9 Amazing Graphic Novels from AAPI Artists and Writers
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is nearly at a close, and I would feel remiss to not mention the incredible contributions of AAPI people in comics. From webcomics to the Big Two publishers and everywhere in between, AAPI creators are writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering amazing stories. Recently, DC Comics even promoted the legendary Jim Lee, who is Korean American, from Publisher and CCO to President.
Back when I started reading comics in the early ’90s, Jim Lee was the bar by which all other artists were measured. He wasn’t the only influential AAPI creator back then. Filipino American artist Whilce Portacio was one of the founders of Image Comics. Jim Lee was there, too. He was everywhere.
Today, your local comic book store is stuff with great glossies from AAPI creators. Seriously. This list was only difficult in narrowing down to a reasonable and wide-ranging list. For AAPI Heritage Month, both Marvel and DC have a slew of special covers of comics featuring AAPI creators.
Whether you’re digging into superhero stories from Marvel and DC, science fiction or fantasy tales from smaller publishers, or off-the-wall comics from the darkest nooks and crannies of comicdom, AAPI writers and artists are there. They might be working on your favorite comics, and you didn’t even know it. Here are nine (technically 11) of the most amazing comics from AAPI artists and writers.
Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Jonathan Luna is a Filipino American comic creator, and this is my favorite of his works. Alex is having a tough time. His fiancee dumped him, and he doesn’t have much else going on. So his grandmother buys him an android companion named Ada. Slowly, Ada grows self-aware as the politics of the world become more and more dangerous for Ada — and the relationship between Alex and Ada becomes more and more tumultuous.
Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, Scott Williams
I really cannot say enough about Jim Lee. After incredible careers with Marvel and Image, he landed at DC and has been there ever since. He doesn’t do interior artwork often anymore, and this was one of his absolute best. Seemingly every member of Batman’s rogue’s gallery acting up, and a mysterious man clad in bandages is at the center of it. And he knows far too much about Batman.
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
These two graphic novels are historical fiction focused on the Boxer Revolution of 1898. Gene Luen Yang is Chinese American, bringing his heritage and a big dose of fabulism to this incredible story. These two stories are companions, telling the same events from two different points of view.
Descender and Ascender by Dustin Nguyen, Jeff Lemire
Here’s another double recommendation, since Ascender is the sequel to Descender. Dustin Nguyen is the Vietnamese American artist behind both of these great sci-fi stories. In this android story, TIM-21 is hiding and running from the myriad of bounty hunters searching for illegal robotics. Can TIM-21 and its companions survive?
Made in Korea by Jeremy Holt, George Schall, Adam Wollet
Jeremy Holt is a nonbinary Korean American who weaves some very personal experiences into this graphic novel about a young Korean American girl living in America. She’s socially awkward but brilliant, and those things make blending in hard enough. When she discovers she’s not entirely human, everything gets even harder.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
I recommend this comic to everyone because it has everything: great characters, gorgeous art, a fascinating setting, and a plot that won’t quit. Oh, and it’s made by an incredible AAPI creator, Marjorie Liu (Chinese American), and Japanese creator Sana Takeda. In a matriarchal fantasy setting, Maika is a teen girl linked to a horrific monster. She’s caught in the middle of a giant war between the Arcanics and Federation, belonging to neither and bringing the ire of both.
Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong
Sloane Leong is the writer and artist of this cool story, and she’s of Hawaiian, Chinese, Mexican, Native American, and European descent. This sci-fi tale focuses on Vep, a refugee and indentured servant forced to help settle a new and mysterious planet. But what awaits her there, and the power that it gives her, might be more than she can handle.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Alyssa Wong, Valentina Remenar
Alyssa Wong has written a lot of stuff, from short stories to novels to video games and yes, even comic books. I particularly dig her run on Doctor Aphra, the morally questionable archeologist who — at least at first — works for Darth Vader. Aphra is a breakout character in the Star Wars universe, and Alyssa Wong is part of why.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Erica Henderson, Ryan North
Squirrel Girl shouldn’t work as a character. The entire idea is ridiculous, and yet she’s become super popular thanks, in part, to AAPI artist Erica Henderson. In this cheeky launch of her own series, Squirrel Girl and her goofy crew take on classic Marvel villains like Kraven, Whiplash, and Galactus. Yep. That Galactus. This book is a ride, y’all.
And that’s just the tip of the incredible iceberg of AAPI-created comics. I didn’t even touch on graphic memoirs or webcomics. What are your favorite comics from AAPI artists and writers?