Monday, March 26, 2007

From Icewind Dale to Seoul

Just a couple of brief pop culture updates.

The other day, I had the pleasure of reading The Crystal Shard, the fourth in a series of comic book adaptations of R. A. Salvatore's "Drizzt do'Urden" fantasy novels. I read one of the prose books a few years ago and it pretty much left me cold -- lots of action and adventure, but not much substance, more or less the literary equivalent of Independence Day. Ironically, it's this same quality that lends the story so well the comics medium. Why spend five days reading through a fairly shallow novel when you can read the same story in a matter of hours -- and in color! It's a rip-roaring ride through the Forgotten Realms with a colorful cast of characters (Regis is my favorite) and more excitement than you can shake a knucklehead trout at. Highly recommended.

On a much lower key, I've also had the opportunity to watch Friends -- not the American sitcom, but a four-part 2002 miniseries created as a joint venture between Japan and South Korea. It's awfully touching; I'm usually more into action and adventure, but I'm a sucker for a good romance. The plot, in a nutshell: Ji Hoon is a film school student from Seoul; Tomoko's a department store worker from Tokyo. They meet by chance in Hong Kong, hit it off, exchange e-mail addresses, and discover the hazards of long-distance relationships. It's the first time Japan and Korea have collaborated on a TV series, and I must say it works out pretty well. One thing I like is that it doesn't skirt too far around the issue of ethnicity. One of Tomoko's friends is the daughter of two Korean immigrants, and she speaks candidly about the prejudice that's often leveled against Zainichi Koreans, and how she's studying Korean to get in touch with her heritage. Given Japan's history of denying its non-Japanese residents a voice, I think that's a step in the right direction. On the other hand, when Tomoko goes to Seoul to look Ji Hoon up, she doesn't show any difficulty at getting along in South Korea; maybe it's just too alien a concept for Japanese to think of themselves as foreigners in other countries. I dunno. Anyway, it's the sweetest darned thing I've seen in quite a while, and again, highly recommended.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Great Ten to Headline Series?

I've just read that the Great Ten, the DCU's resident team of supers from the PRC, are to receive their own series or miniseries later this year.

I'm kinda curious how this is going to pan out. I know the Ten are part of DC's sometimes-lauded-sometimes-criticized push for diversity in their comics from last year, but so far they've only appeared in, oh, about seven comics. The only member we've gotten to know personally is the Accomplished Perfect Physician, and I rather like him. That said, there are quite a few legitimate concerns about the Ten that need to be addressed. I'm of the mind that even the most horrendous characters can be rehabilitated -- look at the Yellow Claw in Agents of Atlas -- but it's gonna take a whole lot of work to make Mother of Champions anything more than an insulting, offensive, disgusting stereotype.

I do take some issue with the notion that since the Ten are employees of a totalitarian government their book won't be worth reading. We already know that the Physician (a former outlaw now trying to change the system from within) and Thundermind (ethnically Tibetan; we still don't know why he's on the team) are at odds with the nationalist members, the August General in Iron (who's apparently "just following orders") and Socialist Red Guardsman (the resident "my country right or wrong" jingo). The writer of the series could easily use the book to criticize the Chinese government.

I also see this as a great opportunity to explore the DCU Earth beyond America. We now know that the People's Republic has its own super-human community independent of America's; what about the rest of Asia? Taiwan? Hong Kong? Korea? Does China have supers besides the Ten?

By the way, who's the tenth member of the Great Ten? At first I thought it was this "Shaolin Robot," but apparently that's just an automaton controlled by the August General. They introduced Yeti in a later issue of 52, but said he was a "reserve member." Also, is there a connection between Chung Tzu/Egg Fu (ugh I hate typing that) and the Ten? We know that they're both around after 52.

And who's writing? We know they're Grant Morrison's brainchild, but Greg Rucka, DC's resident writer of political thrillers, seems to have handled them for the most part so far. I'd much rather see Rucka handle them, injecting some of his trademark intrigue into the title, given how volatile east Asia's political climate can be. I can see the National People's Congress sending the August General and the Guardsman out to clash with Rising Sun (Japan's Captain America as far as I'm concerned) so no one will notice the Immortal Man in Darkness performing some cool covert action in his swanky alien plane, for instance. On the other hand, this would be a good opportunity to give an Asian American writer some high-profile attention.

So, yeah. I'm cautiously guarded, but I really want to see how this turns out. Bring it on, DC.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thoughts on Marvel, Iron Man, and the Avengers

I'm a total Johnny DC. I wouldn't spend money on a Marvel comic (except maybe Nextwave), and I only own two: Captain America #1 (a free promotional gift from my friendly local comics shop) and Marvel: 1602 (a birthday present from a dear friend of mine who knows I like Neil Gaiman as much as he does). I've been following this whole Civil War hullabaloo over Teh Intarwebs, but only so I can say, "Y'know, this would never happen at DC."

I read The Mighty Avengers #1 at Barnes & Noble yesterday, mainly since I knew I wouldn't get busted for reading it in the shop, but also since I was curious. For reasons I'm not sure I can articulate, the conceit of the pro-establishment super-team appeals to me (even though I'm borderline anarchist myself) -- Justice Society of America, for instance, is one of my favorite comics. Since Marvel made it abundantly clear that the pro-Registration side was the "wrong" side (even though they won in the end), I wanted to see how writer Bendis would work with a morally bankrupt team of sellouts.

So here are my thoughts. Time to bust out my all-time favorite HTML tag... Unordered List Powers: ACTIVATE!

  • First of all, I am a huge fan of the concept of Iron Man, even if I think Tony Stark is an insufferable asshole. I think the basic idea of a super-powered suit of armor is totally cool. Amazing powers, of course, are part and parcel of the whole adolescent power fantasy angle of super-heroics (which as I've said before isn't a completely bad thing). However, characters like the Thing, the Hulk, and even Superman are hampered by their powers: in the former two cases, they're obviously marked as different and kept at arm's length by the people they're out to help, and Superman too feels a sort of tragic distance from normal humans. Even characters who can change back and forth between normal and super identities -- Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, etc. -- have that abnormal element from which they can't divorce themselves. But Iron Man can just take his powers off. That's quite a concept. He's a completely normal human guy who's simply made himself a set of removable super-powers; if he ever feels too disconnected from humanity, he can just take the suit off.
  • Mind you, I still think Tony Stark is a self-centered asshole with questionable morals, screwed-up priorities, a painfully racist nemesis, and an ugly mustache. He's just got one bitchin' suit is all.
  • I know who Iron Man, the Wasp, and Ms. Marvel are, but I have only the vaguest idea of who Ares and Black Widow are, and no clue about the Sentry or Wonder Man. Who are these people? I can't really get a feel for Sentry, but Wonder Man comes off as kind of a prick.
  • What's up with Ms. Marvel? She strikes me as Marvel's answer to Power Girl. Both blond power-houses who lead the resident pro-establishment team and are there mainly for the T&A. Of course, where Power Girl has an awesome personality that defines her beyond her looks, Ms. Marvel comes off as more or less a good-looking cipher. And Carol, for the love of all that is good, tone down that costume. We don't need to see your thighs all the way up to your ribcage. If Cho would draw that costume as more of a reasonable one-piece swimsuit and less of a full-body thong, I'd like it a lot more.
  • Will Wasp ever shut up about shopping and fashion? Lots of women are into that, and it's cool, but it's all Janet ever talks about.
  • As the ever-lovin' Loren Javier pointed out, the team is rather lacking in diversity. Now, this usually doesn't jump out at me (I'm white; I try my damnedest to be racially sensitive, but it'd be a joke if I claimed I always succeed) and I probably wouldn't be commenting on it if Loren hadn't pointed it out first, but when I think about it strikes me as odd that Marvel's foremost super-team is all white. Then again, as Loren also notes, the anti-Reg team, the New Avengers, is really very diverse. I do wonder if this wasn't intentional on the editors' parts to make a statement about the two teams' priorities.
  • Now to actually comment on the comic itself, I like Brian Michael Bendis's writing... in very small doses. His attempts to write "natural dialog" are amusing for a few issues, but get old really fast; I couldn't bear to read this for an extended period. He makes good use of thought balloons, though.
  • Likewise, Frank Cho is a great artist, but the rampant T&A is just tiresome. Please, Frankie, tone it down.
  • The story was OK, I guess. I was really paying more attention to the characters than the plot. Poor Mole Man, tho'.
  • Is it just me, or is Girl-Ultron a dead-ringer for Wasp? Considering the robot was originally created by Janet's ex-husband, that's kinda creepy.
  • Does this mean Iron Man is dead? Please, Lordy, tell me this means Iron Man is dead.
  • All in all, it compares pretty well to Justice Society of America #4, which I read the day before. I've already pointed out the similarities between the books, but I think the differences really highlight why I'm a Johnny DC and not a Marvel Zombie. As someone in the blogosphere (I can't recall who) pointed out, Marvel seems more interested in publishing comics that read like wide-screen movies, and their creators seem slightly embarrassed to be working in the comics medium. DC, on the other hand, sells comics that read like comics and their creators are damn proud of it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brief Words on The Spirit #4

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This is easily the best comic I'm reading at the moment, and I'm reading a lot of good ones. This is my first exposure to the Spirit, and I must say that Darwyn Cooke has completely and totally won me over and made me absolutely love the character and his world. I look forward with bated breath to every issue.

Also, Silk Satin is the coolest, toughest, most badass woman I have ever seen in a comic book. I think I'm in love.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Inevitable Weird Keyword Post

According to StatCounter, some of the Google searches that have led to my weblog are:

linda carter bound and gagged
lynda carter bound gagged
gagged mary marvel
shotacon lolicon story archive -thread
ann from penny arcade lolicon

That last one creeps me the fuck out. And what scares me the most is that I'm on the first page of search results for all of them.

If only I could harness this power for good...!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Always Remember

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Oh, what the hell. I missed out on it the first time around, so why not.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Book that Laid Low an Industry

So, I'm writing a research paper on moral panic and popular culture for English, and I just got one of the books I intend to use as a source: Seduction of the Innocent, by Frederic Wertham.

I may consider posting my thoughts on the book once I've digested some of its contents.

Friday, March 02, 2007

52 x Eva

Okay! My long-planned 52-meets-Neon Genesis Evangelion post.

Ever since the Four Horsemen stepped on the scene back in Week 38, there was something about them that kept nagging at me. Malformed freaks of science, created by madmen playing God, to house the souls of Biblical figures, in anticipation of the Apocalypse/Apokolips? Tell me if there isn't some similarity in the designs here.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I couldn't find a good screenshot of that creepy-ass scene with Eva-01's bandadged head with the one huge FREAKY green eye, but I think this pic gets the image across.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Check out their heads.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

...yeah, this one's a bit of a stretch.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


So... am I seeing something that just isn't there, or is Grant Morrison watching the same weird foreign cartoons as I am?