Last week I started discussing media that buck the recently identified trope, born sexy yesterday. For part one I decided to examine characters in Mad Max: Fury Road and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood since Pop Culture Detective’s video focused solely on the role of this trope in film and television. Moving forward I would like to extend the discussion to comics and gaming since these two mediums also utilize the science fiction and fantasy genres frequently.
I was originally going to do this as a two part feature, but I’ve decided to extend it to three since I want to go into more detail with my gaming choice, The Witcher 3. I’d like to take more time to explore the divisiveness of the narrative and how it is able to thwart some tropes, but bend to others. That being said, for part two I will be focusing on a recent comic series that is able to transcend many scifi and fantasy tropes.
So let’s get right into it with our featured comic…
We actually discussed Image’s Tokyo Ghost last year as part of our “Comics You Should Be Reading” series.
What makes this scifi epic so fascinating is that at the core of this cyberpunk, techno-nightmare is a story about restoring a deep and loving relationship. Before becoming constables, Debbie Decay and Led Dent were simply Debbie Jacobs and Teddy Dennis; two children trying to survive in a technology ravaged dystopia. These two characters find shelter in each other within an otherwise hollow and incredibly cruel New Los Angeles. The two learn about love and experience romance for the first time together, but Teddy’s insecurity eventually creates an imbalance in the relationship. What makes Tokyo Ghost a prime example of scifi narrative bucking tropes like born sexy yesteday is that it is a story of a woman trying to save the man she loves from himself; a story of healing love through mutual partnership.
The main reason Teddy transforms into “Led Dent” is because he is beaten mercilessly by a gang of “fame bangers” who act out predetermined acts of violence and film them for others amusement. Debbie fights off Teddy’s assailants, but the whole encounter is put online and goes viral. From there, Teddy is viciously mocked by classmates for his weakness and he comes to despise his vunerability; the very thing Debbie loves so much about him. Teddy gives himself up to the constable program in an effort to find the strength to protect Debbie and escape ever being humiliated again.
What I appreciate so much about this comic is that the relationship between Teddy and Debbie presents the negative aspects of adhering to gender stereotypes such as “the man needs to protect his lady” that other pieces of scifi media have often upheld. While he is a physical powerhouse as Led Dent, Teddy is void of humanity and is no longer the caring and kind soul Debbie fell in love with. The scene at the end of the first issue where Debbie tries to have sex with Led is a prime example of this. Debbie tries to get physically intimate with him, but he is too intoxicated by media and juice to register what is happening.
The power also comes at the cost of stereoid abuse and media addiction which often leaves Debbie in the position of caretaker when he is in a state of withdrawal. For as many times as Teddy saves Debbie in dangerous situations, she saves him twice over not only in combat, but by being a loving partner willing to walk through rehabilitation together.
This is where the story becomes a narrative of healing and self-discovery not through isolation or notions of machosim, but through genuine love, partnership, and a hell of a lot of patience. Debbie knows the man she still loves is inside the husk of Led Dent and wants to free him. Series artist Sean Murphy does a beautiful job depicting Teddy’s buried self through subtle queues such as the emotion tracker in his visor reading “100% in love” whenever he looks at Debbie. The desire for healing and a better life is what spurs Debbie to get the pair to Tokyo.
Teddy’s steps through rehibiliation are not easy for either of them. He suffers immensely both physically and mentally from withdrawal, but by working together Teddy and Debbie are able to fall in love all over again.
Tokyo Ghost doesn’t present these characters with a happy ending however. In the end Teddy relapses for reasons I won’t explore right now (don’t want to give away too much). What I also appreciate about this series is that it presents authetic characters with very real flaws and desires. Debbie and Teddy are not perfect humans by any means, but they try to be the best for each other. The series also presents a male protagonist that is able to admit to his own weakness and acknowledge Debbie’s role as the essential backbone of their relationship. It is a touching moment, and successfully shows that scifi series can feature male characters embracing their female counterparts as equal; if not better in some regards.
Tokyo Ghost is a potent tale of love, addiction, loss, and partnership that handles its characters with gritty and beautiful realness. If there is any comic to look to for inspiration on how to break character tropes, its this rollercoaster of a series.
And that’s all for part two! Stay tuned for part three where I will explore the triumphs and shortcomings of The Witcher 3.