By: Ada Tseng
Last week, Marvel announced their new superhero Silk, aka Cindy Moon, an Asian American girl who was bitten by the same radioactive spider as Spider-Man. This is part of a welcome new trend of diverse comic book heroes — with Stan Lee‘s Chinese expat superhero The Annihilator, whose film adaptation starring Mandopop star Wang Leehom is set to be released in 2015, and Marvel’s Kamala Khan, a Pakistani girl who is the first Muslim character to ever head an American comic book series.
TV has been welcoming of Asian American comic book characters, with Steve Yeun in “The Walking Dead” and Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennet in “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but too often, news about Hollywood adapting comic book movies involves Asian characters being played by Caucasian actors.
“Dragonball: Evolution‘s” Goku was played by Justin Chatwin, Jake Gyllenhaal was Persian prince Dastan in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” Ben Kingsley was The Mandarin in “Iron Man 3,” “The Last Airbender” starred mostly Caucasian actors, and the “Akira” remake has also been delayed among much fan fury over their whitewashing controversy. Just this week, news leaked that Scarlett Johansson had been offered the lead role of Motoko Kusanagi in the live-action adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell,” a manga/anime series set in futuristic Japan.
But on the upside, there have been notable Asian and Asian American performances in comic book movies over the years, even if they've been in supporting roles. Check out ten of them below!
Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, and Hiroyuki Sanada in “The Wolverine”
Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine goes to Japan in the 2013 film, which also co-stars Will Yun Lee and Brian Tee.
Fan Bingbing in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
The Chinese actress plays Blink, the Marvel mutant who can teleport, in the most recent X-Men film that was released in May of this year.
Rain in “Speed Racer”
Korean pop icon Rain stars in the Wachowski Brothers’ 2008 film based on the Japanese manga and anime series. He later re-teamed with the directors in 2009 as the star of “Ninja Assassin.”
Ellen Wong in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
The Chinese Canadian actress plays Knives Chau, Scott Pilgrim’s lovably crazy former girlfriend, in the film based on the graphic novel “Scott Pilgrim.”
Ken Watanabe in “Batman Begins”
Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale‘s first Batman collaboration in 2005 co-starred the Japanese actor as Ra’s al Ghul’s decoy.
Kelly Hu in “X2”
The Hawaiian actress plays Yuriko Oyama, aka Lady Deathstrike, in “X2: X-Men United,” also known as “X-Men 2.”
Daniel Henney in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
The Korean American actor stars as Agent Zero, Stryker’s second in command, in the 2009 Wolverine film.
Will Yun Lee in “Elektra”
The Korean American actor plays Kirigi, the leader of a team of assassins tasked to find and kill Jennifer Garner's Elektra. The film also stars Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Kirigi's father.
Chow Yun-fat and Jamie Chung in “Dragonball: Evolution”
The veteran Chinese action star and the Chinese American actress co-star in the 2009 remake of the popular Japanese manga.
Dev Patel in “The Last Airbender”
The Indian actor known for his role in “Slumdog Millionaire” plays the villain Zuko in M Night Shyamalan’s 2010 remake. In the Nickelodeon TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” Zuko is voiced by Filipino American actor Dante Basco.