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The Blog of Gene Luen Yang
The Last Airbender Opens At Midnight 
Given the avalanche of horrifically bad reviews this movie has already been getting, arguing against its use of yellowface feels a bit like trying to beat a bag of hair at Scrabble. Most people are going to boycott it because of its suckitude rather than its racebending.

I do want to make one point, though. Director M. Night Shyamalan claims that The Last Airbender is "the most diverse tentpole movie ever." Pleeease. Having your Caucasian-playing-Inuit protagonists deliver exposition against a background of actual Inuits does not make your movie diverse. It makes your movie a modern-day equivalent of Charlie Chan.

I have to say, if The Last Airbender weren't the modern-day equivalent of Charlie Chan, I would've gone to see it despite the reviews, if only in the hopes that the sequels would be greenlit. As things stand now, the only hopes I have are for its carcass to serve as a warning against racebending in future American films. After all, nothing says blockbuster like accusations of racism.

All right. In the words of that great philosopher Stan Lee: 'Nuff said!



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Astroboy Volume 3 
I love love LOVE Japan's God of Manga Osamu Tezuka. I started reading his stuff as an adult and credit him for helping me get past my teenage anti-manga bias. (A friend and I used to argue American comics vs. Japanese comics, with me defending the good ol' U.S. of A.) His series Adolf is probably my all-time favorite, and Phoenix is a work of genius.

But, I must admit, some of his comics leave me cold. And that's to be expected, given that he is probably the most prolific cartoonist to ever cartoon on planet Earth. With literally hundreds of thousands of Tezuka pages in existence, SOMETHING'S bound to not work for any given reader.

Astroboy, arguably his most famous creation, happens to be one of those Tezuka comics that I can't get into. I think Astroboy's design is really cool (how can anyone not love a robot with machine guns that come out of his butt) and I tried so hard to like his comics... but I couldn't.

Except for Volume 3 of the Dark Horse Astroboy reprints, which I read last week!!! Mostly because it's three shades of awesome.

Volume 3 reprints the story "Greatest Robot On Earth" and it's as fun as comics get. Pluto, a giant robot with demon-like horns, tries to become the greatest robot on Earth by destroying the other top seven robots, one of whom is our hero Astroboy. What follows is sort of a robotic MMA tournament, with a discussion about the purpose of AI woven in for good measure. Supposedly, every kid in Japan knows this story. Manga master Naoki Urasawa has even retold it in his series Pluto.

If you're looking for a way to get into kid's manga, this might be your best bet.



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Gordon Yamamoto Animated! 
Some web animator friends of mine down in L.A. put together this little clip, based on a scene in Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks (currently available as part of Animal Crackers):



Their rendition of Gordon is clearly better than mine. Thanks, Squadron B!

They also have a bunch of clips based on the comics of Kate Beaton, who is Wittiness Embodied.

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Prime Baby Beginnings 
In the interview I did with Tom Spurgeon over at ComicsReporter.com, I mentioned three inspirations for Prime Baby:

1. The sibling rivalry I witnessed at home after my second kid was born.
2. A prime numbers project I assign to my students, and their inevitable questions about its relevance to real life.
3. A free-write exercise I did several years ago.

For those of you interested in reading the original free-write exercise (okay, my mom), here it is:


PRIME BABY

“Ga ga ga ga ga ga ga ga,” the baby said with an unmistakable seriousness.

His father looked at him for a moment and scraped at the banana with a baby spoon. The father just wasn’t quite sure what to do. Babies were supposed to babble. Everyone knew that. But this baby - his baby - babbled in an extremely peculiar way. The syllables he spoke were nonsensical, but they were spoken in a mathematical pattern.

A vague, unsettling feeling had come across the father ever since his baby switched from squealing to syllables over two months ago. He’d only been able to identify its cause last week.

The baby’s syllables always came in a series, and the number of syllables in each series was always a prime number. Every morning just after six, the baby would awaken with a single “Ga.” Ten minutes later, he would continue, “Ga ga.” By the time he went down for his midmorning nap, he’d gotten to nineteen “ga”s; By dinner he was at forty-one.

The father had yet to say a word to his wife about this. She’d shown so much improvement in the last few weeks, he didn’t want to do anything to jinx it. When she woke up from the caesarian nine months ago she began to cry, and she didn’t stop for almost a full month. But even when the tears had dried, her frown remained, like a stubborn crease on an otherwise pretty face. Slowly the frown relented until now, when you could only see a hint of it if she stood under the hallway light just so.

“Ga ga ga ga ga ga ga ga ga,” the baby said. He reached for the banana in his father’s hand.

Suddenly, his father had an idea. He began to feed his baby in a pattern, organizing spoonfuls into series. First, just a single spoonful of banana. Then two. Then three. Then five. Then seven.

The baby looked up at his father as he ate. This was unusual. Normally, he looked at the banana. Eleven spoonfuls. Thirteen. Seventeen. Nineteen. The baby couldn’t swallow quickly enough to keep up, but he didn’t cry or complain. He opened his mouth at each spoonful, regardless of how full his mouth already was.

At thirty-seven, the father ran out of banana. He pulled out a small jar of mashed carrots, which lasted until 113. A small mountain of banana, mashed carrots, and drool had formed in the baby’s lap. The baby put his hands into it and squished it between his fingers.

The father went to the pantry and found an old box of Cheerios in the very back of the second shelf. He turned back towards his baby and felt his legs give way beneath him for a moment.

In the baby’s lap sat a small sculpture of what looked to be an ancient South American temple, made entirely of banana, mashed carrots, and drool. The yellow of the banana and the orange of the carrots formed intricate murals across the surface, telling of gods and goddesses long forgotten. The drool held it all together and gave the thing an eerie, otherworldly shine.

The baby smiled and clapped his hands. Bits of yellow and orange flew into the air. “Ga ga ga ga!” he said.

Four, the father counted. Four ga’s. Four, divisible by two.


If you read the story closely (i.e. you're my mom), you'll notice that there's a major mistake. It is generally agreed that one is not a prime number. Why, you ask? Because.

In the comic Prime Baby, I corrected this. Whenever prime numbers are mentioned, I always start with two. (Don't want to lose my geek card over something so silly.)



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AsiaAlive in San Francisco 
After my event in Washington D.C. on Friday, I'm going to teleport* to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to be a part of their AsiaAlive program. I'll be hanging out from noon to 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday, drawing comics. I'll also have a fun little drawing activity for the kiddies. Drop by. We'll chat about comics. The vitals:

Saturday, 6/26/2010 and Sunday 6/27/2010
12pm - 4pm
Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-581-3500

*Teleportation will be done in honor of Nightcrawler, the X-man recently killed in the line of duty. Rest easy, my brave and blue friend. Rest easy. ;_;




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