Saturday, October 24, 2009

Asian Superheroes part 3 - Super Young Team

It's been a while since I've written about Asian Superheroes (when DC, Marvel, Image, Wildstorm et al take an honest crack at writing Asian spandex heroes) as frankly, there's not a lot out there. But when you do come across em, you take notice, scratch your head, and in my case with the Great Ten, happen to stay abreast of whenever they make appearances (such as in Checkmate). This time around, the focus is on Super Young Team - another creation of Grant Morrison (who created China's Great Ten). SYT is from Japan, and as such can best be described as trendy, superfluous, J-pop/idol-based, idiosyncratic tomfoolery. Let me be blunt, I don't know if I hate them or respect the effort put into making them a statement of today's 5-second attention-span, twitter-saturated youth or a mockery of what heroism is supposed to mean. They are not heroes. No, SYT is a bunch of meta-powered teenage idols thrown together by a PR machine with no reason for being. Sadly, they know it themselves. Despite pinch hitting saving the universe in Final Crisis along with the Checkmate Organization, Renee Montoya, the Justice League and Captain Marvel - their true contribution to the side of good is looking glam, endorsing cocktail parties and merchandising.

They were introduced as the current incarnation of Jack Kirby's Forever People, for fuck sakes. I LOVE the Fourth World (Darkseid, Desaad, Kanto and the rest of them) and seeing Kirby's creations turned into things I HATE (having lived in Japan for seven years and working alongside the Tokyo talento industry gave me this perspective) made me shudder at the vapidity and hypocrisy of a bunch of superpowered amateurs with little understanding of morality and sacrifice. This would all be fine, I suppose, but because they resemble the idiocies of a supremely shallow and bereft-of-talent industry, I'm going to see how they develop. To be fair - the writer, Joe Casey, nailed down the Tokyo Pop environment pretty damn well. References to Kiddie Land, Akiba, Shibby-Shibs, etc etc are all in there. Anyhow, here is who they are:

- Most Excellent Superbat: costume based on an amalgamation of Batman and Superman. His talent? Being really fucking rich. Limited martial arts capabilities but when you save Japan by buying it outright, hell even I'm impressed.
- Big Atomic Lantern Boy: sexually-repressed virginal nerd who combines Firestorm and Green Lantern. Hint of being a pervert with some kinky fetishes regarding his team-mate called....
- Shiny Happy Aquazon: similar to Mera, Aquaman's wife, in being able to create hard-water constructs and can live underwater. Wearing S&M PVC gear, she is the team's bimbo, ready for her face to be plastered on ads and keitai's (mobile phones) all over the world. Well, Japan anyways.
- Shy Crazy Lolita Canary: a fist-sized winged schoolgirl alcoholic. Her primary superpower is a sonic scream - only screams "Sumimasen!!!" (excuse me) a la Black Canary. Her secondary superpower is being annoying. Actually, I liked her the most. The alcoholism rung a chord, I guess.
- Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash: you guess it - the team's speedster. He looks plain awful with an eggshell helmet, and can only go 500MPH. Considering that is Jay Garrick's (Silver Age Flash) cruising speed, and Wally West and Bart Allen have both gone Speed of Light, big freaking deal.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oedipus Redux - Peter Milligan's Greek Street

Apologies for the late posting - been busy.

Ahem. Anyways, let it never be known that we are not literate here on this blog. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we'll be focusing on the Greek Classics. Or to be more specific, the story of Oedipus. Yes, the lad who shagged and then killed his mother. The forebear of a psychosexual complex that forms the basis of today's psychology and a huge industry of anti-depressants manufacturing.

Greek Street is a bit of a pun, something to be expected from one of DC Vertigo's pioneering writers. It's an actual street found in London, a home of vice, baklava, strippers and gangsters. Actually, no it's not, it's really just a lane filled with a slew of ethnic restaurants in Soho. But then what better home than to put a modernized version of a veritable mish-mosh of Greek stories mixing Oedipus, the Iliad, the Golden Ass and more? At the center of the story is Eddy (which for those quick on the take is a hipper version of Oedipus), a street urchin/junkie/ne're do well in trouble with the local mob, run by the Fury family, nee The Erinyes. The local crime family is itself in some kind of debt to their local House of Lords representative Lord Menon (Agamemnon). He has a clairvoyant daughter named Sandy (Cassandra) and there is a Greek chorus of strippers who bookend each chapter with a summary and a taste of the shit to befall young lord Eddy. This has cannibalism, incest, ultra-violence and drug-taking. Why it's got everything we need in our modern Greek plays!

The writing is crisp but accent-heavy. If you're a fan of Guy Ritchie films or Irvine Welsh novels, this is definitely for you. This is UK gangster to the hilt with enough Greek Classic references to make you hit Wikipedia for a couple of hours. The art by Davide Gianfelice is spectacular, much better than the usual Vertigo norm, with bright colors and sharp line graphics that show the glitz and grit of today's London. I dunno if the rest of you have been there recently, but it captures the seedy dump-quality of the non-touristy areas. Don't get me wrong, London is cool and all that. But Disneyland it ain't.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Best TV Show Never Made - Gotham Central

Imagine a television series that took place in Gotham City. Oh wait, that already happened. It was called Birds of Prey and focused on Oracle, Black Canary and Huntress. It came and went quietly. But imagine that it was done RIGHT, by making it in the Chris Nolan age where realism, grit and epic storytelling were the main themes.

Gotham Central started off as an experiment in 2003 by the best crime writers in the comics genre - Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, two guys who know how to write genuine detective stories as well as police procedurals. Their idea was to do crime stories set in the city of Batman but with the costumed freaks firmly in the background. The main characters were formerly supporting ones themselves - Maggie Sawyer who previously was the head of Metropolis' Major Crimes Unit now transferred to Gotham, Crispus Allen from Detective Comics and the animated DVD Batman: Gotham Knight, Renee Montoya from Bruce Timm's Batman Animated and Marcus Driver, an entirely new character. Their stories focused on solid police procedurals that sometimes involved supervillains, sometimes not - and Batman's presence (if not the man himself) shadowing in the background. Many of the characters, of which there are almost 20 officers, look down upon their supposed need to always contact Batman to solve their cases. And while most refuse to accept his help when they hedge their own abilities to solve crimes, they do understand his necessity in taking down some of the supervillains when their own firepower isn't enough.

So combining top-notch storytelling and clever cameos by Batman and his Rogues Gallery (plus some cameos from the Titans and Flash's Rogues), what do you get? Eisner and Harvey Award attention in the first year for writing, series and inking. You had serious DC character development unmatched in other series, Montoya (who most of us remember as the plucky detective alongside Harvey Bullock and Jim Gordon in the DCAU) becomes a lesbian and starts her path into leaving the GCPD and turning into the next Question, and Crispus Allen is on his way into becoming the next Spectre. And it was a thrill to see how seemingly regular crimes ended up involving characters like The Joker, Mad Hatter, Two Face or Catwoman. Or vice versa, where you would think costume freaks are involved but you are not sure. Maybe not.

But funny enough, the series was a commercial failure. It was like a critically acclaimed art house movie that wins top honors at all the film festivals and yet never finds its audience. It ran for 40 issues before the writers could no longer justify its existence despite continually racking up awards.

And end footnote was that, ironically, TV execs at Warner Bros (owners of DC and producers of the Nolan films) LOVED the comic series. Although they were nonplussed with Birds of Prey's failure, their confidence in the quality of writing and character development (imagine Hill Street Blues or CSI, but with Batman in it!) would make it a reality if not for the fact that there is a moratorium on all Batman TV shows as long as the film saga will keep going. So we got that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to Spot a Vampire

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scenes from the Tokyo Game Show

Full pictorial article:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Negasonic_ultratokyo_popexplosion!! - Supermarket

One of my all-time faves off the IDW label - Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson's Supermarket. A literal explosion of colour, culture and Generation Y angst mixed with some porn, yakuza and crass consumerism thrown in. An electro-pop fable for everyone of us who have visited Hong Kong or Tokyo (or want to), overdrawn our credit cards, measured the worth of a souped-up Japanese import versus a German piece of automotive engineering, and felt that illegal music downloads off our mobile is as good as life is gonna get.

The protagonist is Pella Suzuki, a hapa (half-Japanese) born of a Japanese dad and a Swedish mum. She goes to school in your typical Catholicized private institution and works in a convenient store, conveniently ripping off her customers by letting them donate credit card charges to her charity of the day, meaning herself. A bit spoiled and with values mirroring her upper middle-class suburban lifestyle created by her enigmatic parents, all of that gets whacked the day she finds her folks assassinated.

She is forced to flee from the suburbs to the Supermarket - the ultra-city: a fantastic mish-mash of Shinjuku, Roppongi and Akasaka districts of Tokyo, and Yau Ma Tei and Central districts of Hong Kong with a little Pudong of Shanghai thrown in. Bearing in mind that this is still supposed to be in California. 70-story hotels, Acuras, sushi, chicken tikka, Paul Smith, Prada, Gucci, public transit, wi-fi networks, and dog massage parlors make up the background for an essentially fast-paced chase story that ends all too quickly. Unfortunately, memorable dialogue that reads hip like a Joss Whedon teleplay is counterbalanced by a glaring problem. Much like a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson novel, it ends too abruptly and the reader is actually left wanting more.

But what makes up for defects in the story is the ART. OMG, talk about art for our new century. It captures the pace, the mood and the groove of our current Internet-savvy, denim and dim sum-fed, virtual fast food nation. I once commissioned Mr. Donaldson for some artwork several years ago trying to get him to re-create the magic of Supermarket. The colours are electric, creating a new style that goes beyond anime or normal comic book form. Each page is to be savoured and soaked up, and try to catch the pop culture references if you can.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cosplay Model - Marie-Claude Bourbonnais

Call Name: Marry Bardot
Status: Cosplay Model/Pin-up
Real Name: Marie-Claude Bourbonnais
Profession: Glamour/Adult Model, Pin-up
Does: Mortal Kombat, Gen 13, Fetish, BDSM