Go Behind the Scenes of 'Marvel's Voices: Identity' #1
Look inside the special one-shot with the creators who brought it to life!
Available now, MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY is the latest in a series of anthologies shining the spotlight on various communities, and in this case the focus falls on the tremendous Asian characters and creators within the House of Ideas. Editor Darren Shan assembled the project, which includes eight stories composed by over a dozen talented writers and artists Asian descent.
We spoke with the creators behind MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY to gain more insight into the tales they told and their affinity for the characters they worked with. If you’ve already read IDENTITY, enjoy this look behind the curtain—and if you’ve yet to read this comic, get to work and then get back to us!
The regular writer on the ongoing SHANG-CHI series, Gene Luen Yang had a particular tale to tell with EXCALIBUR artist Marcus To as part of VOICES.
“I am so thrilled to be a part of MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY,” enthuses Yang. “We're highlighting Marvel's premiere Asian American hero, but I think our story touches on something universal. It's about looking back at our life choices, which is something we all do from time to time.”
“I was super happy to be asked to be a part of the VOICES lineup,” adds To. “As Gene mentioned, our story revolves around looking back at your life choices and how best to be at peace with who you are because of them. But I also saw it as the responsibility of coming to grips with and trying to end your own generational trauma.”
Editor Shan lured writer Christina Strain to VOICES with the promise of a short story that she could use to explore Jubilee—a favorite character of both—and one they had previously worked together on as part of the most recent GENERATION X series.
“Jubilee was an amazing character to me not just because she was Asian American, but because she was like nothing I had ever seen before,” shares Strain. “She was a mallrat like a normal kid, she was spunky and without fear, she got into trouble, but she was also useful, she was fun, she was effervescent—there was so much about her that was dynamic. And, again, she was Asian, and growing up she was the one character in comics like that for me, so I’ve had an affinity for her since I was a teenager.”
After reconnecting with Jubilee as a fellow new mom during GENERATION X, Strain found new common ground with this particular muse in the wake of real world events affecting Asian Americans leading her to become introspective.
“I was reading some Jubilee comics after agreeing to do the story for VOICES and came across this GENERATION X annual or something that Christos Gage wrote which had a story about Jubilee visiting her parents’ graves,” she says. “I had a moment where I realized Jubilee was raised by Asian immigrant parents and I don’t think we’ve ever seen her through that lens. I’m in this place where I’m thinking very much about my heritage and my culture, and I wondered if Jubilee is going through the same thing. As somebody who lost her parents as a teenager, what is her version of introspection on the culture that she got? When her parents died, a lot of that went away, so how is she going about observing that as an adult with a kid herself now?”
Strain describes her pairing with artist Jason Loo on the story as “lovely,” noting “he connected with the material, which was important as it was really emotional for me.”
“The Marvel gods must have answered my prayers on Instagram from several years ago,” Loo proclaims. “I've been a fan of Jubilee since the '90s X-Men series and even through GENERATION X, so it's wild I finally get to draw her legit for Marvel. Darren reached out and connected me with Christina who's worked on GENERATION X. The three of us being Jubilee stans was already a promising start to this project.”
Amadeus Cho and Cindy Moon, AKA Brawn and Silk, number among the more recent additions to Marvel’s pantheon of young heroes, noteworthy not just for their heritage, but the way fans have taken to the characters. Writer Maurene Goo, working with artist Lynne Yoshii, chose to team these titans in a New York City-set adventure.
“In our short, Amadeus convinces Cindy to visit the Statue of Liberty and, on the way there, they notice the ferry passengers acting violently,” recounts Goo. “This leads to a confrontation with a surprise villain—and the two have to work together as Silk and Brawn to defeat them. It’s about anger and being Asian American and New York pizza kind of but not really.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to write Silk from a perspective related to her identity—Korean American—and then include another favorite of mine from the Marvel Universe, Amadeus Cho. I love their banter-y relationship and wanted to give them an opportunity to talk specifically about their own experiences. It was really fun to write, I hope everyone enjoys it!”
For artist Creees Lee, the opportunity to be a part of MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY fulfilled a number of aspirations for him in terms of goals in the comics industry.
“[This was] my first work for Marvel, so it was surreal and a dream come true,” he reflects. “Being able to represent the Asian community at a company as big as Marvel was a really big honor. I’ve also had a goal of working with Greg Pak on something for years; when I found out he was the writer on this, it was just like it was hitting all the checkmarks on my list.”
Pak, who equally praises Lee and the rest of the creative and editorial team, had designs on one of Marvel’s most layered characters.
“Jimmy Woo first appeared in comics in 1956, making him one of the very first Marvel heroes,” notes the writer. And he was always remarkable in that he escaped the racial stereotyping of so many characters of that era. So I'm thrilled to be working on a story set in 1959 that captures some of the gonzo sci-fi weirdness of Jimmy's early appearances as well as showing the rawer, younger, more rebellious side of my favorite Marvel super-spy.”
“Even in a serious situation, Jimmy Woo tries to put a smile on his face and see the funny side,” observes Lee. “I think Greg was able to write him as both serious but happy on the inside.”
Kamala Khan represents another side of AAPI experience, and her presence in a project like IDENTITY could not be overlooked. Writer Sabir Pirzada came to Shan’s attention the graphic novel Violets, as well as work with Marvel Studios, and relished the idea of highlighting Ms. Marvel.
“As [Shan] explained more about the theme of the book, I pitched him a few ideas for Ms. Marvel, one of which is inspired by my experiences visiting Pakistan and trying to navigate a place where my knowledge of the local language is limited, and my understanding of local Pakistani culture was constantly being challenged coming from my American lens,” Pirzada explains. “That led to a question we both wanted to explore of what it means to call a place ‘home’ and how that feeling of belonging is often complicated for those of us who have grown up as minorities in the U.S. and only get rare opportunities to visit the countries our parents grew up in.
“It's been an absolute pleasure to see these themes and ideas interpreted by [artist] Mashal [Ahemd’s] own voice."
Alyssa Wong’s first writing work for Marvel teamed her with Greg Pak to explore newly-introduced heroes Aero and Wave. The latter of those characters will be the focus of Wong’s contribution to VOICES, which also features Bishop of the X-Men, as drawn by one of his legendary creators, Whilce Portacio.
“Wave's trying to play it cool; Bishop is one of her heroes and she's excited to fight side-by-side,” notes Wong. “Little does she know, she's not the only one trying not to geek out.
“I have a soft spot for [Wave]; she caught my attention when she was first announced, back when I was still working in video games, and I was just so, so happy to have a Filipina Super Hero. She's headstrong, fun, and ready to throw down, so writing her is always a good time.”
For his part, Portacio knew his collaborator from her aforementioned time at Blizzard where he taught a workshop that left an impression on both.
“I’m a willing hired gun,” touts the one-time UNCANNY X-MEN artist. “They asked me if I would like to work with Alyssa and of course I instantly said yes. Bishop was the cherry on top. I would draw literally anything Alyssa wrote.”
“I'm so thrilled to get to work with Whilce,” reflects the writer enthusiastically. “I love his art and the way he approaches visual storytelling. And writing a story with Bishop and Wave, a pair of characters who are special to each of us, was very cool.”
NEW WARRIORS alumni Silhouette steps out of the shadows for MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY for a story written by Jeremy Holt with art by Alti Firmansyah. Once again recruited by Shan, Holt had a very targeted idea for this tenured but largely unexplored character.
“My story stemmed from the question: Why doesn't Silhouette have a civilian name?” he posits. “From there, I was immediately drawn to the idea of exploring her life outside of her super hero work. Considering she's a noticeably underutilized character, it stands to reason that she isn't fighting crime that often. Combine that with the lack of a real-world identity, I decided to explore her dating life. To me, it seems that landscape would be far more arduous to navigate than taking down Super Villains because her disability and ethnicity is something that takes front seat when interacting with regular people.”
Holt’s proposal hooked Firmansyah, who eagerly agreed to bring his vision to life.
“I [knew] that the story would be different than other super hero stories that I’ve worked on and that’s what makes me super interested,” explains the artist. “What’s so special about Silhouette is how very human she is. In all her imperfections, she is us. She bleeds, she laughs, and she takes her time picking the right dress for her big date night. The story and the character have so many depths and I’m simply hooked.”
Rounding out the anthology, MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY features a short story written and drawn by Ken Niimura pairing Silver Samurai and Armor outside of the X-Men as they pursue the unique mission of making sushi rolls together.
“I chose Silver Samurai because I find it's a very interesting character, both visually and given his backstory,” says Niimura. “It feels very much of its time, an embodiment of many preconceived ideas about the East, that are slightly outdated nowadays. Armor however is a much more modern character in terms of how she represents an Asian character, so I thought I could use them both to make a tiny comical piece about tradition and modernity.”
As a veteran of manga storytelling, Niimura utilized that form’s approach to crafting comics, working on the script and storyboards at the same time and then also doing his own lettering. He appreciated the freedom to shape the story as he saw fit, from dialogue to drawing.
“Since it's first and foremost a celebration of Asian characters, [VOICES is] a fun assignment where for once it's possible to talk about certain subjects that I think would otherwise maybe not fit a regular comic book.”
Pick up MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY for yourself to celebrate the work of these incredible creators!
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