September 28, 2011

Guest Post: In Defense of Starfire

I know, guest posts aren't the norm around here. I don't seek them out, but sometimes they just fall in your lap. On Twitter, I noticed an acquaintance say she was tempted to start a blog just to state her feelings about Starfire. I offered her a space here to express her feelings. I don't claim to agree or disagree, but it's nice to see another side presented. So without further adieu, here are Kimi's feelings about the recent Starfire controversy:

In Defense of Starfire

There are a lot of male letches, jerks, and crazies in the comic book world, even among its heroes. Guy Gardner is the classic example, but there are many men in the comic universe who aren’t shy about their sexual exploits. Starfire has always been a very sexual character and it has always been clear that people on her home planet are not monogamous. Why are we upset that a woman treats sex as casually as other male characters? This comic is clearly not meant for children, so we do not have the issue of her being a bad role model. Do we expect all of heroines in comics to be perfect, beautiful, monogamous examples of women? In the end, are we asking them to make their morals and personalities as flawless as the scantly clad bodies that we point out are unrealistic?

Which brings me to….

To me, the new Starfire is flawed. She is incredibly shallow, but I know people like that. It’s sad, but true. We can all name at least one woman that we know who fits the description of “slut”, so why is it so hard for us to swallow that concept in a comic? It is a realistic flaw that really occurs in society, sometimes due to emotional problems. People have pointed out that Starfire’s behavior is similar to a rape victim or someone who has been through some other trauma. Well, Starfire was enslaved by her older sister and sexually exploited. Maybe she should have been acting this way the whole time. Maybe this is more realistic, albeit unpleasant.

And to clarify, the names she lists off in the infamous beach scene are not all her ex-lovers; they are members of her old superhero team… who she doesn’t remember because of her alien memory. I guess it’s better than a retcon? At least they didn’t un-marry her like poor Superman and Lois Lane.

Which leads into…

Be a Good Geek not just a Geek Girl
If you are going to be mad that they changed Starfire as a character, more power to you, but don’t be mad about it just because of her gender. Gender bias is what we are fighting against! If the entire female comic community gets upset every time they change a female character, we are doomed. It won’t take long before comic companies start avoiding the bad press by never taking chances with female characters, or worse, keeping the number of female characters as low as possible.

If you really want to help, be a POSITIVE customer. Vote with good press about the books you like, bugging them for new female characters to support, and by BUYING the comics you like. Once you write off a comic company, they do the same to you.

Also, support female comic writers and artists! BUY THEIR BOOKS! Contact the big companies and say that you’d love to buy comics drawn by so-and-so. Getting more women into making comics will help the quality of the female characters in the comics. When it comes right down to it, the almighty dollar is king in the DC universe. Spending money will always be heard over the din of the Internet.

And because I’m a major geek…

For the Kids
Please, enough with comparing the cartoon Starfire to the one in Red Hood. Please? The Teen Titans cartoon is not a good basis of knowledge for Starfire. It was a character more inspired by the comic Starfire, than an actual accurate portrayal. Yes, people who watched the TV show might be upset if they read Red Hood. They may also be upset when they read older comics and learn that Kory was enslaved, sexually exploited, had her family destroyed, practiced free love on her planet, and that she got her starbolts as the result of being a guinea pig in forced alien experimentation… and her new comic outfit is just as skimpy as her old outfit!

You can follow Kimi on Twitter - (@LadyAdeena)

September 24, 2011

Celebrate Jim Henson's Birthday with Tale of Sand Preview

If Jim Henson were still with us, today would be his 75th birthday. His is a life that should be celebrated and honored. He made a profound impact as a filmmaker and a creative genius. Puppetry today is what is because of Henson's work. Children's television wouldn't have developed to its current standards without Sesame Street. The list goes on and on, but perhaps more important than any of those legacies - Henson touched so many of our lives with his stories and creations. Adults remember The Muppets, Labyrinth, and one of my personal favorites, The Storyteller. Kids know Sesame Street, and they'll fall in love with Kermit and company (if they don't already know them) in the soon to be released Muppets movie. Henson will never be forgotten.

Archaia Entertainment is celebrating Jim Henson's birthday today, too. They have posted a 20 page preview of Henson's Tale of Sand. The upcoming graphic novel is based on an unproduced, feature length screenplay co-written by Henson. Archaia was able to obtain this because of their close partnership with The Henson Company. They have taken the honor seriously. Artist Ramón Peréz brings the story to life with striking art, and they've even created a font for the graphic novel based on Henson's handwriting.

"Tale of Sand follows scruffy everyman Mac, who wakes up in an unfamiliar town, and is chased across the desert of the American Southwest by all manners of man and beast of unimaginable proportions."
20 page preview of Tale of Sand

Tale of Sand will be available in mid-November. If you are a fan of Jim Henson and his world, stick with Archaia. They've already released Fraggle Rock collections, and they have The Storyteller and The Dark Crystal (yep, there's a preview for it, too) anthologies forthcoming.

September 15, 2011

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Dee Bradley Baker, the Voice of the Clones (video & interview)

Did you know that all of the clones in Star Wars: The Clone Wars are voiced by one person? Dee Bradley Baker quite literally voices an army. He brings individuality to each clone with tone, inflection, and different speech patterns. Captain Rex sounds different from Commander Cody. And no one can forget the heroic 99. He was set apart just as much by his speech as his malformed body. It's got to be a challenge to play so many different versions of the same basic character, but Dee Bradley Baker rises to the occasion week after week. In this video, he talks about how he develops different sounds for the clones and which ones are his favorites to play.

I had the opportunity to speak with Bradley Baker at the season 4 premiere event last Saturday. We covered some of the same topics in this video. He does have the handful of favorites he listed in the video, but he likes all of them. The clones are only becoming more important. "A lot of them, they have their moment of truth and honesty and that's what's so wonderful about these guys. They're all individuals, and that individuality comes more and more into play these days." He said it's fascinating for him to see as he goes to events to see the emotional connection that fans have to the clones - even the ones who are only around for a short while. That's due in large part to the voices that give each of them life.

Clones are present in almost every episode, and it's key to differentiate them every time. Bradley Baker broke down the process for me: "In a script that's clone heavy (like the upcoming Umbarra arc), I've got to go from the written word and break it down in terms of who's who, where they stand in terms of status, in terms of how loose they play it and how by the book they play it, and age. Dave (Filoni) and I sort of work out a system of where to place them on a grid in terms of those characteristics. So I can just jump back and forth in between those as we read through the script."

This season has a lot in store for the clone army. It's progressing closer to the time of Revenge of the Sith (note the armor upgrade in the previews). For season 4, Bradley Baker is particularly looking forward to the Umbarra arc. He thinks it's "decimatingly good." He said, "It puts the clones in a really difficult war situation that's not going well, and what they have to deal with and how they come through it is really spectacular."

I asked Bradley Baker what it's been like to become such a large part of the Star Wars universe in the past five years. He let me know that he's actually been around the franchise most of his life. After Star Wars was released in 1977, his parents made him a kick-butt Jawa outfit. In the summer of '78 when it was rereleased a local cinema hired him to be the Jawa all summer long. He got paid in movie passes and got to watch Star Wars all summer long. He said, "It was one of the best gigs I've had - other than this."

Because of that past, it means a lot to him to be part of The Clone Wars. "To come back around to something that you love like that and to be in it and in an integral way - it's dreamlike. I'm very lucky to have a lot of a great shows I get to work on, but this one is very different because of what it meant to me as a kid. It's a marvelous dream."

Don't forget: Season 4 of The Clone Wars premieres tomorrow night, 9/16, at 8pm on Cartoon Network.

My Clone Wars coverage from this week:
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS Premiere Brought Awe, Teases - My coverage from the red carpet premiere event at the Long Beach Aquarium. I talked to Dave Filoni, Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, and more!

CLONE WARS Season 4 Premiere Episodes Wet, Wild War - My spoiler-free review of the two-part episode premiere of season four. You guys are going to be impressed (by the show that is, not my review).

September 8, 2011

How Star Wars and the zoo go together

Regardless of your feelings about Star Wars or George Lucas, you can't deny the never-ending presence and reach of the films. It's been over 30 years since the original trilogy was released, and besides the legions of devoted fans who support the franchise by costuming, hosting fan sites, and buying merchandise, Star Wars events still happen. They even happen in unexpected places like sport stadiums and zoos. Yes, you read that right. On August 27, Lucasfilm teamed up with the L.A. Zoo for a themed Star Wars Day. Space operas and caged animals may not usually go together, but on this day, the animals were given lightsabers.

Okay, the animals weren't actually given lightsabers.

I went with a gaggle of geek girls (to celebrate a birthday actually). We braved sweltering, smoggy heat. It was hovering around 100 degrees. We were wilting in minutes, and the chocolate Artoos and Han Solos on top of the birthday cupcakes instantly started turning into literal hot messes. We soldiered onward - right to the air conditioned auditorium where they were showing footage from the upcoming Blu-ray release. We're smart like that. Unfortunately, so was everyone else. The current showing was already full.

We moved on to the next Star Wars thing to do, sticking to the shade as much as possible. The 501st and Rebel Legions were stationed in the Eucalyptus Grove along with Obi-Shawn's car. Even after spending a warm morning with these groups at Legoland, I was still surprised by their spirit. You put me in heat like that, I get grouchy. Add suffocating armor, costumes made from heavy fabric, and exuberant children?! Let's just say it would be wise to keep blasters out of my reach at that point. These guys and gals kept smiling, talking, and posing for pictures.

On our way out of the grove, I made the mistake of mentioning how warm I was in front of a lady in a full TIE Fighter Pilot costume. You know, the costumes that are all black? In a joking way, she pointed out that I didn't know what heat was. I couldn't disagree and in fact, I apologized profusely.

Still. That much exposure to outdoors proved too much for us, and we dived into the nearest building with air conditioning, cold drinks, and food. We devoured the cupcakes before they disintegrated and bided time until we could go stand in line for the next showing in the auditorium. It was worth the wait. They showed a video that loosely tied Star Wars to the zoo: a documentary about the creature creation in Return of the Jedi. Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher hosted the 1983 show, and it ran about 30 minutes. It was touched by some cheesy segues, but really, it was fascinating to see how creatures like Salacious Crumb and Jabba the Hutt came to life. The sheer number of man hours that went into every sculpt is impressive.

After the documentary, Obi-Shawn asked trivia questions about Star Wars and even threw a few in about animals in the zoo. It seemed like one of those situations where it was meant for kids to answer, so I kept my hand to myself (even though I really wanted one of The Wildlife of Star Wars books). We could have continued to sit in the auditorium, but they had to clear people out for the next show.

There were a few more Star Wars points of interest around the zoo; they had talks about how the animals were like the creatures of Star Wars. For example, elephants are like Banthas. However, upon returning outside we decided it was way too hot to remain and explore further. Two hours was long enough. We saw two animals (flamingos and meerkats in case you wondered) and didn't even enter the main zoo. We stayed in the... lobby of the zoo, if you will. (Wait! Maybe the other animals did have lightsabers!)  Star Wars and the L.A. Zoo combo totally worked. I'd go back if it became an annual event. Let's just hope it's in November next time.

September 7, 2011

Geeky Links of the Week

Superhero Dinosaurs - David Resto mashed up dinosaurs with Marvel comic characters, and the Smithsonian took notice. Click through to read an interview with the artist.

Pink Dalek - I've seen a lot of Dalek dresses around conventions lately. I still think they're cute, but I was happy to see a picture of a pink one at Dragon*Con.

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology Exhibit - A fun interview with the team behind the Raiders traveling exhibit. Sadly, no dates or locations have been announced for the U.S. yet.

Alien Life More Likely on Dune Planets - Enough said.
The Dune That Never Was - Speaking of Dune, check out these costume designs and storyboards from the Dune that could have been. Alejandro Jodorowsky started work on the film in 1975, but a lack of funds kept it from happening. The concept art is totally work checking out.

Captain America fan poster - Great fan designed poster for Captain America: The First Avenger.

A Song of Ice and Fire fan art collection - This new blog is compiling all the A Song of Ice and Fire fan art ever published on the internet. It's very easy to spend a lot of time looking around this site.

September 6, 2011

Jonathan Frakes as Captain America - Really

It was recently pointed out to me by Alan Kistler* (he knows things) that Jonathan Frakes was employed by Marvel in the seventies to make appearances as Captain America at conventions. He was, of course, in costume.
Image from Plaid Stallions
There's no positive proof, but this seems to be Jonathan Frakes. The chin cleft matches. This image could be him, too.
Riker was Captain America. Mind blown.

*P.S. Alan writes a fabulous column at Newsarama about superhero fashion: Agent of S.T.Y.L.E.
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