DC Festival Of Heroes Review: A Celebration Of Asian Superheroes
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and to celebrate, DC dropped a special anthology honoring Asian superheroes. The DC Festival of Heroes is a 100-page homage to the superhero AAPI community, from the more familiar (Cassandra Cain as Batgirl) to the completely new (DC superhero Monkey Prince), so of course I had to write a DC Festival of Heroes review!
Anyway, I went to my nearby comic book shop and picked up not one, but TWO copies of the anthology because one: there are two beautiful covers to choose from and two: the salesperson was very convincing and basically said I needed both covers. The original cover features all of the superheroes in action (by Jim Lee) and the variant cover is a gorgeous work of Cassandra Cain (by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau). I have no regrets!
Two different covers for DC Festival of Heroes
What I Liked About DC Festival Of Heroes
I think it goes without saying that seeing characters that look like you makes a huge difference. Jeff Yang (Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, Shattered) wrote the introduction and talked about how he always loved comics, but it was hard to find Asian superheroes he could look up to. He had to use his imagination to “turn Kent into Keng, Wayne into Wei, Curry into Kuri.” With the Shang-Chi trailer and more Asian representation in media though, Asian comic readers no longer have to pretend. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I was pleased with the diversity of characters that were portrayed. As great as Crazy Rich Asians was in showing that an Asian-led cast could smash box office sales, it was a story that focused on Chinese and Chinese-American characters. I loved that this anthology had characters that represented the broad spectrum of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities (Gold Lantern/Kala Lour is Filipino, Cheshire/Jade Nguyen is Vietnamese, and Green Arrow/Connor Hawke is Korean, African American, and Caucasian).
Timely Content And Cultural Nuances
Many of the stories focused on the xenophobia and hatred that the AAPI community has experienced, which is one reason that this anthology was created. The rise in anti-Asian hate crimes as of recent is terrifying, but it’s nothing new when you look back at Asian American history. In Minh Lê’s Dress Code, we see ignorant idiots commenting on Tai Pham’s (Green Lantern) áo dài and in Amy Chu’s Festival of Heroes, the Knights of the Brotherhood are sending out messages telling the “job stealers” to “go back to where you came from.”
Both of these examples are things that many minorities experience in their everyday lives, which is why I appreciated that the creators didn’t shy away from putting it in their stories. Of course, the villains get what’s coming to them and we see our heroes prevail, which is part of the importance of writing diverse superheroes: to show a diverse readership that they matter and are important.
Dress Code, by Minh Lê, Trung Le Nguyen, and Aditya Bidikar
Similarly, positive shared cultural experiences instantly have the ability to forge a connection between reader and character. I would be lying if I said I didn’t squeal out loud when Cassandra Cain and her love interest get boba drinks together, or New Super-Man breaks Green Arrow’s jar of kimchi, but he makes up for it by bringing his own jar of pao cai.
Diverse Range Of Creators
When I worked in publishing, we would often talk about #ownvoices, meaning that an author from a marginalized or under-represented group writes characters and stories pertaining to that same group. So often, stories are written by someone with an outsider perspective, which can be problematic, to say the least. In this anthology, we got a lot of #ownvoices stories, and it showed. In the adorably cute Kawaii Kalamity, Japanese-American author Sarah Kuhn has the monster squirrel use the suffix -chan, which in Japanese means that the speaker finds the person endearing, which was definitely what the squirrel found Red Arrow to be.
What I’d Like To See More Of From Festival of Heroes
Celebrate Asian Superheroes Year-Round
While I loved this anthology, I would also hope that Asian superheroes are read about year-round. As I mentioned in this DC Festival of Heroes review, these characters and creators have done a fantastic job, but there’s always room for more superheroes from the AAPI community. Gene Luen Yang has already written the New Superman comics and Marvel created the first Asian Hulk in the early 2000s. With the release of this anthology and the upcoming Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, I’m hopeful that this is the only the beginning of a long line of Asian American superheroes.
Next Steps After You Read My DC’s Festival Of Heroes Review?
Overall, I was very happy with DC Festival of Heroes. I’m psyched to see more of the Monkey Prince and look forward to seeing additional work from all of the creators involved in this anthology. If you’re looking for more ways to help stop Asian hate, check out the following that was included:
EDUCATE yourself by reading and learning about Asian American experiences and history.
SUPPORT your AAPI friends by checking in on them and support your AAPI community by purchasing from AAPI stores and restaurants.
DONATE your time or funds to AAPI organizations such as:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Center for Asian American Media
- Stop AAPI Hate
What did you think of my DC Festival of Heroes review? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image via DC Comics
Keilin Huang is a freelance writer that likes the Oxford comma, reading from her neverending pile of books from the library, and Reeses peanut butter cups. She thanks her Dad for introducing her to his Superman comics and probably majored in Journalism because of Lois Lane.