The All-New Atom (Ryan Choi)
First Appearance: Brave New World #1 (August 2006)
Choi sprang from the mind of comics genius Grant Morrison, envisioned as a Hong Kong theoretical physics professor who was filling in the teaching shoes of Ray Palmer, the second Atom. He eventually found out Palmer’s superhero identity and became a size-changing crime-fighter in his own right.
Best Shot at the Big Leagues: Choi never seemed meant to sit in that tiny floating chair at Justice League headquarters. Still, the weird fringe of the DCU was a natural fit for him and his series included a memorable date with Wonder Woman nemesis Giganta, along with a recurring role for campy 70s character Lady Cop.
Wince-Inducing Moments: Choi died a controversial death at the hands of Deathstroke and his cronies in the recent Titans: Villains For Hire special. I mean, shoving the guy’s tiny body into a matchbox?
What’s to Love: Under writer Gail Simone’s tenure, Choi’s adventures were filled wacky head-spinning ideas like an invading micro-culture that lived on his dog’s body and the idea that constantly changing size and bending the rules of physics was fraying the reality of the town he lived in.
Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu
First Appearance: Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973)
Shang-Chi came about in an arranged marriage when Marvel got the licenses of the Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer and the Kung Fu TV series that starred David Carradine. The character was invented to take advantage of both properties, standing in for Kung Fu’s Caine, while being given a backstory pegged to the infamous Yellow Peril uber-criminal Fu Manchu.
Best Shot at the Big Leagues: Shang-Chi benefitted from the 1970s martial-arts mania and appeared in two high-selling, ongoing titles for much of the decade. He later joined in with a loose assemblage of Marvel’s street-level heroes called Marvel Knights, along with Daredevil, Luke Cage and others.
Wince-Inducing Moments: Man, where does one start? The curry-powder yellow coloring that was used for Asian characters back in the day? The fact that he wore only one haircut and one set of clothes for, like, a decade? Shang-Chi never got much in the way of character development during his most popular days, either, remaining pretty one-dimensional until more recent takes on the character.
What’s to Love: He’s basically the Bruce Lee of the Marvel Universe and can hold his own against anyone with superpowers. The Master of Kung-Fu series–especially the Doug Moench/Paul Gulacy run–did boast some great, intricate fight scenes, though.
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (January 2006)
The Korean-American teen genius popped up in an anthology series but wound up becoming the Hulk’s new buddy during the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines.
Best Shot at the Big Leagues: Amadeus is routinely called the seventh-smartest person in the world and has outwitted big brains like Reed Richards. He’s able to calculate quantum possibilities, pretty much making him a master strategist. Cho rolled with Hercules for a long while in The Incredible Hercules and just got his own series where he inherited Herc’s mace.
Wince-Inducing Moments: Y’know, maybe it’s because creator Greg Pak took into account the missteps made before him, but Amadeus’s stories have by-and-large been free of the tone-deaf gaffes that plague other characters. Even the brainiac aspect of the character–which could smack of “Asians being good at math”–works without relying on a stereotypical undercurrent.
What’s to Love: A skinny 17-year-old wielding the mace of Hercules and running a mythologically-funded corporation with Bruce Banner working for him? Yes, please!