Monday, August 30, 2010

0064. Prince/Princess Sapphire

Sapphire is the main character of Osamu Tezuka's 1950's comic Ribon No Kishi, a tale of a youth born with both a boy's and girl's heart.  While her biological gender is female, she is raised as a boy by her father, the king, in order to prevent an evil man from inheriting the throne.  There's subplot about an angel that is trying to correct his mistake by retrieving her extra heart, but she refuses to let him take her boy's heart away.  She also dons a mask and fights crime at night!

In theory, Ribon no Kishi sounds incredibly progressive.  A dual-gendered girl-prince who moonlights as a masked crusader?  What about that isn't progressive?  Actually, the narrative. In practice, Sapphire is very much a girl dreaming of being a princess and a wife, and her boy heart seems incidental.

What makes Ribon no Kishi interesting to me is the place in holds, or doesn't hold, in the history of shoujo comics.  Shoujo manga (lit. girl's comics) is a genre with a history rooted deep in the Japanese gender roles cultivated at the turn of the century. The genre features sparkles and flowers, overflowing emotional narrative, flowing pages often without panels, and stars delicate, gentle girls with those signature giant starry eyes.  From a masculine retelling of shoujo manga history, Ribon no Kishi is a landmark tale that set a standard for the genre.  In reality, and an only recently accepted feminine perspective, Ribon no Kishi is an exception to the genre, rather than a contribution.

Past the jump, more on Ribon no Kishi's place in the history of girl's comics in Japan.  Historical perspectives and facts for this entry are heavily drawn from the fantastic essay Opening the Closed World of Shoujo Manga by Mizuki Takahashi, in the book Japanese Visual Culture, Ed. Mark MacWilliams, 2008.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

0063. Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.  She is the consort of Vishnu and is closely connected to the icon of the lotus.

Monday, August 23, 2010

0062: Diana

Diana is the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon, and the protector of virgins.  Originally just a goddess of the hunt, she morphed into a goddess with more responsibilities, and one of them, vowing to never marry.  She's a powerful symbol with a hint of "I don't need a man" in her qualifiers.

Diana always seemed like an odd kind of goddess from the 21st century standpoint, where hunting is socionormatively a "man's job."  But here she is, goddess of the hunt, and also, no, you can't marry her, so none of that "this character is totally independent until she gets married."

The reason you don't see any Disney Princesses on this blog is because of their tendency to be dimensional until they throw away any prior motivations/talents/aspirations/interesting traits to lay down and be a wife and princess.  I'm not the first to complain about it, so I'll spare you the essay, but Diana seemed to transcend all of that.  She likes to hunt and hang out around the moon, and no, she's not giving it up for anything.  A pretty amazing "independent woman" role model. Too bad she doesn't have her own animated movie.

...don't get me wrong, though.  I like men too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

0061. BlackJack

The star of one of Osamu Tezuka's many lengthy comic epics,  BlackJack is the rogue, unlicensed surgeon, saving lives and collecting a high fee. It ran for ten years from the eighties into the nineties, and spawned a animated television show and two movies.

A serious, morbid comic, the audience evaluates the human condition through the eyes of this surgeon, who really has nothing to lose and very opaque motives.  The series is a serial at its best, self-contained issues that drop in clues of a larger storyline as time goes on- about his past, about why he became a surgeon, about the people he's loved and lost and gained, and what his mission is.  An antagonist appears later on, a euthanasist who Blackjack loathes for killing people he's sure he could have saved.  On the whole, Blackjack is a good man, working for good even when his patients and onlookers send him away with curses and scorn.  Dramatic irony at its best and most heartbreaking.

The Blackjack comic is a masterpiece, and is being released stateside in a fabulous presentation and translation. Tezuka is a master of an artform that developed a bit differently in Japan than it did in Western comics, and the devices he uses can be a pleasant surprise to those used to comics in the West.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

0060. Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard is an executive transvestite.  And is covered in bees.  And makes us wonder- cake or death?

If having a near unlimited catalog of hilarious sound bites (that send nearby listeners into instant fits of genuine giggles) is any indication of greatness as a comic, then Izzard is clearly at the top of his craft.  But not only is he a brilliant British comic, he is an executive transvestite.  And a cross dressing comedian who's joke isn't that he's a male in a dress.

Below, his most quotable comedic ramble, "Cake or Death:"

Monday, August 16, 2010

0059: Spock

Spock is the half-vulcan half-human first officer on the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise.  Played by Leonard Nemoy in the original television series, he provides to the series an "impartial view of the human condition."  Named on the the 50 Greatest Television characters by TV Guide, he is a still-loved character, revisited with positive reviews in 2009 alternate-timeline Star Trek movie.

I can never claim to have been a Star Trek fan only because I was never a fan of science fiction in general.  My primary knowledge of Spock is that he is half of the pairing that gave birth to the phenomena of slash fiction in the United States- that is, the act of creating fictional "fan" works featuring a relationship between male characters that do not have a romantic relationship in cannon.

I can also never claim to not be a fan of slash fiction in general, so there's my big dark secret, huh?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

0057 & 0058: Maggie and Hopey

Margarita Luisa "Maggie" Chascarrillo and Esperanza Leticia "Hopey" Glass are the two focal characters in comic artist Jaime Hernandez's opus Locas.  As part of the Love and Rockets series (composed along with brothers Gilbert and Mario) these two Latina women have an open relationship around which the narrative is built.  They evolve over time and tribulation- moving up, moving on, and moving down and back again.  They are sometimes lovers and always friends across adventures that range from the nearly science-fictional to the most soap-opera-y drama.

When I became interested in LGBT comic book icons, I was told that Love & Rockets was a series I Had To Read.  I fell in love with the art, but much less the narrative (not for lack of quality but on account of my tastes) and am continually impressed by the work, now compiled in beautiful hardcovers in  Locas: The Maggie And Hopey Stories.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Temporary Posting Schedule Change

For the next couple of weeks, Idols will only be posting three times a week, while the artist sorts out some personal stuff.  Thanks for following.

Monday, August 9, 2010

0056. Jareth/David Bowie

Like in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the character of Jareth is tied together with the personality portraying him.  This time, it's David Bowie.  Jareth was the Goblin King from the stunning 1986 Jim Henson movie Labyrinth.  He was a complex character with ambiguous motives that set girls hearts on fire with his desperate desire for the heroine- though his consistently tight pants may have helped, too.  David Bowie performed the musical numbers for the film and his personality brought a level of elegant strangeness to the character that he would have lacked at the hand of any other actor.

As a young girl, I recognized the genius of this backwards fairy tale, as well as the gorgeous aesthetics that made up the scenery and costume.  Being used to tales of delicate princesses rescued by dashing princes, seeing Sarah grow strong as resist the longing Jareth was a welcome shock.  Understanding that she was the one with power over him made the world of fiction all the more complex and beautiful to me.

And now, have some When the World Falls Down.

Friday, August 6, 2010

0055. Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami is a contemporary Japanese artist, exploring many themes including, but not limited to, marketing, Japanese aesthetics and culture, history, and war.  His projects involve painting, sculpture, printing, installation and animation. He is known for his visual theory "Superflat," an aesthetic perception fostered in Japan and supposedly reflective of it's post-war history.  He often collaborates with designer label Louis Vuitton, creating both designer items and fine art from the collaboration.

His Studio:

Murakami remains one of my favorite contemporary artists, from the moment I read Little Boy, and unearthed his previous title Superflat.  Being one of those middle schoolers obsessed with anime in the '90's, I'd always wondered what role anime could play in fine art, and how it could do so intelligently.  Murakami addressed not only anime, but Japan's entire visual culture, in a way that made sense to make art about.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

0053 + 0054. Thoth and Seshat

Thoth and Seshat are Egyptian Dieties, corresponding to speech and writing respectively.  Thoth represents the heart and the ability to mediate and distinguish between good and evil.  He is a powerful god, playing a key role in many important Egyptian legends.  Seshat is known as the scribe or the record keeper, and she may be the daughter or wife of Thoth depending on the myth.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

0052. Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O'Connor is an Irish musician who rose to fame in the late 1980's.  She became famous for her rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U," and made headlines because of her outspokenness regarding abuse, women's rights, war, and, (unfortunately) for simply having a shaved head.  Her most well known protest was as a musical guest on the Saturday Night Live show in 1992, where she ripped a picture of Pope John Paul II in half on air in protest of the Catholic Church and the alleged sexual abuse scandals related to it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

0051. Velma

Velma Dinkley is the bespeckled "nerd" character in the television and movie cartoon franchise Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo is a pop culture phenomenon that began in 1969 and is still producing incarnations to this day. Velma provides the voice of reason, usually the solution to the mystery of the day, and copious amounts of "Scooby Snacks" to encourage her bumbling teammates Scooby and Shaggy to continue doing their job.

I had a big girl-crush on Velma as a kid.  I figured she would have way more fun with me than she would with those idiots on her team- though I didn't have a sick ride to impress her with. Dang Mystery Machine setting the bar too high...