Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Himalayan Prism, Leaping out of Comics

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Himalayan Prism, Leaping out of Comics

Article excerpt

The Rubin Museum of Art in New York's exhibition "Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics," features more than 50 comics, from the 1940s to the present, each presenting Tibet in its own way.

Diversity in the comic book industry -- whether in the characters' adventures or in the creators who devise them -- is a topic that inspires a gnashing of teeth. Why aren't there more female creators? Why aren't there more series with minority leads? When different cultures are represented, how can it be done without that whiff of tokenism?

One of the most magical things about comics is self- identification with their heroes. The meek Clark Kent is secretly the mighty Superman. The nerdy Peter Parker is the dynamic Amazing Spider-Man. It becomes a natural next step for the reader to project his or her own cultural needs onto these characters.

As a child, I rejoiced in the push for diversity when the animated Super Friends series introduced El Dorado, who is Mexican; Samurai, who is Japanese; Apache Chief, who is American Indian; and Black Vulcan, who is, well, black. Before them, the only hero I knew who had anything close to my skin tone was Green Lantern -- and he seemed more like a Californian with a deep tan.

All that was on my mind during a visit to the Rubin Museum of Art's exhibition "Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics," conceived by Martin Brauen, once the chief curator there. It's a modest show: Not many more than 50 comics, from the 1940s to the present, each presenting Tibet in its own way.

Some of the comics are purely figments of fantasy, with bare references to the culture -- bulletproof monks, white lamas and notions of Shangri-La, for example -- and some were made by Tibetans and feature educational and moral tales about how to behave, practice good hygiene and even resolve disputes between birds and monkeys.

Much of the material was not new to me, particularly when it involved well-known characters transplanted to Tibetan settings, but I came away with a new appreciation after seeing it filtered through this prism, which reflects a history of myths, perceptions and stereotypes about the culture. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.