Magic Sword – In The Face Of Evil: MARVEL Music Monday

Here We Go!

“So much has happened since I last saw you! I lost my hammer, like yesterday, so that’s still fresh. Then I went on a journey of self-discovery. Then I met you” – Thor. 

 

This live set by Brad’s new fav band: Magic Sword was performed in Phoenix, Arizona on 19 October 2016, about a few months before this track appeared on the trailer for

Thor: Ragnarok. 

Enjoy! 

 

“Mmm mmm mmm, he’s wonderful. It is a he…?” – The Grandmaster.  

 

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Harry James And His Orchestra – It’s Been A Long, Long Time: MARVEL Music Monday

SHIELD COMPROMISED… 

Steve Rogers: “I don’t remember giving you a key.”

Nick Fury: “You really think I’d need one? My wife kicked me out.”

Steve Rogers: “Didn’t know you were married.”

Nick Fury: “There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.”

 

Written by Jule Styne;

Lyrics by Sammy Cahn;

Vocals by Kitty Kallen;

Performed by Harry James & His Orchestra (1945)

Natasha Romanoff: “Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”

Steve Rogers: “That’s hilarious.”

 

Captain Marvel: The Toxic Avenger

We Found Her And We Weren’t Even Looking…

captain-marvel-90s-movie-explosion-scene-official-trailer-2018-09-18

“This is an… odd superhero action movie… There’s an eccentric splurge of tonal registers from boomingly serious to quirkily droll… A lovable cat makes an important appearance…” – The Guardian.  

Imagine my nightmare. If you can…

Stuck in a packed cinema, trying to keep awake during the latest MCU instalment. Amidst a rather bland action scene – in space – one of the most annoying pop songs in living memory – by that eternally-detestable combo: No Doubt, no less! – starts to play.

Yes, it did make my one good eye roll.

No, it did NOT put a smile on my face…

You know, Bradman is NOT one to skedaddle from a battle, but in this case, the urge to split almost consumed me. 

Moreover, to compound the no-good-niggles tormenting my throbbing bonce, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi throttled my mind: 

“I’m getting too old for this sort of shit…” 

‘0 _ 0’

After the jaw-dropping brilliance that was Avengers: Infinity War it seemed pointless going into Captain Marvel with any expectations. Nevertheless, confidence that we would get another top quality comicbook movie package remained fairly high. 

The plot is your basic “origins” tale: Nick “Two-Eyes” Fury teams up with The Cat From Outer Space and they set out on a quest to find the memory of The Woman Who Fell To Earth, with the Jude Law and the Kree Order in hot pursuit.

Okey-dokey, methinks, so far, so groovy. 

But…

Before you can say: “Higher, further, faster, baby!” it descends into a dismal display of bland performances, incoherent narrative and some of the most lame and lacklustre lines heard in a long while…

And don’t get me started about the Skrulls: those nefarious shapeshifting aliens who look here like Trekkie cosplayers. 

Quite naff Trekkie cosplayers…

Rather than the despicable race as depicted in the comics, the BIG twist here is that they are the repressed refugees of the galaxy. And we’re supposed to empathise with them? Don’t you know what they say? “Keep your friends close, your Skrulls closer.” DON’T listen to them, Carol – IT’S A TRAP…

And just why on C-53 is Ben Mendelsohn trying to do an Andy Serkis impersonation…?!

“Oh Captain, my Captain. There’s not enough on the page… It’s only two hours long and they kind of rushed through it…” – Double Toasted. 

It comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that Roy Thomas – legendary Marvel writer who co-created Carol Danvers in 1968 – felt less than impressed with this movie.

“Actually, the one thing I really hated in the film was turning the Skrulls into a peace-loving race, with the Kree as the heavies.” he said in a recent interview. “As far as I am concerned, as the principal conceptualizer of the Kree/Skrull War, (and I suspect Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would agree with me) the Skrulls and the Kree are each as bad as each other, as they say. Having the Skrulls all mushy and family-friendly at the end left a bad taste in my mouth…”

The only aspect to please him was thus: “Still, Yon-Rogg turned out to be appropriately vile, and that’s all well and good.” 

What about those 12-year old girls this film so desperately tried to impress and inspire? Incidentally, the number of that demographic in the audience at my screening could be counted on the “fingers” of MY gauntlet. And they looked bored to tears…

Wire sued Elastica for stealing their riff from Three Girl Rhumba. Nirvana lifted the bass-line from Killing Joke’s Eightites, which in turn “borrowed” from The Damned’s Life Goes On, and – hey! – here’s me slouching (nay, yawning!) in the middle of the latest MCU movie with my concentration drifting into such mundane musical matters, particularly wondering which alternative Kurt Cobain song would have sufficed instead, if at all…!

Sheesh! 

Is it any wonder that the only scene to actually move me happened to be the heartfelt tribute to Stan Lee over the Marvel logo? And the only cool scene was, of course, his cameo. He’s reading the script to Mallrats (also released in 1995), in which you can find the most extensive cameo of his illustrious acting career. 

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have never made a comicbook movie before and, quite clearly, it shows. The montage of flashbacks from Carol’s early life are so fragmentary and ever-so-minimally informative (not helped by Skrull scientists jabbering over each clip!) that they look confusing, almost to the point of annoyance. 

Imagine what a dramatic improvement we would have if allowed to see that key moment in the comics in which teenage Carol rebels against her overbearing Dad and walks out. 

There should be a terrific performance by Lashana Lynch, as Carol’s best pal: Maria Rambeau, but, there again, the shoddy script deprives Maria’s role the chance to really shine. Moreover, the 1st Act needed a bonding moment between them – it would have instilled the emotional resonance this movie so sorely lacked. 

The fact that three writers were involved proves yet again how:

The more names involved in concocting a major studio movie script = the more incoherent that script becomes.

Again, is this really the MCU we are dealing with here…?!

“They really tried to cram it all in… boring, generic, by-the-book, which is unfortunate for Marvel’s fist female-lead movie” – Medium Popcorn. 

“Packed with action! Humour! And visual thrills!! With an origin story that makes effective use of the franchise’s signature formula!” 

Uff, well, that’s a loada’ cobblers…

Allow me to suggest (mercifully briefly!why this movie is regarded as  “good, but not great.”

Apart from the obvious observation that Larson lacks charisma, consider how Captain Marvel is supposed to be an origins story. Despite countless versions of this theme – some produced, remarkably well, within the MCU itself over this past decade! – the only spectacular revelation to be had here is the way it fails in this regard.

Bafflingly, the core of this movie is mysteriously bereft of a hero(ine)’s journey, so no revelation, atonement, redemption, or moral/ethical self-discovery. 

Wow, she had no misdeeds and failings to rectify; no life-changing lessons to learn; no knowledge to attain; no challenges to overcome; therefore, we feel no curiosity or compulsion to follow what happens to her. Subjected to the full blast of the Kree core engine does not count as a “personal transformation.”

Ultimately, this is all a meaningless spectacle. 

Always appreciated the origins story of Marvel’s other Cap: the classic, compelling Captain America: First Avenger. Where was the stirring equivalent “world doesn’t need a perfect soldier, but a good man,” speech amidst this mess? We waited and waited again for something other than a perfect Power Lady (so she doesn’t need to learn great responsibility either, yay!) but the real good – i.e. relatable, compassionate, etc. – Carol Danvers failed to show up…

Yeah, but wasn’t Goose purrrfect?! 

No.

When the “cat” freaks out, tentacles an’ all, it suddenly felt like a Men In Black movie – truly, one of the most abhorrent experiences anybody could suffer in a cinema…

Can’t get over the fact that the script is unbelievably inept. The dialogue is so clunky – Captain Clunky!

Despite having the “Supreme intelligence” onboard, there are too many dumb moments; considering all that flying: in jets, spaceships or just as herself, her “character” never gets off the ground…

This blog has been honed to practice (and hopefully perfect) my story-telling skills, for when my movie/TV breakthrough eventually comes my humble way. And yet this esteemed gig goes to…

this gaggle of amateurs…?!

Behold: the Plight of the Livid Brad?

Not at all.

Yours truly is too tired to generate any antipathy towards anyone or anything these days. So to read about these ignorant trolls wasting their energies – and our time – spewing their, quite frankly, pathetic Caps-Lock-laden rants at something they haven’t even bothered to watch(!) makes for the most bewildering behaviour.

Have reached that stage in my life whereby the race, sex – or even sexual orientation – of a character has become irrelevant, how that character is developed (or not!) however, means everything to me. 

“The film may be about women breaking their shackles, but the lead actress feels kept in check for much of the picture. Humor winds up being provided by Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury, heart by Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau, and pathos by…well, it ain’t Larson” – San Diego Reader. 

Having watched her in a couple of TV promotional interviews, Brie Larson comes across as witty and charming, so it’s a shame that “Vers”/Carol is denied the chance to bring these qualities to this muddled mix.   

Out of 21 movies, this is the first with a female lead… 

…and yet, instead, we’re all raving about how cool and funny Samuel L. Jackson as a remarkably-undistracting-de-aged Nick Fury turned out to be…

Fortunately, this interplay between Brie and Sam is fun and entertaining to watch – they obviously got along fine and dandy whilst working on Kong: Skull Island (gee, remember that?!)

Considering how Brie has signed a SEVEN-movie contract with Marvel, ensuring this Cap’s prominent role in the MCU’s Next Phase, this movie should have delivered a more substantial, more distinctive, and, if you will, more thought-provoking introduction to supposedly the most powerful hero in the MCU. Up until now, this franchise looked, and felt, meticulously planned, years in advance – from its expansive plot-unfolding to those subtle Easter Eggs – and yet this movie feels too muddled, as if hastily thrown together at-the-last-minute just to appease the crowd who have been crying out forever for a female-led Marvel superhero movie. Thus, it does not present a suitable prelude to Avengers: Endgame, in which the hotly-anticipated rematch against Thanos may likely culminate in GOOSE GOING FOR THE HEAD.

Whatever’s in store, in the ever-reliable hands of the Russo brothers, Avengers: Endgame ought to be a more epic and engaging eyeful than what we got here…

Yep, Captain Marvel is now the most powerful hero in the MCU. 

Can’t dispute that. 

She single-handedly drained my will to write for at least ten days after my trip to the cinema. And almost depleted my enthusiasm for the upcoming Endgame (!) 

One fan Comment summed it up perfectly: “If Captain Marvel has to fight Thanos, I’ll be rooting for Thanos…”

Sure, the Captain Marvel movie mahelp pass the time, but it’s not worth dropping into a Blockbuster™ for…

 

“I could 

NOT 

BELIEVE 

what I was watchin’! I almost threw my chicken strips at the screen, man!” – rapper59.

 

Sphare Sechs – Phase II: Mellow Music Monday

We Have Loved The Stars Too Fondly To Be Fearful Of The Night…  

To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit” – Stephen Hawking.

 

“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” – Carl Sagan.   

 

 

“The Woman Is Breaking Free!”: The Evolution And Revolution Of Women In SF

A Look At Women’s Roles In SF On International Women’s Day 

“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?” – Ellen Ripley.  

Many many moons ago, at school, there was one quick, and somewhat sad, way to tell the difference between boys and girls:  

boys read science fiction – girls did not.

Traditionally, my fav genre had been restricted to being a “Boy’s Own” pursuit long before my arrival on this Pale Blue Dot. My constant comic-reading consisted of Starhawk, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper – all male characters, of course! – used to irk some of the girls in my class no end. Despite trying to hide my mags, or chuck them over the playground wall, they never directly expressed any curiosity, or interest, in this reading-material. Shame, ‘cos such interaction might have extricated me from my insufferable shell a lot sooner…

No worries.

Science fiction has always exuded a voracious appetite for change. And to reflect those gradual, now quickening, changes in society, most notably in attitudes towards, and rights affecting, women, the genre has dramatically achieved so much to this end and, promisingly, continues to do so. 

To accompany this analysis, there will be a selection from the feminine side of Brad’s jukebox: 

“This is what Jodie Foster said when she first looked at me: ‘You’re not nearly as big as I thought you’d be.’ I thought she was joking so I kind of giggled but she kept laying it on thicker and thicker… She wouldn’t let up. I was a little crushed…” – Dave Bautista. 

At its best, science fiction makes us THINK.

And there was one particularly awesome comicbook cover that single-handedly altered my mindset in regards to women in SF.

In one of my most beloved books from the Library Brad Manor, a compendium: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares (1978) – “Dedicated to those who haven’t landed yet” 😉 – on page 40 to be exact (that fact is proudly printed indelibly in my memory), this exquisite classic vintage cover (by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, above) of Weird Fantasy #21 made me realise the potential of incorporating strong, distinctive female characters in my own fiction. 

Note how the traditional gender roles haye been reversed: this woman – armed and sensibly-dressed (obligatory goldfish-bowl permitting) – assumes an assured, active and commanding position in the foreground while the male is reduced to just scantily-clad manflesh. Bold, and very progressive, especially when you consider this artwork was originally published – slapbang in that “Boy’s Own” era – in 1953!

2000AD – still “the longst-running comic in the galaxy” – has always been considered to be an highly-esteemed tag to have on any comic writer’s/artist’s resume, and yet it’s most notable alumni began their respective careers… working on girls’ comics!

Lately, my scope of classic comics has veered towards British publications of the ’70s. Whilst searching for the “lost Starhawk stories,” in The Crunch, imagine my astonishment, but sheer delight, upon discovering “Ebony”: a black, female MI5 agent; for 1977, this looked like an extremely impressive and empowering premise –  the spitting image of Nina Simone, she’s every bit as tough and classy as Pam Grier! And way too cool to be this obscure. (Not surprisingly, there are no clear images of her online).

While stories for boys centred on action, comics for girls concentrated on romance. 

Interestingly enough, there was indeed only one (albeit short-lived) British SF/fantasy comic for girls from that time: SpellboundHeard a lot of encouraging items about one of its contents – that quartet of enhanced femme fatales: the Super-Cats, so will endeavour to check out this “Fabulous Four.”

Back then, one would have been branded a “sissy” if seen with a girls’ comic, but now, who cares…? 

“Let me tell you something about sexism, girl. When you wear that costume, it cheapens you, but when I wear it, it cheapens them. It’s all about how you use it” – Emma Frost. 

How apt: playing this on the Eighth Day of this month 😉

No NO, Lady Go-Go! 

Let Hazel show you what a bona fide unorthodox-but-awesome songstress really looks and sounds like!:

J. Jonah Jameson: “You! Ms. Marvel!! I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad, it doesn’t matter – you’re all the same. You’ve got to be stamped out… and if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, lady, you will be!” 

Ms. Marvel: (I hear you, J. Jonah, and I’d love to argue the point, if I had the time… but I don’t. I doubt you’d listen anyway. Still, that’ll probably become one more editorial hassle Carol Danvers doesn’t need…)  

“The horrible immorality” argued Anatole France, ominously, as early as 1905, “…is to be the morality of the future.”

Whereas bygone authors of general fiction felt restricted from writing about the realities of human relationships, science fiction auteurs went ahead anyway and experimented with gender as well as genetics, and sex and sexuality in addition to science and scientific plots.

The main credit for breaking through the barriers of taboo is usually given to Philip Jose Farmer, whose The Lovers (1952) dealt with the unfortunate consequences of a love-affair between a man and an alien, although some would argue that Nice Girl With Five Husbands  (1951) by Fritz Leiber, at last deserves critical reappraisal.

The 1960s proved permissive enough to see an influx of more gender-based stories; Harlan Ellison’s anthology: Dangerous Visions (1967) confirmed that any speculative fiction concerning sexual matters could thenceforth be published, while the ground-breaking Left Hand Of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin offered a more sensitive approach to sexual roles and mores. The 1970s witnessed an increase in feminity – and feminism – through science fiction with the most prominent examples being: When It Changed (1972) by Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy’s Woman On The Edge Of Time (1976). 

More varied roles for female characters appeared on a relatively healthy basis up to the end of the 20th century, and beyond, culminating in the current blossoming subgenre of YA fiction.

Princess Leia: “All troop carriers will assemble at the north entrance. The heavy transport ships will leave as soon as they’re loaded. Only two fighter escorts per ship. The energy shield can only be opened for a short time, so you’ll have to stay very close to your transports.”

Hobbie Klivian: “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?”

Princess Leia: “The ion cannon will fire several shots to make sure any enemy ships will be out of your flight path. When you’ve gotten past the energy shield, proceed directly to the rendezvous point. Understood? Good luck.”

Arguably, the strongest, most positive female role in science fiction has to be Ellen Ripley, superbly played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver. 

The character had originally been written as male, but Sigourney impressed the director: Ridley Scott to such an extent that he not only changed the course of movie history, but furthered the opportunities for women’s roles in science fiction. Crucially, when she returned in the equally-impressive sequel: Aliens (1986), the addition of terrorised infant, Newt, allowed Ripley’s character to be enhanced by expressing long-suppressed calm and compassionate maternal instincts.

We inevitably turn our attention to the woman’s role that defined its time: Princess Leia, immortalised by the late great Carrie Fisher. 

Some would argue that she was upstaged by that young farm boy; he was the one who destroyed the Death Star and received the glory, cake and medal, but the cultural – and psychological –  impact that Leia had on each generation over the last forty years makes said space station look like a ping pong ball…

“Well somebody has to save our skins…”

But that was before the dark times.

Before Disney…

What chance do we have? The question is “what choice.” Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces. You give way to an enemy this evil, with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!” – Jyn Erso.

In this modern Star Wars era, there is, alas, not much to get excited about.

The lone redeeming item is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It offers a striking lead performance by Felicity Jones – an ingenious case of casting as Jyn Erso; her soft and slight build belies the fact that she has had to become tough, confident and resourceful – she was more of a “rebel” in every sense of the term than any other member of that Rebel Alliance. 

One of the multiple problems that beset Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the baffling observation that although the cast featured a commendable and considerable number of female figures in its cast, due to poor writing, strong, discernible characters did not manage to flourish. 

Naturally – ‘cos you know it’s Brad – we come to the MCU, the franchise that just keeps on giving. There are various instances of strong and commanding superheroines therein, to name but a few:  

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the only reason to watch Iron Man 2 (which should have been the Black Widow we all deserve!) and she further excels in the Avengers movies AND Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Hayley Atwell is exceptional as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger; whilst my personal fav (see below!): she’s not a queen, or a monster, she’s Hela, the Goddess of Death.

And we come to the latest – and possibly most game-changing – instalment: Captain Marvel. 

Where there’s good, there’s bad – cue the rise of that “horrible immorality” in the repugnant form of sexist trolls who have crawled out of the depths of their own ignorance, this time, to belittle Brie Larson: the first female lead in a Marvel movie. Rather than shut down her TwitFace™ account (or whatever you blessed younglings call the bally thing) she’s done what any honourable superhero would do: STRIKE BACK.

“Up an’ at ’em, lady!” 

“You know, I used to want to be a Valkyrie when I was younger, until I found out you were all women. There’s nothing wrong with women, of course, I like women. Sometimes a little too much. Not in a creepy way, just more like a respectful appreciation. I think it’s great, an elite force of women warriors” – Thor. 

And so, considering how – over thirty decades ago – such a prospect would have seemed unthinkable (certainly in my school yard), SF enjoys a poignant and promising age in which more girls and young women than ever before actively watch science fiction movies at the cinema, read SF novels – AND comics!! –  participate in, and cosplay, at comic conventions in record numbers. More crucially, some have been inspired to create their own far-reaching fiction!

Let me say how, for me, this is a genuinely thrilling and reassuring situation to behold. Long may it continue! 

Let me finish by saying just this: 

Those girls who, back in the day, nabbed my comics, now, most likely, have daughters who wholeheartedly embrace science fiction! 

And, what’s more, if they can craft an intergalactic saga better than anything this humble ol’ nerfherder could muster, then that would be really groovy. 

“Go get ’em, girls!”

 

Sarah Connor: “Kyle, the women in your time, what are they like?”

Kyle Reese: “Good fighters.”

 

The Spinners – The Rubberband Man: MARVEL Music Monday

S P A C E 

Peter Quill: “Wow. This is a real wake-up call for me. Okay, I’m gonna get a Bowflex. I’m gonna commit. I’m gonna get some dumbbells.”

Rocket Raccoon: “You know you can’t eat dumbbells, right?”

 

To fellow survivors of THE SNAP,

How ya doin’? 

Excited for Captain MarvelThis Friday? 

Now we know that the 21st instalment of the MCU will be set in 1995, and the inclusion of music from that year appearing on the Soundtrack has been confirmed, yours truly immediately set about investigating which tracks had been chosen, so this groovy MARVEL Music Monday post could be put together.

The OST will not be released until this Friday, and there is absolutely NO advance tidbits released to dashing members of the press like myself. Shame: ended up devising my own 90s Playlist whilst compiling my History of Carol Danvers – that Post should be up well before this Friday! 😉 Found one song featured on a Cap Marvel TV Spot, but alas, that platter just happens to be one of the most annoying released during that year! (Hope the final track selection is cool, but already have my doubts…)

Sheesh, what is Brad ta do?! It’s almost Tuesday, fer cake’s sake! 

No worries.

One of the many many reasons why last year’s Avengers: Infinity War turned out to be such a MASTERPIECE was the oh-so-appropriate soul classic played to herald the entrance of the Guardians of the Galaxy – a welcome groovy interlude amidst those otherwise grim and gloomy proceedings, and, on its own, better than the whole disappointing Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 2. 

Let’s be honest: if the late, great Stan Lee created a superhero named Rubberband Man, he would have been just as dynamic  and iconic as all his other legendary characters! 😉

Sing it, Drax!

 

Peter Quill: “Everybody stay where you are. Chill the eff out. I’m gonna ask you this one time. Where is Gamora?”

Tony Stark: “Yeah, I’ll do you one better. Who’s Gamora?”

Drax: “I’ll do you one better. Why is Gamora?”

 

The Queen Of Madeira: The Spy Who Loved Me Cake

A dot.com Rom Com About A Hip Hop Chip Shop

jupiter_ascending__kalique_by_michaelkutsche-d97uj66

“It’s all so boring here, Margo – there’s nothing but playboys and tennis pros. If only I could find a real man” – Playgirl.

 

Topsy-Turvy Lvey-Dvey

Rumours are rife around the Rebellion that 

Queen Cherisasara of Madeira, in the Whoopeedoo System, is an Imperial spy.

Having just narrowly escaped the Ruckus in Star-Field Zigma 12,

Brad Burrito Fartlighter, the Rebellion’s most fecklessfearless man-of-action, 

has opted to investigate the matter, especially as

that pleasure planet is renowned throughout the galaxy for its

delectable sweet fancies.

So whilst waiting for the ravishing ruler to show up,

your hero is entertaining the pretty Princess Gamelan at the Royal Court…

 

“Y’see, lov. it wuz like this,” Brad gesticulated. “I just manoeuvred straight down this trench and skimmed the surface to this point. The target area was only two meters wide. It was a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port… but enough of this technical gubbins! ‘Ow ya bin doin’, Gammy?”

“Awesome as always, Mr. B, but enough about me – I take it the shaft was ray-shielded, so you had to use proton torpedoes?”

“You’re tellin’ me! It- say! You’re wasted at this royal court, lov. Ya could-“

At that moment, the heavy gilded double-doors of the Throne Room flung open, and in marched an official magisterial entourage.

“BEHOLT!” cried a whining and insubordinate voice. “Mek ware fer Hair Illuztriouz Majezty: Queen Cherizazara!”

The princess bolted straight to her feet; Brad stayed sprawled across his glitzy beanbag.

An elegant and deliriously beautiful verdant-skinned young woman swayed majestically across the gleaming marble floor. A trio of Diluvian dwarf-girls carried the extensive chiffon train of her elaborate silk costume.

“Remove the harlot from my sight, immediately!” she snapped, but with such a rich and mellifluous voice. “Leave us, Chamberlain!”

“Vhot?! Year Majezty! Leaf yo ELLURN wiv ze alien?!”

The Queen of Madeira shot one disdainful glance at your hero and snarled: “This… Earthling… should not give me any… trouble… Now, Chamberlain, be GONE!”

But Year Majezty, Ay muzt protezt-!”

“I’m the QUEEN! TRY ME!”

“But yo muzt moof-!”

“I DON’T MOVE when you want me to move! And I don’t groove when you tell me to groove! ‘Cos I’m the QUEEN! And I always will be! Now… pathetic. Little… man. Get OUT, before I throw you out…!”

The Queen gnashed her teeth, observing venomously as her officials, the princess and servant-girls all scurried out; the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger watched in fascination.

“Impressive. Most impressive…” he muttered, clambering to his feet.

The emerald enchantress rotated impatiently on her formidable stilettos and marched menacingly towards your calm and collected hero; her lustrous, but intimidatng, hazel eyes seared into his cute blues. 

“SO…!” the Queen of Madeira snarled. “What’s your story? It had better be good or I’ll-I’ll… …!”

Unexpectedly, she fell silent, looking around anxiously to check if her minions had all gone.

“Oh, what the heck, they have all gone, haven’t they…? Good. Come here, baby…

In that instant, all her rage dissipated, and she hurled her lithe figure into the Earthman’s arms.

“Hiya, Hotshot! How you doing?!”

“Sound as a pound, lov.”

“Ha ha, HA, that’s my Brad!”

She stepped back, taking in a thorough butcher’s at him, then shook his hunky torso playfully.

“Whoo, lookachu!!”

“Uh-huh, look at me…”

“Gawd, yer even MORE ridiculously good-lookin’ than ever! How do ya do it, baby?!”

“‘Ow much time ya got, Yer Maj…?”

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“Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?” – Maya Angelou.

The Queen of Madeira led Brad to her Royal Lounge, a sumptuous chamber strewn with even larger glitzy beanbags; intricate mosaics decorated the floor while sumptuous murals adorned the ceiling; an open, ornate balcony overlooked the main foyer. She guided him over to a large, opulent couch-for-two; she reclined, slowly and sensuously, enticing him to repose beside her. 

“Tell me, Brad, what… …” she exclaimed softly, then tugged at his jacket to catch his attention. “Hello, handsome… are you receiving me, over… …?!” 

He could not speak (yet), otherwise entranced by the winsome smile radiating from her glistening fuchsia lips, the billowing violet, candy floss “hair” and the divine caress of her intoxicating vanilla perfume. 

“Ah, Cherry, I’ve missed you…” he eventually sighed, savouring the velvety mattress beneath him.

“As always, I am transfixed by the exquisite lustre in yer eyes, 

A glow that shines like the sunrise. 

When first we met, me heart flew high, 

On gleaming wings through a cloudless sky.  

You ta me are ev’rythin’, 

The sweetest song that I can sing…” 

“Whoo, really…? Say, Hotshot, all that cake has certainly given you a sweet mouth, hasn’t it…?!” she sniggered bashfully.

“Okay… There is a very special man, 

Who came from far, far away. 

He visits me but only once in a crimson moon, 

But not a day later can he stay. 

Our song of love is pure and fair 

All hurt the music can repair. 

How cute and extraordinary this dude from “Earth,”

All those fleeting moments when he excites my heart, I love a lifetime’s worth.”

“Nice… but then again, ya can’t beat a good slice o’ Madeira Cake. Or three…”

“Thank you! So tell me, Brad, were you and… that lil cupcakeexchanging equally heartfelt lines when I came in? You know she’s bad news in cheap make-up…”

“What, Gammy? Aww, she’s a good girl, causin’ no-“

“No trouble? Uff, she’s a constant pain – always poking her snooty lil nose in my affairs. She’s untrustworthy – she’ll betray us both one day…” 

“By Holdo’s Beard! Tha’s nah way ta talk abaht yer own sister! Look, she only requested some cake recipes, an’ I obliged, like…”

A lengthy disbelieving pause, until the Queen of Madeira slapped her mouth to stifle shrieks of laughter. 

“Oh, YOU! That’s the lamest fib I’ve ever heard. Ha! For once, your wicked way with words FAILS you, Brad. That’s the most-” 

“‘Onest statement. She fancied some’t other than Madeira Cake fer a change…” 

Cherry leant forward, placing the flexed fingers of her right, bejewelled hand to the side of his head, then darted back in astonishment. 

“By the crystal foxes of Crait…” she gasped. “You’re… telling the truth…?!” 

“I got no reason ta lie ta you, Cherry… an’ you KNOW that, too… Speaking of truth…” 

“Yes, yes, I picked it up in the mind-meld as well – it dominates your thoughts. Rajendra and your rebel-buddies all believe that I’m an Imperial spy… Those… rumours have gotten out of control… They’re sooo… ridiculous…!” She skimmed his luscious lips with one of her extended, extensively-painted fingernails. “…An’ you KNOW that!”

“Yyyyyeah, I guess so…”

“You KNOW so! Look, every time you’re here, Brad, it’s such a thrill… Just how long have you been fighting with the Rebellion? Are you closer now to defeating the Empire than you were… Dyzan knows how many years ago…?! Walk away from it all, baby…”

“Come again, lov…?!” 

“Leave the war behindStay here, in my palace, and we can enjoy the myriad delights of Madeira together…

Can you stay…?

Can you be mine…?

Can you… be… my love forever more… …?”

“Yes, I can be… but part o’ me is always gonna be itchin’ ta get aht an’ thwart the Empire as much as poss… Aww, ‘eck... I’ll STAY! Oh yes, Cherry. A thousand times, yes, I’ll be YOURS. Throughaht the galaxy there’s NAHbody:

as beautiful,

as dazzlin’,

as intelligent,

as charmin’-“

“As groovy…?!”

“Not ‘arf, lov! Yeah, there’s nahbody as groovy as you… Fer you, Yer Maj, I can be anythin’ you wan’ me to be… Anythin’, lov… … as long as it’s not an Admiral wiv pink ‘air… …” 

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“It’s my secret pleasure moon. I have a little palace there built just for two” – Princess Aura. 

“There’s something I’ve simply got to tell you, baby…” the Queen announced.

“Mmm, okey-dokey, lov – I’m all ears-“

A sensor on her bracelet bleeped manically. “Oh, fudge!” she cursed.

“Oh, I’ve ‘eard that many times before…”

“What? No, not that. Please excuse me, Brad, I’ve got to take this call… Um, I’ll see that my royal chefs prepare you the finest spicy meal – the way you like it!” 

“Ooh, goody gumdrops! Bless yer heart, Cherry…”

“Ha ha! Thought you’d dig that! Won’t be a minute, baby…” 

She swanned over to her office chamber and activated her vid-conf system; a familiar Dark Lord appeared onscreen, beaming devilishly.

“Hello, preetty! ‘Tiz done?”

“Yes, yes, Zeg, the Earthling is here with me…”

“Goot! Ay shell dizpetch may fainezt deeveejun uv Shokk Troopairz to appreehent heem! Heh heh… Yo hef done well, Yair Majezty!”

“No, not at all… Now you listen here, Lord Tosspot: I only agreed to this rotten plan to prevent you from foisting one of your blasted garrisons on my territory! But to betray this hero? Nuh-uh, I’m not going to comply any more-“

“A footile murve. HA, yo kennot deny eet: Madeira belurngz to Zan Doka! End ze Urfzcurm eez main! Main, Ay tell yo, main main MAIN!”

“NEVER… We will never see that-“

“Urv course… Ay ken mek eet eeziair fer yo – jurrrrroin weev me! End togezzair ve shell rule ze galaxy ez huzzbend end WAIFE!”

“I’ll never join you! Demented little Zandokan cu-“

“ZYLENZ! Knur yer plazz, woman!”

“Uff, I know it all too well, Crotchstain. Always – ALWAYS! – parsecs ahead of the likes of you. Doing EVERYTHING in my POWER to deny you and your despicable Imperial hordes whatever you crave! For the pride of my people. And then some…”

“Heh, yo try ta fool Zegreatme?! Yo VEEL be main, darleenk! Dyzan decreez eet! Ve vill BREEEED weev yo, end our Empeerial prurgeny-“

Ugh, hush up, NO! By the crimson moon, a thousand times no!! I’d rather kiss a skunk-“

“Hmm, zpeakeenk urv zkurnkz… vot do yo zee in zat Urfmairn?! Hee’z recklezz! Pennilezz! Hopelezz! AY em Zegreatme, Dark Lord uv Zan Doka! Ve ken leef een ENNY WUN urv may DOZAIN palazzez! VOT do yo ZEE een a BURM like ZAT?!”

“That’s something a chauvinist like you will NEVER understand…”  

“Grrr, but vhy HEEM? Vhy, vhy?! Tell me VHY!”

“Can you keep a secret?”

YEZ!”

“Good boy. Over and out.”

Princess Leia: “You make it so difficult sometimes.”

Han Solo: “I do, I really do. You could be a little nicer, though. Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I’m alright.”

Princess Leia: “Occasionally, maybe… when you aren’t acting like a scoundrel.”

Han Solo: “Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that…”

“Confound it,” the Queen growled as she returned to her special guest. “CONFOUND it!” 

“Whassup? Run ahtta salad?”

“What? Oh… no, it’s- Like I said, I’ve really got something to tell you, baby…”

“‘Ey, wotcha frettin’ abaht…? Y’know, Yer Maj, I’ve never seen ya lose yer cool-

“Yeah, yeah, baby, but please listen-“

Suddenly, the double-doors downstairs swung violently open.

“I got THAT awright!” 

“No! It’s- aow, HELL – it’s too late… …”

Brad peered over the balcony and yelped as a division of Shokk Troopers burst in: “‘ULK IN AN ‘OT TUB! Zandokans!! ‘Ow the blazes did THEY get in ‘ere?!” 

“THAT is what I’ve… been trying to tell you… Forgive me, Brad, I-I… granted them permission to come here… to capture you…”

“Cherry, no… Say it ain’t so…” his lip quivered as he drew his blaster.

The Queen of Madeira could not bear to gaze into his crestfallen face. “Please, Commander, try to understand – with the Empire vying to wrest my sovereignty away from me on one side, and my beleaguered council trying to retain social order on the other, I had to… play along…”

“Aow… maybe yer… playin’ along wiv me now…” Brad sulked, desperately trying to quash a wodge of mistrust swelling in his heart. “This ‘ole charade wuz a TRAP… an’ – jeez – fer once I fell fer it..?! Not me, not now! No way, no ‘ow!”

“Oh no, my sweet! I would NEVER- You must NOT think like tha- WATCH OUT!” 

The Troopers hurtled into view, and the queen grabbed your hero, and away they fled down the marble-floored corridor. They could hear these one-dimensional extras clanking right after them in hot pursuit.

Along the way, Cherry activated an emergency panel in the wall and, brandishing a phase-plasma rifle, fired warning shots at the approaching Imperial troopers, who – upon running into range – immediately ducked for cover:

“Do you think you can trust me, now, handsome…?!”

“‘Whoo, outta sight. Long Live The Queen ‘Ere, ‘ang on…” Brad protested, gawping in amazement. “Tha’s not in the script…! “I’m the ‘ero! ‘Ow come yer gun’s bigger than mine?!”

“That’s life, honeybunch…”

“Ha! Funny girl- ‘Ey, this auto-door! In ‘ere, quick!” 

“No, Brad, that’s my-!” 

He burst into a small, but refined room, where dozens of ornate, shimmering garments bedecked glittering racks along both walls.

“Dear Barbara… Gedda loada’ the fancy clobber in ‘ere…”

“-My walk-in-wardrobe, sir.”

“Groovy. We can disguise ourselves as a coupla’ Jawas an’ split while the Shokkers are still scopin’…”

“Bra-ha-had, no-ho-ho! Funny boy!” the queen cried hysterically, trying to stifle a fit of royal giggles. She frantically closed and locked the auto-door behind them, hoping that any Zandokans hadn’t heard her outburst.

They gazed at each other amorously in the half-light, listening to their biochemech pursuers lurking stealthily just outside… 

“We ought to be “in danger”…” she whispered ever so demurely. “But- but why oh why do I… feel so… absolutely safe with you…?”

“‘Cos I’m the ‘ero?” he muttered ever so charmingly. “‘Cos I’m the one ‘oo – despite gettin’ constantly shot at – nevah gets ‘it…? Stay outta sight, lov…”

He gently prised the rifle from the Queen’s clutches and reached for the auto-door, intending to charge out blasting. “Bring ’em on, I’d prefer a straight fight ta all this sn-“

Suddenly, behind him, Cherry pressed against his back, wrapping her arms around his abs, holding him against her pounding chest.

“No, hotshot…” she insisted, almost breathlessly. “I’m NOT going to let you go… a-again. So many… MANY times I’ve let you fly off and do your… “hero-thing” all over the galaxy, but not… not this time, baby. Come on, let’s escape… together, far beyond these Troopers… the Empire… And everything…”

“Aww, Cherry, where could we go? Where CAN we go…? I’m a Wanted man in 12 systems, me!”

“Uh-huh, but nobody wants you more than the Queen of Madeira…” 

She began to fondle Brad’s hand.

“Stop that,” he requested.

Stop what?” she replied.

Stop that. Me mitts are dir’y.”

My hands are dirty too. What are you afraid of… …?”

Maude Lebowski: “Lord. You can imagine where it goes from here.”

The Dude: “He fixes the cable?”

Maude Lebowski: “Don’t be fatuous, Jeffrey.”

“In ‘ere… wiv you…” Brad exclaimed softly, “There’s no uvva place in the galaxy I’d rather be right now…” 

“Nice. How long have we been locked in this hug, baby…?”

“Dunno, lov. But definitely not as long as I’d like…”

“Aww, bless your heart, Brad. I thought we could get out of here now, but I can still hear them creeping around outside.”

“Nah, tha’s me stomach…” 

“Oh no! You still haven’t had that meal I promised you! So sorry, babe-” 

“No worries, Cherry. We’ve… ‘ad a busy day… It‘s been… dramatic-” 

“It’s been… unforgettable… I think we… especially youyou dashing thing, have waited long enough…” the Queen of Madeira panted tenderly in his ear, stepping back to unfasten her dress…

“…Strippin’ yer togs orf at a time like this?! Can ya do that?!”

“Try me, baby. I can do anything – ‘cos I’m the Queen!”

“An’ always will be…”

At that very moment, Brad squinted, and flung his hand up over his face as a piercing white light engulfed him. All Cherry could do was stand there, and watch, aghast and agitated, as all Brad could do was abruptly vanish amidst a portal of pulsating particles… …

 

“B-Baby… … …?”

 

 

When his sight had readjusted, your hero found himself standing on the teleporter of his own crate: the Calista Blockhead. His Second Officer: Lexi Wahldorf stood at the console, arms folded in a highly agitated manner…

“An’ jus’ what the blazes am I doin’ back ‘ere so soon?!” the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger growled incredulously.

“I- WE, had to get you away from the spy, pronto!” Lexi roared.

“Look, fer the umpteenth time, The Queen of Madeira AIN’T a spy!” 

“No, not the queen – the princess…” 

“Oh, come orf it! Gammy’s not in league wiv da Zandokans…”

“Course not, she’s OUR spy. General Rajendra himself requested that she report any shady shenanigans at the Madeiran Royal Court; several Imperial agents have infiltrated the queen’s staff already-“

“Blimey! Now that explains ‘er exceptionally avid interest in me adventures in Star-Field Zigma 12-“

“GAWD, you-! You make it SO difficult sometimes.”

“I do, I really- eh?! ‘Oo me? Nevah!” 

“Shoosh, Commander! YOU “great hero,” uff! – were interfering with her mission! You couldn’t stop pestering her-”

“I Wuzn’t!”

“Wuz so! You w-“

“Wuz. NOT. “Interferin’.” Lex. She only requested some cake recipes, an’ I obliged, like…” 

Lexi shook her head in appalled disbelief. “That’s the lamest fib I’ve ever heard… Ha! That’s the most-” 

“Look, Lex, ‘Er Majesty can verify that! She even put ‘er ‘and on my-“

“BRA-AD, be extra careful what you spout in front of your Second Officer, Commander!”

Hmm… an’ you be extra careful wotcha doin’ wiv yer Commander, Officer! You send me back right this instant, an’-“

“And just WHY did you pay a visit to Her Majesty, the Queen of Madeira…?”

“I’ll ‘ave ya know that I wuz… operatin’ as close advisor to ‘Er Maj-“

“Oho, TOO close, Commander. Your smug chops are splattered with HER blamed lipstick!!” 

“Ooh, Blimey Charley, are they really…?! Anyways, why did ya ‘ave ta get me aht then, jus’ as I wuz abaht ta-“

“I KNOW what you were about to do, Commander! That’s why I got you out then…”

“Yeah, but why, Lex? Why? Tell me WHY?!”

She stared intensely at him until her lips trembled:

“Do you not know… …?”

 

Prince Vultan: “That must be one hell of a planet you men come from!”

Flash Gordon: “Not too bad…”