Philosofiction

Steve Bein, writer & philosopher

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Ninja role model

I finally got out to see The Wolverine--and I say finally because this is the movie I had hoped for from the very beginning of Wolverine’s film career. I’m a huge Frank Miller fan, and for me the best Wolverine story ever told is the Frank Miller/Chris Claremont series set in Japan. Logan as fallen samurai is much more interesting than Logan as pissed-off guy killing stuff. So tonight I finally got to see the movie that I should have been first in line to see last Friday, and I finally got to see the movie I wanted to see the last time Wolverine was in theaters four years ago.

Now I’m wondering exactly how influential Frank Miller has been in my writing. Yes, Wolverine’s girlfriend’s name is Mariko, and yes, my Mariko is named Mariko. That much was a deliberate tribute; I named my Mariko after Frank’s. (Incidentally, I loved Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida, but if they were filming the Fated Blades books today, I’d cast
Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi. For one thing, at 5’9” Okamoto is much too tall to play my Mariko, but more importantly, Kikuchi was a shoo-in as soon as she started whupping ass with a bo staff.)

Now that I think about it, I’m realizing that my favorite comics growing up weren’t my favorites because Frank Miller wrote them. Early on, I only followed the characters, not the people who wrote and drew them. Frank’s books were my favorites because they were the ninja and samurai stories. For example, here’s the cover from
Daredevil issue 189:

DD189


Not many covers stick with me from way back when. I remember this one because I read this issue over and over. The plot was pretty straightforward: Daredevil, his ninja girlfriend, his ninja master, and their ninja buddies duke it out with a few hundred ninjas. Textbook Miller. (I’ll give you a spoiler about
The Wolverine: Logan throws down with a few hundred ninjas.)

By the time I was in high school, I knew that if Frank Miller’s name was on it, it was going to be a good book. Today I can see that the young Frank Miller was deeply infatuated with Japanese culture--and let’s not kid ourselves: especially Japanese
martial culture--and that this fascination informed a lot of his writing. But the other thing I’m seeing is that my own fascination with Japan was fueled at least in part by Miller’s. I love ninja and samurai stories, and I started reading them around fourth and fifth grade--right when I was also getting plenty of Batman and Wolverine and Daredevil, all of whom are at their best after they get samurized and ninjized by Frank Miller.