Friday, June 30, 2006

INSTANT YANG v. 23: POW! ZAP! ASIANS IN COMIC BOOKS; APA SUPERHEROES ONSCREEN; VIRGIN, WHAT GIVES?

One thing I've never shied away from is admitting that I'm a not-very-reformed Asian nerd-boy--I mean, I have that full blown gadget lust, I grew up reading SF (that's "speculative fiction" to you, buster), I was a mathlete and a debate squad dork and wear glasses and let's just say I don't excel on the noble field of sport. (That, and my legendarily poor driving skills, are my two nods to Asian stereotype.)

So what? Say it strong and say it loud: I'm a geek and I'm proud. These days, the hobbies that once turned geeks into social pariahs are increasingly mainstream; hell, they're not just mainstream, they're aspirational.

This week's column looks at one of the four pillars of geek culture (the others being computers, science fiction/fantasy, and video games). I'm talking about the classics, the GEEK MYTHS, baby. I'm talkin' comic books.

ASIAN POP: LOOK! UP IN THE SKY...IT'S ASIAN MAN!

By Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate
Thursday, June 1, 2006

Once as rare as gold kryptonite, Asian American superheroes are busting out all over -- and joining the fight for truth, justice and the Asian American way.

As I note in my PopMail this week, Asian American superheroes have been coming out of the woodwork recently--not just in the comic books, but on screen as well.

In theaters now, you have "X-Men 3: The Last Stand," which features Kea Wong as ever-lovin' Chinese American fire-starter Jubilee, Mei Melancon as "psychic ninja" Psylocke and Ken Leung as the villainous, thorn-skinned Kid Omega. "Superman Returns" doesn't feature our Asian dream pairing of Dean Cain as Supes and Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang, but it does have the increasingly ubiquitous Kal Penn as one of Lex Luthor's main minions.

On the small screen, the Disney Channel -- already the home of animated ass-kicker "Jake Long, American Dragon" -- has a new original movie, "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior," debuting June 16 and starring Brenda Song as reincarnated warrior-slash-would-be-homecoming queen Wendy Wu, with Shin Koyamada as the teenaged "undercover Buddhist monk" assigned to train her to fight the evil being known as Yan Lo. Our very own real-life superhero, Angry Asian Man, thinks the whole thing is a guaranteed disaster, but it looks to me like a tweenified "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" redub, which couldn't be all bad. (I've been wrong before.) I'll wait to watch it before coming to any conclusions.

The real joy, however, may come in the fall, when NBC debuts its new sci-fi-esque thriller "Heroes," about a bunch of normal folk who discover that they have paranormal powers. Japanese office worker Hiro Nakamura, played by Masi Oka, is a member of the super-ized select, while Sendhil Ramamurthy plays Mohinder Suresh, the researcher who uncovers the secret of the hidden talents among us. Wow, two Asian American males in a 10-person ensemble cast -- the success of "Lost" is really revamping the television landscape.

All of this makes me really want to revisit my own comic book dreams--after our formal interview, I chatted with Keith Chow, of Diamond Comic Distributors, about the idea of doing an Asian American superhero anthology. A truly cool project...if only we could find some artists with the requisite skills to collaborate with. (If you're one of said artists, give me a ping, let's talk.)

In other news, I'm quite disenchanted with Virgin Airlines. (Note to self: Couldn't you have come up with some better way of bridging "geek" and "virgin"?)

Not because of their service--never flown them, actually. But a well-traveled colleague of mine forwarded me the following email:

---
From: Virgin Atlantic Airways
Subject: Yutaka in the Big Smoke

London Calling by Virgin Atlantic


Yutaka Loves London!


Hi, my name is Yutaka and I have been asked by the guys and dolls at Virgin Atlantic to look after London Calling this month. That way cool because I fly their planes all the time. Not like a pilot though, because Yutaka not qualified.

You might know me from www.yutakaloveslondon.com and if you don't perhaps you should check me out. Is the best guide to London on the web - bars, souvenirs, clubs, everywhere hipsters, flipsters and quipsters like to hang out. And no touristy stuff.

So now I have to tell you about all the special offers for you if you fly to London this summer. You can save $100 on your trip with Virgin Vacations, get two people over the drawbridge of an ancient castle for the price of one, and wear 3D glasses at the really, really big screen at the Science Museum IMAX 3D Cinema. There are also cool deals with major London hotels, a top class Indian restaurant and a cup of tea near the Queen's place.

One thing for sure, with all these exclusive offers, visit London this summer and you'll love it even more than Yutaka.

---

My first reaction was kind of like…what the hell? Actually, that was also my second reaction. What's with the retardo broken English (WHICH ISN’T EVEN CONSISTENT) and tired Japanese tourist stereotypes?

Visit yutakaloveslondon.com, and it's a (technologically) pretty cool Flash site with travel guide info about London and some neat games. But it's also riddled with the same broken (or, well, dented) English, and cheesy "Yutaka speak in third person!" dialogue.

A quick WHOIS identifies the entity that's behind our friend Yutaka: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the ad agency behind the annoying Burger King ads and VW’s new series of in-your-face, youth-targeted commercials...so the vague obnoxiousness of the promo is not really surprising. What's surprising is that it's so...cliche and lame.

Am I being too touchy here? They could have done the same thing and simply had it in fluent English, and frankly, they lose nothing--other than the cultural insensitivity, of course.

Anyway, so, Virgin Atlantic? You're dead to me. DEAD TO ME.

Not that I ever flew you anyway.

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