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12.08.2014
Big Hero 6 is the first Disney film based on a Marvel comic, but the marketing campaign isn’t making a big deal out of it.
The super-team known as Big Hero 6 only ever appeared in its own comic book series twice—first in in a 1998 three-issue miniseries called Sunfire and Big Hero 6, by Scott Lobdell and Gus Vasquez (although the team was created by Steven T. It’s the second series that more closely resembles the movie and stands on its own as a distinct work, thanks to David Nakayama’s manga-style artwork. That’s by design—the studio intentionally sought out an obscure property so they could make it their own, free of any sort of expectation from audiences.
Seagle and Duncan Rouleau), and again in a 2008 five-issue miniseries by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama titled Big Hero 6. The first is a pretty straightforward ’90s superhero book—and since the team includes Sunfire and Silver Samurai, it actually has some pretty strong ties to the X-Men.
You can read this story in its entirety on Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited service, if you’re a subscriber (the first one, unfortunately, is pretty hard to find).
While I’m sure The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe has this bit of trivia hidden away somewhere, there’s no real in-story confirmation of any of the character’s ages outside of the boy genius Hiro Takachiho (Hiro Hamada in the film; he’s 13 in the comics, 14 in the movie) — particularly in regards to the female characters in the team.
Not only does Honey Lemon appear in her underwear the moment she’s possessed by the villain (who’s also a woman), but the female characters in the Big Hero 6 comic are really sexualized on the whole.


While the comic book versions of Go-Go and Honey derive their powers from tech, their mastery of technology or science isn’t integral to their characters—and others, like Wasabi and Fred, are in fact straight-up superheroes, with their own innate powers. This strategy shows in the final product: While the film’s characters do have comic book counterparts, they are very, very different from their predecessors. But it’s more interesting as a case study in adaptation—as the movie proves, there are some great ideas there, but the comics leave much to be desired. The film, however, is set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo—which is wonderfully realized and one of its most interesting facets. So, as Japanese superheroes, the members of Big Hero 6 should have suitably Japanese names, right? Part of this is due to the manga stylings David Nakayama is paying homage to; part of it is because this problem is just as persistent in American comics. A more traditional mecha-styled robot with the ability to change its appearance to look like a very large man (and maybe a dragon?), comic book Baymax is also Hiro’s invention, not his brother’s (who doesn’t exist in the comics). Making every member of the team a science student who builds his or her own superhero identity creates a more consistent team—and makes its members all the more admirable.
Unfortunately, the creators of Big Hero 6 decided “suitably Japanese” meant “name them after kitschy sushi restaurants,” because that’s exactly what the team’s roster reads like.


But later in the story, they’re sent on a mission where they’re required to pass as American high school students—which becomes wildly problematic when Honey Lemon succumbs to the villain’s mind control, becoming a sexy vixen. Everything about movie Baymax was invented whole cloth; Disney effectively turned a cool robot into a huggable beating heart of a character, elegantly externalizing the film’s themes of grief and loss.
Someone thought giving these heroes names like Go-Go Tomago, Honey Lemon, and Wasabi-No-Ginger was a good idea.
There’s also this subplot where Honey Lemon learns not to depend on her Power Purse, which seems like a bit of well-intentioned girl power that’s also hopelessly tone-deaf. Granted, some of these names were dreamed up during the ’90s—a dark time for comics generally. The film neatly sidesteps this problematic bit both by virtue of its new, fictional setting and also by ditching the latter, more racially-tinged halves of most of the nicknames—providing an in-story justification for each one.



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