For our team up with Comics! The Blog on The Incredibles we are pleased to present a fun booklist compiled in partnership with Brandon and James. This short reading list encompasses the themes of family and exuberance that we love in the film, as well as an earnest retro and nostalgic appreciation for comics’ rich history and aesthetics. For our first book, James examines Thor: The Mighty Avenger

Thor: The Might Avenger

Thor: The Mighty Avenger (2010-2011)

by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee,  and Matt D. Wilson

When I think of The Incredibles, besides my immediate, almost automatic addition of, “You know, the greatest superhero movie to date,” I think of a few things.  First, I think of thecolours.  It’s a visually sumptuous movie, filled with bright, vivid colours.  Second, I think of its emotional and thematic depth.  The Incredibles is a feature-length animated movie that tackles issues of middle-aged ennui, marriage, growing up and deciding who you’re going to be – at several phases of life, no less.  Finally, I’m always struck by how, despite these mature or profound themes, the movie is still buoyant and utterly friendly to viewers of all ages.  It’s remarkable.  And when I think about comics with those qualities, there’s one that pops into my head the fastest: Thor: The Mighty Avenger, by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matt D. Wilson.

At their most iconic, superhero stories represent big, easily accessible ideas and stories.  Often, though, the realities of serialized narratives and a universe of continuity mean that stories – even very good ones – mean they lose some basic accessibility by building on what’s come before it.  The Incredibles, as a standalone movie with original characters, is able to sidestep that.  And Thor: The Mighty Avenger achieves a similar result by doing something very similar: it presents familiar characters, types or story elements in a setting where you don’t need to know anything else.  Here’s all the intro you need for this book:

Thor is the Asgardian god of thunder.  He’s a good guy but brash, banished to Earth for an offense he can’t remember.  He likes Jane Foster.

And that’s it.  Even when other Marvel characters show up, you don’t need to know anything about them.  Everything you need to know is on the page.  It’s a beautifully self-contained story, but one with deep themes.  Family.  Shame.  Love.  The struggle to redefine oneself and adjust to a new life, one that might not have been what you wanted but is one you find you can’t live without.  Making connections with people who are, in a way, utterly alien to you.  Owning up to your mistakes and growing up is a Quintessentially Marvel Thor Theme(tm), and Thor: The Mighty Avenger strips away a lot of the extemporaneous trappings of comics continuity to present it in a pure, heartfelt way.

Despite those complex, mature themes, though, it’s still a colourful comic that’s kid-friendly, just like The Incredibles.  Samnee and Wilson give it a friendly, bright warmth that radiates off the page.  In a world where more and more superheroes grimace through ethically dubious decisions, the warm smiles and kind eyes of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, which flow beautifully with the bold and exciting dragon fights and punching of villains, jump off the page and into my heart.

In fact, though, things that made it so widely accessible – its all-ages-friendliness, its colours, its lack of continuity – were, ironically, what made it anathema so a certain brand of reader, who didn’t see it as “Important.”  I disagree.  I think books like Thor: The Mighty Avenger are exactly what we need more of: heroes being good people and good friends, making a world of colour and imagination.  I gave my copies to a friend’s son because I wanted him to have fun and learn about heroism the way I’m glad I did, by reading comics like this and watching movies like The Incredibles.  The pictures I was sent, of him almost too excited to keep reading, warmed my heart.  That’s comics.

As always, all books will be available Tuesday, May 20th at 6:00 at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre for our feature presentation The Incredibles!

For our second-to-last Graphic Content screening, we’ve chosen to team up one last time with our pals at Comics! The Blog to present one of our all-time favourite superhero films, 2004’s The Incredibles! While the finest Disney film of the last twenty years isn’t a direct adaptation of a comic book, we feel that Brad Bird’s nuclear family unit is the best representation we’ll ever get of the Fantastic Four.

Stay tuned to the Graphic Content site as Brandon and James from Comics! The Blog! fill us in on the reasoning behind their book club picks, but in the meantime, here’s the excellent poster for the event, courtesy of Andrea Brown!

Incredibles poster

 

Times have been tough for Mr. Incredible, aka Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), as a government crackdown on all caped crusaders has led him to a crushingly boring job, an ever-expanding waistline, and a life of obscurity in the suburbs. That all changes when he’s called in for a series of secret assignments dealt out by a mysterious benefactor (Jason Lee). When Mr. Incredible disappears after one of these missions, his wife, the former heroine known as Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), must team up with his gifted kids Dash and Violet to crack the case and bring the culprit in for justice, one last time. The Incredibles is a love letter to the atomic era aesthetics of comics’ glory days and the greatest depiction of superhero family dynamics ever seen on film.

Tuesday, May 20th at 7:00 PM. The movie runs for 115 minutes.. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors. Metro Passes will be accepted. Box office opens at 6:15, so come on by early to check out the comics we’ve selected to go with the movie. RSVP on Facebook. 

To celebrate this month’s Graphic Content presentation of Speed Racer, we’re showcasing manga that epitomizes Japanese popular culture, specifically, those that have influenced our Saturday morning cartoon lineups here in the west. Featuring characters who are the absolute best at what they do (which in some cases is quite nice); read on, and you’ll learn about ace drivers, skilled surgeons, magical girls, and robot pilots!

Mach GoGoGo cover

Mach GoGoGo Volume 1 (originally published 1966)

by Tatsuo Yoshida

The original story that started a media empire, Mach GoGoGo is the story of Go Mifune, Speed Racer, a young man who is the best racer on the planet. Much like the eventual film adaptation, Speed Racer, Mifune comes up against all kinds of weird racing problems, including the giant Mammoth Car, the GRX “Fastest Car on Earth” and more!

Black Jack cover

Black Jack Volume 1 (originally published 1973)

by Osamu Tezuka

Black Jack is the world’s greatest surgeon, a magician with a scalpel who can cure almost any ailment. In this first collection of his adventures, Jack finds himself dealing with mysteries beyond the ken of most mortals. One of the “God of Manga’s” and Astro Boy creator’s most popular creations, Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack is a classic slice of Japanese pop culture.

 

 

Sailor Moon cover

Sailor Moon Volume 1 (originally published 1992)

by Naoko Takeuchi 

Potentially one of the most successful Japanese imports of the 1990s, Sailor Moon is finally back in print. The manga, which spawned the iconic anime series, remains in its original form, unflipped for American reading styles. The story follow Usagi, a normal junior high school girl who finds out she’s the heir to an amazing power and becomes the champion for love and justice, Sailor Moon! Usagi has to protect the world from the Dark Kingdom, bring together and lead her fellow Sailor Scouts, and find the hidden Moon Princess, all while dealing with the pressures of school and avoiding the incessant teasing from high school boy Mamoru Chiba. Sailor Moon is a beautifully illustrated fantasy full of adventure, romance, and friendship.

 

Voltron cover

Voltron: Defender of the Universe Volume 1 (originally published 2004)

by Dan Jolley, Marie Croall, Mike Norton, and Mark Brooks

In the far future, the planet Earth is defended by five great warriors, the Voltron Force! With their lion robots, they are able to deal with any obstacle, no matter how dangerous. Much like Speed Racer, Voltron became a beloved TV show over years of syndication, with a similar focus on machines and technology.

 

These books will be available Tuesday, March 18th at 6:00 at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre for our feature presentation Speed Racer! Come by early to check them out!

This month, Graphic Content presents a movie that was potentially released way before its time, 2008’s Speed Racer! Based on the classic cartoon series from the ’60s which in itself was based on a manga serialized in Shonen Book magazine way back in 1958, Speed Racer features spell-binding special effects, visual style and design courtesy of the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas).

I’ve written more about this unjustly missed film over at The Pulp, check it out here.

Check out the amazing poster for this presentation, by Sylvia Moon!

Speed Racer poster

Scion of the Racer family, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is an independent racing outfit’s best chance at winning the Grand Prix, a prize that seemed impossible to achieve after the recent death of his brother. When a mysterious operative named Racer X asks Speed to help him bust an international ring of motoring cheats, Speed must go undercover and win The Crucible. If he’s to make it through the race alive, Speed will have to rely upon the help of his girlfriend Trixie, his father and the rest of his family. Based on the manga series originally serialized in Shonen Book as MachGoGoGo back in 1958, Speed Racer is an infectious, candy-coloured ride through the world of hyperkinetic, over the top racing.

Tuesday, April 15 at 6:45. The movie runs for 135 minutes.. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors. Metro Passes will be accepted. Box office opens at 6:15, so come on by early to check out the comics we’ve selected to go with the movie. RSVP on Facebook.

This month, Graphic Content is showcasing all kick-ass with Tank Girl. We’ve put together a short list of three of the best take-no-nonsense punk-ass bitches in comics who will continue to entertain and inspire well after the curtain closes on our feature presentation.

Tank Girl

Tank Girl (1988-present)

by Jamie Hewlett, Alan Martin, & more

The cult heroine herself, Tank Girl is the brain child of writer Alan Martin and illustrator Jamie Hewlett. Originally serialized the late 80s British magazine Deadline, Tank Girl is an irreverent and wacky affirmation of alternative and underground culture. Resurrected by Martin in 2007,  Tank Girl and crew are as brash, bold, and crude as ever.

Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon (2002)

by Rei Hiroe

Black Lagoon follows the exploits of the Lagoon Company, a crew of mercenaries who sail around South East Asia. Their missions take them all over and they find themselves in a variety of heated conflicts, but nothing a firepower can’t handle. The series reflects the DIY attitude and aesthetic of the 90s, and tough chick Revy stands out among a crew of boys.

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes (2008)

by Karl Kesel, Terry Dodson, & Rachel Dodson

Of all the fierce ladies in comics, none are quite like Doctor Harleen Frances Quinzel. Originally a female side-kick/girlfriend of Batman’s longtime nemesis The Joker, Harley Quinn is now one of the most deranged, cheeky, and rousing figures in both Gotham City and the larger mainstream comics universe. Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes follows the anti-heroines mad-cap adventures; breaking her love out of jail, planning a heist on Wayne Manor, and throwing a bad girls slumber party!

These books will be available Tuesday, March 18th at 6:00 at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre for our feature presentation Tank Girl! Come by early to check them out!

As an extra bonus for Graphic Content’s screening of Tank Girl, our friends at the Boozy Boob Tube spoke to Rachel Talalay, director of the film, for an interview. Read on for a sneak peek into how this month’s movie came into being.

Rachel Talalay

Boozy Boob Tube: Why was it important for you to make Tank Girl? In other words, what was it about the Tank Girl comics that really resonated with you?

Rachel Talalay: Look at her. Words are pointless.

BBT: What was the adaptation process like for Tank Girl, especially given the comic book is often more hijinks-driven than narrative focused?

RT: We ended up with three options for places to make the film. I consulted with the creators (Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin) and the publisher (Tom Astor) about whether we should go with the Indie offers of less money but more independence or with the higher profile/more money offer to be able to afford the tank, jet, etc. They all felt we should do the studio/moneyed version in the hopes we could get both attitude and hardware, so we went with United Artists. None of the places were going to let Alan Martin write the script; we were clear on that. The comic did not have enough narrative line. I never cared about that part of it — the story. I wanted the visuals and the outrageous attitude.

We put in a story just to get it green lit. Alan Martin always said that if we took out all the words, the visuals are successful. He was understandably not as happy with the US dialogue. Any time anyone asks me “what is her back story?” or “what turned her into Tank Girl?” I puke a little in my mouth. Not that long ago, some studio exec asked me that. I answered, “questions like that.” It was not a good political answer, but if you are so caught up in narrative structure, you can’t see the essence of the translation of sequential visuals to filmic vision, you shouldn’t be making Tank Girl.

We started out well supported by United Artists. But then, as often happens, the head of the studio changed and the directives were different. This led to a challenging change of direction and numerous arguments about what film I had set out to make. This is really hard when you have a vision and they are trying to mold it to their own tastes at the last minute.

We might have made a different decision than to be with United Artists if we had known. There are scenes cut out just because they offended varying people, even when they tested well among the audience. The whole process was fractious at best.

We were ahead of our time. The “R” rating would probably be a PG-13 now. But then, they were afraid of it. I knew it would be a 1 or a 9 with people — you get it or you don’t. If you ask how and why she changes hairstyles when there is no water, you shouldn’t be watching the movie.

BBT: Aside from Lexi Alexander’s highly underrated ‘Punisher War Zone’, ‘Tank Girl’ is the only North American comic book adaptation directed by a woman. Can you describe your experience as a female director in Hollywood? 

RT: I really deluded myself into thinking Tank Girl was going to break the glass ceiling and allow there to be female action heroes. Instead it halted my feature career. With fewer than 5% of studio features being made by women now, it’s hardly a time to talk about being a female director in Hollywood. I know more about special effects and visual effects than many of my male counterparts and I’m still treated like I might not know what a pixel is.

BBT: Why do you think that the ‘Tank Girl’ franchise and your film has become a cult classic that continues to resonate with audiences?

RT: The exact reason I had to make it. Women and girls want to be seen as independent, free-thinking, fearless heroes. They want to be accepted for their own attitudes and style and on their own terms. Tank Girl doesn’t have to care what others think. Sexism seems to be on the rise. Tank Girl is one of the few movies where the female lead doesn’t take it. I am so happy that it is a movie recommended in Queen Bees and Wannabes (the source material for the brilliant Mean Girls).

One of the most depressing things about the Oscars this year was the “Heroes” section which included maybe 8 images of women to over 100 men. That kind of sums it up. What are we telling girls about their futures?

BBT: Tank Girl is undoubtedly a badass lady. Do you have any other favourite badass ladies from television or film that you’re a big fan of?

RT: James Cameron is the king of feminist characters. He’s done more for women in film than I ever did. When Ripley says, “Did IQ’s just drop sharply while I was away?”, I want to cheer.

I’m very interested in the new breed of teen girls who are tortured and insecure (Bella, Katniss) but have two or more men completely devoted to them. The men see them for their inner worth, and the girls can be more real. I love Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart in these roles. They are offshoots of Scarlet O’Hara, but she was really too selfish and messed up. And the metaphors of Twilight don’t resonate with me. But Hunger Games is really strong — self-sacrifice, rage against tyranny, etc.

I love Ricki Lake in Hairspray. The outcast who gets the hunk (a bit like a twisted Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were). Women don’t want to have to be some ideal that a Photoshop-guru fantasized. The problem is that real life is complicated. Very few of us will ever be physically strong enough to win by force.

I love the old Hollywood icons, in particular Katharine Hepburn.

BBT: You have done a lot of work both in film and in television. Do you have a preference or do you gravitate to one medium over the other and why?

RT: TV is so hard. It’s mostly about how quickly you can work — and can you get along with the mostly male crew? Women are judged on totally different standards than men are. Male directors are given much more slack. I really miss the old days of independent movies when you didn’t have to make them on your own credit card, but there was a business model for making auteur movies. Now there are about 5 filmmakers who can make movies like that — and two of them are the Coen Brothers. I love independent movies and voices. I always wanted to be an auteur but didn’t have the integrity to starve.

BBT: You have worked on many television shows and there are plenty of fantastic shows being made right now, are there any particular shows that you would love to direct or produce?

RT: I want to do a series of Tank Girl and one of Hairspray. I want to do a horror series on Girl Demons called “Plagued”. If you’re asking me what I want to work on right now: Doctor Who.

BBS: You’re now teaching at the University of British Columbia for the Department of Theatre and Film. What was it that interested you about moving into teaching about film production?

RT: The students are amazing. Teaching makes me think about filmmaking in a more global sense: Why it’s so complicated, what I learned and how. I’m a bit like Tank Girl as a teacher. I’m always encouraging the students not to be hung up by the ‘rules’ of filmmaking. However I do insist they understand these purported rules (fulcrum, structure, screen direction, etc) so they can break them smartly. (I do not encourage them to break laws, be dangerous or go rogue). I want to help them be original thinkers, leaders and fighters, not entitled prats.

I’m still working a lot. I haven’t been put out to pasture in my advanced age. I just did a horror film called The Dorm for MTV and Sony. It’s feminist horror — (that sounds so ridiculous) — but it’s subtext is about the pressure on young girls to have perfect body image.

All my upcoming projects are female-oriented — a series for CBC about women in the west in 1869. Very Hell on Wheels (which is a great series).

A biographical feature based on the stories of a young teenage girl called “An Introverts Guide to High School.” A story about the women killed by Canada’s most prolific serial killer, Willy Pickton.

BBT: Speaking of horror films, you both produced and directed installments in the ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ film series. Are you particularly fond of horror films and is there a certain type or sub-genre of horror that you enjoy? What would you consider the scariest horror film?

RT: You probably can’t name a horror film that didn’t scare me. I am a chicken, which is what made me so full of ideas for Nightmare. The Exorcist and The Shining are two favorites. The original Nightmare on Elm Street is ridiculously scary. The script gave me nightmares.

When I was a kid, the one that terrified me was an awful obscure TV movie called How Awful About Allan. The lead had hysterical blindness and would hear whispers “Aaallen” which my brother and sister did to me all through our childhood. I can still remember the plot and cheezy special effects — but don’t go looking for it, it’s not worth resurrecting. I was scared by the original Star Trek when I was 6.

I love the creativity, but I’m not interested in revenge movies or torture porn. Women can’t just be victims in horror films. That’s way too easy.

I love directing effects and scares, it’s liberating, never-ending creativity.

BBT: And since we’re a blog that incorporates a bit of drinking… if you had to describe yourself as an alcoholic beverage, which drink would you be and why?

RT: A black jello shot. Or two. Or three…interpret that as you wish.

The ladies of the Boozy Boob Tube were kind enough to share a few words about what this month’s Graphic Content film, Tank Girl, means to them, almost twenty years after its release. Check it out!

Tank Girl poster 1995

When Tank Girl was first unleashed in 1995 all three of us were just kids. So when we were asked to participate in Graphic Content’s presentation of the film we eagerly jumped on board, not because we even remembered the film especially well, but because of the feelings it left embedded in our burgeoning adolescence way back in the mid ’90s. And those feelings across the board were explicitly those of badass ladyness.

Upon its release, Tank Girl was considered a commercial and critical flop, which is largely how it’s been remembered. But the way a film is seen can change with time. The cultural importance of a film or the readiness of the audience can shift.  We suspected that nearly 20 years later, the world might be a little more prepared for the zany, futuristic feminist superhero nearly bursting through the screen in Tank Girl. So we sat down and watched it again, for the first time as adults.

Tank Girl Classic

What we discovered was a complex cocktail of elements. Tank Girl opens with a sequence of images taken directly from the comics it’s based on by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, set to “Girl U Want” by Devo. This sets the mood perfectly. The snippets of comics show us Tank Girl exactly as we should see her – a sassy sparkplug amidst plenty of “booms” and “vrooms.” When the opening credits wrap up, we immediately meet our hero, Rebecca Buck (aka Tank Girl), played by Lori Petty. And just as immediately she gives us a breakdown of her world: sure, she’s living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where water is running out fast and a massive, evil corporation is doing its darndest to take out the good guys, but she’s cracking wise and loving life. At times the film will give you whiplash – between the high-energy soundtrack, the ass-kicking and Tank Girl’s hairstyle/costume changes, you can’t look away for fear of missing something. And the inclusion of more animation between scenes to advance the narrative? Well, that’s just sweet, sweet comic book gravy, and adds a real sense that this movie is more than just the movie itself. It has a history in the comic book world.

What director Rachel Talalay and the cast, specifically Petty, have been most successful in is capturing the spirit of the Tank Girl universe and bringing it to life on screen. Of course, translating a comic book series to film is a tricky business and pleasing everyone is impossible. When fans really, really love a universe one of two things will happen when something new, like a film, is introduced: Their high expectations aren’t met and the result is heartbreak and/or outrage; or they love the world so much they’re happy to indulge in as much of it as possible – so they’re willing to overlook discrepancies. Tank Girl isn’t perfect, but with its wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am energy, it is wonderfully ambitious in delivering its story to its audience. Plus – there are more unmissable marvels than you can shake a stick at, such as count ‘em two dance sequences, Ice-T as a humanoid mutated kangaroo and cameos from the likes of Iggy Pop.

Tank Girl costume

Nostalgia is particularly powerful in the generation who saw Tank Girl and the film captures and embraces that generation whole-heartedly. It also hits the right notes for people who welcome a bit of punk, a bit of camp and hunger for the B-movie aspect of filmmaking. So what we’re saying is that like us, the audience is all grown up and timing couldn’t be better for bringing this film back. Tank Girl is, perhaps, the most ’90s film of ’90s films; it’s easily right up there with Reality Bites and Empire Records in its uber-’90s-ness. The soundtrack is an alternative rock/trip-hop behemoth and is absolutely one of the best soundtracks of the decade, featuring Bjork, Hole, Bush, Portishead and more. We dare say it was a fundamental album that awakened many young minds to a whole new world of music. And the super-cool punk costume design by Arianne Phillips (The Crow, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) is one of the most entertaining, and most ’90s, parts of the film that serves to strengthen Tank Girl’s origins in the very visual comic book medium.

The mid-’90s saw the rise of “girl power,” but that was basically just a slogan for the Spice Girls. Mainstream audiences at the time were clearly not savvy to the genuinely powerful, confident hero found in Rebecca Buck. But after careful consideration, we the ladies of Boozy Boob Tube declare that finally, audiences everywhere have wised-up enough to embrace Tank Girl and the ass-kicking female hero who comes along with it.

Tank Girl

Thanks so much to Boozy Boob Tube, and we’ll see you at Graphic Content’s screening of the film, Tuesday, March 18th.