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Hero, Villain, Yeti

Tibet in Comics

December 9, 2011–June 11, 2012



Characters as diverse as Mickey Mouse, the historical Buddha, Tomb Raider Lara Croft, and the Green Lama have something in common: Tibet. For more than sixty years Tibet has figured in comic books from around the world, at times creating and at times perpetuating notions of an otherworldly land roamed by the yeti, inhabited by wise and powerful lamas, or full of dark magic.

Hero, Villain, Yeti features the most complete collection of comics related to Tibet ever assembled, with examples ranging from the 1940s to the present. More than fifty comic books from the Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and the United States reflect on the depiction of Tibet, tracing the historical roots of prevailing perceptions and stereotypes and their visual and narrative evolution over time.

Tibet—both real and imagined—appears across comic book genres, including fantasy comics about superheroes and villains, mythical creatures, and the search for mysterious lands, people, and objects; biographies of holy figures like the Dalai Lama and the Buddha; political comics; and educational comics.

Visitors are invited to read dozens of original comic books—a number of which have been translated into English for the first time—at a reading station in the exhibition.

This exhibition was funded, in part, by The Achelis Foundation.

Curated by Martin Brauen

Notable Related Public Programs

The Making of Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon
A fascinating documentary detailing the technical hurdles Frank Capra had to surmount to bring his utopian vision of Shangri-La to the screen, and the story of the film’s disintegration after its first public presentation.

One Ring Zero: The Green Lama
One Ring Zero premieres an original score to accompany the sequential projection a Green Lama comic book, panel by exciting panel!

Tibet and the Occult:
The Secret Doctrine of Madame Blavatsky and how it changed America

A source of both inspiration and scandal, Madame Blavatsky’s interpretation of Asian philosophies provided to be a fundamental turning point in the West’s approach to the “˜mysteries’ of the East. Here contemporary writers discuss Blavatsky’s influence and the origins of the occult in America.

Tibet and the Occult:
Red Shambhala
Red Shambhala takes us on a thrilling journey into the underground occult agenda of the 1920’s Soviet Secret Police. Andrei Znamenski reveals the strange accounts of the Bolsheviks’ clandestine quest for ultimate power.

Tibet and the Occult:
The Nazi Expedition: To the Ends of the World

This German television (ZDF) documentary explores the 1938 expedition to Tibet led by Ernst Schäfer, with the support of Heinrich Himmler. The expedition sought proof for some of the more far-fetched mythic theories about Aryan origins. Post-screening discussion by History Professor at Columbia University Volker R. Berghahn.

Sympho + MAYA Ensemble
The visionary composer Paul Haas has created a synchronized work to accompany the panels of the 1940s cult comic book hero The Green Lama, in which the wealthy Jethro Dumont returns to take on the ills of a great American metropolis with the magic powers acquired during his ten year absence in Tibet.


Plateau Engage members Tsering Lama and Muna Gurung tell the story of Beyond the Hero, Villain, and Yeti, a workshop aimed at engaging Tibetan teens with the Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics exhibition. Through group discussion, academic readings, conversations with a Tibetan comic artist, and an investigation of narrative forms, the group began to gain an understanding of the art of comics and started to create their own stories.

Special Resources

    Exhibition Audio Tour on iTunes U
    Hero, Villain, Yeti: Exhibition Microsite
    Exhibition Installation Photography on Flickr