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  134 - The Art of the Diplomat  
  The Art of the Diplomat  
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19/12/08 Meowth, in flight
Today's commentary is going to be an odd one. And not because it contains relatively little about the comic (since that's the case with most of them). Thoughts on this comic: I can't draw boats and am hoping to get away with not drawing one despite having a scene set on a boat. Think I'm getting away with it so far?

Next, something nice! Heraclea is an Amazoness! reader and a City of Heroes player who decided to combine these two pastimes by creating characters based on Ekphobippe and Melanippe. Aren't they pretty?

Ekphobippe and Melanippe, City of Heroes style

Next up, a shout-out to another reader. Ed Evans recently started his own comic, The Sandwich Man, which marries a post-apocalyptic setting with the important matter of, er, sandwiches. I was actually supposed to link to this comic several weeks ago, but then the comic's site went down for a bit, and I decided to wait until it came back, and then I forgot. But I'm linking to it now! See? I can get things right, given time...

Lastly today... hugely sad news from the world of anime dubbing, as the industry lost one of its most talented artists last week, somebody I admired greatly. Maddie Blaustein was an accomplished voice-over artist, as well as a comic writer. Her credits span numerous anime series and video games, but she was undoubtedly best known for providing the voice of Meowth for eight seasons of the Pokemon anime. She died last week after a short illness, at the way-too-young age of 48.

The Pokemon anime was something of an oddity. It suffered from some of the usual treatment given to more kiddie-oriented fare when destined for American TV, and the source material itself was rather patch at times. But the dubbing itself was consistently a highlight (at least until recently, when Pokemon USA sacked all of the voice artists and replaced them with cheaper sound-alikes, but that's another story). There's a tendency among anime fans to think of dub artists, particularly of the 4Kids variety, as jobbing actors with no real interest or emotional investment in the characters they portray. But the Pokemon voice talent consistently gave it their all, and seemed to be having a huge amount of fun with the source material. This was especially evident in Blaustein's performance. She was also more actively engaged with the fans than I've ever known any voice artist be, regularly answering fan questions on Pokemon forums (and showing superhuman levels of patience with, shall we say, some of the less socially adept forumgoers).

The other aspect of Maddie that rarely escaped comment is that she was a male-to-female transsexual, which does, perhaps, shed a little light on her truly astounding range of voice roles, encompassing both genders. She once told a sweet story concerning this - as well as her favourite role, Meowth - which I'll attempt to paraphrase here. Those of you who, like me, watched the early seasons of the anime might recall an episode that explained Meowth's unusual ability to speak like a human. In flashback, the episode tells how he fell in love with a pampered female Meowth who was more interested in her human owners than in other Pokemon. Striving to become more human-like in order to win her heart, he painstakingly learned to speak and walk on two legs... only to ultimately be rejected by the target of his affections, who now considered him a freak. What's touching is that this story is what prompted Maddie (still credited back then as Adam Blaustein) to come out to her colleagues and begin the process of transitioning. As silly as the show often was (and she'd be the first to point out that it was often very silly indeed), I'm not sure I'll ever look at it in quite the same way after discovering this story.

I expect that I've probably talked for too long about somebody I've never met, and really only knew as a voice coming out of the television. But she was a heroine of mine, and the news really took the wind out of my sails... and since I don't have the discipline to keep up a blog, I end up posting my directionless thoughts here. Anyway, here's to Maddie Blaustein, a face unknown to most, but a voice instantly recognisable to millions of kids.

  C'mon, my little eggie-weggie. We gotta lotta incubatin' ta do.  
© George Hutcheon 2007, 2008