“A good many of our people here in America are not white. You’ve got to recognize that and you’ve got to include them in whatever you do.”
Stan Lee (Huffington Post Canada)
Welcome to the first installment of a series dedicated to exploring and celebrating diversity and representation in Marvel comics, television adaptations, and of course, the MCU.
There are WAY more than 5 Asian Marvel characters you need to know about. So, we’re going to update this article more times than Peter Parker says, “Mr. Stark”! (aka, constantly).
But, here are just a few of the extraordinary Asian Marvel characters and crime fighters who deserve a more prominent role in the MCU (and beyond) to get things started!
We start our list of Asian Marvel characters with Jubilation Lee or “Jubilee,” a mutant born with the ability to zap little fireworks out of her fingertips. The spunky teen made her comic debut in 1989 in The Uncanny X-Men #244. She grew up in wealth and privilege and was living the California dream until, well, everything went up in smoke.
In one fell swoop, her Chinese immigrant parents lost their money in the stock market (ugh capitalism). Then, they were mistaken for a different Lee couple and murdered by hitmen (ugh criminals). This left Jubs orphaned (and no longer a Crazy Rich Asian) in Beverly Hills.
Image Source: Generation X, Issue #87, Cover Art by Terry Dodson, Marvel Comics, 2018
She scraped by panhandling– “fireworks” finger shows FTW!– in a Hollywood shopping mall before security caught on to her and sicked mutant hunters on her. But before they could capture her, a quartet of mutants (Dazzler, Rogue, Psylocke, and Storm) portaled her to one of the X-Men HQs and her superheroing days as Jubilee began.
Jubilee is as bold and spirited as her signature neon yellow jacket and magenta shades. She’s a gifted gymnast with Olympic level potential and an expert at hand-to-hand combat. She’s able to shield her mind from telekinesis and generate Lumikinetic Explosive Light Blasts (fireworks!). These can blind her opponents, blast through metal, and even go to a subatomic level; Jubilee is no joke.
She’s gone on dozens of rescue missions while teamed up with The X-Men, The X-Corps, and Generation-X. Jubilee even traveled around Asia with none other than Wolverine (No ship here. Jubilee considers Logan her mutant dad).
Jubilee survived a stint where she was involuntarily turned into a vampire (!!!) by Dracula’s son Xarus. She also lost her powers in another Marvel universe when Scarlet Witch cast a reality-warping spell.
Most recently, Jubilee even adopted an orphaned little boy named Shogo! Has single motherhood bulldozed Jubilee’s personality? No. She’s still the life of the party and excellent BFF material!!
Image Source: Generation X, Issue #87, Art by Amilcar Pinna, Marvel Comics, 2018
Why She’s Important
Scrappy, street smart, and serving up heaps of blistering sarcasm, Jubilee plays against the brainy high-achieving Asian trope. She gives us one of the most atypical Asian Marvel characters. She also provides us with another look at what it means to be a single parent when she raises her son in one Marvel storyline.
Debuting in Secret War #2 in 2004, Daisy Johnson is a Half-Chinese Inhuman with the power to create, well, earthquakes, with her hands. Definitely an original superhero name, right? Little miss seismic vibrations has, wait for it, four possible superpower origin stories. The juiciest is a combination of the Earth-616 comics and ABC show, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TL;DR It’s all her parents’ fault!
Image Source: 50 Years of S.H.I.E.L.D: Quake, Vol. 1, Cover Art by, David Nakayama, Marvel Comics, 2015
Daisy’s father, Calvin Johnson, an ambitious Doctors Without Borders physician, had a little hobby of creating serums and, um, injecting them into himself, which mutated his genes. (AND gave him a cray cray supervillain alter ego, Mister Hyde, but that’s a story for another time.)
Then, when he had a baby with his wife Jiaying, an energy-absorbing Inhuman, his abnormal genes jumpstarted the Inhuman DNA Jiaying passed on to Daisy at birth. It’s a girl Inhuman! PSA: Experiment responsibly, kids!
After HYDRA snatched Jiaying and Daddy dearest peaced out to rescue her, Daisy spent her childhood bouncing around orphanages and foster homes under the alias Mary S. Poots. Years later, Daisy committed herself to find out who her birth parents were and what happened to them. She’d also do some serious soul searching.
Image Source: Thanos, Issue #6, Resurrxion Variant Cover Art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Marvel Comics, 2015
A natural-born leader, Quake got her start as “Skye,” a teen “hacktivist” for Rising Tide, a web network all about spilling the tea on incognito superheroes and leaking files and footage the government tried to hide.
Her attempt to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D was thwarted, and instead of being given the boot, she was actually recruited by them and became one of the top S.H.I.E.L.D agents. You could say it made her life all the richter.
She became a Level 10 agent (aka S.H.I.E.L.D’s highest ranking) when she was just 18 and led two elite squads– The Howling Commandos and The Secret Warriors. She rescued countless Inhumans from HYDRA, defeated Magneto by ‘quaking his brain ‘till he passed out while aiding the New Avengers, and she became S.H.I.E.L.D’s director.
Why She’s Important
Quake has the stereotypical whiz kid smarts and technology prowess that seem to be a requirement for nearly every Asian character on the screen. However, her genius isn’t her whole existence. She’s not relegated to a sidekick or supporting character like so many Asian characters and women of color, but instead is an accomplished leader.
Take, for example, how three of S.H.I.E.L.D’s eleven directors were women. Quake is the third woman to helm the military task force. She makes history as its youngest director and cements herself as a courageous and nervy true hero.
3. Nico Minoru
Created by Adrian Alphona and Brian K. Vaughan in 2003, Nico Minoru first appeared as one of the main characters in Marvel’s Runaways #1. The Japanese-American super powered teen who briefly went by Sister Grimm is the daughter of dark witch and wizard Tina and Robert Minoru. They are both members of the supervillain organization The Pride.
When Nico’s mommy dearest attempts to skewer her with an enchanted staff, the unthinkable happens. Niko absorbs the Dungeons and Dragons-ish staff into her body. Her high school days are o-v-e-r as she flees her parents with five other teens who also have parents in The Pride.
Image Source: Runaways: The Complete Collection Vol.2, Art by Adrian Alphona, Marvel Comics, 2014
Because of her whole absorbing a magical artifact thing, Nico can command a weapon capable of startling even the Dark Dimension demon Dormammu whenever she wants. However, there’s a catch. The only way Sister Grimm can summon the mighty Staff of One is with her blood.
She has to offer a blood sacrifice to power up the staff. Commanding it isn’t any easier. For the magic to work, she needs to come up with unique wording for EVERY single spell she casts. Accio dictionary-thesaurus-encyclopedia-google translate!
Image Source: Runaways, Courtesy of: ABC Signature Studios and Marvel Television, IMDB
Resourceful and inventive, even in a pinch, Sister Grimm became the leader of The Runaways, fought off a Skrull invasion with The Young Avengers, and defeated the cosmic being Antimatter with The A Force alongside Inhuman queen Medusa and brawny babe She-Hulk.
In Avengers Arena #1, she was abducted by the sociopathic billionaire Arcade. He tossed her into his psycho unamusement park, “Murderworld,” with sixteen other superpowered teens. A formidable sorceress and survivor, Sister Grimm was one of the nine remaining teens to make it out of Arcade’s Hunger Games styled deathmatch in (mostly) one piece.
Why She’s Important
So, why is Nico essential amongst Asian Marvel characters? Well, she has the distinction of being one of the very few bisexual Asian leads in a sci-fi, fantasy, and comic series. This also applies to The Runaways live-action series streaming on Hulu, where Japanese-American actress Lyrica Okano portrays her.
On top of that, Nico also exists in the same space as fellow Runaway, and openly lesbian, Karolina Dean and interacts with her consistently in comic and live-action storylines. Take that Bury Your Gays trope!
Created by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos, Korean-American highschooler turned superpowered spider-woman Cindy Moon, or, Silk, made her first comic appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 2014. Bitten on her ankle by the notorious radioactive spider just seconds after it bit her classmate, Peter Parker, Cindy develops her own superhuman arachnid abilities.
Unlike her fellow Earth-616 web-slinger, Cindy couldn’t keep her superpowers secret, or, um, completely under control for that matter. When she accidentally web blasted her parents onto the ceiling, any chance at hiding her spidey abilities went out the window.
Image Source: Silk: Sinister Vol.1, Art by Stacey Lee, Marvel, 2016
Enter the mentor! With almost mystical timing, eccentric and wealthy Spider-person Ezekiel Sims arrived to give Cindy the 4-1-1 on her new Spidering gig. For six years Sims trained Silk…untiiiiiil the nefarious, dimension-hopping Morlun crashed Earth-616 to gobble up all the Spideys.
‘Zek locked Cindy in his bunker to keep her out of harm’s way where she hunkered down for years before Peter Parker got wind of her sitch’ and sprung her out.
Morlun returned (ugh) but this time Silk and Spider-Man teamed up to end the supervillain for reals. From that moment on, Silk is continuously in action! She becomes a top agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and infiltrates supervillain Black Cat’s crime ring. She even saves Spider-Man from being unmasked when the villainous duo Black Cat and Electro attack and paralyze him on live TV.
Silk even teams up with Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, and Spider-Man 2099, later on in the Spider-verse comics, to fight The Inheritors, aka another gang of Spider-person eating creeps.
Image Source: Silk, Issue #18, Cover Art by Helen Chen, Marvel, 2015
As far as powers go, Silk’s are nothing to sneeze at! Her body organically creates webbing which she shoots out of her fingers– no web launching wristlets or other tech necessary! They’re also sturdy enough to be woven into clothing (Silk has worn her webs on more than one occasion!) and can be shaped into sharp points like barbs.
Silk is faster and more agile than Spider-Man, with more finely tuned reflexes. This comes from a combination of rigorous superhero training and her athleticism (in high school she religiously played hockey). Silk even has precognitive Spidey senses and a photographic memory! She has a definite advantage over Spider-Man, and even Peter will admit it!
Why She’s Important
Firstly, Silk is one of Marvel’s only Korean-American superheroes and is one of the few teens of color in the Marvel universe. Secondly, she also challenges the stereotype that Asian teens are obsessed with academic achievement.
Silk subverts the studious Asian trope–she’s not nerdy, awkward, or meek. She is athletic, flirtatious, and driven. She doesn’t gain her confidence and self-worth through earning high marks to impress her family with those scores.
Fun fact: Cindy even has a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in the MCU’s Spider-Man Homecoming where she’s on the debate team with Peter. Maybe Silk will join the MCU (or, Sony’s Spider films) sooner than we think.
5. Koi Boi
Created by Erica Henderson and Ryan North in 2015, Japanese-American superhero Koi Boi debuted in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2. Ken Shiga was born with the ability to breathe underwater, swim superhumanly fast, and talk to fish. A student at Empire State University in New York, Ken Shiga majors in Computer Science along with Doreen Green (best known as Squirrel Girl!)
Image Source: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol.8 My Best Friend’s Squirrel, Art by Erica Henderson, Marvel, 2018
With his fish-eye goggles and can-do attitude, Koi Boi fights crime and enforces “the scales of justice” with his BFFs Chipmunk Hunk and Squirrel Girl. Together with Squirrel Girl, The Unsinkable Koi Boi fought off Ratatoskr, a mind-controlling evil squirrel god from Asgard, defeated the bee-powered Nazi, Swarm, and stopped Hippo’s rampage across NYC. Holy carp!
Thanks to Doreen’s enthusiastic tutoring, Koi Boi is also fluent in the Northeastern variant of Squirrelese which gives him even more superhero ‘cred.
Image Source: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol.3 Squirrel, You’ve Really Got Me Now, Art by Erica Henderson, Marvel, 2016
Fiercely loyal, kind, and always ready to cheese it up with an arsenal of puns, Koi Boi is one of the larger than life up and coming new heroes to keep an eye on. Of all the Marvel Asian superheroes on this list, Koi Boi is the only one who hasn’t made a live-action, animated TV series or film debut!
His sole appearance out of comic book pages and onto the screen is in the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, based in Earth-13122, where Koi Boi is a playable character. The right Marvel Studios movie or show hasn’t come along to catch him yet. However, when they do, he’ll be a reely great addition to any superheroing team!
Why He’s Important
Koi Boi is Marvel’s first human* trans superhero. Hence the often queer and gender-nonconforming choice to use ‘boi’ versus ‘boy.’
In Henderson’s and North’s comic, he visibly wears a chest binder which was confirmed on Twitter by Henderson to the crying-happy-tears delight of many fans. He’s also not sexless or celibate. In the Squirrel Girl comics, Ken tells Doreen he dates “optimum efficiency.”
**Note: In 2014 comic, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, the Asgardian angel Sera was an Anchorite of Heben, a wingless male angel, before transitioning to a woman. Similarly, in 2010 comic, Fantastic Four #575, a green Moloid alien named Tong proudly comes out to her entire family about her transition from male to female.
Note: Marvel-owning Disney purchased Fox Studios in July 2018 for over $70 billion, according to Business Insider. Now, Marvel officially has the movie rights to the X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and Deadpool. However, all three have existed in the Marvel Comics universe for years and go as far back as 1961 (The Fantastic Four). So, all Asian Marvel characters from said three series are considered part of the Marvel universe in this article.
These 5 Asian Marvel characters give us hope for the future of diverse representation within the Marvel Comics universe and the MCU.
Be sure to check back frequently to see what other Asian Marvel characters we’ll add to this list. Here’s a little teaser: three of our next superheroes include Amadeus Cho (formerly one of the Hulks!), S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Jimmy Woo, and Marvel’s first Filipina superhero – Wave!
Hiya, my name is Vicky and I’m your friendly neighborhood Marvel-loving, Studio Ghibli-obsessed, Queer Potterhead.
I may be in my mid-twenties but I’ve been an enthusiastic Potterhead for over a decade. I can’t go a day without firing off at least half a dozen Harry Potter references and have a small museum of Potter and Wizarding World merch… one with FAR too many Funkos.
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