United Media to launch Secret Asian Man

Secret Asian Man Comic
Secret Asian Man © Tak Toyoshima / Dist. by United Feature Syndicate, Inc. Used by permission

United Media will be launching a new feature on July 16 called Secret Asian Man by Tak Toyoshima. The feature centers around Osamu “SAM” Takahashi, a struggling comic strip artist, who is a second generation Japanese American growing up in a big city. He has a wife and son.

Says Ted Rall, Acquisitions editor at United:

“Asian Americans have been an integral part of American society for centuries but have only recently begun making inroads into our popular culture,” said Ted Rall, Acquisitions and Development Editor for United Feature Syndicate. “What Margaret Cho did for stand-up comedy and ‘Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle’ did for the movies, Secret Asian Man-the first Asian-themed strip- does for the comics page. A brilliant artist and wonderfully succinct writer, Tak Toyoshima opens a window on topics that the comics have ignored until now. Most importantly, you don’t have to be Asian to love Secret Asian Man!”

20 thoughts on “United Media to launch Secret Asian Man

  1. While Ted Rall’s statement that this strip is “the first Asian-themed strip” is too broad to be taken seriously (Carl Anderson’s “The Filipino and the Chick” of the early 1900s, Paul Fung’s “Innocent Hing” of the 1910s, to Larry Feign’s “The World of Lily Wong” of ten years ago);
    the syndicate tries to narrow it down by stating it is “”the first-ever nationally syndicated
    comic strip featuring an Asian American leading character.”
    That is also incorrect.
    From 1931 – 33 there was Bell Syndicate distributing Leo O’Mealia’s “Fu Manchu”
    Later McNaught Syndicate put “Charlie Chan” by Alfredo Andriola in papers nationwide from 1938 -1942.
    More recently the L. A. Times Syndicate released “The Legend of Bruce Lee” in 1982 – 1983 as done by Sharman DiVono and Fran Matera.
    And I think it could be argued that the revival of “Terry and the Pirates” in the 1990s had the Dragon Lady as one of the leading characters.

  2. It has been pointed out to me that I have been listing Asians in American comics and not Asian Americans in comics.
    So – did Bruce Lee ever become an American citizen?
    Was Charlie Chan an American citizen?

  3. D.D.Gregg,

    Other than maybe Paul Fung, from way back in 1910, I don’t believe anyone from your list of creators was an Asian American. I might be mistaken but Feign, Anderson, O’Meilia, Androila, Divano, and Matera don’t exactly sound like Asian surnames to me. And, unfortunately, Paul Fung’s strip was never syndicated.

    If the information in your post is true, for the past 76 years, only non-Asian comic strip creators have written about Asian people. Which is all the more reason why we need, “Secret Asian Man.” I think there is also, “Angry Little Girls” by Lela Lee (a female), which is not nationally syndicated, but should be.

    Don’t you think it’s REALLY great that for the first time in the history of this industry we are about to have an Asian American creator with a nationally syndicated strip? Why are you so defensive? It doesn’t matter whether Bruce Lee or Charlie Chan were American citizens. They both were actors, NOT comic strip creators. I think you are totally missing the point.

  4. Wow, I had no idea there was a Legend of Bruce Lee comic strip! Was it part of a series since it lasted only a year? Bruce Lee was actually born in California so he was Chinese American. Charlie Chan was supposed to be Chinese American too. Two pretty big acts to follow.

    I think the point of the Asian-American lead character statement was to show that here is a character who is not presented as a foreigner. No accent. Born, raised and educated in the US. Has an Irish/Italian wife and a hapa kid. No gongs, rickshaws or Chinese menu lettering. Unless of course I’m talking about gongs, rickshaws and Chinese menu lettering.

  5. Yeah, I think that’s what the press release meant.

    There was at least one other Japanese-American comic strip artist, though.

    Bob Kuwahara (1901-1964), who was mostly an animator over at Terrytoons (creating “Hashimoto,” probably America’s first NON-streotyped Japanese character), had a short lived comic called “Miki,” which ran 1945-1950.

  6. Doug,
    You misunderstand me.
    I am upset at the syndicates for making false claims about their newly released strips being the first of its kind. The youngest syndicated cartoonist. The first nationally syndicated black woman cartoonist. The youngest woman cartoonist ever syndicated. The first nationally syndicated strip to feature an Asian American as the leading character.
    “The Legend of Bruce Lee” was nationally syndicated 25 years ago and featured an Asian American as the leading character. So, sorry Tok, Secret Asian Man doesn’t win that prize.

    Doug, I couldn’t be happier when I see new talent get syndicate contracts; be they Asian, black, white, or Lower Slobovian. And the more the mixture the merrier as far as I’m concerned.
    Just don’t like the pr people making claims that are not correct.
    Your assertion that “for the first time in the history of this industry we are about to have an Asian American creator with a nationally syndicated strip” is also incorrect. The previously mentioned Paul Fung was the artist on a half a dozen syndicated strips, and on some of them he was the original artist.

    “The Legend of Bruce Lee” was a feature on its own merits, not part of any other series. It just wasn’t popular enough to survive, hope your strip has better luck.
    (What’s with those eyebrows?)

  7. The eyebrows are like Samson’s hair. Without them he feels weak and his eyes look waay too small for that big blocky head. I originally made them big to help exagerrate facial expressions. I blame it on my graffiti influence.

  8. Tak, it’s great to see another fellow Masshole(I’m west of Boston) get syndicated! I believe this makes around 4 now(Get Fuzzy, Dog Eat Doug…I believe, Retail, Seceret Asian Man).

    Question…is the name of the strip a play on that old song “Seceret Agent man”? I grew up believing that they were singing “Seceret Asian Man”. It sounds like it! When I learned the real words…the song lost something. There’s nothing special about a seceret agent man. They’re a dime a dozen. But a seceret ASIAN man? Now THERE is an interesting perp! What’s he so seceretive about? What does he know?…Hmmmm…best of luck!

  9. my apologies for mispelling “secret” multiple times…I just popped in “Ghost Rider” and am distracted!

  10. DD Degg:

    You said, “Paul Fung was the artist on a half a dozen syndicated strips, and on some of them he was the original artist.” That may indeed be correct.

    BUT…there is a big difference between being a staff artist, assistant artist, original artist, and creator. Being an original artist for
    “Mickey Mouse” does not make you the creator.

    Back in 1910, did Paul Fung ever manage to get one of his OWN comic strip creations (like
    “Innocent Hing”) syndicated?


    This involes Asian American history and comic strips, so maybe you might know ;-).

    1) Who was the first Asian-American creator to have a nationally snydicated comic strip in U.S. newspapers?

    2) Who was the first Asian-American creator to have a nationally snydicated comic strip in U.S. newspapers featuring an Asian main character?

    I hope these are not inappropriate questions. If so, the good news is that you can use all of this as material for your comic strip, on the topics,
    “Stupid Questions People Ask Asian-Americans” or “Why people confuse stereotypical Asian comic strip characters with real Asian-American syndicated comic strip creators?” LOL

  11. Paul Fung (1897 -1944) was hired by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1916. That was the year his “Innocent Hing” began in that paper. According to M. Horn’s World Encyclopedia of Comics it was “about a young Chinese boy in traditional clothes facing problems in an American city.” It began March 1, 1916 and ended later that same year. Paul Fung continued on the paper as a staff cartoonist. In 1921 W.R.Hearst bought the P-I and Fung became a Hearst employee. Around 1924 – 25 Fung created, wrote and drew the King Features Syndicate daily comic strip “The Guy from Grand Rapids”. The guy from Grand Rapids was not Asian as far as I can tell.
    For more on Paul Fung there is a short profile at Lambieks: http://lambiek.net/artists/f/fung_p.htm

  12. DD Deggg:

    So, it looks like Paul Fung was finally syndicated by King in 1924. Very interesting. Thanks for this info. And, C. Brubaker mentioned Bob Kuwahara’s strip last ran in 1950. So, although this may not be a first, there’s been a void for about 57 years.

    I’m sure everyone is thrilled that Tak Toyoshima is here with his fresh, new perspective. I think his strip is hilarious and wish him the best of luck.

  13. There’s also Frank Cho, a Korean-American cartoonist who drew the daily “Liberty Meadows” strip for 5 years.

  14. Tak Bui is Vietnamese-(Canadian)American and has done the PC and Pixel strip for over a decade. Anyone know if PC is Asian?

  15. Tak – best wishes on your new strip. While the historians battle for what makes it unique, hopefully it will just be doggone funny and stand on it’s own! Congrats, syndication is a major accomplishment in and of itself!

  16. You guys are like a bottomless well of knowledge. I’m impressed. Not sure who the first AA creator was. That’s a good point Doug made about the difference between creators and artists. There have definitely been a decent number of Asian artists out there. Love Frank Cho’s stuff. I think he’s working for Marvel now doing Spider-Man.

    As for AA lead characters, not sure who the first would be. I remember thinking The Yellow Kid was Asian but I’m pretty sure he’s rish. I think his name was Duggan or something.

    Thanks for the encouragement and all. –TAK

  17. Thanks, Tak. We try.

    Oh, and does editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez count? He was BORN in Tokyo, Japan, but it doesn’t say whether that’s his ethnic or not.

  18. Hi. I stumbled upon this only recently, hence posting in March of 2008 — my apologies. I was originally looking for info on the Bruce Lee comic strip actually, and did find a bit of info on it in here. While reading of the topic of Asian contributions to American comics, in this case specifically American newspaper comicstrips, I couldn’t help also thinking of Asian contributions to American comic books which really needs an historical custodial overhaul. As a fan I have a vested (an artistic inspiration to me)but I think a justified interest in mentioning an artist in particular, Sanho Kim (or Kim San-ho?). Historically, he was one of the, if not THE, earliest Asian artist to contribute to mainstream newstand comic books (not that enough have noticed this imho).

    In Ghostly Tales No. 101, from Charlton Comics, Jan. 1973, for example, he wrote AND drew “The Promise” based on a Korean folk-tale, which appeared in English AND Korean language. Easily a first. He was often given front cover credit for his work appearing (in that issue and in others) which while not unheard of in general, certainly was a first for any Asian comic artist. Also, his independantly published graphic novel, an amazing work (imho), Sword’s Edge Part One – The Sword and the Maiden, in 1973, is most likely the FIRST North American graphic novel proper, and certainly the first “Manga” or more properly to the Korean styling, Manhwa published in America.

    In the meantime I will have to look for this comic strip as well, a happy accident of internet surfing. And I hope this doesn’t seem a needless resurrection of this thread/topic — apologies if so.

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