Monday, January 02, 2017

HERO OF THE WEEK: SON GOKU (Bird Studios)
Real Name: Kakarrot (aka; Son Goku)
First Appearance: Weekly Shonen Jump #51 (December, 1984)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we're mostly beholden to the American "Big 2", but many readers have discovered the blog through flirtations with other interests, including comics based on Street Fighter. The crossover between manga and American superhero readers hasn't always been significant, but there's an undeniable cultural overlap with some of the most popular imports, and for me, martial arts comics (and movies) have always been a passionate source of enjoyment.

I found myself feeling pretty burnt out at the end of 2016, so I spent the holidays taking refuge with some of my favourite Japanese and Chinese comic book icons. It had been a while since I'd revisited one of my all-time favourite comic book movies: A Man Called Hero. Based on the Tales of the Blood Sword comics by Hong Kong writer/artist Ma Wing-shing; the 1999 live-action adaptation isn't entirely faithful to the manhua (comics), but distills it in a fantastic early 20th century movie epic.

The cinephile in me was pleased to complete a DVD collection of big screen movies based on the works of Ma Wing-shing. The Fung Wan films, better known in the West as Storm Riders and Storm Warriors, also rank among my personal favourites, and were welcome viewings over the break.

I could've gone with characters from either of those works. A character named Hero as our first Hero of the Week of 2017 would've been fun, but you've also caught me in the throes of an enthusiastic return to Dragon Ball Z! Some will no doubt see this as the reveal of a guilty pleasure, but I make no apologies for my love of Akira Toriyama's enduring martial arts epic.

Like many fans minted in the mid-to-late nineties, I got my Zenkai fix in animated form, where some of the biggest criticisms stem. Personally, I'm at ease with the protracted serial format of the anime, having fond memories of catching unfolding installments weekday mornings before secondary learning, or binging tapes while under the weather. Admittedly, there's some dud filler inserted early on, and the original manga is a much more focused, conventional story. That said, I find there's a charm in the battlefield debates, and to-and-fro of action that isn't for everyone.

By pure coincidence, we're keeping things topical: The cartoon is currently enjoying a revival as Dragon Ball Super -- new episodes that extend the adventure during the late Dragon Ball Z years. There are clearly things to like about the new show, receiving the stamp of approval that Dragon Ball GT lacked, but it continues the custom of dropping a lot of the characters I liked most. Those are found in the translated manga, which were the real source for my fandom over the holiday season.

For a lot of fans, it's the alien-tinged superhero sci-fi that is the definitive Dragon Ball Z, but as we've already established, I'm a lover of martial arts. I like the simple struggle of those borderline stories, where Western viewers (and readers) see the transition from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. There, our iconic hero Son Goku is the anchor around which characters struggle for personal advancement, excellence, acceptance, and a lot of other universal themes channeled through fighting.

Distilling what I love about that period of Dragon Ball Z isn't always easy. I think I'll save it for Friday, when we can look at one of my preferred characters in action. In the mean time, Goku will be our first Hero of the Week for the year. The iconic mascot who is part Monkey King, part Superman.

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