Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wonder Woman: My Rough Movie Concept

Here’s the thing: I am not generally a supes person. I usually stay out of conversations about superhero’s for this reason. However, the recent discussion around how Wonder Woman is somehow more “difficult” to make a movie about than, say, Thor or Iron Man struck me as really weird.  There seems to be a fixation with certain aspects of WW’s original origin story, namely the BDSM components, and not enough on her actual character and what she stands for. There’s no reason a film can’t do that, the same way they have for just about every other successful superhero.

What makes WW somehow more complicated? I think there’s a lot of fear about such an overtly feminist character and it’s scary to think about the time and effort required to make a film about her work and resonate. Mostly because of A. not getting the character B. being afraid of the word "feminist" C. not really understanding what actually makes her a "feminist" char. That latter was soundly proved by the garbage that was Catwoman. 

My feeling is: get over it. Tap a good writer, take the time, and you WILL find the audience for this (and they will happily pay you for giving them a great film). Is it a risk? Sure, but no more than any other. They’re all a risk, that’s the nature of the biz. There are no sure things in film.

So, what’s MY idea for a Wonder Woman movie? Well, I think we need to go back to her Greek mythological roots, show Wonder Woman’s version of the Amazon’s within that framework, and then allow for a modern storyline.  Greek Gods in Modern Times doesn’t strike me as particularly difficult, and I think starting out with a “simple”, though not stupid, story seems like a good way to intro the character to film audiences.

In my head, I see an opening sequence of a figure running, though we never see all of her (or possibly even that it IS a her at first, let’s do some audience fake out here). There are sandaled feet, some battle scars, maybe a few cuts, but overall this figure is strong, determined, confident. Think the Xena opener, only with better graphics. Swords clashing with beasts of myth and legend, maybe a god thrown in, in quick, badass cuts.

In my head, I hear Claudia Blacks’s voice narrating, telling us about being a warrior and an agent for peace. The inherent conflict of wanting a world that’s strong and loving, and knowing that sometimes violence is a necessary force when evil and hate are your adversaries to reaching that goal.  I hear her, at the end, tell us this is what makes a “True Amazon”, the ability to love and fight for what you know matters. Chills up the spine, I guarantee it. (Note: I think CB is probably a little old for WW, but she’d make an AMAZING Hippolyta, who could totally narrative this!)

As Hippplyta says this, we pull back to reveal a Wonder Woman who looks like this cosplayer, Meagan Marie: HERE (frankly, she’s my main inspiration for this WW story.) standing on a beach, sword and shield in hand, lasso at her side, wind blowing cinematically in the wind…and looking back at her Amazonian home, full of women living their lives peacefully. She’s been training. We hear her mother talking about how Diana, naturally, is a leader who wants to help. But the Amazons haven’t really “needed” her that way in a long time. She was ready for a change.

Cut to our Diana, cleaned up a little, talking with her mother. Hippolyta is telling her that the gods have been up to something, they aren’t getting back to anyone lately, and she needs her daughter to go out and find out what’s up.  The Amazons have been guarding something important (a gate to the Underwold, maybe) but it’s been a hell of a long time since anyone showed up or even came to give it a friendly check in.  And now the gate is crumbling (that’s bad for everyone) and the Amazon’s can’t fix it. They need help. Especially because Athena isn't responding and that's really bad.

So Diana goes on a little quest, definitely with a fellow Amazon or two so we get some more Bechdel Test passing action in here, not to mention some exposition on her creation story. I’m partial to the “made out of clay” version and having her friends give her a little shit for being made out of dirt. I personally dig this origin because she was created by her mother out of a need for her to exist. I find that to be a really powerful concept.

Naturally it turns out Olympus is a deserted wasteland. Nobody home. Well, that’s a problem. She seeks an oracle (maybe those 3 weaver ladies) and finds out that the gods deserted Olympus at least a thousand years ago, internal strife, and the world outside is pretty damn different than it used to be. The Amazon's haven't noticed because of reasons, something mythical. WW’s going to need to venture out if she’s going to find any of the old gods and haul their delinquent butts back home. At this point I think a little run down of our “greatest hits” as a species are in order, focusing mainly on our tendency to kill each other and been oppressive asshats. Seems like the kind of thing Diana would be unthrilled by. And the Amazon’s main concern is finding out what happened to Athena, who they really can’t believe would just up and abandon them. Note; she definitely didn’t.

At first, Hippolyta is not so keen on her one and only going off into this unknown, violent, crappy world. Plus, Diana isn’t the only one who wants to go on this journey. So there’s a contest, which obvs Diana wins, and she’s off to our world. She’ll need clues, probably from the weaver ladies and Hippolyta, for where to start looking, And she’ll need a different outfit so she’ll blend. I’m voting for something with pants. And a spiffy red leather jacket, like maybe this one.

Meanwhile, in the real world, things are going about how you’d expect. War, famine, hate…we’re a fun bunch. And in the midst of it all are the Greek gods, some laying low, some really not, and Diana has to seek out various ones to figure out what the hell is going on. I’d personally go with Ares and Aphrodite being huge jerkfaces and looking like the main “villains” at first, but that’s me. Might be a little obvious, but sometimes that’s good when you’re going for a more mainstream, digestible story for larger audiences. Once they figure out Diana is on the case, they start sending “things” after her. 

Forthe most part, she outsmarts them, using peaceful means to subdue them and solve the problem. Right up until she can't anymore because it's going to hurt people. It's important to remember that while Diana may be a warrior, she’s not a thug. And throughout it all she witnesses a great deal of human suffering (I’m guessing she’s in a city here, real or made up, whatever) and sees an opportunity to do some real good.  She should make some human friends, I think she’s be especially concerned for the plight of women and children given our cultural issues with misogyny, but not to the exclusion of injustice and inequality in general. I just think she’d definitely notice the gendered nature of many of our current problems.

Eventually she has to have a major confrontation with the jerk gods and uses her intelligence, strength, AND powers to best them after she discovers they’ve locked Athena away because she’s been the main voice of dissent. And, in the end, also shows compassions towards the ultimate mastermind, who would really have to be Zeus. I can’t stand that guy, he’s horrible throughout mythology. They fix the gate back home, but she decides to stay here to help humanity (we really NEED her). Emotional moment with her mom, who reluctantly understands, and they set up a new status quo on Olympus, with ideally Athena in charge. And Wonder Woman sets about doing work WORLDWIDE to combat injustice, with hints at future problems so we can obviously get a sequel. Fin!

Okay, so, as a friend said, some of these plot points are “mushy” but I don't think any more so than any other super film in recent memory. Hopefully a screenwriter/editor would be able to make it gel. I’m also using my personal interpretation of Greek Mythology here, especially in regards to Zeus, who sucked. But I think something like this might be a story your average movie goer could enjoy, while also offering a bit more depth for the more discerning viewer, and definitely sticking to WW/Diana as a character to appease hardcore fans. I hope. The idea here isn’t that my idea is the bestest, just that there are plenty of ways to do WW that are compelling and engaging, and no more difficult than a Thor or a Superman.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Just a Place

I grew up in a small town in New York, not far north of the city. It’s very picturesque, I guess, with amazing views of the Hudson River, Palisades, and Croton Point as it bifurcates the water. I have vivid memories of waking up in the middle of the night to a huge, heavy moon, hanging like a bright globe over the world.

The town isn’t really that interesting, although sometimes its history is. That’s all tainted for me by being a place I started hating in Middle School and have never really been able to reconcile since. My parents still live there, in the house I grew up in, although I don’t really know for how much longer. Neither do they.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have all my grandparents around. My dad’s folks were also reasonably well off and owned a second house on the coast of Maine. I spent most every summer that I can remember there.

It was a small house, pre Civil War era. It had none of the artifice of later Victorian style houses, like my parents place with its tower that overlooks the river.  It was plain white, a dusty blue trim around the spare windows, distinctly house shaped, with two floors, a pleasantly, old mold smelling cellar, and a small attic. There was a fireplace in the rarely used sitting room, a small black and white TV in my grandmother’s old bedroom, and the last time I was there in 2006, the phone was still rotary. My grandparents had been dead several years but the house was mostly the same. I could still smell them, hear their voices in the kitchen or having afternoon tea.

There were two bathrooms, only one of which had a bathtub. The shower was low even for me, at five one. The spray was fine but a little painful, the wallpaper was cracking in many spots, and you had to lay a towel down on the floor before getting in because the spray caused the curtain to flap around so much you’d end up with a mini lake otherwise. My room was in the back, facing the yard. It had small purple flowered wallpaper that looked straight out of a Little House on the Prairie dress. The bed was a small twin and creaked excruciatingly. There was a small dresser that smelled rather strongly of mothballs.

In many ways, it was utterly unremarkable.

Except for the small, hidden stairway that led from my room to the back of the kitchen. I could get down to breakfast (often pancakes made with sour milk, so they were thin and crunchy) in less than 10 seconds. I could also get out of the house without anyone seeing me at all unless they were in the kitchen. I could hear everything that was said downstairs, late at night, when the grownups sat around drinking. I could sneakily sit at the top of the stairs and watch my grandmother bustling around.

From the outside, it was just a plain house on a street of larger, more ornate, sprawling, gentrified houses. It stood like a tiny throwback to a bygone time, without pretention or artifice.

In some ways I think it is my platonic ideal of a house. Small, defiantly quaint, overshadowed by trees, with a small stream running alongside and a pear tree in the backyard. Worn, uneven stone steps led up to the crooked back door. Several criss crossing clotheslines hung from the nearby barn. We always dried out clothes in the fresh air.

Maine summers on the coast are generally not very warm, maybe getting into the 70’s. The ocean breezes keep everything mild, even in the bright sun.  We very rarely went swimming, the North Atlantic is still frigid that time of year, and most beaches are too rocky to really be a lounging spot.

Beyond the mouth of the harbor there is a small island with a lighthouse. You have to climb up a steep stair to get to the actual island from the landing beach. There’s a thick forest around it, and a swing on a tree that goes to the edge of a cliff.  You can see waves crashing below. The island is only a mile or two around, you can walk it in less than an hour. But the forest looks deep and dark, until it abruptly ends, and becomes a field of flowers. I always think of them as poppies, but they probably aren’t.

I often dreamt of that island, of secrets and buried treasure. I wondered if the lighthouse was haunted and if it was scary to live beneath it in a storm.

When I was teenager I learned how to sail over two summers, two of the worst years of my life. The summers themselves were equally difficult. Socially I was a pariah at home, and though I made friends in the summer, they were fleeting relationships based on proximity.

My favorite times were getting to wander around by myself through town, up towards the mountain, or down at the harbor. It was a less than 5 minute walk down a short, steep hill to where the boats all gathered, and I loved the smell of salt water and pine tress mixing together.

Learning to sail might be one of the whitest hobbies known to man, but I loved it. It was quiet and peaceful. Sometimes seals would swim by the boats. If you hit the wind right you could lift off the water and glide, like flying. My grandfather even let me steer his boat, named after me, into harbor when a fog rolled in heavy and fast. I had to use the compass, visibility was dim. I was very proud of myself, and touched that he had trusted me. He was usually protective, my uncle, his son, had died on their previous boat.

My memories of those summers are emotionally complicated. Sometimes they are the simple joys of young childhood: small family cookouts, the sharp sip of beer that I didn’t like the taste of but wanted anyway because it made me feel more grownup. The taste of fresh lobster with salty butter. The warm scent of bacon. The fizziness of the root beer we always had on the boat.

Later, it reminded me of painful fights with my grandmother who, as an alcoholic, became increasingly suspicious and hostile. Having to go find my brother after he ran away one night, though I knew he’d be down at the docks. Sitting in my little room at thirteen, still mostly a child, but dealing with the recent death of my mother’s father, the discovery that my mother had a problem with alcohol due mainly to grief, a year spent despised by classmates, and the dawning realization that my family was deeply troubled. Alcoholism was not something I really understood yet, but in the next few years it would cast a long shadow that, to this day, has shaped a great deal of my life.

After that summer I was never really close to my father’s parents again. Eventually my grandmother was treated for her diabetes in a way that regulated her alcoholism and she became a rather different person. But by then I was in High School and the damage had been done. I loved them, but I did not trust them, and I didn’t see the house in Maine again until after they both passed away.

As an adult my husband and I spent our honeymoon in the house in Maine. I think part of me knew it might be the last time. That things were moving quickly, that changes were coming, and that eventually we would lose it.

We spent that week loving and sleeping, eating and laughing, walking and enjoying the summer flowers. A perfect summer storm hit one night and we went to the harbor to watch.

A few years ago, through a series of events, my father and uncle had to sell the house. I was deeply upset. And, I guess, I still am. I dream about it all the time, more than the house I grew up in. The dreams are angry, resentful, full of frustration and bitterness. All the emotions I try not to have generally, but especially about this and anything related to my family.

The truth, though, is that losing that house was losing something precious and meaningful. It was, of course, just a place. A structure of wood and stone. But it was also a place where life happened, where childhood mingled with adolescence and adulthood. Where summer dreams met family tragedy, the way the purple lustrife flowers overtook the fence in the backyard and started trailing into the grass in wild, lavender blooms.

I write about that house a lot in my stories, even when there are no houses in it, or the houses are large and complex monstrosities. It has a kind of magic hold over me, because I can never go back and see it again. Because it will never belong to me, and never really did. But I loved it all the same.

I sometimes think that house stands for all the regrets we end up with in life, that look simple from the outside, but on the inside contain complicated lives and choices. Other times I think it represents dreams and the simplicity of imagination, of stories waiting to be found.

Mostly, though what I feel is that I miss it, a house that was really just a place…but is infused with the meaning of the lives who lived in it. I hope whoever lives there now can feel a little of that. I hope they take care of it and cherish it. I hope they love it the way I do. And probably always will.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Commissions Open, January 2014!

So, I have been given a table at C2E2 this year, which is rad. The only snag? Table is not cheap, nor is flight + hotel from Europe.

So! If I can get commissions and things pre the deadline of Jan 14th I may be able to attend! And if I can't, then I'll just mail you your piece with minimal shipping. If you'd just like it shipped, I'm open to that, too.

Also! Ready to ship pieces are already in my Etsy shop,

So, what do I draw? Well! Stuff like this: 

These piece are all up in my shop, originals and prints. Watercolor and inks.

So! Prices!

Full color original art: 

Postcard size (Like Lydia above) = $65

8 x 11 (like the Empress, top pic) = $150

B/W postcard size = $30

B/W 8 x 11 = $80

Shipping to the States is expensive, BUT, I can do a discount for $10. 

This would be for one character, more characters or limited color we can discuss. Email:

If you're looking for some cheaper options, I have prints at my Etsy.