The Avengers franchise and superhero films in general are big business in China, with the first film of the series earning Marvel and Disney some 567 million RMB [$91.6 million USD] when it was released in mainland movie theaters in 2012,1 with $17.4 million of that coming in on just the first day.2 Given the popularity of the film in the Middle Kingdom, perhaps it isn’t surprising to see cartoonists both here in North America and over in China attempting to “sinicize” 漢化 the heroes. Here are four examples I’ve come across in the last week.
1. Avengers of Imperial China by micQuestion
Created in January, 2012, for a contest on CBR, micQuestion’s version features The Immortal Captain, Invincible Iron Mandarin, Mighty Thunder, and the Emerald Mountain.
2. Peking Opera Avengers by Gene Luen Yang
Created in the spring of 2013 by the Chinese-American graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang to promote his book Boxers & Saints, on his blog Yang explains that he wanted to create an analogy for how the Boxer’s saw opera gods at the turn of the 20th century.
Similar to Gene Luen Yang’s project, Jon Little has done a series of paintings of the Avengers (and many other Marvel and DC superheroes) in Peking opera makeup. My personal favorite is Iron Man as the Monkey King.
4. Avengers as the Eight Immortals by Xia Ah 夏阿
Originally posted to his Weibo account on March 19, 2015, Xia Ah’s brillant adaptation of the Avengers has since been picked up by several English language bloggers, the earliest of which appears to have been Joan Coello at Rocket News 24, who imaginatively titled her post, “Chinese illustrator sends Marvel’s Avengers to the Far East and across the sea.” Joan helpfully includes closeups with explanations of the characters:
Captain America as Zhang Guolao 張果老
Thor as Han Xiangzi 韓湘子
Nick Fury as Zhongli Quan 鐘離權
Loki as Li Tieguai 李鐵拐
The Hulk as Cao Guojiu 曹國舅
Hawkeye as Lan Caihe 藍采和, Black Widow as He Xiangu 何仙姑
And finally, Spiderman as…Spiderman?
In his introduction to the painting on Weibo, Xia Ah writes:
Everyone knows that I’m a fan of old paintings, so who do these people think they are, trying to pass off Yan Liben’s court painting “Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea” as dating from the Tang dynasty?! One look and it is clear that it is a forgery, because the story of the Eight Immortals didn’t appear until the Yuan dynasty. Anyway you look at it, it must have been painted in the Ming dynasty. Even though it’s not from the Tang, it’s still an excellent painting. Here is my imitation, which I share with you all. See what you think!