secret identities superhero contest winner: wildstyle

And now, the third winning entry from the Secret Identities Superhero Contest, where readers were asked to submit their own original idea for an Asian American superhero. This one, WILDSTYLE by Tiffany Namwong, received a special honor as our first-day contest winner. Here it is, as rendered by artist A.L. Baroza.


We already commented on Tiffany Namwong's Wildstyle--and we were particularly delighted to meet her in person at San Diego Comic-Con, where she made good use of the free registration she won in our special first-day mini-contest. As we looked at the other entries, we thought that Tiffany's hero was certainly one of the top three entries overall--but for fairness's sake, we decided to add a fourth winner as well, since Tiffany already got her own copy of SI signed by a horde of contribs at SDCC.

Anyway, for those who missed the original synopsis of Tiffany's hero, which won her a free registration for SDCC, here it is again--as well as A.L. Baroza's awesome visualization of the young Thai tattoo artist. I had the privilege of working with Aldin on the SI story "A Day at CostumeCo," and he brings the same visual flair and painstaking attention to detail to Tiffany's character--even including Wildstyle's demonic nemesis Maya and a horde of uglies to complete the tableau. Thanks, Tiffany and A.L.!


Wildstyle by Tiffany Namwong

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.