LOS ANGELES – Regardless of color, culture, or faith reading comics every Sunday morning is a tradition shared by millions of Americans. Growing up in San Dimas, cartoonist Lela Lee was especially fond of LA Weekly’s Life Is Hell.
Lee is the creator of Angry Little Asian Girl, a comic strip she started 25 years ago as a college student back at University of California, Berkeley.
“This is my idea box,” said Lee as she pulls out a sheet of paper. “I have a stack of recycled paper that I write out my writings on and once I have figured out what I’m going to say, I stage the characters and figure out if it’s going to be a one or two or three panel comic. Usually, they’re three panels.”
Angry Little Asian Girl is known for a biting and satirical style largely inspired by her own life. Growing up Asian American, Lee needed to find a way to express herself as she was faced with a childhood full of academic and societal pressure. She was bit by the creative bug once she recognized a need for new voices in media.
“This is the very first drawing of the Angry Little Asian Girl that I drew when I was a college student at UC Berkeley,” said Lee. “I was taking an Asian-American studies class and one of the things that we were learning about was the lack of representation for Asian Americans and I thought, it would be really neat if there was a doll for sale that looked like us.”
Twenty-five years later, after thousands of comic strips, and numerous books translated in multiple languages, Lee has her own doll. It is a milestone she is celebrating with fans this year at the Los Angeles Anime Expo and upcoming Comic Con in San Diego.
Longtime fan Janice Okanishi stopped by to pick up some merchandise.
“Since I’m Asian, I can relate to it,” said Janice Okanishi. “Because most Asian females, we have the reputation of being doormats, being very passive so it’s good to see this type of comic, this type of representation.”
In an industry where the majority of popular characters are last named ‘man’ like Spiderman and Superman, Angry Little Asian Girl is a different kind of shero.
“I feel that my work has helped give women a piece of art to use as a talisman to say they are also angry and to speak up for what is bothering them,” said Lee.