Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Friday, August 11, 2006

EIE: Infusing Estrogen into the JSA 1: Tsunami

This made me think of the previous discussion about the presence of women in the JSA.

From the sound of it, Geoff Johns is going to be taking the JSA into a different, more societal direction. Reading OWAW issues recently, I think I saw the roots of this, wherein Sand called on the "reserves" of the JSA for their battle. These reserves included a lot of other Golden Age legacy characters, like Shining Knight and the Freedom Fighters, to help the JSA on their mission.

I've always liked the idea of the current JSA going beyond the legacies tied specifically to only the members seen in the old All-Star Comics issues or the Multiverse crossovers, so this makes me happy. The other reason it makes me happy is that it allows for a lot more opportunity to start using lesser known Golden Age legacies (or retroactively created GA legacies) to start bringing a bit more diversity into the group without sacrificing any of the existing characters that I love.

Anyway, this has led me to decide to try a new, semi-regular feature. Which basically means I'll do it as long as my attention span holds. It's a subgroup of my Exercises in Egotism and I'm calling it Infusing Estrogen into the JSA. And in it, I'm going to propose my ideas about how certain largely abandoned Golden Age legacies could be revisited for the Modern Age with a particular emphasis on more female characters.

Infusion of Estrogen: Tsunami

The first character/legacy that comes to mind is Tsunami, which might be a surprise given my stated animosity for the character. But I really think that it's a shame that such a promising character was never really developed beyond her representation of an issue.

I'd personally love to see a granddaughter of Miya Shimada take on her grandmother's legacy and become linked to the JSA.

I know that Tsunami's daughter has shown up in Aquaman for a time, but while she'd work as a legacy as well, I'm really much more enamored with the idea of using a younger woman. Tsunami was a teenager in the Young All-Stars so it makes more sense to me that the new Tsunami would be a teenager (or a very young adult) when she'd become connected to the JSA. This would also allow for the pre-existing character to still make appearances as mother or (more likely) aunt.

I basically have two requirements personally, when it comes to new characters. They must, I think, be interesting in their own rights and they should bring something new to the table for the existing characters/team that they're joining.

In the case of the granddaughter, developing her into an interesting personality shouldn't be a problem. For one thing, the political issue looming over her grandmother's head would be in the past, not as direct an influence on her life. This will make it harder to allow the character to become overpowered by the issue.

I think that the best way to go about this new character would be to take her in a completely opposite direction, personality wise, than her grandmother. Miya was gracious and dignified, a constant spokesman against the evils of war. She was grave and serious and responsible and socially aware. I would like to take her granddaughter counter to that. Make her initially quite uninterested in social responsibility or issues, instead emphasizing the "American" aspect of her Asian-American heritage. I want her to be fun-loving, shallow, petty, and resentful of the burdens and expectations of her parents. I'd like her to see heroism as an escape.

I think that this would allow some strong retroactive exploration of Miya Shimada herself through the contrasts with her granddaughter. The new Tsunami seeks to escape the pressures of the past, but does so by entrenching herself in a group with a legacy/family theme. A group that had a lot of ties to her grandmother, as a Young All-Stars member. This means that she'll have many opportunities to explore the woman her grandmother was and ultimately grow.

I like the idea that essentially what this girl is subconsciously afraid of is being defined solely by her race and sex and the social issues contained within, basically she's afraid of being what Tsunami actually was in Young All-Stars. And it's through the exploration of herself and of her grandmother as a character, as well as her heroic experiences with the group itself, that allow her to realize that she doesn't have to be afraid of who she is. That she can take pride in her heritage and racial/sexual identity, that she can remember the past and be socially aware without losing her individual identity at the same time.


As for what she'd bring to the group and the pre-existing characters...

Well, the initial goal of this exercise is to bring a bit more diversity into the "old boys club". Women are still quite a minority (as we've discussed before) in the JSA, and there really isn't any representation at all for Asian-Americans in the group. A new Tsunami, I think, would be a step in the right direction.

There's a power advantage too, I think. Where the JLA has (had?) Aquaman, the Teen Titans had Tempest, the modern JSA never really had any characters specifically suited to underwater missions. While this new Tsunami might be of debatable use on land (depending on how her powers are defined), she'd definitely have a place as an underwater reserve fighter.

On a character level, her arrival and activities would very likely have an interesting effect on Sand as well, in a number of ways. Sandy the Golden Boy was, for a brief time, on the same team as her grandmother. In fact, he had been the token racist. I've complained about the way that had seemed gratuitously tacked on to an already fully developed character (especially the only character with pre-existing, if slight, ties to Asia), but it does allow for an interesting exploration of both characters now.

It's established that Sand has since followed in his mentor's footsteps, studying in China and Tibet, and very likely further East. He speaks some Asian languages and understands elements of Tibetan Buddhism at least. How much, if any, experience he's had with Japan is as yet unknown, but it's probably safe to assume that the person he is now would find his own behavior very shameful and embarrassing, even if she'd managed to forgive him.

And there's the time-lost element, that I've always wished they'd do a bit more with. While he's mentioned some awareness of the passage of time as a monster in stasis, as far as experience goes, the Young All-Star events would have been only ten-twelve years ago for him. That's not a terribly long time. But for Miya it's long enough to have had children and grandchildren. Miya's granddaughter would be a lot like her in many ways, but also so very different that it would really emphasize how much his own time perception doesn't match the rest of the world's.

It could also have an interesting effect for Miya herself. As of last notice, she's still alive which would allow for the opportunity to meet again. The annoying pest of her childhood is now only a little older than her granddaughter. Cognitive Dissonance doesn't seem nearly enough to encompass what that must feel like. It's really an interesting concept for me.

I just think there'd be a lot of story potential in introducing a new Tsunami and it could be a lot of fun as well. It'd be also, I think, a nice way to introduce a new female character into the JSA.


  • At August 11, 2006 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting proposal. I especially like the Sand stuff. I'd love to read that storyline.

  • At August 11, 2006 10:44 AM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Your pitch feels a little uneven to me: in particular, if the idea is she's trying to escape / reject the pressures of the past, why would she join the group her grandmother was once a part of? If she starts out as a stereotypically shallow teenager, why would she feel a sense of social responsibility now?

    Personally, I would prefer to ignore the issue of race entirely (at least initially) and have her join the team for the same reasons anyone with a legacy heritage joins the team.

    I'm also wary of defining a character's potential in terms of their powers - i.e., "underwater reserve fighter" - rather than their personality.

    Still, it's an interesting idea; and certainly I'm all in favor of more Asian characters in comics in general. :-)

  • At August 11, 2006 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'd also be a bit wary of sending her through the "Courtney Whitmore School of Character Arcs" with such close proximity to Courtney herself; we've already seen the shallow/socially irresponsible girl become responsible and heroic. Although it -would- be good to see Courtney have another girl around her own age to hang out with.

    This new Tsunami would have a lot of potential; you could resurrect the Sea-Wolf as her nemesis.

    Maybe she's trying to examine her grandmother's history by becoming a superheroic intern with the old group? Giving her a chance to write a biography or something. She might want to interview Sand for such a book...meanwhile also using her familial powers, passed down through the generations...

    Also, back on the Courtney tack - wasn't her friend Mary Kramer supposed to end up becoming the new "Girl of a Thousand Gimmicks?" I always wanted them to do something with Mary, bring her back in some way...she could also be part of the younger JSA...

  • At August 11, 2006 1:30 PM, Blogger Dr. Flem said…

    Not sure what the intent was on Mary Kramer, but perhaps they laid off the Girl of 1000 Gimmicks track since GM was using that in Seven Soldiers.

    As far as Tsunami goes, I'm a little worried about overloading the team on very young characters in general (particularly since I don't have a good sense of the new Red Tornado character). I'd actually like to see at least one older, tough female character to counteract, since it is a little odd that only the men are allowed to age.

    But I'm sure you'll get to that eventually. As well as to Zatanna, right? Or am I going to have to write that up myself?

  • At August 11, 2006 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wowee zowee! (Did I actually just say that). What a great argument for a character that I didn't even think about. Now, I totally want to see this character in JSA. Not only would it help bring more women on the team, but, if you look around that table, all the women are white. Let's hear it for women of color as part of a venerable team of superheroes!

    I would also think that creators would handle an Asian American character better these days. At the time of Young All-Stars, it was groundbreaking to see any of the issues of Japanese Americans during World War II addressed in a positive manner at all (and that's why I actually did like Tsunami imperfect as she might have been).

    Keep 'em coming, Kalinara...this entry is probably hitting the "Top of the Stack" this week as well!

  • At August 11, 2006 3:30 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm gonna try a new formatting trick today...

    anthonyf: Thanks! I think Sand's got a lot of unexplored elements to his backstory and his personality that could be a lot of fun to play with. This kind of hits two birds with one stone for me. :-)

    ferrous: I admit the idea's still only in its' sketchy phases. Maybe I can clarify now that I've had some time to mull it over.

    I essentially see this character as one who's under a lot of pressure all the time. She's expected to do well in school, she's expected to succeed. She's expected to get involved with her community, she's expected to use her powers productively, as coming from her grandmother, one assumes an element of heredity.

    Her racial identity plays a huge part in this. On one sense, she's raised to see it as a source of pride. On another, she's got the inescapable knowledge that it's always going to affect the way people see her. Right now, at her introduction, I see her as going through a phase of something like denial. "Things are better now. That was the past. It doesn't affect me. Stop talking about it."

    Basically the idea that if it's not addressed, it'll go away. She's basically afraid of being defined as the Asian, so she tries to compensate by identifying as little with her Asian heritage as possible. She's worried that if she starts to explore her heritage, that will be all that people see. So she ends up denying a large part of herself in the process.

    So when she starts feeling her sense of social responsibility, it'll be a slow development. She's grown up hearing stories about her grandmother, in particular her experiences with the Internment Camps, her social activism, her heroism, but she doesn't really know anything about her grandmother as a person. It's like the woman is lost behind all of these other elements. The more she learns about Miya Shimada from things left behind and the people who knew her when she was her granddaughter's age, the more she'll realize that she can do this.

    Now as to why she'd become a hero in the JSA to begin with, it probably has to do with the fact that of all the things expected of her, heroism seems like it has the most potential for fun. She gets to be away from her parents' expectations for a while and just lose herself in the fighting and socialization. Possibly learning more about her grandmother is a subconscious motivation.

    I do see what you're saying about ignoring the issue of race, and with most characters I would agree. But Tsunami has always been a character very much involved with racial issues and identity. That then becomes a part of the legacy that really can't be ignored. For the record though, I intend this to be a long term character arc, nothing quickly resolved, which should give the character time to develop in smaller, unrelated ways.

    As to how anyone with a legacy character joins a team...well, I can't really kill off Wesley Dodds and have badguys crash his funeral again can I? :-)

    I see what you mean about the power thing. I do think though, in a book centered on action primarily, particularly a team book, it is important to know exactly what a character can contribute to the team effort. Having an underwater fighter would open the team up to some fun water-related adventures, storywise as well. :-)

    ben: I admit, I didn't really explain her as well as I'd hoped. :-)

    I don't see this Tsunami as having much in common with Courtney at all (though I can imagine them becoming friends). I don't really see her as shallow, rather, as I described above, I see her more as a character that's constantly under a lot of pressure. She understands responsibility even though she's currently trying to escape it.

    There is one element I really like about it as well though. As you've said, it's the Courtney Whitmore School of Character Arcs, which means that really for the first time, Courtney will get to be the experienced "been-there" character. (She did get to be a bit with Jakeem as well but not quite the same way).

    This would give us a chance to explore a new side of Courtney as well, as she helps the new girl learn the ropes.

    I thought about the intern element, however, it didn't really ring right to me. There isn't a lot of dynamic elements to that idea. There's no real room for growth or change. And it sets her up so that once she's learned what she's there to learn, she's got no reason to stay.

    I think the slower character arc in my head would allow her to really develop roots with the group so that when she does figure out exactly who she wants to be "a JSA hero" will be a part of it. :-)

    It would be kind of neat to have a gimmick girl again...

    dr. flem: I admit, the overloading did occur to me. Ideally, I'd like to see her on something like an Infinity Inc sort of adjunct team. Or as one of an extended reserve (which may be where Johns is going with the "putting the society into the Justice Society" approach he seems to be taking.). One that would allow her a lot of interaction with the core JSA members.

    I suppose one of the reasons I chose to start with a young person is laziness. It's easier to incorporate new young people into the group than new older members. That said, I do have some ideas for older tougher female characters as well, so I'll get to some of those soon. :-)

    Zatanna is definitely on my list. With Dr. Fate gone, at least for now, the JSA could benefit from a new magic user. (Heck, even with Dr. Fate), and she's got the legacy element too. :-)

    But you shouldn't wait on me! You should write her up too! The more the merrier!

    Loren: Thanks! I'm glad you like the idea!

    I admit, I'm very unfair to Roy Thomas. Tsunami's inclusion is a ground-breaking attempt to explore a new issue. I'm looking at it from a very modern perspective...being that I was four years old when it first came out, I can't really appreciate it in the manner it was intended. :-)

    Unfortunately, I do think that it would have been much stronger a story if Tsunami had been allowed to be more than an issue spokesman. Much more personal. It seems like such a missed opportunity.

    :-) But then it does leave the door open for new attempts to explore these issues, so I shouldn't really be too mean after all. :-)

  • At August 14, 2006 2:02 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Here's my main reservation: you seem to be simultaneously saying, "Let's break away from the racial tokenism this character has represented in the past!" and "Let's make her racial identity a central issue!"

    You can see why I might be a trifle concerned there. :-) Especially since - unless I'm very much mistaken - you're not Asian American yourself, and thus your perspective will always be that of an outsider. Which doesn't mean you can't write a good story about one, of course, but it is a bit of stumbling block for any writer, IMHO.

    Obviously, the devil's in the details. Certainly I wouldn't want race to be entirely inconsequential. And I wouldn't tell you to shy away from dealing with such a tricky subject matter, either. I'm just flagging one of my pet peeves whenever an Anglo writer pitches an Asian character that focuses on her "Asian-ness."

    OTOH, you know a lot more than I do about growing up as a young woman in America, since (A) you're a girl and (B) you're a lot younger than me. And, like the old saw goes, "write what you know"... :-)

  • At August 14, 2006 10:30 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ferrous: I definitely understand what you're saying. In fact, I was very nervous pitching this to begin with, seeing as I'm not Asian-American. It's tricky.

    I just don't see a way for a new Tsunami to not have race as a central issue.

    On the other hand, I definitely want to see more Asian Americans around in general. So that would help this Tsunami in particular be less token...I hope. :-)

    And I'd still see this as a long many-issue subplot, so hopefully the character herself would have a lot more going on than just this slow sideplot. :-)

  • At August 16, 2006 6:41 PM, Blogger ComicBookGoddess said…

    You know, according to the Wikipedia entry for DC Comics Tsunami, Tula from Kingdom Come will be Tsunami's granddaughter...

    But to why I'd looked it up...

    I just have this image of Sand meeting the elder Tsunami and the superhuman splash that would result...

  • At August 17, 2006 4:40 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Huh, that could be neat!

    And yeah, I'd love a Sand-Miya meeting now. It'd be awesome!


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