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Recycling the Other: The Role of Nostalgia in Superhero Comics’ Orientalism

Nao Tomabechi

Whiteness has been one of the core ideals in American mainstream superhero comics, but in recent years, with demands for diversity increasing, more than ever, racial minorities have leading roles in superhero comics. However, the struggle for Asians in the superhero genre is not entirely gone. The number of appearances may have increased, but stereotypes do persist. Japanese characters in superhero comics, for instance, whether they are heroes or villains, are still forced to display their Otherness, even in recent works. In this paper, by using Wolverine’s adventures set in Japan and the Japanese superhero Katana from DC Comics as examples, I argue that Asians in contemporary superhero comics are still contained within the grasps of Orientalism, and that nostalgia plays a significant role in that containment.

Keywords: Orientalism, nostalgia, racism, continuity, diversity

Nao Tomabechi has studied English literature in Japan, the United States, and Germany, and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Siegen, Germany. Their dissertation focuses on supervillains in American mainstream superhero comics.