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Marvel Vs DC: Episode 1 “The Comics” By Erik Smith

 Marvel Vs DC:  Episode 1 “The Comics”

By Erik Smith

 

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Hey there, everyone. This is Erik, your friendly neighborhood fanboy. What you are reading is the first in a series, pitting DC against Marvel, for multi-universal supremacy. This isn’t an intellectual treatise, or an in depth dissection, just the thoughts of a single fan. I do hope that you good folks will reply, in the comments. Whether you agree or disagree, let’s have a conversation.

Later in the series, I will discuss movies, TV, video games, and tabletop games, but I thought it was best to begin at the beginning: comic books.

Take a look at the following picture:

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What you are looking at is DC’s “Big Five.” These are THE archetypal heroes. I don’t think anyone can deny the immense influence that these five have had on not just comics, but our culture, as well. Once you throw in everyone else, you have a vast universe, rich with possibilities.

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From Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, to Orion, Darkseid, and the New Gods, DC created an amazing universe, with a vast array of different characters. Are you looking for something with a Golden Age flavor? Pick up some JSA (Justice Society of America). You want futuristic, outer space action? Check out the Legion of Super-heroes. There is something here for everyone.

Let’s not forget the villains. Batman and The Flash have two of the greatest Rogues Galleries in all of comics. I could use up my entire word count, listing the iconic bad guys. Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd… I could go on and on. Everyone else has their nemesis (Superman/Lex Luther. Wonder Woman/Cheetah. [Or is it Ares, now?] Green Lantern/Sinestro. Aquaman/Black Manta.), but none have so many memorable foils as The Dark Knight and the Scarlet Speedster.

Here’s the problem. I don’t think I have seen SO many reboots, in any other universe. Whether it’s a Crisis, brought about because heroes were becoming too damn powerful, and continuity was completely out of whack, or, well, another Crisis, that…did the same thing? There have been so many tweaks to the characters, that I don’t know who some of them even are, anymore. (I’m looking at you, Lobo.)

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(New VS Old)

I have no idea what is going on with the New 52. I understand that DC wants to keep their characters fresh and relevant, but I’m not sure that they are going about it the right way.

In a completely different universe, we have Marvel.

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Two things Marvel did right, from the beginning: They made their characters real, and they put them in the real world. No Metropolis or Gotham City; Marvel’s heroes were in New York City. No (almost) all-powerful alien from Krypton; Marvel gave us a science nerd, who was still in high school. Tony Stark had a piece of shrapnel in his chest, that could rip through his heart, at any moment. Marvel’s characters are just more relatable.

Marvel has given us some of the best “street level” characters: Daredevil, Moon Knight, Power Man (Luke Cage) and Iron fist, The Punisher, etc. These guys keeps the streets safe, while The Avengers and The Fantastic Four take on the world-sized threats.

And, do I really need to mention the mutants?

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The X-Men, and it’s spin-off titles, have given us some of the most popular characters, to date. Originally a low selling title, The X-men hit the jackpot with Giant Sized X-Men #1, which brought soon-to-be fan favorites Storm and Wolverine into the fold.

The villains of Marvel are some of the most iconic. Dr. Doom. The Red Skull. Magneto. Galactus. Thanos. Again, I could go on and on. But, the only character who has a rogues gallery to really rival that of Batman and The Flash, is Spider-man. Green Goblin. Electro. Doctor Octopus. And, my favorite, The Lizard. I would pit Spidey’s villains against those of Batman or The Flash, any day.

Marvel has stumbled a few times (Daredevils “razor” costume. Teenage Tony Stark. Werewolf Captain America?!) (Oh, I almost forgot the Heroes Reborn fiasco. What were they thinking? Still, they kept it in continuity.), but, they have managed to keep their heroes up to date, without doing a hard reboot. (I’m not going to get into the whole Spider-man/Mephisto thing, which I would call a soft character reboot, that is still within continuity.) When Marvel decided to update their characters, they created the Ultimate Universe (which lead to Marvel Zombies; an overall wonderfully entertaining story).

Marvel’s “mature” line, Max, was not nearly as successful as DC’s Vertigo (which was originally set firmly in the DCU), but I found that, generally, the Max line told some great stories, not to mention giving us Jessica Jones. (More about her, when I talk about TV.)

Overall, I feel that the Marvel Universe has, over the course of it’s existence, created a more cohesive world, than DC. Everything just seems to tie together much more neatly.

I could go on for hours, but I’m trying to keep this light, and I’m only allowed so many words. There are a few more things that I wanted to mention, before I wrap this up.

Annual Events: I don’t know how many of you remember, but every year, the most popular comics got an over-sized, self-contained issue, called an Annual. Eventually, Marvel and DC started to tie these together, with a theme or event. This, in turn, lead to the annual Events. Marvel seems to have dominated (for good or ill), with things like Civil War, House of M, Secret Invasion, and the like. I know that some people aren’t fans of these, but I (usually) enjoy them.

Alternate History: In 1977, Marvel gave us What If?, a series that changed key moments in history, and explored what would happen. (What if Spider-man Joined the Fantastic Four? What if Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor? What if Captain America Hadn’t Vanished During World War II?) As a fan of alternate histories, I loved this series. They also gave us Marvel Noir (which was hit and miss), and the amazing Marvel 1602, from Neil Gaiman.

In 1989, DC gave us Gotham By Gaslight, the first (unofficial) Elseworlds story. A series of one-shots, these didn’t rely on the “pivotal moments in history” idea. (And, tying into what I was saying above, one year, all of the DC annuals were Elseworlds stories.)

The Comics Code Authority: I’m not going to get too in depth here. For those who don’t know, the CCA was put in place to “police” the content of comics. I believe that DC was the first to temporarily shrug off the shackles, with the “Speedy is a heroin addict” story, in Green Lantern/Green Arrow. I also believe that there was an issue of Spider-man that was published without the CCA stamp, at around the same time. I do know that Marvel was the first of the “Big Two” to do away with the CCA altogether.

Before I bring this to a close, I must mention what is considered one of the most important comics of all time: Watchmen, created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This was almost an official part of the DCU, as Moore had planned on using characters that DC had purchased from Charlton Comics. But, DC had plans for Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom, and the rest, so Moore created Nite Owl, Rorschach, Doctor Manhattan, etc. (In an interesting bit of “meta” storytelling, there is an issue of The Question, in which Vic Sage [the titular hero] picks up a copy of the Watchmen collected edition, at an airport, then dreams that he is Rorschach, while on the plane.)

There you have it. A quick and, hopefully, interesting look at DC and Marvel. When all is said and done, I have to give this fight to Marvel. Despite DC having THE iconic characters, Marvel’s heroes are more relatable, and their world is more cohesive. This is, of course, just my opinion. I hope that you will all join in the discussion. Am I right? Wrong? Blowing smoke? And, please join me for part 2, where I will be talking about the movies of DC and Marvel.

Until then, see you in the funny papers.

One Bad Mother: The Evolution of Carol

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One Bad Mother

The Evolution of Carol

By Jessica Dwyer

The Walking Dead has given us some amazing characters over the seasons it has been on the air. And while it came from a comic book series, the stand out characters that have resonated the most with viewers are those that aren’t in the comic, or have been VERY changed from the comic book series.

Of course there is the super stardom of Daryl Dixon and the semi redemption of his brother Merle, neither of which have appeared in the comic book itself. But the character I’m most in awe of and have been fascinated to watch her evolution is that of Carol Peletier as played by the ethereal Melissa McBride.

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Carol is in the comic books of course, but her story played out FAR more different than what we’ve seen in the series. In the comic book universe Carol, after a failed attempt at seducing both Lori and Rick after discovering Tyreese and Michonne having an “encounter” (Carol and Tyreese were an item in the comic) she commits suicide by Walker, leaving a still alive Sophia alone with the group.

As you can see…very very different from the show.

Carol in the show has become a fan favorite because she doesn’t fit the mold of a typical female character arc, especially one that entails an abuse survivor. Carol has become something more. She’s a warrior and a mother figure…but not like any you’ve ever seen. Her inner strength has come at a terrible price though and it has left her missing something inside that has been replaced by a darkness that I’m not sure the group realizes exactly how deep it goes.

When we first meet Carol she’s married to her abusive husband Ed and has with her her daughter Sophia. She’s very quiet and withdrawn. Timid. You can tell she realize on Ed for most everything because he makes sure that’s the case. Her hair is very short…and you have to wonder if she does that on purpose so he can’t grab it to hurt her.

We see her slowly make friends with the group and everyone can tell that her relationship with her husband is not a happy one. But she’s slowly opening up. When the zombies attack the camp, Carol manages to save her daughter but her husband is killed and devoured. She’s finally free of him.

When Sophia goes missing we start to really see the creation of her relationship with Daryl. They are both abuse survivors and Daryl sees in Carol a mother figure he’s never had in his life. Daryl’s drive to help find her daughter touches Carol and gives her something she’s not had in a long while…someone who truly cares about her and her child. It also gives her someone she can relate to. When Daryl arrives back from his search, hurt and nearly dead Carol tells him he’s more than the group thinks he is. This sets Daryl on a path to growing closer with the group too and giving him a sense of purpose.

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The revelation of Sophia’s fate sets Carol on the path she’s currently on, something that probably would never had happened if her daughter hadn’t been killed. And when all is lost at the farm Carol survives when most might give up.

Daryl finds her, saving her at the risk of his own life and when they reunite with the group Carol tells Daryl he should be more than Rick’s muscle…something which Daryl quickly smacks down because the group doesn’t need any more splintering and perhaps he realizes that that sort of attitude is what caused the rift between Rick and Shane. It is also here that Carol tells Rick that he should do something…which also gets her an angry response.

And perhaps this leads Carol to realize she needs to rely not only on others but herself as well. The need to take action when she decides it needs to be taken instead of waiting on someone else. This dependents on the “men” in her life needs to end. So when we see her months later she’s a changed woman.

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Carol is well on her way to becoming the character we now know. She’s quiet, watchful, and she knows how to handle a gun. She’s a contributing member of the group. When walkers invade the prison Carol manages to survive (with the sacrifice of T-Dog.) She uses Axel’s body as a shield when Woodbury attacks and after he’s killed by The Governor.

As things progress and Andrea shows up at the prison, it’s Carol who tells Andrea to use her closeness to the Governor as a way to stop the fighting. Give him the best night of his life, and then kill him in his sleep. The cold and calculating Carol is nearly complete in her transformation. And honestly, if Andrea had followed through on her suggestion then many people would still be alive.

It’s also during this time that Carol tries to convince Daryl that Merle is holding him back and still has influence over him. She talks with Merle and it is obvious to Merle and to us that if he does anything to harm the group and especially Daryl that she has no qualms about killing him. Merle finds this amusing but Carol isn’t amused.

The final stage of Carol’s evolution really begins once the prison is infected with not only walkers but the virus that nearly kills everyone quicker than the zombies. To protect the ones not infected we find out (along with Rick) that Carol is in fact the one responsible for the burning death of Karen (Tyreese’s girlfriend) and David. She did it to help contain the infection and to keep everyone else safe. Her actions, while beyond harsh, may actually have helped save some lives. But at what cost? Rick as well as the viewers, are left in shock at not only her actions but her brutal honesty at what she did.

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While at the prison Carol has become a mother figure to most of the kids who have become part of the group from Woodbury. And during this time she has been teaching them things that most people might not think would be a good idea for kids to know…such as knife safety and perhaps even using guns. During her “teaching” sessions she’s been doing these survival tips on the down low. Carol has learned that times have changed and that to survive childhood is never going to be the same for children ever again.

Carol when we first met her never would have done such a thing with a child. But this new Carol has evolved into a survivor and she’s determined that the children will also survive no matter what it takes. Perhaps it’s this that makes her blind to Lizzie’s psychotic tendencies.

In Lizzie perhaps Carol sees her daughter…and at one point she even angrily tells her not to call her mom and that she isn’t her mother. This is most likely due to Carol seeing this as a weakness. Being attached as deeply as a mother to a daughter will cause her to lose sight of the big picture. It’s yet another step towards the steely woman we now know. And this is a major turning point for her.

Rick notices these changes and the revelation of her cold practical killing of Karen and David lead him to sending her away from the group. He doesn’t trust her anymore and yet, they’ve been through so much together he feels he owes her the chance at making it and not having Tyreese want to kill her when the truth comes out. But she still scares him.

As it so happens, when the Governor attacks the prison, Carol witnesses it and comes back to help and she winds up with Tyreese. When she and Tyreese escape the final attack they take Lizzie and her sister Mika with them as well as Judith. As they travel it is evident that something is very wrong with Lizzie and when her issues are revealed things are too far gone to turn back. When Carol sees what happens with Lizzie and her sister and the possibility of what could have happened to Judith she takes the task upon herself to take out Lizzie in one of the most powerful scenes of the series.

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The episode The Grove and what happens in it shows what makes Carol one of the most powerful and unique female characters on television. When shown opposite a large man like Tyreese, it’s Carol that does what requires the most strength and fortitude. Carol, this small statured woman who when we first met her seemed so fragile has evolved into the epitome of survival and steel. The scene where she is set to shoot Lizzie is heartbreaking in that Carol is able to do this to the little girl who was so recently like a daughter to her. And in fact she still is like Sophia in so many ways because this world has helped turn Lizzie in a monster, one that must be put down. This time Carol is able to pull the trigger herself.

There’s been some debate on whether or not Carol was asking Tyreese to kill her at the end of the episode when she admits to him she killed Karen and David and the reason why. I asked Melissa McBride this herself and she doesn’t think so, and neither do I actually. Carol’s outlook on the world now seems very black and white with no half measures. If she’s worthy enough to still be alive, strong enough, then so be it. If Tyreese had deemed her unfit to keep going and that she didn’t deserve to be left alive then so be it. But Tyreese doesn’t kill her and instead understands her reason for what she did.

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Tyreese and Carol are an unlikely pair in the series because of their opposite natures which is shown even more so with the outcome at Terminus. Carol is now full formed into her new self and basically goes “Rambo” on the city of cannibals, saving Rick and the gang. She’s unstoppable and has no hesitation when it comes to taking out whoever is standing in her way. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Tyreese who finds himself unable to kill the Termite who was threatening baby Judith and who returns as part of the group who take Bob.

Carol and Mary, the head of Terminus are similar in many ways, which is interesting when you look at the path each of them traveled and where they have ended up. Mary and her people tried to be welcoming at the beginning and she found herself raped and beaten. She and her “family” turned into the hunters, becoming flesh eaters themselves and protecting their own. They saw that as strength. Carol has found her inner will. At the end Mary even states that Carol could have lived in Terminus with them, something that Carol denies…saying she could never be like that. Instead she allows Mary (having shot her in the leg and leaving her defenseless) to be devoured by the horde of zombies she lets in. This is another bout of harsh justice from Carol (allowing the cannibal to be devoured.) It is also proof that it’s not a far stretch that Mary is right and Carol is walking that fine line before falling into the abyss.

Rick and the gang are amazed by what Carol accomplished and her rescue of them. He welcomes her back completely into the group after having kicked her out.

Carol and Daryl reconnect as they both go in search of Beth in Atlanta. While there they spend the night in an abandoned women’s shelter that Carol and Sophia had stayed at during an attempt to leave Ed. At the shelter in a locked room are two walkers, a mother and daughter. Daryl stops Carol from going into the room to finish them and in the morning Carol sees that he’s done the horrible deed himself. This is a telling scene for Carol and the symbolism isn’t lost on the viewer. Her little girl is gone and so in fact is Carol in many ways. The two women who found safety in this place for a few hours long ago are both dead…they don’t exist anymore.

After the events that transpire in Atlanta we are now in the “safe zone” of Alexandria. Carol doesn’t trust what they are being shown and as she tells Rick she sees the safe zone as a place that will “make them weak.” You get the impression she’d rather be outside of the walls relying on herself than anyone else. The moment they go behind the gate Carol puts on her mask and in her own words “becomes invisible.” She appears to the people in charge weak and reliant on everyone in the group. The act works as no one suspects her true nature. She and Rick both make a plan on what to do if things go south in their new home.

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One of the unique qualities about Carol and her relationship with Daryl is the fact there is no sort of sexual tension really present. They care about one another deeply and they actually joke about things (such as when Carol laughs and asks him if he wants to fool around when they are first at the prison.)

Daryl’s reserved nature and bashfulness allowed the two of them to grow as friends without a feel of being threatening. Carol sees in him a kindred spirit and Daryl likewise. Their shared experience is something that has been built upon. They are equals now, both survivors. They have each others backs and are two of the most important members of Rick’s crew.

They are both survivors and loyal to their group and each other. It’s a nice change to see in a world of TV series where most male and female relationships have levels of tension or are based on a romantic angle. Daryl and Carol’s bond is something else, something unique. Their friendship is one of the best parts of The Walking Dead because of this uniqueness and the strength it shows.

But as we’ve seen in the last couple of episodes Carol’s relationship with Daryl may be at risk as Daryl is being won over by Alexandria. Carol’s face when he said they should try was very telling. If Daryl is convinced it may be a good place, why can’t she be? Carol’s journey has led her to a very dark place and that’s no more evident than in the same episode when she threatens Jessie’s young son Sam.

This scene shows where Carol has truly gone within her heart and it is truly a place that no one imagined her going, even herself. Carol tells Sam that if he tells of her being in the armory that he’ll wake up tied to a tree and will be eaten alive by the walkers. This threat, so like what happened to her own daughter, is truly frightening for a woman who was once a mother to make to another woman’s child. Sam’s face tells the story…he’s terrified. And Carol finishes the threat with a promise of cookies…which just adds to the creep factor as it’s such a friendly mom thing to offer.

Carol’s journey has led her to becoming perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the show because she’s so good at hiding what she’s become that perhaps even she’s not aware of it. You would be hard pressed to imagine even Shane going to those lengths. But Carol seems to not have any barriers left to how far she’ll go for the group…and that isn’t good.

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Carol’s journey to this place is amazing to watch, if more than a little heartbreaking to see happen. I can’t think of another instance where a female character has gone down a path like this with an arc this big and trans formative to how they started. And a massive amount of respect has to be given to Melissa McBride for helping form this character and giving her both the strength and the spirit that makes up Carol on screen. She’s truly created something amazing with her.

Now with all that said, I have to share my fear that this season may see Carol have to deal with the fall out of what she has done. If the Walking Dead has taught us anything it’s that no one is ever safe and that you eventually pay for the evils you do. Carol has gone too far now and she may not be able to come back from it.

Would she actually follow through on her threat to Sam? I think she might if it came down to it. And even if she didn’t and it was simply a matter of what she said making its way back to Daryl and Rick what would their reactions be, or the rest of the group? Rick has already sent her away because he feared for the life of his kids…what sort of response would he have for this?

I have a bad feeling in my bones about what Carol’s journey’s end will be. But it’s been a hell of a ride with her.

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Lucy or Lady: An Essay that proves it’s more than peanuts.

Fangirl Magazine’s Sarah Buck has written an amazing paper on two of animations female icons.  While they both came out of the same time in American history they represent the female ideal in very VERY different ways.  It’s a fascinating read and gives a perspective on one little girls very big importance in the history of pop culture and literature.   At the end I’ve kept intact the Bibliography so you can, if interested, look up the works Sarah used to put this together.

Lucy or Lady;

Charles Schultz’s Bossy Answer to Media’s Dogged Portrayal of Women

Written by Sarah Buck

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On June 22, 1955, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lady blinked her way into the hearts of young girls across America. The sweet pup seemed so very charming as she mimicked the wifely behaviors of her owner Darling by fetching Jim Dear his slippers and morning paper. Disney had truly achieved a new level of sexist role education as they placed not only a human female, but also her loyal female dog in the role of happy home maker. Only four days later, Charles Shultz’s relatively new comic strip, Peanuts, would run a Sunday strip in which Lucy Van Pelt would be in almost the exact situation but with radically different implications.

Charles Schultz is a comic strip writer who has been praised multiple times for his female characters. Especially considering when his strip began, it was incredibly uncommon to take on the responsibility of representing women fairly in media. We can see this in his egalitarian representation of male and female characters. By and large, the activities the characters take part in can be partaken by either male or female. That said, one thing you will come up against when discussing characters is Lucy’s bossiness. People can’t seem to handle a young lady who refuses her “yes, sirs” and curtsies in favor of making her younger brother salute her. (Schultz, 159) This is not anything new, and it’s something that has not changed since Schultz started writing Peanuts in the 1950s. Even in today’s media, powerful women are disregarded for being “bitches.” Hillary Clinton is an example used by Susan J. Douglas in her book, Enlightened Sexism. Douglas says “female” is still equated with being nice, supportive, nurturing, accommodating, and domestic, which is not compatible with anything that might involve leadership. “Power” is equated with domination, superiority, being tough, even ruthless. These two categories “simply are not supposed to go together.” (Douglas, 272) The truth when applied to a male character, would be more-or-less accepted without examination. Instead, she is often painted as a villainous character that should be disliked.

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Indeed, Lucy’s male peers come under no such scrutiny from general readership. Schultz writes as many, if not more, bossy male characters in his strips. Schroeder, Lucy’s unrequited love interest, is just as cruel to Charlie Brown as any of the female characters are, and he is prone to violent outbursts of emotion, as seen the series of strips where Charlie Brown reads to Schroeder out of a book that appears to be a biography of Beethoven’s life. At the end of these strips, Schroeder reacts loudly and emotionally to what Charlie Brown is reading, (Schultz, 129) Readers view Schroeder as the tortured artist type, and therefore excuse his behavior but label Lucy for her cruelty and her outbursts.

So, back to the last Sunday in June 1955, Charles Schultz ran a strip featuring Lucy constructing a hypothetical world where she and Schroeder were married and “happy.” Lucy explains this idyllic situation saying, “While you were practicing the piano, I’d be in the kitchen making your breakfast… Then I’d bring it in like this, and set it all out nice, and prop up your favorite newspaper, and pour your coffee….” (Schultz, 77) On Wednesday, June 22, only four days before was when Disney’s Lady and the Tramp came out in the theater. The scene eerily similar to Lucy’s domestic fantasy plays out like this: Lady, the dog, assists her mistress, Darling, with bringing Jim Dear his breakfast, newspaper and slippers. Both of these scenes demonstrate the pervasive model that women were supposed to follow in the 1950s. Being female meant to be domestic and to meet the domestic needs of the men. While Disney fails to defy this convention in Lady and the Tramp and opts instead to reinforce Lady’s need to be domesticated by putting her in jail for leaving the house and ultimately turning her love interest Tramp into a house pet, Schultz is far more subversive.

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As we have come to expect from the strips involving Lucy and Schroeder, Lucy is refused by the Beethoven-obsessed boy. Schroeder’s refusal is answered in the last panel with Lucy walking away saying, “Musicians aren’t real people!” The last line of this strip is where the subversion comes in. Lucy forces the reader to acknowledge that this domestic fantasy is a construct, just like the concept that there is such a thing as “real people.” Lucy reacts to this in a particularly non-gender defined way. When the object of her feminine desire denies her, her response is not the passivity that is so often shown for stereotypically female characters. Her response is not ever persistence but instead is to insult Schroeder and walk away. This questions the definition of traditional gender identity. Lucy is claiming that musicians are not real people, and they certainly are not if we accept the narrow definition of man as breadwinner and female as submissive domestic figure. Musicians are, in a traditional definition, moody, completely engulfed in their practice and penniless. If the reader questions Lucy’s construct of real people in regards to Schroeder, this opens the door for the reader to question the seeming simplicity of society’s gender norms. That is to say, Lucy’s dedication throughout 1955-1956 to being a domestic homemaker seems to be more of an empty threat, an idea placed in her head by the prevalent social ideas of her time, more than an actual desire to end up in the role of housewife.

While being a wife and homemaker is not in itself a bad thing, we need to keep in mind that in 1955, it was expected of women to be a homemaker. Even if one went to college, once she was married, she was expected to stay home and keep the house. In fact, one could actually major in home economics in college to help prepare for this life. Never in the run of Peanuts does Lucy end up in a domestic role. For fifty years, she does many things, not the least of which are becoming a psychiatrist, playing sports, being a campaign manager and a self-proclaimed corporal. The reality of Lucy is that she does everything but the things that are expected from her gender.

One of my favorite examples of this from the year 1955 was when Lucy is first called a fuss-budget. Since we do not encounter Lucy’s interaction with her mother, who is the first to dub her a fuss-budget, we must extrapolate Lucy’s fuss-budgetiness from what we do see. For the purpose of this essay we will define a fuss-budget as a bit of a know-it-all who is prone to react emotionally in frustrating situations and owns a certain amount of cruelty which is often translated into ambition. (Schultz, 181, 140, 144, 212) When we apply the fuss-budget attributes to a female, we might quantify them as “bitchiness,” whereas a male characterized with them would be called at the very worst, a strong personality. In March 1955, Lucy won what I imagine to be coveted award of “World’s Number One Fuss-budget.” (Schultz, 33) Throughout the volume, Charlie Brown expresses interest in how Lucy achieved her fuss-budget prowess. While Lucy being labeled a fuss-budget may harshly remind some of the discrepancy in the media of women being labeled as “bitches,” Schultz does the most wonderful brilliant thing of making fuss-budget a title worth celebrating.

In the strip that ran right after Lucy won her award, Charlie Brown is seeking advice “for other little girls who may wish to become fuss-budgets” to which Lucy replies that “the most important thing is to have faith in yourself.” (Schultz, 33) While this initially reads as making her bossiness darling, as the year passes, Schultz evolves the idea of the fuss-budget. In September 1955, Patty asks Lucy if Linus is a fuss-budget, too. Lucy’s answer is that he is not yet a full-fledged fuss-budget, but grants him the title of “Apprentice Fuss-budget,” which Linus seems quite pleased about. Not only is Schultz assigning the term “fuss-budget” to a boy, but he is making it a title to be proud of. This strip was written more than 50 years before Bell Hooks would famously fight back against the “Ban Bossy” movement of Twitter in 2014, yet Schultz is delicately subverting the idea that little girls should be ashamed of being fuss-budgets or that the term should not be applied to little boys as well.

In July 1956, Schultz comes out with a series of strips where Charlie Brown is introduced to Lucy’s library in which you can find such volumes as “The Power of Positive Fussing,” and “I Was a Fuss-budget for the F.B.I.” (Schultz, 249) Now, the identity of fuss-budget has become elevated to the point that entire volumes were being written about it. Lucy’s fuss-budgeting is not just juvenile petulance, but an identity she prides herself in, and something she also has studied extensively. The series of library strips culminates in a strip where Charlie Brown reads the titles of three very interesting fuss-budget books, “Can a Fuss-Budget Find Love and Happiness?” “The Decline and Fall of the Fuss-Budget,” and finally, “Can a Fuss-Budget Become President.” (Schultz, 250) These three fuss-budget books present over three panels an outline of the reader’s journey as they consider Lucy as a character. While she may appear to be nothing but a silly little girl at first, she quickly takes on a villainous tone to many readers, but ultimately culminates in a strong character who we have no doubt is capable of becoming president, as she will, later in the strip, profess to aspire to. Again we see an eerie foreshadowing of the fight for women’s rights in Schultz’s work.

Another notable thing about Lucy is her tendency towards actions that are not typically female. For instance on page 26 of the 1955-56 volume, we see her smash Schroeder’s Beethoven bust with a baseball bat out of frustration at Schroeder’s lack of attention towards her. When Schroeder gets out another one from a closet full of busts, Lucy simply goes back to the piano and says, “I’ll probably never get married.” Here we have the character not only acting outside of gender norms but also admitting that she may not quite fit in the narrow, 1950s idea of what a girl should be.

Only a few months later, a strip runs in which Charlie Brown explains to a bewildered Lucy what a reviewer of Schroeder’s concert meant by “a brilliant display of pyrotechnics.” Upon learning that it means he played “real fast,” Lucy gives Schroeder a firm slap on the back and yells, “Atta boy, Schroeder,” an action which we are more accustomed to applying to young men who play sports. While it’s tempting to wave these behaviors away as an example of the “dude in drag” stereotype, it is important to remember that Lucy existed during a time when the gender signifiers we scoff at now were actually expected of people. “Dude in drag” is a term used to describe the phenomena of when female characters in pop culture are simply male character stereotypes dressed up as women. Lucy does not adhere strictly to male or female behaviors. One could even go so far as to theorize that her obsession with marrying Schroeder (and sometimes Charlie Brown) is a way that Schultz has evened her out. It’s a balancing act between two extremes of gendered behavior.

Since we’re talking about gendering things, we should discuss gender signifiers. This is important in regards to this early Schultz work as, without fail, female characters are presented in dresses, while males are presented in pants. In Anita Sarkeesian’s video series Tropes vs. Women, she defines gender signifiers as “our culture’s visual vocabulary intended to convey information about gender to the viewer.” (Sarkeesian) (http://www.feministfrequency.com/2013/11/ms-male-character-tropes-vs-women/) In Peanuts, Schultz conveys the gender of his characters most obviously through clothing. All girls in these early strips will be wearing a dress, no matter what situation they’re in. Later in the strip’s run, Schultz will introduce Peppermint Patty, who will defy this model he started out with.

Because it is hard to excuse gender signifiers, we must deal with this particular aspect of early Schultz by admitting it’s a sign of the times. For a girl to wear only dresses and skirts in the 1950s was the rule, not the exception. To reduce gender down to choices in clothing is to simplify the complex reality that a person, and even a fictional character, should not be defined completely by their gender. Lucy should not be viewed as a bossy female chauvinist because she wears a dress and yells at people. For people who view her with this kind of lens, the fact that she is a girl overshadows all other aspects her personality entirely. Girls are bossy; boys are tough. Today’s young women, like their 1950s predecessors, are suffering from what feminist author Peggy Orenstein calls the New Girlie-Girl Culture. Little girls are being lumped into one, big category based solely on their gender. Everything is pink, everything is poofy and everyone wears dresses. Her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter states,

According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture’s emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls’ vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior.” (Orenstein, 6)

To define young women by a preconceived, mass market notion of gender is harmful to their identity and their self-esteem.

Thankfully, when it comes to Schultz, we can take comfort in the fact that the gender signifiers of Peanuts go no further than dresses and hair styles. The characters remain relatively shapeless, boxy torsos and stubby limbs, and the girl characters do not suffer from the affliction of eyelashes or pouty lips. There is, however, a smattering of hair bows throughout the strip’s life span, but these are few and far-between. In fact, when the strip starts running in color, Lucy’s dress is blue.

When I was a young girl, Peanuts was a favorite comic strip of mine. My favorite character was, of course, Lucy. I remember my cousin responding to this information with a rolling her eyes and saying, “Of course, she is.” Like Lucy, I suffered from being labeled as bossy and bitchy. I took pride in being compared to such a character as many women before and after me have. Charles Schultz created a character who snuck under the radar of 1950s gender norms to give a voice to those who felt oppressed by them. As Lucy herself wondered aloud on a newspaper page whether she could adhere to the strict idea of what it meant to be a woman, so many young women wondered the same thing silently in movie theaters as that poor, pretty spaniel was muzzled and thrown in a cell for questioning her household role. Lucy was not the character that embodied the attitudes of the 50s despite her apparent fixation on them, she was the character that media of the time needed in order to change the tide. Today as we face down another wave of young girls who are being defined again by the Disney corporation and their contemporaries by strict gender determiners, we all could use a lot more Lucy and a lot less Lady.

Bibliography

Douglas, Susan J. Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done. New York: Times, 2010. Print.

Lady and the Tramp. Dir. Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. Walt Disney Productions, 1955. Film.

Orenstein, Peggy. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-girl Culture. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2011. Print.

Sarkeesian, Anita. “Ms. Male Character – Tropes vs Women.” Feminist Frequency. Feminist Frequency, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

Schulz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts, 1955 to 1956. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2004. Print.

The Unspeakable Challenge: Blatant Cheating

Well, life got in the way.  When I say life I don’t mean frolicking over green hills surrounded by puppies and balloons.  I, of course, mean the soul wrenching hammering of a capricious universe on the creaking doors of sanity.  So, I fell behind in the Challenge.  Sorry about that.  In order to rectify this, I’m going to have to resort to so blatant cheating and do something I said I wouldn’t: review previously reviewed movies.  But, to save you from the boredom, what I’ll do is just post some links here relating to the relevant days and films, with some additional notes where appropriate.  Again, sorry, but life can be a spanner in the rectum of planning.

 

Day 14, Movie 14: Mr Jones

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/mr-jones-2013/

While not overt, there is some distinct Yog-Sothery going on here, with a disintegration of time and space as the main leads open a “gate” to the Dreamlands.

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Day 15, Movie 15: Banshee Chapter

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/the-banshee-chapter-2013/

Some hard HPL references, as the film is essentially a lift from “From Beyond”.

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Day 16, Movie 16: The Woods

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/the-woods-2006/

Some Shub-Niggurath syle action in a witchy-witchy fairy tale.  Very good.

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Day 17, Movie 17: Conspiracy

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/the-conspiracy-2012/

The Lovecraftian element is more of a dark atmosphere here, than in any actual references to alien gods.  But the strange cult feels Lovecraftian, rather than actually being Lovecraftian.  Great film.

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Day 18, Movie 18: Beneath

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/beneath-2013/

Is it a god?  Is it a monster?  Can it be both?  Myth and reality collide in this giant killer fish tale which reeks of deeper meaning.

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Day 19, Movie 19: Re-Animator

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/re-animator-1985/

An adaptation of a serial that HPL himself despised, but I think is wonderful (because… zombies).  If you can get hold of the audio book read by Jeffrey Combs, then snap that up, because it’s amazing.

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Day 20, Movie 20: From Beyond

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/from-beyond-1986/

“From Beyond”, bitches.  Enough said.

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Day 21, Movie 21: Malefique

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/malefique-2002/

Lovecraftian sorcerer leaves hints and messages for prisoners to damn themselves.  Nice work.

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Day 22, Movie 22: Jug-Face

http://www.fangirlmag.com/movie-reviews/jug-face-2013/

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A HPL tale in all but name, Jug-Face deals with a hungry pit in the woods, worshiped by a clan of backwoods hillbillies.  Very, very good.

 

Back on track.  Still some great Lovecraftian movies to come.  Let’s crack on once more…

 

 

The Unspeakable Challenge

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Thirty Lovecraftian movies in thirty days.  Is it even possible?  That’s what bounced around my brain an instant after I thought of the challenge.  Is it even feasible to watch and review 30 movies inspired by the works of H. P Lovecraft in a month, culminating on Halloween night?

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Howard Philips Lovecraft was born in 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.  His early life was not a happy one, his father being committed to an asylum when he was only three.  His mother used to dress him as a little girl and constantly told him he was ugly.  Ill throughout his childhood, he was essentially a self-taught man: astronomy and history being among the subjects in which he educated himself.  Imaginative, even as a child, he began to write horror stories, inspired by his heroes Edgar Allen Poe, Robert W Chambers and Ambrose Bierce.  These dark tales, woven it seems from the introspection brought on by anxiety and sickness, eventually coalesced into what we now know as “The Cthulhu Mythos”.  That was still ahead for the young Howard: he had more tragedies to endure.  His beloved grandfather, who served as patriarch since the incarceration and death of Howard’s father, also died five years later.  As he grew up a bookish, awkward young man, he would prefer to venture out at night, leaving the days for writing.  He got his “break”, as it were, complaining about love-stories in The Argosy magazine.  He was drawn into the United Amateur Press Association, and began to build his network of correspondents, among the Robert E Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), Harry Houdini (yes, that Harry Houdini), and Frank Belknap Long (short story writer, and one of Lovecraft’s few close friends).

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His writing is usually divided into four sections: firstly, his correspondence and letter writing archives, which are vast; his early Poe-influences work; his “dreamlands” writings, inspired by Lord Dunsany; and finally what is known as the Cthulhu Mythos, although HPL himself refered to it dismissively as his “yog-sothery”, named after one of the cosmic entities in his writings.

It is the Mythos which is of most interest, as it shaped my own view of how horror should be purveyed in fiction.  For Lovecraft, there was something both awe-inspiring and terrifying about gazing up at a star-filled night’s sky.  What is something was looking back.  Something that matched the vast stellar expanse, something to which humanity could be nothing more than insignificant.  And so the Old Ones were born.  Extra-dimensional aliens of such dark psyche that even to see one would drive the human animal to madness.  There were several key Old Ones: Yog-Sothoth, the Gate and the Key; Azathoth, the insane chaos at the center of the universe; Nyarlathotep, herald of the Old Ones, and manipulator of humans; Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young; and finally, the figurehead of the Mythos, Cthulhu itself, a vast octopoidal-headed monstrosity currently trapped beneath the sea in the sunken city of R’lyeh.

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The themes explored were also suitable dark and nihilistic: madness, suicide, human experimentation, genetic degeneracy inevitable doom, secret cults, and forbidden knowledge.

Another major character in the work of HPL is a book: the Necronomicon.  Written by the “mad arab, Abdul Alhazrad”, it is a constant malevolent presence in his work, being name checked in many of his stories.  Ostensibly an arcane book of magick, it would be more in keeping to suggest that is was actually the writings of a man driven mad by trying to understand alien science.  For HPL, sorcery and magick is just an unknown science, developed by alien minds of immense, unfathomable intellect.

Unfathomable intellect. And soooo cute.

Unfathomable intellect. And soooo cute.

Howard Philips Lovecraft died aged only 46, in 1937.  Since then, his writings have been largely ignored by the wider world, his brand of cosmic horror really only latched on to by fellow writers, and film-makers.  Those inspired by him include all of those within his circle of friends, but also such horror names as Forrest J Ackerman, Stephen King, Colin Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Clive Barker, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter and Guillermo Del Toro.  For those unfamiliar with HPL, these works are just innovative horror, but for those of us who were introduced to the Old Gent’s work, we see, and love, those elements.

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cthulhu gets everywhere

In the last 10 years HP Lovecraft’s work has begun to enter the semi-mainstream.  An episode of the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters featured Cthulhu, there are a vast array of internet memes, comic strips and short films.  Cthulhu even gets name-checked in comedy suchs as an episode of The Soup and @Midnight.  Recently, HPL’s famous couplet “That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie, and With Strange Aeons Even Death May Die” appeared in the TV show Sleepy Hollow.

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Lovecraft.  His nihilistic worldview is uncompromising, bleak, and truly epic. The notion that alien life could drive us insane just by it’s sheer presence always spoke to me.  His is a universe without gods, but with creatures so different and powerful that humans can do nothing but see them as gods.  They are, indeed, unspeakable.

Which brings me back to my challenge: 30 Lovecraftian movies in 30 days.  As Lovecraft has been virtually ignored by the mainstream, and yet his influences reach, unacknowledged, into so many films it will not be an easy challenge.  For films adapted from HPL stories, the selections will be fairly easy, but there aren’t that many.  Films showing influences are in abunbance, but then comes the problem of defending one’s choice.  Not all HPL fans see his influence, some, like myself may be seeing them in places where they don’t exist.  This will be the trick.  The other problem is that I’ve limited myself to those films that I haven’t yet reviewed: this rules out the classics such as Re-Animator and From Beyond.

So, hopefully, I will be up to this challenge.  30 Lovecraft movies in 30 days.  Let’s crack on…

 

The Salvation of the Vampire – By Jessica Dwyer

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The Salvation of the Vampire

Only Lovers Left Alive and The Strain

By Jessica Dwyer

Over the last decade the vampire genre has become something of a joke to many.  A glut of vampire themed films, television, and now its own romance novel subgenre has seemingly defanged one of the most beloved monsters in the world of horror.

Where the gothic dark mystique once was we now have a sparkling sheen of teen angst.  Where the decaying fear inducing emaciated Count Orlok once stood towering we have a sexy bad boy with rippling abs.  It wouldn’t be so hard to take if it wasn’t for the fact that it seems we are only getting clones of the same story over and over with the same sort of blood sucker who’s just lost their bite.

To save our beloved night dweller two genius directors have, as is sometimes necessary, gone back to the past to save the present.  Jim Jarmusch and Guillermo del Toro have created two masterpieces of vampire media, one a film and the other a television series, both of them brilliant.  Not only are they brilliant, but they both take their cues from the classic world of the vampire, keeping the fangs intact and bringing them to modern times, each with their own unique twist on the mythology.

Only Lovers Left Alive

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 Of the two, Only Lovers is the more classic film representation of the vampire.  Jarmusch is a unique filmmaker and he brings that quirkiness to this film, creating a sardonic and world weary vampire in Adam (perfectly played by Tom Hiddleston who took the role when actor Michael Fassbender had to drop out.)  The movie follows Adam as he resides in the slowly deteriorating city of Detroit.  The city fits Adam’s view of humanity which is, at least too him, slowly rotting away and eating up the world.  He calls humans “zombies” because they are the walking soon to be dead.  Adam has lost inspiration and the desire to keep going.  It has gotten so dark in his mind that he asks his somewhat friend and only human he really talks to, Ian (Anton Yelchin from the Fright Night remake) to have made a wooden bullet so he can shoot himself.

Adam has lived for centuries, we’re never really told just how long…but it’s obvious it’s been at least four or five hundred years.  He’s a musician and very intelligent.  He’s inspired by scientists and artists that he has known, especially Nicolai Tesla whose technology he uses to keep his home and car running.  It’s a nice touch and isn’t overemphasized.  That’s part of what makes this film so wonderful, Jarmusch just has these little nuggets of history planted within the story and you either notice them or not.  He doesn’t pander because he expects the audience to be smart enough to get it already.

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 Half way around the world Eve (Tilda Swinton who has become one of my favorite actresses thanks to this film) is living in Tangiers.  Eve is ethereal looking, as if made from ivory.  With her pale skin and pale hair she stands out even more so in Moroccan city.  Eve has been a vampire for centuries as well.  She’s just as intelligent as Adam. In her is a spirit that looks for the joy in the world, the magic all around.  She enjoys everything.  In many ways she’s the opposite of Adam as he is now, or the perfect balance to him.

Eve’s fellow vampire and blood connection for getting “the good stuff” is Marlowe (played by the legendary John Hurt.)  Marlowe’s first name is Christopher, as in the writer who may or may not have penned the plays Shakespeare is famous for.  These touches by Jarmusch really make this movie fun as I’ve said.

The vampires in Jarmusch’s film are all incredibly intelligent and all of them revel in artistry and the things that keep the human mind alive.  That is of course what would keep you going forever, learning and discovery.  But also love.  And that’s where the film still retains its brilliance without reaching a level of overly sweet and overly done storytelling.  Adam and Eve’s romance has the familiarity bred from centuries but the two come across as real on screen.  Swinton and Hiddleston are a perfect pairing for these characters, with Eve putting up with Adam’s dramatic depression and Adam finding the light in the dark with her understanding and devotion.  It works here because they understand one another. 

These are still vampires though and dangerous.  This is truly shown when Eve’s “sister” Ava (Mia Wasikowska, looking like a smaller version of Swinton) shows up.  Ava is what a vampiric teenager ought to be, almost hyper and very hungry.   They still require blood, but humans have managed to taint themselves to being nearly undrinkable with all the pollutants we’ve created.  So Adam (as Dr. Faust) sneaks into the hospital to buy blood under the table from a Doctor on staff.   The need for this is yet another reason Adam is truly sickened by humans.

Only Lovers Left Alive shows us the classical vampire back to the screen in a unique and beautiful way.  The soundtrack is phenomenal and the films imagery captures the grace and eternal presence of the creatures it follows.  Eve’s dancing and twirling superimposed over the image of a spinning record, forever turning and playing a haunting melody really shows Jarmusch’s vision of what these characters (and creatures) represent. 

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 The Strain

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On the small screen vampires have managed to infect nearly every network in one way or another.  And while the classic vampire (NBC’s Dracula) didn’t fare as well as his modern brothers (Vampire Diaries is still undead and well on the CW) it would appear that Guillermo del Toro wants to show an even more classic (as in ancient) vampire in The Strain.  There’s nothing sexy about these children of the night.  They simply want to infect and drink you to death.

The new FX series is based off the book series del Toro co-wrote with Chuck Hogan.  The two came together to pen the pilot script with del Toro also directing the first episode.

The series plays in a way like the original Nosferatu, with a plague ship (this time a commercial airliner) landing in New York and releasing the malevolent Master vampire loose upon the passengers aboard.  The mystery plane garners the attention of the authorities and the CDC who investigate and find that only a few of the passengers have survived.  The others are taken to be examined.  As the story progresses we are introduced to the billionaire responsible for bringing the creature to the city, Eldritch Palmer.  He’s dying and he wants the immortality that the Master can offer.   To fight this new strain of evil a group of individuals come together that know the true horror facing the city and the world with the release of the vampires.  Members of the CDC as well as men who’ve faced the evil before join forces.

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The Strain, much like Only Lovers, takes aspects of the classic vampire trope and plants them squarely in our times.  Where Only Lovers shows the vampire dealing with the changes modern technology has wrought upon the world, The Strain shows modern science having to deal with the decimation of the ancient bloodsucker.  And it does so with a great cast and a great source material in the novels.

Corey Stoll plays Ephraim Goodweather with genre vet David Bradley being cast as Professor Abraham Setrakian.  Other genre well knowns include Sean Astin and Kevin Durand.  The series has a slick look and production to it, cinematic yet with touches as if it were being filmed for a documentary (with time clocks in the corner advising how long it has been since the plane touched down.) 

The Strain of the title is a parasite that looks like a worm.  They are unnerving and vicious and determined to infect as many people as they can.  The vampires themselves are also unnerving and vicious…and one scene in the pilot that deals with a group of them puts The Walking Dead to shame when it comes to creepy horrible death.  There’s nothing sexy here…these are exactly what del Toro wanted to do with the vampire, make them scary again. 

There’s also the added bonus of del Toro himself being a beloved icon in the horror and sci-fi community in his own right and having some amazing friends who will show up just to work with him and be a part of the show.  Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster), Doug Jones (Hellboy), and Javier Botet (Mama) are just a few of the names who will appear in the first season alone.

The Strain as well as Only Lovers Left Alive is proof the vampire genre can still surprise and entertain us.  It can be terrifying or beautiful and eternally fascinating.  They show us that the vampire will truly never die and that to me is a good thing.

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Fangirl Shopping: Retro-A-Go-Go

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Retro- A-Go-Go!

By Sarah Buck

As many of you know, the indomitable Jessica Dwyer and I made our way over to Indianapolis for Horror Hound Weekend this month. It was amazing. I met a lot of awesome people, and a superb time. One of my very favorite parts of going to any convention is seeking out unique items to take home with me. My absolute favorite thing to find is unique, handmade jewelry.

Wandering about on the floor is usually a hurried and hit-and-miss experience. Good thing, then, that the Retro-A-Go-Go! booth with its charmingly vintage parasols and tiki-dream color scheme stood out so well against the dark and dreary booths that were pervasive in the main hall of Horror Hound.

The booth is like a tiny shop, enclosed on all but one side so you can walk in and become surrounded by nothing but retro goodness. This is a smart, if time-consuming way to construct a convention booth. It enfolded me in the charm and attitude of playful classiness Retro-A-Go-Go! strives to uphold. I like to do an initial sweep of the floor, and I must admit, it was very hard for me to leave the booth without buying anything straight away.

A beautiful Bride of Frankenstein necklace had caught my fancy, and for a day and a half I thought about it, longingly. Thankfully, as the con was closing down, the lovely persons of Kristen and Doug let me browse the booth again as they tore down, acquiring my necklace, a Bride of Frankenstein pill case (this is a huge purchase as I have been searching for a pill case worthy of owning for years) and a pair of outrageously adorable sunglasses shaped like cat ears and whiskers.

During this time I also got to speak more with Kristen and Doug, a fantastic pair. We exchanged the usual convention pleasantries, “how was your con?” “how far do you have to travel?” The usual. We also go a little bit deeper into things, as I asked them something that many con crafters shudder to answer: “Where do you get the artwork you use?”

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Without missing a beat, Kristen was proud to announce that all the artwork that comprises their impressive collection of fun is completely official. Working with artists and estates, Retro-A-Go-Go! has a completely licensed collection. I found this fascinating. As the fan art and convention culture has grown, I’ve watched as jewelry creators have gotten less and less creative. There are a lot of things anyone can do, and maybe that’s why the professional quality and whimsy of Retro-A-Go-Go!’s products stood out to me.

After the show, I emailed them and was lucky enough to get an interview. A little insight behind the creative process and sheer genius of Retro-A-Go-Go!

You’ve been around for 10 years now, which makes you veterans compared to a lot of  pop-culture vendors. What has given you your staying power in a place that is (let’s face it) overcrowded with people trying to make a dime?

We make what we love. So being passionate is a big part of the equation. If we don’t feel a product or design has our thumbprint of originality, quality, and uniqueness we don’t create or offer it. Doug and I also come from strong professional sales, marketing, and design backgrounds, we bring that experience to Retro-a-go-go!  We take our professional experience and combine it with as much fun as possible. We treat everyone the way we want to be treated and we make sure we keep our selection diverse and exciting. We apply our energies to a positive, happy, and lively work environment. People feel good and are proud to work here. Retro-a-go-go! is an energized, lively and forward thinking company and continues to foster creativity and bring out our best ideas.

What is your favorite product to create? Is there one that holds a special place in your heart?

It’s difficult to pin point a favorite. Everything on our site is our own original and inspired work. We love Bettie Page, Buck Rogers and of course anything monster inspired! We work hard to contribute creative additions to brands and licenses. Our relationship with the Bettie Page property could be described as a lifelong love affair. We just can’t get enough of her, and neither can our customers. From Burlesque and Tiki, to Hot Rod and Scifi, fans everywhere-especially pop culture loving geeks want more and more original, and never-before seen Bettie art and accessories, and we’re here to deliver the goods in a new and fresh and enticing way.

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There is everything in your shop from zombies to Betty Page. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it variable, or do you have something specific that really puts you in the mind place to create?

We are inspired by our hobbies and collections, be it retro toys, vinyl collectibles, vintage movie posters, comics, art, movies, vintage ephemera, other licensed artists or even each other.  Doug is constantly drawing or working on new designs in his studio and at his drawing table.  A great benefit to designing and manufacturing everything in house is that we are able to make what we want and also fulfill customer requests. Our visions really do become reality and show up in must-have Retro-a-go-go! goodness made available to our customers. If our fans ask for more mermaid, monsters, robots, steampunk, sideshow, pinups, or even something that doesn’t exist in the market, we are resourceful and we make it happen, possibly with a new spin.

 

Let’s talk about the big one. Your products are all officially licensed. Sadly, many vendors either at cons or online are not. Is it discouraging for you to see this?

It’s very unfair to the license and property. We pay to have the legal right to use the properties we work with, and we feel paying for that privilege calls us to a higher creative standard. For example there are a lot of awful Bettie Page reproductions in the market. Most of the unlicensed images we see are poor quality, sloppy, and reflect careless work that hurts the family legacy, the license, and the brand.  Bettie’s family deserves compensation for the use of Bettie’s image.

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Can you tell us what you have found to be the best benefits about acquiring the official licensing for your products?

One of the greatest benefits of paying for official licenses is the opportunity to acquire the best images possible. We have access to the best collections, photos, and the most stunning imagery, which allows us to make better and more polished products and stay ahead of the competition. In other words, we pay for premium resources, and we think it shows in our products

Tell us about your most memorable moment at a convention.

Each convention is its own adventure!

Recently I had the opportunity to meet Scott Wilson. We are huge Walking Dead fans! He gave me a warm hug. It was such a privilege to meet him and see how relaxed and laid back he was. Each show we attend is a snowflake, there’s no telling who you will meet or run into. We get to meet new artists and connect with other creative business owners, which often turn into great relationships and lasting friendships.

I love 1960’s Batman and another memorable moment was meeting Adam West, Julie Newmar , and Burt Ward all at the same time. Meeting interesting people and making new connections makes shows interesting year after year. There is always an element of surprise as to what’s around the next convention corner.

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You have an impressive list of artists you work with, is there someone you would love to add to that list?

We want to make more products with the artists we currently work and partner with. There’s so much amazing art and so many interesting concepts that we can’t wait to explore. Also, its very exciting to have such a broad variety of talented artists approach us with their work.  Of course there are artists on our dream list, so stay tuned to Retro-a-go-go! to see what and who is popping up next.

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Who is your favorite monster dame?

Lily Munster is my favorite. Not only is Yvonne De Carlo an original pinup, she took her comedic role seriously and made it interesting. She ramped up and camped up her performance. She brought a level of authenticity and talent that made her stand out on screen. Her character had great comedic timing too. She was sexy, smart, and was the glue that held the Munster family together. Somebody had to for gosh-sakes!

Where would your dream convention be held, and what would the theme be?

My dream convention would be held outside on the street in front of our Retro-a-go-go! studios. Our booth is an experience, it’s an elaborate carnival that fans can’t wait to shop, its always worth the effort even if the location is less than convenient.  On the upside too, it’s exciting to go see new places and meet new people. We’ve travelled thousands of miles and every convention has new opportunities, excited customers both new and returning.

 

Is there anything new and exciting we should be checking your website for in the near future?

Keep an eye on our website and on our social media feeds. Retro-a-go-go! is always changing, developing, adding more product, licenses and artists. We are making more and more geek-chic gifts all the time. We have a creative vision for high quality, inspired, and affordable products. Retro-a-go-go! has personality and as always, we have lots of sales and promotions to help you give the best gifts possible during the holidays as well as year round. There are so many great things to love under our unique pop-culture umbrella, from robots and vintage comics, to pinups, to sideshow, goth, and tattoo style to rockabilly and even steampunk designs, just to name a few! Our customers have a lot to choose from and we try to make shopping with us fun. You’ll always see something new that you just have to have for yourself or buy for a friend.

Come see us at a show or visit us online every day of the year on our website Retro-a-go-go.com. We look forward to seeing you in person or on the web!

Call us if you are so inclined! (734) 476 0300

We love hearing from our customers.

And at last, I would like to give a big Fangirl thank you to Kristen, Doug, and everyone else at Retro-A-Go-Go for their dedication to creating works of art that we can wear and cherish. 

Sarah out.

 

 

Farewell to the Maestro: HR Giger a Eulogy

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Farewell to the Maestro

HR Giger a Eulogy

By Jerem Morrow

Industrial designer. Painter. Sculptor. Director. Toiler at night terrors. Friend of Salvador Dali, whom he appreciatively dubbed a “Fox”, as Dali was attempting to bed his then wife. Wearer of bread loaves as shoes to a gallery opening. To my mind, the sole, peerless conjurer of Lovecraftian imagery. And by many accounts, the kindest of human beings.

            We all know his work. Even if we don’t know who he is. Even if we’ve forgotten just how deeply he changed the landscape of Sci-Fi. You’d be hard pressed to find even a minor collector of phantasmagoria without at least one example of his work in their collection. Be it a movie, book, art print, album cover, tattoo, furnishing, toy, documentary, personal anecdote or the rarest of treasures – an original piece. We’ve all got our teeth in the matter of his mind, in the fashion with which we devour any monolithic sooth-sayer of our age.

            As ubiquitous as Hello Kitty, the architecture of Hans Rudolf Giger’s wondrous machinations is known even to those who would normally shun his brand of “biomechanical” psychosexual surrealist nightmare. Even those very descriptors, now drawn together to describe the work of many other artists he inspired (myself included), are owed to the man himself. Like the enduring demonic Xenomorphs he created for the Alien films, his reach has been long and will surely continue to be so now after his passing. H.R. Giger, Modern Father of the Alluring Grotesque, died this 12th of May, 2014, following complications from a fall, age 74.

            Giger managed wide-ranging success at wielding the popular visual vernacular to discuss the verboten subjects of death, sex and politics. Often at the same time. He showed us that the notion of anything in art being gratuitous is ridiculous. He maneuvered his fingers inside the slit of our collective unconscious and shared with us his night terrors, like a maniacal Humanist Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds of self-salvation from the fear of our own minds and bodies. He reminded us of what is good in life. And how vastly important is the acceptance of what we absolutely cannot change. The list of people who’ve managed these feats is short.

Timothy Leary once said of Giger,

“Giger’s work disturbs us, spooks us, because of its enormous time span. It shows us, all too clearly, where we come from and where we are going.”

I’d go one further and say, “And he reminded us to live without fear.”

Goodbye Maestro.

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