“Wild Wild Wheels”
Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Dennis Jensen
Inks: Dan Adkins
Colours: Mike Rockwitz and Brad Vancata
Letters: Jade Moede
Editing: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: January 1990
In this episode, manga scholar Dr. Mimi Okabe steers Anna, Mav, and Andrew through the mecha/shōjo/shōnen (?) inspired Excalibur #18, “Wild Wild Wheels!” Featuring cars, cars, and more cars plus a dirty pair of Adam Warren homages speeding through a world that worships racing, including star race car driver Jamie Braddock. We discuss the politics of intercultural exchange, historical interconnections between manga and superheroes, and the difference between parody and tribute. We also slam Kurt for scolding Kitty, and continue not explaining Widget. Anna knows nothing about manga or anime, but thankfully everyone else knows lots!
This episode has an enhanced video version! Watch here:
On making sense of (not so) different languages:
“I don’t know these characters, but didn’t have trouble understanding this comic. Although I don’t read comics, I read lots of manga, where the impossible is made possible.” -Mimi
On issues of representation in different cultural contexts:
“It’s difficult to say whether manga has sexist tropes the same way American comics do. It’s reductive to take certain tropes out of context and label them sexist, immoral, or ‘perverted.’ It depends on the text and the genre.” -Mimi
On historical and cultural influences:
“I don’t think the American audience had really learned to distinguish between different types of manga and anime at this time. I think a comic like this was just trying to capitalize on the very vague concept of ‘Japanese art as a genre.’” -Mav
On different characters having different access to self-reflexivity:
“The contrast between the Dirty Angels and the regular Excalibur characters might be a starting point for considering the gender politics at play. Kitty has more self-consciousness than the Dirty Angels. She has more agency.” -Anna
On homage versus parody:
“I read it as an example of the cultural ebb and flow of visual tropes that has been around since the time of Tezuka, who was heavily influenced by Disney.” -Mimi
“I can’t decide if this comic is making fun of Dirty Pair and other manga or anime influences or appreciative of them. The Dirty Angels stand out as absurdist even within this absurdist world.” -Andrew
On a misread of Kitty and Kurt’s relationship:
“Every point until now, Kitty has been the one person Kurt trusts. He’s the one X-Man who treats her like an equal, even more than Colossus or Wolverine do. I don’t like him suddenly giving her orders, and treating her like a little girl.” -Mav
Want more Mimi Okabe?
She does so many amazing things! You can find her on Twitter (@mimirellaz).
And! You can find more info on her teaching, publications, and other projects (she also makes computer games!) on her website, mimiokabe.com.
And as usual:
You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and on her podcast with Andrew and Michael Hancock, Three Panel Contrast (@3PanelContrast).
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).
You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast).