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Graphic Novelty²

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March 2021

House of El (Book 1): The Shadow Threat

Zahn is an elite citizen of the planet Krypton. He has joined the resistance movement Midnight to expose the truth about Krypton’s decay. For example. the planet is experiencing earthquakes which have worsened over time. The Tribune is dismissing or minimizing these claims. Sera is a soldier who has gone on increasingly failing terraforming missions for the Tribune. She gets asked to participate in a mysterious experiment by Jor-El and Lara – Zahn’s cousin and the future mother of Superman. It turns out that Jor-El and Lara want to reverse her genetic code. They want to make her into a more well-rounded Kryptonian in order to make a difference in the planet’s future. If she goes through with it, will Sera be the same? Will she like who she becomes?

What’s very clear here is that all characters love their planet. They all show it in different ways and thus have different viewpoints and ideas on how to save it. Which one is the right one? This parallels the call for action about our own planet.

The art style overall was a sort of futuristic Art Deco. Straight, rigid lines dominate and recall Krypton’s societal structure. Yet at the same time there is a greater emphasis placed on expression rather than accuracy. This contradiction made the art not work for me as much as it should have.

I’m not sure if pandemic brain struck again, but this didn’t hit as well with me as I wanted it to. Superman fans will appreciate this graphic novel, the start of a trilogy about Krypton’s demise, for the context and moral conundrums it gives. Hopefully I appreciate the next volume more.

– Kathleen

Gray, Claudia, and Eric Zawadzki. House of El (Book 1): The Shadow Threat. 2020.

The Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View

I love Star Wars! I love short stories! Together this second collection was a win-win for me, as I also loved the previous book Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View.

Forty authors celebrated forty years since The Empire Strikes Back was released by contributing a story of background or supporting characters from the ending of A New Hope to the ending of  TESB movie. What I especially like about short stories is you can read an entire story in bite-sized portions, perfect for when you are a full-time working mom like myself who has limited reading time but loves to read!  There are a few spoilers, but I did my best not to give it all away!

Eyes of the Empire by Kiersten White 4/5

An Empire soldier who is tasked with watching video feed from traveling droids around the universe clues in that the Rebels are on Hoth and alerts the command. When she realizes her intel led to much death and destruction, she lets some data from Dagobah go unreported…

Hunger by Mark Oshiro 4/5

The Wampa on Hoth that attacked Luke gets some poignant backstory. He just wanted to feed his family!

Ion Control by Emily Skrutskie 3.5/5

A Rebel soldier on Hoth helps transport her fellow soldiers off planet when the Empire finds their base.  Persevering while the base falls apart, she is determined to get as many to safety as she can.

A Good Kiss by C.B. Lee 4/5

Not every soldier gets to shine, behind-the-scenes drudge work is a necessity to keep troops fed and safe. But one soldier finally does get his turn to be a hero when his knowledge of the back tunnels proves invaluable. Plus, his crush returns his affections as they escape to safety.

She Will Keep Them Warm by Deliah S. Dawson 3.5/5

A mother Tauntaun who is used by the Rebels as transport has her own feelings about how her family herd is being utilized, but you know she will make the ultimate sacrifice to keep a certain someone warm.

Heroes of the Rebellion by Amy Ratcliffe 3/5

A reporter stationed on Hoth hopes to get exciting stories from Luke, Leia and Han as they are recognized heroes but realizes there are so many more heroic stories out there from everyday soldiers and civilians.

Rogue Two by Gary Whitta 3/5

A pilot who hates the cold worries that Han and Luke won’t make it back alive when they are caught outside at night and is the one who radios back that he found them the next morning.

Kendal by Charles Yu 4/5

Admiral Kendal Ozzel ruminates on the path that got him to the point where he is being Force-choked by Lord Vader. As he dies he realizes he made horrible choices that led to him joining the Empire vs the Rebels that his former-fiancé wanted to join. But before all that, he was just a child who loved his mother’s cooking.

Against All Odds by R.F. Kuang 4/5

Dak is a gunner for Luke, and views it as the highest honor, as both men work well together. But even the most experienced and competent soldiers can run into bad luck.

Beyond Hope by Michale Moreci 4/5

A soldier whose home planet was taken over by the Empire is looking for revenge and joins the Rebels. But this story is the opposite of the one before, as this soldier survives, less due to talent, but because of luck.

The Truest Duty by Christie Golden 4/5

General Veers of the Empire reveals he fed Admiral Ozzel some incorrect data which resulted in him making a bad move which brought down the wrath of Vader upon him. Now Veers has been promoted and will not let Vader down.

A Naturalist on Hoth by Hank Green 5/5

A dedicated scientist studying the flora and fauna of Hoth makes a radical decision when the base is attacked. This was a weird little tale, but I loved it.

The Dragonsnake Saves R2 by Katie Cook 3/5

A one-page cutesy cartoon about how the swimming alien on the planet Dagobah saved R2 from the swamp that he and Luke crash-landed on.

For The Last Time by Beth Revis 3/5

Admiral Piett of the Empire also stays true to Vader after witnessing Ozzel’s death.

Rendezvous Point by Jason Fry 5/5

This longer story highlights Wedge Antilles, a respected pilot from A New Hope who flew with Luke against the first Death Star. A new squadron needs to be assembled and he helps pull together new pilots. Many are rookies and he puts them through simulators but they need to fly out on a mission soon, and he needs to make hard decisions as he knows some won’t survive. This was an important story that shows the nitty-gritty of war.

The Final Order by Seth Dickinson 4/5

Captain Tian and Commander Canonhaus serve together on the Imperial ship Ultimatum and have a fraught conversation, as neither trusts the motives of the other. How depressing, one can never ever let their guard down as betrayals are common among them.

Amara Kel’s Rules for TIE Pilot Survival (Probably) by Django Wexler 5/5

We are introduced to a likable TIE pilot who has rules for herself so she stays alive. But she breaks them when she starts to fall for another pilot.  New recruits = “cloudflies” was dark humor at its best.

The First Lesson by Jim Zub 4/5

Yoda’s thoughts when he meets impetuous Luke for the first time.

Disturbance by Mike Chen 3.5/5

Emperor Palpatine feels a great disturbance in the Force and sees a possible future play out in his mind before he summons Vader to his chambers.

This Is No Cave by Catherynne M. Valente 2/5

This is another creature POV story, this time it’s about the animal found in the asteroid belt that the Millennium Falcon needed to escape from. While I found The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor in the previous book and Hunger by Mark Oshiro in this book solid, this was a miss for me.

Lord Vader Will See You Now by John Jackson Miller 4/5

When a story deeply centers on a minor character, it’s a clue that this person is found in non-canon Star Wars books and graphic novels. Such was the case with Rae Sloane who needs to explain her actions first to Admiral Piett then to Vader. Her instincts prove to be correct.

Vergence by Tracy Deonn 2/5

The cave that Luke was tested in on Dagobah now has a POV too. Whatever.

Tooth and Claw by Michael Kogge 3/5

The reptilian bounty-hunter Bossk has it out for Chewbacca. I’ve always thought Chewbacca should have been more developed, but this story was just about how emo Bossk is.

STETI by Daniel Jose Older 2.5/5

A story trying too hard to be clever- this is written as if it were an edited article for the Galactic Digest from a journalist who is much too close to his news source during a bloody feud in a diner.

Wait for It by Zoraida Cordova 4/5

Boba Fett is summoned by Vader along with some other bounty hunters to capture Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. He now lays in wait for his mark.

Standard Imperial Procedure by Sarwat Chadda 4.5/5

Ashon is an Imperial janitor, who was a former engineer who had a dramatic fall from grace. When he spots something that Boba Fett wants, his fate is sealed. This was a great story, but that ending…

There is Always Another by Mackenzi Lee 5/5

Obi-Wan Kenobi even in death regrets many of his past choices with Anakin. His thoughts on Yoda’s martyrdom and choice to reside of Dagobah made me laugh. When he tries to help Yoda talk Luke out of leaving his Jedi training, he compares Luke to his father and it pains him. This really humanized Obi-Wan and I loved it.

Fake It Till You Make It by Cavon Scott 3/5

Jaxxon, a rabbit-type smuggler tries to talk Lando into a shady deal on Cloud City, but Lando has other things on his mind. This scoundrel has a redeeming moment at the end, and turns out he is a character from older Star Wars graphic novels.

But What Does He Eat? by S.A. Chakraborty 3.5/5

Lando is trying to impress Vader and calls in his acclaimed head chef to cook a meal for him and the other Imperial guards. The chef does her best, but does Vader actually eat?

Beyond the Clouds by Lilliam Rivera 3/5

Isabalia is a lackluster newbie bounty hunter based out of Cloud City, but pivots when given a chance to join a new rebel movement.

No Time for Poetry by Austin Walker 3/5

Droid assassin IG-88 and bounty hunter Dengar form an unlikely partnership when hunting for Han Solo.

Bespin Escape by Martha Wells 3.5/5

A clan of alien Ugnaughts scramble to find a ship to get safety off Cloud City when the Imperial forces arrive.

Faith in an Old Friend by Brittany N. Williams 4/5

Piloting droid LS-37, last seen in the movie Solo, is now part of the Millennium Falcon’s circuitry. She still has a crush on Lando and helps get them to safety. It was nice to have a story about this droid that we got to know in a movie, and who I felt had an ignoble end there.

Due on Batuu by Rob Hart 3/5

Two Cloud City residents see an opportunity to escape with a package that could give them some coin if put in the right hands.

Into the Clouds by Karen Strong 3.5/5

A poor little rich girl and handsome pilot escape from Cloud City together- perhaps into a happily ever after.  This was a bit of a romance story that was just loosely tied to Star Wars, but I found it more appealing than I thought I would.

The Witness by Adam Christopher 4/5

Another story that gives an Imperial soldier some humanity. Deena, Stormtrooper TK-27342, has had enough and decides to desert at the siege on Cloud City. By accident she witnesses some of the battle between Vader and Luke. I was rooting for her.

The Man Who Built Cloud City by Alexander Freed 2/5

A delusional man who believes he is king of Cloud City is helped to safety by a security guard. So the guard put his own loved ones in danger to rescue this man??

The Backup Backup Plan by Anne Toole 3/5

This longer story was about the residents left behind on Cloud City who didn’t escape and how they skirt around the new Imperial law. Sure this took place in the Star Wars universe, but it didn’t relate to the movie.

Right-Hand Man by Lydia Kang 4.5/5

A medical droid completes the surgery on Luke to give him a new right cybernetic hand and has some surprisingly poignant and wise words for Luke. Clever title.

The Whills Strike Back by Tom Angleberger 5/5

Another amusing entry about how the Whills scholars decide on what to include in the word scroll in the introduction of each movie.  Loved the sly reference to Life Day! The author Angleberger did the same for the first book, and I hope he closes out the next book too.

This collection was strong and evolved from the first anthology, with less clunkers. It fleshed out some characters believably and added some diversity with some LGBTQ+ romances. My only criticisms there are too many creature POVs and Luke was shown inconsistently from story to story. Sometimes he was a wise God-like hero other times a petulant hothead. But all in all, a fun read for all Star Wars fans and I look forward to the next 40-year anniversary book for Return of the Jedi.

-Nancy

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Nomi Sunrider

March is Women’s History Month, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the third year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! During this month, we will have six bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. Today’s post in our last one of this series, and comes from Star Wars expert, Jeff of The Imperial Talker‘s 2021 #FFF post, re-posted here with permission.

Seeking a refuge for healing and peaceful contemplation, Jedi Knight Nomi Sunrider returns to the planet Ambria and the dwelling of Master Thon, her former Jedi Master. Traveling with Sunrider is her beloved 4-year-old daughter Vima and fellow Jedi Knight Sylvar who, like Nomi, seeks the peace and wisdom which Master Thon can offer. The joyful reunion with Master Thon is brief, however, disrupted by the sudden ambush of reptilian creatures swelling with the Dark Side of the Force and controlled by Sith assassins. Commanded to destroy Master Thon and his company, the Sith-controlled creatures surround the Jedi and launch their assault.

Found in the fourth issue of Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War, a Dark Horse Comics series published in the 1990s which details stories of the Jedi living thousands of years prior to A New Hope, the vicious attack by these dark side creatures was emblazoned in my mind as a ten-year-old Star Wars fan, the deadly battle masterfully captured in a single image. The muscular reptiles tower above the Jedi , mouths baring sharp teeth and yellow eyes manifesting the evil driving them. In the background, Oss Willum – a Jedi being mind-controlled by a nefarious Sith spirit – commands the attack from high ground while his accomplice Crado, an acolyte of Sith Lord Exar Kun, stands closer to the fray. At the edge of the battle the Jedi Sylvar slashes at a creature with her yellow lightsaber while closer to the center Master Thon grabs one of the reptiles by the neck, pushing it away with his own muscular arm.

It is Nomi Sunrider who truly stands out, though; she is the reason this image is so unforgettable. Resolve and grit etched on her face as she braces for an attack, Sunrider holds her right arm in front of her, lightsaber in a guard position, the blue blade extending across her body horizontally. In her left arm Nomi clutches her daughter Vima, the child clinging to her mother in fear of the reptilian attackers.

Today, the power on display in this image, what it conveys about Nomi Sunrider, is apparent to me in a way I could not fully appreciate as a young Star Wars fan. Back then, I was enamored by the battle itself, the action being my focus above and beyond any subtle metaphors a picture meant to convey. Yet, this image of Sunrider stuck with me, it captured my imagination in a way other moments in Star Wars comic books did not. Why that is I cannot say. The simple fact is that the image never left my memory, and as a result, I have always had a fondness for Nomi Sunrider. For that I am incredibly grateful because when my interest in Star Wars shifted away from the “Wars” as I got older, when I began to experience the deeper layers of characters and events, my understanding and appreciation for Nomi Sunrider fundamentally shifted.

Sunrider’s story in Tales of the Jedi is rich and complex, with moments of incredible joy and devastating heartache. Through it all one thing remains a constant: her love for Vima. As a young Star Wars fan I could not fully appreciate the power in this image, or Sunrider’s story more fully, because at that time I could only see Nomi Sunrider as a Jedi Knight. I was obsessed with the Jedi, trapped in the belief, like Luke Skywalker, that the Jedi were great because they were warriors. In a sense, the glow of Sunrider’s lightsaber in the image blinded me to the deeper and far more important meaning being conveyed. I could not see back then as I do now that that the brave determination embedded on Nomi Sunrider’s face and reflected in her defensive stance is not that of a Jedi alone. No, it is more significantly that of a mother protecting her frightened young child.

Nomi Sunrider is the very best of the Jedi Order in Tales of the Jedi, a living symbol of Light Side of the Force which the Order serves. But her devotion to the Light Side cannot and must never be disconnected from her devotion to her daughter. Nomi Sunrider’s fearless love for the Light Side of the Force is fundamentally grounded in her motherhood, in the unconditional love she has for Vima. And that is exactly what is reflected in this singular image.


Fiction’s Fearless Females is in it’s third year!  Yay!  The series runs for the month of March and along with myself feature posts by Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief, and Green Onion of Green Onion Revival Project.  Be sure to follow each of these blogs and to check out all of the Fearless Females in the series. Just follow these links:

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)

Martha Jones

Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

Lisa Simpson

Norma Bates

A Cat Story

In a city of cats and people, Cilla is a black and white cat who wants a home. A real home, not the leaky boat at the dock she shares with her best friend Betto. After yet another human says Cilla can’t live with them, her friend Alaya tells her the kitten story of the quiet garden. It’s a beautiful place where the sun is warm, the water is cool, the humans are kind, and cats are always welcome. Cilla decides that is the home for her, and starts her journey to find it. Though Betto is content with the dock and the leaky boat where they currently live, he eventually agrees to go with her. The oldest cat in the city, Old Paolo, points the pair in the direction of Gozo. There, they should find a cat named Dolche who knows the way to the door leading to the quiet garden. Once Cilla and Betto find the door, does the quiet garden really lie beyond it?

This was a lovely and delightful little graphic novel. Of course, the cats were all so cute! The expressive, frenetic linework and cross-hatching gave a perpetual sense of movement to the character designs and the environments. Since the story takes place on an island chain, slightly desaturated colors were used to suggest sun bleaching. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see famous paintings, from multiple cultures throughout history, recreated here. The main theme of this graphic novel is story: “There’s a measure of truth in all good stories.” Many stories are told within the context of Cilla and Betto’s main journey. Each time, the cats leap out of the panels and explore these famous paintings. An art notes section in the back gives information about each painting used, as well as why it was chosen for that certain point in the story. So, while the main plot is about Cilla and Betto’s quest for a real home, the artwork tells a story in itself.

I loved A Cat Story: the characters, the literary (art-erary?) devices, and the warm tale of friendship and finding your own home. Keep this one on your shelf if you need to visit a museum but don’t feel quite comfortable going out yet, or for a nice quick beach read 😉

– Kathleen

Murray Husted, Ursula. A Cat Story. 2020.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Norma Bates

March is Women’s History Month, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the third year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! During this month, we will have six bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. Today’s post comes from Kalie of Just Dread-Full, a superb blog centered on the horror genre. 

One thing worth noting about the horror genre is that it produces images that resist quick mental erasure.  From the statuesque model who turns into a decrepit, decaying old woman in the infamous shower scene of The Shining to the bloody womb hanging limply outside the skin of Nola Carveth in The Brood, horror does nothing if not supply us with grotesque images of often monstrous women.  Psycho’s Norma Bates, then, is no exception.  In Hitchcock’s original film, Psycho, we see Norma not as a mommy so much as a stereotypical mummy; all that is left of her is a skeletal, eyeless frame and some tousled hair pulled back in a bun. We hear her character, and therefore understand her character, only through Marion Crane’s ears as the delusional Norman voices her from afar in the antiquated Victorian house on the hill outside Bates Motel.  But Norma is a famous mummy, and a famous mommy, to be sure, one who lingers in the mind of the viewer long after the theater lights go on, and one who has lingered in the cultural imagination now for sixty-one years and counting.  Significantly, Norma Bates didn’t get to speak for herself until 2013, when the hit TV show Bates Motel rescued and re-invented her character through Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of her as Norman’s mildly cooky but vivacious and loving mom.  As a woman who navigates an excruciating past, a corrupt, drug-infested city, and a psychotic son with surprising sangfroid, Norma Bates in Bates Motel is who I choose to feature this year for the annual Fiction’s Fearless Females blogathon. 

Continue reading “Fiction’s Fearless Females: Norma Bates”

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

In celebration of Women’s History Month and for my entry in this year’s Fiction’s Fearless Females series, I am choosing Star Trek’s original fearless female – the one and only Lieutenant Nyota Uhura!  This is the third year that Kathleen and I have participated in this series and joining us is Michael of My Comic Relief, Jesse of the newly revived Green Onion, Kalie of Just Dread-full, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Please give them a follow to catch their posts (all have great content outside of #FFF), or look out for them here, throughout the month. 

My first entry in this series was the brilliant Captain Janeway of the Star Trek Voyager series and my second was the ever-vigilant Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies. For my third entry, I circled back to Star Trek and choose Uhura, for all strong female Star Trek characters owe a debt of gratitude to her. Beautiful, smart, ambitious, and an equal to the men – she is the original Star Trek role model. Even Uhura’s name has important meaning – Nyota means star in Lingala, a language from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Uhura is the Swahili word for freedom.

Star Trek is my favorite fandom, as many of the posts on this blog revolve around the movies, television and web series that have been inspired by the original classic. The series was conceived by Gene Roddenberry to present an optimistic view of life in the future and show a diverse crew, thus actress Nichelle Nichols was cast as a 23rd-century Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise and she served as a communications officer.  The crew’s mission was “to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Fluent in a myriad of languages, human and alien, not only was she head of the communications department but she was an excellent bridge officer, as she could additionally work the helm, navigation, and science stations as needed. 

The show debuted in 1966 and was groundbreaking because of its disparate cast, and Uhura’s role as a professional Black woman was a rarity on television, as they were usually relegated to portraying characters with menial jobs. Now I am going to take a brief detour here and mention that IRL Nichelle Nichols was not only an actress, she was a singer and was hoping for some Broadway success, so she briefly considered leaving Star Trek to pursue other creative opportunities. She told creator and producer Roddenberry that she wanted to leave, but before she made her final decision she attended a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) luncheon and was introduced to Martin Luther King Jr.  He wanted to meet her and express his admiration for her, as Star Trek was one the only shows he let his children watch, as Uhura was an example he held up to them, as what could be achieved in the future. Shocked and thrilled by his words, she stayed with the show, and the rest is history. For an exaggerated but hysterical reenactment of this incident, watch the Drunk History video – Nichelle Nichols Lives Boldly – at the end of this post! 

Another pioneering moment in the Star Trek franchise was the first interracial kiss shown on US television between a Black woman and a white man that involved Uhura and Captain Kirk. Lore has it that producers were worried that the kiss would run up against Southern censors so they were supposed to film two versions – one with a kiss and one without. But Nichols and co-star William Shatner deliberately messed up the without-a-kiss scene, so that the kiss scene would have to be used. That indeed was a fearless move, for everyone involved knew that interracial relationships were taboo and in some places against the law at that time.

The Enterprise’s five-year mission proved to be only three, but Uhura’s story did not end there. A few years later in 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series gave the crew another year on the ship (and this animated series gave her some surprisingly good plotlines), and in 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in the theatres. Uhura would play an integral part in the six theatre movies that spanned twelve years. While Kirk, Spock and Bones always got the lion’s share of character development; Uhura, Sulu, Scotty and Chekov were shown as moving up in rank and with key moments hinging on their assistance. In fact, Uhura continued to be an influential character, as she was shown as a mature woman who was lovely, capable, professional and didn’t need a man to fulfill her life. She put her career first, and the universe was better for it, as she is now ranked as a Commander (and Admiral in some non-canon books and movies) in Starfleet. 

Star Trek presents an idealistic and Utopian future, with the Earth moving past its racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. Its opening line, “Space, the final frontier…” proved prophetic, as I must once again mention Uhura’s real-life counterpart Nichols, as she became a space ambassador for NASA from 1977-2015 and helped recruit diverse astronauts, including women and minorities such as Mae Jemison. Uhura and Nichols have merged into one incredible icon – who is fine, fierce, and fearless! 

As I wrap up this post, I now pass the baton to Kalie who is planning to write about Norma Bates from the Bates Hotel (of Psycho fame). Bringing us home will be Jeff with a post about Nomi Sunrider of Star Wars Legends. Please check in weekly as this series unfolds.

Live Long and Prosper, my friends.

-Nancy

To catch the other amazing women in this series, check out:

Kathleen’s Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl

Michael’s Martha Jones from Doctor Who

Jesse’s Lisa Simpson

Kalie’s Norma Bates

Jeff’s Nomi Sunrider

Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey (Vol. 2)

Akiko Higashimura continues her manga memoir immediately after Volume 1 ends. She is in her last exam to try and get into one last art school. Afterwards, she is so sure she failed since she was so distracted by Sensei’s last phone call. However, she gets an acceptance letter from the last school: she got into Kanazawa! Once she’s all moved and settled in, she goofs off like a typical college student would. She feels like she can’t create like she could in Sensei’s classroom. On her trip home for summer break, he sets her straight, and she manages to create all three paintings for her joint review. It’s a very important presentation and critique of your work by your professors in front of your peers. Can she pass the joint review and continue art school? If she does, can she get her act together for the next year?
 
Not gonna lie, I spent most of this book wanting to smack some sense into Akiko. It felt like we went through the first volume, but in reverse. We see how hard she worked to get into art school, only to see her revert back to her old ways and goof off again in college. We get more insight into her and Sensei’s relationship, and while it’s clear that at the time of writing she regrets her actions… it was just cringey to read. I really hope some situations and feelings were exaggerated for dramatic effect.
 
At the same time, I was having hardcore flashbacks of my undergrad college days in the art program, and of my senior thesis in particular. The meticulously detailed environments of the art school and studios made me smell the clay, the paint, the turpentine, the gesso, fresh dust off the sandpaper. It’s very nostalgic and incredibly sad for me. Those halcyon days are long gone for me.
 
The main draw continues to be Akiko and Sensei’s relationship, as well as (for me at least) the reminder of living as an artist. Looking forward to the next volume.
 
– Kathleen
 
Higasimura, Akiko. Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey (Vol. 2). 2019.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Lisa Simpson

March is Women’s History Month, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the third year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! During this month, we will have six bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. Today’s post comes from Jesse of the Green Onion, reposted with permission.

Oh, it is good to be back in the blogging ring.  Specifically, when it comes to collaborating with all the other amazing bloggers.  And once more I am grateful to throw my words into the Fiction’s Fearless Females series.

Fiction’s Fearless Females (#FFF) is a cross-blog event that has been going strong for years now.  Each year a collection of my favourite friends and bloggers come together to celebrate women in fiction.

This year’s line-up includes the usual suspects including posts coming throughout the month from Nancy at Graphic Novelty₂, Kalie at Just Dread-Full, and Jeff at The Imperial Talker.  Thankfully, you won’t have to wait much longer.  Plus, it gives you time to catch up on the masterful additions to #FFF already available.

This year, Kathleen of Graphic Novelty₂ launched the series with an exploration of Kara Zor-El – the best of the Super-Girls.  Michael J. Miller of My Comic Relief followed it up with everything you could possibly need to know about Doctor Who’s Martha Jones.  Both are worth reading right now.  So, go ahead, I’ll save your spot here.

Choosing a character for the #FFF series is harder than you might think.  There are so many amazing women to explore throughout pop culture.  When the #FFF first began, I was quick to write about Ripley from the Alien franchise.  An easy choice I would easily make again.  This year I wanted to find a character equally deserving to be in this collection of fantastic fictional females.

I gave this some deep thought.  There are three criteria for a character to be added to this series.  They have to be fictional – obviously.  They have to be “fearless”, which can be taken in many ways, but we don’t need any one-note distressed damsels.  And finally, they should celebrate femininity.  While there are many characters that fall into these categories, for me, there was one that stood out in all three.

Lisa Marie Simpson.

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Fictional

The Simpsons has been on television since 1987, first appearing as shorts during The Tracy Ullman Show.  We all know what happened next.  As the show landed its own ongoing series in 1989, The Simpsons exploded becoming the most popular television program of the 90s.  Redefining and dominating adult animation as a media.  And has gone on to become the longest-running scripted television show in history, currently running a 32nd season and weeks away from premiering the 700th episode.

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Beyond the small screen, Lisa Simpson has appeared in every form of merchandise there is from action figures to toothbrushes.  The Simpsons Movie brought Lisa and her family to theatres in 2007.  She has appeared in video games on nearly every console since the classic NES.  And comic books galore, including her own self-titled Lisa Comics, which lasted one glorious issue with a parody of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

You cannot mention Lisa Simpson without mentioning Yeardley Smith, the beloved voice and advocate for all things Lisa.  For which, Smith won the 1992 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice Performance as well as many other accolades.  Three decades later, and Smith continues her role as well as being one of the biggest faces for the series appearing at conventions and panels year-in-and-year-out.

As far as fictional goes, Lisa Simpson fits the bill.  It could even be argued that she is the most recognizable female character on the planet.  In fact, she is one of just a handful of fictional women on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Fearless

When it comes to hitting the ‘fearless’ category, Lisa does not have the raw power of most of the other fictional females.  We are talking about an eight-year-old girl here.  However, I do not think that anyone could argue that Lisa Simpson could be defined as “fearless”.

Lisa Simpson started out as another childish character, getting into antics as much as her brother, Bart.  However, her character began to shift early.  She has become one of the most intelligent figures in all of Springfield and she is never afraid to show it.  Lisa is now one of the strongest liberal voices in primetime television.  And she stands for a wide range of causes.

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Though she feels like an outcast from her town and family for her beliefs, Lisa is not afraid of progression.  In fact, of all the characters in the show, Lisa has shown the most growth and stuck to her guns.  In season seven, Lisa became a vegetarian and some years later she adapted to Buddhism.

When it comes to activism, Lisa is at the frontline.  She is a feminist, often getting into disagreements with her mothers’ traditional guidance.  Lisa Simpson is a figure of environmentalism, winning real-world awards for being a voice of the planet.  She was even named as one of the animal-friendly TV characters of all-time by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 

In a town that is at times meant to showcase America at its worst, Lisa is always the opposition.  Bravely she will not allow anyone to get between her and what is right.  Her left-wing ways have become legendary.  Ted Cruz has referred to the Conservative Party as the “Party of Lisa Simpson”.  In one particular Simpson’s future, Lisa even becomes POTUS, which was surely achieved through her strong voice and reasoning.

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Still, if you want to talk about powers and abilities, Lisa has had a few.  “Treehouse of Horrors X” even gave Lisa super strength, Clobber Girl, along with Stretch Dude became a formidable duo, and have made their own appearances in comics.  In video games, Lisa can knock people around with the best of them.  And it could be argued that her spiritual connection has granted her some powerful gifts throughout the years.

Lisa Simpson is as fearless as they come.  For a second-grader, she shows bravery and courage whenever she sees injustice.  Whether it is the mistreatment of snakes on an out-dated holiday or the ongoing battle with the local nuclear power plant, Lisa’s voice is heard.

Female

Not only does Lisa Simpson ooze femininity, but she is also a leader in women’s rights and a role model for young girls everywhere.

It is easy to forget at times that Lisa is just an eight-year-old.  But she is very much a little girl who loves ponies, her Malibu Stacy dolls, and believes that unicorns are real.  She is sweet, nurturing, and gentle.  But she is as flawed as anyone, being stubborn or righteous at times.  Lisa is as real as an animated little girl can be.

But over three decades, Lisa has become a symbol for women everywhere.  The feminist character has often spoken out about gender rights.  Of course, while maintaining the strong voice that we just covered.

Additionally, Lisa has proven time and again that she is capable of anything her brother can do.  Never treated as fragile or delicate, Lisa has played sports alongside Bart and the other boys.  And though her brother often plays the muscle, as a duo the two of them have accomplished some fantastic things like solving crimes and saving their friends.

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Most importantly, her strong morals have guided girls for three decades.  Lisa is a symbol of what women are capable of while changing the way that girls are represented on television.

Lisa Simpson is one of the greatest fictional characters, absolutely fearless, and an amazing figure of femininity.  An icon for speaking your truth and standing up against injustice, Lisa is a powerhouse.

 

WandaVision

I loved this nine-episode television series about one of my favorite Marvel couples, Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch and Vision! It was quirky, ambitious and a treat to watch. Released weekly, I waited a few weeks to start the series, so I ended up binging all the episodes in a two-week span.  I’ve read many posts about this series, and I frankly have nothing new to add to the mix, so this will be not quite a summary of each episode but more an ode to a series that I found fresh and fun. 

Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience

In the first episode, we are introduced to Wanda and Vision as newlyweds in what appears to be a 1950s setting, similar to sitcoms of that era, with a distinct The Dick Van Dyke Show vibe.  They attempt to blend in to their new community, despite Vision being an android and Wanda having magical abilities, so naturally, hijinks occur. It was a pleasure seeing familiar television tropes, as I remember watching these fake sitcoms in reruns when I was a child. As a member of Generation X, I have memories of these shows that were already quite dated when I watched them, but will younger generations be familiar with the references? 

Don’t Touch That Dial

We’re in what seems to be the 1960s with a delightful animated Bewitched introduction! This episode is still in black and white despite the color we saw in the long end-credits in the previous episode. Nosy neighbor Agatha is there for comedic relief, as the neighborhood puts on a talent show. This show is a comedy of errors with additional I Dream of Jeannie jokes, as a magical woman tries to fool everyone when the audience is privy to all. But reality is starting to creep in with a few splashes of color and a radio message to Wanda. And then the surprise pregnancy in the last few minutes- one minute Wanda is svelte, the next moment she has a full belly! 

Now in Color

As the title states, the show is now in color as this was a big change for shows in the 70s, of which we are now in. There are some Brady Bunch references, and their changing decor in the house had a stairwell that is very Brady’s. Loved the hiding of the pregnancy from neighbors, in an all too familiar trope (even today) as shows don’t always want to acknowledge a real-life pregnancy in an actress if it doesn’t fit the storyline. Luckily neighbor Geraldine shows up when she does because Wanda goes into labor. I wish my labor and deliveries had been as easy, as Wanda and Vision are proud parents to twin boys in five minutes. But when Geraldine talks to Wanda about a few things that she shouldn’t know, Wanda pushes her out of her reality and into the real world. 

We Interrupt This Program

I was pleased to realize that Geraldine was actually Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Maria Rambeau, who we last saw as a child in the movie Captain Marvel. I have to give it to Marvel who are playing the long game as they continue to build the MCU. They make connections between all the movies (and now television series), and building on that we meet FBI Agent Jimmy Woo from the Antman and the Wasp movies and Dr. Darcy Lewis from the Thor movies. This is the first episode that takes us away from Westview and into the modern-day where the world is still adjusting to the “blip” that made people disappear and then reappear years later. 

On a Very Special Episode…

We are now up to the 80s, so young viewers might vaguely be familiar with the Family Ties and Full House references. So these shows are as old to them as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched were to me when I was a child! There continue to be glitches as Agatha asks mid-scene if they should start over as if they were actors on a set and the twins suddenly age up twice in one episode. And then at the last minute, we are introduced to Pietro, Wanda’s twin, but it’s not the actor from the Avenger movies, it’s the actor who played Quicksilver from the X-Men movies. What???

All-New Halloween Spooktacular!

You know, I’ve barely mentioned Vision! While he plays a central role, it has become clear at this point that Wanda has placed a hex on the town and has recreated Vision and imagined the twins into existence. The episodes continue to spoof sitcoms, with a Malcolm in the Middle introduction and a homage to Halloween episodes that many 90s and beyond sitcoms celebrate. But it gives the entire family an excuse to dress up and pay tribute to their original costumes of yester-year and makes the first definite connection that the twins are (future) Wiccan and Speed. Wanda questions Pietro trying to figure out why her own illusions would re-cast her brother. 

Breaking the Fourth Wall

We are up to the 2000s with Modern Family and The Office references, and Vision has now discovered the outside world and has teamed up briefly with Darcy to try to figure out what his wife is up to. In the outside world, Monica and Jimmy are trying to work with S.W.O.R.D. but are finding the leader Hayward does not have the best of intentions, so Monica breaks into Westview which seems to give her some super-powers. And then that reveal at the end…Agatha All Along!!!!

Previously On

Agatha is a witch herself, dating back to the Salem Witch Trials. Although it was Wanda that put a hex on Westview and recreated her family, it’s been Agatha pulling the strings and causing disruptions. We get flashbacks to Wanda’s early life with (the Avenger’s) Pietro and how her many losses- her parents, her brother, and finally Vision- broke her. Agatha now holds the twins hostage and we find out Hayward, who has become more of an asshole each episode, recreated Vision with his original parts, but now is White Vision. 

The Series Finale

Wanda’s chaos magic reveals her to be the Scarlet Witch and she battles Agatha, while the two Vision’s fight it out. Monica shows up at a key moment to help the twins, although they had been holding their own. I love the family scenes so very much! In fact, I am glad they kept other Marvel characters to a minimum so the show could center on Wanda and Vision. Although both Wanda and Vision win their battles, they realize this artificial life and how Wanda had taken over the real-life residents of Westview can not be sustained and the family heads back to their home for some poignant farewells. Yes, I cried as they said goodnight to Tommy and Billy and then said their goodbyes to one another. Vision’s earlier comment  “What is grief, if not love persevering?” is so spot-on, and is a perfect summary of what the series was all about. Just typing in this line makes me tear up, as I lost my mother six months ago, and describes what many grieving people feel. Despite this melancholy ending, and knowing Wanda is alone again, we know the story is not over for this family. White Vision lives on and Wanda hears her boys calling to her in the end credits, so I believe their story is far from over. 

Bravo to Marvel for telling this unique and layered story! The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series will be next, but I don’t know if I will watch it, for I do not care for a typical superheroes-fighting-it-out series after the poignancy of WandaVision. Until we meet again, Wanda and Vision! 

-Nancy

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