Strong Female Character: Lila @#$%ing Cheney!

2 10 2014
A preview of David Lopez's art for "Captain Marvel" #9 (feat. Lila Cheney).

Preview of David Lopez’s art for “Captain Marvel” #9 (feat. Lila Cheney).

In a recent interview with CBR, “80s fairy tale rock opera” were the exact words that Captain Marvel scribe, Kelly Sue DeConnick, used in reference to the title’s upcoming 9th issue.

If you are fortunate enough to remember the magical decade known as the 80s, images of punk rockers, studded belts, glitter, neon-colored jelly bracelets, leather motorcycle jackets, teased hair, ripped fishnet stockings, and smudged eyeliner should be swirling through your mind.

What Marvel character epitomizes everything that was glamorously trashy and decadent about the 80s? There is only one. She’s British… she’s an intergalactic teleporter… she’s a mutant rockstar… she’s Lila Cheney. Yes, as confirmed by Marvel’s November solicits, Sam Guthrie’s former flame is set to cross paths with the (now) spacefaring Carol Danvers.

Newer comic book readers (and others that have been living under a wet stone) may be asking “Who is Lila @#$%ing Cheney?” In preparation for November’s issue of Captain Marvel, five of Lila’s “better than everyone else in the Marvel Universe” moments have been gathered below:

Lila Cheney's first appearance ("New Mutants" Annual #1).

Lila Cheney’s first appearance (“New Mutants” Annual #1).

1) The Bill Sienkiewicz cover of New Mutants Annual #1: The world’s first glimpse of Lila was courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz’s stunning cover artwork for New Mutants Annual #1. The cover, featuring a Siouxsie Sioux-looking Lila with Sam Guthrie (a.k.a. Cannonball) at her side, is an obvious homage to other cinematic artwork (Conan the BarbarianStar Wars). However, instead of the female appearing in the submissive role, Lila is the alpha dog and Sam has become the “damsel in distress”.

2) Meeting Mrs. Guthrie for the first time: It should be common knowledge to X-Men fans that Sam Guthrie hails from America’s heartland… the ultra-Conservative and redder- than-a-candy-apple state of Kentucky. You can imagine Sam’s mortification when Lila showed up to meet the matriarch of the Guthrie family looking like a Jem and the Holograms groupie doing the walk of shame.

Lila meets Mrs. Guthrie in "New Mutants" #42.

Meeting Mrs. Guthrie in “New Mutants” #42.

In the end, her appearance was revealed to be a ruse after she teleported away to change into a more demure ensemble. Her goal was to determine whether or not Sam would ever be ashamed of her, their relationship, or their obvious differences. The family introductions went off without a hitch and Lila would remain friendly with Mrs. Guthrie for many years to come.

(side note: Parallels to LGBT relationships can easily be made throughout this memorable scene.)

3) Dazzler tried to upstage Lila so Ms. Cheney threatened to fire her ass: Despite growing anti-mutant sentiment, the events of Dazzler: The Movie saw the disco queen “come out” as a mutant to the public. Needless to say, it ruined Alison’s career and she was forced into hiding… as a backup singer for Lila Cheney’s band. Following a concert in San Francisco, the disembodied psionic mutant, Malice, took possession of Dazzler and began to influence her behavior.

Dazzler takes over lead vocals in "Uncanny X-Men" #214.

Dazzler takes over lead vocals in “Uncanny X-Men” #214.

Some time later, as Lila’s tour was in full swing, Dazzler (Malzzler/Dazzlice) attempted to usurp the role of lead vocalist from Lila. Claiming to only be concerned for Dazzler’s safety, Lila threatened to sack the singer should she ever try shenanigans like that again. Truthfully, we all knew that Lila rightfully didn’t like sharing the spotlight.

Lila Cheney and Deathbird... badass babes with big guns ("Uncanny X-Men #276).

Lila Cheney and Deathbird… bad, beautiful babes with really big guns (“Uncanny X-Men #276).

4) That time she was recruited by Deathbird and had a really big gun: At one point, occasional Shi’ar Empress, Deathbird, elicited the help of Lila Cheney after the former witnessed Charles Xavier laying waste to planets within the Empire.

Being an intergalactic teleporter proved most useful as Lila used her powers to collect the X-Men at Deathbird’s behest. In the end, it was revealed that Xavier and his lover, Lilandra, had been replaced by Warskrulls who had seized the opportunity to attack Shi’ar alien races. The invaders were defeated and the real heroes rescued from their confinement.

It was never revealed whether or not Lila and Deathbird had raided Cable’s weapon stockpile to obtain the insane hardware that they so proudly wielded.

5) She played a flying monkey in Mojo’s production of The Wizard of Oz: Hoping for some r&r at her Malibu beach house, Lila was surprised to see that her bodyguard, Guido, had invited an amnesiac Dazzler to stay with them.

Lila Cheney... the true star of Mojo's "The Wizard of X" ("X-Men" #7).

Lila Cheney… the true star of Mojo’s “The Wizard of X” (“X-Men” #10).

The rag tag group of mutants  soon had a few more uninvited guests… first in the form of Longshot, who came seeking Dazzler’s help back in his home world, the Mojoverse. Next, came the sorceress, Spiral, in an attempt to convince Lila to teleport them all to safety. Unbeknownst to Lila, her powers had been altered, resulting in her, Longshot, and Dazzler all being sent to the Mojoverse.

The X-Men were summoned to help their teammates but soon ended up as prisoners of Mojo, themselves. With his love of televised entertainment unquenchable, Mojo produced The Wizard of X… starring the X-Men. Lila’s big, onscreen moment came when she was coerced into attacking the show’s Dorothy (Longshot).

Mojo was eventually defeated and his grip over the Mojoverse transferred to Mojo II: The Sequel.

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Carol Stardust and the Flerkins from Mars (David Lopez’s cover artwork for “Captain Marvel” #9).

Most recently, Lila had been seen in the company of David Haller, the mutant known as Legion. She assisted him in his mission to wipe mutantphobia from Great Britain (Si Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy #13-14) and has since been off-the-grid.

Details have been quite scarce as to the story behind Lila’s upcoming appearance in Captain Marvel. Judging by what Kelly Sue has done with the title, thus far, readers can be sure to expect quite a stellar ride! Afterall, it’s not every day that Carol Danvers gets done up in full Ziggy Stardust makeup!





Alpha Flight: Not Just Canadian Cannon Fodder.

12 09 2014
"Alpha Flight" #24

“Alpha Flight” #24

August 1985. It was, undoubtedly, a sweltering and humid afternoon in the suburbs of western New York state. A routine walk to the local convenience market would set into motion the next thirty-four years of… well, we’ll call it a hobby because the word “obsession” has such negative connotations.

Perhaps, the most common question posed to a lifelong reader of comic books is “What was your first comic book that you ever bought?”. Most fans can tell you, with the most detailed of details, every circumstance surrounding that initial purchase.

My comic book roots can be traced back to that summer day in 1985. While perusing the wire rack in that tiny market, my eyes fell upon issue #24 of Alpha Flight. Being as young as I was, I obviously had no idea who these intriguing superheroes were or what their history was up to this point. However, the big draw for me, at that moment, was the fabulous blonde woman in the swirling cloak and white tiara… a.k.a. the Inuit demi-goddess, Snowbird.

Growing up so close to the border of New York state/Ontario and having CBC as a staple television channel in our household, it was incredibly easy to relate to the Canadian setting for most of Alpha Flight‘s adventures in that initial 130-issue (plus two annuals) run. Team members would come and go and the battles against eccentric super villains (see: Dreamqueen, Gilded Lily, and Pink Pearl) were plentiful.

Issue #106 should particularly resonate with queer readers as the first official confirmation of a LGBT superhero existing in mainstream comic books. The mutant speedster, Northstar, would eventually go on to marry his partner, Kyle Jinadu, in the pages of Marjorie Liu’s Astonishing X-Men #51.

Years passed that would see several failed attempts to revive the series. Most of the cast and supporting characters were thrown into “limbo” where they would remain until they were required as punching bags or in order to add a gratuitous body count to a particular story arc. Behold, the all-new, all-different Alpha Flight… Canadian cannon fodder!

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Northstar impaled by Marvel’s resident meathead, Wolverine.

Northstar was the first notable casualty of this new status-quo for Alpha Flight. 2003 would see Wolverine brainwashed by HYDRA and, being even less mentally competent than at other times, impaled Northstar while aiming for Kitty Pryde (side note: around the same time, Marvel also killed off the character in the universes inhabited by characters of the UltimateAge of Apocalypse, and X-Men: The End realities). After being resurrected by the Hand, Northstar and his sister, Aurora, were used by the Children of the Vault to attack the X-Men.

Alpha Flight is slaughtered by Michael Pointer following the events of "M-Day".

Alpha Flight is slaughtered by Michael Pointer following the events of “M-Day”.

On the heels of Brian Michael Bendis’ 2005 House of M event, Alpha Flight played the role of “sacrificial lamb” in order to increase shock value in New Avengers #16. Alaskan postal worker, Michael Pointer (after becoming a living vessel for all displaced mutant energies following the “decimation”), went on a rampage throughout the North American continent, wiping out active Alpha Flight members, Vindicator, Guardian, Shaman, Puck, Major Mapleleaf, and Zuzha Yu.

Namor is forced to dispatch his mutated wife, Marrina.

Namor is forced to dispatch his wife, Marrina.

When Marvel branded their titles with the Dark Reign moniker from 2008-2009, former Flight member, Marrina Smallwood, met her official demise (the character was apparently killed back in 1989 after her alien DNA reacted to her pregnancy by morphing her into a leviathan). Once again resembling a grotesque sea monster, the wife of Namor was sent by Norman Osborne to attack Utopia in an attempt to exact revenge against the Atlantean king. With assistance from the X-Men, the creature is defeated, killed, and then hurled through the windows of Osborne’s office at Avengers Tower.

Diamond Lil dies at the hands of Lois London during the "Necrosha" event.

Diamond Lil dies at the hands of Lois London during the “Necrosha” event.

2009’s Necrosha, penned by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, revealed that longtime member of the Flight program, Diamond Lil, was one of the residents of the mutant sanctuary, Utopia. A handful of panels after this “introduction”, she was frivolously murdered by Dazzler’s sister, Lois London. The story of her arrival on the island haven and subsequent reconciliation with her estranged husband, Madison Jeffries, wasn’t chronicled until her funeral story within the pages of the anthology miniseries, Nation X, in February 2010.

Despite occasional jokes at their expense from editors and creators during convention panels, Alpha Flight seemed to briefly gain some traction in regards to respect during the 2010-2011 Chaos War crossover. Along with Marrina, three of the members killed by Michael Pointer (Vindicator, Guardian, and Shaman) were all resurrected to join their surviving teammates in battle against the Great Beasts. This would lead to the announcement of a new ongoing series spinning out of the upcoming Fear Itself storyline.

The excitement for fans of the series was short-lived. Almost immediately after the relaunched series began, Marvel solicitations revealed that the new ongoing title had been bumped down to nothing more than another limited series. The team would have a mere eight issues to shine before being tossed back into obscurity.

Had it not been for Northstar’s aforementioned wedding and the occasional appearances by the character in various X-books (along with co-Flight member, Madison Jeffries), there would have been very little exposure of the team until very recently.

Talisman impaled by a Wendigo cursed Wolverine.

Talisman is impaled by a Wendigo cursed Wolverine.

Following the initial arc of Amazing X-Men, Kyle and Yost (previously responsible for offing Lillian Crawley in Necrosha), took over the title in 2014 with a story titled, World War Wendigo. The (still ongoing) story centers on an outbreak of the Wendigo curse across Canadian soil with Alpha Flight and the X-Men working in tandem to subdue it. Within the first two issues of the run, Vindicator is savagely mauled by Canadian residents who’ve been infected by the curse and Talisman is brutally impaled by Logan after he succumbs to the plague.

It’s not explicitly apparent as to why Alpha Flight became the superhero team to bear such a huge target for both brutality on-panel and snide comments from creators whenever the inevitable “Relaunch?” question is asked at a convention or in an interview. Their quests and adventures are no-more outrageous and no-less fantastic than the Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps, if Marvel gave these Canadian powerhouses the respect and editorial push they deserve, readers would follow suit and Alpha Flight would fly high once again.





Brian Michael Bendis in Cleveland (a.k.a. “Can we talk about Dazzler?”).

7 04 2014
w/ Brian Michael Bendis at Comic Heaven

w/ Brian Michael Bendis at Comic Heaven

He brought us Jessica Jones and Alias. He was responsible for such “universe-changing” storylines as Avengers: Disassembled, House of M, and Secret Invasion. He employed Squirrel Girl as the nanny to Luke Cage’s daughter. Oh, and he also teamed up with Chris Bachalo to accessorize Mystique with a fabulous Louis Vuitton medical bag. He is Brian Michael Bendis.

Between various comic book conventions and in-store appearances, the last few years have afforded me several opportunities to meet some of Marvel’s most talented names: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Marjorie Liu, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marc Silvestri, Walt and Louise Simonson, Matt Fraction, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen, Cullen Bunn, and Skottie Young. However, when a creator like Brian Michael Bendis announces an upcoming appearance, you tend to make whatever accomodations are necessary to be there… even if it involves a lengthy commute.

When word broke that Mr. Bendis would be doing an afternoon signing in Ohio, following a TEDx engagement in Cleveland, it didn’t take much convincing before the trunk of the car was packed tightly with essential Bendis books, all eagerly awaiting his signature. Being an unapologetic fanboy of Marvel’s d-listers, I was proudly dragging all New Avengers issues that featured the notable and instantly recognizable heroes Squirrel Girl and Night Nurse.

NightNurse2The event was held at Bendis’ old stomping ground, Comic Heaven, in the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby. With the incredibly friendly and gracious owner, Jim Williams, and a fantastic selection of back-issues, I cannot sing the praises of this store enough. With plenty of time to kill before Bendis was due to arrive, we spent time browsing the shelves and swapping stories with a writer from BleedingCool, who was covering the event.

True to the stories told by  folks that have met him in the past, Bendis is not only extremely personable, but he is also incredibly humble. You never know for sure what you’re going to get when you meet the folks attached to your favorite comic books. Experience has shown that there is a fair share, with less impressive rap sheets than Mr. Bendis, who come off as particularly arrogant with little desire to interact with fans.

“Can we talk about Dazzler?” Of course, this was the first question asked of the man who currently has the mutant songstress in a catatonic state in his Uncanny X-Men run. If his hearty chuckle alluded to anything, it was that he has been thrown this question on numerous occasions. “People think that if something bad happens to a character that they love, the writer obviously hates that character,” he responded. “I don’t hate Dazzler. I love her! I promise you, it will all pay-off!”

As Bendis continued signing the pile of books that were brought over state lines, we briefly discussed the upcoming Jessica Jones-centric Netflix series. All he could really tell us was that he was very pleased with what has been in development so far. As Jessica could be considered his “baby”, this would lead one to presume that the series will stay relatively true to how the former Avenger appears in print. So, has the show actually begun filming? Has the title role been cast yet?  With a grin on his face, he refused to divulge anything further.

Being an intelligent man, Bendis knows that silence often speaks volumes.

 

 





Out of Limbo: Strong Female Character Edition (Part II)

26 02 2014

tumblr_mptv40V8wP1sww0bwo1_1280The idea of a “rotating cast” is a concept that many comic book creators have set out to tackle but few have managed to accomplish successfully. For fans of “D-List” characters, a book that features a “rotating cast” is often one of the few opportunities for their favorite characters to make an appearance.  

Brian Wood’s (adjectiveless) X-Men has already undergone its first cast shakeup following the book’s first arc. Rogue and Kitty Pryde were traded out for Monet St. Croix and Karima Shapandar, the former Omega Sentinel. While these changes were likely editorially mandated, rather than decided upon by the writer, they still give hope to readers who would love to see some of the more underutilized X-Ladies tag in/out for some panel time.

We’ve already dug into the depths of “comic book limbo” and listed some wonderfully immoral ladies who could bring some additional firepower to the villainous Sisterhood. Now, let’s usher in some of the more heroic women back to the fold:

Click here to visit Geeks OUT for the full article.





Out of Limbo: Strong Female Character Edition

24 02 2014

imagelim-bo noun: 1) a realm housing countless demons of varying sizes, strengths, and intellects; also known as Otherworld. 2) a place or state of neglect or oblivion.

For comic book readers, the term “limbo” often calls to mind one or both of the aforementioned descriptions. In either case, it is a less than desirable place to end up. Just ask Illyana Rasputin or Amanda Sefton.

Fans of so-called “D-List” characters in the Marvel Universe are all-too familiar with the state of uncertainty that befalls some of their favorite heroes and villains once a writer has no more use for them. The best case scenario for these cast-offs is that another writer will have an affinity for the character and bring him/her into a future storyline. The worst case scenario is that they will end up as part of the body count in an upcoming Marvel crossover event.

Current (adjectiveless) X-Men scribe, Brian Wood, clearly has a soft spot for these neglected hasbeens. Cast members from the days of New X-Men: Academy X and Young X-Men have been included in his current run. Karima Shapandar and Sabra have also appeared regularly in the title.

Along with some long-forgotten heroes, Wood has also resurrected Selene Gallio and Madelyne Pryor and placed them among the ranks of the villainous Sisterhood. While their return is most welcome, it doesn’t begin to scrape the surface of MIA mutants who would make for interesting additions to this ragtag band of devious damsels. Below is a “who’s who?” listing of some grudge-bearing ladies that would fit in fabulously with the X-Men’s nemeses, the Sisterhood:

Click here to visit Geeks OUT for the full article.





The Bitches Are Back: Strong Female Character Edition.

17 02 2014
The Sisterhood (art by Terry and Rachel Dodson)

The Sisterhood (art by Terry and Rachel Dodson)

Here at Geeks OUT, it’s no secret that we adore our strong female characters. Hell, we even offer merchandise that proudly puts our devotion on display for all the world to see.

If television history tells us anything, it’s that the only thing we love more than powerful ladies, it would be their counterparts… the powerful WICKED ladies. Alexis Carrington. Sable Colby. Amanda Woodward. Kimberly Shaw. Katherine Wentworth. We love them. We hate them. We LOVE to HATE them. The same rule arguably applies to the comic book world and the current scribe of (adjectiveless) X-Men, Brian Wood, is pulling out all the stops to show these vixens the respect that they deserve.

The latest incarnation of the Sisterhood is about to add two of the most powerful adversaries that the X-Men have ever faced to their roster… and they’ve been known to do more than take over your company, snatch your man, or firebomb your apartment complex. Brace yourselves because the mutant psychic vampire, Selene, along with the deranged and corrupted clone of Jean Grey, Madelyne Pryor, are set to make their return to the Marvel universe in this week’s issue of X-Men.

Click here to visit Geeks OUT for the full article.

 





X-Men: Now A Little Less Astonishing.

14 08 2013

1376426459The most-talked-about superhero wedding of the decade. Sibling rivalry at its worst. A heartbreaking tale of an alien artist. A world shrouded in ice and on the brink of an apocalypse. These were a few of the memorable moments that Marjorie Liu has shared with us during her all-too-brief tenure on Astonishing X-Men.

What made this book so special in a myriad of comics on the shelf featuring Marvel’s band of mutants?

If comic book readers have learned anything over the past few years, it is that there will never be a shortage of mediocre stories featuring brawls between A-List superhero teams or Wolverine SNIKTing everyone and everything in every title (because, let’s face it, he really IS in every title). Once in a while, though, we are treated to a rare gem that doesn’t rely on a “This changes the Marvel universe forever!” gimmick. If you haven’t been following Marjorie Liu’s run on the Astonishing title, then you’ve left that rare gem buried in the sand.

I have always been a proponent of stories that rely heavily on character development. A story is only as strong as the characters presented in the pages. Looking at her previous work with Marvel (NYX:No Way Home and the X-23 solo series), it should not have come as a surprise to readers that Ms. Liu was going to waste no time in digging through the fluff and getting down to the emotional core of her ragtag band of X-Men.

Whether it be societal prejudices (Northstar and Kyle), familial ties and the trauma of abandonment (Karma and Susan Hatchi), a flirtatious friendship and budding romance (Gambit and Cecelia Reyes), a search for oneself (Warbird), or even the reflection on failed past relationships (Iceman), Astonishing has dealt with an entire airport of baggage that life throws out on a daily basis. An extra dimension was given to these characters which showed readers that they aren’t just swinging fists used to clobber eachother in a battle royale for the fate of the world. They become relatable and empathetic.BRfd6deCQAAIQib

This is not to say that Liu’s run on Astonishing did not have its fair share of knock-em-down, drag-em-out moments. We witnessed Bobby Drake bring about a modern day glacial age that made the Blizzard of ’77 look like a few passing flurries. It doesn’t get more action packed than that. Liu is just constantly aware that if these characters are put in mortal danger, the reader needs to first care about them. That hearkens back to the importance of developing a character and giving the audience a reason to concern themselves with the well-being of said character.  

After the series concludes with issue #68, I will truly miss having Astonishing X-Men as part of my monthly pull list. Marjorie Liu’s knowledge of continuity and passion for the characters coupled with stunning art from the likes of Mike Perkins, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Phil Noto all made for something very special that I will undoubtedly revisit time and time again.