Asian Weekly looks at four Asian American cartoonists and their attempts
to eradicate minority stereotypes — one
punch line at a time.
Conceptualized in 2003 while Ethan Lee was at the University of California Berkeley receiving his bachelor’s in Asian American studies, he started “Single Asian Female” with the intention of balancing the negative stereotypes revolving around Asian American females.
He related in an e-mail exchange how topics discussed in his classes revolved around “depression and suicide, cervical cancer … breast cancer … sexual assault,” and Lee saw the opportunity of using the comic strip to add awareness — especially to those without prior knowledge — of those particular issues.
The comic strip, Lee believes, is an ideal format to convey his message.
“It’s (the comic strip) relatively quick to produce, it’s accessible on the web, it can be translated to different languages and many Asian American themes or topics can be encompassed in one to three drawings,” he explained.
On his Web site, Lee links the viewer to well-known Asian American comedians, in part because he wants to make sure people understand that “Single Asian Female” itself is meant to be educational.
The comic strip’s central character is a 21-year-old, single, Asian American female named Jennie. Lee provides the dialogue and ideas while he directs two or three artists on how to draw the characters, in addition to background arrangement.
Dialogue and general story ideas are often taken, as stated on his Web site, verbatim.
Lee added, “I get my stories directly from Asian American women and men who tell me the stories of their lives.”
For story ideas that require a lot of research, Lee will send rough draft dialogue as well as strips to an advisory panel of 10 Asian American men and women.
At the moment, Lee is working on a strip revolving around Hepatitis B, to be developed in English, Vietnamese and Chinese.
Liu works as a manager in a software company during the day. He doesn’t foresee turning “Single Asian Female” into a full-time job, as a full-time position would take the fun out of it, he said.