Yi Soon Shin Warrior and Defender
I’ve been pondering writing about this for quite a while. I didn’t want to jump the gun and write that everyone should check this comic out without having taken a look at it myself. Even though I love American comics, (and I used to work at an comic book shop in one of my teenage era part time jobs), one area that American comics SORELY lacks in the the depiction of Asia, Asians (real and fictitious). Any depiction of any Asian heroes usually made me groan. They are all basically predictable characters that can easily be interchanged with each other. The basic type for Asian male characters is an expert martial artist that has an inflated sense of honor and is often at odds with the other heroes because he can not adapt to their western ways (even if the character is Asian-American!). The basic types of female characters are more varied, but not in necessarily good ways. Usually they were three types. These were, martial artists with a sense of honor similar to the men, the mystic oriental lady of mysterious ways, or the “hip cool raver chic” type that was doing her best to fit in with
white mainstream American society by complaining about how backward her parents/culture/country/race is.. Basically, nothing other than fetishes for comic book nerds in the 14-25 age group.
Possibly the most ridiculous (and most famous of all) Asian characters in the Marvel Universe is Psylocke, who was originally a white British character, but to improve her marketability in the 1990s, they contrived a way into making her a Japanese ninja assassin by having her disappear mysteriously in China……..
Yes, I’m serious. I’m not too sure of the process, but basically she switched minds with an actual Japanese ninja assassin, killing off the original body and continuing her new life from there. Later, I recall rolling my eyes when Iceman (a popular X-men character) exclaimed he thought something was fishy when he saw an Asian woman with a British accent (even though Britain has a well documented presence in Asia and many Asians have emigrated to Britain… but whatever, Iceman thinks its strange.)
The only notable Korea related comic book fact in the Marvel universe (and possibly the industry in general, up until now) that I can think of is that the X-men villain Juggernaut actually has his origin in Korea, as he discovered the ruby which changed him into Juggernaut while fighting the Korean War. Beyond that even under the ridiculous ways that comics portray Asia and Asians, Korea might as well be invisible.
I only know this because I actually worked in a comic book shop, but there was once a small American comic book company called Crusade Comics that had a popular Japanese mystique fantasy fetish character called SHI. One of her friend/enemies (I don’t actually know because I never read it) was Jung, the horseman who was a Korean character bent on revenge for the death of his family at the hands of the Japanese in the late 1500’s. The character somehow got his own series that ended after 4 issues. One look at the cover and you should know how I felt about it. (Hint:, imagine a crowded elevator. A very plump man walks in, the doors close, and he lets out a giant fart. That’s how looking at this cover makes me feel.) So, I hope you can understand that it is with great apprehension that I recommend an American comic about a historical event in Korea, and the hero of the comic is quite possibly the most famous Korean who ever lived.
So you’re actually going to reccomend one?
Yes. I am recommending Yi Soon Shin, Warrior and Defender, by Onrie Kompan. I admit that I’ve never actually read this comic book, but I’ve seen previews of it and read an interview or two that show me that Onrie Kompan’s heart is in the right place for this comic book to be worthwhile. I don’t think he’s going to beat us over the head with any fetishizingly twisted sense of Japanese bushido or Asian mysticism that seems to have plagued American comics.
The only real concern I have is that what got him into Yi Soon Shin was a KBS drama about the man. Obviously KBS is a Korean broadcasting company and it would be in their best interest to tell the story of Korea’s most famous national hero by exaggerating his accomplishments to the point that he’s not too far off from Superman. I don’t know how fair and unbiased Onrie can be if he used this drama introduced him to Yi Soon Shin. I’ll of course give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s done more research about the man and what he did.
When the series is finished, it would be interesting if any Americans who wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to know this hero at all at least know a little bit more about Korea (for example, that it exists).
Who was Yi Soon Shin?
That question could take a very very very long time to answer, so I will give you the short short version.
In the 1590’s Japanese Warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea with a huge force of over 100,000 soldiers. Korea’s military on the ground couldn’t deal with that, but the Korean Coast Guard and Navy under Admiral Yi Sun Shin was able to soundly defeat the Japanese Navy even when he was heavily outnumbered (for example, in 1597, his 13 ships defeated a Japanese force of 333 ships.
The turtle ship (also a very iconic symbol of Korea) was used in these campaigns.
I could go on and on talking about how great Yi Sun Shin is, but this article is about the American comic about the admiral, not the admiral himself.
Please check out the comic and buy it if you like it. Comics in print are a dying form of entertainment.