The Coldest City vs Atomic Blonde

***Spoiler Alert***

If you haven’t watched the movie or read the graphic novel, come back later.

Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 spy tasked with unmasking the secrets of double agent Satchel/Stachel in Cold War Berlin. Set during the days leading to the fall of The Wall in 1989, our heroine must locate a list with the names of the secret agents in the area. When the British lose control over the material, they fear it will pop up in Moscow or the Black Market. Satchel/Stachel may be the broker of the information but he/she may also be the reason for the leak. Who can you trust in a city full of duplicitous intent?

Atomic Blonde borrows from the original story to give us an action packed, girl power romp, full of suspense, 80s cosplay, and intrigue. However, the original character was not blonde, was not associated with the CIA, and is not involved in as many car chases and staircase hands on combat as Charlize Theron’s version. The graphic novel is in black and white, blending the environment in the background without having to be bothered with the music and cultural accoutrements of the times. Whereas the movie is all 1980s neon noir, the novel is dark, crisp and sleek. It is about the narrative, not the visuals. The spies should blend in, not stand out, to perform their jobs successfully.

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For the most part the story flows in the same direction. Perceval is not a punk/counter cultural young gun but rather an old and distinguished station leader. With a more subdued demeanor, it is neither hard nor easy to read malicious intent in his words. Not enough info is there to pass judgement early on and claim he is a double agent, much less leader of any gang or Ice Men. If Lorraine ever had physical proof that he was the leak, she burnt it or disposed of it, just like in the movie. We learn of this after the briefing ends and closer to the end of the book with no further action or interaction with the Russians. It ends with the twist, which may be hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film prior to reading the material.

The entire Spyglass storyline is used as a distraction in the novel but has a bit more meat in the screenplay. He knew the names, proof that the list was real and tangible, vs in the novel where he never actually confirms he even handled it. The character fades into the background quickly, and is assassinated to prove a point: Lorraine and Perceval have been made. French agent Pierre Lasalle comes into the fray claiming to have proof of Perceval’s betrayal, but we soon we are shown that the perpetrator of the double cross had been our Atomic Blonde all along.

It is worth mentioning that Delphine’s character was supposed to be Pierre but it was updated to make the story a bit more unique. Again, the movie was about the visual component of the story, and it needed a bit more flair to stand out from the pack of love stories that accompany the 007 rhetoric. Also, there is no apparent romantic link between James Gascoine (the agent that is killed during the opening sequence) and Lorraine in the novel. She isn’t ties down to a man, family or any other element that would explain her origin story or motivation. You are not given any information about who she is and what drives her. The director had carte blanche to develop her on screen as he saw fit, and he made her three times more fierce than drawn.

There are other minor differences that don’t change the storyline too much. Some of the extra conspirators, like the kids in East Berlin are added to expand on the atmosphere of the times and provide some historical commentary. They also provided a means to add German actor Til Schweiger into the plot which is always a treat for the movie buffs and nerds. (See the blog post on Atomic Blonde for more info on the movie.)

In the end, both versions are entertaining in their formats. Overall, an avid reader and movie buff as myself can get through both in an evening. I was not disappointed by either nor have reserved criticism for the sake of argument. I found both formats entertaining and relevant. Girl Power all the way. Enjoy Atomic Blonde, The Coldest City and prequel The Coldest Winter if you are interested in researching the subject further.

Happy hunting! 😎

 

She Changed Comics (Image)

Finally! A book about women who challenged and impacted the comic book industry. Featuring the likes of Gail Simone, Jill Thompson and Aline Komisnky, it is full of contemporary references that will resonate with comic book enthusiasts. Is it perfect? Close to it. Is it missing people? Even the editors say it probably does. Will it change the mind of the men in the medium or serve as proof that women can illustrate and pen graphic stories? Hopefully so. Does it matter/is it relevant for the times we live in? Yes.

Why?

Women have fought for decades to bring their perspective into the mainstream media and it seems to be paying off. We see more female led stories, female written, inked and edited materials. How did this come about? Because the women featured in this book never gave up on their dream and desire to share their imagination and experiences with the rest of humanity. Some of their work has become so iconic or instrumental for society’s understanding of change that it is featured in curricula throughout the United States and beyond!

Censorship, persecution and discrimination were never far behind these ladies who range in age, gender, race, religion and culture. The comics movement is international, and not confined to the Western world therefore it has many faces and backgrounds. There is room to build a more robust anthology and document the entire history of women in this field. I hope Image and other publishers seriously consider investing in expanding the project in the near future to paint a better picture of the struggles of women and minorities in this industry.

Please share this review, buy the book, and share with the women in your life. The materials at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (cbldf.org/she-changed-comics) and follow up on those artists that catch your eye. There is also suggested reading provided under each profile in the book that are worth following up, especially if you recognize works you are currently reading or are familiar with. That’s how I found Persepolis (buy/rent On Demand) and The Diary of a Teenage Girl (blog linked here).

Enjoy!

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the screenplay focuses on the sexual awakening of 15 year old Minnie Goetz during 1970 San Francisco. Armed with her cassette player and recorder, she chronicles the ups and downs of sex, her need and desire to explore the subject fully, while documenting her escapades for posterity.

The story starts with Minnie’s declaration that she wants to have sex. Her targeted paramour, her mom’s 35 year old boyfriend Monroe. Despite their 20 year age difference they embark on a journey to find love and happiness between the drugs, alcohol, lies and insecurities of the times. When Monroe isn’t available, our protagonist looks for other means to feel touched and wanted, showing us how emotion and desire can make or break us. Through it all, she faces slut shaming and rejection from the ones she loves as her secrets are revealed.

Forty years ago, this type of work was unheard of, even in the underground comix scene, were the author gained respect and notoriety. Women then found a voice, shaping the medium to express their concerns about life, love and gender roles, reaching a broader, more receptive, audience. Even though Phoebe was part of the zine and underground movement it wasn’t until 2002 that she combined her notorious prose and graphics to share her take on the life of a teenage girl amidst feminism and the sexual revolution. Her work is admired by her peers and held in high regard. (See the She Changed Comics website for more info.)

The movie stars Bel Powley (Minnie), Alexander Skarsgård (Monroe) and Kristen Wigg (Charlotte, Minnie’s mom), with appearances by Christopher Meloni (Pascal) as Minnie’s ex-step dad. Watch On Demand, or stream online.

Enjoy!

“We all made it to Hall H”

Comic Con International at San Diego is the stuff legends are made out of; people line up by the thousands to earn a spot at the coveted panels, signings and celebrity appearances. Marvel and DC shell out big bucks to let everyone know they are the biggest games in town on paper and film, backed up by the Disney and Warner Bros studios posses, respectively.

Because the SDCC is full of marketing and exclusive news and previews about everything comic and book related, attendees go through great lengths to maximize their experience. “We all made it to Hall H” is the mantra chanted by all, attendees, writers, producers, directors, cast and crew, all alike, all as proud to be there. Everyone at the Con does their best to make the journey memorable since we are all in!

There are a few hacks and tricks you can use to ensure a spot at the coveted line, especially for Friday and Saturday. These are the days were most bombs are dropped and the fans are treated to never seen before antics, trailers, previews, and announcements. It’s not easy but with some effort and cunning, you can make this dream come true.

1. Procure a badge at all cost.

If you haven’t qualified through the lottery system, see Badge FAQ for details, there are people who will sell them to you online and on-site. Fair warning, the badges are non transferable and someone who sells them must provide you with the paper ticket and RFID badge to gain entry. If for some reason you get asked for your ID and it doesn’t match the name, the staff can remove/ban you and ban the person who is named on the badge. Some guests resort to sharing the same badge with family members and friends so they can go in and out the main hall during the day. Be careful and don’t draw attention to yourself if you are going to do so, and remember that only those with a badge can get wrist bands to reserve their spot in line for Hall H.

2. Share the responsibility of standing in line with a group of people.

Since you need a badge to get the wristband, people in line have to ensure they save the spot in line continuously for up to 24 hrs before the doors open. However, you are in luck! Comic Con is notorious for altruistic gestures and people are willing to cooperate to secure a seat in the coveted Hall H. If you have a small entourage, or are on your own, tweet, send FB posts, and attempt to gather allies via social media to take shifts. One human can save the place in line for up to 5 humans total, so there is no need to be there at all times. Just make sure no one leaves the site unattended, and that you are all present by 7:30pm the night before the event to get the band. Everyone must be in line again by 7:30am to be let in during the first seating. Miss this deadline and you will need to…

3. Have a good cover story to be able to rejoin the line or reenter the Hall H line and area if you missed the queue and have the band.

I admit my friends and I had to step away from the line and Hall for different reasons, and we all got back in through different methods. Ask a supervisor if you missed your group in line and they will help you only if you have a band. If you don’t and got into the hall anyway, make sure you get a pass to leave the area and return or they will not grant you access. Hall H is so popular people line up after it has filled up with the hope of filling up the spots of those who vacate the premises. Some people leave and trade the badge, with the exit pass, so someone else can enjoy a panel. This is done as a thank you for helping with the line or just cause. If they catch you though, the consequences will be dire for all involved. Proceed with caution.

4. Bring cash or food. It is a long haul.

Because you cannot easily procure food in Hall H or go outside and come back with sustenance, you will need to either suck it up or bring your own food into the place. If you have kids, make sure you equip yourself with whatever you need to survive, and drop off minors under 12 at the daycare. You can get a pass to tend to your kids amid breaks. It’s doable but you need to keep track of time or they will not let you back inside.

5. If all else fails, volunteer or get a job running security.

You may not get assigned to Hall H on your first run but if you network and prove your worth, you may get a shot. Check which company the convention center has hired for security and join the staff. There’s not a lot of other options past this other than…

6. Getting a pro or press pass.

If all else fails, become a bona fide member of the press or star in/create content that becomes popular and gains you notoriety worthy of a pass. Blogs, articles and freelance writers can request passes to the event, or they can apply for a table at artists ally or the exhibitor hall. You will need to prove your worth so plan accordingly. If you are there with the power players chances are you will score reserved seating.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

“A Girl Can Do That…”

Atomic Blonde was a labor of love for Charlize Theron, who had to produce a female lead action movie at 40 because not one single worthy project had fallen in her lap. As a producer, she grabbed the opportunity to search for the hero she wanted to portray as an actor and she found it in Lorraine, a true Atomic Blonde.

During the 2017 San Diego Comic Con, Charlize addressed her journey to become this iconic bad ass character and bring her to the silver screen. Her 4+ hour work outs made her so confident, the movie was recorreographed to be more physical. She was so good at picking up the martial arts and action sequences that she didn’t even need a stunt double for most scenes. Her presence as an actor makes her actions grand and flawless. You believe she is an MI6 agent, one as excellent or better than the best 00s. Her past is as mysterious as her motives, playing by the same rules as men.

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EW sponsored the Womem Who Kick Ass Icon panel and Charlize delivered, even demanding  Women can rock the world and don’t need some tragic origin story to do so. Lorraine, like Charlize, doesn’t need an excuse to be a bad ass. They are both fearless and unstoppable. About time humans realized how amazing and awesome women can be when given free rein to color and exist outside of the lines. Go watch Atomic Blonde and support all female written, directed and led by women actors. The myth that women can’t command the box office ended as Wonder Woman being the most grossing film of the 2017 summer has put it to rest!

Atomic Blonde opens July 27th.

Oh, and next time: SDCC volunteers and staff, make sure the questions in a panel for women are asked by women. Charlize’s demand of “We cannot end without a female question” was proof that she means business. GIRL POWER!!!

Comic Con Bound!

Sunny San Diago, as Ron Burgundy would say, is the perfect summer getaway for the geeks and nerds. Why? The San Diego Comic Con, the Mecca of all things derived from graphic novels attracts the best of the best: actors, writers, cosplayers, entertainment studios, and fans from all over the world. The nice sandy beaches and weather don’t hurt either, especially if you can spare time to visit Petco field, the zoo and the Embarcadero.

Flights get booked months in advanced but the popularity of the convention usually results in additional last minute flights. My family flew ahead of me, with a layover, but I managed to grab a direct flight two weeks prior to departure. Skywest and Delta FTW! There is no entertainment on the E175s which is not a problem for me. Books, comics and the inflight banter usually occupy my time and the free upgrade I scored definitely gave me a couple of extra 21+ choices to savor. 😎😛😇

So many things to see, so little time…

There Is More To Life Than A Good Origin Story 

We are born. We die. What happens in between is a magical, mysterious, and emotional rollercoaster ride. Sadly, many believe their origin story seals their fate, that they have no choice but to be a victim of their circumstances. The decisions our parents and ancestor made shaped our arrival but these choices and their outcomes should not cloud our future and the opportunities presented to us. It is up to us to challenge our environment and ourselves to become better than the sum of their parts in our story. We have to grow, mature and improve regardless of our hard or easy starts in life.

If all there was to Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince or Clark Kent was their origin story, we wouldn’t have Batman, Wonder Woman nor Superman to save the day. Even though their pain, birth and uncertainty about their lives motivated them to seek the truth, justice and inner strength, they refused to be defined by their grief and apprehension. As they evolved so did their understanding of the world, giving them an opportunity to make a difference and become advocates for those who had no one else to rely on. These heroes were blessed to have protectors and guides that helped them become greater than their parents’ legacy and expectations for their well being so they felt the need to return the favor in an extraordinary fashion.

Dwelling on the past can be beneficial as long as we fully comprehend the lessons and experiences that made us who we are. To move forward, we have to cleanse our subconscious mind from the biases, rules and limitations put upon ourselves by either society, our upbringing, religious organizations or those we consider authority figures/worthy of emulation. Our mistakes do not define us, and it is up to us to get back on the proverbial horse and joust once more until we emerge victorious. Without a goal in mind we cannot achieve. Good self-esteem and image depend on our ability to feel and believe that we are worthy of love, success and glory after we sacrifice, work hard and execute on careful and effective planning. Letting go of the past comes with great introspection and responsibility: We will gain the power to become who we must be to make our own fate.

No love story is truly original even though they can be unique. In the same fashion we must understand that our story may not be original but it is unique because it affects us. We are balls of clay, molded for a purpose, once we have to assign ourselves and execute to become genuinely successful. Death may define us, and time will determine if we lived up to our potential. In the meantime, we must continue to stretch our horizons and see beyond our current situation and predicaments to find the hope necessary to leave an everlasting legacy. Children, inventions, new tech or scientific breakthroughs; literature, poetry, art; whatever our impact quantifies and qualifies itself we have to be willing to step up and perform.

Take a chance on yourself and remove your own mental roadblocks from your way. We can be our own worst enemy and a new appreciation of your origin story may help you jettison unnecessary regret, resentment and anxiety. We are all heroes in our own right. Be brave and bold enough to redefine your own story.

Wonder Woman Day: June 3rd

DC is rolling out the red carpet to celebrate the Amazon Princess on June 3rd; to celebrate the Wonder Woman in all of us! 

We are all Wonder Women, from the moms with post partum depression that seek help to the women that fight for equal rights, equal pay and gender neutrality. On and ofd the field, housewives or career driven, the females of the human species ensure there is a future for all of our hopes and dreams. It is they who nurture, inspire and/or lead the way with kindness, vision and resilience. Being a woman is hard, comes with many biological and social expectations that are difficult to escape, and they have to meet these in 4 inch heels and a dress. 

Wonder Woman is a symbol of truth, strength and humanitarianism. She transcends her legend and her legacy. Born in Themiscyra, the daughter of Zeus and Hypolita, God of War trained by Ares himself, she is tasked with getting Steve Trevor off her native island to deliver him safely back to his military comrades. Depending on the age and era, her origin story changes and molds with the times, proving how relevant Diana Prince is to the people of Earth. Protector. Warrior. Courage and grace under fire. The Queen/Princess of the Amazons rises to every occasion bringing love and justice to all. Her creator, Dr William Moulston Marston would be proud of her fantastic 75 year legacy. (Check out the Wonder Woman blog section for more information on the history and significance of the character.)

Watch the eponymous movie in theathers June 2nd. Lynda Carter would be so proud!! 🙂

Enjoy!

The Women of Voltron

Japanese Anime is riddled with stereotypes and tropes, especially when it comes to women. From the way they are designed, clothed and inserted into the story, female characters are prone to bring ditzy, big busted and one-dimensional, and even the ones that are luckier and get a good personality ir quest still fall prey of “damsel in distress” storylines. Things are changing and more and more female characters are getting their dues. Just ask the new Lara Croft aka Tomb Raider and you will appreciate what I mean.

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There was an exception every so often, which is why I love Voltron over other series (like Candi) and continue to support the genre. Ever since I was 4 years old, in the early girl power 80s, I’ve been in awe of the women of the original series due to their audacity and leadership skills. My favorite hero was Princess Allura who piloted the Blue Lion like it was second nature to her. It was her destiny! How cool is that! She was the calming and soothing wave of light that helped the team rally and focus on their mission to defend the galaxy. The challenge of leading and defending those dear to her never phased her. On the flipside, we had Haggar, an extremely evil and even more empowered female character and super villain, who was charged with the seemingly impossible mission to entrap Voltron and steal the princess for her master, Prince Lothor. She has, again and again, to unleash her magical abominations on Voltron in the hopes to win over her adversaries, attempting to prove she was a worthy opponent and valuable asset in the process. These women had everything to lose if they failed and they pulled all the stops to survive.

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From what I recall the women of Voltron, past and present, were not the traditional damsels in distress, which makes them even more fabulous and endearing in my perspective. They all have skills that help the team succeed after each encounter, and are culturally relevant in their genre and popular scenes. They were more than background decorative figures. Each one had a soul and a purpose, a reason to fight and live another day. Look at the complete cast for the many iterations of the series and you will find pilots, mages, sages, clan leaders, earthlings and extraterrestrials in positions of empowerment with decent dialog and meaningful roles. I am grateful the translators, writers and dubbers did their best to make the show relevant, rewriting and delivering the North American content with the feminist vibe it deserved and carried. I will always be proud of enjoy the show and of the possibilities it presented for the women of Earth and beyond. 😍😍😍💪💪💪

This is the main reason why I remain impressed with the portrayals of the women of Voltron by the Netflix team behind Legendary Defender. Allura transformed from a very capable Disney Princess to fierce and unstoppable magic wielding Zelda in her latest incarnation. Haggar is still strong, wicked and totally loyal to her King and Prince; the dark conquerors. What struck me as pure genius was making Pidge a young woman on a quest to find her lost family, passing herself as her brother! Plus, Keith’s mother being of extraterrestrial heritage and/or descent gives us an opportunity to add a new and complex female character into the mix. I’m excited for all the possibilities the third season will bring for the Paladins as they resolve how to save/replace Shiro.

With tropes set aside and boundaries enhanced for women in the Legendary Defender series, I highly recommend nerds and geeks to share this show with their children, especially with all the Princesses in your life. Although it is believed that wanting to become a princess or being treated as such is demeaning or dangerous for a girl’s development, I would counter that if she wants to be like Allura, she will be on the path to success and independence. It is not a bad thing to want to wear the crown if you can carry yourself like a benevolent, strong yet kind leader; if you can handle the responsibility to lead with humility and resilience.

Allura, Haggar and Pidge will return to Netflix in late 2017, early 2018. I can’t wait…

Enjoy!

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