Coming Soon to This Blog…

From  Jonathon D. Svendsen, the mind that examined such popular aliens, demigods, monsters, and creatures including Thor, The Hulk, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Superman, Gandalf, Gollum, Yoda, Ahsoka Tano, Darth Maul, and Spock, comes an in depth celebration of one of cinema’s most beloved visitors from another world.

E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial.

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Good Grief: Celebrating Peanuts #9 : Snoopy

One of the earliest recorded stories of the friendship between humans and dogs comes from Homer’s The Odyssey. Odysseus, in disguise so he can take back his kingdom from the uncouth suitors returns to Ithaca after twenty long years away from home between the war of Troy and his wanderings. Upon returning one of the first to recognize him with his faithful dog, Argos, now blind from old age. The dog had patently waited for his master to return to him, but Odysseus could not greet him for risk of exposing his secret and being killed by the suitors. The beloved dog died, having fulfilled his duty and been reunited with his master once again.

Odysseus would not be the last hero to have a canine companion. American author Jack


London was fond of writing about between the friendship between man and dog in White Fang and Call of the Wild. Superheroes Superman and Batman had Krypto and Ace to help them feel less lonely in their never ending battles of good vs. evil. Archeologist Henry Jones, Jr. would choose his nickname “Indiana” because of the fond memories he had of his loyal Alaskan Malamute.  Even Sherlock Holmes who could be condescending to any person,  even Dr. John Watson, would say of the dog Toby, “I’d rather have Toby’s help than that of the whole detective force in London .”

In the world of fiction however, no dog has been more beloved and iconic, then the beagle, Snoopy. Charles Schulz always had a great fondness for dogs, ever since he was a child.  Thus, it was only natural for the cast of his comic strip to be completed with a lovable and wildly imaginative beagle. As Schulz admitted,

“I patterned Snoopy in appearance after a dog I had when I was about thirteen years old. His name was Spike, and he looked a bit like the original Snoopy. But Snoopy didn’t start of being a beagle. It’s just that Beagle is a funny word.”

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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts #8: Marcie

Some of the most endearing characters in Peanuts would begin in the background of another story. Snoopy’s bird friend Woodstock was simply one of the many birds who hung around the lovable beagle. The only thing that set Woodstock apart was his inability to fly right, and Snoopy didn’t even learn this bird’s name until 1970. He would not be the only one to gain a new best friend in the 70s, as new comer Peppermint Patty would make her own share of friends that did not revolve around “Chuck” and the ball field.

The introduction of her friend came about in an arc that saw Charlie and Peppermint Patty


heading off to camp for the summer. Charlie’s experience was less than stellar as his tent mate just faced the wall and any time someone spoke to him would say, “Shut up and leave me alone.” Patty however was ready to get things started, but was deterred by the rain. In a strip dated July 20, 1971, as she watched the rain her tent-mate a bespectacled little girl came up to her and asked “when is lunch, sir?”

Patty continued to complain about the rain, leading her tent-mate to point out in a strip from July 22, 1971,

“You shouldn’t criticize the weather, sir…it’s all part of the world we live in..besides this rain is probably helping some farmer, which of course, brings up another point…I’ve never seen a farmer go to summer camp, have you sir?”

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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts # 7: Peppermint Patty

Like most long running serial works of fiction in the 20th Century, The Peanuts comic strips reflect the ever changing world in which they live. It is necessary in order for these changes to occur, otherwise a property can grow stale and forgotten. This was the case with the Archie Comics, which tried so hard to be relevant in the early years of the 21st century that they did some pretty ridiculous crossovers with properties like The Punisher, Predator, and Glee. While Peanuts may seem to have been stuck in the same time continuum as Archie in terms of technology , such as rotary phones and giant box TV”s with dials, Charlie Brown and the gang managed to successfully retain a place of relevance in pop culture that Archie lacked.

No one reflected this change in cultural views of women more than Peppermint Patty. The

Peppermint Patty

one way they did this was with their characters. Schulz found early on that some characters just weren’t that interesting, and would slowly let them fade away as was the case with Violet, Patty, and Freida, three of the girls in Charlie Brown’s neighborhood. This made room for other more unique characters, such as Peppermint Patty.

Peppermint Patty was more able to address the society’s changing views on girls than any other character, as she first debuted in the strip in 1966, right at the height of the women’s liberation movement. As Jesse Fask notes in “Charles M. Schulz, the Feminist” for The Baltimore Chronicle,

“ The other girl who holds much power in Schultz’s cartoon world is Peppermint Patty, the “Peanuts” jock. Patty is good at every sport. She is assertive, loud, and aggressive. She allows Charlie Brown to play sports only because she seems to have a bit of a crush on him. But whenever Chuck gets too emotional, she blasts him with a barrage of insults. And Schultz’s most obvious gender reversal occurs when Peppermint Patty’s best friend Marcie, who is the smartest and best student of the group, calls Patty “Sir” every time she addresses her.”

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Of Tolkien and Legends

It’s true. We really do live in the “Golden Age” of nerd culture. Look at the slate of comic book, fantasy, and sci-fi films that hit the theaters each year. Notice how superhero TV shows, which were once considered the death kneel of an actor’s career are now the crown jewel for a once struggling network? I watch pretty much every show available, and have even developed an appreciation for characters I didn’t like before like The Punisher thanks to Daredevil season 2.

But one of my favorites is DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Despite their attempt to try and

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 2

make Suicide Squad the DC equivalent of Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy it is the Legends of Tomorrow, an occasionally irreverent group of rag-tag misfit c-list heroes united to defend all space and time that really hits that mark. I’ve loved time travel stories since I was a kid, having eagerly devoured Back to the Future on VHS. Add to it superheroes and you have a winning combination. To top it all off, Legends has been filling the TARDIS shaped hole in my nerdy heart that was left when Netflix didn’t renew the contract with the BBC to air Doctor Who. And just when I got hooked on it. Continue reading

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“I Am In The Force, And The Force Is In Me”

I loved Rogue One: A Star Wars story. In fact I may be in the minority of Star Wars fans, but I loved it more then I loved The Force Awakens.  I felt that the space dog fights in Rogue were the best since Return of the Jedi, the “thing the heroes must destroy in space to win the day” original, the characters engaging, the story gripping, the special effects cutting edge,  and Ben Mendelson’s Director Orson Krennic a more engaging villain then General Hux in The Force Awakens. Sure one cameo or two was a little wonky but chances are that they will clean that up a bit for the DVD/Blu Ray (they’ve done it before).

But if I were to pick my favorite character of all of the new ones we met in this first stand-alone Star Wars film , it was the Guardian of the Whill, Chirrut Imwe. Not fully trained as a Jedi, he demonstrates skills and abilities on par with the greats, like Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Qui-Gon Jinn with the wisdom and serenity of Yoda. The most engaging part: he was blind. Not counting Darth Vader in his giant walking prosthetic iron lung, or for that matter Saw Gerrera, this is the first time we have seen a character in Star Wars who can truly be described as physically disabled by our standards.

Chirrut Imwe

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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts #6: Schroeder

One of the most common names for a municipal theater is “Orpheum” derived from the Greek mythological figure, Orpheus, who was legendary for his music. Tales of antiquity tell of his great love, Eurydice and how he went down to the Underworld to get her back from Hades, and how his song had so bewitched the Dark Lord and his queen Persephone that they relented, allowing him to have his bride, on one condition. He was never to look back, lest she fade away. He disobeyed, losing his wife until he joined her in the underworld, permanently.

In fact aside from the famous Apollo theater in New York, it isn’t common for a theater or music hall to be named for a fictional character. Usually, they are named after a great local


patron of the arts, or just for the city itself. Even on college campuses, the music hall is named for its donors. Thus, in 2014, it came as a big surprise to many that Sonoma State University in Northern California would name one of their music halls after a comic strip character.

As the Los Angeles Times reported,

“Schroeder Hall — a modest, 250-seat venue located at the public university’s Green Music Center — will have its opening later this month. The hall is named in honor of the “Peanuts” character Schroeder, the precocious boy who enjoys playing the music of Ludwig van Beethoven on his toy piano. A university spokeswoman said that the hall’s naming was a way of recognizing Jean Schulz, wife of the late “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz. Jean Schulz has been a supporter and donor to the Green Music Center for years…An inaugural performance at Schroeder Hall is scheduled for Aug. 22. The private event, featuring pianist David Benoit, will honor Jean Schulz with a program titled “Tribute to Charlie Brown.””

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