R.I.P. Francis Tsai

Last night, the SIUniverse family was rocked when we learned we had lost one of our own. Francis Tsai, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, passed away after a long battle with the disease — just one week after celebrating his 46th birthday. In 2009, Francis became part of the SIUniverse by illustrating the story “Taking Back Troy” in the first Secret Identities volume. Though ALS slowly took away his ability to draw with his hands, he never let the disease stop him from creating art. First, he trained himself to draw using his feet, and when that was taken from him, he pioneered special technology using his eyes to create art.

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R.I.P. Robin Williams

Like most of the world, we were shocked to hear of the passing of Robin Williams last night. It’s hard to crystallize all of the emotions that come when a beloved personality passes away. Shock gives way to grief and then finally reflection. There are countless tributes and eulogies celebrating Williams’ life and career all over the internet. Here, we’re going to remember the roles and memories that have touched our lives and will continue to bring joy and laughter to generations to come.

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R.I.P. Yuri Kochiyama: For All The Free by Jef Castro

Last night, news broke across social media that legendary human rights activist Yuri Kochiyama had passed away. Official news sources were slow to confirm, but sadly, it was true. The world had lost another titan of history — less than a week from the day Maya Angelou was taken from us, no less. The universe can be cruel sometimes.

As part of the digital comic I edited in conjunction with the Smithsonian‘s touring “I Want the Wide American Earth” Asian American history exhibit last September, I commissioned my fellow SIUniverse alum Jef Castro to create bookend pieces for the book that were inspired by the Carlos Bulosan poem from which the exhibit drew its name.

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Remembering Dwayne McDuffie, Part 2

Three years ago today, we lost the beloved Dwayne McDuffie. In person, Dwayne towered well over six feet tall, which lent itself to a larger-than-life image that was really the opposite of how he carried himself. You could always spot Dwayne in a crowd, but you couldn’t necessarily hear him over the crowd. With his intimidating size, Dwayne knew how to not be intimidating in his demeanor. His work spoke much louder than he did. That’s part of the reason so many people miss him, and part of the reason people like me, who were only casually acquainted with him feel the loss so greatly.

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Today is Dwayne McDuffie’s Birthday

[Ed. note: David originally wrote this for BadAzz Mofo on Monday, and we’re running it today in honor of what would have been Dwayne’s 52nd birthday. Tomorrow is also the third anniversary of his passing. My own memory of meeting Dwayne is here. The image above is by graphic designer Ed Williams. —KC]

dwaynemcduffieThings were different when I was a kid growing up. For the most part, you didn’t know what comic book creators looked like. Sure, everyone knew what Stan Lee looked like, but that was about it. The few comic creators I had contact with back in my youth were all white, and for some reason, it just sort of stuck in my head that all comic creators had to be white. This was, of course, reinforced by the vast majority of comics that were being published, which only had a relatively small number of black characters.

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R.I.P. Morrie Turner

On Saturday, the world lost another legend when cartoonist Morrie Turner passed away at the age of 90 after suffering complications from kidney disease.

Turner is best known for creating the comic strip Wee Pals, the first comic strip of its kind — not only because it featured a cast of racially diverse characters but it was also the first strip by an African American cartoonist to be syndicated nationally.

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NOC Poetry: R.I.P. Amiri Baraka

The world lost a titan of the Black Arts Movement when the poet Amiri Baraka passed away today in Newark, New Jersey after several weeks of hospitalization. Baraka was 79 years old.

On twitter, honorary NOC Saladin Ahmed wondered if Baraka was the first poet to reference superheroes in his work.

The poem Ahmed was referring to, “In Memory of Radio,” comes from Baraka’s first collection of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, which has been reprinted below. In it, Baraka — then still known as Leroi Jones — uses The Shadow to bookend the poem:

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Run Run Shaw and the Impact of Kung Fu Movies on Black America

Originally posted at BadaAzz Mofo

Earlier this week, Run Run Shaw, co-founder of the legendary Shaw Brothers Studios, died at the age of 106. Shaw Brothers was responsible for some of the greatest kung fu movies of all time, and introduced the genre to American audiences in the 1970s with their film Five Fingers of Death. In my new book, Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification, Racism, and Popular Culture, I discuss the impact of Shaw Brothers, Bruce Lee, and kung fu movies in the essay “To Be Chinese, Or Not To Be.”

Here is an excerpt:

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Remembering James Avery

If you’re a fan of ‘90s pop culture, and you appreciate hip hop music and quality comedy television, then you were probably a fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The show, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was an entertaining display of humor, culture clashes, and broken stereotypes that almost always ended with a message about the importance of family. Although Will Smith was undoubtedly the star of the show, and Carlton had the best moves (see The Carlton Dance), one of the most memorable characters was Uncle Phil, played by James Avery with a deep love and seriousness that all fathers should possess. More than that, Avery’s Uncle Phil also had a sense of humor that made him the ultimate cool uncle.

Sadly, Avery passed away on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 from open-heart surgery complications. He was only 68.

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Remembering Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie is one of the most important figures in the history of the comic book industry. Perhaps that’s hyperbole, but I don’t think so. I know that his work has left an indelible mark on me, and the world is a lesser place without him in it.

I didn’t know Dwayne McDuffie personally. I only met him once. Briefly. It was in San Diego in 2009. The fellas (Jerry Ma, Jeff Yang, Parry Shen) and I were at Comic-Con to promote Secret Identities. Dwayne was on a panel moderated by Jeff, and the five of us were able to chat for a bit afterwards.

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Nintendo Nostalgia: The Passing of Hiroshi Yamauchi

If names like Donkey Kong, Mario, Power Pad, or Gameboy mean anything to you, then you may shed a tear for this news: Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Japanese businessman who took the Nintendo franchise from a trading card company to video game royalty, passed away yesterday from complications of pneumonia. Yamauchi, who was named the president of Nintendo in 1949 when he was only 22 years old, claimed that he knew nothing about video games, but he obviously knew enough to turn Nintendo into one of the most recognized — and successful — video game companies in history (you may be a Nintendo nerd if you recognize these games). For those of us who grew up watching Mario and Luigi destroy Koopa Troopas and rooted for Link to rescue Princess Zelda, it has been a sad time in the NOC offices.

To honor the man who gave us a reason to stay up past our bedtime playing video games instead of doing homework, a few of the Nerds reflected on our favorite Nintendo memories:

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Remembering Lee Thompson Young

This afternoon, actor Lee Thompson Young was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Los Angeles home after he failed to report to the set of the TNT show Rizzoli & Isles. For most millennials and post-millenials, Young will forever be known as “The Famous Jett Jackson,” the titular star of the late-90s/early-Aughts Disney Channel phenomenon of the same name. For me, though, Young will always represent the first and only live action incarnation of DC Comics’ iconic Teen Titan, Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg, the character he portrayed in several recurring episodes of the long-running Superman series for the WB and the CW, Smallville.

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