1st Asian American Comic Book

Sunday, May 24, 2009 | |

I found The Four Immigrants Manga on the sale rack of a Berkeley, CA bookstore. Published by Stone Bridge Press (specializing in "Quality Books about Asia"), the book is a translation of the first copyrighted Japanese-American comic book.

Henry Kiyama modeled his four characters on his own group of friends: Henry, an art student; Charlie, man-about-town; Frank, an entrepreneur; and Fred, a farmer. Kiyama covers "A Japanese Experience in San Francisco, 1904-1924" over 52 episodes consisting of 12 cells each. His fresh-off-the-boat heroes chase ambition, money and women...when they're not getting fired or drinking away their wages, they make fun of Chinese people and shoot the breeze about life.

Check out the cheeky Henry (above), during an ill-fated stint as a houseboy: "Wow! White folks really are white!"