What do private detectives, samurai, and gunslingers have in common?

by William Hohmeister

I don’t need to tell you folks I love myths. But I want to explain something peculiar about myths that make me love them. Each myth has a whole set of historical, religious, and cultural assumptions behind it.

Those things create the myth, which represents the whole set better than a simple list could; it’s why Jesus spoke in parables, why Nietzsche wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra, and why C.S. Lewis replaced Jesus with a much more awesome lion. Myths create stories around the beliefs we already hold and communicate those beliefs to the next generation.

The lone wanderer myth has a strange history in the United States. In Japan he’s called the Samurai. In America he’s the cowboy, the gunslinger, and the private detective. Each character fulfills the mythic role, but in a different way. This leads to a strange series of homages/ripoffs between American and Japanese creators:

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammet is adapted into Yojimbo, by Akira Kurosawa.

Yojimbo, by Akira Kurosawa is adapted into A Fistful of Dollars, by Sergio Leone.

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Real people through the lens of Batman: Martial arts master Ip Man


by Jeremy DeFatta

Hello, everyone! I hope your week is going well. This has been a different sort of week for me, so today I’ll approach the Batman column a little differently. For at least a few posts, I’d like to use Batman as a historical and critical lens for viewing real-life figures.

Whether through their true deeds, through the mythologies that surround them, or through a combination of the two, there are many people the world over who are in some ways real world analogs of Batman. For my first foray into this effort, I’ll look at Ip Man.

Ip Man (or Yip Man, 1893-1972) was one of the greatest martial arts masters of the last century. He was grand master of the Wing Chun school, a fighting style originally created by a woman and intended to be learned quickly for self-defense. You’ve likely heard of him through one or more of the recent films based, with varying degrees of dramatic license, on his life and fights. You may also be familiar with the fact that he was Bruce Lee’s first master.

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