An Announcement…

Greetings Earthlings. Forget May the Fourth and Revenge of the Sixth, May is Star Wars month. Why do I say that? Because May 25th marks the 40th anniversary of A New Hope, the one that started it all. But the other five films were released in May and their celebrating their milestones as well. May 21st marks the 37th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. May 25th also marks the 34th anniversary of Return of the Jedi. Attack of the Clones celebrated its 15th anniversary on the 16th while The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith celebrated their 18th and 12th anniversaries respectively on the 19th. George Lucas also turned 73 on the 14th.

To mark this occasion, I’ve opened a shop on Etsy to sell some sci-fi themed keychains and jewelry. It’s called – what else? – The Lady From Planet X. Star Wars isn’t the only franchise I’m selling. Since we’re still in Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary, I’m selling some ST keychains. This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Next Generation and I hope to add some TNG themed items soon. It’s also Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary and I’ll add some Wondy items as soon as their ready. In the meantime, stop to peruse the Xena keychains I’ve made.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18 Signs You’re Obsessed With the “Alien” Franchise

Today is Alien Day! The “holiday” was introduced last year to commemorate the second film’s 30th anniversary. Since the asteroid the xenomorph eggs were found on was called LV426, it made sense to use the date 4/26 to celebrate everyone’s favorite horror-sci-fi franchise (take that 4/20 potheads!) much in the same way we celebrate May the Fourth. To take part in this celebration, I’m going to read your mind and reveal to you how you express your “love” for the Alien movies. Let’s begin shall we?

  • Whenever you send your naughty child to the corner of the house you put a life-size replica of the xenomorph complete with a second mouth that moves in and out in front of him/her.

Image result for ripley and alien gif

                    Go sit in the corner and think about what you did! (Source: Imgur)

  • You took up pole-dancing just so you can perform in a xenomorph costume.

       Then you perform your routine in front of your orange tabby, who just hisses.

  • You buy more than one cart of xenomorph eggs so that one day you can cook them and serve them to your husband for breakfast just so he can know what it’s like to give birth.

Image result for xenomorph toy eggs

                                                     Expires June 3, 2122.

  • You name your daughters Newt, Annalee and Amanda and your sons Kane, Brett, Parker, Ash and Dallas.
  • You sleep in a cryo chamber.
  • You’re license plate is either LV-426 or N0STRM0.
  • You’re answering machine is Ripley’s final report: “This is (your name here), last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off. Please leave a message.”
  • Instead of saying goodbye your parting remark is “Game over, man! Game over!”
  • You bought your in-laws facehuggers for Christmas (in space no one can hear you nag).
  • You sang “You Are My Lucky Star” to your kids as babies – which always ended with a scream.
  • Your biology thesis was on the xenomorph life cycle.
  • When you received news about John Hurt’s death you wore a black chestburster.
  • You wore a jumpsuit to school (with a Weyland-Yutani patch on both shoulders) everyday as a teenager.
  • You keep a flamethrower in the trunk of your car (you just never know).
  • Your ringtone is “Get away from her you bitch!”
  • If any one of your family members is sick you put them on quarantine for 24 hours – in a tent outside the house. We can’t take any risks you know.
  • You’re still sending death threats to the Academy Awards for not giving Sigourney Weaver the 1987 Oscar for Aliens.
  • You’re still sending marriage proposals to Sigourney Weaver – even though she’s been married to the same man for 32 years.

So that’s all I came up with. Could I have listed more? What other ways are you obsessed with the Alien franchise? Any and all suggestions, curses or threats is accepted in the comments section. Happy Alien Day!

 

 

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Whitewashing Anime

I know some anime fans and some people of Asian descent will hate me for saying this but, I really don’t get all the fuss over Scarlet Johansson’s casting as Major in Ghost in the Shell.

Before I go any further, let me explain that I am a non-Asian American who agrees that Hollywood has really given Asians and Asian-Americans a bum rap. In movies, people of Asian descent are either non-existent, relegated to background characters, made fun of or killed off. And their cultures and traditions are stolen and reused for other ethnic groups. I find it so laughable how celebrity after celebrity keeps calling out the current president for being racist yet fail to see the racism of the industry they work in (quick, when was the last time you saw a Hollywood film where a person of Middle Eastern descent wasn’t a terrorist? No, Aladdin doesn’t count.) If you want to learn more about racism against Asians in Hollywood, here’s some articles by Jana Monji over at rogerebert.com (although I don’t agree with everything she says).

Another thing I’d like to add before I move on is that I’m not an anime or manga fan. I’m not familiar with the Ghost in the Shell franchise so I wont go into details about the setting and characters, just what I’ve learned through Wikipedia.

But back to my original statementWhy do I have less issues with the live action Ghost in the Shell than, say, the mostly white voice cast of Kubo and the Two Strings?

Because Scarlet looks like Major.

scarlett-johanson-ghost-in-the-shell

In America whenever a cartoon gets a live action adaptation, audiences expect the actors chosen to bear a resemblance to the cartoon character they’re playing. My biggest issue with the recent Beauty and the Beast remake is that Emma Watson, Dan Stevens and Luke Evans looked nothing liked the characters of the beloved animated film I grew up with. They weren’t even attractive enough to play Belle, Adam and Gaston convincingly (Emmy Rossum would’ve made a better Belle. At least she looks like her and can sing). By contrast, Emile Hirsch and Christina Ricci looked like Speed Racer and Trixie respectively and nobody complained of “whitewashing” when the live action Speed Racer was released in 2008. So why are people now complaining when a white woman takes a role of a white-looking character created by Japanese men?

Rei Kashino from the romance manga Mars (right) and the actor who plays him in the film (left).

Notice the keyword I used: white-looking. This is an aspect of anime that always struck me as odd. Despite being an art-form created by the Japanese, the characters of anime always have the same European features: white skin, various hair colors ranging from blonde to purple and big, round or square eyes of different colors.  Even their clothing at times will be European in origin. This isn’t limited to anime and manga. Video Games made in Japan will also depict their characters this way (Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, even Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts) and again, I ask: “why?” Do the Japanese hate the way they look? Do these features appeal to them? I decided the smart thing to do was to ask a fan and so I turned to my anime loving brother for information. He told me that most of today’s anime is influenced by Osamu Tezuka and Astro Boy, a franchise that introduced the anime aesthetic. Tezuka designed the characters as a homage to American artists like Walt Disney and Max Fleischer and the the style has been that way ever since. Perhaps its time for the Japanese animation industry to break the mold and start drawing their characters to resemble the people of Japan so that if and when Hollywood (or any other studio) makes another live-action anime adaptation, they’ll (hopefully) give the roles to Asian actors.

Update: it appears Mamoru Oshii, the director of the 1995 animated film, agrees with me.

Do you agree? Should the part of Major been played by an Asian actress? Is anime fine the way it is or should it change? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

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Forgotten Women of Comics #1: Moon Girl

moongirl

Ask any average person on the street to name a woman superhero or female comic book character and most people will choose Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Catwoman, Lois Lane or Betty and Veronica. Many have argued about the lack of prominent supersheroes in comics and point out that Wonder Woman is the only supershero that wasn’t a sidekick, relative, love interest or spinoff of a male superhero.

But that wasn’t the case nearly 80 years ago. Wonder Woman was just one of the many heroic female characters that excited readers – both male and female – back when America was trudging through the Great Depression, coping with the harsh realities of war and struggling with putting the country back together afterwards. Possibly inspired by the jobs women were taking up to help the war effort, publishing companies that specialized in comics came out with titles chronicling the adventures of lady heroes like The Lady in Red, Miss Fury, the Spider Widow, Pat Patriot, Miss Victory, et al; women who donned costumes to fight crime and corruption when needed. Some of those women had superpowers. Wonder Woman was among them and so was Moon Girl.

In 1947 publisher Max Gaines of EC Comics created a character that was similar to Princess Diana in many ways. She was the daughter of the queen of the fictional city of Samarkand, a matriarchy not unlike Wonder Woman’s Themyscira. However, unlike Themyscira, men were allowed to visit Samarkand and one man in particular, Prince Mengu, falls in love with Moon Girl. At first Moon Girl wants nothing to do with the prince but her mother tells her: “It is decreed that the man who takes you for his wife must first prove his superior strength!” Nevertheless the Queen gives her a necklace made of moonstone. “Once you wear the moonstone, no man will be your master!”

With the moonstone around her neck, Moon Girl easily beats Prince Mengu in a contest and the defeated prince leaves. Realizing that she actually loves him, she leaves Samarkand in search of him only to find that he’s moved to America and is working as a college coach. By now you can guess what happens next. In America, Moon Girl beats the prince in a shotputting match (thanks to the moonstone) and he realizes who she really is. But instead of getting married and living happily ever after, the couple decides to stay in the United States to fight crime. Moon Girl adopts the identity of Clair Lune and becomes a teacher.

Moon Girl and the Prince (its real title) lasted for 12 issues. Sadly, the writers didn’t know what to do with the character and the series evolved from a superhero genre to a romance comic (A Moon, A Girl…Romance) to disappearing entirely.

Until now.

Whilst browsing in a local comic book shop, I came upon a reprint of Moon Girl #3 and bought it. The comic was reprinted by Canton Street Press under their Flashback Replica Series, which are:

…exact reproductions of historically significant or key comic books from the 1940s and 1950s. Each page is fully restored with careful attention to line, work and colors. All editorial and ad pages are included. Collect the entire series!

The series includes Moon Girl #1-7. No. 3 has four stories: “Rockets For Riches”, “Sky Sabotage”, “The Spirit of Kokama” and “Moon Girl…Wanted for Murder”. The first story pits Moon Girl against the evil, emerald clad she-devil Satana, who is launching rockets at cities. The second story involves Moon Girl salvaging a pilot’s reputation. The third story brings Moon Girl back to her hometown of Samarkand to rescue her mother from the clutches of the traitorous Ka-zhan and the fourth story speaks for itself. I enjoyed reading these stories and look forward to collecting the other MG titles in CSP’s Flashback Replica Series. If your interested in buying and reading the adventures of Moon Girl, here’s Canton Street Press’s official site.

For more information about Moon Girl, see The Great Women Superheroes, written by Trina Robbins. Sadly out of print but still available to buy from Amazon! Stayed tuned for the next entry in my Forgotten Women of Comics. Who will it be???

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4 Stories Worth Reading From “Elseworlds: Justice League Vol 1”

In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed, or might have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t exist. The result: stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow.

DC’s official description for their Elseworlds imprint.

What if Batman lived in the Victorian age? What if baby Kal-El’s rocket landed in the U.S.S.R.? What if Scheherazade (you know, the author of the 1001 Nights) was secretly a Green Lantern? These were some of the many stories published under DC’s Elseworlds banner.

What is “Elseworlds” you ask? It was a 1989-2003 imprint published by DC Comics that took their licensed characters and put them in stories that took place outside their canonical timeline. An alternate history for superheroes you might say. Oftentimes they were published as mini-series, one shots and annuals and they were published with a logo that looked like this so as not to confuse readers. Other comic companies like Marvel and Dynamite also got in on the act. The story possibilities were endless. I own a few titles: Superman: Red Son, Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights and Superman: War of the Worlds. But there are other titles that I was coveting but couldn’t find any copies because most of them are out of print. Sure, I could buy some titles but they aren’t always cheap and some are incomplete – meaning you can only find issue #1 of JLA: Shogun of Steel and that’s about it.

Until now.

From the kindness of their hearts, DC is reprinting these long lost stories as trade paperback anthologies. Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 1 was released in April of 2016. Batman Vol. 2 was released in October of 2016 and Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1 saw the light of day on July 19, 2016 (Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 3, Justice League Vol. 2 and Superman Vol. 1 & 2 will be released this year).

It was on one rainy day, I was perusing through my second favorite comic book shop that I happened upon a copy of Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1. It had the stories I had been dying to read for years and then some. I will recommend four stories from this anthology along with their authors and main artist.

Elseworld’s Finest Parts 1 & 2 (John Francis Moore & Kieron Dwyer)

1928 versions of Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Bruce Wayne, Lana Lang, Ra’s al Ghul and Lex Luthor in a story that pays homage to pulp adventure stories, Jules Verne, archaeology and hidden cities. Oh yeah, and Jimmy reads Captain Marvel.

Justice Riders (Chuck Dixon & J.H. Williams III)

It’s 1873 and US Marshal Diana Prince is horrified to discover that Paradise, the town she has sworn to protect, has been blown to smithereens (literally) while she was away. She enlists the help of Kid Flash, a quick draw gunslinger and Katar Johnson, a Cheyenne warrior who flies with help of artificial hawk wings. As they are attacked by Maxwell Lord’s mechanical henchmen, they’re saved by Booster Gold and inventor Ted “Beetle” Kord. It turns out that Maxwell Lord and Felix Faust were behind the annihilation of Paradise all along and together, with the extra help of Pinkerton agent Guy Gardner and man hunter John Jones, the Justice Riders (a name coined by Kord) take down the robber baron and the sorcerer.

Wonder Woman: Amazonia (William Messner-Loebs & Phil Winslade)

Originally published in an oversized 8″ by 11″ format to show off the “engraved” (and occasional art nouveau) artwork.

Queen Victoria is dead! Long live King Jack Planters! Yep, the Victorian era has given way to the Plantagenet era and the misogyny and the imperialism of the era is taken up to 11 thanks to the toxic masculinity King Jack preaches. But in these dark times, one amazing woman stands out: Diana Trevor, the Wonder Woman, who by day performs feats of strength for audiences and by night, protects the lives of threatened women. It’s her courage and kindness that eventually brings down Jack’s cruel regime. This story is a must-read for all fans of steampunk and the Amazon princess.

Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (Barbara Kesel & Matt Haley)

Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman. Bruce Wayne mentors Barbara Gordon. Barbara Gordon is Batgirl. Batgirl rules Gotham City with an iron fist. Batgirl mistrusts metahumans. Lex Luthor shows up in Gotham with Supergirl. Supergirl loves Lex. Lex gets abducted by the Joker, who loves Batgirl. Supergirl wants to rescue Lex. Batgirl won’t let her. The two team up reluctantly. They discover Lex and the Joker are working together and Lex has been hiding a very dark secret…

Well that’s it. Agree? Disagree? Have you read Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1? What were your favorite stories? Have you read any other Elseworld titles/anthologies? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait for vol. 2!

 

 

 

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All I Need to Know About Life I Learned From…

plan9main_original

” How many of you know the horror, the terror I will now reveal to you?

For many years I have told you the almost unbelievable, related the unreal and showed it to be more than fact. Now I tell you a tale of the future for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable.  That is why you are here. And now I will relate to you … the wisdom, the life lessons. My friends we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Can your hearts stand the shocking truisms from… Plan 9 From Outer Space!

  • Death isn’t an enemy, it’s a proud brother.
  • Future events will effect you in the future.
  • I’m afraid of the dead because they don’t think.
  • There are two types of flying saucers: the kind from up there and their counterparts.
  • Modern women have been that way all through the ages.
  • Earth people have stupid minds.
  • If I pass a stranger during the night, he might be from outer space.
  • Visits indicate visitors.
  • Chiropractors make good stand-ins.
  • There comes a time in each man’s life when he can’t even believe his own eyes.
  • First there’s a bomb, then, a larger bomb.
  • Space women are for advancing the race not fighting in man’s battles – yet take them with you on missions anyway.
  • Murder is someone’s responsibility.
  • Pillows are good substitutes for husbands.
  • The most fantastic part of a story is the true part.
  • Don’t laugh at the horseless carriage, the aeroplane, radio, vitamins, television or outer space.
  • Guns are good for shooting and scratching.
  • The saucers are up there and the cemetery’s out there.
  • As long as humans can think, aliens will have problems.
  • The best evidence of alien life is a zombie invasion.
  • We are all interested in the future for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.

My friends, you have read these truisms based on sworn testimony. Can you prove they aren’t worth living by?  Can you supply other things you have learned from Ed Woods’ masterpiece?

God help us in the future…

 

 

 

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To Honor Carrie Fisher, Here Are Some of Leia’s Greatest Moments

“Star Wars” legend Carrie Fisher has died at the age of 60.  To honor a woman that has shaped and influenced so many lives, let’s look at some of the most memorable moments of Leia Organa of Alderaan, a character she embodied to the end.

I  never saw the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters because I wasn’t born until 1984 and I wasn’t a fan when the Special Editions came out (although after seeing A New Hope on video I took my Pocahontas doll and styled her hair into two cinnamon buns). However I will never forget the time when I sat in a theater watching Revenge of the Sith and heard the audience’s gasps and “ahhs” when Padme (Natalie Portman) gave birth to twins and with dying breath, says “Luke” and “Leia”. Then the scene where Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) hands baby Leia to his wife and we see her looking up at her new parents as John Williams plays her memorable theme. Such is the magic of good filmmaking.

One of the things about Star Wars that impressed me when it first came out was the way it broke away from gender norms by having not only a woman who was brave, smart and politically savvy but male heroes who weren’t muscular, hypermasculine and callously violent. Leia reflected on the big screen what many women were fighting against in the 70s and 80s: an unequal, patrifocal society not all that different from the Galactic Empire, while Luke and Obi-Wan were a far cry from their macho, cynical, anti-hero contemporaries (i.e. The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, Rocky, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, etc.). Even the much more traditionally masculine Han Solo and Lando Calrissian had to learn to soften up a bit.

I point this out because in all honesty, Leia was never my favorite character in the Original Trilogy. My favorite character was Luke Skywalker because he got the lightsaber, got to fight Darth Vader, got his own starship and the trilogy was focused on his hero’s journey. Leia, on the other hand, has no female rebel officers to converse with onscreen, the introductory scroll to TESB credits Luke as leader of the Rebel Alliance instead of her and Han is the one chosen to lead the Endor Strike Force even though she’d been with the Rebellion a lot longer and was among its top leadership.

But despite these setbacks, there are moments when Leia shines as a shero. To honor Carrie Fisher, here are 18 moments from Star Wars films, books and comics where Leia Organa, senator, princess, rebel, wife, mother and daughter proved that she was the #1 female icon of Star Wars.

1. Leia Lets Darth Vader Know Who She Is

A New Hope

For all the hemming and hawing against the prequels “focus” on politics, people forget that the original trilogy also touched on politics at times and it occurs immediately after C-3PO and R2-D2 escape from the Tantive IV. Leia, surrounded by stormtroopers tells Vader “the Imperial Senate will not sit still for this!” “I’m a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan”. Right away, she lets us know who she is. She sees herself as a senator and diplomat first and foremost. Never for once does she tell anyone that she’s a princess.

2. Leia Tells Han to Knock It Off

A New Hope

Han at this point is selfish and haughty and not making it easy for Luke and Leia. Leia has had it. “Listen! I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I say, OK?” Leia gets bonus points for demanding, “will somebody get this big, walking carpet out of my way?”

3. Leia Comforts Luke

A New Hope

Not after Obi-Wan dies but after Han walks away from the Yavin IV mission. Luke is feeling down and tells Leia about his disappointment. I love Leia’s response because it’s something we should all remember when we don’t agree with someone’s choices: “he’s got to choose his own path, no one can choose it for him.”

4. Leia Gives Orders to the Troops

The Empire Strikes Back

Another scene that shows Leia’s leadership skills is before the Battle of Hoth where she stands in the midst of a group of rebel pilots and briefs them on how to fight Vader’s troops. Notice how no one questions her experience, or her sex.

5. Leia Rescues Luke

The Empire Strikes Back

The earliest hint that Luke and Leia are twins. Defeated, crippled and desperate, Luke is hanging on for dear life (literally). He calls out for Obi-Wan, then, through the Force, reaches out for Leia. The camera pans over Leia’s blank expression when she realizes that Luke needs her. She orders Chewie and Lando to go back and rescue him.

6. Leia Kills Jabba

Return of the Jedi

You’ll notice that ROTJ has the most entries of the three movies. That’s because I believe, as character, Leia shines the most in episode 6 (she also stops wearing white all the time). After fooling everyone with her bounty hunter disguise, she’s captured by Jabba and forced into a “dancing girl” outfit as his prisoner. This famous bikini has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years as a sexist example of the male gaze. Even Fisher has admitted she didn’t like wearing it when she was filming Jedi. However she also had some choice words for a dad who criticized the outfit as a bad example for little girls:

“Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.

She’s a prisoner of a giant testicle who has a lot of saliva going on and she does not want to wear that thing and it’s ultimately that chain, which you’re now indicating is some sort of accessory to S&M, that is used to kill the giant saliva testicle. That’s asinine.”

Exactly. Part of the reason this outfit has stayed popular with female fans over the years is because they see it as a symbol of empowerment. A woman forced into a “sexual” situation she had no control over, who turns the tables on her captor and indirectly avenges another captive’s (Oola the Twi’lek) pointless death. What woman wouldn’t identify with that?

7. Leia Befriends Wicket

Return of the Jedi

Some stuck up fans would rather blast an Ewok into the stratosphere. Not our princess. She strikes up a friendship with one of them, Wicket (behind the scenes Carrie Fisher gave Wicket’s actor, Warwick Davis, cookies and chocolate milk. Yum). She goes back with him to his village and even wears a dress they made for her. Thanks to her diplomatic skills, she gets the Ewoks to help the rebels and we get two made-for-television Ewok movies, comics and a cartoon series. Take that snobby fans!

8. Leia Learns About Her Heritage

Return of the Jedi

The most poignant scene in the Original Trilogy. Luke asks Leia about their biological mother, the fact that Leia has gotten visions of Padme proves she’s Force sensitive. Then Luke tells her that Vader is his father. Shock #1. Next he tells her that he’s her brother. Shock #2. Next he tells her he’s turning himself in for the sake of the rebellion. Shock #3. Is it any wonder she collapses from grief into Han’s arms?

And speaking of Han…

9. “I Love You”, “I Know”

Return of the Jedi

Are you surprised I didn’t list that immortal exchange from TESB? Ha! I never understood why people swoon over that scene. After constant pestering from Han about her feelings, she finally admits that she loves him. But Han never tells her how he feels about her. We had to wait until the next movie. During a shootout at a shields base on Endor, Leia gets shot but is able to shoot a trooper, prompting Han to say “I love you” and Leia to respond, “I know”. I wish more his and her merchandise had this exchange instead of the other one.

10. Leia Reassures Han About Their Relationship

Return of the Jedi

Yet despite Han professing his love, he’s still not sure if Leia still loves him. He thinks she loves Luke. But unlike the Han from ANH, the new Han proves his true manhood by not slut-shaming Leia and promising that when Luke comes back, he won’t get in the way. Fortunately for him, Leia reveals that her love for Luke is familial and her love for Han is romantic.

11. Leia Reveals The New Symbol of the Rebel Alliance

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The Force Unleashed

A 2008 multimedia project that includes a video game, a comic, a novel and an action figure line, TFU bridges the gap between episodes 3 and 4 and tells the story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, Galen Marek, who is assigned to hunt down any remaining jedi but instead sacrifices his life for the Rebellion. To honor his memory, Leia and Bail Organa open a sheet found in his childhood home decorated with the Marek family crest. Leia announces that this symbol will now stand for the Rebel Alliance. You’ve seen it on lots of Star Wars merchandise.

12. Leia Stands Up For a Caamasi

Star Wars Tales #15: First Impressions

An anti-speciesist story. Leia is visiting Coruscant for the first time with her father and observes a Caamasi get arrested for buying a drink. She loudly protests this injustice to no avail and nearly gets arrested herself. She tells Bail that she will complain about the matter to Palpatine but doesn’t out of (justifiable) fear. Bail teaches her that sometimes change has to happen subtly. He then reveals that he’s arranged a release for the Caamasi and that Leia can go to meet him. His name is Eg’ros Akala.

13. Leia Rebuffs Xizor

xizor_and_leia

Shadows of the Empire

Falleen prince, leader of Black Sun and really gets around thanks to his pheromones. He likes to seduce a female (of any species), bed her and then dispose of her when he gets bored. So it should come as no surprise that between plotting against Vader and plotting against Skywalker, Xizor becomes infatuated with Leia. He nearly succeeds in seducing her but she knees him in the groin.

Xizor: You’re refusing me?

Leia: You got that right.

14. Trioculus “Woos” Leia

trioculus_leia

Zorba the Hutt’s Revenge

Another lousy suitor, another lousy prince. Except this one thinks he’s the son of Palpatine and wants to be his successor. Since every king needs a queen, he believes Leia is the pick of the litter. After capturing her, he professes his love for her and proposes. She responds with a slap.

15. “I Would Be Pleased If You Would Join Me”

Sean Cooke, artist who’s done a few Star Wars covers for Dark Horse

I once came across this hard to find picture online and posted it on my Tumblog. I will never forget the way it captures a tender moment between an icon of evil and an innocent little girl. I’ll let the caption speak for itself:

She pulled the comb out of her hair and tucked it in her sash, then went to watch the rest of the sunset from the Great Hall, through the arch.

Lord Vader was already there, standing at the center of the door, a black mountain against the vivid red of the sky. He was aware of her presence, though she wasn’t sure how, or how she knew it.

Well, she wasn’t going to miss the sunset just because he was in her favorite spot. She wasn’t afraid of Lord Vader and it wasn’t bravado, like Father thought.

“Good evening, Your Highness,” he said, “I would be pleased if you would join me.”

You can view the picture here.

16. Prince Isolder Wants to Marry Leia

The Courtship of Princess Leia

Another romantic rival for Han but this time, he’s a good guy. Set four years after ROTJ, Leia, wanting to add more star systems to the fledgling New Republic, opens talks with the Hapes Consortium. However there’s a catch: the Queen Mother wants Leia to marry her son, the dashing Prince Isolder. At a royal dinner Han asks Isolder why would the Queen want Leia for a daughter-in-law when she has no planet or royal house to hail from. Prince Isolder shocks everyone in the room: marrying Leia was his idea. Why? Because he was so impressed with her diplomatic skills.

17. Girls’ Night Out

Vector Prime

The first novel in The New Jedi Order series. Leia is riding in a starship with her daughter Jaina and sister-in-law Mara Jade. Jaina is training under Mara and at first she’s a little jealous of their rapport but also realizes that her sixteen year old daughter is becoming a young woman. She later confesses her feelings to Mara, who in turn confesses her yearning for a child. It’s heartwarming to see some female bonding in the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

18. Leia Trains With Yoda

Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back

What if Luke Skywalker never survived that blizzard on Hoth? With dying breath, Luke tells Han about Yoda and Dagobah. Han relays the message to Leia, who decides to visit this “Yoda” character – and ends up training as a jedi instead.

I will conclude this tribute with a quote from Tricia Barr who wrote a recent article about the Alderaanian princess in Star Wars Insider issue 144:

“Princess Leia has never quite been embraced by the feminist movement in the same way Wonder Woman has, perhaps because of the perception that Star Wars was a boys’ franchise rather than a pro-feminism vehicle.”

Ah, but how many little girls became avowed feminists after viewing Star Wars for the first time? The intergalactic saga definitely made me a feminist and I believe that George Lucas, in his own way, has contributed to women’s rights as much as William Moulton Marston has. And Lucas could never have done it without the wit and talent of Carrie Frances Fisher.

Goodbye and God bless, Ms. Fisher (and you too Ms. Reynolds). And May the Force Be With You.

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Now, it’s your turn. What Leia Organa, Carrie Fisher or Debbie Reynolds memories would you like to share? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

 

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Dear Hollywood, Drop ‘Alien 5’ And Adapt ‘Alien Isolation’ Instead

dontrun

To the Head of 20th Century Fox,

Request of Current Procedure: produce film adaptation of 2014 horror-survival video game Alien: Isolation, all other Alien franchise projects secondary, current film in production: Alien 5, expendable.

Submitted for your approval: Alien: Isolation takes place 15 years after the events of your 1979 classic where Ripley’s resourceful daughter, Amanda, travels to the exact place where her mother disappeared and boards a space station that has in it’s possession a recorded message Ripley made for her daughter. Unfortunately, Amanda discovers that a majority of the station’s inhabitants are dead, its survivors are territorial, its androids are running amok and a big, scary xenomorph is lurking in the shadows, looking for its next victim. The object of the game is explained best by Wikipedia:

To advance through the game, the player must explore a space station and complete numerous objectives while avoiding, outsmarting and defeating enemies like human occupants or hostile androids. Objectives range from activating computers to collecting certain items or reaching a specific area in the game. The player has the ability to run, climb ladders, and sneak into vents. The player can also crouch and hide behind objects to break the line of sight with enemies, and covertly peek over or lean around to gain view. The player has also the ability to go under nearby tables or inside lockers to hide from enemies.

The alien creature cannot be defeated, requiring the player to use stealth tactics in order to survive. Along the way, the player can use both a flashlight and a motion tracker to detect the alien’s movements. However, using any of these increases the chance of the alien finding the player. For example, if the alien is moving and close enough, the tracker’s sound will attract the alien, forcing the player to wisely use the tracker and remove it as soon as it detects motion. The motion tracker cannot detect enemies when they are not moving and cannot determine whether the alien creature is up in the ducts or on the ground level.

If this explanation of the game’s objective doesn’t interest and/or confuses you, I suggest you pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back and watch the game movie here.

Are you done? Good. Here’s why this game has potential to become a movie:

  • We can give Sigourney Weaver a break. Don’t get me wrong, I love that woman as much as the next femgeek, but I want to see another woman hero fight/outwit xenomorphs. And in A:I they succeeded with Amanda Ripley, who’s more of an intellectual hero than an action hero. Nowadays we’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that physical prowess should be the standard for any main female character in an SF movie and that teeters toward the philosophy of “might makes right”. By having an intellectual female hero on the big screen who’s technically savvy, keeps her cool and uses her head, girls (those that are old enough to see the film but are still of an “impressionable” age) will learn that it’s OK (and important) to be smart.
  • It brings the franchise back to its horror roots. One of the reasons why Alien is one of my favorite films of all time is best said by the late, great Roger Ebert:

One of the great strengths of “Alien” is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It allows silences. “Alien” uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do. The 1979 “Alien” is a much more cerebral movie than its sequels, with the characters (and the audience) genuinely engaged in curiosity about this weirdest of lifeforms.

The words I highlighted in bold lead me to an unpopular view: many believe that the franchise started to decline in quality with Alien 3. I believed it declined with James Cameron’s much-loved 1986 sequel when he sidestepped horror for action-thriller and since then every film, comic and video game in the franchise followed in the footsteps of Aliens instead of Alien. Not so with Alien: Isolation and let me tell you, there’s some scary scenes in Alien: Isolation. So scary I was afraid to open any door in my house at night for fear that a xenomorph would jump out at me.

  • It utilizes the technology of the film yet still looks believably futuristic. The technology in Alien reflects the retrofuturism of the 70s even though the story takes place in 2122. Alien: Isolation starts off 15 years after the first film but doesn’t use 2014 technology (the year the game was released). The technology is large, beige and bulky yet that never for once distracts the player/viewer. It works.
  • It centers on a mother/daughter relationship that’s rare in a lot of fiction be it film, TV, or video games. Though I would change that relationship to aunt/niece (see below, though it still centers on female relationships).

However cinema has a history of disastrous video game adaptations (Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, etc.) so some changes may be needed to the story. Here’s some changes I would make if I were to write the screenplay.

  • The first plot change I would make is to start the film (after Ripley’s famous last recording) on the Sevastopol space station where Captain Marlowe and his team discover the xenomorph eggs and Marlowe’s wife gets attacked by a facehugger. She is brought on board with the camera closing in on her covered face… then we cut to our first scene of Amanda Ripley.
  • I don’t understand why the game has Ripley kill some of the other survivors of Sevastopol simply because “they don’t trust strangers”. Can’t she at least reason with them and try to convince them that she’s here to help? Can she walk in her mother’s footsteps and convince them that the best way to survive is through teamwork?
  • Her discovery of her mother’s taped message shouldn’t be interrupted by Marlowe’s threats against Taylor’s life. It should be an isolated scene that the audience should linger on while the second movement to Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2 plays.
  • I always found it peculiar that the name of the company that the Ripley’s work for is an English-Japanese hybrid, yet there’s never been a Japanese character in the entire franchise. I might change one of the secondary characters (like Ricardo or Waits) or create an entirely new character that’s of Japanese descent.
  • I might change Amanda’s relationship to Ellen from daughter to niece. Why? Because the deleted scene in Aliens where Ellen asks about her daughter isn’t considered canon (though it’s often been included in many “Special Edition” releases) and for me seemed too left field when you remember that Ripley made no mention of having a daughter in Alien. Why would a single mom (no word on what happened to Amanda’s dad) leave her only child (once again, no word on whether Amanda has siblings) for extended periods of time? It would make more sense for a niece, who has a mother already, desire to emulate the aunt she admires by becoming an engineer and working for the same company, investigate her aunt’s disappearance.

This is the Lady, sole inhabitant of Planet X, signing off.

Now, dear readers, it’s your turn. Do you think Alien: Isolation would make a good movie? What did you enjoy about Alien: Isolation?  What would you change? Sound off in the comments.

 

 

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6 Star Wars Action Figures That Should Be Added to the Black Series

Yesterday, I took a Star Wars Black Series survey at surveymonkey.com to tell Hasbro what I want to see in future Black Series releases. If you take it yourself, you can 20% off your purchase at hasbrotoyshop.com (a word of caution, the survey is heavily 6″ biased, which can be a problem if you lean more towards 3.75 figures like me).

On another related note, I finally, finally, finally got that Ahsoka Tano figure I’ve always coveted. For years I wanted the Vintage Collection Ahsoka Tano figure but it was always priced at over $100. I love to collect, but I’m not stupid so I waited and learned that Hasbro had released the same figure to the Black Series line. So when it was finally available on Amazon, I bought it. Before that, I bought Medal Ceremony Princess Leia, a much needed update of a 1998 version.

Recently, I got myself to thinking: “what other past figures should get the Black Series treatment?” The possibilities are endless. So I’m narrowing the list down to female characters only and they’ll mostly be from before the Disney buyout of Lucasfilm. Also this is going to be an ongoing series so for now I’m going to pick 6 characters. Let’s begin, shall we?

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Padme Naberrie Peasant Disguise

Episode 1’s toy line in 1999 had three Padme figures: her battle gear, her Mongolian-influenced senate dress and her peasant disguise outfit when she first meets Anakin. At the time, Lucasfilm were promoting Padme and Queen Amidala as separate characters to avoid any spoilers. Padme’s battle of Naboo outfit was redesigned and re-released in 2012 to coincide with the 3-D release of The Phantom Menace but there hasn’t been a Tatooine Peasant Padme since 1999.

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Leia Organa Ewok Celebration Dress

Leia channels her inner Earth Mother. This is my third favorite Leia costume after this one and this one. To show off her diplomacy skills, she wears the dress the Ewoks make for her after Wicket brings her back to his village and again after the Empire is defeated. The last time we saw this dress in toy form was as part of some collectible tin collection in 2006. The figure looks like she needs to use the bathroom. A Black Series update is much needed.

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Juno Eclipse

This figure was part of the 2007 multi-media project The Force Unleashed. Juno Eclipse (portrayed by Nathalie Cox) is the Imperial pilot who escorts Galen Marek/Starkiller on his missions to eliminate any remaining jedi and helps him find his humanity (as well as hers) in the process. The only figure of her is her black Imperial Officer uniform. Eventually she joined the Rebellion so maybe when Hasbro gets around to designing her, she’ll have her Rebellion look.

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T’ra Saa

The picture above comes from the 2009 Comic 2-Pack Collection of secret jedi couple Tholme and T’ra Saa, two heroes of the Clone Wars. Not only did the line feature two action figures for the price of one but also came with the Dark Horse comic both characters featured in. No doubt the toys would fetch a very high price today what with Dark Horse no longer holding the reins of Star Wars. Hasbro can release both Tholme and Saa figures separately under the Black Series banner but you know which one I’m more willing to shelve out money for.

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Darth Phobos

Another character introduced through The Force Unleashed only this character functions as a training hologram for Starkiller. She was included in a 2011 5-pack Toys R Us exclusive. Unfortunately that cost at the time, $49.99. Today the lowest price you can get for the pack on Amazon is $149.69. Yup, time to give the gal her spotlight and her Black Series treatment.

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Jabba’s Dancers

OK, I cheated. I said 6 but I’m including these three because how can you split them up. Well, maybe Hasbro can sell them separately or as a 3-pack. Anyway, Rystall, Greeata and Lyn Mei were added to a musical scene in Jabba’s palace in the Return of the Jedi special edition. They were a part of the late 90s Power of the Force line and included in a 30th Anniversary Walmart exclusive with Joh Yowza and Rappertunie. However these gals have been in the same stilted position since 1998! They could use more articulation because they’re, you know, dancers. 

So that’s my first wish list of Star Wars ladies who should be added to the Black Series. Stay tuned for part 2 and sound off in the comments: which female character action figures would you like to see reissued as new additions to the Black Series?

See also: 10 Female Star Wars Characters That Should Be Made Into Action Figures

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Thoughts: “Gun, With Occasional Music”

 

200px-gun_woccasional_music Lately I’ve been on a film noir kick. It all started with a Time Life collectors’ issue I saw on a newsrack at the supermarket and decided to add some titles to my Netflix DVD queue. So far I’ve seen: Shadow of a Doubt, Laura, The Maltese Falcon, The Woman in the Window, The Big Sleep, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Gilda.

Now some of you may be thinking that as a reader the next logical step in my journey through film noir land is to read the detective mysteries that influenced these films, particularly works by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and one day I will. But as usual, I wanted to read sci-fi books by the authors who were influenced by this cinematic art form. The subgenre is called many names: future noir, tech noir, mystery sci-fi or hardboiled  sci-fi. It combines all the familiar trappings of film noir -tough, wise-cracking detectives solving cases, gangsters with guns and femme fatales – with the out-of-this-world-trappings of science fiction: the setting is the future or an alternate timeline. Robots, aliens and mutants are involved, etc. And the first novel that came to mind was Jonathan Lethem’s 1994 novel Gun, With Occasional Music.

Watch out – Spoilers about!

Welcome to Oakland of the future. A future where asking questions is a social faux pas. Where everyone carries “karma points” on cards which could be added or subtracted if you’re not careful. Where criminals are placed in freezers instead of prisons. Where most of the adult population is addicted to assorted government provided cocaine. Where animals and children undergo a procedure called “evolution therapy” which gives them the intelligence of (adult) humans. Where men and women can switch sexual nerve endings. Where news comes in the form of music to warn listeners.

What’s so effective about Gun, With Occasional Music is that Lethem makes this society sound believable – and scary. You’ve heard the saying: “it’s a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.” Well this is a place you wouldn’t want to visit or live in.

Private eye Conrad Metcalf’s job is to ask questions. So you know he’s not the most liked man in Oakland. It doesn’t stop murder suspect Orton Angwine from hiring him to investigate the murder of Dr. Maynard Stanhunt, for whom he’s been wrongfully accused. It doesn’t help that Metcalf is up against a Mob boss and his evolved kangaroo henchman, Stanhunt’s former medical partner Dr. Testafer, Stanhunt’s estranged wife Celeste, her friend Patsy and members of the Inquisitor’s Office, who just took all of Angwine’s karma points and want to toss the poor guy into the freezer.

So besides thinking that this futuristic noirish society is not a nice place to visit, what other thoughts went through my mind as I read Gun, With Occasional Music? Here are 5 of them:

1. Evolution Therapy Is a Very, Very Bad Idea

As I said before, animals and children can go through this procedure (the book never describes how it’s done) and come out with advanced brains – but not bodies. While animals can now talk and walk on two legs (and wear clothes) nothing much is said about how the animals change physically. Some, like an evolved goat that Conrad buys a newspaper from, work low-paying jobs, but how can they pick things up if they have hoofs or paws? How do they dress themselves? How do they write? What is the life of an evolved animal like in GWOM? If Lethem decides to write a sequel he should write one from the perspective of an evolved animal.

Yet evolved animals seem to have it easier than the babyheads, children whose brains have been accelerated so that they think and feel like adults – while still in the bodies of children. Because of evolution therapy these people have cynical, bitter attitudes and live most of their lives as alcoholics and drug addicts. Ironically it’s tough, wise guy, Conrad who comments on the lack of children in this society and wishes that there were ordinary children playing in the streets (this makes me wonder how Conrad’s generation avoided the procedure).

And then there’s that male/female erogenous zone switcherooni procedure that Conrad chose to experiment in with his ex-girlfriend and she’s run off with his sex nerve endings while he’s stuck with hers. It means that Conrad can have the sexual responses of a woman but can’t get an erection (once again the book doesn’t go into too much detail). Have I mentioned that he’s also a drug addict like everyone else? No surprise there.

The lesson? Don’t alter the body you were born with (unless it’s for health reasons) just because your unhappy with it or just for kicks. You’ll regret it, as some people will attest.

2. I Can’t Help But Feel Some Pity For Joey Castle

Do you think the idea of a talking, gun-toting, suit-wearing kangaroo sounds funny? Reminds you of a certain movie about a kangaroo that came out a decade ago? Think again. Joey Castle (how ironic) is no laughing matter. He’s a hitman hired by Phoneblum to stalk, harass and possibly kill our hero. Except Joey’s always having his bu – uh, tail, handed to him by Conrad. Remember what I said about evolved animals having the brains of humans but the same animal bodies? As long as Joey acts like a human he will fail at being a human because he’s not human (and it’s not like he had a choice when it came to undergoing evolution therapy). Yet in one scene where an Inquisitor crosses paths with Joey (who’s still trailing Metcalf), Joey uses his marsupial heritage to his advantage and attacks the man with his enormous feet. And you don’t want to come into contact with a kangaroo’s feet. It’s a shame that Joey never uses his natural-born weapons again – especially when Conrad finally kills him.

3. There’s No Femme Fatales In This Story

But then, that depends on your definition of femme fatale.

According to Wikipedia, a femme fatale is “a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous and deadly situations.” However after watching many of the aforementioned films, I’ve learned that the femme fatale is not as easily defined as we think. She can be sympathetic. She can be tough. She can be vulnerable. She can have a good side. She can switch sides. Depending on who you ask, she can be a sexist or feminist.

Of the three important women of the story, only two pursue a relationship with Conrad: Celeste Stanhunt and Catherine Teleprompter, the receptionist who works at the Inquisitor’s Office. Both display traits associated with the femme fatale but face radically different outcomes.

In one scene, Celeste enters Metcalf’s office and tries to hire – and seduce – him. Because of his “condition” and her dubious role in her husband’s murder, he rejects her. She’s later found dead.

Then there’s Catherine Teleprompter, whom, despite his “condition”, Metcalf eventually sleeps with (fortunately the sex scene is brief and not graphic). But it’s after this tryst, Conrad’s karma points are depleted and he’s put in the freezer for six years. Six years later, Catherine is head of the Office and (on a newly thawed Conrad’s advice) lets Orton Angwine out of the freezer.

4. This Would Make a Great Animated Film

Because no one would take a live action film with CGI talking animals seriously. But as I was reading the book, I kept picturing the setting, characters and mood as a hand-drawn film with no music (except the kind that come out the radio and gun) in the spirit of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Martin Rosen’s Watership Down, or Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. No I’m not saying the film is supposed to be an anime styled film, it just has to avoid the “cutesified” route. This story is not for kids.

5. It Makes Me Want to Read Other Future Noir Works

After this book I read the novella “Identity Theft” by Robert J. Sawyer (which is part of his 2013 novel Red Planet Blues. Then after typing “hard-boiled sci-fi” in the search engine, I found articles listing seminal works in the genre. Some of these works are: The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov. Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary Wolfe. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.

Those are my 5 thoughts on Gun, With Occasional Music. What’re yours?

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