By the late 70's, both Marvel and DC Comics started producing their titles in different countries. Along with the growing diversity of their audience in America, the publishing companies now were catering to various citizens around the world (Daniels, 1991 & 1995). This is noteworthy in that they had to ensure that the content within their titles reflected the interests of a much larger consumer base. Back in the 1930's and 40's, the casual racism directed at Asians was to put it bluntly, reasonable in the public's eye. It drew in the predominantly white readership that comics targetted. However such portrayals by at least the early 90's if not the mid 80's were no longer acceptable.
Going through various issues of Sandman:Mystery Theatre, published by Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics targetting a more mature audience), I found something very interesting in regards to this discussion on race in comics. Sandman: Mystery Theatre was a retelling of the early years of the masked crimefighter Sandman. The stories (published in the 90's) took place in the 30's and early 40's. The series was notable in that it attempted to depict the Great Depression and early war years in a very grim, realistic light. One of the story arcs dealt with gang violence in New York's China Town. The first issue of the arc, Sandman: Mystery Theatre #5 portrayed the Chinese American characters with overly yellow skin and very high cheekbones, reckoning back to the art of the original WWII comics. A number of readers complained and in issue 7, Karen Berger, the editor of the series, replied in the letters section:
"We received some concerned letters from a number of people regarding the depiction of Asian Americans in Sandman Mystery Theatre #5. We intended for the skin color of the Asian American characters to have a yellowish cast, which would be realistsic as the printing technology of the book permits, not the bright yellow that printed. It was not until we saw the printed book that we realized that the yellows had printed too brightly, and that we would need to change the color coding for the ensuing issues. We have corrected this problem for issue #6 and are very sorry that some people were offended..."
1. Daniels, Les. Marvel : Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.
2. Sanderson, Peter. Marvel Universe. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1996.
3. "The Outsiders:: Asian/Asian-American Characters in Comics." 16 Apr. 2008 <www.reappropriate.com...>.
4. "The Outsiders:: Asian/Asian-American Characters in Comics." 16 Apr. 2008 <www.reappropriate.com>.
5. 2 May 2008 <www.marvel.com...>.
6. Daniels, Les. DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. 1st ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1995.
Special thanks to Brown University's John Hay Library staff for letting me look through various issues (specifically Sandman Mystery Theatre # 5-12) in the Michael J. Ciaraldi collection
World War Hulk# 1-5 by Greg Pak
Current Incredible Hercules title by Greg Pak
Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Face & The Brute TPB by Matt Wagner
Superman/Batman (title run by Jeph Loeb, features Toyman)