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Jul 262014
 
Author, Illustrator, and Animator, Elizabeth Watasin. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

Author, Illustrator, and Animator, Elizabeth Watasin. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

by Aly Runke, contributing writer

Krypton Radio DJ Willow Leafstorm has been scooping up amazing and interesting interviews on the floor of San Diego Comic-Con International all weekend and her interview with author, illustrator, and animator Elizabeth Watasin is no exception. If you don’t know Watasin’s name already, you definitely should because chances are she’s had a hand in animating pieces of your or your children’s childhoods, maybe both! She has  contributed her animation skills to an impressive list of Disney classics including The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, and Mulan. And if just the fact that she worked on these films at all doesn’t excite you, she worked on them straight out of college! Watasin got to experience the golden age of animation first hand. And it helped her spur her own comic projects, including the ongoing Charm School graphic novels she is currently writing and illustrating.

Charm SchoolLeafstorm asked about how Watasin was inspired to do Charm School. Watasin said it had been her de-stresser when working for Disney. She also wanted to do something family-oriented with her comic that was fun, had humor, and teen romance. She got a lot of inspiration from Grease and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. “I wanted to do kind of a contemporary fantasy thing, ’50s kind of era, a magical world with vampires and witches and demons and hot rods and malt shops.”

And with Charm School it is safe to say she succeeded. Charm School, if you haven’t picked it up yet, is about a teen witch named Bunny, who is dating biker-butch vampire Dean. However, a bad faerie has also got her eyes on Bunny. To find out who wins Bunny’s heart, well, you will have to dive into Watasin’s magical fifties world yourself.

Balancing a fun, family friendly comic with the LGBT themes present in Charm School is sometimes a hard line to walk. When asked how she pulled such a feat off in face of all the questions of how family friendly Charm School really was Watasin told Leafstorm she simply wanted to have fun. She isn’t out to live out some fetish just make an enjoyable paranormal story where the main characters are lesbians. The stories told in Charm School are “not meant to entertain you sexually” she iterates clearly, “they’re not prurient at all.”

And she succeeds. Charm School is a lot fun to read and the world is fun to immerse oneself into, as well. There are tons of paranormal aspects to explore. Watasin also enjoys playing with different myths and folklore involved in her characters. When it came to research, she pulled form traditional supernatural creatures as well as some of Asian influence. She admits to reading up quite a bit on faeries for Charm School as well as adding her own spice to characters such as the vampire Dean. Dean is a character whose story Watasin is still forming in her head. She is a vampire but Watasin also wants her to have a family, so she isn’t sure how that will play into how vampires are made or born in her world. In creating Dean, she mixed traditional ideas of what a vampire is, taking from western and Chinese folklore. She still wants to keep it fun; She laughed and joked  about “doin’ the Chinese Vampire bit.” And for Dean, Watasin uses traditional Chinese vampire lore where vampires are re-animated corpses who can only hop (not walk), and suck out life force or chi, not actual blood. The character Dan’s mother is a westernized vampire so she sucks blood. This has yet to be revealed in the comic Charm School and is still in Watasin’s mind, being configured for the story. Thus far, Charm School has nine issues out digitally and Watasin is working on the tenth. The issues will be gathered into five books, two issues a piece, along with extras. After these are released Watasin will continue the story of Charm School as novellas.

The Dark VictorianWatasin has also made herself known in the world of writing novels; her series The Dark Victorian has two books out on Amazon. Once again, Watasin delves into the world of the paranormal but with this world, there is more steampunk Victorian England. The main character is Artifice, an artificial ghost. When Leafstorm asked how she came up with Artifice’s existing as a sort of ghost,  Watasin explained that Artifice is like an alchemic formula. “She is written is how I see it, and it is possible to un-write her and that’s something I’ll be able to explain better in the later novels.” A lot of what Watasin wants to do with this series and character is to show Art’s self-discovery, both in terms of her paranormal existence as an otherworldly crime-fighter in Victorian London, and as a woman who loves other women in a world where the view on such existence is changing.

This theme of self-discovery is also, according to Watasin, at the root of making Artifice a Quaker. She told Leafstorm, “I wanted someone who was outside the society and who spoke in an archaic sense, and then I realized she is a very good contrast from Victorian values, she functions outside of that, as a woman.”

The time of The Dark Victorian novels is a point when society was changing, in the Victorian age was when the standard of LGBT persons being abnormal and outside-of-society became widespread: a standard that would prevail for the next hundred-plus years in society as we know it. Watasin wanted to show an outsider character dealing with the LGBT community at the point when such lifestyles were normal, respected, and accepted and then through that character’s story show when that changed in the society she was already an outsider in. Of course in the midst of these themes is the story of a detective solving paranormal crimes when the normal police cannot with a talking animated skull as her partner. And it is that image that birthed The Dark Victorian.

Watasin was working on another novel, never finished, when she drew a poster with a ghost detective holding an animated skull. From there this, magnificent world was born. And Artifice isn’t this world’s only story subject. Watasin also writes Elle Black penny Dreads: stories about a young housewife in an unconventional marriage with a woman who has telekinetic powers. She solve crimes that are too small for newspaper star Artifice, but still too paranormal for Scotland Yard. This universe Watasin has created is so rich, we  cannot wait for more!

Charm School,  The Dark Victorian, and the Elle Black penny dreads are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble now.

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Jul 212014
 
J.J.Abrams and the new X-Wing.

J.J.Abrams and the new X-Wing.

by Nur Hussein, staff writer

J.J. Abrams has released another video for Disney/Lucasfilm’s charity drive for Unicef, Force For Change, which invites you to give charitable donations in return for a chance to win a trip to the set and have a cameo in Star Wars Episode VII, as well as a private advance screening of the film.

In the video, we are treated with a reveal of what looks like the new X-Wing, which looks almost exactly like Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the X-Wing in the original Star Wars in’77. It’s sleeker, has a less bulbous tip, and the engines look like they split with the s-foils when they are in attack position.

Ralph McQuarrie's X-Wing concept art.

Ralph McQuarrie’s X-Wing concept art.

It’s a cunning move by Abrams to re-use McQuarrie’s ideas for the film (if indeed that’s what he did and that it’s not a huge, suspicious coincidence). In many ways the look and feel of the original was almost entirely McQuarrie’s doing. The prequels’ set and vehicle design, while gorgeous, look uninspired compared to the originals (and the prequel ships look just wrong and out of place; with colors in chrome and yellow). This new ship captures the essence of the original trilogy precisely while updating the look, making it seem like a natural evolution of in-universe spaceship design.

In the (now-defunct) Expanded Universe, the X-Wing was described as being designed by the in-universe company Incom, and was a progression from an older design called the Z-95 Headhunter. Many fans on social media are speculating if the revealed new ship is in fact a Z-95, but Lucasfilm has put the matter to rest by tweeting that it is indeed a new X-Wing and not a Headhunter. 

With the release of this new X-Wing, I guess I’ll have to get yet another X-Wing Lego set.

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Jul 162014
 

by Michael Brown, staff writer JUL120594_1Marvel Comics and parent company Disney have released the first full-length trailer for their first collaborative animated film, Big Hero 6. The Marvel comic-turned-film takes place in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, and centers around a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his robot Baymax who stumble onto a criminal plot, and assemble a team of fledgling crimefighters, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, GoGo Tomago, and Fred, to help thwart the criminals. The film, which will be Disney’s 54th animated film, will be the first to feature Marvel characters since Disney’s acquisition of Marvel back in 2009. Big Hero 6 will be produced entirely under the banner of Walt Disney Animation Studios, but will employ a number of Marvel Comics staffers for creative assistance, including Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer.

“The relationship between Hiro and his robot has a very Disney flavor to it…but it’s combined with these Marvel heroic arcs.” Quesada said.

Marvel and Disney agreed to keep Big Hero 6 out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which contains The Avengers, the Iron Man trilogy, Thor, and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, and set it in their own stand-alone universe. In the original Marvel comic, written by veteran X-Men writer Chris Claremont, both Sunfire and Silver Samurai were members of the team, but will not be featured in the film due to Marvel’s contract with Fox Studios, which gives Fox the rights to those characters.

A new, serialized, manga version of Big Hero 6 will be published by Kodansha’s Magazine Special beginning August 10, 2014, with a prologue to be published in Weekly Shonen Magazine August 6. The new series will mark the first time a Disney movie’s story is previewed before its release. Kodansha also publishes the manga version of the award-winning Knights of Sidonia, which is now an anime series on Netflix.

The cast will include Damon Wayans, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, and Alan Tudyk. Big Hero 6 will hit theaters November 7, 2014.

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Jun 282014
 

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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!

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Jun 272014
 
J.J. Abrams is a cool guy.

J.J. Abrams is a cool guy.

by Nur Hussein, staff writer

Today, we wish a very happy birthday to prolific TV creator, movie maker, writer, director, musician, and custodian of two of the most legendary of nerd franchises: Jeffrey Jacob Abrams, or J.J. Abrams for short. After helming a number of high-profile and successful projects including the film reboot of Star Trek, Abrams is now hard at work creating a brand new Star Wars film for Disney.

Abrams was born in 1966 (incidentally the same year Star Trek made its debut). His professional career in movie making began at 16 when he wrote the music for the film Nightbeast. His first professional screenplay was for the 1990 comedy film Taking Care of Business, which he co-wrote with Jill Mazursky. He then went on to write the Harrison Ford movie Regarding Henry (1991), and the Mel Gibson movie Forever Young (1992), both of which met with mixed reviews from critics. In 1998 he shared writing credits for the Michael Bay asteroid movie, Armageddon.

Abrams’ film directorial debut was Mission:Impossible III in 2006, a film he also co-wrote. It received generally positive reviews from critics. He then produced the 2008 genre film Cloverfield, but what really capulted him into the genre-director limelight was his 2009 feature, the Star Trek reboot which brought new life into that franchise which had ended somewhat unceremoniously on the big and small screens. He followed that up with critically acclaimed Super 8 in 2011, which was an awesome tribute to the Spielberge-esque films of the ’80s. In 2013 he directed Star Trek Into Darkness (to somewhat mixed reviews), but it’s his 2015 directorial effort that has people on the edge of their seats in anticipation: a brand new Star Wars movie!

On the television front, Abrams has created a lot of TV shows. He started with Felicity in 1998, and then moved on to create the spy show Alias, and then the critically acclaimed sci-fi drama Lost. After Lost, he co-created Fringe and Undercovers, and served as executive producer on a number of genre shows: Person of Interest, Revolution, Almost Human and most recently, Believe.

Apart from writing, directing and creating shows, Abrams is also a talented musician and composer, writing the theme music to many of the shows he helms. He even appeared as a keyboard performer in a Lonely Island music video called “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions” (it’s exactly what it sounds like).

We at Krypton Radio would like to wish Abrams a very happy birthday, and we hope he has time off in his busy schedule to have a bit of fun today. We hope he has many productive days to come.

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Jun 212014
 
Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson

by Nur Hussein, staff writer

Disney has enlisted Rian Johnson, director and writer of the hit sci-fi time travel movie Looper, to direct Star Wars Episode VIII. He is also tasked with writing a treatment for Episode IX.

Johnson previously wrote and directed comedy caper The Brothers Bloom in 2008, and a relatively low-budget crime drama, Brick, in 2005. Additionally, he has directed three episodes of AMC’s television drama Breaking Bad. However, it is for 2012 film Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis that Johnson has received the most critical and fan praise, as it is described as a “thought-provoking” and “original” sci-fi story. It is interesting to see how Johnson will fare on the big-budget blockbuster production of Star Wars, but he does look like he has the chops to pull off good sci-fi.

Johnson’s career in film was inspired largely by the 1977 movie Annie Hall, a film that won that year’s academy award for Best Picture (that ironically, Star Wars lost out to). Johnson has not commented on his new job yet, but he did post a youtube clip of Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard in the 1983 film, The Right Stuff, where Shepard says “Dear Lord, please don’t let me f*** up.”

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