Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Cat Grant, President Marsdin, and Elizabeth Holloway Marston All Went to the Same College

May 16, 2017

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Last night’s Supergirl was one of the best episodes of the year, in no small part due to Lynda Carter guest starring as President Marsdin and the long awaited return of Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. They even got to share the screen together before the Daxamite queen Rhea, played by Teri Hatcher, shot Air Force One out of the sky. Luckily Supergirl was there to save Cat, and the President was able to save herself when she revealed that she was actually an alien. It was all a lot of fun; one of the things that makes Supergirl special is its depth of amazing female characters, both heroes and villains, and they were out in full force last night.

After the plane crash, everyone was wondering how Cat Grant got on the plane in the first place. It turns out that she was old friends with the president, and that they’d gone to college together. Marsdin was her RA in the dorms of Radcliffe College, and that choice of university is a very fitting one.

Supergirl has been making sly references to the history of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter’s President Marsdin, and fittingly so. When you’ve got Lynda Carter on board, you’ve got to have some Wonder Woman fun! Her name seems to be a double reference: Marsdin is reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, while Olivia appears to reference Olive Byrne, Marston’s partner and a major inspiration for Wonder Woman. With tonight’s episode, we got a shout out to Elizabeth Holloway Marston, the third member of the Marstons’ polyamorous relationship, co-inspiration for Wonder Woman, and a graduate of Radcliffe College.

Having already earned a BA from Mount Holyoke College and a law degree from Boston University, Elizabeth went to Radcliffe College in 1919 to get a master’s degree in psychology. At the time, Radcliffe was a women’s college; women weren’t yet allowed to attend Harvard itself, so Radcliffe was Harvard’s sister school. While at Radcliffe, Elizabeth worked with her husband researching systolic blood pressure and helped create the lie detector test, and eventually graduated in 1921 with her third degree.

Having Cat Grant and President Marsdin go to Radcliffe too is a delightful deep cut reference to Wonder Woman’s history, and that the writers at Supergirl took the time to make it speaks of their respect not just for their titular character but for Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman, and the women of the superhero world generally. William Moulton Marston didn’t create Wonder Woman on his own; Elizabeth and Olive contributed to the character in ways we’ll probably never fully know, and they deserve to be remembered as a key part of her history. With last night’s episode, Supergirl did just that in a small, enjoyable way. It was a cool moment in what was an absolutely great episode that has me so excited to watch next week. Did you guys see that ending? It’s crazy! Such a good cliffhanger!

Talking About Wonder Woman at the Imagine Film Festival in Amsterdam: A Recap!

April 17, 2017

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I am now home from my five day visit to Amsterdam, and it was such a cool trip. I’m from Halifax, which is one of the oldest cities in North America, but it doesn’t even come close to the history and legacy of Amsterdam and it was so fun to get to explore the city. While I had to keep my head on a swivel to avoid bicycles as I did so because they’re EVERYWHERE, I adapted to that pretty quick and got to see a good portion of the city.

First, though, here’s a hot tip, gang: If you ever get the chance to fly KLM, do it. We flew there and back on KLM, and it was far and away the best airline I’ve ever been on. They give you so many drinks and meals and snacks! Plus there are a pile of good movies to watch. I saw Moana, Arrival, Finding Dory, and Doctor Strange; it was great. So yeah, highly recommended.

The first day in Amsterdam was largely a blur. My mother came with me, because if you ever luck out and get a free trip to Amsterdam and your mother’s never been to Europe, you should take her. Plus she’s a swell lady! Our flight there was an overnighter but we didn’t sleep much, so we ended up crashing at the hotel when we got there, then exploring the area a bit in the afternoon, then more sleep. Or attempts at sleep, at least. Jet lag is rough, folks.

Day two was more exploration. We figured out the metro, which was super easy and convenient, and walked through some of the good shopping places in the city. I didn’t buy much, but I did an ice cream at this rad place called Banketbakkerij Van Der Linde; they only make vanilla ice cream but it’s amazing and there’s always a line up out the door, even on a cool day like Thursday was.

Day three was my presentation, so I mostly went over my notes all day. We had some near-drama when I arrived at the EYE Film Institute and the presentation wouldn’t play; we tried my laptop, then another laptop, but nothing was showing up on the big screen. Everyone behind the scenes at the Imagine Film Festival was super great, though. The technical folks worked like crazy to get everything sorted while everyone else chatted with me and joked about our predicament. I’m still not sure exactly what was wrong, but after replacing the same small box several times, it worked. We started a few minutes late, but everything worked perfectly from then on.

The presentation itself was very fun to do. I always get super nervous before I have to give a talk, but once it gets going it tends to be more pleasant, and this was no exception. The crowd was wonderful, which helps a lot. We had a good number of people in, all of whom seemed very enthusiastic to hear about Wonder Woman, her evolution, and the role of her costume therein. I started with Marston, of course, and dug into the bizarre origins of both Wonder Woman and his own background, psychological and life-wise. Then we discussed the American symbology of the costume and how it was meant to help Wonder Woman fit in and thus help America while slyly spreading Amazon values there as well. We also looked at this great panel:

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Talking about the costume led to a deep dive into her bracelets and the bondage metaphors of Golden Age Wonder Woman comics, which segued nicely into an examination of her golden lasso as a symbol of feminine power.

From there, we passed through the Silver Age pretty quickly because her costume stayed largely the same and that was the main focus of the talk. The Bronze Age and Wonder Woman’s mod revamp, however, merited close examination. We looked at the story in which Diana Prince got trendy clothes to help Steve Trevor out of a jam:

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After which Steve started to show interest in Diana for the first time ever and Wonder Woman realized she no longer needed to be super to keep his interest. This introductory issue really set the tone for this whole era, in which Diana gave up her superpowers and got very into mod fashions, all while falling for every man she met and behaving hysterically when they inevitably betrayed her. It was an attempt to make Wonder Woman a more modern, relevant character that failed rather spectacularly.

But it did lead to Gloria Steinem campaigning for Wonder Woman to return to her roots, which was followed by her appearing on the first cover of Ms. magazine and eventually the Lynda Carter television show. The latter was particularly fun to chat about, and I showed a clip of Wonder Woman talking to her sister Drusilla in both of her identities so that we could see how Carter played them differently. We also chatted briefly about her awesome Wonder Woman scuba suit, because how could we not?

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This all was followed by a quick run through the Perez era, the ridiculousness of the Deodato era, and how Wonder Woman’s costume has remained fairly constant since the television show. Any big changes rarely lasted for long, even much hyped alterations like her ill-fated pants and leather jacket in 2010. We looked at the New 52 era as well, which led to Gal Gadot and her onscreen Wonder Woman. It was a film festival, so I wanted to be sure to give her a lot of attention.

The early discussion surrounded Zack Snyder’s brown, desaturated version of the costume which had all of the classic Wonder Woman elements but none of the brightness and vibrancy one would expect from Wonder Woman. We also watched a clip of Wonder Woman showing up in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for the first time, i.e. pretty much the only good part of that movie. Her general mysteriousness in that film led to some speculation about the character in her new solo film, and I was glad to dig into how Patty Jenkins seems to be embracing color. We watched the latest trailer and dug into how we got a lot of the elements we would expect in a Wonder Woman origin story, including the requisite incarnations of the characters and her corresponding outfits. But we also discussed how her sword seems to have superseded her lasso as her primary weapon:

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And the way that this, intentional or not, is an assertion of masculine concepts of heroism and power over the more classic feminine power represented by her lasso.

Finally, we talked about “Rebirth,” particularly how Rucka and Scott reasserted the importance of the lasso in “Year One.” Talking about Scott led us to Wonder Woman recent, short-lived United Nations ambassadorship, and we discussed the body-shaming petition for her removal and how reducing the character to her appearance ignores what she has meant as an inspirational figure for generations of fans.

So yeah, it was a fun talk! And there were some excellent questions after, which is always fun. My favourite may have been the woman who chatted about the historical reality of the Amazons, which was very cool, but they were all great. Then I got to hang out with the film festival folks for a bit, who were delightful and kind and so enjoyable to visit with.

Day four was the Rijksmuseum; it’s HUGE and took up the entire afternoon, really. I got to see Van Goghs, and Rembrandts, and Vermeers, but my favourite painting of all was this one by Nicolaas Baur called “A Women’s Skating Race on Stadsgracht in Leeuwarden, 21 January 1809”:

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There was a skating race for a gold cap-brooch and 64 unmarried women entered, but some of them were so into the race that they threw off their cloaks and skated bare armed, causing quite a stir among spectators who considered them shockingly immodest. There was such an outcry that it was the last women’s race for several years.

So that was my trip! Huge thanks again to the Imagine Film Festival for bringing me to Amsterdam; it was such a nice city to visit, and everyone at the festival was wonderful. Thanks to everyone who came to my talk as well. It was very fun to spread the word about Wonder Woman on a whole new continent!

Lynda Carter was on Supergirl Last Night, and it was THE BEST

October 25, 2016

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The second season of Supergirl has been off to a great start on The CW, continuing all of the joy and brightness of its first season. There’s nothing I love more than happy superheroes, and having Supergirl and The Flash on back-to-back nights is such a delightful way to start the week. The move to The CW hasn’t been entirely painless, though; Calista Flockhart is no longer a regular cast member, and her Cat Grant was a key part of the first season. But Supergirl has been working hard to counter her absence with an array of new, rad female characters, including the President of the United States, played by television’s first Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter.

It’s always great to see Lynda Carter, and having her on a female-led superhero show is just perfect. Even more perfect: Her character’s name is Olivia Marsdin, in what has to be a subtle shout out to William Moulton Marston and Olive Byrne, the creator of Wonder Woman and his live-in partner who influenced Wonder Woman’s creation. It’s a nice nod to Wonder Woman’s roots, and the first of several such references.

Also, a female president is timely given the current American election. Doubly so given that Supergirl observes, “How did anyone even vote for that other guy?” It seems that in both our world and the world of Supergirl, a woman ran against some dude who couldn’t hold a candle to her.

President Marsdin comes off well throughout the episode, and she definitely espouses the kindness and acceptance we’d expect from a former Wonder Woman, particularly in her Alien Amnesty Act. Earth is lousy with aliens on Supergirl, and the President wants to give them the same rights that humanity enjoys. And she’s got a big fan in Supergirl, who loves her from the get-go. Her excitement before meeting the President is straight up the cutest, and her affection for the President only grows after they meet. When Supergirl is excited about someone, you can’t help but like them even more.

Wonder Woman fun was sprinkled throughout the episode. When President Marsdin talked to Hank about her Amnesty Act and said, “I can think of no better time than the present to extend our hand in friendship,” my mind immediately leaped to this panel from Wonder Woman #25 in which Gail Simone penned what’s become a classic Wonder Woman line:

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I might be reading too much into the line, but it sprang to my mind instantaneously when I heard Lynda Carter say it.

We also get a classic spin move! When an angry alien bent on attacking the President lit Supergirl on fire, she put herself out with a spin:

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In what is clearly a reference to Wonder Woman’s iconic quick change spin move:

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And, in my very favourite moment of the entire show, after Supergirl mentions how cool it was to see Air Force One, the president replied:

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I mean, come on. How great is that?

Now, it wasn’t all fun and games with President Marsdin. But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!!

The end of the episode revealed a hidden side to the President. Namely, it looks like she’s an alien, with some shapeshifting abilities; her entire face distorted for a second into a distinctly non-human guise. She could be an alien double impersonating the President, or maybe the President’s been a deep cover alien all along! Either way, that’s definitely going to spell trouble. I’m curious to see where this startling reveal goes.

END SPOILERS!!!

President Marsdin wasn’t the only fun new character on tonight’s Supergirl. It was a cavalcade of awesomeness throughout the entire show: Mon-El finally woke up, Detective Maggie Sawyer popped in and had INSTANT chemistry with Alex, and Miss Martian revealed herself at the end of the episode. This season of Supergirl is adding a slew of fun new supporting characters, and I love the direction it’s going in.

I’m not sure when we’ll see Lynda Carter back on the program again. So far, I don’t think a return date has been announced, but given that reveal at the end of the show, I think it’s a safe bet that she’ll be back. Hopefully they’ll fit even more fun Wonder Woman references into that episode, too.

A Celebration Of Noel Neill, The First Live Action Lois Lane, To Be Held Nov. 5 In Metropolis, Ill.

September 6, 2016

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The superhero world lost an icon when Noel Neill passed away in July. She was the first live action Lois Lane, portraying the character alongside Kirk Alyn’s Man of Steel in the big screen Superman serial in 1948 and reprising the role in Atom Man vs. Superman two years later. Superman moved to television in the 1950s with George Reeves in the lead role, and Neill returned to play Lois Lane when Phyllis Coates left after the first season, staying with the show for the remainder of its run. For a generation of fans who grew up watching the Adventures of Superman TV show in its first run and then in syndication, Noel Neill WAS Lois Lane.

Neill led a long and fascinating life, and on November 5, 2016, many of her friends and admirers are gathering at the First United Methodist Church in Metropolis, Illinois, to remember and celebrate her life. It’s a fitting locale; Metropolis is the home of the annual Superman Celebration, and there’s a Lois Lane statue modeled after her likeness in the town. The three hour event will feature rare footage of Neill, along with presentations from several speakers, including:

  • Dr. Pam Munter, author of Almost Famous and When Teens Were Keen
  • Jim Nolt, editor of The Adventures Continue
  • Jim Bowers, editor of CapedWonder.com
  • Steve Younis, editor of supermanhomepage.com
  • Larry Blankley
  • John Field
  • Lisa Gower & Karla Ogle of the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce
  • Terry Ryan
  • Stephanie Perrin
  • Angie Sivori
  • Larry Thomas Ward, author of Truth, Justice, & The American Way: The Life & Times of Noel Neill and Beyond Lois Lane

There will also by music from The Melungeons.

The event is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend, so if you’re in the area you should definitely mark it on your calendar. Noel Neill was both a wonderful Lois Lane and a fantastic ambassador for the character for decades, and hearing about her life from those who knew her well should make for a fascinating afternoon. Such events always have a note of sadness, of course, but I’m sure it will also be infused with the joy that characterized Noel Neill throughout her 95 years.

The poster above appears in the October 2016 edition of Classics Images magazine.

The Already Great Supergirl TV Show Just Got More Wonderful With Lynda Carter

August 19, 2016

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As if Supergirl wasn’t already fantastic enough. We’ve got a hilarious Cat Grant. The dang Martian Manhunter. Melissa Benoist just IS Supergirl. And this upcoming season on The CW sounds amazing: Miss Martian and Mon-El are going to show up, there’s going to be a huge crossover with Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, and in a separate team-up Supergirl is pairing with The Flash for a musical episode crossover. Oh, also Superman is going to be on the show and he looks rad. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. It’s just too much delightfulness.

And yet, it gets even better. A few months back, when Supergirl was still on CBS, it was announced that Lynda Carter, i.e. Wonder Woman herself, would be guest starring in the show’s next season as the president of the United States. Then Supergirl‘s renewal got iffy and it ended up moving to The CW and we didn’t hear much about this obviously brilliant casting choice. But, thank Hera, it’s still on! Melissa Benoist posted the above image on her Instagram account and it’s just the best.

We don’t yet know when Lynda Carter will show up. Just guessing from the production photos, it seems like the first couple of episodes will be the Superman stuff since we got those shots a few weeks back, and with this photo now that would put her at maybe three or four episodes in? It depends how they’re shooting, too; with everything moved to Vancouver now, they might be filming scenes with notable guest stars for a bunch of episodes all at once. She may show up even sooner. And hopefully often. What with all of the alien craziness going on as of late, the president way want to involve herself in things a bit more, and perhaps develop a closer relationship with the Maiden of Might.

Supergirl returns on The CW on October 10, and I can’t wait. The first season was a blast. Nothing makes me happier than smiling superheroes having awesome adventures. Oh dang, you guys, Lynda Carter sings too! Could she part of the musical episode as well? A Supergirl, Flash, and President Wonder Woman trio doing a number or two together would be the most enjoyable thing. Get on it, Greg Berlanti!

Remembering Noel Neill, The First Live Action Lois Lane

July 5, 2016

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Noel Neill passed away last Sunday at the age of 95, having lived a long and fascinating life. She wore a number of hats during her time in show business; she was a model, a singer, and an actress in both film and television, but she was best known as Lois Lane. Neill was the first live action Lois, playing the character alongside Kirk Alyn’s Man of Steel in the 1948 serial film Superman and reprising the role in its 1950 sequel, Atom Man vs. Superman. After Phyllis Coates left the Adventures of Superman television series after one season in 1952, the producers immediately reached out to the original Lois, and Neill played Lois next to George Reeves’ Superman for the next five seasons of the program until it ended in 1958.

Neill was Lois Lane during the bulk of the run of the Adventures of Superman, making her the person that an entire generation of fans associated with the character. The show was a hit in its initial run, and remained popular in syndication for a long time as well. Until Margot Kidder took over the role in Superman: The Movie in 1978, Noel Neill WAS Lois Lane.

Neill’s Lois was pleasant and kind-hearted, a stark contrast to the no nonsense brashness that Coates and later Kidder imbued in the character. Neill brought a warmth and friendliness to the role, which fit the part; the program was aimed primarily at children from its second season on, and Neill’s Lois was a good match for its fun, sometimes silly tone. She often found herself in goofy adventures alongside Jimmy Olsen, caught up in a zany plan that required Superman to come save them.

But Neill’s Lois wasn’t all damsel in distress hijinks; in one notable episode, she wrote an editorial that encouraged women to come out and vote in order to get rid of a corrupt politician, leveraging her position at the Daily Planet to try to make a difference. Moreover, she was a constant presence at the newspaper, always chasing down leads and trying to land front page scoops. She was a respected career woman at a time when most of the women on television were homemakers, serving as a role model for young girls in the 1950s and offering them an alternative future to aspire to.

After the Adventures of Superman ended, Neill remained closely associated with Lois Lane and the Superman franchise. She cameoed as Lois’ mother in an early scene in Superman: The Movie, appeared in the Superboy TV show in 1991, and had a small role in Superman Returns in 2006. Neill was also a regular presence at comic book conventions over the decades, representing the show alongside Jack Larson long after most of the original cast had passed. By all accounts, she was delightful, kind, and encouraging to everyone she encountered at conventions, and was a wonderful ambassador for Lois Lane.

I was so sad to hear about her passing yesterday, but wow, what a life. She got to be Lois Lane, TWICE, and seemed to love every minute of it. As a young girl growing up in Minnesota, her father ran a newspaper and she dreamed of being a reporter; she even wrote some articles for Women’s Wear Daily before turning to show business. Then as Lois, she got to live her dream on the big screen and the small screen, and wholeheartedly embraced her association with the character from then on. She will be remembered and missed by legions of fans, young and old.

Finally, here’s a bio of Noel Neill that first appeared in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #7 in February 1959. When Lois’ new series began, many of the letters from young fans asked about Neill and wanted to know more about her, so DC put together this piece for them. Fans continued to ask about her even after the article ran, so DC reprinted it a few more times throughout the 1960s:

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Lucy Lane Perfectly Embodied Her Silver Age Self In Last Night’s Supergirl, In Just Seconds

November 10, 2015

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I am loving Supergirl. It’s funny and action packed and upbeat and just blatantly feminist, all in a very sincere, almost corny way that could be terrible if everyone wasn’t selling the heck out of it. But they do sell the heck out of it, especially Melissa Benoist as Supergirl, and as Kara Danvers too; she kills it in both identities. There’s an earnestness to her, and to the show in general, that makes everything work like gangbusters. Tonally, it’s a lot like The Flash, which I also love, but with even less angst. It’s just superhero fun! I am all over it.

Last night’s episode saw the first appearance of one of my favourite comic book characters, Lucy Lane, played by Jenna Dewan Tatum. Lucy is Lois Lane’s sister, and has appeared intermittently in Superman comics over the years. When they announced that Lucy was going to be on the show a while back, I wrote a post about how I hoped that the show would go with her early 1990s riot grrrl incarnation, but instead they went even further back. This Lucy Lane was her Silver Age self to a tee, right from the get-go.

Before Lucy showed up, there were some romantic sparks flying between Kara and Jimmy, er, I mean James Olsen. The show seemed to be building up to some kind of moment between the two of them. Then Lucy showed up, and that went completely off the rails. In just a few seconds, Lucy quickly established herself as James’ ex-girlfriend and had him roped into a dinner date to talk about their relationship, squashing what he had going with Kara.

This is CLASSIC Lucy Lane. Starting in the 1950s, Jimmy Olsen had his own comic book series called Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, in which he had all sorts of whacky adventures. Lois Lane had a series as well, Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, but Lucy rarely appeared in her sister’s book. Instead, she was a regular guest star in Jimmy’s series as his fickle girlfriend. Jimmy was constantly trying to woo Lucy, but she always put him down and ended up spurning him repeatedly. In short, Lucy was always screwing with his love life.

And now, decades later, she’s doing it again in a whole different medium. Poor Jimmy/James can’t catch a break. I’m willing to bet a lot of money that this arc with Lucy ends with her ditching James yet again.

(I should point out that there was an arc in the Super-books in the early 1990s where Lucy and Jimmy were dating and Jimmy got fired and ultimately became homeless. Lucy stuck with him, and got him help, and was a generally great girlfriend. Jimmy, on the other hand, was a terrible boyfriend and took on the fickle role, even after he got back on his feet. He ignored her and only called her when he wanted something. After her riot grrrl phase, Lucy wised up and dumped his sorry butt.)

Lucy seems to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance right now, though not in the comics. She’s in Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane: Fallout YA novel, as well as its upcoming sequel, Lois Lane: Double Down, and now she’s on Supergirl. I’m excited to tune in next week to see what she and James get up to, as well as what villain Supergirl is taking on next. It’s just a rad show all around, gang. Check it out if you haven’t yet!


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