Archive for August, 2007

More Tura

Several weeks ago I caught a showing of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! on Turner Movie Classics. The cult film that has inspired Todd Oldham’s fashion and John Waters’ movies was something I’d always intended to see, but had never made the effort to.

Shame on me.

Within seconds I was mesmerized; held within the thrall of Ms. Tura Satana.

It’s not just that she’s uniquely beautiful. Her curves are kickin’, her cleavage unparalleled, and her stare arresting; Satana could steal the show simply with her formidable presence. But it’s so much more that makes her role as the vicious Varla iconic.

For those not in the know, F,P!K!K! is a Russ Meyer film from 1965. With taglines like “Meyer’s ode to the violence in women!” and “Filmed in Glorious Black and Blue” you know you’re in for an art trash treat.

The movie begins with a wacky pseudo-beatnik/pseudo-Rod Serling introduction over an Outer Limits-esque screen:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Violence. The word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains – sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy. It creates and moulds as well. Let’s examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female. the surface shiny and silken. The body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don’t drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs. Operating at any level, at any time, anywhere and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist, or a dancer in a go-go club!”

And the go-go dancing commences. Odd-angled camera shots show close-ups of Varla, Rosie, and Billie (Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams, respectively) shimmying with fervor. Satana’s contortions are especially remarkable; but of course, this former burlesque dancer is the woman who claims to have taught Elvis how to gyrate and grind.

After work, entertainment for the grrrls consists of driving Porches at top speeds in the Mojave desert, playing chicken, bisexuality (or as one character calls it, “AM/FM”), skinny dipping, smokes and booze.

Varla is icy-cool and wildly psychotic. She’s the unspoken leader of this gang of go-go dancers, one of whom describes her as being “like a velvet glove cast in iron.” Varla’s sensuality and hard personality are an intimidating intoxication which allows her to easily manipulate others.

Whilst in the desert the women come across a cocky young man named Tommy, and his annoying, bikini-clad girlfriend, Linda (Susan Bernard, apparently Playboy magazine’s first Jewish playmate). Tommy’s a member of a driving club and wants to do some timing out on the flats. Perky Linda is prepared with a stopwatch, but Varla goads Tommy into a race by letting him know that she’s a better driver than he could ever be.

“I don’t beat clocks, just people.”

Varla wins the race and Tommy, feeling emasculated, attempts to physically beat her down. But he chose to mess with a woman could take care of herself.

Varla breaks his back and kidnaps his girlfriend.

And that’s just the first 20 minutes of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

From a contemporary perspective, it’s as if Quentin Tarantino, John Waters, and Ed Wood had made a film together. It’s exploitative to the max, yet also oddly (mildly) empowering—without ever intending to be. The clothes are fabulous, as is the wickedly delivered bad dialogue. All of Varla’s lines are shouted—a ludicrous technique that Waters would incorporate into some of his own work. F,P!K!K! is offensive, and thrilling; a bad grrrl Thelma and Louise meets Kill Bill meets Pricilla Queen of the Desert meets Glen or Glenda. With lot’s of camera angles completely swiped from Orson Well’s Citizen Kane.

As David Schmader has said of Showgirls, another awesomely awful film, and it’s a fitting commentary here too,

“The subtext is staggering until you notice there is no subtext.”

In my research Varla has often been referenced as a proto-action heroine—a complicated, if not problematic, reading to be sure. In a feminist interpretation questions to ask include: What are the criteria for an action heroine? Does Varla fit these in any way? Does being a villain negate her feminist potential? What about the objectification of her body—or is she in control of that? How does “The Kick-Ass Life of Tura Satana” (as is the title of her in-the-works autobiography) play a part?* What about the director’s intentions?

Writer/director Russ “he-who-loves-big-bosoms” Meyer has said, “I personally prefer the aggressive female . . . the superwoman.” As with William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, his desire is not to experience an heroic woman but a dominant one. There’s essentialism in the work of both these men. Their belief that women are the superior sex makes for a difficult feminist interpretation (as I believe in feminism as a philosophy of equality).

But just because Marston and Meyer had fetishistic leanings (bondage and breasts respectively), it doesn’t mean that feminist potential can’t be found (or that sexual play/the female body can’t be celebrated). Many have found inspiration in Wonder Woman’s altruism and empowerment in Varla’s karate chops.

Here, though, in the world of the Pussycats, the deepest message about gender (and female bodies) is that women have just as much potential for selfishness and evil as men. One could suggest that their wild desert antics are a release from their evenings of objectification. That their violence stems from the filthy behavior of men. But as my husband asked upon viewing, “Why, then would they put themselves in that situation to begin with?”

It’s a world of contradiction. Sex and sex work can be empowering, it can also be demeaning. There are no easy answers. What is unique, or at least was in 1965, was to see a woman who was capable of defending herself.

*Varla is heavily infused with Tura, and Satana is spellbinding. How does an actresses’ personal life/embodiment contribute to the experience and/or interpretation of the character? When I met her at Comic Con (at her autograph booth) I told her how exhilarating it was to watch her as Varla—to experience a woman so powerful. She replied, “You know what it is? It’s that I’m just as powerful in person as I am on screen.”

For more on Russ Meyer and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! buy, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws

For more on the multivalence of female action heroes, particularly on negotiating simultaneous feelings of disgust, pleasure, empowerment and embarrassment, buy the fabulous, Super Bitches and Action Babes:

For more on women and violence on screen buy: Reel Knockouts

If you look really closely at the photo on page 18 of the August 13-19th issue of TV Guide you’ll see me smiling!

This was actually taken during the “Super (Natural) Women” panel, not the session for Battlestar Galactica, as TV Guide states in the caption.

(And, oh yeah, that is Lucy Lawless in the front row.)

One of my major projects with the book is to look at the history of superwomen, and see if any themes emerge.

Questions I’ve asked myself in order to discern these themes include:

Is the journey of the female hero essentially different from that of men?

If so, what are some of the archetypal elements of a feminine journey (and do definitions of “quest” and “journey” need to be expanded in order to encompass female experience, i.e. spiritual journeys rather than physical adventures?)

If it’s possible to make an argument that portrayals of male heroes have evolved, would this be the result of a feminine influence?

How do political trends and cultural zeitgeists effect how women are represented as heroic—particularly as mythically heroic?

Through observation of superwomen in modern myth, a striking theme for me has been the role of fathers. Many female heroes were either raised by single fathers, or mentored by father figures: Nancy Drew, Araña Corazon, Barbara Gordon, Joanna Dark, Lara Croft, Elektra Natchios, Chloe Sullivan, Sydney Bristow, and Veronica Mars to name but a few. It gives the impression that a woman cannot learn heroic values from another woman—only from a paternal source. Even Joyce Summers, who made efforts to be an integral part of Buffy’s world, took a backseat to the knowledge imparted by Rupert Giles and the patriarchal Watcher’s Council. When Joyce died, Buffy realized that she’d never paid attention to the particular life skills her mother had to offer and this left a tragic void in her spirit.

So if it’s fathers who most often raise heroic daughters, where does this leave mothers, or even heroic women who one day become mothers?*

In her book, The Sound of a Silver Horn: Reclaiming the Feminism in Contemporary Women’s Lives, Kathleen Noble relays an anecdote from Charlene Spretnak who describes an incident from a post-lecture question and answer session with the late mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

A student had asked why there were no roles in classic myth with which modern women could identify. Campbell answered by explaining that women are the hero’s mother, the hero’s queen, and the damsel in distress. He saw the feminine as the sacred, all-knowing, giver of life. But he never really understood that women want to be heroes too. While motherhood is heroic, having maternity be considered our only path to greatness is distressing indeed. Women want to seek, explore and discover; hell, we even want to conquer.

But after considering heroic daughters and their influential fathers, it appears that more often than not, while the female hero’s mother is dead, mentally ill, or otherwise unavailable, the male hero is, as Campbell observed, nurtured towards his destiny by mother. **

All this has me thinking more deeply about Sarah Connor.

She is the mother of a messiah; a protective lioness burdened with the duty to save the world by birthing the savior of humanity. She’s Mother Mary, but with a machine gun.

In Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors , Sarah will initially be addressed in the third chapter, currently titled “Women of Steel: The Buff and the Backlash.” The focus there is on female heroes in the 1980s, but my main interest in her will be explored in my chapter, “Always the Mother, Never the Messiah,” which will take on both women’s limits as mother, and women’s potential to make motherhood itself heroic.

A brief history of Sarah Connor begins with the first Terminator, a film that successfully mixed genres; it’s a love story, a work of science fiction, and a horror film. In it, Sarah is an unexpected hero. She evolves from unassuming diner waitress to damsel-in-distress, to archetypal Final Girl, and ultimately, in the last scene, the epitome of determination.

In T2: Judgment Day, we see a very different Sarah, one whose every move is informed by this consuming resolve. Her singular focus is to protect her son, John, and if possible prevent Judgment Day from ever happening so that he may not have to face such a tragic destiny. (And perhaps, so that she may one day relax her oppressive vigilance.)

While Terminator is most remembered for it’s original and intriguing story, T2 is most remembered for it’s special effects—and Hamilton’s astounding physique. It’s important to note that T2 has become so familiar—so ingrained in American popular culture—that it’s difficult to remember just how radical a character Sarah Connor was in this 1991 release, as well as how unexpected Linda Hamilton’s embodiment was, having transformed from soft, feathered, romantic lead to hard-bodied warrior woman.

I’ll write about this metamorphosis more in the book, but I wanted to bring it up here—as at the time it was truly a revolutionary depiction of a female action hero.

Previously, when contemplating these two movies and thinking about Sarah’s purpose in the narrative, I’ve regrettably pigeonholed her in the role of “mother of the messiah”—a cool action hero to be sure, but one whose sole purpose was to nurture the true leader. I feel late to the game (read: kinda slow), but it wasn’t until I watched the Comic Con 2007 screening of Sarah Connor Chronicles that I realized Terminator is a story about Sarah; not John, not robots, not the dangerous misuse of technology, not even Arnold Schwarzenegger—and that makes it, and her, ever so much more interesting to me.

The great failure of T3 was that it lacked Sarah—and it’s her story. Part of the project of Sarah Connor Chronicles is to correct the trilogy, and therefore, in the television branch of the Terminator mythology the events of T3 never happened.

Light Spoilers follow, but probably nothing you haven’t already come across on the net.

The extended pilot moved quickly. As in T2 and T3, there are both an assassin Terminator and a protector Terminator. Though it felt a little tiresome to see yet another machine after the Conners again, it was necessary to situate the franchise in the mythology and to give Sarah and John a reason to be on the run.

The year is 1999, two years after the original date of Judgment Day, and five years after the events of T2. By the end of the show we will transport eight years into the future and end up in the year 2007 (which will perhaps be changed to 2008 to coincide with the series premiere date).

The series begins with Sarah (Lena Headey of The Brothers Grimm) in the midst of a nightmare. Terminators are after her son, Judgment Day is breaking, and in an echo of a scene from T2, we see her shielding John (Thomas Dekker of Heroes) with her body, maternal lioness in full force; flames wash over them, and humankind is incinerated.

When Sarah awakes we learn she’s engaged to be married, a choice which seems out of character for the otherwise cautious Sarah, but one which will serve a narrative purpose.

Sarah sees the nightmare as a premonition and decides it’s time to change location again. After she disappears with John, her fiancé goes to the police where he is confronted by an FBI agent named James Ellison (Richard T. Jones). Ellison explains who Sarah is, what she believes, and what she’s done. It’s Terminator mythos 101 for the uninitiated.

The Connor’s arrive in New Mexico, where at his new high school John meets a friendly beauty named Cameron, played by Summer Glau (Serenity), and named as an homage to guess who? But as soon as he starts his first class a Terminator appears. Fortunately, Cameron is one as well. (When she said the iconic “Come with me if you want to live” the con crowd went wild. I suspect the audience was filled with Whedonians who couldn’t get into Ballroom 20).

It’s hard to believe that the T-800 in T2 was enough to convince Sarah and John to trust any Terminator that comes along and says it will help them. But John is still a child, and Sarah is clearly desperate. She’s a woman on the verge, and is doing whatever she can to maintain sanity. He son is still in denial and acts almost as if, if he just wishes hard enough, it will all go away. Sarah knows better.

“I’m not who they think I am! I’m not some . . . Messiah!” –John Connor
You don’t know that.” –Sarah Connor

Sarah doesn’t know for sure either—but it’s irrelevant. She must prepare John regardless; no fate but what she makes.

What I got from the producers of SCC that I didn’t get from the creative team of Bionic Woman was that they understand their character—as well as care about her. To make the show about Sarah, not about John (as in, The John Connor Chronicles) honors her place in the mythos. (And elevating Sarah to her rightful position as the narrative impetus is actually pretty radical.)

The producers noted that they are “very intrigued” with the character, Sarah, as well as with that now iconic phrase, “No fate, but what we make.” James Middleton said that he’s “always looked at the end of T2 and thought ‘My God! What does Sarah do now!?’”

The team wants to expand on the characters, while maintaining a sense of integrity towards the established cannon. There IS an arc, and there WON’T be a monster of the week. Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds) told that chases don’t work very well week to week–although the classic television series The Fugitive, The Incredible Hulk, and to some extent Kung Fu, followed this very formula. These series worked because the human element was the driving force. Richard Kimble, David Bruce Banner, and Kwai Chang Caine often put their own goals and safety in jeopardy in order to help others in need. At the Con Q &A, Headey praised Sarah Connor’s “great sense of humanity” –it’s likely Sarah will find herself torn over potentially compromising John’s safety and, as Cordy Chase often said on Angel, “Helping the helpless.”

The pilot was far from perfect. It felt like a made-for-television version of what should have been T3. And the fact that it wasn’t perfect concerns me because the Fox network’s track record with genre shows has been spotty. While X-Files, The Simpsons, and 24 were allowed time to find their groove, The Lone Gunmen, Firefly, and Wonderfalls were cancelled all too quickly, despite their charm.

*These chapters are particularly personal for me, as I am a woman who was raised by a single father from my teenage years on. Though my mother was emotionally available and very supportive during my formative years, I’d always identified more with my father than with her—at least until I was an adult and realized how much of her is also a part of me. Like Buffy Summers, I’d devalued the domestic sphere and worked in favor of my destiny. So in looking at stories that are told about superwomen and their parents, I’m also trying to answer questions about myself—and about how I grew up to be the person I am and about what choices I might make in the future.

**Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides, of the Dune, series is an archetypal example. As holy and powerful as his mother is, the Bene Gesserit, Lady Jessica, cannot be the salvation of that universe—no woman can. If Frank Herbert intended to honor the phenomenal women in his own life, why did he put a limit on feminine power? Why is it only the masculine who can achieve ultimate Godhood?

Get thee to as soon as possible to watch Gail Simone’s “Pre-teen Raider”–an animated imagining of Lady Lara Croft as a rebellious school grrrl.

The five minute short revolves around Lara stealing an ancient artifact from the school’s gallery (which belongs to her father anyway)– a dagger which allegedly “eats men’s souls.”

Young Lady Croft is reprimanded by her Headmistress, who tells her it’s time to learn how to be “a proper English girl.” I think we know how Lara responds that sort of admonishment.

“Esteemed Miss Dickenson, With all due respect, I believe it’s time for you to update your definition of ‘Lady-like.'”

Simone writes cool women so well. Her characters stand up for themselves and don’t take no for an answer. They’re brave and funny. Her interpretation of Lara has the same moxie as Jolie’s, but with the rebelliousness you’d expect from a blossoming young woman.

Let’s hope that the savvy Cartoon Network sees this and hires Simone to write a “Pre-teen Raider” series. It’s entertainment young girls (and adult women!) would not only enjoy, but perhaps learn something positive from. There just aren’t enough images of young girls with self-respect and verve.

She’s hot, she’s feminist, she’s spouting giddy about Heroes on the Net!!!

Yeah, it’s me on being the super geeky chick that I am.

Check it out at: Meet the Fans!

I’m going to preface this review by saying that what was presented at Comic Con was a shortened version of the pilot that will debut this Fall on NBC. Some scenes are going to be re-shot, and some story elements will be modified. I also want to point out that pilots are generally rushed and rarely satisfying.* Even with shows that turned out to be phenomenal the pilots themselves were simply promising (think of Buffy, or even, Heroes which had intriguing premieres, but weren’t necessarily engaging until mid-season). The purpose is to give a taste of the forthcoming series—hopefully enough to convince an audience to come back and see storylines fleshed out.

I say all this because I expected more from the Bionic Woman preview. I’m disappointed and I’m reminding myself to give it a chance.

Executive Producer, David Eick, has stressed that Bionic Woman is a reimagining of the 1970s series-NOT a remake. The name is merely a starting place, much it was with Battlestar Galactica. But where BSG was a complete revisioning of a much loved cult property, with a clear understanding of premise and character, BW feels like a rehashing of late 20th century “grrrl power” topoi, rather than an original take on feminine heroes.

Clichés abound in the initial narrative. We see: the identity crisis, the marriage proposal, a life-changing decision made without a woman’s consent and the subsequent manipulation of her new power, vulnerability!, a heavy-handed (even if cute) grrrl power moment, a smack-down of an alley predator, a secret government agency, and, of course, a catfight oozing with sexual tension.

What a surprising and unfortunate lack of innovation.

Here’s a quick rundown of the premise. Warning! Light spoilers.

Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan of East Enders) is a 24-year-old bartender. She’s become responsible for her deaf teenage sister, Becca,** after the death of their mother (woe to female heroes and their dead moms). Though she’s gorgeous, sassy and smart she says to her boyfriend, “I’m a dropout and a bartender. You’re a professor. Why would you want to be with me?” Female insecurity abounds in the pilot, but I’ll get to that further down.

Jamie and Dr. Boyfriend are in the middle of a romantic dinner when she announces she’s pregnant. They’ve only been dating for five months, but it’s true wuv, so Dr. Boyfriend asks her to marry him (after her tells her the exact number of days, hours and minutes since conception—weird and kind of creepy).

On the car ride home a Mack truck slams into the passenger side of Dr. Boyfriend’s vehicle causing it to flip repeatedly. Next thing we know, Dr. Boyfriend is performing experimental surgery on his loved one RIGHT AFTER THE ACCIDENT.

Jamie wakes up in her hospital room. The crash has killed the embryo, but Dr. Boyfriend assures her that she will be able to conceive again. (Is there a bionic baby in Jamie’s future?) This is when Jamie discovers that much of her body has been replaced by nanobots called “anthrocytes” which have not only repaired her body, but “made it better.” (A metaphor for plastic surgery? Regardless, the anthrocytes have also fixed Jamie’s post car crash/surgery hair and makeup—if only I had nanobots that reapplied my lipstick as needed.)

Dr. Boyfriend’s superiors are pissed that he performed the surgery without their permission and are keeping Jamie imprisoned in their super-secret military facility until they can figure out what to do with her and the 50 million dollars worth of their technology she is carrying. You see, this experimental surgery had been performed once before on another woman—with disastrous results.

Sarah Corvis (played by Katee Sackhoff) was The First Bionic Woman. But while the anthrocytes made her physically superior, Corvis was emotionally unstable. With her new power she murdered a slew of military and medical personnel and before being shot by her lover (the very cool Will Yun Lee of Elektra). As he pulls the trigger she asks him desperately, “Do you love me?”

Of course, Sarah isn’t dead, and she’s pissed. She’s also emotionally damaged, insecure, dangerous, predatory, and out for revenge. She’s a sexy psychopath a la Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. She’s misunderstood and just wants to be loved.

But back to the narrative . . .

Dr. Boyfriend helps Jamie escape from the secret military hospital. As she runs away her pace accelerates to Clark Kent speeds and we get our only “homage moment.” As the camera pans inside her body to show the technology working it’s magic we hear a faint, very faint, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.

This is also the scene where we get our over-the-top feminist! flashing arrow.

As Jamie runs faster than a speeding soccer mom’s car, a young girl in the back seat, perhaps aged 6 or 7 exclaims, “Mommy, there’s a girl out there running really fast – – as fast as our car is going!”

The mother replies with a condescending, “Sweetie, what did I tell you about making things up?”***

Discouraged the child says, “I just thought it was cool that a girl could do that.” ****

Yes, it IS cool. And it’s something we need to see. But for the love of Goddess show us, don’t tell us. And show us often. Show us diversely, and with complexity, but please respect your audience. Know we are savvy enough to “get it.” We certainly don’t need to be spoon fed—especially with dialogue more in line with a 1970s cultural consciousness.

The climatic moment of the pilot (and I say “climatic” with oodles of lascivious pun intended) is the fight scene between the two Bionic Women which could easily be summed up with this famous exchange from the Seinfeld episode “The Summer of George.”

Elaine: What is so appealing to men about a cat fight?
Jerry: Because men think if women are grabbing and clawing at each other there’s a chance they might somehow kiss.

Sarah has already preyed on new girl Jamie back at the bar, held her hair back as she vomited, stroked her comfortingly, told her it’s uncomfortable when the anthrocytes come online and that she’ll be okay. But in order to truly get Jamie’s attention she shoots Dr. Boyfriend with a sniper riffle. Catfight ensues.

Cue wet t-shirts, long drags on cigarettes, close-ups on stiletto heels, and Jolie-esque quivering lower lips. Are your naughties tingling yet? Might they, could they, kiss? Get prepared for future slashtasticness.

During the TV Guide Hot List panel, David Eick salaciously said of his two leading ladies, “Early in the season they’ll develop a very special relationship.” Though considering the mention of bionic parts “going online” I suspect this relationship will be only metaphorically lesbian in nature with suggestive references to “plugging in” and the “sharing” of technology. I’ll download your files . . . and that sort of thing.

After viewing the pilot and panel, I’m not convinced that the producers are really clear on what their narrative goals are yet. David Eick told Variety last year that the series is “using the idea of artificial technology as a metaphor for what contemporary women sometimes feel is necessary to do everything that needs to be done.” I’m not really sure what this means, but from the very beginning of the episode—even before her transformation, Jamie’s life is presented as accelerating. She’s a young woman, shouldered with unexpected responsibilities while still in search of her identity.

Michelle Ryan noted at Comic Con that she’s interested in playing this character who is “Young, strong, feisty and vulnerable.”

*Sigh* I’m really tired of hearing “vulnerability” listed as an asset for women. It implies that if women are tough without also being visibly emotional that they aren’t admirable. They’re intimidating. Which is why Jamie’s nemesis and sometimes mirror, Sarah, is portrayed as psychologically damaged. She reveals she’s made her own upgrades stating, “I’m cutting away all the parts of me that are weak.” She’s insecure and so she’s enhancing herself. (Again, I wonder is this a metaphor for plastic surgery?) Rather than these two women coming from a place where they accept themselves, they are presented as physically tough, but emotionally insecure. What is it Eick & Co. think women feel is necessary to reach their goals?

Eick also explained that “this is a story about a woman who is not out for this” and that it’s a “Peter Parker ethos told through the eyes of woman.” But the “Peter Parker ethos” has been a staple of subsequent heroes—there was Peter Parker ethos in the angsty Buffy Summers and in the tempestuous Sydney Bristow. The search for identity and the reconciling of “different lives” is nothing new.

I guess what bothered me most was that the writers and producers came off as thinking that their character was original—when she’s not. And I wish she was. Bionic Woman could be a great show, but La Femme Nikita, Dark Angel, and Charmed could have been great shows. These later three had great ideas, but suffered in their execution. BW has capable actors, producers, and writers, but where the pilot fails is in its lazy ideas. Eick & Co. may not want it to be related to the original, and that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be a rip-off of other series. Hopefully, this will be corrected, and I’m certainly going to give it a chance. But to be honest, I’ll be paying more attention to Heroes and waiting for Sarah Connor Chronicles to premiere.

*(The only truly satisfying pilot I can think of was for Alias, which J.J. Abrams treated as more of a movie than a television preview.)

** The role of Becca Sommers was played by Mae Whitman, who was as awesome here as a rebellious teen as she was in her role as Egg, I mean, Anne, on Arrested Development. Unfortunately, Whitman has been replaced by the more Hollywood pretty Lucy Hale—a mini version of Michelle Ryan. The character will also no longer be deaf.

***There is a similar line in Superman The Movie where a young girl runs into the house after Kal-El saves her kitty from a tree. “Mommy, Mommy I just saw a man who could fly!!!” (paraphrased). The mother scolds the child for “making things up” and then we hear a very un-PC smack—yikes.

****The implication is that the mother did not grow up in a world where she saw images of girls doing cool things, even though the woman depicted was young enough to have grown up with the original Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Alien & Aliens—not the range that her daughter has been exposed to (or that hopefully her granddaughters will one day have) but some.

This was our second trip down to San Diego for the convention and I was once again speaking at the Comic Arts Conference. Ryan was documenting the exhibition floor, as well as the Con experience as a whole, for Microsoft Game Studios to convince the company that they really ought to have a presence there.

Upon arrival we decided that we would skip preview night and head up our hotel in La Jolla after picking up our badges. We figured a nice dinner, hot baths, and some good sleep would be more beneficial than shopping in a crowd.

Thursday morning we arrived downtown bright and early, checked out the floor and then I went upstairs to see the Comics and Education panel where I met Trina Robbins, Diana Green, Katherine Keller, and Melissa Andrada for a Women Comics Scholars lunch.

After lunch I met up with Ryan and waited for Tura Satana to begin her autograph session. I was first in line (and oddly the only woman there) and was actually a little giddy. I had just seen Faster, Pussycat. Kill! Kill! for the first time and was in awe of Satana’s formidable sexiness. She signed two photos for me (one for a friend who was watching our doggie, Giles, over the weekend) as well as a Region 2 DVD copy of FPK!K! Ryan had bought me a FPK!K! lunch box to have her sign, but I was worried I was one of those fans who was taking up too much of her time. But she was really lovely, and ever so nice. Completely Varla and completely kind, almost, maternal.

Since I hadn’t been down to the exhibition floor, we took a look around and I splurged on a limited edition copy of The Modesty Blaise Companion, complete with a bookplate signed by Peter O’Donnell (and Dick Giordano) from Bud Plant. Friday, we returned to the floor for a couple of hours. I was wearing my Television Without Pity, “The Sky’s the Limit: Petrelli for Congress” t-shirt, and while at the Heroes booth I was asked by a guy from if he could interview me for one of their web exclusives. I was number 26, and it appears they have already posted the first 5 interviews, so we’ll see if I show up.

Because there wasn’t anything I’d be upset about missing Friday afternoon, and because hubby had been begging, we went to Disneyland for the afternoon. We managed to only get on three rides before hitting exhaustion but it was nice to see Ryan so happy.

On Saturday, Con attendees left the crowded exhibition floors for the crowded panels upstairs. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest draws was the line-up in Ballroom 20 which began the day by screening the pilot episode of the reimagined Bionic Woman (review forthcoming). This was followed by an as-always mediocre “TV Guide Hot List” a session which generally serves as filler between desirable panels. Indeed, the Heroes cast, along with Tim Kring and Jeph Loeb appeared next—which was great fun for us geeks. The session was well paced and was broken up by fan Q&A (including an audience question from Danny Bonaduce), teasers, cast camaraderie, and a surprise guest appearance from Kevin Smith who will be writing & directing the first episode of the Heroes tie-in/spin-off, Origins. The announcement was a complete surprise to the cast, who were clearly delighted. The audience also received some cool swag: a special CCI 2007 edition of a Heroes comic, and an exclusive CCI 2007 DVD Box Set sleeve. Heroes Season One will be released on August 28, 2007.

We had to miss the rest of the day in the Ballroom (Battlestar Galactica, Futurama, and Joss Whedon) as I had to give my Modesty Blaise presentation at the Comic Arts Conference and the line to get back in to B20 was doubled through the building, as well as doubled outside. Many people wasted their days standing in line, in the hot sun, for a nominal chance at entry. It’s too bad they opted to wait instead of being flexible or adventurous enough to sample everything else the Con had to offer.

Saturday afternoon we went to see “Lara Croft: Re/Visioned”—a panel featuring writers and artists who were asked by to rethink the character for short animations to be featured on the site. The concept was intriguing—I particularly look forward to seeing Gail Simone’s take on Lara as a teenager—but the panel was one of the most boring we’d ever seen. Jim Lee and Simone had to leave in the middle of the session to go to another panel for Wildstorm. Peter Cheung was uncooperative (bordering on antagonistic) with a you-don’t-get-me-at-all-I’m-embarrassed-for-the-both-of-us attitude towards the moderator. Warren Ellis was obviously exhausted. Everyone lacked the energy to show even the slightest enthusiasm and gave the impression that it was just one more panel they were required to participate in. It was kind of a bummer because I’ve only now started appreciating the character after reading and falling in love with Modesty Blaise.

Next, we went to see the pilot for The Sarah Connor Chronicles (again, review forthcoming) and though we were seated in the very last row of the room we enjoyed the show and Q & A very much. And even though we were cold, tired, and hungry we figured we might as well stay for the Smallville panel since we were already seated (we did leave when the fan questions started as unlike B20 the room didn’t seem to have a “kill switch” on the question mike. After 10 hours at the convention center I had no patience for inarticulate nerds). Allison Mack wasn’t in attendance, but it appeared from the teaser promo that her character may be alive (many boos from the audience when it seemed she was dead, many cheers when we saw her body sit upright in the morgue). Let’s hope being a Krypto freak saves her because after last season’s bout of crap the only reason I’ll continue tuning in is to watch Chloe. And maybe Martian Manhunter. The new Supergirl was there, but she didn’t say much.

Sunday was our last day and we separated for the first half of it. Ryan went to the exhibition floor to do some more documenting for MGS, and I went to see the Super (Natural) Women panel featuring Lucy Lawless, Lisa Klink, Marti Noxon (who arrived 4 minutes before the session ended due to an Amtrak SNAFU), Allison Du Bois, and an actress from The 4400—which I haven’t watched. I’ve also never watched Medium, but was truly intrigued by Du Bois and will have to either give the series a chance or pick up one of her books.

I went to see Trina’s presentation on the feral women of L’il Abner, but the organizer of the Comic Arts Conference who was responsible for bringing her slide presentation to San Diego had forgotten to put it on his on computer—and had assured Trina she didn’t need to bring a back-up (but the guy’s a new dad and probably hasn’t had any sleep in the past 3 months). It was too bad because it was clear she was looking forward to the presentation—she’d even sent away for a leopard print dress to wear for the occasion. She’ll be taking it all to the much more manageable Wonder Con next February instead, where I’ll hopefully be giving my Modesty talk.

Trina invited me to have lunch with her and Diana again, but I was planning on meeting Hubby for some last minute shopping. After picking up a set of TV tie-ins for The Avengers we decided we were done & done—even though we’d planned to go to two more panels. Instead we got some lunch at a hotel downtown—had two glasses of wine each AND shared a desert then headed to the airport where we had two large margaritas each. We figured all the walking we did (4 or 5 hours a day, each day) countered all the calories we consumed. Upon returning home I was happy to find that I did not gain any weight.

As usual I’ve gone through my post-con three days of exhaustion only to wake up this morning well-rested but with a head cold. I guess there’s only so much Vitamin C and Purell can do when faced with 143,000 people.

So I’ve finally given in and hopped on the Blog Bandwagon, although I feel more Rupert Giles than Willow Rosenberg about the idea of creating an online presence.

But at Comic Con International this Summer I discovered that there was much I wanted to write about my experiences. Even though by now the pilots, rumors, and confirmed spoilers of The Con are circling The Net, my first few posts will address some of the forthcoming pop media from my perspective as a fan, a feminist, and a critic.

My hope is that in making the effort to frequently contribute to my website I’ll get in the habit of writing everyday (which will help knock back chapters of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology) and that I’ll have a space to try out ideas, maybe even network.

Feel free to post in the comments, email me directly, and send friends or coworkers who may be interested in my direction.

Here’s hoping you enjoy some (virtual) Ink from the Amazon!

Jennifer K. Stuller