Xuan Liu, One of Poker's Top Female Players, Has a Love Affair with Comic Books
Both comic book fans and poker players are often mischaracterized. Stereotypes usually include 30-year-old nerds for the former, and grizzled old men sitting in smoky card rooms for the latter. Professional poker player and comic lover Xuan Liu, 29, turns such stereotypes on their heads.
Liu isn't at the 2015 World Series of Poker yet — she estimates she'll arrive in a week or so — which means she'll miss this weekend's Amazing Comic Con Las Vegas at South Point Casino. A missed opportunity for the poker pro and self-described comic book geek.
In 2012, Liu, who hails from Toronto, Canada, finished fourth in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event for $600,000, and a year before that placed third in the European Poker Tour Sanremo Main Event for $524,705. All told, Liu has more than $1.5 million in live tournament winnings.
Liu often comes across as an intimidating vixen bluffing her way to a poker fortune, but in reality she is kind, gentle, and a comic book geek at heart. Whether it's trades of her favorite series or hundreds of electronic issues on her tablet, Liu doesn't go anywhere without comics to keep her company.
In honor of the Amazing Comic Con rolling into town, PokerNews had the chance to catch up with Liu to talk comic.
Speaking of comics, don't forget to pick up your copy of PokerNews Managing Editor Chad Holloway's World Series of Zombies (WSOZ) comic. Click here to order yours today.
PokerNews: What sparked your love of comics?
Liu: I’ve always been an avid reader and spent the majority of my free time as a child at the library. Since English wasn’t my first language being born in China, this was the way I learned about the new world around me. I was especially attracted to comics and graphic novels because I was a visual learner and didn’t need to understand all the vocabulary to appreciate the beautiful pictures and understand the stories.
What sort of comics do you read now? Do you collect anything else comic related?
My best friend Huyen introduced me to a comic series by Bill Willingham called Fables a few years ago. I’m pretty behind on it at the moment, but it takes place in a parallel universe of classic storybook characters set in modern New York. The creator is even a poker player who has also done a series called Proposition Player, and has even tweeted at me from time to time. Other recent favorites include DC’s New 52 Series on Wonder Woman, which my sister and I are now collecting.
What's your favorite comic series of all time and why?
When I was younger I remember being addicted to Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson just captures the essence of childhood so well. I was really able to relate to Calvin’s imagination reading the series as a kid, and these days I’m still able to appreciate and be inspired by it as an adult. Not only is it adorable, there are a lot of subtle themes that really makes you feel grateful about our finite time in the world.
Who is your favorite comic book hero and why?
Rorschach from the Watchmen is probably my favorite. He’s not really a hero in the conventional sense but I really admire the social critique he stands for. Without giving too many spoilers, his character is very objective and doesn’t compromise truth for muddled morals even when put into the toughest situations.
He had a hard life and learned to survive by adapting in the only ways he knew how, and became a badass against all odds. I don’t always agree with his approach on ethics and dealing with vice, but I wholeheartedly believe it’s important and necessary for personalities like him to exist for the greater good.
Who is your favorite comic book villain and why?
Ozymandias is Rorschach’s opposite. Known as the world’s most intelligent man, he has a god-complex and believed he was doing humanity a favor with his elaborate and deceptive plots to keep the world superpowers in balance. He is presented as a villain because he accepted the necessary evil of sacrificing certain individuals and transparency to save the innocent masses. Whereas Rorschach lived in black and white, Ozymandias embraced the shades in between. It’s a theme that is as relevant as ever in political philosophy in the modern era. What good is moral objectivity if we don’t have hope to survive another day?
If you could see any comic series made into a movie or TV show, which would you choose and why?
I would give a chance to any show that had any comic book heroine or female villain in a strong lead. I recently watched a few of the first episodes of Gotham and think it has potential, having been a Batman fan for a long time.
Hollywood is pretty good at picking up on good stories for ideas for big screen, but they aren’t always done well which almost makes it worse for me than not having a visual accompaniment at all. Fables would be a great project, but there have recently been shows like Once Upon a Time and Brothers Grimm that have some similar themes but couldn’t really impress me. Anything as elaborate that can transfer me into another world like Game of Thrones would get me riled up.
What are your thoughts on digital comics? Do you read them?
My Kindle is one of my favorite things in the world and allows me to download digital copies of comics I enjoy. I like collecting hard copies of my favorite comics and novels, but I actually think it’s much easier to progress in a story on an e-reader if I’m not just trying to appreciate the graphics.
Have you ever been to a comic con? If so, what was your experience like?
I have been to Toronto Comic Con a few times. My sister and best friend are actually bigger geeks in this respect than I am. When we go together they will often recognize the creators and artists of obscure comics, whereas I am there mostly to appreciate the costumes and expose myself to the art and watching people do what they love.
My friend is super talented and offered to make us some World of Warcraft cosplay either this year or next. It takes a lot of work but we are ecstatic by the thought. We would also love to attend San Diego Comic Con some day because it’s one of the biggest in the world and supposed to be absolutely insane. It’d be like adult Disney World for us.
When it comes to comics, what's most important to you – artwork, storyline, characters, etc.?
Because I also read a lot of traditional novels and appreciate them for storylines and character development, a lot of the appeal of comic books to me is the artwork. I used to spend a lot of time copying drawings of my favorite heroines, so I am immediately drawn to covers and detailed portraits of sultry, feminine characters who make their own rules.
When people think of comics, they no doubt think of middle age men or dorks. As a beautiful, successful woman you certainly don't fit the comic stereotype. Can you speak a little to that? Are people surprised to find you're a comic fan?
Why thank you. I think most of my friends know I’m pretty geeky, and most people who don’t know me very well wouldn’t know that I am a comic fan! The great thing about comics is that there really aren’t limitations to the types of themes that exist. Because of how accessible the format is, I’ve been exposed to anything from the standard super-hero stuff to girly stories like Courtney Love’s Princess Ai, socio-racial commentary like The Boondocks, darker stories like Deathnote about a boy possessing the power to kill, and even more risqué adult themes that really pushes boundaries. Comics are definitely not just for stereotypical dorks!
Not long ago there was a #fourcomics tag going around on social media in which people shared pictures of the four comic covers that most influenced them. Can you share your four covers and tell us why they meant so much to you?
Calvin and Hobbes - Have been a fan for over 20 years. Perfection.
Fables - Love what Bill Willingham has done with classic fairytale characters I grew up to with.
The Watchmen - A big fan of the story and socio-philosophical themes and premise that crime fighters don’t need to have superpowers.
The Boondocks - Reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes in respect to its themes about growing up, and its unapologetic portrayal of racial identity and social norms is brilliant and hilarious.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.