The Asian American comic book anthology “Shattered” is in stores this week, and widely available for order. Added to my bucket list: a character concept of mine is included in it, illustrated by acclaimed graphic novelist G.B. Tran, author of Vietnamerica.

A bunch of us are doing special posts about Shattered. Here are some notes regarding the genesis of this project, from me and G.B., as well as an exclusive look at some sketches and early process that G.B. was gracious enough to send to me.

  • I was asked by my friend Walidah Imarisha, a fellow geek writer of color, to submit work to a radical sci fi anthology she was putting together. The opportunity lit a fire under me, to write out a concept I had stewing in my brain for quite a while: an apocalyptic tale where Asia and the Middle East are blamed for a mysterious zombie outbreak that devastates middle America, causing the East and West coasts, and Canada and Mexico, to wall off Middle America.
  • Though no one knows the real reason for the outbreak, opportunistic American politicians point fingers at Asia and the Middle East. There is a movement to place surviving Asian Americans and Arab Americans into hard labor camps in the middle of the country. The intention is twofold: to incarcerate all Asian Americans and Arab Americans without due process; and to use the inmates’ bodies to draw the zombie hordes away from the surviving populations on the coasts.
  • I had been meaning to explore these themes for some time. As a lifelong fan of sci fi, cyberpunk, and fictions involving utopia/dystopia, I often encountered work written by Western writers that envisioned China or Japan as a dominant global superpower, or the ones responsible for causing some type of apocalypse. However, race was often unexplored in those fictions, and while there was no shortage of Asian cultural appropriations, there was always a lack of actual Asian and Asian American characters.
  • If history has taught us anything, it’s this: if Asia becomes a superpower, or causes some catastrophe, the ones who will suffer the most from it especially in America, is Asian Americans. We would receive none of the benefits, and all of the blame.
  • The good news: Walidah accepted my submission. The bad: the publisher fell through. The good news: fine fellows Keith Chow and Jerry Ma contacted me and asked me to submit a character concept for their new Asian American comic book superhero anthology, Shattered. Even better: they paired me up with G.B. Tran, the artist and author of a book I deeply love and respect, Vietnamerica. Imagine you’re me: a spoken word poet raised in the hood who grew up addicted to Chris Claremont’s run of X-men, grew up wanting to see more substantial Asian American characters in comics, then I get to be included in an anthology – *and* my concept is illustrated by G.B. Tran? It’s a dream come true.

Here are some concept sketches and thoughts from the man himself: G.B.

From G.B. Tran
When pal Jerry Ma, art director of SHATTERED, asked me to contribute to their next volume, my wife and I had just welcomed into the world our first child. Consequently, my immediate answer was, “Hell no, I’ve got diapers to change!” But ever persistent, Jerry kept asking and told me more and more about the writer he wanted to pair me with and his concept.

Whether it was because of immense lack of sleep, learning more about Bao’s great work, or more that his idea was a fun twist on your typical post-apocalyptic zombie survival story, I quickly realized this was something I wanted to be part of. Besides, when else would I get a chance to draw a zombie getting its head blown off by pho-lovin’ freedom fighters?

(click on a thumbnail to view the larger image)