I’ve Got Such a Headache: Power / Rangers Short Film Taken Down

A long time ago, during the era of the first Power Rangers team, Tommy Oliver — the Green Ranger — had been manipulated by the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa to attack his fellow Rangers. However, when he came to their side, she had a contingency plan. Rita created a candle that, when its flame went out, Tommy’s powers would be lost to her forever.

Now another flame on another magical candle also threatens to extinguish itself.

Green Candle

Adi Shankar and Joseph Kahn produced and directed, respectively, a fan-made fourteen minute film on the Internet which, essentially, is a gritty revisionist take on the Power Rangers: set after the Rangers’ battle with the Machine Empire and what seems to have been a truce. This got the attention of both new fans, and old: with over 12 million YouTube views in two days.

Unfortunately, Haim Saban — the owner of Saban Brands and the Power Rangers franchise — forced Vimeo and YouTube to take down the video: threatening legal action.

Power Rangers itself is a fascinating phenomenon itself. It is an American adaptation and revision of the Japanese Super Sentai genre or trope: in which a team of five people through various means possess colour-coded uniforms, fight evil beings with special powers and martial arts, and gain giant machines or mecha to fight the monsters that are also increased in strength and power. It is not uncommon for young men and girls to be the heroes of these Super Sentai story arcs.

So, in a way, one can argue that Saban Brands’ Power Rangers is its own take of a much longer-running idea. One can also argue that Power Rangers is, in itself, a parody of violence, destruction, and character development. Like the Super Sentai genre itself, it’s primarily aimed for children with a downplaying of violence and consequences in order to protect what some societies consider to be basic children’s comprehension and sensibilities.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers came to Fox in 1993. An entire generation of, at least North American, children watched the show with the antics of Bulk and Skull, Ernie’s Juice Bar, Rita Repulsa animated monsters made out of clay, cardboard buildings and scenery being obliterated by giant robot dinosaur Zords, and the friendships between five Power Rangers. What Shankar and Kahn did was they took the action genre of the 2000s with its revisionist elements — embodied for good or ill best by the new Transformer movies — and created their own fan film.

Joseph Kahn’s Power / Rangers is a film that not only parodies the lack of psychological consequences in the gritty violence, action, melodrama, and sleek props and over the top CGI effects (in contrast to cheap-looking costumes and the Power Rangers’ ridiculous cardboard cut-outs), but it also manages to parody the form of the gritty reboot itself while telling its own compelling story.

And, more importantly with regards to copyright, it did this for free.

Kahn and Shankar made no profit from creating this fan film. They didn’t even crowdfund its making. It all came entirely from out of pocket. It even has a disclaimer in the end credits stating that it is a non-profit work that was not meant to interfere with anything that Saban Brands or Lionsgate might be up to with regards to their own movie. Yet while both film-makers plan to challenge the removal of their film, there is one question that remains: why did Haim Saban have their video removed in the first place?

One possibility is that, with the creation of the next Power Rangers film in 2016, Saban Brands might want to maintain their franchise’s image as “child-friendly.” Power Rangers has had complaints from parents in the past about violence and if some perceived the reboot to be a part of that franchise, Saban Brands might think its reputation could be held in question.

Of course, there is always the argument that Eric Buchman presents in his article Where’s The Line Between Fan-Fic and Copyright Infringement? Ask The Power Rangers to consider. He claims that perhaps the usage of well-known actors, professional direction, and top-notch props and special effects might have made Saban Brands feel threatened: as though they were facing someone who had the technological and financial means to genuinely steal their franchise.

But if you take the technology and money away — of which both film-makers themselves provided — what does that leave us with? It leaves us with some fanfiction or a fan work that any geek with the means could have made. Certainly, on a personal note, an old friend of mine and I used to create new Power Rangers adventures and act them out through free-form roleplaying sessions during recess: and I’m sure that we are not alone. But in fan cultures that create derivative works from their favourite franchises, that even interact with them on any creative level through actual input or homages — even with disclaimers involved — where do you draw the line? And what does that say about the relationship between content creators and their fan-bases?

Power /Rangers‘ candle may have already gone out, but can Saban Brands’ really take the power away from the Power Coin in the hands of fans?

Green Candle 2

 

More Leda and Castor in Orphan Black Season Three?

It took me a little while to get into watching Orphan Black, but I wasn’t disappointed. This Canadian-made science-fiction and intrigue series drew me in with its unfolding levels of mystery, its interpersonal relationships, and the brilliance of the actress Tatiana Maslany as she plays several clones — each one a different flawed, strong, and complex woman — in a dangerous world of shadow games: where the stakes are freedom and the semblance of a normal life.

Above is a spoiler for some of what is going to happen in Orphan Black Season Three. But for those of you who have been following the show (or binge-watching both preceding seasons on DVD and cable), there are some other interesting, small, little snippets that function as both character sketches, and just what may well go down.

But first, let’s deal with the main clip and seriously take a look at it. Last season, Sarah Manning discovered that the DYAD Institute was not the only organization dealing in clones. While the Proletheans are an extremist religious sect or series of cells that believe in destroying synthetic biology or subordinating it under a belief in God — and they have utilized Sarah’s fellow clone and sister Helena for these purposes — they have not created clones.

The military, however, has been creating more clones: or least they did at one point in time. If you go back into the show’s chronology, you will find out that DYAD or its predecessor had a deal with the military to create the clones for some unknown reason. However what we, the viewers, did not know at the time was that not only was the military continuing its work with cloning, but they seem to have created male clones in counterpoint to DYAD’s female cloning project. Whereas the experiment that made Sarah and the others is referred to as Project LEDA, the male clone project is called Project CASTOR.

But, as usual, there is so much more that we don’t know. However, there are some clues to be had.

Here we have what we already know: that Sarah has been introduced to a captive male clone that Marion, one of the most powerful figures behind DYAD keeps in her mansion. But, very clearly and as per usual, Sarah is her usual gritty and rebellious self. Yet what’s really interesting here is that the male clone, whether he is the captive or one of his brothers working in the military, seems to know that she is one of the renegade among her sisters: that one who didn’t seem to have a DYAD Monitor. Perhaps Sarah is meeting this clone in order to find out where Helena is being held.

There is Alison Hendrix who is facing more kidnapping issues and may well have a reason to want to “kick some boy clone butt”: if the military is now after the female clones in addition to DYAD (assuming DYAD still isn’t, but that is another story entirely).

Of course, there is Helena whom, the last we saw, was “sold” to the military by Siobhan, Sarah’s foster mother, and Paul, Beth’s former boyfriend and Monitor and Sarah’s former lover,  for some reason: perhaps to guarantee Sarah’s safety. It should be noted that Helena has been rather unstable in the past and is trained to be a master assassin by the Proletheans. Maybe Siobhan saw her as a threat, given some of the things she has tried to do to Sarah and her other sisters. But seriously, god help those soldiers that have her now — and the people that handed her over — given the sheer amount of destruction she’s capable of inflicting.

Finally, there is Cosima. It seems as though she and her assistant and friend Josh are attempting to decode the late Professor Duncan’s handwritten notes on their genome in an attempt to reverse its degradation. It should be noted that, perhaps by understanding Duncan’s notes they might also begin to figure out just how just why they were created, and how they relate to the existence of the male clones.

It’s a fascinating situation all around: especially when you consider what Projects LEDA and CASTOR might actually be. Both are tied into ancient Greek mythology. Leda was the queen seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan: upon which she carried two eggs that hatched into four children. Two of those children were Zeus’ while the other two belonged to her mortal royal husband. Her two sons were Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces).

There is a lot of fan speculation as to what Leda might represent in Orphan Black: not the least of which being that the clones are the result of advanced science and were fostered with normal families in most cases. Castor himself was a warrior along with his brother and it makes a horrible kind of Clone Wars sense for the military to want to mass produce legions of male soldiers.

But perhaps there is more involved here. Is it a coincidence that there were two cloning programs for two separate sexes? And why? Were they supposed to be the first stages of a genetically enhanced breeding program? And, here is something else for you to think about: Castor’s twin brother, Pollux, was Zeus’ son — with immortal or superhuman potential given his lineage — in some mythologies while Castor was just a mortal man. Is it possible that the idea of Pollux might actually play a role in what is to come with regards to these two Projects?

Either way, I have to say that my own speculation aside I very much look forward to Orphan Black Season Three on April 18.

Also, to those who can’t wait for April, IDW Publishing will be releasing an Orphan Black comic book February 25 apparently expanding on the clones’ back stories. Personally, I would love to see more story on the clones that have either already died, or had short thrift so far. Many times the fun.

On The Art Of Sweet Action: An Interview With A. Shay Hahn

The Canadian painter and illustrator A. Shay Hahn, is now a comics creator with the imminent release of three new and original self-published comics works. And before his Sweet Action exhibit, commission, and presentation event at The Society of the Seven Crowns Tattoo we at GEEKPR0N have been given the opportunity to talk with him about his art, his process, and his upcoming works.

GEEKPR0N: In a piece by TJ Dawe on the Blog Beams and Struts, you outline your artistic method and philosophy at length with regards to painting. You discuss how you create your illustrations as a diarist, with emphasis on abstraction, storytelling, and an attempt to avoid identity in your figures. Does this creative process — your own unique visual and artistic language — translate in any way into your comics art and, if so, how might it do so

A. SHAY HAHN: My process for painting and my process for comics don’t intersect. In comics you need to define the characters in appearance and attitude with a forward moving story, whereas painting allows a lot more freedom. In painting the viewer is allowed to a degree to define what the painting is about: they add some of their own biography to the piece. In my comics, or in most comics, the viewer is guided by the images through the story. It’s narrative driven as opposed to interpreted. I want to hook the reader for a wild ride in my comics.

"Girl with an Axe" by A Shay Hahn. It is a painting that feels like it could be the beginning of a story in itself.
“Girl with an Axe” by A Shay Hahn. It is a painting that feels like it could be the beginning of a story in itself.

GP: In your interview on the Fragmentalist with regards to your work in the Cameron, you talk about how artists should make themselves — and their works — a part of the venue in which they are presenting their part. How do you see yourself applying this philosophy to your Sweet Action presentation at Seven Crowns Tattoos? How do you think your comics art aesthetic will complement the establishment in comparison and contrast to your work in the Cameron?

ASH: Good question, I think artists should be available while their work is being displayed so I will be at Seven Crowns Tattoo, hopefully once a week to sit in the gallery and I’ll be drawing comics while I’m there. If people have questions about who did the work there will be one day a week where I can answer their questions in person. I love the idea of showing the comic based work at Seven Crowns. Tattoos, like comics can be bold and colourful – like the work of Jack Kirby or darker and more moody. I want the show to really have a feel of fun and energy and see how that affects the space. It should put people in a good mood.

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GP: You are going to be presenting your three self-published new comics works at Sweet Action. However, this is not the first time you have been involved with the comics medium. According to your profile on Monkey Brain Comics, you were the artist for Issue #7 of Amazing Forest written by Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas. Can you tell us more about your time there and while you were inspired to create art by your childhood with comic books, was this particular collaboration the transition point to you creating your own comics work?

ASH: I was actually asked to do the story “Nonbelievers” for Amazing Forest just as I was finishing the final art on my third comic. They needed an eight page story done and asked me to do it. I’d been recommended by another comic artist on twitter and I read the pages and knew that I’d be able to fit it into my schedule. It was my first professional comics gig and I’m grateful that I was asked to do it. I was sent a script and just went hardcore over five days, drew the whole thing inked it, lettered it and sent it back finished. It was a whirlwind and they were really happy with the results. I’ve wanted to do my own comics for years, I just had to be able to book off the time to do it. I only did a few other commissioned paintings during the time so I wasn’t making any real money while I drew the comics. It was a huge learning curve and I came out the other side with a product that I think people are going to really enjoy.

"Nonbelievers" from Amazing Forest. Written by Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas and illustrated by A Shay Hahn.
“Nonbelievers” from Amazing Forest. Written by Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas and illustrated by A Shay Hahn. Published by Monkey Brain Comics.

GP: What are your favourite drawings or sketches for your Sweet Action show at Seven Crowns Tattoo so far?

ASH: That’s a tough one, each piece has a little something about it that I like, whether it’s a facial expression or a pose, maybe I did some nice colouring with the Copic markers on a certain piece. I like things that are funny, hard core comic guy poses are cool but if I can do something like MODOK wearing a beer can hat or getting to draw a character like Wez from The Road Warrior those one’s stand out for me.

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GP: Can you tell us more about your three comics works: The Homeless G-Men, Crypto Zombic, and Battle Rally?

ASH: As a whole I wanted them to be fun. I wanted people who don’t consider themselves hard core comic fans to enjoy them: that there isn’t an intimidation factor, that they were more like great B-movie VHS films than serious investigations into what it means to be a hero or plots that were too esoteric to follow. Here’s a breakdown of what each comic is about: 

Homeless G-Men

THE HOMELESS G-MEN is about a team of cops hunted by the very city they swore to protect race to clear their name: a “good time noir” for fans of Eric Powell’s The Goon and Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

Crypto-Zombic

CRYPTO-ZOMBIC is about the only surviving scientist of an experiment gone horribly wrong as he returns to the Island of Isla Sopresa: populated with zombies, monsters that were thought to be the stuff of legend and a whole bunch of psychopaths. It’s a tale of mad science and ghastly creatures. If you loved the game Altered Beast or any 80’s action film, CZ is the book for you.

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Finally get ready for BATTLE RALLY! In the near future teams of racers risk life and limb for glory and product endorsements, will the members of “Team Juicy Blast” win the gold or tear themselves apart before they even place? Battle Rally combines vehicle combat and giant robot battles in explosive action for fans of Voltron, The Shogun Warriors and Death Race.

You can find samples of A. Shay Hahn’s artwork on his Blog Smudges and Lines, or check out his work February 7 at The Society of the Seven Crowns Tattoo any time after 8 pm.

Peter Davison Doesn’t Think That A Female Doctor Would Work

Fans have been discussing the prospect of a female incarnation of The Doctor for some time now given the fact that we know Gallifreyans can change sex with regeneration, that we’ve seen evidence of this happening, and with all of Steven Moffat’s winking on the matter.

Peter Davison, on the other hand, believes that The Doctor should not be a woman.

In addition to the fact that he believes that a Time Lord should remain the sex or gender they were born into on Gallifrey — and that statement in itself is a whole Time War in the making — the actor who played the fifth Doctor seems to also think that the current Doctor and Companion dynamic wouldn’t work if the genders of the characters were reversed.

What is meant by the current Doctor and Companion dynamic is that you have an uncertain and fallible male Doctor and a strong female Companion. Davison is of the opinion that a gender reversal would equal the creation of a “stereotype.”

But there are other ways to look at this.

For instance, why do the sex and genders of Doctor and Companion even have to be reversed? Why can’t a female Doctor be with a female Companion? Why can’t fallibility be considered vulnerability — which each Doctor in the modern era to some extent has already portrayed — and, in turn, be seen as a strength: as something fearful being expressed openly and honestly?

And then there is another possibility. Let’s say we have another form of reverse. What if we had a female Doctor who was coming to terms with who and what she is now, and a male Companion who appears to be “strong” — and what “strong” actually is in this context is another matter entirely, but let’s just say it’s emotional strength — but in reality he is hiding behind bravado and accepted terms of behaviour. Perhaps The Doctor shows him that there are other forms of strength, and that asking for help is not a weakness: as anyone who isn’t a Dalek in the universe — and even the Daleks probably aren’t completely exempt from this — needs help sometimes.

Of course, you can always change the formula: to a Doctor that knows exactly what she’s doing, with moments of ethical dilemmas, and a Companion of either gender who is learning from her. Or they can all learn together. The Doctor is a complex being of varying emotions who already knows that there is great diversity in the universe and has probably experienced a lot of it: not the least of which being due to how Time Lord society may work with regards to gender roles.

Perhaps when it comes down to it, it is the modern dynamic of Doctor and Companion has to change: and just think of how many new stories can come from exploring that, playing with assumptions, and where you can take them.

All that said, I would love to see a spin-off series about Jenny The Doctor’s daughter: played either by Peter Davison’s daughter Georgia Moffett, or someone else. I’ve written some fanfiction on that. Tell us what you think.

A Doctor Who Movie? Allons-y!

So who wants to see a Doctor Who movie written by Russell T. Davies?

Even though Davies has indicated reluctance to write another Doctor Who episode, in an interview with Graham Norton, Doctor Who‘s former showrunner and re-animator stated that if he were approached to write a Doctor Who movie, he would do it with enthusiasm. As a fan, I would choose one, or all of the following:

Fantastic! Allons-y! Geronimo!

Seriously, pick one. While Davies’ words are, at best, a nice TARDIS trip into the realms of speculative reality, just think of the possibilities considering all that we know about him and what he has created. Think of a grand operatic narrative of strangeness, weirdness, tragedy, comedy, and terror that star actual people: be they omnisexual time travellers, moving compost heaps, binary angels, or just plain human individuals.

Aside from some of my own issues with the latter part of his run, such as the Meta-Crisis Doctor and Doctor Donna, for the most part it would be refreshing to have Davies apply his ability to create epic pieces and memorable characters onto film. Again, it’s the fan-boy in me but if this ever somehow happened I could see something with Jack Harkness and River Song that, combined with some Murray Gold soundtracks, would be simply — in so many words — divine, infernal, and utterly goofy.

But I think the Doctor Who movie that I’d really like to see from Davies was something that he himself began: just what happened during the Last Great Time War. It’s true that we’ve had hints and excerpts from that War: ranging from “The End of Time,” to “The Night of The Doctor,” to “The Last Day,” “The Day of The Doctor” and even a novel by George Mann called The Engines of War, but I feel that there is so much more detail that can be added about what was perhaps the most devastating conflict in the multiverse’s history and The Doctor’s — particularly The War Doctor’s — role within it.

Imagine a fleshed out story that illustrates the events that led to the War between the Time Lords and the Daleks, or The War Doctor and the Lady President Romana dealing with the initial stages of the War before they have to resort to resurrecting The Master, and summoning Rassilon to the fore again. Or maybe we can see the aftermath of Gallifrey’s salvation and Missy’s regeneration and escape.

I don’t know: maybe what I want to see would be more like a series than a film (or at least a trilogy) but please, tell us what kind of Doctor Who movie you would like to see from Russell T. Davies: should he ever be asked to make one.

Doctor…What? A Peek At Doctor Who: Last Christmas

Last Christmas, on Doctor Who

Opening-Credits-Gif-doctor-who-27591609-500-279

So you find yourself in a laboratory: faced down by creatures that have gotten off of tables with scaly skin and slimy mouths. They’re coming towards you. It’s dark and cold outside in the Arctic;  you, a strange older man with a blue box, his Companion, and a scared looking science team with guns are all alone with this approaching unpleasantness when, suddenly …

There is an explosion as the Army of Misfit Toys — heralded by a tangerine, a rank of slinkies, and walking robots come into the grim fray!  Then you get to see the majestic sight of a reindeer standing on his hind legs as Santa Claus climbs off his back surrounded by an elf with a rifle and another with an orange balloon animal. There is a music of wonder surrounding all of this as Saint Nicholas takes charge of the situation.

And all you can think about, even for Doctor Who, even for a Doctor Who Christmas Special is …

HurrjOo

It’s as though Santa Claus is making up for the current Doctor’s grumpy and cynical nature, tinged with a latter bit of bitterness, by just being about everything the Eleventh Doctor was: albeit with a bit of gruffness and the ever-present threat of coal. I’m also pretty sure that tangerine-looking object was a dig at The Doctor who, in another trailer, said he hated Christmas tangerines.

I don’t know what those monsters are: who look like walking corpses with alien parasites attached to their faces. I don’t know why Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer has an alarm system on his nose: and quite possibly a GPS. But I will tell you thing: if those creatures have any self-awareness, and if they share any of that awareness with the expressions on the faces of The Doctor, Clara, and that team, I think it can all be summed up under one word.

What?!

Doctor Who: Last Christmas will be coming out this December 25 on Space Channel and as with any Doctor Who episode but especially this, your guess is as good as mine.

Spend the 25th with the Doctor!
Spend the 25th with the Doctor!

Their Voices Are This Film – Review: She Makes Comics

She Makes Comics is a documentary directed by Marisa Stotter, and produced by Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect! Films. It is also executive produced by Sequart’s Julian Darius and Mike Phillips and comics librarian Karen Green of Columbia University.

It’s hard to review a documentary. I think it’s even more difficult review a documentary that you like. In the interests of full disclosure, I backed the She Makes Comics Kickstarter. I even wrote about it twice here on GEEKPR0N and promoted it before I knew what film I was going to see. I was utterly fascinated with the concept of a documentary that focuses on not only the past, but the present history of women in comics: as creators, publishers, and fans.

Unlike other documentaries I’ve seen, the interviewers aren’t present. There is no presence of a single interlocutor or a primary voice. In fact, there are several voices that create the narrative of She Makes Comics: both in terms of the film’s structure and the history of women in comics. What I found fascinating was how each figure interviewed not only seemed to bring a particular topic or issue, but they interlapped with each other, and sometimes talked about one another in each cut, and even attempted to give a voice to the women in the comics industry who had long since passed. While the first and middle part of the film focused particularly on creators and historians and women who are, and were, in the industry, this gradually gives way to a multitude of newer and more contemporary presences in comics.

Also She Makes Comics was edited extremely well. Sequences with interviewed figured were accompanied by cuts of these creators interacting with their fans, of cosplayers at conventions, of segments of historical filming and popular cultural scenes, and even dramatic re-enactments. I do feel that the section about a woman feeling uncomfortable in a comics store, while definitely a valid experience, was overwrought and could have been portrayed much more realistically: though the discussion about it made up for that somewhat jarring, almost kitsch portrayal.

There were different section in this documentary, though the segues to each were so smooth and organic that it takes more than one viewing to identify where the topic begins to shift. Roughly speaking, She Makes Comics starts with the history of women on comics, the formation of Comic Cons and women trying to find a place in them, a powerful section on X-Men and its inspiration on female creators and fans, women in comics publishing positions, difficulties dealing with the insular chauvinism and misogynist mentality of “all-boys clubs” shops, the advent of groups supporting women in comics, some insights into the creative processes of the female artists that make comics, the treatment of female characters in comics in relation to their male counterparts, the importance of discussion of sexism and an emphasis on diversity in the comics medium, the importance of Internet communities, the acceptance of the graphic novel in mainstream culture but women still not being taken seriously in that field, the cultural difficulties of women pitching comics ideas in the industry, the creation of female comics spaces, a section focusing on harassment, and a final segment ending off with a focus on female-led or created comics and geekdom.

As you can see, this covers a lot of territory though by no means is it exhaustive: and these places definitely interlap. There were many things of note, but here are some of the few that stood out for me. The earlier history portion of the film particularly focuses on Jackie Ormes: the first female African-American cartoonist who will actually be getting her own mini-documentary by the creators of She Makes Comics due to them meeting their Kickstarter goals.

Jackie Ormes: creator of the Torchy Brown strip and the single-panel cartoon Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger.
Jackie Ormes: creator of the Torchy Brown strip and the single-panel cartoon Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger.

There was mention of the fact that there were more women creating comics when men went off to war and how female readership began to decrease after the Comics Code was enforced and superhero comics were supported over other genres. It was interesting to learn about the Marvel and EC comics artist Marie Severin in addition to Ormes, though I would have liked a little more information on Miss Fury creator Tarpe Mills.

The discussion of Comic Cons and cosplay is really timely, however, based on the recent flak the latter has been getting from some industry artist. Wendy Pini hits home the fact that, as a cosplaying pioneer — specifically of Red Sonja — she managed to create the persona for herself necessary to make her art, get into the industry, and essentially become completely independent with Elfquest.

Wendy Pini and so many others after her identify so much with their cosplay and fandom that they create works and spaces for others.
Wendy Pini and so many others after her identify so much with their cosplay and fandom that they create works and spaces for others.

She is an interesting parallel to Gail Simone who got into comics through her critical work in Women in Refrigerators: analysing how dead or traumatized female characters were used to advance male plots and eventually making nuanced female heroes herself. Both creators got into the industry in different ways through geek culture and their insights and I just thought it was truly awesome to have that reminder that fandom and criticism can lead to creation.

Some male figures in comics were also interviewed such as Chris Claremont, Paul Levitz, and Richard Pini: but the focus was on them in relation to their female influences, employees, and creative partners. Certainly, Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson, both editors of Claremont’s X-Men run, influenced his work considerably: a series many of us have related to as marginalized geeks and nerds in our time. And Nocenti’s anecdote about initially thinking she was tapped to help write porn was rather hilarious. Karen Berger was also interviewed and her comment about liking “psychological stories and weird shit” as inspiration for what she helped to promote and publish in her Vertigo imprint made me smile as well.

Even though queer creators in comics were mentioned in the same place as online spaces, I feel there wasn’t as much focus on them. In addition, there were a few creators I was hoping to see such as Alison Bechdel and Aline Kominsky-Crumb that didn’t make it into the film: though the former was mentioned. Carla Speed-McNeil and Hope Larson made brief appearances, which was nice to see.

According to Kelly Sue DeConnick, there is even a rocket scientist in the ranks of those who idolize Carol Danvers and what she represents to them.
According to Kelly Sue DeConnick in She Makes Comics, there is even a rocket scientist in the ranks of those who idolize Carol Danvers and what she represents to them.

But there were two things She Makes Comics truly did for me. The first is that it introduced me to all-female fan groups like the Carol Corps, organizations that support women reading and making comics such as the Friends of Lulu, and even spaces like the Brave New World Comics Geek Boutique that challenge the very form of what a comics store is. And I want to read Marjorie Liu, G. Willow Wilson, Gail Simone, and Kelly Sue DeConnick. They are not talked enough nearly enough in mainstream comics geekdom, even now, and while I was curious about them before, I’m definitely inspired to look at Birds of Prey, Captain Marvel, Ms. MarvelPretty Deadly, and others now.

I feel as though, even and especially if, you are a comics aficionado you will learn a lot from She Makes Comics. And if you are completely new, this is even better for you: for while it doesn’t give you everything, it is an excellent starting point into some works with different perspectives and interesting stories.  I would definitely like to think that She Makes Comics hits home the fact that not only have women contributed to comics and geekdom, but they still do and they will.

Wendy Pini at one point shared an anecdote about a young woman who, despite her skill, didn’t have the confidence to acknowledge her art work as good: and even had difficulty presenting it to her without urging. Janelle Asselin, former editor at DC, mentions that she had very few women give her pitches. I hope that this documentary — and other works and groups and people of similar spirit — help to change this climate and culture, and make something as multifaceted as the film I had the privilege to finally see.

She Makes Comics is now available in both digital and DVD form.

A Female Doctor: A Sex + Gender, Timey Wimey Talk

There were hints of it when The Doctor regenerated at “The End of Time.” Neil Gaiman’s episode “The Doctor’s Wife” pretty much stated that Time Lords can change sex from regeneration. And then, of course, we have our friend Missy — or The Mistress — to consider from this past year’s Doctor Who. And according to Steven Moffat, the man who also wrote the two-episode comedy special Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death — the role of The Doctor will eventually be played by a woman. According to Moffat, they have been laying down the groundwork to do this for some time, but it is a question of finding the right personality before they can make this an eventuality.

Doctor Who, particularly in the era of Russell T. Davies, has been pushing the envelope of just what future, and present, life can be: and how far it can be accepted as a given. There is, and there will be, resistance on the part of some fans. I mean, The Doctor has been consistently male for at least thirteen incarnations now — from 1963 all the way to the present — and even for those who are not outright dismissive or hateful towards the idea, it would take some getting used to.

But, at the same time, would it really?

Could it be time for a female Doctor? Steven Moffat says, "Possibly."
Could it be time for a female Doctor? Steven Moffat says, “Possibly.”

The Doctor has changed a lot throughout the years. He is the Lego-equivalent of a protagonist: even though you can rearrange him into different shapes, sizes, and patterns the building blocks of him as a character — his core — will always be the same. This allows the people working with him to tell new stories about his character while always making it clear that he is The Doctor. And myths change over time: they adapt according to the times and even the culture of the audience.

There are some interesting implications, of course. There is the matter of LGBTQIA representation to consider with regards to sexuality and gender. For the most part, The Doctor has been portrayed as asexual and while it’s tempting to mention that in latter years he has become a lot more romantic and has displayed feelings and more physical expressions of love towards his Companions and other characters, these are not necessarily mutually exclusive ideas. Certainly asexuality does not exclude the possibility of platonic love — which seems to be a default setting of The Doctor’s character — and it also doesn’t outright dismiss the notion of romantic or even physical love.

So what if The Doctor has relationships with male or female Companions, or other characters? Does it really matter what body The Doctor has at the time? Certainly this wouldn’t affect The Doctor’s brilliance or core personality. In fact, this would make some good stories in and of themselves. I mean think about it: The Doctor changes into a woman for the first time in her life. Does it take some getting used to? Do her relationships change? Does this create discomfort in her Companions, or another level of relatability?

And this isn’t even going into gender. While Missy prefers to be called The Mistress or a Time Lady, would The Doctor want to be considered female? Would she insist on male pronouns: as gender does not necessarily equal sex? I’m thinking that she would adopt female pronouns as Steven Moffat and others probably wouldn’t delve too much into this nuanced issue for mainstream television. Personally, I could have seen Missy insisting on being called The Master and it would have definitely fit her core character to do so.

I think the idea I’ve been thinking about the most since the possibility of sex-changing in regeneration actually came about is whether or not The Doctor would be a good representation of a transgender — or gender-fluid — character. On one hand, I can see some transgender and queer fans completely supporting this idea and perhaps relating to this character more: expanding on the idea of a complex LGBTQIA universe that Davies himself brought to television.

But then there is the opposite side of the coin. Some fans have accused the creation of characters such as the female Thor, and the Black Captain America of being gimmickry: as something of a fascinating “What If?” oddity that will be retconned out or marginalized again once the status quo of those franchises are restored. Certainly, there is something to be said about making a story about an entirely original female character instead of temporarily gender-bending an established one. One concern I have in seeing a female Doctor is that she will, inevitably, regenerate again and that this last regeneration will either have less time on screen, or become something of a one-off.

I think that this can be done under a fine hand and certain degree of sensitivity, but whether or not Steven Moffat and his writers are up to the task is a whole other story entirely: though the fact that Doctor Who has hired Catherine Tregenna, its first female writer in about six years, might hopefully be a step in the right direction.

Personally, I want to see a female Doctor. I want to see what she would be like and to watch her dance toe-to-toe with the messed up intrinsically Lovecraftian madness of the Whoniverse. I want to see her laugh and cry, be silly,  fierce, and terrifying, a fiery angel and a goofy clown, and loving hard, while pulling her sonic screwdriver on some Daleks. It could be another adventure for The Doctor: a new aspect of the character’s life that we can see unlocked in both external and self-exploration.

In the end, I want to see The Doctor give her Companions The Talk. You know the one. Whereas humans get the Birds and the Bees talk, Time Lords get The Timey wimey, wibbly wobbly Talk. I’d like to see her explain that just as she understands, or doesn’t understand, or intuits time so too does she understand, not understand, or intuit her own sense of sex and gender. So too does she understand, not understand, and intuit herself.

But really, I just want to see The Doctor’s happiness as she gets her ultimate wish: when, at long last, she finally gets to be ginger.

From The Book Circus: Amanda Palmer’s Art Of Asking Book Tour

A few days ago, a friend of mine let me know that Amanda Palmer was coming to Toronto on the last leg of her Book Tour. Unfortunately, by the time I got the message she followed up on it: informing me that the Lee’s Palace venue tickets were sold out. I’m not exactly sure why I did it. I had a suspicion and I applied for a ticket on Ticketfly: just to see if I could. It was this same hunch that had me standing in a line outside of Lee’s Palace for over an hour with the rest of Amanda Palmer’s fans: again, just to see if they would accept this ticket and let me in.

We all stood out there for a while: waiting for the doors to open past their 8 pm deadline. A fellow fan was nice enough to pass around free doughnuts: which was pretty good indicator of just what kind of crowd was gathered there. In all honesty, when the line started moving I was a little bit stunned that the establishment let me straight through.

Once we came in, we took the seats that we could while Amanda Palmer’s assistant Whitney Moses, dressed in her Erika Moen’s Anal Safety Snails shirt, came on stage to do some maintenance while leaving a glass of wine for Amanda. The event had a great turn out: made all the more evident by the teasing that began.

At one point Amanda herself appeared in the window above the stage and everyone cheered. During more preparations, as more people kept coming in, the music playing at Lee’s Palace would pause just long enough to get everyone to think that their night had begun: to revving them up further.

But it wasn’t long until Amanda herself finally came on stage, tossing flowers to the audience, strumming her ukulele and as she talked it got more difficult to describe the night in linear detail as I got caught up in the palpable joy of the crowd. She came onto the stage with another Amanda: a sign-language interpreter whose translations of Amanda’s words and songs were just as beautiful and interesting to watch as Amanda herself. In fact, sometimes it was good sort of challenge for me to split my attention in focusing on either one or the other.

After a request from a fan, we got to learn that out of the one hundred and ninety songs Amanda has created, she has apparently only memorized ten of them. She read from parts of her book The Art of Asking, while letting a fan perform an act of bibliomancy and selecting a passage for Amanda to read: even as another came on stage and choose a few sentences that Amanda decided to put into vocal music. In her book, she referred to a bit of history from Richard Zack’s An Underground Education with regards to Henry David Thoreau and how, while he made his hermitage at Walden Pond, he visited his rich friend that owned the property and accepted baked goods from his family.

The moral of the story is the core of The Art Asking: namely, don’t feel bad about taking the doughnuts. This is the second time I’ve mentioned doughnuts at the Book Tour. Very soon, I will talk about it for the last time.

There were a few particular parts of the Toronto Tour that particularly stuck out for me. Amanda began the event by playing her version of “Fuck The Police” — a day after the Ferguson verdict — and informed us that she was Toronto’s peace protest before this part of her tour that day. I have to admit, it did make me pause and it brought up some very uncomfortable issues for me: of the violence, of expression, and of cultural appropriation.

She also played a vocal duet of Dresden Doll’s “Delilah” with Whitney — who is a talented musician in her own right — while on her keyboard. This led to another difficult subject. It was after this song about an abusive relationship that she invited Sasha Manes of the Toronto YWCA branch on stage to talk about the importance of women’s and children’s shelters as well as her own organization’s charity initiative. Amanda’s Book Tour shared the same day as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

And both on her own initiative and when asked by her guest Eric Alper the Director of Media Relations for eOne Music Canada, Amanda also didn’t shy away from talking about Jian Ghomeshi. She talked about how many of her fans didn’t want him to be there and how, in the end, she didn’t want her Book Tour in Toronto to be overshadowed by, or all about  him. At least, that was my understanding of the matter.

Eric Alper himself covered a fair bit of ground in more ways than one. Remember how I mentioned doughnuts twice? Well, Alper decided to distribute seven hundred Timbits to the entire audience while he and Amanda kept talking. They talked about a range of topics: from the dangers of all music being placed under digital rights management again and no longer available to share freely online, to Amanda’s hopes on what crowdfunding might do to free more artists and their audiences from the influence of an unchanging music industry.

I was particularly intrigued when Alper asked Amanda just what she cut out from the final draft of her book. She mentioned two anecdotes: one about the fact that her programmer mother’s team worked with and accepted the identity of a transgender member as a given in the 1960s, and another about a woman thanking her for her work as a living statue in representing “white power.” Certainly, these are stories in and of themselves.

At one point, Amanda’s friend Anthony was brought up. Anthony Martignetti is a psychotherapist, but to Amanda he is her life mentor and friend. He has been suffering from cancer and, as of this post, has gotten a bone marrow match. He has written two memoirs about his family life and his own: and as someone who has reviewed both of his books, I can’t help but think to myself that when Amanda at one point began to sing Dresden Dolls’ “It’s All In The Family” that she was referring to Anthony as much as to herself. Indeed, at one point when she was reading an excerpt from her Art of Asking, I realized that it was actually the preface that she wrote to Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes.

After Amanda took some questions from the audience, she proceeded to wrap up the night with two songs. The first was “Bigger On The Inside,” which aside from the coincidental geek reference is also a song she played for the first time at Anthony’s Beloved Demons book launch. It is a raw, poignant and very real song written from a dark place in an attempt to grasp at meaning.

Of course this prepared the way for “The Ukulele Anthem” finale: a triumphant and passionate song about expression and hope.

Finally came the book signing part of the night. The line became something of a spiral and given the fact that I’d rented Uzumaki a few hours before, I almost wondered if everyone was going to become enmeshed into a great pattern and be stuck with each other, in a more positive way, forever.

I hung back for the crowd to die down a little more but I still managed to make some friends at the end of the night. I’m told that this is not an uncommon occurrence during one because there is just something about a fanbase or community of geeks and survivors that Amanda Palmer’s music and sheer presence brings together. Even looking back at the people who hummed and song along to her songs, it made me realize that many of them had memorized them by heart. For a while in time, it almost felt like the Fraggle Rock world promised to me as a child that never panned out into adulthood.

By the time I came to Amanda Palmer with my copy of The Art of Asking, my legs hurt from a combination of the hard raised benches of Lee’s Palace and standing when the discomfort grew too much: a minor version of the story Amanda recited from Anthony about a dog that won’t move off of a nail because it doesn’t hurt enough yet. Amanda herself looked utterly exhausted. From the blurry pictures taken faithfully by her awesome assistant Cat, you can glean that she was barely awake and I was not particularly that coherent.

All I said to her was that my friends said hello and that, if she remembers, to tell Anthony I said hello as well. And that was pretty much it. I wrote this whole account by hand initially: one on the back of my Porter Square Books receipt from Amanda’s local book store Porter Square Books, when I couldn’t get it from Amazon due to its issues with the book’s publisher Hatchette, and the ticket that I wasn’t sure would even let me into the building.

I wrote this from my new friends’ house where I stayed for the night after we all left together, frazzled from meeting a celebrity, for drinks. They are in the process of moving out of the country. It’s funny how things can work out that way. Just as this was Amanda Palmer’s first Book Tour, this was my first ever somewhat musical concert or event I actually enjoyed. It was my first Amanda Palmer event. Actually, Amanda had another term for her Tour. She actually called it a Book Circus.

So this was my first Book Circus. And a good circus delivers excellent food and entertainment, but this one also makes you see the uncomfortable things, the difficult questions, and the fragile strength of tired, blurry figures in the night.

This is the clearest picture I have. And yes, my hair is down too.
This is the clearest picture I have. And yes, my hair is down too.

Either way, it is already an unforgettable experience.

 

An Early Christmas Present: A Preview of A Doctor Who Christmas

What is a preview to a seasoned time traveller, or Whovian, but an eye-blink in the future before a Weeping Angel temporarily sends you on your way? In this case, Christmas came early yesterday as BBC One made good on its promise and delivered a preview of the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special.

For someone who once knew Father Christmas to the point of calling him Jeff (whether or not this was a Time Lord joke or not is another matter entirely), The Doctor does not seem pleased to meet Santa Claus this time around.  In fact, Clara herself doesn’t really look like a regular old bouncing ball of wonder when Santa and his elves are meeting her on a rooftop: for some reason.

I like how the story gets turned around: how parents giving their gifts to their children in lieu of Santa is the real story while Santa — whoever or whatever he is — seems to be the reality. It’s a pretty clever twist: especially when you consider how eerie it must feel for Clara when the elves are detailing elements of her childhood that only she would know, and Santa in particular asks an uncomfortable question.

I have to say that right now in this preview they look anything but friendly: sort of like a mask of innocence worn by a hint of menace. And there is one more thing to remember: Santa may generally be considered a benevolent figure, but does keep a list — which he checks twice — of who is naughty, and who is nice.

And, of course, there is the Krampus part of the Santa story that generally gets left out nowadays: much in the way that most fairytales — most ancient folktales — have become sanitized.

I’ll just leave you with that thought. Think of it as an early Christmas present.