Thirteen-year-old Tai Pham’s life changed forever when he inherited his grandmother’s jade ring and stepped into the role of Green Lantern. And when DC Comics introduced him in “Green Lantern: Legacy” on January 21, the world of graphic novels also expanded, because Tai is the first Asian-American Green Lantern, NBC News reported on January 23.
Created by children’s book author Minh Lê, who is Vietnamese American, and illustrated by Singaporean artist Andie Tong, the newest iteration of Tai was inspired by Lê’s grandmother, Ton Nu Tuy-Nhan, who managed to hold onto her own jade ring after she and her family fled during the Vietnam War. "To me, this is a moment to pay tribute to not only my grandmother, but to that whole generation of people who uprooted themselves and came to this country with almost nothing but the fortitude and creativity to carve out a life," Lê told NBC News.
While the original Green Lantern was a White New Yorker named Alan Scott, the character has been reimagined as a Lebanese-American Muslim (Simon Baz) and a Latinx woman (Jessica Cruz). “Legacy,” however, marks the first time the Asian-American community, specifically the Vietnamese community, has a special connection with the hero.
"When you go to the bookstore or library growing up, there’s this huge section on Vietnam, but it’s all about the Vietnam War. Books about Vietnam as a country and Vietnamese people are only there as the backdrop to American historical trauma," Lê said. "So to be able to write a story that centers our community—where we’re not just background characters or sidekicks but the actual heroes of the story—was really meaningful."