Posted in art on 09/29/2011 12:53 pm by Shaenon
Childhood Heroine #7: Kira
The Dark Crystal scared the crap out of me, so of course I watched it obsessively every time it reran on Showtime in the early 1980s. (This was when my family lived in eastern Texas, and cable TV was a life necessity because you couldn’t go outside in the summer without bursting into flames. Or you could go to the mall, but mall socialization in the South led directly to child beauty pageants and the Baby Olympics.) In a movie filled with moments designed to darken the dreams and steal the innocence of Muppet-loving children everywhere, there was one scene that particularly haunted me, where one of the evil roadkill-crow Muppets dies and at the same moment one of the good but still extremely creepy four-armed monk Muppets keels over dead, because they’re psychically linked or something. That freaked the crap out of me. I watched it over and over.
Once in a while something non-terrifying happened in The Dark Crystal, usually involving hyper-competent hippie elf chick Kira, friend to all Henson-operated woodland creatures. Like many girls, I was deeply impressed by the scene where HOLY CRUD MUPPET SPOILERS Kira rescues the main elf guy by suddenly sprouting fucking wings and flying, and when he says, “Wings? I don’t have wings,” she says, “Of course not. You’re a boy.”
In college, my friend Cory-Ellen confessed that Kira was her first crush. My first crush was Gonzo on The Muppet Show, and in retrospect I have to admit she made the better choice.
Posted in Uncategorized on 09/21/2011 03:23 pm by Pancha Diaz
Here are some character sketches for my OCEAN story that Shaenon and I did at Stumptown last year. One of the reasons I like tabling at these small cons is that I feel really creative stuck behind the booth, and often come up with my next anthology story right there.
This is my sketch of some hard-partying whales.
Shaenon’s sketch of a puking whale.
You’ll be able to read the story in OCEAN, debuting in October 1st at APE. OCEAN will also be available on our store a few days after the con if you can’t make it or are outside the Bay Area.
Posted in art on 09/20/2011 10:22 am by Shaenon
Childhood Heroine #6: Samus Aran
How did kids know stuff before the Internet? Through some gestalt consciousness, we all knew the Konami Code (the only way to get past the first damn level in Contra), the locations of any and all warp zones (even Fred Savage’s brother in The Wizard used his magic autism powers to find the warp whistles in Super Mario 3), and that your guy in Metroid was actually a girl and if you beat the game you got to see her naked. Or so the legend went.
There was one friend of my brother’s who had beaten Metroid, an obnoxiously difficult game where just getting space warrior Samus Aran to walk across a room and do the rolling-into-a-ball trick took endless after-school practice, and he used to fire up the last level–that was another exciting thing, that you could save the game–so we could all watch the magic moment. This turned out to consist of Samus turning into what might, if you squinted hard and used all the power of a child’s imagination, be a stick figure in a bikini. Add some math, and it could’ve been a page from the Women of xkcd pinup calendar. But this was what kids did for video-game cheesecake in the 80s. Again, no Internet.
The strategy of using the promise of digitized female flesh to convince male gamers to spend untold hours learning to operate an annoyingly hard-to-control avatar would later be honed to perfection for Tomb Raider. But by then I was older and already missing Samus Aran, the James Tiptree of pixels, winning in a boys’ world inside her Christmas-colored masculine armor.
Posted in art on 09/13/2011 08:00 pm by Shaenon
Childhood Heroine #5: Princess Peach
It was an amazing moment when Super Mario 2 came out, and Toad and Princess Peach were suddenly upgraded from vaguely humanoid stacks of immobile pixels to playable characters. I became a Jedi of the Peach, mastering her signature drifting long jump. I played Princess Peach on every level except that one where you need Luigi’s powered-up high jump to get to a warp or something, and usually you can warp past that level anyway.
To this day, there are only two video games I’m any good at: Super Mario 2 and Ms. Pac-Man, which taught kids with only mildly indulgent parents how to make a quarter last for twenty minutes. I’m especially ninja on the Mario 2 whale level in the ice world, still second in awesomeness only to the level of Mario 3 with Kuribo’s Shoe. Princess Peach riding in Kuribo’s Shoe–now that’d be something to see. Maybe I should draw that next.
Posted in art on 09/09/2011 07:37 pm by Shaenon
Childhood Heroine #4: The Childlike Empress
The trouble with playing Neverending Story with Joshua Wigley in Orange, Texas was that The Neverending Story has many merits, but a wide selection of prominent female characters is not among them. Joshua could be either Bastian or Atreyu, while I was pretty much stuck with the Childlike Empress, who, like Childhood Heroine #3 (The Sorceress), has awesome magic powers and all but doesn’t actually do all that much. But what were my other options? I didn’t want to be Bastian’s talking mule, and the evil sorceress from the hand-shaped castle who seduces Bastian was an intriguing role, but even in second grade I knew I wasn’t cut out to play femmes fatale. It was either be the Childlike Empress, or give up on the gender requirement and be the crazy monkey in the City of Old Emperors, who was my favorite character anyway.
Yes, I’m aware that if you’ve only seen the movie, the previous two sentences sound completely insane.
Anyway, we cleared this hurdle by beefing up the Moon Child’s active role in the daily doings around Fantastica. She spent a lot of time riding Falkor, is all I’m saying.
Incidentally, I grew up to be a cartoonist and Joshua grew up to be a gay punk rocker, so the combination of He-Man and Neverending Story clearly has a beneficial effect on impressionable young minds.
Posted in art on 09/07/2011 11:13 am by Shaenon
Childhood Heroine #3: The Sorceress
In retrospect, the Sorceress in Masters of the Universe didn’t do a whole lot except hang out in Castle Grayskull, make mysterious pronouncements, and turn into a giant bird. But if you were seven in the early ’80s and looking for female role models, you could a whole lot worse. The best thing about the Sorceress was that she allowed me to adopt a dual role when playing He-Man with Joshua Wigley in Orange, Texas: I was She-Ra when we visited Etheria and the Sorceress when we went to Eternia. Joshua was, of course, always He-Man. In my private version of the story, She-Ra and the Sorceress were the same person, concealing her true nature from He-Man for secret reasons of her own.
She-Ra had a complex inner life in my mind.
It never occurred to me to be Teela. Teela looked pretty tough with her armor and butch haircut, but when it came down to it she spent all her time getting kidnapped and teaching Orko not to eat the drug berries. Even as a kid, her version of strong womanhood seemed false, a pose adopted to score points with the men of her rough-and-tumble planet without doing anything genuinely heroic. In her own way, Teela taught me to understand Sarah Palin.
This does not, of course, apply to the considerably more badass version of Teela in the Masters of the Universe movie. Speaking of which, that movie is surprisingly entertaining, especially any time Dolph Lundgren tries to say words.
Posted in art on 09/06/2011 01:40 am by Shaenon
Andrew spent the SF ZineFest drawing superheroes, and I spent it writing comments all over his superhero drawings.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Uncategorized on 09/02/2011 12:16 pm by Pancha Diaz
The Couscous Collective is going to be at SF ZineFest this weekend! Come by and see us at table 56. The fest is at the San Francisco County Fair building, 1199 9th Ave and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park from 11 am – 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Posted in art on 09/01/2011 02:45 pm by Shaenon
Childhood Heroine #2: Lilith Sternin-Crane
My mother was part of a test audience for “Cheers” and took personal credit for the show’s success. Needless to say, we watched it every week. I’m sure my parents were hooked by the fiery, raucous, cosmically misguided on-again/off-again relationship between Sam and Diane, similar in so many ways to their own seven tumultuous years of dating and, for that matter, their marriage.
As for me, I identified with corpse-pale, Aspergery psychiatrist Lilith, and could never understand why the other characters acted like she was such a pill. She was obviously the coolest character on the show. I very much wanted to be Lilith so I could hobnob with intellectuals, name all my lab rats, live in the Biosphere, and periodically cheat on Frasier Crane. Also, Bebe Neuwirth had a great set of pipes.
My concept of Lilith as the most desirable woman on “Cheers” was just the beginning of a lifetime of problems in this department. Re-watching the show now via Netflix, I realize I should have modeled myself after Carla.