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Fiction’s Fearless Females: Amy Pond

In celebration of Women’s History Month, both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the third of our planned eight piece series, and Michael of My Comic Relief brilliantly shows how a companion of Doctor Who becomes as integral to the show as the Doctor himself. 

Guest Blogger: Michael of My Comic Relief

There was an idea. Jeff knows this. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable bloggers to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to celebrate a collection of incredible female characters we never could on our own. This week it’s my turn and I’m shining my spotlight on the incomparable Amy Pond, my all-time favorite companion to ever set foot inside the TARDIS in the world of Doctor Who.

Played by Karen Gillan over three series, Amelia Pond entered the Doctor’s world in “The Eleventh Hour,” the first episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who (as the show is English, I’m using “series” over the more American “season”). She joined the show along with Matt Smith who had taken over from David Tennant, when the Doctor entered his eleventh regeneration. As the Doctor once so beautifully told Amy, “You were the first. The first face this face saw, and you’re seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be.” She’s one of my favorite characters on the show – she’s one of my favorite characters ever – and she’s easily my favorite of all the Doctor’s companions.

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The one and only Amy Pond / Photo Credit –Doctor Who

The relationship the Doctor has with his companions is important. (Note, while the Doctor’s current regeneration is female, as the Doctor was male when Amy travelled with him – and because English awkwardly lacks a universally-accepted gender-neutral third person singular pronoun – I’ll be using masculine pronouns in this piece when referring to the Doctor.) Behind all the adventures, all the smiles, all the exuberant joy in creation, the Doctor is a very lonely character. The modern incarnation of Doctor Who begins after the Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords (the alien race the Doctor belongs to) and the Daleks (his greatest enemy). To end the war and protect all of space and time, the Doctor made the choice to destroy both races. This condemned him to a lifetime as the last of his kind, a particularly lengthy punishment given how Time Lords age. Essentially without any surprises, mistakes, or accidents a Time Lord can live forever. When a Time Lord hits old age or an illness or mortal injury strikes, they will regenerate – a process of rebirth causing complete physical and psychological change. Unless they are killed too quickly/violently to allow for regeneration, killed in the process of regeneration, or willfully decide to not regenerate from a fatal wound, a Time Lord will live forever.

Eternity is a long and lonely road to walk alone, even when you can go anywhere in time and space. To be alone forever breeds an unimaginable darkness and an unbearable pain. As such, it’s the Doctor’s companions who keep him company; keep him grounded; and keep the all-important lights of life, love, and compassion burning within him. Yet they always bring a special sort of sadness too. While the Doctor can live forever, his human companions can’t. In the Doctor’s words, “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some, not many but some, died.” No matter what happens, he will ultimately lose them all.

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Rory and Amy travel with the Doctor to Venice, in 1580. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Over the years (and regenerations) the Doctor has had many great friends and a few important loves travel with him in the TARDIS but there’s only ever been one Amelia Pond – “Oh, that’s a brilliant name! Amelia Pond, it’s like a name in a fairy tale.” She’s always been my favorite of the Doctor’s companions, even though Eleven isn’t my favorite Doctor (if you’re curious, Ten is with Thirteen being a close second (and if Jodie Whittaker’s run continues as brilliantly as it began, she may take the title)). It’s not just the way Amy balances the Doctor nor what she adds to his adventures that makes her so remarkable in my eyes. It’s how Amy Pond – “the mad, impossible Amy Pond” – refuses to accept anything less than the life she wants, no matter how complicated or unattainable it may seem.

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Photo Credit – Doctor Who

As we grow up, we tend to accept more and more limitations, things we never would have seen or yielded to in our youth. Our dreams become just that – dreams. In The Alchemist Paulo Coelho, speaking as our hearts, writes, “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits them…[but] people no longer want to go in search of them…Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place…We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts” (131). Not Amy Pond. And what can be more fearless than having the courage to never deny the desires of your heart, no matter how complex or contradictory they may seem?

The Doctor first meets Amelia Pond when she’s only seven-years-old, crashing the TARDIS into her garden after having just regenerated. As she ventures outside alone to see what’s landed in her yard, it’s clear she’s already a bold, curious, inquisitive, and brave young girl. Talking with the Doctor over fish sticks and custard (the only meal to appeal in the moment to his freshly regenerated taste buds) she tells him, “I’m not afraid.” The Doctor replies, “Of course you’re not! You’re not scared of anything! A box falls out of the sky, a man pops out of the box, man eats fish and custard…and look at you. Just sittin’ there.”

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Amelia and the Doctor share a snack of fish sticks and custard on the night they first meet. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Needing to quickly run the engines so the damaged TARDIS doesn’t explode, the Doctor leaves Amelia promising to be back in five minutes to take her on a trip and help her deal with the mysterious crack in space and time on her bedroom wall. The Doctor returns, slightly missing the mark…twelve years later. Amy has grown up but, despite more than a decade passing and four therapists who insisted her childhood friend was imaginary, she’s never fully abandoned belief that her “raggedy doctor” is real. Along with her “kind of boyfriend” Rory (Arthur Darvill), Amy helps the Doctor save the Earth from an intergalactic police force bent on planetwide incineration. The Doctor takes his newly restored TARDIS on a quick spin, returning to take Amy on a proper trip…two years later, missing his mark once again. So, fourteen years after first landing in her garden, “the girl who waited” goes in search of adventures through space and time with her “madman in a box.”

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Amy and the Doctor inside the TARDIS. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

As the closing shot of that first episode shows, Amy has run off with the Doctor on the night before her wedding. One of the subplots in those early episodes was whether Amy wanted to be with Rory, the man she was about to marry, or the Doctor, the spaceman who’s captivated her imagination since childhood. In the poignant episode “Amy’s Choice” (S5E7), the mysterious Dream Lord forces Amy to choose between Rory and the Doctor. While she ultimately realizes Rory is the man she loves, she doesn’t chose between Rory and the Doctor. She chooses both. The Doctor is her best friend, Rory her lover and eventually her husband. She never sacrifices one for the other. She manages a life of time travel and planet hopping adventure alongside getting married and living a “normal” life. Rory quickly becomes part of their adventures too! Amy makes her worlds fit together. She wants it all. It’s all the life she’s chosen and because she won’t abandon her heart’s desires, it all fits.

Amy – “Hey, look at this. Got my spaceship. Got my boys. My work here is done.”

Rory – “Uh, we are not her boys.”

The Doctor – “Yeah we are.”

Rory – “Yeah we are.”

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Rory, the Doctor, and Amy deal with a planet-wide invasion of little black boxes…that don’t do anything at all but sit there. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Despite narrative clichés and our cultural default presumption of Twilight-inspired love triangles, women and men can naturally have incredibly strong, life-affirming friendships without ulterior romantic motives. And after the first flush of a crush on her space-faring adventurer fades, that’s exactly what Amy finds with the Doctor. With Rory, we see a strong marriage. With the Doctor, an important friendship. Both those relationships exist harmoniously in her life, each enriching the other. (Bringing Rory into the TARDIS and the Doctor’s adventures is another reason Amy Pond is my favorite companion! I love Rory so much too!) In addition to presenting a healthy depiction of female-and-male friendships, this also opens up more interesting narrative possibilities as well, freeing the stories from the sort of narrative loop that can come with yet another companion pining – unrequited or not – over the Doctor.

Through their adventures, Amy’s wit, compassion, and resolve always impressed me. Her will always felt as strong as the Doctor’s too and she was every bit as courageous as he was. Of all the Doctor’s companions, she’s the only one I always felt could handle everything on her own as capably and competently as the Doctor. From the far-flung past to the distant future to all manner of alien races, worlds, and wars, she shares the Doctor’s life but she refuses to give up a “normal” life either. She and Rory still hold regular jobs on Earth which they go to in between their travels with the Doctor. They have “regular” friends. They have a “normal” routine. Amy even eventually has a child. This, as with everything else in her journey, only serves to expand her world in powerful ways. As the outlaw Dr. Kahler Jex observes in “A Town Called Mercy” (S7E3):

Jex – “You’re a mother, aren’t you?”

Amy – “How did you know?”

Jex – “There’s kindness in your eyes. And sadness. And a ferocity too.”

Kindness. Sadness. Ferocity. Wit. Compassion. Enthusiasm. Trust. Faith. Love, in all its forms. Amy Pond shows us the magic our lives will hold when we have the courage to always follow our hearts and refuse to accept anything less than their greatest desires.

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Amy’s adventures with the Doctor begin, as he returns twelve years after their first meeting. / Photo Credit –Doctor Who

As you may’ve gathered, I’ve joined forces with some other charismatic and exciting bloggers and YouTubers (in Rob’s case, as he’s cool enough to know how to work YouTube) – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little blogging salute to some of our favorite fearless female characters in all of fiction. It’ll be fun and it alliterates! Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward or the next couple months, a different blogger will be featured each week saluting one of their personal favorite female characters. Be sure to follow these amazing blogs (if you don’t already) and be sure to check back each week to soak in all the excitement of the latest installment of this EPIC TEAM-UP.

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Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellen Ripley

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! For the next eight weeks we will have a blogger a week sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. First up is the Green Onion– whose blog is must reading! 

Guest Blogger: The Green Onion Blog

One big happy International Women’s Day which logically coincides with Women’s History Month. As a middle-aged white male who proudly would identify as a feminist, I believe these types of celebratory acknowledgements are well-deserved and necessary. Ladies, you’re killing it, and what you have overcome is heartening and inspirational. Men have a lot to learn from your strength and compassion.

Anyways, what the hell am I doing here?

Well, in order to celebrate women and all that they offer, a special project has been born: Fiction’s Fearless Females! A group of some of the best bloggers I know including, but not limited to, Graphic Novelty2, My Comic Relief, My Side of the Laundry Room, Imperial Talker, and more, have come together to create this original series. Each blogger will contribute a post that will focus on one of the greatest female representations in fiction – I would give you hints about who some of these fantastic characters featured will be, but where’s the fun and surprise in that? However, stay tuned and keep an eye out for each of the contributing posts that I will gladly share here on my blog, as well as on social media. But you should probably be following all of these great bloggers already.

I should also mention that despite me having the privilege of kicking this series off, I am but a member of this Mighty Bloggers group, and I was invited to participate by those much more clever than myself. In fact, I kinda forced my way in by throwing my own two-cents in on last year’s memorable cross-blog series, the Great Chris Debate. They must have felt bad for me, but I will take the pity invite because I am quite proud to contribute my piece to Fiction’s Fearless Females. I probably earned the honour of starting the series because a) I was eager to get started, and b) I have chosen the greatest fictional female of them all: Ellen Ripley!

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Lieutenant (First Class) Ellen Louise Ripley, known more simply as ‘Ripley’, is the female lead and star of the Alien franchise. Played by the ridiculously talented Sigourney Weaver, Ripley’s encounters with the alien’s known as Xenomorphs harboured our first introductions with the pop culture icons. Over the course of a quadrilogy of films, Ripley developed the most intimate and evasive relationships with space’s deadliest beasts. She may not have the largest kill count, yet she is easily the leading expert on how to kill a xenomorph. It is Ellen Ripley’s transformation over the four movies that makes her not only one of fiction’s greatest females but one of cinemas greatest characters all-round.

Simply put, Ripley goes from an innocent young mother desperately trying to reach home to be with her daughter to a superhuman alien-killing machine with every possible conflict along the way. Now, Ripley, like all great characters is not limited to her cinematic appearances but has appeared in novels, video games, and comic books. For the sake of simplicity, and as to not miss anything, this article will only focus on Ripley’s development in film. Her saga is a fantastic representation of a strong female, but each movie on their own showed why Ripley is a positive role model for women. So, I wanted to explore her transition and strengths one film at a time.

Alien –

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Funny enough, Alien is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. All of those years ago, Ridley Scott developed an action-horror movie that would change the genre. Scott created a film that would make an audience squirm by touching on themes like fear of the unknown, artificial intelligence, and sexual violation. What separated Scott’s movie was that instead of a creature bent on killing or eating their prey, the monster of this story would capture its victims in the hopes of involuntarily impregnating them with its spawn. Despite the horrific theme, Scott intentionally kept it from being gender specific. There was a goal of making the audience squirm by the perversion regardless of sex. In the original script for Alien, no character was defined by gender, and each one could be played by a man or a woman. Meaning, Ripley could have easily been a man, important because there is universal equality when you eliminate genders entirely.

Ripley herself appears in Alien as a hardworking, capable member of the crew of the Nostromo. Though she does get undermined and disrespected at times, she does her job the same as any other crew member. In fact, the way the film begins it would be difficult to predict that Ripley would be the “sole survivor of the Nostromo” as each character in the movie was represented equally.

What we find in Ripley is we have a great hero, regardless of gender. She is not a typical strong muscled-up hero that wins the day by force. Instead, she represents a true hero by showing resourcefulness, competency, and persistence. In a situation where the mass majority of us would be hiding in a corner peeing ourselves, Ripley takes matters into her own hands and saves herself. She also finds a way to defeat the enemy in a situation that the fans have seen as hopeless.

Aliens –

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Aliens is easily the best example of Ripley’s prominent capabilities as a woman and a hero. This film is celebrated as an achievement for its voice of equality for women in media and has been mentioned by psychologists and experts for its representation for feminism. Actually, everything that makes Ripley what she is in all four films can be found in this one movie, like it is a microcosm of the entire series. So, I will try to touch on a few points that are prominent here or do not appear in any of the other films, so as to save myself some stuff to talk about.

The most significant part about Aliens is Ripley’s overcoming of her PTSD of the original film, her psychological revisit to her greatest fears, and her adaptability to step into the role of the leader and hero. At the beginning of the movie, Ripley is beaten and in a world that is no longer hers. She has lost her job and demoted to low-level work, she lost her daughter without being able to watch her grow up, and all of her friends are dead. Meanwhile, she has been through the most traumatic of events that would really mess anyone up. She is so defeated that the only logical step is to face her fears head-on when the opportunity presented itself. And, with nothing left to lose she transforms herself from her weakened state into a downright ass-kicker. Female empowerment at its best.

One of the things that make Ripley such a capable hero is her ability to lead by example in this film. Forced to cooperate with a military outfit predominantly filled by men, Ripley has no problem showing any of them their mistakes and weaknesses. When the survivors are left without leadership Ripley is able to step in and take control of the situation. Despite having no military training, she is resourceful enough to take as many tips and lessons as she can so to best arm herself in a situation that is becoming more desperate. And, even her makeshift flamethrower/machine gun can be seen as obviously too cumbersome for her, yet she presses on and fights not with strength but determination – then she gets in a power loader and simply kicks some ass, which is cool too.

Ripley is able to do all of the things any action hero can do all while never losing her femininity. A minor love interest is only possible because Hicks is a decent man that shows valuable qualities. But, it is Ripley’s compassion and maternal instincts that shine in Aliens. Finding a small, fragile girl, Newt, is the immediate trigger Ripley needs to fight and take control of the situation. In the parental role, Ripley comforts, compliments, protects, provides security and emotional support. Ripley is as great at being a mother as she is at kicking alien tail. Her compassion is also what allows her to trust Bishop even though she has every reason to hate androids. She is able to trust this robot and let him prove himself, where a man in this situation probably would have torn him apart already.

Aliens 3 –

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The third instalment of the Alien franchise is either considered the weakest link or, by some, the greatest entry. What happens in this film is we go back to the sexual perversion that was prominent in the first film. The fear of being impregnated by these aliens is accentuated by the risks of being trapped in a prison of sexually repressed males.

Up until this point, Ripley had been represented without sexual objectification. Where the majority of female leads are played by supermodels with perfect bodies, Sigourney Weaver provided us with a female hero that was not your typical big breasted, tanned body hero. Though she is still beautiful in her own right. Despite being in a situation filled with aggressive masculinity, objectification never became an issue. Ripley doesn’t have to push men back, get slapped in the ass, or complain about her role as a female up until this film.

Ripley continues to show the same characteristics that have carried her thus far, but she is being broken. She has lost everything all over again. And, this sexual undertone of the Alien concept becomes human with a scene that involves her becoming the victim. Though this is the weakest we see Ripley she still never complains and continues to push forward. And, when she discovers that she has been impregnated by an alien queen, she is not defeated by the violation and again takes control of the situation. Granted she kills herself, but how else would you kill an alien in your chest?

Aliens: Resurrection –

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Of course, there is Alien: Resurrection, where Ripley is cloned, brought back to life, and is given the strength and power that is equal to her competency. Even though we finally have a superpowered female action star equivalent of any superhero, she is still very much the Ripley that we have come to appreciate. She still doesn’t dress in inappropriate clothing, or wear make-up. She still carries the same maternal instincts, showcased in her protection of Call. She’s still a woman trying to survive, just with a few more tools in her belt.

This brings up another great point about Ripley as a woman and a hero, she never lectures about her moral superiority, she shows it through her actions. Alien: Resurrection is probably the movie where Ripley speaks the least. She has nothing to prove to anyone any more. She is merely pissed off that these xenomorphs are still kicking. Now it has become her versus them. And, stopping to explain that to the men of this film would just be a waste of her time. Her maternal instincts have taken over to more than just the one character, but for her entire species. The final scenes with the human/alien crossbreed is a representation of her entire people being violated by these creatures, and while she cares for the beast in a motherly way, she still has to destroy it.

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Basically, Ripley has been through hell, and still, she holds firm to her character, morals, and femininity. There is a lot to be said about this amazing female hero. I found this quote from the talented John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, that kind of nails what makes Ripley so wonderful:

“She’s not a sidekick, arm candy, or a damsel to be rescued. Starting with Alien, Ripley was a fully competent member of a crew or ensemble — not always liked and sometimes disrespected, but doing her job all the same. As each film progresses, she comes to the fore and faces challenges head-on — she’s the hero of the piece… Ripley isn’t a fantasy version of a woman. Science fiction film is filled with hot kickass women doing impossible things with guns and melee weapons while they spin about like a gymnast in a dryer. As fun as that is to watch, at the end of the day it’s still giving women short shrift, since what they are then are idealized killer fembots rather than actual human beings. Ripley, on the other hand, is pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself. All without being a spinny killbot.”

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Lt. Ellen Ripley has always been one of my favourite characters and heroes regardless of her gender. It is often difficult for me to choose favourites of anything, but Ripley has always been a hands down winner for me. In fact, my Ripley action figure is one of the only things that I have cherished from my childhood, and it is still displayed proudly in my room beside my children’s artwork. She represents all that is great in a heroic character and being a woman doesn’t define her, it’s just a part of who she is. Which brings me back to the fact that she could have just as easily been cast as a man. When a character is not defined by gender, when that separation is eliminated, we find equality. Equality is what feminism is all about.


Thanks for visiting the first instalment of Fiction’s Fearless Females! I believe the plan is for the amazingly talented, and wonderful friend of mine, Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 to take the baton with a piece next week, so keep an eye out for that. If there are any bloggers that would like to join in the fun of this series and write about your favourite fictional fearless female feel free to message me, or any of the other writers I mentioned.

Happy Women’s History Month!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Guest Post on Reads and Reels

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an extraordinary and ambitious graphic novel. Equal parts memoir, murder mystery and coming-of-age drama, the art in this book is beyond amazing, and was a perfect read during this Halloween season.

But…you’ll have to check out the blog Reads and Reels to find it, as I shared this incredible book as a guest blogger on Shanannigan’s site. Please head on over to her site to read my post- Guest Post: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

-Nancy

(Picture from Emil Ferris)

Marvel Rising- A Miniseries Deserving Of An Ongoing Title!

Today we have a treat- Michael from My Comic Relief kindly wrote us a marvelous guest post to cover Nancy’s absence while she and her family vacation in Washington DC.  After you read this post about the new Marvel Rising, make sure you check out his site and be ready to be impressed with his posts about comics, Star Wars, music and his poignant New American Resistance series. Enjoy!

Guest Writer: Michael Miller of My Comic Relief

When I was a kid, I enjoyed comic books for all sorts of reasons. The feelings that come most readily to mind when I let my memory drift back to those days are the joy I found in reading exciting adventures staring bright, fun, often funny, colorful characters and the reassurance of their simple homilies – no matter how dark it gets, the heroes always win in the end. When I returned to reading comic books as an adult, I was happy to find many comics still offering those same feelings…and I was impressed to find ones effectively coupling it with strong social justice messages. There are no two characters who perform these dual tasks better than Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl). And upon finding them, I became a fan for life. So I opened the pages of their first official team-up, Devin Greyson’s new miniseries Marvel Rising, with trepidation. Why was I worried? Well, could anything live up to my expectations?!? Would my hopes ruin the story for me? Thankfully what I found has me wishing it was an ongoing monthly series! Continue reading “Marvel Rising- A Miniseries Deserving Of An Ongoing Title!”

Guest Post on Perspective of a Writer

Graphic novels have been growing in popularity but it seems at times that a prejudice against them remains, with a lingering doubt about their literary merit. So when Dani from Perspective of a Writer asked me to share a post on her site about my passion for graphic novels, I was happy to oblige.

As a former elementary teacher, and now a current teen librarian, I want to let readers know of this genre’s merit and direct them to novels that will make them fans if they weren’t already. Get ready to find out examples of books that I put under the categories: Diverse Reads, Dark & Disturbing, Real & Gritty and Classic Superhero. Please take a look at my Ultimate List of Graphic Novels!

-Nancy

The Great Chris Debate! Part 1: Chris Pratt

This week, Michael of My Comic Relief, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Nancy, and I are going head to head – trying to decide which cinematic superhero Chris is best!!! Read on to see Michael’s case for Chris Pratt of Guardians of the Galaxy:

Guest Writer: Michael J. Miller of My Comic Relief

As superhero movies have become a larger and larger part of our popular culture, a question has vexed fans and scholars alike.  Which of the cinematic superhero Chrises is the greatest Chris of all??  Now, three incredible blogs and four intrepid bloggers have banded together to try and definitively answer this daunting question.  Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Kalie of Just Dread-full, and yours truly are going to get to the bottom of this.  So fasten your seatbelts as we spend the next few days exploring all things Chris…although, sadly for my collaborators, I don’t know if we’ll need more than one post.  Because I’ve solved it.  It’s Chris Pratt for the win – easy.  No contest.  Game.  Set.  Match.  Now here’s why. Continue reading “The Great Chris Debate! Part 1: Chris Pratt”

Guest Post on 2018 YASF Tournament of Books

As the Teen Services Coordinator at my library, I attend a networking group with other librarians who work with teens in the Chicagoland suburb area. For several years the YASF (Young Adult Services Forum) group has had a yearly Tournament of Books for YA novels, and this is my third year participating.

This year I was assigned sci-fi novel Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson and graphic novel Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr. Which book do you think I pushed onto the next bracket? Click here and find out which one (you might be surprised!).

-Nancy

Guest Post on The Imperial Talker

After watching The Last Jedi I had feelings. So many feelings!

After conversations with Jeff at The Imperial Talker about my disappointment with Luke Skywalker’s arc, he asked if I’d be willing to share my thoughts in a guest post. As Jeff is a consummate Star Wars fan and writes deeply thought out posts about the Star Wars universe, I was flattered he asked. In addition, he has a monthly haiku series on different Star Wars topics that is not to be missed!

Please head on over to his site and read my post An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga!

-Nancy

Deadpool’s Totally Boss Trip To The 80’s

Guest Writer: Michael J. Miller of My Comic Relief

A few weeks ago Nancy did a T5W post about fandoms she no longer considered herself a part of.  On the list was Old Man Logan.  While still a lover of the original run, Nancy spoke of being upset at his character returning as part of Marvel’s 2015 Secret Wars/Battleworld event.  As I considered the topic for my guest post here on Graphic Novelty² this week I realized the answer to both my topic choice and any still-lingering Battleworld woes was the same – DEADPOOL.  You see, while the rest of the Marvel Universe was converging on Doom’s Battleworld to fight for the fate of the multiverse, author Cullen Bunn and artist Matteo Lolli brilliantly dropped ol’ Wade Wilson back in the original Secret Wars series that ran from 1984-1985.  The resulting tale was a lot of fun and a perfect picture of why Deadpool’s become the omnipresent pop culture force he is.

First, full disclosure, I love Cullen Bunn.  I think he’s one of the best Deadpool writers Marvel has.  His stories ooze pop culture references, meta/self-aware humor, inappropriateness, and he balances that with real emotional depth and a surprising (yet totally welcome!) social awareness.  He drops all of it in the wild blender of Deadpool and it results in some of the most consistently solid, entertaining, and engaging Deadpool stories around.  With a character like Deadpool who is EVERYWHERE, it’s nice to find authors whose take on the character you trust and always enjoy.  For me, that’s Cullen Bunn.  From Night Of The Living Deadpool to Return Of The Living Deadpool to Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe to Deadpool Killustrated to Deadpool Kills Deadpool to Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, I’ve yet to be disappointed with his work…and, as you can see, I read a lot of it :).  Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars is another fantastic example of why I love Bunn’s vision of Deadpool so much!

The opening title card page, the now-common insert in all comics that’s meant to describe the Secret Wars event, is scribbled over in read with “Wrong Secret Wars!!!” written on the side.  It then says, “Back in 1984, all the big heroes were taken to space for a SECRET WAR – and here’s what REALLY happened!”  Following a running gag started in Gerry Duggan and Brian Posen’s run on Deadpool (at least I think it started there…I can’t remember reading it before them), Cullen Bunn has taken us back to see some of what Deadpool did before his first appearance in 1991’s New Mutants #98.  It turns out, Deadpool was always around!  Duggan and Posen have shown us Deadpool in the 70’s and 80’s when he hangs with Luke Cage and Iron Fist, helps Tony Stark get sober, and vacations in Wakanda.   Bunn takes this idea to a new height by revealing Wade’s roll in one of the most iconic Marvel miniseries of all time.

 As soon as Deadpool appears on the scene, the brilliance begins.  Deadpool’s banter, in Bunn’s hands, reads like a rapid-fire run of jokes and asides.  It really feels like he just won’t quit talking.  For Deadpool, that’s important.  Wade Wilson does pause, in moments of reflection or pain.  But when Wade’s ready and rolling he never shuts up.  That’s part of what makes Deadpool, Deadpool!  He’s something of a self-indulgent attention whore – but in the best possible way!  I absolutely love that about him (annnnd if I’m being honest it’s something I see of myself in him too (I can also be one for casual swearing, inappropriate sexual humor, pop culture references, and while I can’t use it I do have a katana hanging on my wall (hmm, this may not speak well of my state of mind…))). Of all the writers I’ve read, Bunn’s Deadpool just feels the most…uh, well Deadpooly to me.

 As the story begins, in a hilarious twist, none of the heroes know who Deadpool is.  This gives us Deadpool at his best, just to the outside of what’s going on.  In this position he’s the perfect character to lampoon anything (such as another Secret Wars…) while simultaneously being the character who speaks in a very real way to what it feels like to be an outsider looking in.  Right out of the gate Deadpool begins trying to establish his good guy credentials.  This is another hallmark of his character, underneath his innuendo and inappropriateness he is someone who desperately wants to belong and to be like his heroes.  Yes, Deadpool has an unstoppable healing factor that makes him essentially immortal.  Yes, he’s great with his katanas and his guns.  And sure, he’s gone toe-to-toe with everyone from Taskmaster to Thanos.  But Deadpool still looks up to all the Marvel heroes.  He wants to be like them and to be liked by them.  There’s a universality there, something that allows us all to see a little bit of ourselves in Deadpool.

The whole graphic novel is filled with wonderful 80’s references too.  You have some obligatory Cold War humor.  There’s talk of the standard banter that comes with the macho male action movies of the decade.  And of course he touches on the difficulties in acquiring Cabbage Patch Kids too.  The series’ BIG meta moment comes with the nod to the Secret War toy line!  When Marvel released Secret Wars in the 80’s Mattel released a corresponding Marvel Secret Wars toy line (*cough* of course *cough*).  Well, each superhero came with a “Secret Shield” accessory that had a “lenticular disc” you could put inside the shield that flashed between images as you angled it differently.  It showed scenes from the hero’s life as well as an image of their secret identity.  Well, as Deadpool scuffles with Spidey in the comic, Spider-Man knocks Deadpool into a wall filled with all those shields.  Of course Deadpool finds his own making for a wonderful meta-toy goof.

The 80’s connections don’t stop there though.  During the battle Deadpool finds himself physically healed.  Under his costume his body no longer bears the scars he always carries.  He becomes the picture of a macho 1980’s heartthrob – mustache, sideburns, shaggy mullet hair, and rippling muscles.  (Tom Sellek eat your heart out!)  In his new “supermodel” body, Deadpool also experiments with a costume makeover.  He finds the machine ultimately responsible for giving Spider-Man the black, alien symbiote costume he wore in the 80’s (that eventually becomes Venom) and Deadpool wears the alien first…and kinda messes up the symbiote’s mind in the process :).  Whelp, that’ll be awkward for Spidey…but it’s classic Deadpool.

As the story moves to its conclusion Bunn ventures into the sort of deeply emotional territory he does so well with Wade Wilson as he explains why Deadpool isn’t part of the “official” record of the Secret Wars.  I won’t go into any details here (and, in fact, I’ve tried to be as vague as I can with the details so far) because I don’t want to ruin anything.  This is a hilarious, moving, fun, and wonderfully creative story and my outlining plot specifics totally spoils it for you.  Trust me, it’s better if you experience it for yourself.  I will add that, in addition to a moving ending, Bunn also lets the reader sit with Deadpool’s outsider status.  With deep authenticity, we feel what it’s like for Deadpool on the margins.  For a character who makes as many jokes as quickly as Deadpool always does (I literally laughed out loud multiple times when I read this volume) there is a sadness at his core.  No matter what he does, Deadpool can’t seem to find a way to be included among the other superheroes.  Part of what makes Cullen Bunn such a master at writing Deadpool is he delivers both sides of Deadpool fluidly and flawlessly.  We see Deadpool the goofball hero (as he presents himself to the world) but we also see the Deadpool who is hurting (as he often is inside).

For all his attempts at heroics, Wade Wilson is so often rejected by those he deeply admires for all manner of reasons – his violent methods, his appearance, his odor, his endless stream of banter many of the other heroes find so annoying.  Essentially, Deadpool just wants to be like the heroes he looks up to but he can never find his place among them.  We, as readers, can completely understand where he’s coming from.  On the one hand, we all look to our superheroes to inspire us.  While we read comics for fun and entertainment, I think we all have that little kid inside us that gets a rush seeing these heroes do things we all want to believe we can do too.  Superheroes speak to our potential.  On the other hand, we’ve all had experiences of wanting to belong when we feel like we don’t (or can’t) fit in.  Deadpool speaks to every time we’ve ever felt excluded, left alone and lost on the margins.  He shares our feelings of inadequacy, of wanting to belong and being rejected, of never fitting in how we wish we could.  This makes Deadpool an incredibly important character.

Yes, Wade Wilson began his career in the Marvel Universe as a villain and rode the huge tide of antihero popularity in the 90’s that moved characters like the Punisher and Venom into the spotlight too.  But over the last twenty years as his character’s developed and he’s moved from dark antihero to aspiring superhero, his popularity has exploded.  In part that’s because of how hilarious, wildly inappropriate, and meta his books can be.  But it’s also because he speaks to a universal human experience.  We all want to belong.  As human beings we are literally, evolutionarily, biologically made for community.  By nature we all seek acceptance, love, and inclusion.  Wade often struggles to find that among his superhero role models but he never lets that stop him.  Reading Deadpool comics we feel the pain of exclusion with him…but he still keeps us laughing through it all.  As we laugh with Deadpool we learn about perseverance too.  No matter how many times he’s written off, Deadpool never stops trying to be who he dreams he can be.  We all need his model, encouragement, optimism and drive to keep making ourselves better and brighter so we can make the world better and brighter too.  Deadpool, for all his wild antics and innuendo-laced humor, shows us how to do just that.  He’s hilarious and inappropriate while simultaneously being the poster child for never giving up.

Deadpool speaks to something deep within all of us, something insecure and fragile that wants to be transformed as we reach for our highest potential.  Deadpool makes us laugh out loud while also speaking to our hearts.  He reminds us of how important it is to be aware of those on the margins and, when we feel as though we’re isolated on the margins ourselves, he reminds us we’ll survive as long as we keep laughing and moving forward.  I want to thank Nancy and Kathleen for letting me take over Graphic Novelty² today!  Their site was one of the very first I found as I took my tentative baby steps into the world of blogging last year and I’ve come to admire their work second only to how much I value their friendship.  So it’s very exciting for me to get to share the spotlight with these lovely ladies!  I wanted to make this post count, to share an important message.  Who would’ve ever thought that message would be – Be like Deadpool?!?  But I think we’d all be better off if we followed Deadpool’s lead from time to time.

All images courtesy of Marvel

(We would like to thank Michael for contributing this epic post to our blog! When Nancy knew she’d be on vacation and we still wanted to keep up our usual posting schedule, we knew if we asked him to write a review he would gladly do so, and he did not disappoint! Not only that but he gave us the longest word count ever post to our blog!  If you are not already familiar with Michael’s work- please check out his blog My Comic Relief. He shares amazing reviews on comics and movies, plus he writes a heartfelt series New American Resistance about challenges our nation is facing.  If that’s not enough, he and his beloved Kalie write genre mash-ups together on both of their blogs. Prepare to laugh, think, and then laugh again when you read his blog!)

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