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Fantasy author Daryl Gregory’s newest novel, Spoonbenders. centers around the Telemachus family in the very distant and backwards year of nineteen-ninety-five. The Chicagoan family are anything but normal as they were once known “The Amazing Telemachus Family,” regularly touring the country and appearing on television. Following an unfortunate T.V. appearance that marked them as frauds, the family members adapt to everyday life, always plagued by feelings of lose and memories of glory days behind them. It’s only when the family is faced with a threat they find their heydays are not forever gone and that they truly are “Amazing”.
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I sat down with Daryl Gregory and about talked about his life and work.
Where did you get the idea come from for Spoonbenders?
It came from two things: I knew I wanted to write about families in my books. I had a really quiet family, but I grew up in Chicago and I would go on sleepovers and visit my friends’ families and they would be slamming doors and people would be yelling at each other. I thought, “This is amazing! I want to have a family like this.” They were so dramatic. So, I wanted to write about a big, Catholic, Chicago family like that. That was sort of the start of it and all the psychic stuff came in too. But also… I grew up as a Cubs fan and that was when the Cubs were terrible and sucked year, after year. I wanted to write about that feeling of mediocrity. It’s like, “Look, your heydays were way past you. They’re probably never coming again.” But, you just show up every day and do your job and you think about what use to happen. That’s the way I grew up. The Cubs were my religion. My world view was severely damaged by them winning the World Series, however. I think it was a terrible mistake. Also, someone in Denver once explained to me when I was at a stop at a bookstore, “You know, when the Cubs won, that triggered the alternate timeline that we’re living in right now. We’re living in a world where anyone can become president, when anything can happen.” So, it’s the Cubs winning that and breaking the universe that leads to everything happening right now.
How was the research for the book?
I was reading books on stage magic, a lot of books on mentalism, how stage magicians fake mental powers and all the different techniques that they use, and I was also reading James Randi’s books. James Randi was the magician who debunked Uri Geller. I was reading his book and how Uri Geller got a lot of his tricks across. I was also reading a lot about card sharks. One of the characters, Teddy Telemachus, knows he has no powers and is kind of a con-man, but he made his living as a mechanic working poker games. The techniques they use are nothing but short of magic; The preparation that they go into. Also, there was a lot of research I did about the US government. [The US government] funded “Project Stargate” up until nineteen-ninety-five, doing all this psychic research, and Project Stargate is an important part of Spoonbenders. In the book, they’re trying to recruit the family into it. All that stuff now, through the Freedom of Information Act, all the Project Stargate notes including the tests of Uri Geller are all online. You can see every document that they were keeping throughout the seventies about how they tested these psychics. That was, like, amazing.
Is that why the book s takes play in nineteen-ninety-five?
Exactly! That’s the year that congress cut off funding and I wanted to set the book in that year. I also wanted the people at the right ages so we could do the sixties, the start of the government research, and do the heyday of Uri Geller in the seventies, and then be twenty-years after that.
Do you believe in psychic power?
I have to confess that I don’t. I’m such a skeptic and a materialist. But, I did go to this “Quantum-Spoon Bending” seminar. Me and my girlfriend went and paid fifty-five dollars apiece to “learn the secrets of bending spoons,” and they show up and hand us forks. I was like “Wait a minute, this is supposed to be spoon bending, not fork bending.” Anyway, he showed us these techniques and they all worked, but the way that they worked was basically through the powers of suggestion. There’s sixteen-people in this circle, we’ve all got forks, people have their eyes closed, and I opened my eyes because I’m basically there as a spy. Across the circle from me, there’s a woman just bending the hell out of her fork. Eventually, we all open our eyes and the teacher said, “How did it go?”, and this one woman raises her hand and says, “Um, I don’t know. I just felt the warmth roll through me. This energy, the arcturian light, flowed through my body and look, I have this bent fork.” And then, it was game on. Everybody in the circle closed their eyes again and trying different techniques, and everyone is bending forks all around this circle. By the end of the two-and-a-half-hour seminar, people are getting so fast at bending the forks… They weren’t doing it insincerely, they weren’t trying to fool each other, but they wanted to participate. They wanted to feel special.
For Spoonbenders, I realized that this whole book is about this family that wants to feel special again, and I understand that feeling. So, it was a real important lesson for me. I learned about the way that stage magicians would fake bending spoons and the way that they prepare things, but I realized it’s a lot simpler than that. People want to participate and the only real energy that they were using was kinetic energy and maybe a lot of enthusiasm and optimism.
With Spoonbenders now being out, have you had any “Shucks, I should have put that in” moments?
Oh, I had a couple. One, there’s the little things in which as soon as the book is printed, you go through it and find mistakes. The French translator found an error that got into English and the German translator found an error too. I was like “We’ll just have to fix it in the next printing, guys.” They read it very carefully as they are translating it to be printed. Another thing was when I was talking to the screen writer, as they’re trying to make this into a television show, and I was talking to Nicole Beede, who’s writing this outline, and she was explaining to me how the first episode is going to break out. She came up with this great idea with compressing several events that happen over a couple years. She’s like, “You know, all these could happen in the same day.” I’m like, “Of course they could. Damnit!” I wanted to go back and do that. I thought it was just a beautiful idea. I think it’s going to be a great adaptation, if it ever gets to be a T.V. show. But you know, you mostly try not to look back because if you do, it will just go on and on, and I will just want to keep re-writing it.
If the show does come to be, are you going to have an active hand in it?
No, they haven’t talked about that yet. But probably the smart thing for me to do would be to stay away. We’ve talked about maybe writing an episode, but that’s their own art form and they’ve got to make it into their own story, to make it work for the screen, and I know they’re really good with that. I want their story to work. Maybe I will do something and maybe I will learn screenwriting, but they need to do what they do best. I just need to go on and write the next book. It’s probably the smartest thing for me to do.
What were your favorite books growing up?
Let’s see. Roger Zelazny… like every kid my age I was reading. J.R.R Tolkien, I got my mind blown in my Sophomore year of high-school when I read Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, cause I know it was supposed to be satire for adults, but I thought it was just an amazing book that I realized “Wow, you can pretty much do anything,” and things that I thought of as science-fiction were actually part of mainstream literature just really going back to the start of writing.
What have been your influences in your work?
My influences vary depending upon the book. For Spoonbenders, there were a bunch of different books that fed into it. There’s some stage magic and some card sharks in the book, so I was thinking of “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold, which is a fantastic book about a magician’s entire life from when he’s in Vaudeville as a teenager, all the way until he’s an old man at the dawn of television. Then there was a lot of non-fiction by James Randy who was a stage magician who debunked people like faith healers and psychics. His books were really-influential. But for the large sense, there’s some people who are constant influences for me; Roger Zelazny, I’ve read most of Philip K. Dick, and John Crowley’s “Little Big” was a huge one. “Little Big” is about an extended family and they’re all vaguely magical. It’s the same kind of feeling of Spoonbenders, in that you’re not sure if they are really-magical or if they just believe they’re magical.
Why do you write fantasy?
Yeah, I feel like I had no notice. I mean, I feel like I was imprinted. For some reason, I was an English major and a Theatre major and so I’ve read the classics. Maybe this goes back to reading mythology stories when you’re a kid, but magic and the fantastic use to be a regular part of literature. It wasn’t considered a separate genre. The gods were involved, magic was involved; That was just a fact of the world. And so, I was always attracted to stories where something strange was going on, and I felt like when I started writing I didn’t want to leave any of that out. That gets me going, when there’s something actually-weird going on and it works as a metaphor at the same time. In Spoonbenders for example, one of the characters, Irene, she’s the human lie-detector. It makes her relationships impossible because she can hear the lies. Her son is Matty, who’s fourteen. Imagine the hell of having your mom be a human lie detector. Like, a lot of us think our mom has this power and they certainly want us to believe they have this power, so I really like that dynamic. There’s one point in the book where his mom says to Matty, “Have you been smoking pot?” He knows he can’t answer directly, so he answers in the form of a question. He says, “Currently?” Everybody in the family has learned to answer Irene in the form of a question and eventually she just yells at them, “Stop Trebeking me!” So, I like the absurd and the surreal, but ultimately I like to have it be psychologically realistic at its heart. It has to be meaningful for me at the emotional level or it doesn’t work.
You’ve done some graphic novels with Boom! Studios and IDW. How as that compared to writing for regular prose?
Yeah… I mean, I grew up on comics, and so I got into comics because I express jealousy in my friends who are doing them. Chris Roberson and Bill Willingham basically brought me in. Chris Roberson gave my first novel to Boom and said, “You might want to look at this guy.” I got to write with Kurt Busiek for my first comic and then do the “Planet of the Apes” series for a couple years… It was just fantastic. I love how it’s a whole different kind of writing. It’s very “visual-first.” I love working hand-in-hand with an artist. Like, that was amazing to do. My first love probably will always be novels, but I love the whole comic process, I love the whole collaborative part. It’s a lot less lonely than just sitting in a coffee shop for hours, and hours, and hours alone.
What is the next book?
I don’t know. Well, here’s what I do know. I have a young-adult series with the Tor team called the “Harrison Squared” series and I’m just working on book two write now, that’s almost done. There will be a book three down the road. But, the next adult novel is in such a weird amorphous stage. When I’m on a book tour, people always ask “What’s the next thing?” and I always feel like I’m coming out of the hospital with a new baby and they’re like “That’s a great baby. When’s your next baby? Are you going to do anything different with the next one?” I’m just trying to enjoy the moment, HAHA.
Nicholas Eskey is an avid reader and writer. When not contributing to The Beat, he works on his personal projects, the latest being a fantasy novel called “My Personable Demon.” He lives in San Diego, California, and is frequently bossed around by his cat.
by Andrea Ayres
Two panels. Two vastly different views of Wonder Woman, the movie.
It is one of the last panels of Comic-Con, a discussion of how to move beyond the strong female character. The audience skews mostly female, not surprising considering the topic. It only takes a few minutes for the film Wonder Woman to be mentioned and when it is, the audience erupts in applause.
It was a vastly different response to others I’d experienced elsewhere at Comic-Con. This group cheers while another sighs, disappointed for the representation of their bodies and voices that never quite seems to materialize. All of these women had seen the same film but had experienced it in distinctly different ways.
Released domestically on June 2, 2017, the DC Comics movie from Warner Bros. has quickly become the highest grossing domestic film of the summer, making over $750 million worldwide. Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster) with writing from Allan Heinberg, Zach Snyder and Jason Fuchs, the film has also been received warmly by critics. It’s been a welcome success for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) which has been marred by a string of lackluster box office performances.
Women led films are exceedingly rare in Hollywood, those given a budget of $150 Million places Jenkins in a league of her own. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jenkins says she cannot take on the history of over 50% of the world’s population simply because she’s a woman. That, of course, hasn’t stopped people from trying to task her with exactly that.
Opportunities like the one Jenkins was given are so few and far between that when they do come along, there’s an almost inevitability to the kind of pressure Jenkins refers to. As fans, we want to see the movie do well. Hell, not just well, we want to see the movie blow past even the most hardened skeptics expectations. A preemptive strike against those who would write off the success as anomaly or use the film as an example for why diversity in popular culture just doesn’t sell (P.S. it does).
Shortly after Wonder Woman’s release, women began sharing their deeply emotional experiences with the film on social media. From Diana’s (Gal Gadot) childhood on an island of women, to exquisite battle sequences, to being hushed and trivialized by male characters, it was simply something we hadn’t seen depicted so well on film before. For many, the first thirty minutes of film showing women delighting in battle, in power, and competition were some of the most emotionally charged of the film.
The movie gave women’s bodies space to breathe during action scenes. It’s a visual audiences are not generally afforded. Not only does the camera not shy away from the full power of a bodies in motion, it slowed them down. It demanded the audience appreciate the relationship of grace, muscle, and power of the Amazonians. The film allows for physical strength to coexist with emotion. Indeed, it is only through Diana’s ownership of her emotional core that she is able to realize her true potential as a demigoddess. The film is a triumph some 75 years in the making. That triumph, however, does not come without tiresome and predictable caveats.
During the Sunday afternoon panel about moving beyond the strong female character, writer Alicia Lutes (Nerdist) talked about the internal conflict she experienced reviewing Wonder Woman. While she enjoyed the movie, she did not believe it was flawless. Lutes spoke of the pressure she felt as a woman to help lift this movie up precisely because these opportunities for women in film, in particular women warriors in film, are so rare. Ultimately, Lutes reviewed the movie faithfully and honestly to how she experienced it, but wanted to discuss this inner struggle at Comic-Con. That struggle is an important inflection point.
On the first day of Comic-Con, the Women in Comics Collective (WinC) hosted a panel to discuss race, gender, and diversity in comics. It was a panel comprised entirely of women of color, a rarity not only at Comic-Con but across nearly all forms of media. Mention of Wonder Woman solicited murmurs and sighs from the audience. Panelists shook their heads and exhaled a sigh for what might have been.
Speaking over email with Regine Sawyer (creator and organizer of WinC) I asked her to share her thoughts about Wonder Woman and the disconnect between how white women and women of color seemed to experience the film.
“I think there’s a disconnect in terms of how the film can be received as both barrier breaking and stifling. For white women, it breaks the barrier for their narrative, but not that of women of color due to how the WoC in the movie were portrayed. As Black Women, we are very much used to putting ourselves in another’s shoes, and resonating with them. That’s due to us being accustomed to not seeing ourselves reflected in the media and in history. With that said, I enjoyed Wonder Woman immensely, but would have liked to see the WoC characters have more pivotal and active roles on the island…yes they could fight, but where was the heart?”
Where was the heart? It was a sentiment that would be felt and expressed numerous times during Comic-Con, including at the Roxane Gay question and answer session Saturday morning. It was an opportunity not seized to expand the role and visibility of women of color in a major summer film.
When I asked Sawyer about the portrayal of Artemis (Ann J. Wolfe) and Philippus (Ann Ogbomo) in the movie she said: “What I find the most interesting about those characters, is that I don’t remember much about them. There were more than several women of color in those first scenes, and although it was wonderful to have visual representation, most of them had very few to no lines at all. For me, they faded out as quickly as they faded in. They were apart of the ambiance, but not the story.”
Over a year ago, writer Ira Hobbs (Blavity) talked about the important role black women have in the canon of Wonder Woman and expressed his fears about the upcoming film. In May, just before film’s release, writers Maya Rupert (The Atlantic) and Monique Jones (Slash Film) discussed their complicated relationship with DC Comic’s Wonder Woman as well as their hopes for the film. Each expressed a guarded, tentative optimism that the filmmakers might use use their unique position to update and highlight the roles of women of color within Themyscira.
In a piece published after Wonder Woman’s release, Cameron Glover (Harper’s Bazaar) examined the movie’s problematic depictions of black women. Glover delves into issues like the use of the black caretaker trope and erasure and diminishment of important characters, like Diana’s sister Nubia and leader of the Amazon military, Philippus. At the conclusion of Glover’s piece, she acknowledges the film as an immense step forward for women and women-led filmmaking. And there is little doubt that it is exactly that, but it was close to being so much more to so many more.
Sawyer is not under any misapprehension of who the film was meant to be about, “Wonder Woman was the main character, but if she is going to have supporting characters, let them be such. Let them have a leg and a voice to stand on. There were several high ranking officials on the island that were WoC, it would have been wonderful to hear more from them.”
It’s not about making the perfect film or even believing that any single work could fully address or correct the ills of society. It’s about propelling ourselves and the media we create to push beyond visibility. It’s about taking that leap to ensure that everyone has a voice, because too often white women expect other women to support and applaud their steps forward even as they themselves are held back, erased, or excluded.
We sat in theatres crying with pride, with joy, and in reflection of what it meant to see a place like Themyscira on film through the lens of a female director. We posted images of children dressed as Wonder Woman under the banner of “Representation matters!” And if this is true, then the representation of us all must matter to each of us always.
For more information about the Women in Comics Collective: WinC will be hosting events during NYCC 2017, both on and offsite. Check their website womenincomicsnyc and their Twitter Account @Womenincomicsny for updates.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
Today sees the release of the latest issue of Love and Rockets, the alt-comics landmark by the Hernandez Bros. that has inspired and entertained for 35 years. Personally, it’s a series that’s run in the background of my life since I was very, very young. Around the same time I was learning the contemporary line-up of the X-Men, or the worlds of DC’s multiverse, I grew ever so curious about this oversized series that populated a converted liquor box my uncle labeled in black marker as “indie comics”. I didn’t get a chance to actually crack open a copy of an issue, beyond a few stolen glances, until I was much older. But once I did, I was hooked, and it quickly became one of the greatest fictional adventures I’d ever embarked upon – from Jaime‘s slice of life punk rock/occasional pro-wrestler odyssey that basically laid down the template for titles like Blue Monday, Phonogram, and a countless host of others; to Gilbert’s surrealist mixture of Marquez, Lynch, Almodovar, and whatever other reductive outre points of interest that my brain can currently conjure.
There’s no comic like it, it’s hard to imagine there ever will be. With today’s issue #3, the next entry in their return to the magazine format that was the delivery device of their work in the 80’s and 90’s, Jaime produces a triptych – the continuation of the Hopey-Maggie reunion with their still rowdy, but much older friends from the Huerta punk scene, the next chapter in his retro sci-fi adventure tale: “Princess Anima”, and the real surprise, a flash back tale to the days of Izzy Reubens acting as a caretaker for a young Maggie and Hopey, potentially laying the groundwork to fill in a tale that’s only been told on the fringes throughout the series’ history. As for Gilbert, he returns to genre excursions that he’s occasionally stopped into during his intertwining of the career journeys of both Fritz and Killer, in this instance, a more fleshed-out look at the Doctor Who-esque Professor Enigma. And in the comic’s back-end, he checks in with the separated at birth Rosario and Remedios, and the latter’s entry into the world of pornography. It’s an incredible work and I’d argue their strongest installment since New Stories Vol 6, which rightfully earned them both Eisners.
The day following their induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame, I was given the opportunity to chat with both Gilbert and Jaime about the new issue, their transition back to the magazine format, and what’s to come. These interviews were conducted separately, but edited together, kind of like an issue of Love and Rockets!
For the spoiler-averse, do come back after you’ve read the latest issue, as some very specific details and turns of Issue #3 are discussed.
The transition back to the magazine format: Has your creative process benefited from it? And on top of that how about your actual production process for the stories themselves?
Jaime: This goes back to when we decided to go annual. I was doing fifty pages a year. I found out that my work really blossomed because I had more space, and I had room to breathe, and I learned a lot, a new way of storytelling. And I did some of my favorite stuff in that. But in the long run I started to burn out. I started living with fifty pages for a year with no breaks, no closure.
And it started to bug me, and I said “well, do I give up the perks that come with it? Or do I want to be happy?” And I decided I want to go back to sixteen pages an issue. More closure, more often. It’s just less wear on me, and, yes, I think I did some of my best work in the big format. But I’m trying to balance that, trying to get the best of both worlds.
Do you also prefer having your art being able to breathe a little bit more in the larger page size as well?
Jaime: Yeah, because I get to let the characters kind of breathe, let them be more human and more natural. I was able to write them in real time, kind of. And I found a lot of pluses in [that format]. But I also kind of miss – I grew up on the pamphlet. In the sixties, you know, you sat and you had your little private comic, and you read thirty pages and then you were satisfied.
I was kind of raised on that, so I kind of like that feeling. Like your little personal moment for a few moments.
When you’re starting back at a number one issue, do you worry about catering to new readers? Or did you have specific stories you wanted to tell, and it didn’t matter what the issue number was?
Gilbert: Actually, we did think about it. We didn’t consider, like, “let’s just drop the storyline we were right in the middle of, with the annual, and just start over and then gradually get back”…. Because it was so involved in what was going on, that we just thought, “you know what? That’s just more work.” That’s just more pushing our work back, back to the future, you know. So we just discussed that and thought, “no, let’s just go right in from where we left off.” You know, I hope we don’t lose any readers that way, but…we just went ahead.
Jaime: This was the first time that I had to give up that idea of letting new readers discover it, because I was in the middle of three continuing stories.
And I said I’m not going to mess that up. I’m just hoping that people know it’s the same comic book. Hopefully they can adjust. There’s a lot of … compromise that I find now. Can I give up this, but I get to have this? And I try to work it to the best that will work for everybody.
For the actual negotiation of storytelling space between you both and sometimes Mario, I know you don’t work side by side. How do you guys work out what goes where and in what order?
Gilbert: We split it in the middle; it’s just easier that way. It used to be that we would … He’d say, “oh, I need this many pages to finish this chapter”, or I would say, “okay, then that way, I’ll take less pages this issue and next issue I’ll have more”. That’s how we used to do it. Now we just split it right in the middle. Sixteen pages each, and work it that way.
Jaime: It’s usually like if I’ve got a cover, he will have the first story. We just kind of work that out. And then we kind of go “okay, I’ve got a really strong ten-pager. Can that go at the end? Cause it’s got a good cliffhanger or something.”
And then he’ll go, “Okay. I’ve got a really kind of two-pager that’s just kind of information. It’s not really going to carry the issue. So do you have a really strong one to put after it or before it?” We’ll just talk that way.
Gilbert, toward the end of Volume 3 you were already headed there, but Volume 4, you have really started to shine the focus back on Fritz again. What is it about Fritz that keeps bringing you back?
Gilbert: It’s something about her. She was actually my first character that I created, but I had no place for her. She’s in the very first issue in Love and Rockets, believe it or not – the untitled story with the small panels.
She was simply a character that I wanted … I wanted a catch-all adventure character, female. I gave her a distinct look with the thick eyebrows and that sort of thing, but I didn’t really have any place for her. I wasn’t really sure who the character was. I just liked drawing her in different settings. So anyway, so I brought her back for Birdland, my adults-only comic book, just because I had the character, and I thought, “Oh, this would be fun to do. Why don’t I just use her for that?”.
I used her for that, but what happened is that she started to develop a continuity with her sister and the other characters, so I just thought this would work as a character. So anyway, I guess the whole point is making her a psychologist and then an actress, was that I don’t know who she is. I know who all my other characters are. I don’t know who she is, so I’m always trying to discover who she is.
Now, that can get into repetition because maybe you never find out what that is, so luckily, being an actress, I can put her in different settings, I can do this … She can express herself. Like so many actors in real life have no special personality in their regular lives, but they express it on film, express it in the story. They become different people, and they really shine. Well, that can only go so far, so… I started doing Killer as more of a sympathetic character, but I have to admit, she doesn’t look like a normal person. So how much can you relate to a character like that?
So I will still continue doing Killer, but that’s why, one of the reasons I introduced Fritz’s daughters, and one that she didn’t know about, was just sort of, kind of mousy, isn’t really sure what’s going on, not part of the Palomar universe. She’s a character I want to focus on developing as the reader’s guide through the stories. And that’s why Fritz is so much in the story. She’s going to fade out as the lead character, and it’ll be more about the daughter and her world, her spirit.
Jaime, I think one of the interesting themes that sort of struck me while reading the Punk Reunion story in Huerta was how Hopey and Maggie’s relationship is recognized by their friends, like Daffy, as one that seems to never change. Every time they fight, it’s like “same old Maggie and Hopey”. But in the quiet moments, they instead have a very different relationship. They’re no longer intimate with one another. Hopey, in particular, is a completely different person than the one that we knew twenty years ago. Was this the intentional theme of the story as to sort of define how much they’ve changed and how little they’ve really changed?
Jaime: Yeah. It was basically for many of the characters, you can’t go home again.
They go to this punk reunion. Hopey doesn’t want to go cause she’s like, “it’s not me anymore. I’m not that same person.” Yet there’s parts of the story when she’s there she’s just like “I’m back.” Yet she was the one who wanted to go least. And then Maggie feels like “this is going to be fun. It’ll be meeting old friends.” And then she’s finding out a lot of people don’t even remember her. You know? So it’s as if you can dream about the good old days, but maybe some of you shouldn’t go back.
Within the issue, this story ends with one of your scariest cliffhangers yet. Why did you do that to us?
Jaime: I was so fixated on the freedom of gender and trying to correct stereotypes, that I forgot that freedom is not always greeted, it’s not always welcome. And I thought “well, this is that time”. Out of the blue, where you’re going to get shit for being who you are. There are consequences for some people, which is a really sad thing, but hey, it’s reality. I want to remind you, “hey, this is reality”. It’s not all beautiful Maggie and Hopey. And I’m not going to tell you what happens, but it’s kind of a reality check. Every once in a while I have to, it’s almost a reality check for me… I was just so wound up in everybody has the right to be what they want to be, everyone has the right to live the life they want. That’s what I was concentrating on. I wasn’t concentrating on the shit part of it.
So I thought, this is one of those moments. And I’m kind of hoping I’m catching the reader off guard too.
Not to bring it up beyond this. But did the current political climate and the level of discourse impact that decision at all?
Jaime: That helped a lot.
But it’s helped for the good because I’m bringing stuff out that says: “Hey, remember where we are? Remember, this is our country.”
Gilbert, in your ongoing look at the Fritz clones, are you making sort of a grand statement about how the public eye views women that are famous, in terms of how they age and their public personas?
Gilbert: That’s part of it, but at the same time I’m trying to make it fun. I’m trying to make it like that angle of show business, that doesn’t really exist. It does in the context of what I’m doing, but it’s basically about a B-movie actress who would never make it in mainstream films, basically the way she’s built, but she’s critically acclaimed. She’s a very good actress. An actress like that in real life isn’t going to be a star. It’s just not. They’re just not going to do it.
So I just thought that was kind of a funny angle, how the hypocrisy of body-shaming, like you can body-shame *this* person, but you can’t body-shame *that* person. Yeah, I’m just playing with that a little bit.
And the Fritz imitators were simply a little gag because I saw a documentary on Bruce Lee, the famous action star. This guy talked about how many imitators there were when Bruce Lee died. There was like almost a hundred of them. Bruce Lei, Bruce Lai… And they all wore the Bruce Lee wig, and they all had their own movies. Who knows? Some of those movies might be good. We don’t know. But I thought that was kind of funny. There was even Conan Lee, and Bluce Ree … I mean, it was just, like, insane. The film industry’s different over there in Hong Kong.
I just thought that would be funny, since Fritz is a critically acclaimed B-movie actress who has no popularity in America, but she gets good notices, that all these imitators would want a piece of that. And they’re all looking for credibility. They’re not necessarily just imitating her looks; they want to be taken seriously the way she is on a certain level. So that’s all kind of a gag, actually. But I can’t really say right now, but I’m really going into more of the Fritz imitators thing…Women [in this story] are actually mutating their looks.
Does that bring back the Dr. Emil thread?
Gilbert: The Dr. Emil thread’s going to get more intense, and there’s going to be more of it, to the point of insanity. But it’s basically where cosmetic surgery is going. They’re trying to figure out how to do it without being invasive. How do you change people’s bodies and looks and this and that without the surgical knife? And because once that is done, once it’s done with drugs, and literally mutating people’s looks, that’s a billion-dollar industry…that’s what I’m playing with right now. So it’s almost science fiction, but science fiction now is science fact tomorrow, you know?
Jaime, one of the happier surprises of this issue is the flashback to Izzy. But what does Izzy represent as part of the Hoppers crew to you?
Jaime: She’s my perfect enigma. She’s the one that I can’t figure out; you can’t figure out. So there’s a certain freedom in using her, in writing her. She’s kind of always an observer. She thinks her friends are silly. But at the same time, she loves them, she’s part of them. So I’m kind of learning new things about her as I’m putting her in the story. Kind of like, I don’t know who this person is anymore. Let’s all find out together.
So in future issues will we expand beyond just these first flashbacks and learn more about Izzy as we continue on?
Jaime: Sure, sure. Whatever I find out. If I don’t find out anything you won’t. People always ask me if characters, how come you don’t do this character anymore? To tell you the truth, because they ran out of their story. When they get their story back I’ll bring them back. I was really happy to bring Daffy into this story and finally give her a voice. She’s always been kind of a background character. In this story she has a lot to say, she has a lot of stuff going on. And I’ve been working on that for thirty-five years, just trying to have her moment, and it worked out how I liked it.
Kind of a silly question Jaime, but while reading Gomez in-story, do you ever take any inspiration from your niece?
Jaime: Not specifically. But I try to watch how young people are, like my daughter’s friends. Stuff like that. Gomez is a character I really like because she was so straight. She needed to be the straight man in the relationship [with Tonta], and I really enjoyed creating her that way. But for a long time I had no response about her, and I thought no one even knows who this character is. Only in this past year have people said, I really like Gomez. What’s she up to? And I’m like, oh shit, I was gonna send her to college and have her disappear. Now I’m like “hmm”.
Her adventures in college could be very interesting.
Jaime: Yeah. Yeah. Sure. She’s gone to college because my daughter went to college this year.
This new issue sees you both play in sci-fi trapping but molded to your own storytelling instincts. Gilbert, you craft a Doctor Who riff, with Professor Enigma, but you use the imitators swapping out in the assistant role, rather than the Doctor regenerating or whatever.
Gilbert: Right. Because that was something I liked about the original Doctor Who. The original actor got sick, and so they were kind of like, “Well, how do we change the guy without ruining the continuity? Oh, well, he’ll just change, because he has to.” And he always has a new assistant every several seasons. So I thought, that’s funny. Both the assistants and Doctor Who changes, you know, at different times.
I just thought it was a funny thing, because I just happened to start watching Dr. Who with my daughter. I hadn’t really watched the show before, but my daughter got into it. She started watching it, and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting, about the Doctor Whos changing with different actors.” And then sometimes there are those episodes where several of the Doctor actors were together.
I just liked it. I just thought it was a charming idea. I just used that for the Fritz thing. But a lot of that stuff is really just a gag. It’s just really a funny story. But some people take it too seriously. “Oh, I can’t get these Fritz imitators, you know, I can’t figure them out.” You don’t really need to, you know? Some of them are going to be there, and some of them are going to fade away.
Jaime, on your end, you’re continuing with the Princess Anima story that’s been building since the end of Volume 3, what made now the time to sort of return to genre story-telling, which you haven’t delved into much since the days of Rocky and Fumble?
Jaime: I needed an outlet. I don’t want to trap myself in continuity. There was a time where the continuity was building up so much that I was very unhappy. And I don’t want to be unhappy doing what’s coming. So I set a part of me aside just to have mindless fun. Not mindless where this story’s going to suck…it’s just more like free, free of the real world. Maggie and Hopey are really restrictive because they live by the rules of the real world. Princess Anima’s just, “okay, let’s go to this planet and see what this is like.” It’s that simple, and it’s “Oh boy, I get to draw weird rocks. Oh boy I get to draw a monster. Oh, I get to draw [Anima] cutting its head off.” It’s just my release. I want to have fun.
If Maggie hopped on a rocket ship would she be able to meet Princess Anima?
Jaime: See it’s hard now, because she has so been taken away from that world that I would have to be thinking like alternate universe. Does this happen? And if someone dies did they really die? It’s all that. So, I try to keep things separate. Like in the past when Maggie was a rocket mechanic, I kept Hopey at home, because Hopey didn’t belong to that world. She was based on my true life experiences. So, I prefer to keep certain characters away from that stuff.
Gilbert, with Killer, I get the impression that she’s much more of an aloof character than Fritz, maybe?
Gilbert: She’s more down-to-earth, believe it or not. Despite her looks, she’s very down-to-earth, very insecure, very much like the other characters. Whereas Fritz, you can’t read her all the time.
Do you think that’s a generational divide in any sort?
Gilbert: I don’t think about it that way; I just made Fritz a strange person, you know? Whereas you don’t know exactly what she’s thinking. Is she acting? Is she sincere?… Whereas Killer, despite her cool beauty…she’s insecure. She’s just a regular girl. She just doesn’t look like one.
Now, you can only go so far with that for the readers to relate to that. People do it with actors and stuff, but if it’s a character in a comic, you can actually get a little deeper into it, just because it’s more personal.
She seems to approach fame differently than Fritz too, and maybe that’s just Fritz’s strangeness, but Fritz always seems very insecure herself.
Gilbert: Yeah, she’s very insecure, so she’s acting all the time. She’s always got a wall up, she doesn’t really show expression in her eyes, just, you know … But I can understand how that could be tedious if I just keep repeating that, so that’s why I’m kind of moving that away from different areas. So anyway, Killer’s going to continue … She doesn’t like being exploited either. She’s actually younger than people think.
I was always fascinated as a boy, a teenage boy, girls in high school … There was all the regular girls in high school, you’re like … And there’s always a few that look like women. They just did. They just had a natural shape of their face, or whatever. And sometimes … I noticed that they were never very open. They were always sort of reserved, because they probably got a lot of crap from older men, you know. So I kind of played with that. I kind of played with Killer [having] that look, like she’s a serious, almost woman-like teenager in her look. But she’s very insecure. She is a girl. But she just doesn’t [look that way] … So they’re always asking her to be naked in her movies. She says, “I’m a teenager!” You know, so, she’s trying … she’s actually … Well, this is a spoiler: She’s going to just stop acting and become a pop singer, where exploitation is accepted. Just watch pop videos.
Jaime, the three narratives that you’re working on right now, are those going to be the three narratives you continue to push forward? Will there be anything new introduced that’s peculating in the back of your head right now?
Jaime: I really have some new things that I’m dying to put in, but I’ve got to get these things done, you know? Now that I’ve got sixteen pages to do it, it’s going to take longer. And I kind of don’t want them to go on for years and years. But some of them, no, no, it has a very important ending, like the Maggie and Hopey story right now. This is going to go on for at least a couple more issues, because I need this ending. I need to do this ending. But part of me is done with it. I want to do this other new stuff, but I have to wait.
I know Ray is often seen, or you see him as a bit of a stand-in at times for yourself. Maybe that’s changed over the years, but will we get more Ray, or post Browntown/The Love Bunglers have we sort of gotten our fill of Ray and we’re taking a break from him?
Jaime: No. I really want to dive back into him because his types of stories have an inner voice that the other ones don’t that I really like. I like his thoughts. So I want to do him more. I just have not. He gets smooshed out because Maggie and Hopey’s personalities are so big they hog the thing, they hog the issues. Maggie’s not supposed to have these long epic stories. Her character, I just know it so well, that it just takes over. It creates a story bigger than I imagined. So unfortunately characters like Ray they get kind of pushed out in the back. I want to do all my characters, just some of them are filling up the room, you know?
Gilbert, over the years, you’ve been flexing your genre muscles a lot, too. I think you’ve gotten Maria M just about completed. And you’ve got all these different film exploits for both Killer and Fritz. Is that something that you’re enjoying doing, like playing with noir, playing with the post-apocalyptic-type stories, the Aladdin story … Is that something that you’re going to continue to do?
Gilbert: Yeah, I mean, I do want to do more of that stuff, but I probably won’t do it as much as I was. Well, really, the reality is these comics, these long stories, take a long time.
And I really get excited about doing different stories, you know. So yeah, once Maria M’s done, I have to juggle to which the next one’s going to be. The reason my comics take so long is because I have to do so many comics, basically, to make a living. That’s the harsh reality.
So that’s why they’re taking long. I’m going to still deal with that world, but making exploitation movies, making strange movies, but like I said, Love and Rockets proper, I want to just emphasize the characters more. Interconnections. I will have a side comic that’s going to deal more with the Fritz stuff. I just haven’t been able to finish it, but it’s called Psychodrama Illustrated, and it’s basically the Fritz stories that Love and Rockets could no longer handle, because of the limited space in Love and Rockets.
Have you kept a detailed filmography for Fritz and Killer stashed away somewhere?
Gilbert: Yeah, I have my notes at home. And then they change all the time. I shift movies and stuff. Oh yeah, I have Fritz’s filmography. She basically … I mean, without spoiling things, she started late, she was 34, and just started acting in movies. Or starring in movies. Only because her girlfriend, Pipo, financed them. But as Fritz gets older, she gets more indulgent… Pushing the envelope of sexuality, and people are starting to back off her. So she’s pretty soon starting to move away from the people who helped her make films. She’s also getting older, so that is what it’s about now. What’s Fritz going to do? She’s 50 years old now. What’s she going to do?
She’s going to still try to be the sex kitten? Or are you going to be a serious actress? Well she is a serious actress, but she’s the type that likes to be the sex kitten. So she’s a little deranged.
Well that’s a very relevant story, though. You’ve got actresses who are in that age range playing mothers and unfortunately rarely in starring roles. Is that the kind of challenge that Fritz is going to face?
Gilbert: Yeah, that’s the stuff she’s trying to avoid, by basically trying to make movies where’s she’s still the sex kitten, but nobody wants to finance them. So that’s the difficulty she’s going to have.
So, Gilbert, with Issue 4 coming up, there’s a Palomar story, as advertised. Will you be finally returning to a full Luba story at that point, or is this going to be a different side of the cast altogether?
Gilbert: It’s just stuff that was in between the lines. It’s actually returning to the original Palomar, where Pipo was 14 years old, and her relationship with Manuel and Soledad, with the two guys… This is what leads up to Manuel’s death. This is not a spoiler; he’s been dead for 35 years. But yeah, it’s really about that. I’m going to jump into stories like that once in a while.
That’s another freedom of the magazine. I can just stop what I’m doing — instead of this issue, I’m just going to do this. Whereas with the annuals, like, okay, I’m going to do this. And then this! And then this! And pretty soon it starts to grow, and then you have to start taking things out. This way, it’ll be a whole 60 pages of Pipo’s story in Palomar. It’ll be a classic Palomar story.
Jaime, do you read comics at all on a regular basis, or even an irregular basis?
Jaime: Very irregular. Most of it, I have to say, is old reprints or something.
What is the last reprint you read?
Jaime: The latest Dick Tracy. I don’t know if anyone knows but in the sixties Chester Gould just went mad, and it’s so funny, because it was right around the time that Marvel was starting to go mad. And the Silver Age era. Yet this Dick Tracy stuff was just nuts. And I’m just enjoying that. Hell, because it was a lot of stuff I didn’t see. I knew all the old forties ones like The Brow, Flat Top, all the famous stories. But all this newer stuff like Moon Maid and stuff like that. It’s like holy shit. All this was happening when I was a kid.
I remember going to our corner market, and they would have the newspapers out there, and I’d walk by and the Sunday comics, our local newspaper, always had Dick Tracey on the top. And I would just look at it and go, why does that lady have antlers? This is a cop strip, you know? But I really, it’s a really surreal thing that wow, new surreal comics have no idea what was happening back then.
The most burning question I’ve ever wanted to ask you, more than any other, is how do you go about choosing the songs that are sung by someone like Hopey, or Maggie or Tonta? What’s the thought process behind all of the tunes?
Jaime: You know, it’s very simple. It’s just what I have coming in my head that day. Or like, I picked up a record, and I really fall in love with the song. And it’s just swimming in my head, and as I’m writing and drawing, it’s like, here’s a panel where they’re just kind of walking down the street. Let’s have them singing, you know? And I just throw a lyric in there. Just a fun thing. Keeps me spontaneous. So I don’t get bored.
Do you still listen to punk music at all?
Jaime: Sometimes. Not as much as I used to. I’m older and a lot quieter in my life now. Buying old Mills Brothers record from the forties. You know? But yeah, every once in a while the punk stuff. I can’t get into new punk. It wasn’t my time, it wasn’t from my era.
Are there any really tantalizing teases you can provide to readers that may be upcoming without spoiling things?
Jaime: This next couple of chapters of this Maggie and Hopey story are going to be really interesting. And maybe not so nice.
Love and Rockets #3 is in stores today and can also be ordered directly through Fantagraphics.
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.
By Andrea Ayres
The strong female archetype is one people have an almost reflexive awareness of, the character of Wonder Woman springs to mind as an obvious example. Movies like Elektra (2005) or Catwoman (2004) exhibit the stereotypical strong female character well. It’s someone who may possess physical strength or agility but that’s about it in terms of their character’s development. The end result is a character who doesn’t feel fully realized, realistic, or relatable. That’s why Sam Maggs (Bioware) and Amy S. Foster (The Rift Uprising) put together a panel on how to move beyond simple presentations of strength into more fully realized projections of women.
Actress Bree Turner (Rosalee, Grimm) joined the panel to talk about what it’s like being an actress in an industry who often defines strength using masculine characteristics. In order for women characters to be seen as strong, they often have to take on often male ascribed traits to prove their value. Turner says she chose to play the character of Rosalee as someone who wasn’t only aggressive or hardened but took into consideration all of what it means to be a woman. That meant displaying empathy, joy, and not shying away from her sexuality.
Many on the panel were encouraged by Wonder Woman and its depiction of female warriors. For Alicia Lutes (Nerdist) showing different characters wrestling with and learning to accept and their own strength and power was a poignant moment.
Sam Maggs asked the panel to address the issue of the one-dimensional nature of strong female characters. When it comes to representations of women of color within pop culture media there are additional challenges. Jen Bartel briefly discussed some of these challenges and how she feels the industry is beginning to move away from tokenism. “Within any marginalized group there is so much pressure to portray them as perfect all the time and only representing the best of. I think now we are seeing a shift where people are wanting to see their flaws represented too. I’m seeing more imperfections represented and I think that’s really cool.”
Author of Dorothy Must Die Danielle Paige says the reluctant hero has always made more sense to her. Characters like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games tend to resonate with her more because she’s not the person who’s going to run into a burning building. It’s displaying more vulnerability that strikes Paige as distinctive.
As a writer, Amy Chu believes it’s important to flip the narrative on male character tropes as well as female characters. She does so by anticipating what readers expect from established characters like Poison Ivy and Red Sonja and putting a twist on it. “It’s not that hard to make a character who is supposed to be smart, smart. And readers see that and they think, ‘Oh that’s novel.’ Well, yah she’s a scientist and has a PhD.”
Panelists agreed that seeing women who are smart and who are able to own their intelligence and command conversations is a rarity. Portraying characters who can be flawed and strong, who are able to have dualities is part of how pop culture can move beyond one dimensional characters. Turner says of her character Rosalee, “I was allowed to be everything, which means I was allowed to be a full human being.”
Too many women characters in popular culture are only able to realize their strength or display growth as the result of experiencing trauma. Often this trauma only serves to further the plotline of a male character and that’s problematic for author Amy S. Foster. Foster wondered who should get to tell stories of trauma and specifically considered the portrayal of domestic violence on the television series Big Little Lies.
The mini-series stars Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright, a woman coming to the realization of the abusive nature of her marriage to husband Perry Wright played by Alexander Skarsgård. Foster says of the show, “Although I found it compelling, I also found it really disturbing and not in a good way, is this kind of sexual and violent material appropriate? Is it entertainment?”
Paige notes that when it comes to depicting violence or trauma it’s perhaps less about the depiction and more about the fallout of what happens. “If a women’s rape is a vehicle for a guy’s growth, then that’s a problem.”
The question here is really who gets to tell women’s stories and how can we be sure that the way these stories are told are authentic and not voyeuristic. Lutes thinks the way the series Orphan Black was written, produced, and directed serves as a good example of how men can be allies within the space of telling women’s stories. “We need male allies in this space to help raise women up and show them (male allies) that it is okay to be vulnerable and be unsure, and be able to ask women for help when they don’t know something.”
Each of the panelists stressed the importance of being able to admit to the flaws of certain shows, like Game of Thrones. Whose problematic depictions of race and sexual violence are both troubling to fan Lutes. “The main character is Khaleesi who is the epitome of white privilege, she had eggs given to her and then she flies off on her white privilege.”
It’s okay to like something and wish it was better. It’s okay, the panelists say, to demand change and progress. As fans and consumers it’s our job to hold ourselves accountable for the material we watch but also the creators of that material. Having conversations about how to improve pop culture representations of women is how we ensure growth and progress occurs. Though the panelists note that at times these conversations may be painful, they are always necessary.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
The Beat sat down with creator Ian Jones-Quartey, known for his work on Adventure Time and Steven Universe, to learn more about the brand new show he’s created for Cartoon Network: OK K.O! Let’s Be Heroes. The show features the titular K.O., who wants to become the world’s greatest hero.
1 .OK K.O. IS A LABOR OF LOVE
“Cartoon Network asked me if I had any ideas for a show, and I actually came up with a really long elaborate idea. And then, I don’t know, it just didn’t feel right. So I scraped it and decided how about I roll everything I love into a ball and pitch that as an idea. And they liked it, and we went from there.”
2. OK K.O. IS INFLUENCED BY VIDEO GAMES
“Video games and cartoons are similar. They have a lot of rapid development over time. They’re very interesting because they’re fledgling mediums outside the mainstream… I like to think that for every video game trope, there’s an equivalent cartoon trope, so when we make the show we try to meld those two things together… We try to take ideas from our experiences as gamers and logically follow that through.”
3. OK K.O.’S THREE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE KO, RADICLES, AND ENID
“K.O. is a young, super idealistic kid who has just started working at the hero’s [supply] store that all the other characters work at, and he loves his job. He loves the world. He sees the world as very black and white… he has a lot to learn about nuance and what it’s like to grow up.
Guiding the journey are two teenagers, Radicles and Enid, who are sort of a shoulder angel and devil depending on the episode.”
4. OK K.O.’S MAIN VILLAIN IS LORD BOXMAN
“We have a main villain called Lord Boxman. He runs an evil robot factory that’s actually across from where our characters work, and he just can’t stand that there’s a bunch of do-good heroes, because when everyone’s getting along and being friends, they don’t buy evil robots.”
5. OK K.O. SEEKS TO CREATE AN IMMERSIVE, DETAILED WORLD
“You know how in a lot of cartoons the characters will show up, they’ll go to a concert and there’s a crowd, and a bunch of random characters in the background?… They’re just blah characters that you’ll never see again…. We’ve made it so that every single background character is their own character. They all have names and they all have hopes and dreams… As the show goes on, layers of that are going to start getting peeled back.”
OK K.O! Let’s be Heroes debuts August 1st on Cartoon Network.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
You’re probably as sick of San Diego Comic-Con as we are, but in case you missed any of our podcasts from the show, here’s the definitive guide!
First, Brigid Alverson, Deb Aoki and The Beat Herself reunited for “Three Women in a Hotel Room” – a sorta daily podcast of our impressions of the show, including lots of gossip and background you won’t hear any where else! Some of them were recorded over breakfast so it’s REALLY uncensored!
NEXT! “PW’s More To Come” presented out DAILY interviews, including Tillie Walden, Karen Berger. Jackson Publick, John Ridley and many many more. We really covered it all this year. The first three are just interviews and on the last one, Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and me wrap it all up in a shiny bow. Here’s the links for that.
More To Come 269: SDCC 2017 Day 1
In Part 1 of our SDCC special, Calvin interviews Kurt Hassler and JuYoun Lee of manga publisher Yen Press about its history and origin and their hit author Svetlana Chmakova; he also interviews Nidhi Chanani, the creator of upcoming graphic novel ‘Pashmina’.
More To Come 270: SDCC 2017 Day 2
In Part 2 of our SDCC special, David Steinberger of Comixology, comics creator Sonny Liew, Venture Brothers creator Jackson Publick and Ken Plume author of Go Team Venture! and oscar-winner John Ridley.
More To Come 271: SDCC 2017 Day 3
In Part 3 of our SDCC special, Calvin interviews legendary comics editor Karen Berger, graphic novelist Tillie Walden, and comic creator Landis Blair.
More To Come 273: SDCC 2017 Wrap up and Nilah Magruder
The More to Come crew discuss news from and the experience of the San Diego Comic-Con 2017, and Heidi interviews ‘MFK’ creator Nilah Magruder.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.
By Rachel Maurer
The Expanse debuted its pilot episode at SDCC in 2015 to a half-empty room and a lot of uncertainty. While the source novels already had a strong following – four had been released at that point – the titles weren’t exactly mainstream.
But two years on, the Saturn- and Hugo-nominated series has been renewed for a third season, one which promises to be their most ambitious yet. We sat down with authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (writing under the name James S. A. Corey), Mark Fergus, Naren Shankar, and cast members Steven Strait (James Holden), Dominique Tipper (Naomi Nagata), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Chrisjen Avasarala), Frankie Adams (Bobbie Draper), Cas Anvar (Alex Kamal), and Wes Chatham (Amos Burton) for some character insight and a taste of what’s the come.
On the upcoming season and what fans can look forward to:
Franck: Seasons one and two were building up to a big war between Earth and Mars. Season three is where we get to see it play out and all the ramifications of it. And we get to see some of the actual outworking of what the protomolecule has been up to this whole time.
Fergus: And what’s going on inside the ship is like a little microcosm of war. You know, there’s a lot of shit going on between everybody – the residue from the end of last season, all that’s got to be worked out. The time they should all be unified is the time when nobody really likes each other. War all around. Conflict. No more saying, “Stuff’s coming.” It’s here.
Shankar: We dropped a metaphoric emotional bomb in season two, at the very end, and that is the fun stuff of drama, picking up how that affects people, and we certainly are – that’s where it starts. The elephant in the room is dealt with.
On identifying with their characters:
Anvar: It was surprising – when I first read the role, I had no idea of the scope of his backstory. But Alex is a Mars-born fighter pilot of Pakistani-Indian descent, with a Texas kind of accent, flair. I am a Canadian-born former scientist. I was in sciences and going into psychiatry –
Chatham: You took biology in high school, you’re not a scientist. [laughter] He likes to throw the “scientist” out there. Having a chemistry project in middle school doesn’t mean you’re a scientist.
Anvar: This is how much fun we have on set! This is what it’s like. But I do identify a lot with him, because he kind of just watches and he comments, and he doesn’t come in with a ton of really harsh opinions. He likes to just react, and I’m kind of like that myself. I sit back and I react.
Chatham: I have discovered, in playing Amos, how freeing it is and the amount of freedom one has when he’s not hampered by needing to be liked by people. And the social influence that dictates our decisions, that is around us every day, is gone for him. He doesn’t think in those terms, and there’s something really nice about embodying that and sensing that freedom and wishing I had a little bit more of that in my personal life.
Aghdashloo: Sometimes I have a hard time to tell which is which, who is who. I agree with [Avasarala] so much. I identify with her so much, I can’t even tell you. It’s unbelievable. It has to be serendipity.
Adams: I don’t think I’m 100% Bobbie. I think Bobbie is a part of me – just a small part. But it’s lovely to be able to explore that, and to get a lot more depth into the character. I think I’m a little more silly.
On being a strong female character and role model for young viewers:
Aghdashloo: One of the reasons I’m so proud of this show and this character is the fact that, not only in the Western world, but most importantly in the Eastern world – middle east and far east – when they see my character, [Frankie’s] character, women of color, fifty shades of brown, plays the governor of Earth, they will think, “There is hope. In the future, not so far, I can be somebody important. I can be a decision maker. I can help humanity.” Yes. The amount of emails I receive from Iran is unbelievable. Like, “If you did it, we can do it, too.” And that makes me feel like I’ve done something worth it.
Do you ever feel pressured compared to other sci-fi TV shows, to reach their standards?
Tipper: Everyone is trying to reach ours. You know, we’ve set a bar – we’re not really like any other sci-fi shows and I think that’s why people love the show… it’s very gritty and real. Space is a character, we’re not trying to beam around willy-nilly. There’s a lot at stake.
Strait: I’m a huge sci-fi fan, but the stuff that I’ve always gravitated toward were really allegorical tales about the present. We manage to, with spectacular writing, talk about really difficult things going on today in a way that I think is more digestible because we’ve masked it in a genre. In terms of just the art form, of visual arts, it’s really important because you start conversations with maybe people who wouldn’t have those conversations otherwise…. None of these characters are black and white, they’re all in shades of gray, and I think it’s an interesting thing for even someone like Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) or Avasarala – no matter what side you’re looking at it from, they all think they’re doing the right thing. And that is the way the world functions! One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
After being let go by WeLoveFine, designer Catherine Elhoffer decided to go into business for herself designing fan-inspired, casual cosplay – outfits inspired by her favorite movies, comics, and television shows, but incorporated into clothing that could be worn in a causal environment. We had a chance to sit down with Elhoffer at San Diego Comic Con and chat about the industry.
Q: Can you tell us about yourself?
A: I’m Catherine Elhoffer. I founded Elhoffer Design. I founded it in January of last year because I was working at WeLoveFine up until November of the year before, 2015. They fired me, and then they kind of like blacklisted me from a lot of the companies. I was going to other places and nobody wanted me, and I was like that’s totally weird because I made them a lot of money really quickly.
Q: Was there a specific reason?
A: There were a lot of reasons. I’m very much a Hufflepuff, but I’m also very stubborn, and so I refuse to give in if I know something’s going to be a good deal. Like Spider-Gwen was a character that no one was doing anything for…. I absolutely believe in this, so I fought tooth and nail to get it done, and my boss, the owners, only wanted to do the hoodie. And I was like, that’s just one piece. If we’re launching it at Comic Con, we should do a tank, we should do leggings! They fought me on everything, and I was like just trust me on this.
So, we release it. Everything sold like crazy. We sold out of the tank right away. We sold out of the hoodie right away. And I was like cool… I’ve proven to you that I know what I’m talking about and that I know what I’m doing. Can I do this other stuff? And then they’re like, “Well, we still don’t trust you.”
I’m a very trusting person right off the bat with anyone, and I expect the same of others… So, yeah, I didn’t blend well with a lot of them. I fought a lot. Because when I’d see t-shirts that didn’t have Black Widow on them, but would say, you know, “Avengers Assemble,” I’d throw a fit. I’m like what are you guys doing? This is not right, we are part of the problem. And they’d be like, “Well the client requested it.”
Q: How long had you been in the business before that?
A: I designed freelance for Her Universe before WeLoveFine. I was with WeLoveFine for just under a year. But I’ve been sewing for 15 years, and I’ve been doing geek fashion for the past like three or four years. I started by just making stuff for myself when I was on film sets, because I was a costume designer. So when I’d go onto sets, I was doing like a Game of Thrones parody, and I kind of want to match, so I made myself like a matching Khaleesi tunic… It was a way to prove to my producers, who were normally guys, that I knew what I was talking about. And so I just started wearing this, the more subtle clothes to be like, “Oh no, I know what I’m doing.” Because it’s so subtle, that I know what it is and you kind of know what it is. So you’re not going to question my knowledge.
Q: What do you think of the casual cosplay trend?
A: It’s been growing, and it’s where I feel my business is founded. I think casual cosplay is where everything’s moving to because it’s so much work to do cosplay and it requires so much money and time… The other thing for me, is I’m a bigger girl and I need stuff for me and there’s not a lot of companies that are doing stuff for me, for my shape.
Q: Is it tough skirting the line between fan-inspired and licensed?
A: Because I worked for these other companies, I learned a lot about licensing and a lot about rules and where that line is drawn. These are my favorite fandoms. I don’t want them to be hating on me. I don’t want them to have closed door meetings like “How do we take her down?” The difference between IP infringement and inspired is logos. It’s trademarked names. It’s changing the art enough. A 30% change in the art makes it not theft… When I was with these companies and I would show stuff that didn’t have logos on them they fought me. “There’s no way fans are going to get what this is. Imagine that you’re at a convention, you need to be able to see this from 50 feet away and know what it is.” And I’m like, “Oh, I want to do the opposite of that.” A white and orange dress is anything you want it to be.
Q: Can you tell us about the commissions you do for John Barrowman at San Diego Comic Con?
A: When his assistant came to me, it was only a few weeks ago and she was just like, “Oh, would you have time?” I’m like, “I make time for John Barrowman. That’s totally fine. Whatever he wants.” “He’s thinking of maybe a Tardis dress.” I’m like, oh, I know exactly what I want to do, because no one has done a Tardis dress that I like yet. They’re all either just way too extreme or too much print on them or trying so hard to be the police box. I’m like, “No. It needs to be magic.”
Q: You did his stuff last year for the Eisners, right?
A: Yeah. That was just because I was doing film and so I worked with Nerdist a lot, Nerdist Industries and Seth, who is the head of Nerdist moved to being the head of Comic Con HQ, which was presenting the Eisner Awards. So, he reached out to me two weeks before Comic Con and is just like, “Hey, super last minute. Any chance you could do three cosplays?” I was like, “Seth, I don’t do costumes. I don’t do them anymore. But for you, fine. What do you want?” So he was like, “We know for sure we want Squirrel Girl, and then I think he said Harley [Quinn]. I’m like, “Oh God. Who’s it for?” He’s like, “Oh, for John Barrowman.”
Q: Do you have any advice for people who are trying to break into this industry?
A: My first advice is “Don’t!” but no one listens to that. I hate fashion. I hate the fashion world. It’s destructive. It’s destroying our egos and it’s supposed to inflate us and make us feel good, but it normally does the opposite, especially when you go to Hot Topic and try things on and you’re like, “Oh, I’m actually two sizes bigger than I thought I was,” because Juniors. It’s just so bad for adult women and it’s also destructive on the environment, especially if you’re importing stuff from China. The amount of pollution that’s happening over there because of what we wear is a nightmare, and no one realizes it because you just buy it at a store and you don’t realize the full impact on society and on the environment, but it’s bad.
You shouldn’t want to be famous. You should want to be something else, and if fame happens, that’s cool. But you should want something greater. For me, I want to make good clothes that people are proud to wear and feel good wearing, and the messages I get every day from the customers, they’re just like, “Oh my god. I’ve never felt good in anything before and I finally feel confident in myself,” I’m like, “That’s what I want.”
Entertainment writer and editor for The Beat.
Additional interests include food, travel, food, and travel.
Announced last November, the day before the election actually now that I’m looking it up, Young Justice made a miraculous return to life by way of a huge fan driven support campaign. The cult favorite animated series ceased production in March of 2013, with its second season entitled Young Justice: Invasion. It was a great show, with some really vibrant takes on a number of characters, by way of Artistic Director Phil Bourassa, and deeply drawn mythology culled from the minds of co-creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti. While I generally make an argument for Batman: The Brave and the Bold as my favorite DC Animated series, Young Justice was an excellent follow-up to the studio’s success with Justice League Unlimited – at times going even further down the veritable rabbit hole of DC deep cuts.
It seemed like every six months, there was some noise about a possible revival, or twitter pushes from its various players with hashtags and such, all in the hope that might just finally convince Warner Animation to revive this series that was cancelled all too soon. Finally, it’s at our doorstep, as Young Justice: Outsiders is making its way to the still yet to be named DC Digital Service later this year.
During their SDCC panel, Bourassa, Weisman, and Vietti kept many details close to the chest, but did unveil the above team line-up, which sees a number of fan favorites return (Static, Kid Flash, Robin, Wonder Girl, Spoiler, Blue Beetle, Arrowette, Arsenal and Beast Boy), along with one very notable addition in the Young Justice version of Traci Thirteen who will go by Thirteen in the series.
This trio was equally mum about significant series details and/or spoilers in the press room I attended, and boy did I ever try, but they did share their thoughts about the lead-up to the new series and how their experiences in the previous two seasons helped shape what’s coming next.
On the difficulty of getting back into the creative headspace of the show after the long gap between productions
Vietti: I’ll tell you, I wasn’t sure we would be back, I don’t think I thought that we would. I had been working in animation long enough, and I’ve been a fan of animation long enough to know that if you get a series up and running and it lasts two seasons, that’s a pretty good life-span actually. So I kind of thought, “okay, that’s it, we had our run and it’s over.” And so, I was sad about it, it was the first thing I had been able to produce and write on, it was difficult for me to let it go. In some ways, I worked harder than normal to push the show out of my head so I could just move on, it was almost like therapy for me to move on, and get into the next projects that followed.
So coming back into it, I had to kind of reactivate all these old memories, and I had to binge watch the show myself, just to remind myself of all the things we had done – and get back up to speed. So there were a lot of things that I had almost worked to forget, but there was a lot of it too, where coming back to it, it just felt right to come back. It was always a labor of love for me. I got to do so many different things with the superhero world that I always wanted to do as a fan and as a creator, working in animation – it felt like home coming back to it and getting to work with Greg and Phil again was like getting together with old friends, so it was like no time had passed once we got together in a room and started discussing our stories for the next season.
On how Outsiders will or will not pick up on the threads left behind in Invasion:
Vietti: I am hesitant to say what exactly we’re going to do. What we’ve released is that there is a meta-trafficking threat. And this is a natural progression from our first two seasons. When we got back together and started to figure out what we’re going to do for our third season, first we had to look back at what we had done in our first two. And from day one, we’d been dealing with the creation of Superboy. We’d been dealing with genetic experimentation, creating super powered people that could be used for weapons, [while] our second season had aliens coming to Earth for the exact same reason as humans. “They have something called a meta-gene. What can we do with that? How can we harvest that? And use that for ourselves?” It’s been a common theme. This meta-gene is just out of the bottle. Nobody knew about it in the first season. We’ve progressed through our stories where [in the first season] it was mad science, it was secret government organizations that were exclusively dealing with this. Second season, it breaks up and now we’ve got aliens coming. This is national news now. There’s nobody on the planet, probably, that doesn’t know what a meta-gene is at this point.
That’s our starting point. It’s a very scary world that we’re starting off with in our third season where anybody could be kidnapped, experimented upon, and trafficked into some usage where people are being used as weapons for their superpowers.
Vietti also spoke to the series bible that Weisman has developed, keeping track of the intricate relationships and continuity details of this very complex series:
Greg in particular is extremely good at writing bibles and tracking timelines of characters. Once we decided that we actually wanted to track real time through the show, it became even more important to develop an actual timeline of birthdates for people and when various characters died, and how that might have impacted a certain person going forward as a reference point for story development. So, it’s an incredibly deep bible and we’re tracking everybody in the DC Universe. Greg’s office is the writer’s room, basically, and his office is wallpapered in three- to five-inch cards. I’m not kidding—wallpapered. And on those cards we have all of our characters that we’ve introduced, we have characters that we want to introduce, we have the cities that they live in, and we’re constantly aware of this DC Universe that is around us. What’s not on the wall, of course, is then some of the writing we’ve done together or the timelines that he’s created that tie all of those characters and locations together.
And any time we bring in a new character, we have to look to the wall around us, we have to look to the timelines, we have to make sure that the intersections of any new characters we pull into the show work and make sense. We have to analyze if there are repercussions from bringing two characters together—[whether] we think that there’s ever been a possibility of them having met before, what might that backstory have been. It is incredibly complicated. But I think this is… one of the textures that they like about the show. So, while it is a lot of work for us to track, hopefully it pays off for people when you see it and you feel it in the show.
Weisman spoke with us a bit about the passage of time in the new season, which may or may not echo the time-jump we witnessed in the middle of the show’s second season:
…Time does pass. You know, Mera was pregnant in season one. We haven’t seen their kid but, at some point, as we move through time, you’re going to start seeing some of this progeny.
In season one and two, we had quite a bit of Kirby influence in there. Everything from Sphere to the Forever People to G. Gordon Godfrey, and we revealed Darkseid at the end of season two. The ante is upped on the Fourth World stuff in season three; I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody. I’m not going to go into any details but, if you like the Kirby DC stuff, then you’ll like season three. It may not be what you’re expecting, though. But the Kirby influence is definitely in there, just as there’s Bill Finger, Siegel and Shuster, and Bob Kane…we are not shy about taking characters from any era and trying to get to the core of those characters and make them more within the Earth-16 context. I go very, very deep when I look for characters so that any named character, with a few exceptions like the Terror Twins…comes from somewhere in the DC Universe.
Speaking of that Kirby influence, Bourassa said something that caught my ear when discussing that very subject:
I love the Fourth World stuff. I like Jack Kirby’s “space odyssey”(ed note: one presumes he’s not talking about Kirby’s adaptation of 2001)—it could be DC’s Star Wars. And we visited that world just for a little bit in the first season and I had a blast looking at Jack Kirby and mixing in some Moebius influences. I’d love to go back there.
I very much need to dip back in and see where those Moebius influences are. We received a few other tiny details, such as Silver Age character Bash Bashford (I had to wiki that one, and I’ve been reading DC Comics my entire life) making an appearance on the series.
But I had to ask one unrelated question, regarding Grant Morrison’s usage of Earth-16 in The Multiversity and if Weisman had read it:
Weisman: I didn’t, I know about it, but I didn’t read it…
Me: It’s good!
Weisman: I’m sure it’s (pause) good. It’s Grant Morrison, so I’m sure it’s good. It’s just that when we asked DC from Day One, “give us an Earth, any Earth”, and they said “16!”, and so we said “okay”. We wanted an unused Earth and then after the fact we found out, “oh, we had done some stuff with Earth-16 before” and I’m like “then why did you pick *that* one?” And it’s too late, so we’re Earth-16, we have to be, because we built that into the DNA of the show, so it felt a little bit like…
Another journalist: It feels like ours…
Weisman: Yeah, but on the other hand, I’m sure he feels territorial about it too…but that’s comics. We’re trying to play nice in everyone’s playground, but that’s kind of where we are. We’re still Earth-16, but he’s still Earth-16, so I dunno.
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.