Japanese American National Museum
Past Exhibitions

Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986

October 12, 2013 - February 9, 2014

Through a selection of images from comic books representing four turbulent decades, Marvels & Monsters illustrates how evolving racial and cultural archetypes defined America’s perceptions of Asians. This exhibition draws from noted science fiction author and cultural studies scholar William F. Wu’s comic book collection—the largest archive of comic books featuring Asians and Asian Americans—that was donated to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections through the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.

Curated by Asian Pop columnist, Jeff Yang, this exhibition is a unique and fascinating look at how the images and characters of Asians and Asian Americans featured in comic books during times of war and unrest coalesced into archetypes that still remain today.

The exhibition places a selection of noted archetypes—Guru, Brain, Temptress, Manipulator, Alien, Kamikaze, Brute, and Lotus Blossom—within both a historical context and a comparative discourse with contemporary Asian American writers and creators including Ken Chen, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Larry Hama, David Henry Hwang, Naomi Hirahara, Genny Lim, Greg Pak, Vijay Prashad, and Gene Luen Yang.

The exhibition also contains elements designed to encourage direct engagement with the archetypes, such as life-size cutouts of the eight archetypes that allow visitors to put themselves “inside the image” and an installation called “Shades of Yellow” that matches the shades used for Asian skin tones in the comics with their garish yellow Pantone™.

Marvels & Monsters ends with a library of present-day graphic novels by Asian American creators and an area where visitors can color original heroes designed by Bernard Chang (Supergirl) and Jef Castro and Jerry Ma (Secret Identities).

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This exhibition is a collaboration between the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU and the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.

The Los Angeles presentation is sponsored by:


Public Programs Sponsors:

Media Sponsors:

Additional support provided by Ruben & Maria Pompeya Gomez.

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For press inquiries, contact or 213.625.0414.

Past Events

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Exhibition Closing

events/marvels-monsters-signature-500px_1.jpg Marvels and Monsters: Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 closes.

Saturday, February 8, 2014
2:00 PM

The Adventures of Sikh Captain America

events/CaptainA_centralpark.jpg FREE!

In June 2013, cartoonist Vishavjit Singh dressed up as Sikh Captain America and was photographed around New York City. He will share the reactions—both positive and negative—that he received on his adventure, followed by a cartoon workshop.

Saturday, October 19, 2013
1:00 PM

Meet and Greet with Author & Artist Lela Lee

events/lela_lee-377R.jpg Members are invited to an exclusive opportunity to meet and talk with Lela Lee before her lecture and book signing. RSVP required to or (213) 625-0414 x2222.

Saturday, October 19, 2013
2:00 PM

A Conversation with Lela Lee


Lela Lee, author and artist of the comic book series, Angry Little Girls, will discuss her comics and their impact on Asian Americans and beyond.

Purchase the Angry Little Girls books from the Museum Store >>

Saturday, October 12, 2013
11:00 AM—4:00 PM

Target Free Family Saturdays: Zap, Pow, Bam!

events/target.jpg FREE ALL DAY!

Celebrate the opening of the exhibition Marvels & Monsters and draw yourself into the picture with comics-themed crafts & activities!


11AM – 2PM: Join Kidding Around the Kitchen for an assemble-it-yourself popcorn snack to enjoy while watching fabulous vintage Japanese anime.

11:30AM: Curator Jeff Yang will guide families of all ages in a gallery talk of the Marvels and Monsters exhibition that is sure to keep even the little ones engaged.

12PM – 3PM: Turn yourself into a comic-book character with a caricature drawn by Cartoon Slinger (for children only, line ends at 2:30pm).

12PM & 2:30PM: Join curator Jeff Yang and artists Jeremy Arambulo and A.L. Baroza for “Build a Hero” (12pm) and “Build a Villain” (2:30pm)—interactive events where they’ll lead the audience in collaboratively creating an ORIGINAL comic book super-character who’ll be drawn in real time by comic artists from the SECRET IDENTITIES and SHATTERED anthologies! Book signing to follow each session.

1PM – 2PM: "Our American Voice—a special two-person show exploring six diverse stories of Asian Pacific Americans—will be performed in the I Want The Wide American Earth exhibition gallery. Presented in partnership with East West Players.

1PM – 4PM: Team up with your buddies to take down villains in superhero video games brought to you by GameTruck.


• Sit back and enjoy vintage Japanese anime at its earliest roots from the 1920s and 1930s.
• It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…you! Decorate a super-stylin’ superhero cape.
• Keep your secret identity hidden by making a superhero mask.
• After you create your superhero costume, capture yourself in action at the complimentary photo booth!
• Ruthie’s Origami Corner: Come make a baby pterodactyl.

Generously sponsored by Target, these special Saturdays are filled with fun activities giving families unique ways to learn, play, and grow together.

Check out our other fun and free Family Festivals!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Exhibition Opening

events/marvels-monsters-signature-500px.jpg Join us for the opening of Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986.

Thursday, October 10, 2013
6:00 PM—9:30 PM

Preview Reception for Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986

Join us for a special preview, the “Marvels & Monsters: Unbound” Showcase, and reception to celebrate the opening of the Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 exhibition.

Hosted by the JANM Young Professionals Network.

To RSVP, contact or 213.625.0414, ext. 2222.

Thursday, October 10, 2013
5:30 PM

Members Gallery Talk: Marvels & Monsters

events/jeff_wnyc.jpg Special insight into the creation of Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942 – 1986 will be shared by exhibition curator Jeff Yang during the Members Gallery Talk right before the Preview Reception on Thursday, October 10.

RSVP by October 9 to or 213.625.0414 x 2222.

Read the full blog article here!



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