William F. Wu Comics Collection (MSS 244)

Kamikaze comic by William F WuWilliam F. Wu (b. 1951- ) is a Chinese American science fiction writer who has published thirteen novels and more than fifty short stories. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Wu attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, and later returned to earn his PhD in American Culture. During this time, he became active in East Wind, an Asian American student group. His doctoral dissertation, titled “The Yellow Peril” (1981), documents evolving depictions of Chinese and Chinese Americans in American fiction.

The collection consists of comic books Wu collected over the course of several years that feature Asian characters. Many stereotypical depictions of Asians and Asian Americans—such as martial arts experts and the derogatory “Chinamen”—are depicted, as are characters with exaggeratedly “Asian” features. Many of the comics also contain advertisements for martial arts books and courses. Although most of the books were published by well-known comic book companies such as DC Comics, Marvel, Atlas, and Charlton, comics from smaller companies such as Wings Publishing Company, Real Adventures Publishing Company, and Rotten Comics are also included. Titles include Superman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Batman, Jonah Hex, The Justice League of America, Yang, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Weird War Tales, Starfire, Captain Marvel, and Green Hornet. Published between 1942 and 1986, these comic books constitute a rich source of representations of Asians in American popular culture.

To learn more about the contents of the William F. Wu Comics Collection, located at the NYU Fales Library & Special Collection, view the collection’s finding aid.