Before an audience in Franklin & Marshall College’s Mayser Gym, comic-book creator Joshua Luna shared his struggles, from a humble family broken by divorce, to his rise as an artist and writer, and to his fall that eventually lead to self-actualization of himself and his work.
“I’m going to be talking about my career and life experiences and how I used comics to process and explore the ways racialization as an Asian American affects those experiences,” said Luna, at the Feb. 13 Common Hour, a community discussion held each Thursday classes are in session during the semester.
“You may be wondering why a comic book guy is giving an academic talk about race; after all, comic books have long been viewed as an unsophisticated art form,” he said.
Luna first told the story of his life—a Filipino-American born in California, raised on military bases in the United States and Europe, and pushed toward a career in the Navy, where his father served until he abandoned his wife and children for another family.
After Luna graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a bachelor’s degree in sequential art and an award for "Outstanding Achievement in Sequential Art,” he and his brother, Jonathan, soared as the “Luna Brothers” with popular female superhero comic books such as “ULTRA” and “The Sword.” Hollywood called. A CBS-TV series was made from “ULTRA.”
The brothers rode the wave of success until a falling-out over profit-sharing and creativity ended in court battles, and ended their relationship. Left in a state of disarray, Luna said he sought therapy and became confident in himself, and proud of an ethnicity he was long taught to suppress.
Luna said after he recognized the racial barrier that white-dominated society had imposed on him since childhood, he staked his claim as an Asian American. He created comics about the issues of race, politics and identity, and he began to draw himself in his panels.
“All of my comics take inspiration from my personal experiences and expand outward to see how they fit into a broader pattern,” Luna said. “You don’t have to make yourself smaller for anyone, no matter who they are.”
These positive changes in his life led him to create a comic book, “Americanizasian,” which explores themes of racism and healing. His publisher rejected it. Luna said, “I still have not found a publisher to this day.”
The lesson his experiences taught him, he said, is this, “We shouldn’t strive for a colorblind world, but a world where we acknowledge and honor a beautifully diverse palette of colors that we see in real life.”