I recently received a comment concerning Ethan’s ethnicity, which read, “I didn’t realize Ethan was supposed to be Asian.” Just in case you all didn’t realize (or didn’t read the description in the ‘About’ section), yes, Ethan is intended to be Asian. However, it was never emphasized in either the story or the illustrations, so don’t feel bad. I always thought that giving Ethan thick black hair and slightly smaller eyes was evidence enough, but I’ve been drawing this character for so long, I’m not the best judge. And I’ll admit, there are certain pages where Ethan looks very Anglo.
Honestly though, I’m surprised this didn’t come up earlier. It was always an issue while I was doing ‘Tails’. None of my friends thought that Ethan looked Asian enough (if at all). Ethan was always intended to be a representation of me, not a replication (hence why I always refer to him in the third person). I tend to think of Ethan as what I’d like to be (handsomer, taller, quirkier, always has a good hair day).
Just to be clear, this is what I look like (it’s dark chocolate that I have in my mouth):
And this is what Cartoon Ethan looks like:
Observe and compare. Cartoon Ethan looks about as Asian as Cartoon Jackie did in ‘The Jackie Chan Adventures’. I guess I can blame mainstream American media (easy enough scapegoat), where Asian characters always tend to be white-washed in some way. Remember Grunge from ‘Gen 13′? Kwai Chang Caine from ‘Kung Fu’? Or how about the upcoming ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ film? They didn’t even bother to cast an Oriental kid for the lead role. It’s internalized, being an Asian-American. You grow up wanting to look more…well, white. (I speak for myself, not for every Asian-American kid.)
But I know I’m not alone. How many of you have read ‘American Born Chinese’ by Gene Yang, where the main character wishes he was a white kid? Or ‘Shortcomings’ by Adrian Tomine? These stories really hit home, and capture the self-doubt, self-loathing, self-deprecating self-image that a lot of Asian-Americans have. I went through that stage myself. Over it now.
Of course, none of this really matters, because you can enjoy ‘Tails’ no matter what race, creed or gender you are. And if you enjoy it less because Ethan is Asian, then you have a real problem…
But still, I wanna ask you, the readers, for your opinion. What ethnicity did you think Ethan was? Leave a comment at the bottom of this page or shoot me an email, don’t be shy. This is kinda like a social experiment for me. And don’t worry about sounding politically incorrect =P