Comic Con: Girls Drawin’ Girls Founder Melody Severns on Her Work and What to See at SDCC

Are you heading down to the San Diego Comic-Con? If so, here’s something you won’t want to miss. GirlsDrawinGirls founder Melody Severns talked to us about working as a layout artist for The Simpsons by day and starting up GDG, a group of ladies doing art for shows like The Simpsons and South Park by day, and drawing sexy pin-up girls by night. Animation studio 6 Point Harness is hosting an event for the GDG, who are collaborating with the Chuck Jones Gallery and selling an exclusive print of Pepe Le Pew and Gigi, the GDG mascot. In addition, Linda Jones Clough, daughter of animation legend Chuck Jones, will also be at the GDG booth for a meet and greet and autographs on Thursday from 3-4pm. Looney Toons, you guys!

Check out what Melody has to say about women in the industry, sexuality on our own terms and who we should be watching. If you’re at SDCC, head over to the Chuck Jones Gallery at 232 Fifth Ave. across from the Hard Rock Cafe. I’ll be right there with you!

Melody

Legion of Leia: You started out as a layout artist for The Simpsons. Tell us how you got into this field.

Melody Severns: When I started on The Simpsons, the show was still being done traditionally, the old fashioned way with pencils and papers, and flipping the papers to see your drawings move. I had always been a huge fan of the show, so to work on it would be a dream come true. Originally, I was intrigued by traditional animation, and it was also my major in college. My grandfather, Al Severns was an animator for Disney back in the classic days of Bambi and Cinderella. He was my main inspiration to get into this industry to begin with. I always wanted to draw like him. He has long since passed away, but I hope he would be proud of where I have gone with my career.

Legion of Leia: You’re one of the founders of GirlsDrawinGirls, which is described on the site this way: “By day, women from the group GirlsDrawinGirls are animators and artists for shows such as South Park and The Simpsons. But by night, they draw sexy pin-up girls!” How did this come about? What is it about pin-ups that you love?

Melody Severns: Mainly this came from talking to an old college friend, and co-founder, Anne Walker about how we know so many talented women in the industry, and we should get them all together and do something cool. That idea of “something cool” later developed into a movement. There are many talented women in the entertainment industry as a whole that don’t get as much representation that often times they should receive. It is still very much a boys club. In no way do we feel negatively about men. I love the wonderful men in my life who have inspired me positively, but this is more than just drawing pin ups, it’s a way for women all over the world to band together and inspired each other. Women are strong, and it’s a great time for us to step up and get into the spotlight. The reason for pin ups, is mainly because it’s a way for women to embrace sexuality, femininity, and what’s considered “sexy” on their own terms. It’s empowering.

Bonus

Legion of Leia: You started this in 2006 and now you have five published books and over 200 members. How has the group developed? Who within the group should we be watching?

Melody Severns: I am so inspired and amazed with where this group has gone. It has really grown wings, and when I say we are international, we truly are international! We have women in the group from all over the world! From the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Spain… I could go on and on! To think that women in GDG can create business relationships and friendships with women across the globe is truly revolutionary and none of this could have happened without the amount of shear talent we have with the artists involved. We’ve added some new members this year that truly amaze me, Jennifer Llewellyn, Yating Sun, and Miss Tak completely blow me away with their work, just to name a few. We also have amazing members who have been around for a while. I don’t know what I’d do without vets like Natalie Zigal and Ashley Brooke Cooper, who has her first solo art show coming up this October 5th at the historic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA during the anniversary premiere of the film, Cleopatra.

Legion of Leia: What does it mean to you to be not only a part of such a great group of women, but to give them a place to showcase their talents?

Melody Severns: I have personally grown a lot dealing with the business side of art from when I started this group originally at 23. It’s been 8 years since then (and I just revealed my age), and I can say it’s been an education. It hasn’t always been easy. There’s been some stumbles along the way, but this group has not only helped me learn so much about networking and running a business, but it has helped me grow personally. I truly feel inspired to help give women artists a voice and a chance to get recognition. It may stress me out and add a lot on the “to do” list for the day, but it’s worth it. The positivity I’ve been receiving makes me nothing but grateful to work with these tremendously talented women. At the end of the day, their talents deserve to be displayed, and I am happy to be the spokesperson for them. GirlsDrawinGirls is bigger than me, the name has more recognition that my own name. I think that’s a success.

PinkHat

Legion of Leia: Tell us what’s coming up next for you.

Melody Severns: We have a lot of great things in the works! I really want to expand on the whole international aspect of GDG and create more chapters of the group in other countries. We are currently ramping up a GDG Canada Chapter, which I am hoping will launch with some fun events by early 2015. We also look forward to continuing our relationship with the Chuck Jones Gallery. I truly admire and respect everything that they stand for. Chuck Jones was an inspiration, and I would be happy to continue to help inspire creativity alongside them for future events. However, I will not give all of our tricks away all at once, so stay tuned! So much more is coming for the ladies of GirlsDrawinGirls and we are pumped and excited to take on the world!

Legion of Leia Interview: Clare Kramer — Buffy Actress and Geek Nation CEO

In today’s Legion of Leia profile, I’m chatting with actress and CEO Clare Kramer. As you know, Clare played the Goddess Glory in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also played Courtney in Bring It On and Karly Brant in one of my all-time favorites, Big Ass Spider! Clare is the CEO and founder of the website GeekNation and an all-around awesome lady! Check out what she has to say about acting, running a website, Joss Whedon and being a mom to four little kids.

Clare Kramer

Clare Kramer

Legion of Leia: Being a part of something like Buffy has to completely change your life. How did it all happen for you?

Clare Kramer: Well, I often say getting the role of Glory was like winning the lottery. Epic show, epic creator, epic writing… You know, actually Glory was my first television role, if you can believe it. I had recently come from New York, spent 4 months in San Diego filming Bring It On, and decided to try my luck in LA. Working with Sarah [Michelle Gellar] taught me an incredible amount – as of course did working with Joss [Whedon] and the rest of the cast. Strangely, getting the role was probably the most undramatic part. The sides were relatively simple – just two pages of dialogue – and the character was kinda non-descript. When I read the material, I just decided to take a risk and deliver the audition in a completely different way. I was actually inspired by Jack Nicholas’ character in The Shinning. The rest is history I guess!

Legion of Leia: Joss is known for his not just strong, but well-written female characters. Was this a big change? How did it affect your career choices after Buffy?

Clare Kramer: It was a privileged to work with Joss and play such an interesting and dynamic character as Glory. Prior to Buffy, I’d really only worked in the theater, where I’d played such roles as Helen Keller and Nina in a production of The Seagull… so although Nina isn’t considered a “strong” character, she’s definitely dynamic, and as far as playing Helen – which I did for several months in a tour, females don’t get much stronger than her. For some reason, I’ve never really been cast as the “girl next door” – and although not all my roles have been considered “strong” – they have been dynamic and interesting. I look for opportunities to express interesting points of views and emotions in the roles I take-on… After Glory, it was definitely a challenge to match!

Legion of Leia: What does it mean to be a part of a group of women like this?

Clare Kramer: I’m honored to have been cast by Joss, as it’s afforded me a multitude of opportunities in life, and opened many doors for me. Community and to take it one step further, loyalty are what life’s really about in my opinion. It’s what I try to build around me at home, in my leisure activities and in the work force.

Legion of Leia: You’re a mom to four little kids, you act and you run a business. How do you balance it all?

Clare Kramer: Ha! Well, to be honest I haven’t quite figured that out. I’d say one key is being able to operate on very little sleep! Another is knowing how to prioritize – both at home and work. I made a choice to have kids, to not wait until the “perfect time” – because for me, there never would have been a perfect time. But you know what? That’s life. There’s never a perfect time, and it’s really about finding the peace and happiness amongst the chaos. Sometimes I’m asked if I’ll ever quit acting because I’m so busy… never. It’s my outlet and joy!

Legion of Leia: What sci-fi or fantasy characters were your portal into this genre as a kid?

Clare Kramer: Well, I was a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, the Saturday morning cartoon, and of course I was picturing myself as one of the Goonies, or Gertie in E.T., or of course Leia herself! Really, there are so many… But probably the most defining moment for me was at around age 8 or 9, watching Karen Allen in Raider of the Lost Ark – she was tough, could drink and fight with the men, but somehow remained sexy as all hell. That movie was the impetus behind my love for action, suspense, sci-fi and most importantly adventure.

Legion of Leia: Tell us how GeekNation came about.

Clare Kramer: It’s quite simple, really… Brian and I wanted to create a space, free from judgement, free from the restraints of the studio and network system, where artists could come and feel safe to not only express themselves artistically but to interact with their fans in a mutually rewarding and comfortable environment. We’ve both been in the business for years, and were able to harness our experiences and expertise in the right way, at the right moment in time to bring GeekNation to fruition. Two years later, I’m really proud of what we’ve created, and know that we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg.

Legion of Leia: Now, since I do work for GeekNation, and we’ve known each other for years, I know your level of geekdom. Tell the Legion about some of the geekie goodies in the Geek Nation studio and how you got them.

Clare Kramer: Oh boy! Well, let’s see. We have, of course, my original Glory robe that I wore in the 100th episode. It was purchased at a FOX charity event by a fan and later sent back to me. We have a shield from Spartacus, which is one of Brian’s favorite shows, we have a collection of 70′s dolls that include Batman and Robin, Farrah Faucet, Wonder Woman and even OJ, of course my action figures and dolls as well, a table top arcade game with over 40 classic arcade games, and some really cool Star Trek artifacts given to us by our friends over at Roddenberry.

Legion of Leia: Who would you like to see profiled? Is there a lady we should be watching?

Clare Kramer: So many! But I will say I’m really curious and excited to see what Gal Gadot does with the role of Wonder Woman. People have been trying to make that for some time now and the fans have been pushing so hard for the studios to follow through – I feel it’s going to be a very important and pivotal role for the future of women in Hollywood, and if the feature is ever revisited in earnest. In other words, it could be the deciding factor if Wonder Woman ever gets the stand alone she deserves.

Legion of Leia: What’s next for you and for Geek Nation? Can you talk about any new roles? All the juicy stuff.

Clare Kramer: As for GeekNation, we filed the patent on our Mosters™, which is something we expect to replace your average movie poster you currently see in all the theaters. We’ve got an amazing new app that’s coming out, that is sure to help bridge the gap between actors and their fans, and in the next 60 days we are going to begin launching our new platform of 8 to 10 new shows. Oh, and we’re also working on a VOD section of the site, which I can’t really give any details about at this point – but it will be amazing! In terms of acting, I just completed a project called The Griddle House – which was an amazing experience. The story is about a boy searching for his birth mother, whom I play. I also have a project with Michael Madson and Lacey Chabert coming out in a few months called The Lost Tree. I’ve been trying to get my feature directing project slated for the fall as well… stay tuned for details!

You can follow Clare on Twitter @ClareKramer and check out GeekNation on all social platforms @GeekNation!

Legion of Leia Profile: Adrianne Curry — Model, Reality Star and Lifelong Geek

You may know Adrianne Curry from her years of modeling, her win on the first season of America’s Next Top Model, or My Fair Brady. You may not know that she’s a huge fellow geek and does some of the best cosplay you’ll ever see! She’s had a show on the Stan Lee YouTube Channel, World of Heroes. She’s a huge Game of Thrones fan, plays World of Warcraft and often hosts video game conferences like E3 and Blizzcon. She’s also writing a guide book for dating! I didn’t ask when she sleeps, because I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have time! Check out what she’s got to say about cosplay, geekery, women in the sci-fi world and what she’s got coming up. Head over to Adrianne’s website: AdrianneCurry.com.

Adrianne Curry

Adrianne Curry

Legion of Leia: You’ve been a lifelong geek, but you started in reality TV and modeling. How have those worlds blended for you?

Adrianne Curry: They never really have. I still like to keep my hobbies separate from my work. Sure, I may get hired to do a small thing here and there that is nerdy, but for the most part, I just enjoy what I enjoy on the side. My reality and modeling careers have provided me the funds necessary to cosplay and buy cool busts and collectors items, so for that, I am grateful!

Legion of Leia: What sci-fi or fantasy character did you connect to first as a kid?

Adrianne Curry: For me, the first one I truly connected with to the point of obsession was Aeon Flux from the liquid television shorts on MTV. I was not allowed to watch MTV, so it was naughty and exciting. I loved the animation. I loved that she always died. When they announced that Aeon would get her own Mtv series, I literally almost killed myself. I have watched that series front to back yearly since it aired. My Grandma saved my Aeon Flux poster she used to yell at me about when I was a kid. When I asked her why she would save something she always said was skanky, she replied “Because you just love that stupid cartoon so much.” Yes I do, Grandma, and thank you!

Legion of Leia: You are my favorite cosplayer, which you already know. :) Can you talk a bit about getting into it, your favorite costumes and crossplay?

Adrianne Curry: I do not cosplay things I have not at one point imagined being in my life. We all day dream. I like to turn those day dreams into a reality. Why couldn’t I be the one Han Solo loves? Why can’t I toy with Trevor Goodchild? Why can’t I save the world and fall in love with Corbin Dallas? I can. I do. I am not a larpist, but I AM a model. Cosplay to me is like silent film acting. Someone takes a photo of me as Mileena from Mortal Kombat and I do my best to look and act the way she would for such a thing. When I walk into the magic that is San Diego comic con I find myself surrounded with people who love and adore the same things I do. I delight in their art as much as they do mine. This fuels me to no end. I can literally stand for hours taking pictures with and for fans. Their appreciation of a vision I had becoming my reality strikes a chord deep in my heart. I feel like a big kid. I’d say my favorite costumes so far have been Mileena, LeeLoo, Aeon Flux and Raptor Jesus. Mileena is evil. Leeloo is the Supreme Being of goodness. Aeon is a dominatrix assassin. I took those cosplays very seriously. Raptor Jesus? I have never had more fun in my entire life! I suppose Raptor Jesus is a dude, so he would be my favorite crossplay as well. I really like to depict darker, more evil characters.

Legion of Leia: We’re about to do a SDCC panel together about positive portrayals of women in pop culture. Can you share your thoughts on where we are and where it’s going?

Adrianne Curry: The age of man is over. The domination of women has begin. Every comic, every movie, almost everything is driven by the sexuality and sensuality of women. The duality of this mixed with being a bad ass gives women an edge men could never have. We are the life creators, nurturers and most epic of deceivers. As we progress on this planet we see women taking up the mantel in many things that used to be male dominated. We are the multitaskers. We forgive you all for not being quick enough to discover that we are indeed better than you. ;P

Legion of Leia: What other ladies out there should we be watching and profiling?

Adrianne Curry: Olivia Wilde. I like her. She is funny and witty without a script. She seems pretty grounded for the business she is in and I respect her for that. She also ran off to get hitched and pop out a baby when most people would probably have advised her against it at this point in her career. Respect.

Legion of Leia: I know you’re going to release “Tips to Stop Dating Ass-Hats,” which may be my favorite title ever. Tell everyone about it and what you have coming up.

Adrianne Curry: That is my working title that I hope to keep. I am writing a bad ass 20 page guidebook to be distributed electronically for super cheap. It is a funny and incredibly insightful piece on how to spot an asshat and how to stop yourself from being one. I have included mini stories of my own experience with asshats that help along my main bullet points on what to beware of. I have been told on quite a few occasions that I have a way with words, so I decided to toss them into the faces of those who would read them. I think this will be one of those fun girly reads that have you nodding your head in agreement as you sip on a glass of wine. If you have ever dated an asshole, or think you may have kinda been one, this book is for you!

Follow Adrianne on Twitter: @AdrianneCurry, on Facebook: Official Adrianne Curry and on Instagram: @AdrianneCurry.

Throwback Thursday: Lilo From “Lilo And Stitch”

Disney

Disney

“Ohana” means “family.”,  “Family” means “no one gets left behind….or forgotten”

We’ve been covering a lot of grown, strong confident women on our profiles lately but how about we switch it up and talk about girls in Sci-Fi. One of the ones that springs to mind is Lilo from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. The beloved animated sci-fi family comedy is about a little Hawaiian girl who adopts an evil and indestructible alien. It’s okay though, he’s super cute, fluffy and alone just like she feels. Together they embark on a journey to discover that no matter where you are in the universe, you’ll always belong to a family. Here are some reasons why Lilo is one of the most standout kid characters of science fiction:

 

Disney

Disney

Accurate depiction of a real girl: Lilo represents one of the first times in Disney animation that a child is realistically represented. She isn’t drawn as an idealized version of a child–or princess for that matter. She looks like we did when we were tiny humans, you know, maybe a little chubby during our growing pains. Lilo is also a product of a family broken by tragedy. She is raised by her older sister Nani who has to work very hard so they can survive and also to keep social workers from putting Lilo in the system. This is a fact of life for many families who endure difficult economic straits.

Spunky Attitude:  Lilo is very confident and headstrong with a bit of a brat streak like most kids at her age. For someone who has had to deal with the loss of  their parents at that age, Lilo copes by acting out and being defensive about her actions particularly when she tries to honor her mother’s memory by being a hula dancer. When the kids in her class make fun of her by calling her crazy or tell her she will never be like her mom, she snaps and fights back. She doesn’t just let herself be bullied, she stands up for herself and never tries to assimilate to be accepted. She wants to be liked for who she is.

Misfit: Her spirited personality may alienate her from her peers but she never stops trying to be included by just being herself. Even when that doesn’t work, she adopts a pet to begin to rebuild her ohana. This is universal to anyone who has ever felt left and can relate to Lilo’s experiences. Because she’s an outsider and has felt alone she takes in Stitch, who she sees as someone who is lost just like her. And  it is with Stitch, the aggressive little alien, that she learns being a part of a family isn’t always easy.

Relatable quirks: Her tastes also separate her from kids her age. To her the king of rock n’ roll  is Elvis. She listens to her vinyl, has voodoo dolls of her friends, gives fish peanut butter sandwiches and has a penchant for sci-fi and horror movies. She and Stitch recreate some very iconic monster movie scenes and go around taking pictures of people on the beach.

Family: She doesn’t give up on Stitch just like her sister does not give up on her because they are family. Lilo is a handful because of the circumstances she went through and in a similar way Stitch is too. Despite his mean streak, Lilo is determined to help him change by teaching him that he doesn’t have to evil and push those that love him away. They overcome space and human laws to remain a family. After the first film, Lilo is tasked to help find and help all the other evil experiments from Stitch’s program to rehabilitate them too. Her family goes from just her sister to an extended intergalactic ohana.

Recently, fan art (Above)  has been floating about that shows Lilo as an adult who after high school went on to attend the Galactic Alliance Community College in order to study to be a future Captain of the Galactic Armada alongside Stitch. Many comments say “Why isn’t this a show?” or “Now this is a Disney sequel I can get behind”. It goes to show that kids who grew up watching Lilo want to see this kind of future for girls like her.

To talk more in depth about ideas for an A.U. where Lilo does grow up to be a Captain or just anything DISNEY, feel free to tweet @wicked_phoenix A.K.A. Sabina, this week’s contributor.  Drop us a comment below for any suggestions on who you want to see profiled next or tweet us: @LegionofLeia

’til next week!

 

 

 

Legion of Leia Profile: Joelle Sellner — Comics and Animated Series Writer

Joelle Sellner started off as an advertising copywriter, writing award-winning print, radio and television ads for clients such as Lexus, In-N-Out Burger, and Kleenex. While doing all of that, she started writing animation, including animated series featuring the Olsen Twins: Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action. Since then, she’s written for shows including Teen Titans, Jackie Chan Adventures, Shin Chan, Secret Saturdays, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Ben 10: Omniverse. Her animated web series work includes Mattel’s Monster High, Samurai! Daycare, for Smosh’s Shut Up!Cartoons channel and the upcoming Fifi: Cat Therapist for Dreamworks TV.

Joelle has also written comics for DC, Marvel, and was published in IDW’s Harvey Award-nominated anthology Womanthology: Space. She is currently writing several graphic novels for Lion Forge Comics including Wonderous: The Adventures of Claire Sinclair, Mer, as well as a reboot of the NBC classic shows Saved By the Bell and Punky Brewster.

Joelle Sellner

Joelle Sellner

Legion of Leia: You’ve written a bunch genre animated series, including Teen Titans and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, video games, webisodes and comics. What drew you to each and how does the writing style differ between mediums?

Joelle Sellner: I started off in animation, working full time in advertising and writing freelance scripts on nights and weekends. Writing for animation was exciting for me, since I was always a huge cartoon fan. I love the freedom of the medium. Unlike live action, you don’t have the constraints of sets, or in some cases the laws of physics.

When I left my job to pursue writing full time, I finally had the time to try different types of writing. I worked on a Cartoon Network show called “Secret Saturdays,” and that gave me an opportunity to write for DC’s Cartoon Network Action Pack. Writing comics reminded me of writing storyboards for commercials and I was immediately comfortable. Writing for webisodes was also a lot of fun for me. I was on the staff of “Samurai Daycare,” which was one of the first shows on Alloy Digital’s Smosh channel. It’s definitely a challenge to tell a complete story in three minutes. And make it funny.

The toughest thing to break into was video games. I always loved gaming and had a pretty serious Sims addiction. Then I moved on to Grand Theft Auto, which actually made me a better driver. I finally wrote a branded entertainment game for a hotel chain, which gave me enough experience to be considered for the games I wanted to write. The writing styles for all four mediums are somewhat different, with games being less linear and comics being the most visual. But every medium has to have interesting characters and a decent story arc. The rules of good storytelling never change; you just have to tweak the execution.

Legion of Leia: How did you get started in the industry?

Joelle Sellner: I wrote some spec scripts with my writing partner at the time. Someone he used to work with was story editing the Olsen twins animated series. She gave us an episode to write, which turned into three. Now that we were produced animation writers, it was easier to get onto other shows.

Legion of Leia: You’re part of an amazing group of women in sci-fi. What does it mean to you?

Joelle Sellner: I’m thrilled that in the past few years there’s been more attention given to women in comics and writing complex female characters in every genre. Every time I go to a convention I meet women who are doing incredible work and speaking out about their experiences, both good and bad. I’m inspired by these writers, as well as the little girls I meet who want to do what we do when they grow up.

Legion of Leia: What sci-fi or fantasy character first grabbed your attention as a child?

Joelle Sellner: I was a big Lord of the Rings geek. In seventh grade, my friends and I all had Lord of the Rings nicknames. I was Eowyn. She didn’t have a huge part in the books, but she was pretty kickass.

Legion of Leia: Writing for larger franchises like Marvel that have been around forever must be a challenge. How do you and/or the producers and other writers decide which parts of the canon you’re going to use, which characters to introduce and what to retcon?

Joelle Sellner: I was very overwhelmed when I wrote the digital holiday issue for Marvel. It was a Thor story, and Thor goes back a long way. Since it was a standalone issue, my editor gave me the freedom to use whatever version of Thor I wanted. There were so many choices. Thor had lots of different incarnations both in Asgard and on Earth – it was very confusing. I finally decided to go with the Thor I was most familiar with. On Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, those decisions were made by my story editor. I still had to do some research (thank you Wikipedia), but I had a general idea of what we were using.

Legion of Leia: What new projects do you have coming up and where can people find your work?

Joelle Sellner: I’m currently working on a new graphic novel for Lion Forge called Mer, which is a supernatural young adult romance. You’ll also be able to catch some more issues of Punky Brewster and Saved By the Bell. Look for my episode of the new Sonic the Hedgehog series, “Sonic Boom,” on Cartoon Network in the fall and the web series “Fifi: Cat Therapist” on Dreamworks TV. I also have my first live action feature, a made-for-TV romantic comedy, coming out as well. All of my
projects are posted on my website website writtenbyjoelle.com.

You can follow Joelle on Twitter @WhereIsJoelle.

Throwback Thursday: Zoe Washburne

zoe_gun

“Do you know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed.”

Meet Zoe Washburne: Fighter for Independence, second in command on the transport ship Serenity and an occasional, if reluctant, big damn hero.

Portrayed by The Redoubtable Gina Torres in 14 episodes of “Firefly” and two glorious hours of the film Serenity, Zoe is one of sci-fi’s toughest, most fascinating and most relatable characters. We root for her, we feel for her, we wish we could be her. (If we told her any of this we’d probably get a raised eyebrow in response, at most.) What is it about this particular character that we love so much?

Ultimately, it boils down to two things: Strength and Humanity.

Now, as many of you know, the Strong Female Character is a trope that’s become problematic, especially in sci-fi. The new “Mary Sue” isn’t just an idealized every-woman, she now has to be fierce and strong as well. She’s given a weapon and taught martial arts, and that’s supposed to be enough to placate those of us who still think we should have had a Wonder Woman movie by now (Ahem).

There is no question that Zoe is a badass. She’s a commanding, no-nonsense force to be reckoned with–and that’s without her gun. With it, she’s deadly.

That said, her strength is not derived from her weapon or her skill as a fighter, but from a complicated, very human composite of experience, surroundings and, yes, feelings.

Zoe is a fighter not just because of what she has to be, or because of what she’s been through, but by choice. As a career soldier, she finds herself on the front lines of the rebellion, and that suits her fine. Of course, life as a soldier means she has also been to Hell and back. Her natural reserved demeanor provides a thin veil for the pain of experience behind her eyes, but the fact that she walks around with this pain and keeps moving forward makes her strong.

Her loyalty is extraordinary. She is cautious and selective about the people she allows into her inner circle, but once they’re in, she will love and protect them for life. She’s not strong because she’s some solitary, emotionless warrior. The love she shares with her family, friends and crew makes her more of a caretaker, and that caring makes her stronger.

Her relationship with her husband Wash is particularly noteworthy. When we meet them they are already married (though we learn in flashbacks she was not his biggest fan when they first met). Their relationship is loving, supportive, sexy, and peppered with everything from flirting and comfortable bickering to important discussions, even fights. We actually get to see a couple working on their relationship in shockingly healthy and/or normal ways, and it’s both remarkable (because it’s such a rarity for entertainment) and relatable.

zoe_wash

Further, it is a relationship that brings out the best in both of them. Seeing Zoe in a happy marriage doesn’t make her somehow “softer” or “weaker.”  In perhaps her most defining moment on the show, she is at one point confronted with the choice of saving either her Captain or her husband; she chooses her husband before the bad guy even has a chance to try to torment her with it. She is not defined by her relationship or her partner, but her unfaltering love gives her clarity, and that, too, gives her strength.

She is a woman who respects those who deserve it, and so she commands respect. She has everything she needs to fly solo and take care of herself, but she chooses to support her family and crew, and so she is supported. She has been through enough extraordinary circumstances that she could have easily allowed herself to be shaped by tragedy, as so many modern heroines are. Instead, she shapes herself with her choices, feelings, beliefs and actions. She is not strong despite her human failings; her humanity and complexity is what galvanizes her strength.

To talk more about Zoe, “Firefly,” Serenity, or Strong Female Characters, leave a comment here, come chat with us on Twitter @LegionofLeia, or single me out @dani_ketch. Just to answer the obvious question: yes, character profiles have moved from Fridays to Thursdays. If you have any characters you’d like to see, let us know in the comments.

Happy Independence Day, Legion!

Legion of Leia Profile: Cat Staggs — Comic Book Artist

This week, Legion of Leia talks to comic book artist Cat Staggs. This amazing lady is currently working as an artist for DC comics, doing covers and interiors for the Smallville Season 11 series and The Vampire Diaries. Her work has been seen in Womanthology and Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years. She also designed one of our favorite (and most popular) t-shirts for LoL profiled woman in sci-fi Ashley Eckstein‘s Her Universe Star Wars line.

Cat has done original character sketches for a Stan Lee character and worked for the Star Wars / LUCASFILM family since 2004. She also illustrated the weekly webstrip Hot Mess on Comediva.com. Check out her interview below!

Cat Staggs by Eddy Choi

Cat Staggs by Eddy Choi

Legion of Leia: I’m a huge fan of your work, as you know. How did you get started in comics and art?

Cat Staggs: First of all, thank you! That means a lot.

As far as art goes, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. It’s all I ever wanted to do and luckily for me, my parents supported that.

I got started in comics by putting together a portfolio and attending conventions. Fortunately, Lucasfilm took a chance on me with trading cards, sketch cards and some licensed artwork and from there I was able to get work with other companies which eventually lead me to the comic book work I do today.

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Legion of Leia: What does it mean to be a part of this amazing group of women in all aspects of sci-fi?

Cat Staggs: It’s awesome. The sci-fi community is such a fun and cool world to be a part of and there are so many amazing women working in the community. I feel extremely grateful to be among them.

Legion of Leia: You and your lovely wife Amanda worked together on Hot Mess. Do you have any joint projects in the works?

Cat Staggs: Yes! DC Comics actually just announced our new joint project. We are doing a story in the new “Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman” written by Amanda and illustrated by me. Amanda’s script is really action-packed and I can’t wait for people to read it!
Our story will be in issue #1 alongside a small arc by Gail Simone and Ethan VanSciver, and you know that’s gonna be good!

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Legion of Leia: Who was the first sci-fi or fantasy character that struck you as a kid?

Cat Staggs: This is going to sound so cliche, but I am a total Star Wars kid. Han Solo was always the one who I really connected with. I wanted to be him when I was a kid and I kind of still do…I guess I’m not big on conformity.

Legion of Leia: What new goodies do you have coming up?

Cat Staggs: Well, I’m still doing covers on Smallville and I just finished interiors for a new issue of Vampire Diaries called “Loyal Dogs” which was really fun and, of course, now I’m working on the art for Wonder Woman! I’ve also got a few other fun things waiting in the wings,but I can’t mention them yet.

Check out Cat’s website: CatStaggs.com and follow her on Twitter @catstaggs.

Rejected Princesses: Legion of Leia Chats With Creator Jason Porath

If you’ve been on the Internet in the past week, you’ve likely seen someone post a link to Rejected Princesses. It’s the creation of Jason Porath who draws an amazing picture of a “princess” that Disney would be unlikely to do a movie about, along with a great story about her history. Some are fictional. Some are real women in history. Some are ancient and some are modern. They’re all absolutely fascinating! I was drawn in, like many of you, by the story of Pasiphaë, who, um, really really likes bulls. Ahem. Check out my interview with Jason below and head over to the site, like the Facebook page and follow him on Tumblr! He likes suggestions for new princesses, so let him know who you’d like to see!

Rejected Princesses -- Pasiphaë

Legion of Leia: Jason, I saw these online on Friday and they blew me away. I’m a huge history fan, especially of women we might not have heard of. Let’s begin by hearing how this all got started. What got you interested in these women?

Jason Porath: The origin of this came from a lunchtime conversation at my old workplace. There was an article going around about how the Frozen princesses weren’t good role models, and I asked, “well, we can SURELY do worse than them — who is the least likely candidate for an animated princess you can think of?” I asked it on my Facebook shortly thereafter, and got around 150 replies from my friends. I hastily sketched a couple as jokes — Elizabeth Bathory, an early version of Lolita, and weirdly enough, Charybdis — but kept in my head that I wanted to do more full-fledged pieces when I got the time.

In quick order, as suggestions flooded in, it grew from being a list of hysterically poor fits (like Lolita and Beloved) to being fascinating women from history and mythology. I am a huge lover of the obscure, rare, and weird – I’m also a feminist, so the two interests collide with this series. Lastly, I’m a total information junkie, one of those people who gets lost in Wikipedia very easily. This is a rabbit hole I’ve tumbled down and have yet to see the bottom.

Legion of Leia: How do you find these women and their stories? I recognize a few names from research I’ve done, but not all of them. I remember a book called Uppity Women of the Ancient World that talked about a few, but I’m dying to know your sources.

Jason Porath: The first couple, I knew just from years of daily life. But when this all started, I got a started set of around 150 from Facebook — many of whom were jokey suggestions like Sarah Palin, and others pretty stellar ideas. From there, it ballooned out mostly from further research on my friends’ recommendations. I’d be googling for information on Mai Bhago and end up on pages with tons of information on other notable historical women.

It’s worth noting that my brother Jeremy was one of the biggest contributors to this list, often dumping a dozen Wikipedia entries in my lap at a time. He’s a tremendous researcher in his own right — far better than me — and has a vast and deep knowledge of history based on his own interests.

From there, whenever I was determined to illustrate someone, I’d go to books.google.com, JSTOR, and the public library to look up primary sources.

Getting things right is very important to me. It’s also extremely difficult, it turns out.

Rejected Princesses -- Nzinga Mbande

Legion of Leia: Tell me about your art history! These illustrations are so cool, and I love the art notes at the end of the pieces! How long do they take to do?

Jason Porath: Each one takes 2-3 days — in large part because I need to let it sit and come back to it, and see if the ideas and composition work.

I am not a formally trained artist. I have had a handful of drawing classes, but my degree is in film criticism. My work at DreamWorks was intensely technical animation — again, self-taught — that often was closer to programming and physics simulation than 2d animation. My illustration work at this point is, to my mind, barely passable. It’s not stellar, but I’m learning a lot, and improving quickly. That said, I can’t lock myself in a room until I’m amazing. I hope people will enjoy seeing me grow as an artist over the course of the series.

That said, I’m not posting the super-early ones of Bathory and Lolita, as they’re too embarrassing. Maybe Charybdis.

Legion of Leia: I know you have a FAQ on your site and you ask people to not only suggest women, but to send corrections. How difficult is it to fact check this stuff since women were largely chronicled for the children they produced and the dowery they brought instead of their life stories.

Jason Porath: Intensely, painfully difficult. I think every single one of my entries has had corrections sent in at this point, and it’s been up for four days. I’m not a historian. I enjoy this stuff and I work hard to get it right, but there are a lot of details to wrangle. Moreover, people have very deeply held opinions and emotions around many of the women represented.

Thankfully, the lion’s share of the correspondence has been kind and helpful. People largely understand the irreverent tone is meant to be humorous. That said, the consistent bits of hate mail are tough to handle, although I’m getting better at it. Been having some intense dreams, mostly about letting people down, since this started blowing up. I take it pretty seriously.

I’ll give you an example. Many people have suggested I should do Hypatia of Alexandria – she’s easily in the top ten most requested. But she’s a very problematic example. Most people think of her as an ancient female mathematician killed by religious zealots, but there’s a strong argument to made by historians that she was more the victim of the politics of the day.

Even putting aside the problem of religious implications with Hypatia, there’s a much deeper issue at play here. If the “it was politics” camp of historians are correct in their assessment (and it seems to me like they are), Hypatia’s name was basically used posthumously in someone else’s agenda years later. That’s robbing her of agency and it’s not okay.

This sort of thing happens constantly. Catherine the Great never slept with a horse. Nzinga Mbande never drank her enemies’ blood or slit her servant’s throat. The entire story or Pasiphaë sleeping with a bull was almost certainly a psyops campaign from the conquering Greeks. There’s a lot of propaganda going on in many of these stories – sometimes hundreds of years after the fact. I personally find it all incredibly interesting, and appreciate these truth-twistings as an integral part of their histories. However, there’s a duty here to get to the truth of the matter, and that can be quite difficult.

I still get it wrong a lot, and I am thankful to the readers who help me get it right for posterity. As of this writing, the Nzinga Mbande entry has some majorly incorrect rumors presented as factually correct, and I need to do more research before I make corrections. Fredegund’s entry also has minor inaccuracies, which need to be fixed.

Rejected Princesses -- Sergeant Mariya Oktyabrskaya

Legion of Leia: Do you have a favorite? Is there one you’d really like to see as a film?

Jason Porath: It is incredibly hard to choose. I think all of these would make amazing movies — some of them already have been! Beloved and Lolita obviously have live action adaptations, but even Sita — putting aside Indian-produced movies, of which there are many — has an extremely charming independently-animated movie called Sita Sings the Blues. It’s available for free online and I highly recommend it.

That said, if I had to pick just one of the twelve I’ve done so far, it’d be a buddy movie about Sergeant Mariya Oktyabrskaya and her tank, Fighting Girlfriend.

Then again, ask again tomorrow and I may have a new favorite.

Legion of Leia: Can you tease any of the upcoming ladies?

Jason Porath: I’ll give hints for a four different women I want to do soon, although unsure as to the schedule:
* 10,000 horses.
* 71 years before Rosa Parks.
* The most daring ransom I’ve ever heard of.
* Fight for Pedro

Legion of Leia: Have you thought of putting these into a book? Please tell me you have!

I am trying very hard to make this happen. If you’re interested in keeping up with news on that front, I just started a mailing list (and spent an hour customizing all the text to be as amusing to me as possible). If you are interested, sign up: http://eepurl.com/Xtq2z. It may take a bit, but I’d really like to get a book going.

Legion of Leia: What other projects do you have going on?

Jason Porath: This was originally just a side project, but the outpouring of reaction has bumped it up to priority one. The now-secondary projects are:
- My first novel, about a lawyer that handles deals with devils, genies, leprechauns, and the like.
- A sci-fi comedy screenplay which I submitted to the Sundance Writers Workshop (don’t find out if I get in for a bit, so my fingers are crossed!)
- A singing tesla coil I’m helping build with a couple friends. (There is a Kickstarter! Click on the link to check it out.)
(One of these things is not like the others…!)

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jasonporath

Legion of Leia Interview: Andrea Letamendi — Psychologist and Geek Expert

Dr. Andrea Letamendi combines her profession as a psychologist and her love of all things geek. She speaks about the psychology of comic books, science fiction, and fantasy at universities, on documentaries and at comic conventions. She currently co-hosts the Batman podcast The Arkham Sessions and appears regularly on the CNN Headline News show On Call with Dr. Drew as a mental health commentator. Check out her website: UndertheMaskOnline.com. You’ll be able to find all the episodes of The Arkham Sessions there. Definitely give them a listen! We never miss them! You’ll also be able to find out which cons she’s speaking at.

Andrea Letamendi

Andrea Letamendi

Legion of Leia: Your career is fascinating. Can you tell us about what you do and how you combined your degree with your love of the genre?

Dr. Andrea Letamendi: I have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and serve as an educator, scientist, and consultant, covering topics such as trauma, post-traumatic stress, bullying, and other issues related to mental illness and their treatments. The stories and relationships in comic book and sci-fi narratives can be a gateway to learning more about these serious topics. By discussing, for instance, how Batman experiences exposure to chronic trauma, explaining Rick Grimes’ hallucinations on The Walking Dead or analyzing Darth Vader’s turn to the dark side, I utilize fictional narratives to increase public awareness and knowledge about psychology. I also hope such discussions of characters we know so well in the geek culture helps to reduce the stigma and misconceptions associated with mental health disorders.

Legion of Leia: You’ve started a new podcast. Tell us about it!

Dr. Andrea Letamendi: My new podcast is about two things I love: Batman and psychology. I’ve always been a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series. When I was interviewed for the film Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics last year, I realized how much I loved talking about the villains of Gotham and what motivates them. The Arkham Sessions was created shortly after as a way to explore the psychology of every episode of the series, one by one. With my co-host (Brian Ward, DVD/Blu-ray Producer at Shout! Factory), we cover topics ranging from neurological disorders, perception and memory, childhood abduction, trauma and loss, bullying and severe mental illness. Every episode covers a new topic related to the psychology of Batman!

Legion of Leia: What does it mean to be a part of the world of women in sci-fi?

Dr. Andrea Letamendi: As a psychologist, I think my role is about being a conduit and facilitating the exploration of what sci-fi means to us. What did women in sci-fi teach us as young girls? That we can be leaders. We can be powerful. We can have a seat on the bridge. We can hold our own next to a Wookiee and a Jedi. We can blow a Xenomorph out of the airlock–or multiple Xenomorphs out of various airlocks. These messages are continuing to be created, written, drawn and represented by women, and I’m lucky to be a part of those conversations.

Legion of Leia: What sci-fi or fantasy character spoke to you first as a child?

Dr. Andrea Letamendi: I was obsessed with the animated film The Last Unicorn. I remember watching it over and over again by myself and memorizing all the songs. I even begged the video store by my house to sell me a copy of the VHS (they didn’t). It’s funny how, when you really think about it, the Unicorn is incredibly brave and self-sacrificing, and also unapologetic about being remarkable. When I was a little older, I discovered another character, Aeon Flux, from the animated show of the same name created by Peter Chung that features a skillful, female agent on these really bizarre, life-threatening adventures. There was really no other female-centered sci-fi show like it, or at least that I’ve seen. She was mysterious, independent, and fearless! And she caught flies with her eyelashes! That’s impressive.

Legion of Leia: You appeared in two issues of Batgirl. Describe the moment when you first saw yourself in a comic.

Dr. Andrea Letamendi: It was such an honor to appear as Barbara Gordon’s psychologist in the comic Batgirl. I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time! And while I see it as a very kind gesture by Gail Simone, it’s also a much more meaningful decision on her part. By including a mental health clinician in her story, Simone brought an authentic and truthful perspective: many people struggle with mental health issues and seek therapy. Barbara’s treatment validates and normalizes an experience that is often stigmatized, shamed, or misunderstood. I believe the character Simone wrote is a tribute to the mental health field as a whole and a step in a positive direction for the comic book industry.

Legion of Leia: What new projects do you have going on?

Dr. Andrea Letamendi: I’m excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Comic-Con this year with the panel “The Psychology of Star Trek vs. Star Wars.”

You can follow Andrea on Twitter @ArkhamAsylumDoc!

Sci-Fi Women Friday: Pacific Rim’s Mako Mori

makomori

For my family!

This week, we’re featuring Pacific Rim’s Mako Mori, the Mecha heroine of Guillermo Del Toro’s film whose sequel was recently announced to be rushed into production as the big Monster craze FINALLY hits its stride. The sequel is set to follow Mako, played by Rinko Kikuchi, and her teammate Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) after the events of the first film. Here’s a run down of what makes Mako Mori an awesome Sci-Fi woman and why we can’t wait to see more of her in the future.

 

Fan Art by Quillery

Fan Art by Quillery

History: Mako Mori has one of the most tragic hero origin stories in Sci-Fi. In fact, it’s a background that would typically be given to a male character. She doesn’t function as a princess who happens to have skills the hero needs or just something for him to lose. Mori’s childhood experience is at the heart of the movie. The scene that shows how she lost her family when she was just a little girl and had to encounter the monstrous Kaiju who took them away, is one of the most stand out scenes of the movie. It informed her drive to avenge her family and protect the human race. She was saved by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and his partner Tamsin Sevier who inspired her to be a Jaeger pilot someday.

Jaeger Geek: Growing up with Pentecost, who adopted her, Mako developed a passion for knowing how Jaegers work. When she was a kid, her adoptive father explained to her how is it crucial that team members be drift compatible and takes her to meet his retired partner. The two show her that individual traits need to balance out in order for a team to successfully bond neurally and control the various mechanisms of the Jaeger while fighting Kaiju. When she gets older, she is trained under the tutelage of Pentecost and becomes a ranger with an emphasis on the engineering of the Jaegers. She even oversees the refurbishment of  the legendary Gispy Danger.

pacrim

Mad Skills: While in the Jaeger program, Mako developed keen skills for mechanics and engineering. Her score in the Jaeger simulator is 51 drops and 51 kills which makes her one of Pentecost’s brightest. From an early age he also taught her hand to hand and close quarters combat in order to defend herself. However since her drive was clouded by desire for revenge, her sensei felt she wasn’t battle ready for her safety.  She does however, have a big role in the Jaeger program as her knowledge of the initiative’s history is invaluable. Mako played a huge role in taking Gispy Danger out of retirement when the Kaiju threat was threatening the apocalypse. She made sure to outfit in it’s old school glory refitted with an iron hull, new weapons and had it running on two nuclear reactors.  She also was the one to compile the list of all the possible candidates to team up with Gipsy’s O.G. Pilot Raleigh Becket–even though she was the best option.

More than just a pretty face: Played by the talented Rinko Kikuchi whose beauty isn’t over-sexualized in this, we get a  kick-ass lady no matter what. She wears the same uniform as all the pilots and holds rank without any special privileges because she is a girl or because she’s Pentecost’s kid. Rinko also imbued her with personality and made her all at once a smart-ass, intelligent, strong and innocent hero. In her hand to hand combat scene with Raleigh, she put her challenger in his place. Even when she interacted with both Pentecost and Raleigh, Mako unwaveringly stood up for herself and her abilities with blunt logic. She earns her position to be Raleigh’s partner and pilot Gipsy Danger. Having an actress who can play all those dynamics as strongly as any other lead makes for a new legion of heroes where gender doesn’t matter.

Hero Arc: Mako’s obstacle to becoming Gipsy Danger’s pilot was never her gender being stacked against her skills. Like most headstrong heroes, she had to learn to put aside her anger toward her past in order to focus on using her strengths to ensure the human race had a future. Her doubts in Raleigh’s ability to handle fighting Kaiju reflect this, as he too lost his family. Because they are both Battle Born they are naturally the best match for Drift Compatibility.  Their abilities balance each other out, she is a play it by the books kind of fighter and  he’s an intuitive risk taker. Combined with Gipsy Danger, the two created one of the best Sci-Fi teams on screen when they canceled the apocalypse in Del Toro’s Pacific Rim.

Mako Mori also most definitely paved the way for another Mecha heroine, Edge of Tomorrow’s Rita Vrataski who will be featured here soon. If you’ve got cool suggestions for characters in Mecha Sci-Fi who have come before Mako and Rita, feel free to drop them in the comment box below.

‘Til next week!