Monthly Archives: September 2010

Fan Fiction Friday!!!

When I was in the 7th grade, I became convinced that the mother of one of my classmates had died in a horrible car accident. I told a friend that I’d found a picture of a woman in my mother’s high school yearbook who’d looked like the boy in question and that they had the same last name. My mother told me she’d died in a car crash a few years after they’d graduated. That was all my friend and I had to go on—all we’d needed, apparently—and we began trying to research the mystery woman’s past and attempting to get close enough to our classmate in hopes of hearing him talk about his family life growing up.

After a few weeks, my friend got bored, but me? Every little scrap of new information, no matter how small, made me feel giddy. I was Nancy Drew, putting together this puzzle no one had solved yet. A month in, when I was at a total impasse, I realized this wasn’t a puzzle. It was someone’s life and I was prying, making myself privy to way more information than I’d ever had the right to. I felt ashamed, the cool, almost scientific detachment melted away, and stopped my “investigation” immediately. I was reminded of my complete lapse in judgment when I came across Eldr-Fire’s “Static.”

Sakura’s fascination with Kakashi’s life before Team 7 goes into full-on voyeur mode when she finds video tapes with his name on them at Kurenai’s apartment. (It’s not what you’re thinking…keep reading.) She steals one and is treated to a few glimpses of his teenage years, with Asuma acting as the narrator/interviewer. Making out with Rin, hanging out with Genma, Gai, and Asuma…these encounters are day-in-the-life-of scenarios of a teen who just happens to be a trained killer. No harm, no foul, right? But the tape doesn’t curb Sakura’s thirst for knowledge; it drives her to find out more about him. So she steals another tape and another and another until she has a picture of Kakashi in her head that is irreconcilable with the person she knows in real life.

The weight of what Sakura discovers drags down their relationship and her actions become so pushy, so invasive, that it’s clear that she’s more than willing to sacrifice their present in order to find out about his past. It’s one of the few well-written KakaSaku fics I’ve read that doesn’t end well for the couple…and rightfully so. It’s natural to want to know intimate things about the person you’re dating, but do you really want to know everything? And how does that affect your interactions with your significant other? Does knowing everything create emotional intimacy or simply allow you to indulge your nosiness? If it’s emotional intimacy you want, doesn’t it mean more when you don’t have to force it?

Eldr-Fire does a great job of using audible references to static in different ways throughout the story (the static at the end of each scene on the tapes, the static that crackles on the phone line when Kakashi sighs, etc.), but this isn’t why “Static” is a great title for the piece. The author seems to be using the word’s definition (“pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary position”) to allude to the overall inability to let go. Asuma promised Kakashi that he’d burned the tapes and he never did. Even though she knew of Asuma’s promise, Kurenai is still holding onto them because they’re a part of what made Asuma Asuma. Kakashi can’t let go of his past and neither can Sakura. Being unable to let go ensures that the past will continue to haunt them all.

Rated M. Grade: A.

(FYI Eldr-Fire gets an extra glomp for depicting Kurenai and Asuma’s kid as a pint-sized version of Shikamaru. He’s so calculating, such a little strategist, and you just know that he’d be that way from hanging out with Shika all of the time. Love.)


Artist of the Month: Ricky Henry

This month, 27-year-old writer/artist Ricky Henry, a graphic design instructor at Antonelli College, will hawk copies of his new manga-inspired graphic novel, Monster Management Security Bureau of Cincinnati (MMSBC) at the Cincinnati Comic Expo on September 18. Squee! talked to him about his book, how imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even if it’s in jest, and why an alien in a live-action anime film shouldn’t have to be Asian.

Squee!: How did you get started drawing comic books/graphic novels?
Ricky Henry:
I never really had any intentions to put out a graphic novel.  It’s not that I don’t love comics or didn’t think that I would be good enough, it’s just not something that was ever on my radar to do. I love cartooning and I enjoy teaching cartooning, especially as it relates to marketing and advertising, but the only book I had ever really set out to write was a text book about cartooning in advertising.  MMSBC started out as a film.  I always intended for it to be a film, but when the production took a nosedive, the best possible way for this story to live on was to do so through a graphic novel. In fact, looking back, I wish I would have thought of this first!

Squee!: Tell me about MMSBC. How did you come up with the concept?
Henry: Well, like I said it originally started out as a film.  I always loved Super Sentai. You know, stuff like Power Rangers and Ultraman. All of the costumes and monsters and explosions looked so cheap and easy to do, but in a charming way. Don’t get me wrong, I never intended to make MMSBC a parody of the genre; it was always a loving tribute. The concept changed a bunch, too.  Originally, the guys and gals gained the super powers by answering an ad in a local paper. Stupid, right? It eventually evolved into the coming of age story that it is today. I used the “morphing” and gaining powers as a metaphor for growing up and making changes in life. The only thing that survived from those original ideas was making the pink ranger a flamboyant metrosexual. Such a cheap gag, but I love it.

Squee!: Would you say MMSBC is “manga inspired”?
Henry: Totally!  You can’t have giant cicada monsters fighting a big mech and not have it drawn up in that style, which is risky. Manga-style is either done right or wrong—there is no in between. I see so much bad manga-style artwork that it’s kinda depressing. You know the kind, right?

Squee!: Yup, I do.

Henry: Usually found on badges at cons? I should probably shut up before I’m blacklisted from every con in the country. Do people read this?

Squee!: Uh, no, not really, but anyway…what elements of MMSBC reflect its manga/anime influence?

Henry: It borrows bits and pieces from several elements. When we were filming I would tell people that it’s an action-adventure romantic comedy. I think action fans who like DBZ or Gundam will dig it, and those quiet, lonely types who read stuff like Fruits Basket will probably be all about the love story and focus on relationship problems. The only thing I can’t own up to is that it doesn’t take place in Japan.

Squee!: How/when did you get into anime and manga? What drew you to it?
Henry: Anyone who lives in the Cincinnati area and is around my age has to know about the infamous TV25 (now WKRP) VHF station. If not for the airing of anime classics on over-the-air TV like Castle of Cagliostro and Golgo 13, then certainly for the late night bikini shows. This channel was something else. I remember being 12 or 13 and wrapping layers of tin foil around the rabbit ears to pull in all of the programming. It was my first introduction to anime or as they liked to call it in 1994, “Japanimation.” (I still prefer calling it that. It sounds better.) My jaw also dropped to China when I saw a boob in Grave of the Fireflies. Cartoon nudity means a lot to a 12 year old.

Squee!: What’s your all-time favorite anime and why?
Henry: The cool answer is Kinnikuman (M.U.S.C.L.E./Ultimate Muscle). It’s a mixture of two of my all time favorite guilty pleasures: Japanimation and pro wrestling. The embarrassing answer is Dragon Ball Z. I can’t help it. It’s just so good. Sometimes I hear my students arguing over who would win a fight, this DBZ guy or that DBZ guy, and I have to bite my tongue not to chime in.

Squee!: What’s your all-time favorite manga and why?
Henry: I don’t have one. Honestly, this is going to sound awful, but I only own maybe a dozen or so manga. Ranma 1/2, Lupin, Kinnikuman. That’s about it. I’m a much bigger fan of traditional comics. I love Udon’s Street Fighter comics as well as B-List DC characters like Booster Gold.

Squee!: What are you reading and watching these days?
Henry: Presently, I’m reading a bunch of textbooks on Adobe Creative Suite 5.  If you’re talking comics, well, I’m actually going back and reading the old Mortal Kombat books from Malibu comics. I’ve been in a ’90s mood lately. They just don’t make comics like that anymore. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, but there is a certain charm. As far as what I’m watching goes, there’s the new season of Futurama, Man v Food, Dragon Ball Z Kai, and The Suite Life on Deck.

Squee!: The Suite Life on Deck? Really?
Henry:
Yep. No joke. [laughs] I started watching Fullmetal Alchemist because my wife is a huge fan, and I’ve been meaning to go back and start watching again. In fact, I should probably just read the manga. I hear it’s better anyway.

Squee!: So live-action anime movies: yay or nay?
Henry:
Yay! I really think they will be the next big thing. The kids now, they are being exposed to anime and manga way more than I was in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s only a matter of time before they get serious directors and film treatments. It took mainstream comics long enough, didn’t it? I was just as bummed as the next guy about Dragon Ball: Evolution, but I still think Justin Chatwin was a great choice for Goku. I’m so sick of hearing people complain about a “non-Asian” Goku. The dude is an alien. Since when did being from another planet mean he had to be Asian? Drives me crazy. No one says, “Well, the script was awful.” It’s always the Asian thing. I thought Chatwin looked just like Goku.

Squee!: Lastly, what are you working on these days?
Henry: Aside from teaching, I’m staying super busy planning a tour for the book, playing with my band, Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire, and getting ready for the birth of my baby boy! It has been an incredible year. This time last year, I had no idea that I’d be where I am today. And I guess I’ll leave your readers with that. Never give up. This time last summer, I was pretty miserable. I fought through the hard times, and now I’m married to the most perfect, most beautiful girl, expecting a little one, and really fulfilling a dream completing this book. I couldn’t have done it without my partner and former student, Chad Schoettle, either. He helps with the storyboarding and pencils, and is a true master at what he does. Keep up with me at my website and request me at your local anime or comic con. I don’t ask for much, just a chance to do a panel and a complimentary pizza. Hold the onions.