Hulk and Yellow Face: Stan and Jack Take On China’s Annexation of Tibet
Journey Into Marvel – Part 63
Extremites, you may not have known that in the Marvel/Atlas comic company all of the creative team, with the exception of those who were to young like Steve Ditko and those who were rated 4-F by the draft board like Stan Lee — served in the military. Knowledge of the military often bled into the creative work of the period. The culture of the military bled in too, and sometimes, that culture was negative. That’s clear in today’s story.
You may or may not have run into a World War II veteran who has trouble discerning cultural differences when it comes to Asian peoples. That is the fault of American and Canadian (for me) propaganda. ‘Yellow-face: a caricature of Oriental Asians is still present, seen recently in Rob Schneider’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. It was very prevalent in the 1940s and the decades after the cultural conscience came to terms with the horrors of that World War. When the Maoists took China this stereotype bled to combine with Communism. General Fang the central villain in this Hulk story is an example of the stereotype.
I am surprised to see the B story is a little better then the A story. Hulk is flung into conflict between a marauding Chinese army led by a Ghengis Kahn like General Fang as they invade the principality of Lhasa (Tibet). Needless to say Hulk, and his annoying Wesley Crusher like friend Rick Jones, have a great field day destroying these mere mortals.
What’s stunning about this story, ignoring the racism for a second, is the political satire of the whole thing. There’s a very good reason that Stan and Jack depict General Fang as a conquering Mongol, because that is what Maoist China did to Tibet. One frame even has a cotillion of Buddhist priest’s holding up a palanquin for Fang to ride around on. Lee and Kirby use this imagery to exemplify the barbarism of this ‘Chinese warlord.’
Even more startling in my mind is the consciousness of the annexation of Tibet by these American artists. The event that most of us are well aware of in our time, in 1963, was only known by those who were very savvy as both Jack and Stan were.
The action of the story is very fantastical and enjoyable — if a bit incongruent with the Hulk mythos established thus far. For instance, Hulk and Rick travel to farthest Lhasa by means of jumping. Hulk jumps so far and so high that he clears the South China Sea. With one breath Hulk decimates the thousand strong Fang army. I always knew Hulk is extraordinary powerful, but this sudden change in strength is startling considering the last fight, only pages before, was more matched. This is another example of the fluid and bi-polar nature of continuity in these Hulk stories.
One particular moment that is worth mentioning is the way Hulk ambushes the Chinese. He pretends to be the abominable snowman to blend in with his surroundings. This is just plain hilarious.
This story has a lot going for it, political satire, fantastical and action packed sequences, and a wicked sense of humour. It has not aged well because of the racist brush the whole thing has been painted with by both Jack and Stan should be blamed for this. This is a zeitgeist issue and should be forgiven.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “The Hordes of General Fang” (The Incredible Hulk #5 Jan 1963)
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Pros: Biting political satire. Some great action sequences. Hulk is really witty in this one. The Abominable snowman bit.
Cons: The zeitgeist racism in the use of yellow face. Hulk’s powers are all over the place.
Next Review: “The Vengeance of Loki!” (Journey Into Mystery #88 Jan. 1963)
Last Review: “Beauty and the Beast!” (The Incredible Hulk #5 Jan. 1963)
Posted on January 15, 2015, in Hulk, Marvel and tagged China, Comics, DC Comics, Hulk, Jack Kirby, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel Universe, Racism, Rick Jones, Stan Lee, Tibet, Yellow Face. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.