DC’s Katana Turned Japanese Stereotypes Into A Weapon

In the Other History of the DC Universe #3, Katana shares her past and history, revealing that her legend was created by Japanese stereotypes.

Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Other History of the DC Universe #3

In the latest issue of DC Comics’ The Other History of the DC Universethe classic Outsider and hero Katana reveals one of her greatest weapons early on were Japanese stereotypes. In the issue, Tatsu Yamashiro narrates her perspective on DC’s history as well as her own personal past. This includes her origins and how the legend of Katana was born, and Tatsu shares that they largely came from the result of assumptions about her tragic past and Japanese heritage that she never denied, choosing instead to forge those stereotypes into a weapon in her crusade for vengeance and later justice.

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In The Other History of the DC Universe #3 from writer John Ridley with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Katana reveals she didn’t choose her name. Instead, the Katana name came from the blade she wielded, the very same sword that was used to take her husband’s life, which she then claimed to kill her husband’s killer. The attack also took the lives of her children, leaving Tatsu alone as a widow. This subsequently created significant hardship for her while she was still living in Japan. She was victim-blamed, viewed as bad fortune and a bad omen by her own people in 1980’s Japan. Likewise, the sword she carried was given the name Soultaker, and a myth was born that it was equally cursed, allowing Tatsu to speak to souls the sword claimed.

Related: Why Black Lightning Found Green Lantern John Stewart A Disappointment

However, despite the fact Katana’s sword was nothing special, she never denied the legends. Thanks to Tatsu’s desire for vengeance, she eventually found work as an assassin, and the global underworld essentially created the legend of Katana from nothing but assumptions and stereotypes, claiming that she was a master martial artist (simply because of her Asian descent), and that her sword had mystical powers (also due to Asian culture and mythology). However, Tatsu used those stereotypes to her advantage despite their inaccuracy, turning them into a weapon of fear, letting her adversaries believe all that they had heard about her (regardless of the tragic truth).

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While Katana managed to adapt these Asian stereotypes and make them work to her advantage, it doesn’t make them any less problematic. Just like any other prevalent stereotypes that persist in the world, they harm and prevent the truth of the individual from being known, regardless of what group, race, or classification they might belong to. For Katana, those stereotypes would continue to inform how she was perceived for years to come, and it only got worse when she came to the United States and joined the Outsiders. However, Tatsu’s struggle with those perceptions would improve over time. Eventually, she became more comfortable with who she was and her own identity that she chose for herself: to be a hero and a true Outsider.

The real origins of Tatsu’s identity and the mythology that was built around her is a very interesting and complex dynamic, and it’s also a testament to her strength of character that she eventually embraced her own identity, rather than simply thinking she had to simply accept the stereotypes that had been placed upon her at the beginning of her history in DC Comics. Katana chose to find her own way and rise above the basic ideals and expectations the world initially had for her: to simply be a Japanese assassin with a cursed blade. Instead, she’s now a hero who “fights for something that is beyond the given”, and John Ridley’s The Other History Of The DC Universe really speaks to her epic evolution in this latest issue from DC Comics.

More: John Ridley Interview: Katana Joins ‘The Other History of The DC Universe’

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