From the very beginning, superheroes have stood for all that is good; for truth, honor and justice, but they haven’t always stood for diversity. Many of the greatest and most beloved superheroes were birthed in an America that at the time, was largely color-blind. Thankfully, the winds of change are blowing, and now more than ever, Asian superheroes are receiving the attention they deserve. Well, they’re starting to, anyway. Of course, if the backlash to “Iron Fist” is any indication, we may not be there quite yet.
Still, there is a presence of prominent Asian heroes, a majority of whom are women who have been invited into the ranks of the most famous superhero teams, including the Avengers and the X-Men. Yet another epic win in the ongoing battle for greater diversity! To celebrate that increasing chorus of voices, CBR counts down 15 of the coolest and most powerful Asian superheroes in comics today!
15. AMADEUS CHO
Perhaps playing to typical Asian stereotypes, Amadeus is very good at math, but in his case, that would be a gross understatement. Born to Korean-American parents, Amadeus possesses a hypermind: a superhuman brain capable of calculating the endless possibilities of any given moment. In high school, he was declared to be the seventh smartest person in the world, and unfortunately this led jealous supervillain Pythagoras Dupree to target his family for elimination.
Amadeus survived his incident with Dupree and, since his first appearance in 2005’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15, has gone on to do some incredible things in the Marvel universe, including freeing Bruce Banner from the Hulk, seducing Amazon queens, and becoming the Hulk himself (albeit a much friendlier, more “totally awesome” version). He may have a gigantic chip on his shoulder thanks to being so damn intelligent, but Amadeus is also best buds with Hercules, who is usually a good judge of character. Together they were the perfect combination of brains and brawn, as shown in the seminal run of “The Incredible Hercules” by Greg Pak, Fred van Lente and Koi Pham, amongst others.
14. GRACE CHOI
As a super powered meta-human, amazon, survivor of child prostitution and, as an Asian-American, a marginalized person, Grace Choi is one of the most diverse and interesting superheroes out there, Asian or otherwise. A core member of the Outsiders, a superhero team led by Roy Harper and Nightwing, she made her comic debut in “Outsiders” #1 and has since then gone on to kick ass alongside famous superheroes including Batman and Wonder Woman. She even served on Wonder Woman’s team of all-female heroes. Did we mention that she’s also gay?
Grace is currently living with Outsiders teammate Thunder (Anissa Pierce), the daughter of Black Lighting and an immensely powerful meta-human herself. Sounds like one intense relationship! As mentioned above, Grace was born a Bana-Mighdall Amazon, who are distant cousins to the Themysciran Amazons but do not possess immortality. The circumstances of Grace’s abandonment are still unknown, but her meta-human powers include super strength, stamina, healing, invulnerability, divine powers and longevity.
13. CASSANDRA CAIN
The daughter of two notorious assassins and adopted by Bruce Wayne himself, Cassandra Cain is both a hero and a total badass. Her father David Cain, long-time member of the League of Assassins, conceived her with the purpose of creating the perfect assassin partner for himself, after forcing her mother, Sandra Wu-San, to bear his child. Sandra went on to become Lady Shiva, also one of the world’s deadliest assassins, renowned for killing victims with her bare hands.
Cassandra entered the DC universe in the “No Man’s Land” crossover story line in 1999, where she saves Commissioner Gordon’s life and is given the Batgirl costume with the approval of both Barbara Gordon and Batman. Cassandra also represents an important racial group in that she is of mixed heritage, having both European and Asian blood. Another interesting fact about her is that she’s a martial arts expert despite spending a large portion of her life mute and illiterate. Cassandra has recently taken up a new superhero moniker as Orphan in the pages of “Detective Comics,” by James Tynion IV, Christian Duce and Fernando Blanco, where she recently came into conflict with her estranged mother.
A Chinese-American born to wealthy parents in Los Angeles, Jubilation Lee led a privileged life before her mutant powers manifested, spending her days shopping and dabbling in petty crime. Unlike many other mutant parents, Jubilee’s mother and father accepted her abilities with relative ease. Unfortunately they were murdered by mobsters and Jubilee was forced to live in a shopping mall, earning spare change by demonstrating her pyrotechnic powers. First appearing in “Uncanny X-Men” #244, Jubilee has had a long and heroic career with the X-Men and as a solo superhero.
She lost her powers during the events of “M-Day,” but quickly gained new ones when cursed (or blessed) with vampirism. Surrogate father-figure Wolverine and reformed Vampire group, the Forgiven, helped her learn to control her new urges and abilities, which now include super strength, speed and the power to turn into a vaporous form. During this time, she befriended X-23, Wolverine’s clone, teaching her to become a normal woman, while at the same time caring for a young child, herself.
Another mixed heritage hero, Shang-Chi, was born in Hunan province in China to wealthy Chinese crime lord, Fu Manchu and an unknown American woman whom his father selected for her genetic makeup. Groomed to serve his father as an assassin, Shang-Chi was trained by martial arts masters from all over the world, and grew up barely knowing his father. On his first mission, Shang-Chi was assigned to kill a wealthy Englishman, which he did, believing the man to be evil.
Fortunately he soon encountered British secret agent Sir Dennis Nayland-Smith, who informed him of the truth and set him on a righteous path. Shang-Chi joined MI6, took out his father and defeated his half-brother, Moving Shadow, in combat. His career highlights include working alongside Marvel greats such as Spider-Man, Iron Fist and the Thing. If you’re interested in checking out more of his story, you can find his first appearance in “Special Marvel Edition” #15.
10. COLLEEN WING
Although her recent appearance in Netflix’s “Iron Fist” has greatly added to her popularity, Colleen Wing has been kicking ass for decades, first appearing in “Marvel Premiere” #19 in 1974. In the comics, Colleen is a Japanese-American samurai, and thanks to her mind-meld with Iron Fist, boasts impressive abilities that give her superhuman advantages, including enhanced strength, accelerated healing and a high resistance to injury. After arriving in New York city, she encountered Misty Knight and the two partnered together to form a private investigation agency and fight crime as a duo calling themselves the Daughters of the Dragon.
Misty and Colleen have also frequently partnered with Luke Cage and Iron Fist and their own superhero team, Heroes for Hire; and it was Iron Fist who helped Colleen avenge the death of her grandfather, the one who schooled her in the ways of the samurai. During the events of “Shadowland,” Daredevil assumes leadership of the Hand, and begins to commit violent acts against criminals. Colleen is among those who attempt to confront him and restore his sanity.
A mostly silent and mysterious character in last year’s “Suicide Squad”, Tatsu Yamashiro was also born in Japan, and grew up an orphan (superhero parents rarely have long lives). Her origin story, detailed in “Batman and the Outsiders” #11-12 and “Katana” #7, reveals a tragic tale of loss. As a young woman, Tatsu dedicated herself to the study of martial arts and completely embodying the Samurai lifestyle. During her training, she grew fond of two brothers, Takeo and Maseo, eventually marrying the latter. Takeo, however, didn’t take her choice well, joining the Yakuza in response.
He would later return to take vengeance on his brother, killing him with the Soultaker, a mystical Katana that trapped the spirits of those it killed within its blade, and setting fire to the family home, which resulted in the death of Tatsu and Maseo’s young children. Tatsu disarmed him in combat, inheriting the Soultaker for herself and soon discovered that she could communicate with the souls of those the sword had taken, including Maseo. These events led Tatsu to become Katana, an agent of vengeance and sworn enemy of evil doers. She is also a core member of the Outsiders.
On her 15th birthday, Helen “Hallie” Takahama survived Onslaught’s attack on New York — an attack that also killed her parents — only to be abducted by former Red Skull scientist, Arnim Zola. Subjected to countless cruel experiments, in which she was the only survivor, Helen gained incredible powers, including super-speed, enhanced healing, and bio-electric discharges.
A phenomenally powerful hero, Jolt has recently gained even more power after she passed through the pearly gates and was resurrected as a being of pure energy, a form which she resumes most of the time as her physical form is now paralyzed. Jolt made her comic book debut in “Thunderbolts” #1 when she joins the titular team, unaware of their criminal intentions. Over the course of time, she’s able to convince some of the team to reform their ways. Thanks to the Avenger, Hawkeye, she and the team are given a second chance to be heroes.
7. DR. LIGHT
An astronomer and divorced mother of two, Kimiyo Hoshi is a kind and intelligent woman that was granted her powers by the Monitor during the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” where she also makes her first appearance in issue #4. But don’t be confused by her superhero name, she’s the very opposite of Arthur Light, the infamous villain, and has even faced the evil Dr. Light in combat, a battle which temporarily removed her powers. Kimiyo is an interesting character in that she’s only a part-time superhero, dividing her time between the Justice League and her children.
Kimiyo possesses the ability to manipulate starlight and played a key role in the conflict with the Anti-Monitor, accompanying several heroes to the anti-matter universe and carrying an unconscious Superman to safety after Supergirl sacrifices herself. Kimiyo is then summoned to the final battle with the Anti-Monitor where she absorbs the light from a star that the Anti-Monitor was using to power his machines, and blasts a gaping hole in his chest.
The first Indian superhero on the list, Rina is a mutant with the power to manipulate time and send her mind forward or backward in time to any moment that she has or will experience. Rina was the last addition to the New Warriors team, first appearing in “New Warriors” #59, yet despite her rising popularity, the original series was still cancelled. The New Warriors was a superhero team formed by the wealthy superhero Night Thrasher, who invited a few of his friends to fight the villain Terrax.
The team went on to do great things together and everything seemed to be going well until their fateful battle with the villain Nitro. During the battle, an explosion triggered by Nitro wiped out most of the team and killed hundreds of innocent bystanders, resulting in the formation of the Super-Human Registration Act, which sparked the Civil War saga. Rina found herself cast out and hated as a result of her association with the New Warriors and has since been on the run. However, she was recently seen celebrating the holidays in San Francisco with the X-Men.
Peter Parker wasn’t the only person to inherit powers from the radioactive spider that bit him. Shortly before dying, the spider bit another unsuspecting teenager, Korean-American Cindy Moon! Unlike Peter, Cindy was unable to control her powers, but thanks to the intervention of a mysterious stranger known as Ezekiel, she was able to hone her abilities, and would spend the next six years training in secret, before being locked up by Ezekiel to protect her from cultist spider serial killer, Morlun.
Cindy makes her first full appearance in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #4, when Peter Parker receives a vision detailing what happened to her. And boy, does she turn his world upside down! One of the biggest problems the two Spider heroes face is that whenever they come into close contact, they feel compelled to… get physical, shall we say (and we don’t mean fight). Although weaker than Spiderman in strength, her clear advantage over him is her speed, and that she can spin organic webs from her fingertips, webbing that’s even strong enough to catch a falling helicopter.
Less of a superhero, more of a super slave, Kevin Kho still has the potential to become an uber-powerful force for good. Originally a Cambodian-American scientist working at Cadmus, Kevin was infected by a virus initiated by Brother Eye that turned him into O.M.A.C., as in the One-Machine Attack Construct. Brother Eye created him using New Genesis science as a weapon he could control against Cadmus, and while in his OMAC form Kevin is extremely powerful, receiving strength that rivals Superman alongside a whole host of other abilities.
His powers include shape-shifting and the manipulation of electromagnetic devices. While under Brother Eye’s control, Kevin defeated the Justice League International and killed Kamo, the father of King Shark, before being knocked into a portal that led to another dimension. Kevin managed to gain control of his body right before this happened but was unable to tell anyone in time. See you in another universe, Kevin!
The fourth hero to don the mantle of the Atom, Kevin Choi appears in “Brave New World” #1 and has a short career as a hero before being fatally stabbed by Deathstroke, which is a real shame because as a Cantonese man and science prodigy, he was a fascinating character. There was significant controversy surrounding his death, with many fans accusing DC Comics of having racist motivations, prompting character creator Gail Simone to hop on various forums to express her own disappointment at the characters death, to pacify fans with the reassurance that there weren’t any racist motivations involved.
Coincidentally (or maybe not so much), Ryan was later discovered by Ray Palmer to be alive, having faked his death by shrinking himself. However, before this happened, both Giganta and Palmer both went after Dwarfstar, the serial killer who hired Deathstroke, to exact their revenge. Giganta took pleasure in disarming Dwarfstar and then slowly torturing him.
2. OMEGA SENTINEL
A complicated character, drawn to protect both the human and mutant population, Karima Shapandar was a successful detective in the Indian National Police. When the Police Chief’s eldest son disappeared, Karima set out to find him, but in doing so uncovered a horrific conspiracy that was talking place in Calcutta. Before she could expose the conspiracy, she discovered that she herself was a Prime Sentinel, one of the many humans turned into Sentinels against their will and placed as sleeper agents that would be activated when a nearby mutant used their powers.
Thankfully, S.H.I.E.L.D. found her and shut down her down before her programming kicked in, and through a series of events, she encountered Magneto and Charles Xavier, who removed her Sentinel programming. Karima is yet to find her happy ending, as various villains have sought to abuse her technological capabilities for their own nefarious means. You can read about her origins in “X-Men Unlimited” #27.
1. MS. MARVEL
Embiggening onto the scene in “Captain Marvel” #14, is Kamala Khan, the immensely popular Pakistani-American Muslim Inhuman. Blasted by the Terrigen Mists that were released upon the world during the events of “Infinity,” Kamala gained shape-shifting powers, which she discovered after emerging from a trance looking exactly like Carol Danvers, her idol. Kamala used her newfound abilities to create a superhero outfit for herself, becoming the new Ms. Marvel, which takes place in “All-New Marvel Now! Point One” #1.
Interestingly, her abilities go far beyond shape-shifting, in that she can change the size of any of her body parts at will, often choosing to enlarge her fists and feet to do more damage to foes. Her career highlights include partnering with Spider-Man to take down Dr. Minerva, an evil Kree scientist who previous battled with Captain America and the Silver Surfer. Kamala has a bright future, and is sure to continue to be a fan favorite for years to come!
Got another Asian superhero who you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!