Originally posted at angry asian man:
WILDSTYLE by Tiffany Namwong. A really cool, creative and thoughtful character. Here’s a (slightly edited) description of Tiffany’s winning hero:
Ratana Nantakarn is a teenaged Thai American girl, born into a struggling immigrant family, raised by television and saved from drug addiction by the only adult who’s been able to win over her trust: A Buddhist monk who encourages her nascent artistic skills, and helps her gain admission to a prestigious art academy. But after her mentor’s work with at-risk youth leads to run-ins with the “connected” local drug syndicate, an anonymous tip leads INS to revoke the monk’s visa and deport him back to Thailand. An enraged Ratana drops out of school, returning to the streets to try to find the thugs responsible for her mentor’s plight. In doing so, she finds another outlet for her artistic sensibilities, becoming the queen of the Los Angeles tagging scene. Ratana with a spray can on a dimly lit street is like a tiger in the jungle; she uses her artistic skills to feed her ego, but to feed herself she turns to petty crime, and soon falls back into the rabbit-hole of addiction.
Meanwhile, realizing that Ratana is on their trail, the same gangsters who arranged for her mentor’s disappearance decide to remove her from the equation as well. She escapes to Thailand after scamming an elderly man looking for a young escort for his summer vacation. She succeeds in locating her old teacher, too late to reconnect with him: He’d been working with a local charity continuing his work with troubled youth, but recently passed away of cancer.
Arjun Gautama, a young Indian American man who has spent the summer volunteering for the charity, tells her that the monk asked for her in his final moments, and gives her his ashes. Ratana takes them to the monk’s ancestral village hoping to find a suitable resting place for his remains. Instead, she finds a wrecked and empty hamlet, destroyed by drug lords, whose only surviving structure is the old, abandoned temple in which the monk once served.
In a fit of self-hatred and a desire to vent her frustrations over the fact that her mentor died without anyone to care for him or provide for his final respects, she impulsively pulls out her spray can and desecrates the shrine.
But the temple is not entirely empty: The holy place’s long-forgotten guardian spirit rises up out of its altar, calling forth a curse on the blaspheming human invader. Her life and soul are forfeit for her crime, and all seems lost – until the spirit of the old monk rises out of his ashes, and bids the guardian to hold.
The sin Ratana has committed cannot simply be forgiven. But the monk asks that she be given the opportunity – and the power – to earn that forgiveness, using her talent to redeem the crime she committed with that talent.
A great evil, the demon Maya, is attempting to build a dominion on Earth, having taken human form as a pop idol on the verge of superstardom, and enslaving youths with the addictive combination of her music and a devastating new drug.
To defeat Maya and her army of followers, Ratana is given the ability to bring her art to life…using human canvases: She must seek out and befriend a series of youths who are ripe to become “vessels” for Ratana’s power. Once these men and women have willingly made the decision to accept the burden, Ratana tattoos their backs the image of a creature and a holy mantra that transforms them into that creature – irrevocably, until Maya is destroyed.
Ratana’s mission takes her and Arjun – whose friendship she increasingly
grows to depend on, until it evolves into something more – to Hong Kong,
Seoul, Tokyo, and finally back to Los Angeles, seeking out new allies,
while pursuing Maya and battling her host of demons, hoping to
simultaneously save the world and put her own personal demons to rest.
Nice work, Tiffany. She has scored herself a guest pass to next week’s completely sold-out 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. Here’s a note from the Secret Identities editors explaining why they chose Wildstyle:
Tiffany’s entry impressed us on a number of levels. Her protagonist’s story was gritty and believable, and there was an authenticity to Wildstyle’s origin and powers – what they were and how she received them made sense, given her identity and cultural background. The story also scales up nicely, from the streets of L.A. to a globe-trotting quest to, well, a cosmic battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil; this narrative has a lot of texture and momentum, and could move forward in so many different ways. We also liked that Tiffany chose to
include some personal relationships for her heroine – a mentor, who can continue to advise her from beyond the grave, and a love interest, or at least potential love interest, whom she grows to depend on but is afraid she’s putting into mortal danger. There’s a Whedonesque feel to Wildstyle, and we mean that as a huge compliment!
We liked the two runner-up hero submissions as well: Kevin Cheung’s “The Sneak,” a b-boy who gains powers after discovering a mysterious pair of kicks, and “Hapa,” a half-Korean intelligence agent (calling Daniel Henney!) with the chameleonlike ability to transform his features. But the hero we felt had the most interesting combination of originality and future potential was Tiffany’s, and we look forward to seeing her at Comic-Con next week… look us up at booth 1735, Tiffany!
Again, thank you to everyone who entered. Tiffany won the Comic-Con pass, but everyone is still eligible for the main contest, which runs through the end of the month.
Again, we’re challenging you to submit your own idea for a unique and original Asian American superhero. I’ll pick the ten coolest submissions, then the Secret Identities editors will choose their three favorite heroes, each of whom will get their superhero idea rendered by a Secret Identities artist, and also receive a signed copy of the book.
Be creative, and have fun with this! To enter, please include a description of the hero (physical description, origin, powers, background, goals and nemesis) in 500 words or less. Thumbnail sketch optional. Email your entry, along with your contact info, to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 31. Winners will be announced on August 1.