Monday, April 13, 2009

"What is SECRET IDENTITIES?" Documentary/SI Editor's Letter

Dear Friends,


During the first leg of our college book tour last week for "Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology", the editors and I made a very disturbing discovery when we made impromptu stops at major bookstores in between appearances:


Bookstores were NOT carrying "Secret Identities" nor had any plans to do so.


We were told customers could place orders at the stores but as far as physical self space?  Nada.  The situation was the same in the stores around us in Baltimore, D.C., Southern California, and New York.


The reason?  Well, we’ve been given several of them: “Stores are confused whether the book fits under Asian American Studies or Graphic Novels”, “It’s an accounting error”, “You’ve got too small of a print run”, and of course the popular “E” word these days… “The Economy”.


So I’m finding myself having to appeal to the Asian American Community once again in an open letter as I did 6 years ago for “Better Luck Tomorrow” – asking that readers request the book at their local bookstores and/or order copies online through:,,


Looking back at that letter, I chuckle at the dramatic statements I wrote like: “changing society” and “this is your vote” -- but in hindsight, the film did set off a chain of events in motion… changing our society just a tiny bit for the better and it was all due to the AA Community.

Back then “BLT”, directed by Justin Lin, was initially screening on 13 screens and we needed to make $10,000/screen in order to be put into wider release.  The community came out in roves and the film made $27,750/screen that first weekend and “BLT” was the #1 film per/screen, besting “Anger Management”. 


This resulted in an immediate green light for “Harold & Kumar Goes to White Castle” starring John Cho and Kal Penn. 

Fast forward 6 years, and John can next be seen on May 9th as “Sulu” in Paramount’s “Star Trek” and Kal in the White House as the Office of Public Liaison’s new Associate Director!


Justin’s outing last week as the director of “Fast & Furious” (along with “BLT” alums Roger fan & Sung Kang) broke the record for the biggest April opening ever – set 6 years ago ironically by “Anger Management”. 


And on the acting front, over the years I’ve personally seen an outstanding bumper crop of young, talented AA actors who have gotten into the business as a direct result of “BLT” – all of whom have been giving me a run for my money at auditions – not so hot for my bank account but regardless, awesome for Asian Americans in the media.


So the request is out once again. 

Author, Maxine Hong Kingston once wrote: ‘If you see a person [in the movies] 40 feet tall on screen that is a 3 Dimensional character, you can’t help but fall in love with him/her – and once that’s accompanied with an Asian face, it changes perceptions.’  


And superheroes can be 100 feet tall, soar the skies

and run faster than a speeding bullet. They are America’s

pop culture myths and icons.


If you flip 3 pages into our book, you’ll come across the Acknowledgments page and the list of SI Babies who were born during this 2-year labor (no pun intended) of love – making it abundantly clear as to why we made this book.

So that the next generation wouldn’t have to grow up without seeing heroes that look like them and yes, perhaps maybe even changing the world just a little bit.


But at the end of the day, it’s a great book filled with tales from over 60 of the finest Asian American artists and writers:

"SECRET IDENTITIES is ambitious because of the inherent contradiction it confronts in its stated goals: to challenge racial bias and stereotype without pigeon-holing the single largest and diverse race on Earth; to show the Asian diaspora in all its girth and all its local unity. Its ambition is to be incredulous ("How dare you say that about us?") without sounding indignant ("How dare you ignore us?"). And most importantly, enough's enough for these guys." --  PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

"Uniformly energetic, the art ranges from mainstream-comics bravura to manga-influenced sassiness to alt-comics mannerism... The satire... amuses and sometimes strikes deeper to the heart." -- BOOKLIST

The 10-minute documentary above fully answers the question: “What is SECRET IDENTITIES? – so if it sounds like something you or someone you know might enjoy, please pass the link along and visit an online distributor to get your copies (,, so that we might have the numbers to continue towards a Volume 2… which is most definitely being talked about amongst us.  Teachers and Professors may contact Rachel Guidera ( for classroom bulk sales.


On behalf of my co-editors/brothers in arms: Jeff Yang, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma, we leave our work on the table and fate to the powers that be.  There's a certain point when you've done all that you can and we're extremely proud of what we've put together.  Thank you for your support and enjoy the book!





Parry Shen

Managing Editor


1 comment:

Parka said...

All the artists included should blog about the book. It's a great way to do some online marketing, gain more exposure.

One of the books that does it wonderfully is An Illustrated Life.

I'll be getting Secret Identities just to see what's going on. Will be writing a review for it too.

Strange, Amazon's showing extended delivery time for this book at 1-2 weeks. Not good.