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Category: Good Things

Akira Toriyama: Potential Unlocked, or Son Gohan and Me

I found out yesterday that manga legend Akira Toriyama died. I suspect many of you feel the same way I do. 68 is long enough to have an impact and to have led a good life, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Toriyama wasn’t just the creator of Dragon Ball. He was prolific and profoundly influential as a cartoonist. His control over pacing, choreography, tone, were all world-class. Yes, he forgot some characters existed, but I suspect I would too if I were turning out a chapter a week. This isn’t meant to be an analysis of Toriyama-sensei’s works–though I’d like to do one in the future–but rather a bit of a eulogy. What Akira Toriyama’s works meant to me personally.

First, a little bit of my background.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid. I was never quite certain of what; it was nebulous and elusive, and changed form often. It felt like there was something inside of me that was wrong somehow, and that I had to contain it or face disaster. I felt weak, afraid, insufficient. Six months ago, I was officially diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and began treatment. I feel better now than I have in my entire life. I’m thirty-six years old, and I’m finally unfettered and showing my true power.

Given that, it should be no surprise that my favorite character in Dragon Ball is Son Gohan. I immediately related to him. The bookish and soft son of the world’s greatest fighter Son Goku felt familiar. When I saw his character arc play out on Toonami’s broadcasts of Dragon Ball Z, and later when I saw Team Four Star’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged and finally read the manga, it hit. It felt like Akira Toriyama got me in a way I hadn’t quite gotten myself yet.

Here’s what Akira Toriyama taught me through Son Gohan:

Sometimes you’ll be scared.

Son Gohan runs screaming away from a giant, carnivorous dinosaur trying to eat him.

You can be weak.

Son Gohan get kicked hard by Ginyu Force member Recoome, who vastly outclasses him in power level and fighting prowess.

Sometimes you’ll be angry.

Gohan tries to throw a punch through angry tears.

It can feel like you’re all alone sometimes.

Son Gohan blames himself for Piccolo's death--he believes he wasn't strong, brave, or smart enough to defend himself, forcing Piccolo to sacrifice himself.

You can make terrible mistakes.

Piccolo shields a frozen Gohan from a ki blast that will assuredly kill whoever is in its way.

Sometimes life pushes you into situations where you don’t want the expectations that are being put onto you.

Son Gohan cries as he watches his friends falling in combat around him, victims of Cell's sadism and desire to see the pacifist Gohan really snap.

You can feel like there’s something that separates you from everyone else, something you have to keep in check, or face disaster.

Son Gohan can turn into a Great Ape or Oozaru under the light of the full moon, and he loses all reason and self control. Vegeta is about to find out firsthand, as an enraged Great Ape Gohan raises a boulder above his head to smash Vegeta.

It doesn’t matter.

In your life, the hardest work will be all yours to do. Nobody can take it away or do it for you. When the day of fate comes, what you have inside of you is enough. That’s all you have to be. The power to face your fight, win or lose, was always yours, it was just a matter of letting it loose.

Gohan faces his fear and allows his power to flow freely, proving himself to be stronger than the monster Cell.

See you at the next Tenka’ichi Budōkai. If you liked this article, you might like some of my other posts on media I like.

Images from Dragon Ball, various volumes, sourced from Dragon Ball Official (March 8, 2024).

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Good Thing: Spatial Anomalies #1 by Scott Fabianek

On the edge of space, a small jumpstation watches over the wormhole that’s essential for interstellar travel. Crewed by a gaggle of misfits and rejects from more prestigious posts, Transfer Relay EBF-0218 is the last place anyone wants to be assigned.

Issue 1 of this science fiction workplace comedy comic introduces us to Zeke, Dawg, and the rest of the aliens, uplifted anthropomorphic animals, and human cyborgs who crew EBF-0218. 

Ezekiel Wilder—Zeke—wakes up from cryosleep to find out that he’s no longer a pilot, his contract has been reassigned, and his right arm and leg have both been amputated. His memory fuzzy from cryosleep, he can’t remember what happened that landed him here, but whatever it was, it was a doozy. As Zeke gets used to his new station and prosthetic limbs, he meets the rest of the crew and finds out instead of piloting ships himself, he’ll be coaching the hyperactive cargo loader pilot Dawg.

This first issue sets itself up for success from the beginning. The characters are well-defined, rounded, and likable, and are primed for deeper development as the series progresses. I can’t wait for Zeke to explore not being a pilot, and see how his new colleagues help him out.

The art is also excellent.

Scott Fabianek’s physical comedy is among the best I’ve seen in indie comics. His sense of setup, payoff, and motion between still panels calls to mind great sight-gag artists like Jeff Smith or Chuck Jones. Top that with endearing and expressive character designs and engrossing settings, and this comic’s art shines.

Scott can be found online at

Spatial Anomalies #1 was published by Fenris Publications, September 2022. 32 pp., prestige format. Buy your copy at!

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Good Thing: JLA Presents: Aztek, the Ultimate Man

Aztek is a deconstructed superhero. He does all the things a modern, ’90s superhero does—has a mysterious past, keeps a secret identity, fights supervillains, saves people from society’s ills, joins the Justice League—but he does it intentionally. The reason behind his actions just may not be what he thinks it is.

Aztek is different from other superheroes of the era because he’s not just the cool, stoic, gritty face of the ’90s. What makes Aztek unique is what he chooses to do when confronting modern problems.

While stopping a mugging, Aztek eschews violence and gives the muggers his own wallet to stop any further violence. His gentle approach and mercy save his life later in the issue.

The interesting thing about Aztek’s villains is that they’d have been protagonists in other books. Aztek’s “villains,” more often than not, see themselves as heroes, and tend to be self-destructive, tormented souls at the mercy of unfeeling monolithic corporate or government interests—a intentional stark comparison and contrast with the heroes of the time. 1996 was not a kind time to be a new superhero; as likely as not, they’d be written as merciless government operatives or crazed vigilantes.

Aztek explores and examines superhero tropes and lets its protagonist decide whether to follow them. Any number of other paint-by-number superhero books of the late ’90s were machismo, posing, and costumes with no sense of morality or self-reflection. Aztek shows all its characters just a little mercy.

Even the name of Aztek’s chosen home city, Vanity, might be a veiled reference to Image Comics, the artist-owned, (at the time) style-over-substance superhero factory that was threatening to outpace DC and Marvel’s classic superhero morality tales. There’s no hope in Vanity, except where Aztek creates it.

Under different writers, the story of Aztek would be much less intriguing—it’s practically a beat-by-beat instruction manual on how to introduce a new superhero to DC Comics in the late ‘90s. Again, though, it’s a deconstruction of the superhero story, so someone else in the story who knows superhero tropes is manipulating Aztek for their own ends. Had the series been allowed to continue, it would have been a very satisfying payoff.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art by N. Steven Harris, Keith Champagne, and Mike Danza. Aztek is a scratchy, gritty, textured book, with flat, muted colors, instead of the popular oversaturated computer colors popular at the time. Aztek’s white and gold costume gleams in comparison to his surroundings in the supposedly-cursed city of Vanity. It’s stylish without being distracting.

Of course, this being the ‘90s, Aztek was canceled ten issues into his run. His story continues in JLA.

Aztek, the Ultimate Man is a Good Thing.

JLA Presents: Aztek, the Ultimate Man was written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, penciled by N. Steven Harris, inked by Keith Champagne, colored by Mike Danza, and lettered by Chris Eliopoulos and Clem Robins, and published by DC Comics.


Good Thing: “Make America Great…” by Cosmik (ft. Rhubarb the Bear)

“Make America Great…” made me wanna trip up the apples, open a box, break open the piggy rattle, and throw some bees at Cosmik. If any of that made sense to you, just click the download link now.

This single takes the tradition of Cockney music-hall shanties and brings it to the modern day with clever lyrics and a fun conceit. It was even featured on Dr. Demento! Brief content warning for some explicit language.

Cosmik is a Florida furry musician who plays multiple instruments, sings, composes, and plays live at a number of venues including the Winter Park Playhouse and Walt Disney World. His music is classic with a modern twist, clever in the mold of Tom Lehrer and Cole Porter.

Cosmik and Rhubarb will be performing at Nordic Fuzz Con in February 2023 and Mephit Fur Meet over Labor Day. Check out Cosmik’s Patreon and Bandcamp in the links below.


Good Thing: Ramen Wolf & Curry Tiger

Ramen Wolf & Curry Tiger, vol. 1, by Emboss. 

This is a slice of life manga set in a Japan where anthropomorphic animals and human beings live side by side without serious issue. Gourmand wolf Mita Jiro (Ramen Wolf) embodies Robert A. Heinlein’s proverb “Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites.” Contrariwise, Yanagi Kagetora (Curry Tiger, or “Currytora”) is hesitant around people and ascetic, mostly preferring solitude and bland, prepackaged meals. But they spend their days off together exploring Japan’s various ramen establishments and enjoying food in company. Their friends notice how close they’ve gotten and try to figure out what they see in each other.

This only the first volume, so the story can be a tad episodic and shallow until they get to the centerpiece and reveal how Jiro and Kagetora met. It’s disarmingly light in tone, but promises to delve into character backgrounds and motivation as more volumes release. The book also teases a romantic relationship between Jiro and Kagetora, but doesn’t make it explicit. I’d appreciate more explicit LGBTQ+ content in future volumes, and certainly hope Emboss is allowed to explore it in depth. As it stands, Volume 1 certainly worked up my appetite for more.

The art is the main course. Emboss shows solid fundamentals in anatomy, backgrounds, and layout, and throws in male eye candy without it getting in the way of story. The presence of anthropomorphic animals makes Beastars immediately spring to mind, but the art is closer in style and tone to Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! It’s charming and cartoonishly expressive while feeling grounded in, if not exactly realism, verisimilitude. That Emboss can make Kagetora so adorable and identifiable in a childhood flashback speaks well to their skills.

Looking forward to the next volume. If it sounds good, buy from my affiliated link below!