Tamaki, M., & Rolston, S. (2008). Emiko Superstar. New York: DC Comics.
This graphic novel introduces readers to a teenager named Emily as she struggles with choices about her future. After deciding not to attend a summer-long Young Executives Retreat, Emily finds herself splitting her time between babysitting and attending weekly artistic ‘Freak Shows’ at a factory.
Set in Canada, Emily struggles with her identity as she becomes a performer, reading the words written by someone else and chooses the name, Emiko, and the clothes she inherited from her Japanese-Canadian grandmother.
Emily’s story is broken into acts and scenes and the graphics interact well with the text and dialogue.
In many ways, Emiko Superstar has a similar feel to some of the works done by Francesca Lia Block exploring the experiences of expressive and artistic teen characters, but Tamaki and Rolston’s graphic novel lacks the underlying dysfunction and darkness in some of Block’s narratives.
One of the supporting characters in the story is homosexual. While Susan is treated relatively fairly, there is one moment in the narration that a reader could interpret negatively: “Susan was in New York City with her, uh, partner. I hope she’s happy” (p. 147). While in general the implication is supportive, the hesitation before the word ‘partner’ could lead to a debate over the implications of that ‘uh.’
Activities to do with the book:
Since the book makes many references to the works and artistic endeavors of Andy Warhol, reading this graphic novel would lend itself to a discussion of Warhol’s art and life.
The graphic novel also invites discussions of what ‘text’ and ‘art’ are. A teacher could also encourage contemplation and artistic expressions over ideas of identity, appearances, choices, secrets and the condition of being an outsider and an insider.
“Clearly, I had passed the “I am not a serial killer” test” (p. 20).
“I was at what this book I found described as a “classic crossroads.” Where one thing gets left behind…and something else gets spotted in the distance” (p. 34).
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