Gods and Monsters: Feng Shen Ji (review)

Feng Shen Ji
Bookone Creative LTD, Aug 24, 2015 – Apr 11, 2016
Writer: Zheng Jian He

A common thread running across different mythologies from different cultures, particularly those rooted in polytheism, is the concept of deities that are no less prone to corruption, indolence, and egotism as the mortals they seek to govern. The Chinese martial arts fantasy manhua “Feng Shen Ji”, written by Zheng Jian He, works under the same premise – that the powerful gods who govern life and death have within their ranks those driven by self-interest and those who have become drunk with their power, looking only at lesser gods and mortals as mere playthings.

At the center of the story is the Black Dragon, Tian, who was the strongest of the ancient gods. Tian single-handedly drove his enemies, known as the Dark Ones, deep into the pits of Hell. Tian also killed all the other ancient gods when they chose to betray him and his lover, White Dragon, out of fear. Tian serves the purpose of the god of gods in the story, being the creator of the world, the humans, and the lesser gods (called the Great Gods). These lesser gods are themselves fashioned using the life force of ancient gods, and use primitive humans as vessels. Continue reading Gods and Monsters: Feng Shen Ji (review)

Separated at Birth: the beetle-browed villains of American comic books

The Free Dictionary provides a definition of “beetle-browed”:

[Middle English bitel-brouwed , having grim brows, sullen, perhaps from bitil, betil, bug, beetle (from the resemblance of a pair of thick eyebrows to the tufted antennae of a cockchafer); see beetle1, or from bitel, sharp (probably from Old English *bitol, biting, from Old English bite, bite); see bit2 + brouwed (from brow, brow; see brow).]

Beetle-browed villains in comic books visually convey malevolence through a deep scowl. The remarkable similarity between some of these characters, though, extends beyond their visages. These villains also are very heavy-set, often donned in armour, frequently (but not exclusively) capable of projecting explosive forces from their hands, are alien, and seem born to rule. The examples we have listed below are the most obvious.

In the images below, we have deliberately not identified which character is which and modified the images to greyscale. The similarities are remarkable. Continue reading Separated at Birth: the beetle-browed villains of American comic books

All Star Batman #1 (Review)

All Star Batman #1 (review)
(DC Comics, August 10, 2016)
Writer: Scott Snyder

The premise underpinning the first issue of a new title from American publisher DC Comics, entitled “All Star Batman”, will be impenetrable for most readers who are not up to date on the Batman mythos.

For those who are and who follow the adventures of masked vigilante and detective Batman, it is intriguing enough to warrant a read. Batman’s schizophrenic villain Two Face, who experiences tortuous phases between his personality as former Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent and his psychopathic alter ego, has become such a big problem that even mob bosses in the fictional backdrop of Gotham City helped Batman bring him down. The comic shows the aftermath of a recent failed plot that had something to do with acid rain falling on Gotham and injuring hundreds of people, followed by the Batman receiving a unique request from Harvey Dent. Continue reading All Star Batman #1 (Review)

A quick overview of tobacco smoking in mainstream comic books – Japan, the US, and France/Belgium

In a peer-reviewed article entitled “Smoking in Movies: Impact on Adolescent Smoking” written by James D. Sargent MD (Adolsc Med 16 (2005) 345-370, there is a startling finding:

“Adolescent never smokers who nominated a star who smoked on screen were 1.4 times more likely to take up smoking over the 4-year follow-up period, even after controlling for other baseline influences… [there is] strong… epidemiologic evidence of a link between exposure to movie smoking and adolescent smoking. It is notable that the estimates of the effect of seeing movie smoking on smoking initiation in both longitudinal studies were almost identical to estimates that were obtained for the cross-sectional samples. This suggests that continued exposure to movie smoking and its effect on adolescent smoking persists over time.”

If there is to be any conclusion from this survey, it is that the frequency of the depiction of smoking in comic books after decades of public education on the risks of smoking tobacco has not diminished, save in the US. Continue reading A quick overview of tobacco smoking in mainstream comic books – Japan, the US, and France/Belgium