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There’s a Reason Viewers Are Mistaking ‘American Born Chinese’ For a Marvel Series

Michelle Yeoh and Ben Wang in 'American Born Chinese' on Disney+

The first three episodes of American Born Chinese, the Disney+ adaptation of Gene Luen Yang’s classic graphic novel, dropped today, and if you look at Google searches, you might notice an interesting trend. Apparently, viewers think American Born Chinese is a Marvel series.

American Born Chinese tells the story of Jin, a Chinese-American teenager who’s trying to fit in with the other students in his mostly white California town. When Jin is visited by a new student named Wei-Chen, though, he finds out that he’s tasked with helping a figure from Chinese legend stop an uprising against Heaven.

So is American Born Chinese part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Is it any kind of Marvel project at all? It isn’t, but there’s a good reason why you may have gotten mixed up.

Did American Born Chinese always have such a strong superhero vibe?

Judging from the trailer, American Born Chinese seems to be a super-powered fantasy epic, complete with deities, faraway lands, and lots of fight choreography.

As our Madeline Carpou points out, though, the original graphic novel is very different.

The trailer of the show makes it seem as though Jin has always had some grand tie to fate and destiny. No such thing happens in the book. Jin is miserable as he’s torn away from a life where he’s understood, and thrust into a situation where he’s accused of things like eating dogs. His new friend, Wei-Chen, is a constant source of embarrassment for him …. At no point is Jin enlisted to fight in a conflict of mythic magnitudes. Wei-Chen could care less about his divine duties. He just wants to drink boba and pick up chicks. Disney, what are you smoking????

If you read the original graphic novel and the Disney+ series seems unrecognizable, it’s not just your imagination—it’s been transformed into an entirely different story. In short, it’s been Disneyfied.

American Born Chinese has something else in common with Marvel

Along with the simple fact that American Born Chinese is streaming on Disney+, which also owns most Marvel films and series, there’s another reason some viewers may get confused.

Destin Daniel Cretton, director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, serves as one of the executive producers of American Born Chinese. He also directed the first and last episodes of the series. Looking at the final product, Cretton’s influence is undeniable. As Carpou writes, American Born Chinese has the same “bombastic and trope-y” feel as Shang-Chi—which, again, is a radical departure from the graphic novel.

So if you’re looking for a Marvel-esque adventure, you may enjoy the new American Born Chinese series. However, if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the source material, you may not find it on Disney+.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at