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New Korean Hulk could begin to smash issues over Marvel’s creative diversity

(Courtesy of Marvel Comics 2015)

WE’VE GOT to applaud the move.

With the news of Marvel’s forthcoming Korean superhero, the publisher is not only continuing to bring new color to its characters, but is also diversifying its creative bullpens after some recent scrutiny. For this next assignment, Amadeus Cho meets Frank Cho, the acclaimed Maryland-area artist.

Amadeus Cho has always had one of the most brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe despite his young age. Now his uncanny noggin is about to get a lot more incredible. After online teases as to the identity of Marvel’s next big green strongman, it was revealed that Cho, a Korean American teenager, will be the post-Secret Wars Hulk in a new title, “Totally Awesome Hulk,” set to debut in December.

Over the long history of Incredible Hulk runs in the comics, the self-proclaimed “strongest there is” has been a burden for frequent Hulk alter-ego Bruce Banner. But in the words of Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Axel Alonso in announcing the new Hulk, Amadeus Cho will carry the burden of transforming into one of the most powerful forces in the Marvel Universe “like it weighs a feather.”

Speaking of Bruce Banner, just because there’s a new Hulk in town doesn’t mean he won’t be a part of the story. Marvel says that what happened to Banner in the eight months that will pass from the end of Secret Wars to the beginning of the new Marvel universe will be a mystery in the storyline of “Totally Awesome Hulk.”

Frank Cho and writer Greg Pak were announced as the duo behind the forthcoming Hulk title. Because they are Korean American — Pak is half-Korean; Cho was born in South Korea — the two men represent something Marvel hasn’t had much of as of late: a diverse creative team to go along with the diverse heroes (Miles Morales/Spider-Man, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Sam Alexander/Nova, Jane Foster/Thor) brought to Marvel’s pages since Alonso took the company reins.

“The big historic footnote of this project is that Marvel is keeping up with the changing time and letting an Asian character step into the title role,” Frank Cho wrote on his Facebook page. “Amadeus Cho, Korean-American, will no longer be relegated to the sidekick role and will take on the mantle of new Hulk. This is a very important step in the history of comics. … Despite [the] high number of Asian creators in the comic book field, there has never been a major Asian character in American comic books, excluding the sidekick and minor supporting character roles.”

Last year, Gene Luen Yang (“American Born Chinese,” “Boxers & Saints”) and artist Sonny Liew published the acclaimed “The Shadow Hero,” a graphic novel that featured the Asian American superhero the Green Turtle. Yang told Comic Riffs that the character was based on a World War II-era superhero who, through the clever masking of his ethnicity, might well have outsmarted not only villains but also a publisher’s mid-century racism, leaving creator Chu Hing free to envision his crime-fighter as being of Asian descent.

Marvel’s efforts to diversify and modernize its comic-book universe, while met with praise, recently came under scrutiny when critics on social media questioned why the diversity didn’t extend to the creative teams.

For the moment, “Totally Awesome Hulk,” whether it was intended to or not, is a step in the right direction toward addressing those criticisms beyond simple assurances.

As to whether Cho’s Awesome Hulk can become a mainstay like Red Hulk was a few years ago, the answers to that begin this winter.