Press Release

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University in collaboration with the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections presents–MARVELS AND MONSTERS: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 The William F. Wu Collection at NYU Fales Library & Special Collections

Opening Reception and Talk with William F. Wu and Curator Jeff Yang
Thursday, May 26, 2011 | 6:00PM-8:00PM

RSVP: | | 212-992-9653

Location: The Tracey/Barry Gallery, The NYU Fales Library & Special Collections, 70 Washington Square South, 3rd Floor, NYC. (at LaGuardia Place). [Subways A,C,E, B,D,M to West 4th Street; 6 line to Astor Place; R train to 8th Street.]. ***Photo ID required for building entry; Gallery hours: M-F 10am-5pm***

Over four decades that included some of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, science fiction author and cultural studies scholar William F. Wu painstakingly gathered an archive of comics distinguished not only by its size and reach, but by its scope: It is perhaps the world’s only, and certainly the largest, collection of comic books featuring images of Asians and Asian Americans. Marvels and Monsters draws from this important collection, recently donated with the help of A/P/A Institute to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.

Wu’s archive isn’t just a treasure trove for fans of graphic fiction, it’s also a unique and fascinating look at America’s evolving racial and cultural sensibility — showing how images that began as racist and xenophobic propaganda during times of war and nativist unrest have coalesced into archetypes that in many ways still define America’s perception of Asians today.

“When I began this collection, it was because I realized that popular culture reaches virtually everyone,” says Wu. “These iconic images — good and bad —have real-world effects on people’s perceptions of themselves and those around them.”

Marvels and Monsters takes the most potent and indelible examples of such images from the thousands in Wu’s collection, and organizes them around the archetypes they reflect and sustain — The Alien, the Kamikaze, the Brute, the Lotus Blossom, the Guru, the Brain, the Temptress, the Manipulator — while placing them within both a historical context and a discourse with contemporary Asian American writers and creators including Ken Chen, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Larry Hama, David Henry Hwang, Naomi Hirahara, Genny Lim, Greg Pak, Vijay Prashad, and Gene Luen Yang. The exhibition also contains elements designed to encourage direct engagement with the archetypes, such as life-sized cutouts that allow visitors to put themselves “inside the image” and an installation called “Shades of Yellow” that matches the shades used for Asian skin tones in the comics with their garish PantoneTM color equivalents. It ends with a library of present-day graphic novels by Asian American creators — showing how their influx into the industry has transformed how Asians are depicted — and an area that offers visitors the ability to color original heroes designed by Bernard Chang (Supergirl) and Jef Castro-Cifra and Jerry Ma (Secret Identities).

“The images gathered here be disturbing, even shocking, coming as they do from a genre most associated with young readers,” says Jeff Yang, “Asian Pop” columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and editor of the graphic novel Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology. “But that’s intentional: These images are our Rogues’ Gallery, our own Legion of Doom — these are the supervillains we face in our individual and collective quest for truth, justice, and an Asian American way.”

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About William F. Wu, Collector

Nominated five times for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, William F. Wu has published over a dozen novels, including the best-selling 1996 STAR WARS: Tales from Jabba’s Palace and Avon’s young adult SF series Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time. His most acclaimed book, Hong on the Range, was chosen for the Wilson Library Bulletin’s list of science fiction “Books Too Good To Miss,” a selection for the American Library Association list of Best Books for Young People, the New York Public Library’s Recommended Books for the Teen Age, and was also a Young Adult Editor’s Choice by Booklist. A prolific short story writer, Wu’s works have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies; his short story “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium” was a multiple award nominee that was adapted into an episode of the television series The Twilight Zone. He has a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation, published in book form as The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940 (Archon Books, 1982).

About Jeff Yang, Curator

Jeff Yang began reading and collecting comics at the age of eight, and hasn’t allowed distractions like adulthood, marriage and fatherhood to deter him since. He has written the column “Asian Pop” for the San Francisco Chronicle for the past six years, and penned a series of acclaimed and bestselling books — Eastern Standard Time; I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action (the action icon’s official autobiography); Once Upon a Time in China; and, most recently, the seminal graphic novel collection Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology. He began his career as founding editor and publisher of the pioneering Asian American periodical A. Magazine and as a cultural critic for New York’s alternative weekly the Village Voice. He can frequently be heard as a contributor on NPR’s Tell Me More, PRI’s The Takeaway, and other public radio programs. He, his wife Heather and his sons Hudson and Skyler live in Brooklyn, New York. His column can be found at:

About A/P/A Institute at NYU

The A/P/A Institute has produced programming, publications, exhibitions, new research, and a long-running artist-in-residence program, attracting leading academics and practitioners. The multiple archival collection initiatives, including the recently completed acquisition of the Jack G. Shaheen Archive, Yoshio Kishi / Irene Yah Ling Sun Collection and the William F. Wu collection to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections spearheaded by the A/P/A Institute have also continued to build a foundation of, and preservation and access to, important historical documents and previously overlooked materials for present and future researchers and students. The A/P/A Institute at NYU serves the community with public programs based off research, cultural production, and scholarship on contemporary issues facing Asian/Pacific American communities and discourse. Through public programs, publications and other resources, the A/P/A Institute establishes forums for dialogue and interaction between socio-cultural influencers and producers, the academy and the public.

About the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections

The Fales Library & Special Collections, comprising nearly 225,000 volumes, and over 10,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries. The Fales Collection was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1975 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Food and Cookery Collection is a vast and rapidly expanding collection of books and manuscripts documenting food and foodways with particular emphasis on New York City. Other strengths of the collection include the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll Materials, the Robert Frost Library, the Kaplan and Rosenthal Collections of Judaica and Hebraica and the manuscript collections of Elizabeth Robins and Erich Maria Remarque. The Fales Library preserves manuscripts and original editions of books that are rare or important not only because of their texts, but also because of their value as artifacts.

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  1. TaZ
    May 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm — Reply

    That cover makes me miss Agents of Atlas.

  2. brainypirate
    May 24, 2011 at 11:32 pm — Reply

    What a great idea — I could have used these images when I was teaching Asian American Literature a few years back; students today have no idea how ugly the stereotypes were before the “model minority” myth took over.

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