secret identities superhero contest winner: hush

I apologize that this took so long... At long last, here's the final winner from our Secret Identities Superhero Contest, where readers were asked to submit their own original idea for an Asian American superhero. We would have posted this sooner, but understandably, superstar comic book artist Bernard Chang is a busy man. So without further ado, here is Hush by Juli Martin, as rendered above by Bernard Chang.


We apologize for the long delay, but we were set on having Bernard Chang, the superstar artist behind Greg Pak's THE CITIZEN in SECRET IDENTITIES, bring this last winning hero to life--in part because he also happens to be the artist for DC's WONDER WOMAN, making him the perfect guy to visualize this powerful female hero. Unfortunately, as you might guess, Bernard's a busy guy!

As for why we picked Hush as a winner in our contest: We 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 characters.

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?

All in all, a great character, like the other three we discovered through this contest. With any luck, this won't be the last we've heard of any of them!


Abandoned 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.

Corrupt 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.

GenFX's 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.

. . . . .

And there you go. Congratulations to Juli and the rest of the winners. And a big thanks to Bernard and the other Secret Identities artists who contributed such great work to this contest and made it happen.

By the way, I just heard some very cool news about the next Secret Identities book. Here's the skinny on Volume 2, straight from co-editor Jeff Yang:
Sales on vol 1 have been excellent--in fact, our publisher, The New Press, said we were the one of the best-selling books they released last year, and we're now headed for our third printing. Given that, they outreached to us and told us they definitely want to do volume 2. We've told them that if we were doing it, we'd want to do it bigger and better--more pages, more color--and to both continue some of the storylines/characters from the first book, as well as introduce new ones. As for the hook for the new book: As we've hinted at in the past, the natural extension of a book about Asian American superheroes is a book that looks at the dark side of the mask.

So volume two will contain stories that explore Asian American super-baddies, seeking to add authenticity and richness to the portrayal of villainy (though not necessarily sympathy). In the process, we hope to disrupt some of the tired stereotypes of evildoers that we've seen through the years--the one-dimensional gangsters and Fu Manchu clones with no motivation and no internal life. After all, superheroes are nothing without great supervillains. (Where would Batman be without the Joker? Spider-Man without The Green Goblin? Superman without Luthor, or X-Men without Magneto?)
Great to hear that the first book has done so well, with brisk sales and multiple printings. But even better, that they're in the planning stages for another volume. The editors are currently working on the outline for the book, so they're not yet ready to accept submissions. But I'm sure that will come soon enough. Optimistically, they're aiming for a Spring 2011 release. To learn more about the anthology, visit the Secret Identities website here.

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