Monthly Archives: October 2010

No Live-Action Cowboy Bebop! Woot!

This thread is for Marta because we both love to talk about Cowboy Bebop non-stop. Word on the street is the possibility of a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie is dead. in. the. water. I, for one, am relieved, mostly because Keanu Reeves wanted to play Spike and that, well, just…no. That’s crazy talk. If it did go live action, I’d want someone better than Reeves to play Spike. I’ve been trying to think of someone better, but I don’t know if anyone (American, anyway) could pull it off.

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Fan Fiction Friday!!!

I have a very short list of favorite fan fiction writers and Redbrunja is among them, somewhere near the top. Why? Because her writing is so well done, so spot on, that she can make me ship just about anything. And I do mean anything.

Red is the master of the quick fic, capable of saying a lot with very few words. (Take this little gem, for  example: Naruto/Sakura, take 1: He’d rather be Second Best than Dead Last. Ugh, I don’t even like those two together but this kills me.) But when she does go long, more often than not, it’s made of all kinds of win. One of the many pairings I’ve come to appreciate more due to Red’s writing is Tsunade/Jiraiya.

At first glance, these two are either comic relief or used as a parallel to Naruto and Sakura’s relationship. I didn’t even think twice about how complicated and angst-y their relationship is/was until I read “Jester.” In it, Jiraiya gets his shot at Tsunade, only to realize that he loves her in the worst way and is an absolute fool for doing so. The story gives some additional context to support the way they interact in canon. Jiraiya is always attempting to ease Tsunade’s fears, playing the role of the lovable, happy-go-lucky wanderer to her head-strong leader. He knows he’ll never break through the walls she’s built up around herself; all he can do is play his position.

Like with all of her fics, Red covers a lot of ground in a few sentences, using words sparingly to mark whole periods of time without rushing the narrative. The sentences “Jiraiya was on a mission when she met Dan” and “Jiraiya was on a mission when she lost Dan” are only a sentence apart, indicative of the cruel way fate has given Tsunade happiness and then just as quickly, taken it away. It’s the fleeting nature of happiness that Tsunade runs from right up until Jiraiya’s death.

For all intents and purposes, I think Jiraiya is a romantic. A lecherous horndog of a romantic but a romantic nonetheless. But his relationship with Tsunade is the one thing he can’t truly gloss over the way he does everything else. She won’t let him. In “Jester,” he finally sees why she can’t.

Grade: A. Rated NC-17. (Please heed the rating.)


Rescue Me: Romance Manga and Emotional Justice

Harlequin's Avoiding Mr. Right

I was watching an old episode of Sex and the City in my hotel room the other night, the one in which the girls head to Jersey for a night on the town and meet some hot firefighters. (And Carrie meets the older politician, who turns out to have a bit of a urination fetish.)

“Why are firefighters so cute?” Miranda asks the crew at breakfast the next morning.
“Because women want to be rescued,” Charlotte answers and the table goes quiet.

I don’t know if it’s that women want to be rescued as much as they want to feel protectedDoes a man care enough about me to want to keep me safe? And really, is that such a bad thing? Well, no, not always. I think it’s the main reason why romance manga, like its predecessor the romance novel, is so popular.

eManga.com has a boatload of romance manga by Harlequin and when I’m feeling extremely hopeless and in need of an espresso-sized shot of sap, I wander over to read about ordinary girls/women who can take care of themselves, but just happen to stumble upon the men of their dreams, men who respect them not only for their beauty but for their brains, too. And they all live happily ever after. Add in some obstacle standing in the way of the couple being together and you have a textbook case of what the organization the Romance Writers of America calls “emotional justice.”

Emotional justice is the idea that good is rewarded and evil is punished. As dictated by the RWA, it’s the basis for most, if not all, romance novels (not that I read a lot of romance novels, but someone’s reading them because romance has consistently been one of the best-selling literary categories for years). It goes something like this: Boy meets girl, boy and girl like each other but something is keeping them apart, that something is vanquished, they end up together, the end. It’s a rather simple notion, one that represents the kind of fairness that we can never expect in real life, but seem to yearn for it in our forms of entertainment.

So do we fangirls read this stuff because we want to be rescued? Protected? Safe? Does it allow us to indulge some part of ourselves that we know will never be satisfied? Have we bought into the fantasy that we’re all only a hair’s breadth away from being in the relationships we think we so rightfully deserve? *shrug* Romance manga — like romance novels, romantic comedies, and other romantically-charged forms of entertainment — means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?


Artist of the Month: Carol Tyler

 

Carol Tyler signing my copy of You'll Never Know, Book I: A Good and Decent Man

 

I recently interviewed graphic novelist and University of Cincinnati adjunct professor Carol Tyler about her trilogy, You’ll Never Know (Fantagraphics Books), for the fall issue of Ghettoblaster Magazine (in issue 26…should be out this month). The Eisner Award nominee’s You’ll Never Know, Book I: A Good and Decent Man was released last summer to rave reviews. Book II: Collateral Damage is coming out this month. Only a small portion of the interview will appear in print, so I’ve decided to run the entire thing here. Enjoy!

Squee!: What has it been like for you to recreate your father’s story for print?

Tyler: Hardest thing I’ve ever taken on. So much to juggle: the storyline, the art. The mechanics of making a comic page/book. Oy! I’ve been at this for four years and I’m still not done! I love it, though. I’ve had to wrap my life around getting pages done. I said going in that I didn’t care if I had to live in poverty in order to make this work come to be and sadly, that’s been the case so far. It’s an epic struggle, although worth it a thousand times over.

Squee!: What kind of response have you gotten from readers since the first book was released?

Tyler: Since Book I was published in June 2009, I have had so much positive feedback, especially from soldiers and families. They love that I took on a topic that’s never talked about, I’m told. It has started important conversations because this book is not just a narrative about my dad. It’s about emotional damage caused by war and unfortunately many people can relate.

Squee!: What was your father’s response to Book One: A Good and Decent Man? Did he read it?

Tyler: As soon as it came out, I had copies from the publisher sent directly to my parents’ house. But then I didn’t hear from them. So about a week later I called and I said, “Mom, how’d you like the book?” And she answered, “I couldn’t call you for crying. It’s beautiful!”

“What about dad? What did he think?” She said six hours earlier, he read it from cover to cover, set it down, walked into his shop and was still in there. Later that day, I got in touch with him:

“What’dya think of the book, dad?”

“Wonderful. Now. That fence post you set in the back has got to go over about 5 feet, bla bla . . .”

I know he’s proud of it. At book signings, he comes dressed in his cute little VFW outfit and cries when he meets other veterans. It’s sweet. He’s 91 years old.

Squee!: In what ways did your father’s experiences shape your life growing up?

Tyler: This is the thesis of Book II where I discuss specifically how his emotional distance led to my risky behavior during adolescence. I never felt like I had power or control. I felt about the size of pocket lint and bottle caps. Having raised a child myself, I have to say that I did not get enough affirmation or attention. Dad was tormented. And Mom had issues, too, as you will read in Book II. Somehow, enough goodness prevailed so that I didn’t turn out completely psycho.

Squee!: Were you especially surprised by any aspects of your father’s story? If so, which part?

Tyler: I was surprised at how much tragedy he has suppressed. He and my mother. And so early in their relationship. I’m surprised they survived it all.

Squee!: Give me a quick overview of the second book. Where are we in the narrative?

Tyler: It gets to the root understanding of my life’s difficulties, how it’s seeping through to my daughter. My mom’s great tragedy explained in “The Hannah Story.” And it’s Dad’s tour in Italy and France, just before the Bulge.

Squee!: If you had to break each book down into overarching themes, what would books one and two represent? What about book three?

Tyler: Book I is denial about the problem between my dad and me. Book II examines the problem. Book III is about coming to terms with our issues and healing. [Interviewer’s note: When I saw Tyler at Books by the Banks earlier this month, she said she’s feverishly working on Book III right now and that it should be out early next year.]

Squee!: How does book two compare to book one?

Tyler: Book II is more about the emotional impact on the girl characters. It’s the yin to the yang in Books I and III.

Squee!: Do you think that individuals who have not seen war up close and personal have a tendency to romanticize it at times?

Tyler: Yes, I do believe this happens. Just take a look at returnees. They want to forget about it and get on with their lives. It’s these politicians and issues-oriented agenda people who use the service and sacrifice of our veterans to further their “reason du jour.” However, I will say soldiers are mostly proud of their service and they have/will continue to defend our country. We owe them a lot. I just wish that sentiment could be detached from the jaws of the political right. (And just for the record: my parents are life-long Democrats. They voted for Obama.) Nobody wants to relive the horrors of war. But remember, we must.

Squee!: How has your telling this story changed your relationship with your father?

Tyler: While he is proud and all that, he still isn’t very open with his feelings. He’s still kind of distant. Although he does consider me to be his closest Army buddy, which says a lot. And that means a lot to me.

Squee!: I’ve read about your project at UC, in which you have your DAAP students work with combat veterans. How many of these projects have you worked on so far?

Tyler: One of the coolest things to come out of doing You’ll Never Know is what I do in my comics class at University of Cincinnati DAAP School of Art. It occurred to me that if I got so much out of my dad’s war stories, perhaps my students could benefit as well. So every spring quarter, I invite veterans into my classroom and pair them with students who conduct interviews and produce a two-page comic for them.

It’s a transforming experience. The students are amazed at the adventures and the danger, and how young the soldiers were when they served. And the veterans are honored that someone has taken the time to listen. Over the years, I have learned that listening validates experience and deepens understanding more than anything. We are never going to resolve the difficult issues in this world if we don’t listen to and understand each other.

Squee!: How have these two books affected your interpersonal relationships?

Tyler: People are used to it to some degree. I’ve been telling autobiographical stories for almost three decades. My stories make people both proud and pissed. For You’ll Never Know, I told everyone going in that there were two rules: 1) Don’t bug me about wanting an exact facial likeness. 2) The characters have to follow the necessity of a story’s trajectory.

In telling a story, it’s my goal to be as close to the truth as possible. But, you have to reshape things a bit in order to make overall sense. So while everything is pretty much true, I have to bend things here and there. Story crafting, I guess you could say.

Squee!: What were you trying to achieve when you set out to create these books? Do you feel like you’ve reached your goal?

Tyler: I just wanted future generations to know my parents and me. I didn’t want this time and place to get lost in the shuffle of what’s to come. I wanted to honor their generation, examine the baby boomer experience and document the millennial decade before it all slips away into history.

Have I achieved my goal? I don’t know. But I’ll be glad when I’m finished. I’m ready for my next book about seeing the Beatles in 1965. And then there’s my sister’s book on Autism to illustrate. And then this story called “Tomatoes” about my culturally diverse neighborhood. And then there’s . . . It’s endless.

Check out Tyler’s work at www.bloomerland.com


Happy FMA Day!

There’s still time to enter Funimation’s FMA Day contest! Funi wants to know what Fullmetal Alchemist means to its fans:

“We want to officially recognize October 3 as FMA Day, giving fans of the series a day to reflect on what FMA means to them. Some may see it as a solemn day commemorating the trials faced by the Elrics in their quest to become whole again. Others will think of it as a celebration, honoring the brothers’ determination in the face of adversity. And others still will remember those rowdy Risembool Rangers. When did you first see Fullmetal Alchemist? What about FMA has inspired you? What has given you pause? How will you observe FMA Day?”

Enter and you’ll have the chance to win a boatload of FMA stuff. I never got into the original, but I loved FMA: Brotherhood so this is my way of paying tribute (mainly to Roy and Riza *heart*). Last day to enter is October 5!


Fan Fiction Friday!!!

Happy October, fellow fangirls! In this edition of Fan Fiction Friday, I’m dropping my KakaSaku fetish for a moment and going back to Cowboy Bebop because this one is just too good to pass up.

I watched the Bebop movie on Netflix the other night and it kind of left me jonesing for a little Spike/Electra, which apparently no one ships. (People, how can you not love the fight scene where he’s being all flirty with her when she’s clearly trying to subdue and/or kill him? That scene alone should’ve launched a thousand fics!) What I did find was a neat little story about the love triangle that is Spike, Julia, and Vicious.

What’s the point of reading something when you already know how it ends, you ask? If you don’t, you’d miss out on fics like bebop-aria’s “Left Eye,” a prequel which lays out in agonizing detail exactly how, when, and why Spike falls in love with Julia. Before the first chapter begins, the author says, “This really didn’t start out as a fanfic. It started as my attempt to outline, from the still photos we see in the episodes, what happened between Spike, Julia and Vicious to bring us up to the “present day” in the Cowboy Bebop universe.” This careful outlining leaves readers with a story that feels quite canonical. The pacing is amazing and even though I knew no good would come of it, I couldn’t stop reading it, as if the ending was going to change somehow.

The thing that makes this fic awesome is the great restraint shown by all of the characters. Julia isn’t too needy and Spike’s longing for her simmers right below the surface, rarely making its way to the top. And Vicious? Well, he is, uh, vicious, of course, but not so much so that Julia completely loses sight of why she cared for him in the first place. (But, really? His name is Vicious. Wouldn’t you think that’d give you some clue to his personality? *shakes head* Bah.) It is when said restraint is broken that the spectacular display of emotion that’s unleashed feels like the relief you didn’t know you were waiting for.

Rated M. Grade: A