Ladies I Love: M is for Marjane Satrapi, Graphic Novelist and Film Producer from Iran

I can’t believe I’m already writing my “M” post for the A to Z Challenge!  I’ve got another cartoonist (I think this is the last one) for today’s Lady I Love: Marjane Satrapi.  I chose Marjane Satrapi for today for two very interesting reasons:  first, she grew up in Iran under the Muslim fundamentalists who took power after the Iranian Revolution; and second, she’s an outspoken woman who lived to tell about it.

Marjane Satrapi header

Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran in 1969 and lived in a middle-class family with highly educated parents in Tehran until 1983.  During her childhood, she was rambunctious, strong-willed and outspoken, and her family feared that her behavior (and mouth) would get her into serious trouble with the authorities, who had strict behavioral codes for women.  So, her family arranged to have her study in Vienna for high school.  She returned to Tehran after a near-deadly bout of pneumonia and stayed there for several years, but now lives in Paris with her husband.

Satrapi’s childhood and teenage years are detailed in her autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis 1 and 2.  I loved them because she grew up in an entirely different world than I did (geographically, at least, which was fascinating in and of itself), but for all those differences, I could see ways in which she was no different from many of us growing up: questions, conceptions of right and wrong, repression (in her case the government, in my case, parents), and general teenage angst.  Half a world away, and it was like I knew her!

Marjane Satrapi - Michael Jackson

In 2007, Persepolis was made into a feature film and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.  In 2008, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making Marjane Satrapi the first woman nominated for the category.  In 2011, her graphic novel “Chicken with Plums” was made into a live action movie as well.  There are several interviews with Marjane Satrapi about her work, but I found this one and this one to be very interesting – if you have the time, check them out.  And, below I’ve included the trailers for both Persepolis and Chicken with Plums.  Perhaps you will put them on your “to watch” list!

Ladies I Love: K is for Killers (and they say we’re the gentler sex…)

Killers - Keep CalmJust a heads-up: this post does contain some violence.  It’s fictional, but could be disturbing to some of you softies.

For today’s Ladies I Love post in the A to Z Challenge, we’ll be talking about killers.  Just to set the record straight, I’m not a huge fan of violence, and I don’t believe there’s a place for murder in society (heck, I’m even opposed to the death penalty).  But do you ever watch movies and wonder why so many primary action heroes (whether they are good or bad) are played by men?  And when you do see badass females in an action role, do you notice how they really stand out, and they stand out even MORE when they have at least a touch of villainous attitude about them?  If you’re like me, sometimes you just can’t help but say WOW and admire the artistry of their fighting, trickery or determination to survive by whatever means necessary.

So today I thought I’d write a little about those (fictional) women who yes, are killers, but who (in some cases) have complex backgrounds and reasons for acting the way that they do.  Others are just badasses.  Here are my top 10 favorite lady killers – how do they match up with yours?

10.  Tank Girl.  Tank Girl, played by Lori Petty in the 1995 movie of the same name, pretty much sucked.  However, I first started admiring Tank Girl (a.k.a. Rebecca Buck) as a comic character drawn by the British team of Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin several years prior to the movie.  I loved the artwork in the comics, and Tank Girl’s take-no-prisoners attitude.

9.  Aeon Flux.  This is also another movie character, played by Charlize Theron in 2005, based on a cartoon that aired on MTV’s Liquid Television during the early 1990’s.  Aeon was an acrobatic assassin in a futuristic dystopian society, fueled by imaginative science fiction story lines.

8.  Annie Wilkes.  Oooooh – this is one of my favorite roles of Kathy Bates!  Annie Wilkes was the crazy “number one fan” of Paul Sheldon, a writer who was taken in by Annie to rehabilitate after his car wrecked in the snowy mountains.  The 1990 film was adapted from Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery and earned Bates the Academy Award for Best Actress.

7.  Haley Clark.  Ever see the movie “Hard Candy”?  Ellen Page plays a young girl in this 2005 thriller that will completely creep you out.  She basically hunts a man she suspects is a pedophile and tortures him…a truly horrific story, but a brilliant performance from Ellen Page.

6.  Hit-Girl.  Starring as a sidekick in all the “Kick Ass” movies, Hit-Girl is an 11 year old girl who is “truly dangerous and genuinely mad”.  She was raised in an environment where she wasn’t taught anything else but violent crime-fighting, and isn’t treated “like a girl” in any respect other than she wears a skirt and likes purple.

5.  Trinity.  With a starring role in the Matrix, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a computer programmer / hacker who is also skilled in martial arts.  She works with a group of like-minded rebels to crack the Matrix’s coding and free the human race.

4.  Ellen Ripley.  Is there a bigger badass in the universe than Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies?  Yes, there are three of them (see 1-3 on this list).  However, Ellen Ripley is my number 4 because she is a pro at killing aliens, and anyone who wants to keep them alive.

3.  Jen.  In “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“, Zhang Ziyi plays Jen, the pupil of Jade Fox who killed Li Mu Bai’s master.  The film is about revenge, loyalty and honor, and features amazing fighting scenes filmed in traditional martial arts style – lots of acrobatics using ropes and an abundance of skill.  Beautiful story, amazing acting.

2.  Arya Stark.  The tomboyish daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, Arya transforms throughout A Song of Ice and Fire from a girl chasing cats through castle halls to a murderous assassin on an unknowing journey towards the Iron Throne.  Arya is skillfully played by Maisie Williams in the TV adaptation of the novels, Game of Thrones.

And my number one favorite female killer is:

1.  Beatrix Kiddo.  In a role that seems to be crafted just for her, Uma Thurman played Beatrix Kiddo (codename Black Mamba) in both Kill Bill movies, directed by Quentin Tarantino.  A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Kiddo is attacked by her former team members and left comatose in a hospital.  But after waking and finding she has had a child, she proceeds to seek revenge and retribution from those who sought to kill her and harm her child.  Uma Thurman does an AMAZING job in her role as a huntress, survivor and martial arts superstar.

This is one of my favorite scenes from the Kill Bill movies.  It occurs when Kiddo goes to Japan to kill O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu).  However, first she has to get past Gogo and the Crazy 88!  This clip shows the battle between Kiddo, Gogo and the Crazy 88, stopping short of her fight with O-Ren Ishii.  Enjoy!

Ladies I Love: J is for Julie Doucet, Artiste Fantastique

Dirty Plotte No. 1Ready for another A to Z Challenge post?  I have another Lady I Love artist for you!  I first became acquainted with Canadian artist Julie Doucet when I was doing a lot of cartooning in the early 1990’s.  I had immersed myself in underground comics, and was particularly interested in those drawn by women about non-traditional topics, and Doucet certainly fell into that category, writing and drawing about topics such as sex, violence, menstruation and male/female issues.  The first work I read by Julie Doucet was called “Dirty Plotte”, a series that started publication through Drawn & Quarterly in 1991 (although before that it had existed as a photocopied zine as a record of her daily life, thoughts and fantasies).   Similar to her subsequent book, “My Year in New York“, her comics were gritty, loud, messy, honest and just about the exact opposite of “Cathy” (drawn by Cathy Guisewite, remember?).  I loved them because the style was so incredibly new to me, and Julie didn’t seem to shy away from topics that had otherwise been taboo, embarrassing, or atypical of the feminine “ideal”.

Even though Julie Doucet achieved some success with comics (for instance, winning the esteemed Harvey award for “Best New Talent” in 1991), she ultimately tired of that medium and quit drawing comics altogether:

I quit comics because I got completely sick of it. I was drawing comics all the time and didn’t have the time or energy to do anything else. That got to me in the end. I never made enough money from comics to be able to take a break and do something else. Now I just can’t stand comics. — Julie Doucet in “A Good Life: The Julie Doucet Interview” by Dan Nadel

Currently, Doucet writes and makes collage in Montreal; you can see some of her more recent works on her tumblr.  If you’re interested in seeing more of her comics, you can find several of her dream-related comics at the World Dream Bank (search by author – she has several comics on the site).  Additionally, here is a recent interview with Julie Doucet about what she’s been up to in the past few years.  Even though she has abandoned drawing comics, I will always love her drawing style and ability to tell a cringe-worthy story.

Cat Baby

An excerpt from The Recurring Dream (Cat Baby) by Julie Doucet 1994-1995

Ladies I Love: H is for Hanna Hart of “My Drunk Kitchen” (Uurrp!)

Hanna HartDo you like eating?  Do you like drinking?  And most importantly, do you like puns?  If you like all of these things, you’ll definitely want to get to know today’s H-related A to Z Challenge Lady I Love, Hanna Hart.  I discovered Hanna’s YouTube channel through an article in BUST magazine, right when her “My Drunk Kitchen” sketches hit the scene.  She’s done a TON of episodes at this point, but I contend that some of her best work is featured in her earlier pieces.  She’s got quite a collection of recipes recorded by now, so if you’re interested in learning how to cook mac’n cheese or tacos or toad in a hole or smores while drunk, be sure to invest a few moments to get some pro-tips from Hanna.

Actually, Hanna Hart (nicknamed Harto) is quite an accomplished comedian, and is very smart (she graduated from Berkeley with two degrees – English literature and Japanese).  Her short films are peppered with puns and quick word association jokes, and she’s an amazing comedic writer.  Take a look at this wiki page to learn more about her life, travels and other projects!

And after all that, I know you’re all hungry for a little taste of Harto, so here’s one of my favorite episodes (“Not Easy, Bake Oven”) where Hanna attempts to bake cookies.  A word of warning – the language she uses is quite salty, so if you’re not a fan of expletives (yay, swear words!  All the cussing!), you might want to watch this on mute.  But that probably wouldn’t be quite as funny.  Just saying.  Enjoy anyway!

Ladies I Love: F is for Frida Kahlo

Frida KahloFrida Kahlo is one of my favorite female artists, and is therefore, perfect for my A to Z Challenge theme, Ladies I Love.  Born in Mexico City in 1907, she started painting at the age of 18 while recuperating from a bus accident in which she was impaled through the hip by a metal bar.  While at the National Preparatory School, she met famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, whom she later married in 1929.  They had a rather tumultuous relationship, both having affairs outside of the marriage.  A communist political activist and feminist, many of Kahlo’s paintings contained surrealist images that conveyed often controversial images of womanhood, pain (she had three miscarriages) and dreams.  She used bold colors and traditional Mexican elements in her artwork as well.

Frida Kahlo died at the age of 47 in Mexico City after several years of declining health.  Her work continues to grow in popularity, and she is seen as an icon of female creativity.  Her life story was made into the film “Frida“, starring Salma Hayek.  I encourage you to search for images of Kahlo’s paintings and enjoy her creative works yourself!  Here are a few of my favorite Frida Kahlo images:

Ladies I Love: E is for Éowyn, Badass Shieldmaiden in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I thought finding a Lady I Love for the letter E was going to be a tough one in the A to Z Challenge, but if you haven’t figured it out by now, I do have a bit of a geeky side to me which means literary resources abound.  And today that will manifest itself in the form of crushing on one of my favorite fictional characters, Éowyn from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I read the trilogy many years ago, and my all-time favorite scene by far is from Return of the King, when Éowyn is fighting the Witch King during the Battle of Pelennor Fields.  Although Éowyn was a trained shieldmaiden of Rohan, her uncle, King Theoden, ordered her to stay behind with the women and children to guide their people while the men went to their almost certain doom to fight against the tides of Sauron.  She said, “screw that” and disobeyed him, dressing and acting as a man to sneak her way into the battle.  In the book, she meets the Witch King (the head of the ghost kings with the Nazgul) on the battlefield just as he has injured Theoden.  The Witch King is all, “No living man may hinder me!” because there’s a prophecy that states that the Witch King could not be felled by the hands of a man.  But Éowyn takes off her helmet and reveals herself, saying:

But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.

And the dumb-ass Witch King attacks her, but surprise!  Éowyn ends up kicking his ass and killing him.  Well, Theoden still dies, but it is a fantastic scene.  The movie plays it down a little bit, but it’s still a highlight for me.  To get the full impact, you really should read the book, but here’s a clip for you to enjoy in the meantime!

Ladies I Love: D is for Drew Barrymore, because I’m a Drewbie!

Ten reasons why I love Drew Barrymore

Today’s A to Z Challenge post is brought to you by the letter D!  I know it’s kind of silly, but I’ve had a girl crush on Drew Barrymore for as long as I can remember.  She’s only a year younger than me, and I’ve always admired her because she seems like a real person – she’s definitely had her ups and downs, and even though she’s Hollywood Royalty, she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  She’s not afraid to be dorky or play real people in her movies, people who aren’t always beautiful and perfect.  I don’t know – maybe I’m projecting my admiration onto someone without really knowing who they are, but from what I see, I’m proud to be a Drewbie!  Here are only ten of the many reasons why I love Drew Barrymore:

  1. Drew is a great sport, and seems to be without the Hollywood snobbery that many movie stars are afflicted with.  Watch My Date with Drew, a documentary produced by a guy with a huge crush on her, who has one goal: a date with Drew Barrymore.
  2. Drew is the godmother of Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of the late Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love.
  3. Drew is the youngest person to have ever hosted “Saturday Night Live”; she was only 7 years old at the time!  She then went on to host SNL five more times.
  4. Drew (born Feb. 22, 1975) and I (born Feb. 25, 1974) are both Pisces, the best astrological sign to be.
  5. Drew doesn’t seem to care about being dorky, and even makes being dorky awesome.
  6. Battling world hunger has been an important cause for Drew in the last several years.  In 2008, Drew donated $1 million to fund the Word Food Programme’s school food projects in Kenya.
  7. Drew is undoubtedly beautiful, but in many ways, she doesn’t embody the typical Hollywood beauty standard of being impossibly thin with perfect features.  Yet she was crowned the No. 1 Most Beautiful in People Magazine’s annual “100 Most Beautiful People” list in April 2007.
  8. Drew’s struggles during her childhood were very public when it came to drinking, drugs, addiction, family instability, and recovery.  She survived a lot of turmoil and came out on top, writing a book (“Little Girl Lost“) about her challenges at a young age, then continuing on to have a very successful career in film and directing with her own production company, Flower Films.
  9. Drew is an animal lover!  She has been a strong supporter of the work of Southern California’s Wildlife Waystation.
  10. Perhaps the number one reason I love Drew Barrymore (even though this is listed as No. 10) is because she’s a fan of roller derby, as evidenced by the fact that she made her directorial debut with the movie “Whip It” and even did a lot of her own skating for the film!

Ladies I Love: B is for Lynda Barry (who gave me permission to doodle during meetings at work)

Lynda Barry and Marci

Me and Lynda at San Diego Comic-Con in 2008!

Up next in the A to Z Challenge is the letter B! And since my theme is Ladies I Love, I will tell you about one of my all-time favorite artists, Lynda Barry.  I read her first book, Girls and Boys (1981), before I was ten years old and it left an immediate impression on me.  I had never read comic strips quite like hers – funky people, honest stories, smart humor and a fearlessness and vulnerability that I had never seen anywhere else.  While my earlier exposure to Lynda Barry’s work came in the form of comics and drawings, Lynda has diversified her art and interests as her career progresses.  She wrote a couple of novels (Cruddy is one of my favorite works of hers), and more recently, a pair of drawing and writing books called “Picture This” and “What It Is“.  Her research asks “what is an image?” and examines the connection between drawing and writing with brain function and the resulting physiological responses of doing art.  She has done a number of interviews (a couple of good ones are here and here) describing this line of research.  Currently, Lynda teaches classes about drawing and writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; you can follow along with her lessons through her tumblr (which I am obsessed with).

Lynda Barry

Two panels of a comic by Lynda Barry. Child-like and often semi-autobiographical, Lynda tells stories from all of our youth experiences.

I love Lynda Barry.  She has been a creative influence on me since I was a young kid.  I tried to emulate her spirit in my own cartoons.  I met her at Comic-Con.  I’ve bought a couple of her paintings.  I WISH I could take one of her courses.  But because I am not a total stalker, I will, for now, have to settle for taking some of her advice about doodling to a practical level.  Doodling, according to Lynda, can increase concentration and rescue us from tedium.  This advice has resulted in, for you, a small collection of some of my favorite doodles that I’ve done during meetings at work.  You can click on the images to make them bigger, and for a short description of the meetings during which they were yaawwwwnnn…oops…I mean drawn.

There is a kind of monkeying around with our hands that changes our sense of time in a tiny way that can make a big difference. Like doodling in the margins during a very boring meeting. It can make time feel like less of a cheese grater and more like sandpaper. That’s a small but critical difference. People employ doodling all the time, even those who are certain they never draw will make a complicated pattern of marks with their thumbnail on a Styrofoam cup when someone very boring is speaking at length. Nearly everyone does this.  — Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry-inspired work doodles drawn by me:

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Ladies I Love: A is for Anya Marina

It’s the start of the A to Z Challenge – hurray!!!  And that means that today, April 1, starts off with the letter A.  My theme is Ladies I Love, which will feature individuals, or groups of women, a type of woman, non-human women, fictional women, and who knows what else (but still women)!  Today’s featured Lady I Love is Anya Marina, a Portland-based singer-songwriter that I actually learned about when I was living in San Diego.  She has such a sweet, smooth voice and her music is simple, which I appreciate in a world full of noise.  My absolute favorite album of hers is called “Slow and Steady Seduction: Phase II”.  It is my favorite because it reminds me so much of the time that me and my husband were dating back in 2010.  In fact, Christopher played “Vertigo” from that album on his phone while he was waiting for me to get done prettying myself up in the bathroom so that he could propose to me!  I took so long that I finally noticed that the song had played like three times in a row, so I came out to see what was going on, and there he was with the ring, with “Vertigo” still playing in the background.  Here’s the song for you to listen to and enjoy!

Every time I hear Anya Marina’s “Vertigo”, I think of my Christopher and that perfect day.  And just fyi, if you’ve made it this far, I’m proud of you.  This is my mushiest, sappiest post in April, so thanks for reading and make sure to come back again!  I’m excited about the other ladies that I’m featuring this month!

Fine Art Felines Friday: A Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry Couldery

I chose today’s painting, A Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry Couldery, for Fine Art Felines Friday because when I came across it I was struck by how even way back in the 19th century, when this was painted, cats were still obviously major pains in the asses delightfully mischievous furballs, as evidenced by these two shredding up a letter and making a mess with the ink.  Which I find hil-ar-i-ous, <sarcasm> because I don’t know ANY cats (ahem, I’m looking at you, Samantha, Jesse, Abbey, Momo and ESPECIALLY OLIVER) who would be involved in these types of activities today </sarcasm>.  Anyway, back to this particular painting and a little about this artist.  Horatio Henry Coulder (1832–1918) was an English artist who emphasized cats, kittens and dogs in his subject matter (just image-google his name and you’ll see why I dare you to not call him a crazy cat guy).  I couldn’t find the year that “A Fiver in the Kitty” was painted, but if anyone can tell me what the title means, I will give you a virtual kitten squidgle behind one of your ears.  Deal?

Oh – and PS – Fine Art Felines Friday will be taking a break during the month of April because I will be maniacally busy with the A to Z Challenge.  But we’ll be back in May!  See you then!

A Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry CoulderyA Fiver in the Kitty by Horatio Henry Couldery