Week 2: Struggles with Senior Thesis Ideas

September 7, 2019:

  • Over the past couple of days I managed to split up my superhero comic idea (Idea #3 or 4, mentioned in my last post) into 4 smaller mini-comics focusing on confrontations between one superhero and one supervillain. I’ve been having trouble choosing one storyline to do/focus on over the others, however, simply because all of my ideas sound interesting. I’ve been thinking of wanting to incorporate psychology in some way as an aspect of my comic or whatever I decide to do, since I’m minoring in psych and would like it if my Senior Thesis project could be a synthesis between my Illustration abilities, my writing ideas, and psychology. My superhero comic, I now believe, should incorporate psychology into its storyline, so that the project focuses more on the deep and rich internal lives of my characters rather than simply external action or plot.
  • One of the better ideas for a superhero comic I have is one taking place in Japan, involving the adventures and exploits of the badass heroine Hasaki Gozen (aka “Edge Empress”). Gozen is a female samurai warrior/assassin born with the mutant ability to sharpen and elongate her fingernails so they act like daggers or long blades. Her mother was exposed to atomic radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 at the end of WWII, causing her child in the future to be born with this genetic abnormality. Unfortunately, the atomic blasts also set the stage for the emergence of powerful heroes and villains in the future, each with their own special abilities. One of these villains is Blip Jr. — a teleporting infant with zero attention span whose cries create shock waves capable of damaging buildings, and inducing hearing loss in crowds.
  • Hasaki Gozen is contacted by the Japanese government, who believes that Gozen is the only individual fast enough to stop the child (through her superhuman reaction time). Gozen repeatedly turns down the offer to help the government because of her moral code– she has been paid by various individuals to kill criminals, rival gangsters, and other villains before, but she will not kill a) the elderly, b) the disabled, or c) children. The rest of the comic analyzes her psychological and ethical-philosophical struggle as she contemplates whether she is willing to compromise her moral code and her reputation for the safety of millions of people. She also confronts her past and how she is perceived by society in her fight against Blip Jr, because when Hasaki herself was a child, her mother tried to kill her, thinking she was a demon/yokai. She was also bullied in school and generally cast off by society, forcing her to become independent and cynical at a very young age (she channels her hatred towards stopping the true monsters of society). Blip Jr. similarly was abandoned by his mother because of his terrifying abilities, and some people think he is a demon child as well (even though he just wants to see his mother and is afraid of being alone).
  • The comic essentially blends Japanese Shinto myth/belief with the superhero genre (think X-Men) and crime/neo-noir elements to create a morally complex, philosophical tale that defies genre. The issue with this comic is whether this could be considered an adequate representation of my ideas and abilities as an artist (and I have used Japanese mythology in art/literature before– I once wrote a sci-fi story with Japanese elements, and my Ukiyo-e project back when I started college also had themes of Japan). Shinto mythology and the yokai of Japanese folklore have been interests of mine for a long time (and I am interested in obscure mythologies that are decidedly non-Western, since they allow room for creativity and variety in storytelling, as opposed to encouraging the perpetuation of stale tropes).
Expanding the world of this story could be left for future issues of my superhero comic, should I decide to pursue this idea in the future. Keeping with the theme of psychology, I’ve recently thought of other villains for Hasaki Gozen to fight– many of whom are sympathetic and are not necessarily terrible people, just normal individuals afflicted by unfortunate circumstances. Some of them are mentioned in passing in the past, showing the reader that Gozen has fought powerful mutants before.
  • Subway Shinobi– a mad, mentally insane cultist turned shinobi, who attacked subways in Japan with sarin gas, and spread diseases through spores produced in his body. Is a reference to the Aum Shinrikyo cult who is responsible for the sarin gas attacks in Japanese subways in the 1990s. He was stopped by Gozen and the government, and eventually killed.
  • Yaban the Invincible– a sumo wrestler turned oni (demon) with super strength, four arms, and an extremely tough body that hardens with layers of muscle and skin in response to trauma. He became the strongest sumo wrestler in the history of Japan, and was considered “invincible”, until Hasaki Gozen defeated him through precise attacks and her advanced martial arts training (overpowering Yaban’s brute strength). He was found to have been connected with suspicious activity in the Yakuza and illegal gambling.
  • Crabwise/the Human Pincer– a former fisherman turned half-human, half-crab hybrid who was transformed into his current state after being bitten by a very large radioactive Japanese spider crab (which was unusually aggressive for its species). Following his transformation (he grew claws and a shell made out of keratin, not chitin), Crabwise’s wife and child left him, fearing his monstrous appearance. His family and friends abandoned him, as did society. He eventually found companionship with crabs in the ocean, and began to act more and more like a crab, resenting humanity for ostracizing him. He caused a national crisis when he led an army of giant crabs to attack Japan’s coastal cities from his HQ in Hashima Island, 9 miles from Nagasaki, in protest of humanity’s pollution and overfishing. Hasaki Gozen eventually came to stop Crabwise. Sadly, when Crabwise realized that what he was doing was wrong, and tried to redeem himself by stopping the crab invasion, he was done in by his crabs, and killed.
  • Medusa– a former Japanese pop idol turned into a half-w0man, half-jellyfish hybrid, whose long hair has transformed into jellyfish tentacles, capable of poisoning people and intoxicating life. Society once loved this pop idol, but eventually came to hate her following her change in appearance, causing her to attack people out of spite, jealousy, vanity, and resentment. She has captured famous idols and beautiful women, and left them paralyzed by her poison, or taken them hostage. Hasaki Gozen has run into her multiple times, but has thus far been unable to completely defeat her due to how dangerous Medusa’s long range abilities are. Other times, she has attempted to convince Medusa to become an assassin in order to do good in the world, and redeem her besmirched reputation.
  • Oil Omo (omo meaning “lord”)– the former chief of an oil tanker, his soul somehow merged with an oil spill in the Pacific Ocean caused by his own tanker, causing him to become an umibozu-like monster who can grow to massive size and control oil. Incapable of surviving without more oil, this villain capsizes or drags ships and oil tankers in the ocean in order to feed off of their petroleum and grow in power, or feeds off of dead marine creatures, crushing them into oil. He can manifest either in a liquid slick form or in a hardened/sticky tar or pitch-like form which can burn people and objects, or accumulate inside people’s bodies. He is the only villain Hasaki Gozen has been unable to defeat, due to his liquid form.

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