Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Penny Arcade Remix project

Back when I worked for Canada's Other National Newspaper, one of our favorite ways of filling up extra space during the wee morning hours of press night was to photocopy old Calvin and Hobbes comics and then fill in the word balloons with alternative dialogue. Often the results were both hilarious and surreal, and the practice grew beyond a mere spacefilling gambit into a venerable comedic institution (so much so that the paper provides an interactive online version).

So a natural question, perhaps, is what happens when non-native speakers of English supply comic strips with their own alternative dialogue? Does the cultural divide result in a more surreal product -- and therefore a funnier one? Thanks to the link provided to me by Tyler, you can judge for yourself. The Penny Arcade Remix Project is the product of a high-school teacher in Japan who enlisted his students to reimagine the dialogue in old Penny Arcade comic strips.

The result, in some ways, seems particularly Japanese. For example, a couple of strips revolve around the idea that the protagonists live in a mailbox, which seems to evoke the cramped living conditions that are the natural result of sky-high real estate prices, capsule hotels being the best example. And another that involves releasing sarin gas in a subway can only have the fully tasteless resonance that it does in the land of the rising sun.

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