PREMIERING TONIGHT: Ming-Na Wen on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Story by Teena Apeles. 

Actress Ming-Na Wen has been fortunate to have played many strong female characters during her career: Dr. Chen in ER, Camile Wray in SGU Stargate Universe and, of course, the beloved Mulan. So you can bet that it would take a pretty amazing character to get this pro as giddy as a teenager. Enter Melinda May.

“When this opportunity came up, my skin was just tingling with excitement,” says Wen of her role in the highly anticipated series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., premiering on ABC this fall. “I wanted to have a show that I could enjoy doing, working with people who I love, and that my kids can watch. And so I think I hit the jackpot here.”

What’s not to like about Agent Melinda May? She has a reputation for being an expert pilot and skilled fighter as a member of the international organization S.H.I.E.L.D., which protects “the ordinary from the extraordinary.” And as May, Wen flexes her muscles often … on bad guys. “We were working on some fight sequences this past week, and I am so into it right now; it makes me feel really powerful,” she says. “I am going to be in the best shape of my life because of this show.” Extra plus, she’s taking direction from Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, which, in her own words, had her “screaming for joy” because she is a huge fan.

A self-described “geek girl,” Wen says she’s been drawn to the sci-fi world as an escape since she was a kid. Growing up as the only Asian girl in a very white suburban neighborhood, she says she liked anything that was “other-worldly.” She admits, “I used to pray that E.T. or some extraterrestrial being would take me away, to some other world, and get me out of some of the environments that I was in, always feeling like the outsider.”

As she got older, Wen became interested in Dungeons & Dragons through her science fiction class and, later, drama club, “where I found people who accepted me for who I was and understood me, and we had a lot in common. And that became my world.”

Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens were among the movies she loved because in such worlds, says Wen, “there are outsiders and yet they have these amazing superpowers. And even though they don’t fit in, they become the heroes.”

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While Agent May doesn’t have superpowers, she is still part of an elite force that works within the government to facilitate and help out the superheroes. But as far as Wen’s daughter and son, ages 12 and 7, respectively, are concerned, she looks pretty super on screen. “After seeing the pilot, my son said, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could fight like that!’ It is just so nice to be able to share with them why mommy disappears so much,” she says. “They get excited to think I can fly a plane and fight.”

Of course, they’re not the only fans thrilled with her role. After the summer release of the Melinda May trailer to promote the show, Wen was the talk of the Web — so much so that her Twitter following grew.

“I just love the fans so much, and when this was starting to trickle out, I started this fan group related to the show that I could talk to and party with,” she says of what she calls the M.O.B., short for “Most Optimum Badass.” As for how she came up with the name, Wen says, “Everyone kept calling me a badass. I think everyone wants to feel like a badass, so alright, I am going to form a group of badasses.”

So are her kids allowed to call her a “badass” at home? Wen laughs. “Well, it could be a donkey. …”

 

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

 

ASIANS IN COMICS Appreciation Post

Comic-Con may be over for the summer, but the fandom behind it is as enthusiastic as ever. The San Diego Comic-Con, which gains thousands of attendees yearly, is still fresh in the minds of many so its not a surprise to me that comics have made its way to being one of the main topics of discussion these past couple of weeks.

One question I was asked was which character I would cosplay as if I were given the opportunity to do so. I found myself hesitating. While I can acknowledge that the Asian presence in the American comic book industry has been making quite some progress, the list of Asian comic book characters that I could choose from still felt slim. To prove my point, my friends laughed while suggesting the only mainstream Asian woman character they could think of off the top of their head: X-Men‘s Jubilee (or apparently if I wanted to be daring, I could also be The Walking Dead‘s Glenn).

Now one could argue that I don’t have to choose an Asian character just because I’m Asian, but quite frankly thats not the point. There’s a reason why we get so excited when we see even one Asian character pop up in a series. You have to give us a break here- it doesn’t happen all too often.

With that said, the Asian presence is slowly, but surely, increasing in numbers. Writers, artists, and even Asian characters have been popping up everywhere and upon closer examination, I realized that the list of characters to choose from was more than I had originally presumed. Much to my delight, it became clear that there are a number of notable Asian figures making strides in the comic book industry. There are people who are working so that in time, I will have more characters suggested to me aside from Jubliee and Glenn (Don’t get me wrong, of course. I’m sure I’d make a lovely Glenn).

It only feels right that we take some time to showcase and appreciate some of these notable Asian comic book characters and the Asian artists behind these works. Lucky for us, this list seems to be growing more everyday.

 

CHARACTERS:

(Women)
cass cain

Cassandra Cain- A Eurasian fictional character in DC Comics who serves as one of many Batgirls (part of the Batman franchise). A gifted warrior, Cassandra Cain was born and trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. Cassandra was deprived of speech and human contact. Instead, she was taught to read the physical movements of humans in order to determine their next move. Cassandra is the first Batgirl to get her own Batgirl comicbook series.
jubilee

Jubliee-A Chinese American mutant within Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Known for having the superhuman ability to create “sparkles” from her hands. Although the youngest member of X-Men for quite some time, she was also a prominent figure during the 90′s era. More recently, Jubilee had lost her mutant powers, but was infected with a vampiric virus and currently has the abilities of a vampire.

 

psylocke
Psylocke- A fictional character in Marvel Comics most known for her appearances in the X-Men franchise. Psylocke made her first appearance in UK Comic book Captain Britain which stars her twin brother. Psylocke’s mutant powers begin as telepathy and she eventually acquires telekinesis.

lady Shiva
Lady Shiva- Mother to Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, Lady Shiva is also a character from DC Comics. She is an assassin known for killing her targets with her bare hands. Her popularity increased when she became more involved with the Batman franchise characters including the famous fights with her own daughter, Cassandra.

deathstrike
Lady Deathstrike- A Japanese Marvel Supervillain. Lady Deathstrike’s father was Lord Dark Wind himself who created the adamantium-bonding process (This is the indestructible metal alloy used on Wolverine’s skeleton and claws).Lady Deathstrike had adamantium bonded to her own skeleton. After her fathers dramatic end, Lady Deathstrike focused on seeking vengeance for his death. She is a foe of the X-Men and aims to kill Wolverine in particular.

karma
Karma- A Vietnamese mutant part of Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Karma was among the “boat people” fleeing Vietnam during the war. Her mutant power is the ability to control the mind of others. She is one of the five founding members of the New Mutants (a group of teenage mutant superheros-in-training) and she is one of the first lesbian characters in such a well-known comic-book franchise.

(Men)

atom
Ryan Choi (Atom) - A DC Comics fictional super hero. Born in Hong Kong, Choi was a protege of Ray Palmer. Palmer had a sudden disapperance and Choi moved to Ivy Town to take over his Palmer’s position as a professor at Ivy University. What he didn’t expect was to find Palmer’s “bio-belt” which can control the size and density of its wearer. Under Palmer’s blessing, Ryan becomes the new Atom.

captain steel
Captain Steel- Although this DC Character was not originally Asian, in DC‘s “New 52″ reboot which featured a parallel world, it was revealed that Captain Steel was Pilipino. Although DC had Pilipino characters prior to this, Captain Steel was the first Pilipino superhero. Suffering from a congenital defect causing brittle bones, his scientist father created a metal substance to replace his bones and unknowingly gave him super human strength.

tony chu
Tony Chu- A Chinese character from Image Comics, Tony Chu is one of few Asian American characters who is the lead of his own book, Chew. Chu is a police detective who is a “Cibopath” – he can take a bite out of anything and get a psychic read of what happened to them/it. It is in this manner that he solves his crimes.

glenn twd
Glenn (The Walking Dead)- A young member of the original Atlanta survivor group- a group of random strangers who must work together to survive an undead apocalypse. He is described as a selfless character who takes dangerous risks for the benefit of the group and thus becomes a vital member for their survival. His character increased in popularity due to the hit horror television series based on the comic book of the same name. His character is played by Korean American actor, Steven Yeun.

 

CREATORS:

jim lee 2
Jim Lee- Arguably the most known and decorated Asian-American comicbook artist, Korean-American Jim Lee began his career as an artist for Marvel Comics and he became a household name with his work for the X-Men franchise. In 1992, Lee joined forces with serval other artists to create Image Comics where he worked on WildCats. Adding on to his impressive resume, in 2010 Lee was announced as Co-publisher of DC Comics. He has worked on popular franchises such as X-Men, Batman, and Superman.

Leinil Yu
Leinil Yu- A Pilipino comic book artist who currently serves as one of Marvel’s major Asian-American artists. He began his career at Marvel by working on Wolverine. Pleased with his work, he was then asked to create art for Fantastic Four, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, and New Avengers. Yu has also done some work with DC such as Superman:Birthright with prominent writer Mark Waid. Additionally, he was the conceptional artist for the 2005 film Serenity (written and directed by Joss Whedon)

wilce
Whilce Portacio- Pilipino comicbook artist who was discovered in a San Diego Comic-con by a Marvel Comics editor. He was offered a position at Marvel to ink artwork and as a penciller. He is one of the seven co-founders of Image Comics and has also worked with DC Comics. While working on Uncanny X-Men became co-creator of the character Bishop. He has worked on many big titles including Punisher, Batman/Superman, Stormwatch, X-Force, Hulk, Iron Man, X-Factor, Alpha Flight, Batman, The Darkness and he is the creator of the series Wetworks.

Marjorie_Liu
Marjorie Liu- A novelist and comic writer most known for her work with Marvel Comics. She has written for the X-Men/Wolverine franchises with works such as NYX, X-23, Dark Wolverine, and Astonishing X-Men. She is also known for writing the first ever gay wedding in comics.

jo chen
Jo Chen- A comicbook artist and writer most known for her painted comicbook covers. She worked professionally in the Asian comic book industry before beginning her career with DC Comics in 2000. Within DC, she has worked on major titles such as Thor and the Batman & Robin Franchise. She is most known for her work as a cover artist for Runaways (A Marvel comic book series) and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In addition to comics, she has done artwork for videogames such as Fable and Final Fantasy, and has created a manga series.

dustin nguyen
Dustin Nguyen- A Vietnamese-American comic book artist who has worked with DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Wildstorm. He has worked on popular Batman titles such as Batman, Detective Comics and Batman: Streets of Gotham. His cover art includes other major DC titles such as Batman Beyond and JL: Generation Lost. In addition, he has worked on projects such as Batgirl, Justice League Beyond, and a new digital series titled Batman: Li’l Gotham. When he’s not working on comics, Nguyen is also a conceptional artists for toys, games, and animation.

Audrey at KoreAm’s Unforgettable | Quest for Jim Lee’s Autograph

How Jim Lee’s kind gesture turned my husband’s Christmas gift into a memory of a lifetime. 

I didn’t grow up reading comics, but I know a legend when I see one. I’ve seen the look in the eyes of friends and acquaintances when they talk about Jim Lee — whether he was their childhood hero, whether it meant so much to them to see an Asian name during a time when there weren’t very many Asian American role models, or whether they just remember being a kid so awed by his illustrations that they flipped back to the front of the comic to find out who the artist was. I respect anyone who’s inspired a generation of dazed looks and child-like admiration.

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