May 30, 2013

Minorities in cartoons: Big Hero 6

Minorities in cartoons: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 poster with BaymaxThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Big Hero 6, a Japanese superhero team in Marvel comics.

Background

Created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, the team officially first appeared in “Sunfire and Big Hero 6” #1 in 1998. However, the team technically first appeared in an issue of “Alpha Flight” due to scheduling issues. Big Hero 6’s appeared in a couple of miniseries, as well as in some crossovers with Spider-Man and Alpha Flight.

The team’s backstory states they were created when Japan’s government wanted their own government-sponsored superhero team. A top-secret group of politicians and business interests named “Giri” was formed. Giri set about  recruited members for the team. Most of the members are teenagers or young adults.

Like most superhero teams, Big Hero 6’s roster’s changed over time, but the team’s main members are:

  • GoGo Tomago: a woman who was released from prison in exchange for serving on Big Hero 6. Tends to dislike her teammate Honey Lemon, who GoGo feels gets more attention/popularity. Possesses the superpower of turning into a ball of energy, an ability activated by uttering her name.
  • Honey Lemon: a woman with a Mary Poppins-esque bottomless purse, from which Honey’s capable of pulling out literally anything needed.
  • Hiro Takachiho: a 13-year-old boy who’s a scientific/engineering genius, including the construction of his own robotic bodyguard.
  • Baymax: the robotic bodyguard creation of Hiro, Baymax is also Hiro’s best friend, filling a place in Hiro’s life with the death of his father.
  • Wasabi-No-Ginger: a master chef who also possesses excellent fighting/swordsmanship skills. Wasabi also has “Qi Energy,” letting him materialize objects to throw at his enemies.
  • Fred: possesses the ability to summon the abilities of a dragon-like creature. Wikipedia says Fred identifies as Ainu, an indigenous people who live in Japan and part of Russia.

Big Hero 6 also had other members that hailed from elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, but eventually left the team:

  • Silver Samurai: a longtime Marvel mutant character who’s been both a hero and a villain. He first appeared in 1974 as a Daredevil nemesis.
  • Sunfire: another longtime Marvel mutant, who first appeared in the X-Men comic in 1970.
  • Ebon Samurai: a former Tokyo police officer slain by the Silver Samurai. However, Ebon soon returned to Earth, reincarnated with a dark version of his foe’s armor/powers. Ebon called off his revenge plans after seeing Silver Samurai serve in a positive role to Japan’s government.
  • Sunpyre: an alternate-reality version of Sunfire’s sister. Sunpyre eventually leaves the team to return to her reality, where she’s a princess.

Other media

In 2014, Disney released a CGI theatrical animated film based on “Big Hero 6.”

The film changed some aspects of the original comics. For starters, the film’s now set in the fictional American city of “San Fransokyo” (a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo); one of the more eccentric team members gave them their odd nicknames; and Fred is now Caucasian, while Wasabi is African-American.

The film was a success at the box office.

(Updated 11/12/16)

Tags: Asian peopleBig Hero 6comics triviaDuncan RouleauIndigenous peoplesJapaneseMarvelMediaminorities in cartoonsSteven T. Seagle