Korean adoptee winner in “secret identities” superhero contest

Secretidentities_hush According to Angry Asian Man, fellow Korean adoptee and activist Juli Martin, blogger at Grinding Up Stones (and fellow knitter) is the winner of the Secret Identities superhero contest for her entry Hush.

Juli's description of her superhero:

as a newborn, Jane was adopted from Korea by a wealthy white couple at
four months. After unexpectedly having two biological children, Jane's
adoptive parents feel they have no use for her, and when she comes out
as bisexual at age 13, they kick her out. She is shuffled through the
foster care system until aging out, at which point she moves to The
Center, a cooperative home for homeless LGBTQ youth. Abandoned so many
times, she now calls herself "Jane Doe."

Jane is a
queer femme woman, slim build, 20. Her black hair is cut choppy and
asymmetrical, streaked with electric blue. Her style is edgy and
futuristic, in black, gray and blue.

governmental wheeling and dealing put The Center in the hands of
multibillionaire Elliot Rush, whose biotech firm GenFX needs secret
human testing. Believing the residents of The Center are “throwaway”
people – people no one will miss – Rush uses them as human guinea pigs.

serum takes prexisting traits in the host and amplifies them to a
superhuman level, operating under the theory that if a body has a
predisposition towards a certain ability, enhancing that trait will
give the individual intuitive control over it. Jane has a keen
emotional awareness that allows her to read people, situations,
feelings and intentions, so when exposed to the serum, her body reacts
by amplifying her existing emotional intelligence. She becomes
telepathic, and in addition to being able to read others' minds, she
can speak to them in their thoughts and share images or sounds. When
experiencing strong emotions, these feelings "radiate," positively or
negatively affecting those around her.

Because it is not
immediately known what powers are developing within each subject (and
how), Jane's telepathy allows her to learn more about Rush's intentions
than subjects were supposed to know. Using her abilities, Jane informs
the others that Rush plans to destroy them once he has the data he
needs. She and the others secretly develop their powers and plan an
escape. Their plans are interrupted, however, when Rush, suspicious of
Jane, separates her from the others.

While being held by
Rush, Jane learns that he has called for armed reinforcements. She
pleads with the others to get out and leave her behind, but they
refuse. Instead, they risk everything to rescue her, and when the
battle is over, Jane feels claimed and protected for the first time.
From that moment on, her commitment to the others and ensuring their
safety is solidified.

Rush manages to escape the
fighting, but not without sustaining severe burns in the process, and
slips into a coma. When he awakes, he has been disenfranchised by his
company and insane from a virus in his skin grafts which ate away the
logic and reason portions of his brain. Engraged, he begins to assemble
a crew of bio-engineered villains to seek revenge and destroy all who
inhibit his rise to power.

SI The Editor's description of why they chose Hush:

loved the uniqueness of Hush's background–how many other lesbian,
transracially adopted superheroines are there in comics? Not
enough!–and the rich emotions at play in her characterization. We did
end up editing aspects of her power and origin, however, both to make
her code name make sense and to bring her power away from that of other

We also liked the notion of turning a vulnerability
into a power: In this edit, Jane goes from self-imposed isolation and
emotional repression to becoming superhumanly empathic; we thought that
it was really interesting that such an ability would turn her into a
formidable opponent. Think about it: If you could instantly read a
person's emotions and responses, and react with exactly the right
physical or verbal cue, you'd be both a killer hand-to-hand combat
artist and a devastating manipulator, wouldn't you?

For more about Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, click here. Please support my fellow Asian American writers and artists!

Remember, those of you who have adopted Asian children, it is important for them to see all kinds of powerful and strong representations of Asian Americans!!

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

8 thoughts

  1. This is a really interesting concept – turning vulnerability into power. I am very interested in how some people who have negative experiences – experiences I would never wish upon anyone – ultimately become more resilient, empathetic, and/or stronger following the experience. This is not to say that people don’t suffer negative consequences from those same experiences at the same time. I can’t imagine how this could be modeled statistically in research, yet I think it’s a common concept, as reflected in aphorisms like “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (something a teen in foster care resolutely told me once). And I’m not just talking about the forced positive attitude that Ehrenreich (for once inspired by an authentic experience) has recently written about.

  2. Sharon, you crack me up! I had the same issue with Ehrenreich in her Nickel and Dimed book!
    But yeah, interesting that axiom “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” It’s what helped me get through my young adulthood, that and “the best form of revenge is success.”

  3. I think Ehrenreich touched a nerve with me b/c I spent a rather unhappy year after college waitressing when I couldn’t find a better job. Plus, a friend of mine once wanted to attend a lecture by Ehrenreich but couldn’t afford the $20 admittance fee.

  4. is it appropriate to tell young, TRA individuals that the only way they can hope to be accepted by anyone is to hope to become a superhero? this does not seem like a realistic, or positive message to be sending. Instead of superheroes, shouldn’t there be discussion of how to develop successful communication strategies and opening doors to discussion and understanding?

  5. phdTRA, I’m a little confused why you think this post is about telling young TRA’s that they only way they can hope to be accepted by anyone is to become a superhero.
    I would say this whole blog is my attempt to educate adoptive parents of TRA’s so they can “develop successful communication strategies and opening doors to discussion and understanding.”
    I am surprised that there would be such a critique of the idea of a TRA superhero/heroine. Why can’t a TRA have a TRA superhero in his/her collection of role models? What is the problem with that?
    I’m genuinely curious, not trying to be ornery. I guess I just don’t understand how this idea could be sending a negative message?

  6. First, I’m a huge fan of this blog, and have been following it for some time.  I suppose I’m questioning details such as the superhero being cast aside and unwanted, unaccepted.  Though I’ve spoken with other tra’s who have felt cast aside, the vast majority have parents who love and care for them, and are advocates and supporters of their children’s efforts to understand and develop their identity.  Perhaps my perspectives are jaded, and I am overly reliant on an availability heuristic of positive adoptive parent/adoptee relationships to assume that that is the norm.
    I have no problems with a tra superhero, I think all tra’s are unique in their abilities to adapt and integrate; a trait that is expressed often by Tra’s as a “social chameleon-type”.  I just think that the superhero doesn’t necessarily need such a tragic upbringing, as tragedy isn’t a requesite for being super.  Certainly it is one approach though…. And probably more sensational and exciting than if the heroine had grown up the only Asian in a small town in middle America, wrestling wth her identity.  Though I would think more tra’s could relate to the latter.  Further, supportive adoptive parents may be turned off or not relate to a story in which the adoptive parents are so villified.  
    But again, these are just random musings.  I appreciate the post following in which you asked for more information rather than shutting ideas down and killing any future disussion of perceptions of TRAs.  
    Keep the great blog posts coming.  I especially enjoyed the Hague Convention posts.  

  7. Interesting. I have a few points.
    1) I think the majority of tra’s do have supportive and loving parents, or at least the parents felt so. But I think that regardless of the love and support the adoptive parents seem to have for their child that it is still possible for adoptees to FEEL cast aside. Reality vs. perception. I also think that a “positive” adoptee/adoptive parent relationship isn’t mutually exclusive with an adoptee feeling unaccepted (probably not unwanted). My heuristic experiences say that the majority of tra’s I know (and I know a lot, of all races/ethnicities) did feel alienation from their adoptive families even though they report feeling a lot of love and support from them and for them.
    2) if you study superheroes in the comic book sense, most of them have tragic beginnings and the abandonment/orphan theme is very prevalent. Superman, Spiderman, Batman – those are just the big name ones – all were orphaned or abandoned as children and were adopted/fostered. The orphan/adoption theme is huge in all forms of mythology going back the Greek myths all the way to Star Wars (Luke and Leia were both adopted).
    3) You are right that “supportive” adoptive parents might be turned off by being vilified, and of course feelings could be hurt, but in the end this adoptee’s story is not completely unique and unfounded.
    I guess overall I think that honestly this is about the imagined superheroine story from one adoptee that turns tragedy into empowerment, and I wonder why we have to make all things palatable to adoptive parents feelings. I think the majority of what is out there is all about the adoptive parents. What about just supporting all forms of expression from adoptees?

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