Since my previous post, I have made more progress in my superhero comic, drawing and scanning pages 6 and 7 of the comic, and presenting what I have so far at Open Studio. These two pages chronicle Hasaki Gozen’s running away from school and from home, her descent into a life of petty crime, and her eventual rescue by her superheroine idol, Ginkgo Girl, whose sidekick she becomes in fighting crime. Hasaki’s character arc, I’ve noticed has its ups and downs– she starts out being treated like garbage, with her lowest point being her life of thievery after being rejected from society. Then she reaches a high point being rescued by Ginkgo Girl– who serves as a motherly figure for her as well as her mentor. However, as the latter half of the comic demonstrates, Hasaki’s high point is doomed to come to an end, and rapidly descend into another low point with a particularly tragic event. One she blames herself for.
As part of Open Studio, I was tasked with writing a succinct “Artist Statement” to explain my work to both faculty and students looking at students’ various projects. I have copied what I have written down below:
Charles Ta, Senior Thesis 1
Prof. Robert Sikoryak and Maelle Doliveux
ARTIST STATEMENT: “HEROSHIMA” SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK
Inspired by superhero movies like The Dark Knight, comics or graphic novels like Watchmen, the X-Men, Shinto mythology, and postwar Japanese culture, my Senior Thesis Project, “Heroshima”, is a superhero comic book that critically examines the social, psychological, and political effects of the existence of superheroes in post-WWII and Cold War Asia (1950s-1980s). The title of this comic, “Heroshima”, is both a pun and a neologistic portmanteau of the Japanese city of Hiroshima (which was destroyed by the atom bomb), and the word “hero”, referring to the “mutant” individuals that arise through genetic mutations from nuclear radiation in this story— some good, some bad.
At first, this comic chronicles the rise of the first “mutant” hero in Japan— a woman who calls herself Ginkgo Girl, and is able to control plants and nature itself. However, the comic soon reveals itself to be narrated from the perspective of another “mutant” — an up-and-coming superheroine called Hasaki Gozen (which literally translates to “Cutting Edge Young Lady”). She possesses elongated and retractable fingernails, which are not only infinitely sharp, but capable of cutting through virtually any material. Hasaki’s childhood is plagued by feelings of isolation due to her mutant powers, which are demonized by society, and her idolization of Ginkgo Girl further distinguishes her from her peers.
Using Hasaki’s harrowing and deeply personal backstory, my comic implicitly provides commentary on topics such as racism and prejudice, marginalization, ostracization, “coming out” and bullying. Hasaki’s running away from home, her descent into petty crime, her rescue by Ginkgo Girl, and her fights against numerous villains are all motivated by her core desire to be accepted in society— for mutants to be seen as individuals, not as monsters. Some of the villains in this comic (the first in a series) commit crimes out of hatred against humans, but others, like the pyromaniac Foxphorus, are evil for the pleasure it brings them, unwittingly perpetuating the very stereotypes about mutants that Hasaki and Ginkgo Girl seek to dispel.