In fact, most of the creators of the "Golden Age" of comics were immigrants or the children of immigrants, making it no coincidence that themes related to immigration, both metaphoric and literal, are woven throughout superhero comics. Some of the events and phenomena referenced in the panels of this story include: The fall of Saigon; the crash of the Golden Venture, a boat carrying hundreds of undocumented Chinese immigrants; Asian children transracially adopted by non-Asian parents; the Sikh custom of wearing turbans; the headscarves of Muslim women; and the feeling many Asian American immigrants have of a "lack of voice."

Discussion Questions

  1. 1.What are some of the ways that the "Superman" origin story is an immigrant story? Why might his story have particularly strong parallels with the stories of Asian American immigrants? 

  2. 2.What are some of the things that might make an immigrant feel like an alien or outsider in the U.S.? What are some of the things that might make an immigrant feel special in a positive sense?


Top to Bottom:  1. "Supernam,"  home of the  "World's Finest"  pho (Vietnamese  noodles) 2.  Former refugee,  recalling  destruction of  Saigon 3. Former  passenger on the  Golden Venture,  which sank and  killed dozens of  undocumented  Chinese 4.  Transracial  adoptee 5. Sikh  man 6. Pakistani  American woman  7. Angry Asian  man 8. The full  cast 

Section Two of Secret Identities looks at the phenomenon that is arguably the defining theme of the Asian American experience: The intersection of cultures, heritages and traditions. Asian Americans are a community whose identity has been shaped by the triple forces of immigration, globalization and interethnic and interracial mingling—creating a population that is defined as much by diversity as it is by common ground.

When Worlds Collide opener, pg. 79

Story by: Keith Chow; Art by: Chi-Yun Lau

This one-pager is one of a half-dozen "interstitials" created to introduce the different sections of the book, but in many  ways, its message serves as the subtext for the book as a whole—highlighting the parallels between the Asian American experience (or rather, Asian American  experiences) and the mythic conventions of the comic book superhero, as epitomized by the ultimate origin story—that of Kal-El, Last Son of Krypton, better known as Superman. The interstitial retells Superman's origin in dialogue spoken by a varied group of Asian American immigrants, who collectively illustrate how, like Superman, they, too, came from a faraway place, to a new world, burdened by the expectations of their parents that they might become something special; they, too are strangers in a strange land, bearing fundamental differences that sometimes isolate them—sometimes empower them—and sometimes, make them wish they were the same as everyone else. The parallels are uncanny, and yet, unsurprising: Superman was created in 1938 by a pair of men, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who were born to immigrant families that had settled in Cleveland, Ohio and Toronto, Ontario respectively.

Section Two: When Worlds Collide

  1. 3.If Superman were a real undocumented alien, what are some of the political, social, economic and  cultural challenges he might encounter?

  2. 4.If Superman were a real transracial adoptee, what are some of the societal, personal and cultural  challenges he might encounter?