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Jun 282014


Okay, not really. But why not? If you have not seen Frozen, this probably won’t make a lot of sense to you. But as a hopeless romantic, comic book geek, and life-long addict to Disney animated movies, I think this really needs to happen. Now, before my Disney fanatics and Comic-con fans beat me to death with season passes, bags, and boards, I have to ask, when you saw Frozen and saw Elsa breaking loose with her powers, didn’t you think, “Dang, this lady has got some power!” See, it’s not just me.

If you would, allow me to make my case as only a storyteller and gaming-geek can. First I should point out as a teller, that Disney has been playing with myths, folktales, and legends for many years (a few examples: Snow White, Cinderella, Mulan, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Hercules). So I figure, if they get to use storytelling content kept alive for thousands of years by storytellers (for fun and profit), it’s only fair that a storyteller should be able to make a comment or three.

A little back-story is in order. Elsa was inspired by the character called the Snow Queen (Snedronnigen) in a fairy-tale published by the same name in 1844 by none other than Hans Christian Anderson. Anderson was obviously influenced by the various snowy myths and legends and folktales growing up in Denmark. And if you’ve ever read any of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories, you will realize that Anderson saw the world a bit oddly by our standards, or even by the standards of anyone living in Denmark in the 1800s.

I should point out that Disney pointed the “D-Ray” at another of his other stories as well, a tiny little movie called The Little Mermaid and Disney did okay by that. The original Hans Christian Anderson Little Mermaid did not have a Disney-esque ending. But I digress.

In his original Snow Queen story, the Snow Queen was the villain and very scary. She kidnaps a boy named Kai, and the girl who rides to the rescue him is named Gerda. She is helped by a crazed pistol-packing robber girl, talking flowers, a talking reindeer, and other creatures. Gerda, it turns out, has the ability to cry magical tears, and she can summon angels, which is pretty handy. If you get a chance, you can check out the original story. It’s only a few pages long and … odd.

There are tons of traditional myths and folktales of cold and deadly beings, and that makes sense. If you live somewhere where you can freeze to death outside, you are probably going to have lots of stories about such things. For instance, the original Jack Frost was not a nice guy, and in Norse myth we have Snow (Snærr) son of Glacier, who also has a son named Frozen Snow, and three daughters, Snowdrift, Snow Fall, and Powdered Snow. Do you sense a theme? And if you really want to raise your “cold-hearted, beautiful snow lady” fear up a notch, check out the Japanese folktales about Yuki Onna, the Snow Woman. Trust me, there are some truly terrifying icy stories out there.

The influence of those myths and legends were part of the world that Hans Christian Anderson lived in. Many folks believe that the Hans Christian Anderson original Snow Queen probably inspired the The White Witch in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. That was the role was later icily played by Tilda Swinton in the Narnia movie series released in 2005. Now imagine her singing, “Let it Go.” Brrr!

And speaking of the song “Let it Go,” when the Disney creators of Frozen were working on the storyline, originally, Elsa was designed as a villain. But after hearing the song, they realized they had two heroines in their version of the story. And that’s a unique twist for Disney canon. Yes, “true love” does save the day but it’s the love of the two sisters for each other that saves them and possibly prevents an ice age. And the Prince is a schmuck. This story makes for a nice change, having female heroes as well as having the theme of personal empowerment that little girls all over the world can sing madly about.

So despite her age (roughly 169 years old) the Snow Queen (a.k.a. Elsa) was created by a writer, and has inspired many stories and illustrations. Strangely enough, the Avengers were created by writers and illustrators as well! Who knew?

The original Snow Queen is no spring chicken, but then, the Avengers themselves were created long before there were mega-lines at Comic-Con. The Avengers originally débuted in 1963 featuring Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Hulk, and Thor. It is a running joke in the Marvel universe that when someone says, “I am an Avenger,” the standard reply is, “Who isn’t?” Seriously, you would need a S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier just to host an Avengers reunion, With all the variants in comic book land, we’re looking at close to a hundred various heroes.

So all I’m asking is that if the Avengers can lift the velvet rope for Thor (a mythological Norse God of thunder and lightning), can’t we let in a fairy tale queen? Seriously, let’s geek this out. Everyone please put your pocket protector and nerd glasses on now.

Elsa of Arendelle (Fairytale Queen and #13 in the line of Disney princesses), what do we know about her?

Physically: She’s beautiful and immune to cold. While she may have average strength, having another beautiful lady on the Avengers team couldn’t hurt. She has above average dexterity and some amazing singing chops. (By the way, Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. ain’t too shabby either. Google him singing with Sting.) She also did not appear to need much sleep up there on the mountain.

Mentally: She’s smart and very mature for her age. She has a strong sense of morality, and she has battled against her power for years to protect her sister and her Kingdom. Considering that, she has amazing willpower, and she seemed pretty diplomatic and charming until everything gets all freeze-y. She is also brave and strong emotionally and, toward the latter part, very independent and generous.

Resources: She’s a Queen, so that doesn’t hurt. And we have plenty of precedent for Super-nobility, for example Black Panther (King of Wakanda), Thor (an Asgardian Prince), and Dr. Viktor von Doom (ruler of Latveria). And at the end of the movie, she seems to be doing a good job as Regent.

Powers (a.k.a. the Fun Stuff): World class magical cryokinesis/frigokinesis. It gives her the ability to create almost anything from snow and ice. Her power is so great that she can change global weather patterns and freeze cities, miles away. It is also seemingly somewhat semi-autonomous and seems to react before she consciously does.

Among some of the displays of her freezing abilities:

  • Creating sentient animated snow creatures: Olaf and Marshmallow (the Guardian)
  • Filling a castle full of dangerous and growing ice spears, from miles away
  • Creating ice walls and shields in a fraction of time, and the ability to move them without touching them
  • Freezing a massive body of water thick enough to be walked on in seconds (she ice-locks an entire harbor with ice several feet thick) (Did you know that Elsa has a beautiful “Signature Snowflake” pattern which you can see as a subtle motif throughout the movie? You can see it when she steps on the ice.)
  • Creating objects small and large of breathtaking beauty such as the brilliant Ice Castle on the mountain and her designer dress (Frank Lloyd Wright, Christian Dior, and Buckminster Fuller, eat your designer hearts out. Other Ice-slingers like Iceman (Bobby Drake, from the X-Men) and Frozone (Lucius Best, of the Incredibles), let this lady show you how to build ice bridge!)
  • Creating a magical ice that does not kill targets immediately and can turn them into ice-statues
  • Creating localized weather patterns such as the localized cold cloud for Olaf
  • Controlling ice/water in multiple states: crystalline, liquid, and gaseous
  • Freezing metal to the point of it becoming brittle and breaking (chains and handcuffs)
  • Creating a “stasis” area of suspended wind/snow/ice, which she can dismiss with a wave of her hand

Weaknesses: Her powers can be deadly if she is distraught or surprised. She might to need to wear gloves on a day to day basis. Orphaned. She has a Dependent NPC (Anna). And she has a strong sense of duty to her Kingdom.

So, if you sum it all up, we have a world class Super Heroine. We are talking a Magneto, Phoenix, Silver Surfer level, Four color, front cover, multiple story arc heroine.

Like Thor, she’s magical. Like the Hulk, she has to be careful to control her emotions. Like the Black Widow, she’s smart, tough, and beautiful. Like Iron Man, she can create thinking beings (Jarvis in the movies), and make amazing items, and she rules her own country. Like Captain America, she’s strong willed, has leadership abilities, and a strong moral code. And she could turn Hawkeye into a snow-cone with a wave. Can’t you see it? Elsa “Snow Queen” in her designer ice armor with a sub-zero sword? She could trash Hydra while doing a musical number. Maybe if we ask Joss Whedon, we could get a duet with her and Dr. Horrible? Hey, a geek guy can dream. Plus, think of all the little girls who would want merchandisable “Ice Armor.” Think about it, Disney!

Believe in the power of stories!


Jun 242014

CairoSwordsmanDavid Terrence Richards, better known to the world as Terry Richards, stuntman extraordinaire, was laid to rest today in Ruislip, Middlesex, England. Though Richards featured in more than 100 films over his 50-year career, he’s best remembered for his role of the Cairo Swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Richards served with the Welsh Guards, and, after his service, went to work as a scaffolder in London. In 1957, a friend from the Welsh Guards told Richards about a film that needed extras with military experience.

“He was paid extra to fall off some scaffolding in a riot scene, which he did for a few extra pounds, and that was the beginning of his stunt career,” said his daughter in law, Lisa Thomas.

In the years that followed, Richards featured in nine James bond films, Zulu, The Avengers, The Dirty Dozen, Red Sonja, Kinapped, and The Princess Bride, among others. He performed as a stunt double for Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland, Tom Selleck, Dave Prowse, and George Kennedy.

In addition to his mad stunt skills, Richards was recognized for his skill with heavy weapons. He taught Ray Winston the sword skills he used in Robin Hood, toured with a jousting show in the role of the Black Knight, and worked for 10 years in a jousting show at the Tower of London’s Beefeater restaurant.

At the 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford gave some background on how Richards’ role was ultimately defined. Ford was suffering from an illness that required frequent restroom trips. It was his idea to shoot the swordsman, rather than duel with him, simply because Ford wasn’t up to the rigors of filming a sword duel at that point. Ford added that Richards had “trained and trained” for the role, so he was rather disappointed. Still, this is the role we remember best 33 years later, and the Cairo Swordsman is commemorated as an action figure, and in Lego.

In a 2012 interview with Red Carpet TV, Richards commented, “Now it’s all CGI. After a day’s stunting when I was doing it, you really knew you did a day’s work, you were covered in bruises … I was doing a jousting thing and I broke my wrist, I’ve broken ribs, sternum, cheek bone … Now they’ve got all this body armour that they can wear, it’s a different ball game altogether.”

Richards died suddenly on June 14, 2014 and leaves behind a son, Terry junior; a daughter, Suki; and ex-wife, Adele. Richards was 81 years old.


Jun 202014


Welcome to Four-Color Bullet for the week of June 18, 2014.

Over at Marvel this week, the Owl sets up shop as San Francisco’s new crime boss, and the one guy who could help Daredevil take him down has switched sides, in Daredevil #4;  In the Original Sin tie-in, Nova #18, Sam sets out to help solve the murder of the Watcher, but is the Nova Corps’ youngest member getting in over his head?  And in this Original Sin tie-in, the Avengers are sent fifty years in the future, where they come face-to-face with the consequences of their actions, in Avengers #31.

On DC Comics’ side of the fence, Firestorm is in trouble, and the horrifying future is revealed to Plastique, in Futures’ End #7;  Harley gets more than her pride wounded when she starts a bar fight after a roller derby match, and she and Poison Ivy team up to find out who hired those assassins, in Harley Quinn #7; A great escape! Gumm’s death trap defeated! The Dynamic Duo, Green Hornet, and Kato parting ways?! In this week’s Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet #3.

The long-awaited, unedited, and complete adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s Star Trek episode,  The City on the Edge of Forever hits comic shop shelves today, from IDW.

From Valiant, the best Harbinger story ever continues, as the series makes its way to its bound-to-be-explosive 25th issue, in Harbinger #24.
And from Dark Horse this week, Dracula has double-crossed the team and he’s taken the Vampyr book … and Xander! Now, Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang have to get them both back before the Lord of Vampires figures out how to use the book for his own ends, in Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #4.
Written by Jason Aaron Art by Mike Deodato Jr. MARVEL

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Mike Deodato Jr.

Marvel’s murder mystery is halfway over and the questions just keep on coming. Last issue, Bucky went rogue and did the unthinkable, Moon Knight and Gamora are stranded in space, and now, the trail leads to one impossible suspect. This series just keeps getting better, turning into one of my must-reads every month. Jason Aaron’s writing is solid, and even though I’ve complained about Mike Deodato Jr.’s shadowy art, it works really well with this particular issue. And half of the reason I’m reading this is because of the pairings of investigative teams. I love that although Dr. Strange is Marvel’s expert on magic, he still needs the Punisher around for his ballistics expertise. And I’m not much for buying every tie-in to the series, but the ones I’ve read are actually really good. Still more questions than answers at this point, but I’m enjoying this event more than anything else Marvel’s done in the last year and a half. Just a really well done, thoughtfully crafted story. Here’s hoping the center holds.

Written by Harlan Ellison, David Tipton, and Scott Tipton Art by Juan Ortiz and J.K. Woodward IDW PUBLISHING

Written by Harlan Ellison, David Tipton, and Scott Tipton
Art by Juan Ortiz and J.K. Woodward

Harlan Ellison’s classic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever is regarded as the best episode of the series by anyone who even remotely claims to be a Star Trek fan. But the version we’ve seen on television differs widely from Ellison’s original screenplay, and very few fans have ever had the chance to see the screenplay in its entirety, the way Ellison intended. Writers Scott and David Tipton, who are no strangers to IDW’s Star Trekverse, have adapted Ellison’s complete and unedited screenplay to comic book form.  Series artist J.K. Woodward does some amazing painted artwork, providing a much larger sense of wonder, especially to the mysterious entities guarding the time portal.

Ellison’s screenplay was edited for television to an episode length because it was just too long. The first issue of the comic adaptation, however,  goes much slower, and barely scratches the surface of what’s to come. But that is far from a complaint. I see it as a good thing, only because the actual episode moved too quickly, and we couldn’t really appreciate Kirk and Spock’s plight, or the moral dilemmas. Slowing it down, though, should provide lots of room for story and character development.
One final thing. Ellison cleans up something that always seemed … I don’t know … silly to me. In the original episode, McCoy injects himself with a drug that has him acting like a bumbling crackhead, practically falling all over himself through the time portal into 1930. In this version, he’s replaced by a lieutenant on the Enterprise who deserts the crew when he’s exposed as a drug dealer. So it’s easy to see why that particular scene didn’t make it into the episode, since Star Trek was Gene Roddenberry’s grand and unsullied vision of the future. No drug dealers allowed.
I think this one’s going to be good, and just different enough to keep die-hard fans of the original episode interested. There’s nothing more satisfying than reading a good story the way it’s supposed to be told.
And that is Four-Color Bullet for this week. Feel free to comment or email me at your leisure.  But before I go, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that one of my favorite books will be ending in September. IDW’s Ghostbusters will be ending with issue 20 as it concludes the Ghostbusters ’30th anniversary Mass Hysteria story. Readers of  Four-Color Bullet know that Ghostbusters  was consistently one of my favorites, and I am heartbroken to see it go. I, and the rest of the gang here at Krypton Radio, wish writer Erik Burnham, penciler Dan Schoening, and the rest of the Ghostbusters team at IDW the best as they move on to other projects.
Even with Ghostbusters ending, it’s still a good time to be a comics fan. See ya next week!
Jun 102014

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

I was completely dumbfounded when I learned of the plight of game composers under the current American Federation of Musician’s (AFM) union rules when they were brought to light yesterday in a video presentation by Grammy nominated game music composer Austin Wintory.

The American Federation of Musicians is actually attempting to fine him a whopping $50,000 for working in his chosen field, and this is the same union that is supposed to be protecting his right to work. And it’s not just Austin Wintory. It’s every union game composer and musician.  There have been no new union video game soundtrack recordings in the past two years. There is no end in sight to the prohibition of this work.

Musicians and composers have to eat. Work isn’t going to stop because somebody in a suit says so. This is people’s lives we’re talking about. It’s the art they learned and love and what they got into the music business to do in the first place. The union is asking people to discard their life’s work, their hopes and their dreams, along with their paychecks, all because they had a testosterone fit and think they own the musicians instead of being there to serve their needs. Two years ago, this union forged a new industry contract and went into effect in 2012 without any input at all from publishers or producers, or more than 90,000 musicians and composers in the union having the opportunity to vote on it. As a result it was universally rejected by everyone, and nobody has accepted the terms of this new contract.

The AFM incorrectly assumed that the rest of the industry would toe the line and accept the new contract because it was the only choice possible. What happened instead was that no producers would sign the contract, leaving the musicians and composers no choice whatever if they wanted to eat. The musicians would happily work under a contract if there was a contract under which to work. But there isn’t.

So instead of fixing the problem, the union is now suing any musician that doesn’t discard their livelihoods and stand with the union instead of paying their rent. Austin Wintory is a well known composer for the gaming industry. He’s been nominated for a Grammy once, and he’s won two BAFTA awards. He found himself in the position of having to continue working, despite the union having stalled out on fixing the contract situation. He worked on a non-union game called The Banner Saga. He wanted to use AFM musicians, but the unusable contract forced him to look elsewhere: in this case, the Dallas Wind Symphony.

Wintory is now being punished for simply doing his job under those circumstances. In an article entitled “Education and Discipline in the Videogame Industry,” AFM President Ray Hair declares, “The time has come for education and discipline … within our ranks,” as well as within the video game industry. In other words, he believes he has the right to control the lives of the people he represents. When “leader” stops meaning “helping everyone else succeed and exceed” and starts meaning “master,” there’s a problem.

“I don’t think anybody gives you anything because they like you,” said AFM President Hair recently. “In the union business they give you things because they are afraid of what you are going to do to them.”

President Hair’s statement shows that he operates in his world by fear, not love of what he does or the people he works with. He is completely unable to distinguish between friend and foe, and intends to treat everyone with the same iron fist regardless of who they are. Being tough can be a good part of being a leader, so long as it is balanced by compassion for those you protect. Being tough to everyone indiscriminately is a very, very bad idea, and leads to nothing but destruction.

Making a living as a musician is a hard thing. Musicians don’t get into it to get rich. They get into it to do what they love, and they need the unions to make sure they can do the work and get paid for it, so that they can afford to keep doing it. They need the protection of the union, and they should have no reason to expect that the union will become their greatest foe and drive them completely out of the livelihoods they’ve spent a lifetime to achieve.

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