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Age of Ultron spoilers ahead! Ye be warned!

 

 

 

Black-Widow-Age-of-Ultron-posterSo, in my unsorted Age of Ultron thoughts, you might notice I didn’t say anything about that scene.  You know the one.  That scene.

You know, the scene where Natasha Romanoff comes clean to Bruce Banner, the man she loves, about the horrors done to her in her past, and how because of those she feels unworthy, less than, inhuman–a monster.  That moving scene where she told him something about herself she had never confessed to anyone, that scene that broke my heart a little bit because the cold, merciless logic of her tormentor-teacher-brainwashers in taking from a young woman the ability to bear children, to live beyond the mission and live for someone outside herself, was indeed impeccable, and because the person so dreadfully damaged by this wrong done to her is Natasha, whom we’ve (or at least I’ve) grown to love throughout her journey from SHIELD agent to Avenger.  You know, that scene.

That scene where Scarlett Johannson and Mark Ruffalo gave beautiful, heart-felt performances, bringing more layers of depth and warmth and pain and humanity to their characters.  That beautifully lit, beautifully shot scene of quiet horror, the one that in the midst of a superhero movie about punching killer robots in the face nearly brought me to tears of pity and woe.  That one.

the-avengers-age-of-ultron-screenshot-scarlett-johansson-natasha-romanoff-bruce-bannerI didn’t realize that scene was not okay, that it wasn’t okay for me to like it and it wasn’t okay for Joss Whedon to have written it.  I didn’t realize that a female character expressing sorrow that she was tortured and forcibly sterilized was no longer okay, because … feminism? I’m really confused. Why is it not okay?

It reminds me of a writer’s blog I sailed past awhile back; the writer was talking about trying to figure out some new, fresh kind of motivation for a female character.  So not, because she’s in love, or because she wants to protect her children.  Something not stereotypical.  And I thought, “But … women fall in love.  Women want to protect their children, or to have children to protect in the first place.  And that’s okay.”

It’s okay.  It’s okay for a woman to want children.  That’s not anti-feminist.  It’s okay for a woman to have children.  Still not anti-feminist.  It is definitely okay for a woman to be sad that she can’t have children.  It is especially okay for a woman to be sad that she can’t have children if she was forcibly sterilized.  Guys, gals, advanced artificial intelligences, extragalactic visitors, it is even okay for a woman to be sad about all of the above if she is Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, super spy par excellence.

You know what’s not okay? Dumping internet hatred on the writer who gave his female character these feelings, this background, this motivation.  If you must hate, and be outraged, and vilify someone, try the people in the real world who do torture young women, for real, mutilating them and destroying forever their chance at motherhood.  Hate those guys.

And don’t just hate.  Do something.  Because this world doesn’t have a Tony Stark to blow the bad guys up, or a Captain America to whack them with a shield, or a Thor to smite them with righteous lightnings, or even a Natasha Romanoff to scissor-kick them and flip them upside down while the frame goes all sideways.  It’s up to us.  We’re the only heroes we’ve got.

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SPOILER WARNING!  Lots and lots of spoilers.

WARNING: Lots and lots of spoilers.

So, Age of Ultron having made approximately a squillionty dollars this weekend, it’s fair to say people want to see it.  It’s got a lot of good stuff for the Marvel fan, loads of action, artsy camera angles, and wow the first half was a whole lot darker than I had anticipated, even knowing it’s a killer-AI story.  (Fortunately they front-loaded all the really dark stuff, leaving the second half free to be mainly about punching, shooting, smashing, and lightning-ing evil robots.)  The following is not a review, just a bunch of reaction thoughts.

Clint, you and Wanda are the sexy ones; show us your backsides.

Clint, you and Wanda are the sexy ones; show us your backsides.

Yes, Tony’s prima nocte joke was gross. But was it in character? Keep in mind that Tony until very recently was a womanizing cad, and old habits die hard. Plus he strikes me as the kind of guy who willingly sacrifices good taste for the funny, and if you’ve been drinking steadily all night with your buds, your standards for funny are going to be low. (Plus–not to wax all philosophical, but are we to outlaw all crassness and all … for lack of a better word … unattractive flaws in our flawed characters? Tony’s on a dark path, and it’s interesting that some commenters are willing to forgive a little bit of creating-a-killer-AI-that-almost-wipes-out-humanity but not a tasteless quip.)

Thor had more good character moments than in the previous team outing. The first time the team assembled (see what I did there?), it seemed like Whedon sympathized more than a little with Loki’s view of his adopted brother, and Thor’s only moments of humor were inadvertent. This time the future king of Asgard has a lot of lines that showcase the sly humor we haven’t seen from him since his first solo film. (Also a little bit of Hemsworth’s no doubt contractually obligated chiseled torso.)

I deeply appreciated that the team’s efforts during the final climactic battle were evenly split between Defeat Evil Robot Menace and Get Civilians to Safety. Especially after all the discussion about Man of Steel and its flagrant disregard for collateral damage, it was cool to see the issue explicitly addressed. Also, I don’t know about you guys, but when Hawkeye went back for the little kid, I was gripping the arms of my theatre chair thinking DON’T DIE CLINT/DON’T YOU DARE WHEDON.*

Of course, Whedon dared. That man has a pathological need to kill off characters. Is that somewhere in the DSM? I had been all ready, going in to the movie, to gripe about the MCU version of Quicksilver (I enjoyed the DoFP version, but I didn’t think Singer and his crew got Pietro right)–but I kind of fell in love with him, despite the dark roots and the weird sweater. He and Wanda made a great team, and their backstory is both poignant and horrifying on its own terms, and another marker on the road to Tony Stark: Evil Dictator.

But is Pietro really dead? I’m thinking of Barry Allen, aka The Flash, who not only runs amazingly fast but heals amazingly fast. Does Whedon’s recent griping about Marvel’s Hand of God returning other dead characters to life mean good things for fans of the silver-haired speedster? Fingers crossed, true believers!

So many hearts

So many hearts

Aaaaand … hands down my favorite part of the movie, the character I was most looking forward to seeing on the big screen, Paul Bettany’s absolutely note perfect VISION. I am in danger of falling into fangirl squeeing just thinking about him. The movie condensed a whole lot of rather complicated comics history into a nice compact little story, there, and Thor’s charging in and powering him up while everyone else bickered was just so take-charge-y and perfectly Thor, and then the business with the hammer! I am swooning, and little hearts are coming out of my eyes.

Might have some more coherent review-ish thoughts once I’ve slept/seen the movie again. I know bits of it frustrated me, and in parts I was actively bored, and I also know that I’m glad this is Mr Whedon’s last Marvel movie. Whether or not Age of Ultron succeeds as a story, or an action movie, it sure was full of robot-punching action, and it provides plenty of food for thought.

Ex-shell-sior!


*I know “Joss” is already a verb, as in, “Oh man, my pet fan theory totally got jossed by the new episodes,” but can “Whedon” but the new verb for gratuitously killing off characters? “You totally whedoned my favorite character, you unprintable swear!”

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It’s Wednesday!  And I am swamped with many cool and exciting but time-consuming projects–about which more when they are not covered by NDAs– so no snippet this week.  No snippet for the forseeable, really, but I don’t want to be negative and rule out the possibility.

In lieu of content, how about some nifty stuff I found round abouts the interwebs this past week?  Some of it might even be relevant to your lives, dear readers!

  • Trying to bang out that novel, feeling overwhelmed by the task?  How about this video about using Science(!) to help you be more productive?  Tips include breaking down large tasks into small, manageable chunks, and putting an end to multi-tasking.
  • Speaking of breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks, have you ever wanted to read the Star Wars expanded universe novels, but not known where to start?  This handy-dandy list from Tor gives you some ideas.

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2012 was a pretty jam-packed year for sketch cards*,  my busiest yet.

*A sketch card is a special kind of trading card; instead of using pre-printed artwork, the art is drawn directly on the card stock, and the finished cards are randomly inserted into trading card packs.

Nevermore Alice

(Marty and Boo)

Nevermore AliceMy main memory of this set was working very fast, late at night, marathoning Jericho on my mini-DVD player while the kiddo slept. It was the first official set where I tried out inking with colors instead of black; it worked really well, and gave me confidence to try out the technique on other, bigger sets.

Classic Myth

(Perna Studios)

Classic MythologyBasically the opposite of Nevermore Alice; instead of going forward in the dynamic, animated look that seems to be my wheelhouse, I tried for a more painted, “artsy” look, with very mixed results.  I really long, even now, to be able to create beautiful paintings, and maybe at some point when I’m not completely swamped, exhausted, overwhelmed (a constant state of existence since October 9, 2010) I can take the time to learn how to do it properly.  Even though I wasn’t happy with my cards, though, a lot of other people seemed to be.

Marvel’s Greatest Heroes

(Rittenhouse Archives)

AvengersI wasn’t going to do this set, believing I didn’t have time, but the Art Director bargained with me, and I agreed.  I’m so glad I did!  This was the most fun on a card set I’d had in a long time: note the colored lines and minimal, cartoony shading are back.  I really challenged myself to do beautiful art and more detailed backgrounds, and it mostly paid off.

Contenporary Pinups

(Galan’s Sketchcards)

Contemporary PinupsFor whatever reason, I decided to be all feminist and rebellious on this set, and even though it’s called “Pinups,” most of my cards are pretty far from pinup-y.

Red Sonja & Warlord of Mars

(Breygent Marketing)

breygentThese two are inextricably linked in my mind, because I did them at the same time, and they were completely different.  This was another I was invited to do by the AD, and being a huge fan of both John Carter and Red Sonja, I said yes in a heartbeat.  The card stock on Sonja was pretty … interesting, which required me to adjust the way I was working.  On Warlord I again wanted to try something different, a little more pulp-influenced, but once again being self-taught in the medium kind of tripped me up, and I’m not sure they’re as cool as I wanted them to be.

Nevermore Alice: Flux

(Marty and Boo’s Cards)

fluxI never say no to Boo when he asks me to draw for him; his designs are so clean and fun, and his pulpy, over-the-top worlds are fun to play in.

DC New 52

(Cryptozoic)

DC New 52A number of firsts for me: first time drawing DC characters, first time working for Cryptozoic: a great company to work for, btw.  I hope to do more jobs for them in the future.  This set was a blast.

Island Dreams

(Marty and Boo)

Island DreamsA set for charity that I dashed off in a bit of a rush in between other projects.

Marvel Premier

(Upper Deck)

Marvel PremierUpper Deck was the first card company I ever worked for, back in 2008, and I was flattered to be invited to work on this set, an experiment in sketch cards of sorts.  The card stock was a beast that sucked up all the ink out of my markers, and the double-sided cards took about three times as long as I had anticipated.  The work was brutal, I was exhausted and burning out on the whole thing…

And then my dad died.

This is the card I was working on when I got the news.

This is the card I was working on when I got the news.

I took a week to deal with things, comfort my grandma, arrange the funeral, all that stuff.  I returned home thinking I’d throw myself into my work as a way of dealing with my own grief (and get the work done in time for the already-impossible-before-I-took-a-week-off deadline), but it was only about 50% effective, because any waning enthusiasm I’d had for the project had been thoroughly extinguished.

I think, objectively, I probably did a pretty good job anyway; you can’t tell by looking that I thoroughly did not give a damn.

Batman: The Legend

(Cryptozoic)

Batman the LegendBy contrast, this set might just have saved my sanity.  I had initially said no (even though I really really wanted to do it), because of the Marvel Premier deadline, but about a week later I emailed the AD back and begged to be let back on it.  I’m so glad I did.  After the hell of MP, Batman was a fresh breeze from heaven.  I only had about a week, maybe two, but the work went so sweetly, and somehow, drawing angsty superheroes in a decaying metropolis was a balm to my spirit.

Nevermore Alice: Eat Me, Drink Me

(Marty and Boo)

NMA: Eat MeAnother quickie for Boo; the cards were meant to be handed out at a UK comic convention.

Britannia

(Marty and Boo)

BritanniaBritannia is Boo’s answer to Captain America; incarnated in many worlds and times, she fights to protect Britain–sort of like Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion.  This was a fun set, because I got to play with lots of different designs and styles.

Bombshells

(Badaxe Studios)

BombshellThis was a set, again, that I passed on because the timing didn’t work out for me; the initial deadline for base art was September, and I definitely had neither time nor energy back then, but circumstances made the AD push the deadline back, which worked out great for me, if not so great for him.

Spellcasters

(Perna Studios)

SpellcastersI’m working on this right now, staring burnout in the face but determined to finish all my commitments.  I actually had the chance to collaborate with the lovely and talented Lynne Anderson, which was such a blessing, as her enthusiasm helped rekindle my own.

Commissions

Femforce PuzzlesOne of the downsides of working on so many official sets was having little to no time to fulfill all the commission orders I got.  Thankfully the people who commission me are patient and kind, and willing to wait.  Next year I’m going to get all the commissions done, which will make me–and them–much happier.

In 2013 I am going to scale back the number of card sets I work on (I keep saying, “this is the last one!” and then another really cool set comes up that I can’t say no to), because I really haven’t had a break at all since March (funerals don’t count).  I’m glad I worked on all these sets; each one has been a learning experience in its way, and doing that much drawing has helped me get better and better at my art.  In the year to come I’d like to transition into comic books, I’d like to finish Steel Butterfly at last, I’d like to do something other than draw on little 2.5 x 3.5-inch rectangles.  I’m glad 2012 is over, and I’m looking forward to what 2013 brings.

How about you guys?

Anything cool coming up in 2013 that you’re really looking forward to?  Any goals or projects you’d like to get under way?

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