Thursday, March 25, 2010

Profile: Sha-Shan

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #108, May 1972

History: the daughter of a Buddhist community leader in Vietnam, she had first met Flash Thompson while he was serving in the army there, and had been lost in the jungle during a battle with the Vietnamese commies. She helped save Flash's life after he was unfairly targeted by a gang of worshipers of her father's for supposedly causing him a coma after an air raid. She was pushed into an arranged marriage with a crook named Achmed Korba, later seen as Brother Power (and she as Sister Sun) as a supposed balance to his evil nature, but it backfired when Korba decided to attack Spider-Man, much to her displeasure, in Spectacular Spider-Man #3, February 1977. Korba was killed in an explosion, and Sha-Shan was then free to rekindle her relationship with Flash.

Current status: limbo (depending on your viewpoint, that is. I'll explain below why).

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: some of her appearances were fairly stereotypical in their depiction of an Asian. In 1986, apparently because the Vietnam background details were becoming outdated, she broke up with Flash and was dropped from the cast in Spidey's world, and was not mentioned again for many years.

What's wrong with how this was done? In honesty, there wasn't much done wrong with her departure, except for how they almost completely wrote her out, all because of how the Vietnam war background itself was becoming dated. Could they not have possibly retconned the story so that her country was a fictionalized one instead, which could've helped make the story more durable?

I guess this also highlights a notable problem with some of Marvel's early approaches circa the Silver/Bronze Age: they built stories based on real life countries and their problems of the times, rather than come up with fictionalized ones. Later on though, when characters like Silver Sable came along, the Marvel staff did use fictional countries like Symkaria as a home base.

That Sha was depicted in a stereotypical manner as an Asian woman who was all but submissive was certainly an unfortunate detractor.

Oddly enough, Sha-Shan has apparently resurfaced, but the problem is that it's post One More/Brand New Day, and if the Joe Quesada regime is going to ruin the Spider-Marriage, to say nothing of Peter Parker and company's own characterization, that's why it's invalid...and coming much too late.


At 10:47 AM , Anonymous Damian said...

I read all of Sha-Shan's Amazing Spider-Man appearances, and I have to add that I think she was being stereotyped from the get-go and drawn less attractive than the other Spider-Man female supporting cast. She seemed awfully submissive to Flash until her last few appearances.

At 12:51 PM , Blogger Avi Green said...

Admittedly, I wondered that too about some of her appearances. Maybe I'll try to write a little more about that later on.


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