7 Powerful AAPI Superheroes Who Deserve the Limelight

With all the MCU and DCEU superheroes of color in the public eye, let’s take some time to recognize some unsung AAPI heroes of the comic world.

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A comic-style background, yellow with orange dots and black lines radiating from the center, and white fluffy clouds in the bottom corners. On this background sit three comic book covers, from left to right: 'The Totally Awesome Hulk,' 'Milestone Returns,' and 'The Shadow Hero.'

Between the Batman franchise, the Avengers, and now the larger MCU and DC Extended Universe, the last two decades have seen a major overhaul in the superhero industry. Especially given the recent rise in diverse representation, this has also meant more eyes on heroes of color, especially AAPI heroes — think Shang-Chi, Ms. Marvel, Quake, Jubilee, and Aquaman, among others. But outside of the big blockbusters, who are some of the AAPI superheroes in the comics that don’t get as much love? Read on to find out!

Green Turtle/Hank Chu (Blazing Comics/First Second Books)

The Green Turtle first appeared in 1944, and although his identity—and any facial features that would have identified his race—were kept hidden, he notably teamed up with Chinese forces throughout his storyline, and his creator Chu Hing stated in interviews that he’d intended the Green Turtle to be Chinese American. As a result, fans often cite him as the first Asian American comic book hero. More recently, the Green Turtle was recreated and finally given a civilian identity: Hank Chu.

The cover of Blazing Comics #1. Bordered by black and white renderings of various superhero characters is a yellow and red background. On the yellow upper part is the word Blazing in red and Comics in white. On the red lower part is a caricature of an Asian man in a dark suit being strangled on the ground by a figure only visible by their arms and legs, wearing green gloves and boots. Beneath the man is a black shadow with yellow eyes.

Hank, the son of Chinese immigrants, grew up in the 1930s in the Chinatown of a fictional Californian city. Although Hank was content to work in his family’s grocery store and live the ordinary life of a civilian, his mother encouraged him to become a superhero to protect their family from gangsters. Luckily, Hank inherited a turtle spirit protector from his father that follows him around in his shadow.

Cover of The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. On a brown background is the black shadow of a very large turtle head. In front of that is an Asian man in a black mask and green cape, gloves, and boots in an action pose. The title and creators' names are in yellow across the top and bottom, respectively.

The Green Turtle first appeared in Blazing Comics #1 and was reimagined in The Shadow Hero.

Black Bat/Cassandra Cain (DC)

Cassandra Cain was born to assassins David Cain and Sandra Wu-San — also known as Lady Shiva — and was trained from birth to be the ultimate martial artist and human weapon. Her father even deprived her of speech to dedicate more of her brain power to fighting techniques, though this left Cassandra with speech, reading, and writing impediments. Cassandra eventually ran away from her father and spent most of her childhood homeless before being adopted by Bruce Wayne — also known as Batman — as the next Batgirl. Later, Cassandra moved to Hong Kong as a part of Batman Incorporated and took on the name Black Bat.

Cover of Batman #567. On a black metal background is a muscular female figure in a black bat suit hanging by black fabric gripped in both hands. The title is in yellow in front of a red Batman logo. Across the bottom is "Mark of Cain: 1" in yellow text. Down the left side reads "No Man's Land" in red text. The DC logo is in the upper left corner.

Cassandra Cain first appeared in Batman #567.

Wave/Pearl Pangan (Marvel)

Pearl Pangan, also known by her alias Wave, grew up on Mactan Island in the Philippines. She’s always felt at home in the water, but after being exposed to a mysterious energy source during an attack on AlonTech Lab, where scientists were using her for experiments, she developed a slew of water-based abilities. She can now manipulate water, blast it at enemies during a fight, and talk and breathe underwater. After breaking with AlonTech, Wave later joined the Triumph Division, and is now part of the Agents of Atlas.

The War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas cover. The background fades from brown on top to yellow on the bottom. In front of that are nine superhero figures in action poses, including one with man with green skin, one woman with wind whipping around her, one shooting blue sparkles out of her hand, one upside down with a mask covering her face, one blue glowing bear-like creature, one short-haired man with a gun, one with a sword, and one with nunchucks, and one small person of indeterminate gender with a dark helmet. The title is across the top in gold and silver letters. In the top left corner is the Marvel logo.

Wave first appeared in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1.

Ben Daimio (Dark Horse)

Ben Daimio, the grandson of the Crimson Lotus, an infamous Japanese war criminal, was a U.S. Marine who died on a mission but was resurrected by a jaguar-like spirit. He began undergoing medical treatments with an apparition linked to a specimen in a jar that appeared identical to the spirit. He discovered that he had gained the ability to transform into a jaguar at night. Ben later joined the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

Cover of BPRD: The Dead #1. On a dark blue background are two gold figures, one shooting flames out of a gun and the other being absorbed by dark blue vines or tentacles. Across the bottom in dark red is a row of faces. Across the top is the title in green and white text. In the upper left corner is the Dark Horse Comics logo.

Ben Daimio first appeared in BPRD: The Dead #1.

Brawn/Amadeus Cho (Marvel)

Born in Arizona to South Korean parents, Amadeus Cho was a genius and a prodigy from a very young age, which earned him the wrong kinds of attention from a dangerous crowd. After his parents were killed by a jealous former child prodigy, Amadeus went on the run and befriended several other heroes, including the Hulk, Hercules, and Athena. He later absorbed the Hulk’s powers to save his friend, becoming the next Hulk, though he eventually took on the name Brawn.

Cover of The Totally Awesome Hulk. On a yellow-cloudy background is an Asian Hulk: green, muscular, and mostly naked. He's bursting out of stones below him. In the bottom right corner is an Asian man giving a thumbs up inside of a red circle. Across the top is the title in bright green text. Across the bottom are the Marvel logo and the words "Cho Time" in white text.

Amadeus Cho appears in The Totally Awesome Hulk, among other issues.

Duo/David Kim and Kelly Vu (DC)

David Kim and his fiancée Kelly Vu were scientists working with nanobots in an effort to heal any illness or injury. But after David was badly burned in an explosion, the nanobots consumed Kelly’s body to heal him. Both the nanobots and Kelly became integrated with David’s body, leaving him with cybernetic enhancements, shapeshifting, and healing abilities, but with Kelly’s consciousness trapped in his mind. David and Kelly trade control over David’s body as they continue their mission to heal those they come in contact with.

Cover of Milestone Returns #0. On a yellow, orange, and red background seven figures: a Black man flying with a red cape, a white man flying with white wings, a blonde woman in a blue suit, a person of indeterminate gender and race in a full suit and helmet, a man colored black, a black figure in a blue hood, a figure of indeterminate race and gender in a metal flying suit, and the face of a woman behind them all. Across the bottom are the title in white text and the DC and Milestone logos.

Duo first appeared in Milestone Returns #0.

Indra/Paras Gavaskar (Marvel)

Paras Gavaskar was born in Mumbai but moved to the U.S. to join the Xavier Institute once it became clear he was a mutant. He later joined the X-Men and took on the name Indra. In addition to purple skin and a red mark on his forehead, Indra has a retractable exoskeleton and psionic armor. Having grown up a Jainist, Indra was completely committed to non-violence, even in self-defense, which caused many internal struggles for him as a member of the X-Men. However, after being forced to fight to defend his home city from an attack, Indra rejected the path of non-violence as a response to violent evil in the world.

Cover of The New X-Men Vol. 2. On a black background are five figures: a blond woman in a white suit and gloves, a blue anthropomorphic furred creature in a black jacket, a white man in black and yellow with a device covering his eyes, a red-haired woman in a black suit, and a white dark-haired man in a black suit with blades in growing from his knuckles. On the top are the title in light blue text and the Marvel logo.

Indra first appeared in New X-Men Vol. 2.

Anyone can be a hero, and everyone deserves to see themselves in their favorite superhero. That’s why it’s important to expand our bookshelves and our minds with all kinds of heroes.

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