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

Schroeder

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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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts #5: Franklin

The individual members of the Peanuts gang are best known for their little “quirks”. Linus has his security blanket like a little child, yet he has the mind of a scholar. Schroeder is obsessed with his piano and Beethoven music. Sally is sweet and well meaning but tends to mess up her thoughts. Lucy is crabby, and yet melts around Schroeder. Peppermint Patty is a great athlete, and cant’ seem to figure out that Snoopy is a dog. And Charlie brown is…well, Charlie Brown.

franklin

Franklin

This even extends to some of his supporting players such as Pig Pen with his traveling cloud of dust, or Frieda with her naturally curly red hair. Yet some characters don’t get as much development. In some cases they are just meant to be one off characters for a brief arc. In other cases there was just nothing that can be done about them and they were phased out like Shermie.

One however that has a fairly stationary character actually came into existence when a fan wrote to Charles Schulz and asked to create a character like him. That character is Franklin, and while he isn’t known for any of his quirks, he is well known for bringing some much needed diversity to the strip. It takes more than a casual glance at the cast of main characters, and a cursory reading of their very Germanic surnames ( Van Pelt, Schroeder, Reichhardt, and even Brown was a very common Anglicization of the German name “Braun”)  that make the strip sound like the characters just came from an Oktoberfest celebration. When the creator himself was of German and Swedish ancestry it’s not too surprising.  Writers write what they know, and someone of that background is going to create characters that reflect their heritage. Continue reading

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How to Avoid a Very Mustafar Valentines

One of my favorite moments in the new Star Wars film Rogue One ( and believe me there are many of them) is getting to see Darth Vader’s personal fortress. The idea of Vader’s citadel has been a notion long toyed with since the first script for The Empire Strikes  Back. This fortress was to be located on a volcanic planet then known as Had Abaddon, a name derived from the Hebrew word for “Destroyer” a fallen angel who is to lead the demonic hoards from the bottomless pit in the Last Days according to the book of Revelation.

Rogue One Concept Art of Vader's Citadel

Rogue One Concept Art of Vader’s Citadel

Not only was Had Abaddon the Imperial homeworld and location of Vader’s citadel, it was also where he was supposed to have received the wounds that forced him to need his iconic armor to survive. This idea was shelved due to budgetary concerns, and to be saved for Return of the Jedi. It would be nixed again due to budgetary concerns and instead fans were given a second Death Star. It would not be until 2005 with Revenge of the Sith that fans would get to see this world of fire and brimstone. Continue reading

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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts #4: Sally Brown

The years following World War II led to the birth of the generation known as the “Baby Boomers” those individuals born between 1946 and 1964. At its peak, the ideal family unit at this time included parents, 2.5 children and a dog. This was often seen on many of the TV sitcoms of the day, and as the Peanuts comic strip reflected the world of Middle-class, Upper Midwestern America, it would also feature the ideal family unit. Midway the first

Sally Brown

Sally Brown

decade of the Peanuts comic strip, readers would see the Van Pelt family grow dramatically through Lucy and Linus.

However, as Schulz always referred to Peanuts as “featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” naturally his family unit would become more defined. In the earliest strips, Snoopy gradually shifted from the neighborhood dog to belonging solely with Charlie Brown. Then as the 1950s drew to a close, the world was introduced to the newest member of the brown family, Charlie Brown’s adorable and precocious little sister, Sally.

Much like how Linus was introduced off screen through his sister offering to trade her brother for Charlie’s bike, Sally was introduced through her big brother’s reaction, showing just how different these two families were. While Lucy was eager to get rid of Linus, Charlie couldn’t have been happier. As is seen in a strip from May 26, 1959, Charlie had just gotten off the phone with his father at the hospital and happily ran down the street yelling,

“A BABY SISTER! I’M A FATHER! I mean my DAD’S a father! I’M a brother! I have a baby sister! I’m a brother!” Continue reading

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Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts #3: Lucy Van Pelt

It seems ironic that Charles Schulz would give his comic strip antagonist the name “Lucy”. After all, in Latin it means “bringer of light”, and that is not something that she seems to do for Charlie Brown or any of the other characters. Crabby is one of the many words that are often used to describe her. By most current standards of today she could be considered a bully. After all, what else would you call someone who destroys her brother’s security blanket, smashes Schroeder’s piano and bust of Beethoven repeatedly, and continually tricks Charlie Brown into kicking the football, only to pull it away from him and land on his back?

In fact, Lucy has been tormenting Charlie Brown ever since she first debuted in the comic strips. When Charlie first met her she was only a toddler, and Charlie acted as a sort of older brother figure. In her debut,  dated   March, 30th 1952   , Charlie Brown is happily sowing her his record collection. She asks to hear “Three Blind Mice” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and finally asks for a glass of water. Charlie agrees to get her a drink, and when he returns he finds Lucy is actually eating his record collection. Charlie is in tears, and Lucy senses his distress, and offers him a bite of one of the destroyed albums.

Her antagonism extends past Charlie Brown. In one strip, dated January 24th 1954, we see

Lucy Van Pelt

Lucy Van Pelt

Lucy terrorizing very one in her town. Kicking over everything belonging to Linus, Schroeder, Violet, Charlie, Shermie, and Patty, saying, as she runs away from the now angry mob,

 

“This is what I  think of your box of cookies! That’s what I think of your ol’ piano! That’s what I think of your ol’ stamp collection. And that’s what I think of your ol’ picture puzzle! And THAT’s what I think of your stupid ol’ marbles. And that’s what I think of your silly ol color crayons! I’m frustrated and inhibited and nobody understands me.”

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