Sunday, May 25, 2014

Street Fighter Saturday: Paneled Goods

It's been a Street Fighter filled weekend, partly by coincidence, mainly by choice.  First off, the live action web series Assassin's Fist debuted on YouTube via Machinima and fans could binge watch all 12 installments.  The weekend also included a birthday party at a newly opened barcade (bar/arcade) downtown where you guessed it, Street Fighter: Championship Edition was waiting for some button mashing.  I'm not a huge video game person but have always loved Street Fighter.  At it's core, it is the tale of the world warrior and a tournament designed to find the greatest fighter in the world.  Boxing, karate, sumo, thai boxing, etc are all represented by a cast of eclectic characters from around the globe.  I remember playing Street Fighter II at the local mall(s) along with stuff like Final Fight, the X-Men 6 person game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avengers, The Simpsons, Mortal Kombat, the G.I. Joe run and gun game and so many more in the early 90's.  As a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan and young martial arts enthusiast, SF was just the brand for me.  Mortal Kombat with it's ripped off story line, cheap play and added violence for attention just seemed like the game for poseurs and trendy fad types.  Street Fighter was classic, stoic and the original institution for fighting games.

In 1994, I would go to Electronics Boutique, (remember that place?!) to check out the latest games for the Super Nintendo.  They also sold a comic book I couldn't find in my local shop, an adaptation of Street Fighter from renowned Japanese artist and writer Masaomi Kanzaki.  Originally printed as a black and white Manga (little graphic novels read back to front), Street Fighter II was translated into English, colorized and rearranged to make a typical American style comic book.  The story of an artificial island dubbed Shad, a project of leading world economies working in harmony to produce a metropolitan power that fails under harsh financial woes.  Falling into disrepair, Shad becomes home to M. Bison and an annual grand tournament to find the world's best fighter.  Bison uses the island and tournament to sell a new drug called Doll which basically makes people into violent psychos and easily mind controlled.  Yeah, it's not exactly the deepest or most logical story that could go with a street fighting tournament.

We meet Ryu, a happy go lucky karate fighter with a huge appetite as he arrives in Shad looking to win the big tournament who can conjure up his energy and spirit and throw it at you in the form of a fireball known as a Hadouken.  Immediately befriending the struggling and grieving Po-Lin and her little brother Wong at their family restaurant, Ryu becomes their benefactor and protector from the city's local organized crime element.  We soon meet other fighters with their own reasons for being in Shad and fighting in the tournament.  There's female law enforcement officer Chun-Li, whose father was investigating Doll and killed by Bison.  More revenge fueled fighting comes from American Air Force pilot Guile, who's out to avenge the death of his best friend and unit due to Doll use.  Guile can conjure up pure energy by breaking the sound barrier and throwing it at you as a Sonic Boom.  Then we have Dhalsim from India who uses his winnings from the bouts to feed the hungry children in his country and can breathe fire.  Former sumo wrestling champion E. Honda is just looking for a new challenge (and ladies) while Bison employs former boxing phenomenon Balrog, the claw wielding, mask wearing, vain matador/ninja Vega and Muy Thai boxing giant Sagat as his ring of champions/assassins.

As our motley crew fights through the tournament and we learn more about them, we're later introduced to Ken, a blonde haired karate master that used to train with Ryu and knew Po-Lin's fiance, Cho, who has something to do with Doll then gets a knife to the chest from Vega.  Only now Ken is under the control of Bison and tries to kill Ryu by dumping a truck load of wet cement on him.  Yeesh, I thought we were friends!  In the comic we meet Ken and Ryu's teacher, Gouken, who gets his ass kicked by Bison in a flashback where Bison, Sagat and Vega are hunting down Cho and end up at the dojo.  Here, Ryu faces off with Sagat and hits him with the Sho-Ryu-Ken aka Dragon Punch and scars him for life.

Reading the comics again was a trip down memory lane.  First because I bought them as an 11 year old 20 years ago and because I'd just plain forgotten how convoluted the Street Fighter mythos is.  You wouldn't think a fighting tournament would need to have root in drug dealing crime syndicates but anytime the history is expanded upon, there's Shad, Shadowlaw, Shadaloo, etc to explain Bison's position of power.  Then there's the whole back story of Ken and Ryu being friends and rivals since childhood then the added vengeance stories of Chun-Li and Guile.  The comics read fast, like real fast and I breezed through all 8 issues in no time.  The art is an interesting mix of painted like texture, big visual battles with their mystical powers and cartoonish big eyes and expressions.  I laughed at some of the broad comedy in the pages like Ryu's penchant for eating and E. Honda being a pervert during his fight with the lovely Chun-Li.  While the story might not quite add up, Street Fighter II is a nice piece of the lore and helped expand the brand beyond arcade and video games.  Toys, posters, key chains, animated movies and shows, live action features and much more were on the way.

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