From the Mouths of Lions: Analyzing “Boxers” by Gene Luen Yang

“Until the Lion’s tell their own stories, the tales will always favour the hunters.”                     (African proverb)

Tu Di Gong (little idol)

boxers_sg_01Tu Di Gong, the local earth god, is Boa’s beloved figure from his childhood. Not only is the idol a cultural figure, but perhaps a representation of the Emperor who would essentially have just been a figure head under British rule. Regardless, Little Boa adores the idol, adores the Opera, adores Chinese culture. The reverence of this figure is also a foreshadowing of Boa taking on superstition and becoming an icon himself.



Dual Nature

Although Boxers is not a first person or autobiographical narrative, it does express some of the common feelings that immigrants have being in a Western country. Mainly, a  desire to hold to culture while being forcefully assimilated.

In an interview, Yang expressed that he was fascinated by the idea of double identity. He cites superhero’s as a grand cultural expression of this, and goes beyond that to say that “comics itself has a dual nature.” Instead of seeing this as a  Bildungsroman, Boxers can be viewed as a series of internal conflicts Yang is facing being both Chinese and American.



Yang is both a Lion & a Hunter

Continuing on the theme of dual nature, because of his decision to be Catholic, he is in direct conflict with the protagonist in his own novel.


Boxers & Saints being a  two part series is no accident. Being somewhat of a cultural purist, Yang cannot ignore his Chinese-ness or Catholic-nes. It is hard to idolize one while demonizing the other, so Yang makes two comics to showcase the perspective of the lion (Chinese) and the hunters (Catholic Priests).

Instead of being an angry anti-imperialism narrative, Yang creates a pretty bad ass comic. Visually, it’s appealing. The story is engaging, and he is overall very even handed.



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