Bitch Planet is Non-Compliant

If you are a comics geek and you haven’t been reading writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s and artist co-creator Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet, you should be.

My first impression of Bitch Planet, from what I saw of Issue #1 was that it would be a comic not unlike something Pat Mills would make: something gritty with major punk themes that, in particular, would parody an established comics trope or convention. Even more so, I was expecting a highly political grindhouse death battle situation where the characters would screaming “Fuck the Man!” in literal cage grudge matches when not engaging in gang wars or creating anarchist havens for one another.

Of course what I found was something that — while it plays with those themes — is entirely different. I suppose anyone who is part of the Carol Corps would have been able to tell me that. This was before I’d actually started reading Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel run and while I saw the great potential in the mythos of Pretty Deadly I had a feeling that Bitch Planet would have a very different story.

I’ve read that Bitch Planet essentially exploits the exploitation genre: specifically with regards to fictional stories about women in prison. So picture the following scenario. Imagine you are in the future. Space travel, surveillance, and holographic technology exists. There is at least one civilization, or national government, that seems to be able to colonize other planets. Everyone is in smart suits and dresses and they get their creature comforts. But crime still exists and there still means, read: prisons, to deal with it. There is one prison planet in particular referred to as the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost.

Bitch Planet Hologram

It is this world that deals with particularly extreme female criminals. Their crimes are numerous: theft, assault and battery, murder, infidelity, abortion, gender treason, hysteria, and a slew of other crimes that  — when you get right down to it — are all acts of non-compliance.

I think you can see where this is going. Still, I’m now going to go into some spoiler territory so if you want to read this ongoing comics series and you don’t want to be surprised, or should I say too surprised, you might want to stop here.

The fact is, non-compliance is a very real theme in Bitch Planet: not just within the society of the New Protectorate and its Council of Fathers, but also in how Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro play with the comics series’ women in prison exploitation genre itself.

Bitch Planet Intro

Issue #1 starts off at a place with a woman attempting to get through a crowd to her job constantly apologizing. This in itself might not mean anything on the surface until you see the transition to where the story is going. It’s pretty clear that the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, or Bitch Planet as many call it, is a metaphor for that entire society. There are little signs of this in how all of the female characters behave. Even in Issue #3, which is a character origin story, a woman at a bakery goes as far as to tell a particularly obnoxious man that she isn’t rolling her eyes at him. Women’s behaviour is observed and policed in this futuristic setting for a variety of reasons: sometimes to the point of incarceration and “re-education.”

Kelly Sue herself is already tapping into that place of patriarchy where women’s behaviour is expected to be conciliatory and passive with regards to men in society. At the very least, she is bringing to light, through her narrative, these traits that women are still expected on some level to embrace to get along in “polite society.” But the creative team go further with this. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro depict the guards of Bitch Planet wearing visors not unlike mirrors. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own utilizes the metaphor of the mirror: of patriarchy needing women to be an inferior or more coveted reflections of men in order to make them more powerful or heroic.

Mirror Bitch Planet

And in Issue # 3 of Bitch Planet it’s shown that the New Protectorate is attempting to see into the minds of women with something called a cerebral action-potential integration and extrapolation machine. It’s purpose is, apparently, to reveal to a committee of men exactly what a woman’s “ideal self” truly is in order to “help her” reach it. Conveniently the device utilizes a mirror.

And Bitch Planet also uses painfully neon holograms to parody the New Protectorate’s “ideal form” of women: to use them to train, indoctrinate, and punish the prisoners at will: a twisted derivative of advertising turned propaganda to a socially — and now physically — captive female audience.

Bitch Planet Holograms

The mirror visors, the mind device, and the holograms are created to symbolize one very important fact: that women in Bitch Planet should prioritize how others see them over how they see themselves.

Bitch Planet Hologram Punishment

And, of course, this is always done for “women’s own good.” The New Protectorate seems to have a very paternalistic view of how to deal with women, and this chauvinistic attitude peters down from the Council of Fathers, to the almost exclusively male-committees making decisions about women’s bodies and minds, and to the common man and woman. Even men, if they are not in certain standing within the hierarchy are, at best, useful tools and at worst underlings to be reminded of their place. And either way, they are just another form of commodity that can be disposed of at will.

Bitch Planet Keeping Up Appearances

The fact that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro are able to convey the humanity of both oppressors and victims only makes this dynamic even more disturbing.

It is also clear that, unlike H.Y.D.R.A. in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it isn’t so much that “compliance will be rewarded.” On the contrary: compliance is expected. And non-compliance will always be punished. And even then, like any good patriarchal model, there is the other side of the same coin: violence. It’s safe to say that beatings are commonplace on Bitch Planet and abuse of power as well. The two male supervisors of Bitch Planet seem to view their prisoners as little more than trite entertainment for their arbitrary attentions, and seem detached from sending guards in to break up riots in any way possible: whether the prisoners are violent or not.

So whether women in Bitch Planet are compliant or not, it almost doesn’t really seem to matter. Their lives are dependent on the whims of men in power and those to whom they give power. Women’s privacy, personal space and sexuality are something to be bartered and compromised. This can be see from Issue #2’s emphasis on a man slapping two waitresses on the buttocks all the way to Issue #4, where there are more unpleasant metaphors abound when the reader finds out there is a hole in the shower areas where two women can be intimate with each other provided that they do so in front of the guard viewing them behind the wall: another metaphor for the male gaze.

Bitch Planet Shower Scene

There are also some very loaded racial descriptions, body-shaming, and gender terminologies bandied about by those in power: terms that women are expected to accept as commonplace. Bitch Planet shows the reader a patriarchal setting that thrives from “keeping up appearances” and encouraging others to do so: from the guards who hide behind the power of their masked anonymity when doling out violence and violation — perhaps a metaphorical jibe at Internet trolling of women by Kelly Sue and creative company  — all the way to using the veneer of events such as funerals, blood sports, and camera smiling to maintain the status quo. And it goes without saying that if this system somehow “makes a mistake,” it will not hesitate to use any means to “correct it” and save face: even if they officially decry state-sponsored murder.

Bitch Planet Assassination

This is the structure of compliance and it is all the more terrifying when you consider that it is only a few steps away from a lot of the attitudes of people in power in our time. Indeed, according to an interaction between the apparent series’ protagonist and one of her jailers, this New Protectorate seems to have developed not too long ago in that world’s future. In fact, the creators could leave this world on its own: as a cautionary tale as to what kind of dystopia might happen if we take our freedoms for granted and let them get legislated out of the way for expediency’s sake or out of fear born from a particular trauma.

But, if there is one thing I’ve learned, Kelly Sue DeConnick does not like to leave these things the way they stand.

The creative team begins with the protagonist. At first, the reader doesn’t know who the main character is going to be or even if there is going to be one. Then the narrative starts to focus on an older white woman named Marian Collins who has apparently been wrongfully imprisoned on Bitch Planet. Kamau Kogo, a Black athletic fighter who, at the moment, seems to be the actual story’s protagonist after starting off as a peripheral or secondary character.

Bitch Planet Kamau Kogo

What is even more interesting is that, four issues in, we still don’t know much about Kam or why she is on Bitch Planet. There are clues. In Issue#1 the head prison supervisors actually discuss some of the prisoners and mention the inclusion of one volunteer. Whether or not this person is in the prison program as an inmate or a guard is another story entirely: especially, as by Issue #4, the reader finds out about the existence of an unnamed — an anonymous — prisoner. But what is known is that the protagonist is looking for someone, or something. Only time will tell if these elements will interlap and, at the moment, Kelly Sue is keeping her cards to herself.

Kamau is so bad ass that if V ever approached her the way he did Eva in a hypothetical V For Vendetta / Bitch Planet crossover, she would probably punch him in the face for his troubles.
Kamau is so bad ass that if V ever approached her the way he did Evey in a hypothetical V For Vendetta / Bitch Planet crossover, she would probably punch him in the face for his troubles.

What we do know is that while Kam comes from one of the most exploited groups in all of history — being a Black female — she is also physically strong, athletic, well-trained and apparently had a career before the establishment of the New Protectorate. And she is extremely smart. For instance, she takes that hole in the shower walls, with its unfortunate dual metaphor of female exploitation and the male gaze, and she smashes through it: making it into a spot on the wall of possibility of which Virginia Woolf may have been proud. The guard behind that hole is brought painfully into the situation. His anonymity and the power behind it is taken from him as she knocks off his helmet: leaving him vulnerable to her as she plans to exploit the system that is exploiting her and her fellow inmates. Essentially, she takes the obligatory shower scene, uses it and destroys it to further her own plans.

In Issue #2 of Bitch Planet, Kam is approached by a special operative with a proposition to create an all-female prisoner sports team to fund the Bureau of the New Protectorate. The sport is called Megaton, or Duemila: a form of Calcio fiorentino: an activity reminiscent of football with the ability to throw punches and kicks. It is a bloodthirsty sport and while there may be “no crying in baseball,” I suspect there might be some dying in Megaton. At the same time, however, the game will give the prisoners a chance to fight an all-male guard team on their own unconventional terms. It will be a publicly viewed game and everyone in the Protectorate and the world will be watching. It is an opportunity to challenge the game: to subvert their own exploitation.

And while I’ve also read that Bitch Planet is considered to be Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale meeting Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds: I would add that it also has some Orange is the New Black, some Battle Royale and a little bit of A League of Their Own for good measure

Bitch Planet Kam Gets Recruited

So here we have both Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro playing with stereotypes of femininity, or perceptions of it in much the same way that her characters will be exploiting the hell out of their own system. This may be a dystopia, but there is some resistance: even in the very design of the comic itself. I’ve already mentioned that Valentine De Landro’s art in Bitch Planet has a very gritty punk aesthetic. In fact, I can go further and state that it’s reminiscent of the style of drawing found in many comics from the eighties and nineties: complete with stark colours and eerie neons. But it is the series’ usage of the back matter of each issue — each one designed by Laurenn McCubbin — that is truly something to behold. Each one utilizes the aesthetic of an old, pulpy classified page: in which subliminal patriarchal ads are subverted by feminist messages and parody for the discerning reader.

Bitch Planet Back Matter

In fact, one of my few regrets about Bitch Planet being collected into trades is that the back matters, the essays from inspired feminist contributors, and the comments sections won’t be included. At the same time, it makes me very thankful that I’ve started to read Bitch Planet in their separate comics issues. For the first time in ages, I can almost understand what it felt like to be a reader collecting an issue of Sandman, V For Vendetta, or Watchmen each month: while eagerly waiting for the next story to come out and somehow feeling involved in some of the process as a reader. Really, I feel like I am somehow a part of watching a masterpiece continue to grow into fruition. To those who say that no one has created an epic stories equally those of Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, or Grant Morrison I would just love to direct their attention to what Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro are doing right now.

So, to end this off, let me just say this. If you like murder mysteries, prison dramas, dystopias, political intrigue, grindhouse violence, human characters, and a feminist story that shows clearly what it is critiquing through clever storytelling and human characters — if you yourself are non-compliant — then come acquaint yourselves with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet.

Bitch Planet Non-Compliant Logo
Logo and comics covers designed by Rian Hughes

Here’s Why You Should Be Watching Sense8

It’s hard to talk about a series like Sense8. I know that, when I first heard about it — this original series coming to Netflix about people whose perceptions were linked with each other — I didn’t think much of it at the time.  But in retrospect it makes sense that a series created by J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis, creators of Babylon 5 and The Matrix respectively, would be nothing short of brilliant.

Still, it’d be very easy to write it off a product of vague and exaggerated hype on first glance: especially with a name that sounds like a spell from Final Fantasy or a deadly weapon from science fiction like Ice-Nine. The introduction scenes have a lot going on: with various human activities all over the world that seem to have almost nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that people are doing them. In fact, the only thing that seems to unify these montages are the overall dramatic tones of the music in the background.

Even the premise: of people being able to get into each other’s minds simultaneously felt like more like a vague idea than an actual compelling story: the kind of thing that a director, or writer would use as a guideline into making an actual plot and could just as easily get lost in a desk drawer gathering dust.

Perhaps it’s due to the medium in which the series has been presented. As a film or a once-a-week television show, Sense8 might not have even been considered: or the resources available might not have allowed it to live to even its inherent potential in the first season. Think of an epic story — of reading A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings — and having to wait once a week, or a few years just to read the next chapter. Whereas with Sense8‘s model in Netflix, by June 5 everyone was capable of watching all twelve episodes at once: giving you that feeling of staying up late into the night reading “just one more chapter” to a good and multi-layered story. This form allows you to pretty much follow what is going on and keep it relatable.

Despite what I said earlier, the premise of Sense8 is not just a creative novelty: something that many powers in Hollywood might have just kept at the level of mere spectacle. And it could have gone that route had it not been for J. Michael Straczynski, known for creating indepth characters and complex story lines stepped in mythology and the human experience, and the Wachowskis and their penchant to examine themes of philosophy, metaphysics, and human consciousness.

One of the challenges is that there is so much to explore with the theme of sharing one’s sense of self with other selves. Sense8 manages to look at what is to be human: to have your own individuality and privacy, but also being inherently alone for it. For instance, you live in your own body and no one else can do that for you. But what happens when someone else can not only see you, but read your thoughts, experience your physical state, and feel your emotions? And vice-versa.

Lito and Wolfgang Sense8

And then take it a step further. Imagine you can not only draw on people’s knowledge, but their skill sets as well. For instance, Wolfgang Bogdanow is a safe-cracker who needs to bluff his way out of a situation and draws on Lito Rodriguez’s acting skills to do so, and when Lito needs to actually fight he either draws on Wolfgang’s skills in mayhem, Will Gorski’s self-defense skills as a policeman, or South Korean businesswoman Sun Bak’s martial arts. Or Capheus, a bus driver in Kenya, can draw on the research and skills of the hacker Nomi Marks, or Kala Dandekar’s knowledge to do something ad hoc with her knowledge of chemistry.

Being a Sensate — becoming “aware” in Sense8, is having access to a skills and knowledge pool of your cluster: of seven other people of various places, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. But then there is the matter of memories and feelings to consider as part of the pool as well. Boundaries between individuals can blur in many ways. For instance, if Will gets injured on the job Wolfgang might feel it. The Icelander DJ Riley Blue could be taking some ecstasy and it could effect Kala at her job. And let’s not even go into what happens when the various Sensates in a cluster are having sex … or menstruating.

Season One of Sense8 mostly has the characters realizing just what they are, figuring out how they work, and how it’s played out is one of the most beautiful things of all. The whole Mary Sue moment of realizing that they are different is downplayed a lot by this intrinsic feeling of understanding: they are all interlinked after all. The hows and whys of it are almost secondary to that. Some of them accept it in a dream-like way, while others think they are suffering from hallucinations. But you can see it all coming together.

And Sense8 has a plot.

Whispers Sense88

It’s hard to see and get a feel for it in the first episode. You still wonder where it is going but as you run with it you realize that there are people who knows that the Sensates exist: powerful people that want them dead, neutralized, or controlled. And the main antagonist is a cold and detached being that fits well into the story, even as a renegade Sensate helping the main characters explains that Sensates have existed throughout history: that they may not be the next evolution of humankind, but a throwback to how sentient life began: together instead of separate and isolated.

It leaves you with so many questions. Can Sensates block who sees or selectively reveal what in their minds? Can they control how they are perceived by others in the cluster? Just how far can they synchronize their movements and actions together? Are there ways to override one individual’s consciousness: to make someone into an extension of your will? And is there a danger in becoming too close: in becoming a melded together gestalt consciousness?

The implications and possibilities of Sense8 go much further than this. Imagine if Sensates had existed in history? If Alexander the Great and his inner circle had all been born in the same month and year? Or if there were clusters in the ranks of the Spartans? Or even if someone like Adolf Hitler was a Sensate? The point is, there are so many ways beyond even alternative fictional history to tell more stories with this idea.

Sense8 is also a tremendously geeky series. The concept of clusters some of the situations and events that occur on Sense8 are reminiscent of various polyamorous themes in Robert A. Heinlein stories, while you could make an argument that clusters are similar to the idea of the karass — a group of people linked together in a cosmic manner — in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.

Lito Daniela Hernando Sense8

But for me, it isn’t so much the fictional and dramatic possibilities of Sense8 that appeal to me. We live in the Information Age: an age of wireless Internet where we communicate with people all across the world. A lot of us have friends, family, and other relationships in Europe, or the Middle-East, Asia, the Americas, and other places. In many places, we are becoming a long-distance species in a world becoming much smaller. This is definitely one theme that Sense8 is bringing to the fore and tapping into: something with which many people can relate.

Riley and Will Sense8

Certainly, there is a theme of loneliness in physically being around people while feeling more together with someone communicating with you halfway across the world. The best examples of this are when Riley Blue and Will Gorski are communing with each other while the latter is at a bar with his police friends. Will is a seemingly normal and straightforward police officer but it becomes apparent that he really doesn’t relate to most of his colleagues beyond a casual level while Riley, who is in another country can talk with him about the things with which he can actually begin to be himself. Or even how Sun, in one of the worst, most isolating situations of her life can have the seemingly physical and moral support of Riley as she herself is outside looking at the sun.

It’s these moments that really jive with me and they are captured well by the show. So, when all is said and done, if you are geeky in any way and you like diverse human stories and you have been that geeky person with someone you care for across a state line or another ocean — and you know this feeling — then Sense8 is the series for you: with some new seasons with which to look forward.

Also Freema Agyeman, who once played Doctor Who‘s Martha Jones, is an LGBTQ character and bad ass girlfriend of Nomi.

Amanita and Nomi Sense8

Enough said.

Of the Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Almost every superhero comic has its own alternative “what if” stories. As a fan myself, it can sometimes be difficult to suspend my disbelief when reading these tales. At the very least, I keep thinking to myself “that’s fascinating, but that’s not how — for example — Superman would be, or that person is not Superman.” We have an interpretation of a hero, villain, or character and we generally compare the alternative to the original. That is how a lot of alternative comics universes work: they work by comparing and contrasting the new with the original.

With superhero comics universes like DC, it often goes further into making those alternate worlds actually relate and connect to each other. Alternate Superman will meet the “real” Superman and we can go home thinking about how fascinating that was, but ultimately finding “our” Superman more valid.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters does something similar. We can see echoes of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in these characters: or at least their roles. However, at least two of the characters already exist in the DC Universe in a different form, and this darker take on that universe says something about what it takes to be a hero with it.

Machinima and Warner Bros. have teamed up to create a trilogy of sorts: of three shorts that will provide backgrounds for the heroes of the main feature Justice League: Gods and Monsters: a DC Universe Animated Movie that will go straight to DVD.

You can view all three of these shorts: “Twisted,” “Bomb” and “Big” online and right here for your viewing pleasure.

Episode One: Twisted: In which there is honour even in one of the darkest of souls.

Episode Two: Bomb: In which the Son of Zod wishes he was a good man, rather than a Superman.

Episode Three: Big: In which Steve Trevor realizes that it is sometimes okay to ask for help. And that “help” can be a safe word.

This season of three shorts will lead into another ten episode long series in 2016. A four-issue prequel comic by J. M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm will be released along with the movie: which will come out in July 28, 2015. Hopefully we will get to see these three characters stand on their own and look at where they are headed next into the dark, but honest horizon.

Will Brooker Launches My So-Called Secret Identity Volume Two

Last year Will Brooker, along with his creative collaborators Sarah Zaidan and Susan Shore, published volume one of My So-Called Secret Identity through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now they are doing it again.

My So-Called Secret Identity Volume Two takes place in the aftermath of Catherine Abigail Daniels’ — or Cat’s — encounter with the villain Carnival. Cat has gone from being a Do-It-Yourself amateur superhero that invited herself into “the theater” — the dynamic between heroes and villains of vast social means and damages done towards innocent bystanders — to becoming a celebrity and power in her own right.

But what does this ultimately mean for Gloria City, her rivals, her peers, the people who admire her, and Cat herself?

Then, to complicate matters further, the theater changes: or at least enters another Act. Most of the important top-tier male superheroes such as the Urbanite and the Major go off-world: leaving the majority of female superheroes and lower-tier heroes to their own devices in Gloria City. Carnival, Gloria City’s Joker analogue, is now in custody and at their mercy. Perhaps at any other time, Carnival would have “Joker immunity”: that no matter what atrocity he commits or incident he finds himself caught in, he will always survive and be captured only to escape yet again.

Yet now the superhero women of Gloria City are wondering the same thing: after everything he has done, should they kill Carnival? And Cat, one of his former victims and his recent jailer, ponders this and more. She came into the superhero scene to dismantle “the theater” from the inside, or not play by its rules altogether and save lives. Will she help make new rules, break old ones, or become a part of the system of violence, retribution, and collateral damage that she once wanted to destroy?

Smart is a superpower, but will it still be enough?

My So-Called Secret Identity Volume Two will explore these thoughts and themes and more. My only regret is that Will Brooker says that this will be the end of Cat’s story. As a fan, I feel there are many more stories that can still be told in this influential series. And they can be.

Among other goodies, such as pin-ups, sketches, exclusive T-shirts, and even personalized water-colours if the Kickstarter Campaign’s stretch goal of 12,000 pounds is exceeded, you’ll not only be paying artists for their work but also the inclusion of three extra short stories that will expand on the backgrounds of key characters.

My So-Called Secret Identity is important: in the way it looks at power dynamics, the superhero mythos, the mentality of practical DIY costumes branching into cosplay, and how it treats female superheroes. With accolades from comics artists such as Mary Talbot, Pat Mills, Trina Robbins and others, I hope you will consider backing this Kickstarter Campaign.

Kung Fury Unleashed!

I could just summarize this short film in the following manner: what would happen if 1980s action cinema imploded on itself and became a quantum singularity?

What you’d probably get is something like Laser Unicorns’ action comedy movie Kung Fury. 

As it is, what we have here is an excellent example of some Eightiesploitation — a time frame of media made into a genre — that is in and of itself a parody, a nostalgic love letter, and a cinematic crack-fic of pure and mad fun. And you have it all here: ravening packs of punks on the lawless streets of Miami, arcade cabinets, ridiculous one-liner puns, blocky clunky elder cellphones, a ton of martial arts in gritty industrial settings, quintessential 80s synthesized music, cheesy neon 8-bit computer effects, and — of course — the Nintendo Power-Glove. Hell, you even have a blatant commercial parody of another product placement in the film itself and a clever use of periodic static at the edges of the film: to imitate what it would like if it really were a dated VHS tape from the eighties. Even the cartoon segment of the film resembles a faded eighties era example of animation.

As for the rest of it, what you see is pretty much what you get. As eighties action films go, the premise is simple and thin to allow for maximum gratuitous kick-ass. Kung Fury, a policeman, goes back in time to defeat his ultimate opponent: Adolf Hitler. How he gets his martial arts abilities is pretty much irrelevant and through some ridiculously awesome choreography (and once he gets to the right timeline) he gets to slaughter some major Nazi ass with the help of Viking women, dinosaurs … and Thor.

And yet it’s even more strange. In its own weird way, Kung Fury‘s thinly veiled plot to release a lot of nostalgic kick-ass does have its own logic and it manages to tie itself together, somehow at the end, and leave the film open for a sequel with the potential for even more fucked up glory.

Laser Unicorns’ Kickstarted film delivers on its ridiculous violence and fun: parodying the time period of cinema its derived from, and loving it as hard as its own explosions.  This would definitely be an excellent film to see at the Toronto After Dark and it was an absolute pleasure to watch it burn.

The Flash Is Fast Enough

This week, on The Flash, Barry Allen becomes “Fast Enough.”

In fact, The Flash itself is fast enough. This entire season of seeing Barry try to exonerate his father from prison while finding his mother’s killer and fighting crime managed to be as fast as its namesake and is, relatively, paced well. And “Fast Enough” also demonstrates another element of the show in streaks and spades.

Imagine this scenario. Something bad happened in your past and you have the power to change it. You can go back in time and prevent a decision or an event that caused misery in your life. However, you also know that if you do this, you will potentially change if not outright lose all of the relationships and achievements that you’ve gained despite — or because — of that one bad day.

Imagine you have that power right your grasp. What do you do?

Barry and Friends

The Flash plays off this scenario and Barry Allen’s inner conflict with the gravitas and the humanity that it deserves. He can’t not do this, to save his mother and prevent his father’s incarceration but he knows about the risks. Granted, potentially destroying all of existence when you can just leave things alone is a little quibble that I had with the premise of this episode but the characterizations were just nothing short of brilliant.

"Hey, I actually meant to kill you but I figured killing your mother and causing you irreparable trauma would prevent you from being The Flash: the man I hate so much. But since I can't really connect to the Speed Force anymore because it turns out I was careless and maybe potentially getting rid of you affected my connection to the Speed Force since I got it because of your influence on my life, how about I allow you the chance to fix my mess and send me home and pretend this whole thing ever happened? Or ... let me help you be Timey-Wimey: whichever." 
“Hey, I actually meant to kill you, Barry, but I figured killing your mother and causing you irreparable trauma would prevent you from being The Flash: the man I hate so much. But since I can’t really connect to the Speed Force anymore because it turns out I was careless and maybe potentially getting rid of you affected my connection to the Speed Force since I got it because of your influence on my life, how about I allow you the chance to fix my mess and send me home and pretend this whole thing ever happened?
“Or … let me help you be Timey-Wimey: whichever.”

And brilliant and twisted is exactly what Eobard Thawne truly is: with one seemingly minor exception. Watching Reverse-Flash interact with the rest of the characters with back-handed compliments, taunts, and just an outright warped sense of humour — knowing that he is still wearing a murdered man’s face as a parody of the “kindly mentor” he was before — is both disturbing and gratifying to see.

"I'm sorry, Cisco. Not for killing you in an alternate timeline, mind you, because I'm sure I had a pretty good reason. No, I'm sorry for making you into a metahuman Cisco. Even though you are in good company. So, really, you should just plain thank me? Aren't I just being a nice guy right now? After all, I think of you as something of a son. Almost like Barry."
“I’m sorry, Cisco. Not for killing you in an alternate timeline, mind you, because I’m sure I had a pretty good reason. No, I’m sorry for making you into a metahuman Cisco. Even though you are in good company. So, really, you should just plain thank me? Aren’t I just being a nice guy right now? After all, I think of you as something of a son. Almost like Barry.”

Of course, it is never as simple as all that. And, when Barry goes back in time his future self basically convinces him not to save his mother. Instead, he takes that chance to show her the man he becomes and properly say goodbye. Barry takes what his imprisoned father said about the “natural order of things” to heart and thinking about his friends and loved ones he doesn’t want to negate their timeline. It does make a lot of sense. It’s an altruistic path as opposed to the completely egotistical and selfish goals of Eobard Thawne.

Barry and his Mother

But there is nothing natural about what has happened in Barry’s life if you really think about it. Eobard Thawne went back in time — into a timeline he wasn’t even born into yet — and not only changed Barry’s future and manipulated much of his life, but he also killed the real Harrison Wells and Tess Morgan and created S.T.A.R. Labs prematurely for his own benefit. One possibility that I considered was that in the likely event that Barry didn’t save his mother, he would potentially save the real Wells and Morgan instead: perhaps defeating Eobard in the past while he was weak and powerless. But not only would Barry have had to know where to be then, although he did know where the car “accident” that took Wells and Morgan happened, there would also be the potential for paradox.

Oh yes: paradox. About that …

Barry wasn’t going to let Eobard get away. I mean, this is another main difference between the two. Whereas Barry is mindful of his actions, Eobard doesn’t seem to care about the consequences of his own: or seem to think that he should be held accountable for them. And either way, whether Barry changed time or not, Eobard’s decisions would cost him something, and so Barry took away what Eobard wanted as well: his chance to go home.

Of course, Barry wasn’t really thinking about the long term consequences of preventing Eobard from leaving though, granted, I can’t imagine Eobard doing any good in his own time or society. And then Eobard’s fate seems all wrapped up in a nice yellow bow.

Mind you, it might have been more convenient if the Arrow, and Firestorm stuck around in the particle accelerator chamber instead of Cisco and Joe since, you know, they actually managed to defeat Reverse-Flash along with Barry the first time around … unless that had all been staged by him as well.

Still, where are those Three Stooges when you need them?  
Still, where are those Three Stooges when you need them?

As Eobard reveals his full malice, Eddie Thawne, who was Eobard’s ancestor, kills himself to save Barry: and make the Reverse-Flash cease to exist.

I have to admit: if The Flash were a darker show or Barry and friends had any less morality, killing Eddie would have been a pretty effective way of defeating Eobard. It’s kind of hard to exist when your ancestor destroys themselves before you are even born. And it does make me wonder just why Eobard allowed Eddie to found at all instead of hiding him somewhere away from S.T.A.R. Labs. But it was pretty poignant to see Eddie Thawne commit that selfless act … even if, in a comic book universe, death might not always be permanent: especially when you consider where his body was going.

All that said, there is that other matter of the vortex of what seems to be temporal paradox triggered by the attempt at time travel and the subsequent ancestor-suicide of Eddie Thawne wiping out his time-meddling descendant and tying time itself into knots and a hole in the fabric of reality. But hey, look on the bright side: time-travel might have actually taught Barry something that might help out the situation by next season. And besides, Eobard already mentioned Time Master Rip Hunter who will be a star in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow.

Though if the Man of Steel to made a cameo at the finale, this might have been a pretty good time.

But all in all, the season finale of The Flash lives up to and even exceeds the speed and pace of the show. It could have ended with “Rogue Air” and its epic structure, but it didn’t. Instead, after Eobard dies revealing his real face, just how will Barry “carry on without him?” Is it likely we have really seen the end of Reverse-Flash?  How will Barry stop this blackhole on Earth? And will this all lead up to some Time Master intervention, multiverse exploration (did you see the Hermes helmet of the first comics Flash come through that portal, so awesome), and Legends of Tomorrow?

Tell us what you think. I, for one, look forward to seeing if The Flash remains fast enough.

Congratulations Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman

During her stay in Vancouver, Amanda Palmer announced on Twitter and Facebook that she is pregnant. According to her, she and Neil Gaiman will be expecting the birth of their child this coming September.

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It’d be very easy to wax poetic about Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman having a child together. The bold and vibrant Queen of Punk Rock Cabaret and the subtle and encompassing Prince of Stories make for parents full of song, and tales, and laughter, and lessons to be learned, and love. But, hopefully, this is what any child should expect from any loving family.

But you can see why so many fans of the two, including myself, would see this as a big deal. Amanda and Neil have inspired a great many people over the years with their writing and art, in the way that they’ve touched many of our lives, and made themselves part of our words and songs in so doing.

It is also a big deal for another reason. Many of us have not only followed Neil and Amanda’s art, but also what they have publicized about their lives. For all the fanfare and love, it’s not been an easy road for them. Certainly there are events that Amanda disclosed in her Art of Asking that puts some of these facts in perspective.

It is easy to geek out over this news. I’ve followed Neil for years. In a large way, he informed a lot of my current writing style and my sense of story. I was introduced to Amanda through my girlfriend sending me links to her music videos on YouTube and links to her Blog with its chronic lack of capital letters. But for all of their art, they are also human beings. Their child, like all children, has the potential to be awesome and, as someone who has followed them I’m just glad to see some more happiness in their lives. It is definitely a cause to celebrate.

So on behalf of all of us at GEEKPR0N, congratulations Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman on your upcoming child and a new story in your lives.

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.

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.