COMICS [click on the panels for a better view]

POP! TOKYO [Vertigo]
by Jonathan Vankin and Seth Fisher



"This place is the reason I moved to Tokyo, six long months ago.

"I didn’t care about sushi or sumo or samurai. I wanted to buy cool shit. Digicams, satellite phones, HDTV, GPS, DAT. None of it available in the States yet. Some never will be.

"I worked with gadgets back home, programming SFX for beer commercials. But that got old pretty quick.

"When I read that William Gibson hung out in Akihabara, I hopped a trailways in Boston, then caught a cheap Korean Airlines flight from JFK to Tokyo.

"Obsessive? Obsession is a way of life in Japan. They never do anything halfway."

Those are the reasons why Vankin has placed his character, an American translator called Stephen, in Tokyo. Vankin has lived in Tokyo for three years, working in an English language paper, covering sports. He has been overwhelmed by the manner in which the Japanese have been given free reign to adopt and adapt American pop culture. He has witnessed their obsession with high-tech toys, massive marketing of brands right down to promo items as insignificant as paper fans, manufactured pop stars, ultra-bright video games and all manner and type of sexual activity.

His collaborator Seth Fisher has also stayed in Japan previously. He brings that "blur" Asian expression into the characters he draws. His clean lines, noseless faces, detailed backgrounds makes Tokyo familiar even to non-visitors. Check out the record players (two) in the home of yakuza muscle man, Ryuji, the compact toilets/bathrooms and the kitchenettes overflowing with unwashed pots, pans and dishes. The street scenes are a confusion of colors, fashion styles and neon signs. There are no macho men or femme fatales to ogle but so much culture to absorb.

Issue one introduces the characters, the American translator, two Japanese schoolgirls and a yakuza tough with a heart of gold. Their lives are entangled when the girls befriend the American stranger. At a rock concert, the yakuza appears. He also happens to be the brother of one of the girls.

After Vertigo Pop!’s Tokyo, the comic will move to Bangkok and then London. Vertigo have said the series will explore the extend of American pop culture’s influence on the pop capitals of the world.

The comic begs the reader to think about Singapore’s pop culture. For sure it is there. But in a one look, one style nation, you have to dig deeper to find it. Tourists on a short-time stay may otherwise think this place a Disneyland with a death penalty. William Gibson coined that phrase about Singapore. - Michael Cheah

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