The Ben Tanaka wiki last edited by BumpyBoo on 04/23/13 03:56PM View full history


Ben appears in the Drawn & Quarterly comic book series, Optic Nerve.


Ben was created by Adrian Tomine.

Character Evolution

Sasha dumps Ben for her ex -girlfriend

Ben is the protagonist of the three issue Optic Nerve story Shortcomings. He initially lives in Berkley, California with his girlfriend Miko Hayashi. His best friend is a lesbian named Alice Kim, and the two often call each other for advice in times of need. He has even posed as Alice's boyfriend to spare her embarrassment at family occasions, as her family are not aware that she is a lesbian. Ben has a sexual obsession with young, blonde Caucasian girls, and it eventually leads to the break up of his relationship with Miko. The pair initially agree to a trial separation, but after they begin seeing other people, Ben and Miko decide to break up for good.

While on a break from Miko, Alice takes Ben to a lesbian party where he meets Sasha, a young blonde student who is openly bisexual (or, as Alice describes her, a "fence-sitter"). The two enjoy a brief relationship, before Sasha leaves Ben for her ex girlfriend.

Ben almost gets involved with Autumn, a young musician and artist who is part of a performance art group. But he soon discovers that Autumn has a phobia of germs, and as a result does not like to kiss people.

When he discovers that Miko has begun dating a white man, Ben confronts the pair. Although he has no objection to his own pursuit of Caucasian women, his attitude to Miko's new relationship is hateful, and racist. His argument falls apart when Miko points out that her new partner is not Caucasian at all - he is half Jewish, half Native American. He later tells Alice and Meredith that he is deeply suspicious of white men who have a preference for Asian women. This leads to a heated drunken debate with Meredith, during which it becomes clear that the two are beginning to dislike each other. It is also later implied that he resents Meredith a little for taking up so much of Alice's time, especially when his best friend makes the decision to move away.

Ben's racist views cause tension with Meredith

Another example of Ben's tendency toward double standards is his behavior in New York. After confronting Miko and her new partner in the street, Ben visits her at home, demanding answers. Here, he accuses Miko of cheating. Although he slept with numerous women during their separation, he perceives Miko responding in kind as some form of betrayal - even after she tells him that she only began dating again after one of her friends saw Ben with another woman.

Ben is deeply insecure, and confides in Alice that the real reason he prefers younger Caucasian girls because they "don't seem to mind about size so much". But when she quizzes him further about this, he becomes defensive, and changes the subject.

At the end of the story, Ben is forced to return to California empty handed and alone, since Alice has decided to remain in New York, and Miko is moving on with her life.

Major Story Arcs

Ben is the protagonist of the Optic Nerve story arc Shortcomings, the issues of which were later collected into a single volume of the same name.

Powers And Abilities

Ben is a human character with no special powers or abilities.

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