Book Cover

Beyond the Icon

Asian American Graphic Narratives

Edited by Eleanor Ty

208 pp. 6 x 9
20 illustrations
Pub Date: October, 2022

Subjects: Comics Studies
Gender & Sexuality Studies
Race & Ethnic Studies
American Studies

Series: Studies in Comics and Cartoons

order Hardcover $99.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1494-7
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Winner, 2023 Comics Studies Society Edited Collection Prize

“Given the scope of its subject matter, Beyond the Icon opens an expansive space for imagining new directions in the study of Asian American graphic narratives.” —Akash Belsare, Rocky Mountain Review

“Eleanor Ty’s new edited volume, Beyond the Icon, is a strong and much-needed contribution to the growing but underrepresented field of critical studies of graphic literature. … The far-reaching design of Beyond the Icon gives the reader a good sense of the breadth of the genre, as well as a keen perspective into how the genre has and is transforming in historical space.” —Mark Augustus Dodge, Journal of Popular Culture

Beyond the Icon compiles a collection of outstanding and wide-ranging takes by a number of prestigious scholars in comic studies, and features a number of vitally important Asian American graphic texts. … Social issues, intersectional articulations, and contentions with stereotypes—including those emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic—ensure that Beyond the Icon marks only the beginning of many more investigations into Asian American graphic narratives.” —Leah Abuan Milne, MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States

Beyond the Icon is an academic study, but these authors and others provide interesting discussions of the books they feature as well as complementary titles that this collection can also be of interest to readers who are not academics and are simply fans of graphic novels and comics.” —Susan Blumberg-Kason, Asian Review of Books

“This sharply argued, clearly written book displays admirable breadth and scope. In covering an array of comic forms and making a point of including multiple Asian ethnicities, Beyond the Icon puts a full range and diversity of Asian American subjectivity and creativity on display.” —LeiLani Nishime, author of Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture

While most US-based comics studies anthologies tend to neglect race, Beyond the Icon brings it to the foreground through an analysis of the vibrant and growing body of graphic narratives by Asian North American creators in the twenty-first century. By demonstrating how the forms and styles of the comics genre help depict Asian Americans as nuanced individuals in ways that words alone may not, Beyond the Icon makes the case for comics as a crucial artistic form in Asian American cultural production—one used to counter misrepresentations and myths, rewrite official history, and de-exoticize the Asian American experience.

An interdisciplinary team of contributors offers exciting new readings of key texts, including Ms. Marvel, George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero, works by Adrian Tomine and Jillian Tamaki, and more, to uncover the ways in which Asian American comics authors employ graphic narratives to provide full and complex depictions of Asian diasporic subjects and intervene in the wider North American consciousness. Beyond the Icon initiates vital conversations between Asian American studies, ethnic studies, and comics.

Monica Chiu, Shilpa Davé, Melinda Luisa de Jesús, Lan Dong, Jin Lee, erin Khuê Ninh, Stella Oh, Jeanette Roan, Eleanor Ty

Author Photo

Eleanor Ty, FRSC, is a Professor of English at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is the author and editor of books on Asian North American literature and eighteenth-century British fiction, including Asianfail: Narratives of Disenchantment and the Model Minority.


List of Illustrations


Introduction      Asian American Literature and Asian American Graphic Novels

            Eleanor Ty

Part I: Retelling History

Chapter 1        Countervisualizing Barbed Wire, Guard Towers, and Latrines in Takei and Becker’s They Called Us Enemy

            Monica Chiu

Chapter 2        Ethics of Storytelling: Teaching Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do

             Stella Oh and erin Khuê Ninh

Part II: Subverting Stereotypes

Chapter 3        Bitch Planet’s Meiko Maki Is Down for Justice!

            Jeanette Roan

Chapter 4        Anachronistic Figures and Counternarratives: Comics as a Subversive Form in American Born Chinese and Johnny Hiro

            Jin Lee

Chapter 5        “A Storm of a Girl Silently Gathering Force”: Peminist Girlhoods in the Comics of Trinidad Escobar and Malaka Gharib

            Melinda Luisa de Jesús

Part III: Superheroes and Race

Chapter 6        Questioning the “Look” of Normalcy and the Borders of South/Asian Americans: Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, and the Comic Superhero

            Shilpa Davé

Chapter 7        (Un)Masking a Chinese American Superhero: Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero

            Lan Dong

Part IV: Ecology, Otherness, and Inclusivity

Chapter 8        Posthumanist Critique in Jillian Tamaki’s Boundless

            Eleanor Ty

Chapter 9        Drawing Disease and Disability: Ethical Optics and Space in Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying

            Stella Oh

List of Contributors


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