Marvel creates Chinese superheroes to draw Asia fans

Above, Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski speaks at a forum in Manila. The comic giant plans to introduce two new Chinese superheroes – Sword Master and Aero – and Cebulski was in the Philippines to look for fresh artistic talent. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
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Marvel creates Chinese superheroes to draw Asia fans

MANILA: Chinese superheroes will soon be joining the pantheon of larger-than-life Marvel universe mainstays Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men, a company official said as the comic book giant makes a major thrust into Asia.
As part of a push to grow its Asia fanbase, the Disney-owned franchise has released mobile games in China, opened “Marvel Stores” in South Korea and is searching for artistic talent in the Philippines, Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski said.
“We have been making great strides, especially in Asia. We try to hire more Asian creators, writers and artists to bring a piece of their culture to Marvel comics,” he said in Manila where he visited a major university for fresh talent.
The comic giant plans to introduce two new Chinese superheroes: “Sword Master” and “Aero” who will be based in China, Cebulski added.
“They are going to be heavily based on Chinese culture and Chinese mythology but set in the modern world and they will interact with the other heroes (in the Marvel universe),” he said.
These new characters will be drawn in the ‘manga’ style of Japanese comics that is more popular in Asia, he added.
Cebulski, who has lived the last two years in Asia, serving as Marvel’s vice president for the region, conceded that Marvel had not given Asian characters prominent positions in the past compared to mainstays like Captain America or the Hulk.
But this is changing, he said. “We want to have stories that are reflective of every culture.”
There is huge fan expectation over Marvel’s latest flagship movie — Black Panther — which will be released worldwide next month.
The film stars Chadwick Boseman playing Marvel’s breakthrough black superhero T’Challa, a king of a fictional African nation who first featured in the company’s comic books in the late 1960s.
Luke Cage, another popular black Marvel superhero, has also had a recent revival through a popular TV series on Netflix.
But Asian superheroes are still comparatively rare in the Marvel universe despite the franchise’s growing popularity there.
In the Philippines, a former US colony, Marvel is already deeply ingrained in the nation’s popular culture, said Cebulski.
Filipino illustrators in turn have also provided art for Marvel comics since the 1970s.
People from the Southeast Asian nation are now the third largest nationality of artists employed by Marvel, just behind Americans and Italians, Cebulski said.


’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

(FILES) This photo taken on March 22, 2016 shows a child gesturing to a woman at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2018
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’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

  • Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead

SEOUL: When Ashley Park started her marketing job at a Seoul drugmaker she had a near-perfect college record, flawless English, and got on well with her colleagues — none of which mattered to her employer once she fell pregnant.
Nine months after she joined, Park said, “They said to my face that there is no place in the company for a woman with a child, so I needed to quit.”
All the women working at the firm were single or childless, she suddenly realized, and mostly below 40.
Park’s case exemplifies why so many South Korean women are put off marriage and childbirth, pushing the country’s birth rate — one of the world’s lowest — ever further down.
Earlier this month Seoul announced its latest set of measures to try to stem the decline, but critics say they will have little to no effect in the face of deep-seated underlying causes.
Many South Korean firms are reluctant to employ mothers, doubting their commitment to the company and fearing that they will not put in the long hours that are standard in the country — as well as to avoid paying for their legally-entitled birth leave.
When Park refused to quit, her boss relentlessly bullied her — banning her from attending business meetings and ignoring her at the office “like I was an invisible ghost” — and management threatened to fire her husband, who worked at the same company.
After fighting for about six months, she finally relented and offered her resignation, giving birth to a daughter a month later. Aside from a brief stint at an IT start-up that did not keep its promise of flexible working hours, she has been a stay-at-home mother ever since.
“I studied and worked so hard for years to get a job when youth unemployment was so high, and enjoyed my work so much... and look what happened to me,” Park told AFP.
Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead.
“The government kept telling women to have more children... but how, in a country like this?” she asked.

The South’s fertility rate — the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — fell to 0.95 in the third quarter of 2018, the first time it has dropped below 1 and far short of the 2.1 needed to maintain stability.
As a result of the trend, which has been dubbed a “birth strike” by women, the population of the world’s 11th largest economy, currently 51 million, is expected to start falling in 2028.
Many cite reasons ranging from the expense of child-rearing, high youth unemployment, long working hours and limited daycare to career setbacks for working mothers.
Even if women hold on to their jobs, they bear a double burden of carrying out the brunt of household chores.
Patriarchal values remain deeply ingrained in the South: nearly 85 percent of South Korean men back the idea of women working, according to a state survey, but that plummets to 47 percent when asked whether they would support their own wives having a job.
Employment rates for married men and women are dramatically different — 82 percent and 53 percent respectively.
Now nearly three-quarters of South Korean women aged 20-40 see marriage as unnecessary, an opinion poll by a financial magazine and a recruitment website showed. But almost all children in the South are born in wedlock.

Against that backdrop, the South’s government has spent a whopping 136 trillion won ($121 billion) since 2005 to try to boost the birth rate, mostly through campaigns to encourage more young people to wed and reproduce, without success.
Earlier this month it announced yet another round of measures.
They included expanding child subsidies of up to 300,000 won ($270) a month, and allowing parents with children younger than eight to work an hour less each day to take care of their offspring.
More daycare centers and kindergartens will be built, and men will be allowed — but not obliged — to take 10 days of paid birth leave, up from the current three.
But many measures were not legally binding and carried no punishment for firms that denied their workers the promised benefits, and the package met a disdainful response.
“The government policies are based on this simplistic assumption that ‘if we give more money, people would have more children’,” the Korea Women Workers Association said in a statement.
Seoul should first address “relentless sexual discrimination at work and the double burden of work and housechores” for women, it added.
The centrist Korea Times newspaper also questioned whether such “lacklustre” state policies would bring in real change unless the government tackled the real drivers of women shunning marriage and childbirth.
“Unless these harsh conditions for women change, no amount of government subsidies will convince women having children is a happy choice.”