Marvel creates Chinese superheroes to draw Asian fans

Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski speaks at a forum in Manila on Jan 10, 2018.
Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski speaks at a forum in Manila on Jan 10, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA • Chinese superheroes will soon be joining the Marvel universe, as the comic book giant makes a major thrust into Asia.

As part of a push to grow its Asian fanbase, the Disney-owned franchise has released mobile games in China, opened Marvel Stores in South Korea and is searching for artistic talent in the Philippines, Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski said.

"We have been making great strides. We try to hire more Asian creators, writers and artists to bring a piece of their culture to Marvel comics," he said.

The company plans to introduce two new Chinese superheroes, Sword Master and Aero, who will be based in China, he added.

"They are going to be heavily based on Chinese culture and mythology, but set in the modern world and they will interact with the other heroes" in the Marvel universe, he said.

These new characters will be drawn in the manga style that is more popular in Asia, he added.

Mr Cebulski, who has lived in Asia for the past two years, serving as Marvel's vice-president for the region, conceded Marvel had not given Asian characters prominent positions in the past compared with mainstays such as Captain America or the Hulk. But this is changing, he said. "We want to have stories that are reflective of every culture."

There are huge fan expectations for Marvel's latest flagship movie - Black Panther - which will be released worldwide next month.

The film stars Chadwick Boseman as Marvel's breakthrough black superhero T'Challa, a king of a fictional African nation who first appeared in the company's comic books in the late 1960s.

Luke Cage, another popular black Marvel superhero, has also had a recent revival through a popular television series on Netflix.

But Asian superheroes are still comparatively rare in the Marvel universe despite the franchise's growing popularity here.

In the Philippines, a former American colony, Marvel is already deeply ingrained in the nation's popular culture, said Mr Cebulski.

Filipino illustrators, in turn, have also provided art for Marvel comics since the 1970s. They are now the third largest nationality of artists employed by Marvel, just behind Americans and Italians, Mr Cebulski said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2018, with the headline 'Marvel creates Chinese superheroes to draw Asian fans'. Subscribe