Today on the site, Alex Wong returns to catch up with Jason Shiga, who talks about his residency at Angoulême, his most ambitious book yet, and the importance of Asian representation.
My dad was a cartoonist and an animator while he was living in Japan. He always encouraged me as a kid to pursue my art. There’s the stereotype of Asian parents pushing their kids into engineering or whatever, but my parents were never overbearing like that. They were always extremely supportive of my comics career. It’s something that I feel is a part of me, it’s a part of my blood. My half-sister, who grew up in Japan, also works in comics as well. She’s an assistant for a Shojo title that comes out of Nagoya. I feel like it’s this funny connection that runs in my blood.
As for the Asian American experiences, you probably remember as a kid, if there was an Asian character on television you would get really excited. For me, there was this TV show called Ohara with Pat Morita. It was some stupid cop show, but the lead was Pat Morita, and at that time, it was just so rare to see Asian people represented on TV. He was probably literally the only Asian face you could see on TV at the time. I would run into the kitchen every time he was on TV and said, “Mom, there’s an Asian man on TV, you gotta look!!” It was really exciting. It’s better now and it’s better in mediums like comics, but I still feel like white faces are the default when it comes to Hollywood. But I guess one of the nice things about comics is that there’s no producer who says my characters have to look white in order for the comic to be successful.
And Billy Burkert finishes up his week as our Cartoon Diarist.