chi finds out that his father, Fu Manchu, had lied to him and is really a very bad guy. That bit is told in flashbacks as well.
It's his wake-up issue and in the end, he abandons his father and clearly states that the next they meet will be as enemies. Legendary Jim Starlin created this character during the Kung Fu phase.
The story goes is that Marvel wanted the rights to do a comic about the TV series Kung Fu starring David Carradine. They told Marvel nope, so Marvel had legends Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin create Shang-Chi.
They also decided to entrench this new martial artist hero into the world of Fu Manchu, who was a god awful Yellow Peril stereotype of Asians, and the main villain of a series of novels by British author Sax Rohmer.
The character of Fu Manchu first appeared in the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu in 1913. Marvel would gain the license to use the villainous Fu Manchu, Dr. Petrie and Sir Denis Nayland Smith, but they would lose the rights during the 80s.
Because of this, it was written that Fu Manchu was just an alias or code name and Shang-Chi's father is really Zheng Zu, a mystical and ancient Chinese sorcerer. The film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings came out in 2021, and you can click the link to see how it compares to the actual Shang-Chi comics and what I think about the film.
Lin Sun - Sons of the Tiger
Yeah, everyone was Kung-Fu fighting when this magazine hit the American populace, and most didn't even know what the hell Kung-Fu was about. Martial Arts flicks from Asia started to infiltrate America during the time.
Being comics, and as Stan Lee once admitted to, they jumped on the Kung-Fu craze. Martial Arts driven characters like Iron Fist and Shang Chi became part of Marvel's arsenal of new stories to profit off of.
Enter this magazine and the feature once known as The Sons of The Tiger. Lin Sun was the main character of the Sons of the Tiger, and he just may have been of the 1st Asian American superheroes in American comics. His team also consisted of African American bad ass, Abe Brown and Bob Brown.
Fun fact: Abe Brown is the brother of Hobie Brown, the Prowler, in the Spidey comics. Pretty cool, right? Aren't you glad you stopped by.
Okay, so here's the deal concerning the Sons of the Tiger. Well, Lin Sun comes into possession of what is known as the Jade Amulets of Power. They are three amulets consisting of a tiger's head and two claws.
When he obtained these mystical amulets from a dying Master Kee, the inscription on the box they came in read "When three are called and stand as one, as one they'll fight, their will be done...For each is born anew, The Tiger's Son."
Yep, having the amulets gave them the ability to be mystically connected. This meant that their martial arts abilities were combined into one and thus tripled each of their martial arts skills.
Yeah, now that's pretty cool. While Sons of the Tiger ran briefly, they shared adventures with Iron Fist and Shang Chi. The end of their team and feature also directly connected to the Latino superhero White Tiger.
Yeah, I think that's really cool. First appearance and origin of the Sons of the Tiger is right in this here magazine of Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #1.
For Bruce Lee fans, I think this is his debut appearance in anything Marvel. More of Shang Chi's past is revealed in this issue.
CGC only notes this as "Origin of Sons of Tiger", which is true. It's their 1st appearance as well though. Neal Adams cover too. Can't go wrong.
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1 has the cover date of April, 1974
Silver Samurai definitely started off as a villain, often pairing up with the likes of Viper
For those non-comic fans, you might of seen him in the 2nd Wolverine movie. Yeah, the one where he goes to Japan.
Anyway, the first and original Silver Samurai is Kenuichio Harada, and he first appeared in Daredevil #111 back in the Bronze Age of comics. The character is created by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown.
Kenuichio is a mutant that can generate a tachyon field, which is basically a field of particles that move faster than light. That is hypothetically, of course.
Kenuichio can surround this tachyon field pretty much around anything he chooses, and he often chooses his samurai sword. Oh, that sounded dirty, indeed.
He is the half-brother of Mariko Yashida, Wolverine's ex-wife and some say his "true love". After the death of his sister, he took over the clan Yashida.
Daredevil #111 and the first appearance of Silver Samurai has the cover date of July, 1974.
Bear with me here. Yes, it's true that Colleen Wing started off as an ordinary, non-powered gal who just happened to be highly trained and skilled in martial arts.
Okay, that martial arts happens to be the combative skills of the Japanese samurai and mastery of Kenjutsu swordmanship. She also walloped baddies with a 1,000 year-old blade that her grand-father gave her.
Her mother's ancestry were samurai. Colleen Wing was created by comic legend Larry Hama and Doug Moench. Originally a supporting character for Iron Fist, Colleen would later break out with Misty Knight as the Daughters of the Dragon.
Okay, as for the super-power deal, she would later get some chi powers like Danny Rand in later comics. Apparently, Danny did a mind meld with Colleen in order to break her free from a villain named Master Khan.
Because melding minds with Iron Fist, Colleen gains some 411 about K'un L'un martial arts and learns how to tap into and control her chi. This ability would enhance both her strength and healing acceleration.
Pretty nifty, eh? Not that known either.
That whole story starts with Iron Fist #5 through #7. Danny mind melds with Colleen in issue #6. So Colleen Wing makes this list.
Marvel Premiere #17 has the cover date of November, 1974.
Liang Xih-k'ai is Thunderlord in the world of DC Comics. He is a member of the Global Guardians.
He has a sonic scream and is a Chinese superhero from Taiwan. Actually he can manipulate his voice to produce destructive sound waves or to mimic various sounds for kid's parties.
E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon created this highly unknown East Asian comic superhero, and actually debuted in the Super Friends non-continuity comic series. Issue #8 marks this character's first appearance in "comics".
His in-continuity appearance isn't in DC Comics Presents #46. The Global Guardian's first in-continuity appearance is in that issue, but Thunderlord does not show up in that issue. In an actual story and in-continuity, his debut might be in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, but I definitely think that is a cameo. It's probably in one of those "Where's Dildo" kind of panels that's so obscure you probably don't know whether it's the character or not.
Actually, I just reread it and he's in there but in only one really measly panel. Thunderlord is mentioned in that issue though.
Such an obscure character, I'm just gonna go with Super Friends #8, and that issue has the cover date of November, 1977.
The Suicide Squad movie was a debacle. It started off pretty okay and then just went downhill from after the team formed.
Regardless, Katana is one of the few DC Comic Asian superheroes. She's not a happa but a full Japanese, or whatever is as close to full Japanese as one can get.
Okay, so ninja like martial arts skills is not a super power really. However, she does have a mystical samurai sword. Plus, it has the cool name of Soultaker!
I know, right? Badass!
Even cooler is that this sword is supposedly cursed, or just amplifies evil people to do evil things? Say what?
Yeah, it makes evil people do more evil, and sometimes after taking their life, it also takes their soul. Stored in the sword, a certain ritual can unleash these souls to do the bidding of the one who summoned it.
On that note and speaking of a sword taking souls and containing them, her husband's soul is trapped in the blade after he was murdered. For real, yo!
Katana is really Tatsu Yamashiro and she was created by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo.
Katana first appeared in Brave and the Bold #200 and that issue has the cover date of July, 1983. Katana is a known member of the original Outsiders, but she has also been a member of the Justice League and the Birds of Prey.
Well, hey, if Marvel has a Japanese Sunfire, DC needs to have a Japanese superhero who basically has the same power and almost the same name - Sunburst. Yeah, no kiddin' here.
So, the original Sunburst was created was created by Paul Kupperberg and Alex Saviuk. He is Takeo Sato and turns solar energy into intense light or blazing heat>
How did he get these powers? Well, he ate or inhaled volcanic stuff in the air. Of course, because everyone who inhales volcanic whatever in the air develops heat powers.
Damn, straight. Well not a huge or well-known superhero in the DC world of comics, but he does exist nonetheless.
Sunburst or Takeo Sato first appeared in The New Adventures of Superboy #45 and it is cover-dated September 1983.
Created by Steve Engelhart and Joe Staton, Xiang Po was one of the 10 individuals that was chosen by one Guardians of the Universe and a Zamaron to be taught the secrets of the cosmos. The Guardian and Zamaron also gave them metahuman powers.
Gloss was able to draw energy from the Dragon lines or better known as ley lines. She became part of a team known as the New Guardians.
This character has more appearances than I thought she'd have. However, she still doesn't show up all that much in the actual DC Comics. Gloss debuted in Millennium #2 and the comic has the cover date of January, 1988.
Jubilation Lee - Jubilee
I grew up with this character and I didn't even understand what the purpose this character held. She was a walking fireworks show, and a sidekick to Wolverine?
Don't get me wrong. I didn't mind Jubilee, but even for an Asian American that was considered a banana (Yellow on the outside. White on the inside), I didn't feel that Jubilation Lee represented me all that much even if she is one of the few well-known Asian American superheroes in comics.
Still, she was a sidekick to Wolverine and one of the few Asian female superheroes that had Chinese ancestry. Character was created by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri.
She was a talented gymnast and was to compete in the Olympic games. However, her parents were murdered and Jubilee found herself escaping an orphanage and hiding in a Hollywood mall.
There she stole food in order to survive. Yes, she is basically a walking fireworks show. Yes, lame power, but this eventually evolved into something more powerful and deadly.
She could control these plasmoids and not just direct them to anywhere she wished, but also detonate them at will and at varying intensities. No joke, and Emma Frost told her that her powers may have the potential power of a nuclear fusion bomb.
Jubilee first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #244, and the comic has the cover date of May, 1989.
Auric and Silver
Not exactly the most well-known mutants in the Marvel world of comics, but Auric and Silver are definitely East Asian superheroes as they are originally from China. They are fraternal twins, and, hey, Auric is actually an East Asian male.
Whoaa, yeah! Not that many appearances of the dude in comics either. Not surprising, is it?
So Auric and Silver are the fraternal twins, Zhao and Jhimon Tang from China. They were recruited by the Communist Chinese government into their super team called China Force. Defected to Hong Kong, they tried to overthrow the government there in order to stop Hong Kong from reverting back to Chinese rule.
They failed and had to seek asylum in Canada. Since Alpha Flight had stopped being the nation's sponsored superhero team, the Canadian government sought new operative to form a new super group. Enter the twins Auric and Silver, and they would become members of Gamma Flight.
However, their careers would not last long as sponsored operatives of the Canadian Government. They would eventually quit their service, and before returning back to China to fight for freedom and democraxy, they would meet their demise.
Both Auric and Silver debuted in Alpha Flight #76 and that issue has the cover date of November, 1989.
Who likes Legion of Superheroes? Well, good, because we're gonna yap about Dragonmage.
Who is this Dragonmage? Well, he is or was a member of the Legion of Superheroes. He's also a Chinese superhero named Xao Jin.
Xao is supposedly a powerful sorcerer, but does not have that many appearances in the actual comics. His spells are often accompanied by dragon images.
Created by Tom and Mary Bierbaum, Dragonmage debuted in Legion of Super-Heroes #33 volume 4. The cover date for that issue is September, 1992.
Doctor Mirage (Hwen Mirage)
If you're a Valiant Comics fan from back in the 90s, you'd definitely know that the original Doctor Mirage is of East Asian descent. Him and his wife, Carmen Ruiz, are stars of the Valiant Comic's The 2nd Life of Doctor Mirage.
Hwen was a parapsychologist, but after an encounter with Master Darque, Hwen finds out he has become a necromantic being. As a result of this transformation, Hwen cannot become solid or have physical contact with others.
He is able to tap into the mysterious Darque Power and has the ability of flight, telekinesis, and intangibility. In the new series by valiant, the roles would be switched and a female version of the character would take center stage as Doctor Mirage.
The original Mirage's 1st appearance is in Shadowman #16 of the first series and has the cover date of August, 1993.
Back to DC Comics, and it's another pretty obscure East Asian superhero called Claw. This character is John Chan and was a member of Primal Force.
Seems he bought a mystical suit of armor, and the gauntlets were possessed by a demonic spirit named The Claw of Pytharia. This demon cut off John's hand and grafted the gauntlet to his arm.
Of course, the gauntlet increased John's fighting skills, turning him into bad ass. One side effect was it gave him anger issues that was hard to control.
Them are the breaks in the superhero world of comics. John is from Hong Kong. He first appeared in Primal Force #0 with the cover date of October, 1994.
Cassandra Cain Batgirl
Another halfie or hapa - half Asian and half white - character. Created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott, Cassandra Cain first appeared in Batman #567. She is the daughter of assassin David Cain and Lady Shiva.
Cassandra Cain would take the mantle of Batgirl in Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #120, but she only appears suited up in two panels. She makes a more fuller appearance as Batgirl in The Batman Chronicles #18.
Part of the Bat Family, Cassie partnered up with Oracle and became her ward. David Cain trained her to be the ultimate assassin. Instead of learning to communicate via speech or writing, Cain taught her how to communicate through violence or fighting.
Because of this, she has an astute and uncanny ability to read people through their movements, anticipating their next moves with unbelievable accuracy. Her father emotionally scarred her, however, by taking her on hits since she was five years old.
The worst was when he also had her unknowingly kill a mark when she was 8 years old. Thinking this was a game, she watched the fear in Faizul's eyes as he died from the death blow she gave him.
Cassie would run away from her father and live a homeless and nomadic life on the streets until she met Oracle or Barbara Gordon. Cassie's life would change forever after saving Commissioner Gordon's life from her father.
I absolutely love this character of Cassandra Cain. One of the best characters to come out of the Batman Family during the 90s in my humble opinion.
With the cover date of July, 1999, Cassandra Cain appeared as herself in Batman #567. She would appear as Batgirl for the first time in Legends of the Dark Knight #120 (August, 1999).
The character of Cassandra Cain is slated to be in a Warner Bros./DC flick. Word is Birds of Prey movie.
Okay, last that I remember, peeps from India were considered Asian or considered themselves Asian? Yeah, it's all really that confusing.
So, Karima Shapandar is an Omega Prime Sentinel, and she is part of the X-Men mutant world of Marvel Comics. She is not a mutant, but a former police officer in India who was turned into an Omega Prime Sentinel by the Operation: Zero Tolerance program run by Bastion and Henry Gyrich.
An Omega Prime Sentinel is obviously an advanced Sentinel that is a half human and half machine hybrid that uses nanotechnology. Once activated, they turn into kick ass armored mutant hunters with a wide array of advanced weaponry.
Starting off as a baddie mutant killer, Karima would figure out how to shut off her mutant extermination programing and joining the X-Men. Created by Chris Claremont and Brett Booth, Karima first appeared in X-Men Unlimited #27 and that comic has the cover date of June, 2000.