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Cover image for The shadow hero
The shadow hero


First edition.
New York : First Second, [2014]
Physical Description:
158 pages : color illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
Includes a [9] page excerpt from Blazing Comics no. 1 at the end of the text.
Green Turtle Chronicles -- Dawn of a Golden Age -- Fathers and Sons -- Fights You Cannot Win -- True Colors -- Enter the Green Turtle.
In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity: the Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero. The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but Gene Luen Yang has revived this character in Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.


Call Number
YA 741.5 YANG

On Order



Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and is a MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of what's popularly known as the MacArthur "Genius" Grant.

A New York Times bestseller

In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but Gene Luen Yang, the acclaimed author of American Born Chinese , and Sonny Liew, the author of the New York Times -bestseller The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye , have finally revived this character in Shadow Hero , a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

This gorgeous, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore.

Author Notes

Gene Luen Yang was born on August 9, 1973 in California. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in computer science and minored in creative writing. After graduating in 1995, he worked as a computer engineer for two years. He decided that he was meant to teach and left his job as an engineer to teach computer science at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, California.

He is a writer of graphic novels and comics. His first published comic, Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, was published in 1997 and won the Xeric Grant, a self-publishing grant for comic book creators. His other works include Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order and Avatar: The Last Airbender. He won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006 for American Born Chinese and the Eisner Award for best short story in 2009 for Eternal Smile.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Award-winning author Yang and artist Liew tackle a lesser-known aspect of history, breathing new life into the Green Turtle, a 1940s comic book hero. According to lore, the Green Turtle was originally drawn to be Chinese, but publishers quashed artist Chu Hing's plans, and Hing rebelled by drawing his hero so that his face was never visible. The Green Turtle is cast as an unlikely 19-year-old young man, Hank, the son of Chinese immigrants who own a grocery store in 1940s America. When his mother is rescued by a superhero, the loving but overbearing woman decides that it's Hank's fate to become a hero himself, and she does everything in her power to push her son in that direction. Though Hank initially shies away from assuming the role of caped crusader, when tragedy strikes, he's eventually inspired to call himself the Green Turtle, and fight back against gangsters who have been intimidating his family and many others in Chinatown. Liew's scratchy, action-packed illustrations have a nostalgia-tinged vibe ideal for the gritty/hard-boiled setting, and Yang plays expertly with cliches and stereotypes about Chinese culture without ever becoming heavy-handed or obvious. A detail about the four spirits of China, one of whom allies himself with Hank's father and then Hank, injects an element of magic and of Chinese history and mythology that made Yang's American Born Chinese (First Second, 2001) such a layered and complex work. A creative take on the superhero genre. [See author Q&A, p. 20.] -Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Yang further establishes himself as one of YA's leading voices on the Chinese-American experience by inventing a backstory for a forgotten comic-book character who was arguably the first Asian superhero. As explained in a postscript, the Green Turtle blinked into and quickly disappeared from publication during the 1940s superhero boom; he would likely be condemned to obscurity if not for rumors suggesting that creator Chu Hing masked the character's ethnicity so that he could be read as a Chinese superhero (the face of the original Green Turtle is almost always obscured). Yang and Liew run with this theory and cast the Green Turtle as 19-year-old Hank Chu, a second-generation Chinese American who (at his mother's urging) takes up crime fighting, aided by an ancient shadow spirit that gives him limited superpowers and provides some hilarious banter. Racism, romance, humor, and identity all play important roles in Yang and Liew's evocation of Hank's life in pre-WWII San Francisco as they create an origin story that blends classic comics conventions (at one point, Hank's mother pushes him into a toxic spill in an attempt to give him superpowers) with a distinctly Chinese perspective. (July)? (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Yang and Liew have crafted an origin story for the Green Turtle, a little-known (he only lasted five issues) World War II-era comic superhero created by cartoonist Chu Hing in 1944. Much about the series remains a mystery, as Yang shares in an author's note, but according to rumors Hing wanted his star to be Chinese, and, not surprisingly for the era, his publishers balked at the idea. Now seventy years later, Yang and Liew vindicate the cartoonist by imagining the Green Turtle as "perhaps...the first Asian American superhero." In the Chinatown of noir-ish San Incendio, a fictional "coastal city crowded beyond capacity," teenaged Hank wants nothing more than to quietly follow in his father's footsteps: run the family store, play a little mahjong, enjoy a quiet existence. But his mother has higher aspirations for Hank: she wants her son to be a superhero. Hank toils through the requisite trials and tribulations of the superhero-in-training, but Yang and Liew keep it fresh with abundant humor, strong characters, and cracking good action. As usual, Yang's nuanced portrayal of Chinese American culture adds depth to what might otherwise have been just another normal-kid-turned-superhero story. sam bloom (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A golden-age comic superhero returns with a brand-new Asian-American origin story.In 1944, a Chinese-American cartoonist created the Green Turtle, a World War II superhero who may have had a Chinese secret identity. Seventy years later, Yang (Boxers Saints, 2013) and Liew (Malinky Robot, 2011) have updated the Green Turtle with an openly Asian-American heritage. Growing up in Chinatown, Hank Chu dreams of becoming a grocer like his father. His mother makes other plans for his future, however, after she sees the local, white superhero in action. She sews Hank a costume, tries to help him acquire superpowers and even arranges for him to learn kung fu. Despite her efforts, Hank's superhero debut is a disappointmentone with tragic consequences for his family after it makes them a target for a local gang. Yang's funny and perceptive script offers clever riffs on familiar tropes and explores themes of identity, heroism and belonging. For example, Hank's mother is a hilarious spin on the "tiger mother" stereotype, and in his costume, Hank is often mistaken for "one of those gwailo superheroes." Liew's playful illustrations, especially his characters' cartoonishly exaggerated expressions, complement the story's humor. The first issue of the original 1940s comic book is included in the backmatter.An entertaining and intelligent response to classic superhero stories. (author's note, original comic) (Graphic adventure. 12 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In the 1940s, the golden age of comic books, Chu Hing, a little-known Chinese American cartoonist very likely the first ever created the Green Turtle, a superhero tasked with protecting China from invading Japanese forces. Though the comic ran for only five issues, Yang uses Chu Hing's Green Turtle as a launching pad for this story of young Hank Chu, a Chinese American teen in the 1930s who becomes a hero in his Chinatown neighborhood. In a loving spoof of classic superhero origin stories, Hank is exposed to toxic radiation, visits a mystic, and is bitten by an animal used for science experiments before simply working hard at becoming a good fighter. It isn't until he is faced with real tragedy and inherits the wish-granting turtle spirit who lived in his father's shadow that he becomes a real hero, the Green Turtle. There's plenty of humor in this lively, entertaining adventure story, and it capitalizes on the dashing bravado of golden-age comics, particularly in Liew's stylish pages, full of inky outlines and dramatic paneling. At its heart, though, this book is a subtle comment on China's changing cultural landscape and growing multiculturalism in America. A lovingly tongue-in-cheek homage.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

HANK CHU is your run-of-the-mill Chinese-American drenched in filial piety and surrounded by shelves of simple carbohydrates in his family's grocery store. When we meet him, in the 1930s, he's content to be a facsimile of his father, passing his days, item by item, behind the counter. The Chus sweep, they stock, they eat and if they're lucky, one day they'll die. Hank's mother, Hua Chu, is the only one with enough chutzpah to desire more. She escapes the Chu family "Groundhog Day" by taking a job with a Mrs. Olson, who could be Miss Daisy, Cruella de Vil or any flavor of distinguished Caucasian woman with garden party headwear and a big body sedan. While babysitting said big body sedan, Mrs. Chu is saved from a carjacking by the Anchor of Justice, a Superman-like figure who lifts up the car, dumps out the bad guy and catches her through the driver's side door. She becomes obsessed with the idea of Hank as a superhero, even sewing him a costume and driving him around at night looking for trouble. "The Shadow Hero," written by Gene Luen Yang, the author of "American Born Chinese," and illustrated by Sonny Liew, is being billed as the reinvention of the Green Turtle, perhaps "the first Asian-American superhero," who appeared in a short-lived comic book in the 1940s - but something is missing from this description. The Green Turtle, like stationary bicycles before Soul Cycle, has been here. To any Taiwanese-Chinese-American, "The Shadow Hero" will be familiar. Hua Chu could have been any of our fearless and ambitious mothers (my mother also claims that she lives "in a house of cowards"). My brother has often complained that "the whole country smelled like old butter." And we all have a shady uncle like Wun Too with the ill George Jefferson haircut who claims to know kung fu. The book may not tell Asian-Americans anything they don't know, but it's the familiarity and specificity of this story in my hands, in print, in the English language that excite me. Since our ancestors immigrated to this country, these narratives have usually been left to oral history or crudely caricatured in movies like "Breakfast at Tiffany's." But it isn't Asian-Americans who need to come out of the shadows, it's the audience for their stories. I sat here for days thinking about how to review this book. Should I speak from personal experiences that most Americans have no reference for? Should I take into account some Americans' heightened fear of China since it signed a natural-gas deal with Russia? These are the thoughts of your average neurotic Chinaman trying to get up, get out and get something. But I don't live in the shadows, the Green Turtle didn't live in the shadows and Chinese people don't live in American shadows. We've been here: somewhere below Canal and above Wall. We don't need publicists claiming reinvention and reinvigoration. We're good. What America needs is for people to shed the expectation of translation and immerse themselves in other worlds. It's O.K. if you can't pronounce ma po tofu, it's O.K. if you can't pronounce my last name and it's O.K. if you learn about our ways through graphic novels. America has to start somewhere, and I'd recommend "The Shadow Hero." Soon enough, it'll all be familiar. The Green Turtle was perhaps 'the first Asian-American superhero.' EDDIE HUANG is the author of the memoir "Fresh Off the Boat" and the owner of the restaurant Baohaus.