Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Continuing my female favs from the comic books.
Tank Girl. Born Rebecca Buck (well actually it says Fonzie Rebecca Buckler on her birth certificate but hey who’s counting?) TG worked for some government para military agency until something happened with the president’s colostomy bag and she stole her tank and became an outlaw. This English comic set in Australia is the epitome of the punk rock ethos. I remember when Dark Horse first published the title here in the US they described it as “What if Barbie got a brain?’ This comic written in the UK by two blokes, (one of who would form a simian based rock band) would pretty much defined the riot grrrl mythos to millions of Americans.
Remember that rule that if I real like something I name a goat after it. Here is Tank Gurl of GetFolla farms (Claes’ mother whose barn name is Peanut)
Tank Girl is seen by many as an irreverent comic book about anarchy, girl power and mutant kangaroo sex. Well yeah it is all that but, it can be thoughtful and poignant in places to. In England TG became an unlikely political symbol, when the English Government passed Clause 28, a Thatcher era anti-gay policy, our little anarchist became the poster child for the resistance.
The stories can turn deeply emotional too. The climax of the Two Girls One Tank arc, with the mysterious return of Sub Girl from the dead, is the only comic book where I actually cried after reading the ending. With the political atmosphere so toxic now, a title about a shaved headed iconoclast who is willing to give big government the bird is even more relevant than it was back in 1988.
Too many Tanky will for always be linked to the 1995, Laurie Petty movie. You know what? I am Ok with that. With scenes that are animated in the style of the punk rock visual art of the comics and its awesome sound track, it is true to the comic’s ethos. Like many cult classic movies, this one bombed in the box office, due largely to studio shenanigans and the production company not understanding their product. But it does have an amazingly loyal fan base on VHS.
Natalia Kassel. Natalia is the gorgeous blonde part German part Russian traitor in J. Scott Campbell’s Danger Girl. Like Austin Power’s Danger Girl is both a parody and loving homage to the Euro Spy movies of the 60’s and 70’s. It is also a love letter to cheese cake in comics. There are times where DG girl goes up to the line of good taste, but it is careful never to cross it. It walks the tightrope of having powerful strong female characters and exploiting them. It maintains this balance of sensualizing its heroines (and villainess) but it never lets them fall into the trap of making them the victim of the masculine society they live in. They are in control of their sexuality. It is a story about sexy women who don’t actually have sex.
Natalia is the embodiment of all the villainess Bond Girl tropes. Her weapon of choice is matching combat knives. She is a fully trained Spetznatz commando but her true weapon is deceit. The reader like Abby Chase, feels betrayed when Natalia reveals her true allegiance is with the evil Hammer Nation.
In 2014’s Danger Girl: Mayday, NK in true comic book fashion comes back from the dead. She revived as a partial amnesiac with an urge to kill her nemeses Abby Chase. Leader of the covert team Danger Girl. However when the mercenary April Mayday reveals that the poison gas they recovered will be used against the Federation of Russia, this brings out latent fellings in Miss Kassel who turns against the mercenaries to save her homeland from attack. She also saves Abby’s life, though anonymously. Now a true freelancer she secretly returns to Hammer Island to retrieve the former Hamer Nation’s headquarters finial secrets. I am not sure what is planed for NK but I would be totally down with a Natalia anti-heroine story ala The Punisher.
Calla Cthulhu. This is a brand new graphic novel about a girl who’s unknowingly related to the big squid. This YA friendly story is being heralded as Buffy meats Lovecraft, however with its graphic style it reminds me more of a light hearted Lovecraftian version of Dead@17. Other comic book protagonist have family problems but CC has Uncle Hastur showing up and leaving a bunch of ninja cultist at her house to teach her a lesson, because of her unwillingness to take on the family business, which is apparently destroying the world when the stars are right.
You don’t have to be a HPL fan to read and enjoy this title but if you know your Mythos lore you get a lot more out of the story. There are references to the sewer dwelling creature in the The Shunned House, ghouls, a baby shogoath, the reanimated dead from Herbert West: Reanimator, the King in Yellow, the elder sign and Lumbley’s burrowers Beneath. In fact it is hinted that Calla might be the daughter of Chtylla, Cthulhu’s daughter whose child’s body old squidy will inhabit and make indestructible when his present material form is destroyed. And many more references.
I love Calla Cthulhu the character and the title, it is Lovecraftian enough to please old HPL hands like me but it is still a cool read with an amazing role model for my 12 year old niece. Extra bonus points because Calla Tafali is apparently of Polynesian (on her human side) descent. For you that don’t know the South Pacific Island Ponape is the closest piece of land to the city of Rh’yel where sleeping Cthulhu lies. The book has minimal dialog, which forces you to focus on the art.
Grace Briggs. Brian Woods is a master of taking the undercurrents of modern politics and synthesizing them in to entertaining and edgy comics. He did it with DMZ and he’s doing it now in his latest comic Brigs Land. This is about a bunch of separatist living in Upstate New York, the Briggs family is the church, the law and the criminal syndicate there. Grace Briggs is married to the Briggs patriarch, who runs the family from jail after he is arrested for trying to murder the president of the United States. In Volume One State of Grace, she organizes a coup and becomes the leader of a group survivalist, criminals, and individualist and in some cases actual Nazis. By opening up her little empire to reforms she is allowing the possibility of revolt against her rule.
Grace B is a woman in a world where women are supposed to be barefoot and pregnant and seen but not heard, and she is shaking up the status quota to the point that there will be no going back. She is a rebel who truly believes that local communities should be in charge of their own destiny. She supports the ideas of the community, even if the male leaders have sold them out long ago, and in some cases, embraced true Nazism. She stays one step ahead of the others because despite her seemingly banal appearance, she is like Neve Campbell’s character in Wild Things, this super genius who has already figured out what people are going to do before they do them.
With the recent events in Charlottesville the American Nazi part of this story is disturbing, and it should be. One of her sons looks like an accountant but inside he is a Kool Aide drinking Nazi, and leader of the white supremacist faction of Briggs Land. Wood’s writes his character with enough humanity to make him three dimensional but never sympathetic, which is a hard tight rope to walk. However Grace’s humanity makes her more sympathetic when you realize the world she was raised in.