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.
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…
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:
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: Spellbound. Heard 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…?
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!:
“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.
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.
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!”
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!”
“Air Force?! Well, why the heck not?” the young teen Carol Danvers wonders, having stormed out of the family home after yet another rowdy bust-up with her Pa.
A poster outside the local USAF Recruitment Office satisfies her longing for adventure, so the day after her 18th birthday: “without a word to her parents or a backward glance… she enlisted.”
The rest is…
A history – one of the most complex, convoluted, and controversial, of any comic book character.
Th original superhero to go by the epithet: “Captain Marvel” was Mar-Vell, created by Stan “The Man” Lee and “Genial” Gene Colan in 1968; he was introduced as a guardian of the Kree, protector of the planet Hala against the dreaded Skrulls. (More about them later).
The character of Carol Danvers appears to have been created – as that most lame women’s “role”: Captain Marvel’s love “interest” – by “Rascally” Roy Thomas and “Genial” Gene Colan. She first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968) as a non-superpowered USAF officer.
This is the very first scene to feature “Miss Danvers”:
Carol Danvers made her solo debut with Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) written by Chris (X-Men) Claremont.
Mar-Vell still retained the title of Captain Marvel, so to differentiate from him, Carol assumed the title of “Ms. Marvel” Apart from bare legs and midriff, she wore a very similar red and blue costume. At that time, the use of “Ms.” reflected bold feminist connotations – having left NASA to become Editor of the Daily Bugle’s Woman Magazine, Carol regularly “fought” Battle Of The Sexes duels with J. Jonah Jameson.
And won. Every time.
Despite this, it must be said that Marvel Comics originally had a rather half-hearted approach to female characters, with She-Hulk and Spiderwoman serving as just female variants if their more iconic male counterparts. Thus, regrettably, it seemed as though Ms. Marvel could do nothing but continue this trend.
The 1st ish of Ms. Marvel is impossible to find – and, thus, ridiculously expensive.
#5 (May 1977) – one of the better ishs, featuring a supercool guest star appearance by The Vision – includes some invaluable backstory.
During an intense duel between Captain Marvel and Colonel Yon Rogg – Carol had her notorious accident with a device known as the psyche-magnetron. Essentially, it spliced Mar-Vell’s DNA with hers: “she had the strength of ten men, the knwoledge and instincts of a Kree warrior, and thanks to a sophisticated electronic webbing built into her costume… she could fly.” Most crucially, she was possessed with that uniquely Kree power: a Seventh Sense in which she could anticipate danger before it occurred.
From ish #20, (October 1978) the “All-New” Ms. Marvel – the notorious black halter-neck leotard and longer boots (and, curiously-much-longer hair) – took over. It is in this garb that she first joined The Avengers. Unfortunately, the next stage of Carol’s “life” is the most controversial (and will only be mentioned briefly here).
In her essay: “The Rape Of Ms. Marvel,” comicbook historian Carol A Strickland criticized one Avengers storyline that concentrated on the “abduction and impregnation” of the Fighting Fury by Marcus (alleged son of Immortus). Why oh why did such an inappropriate and obscene plot have to sully none other than The Avengers #200?! As an Avengers fan for most of my life, it is outrageous – almost criminal! – that what should have been an epic landmark ish can never join my collection…
Moreover, where were the Comics Code Authority? How could they have “Approved” THIS?!
Even Claremont spoke out against it, and proceeded to “undo” this inappropriate storyline when he produced Avengers Annual #10 (1981). He further redeveloped Carol’s character whilst working on The Uncanny X-Men. During one cosmic adventure: #164 (December 1982), an alien race known as The Brood imbue her with energy manipulation and absorption powers and thenceforth, she becomes known as “Binary.” Essentially she could generate the power of a star.
When she soon reverts to her Ms. Marvel persona, Carol retains these powers.
The very first grapic novel in comics history happened to be Death Of Captain Marvel, featuring the demise of Mar-Vell (in 1982) but Carol did not assume the Captaincy right away. No, the first female hero to use this title was an African-American: Monica Rambeau (seen in her white and black garb on the cover above).
Incidentally, in the upcoming movie, Carol’s best friend is fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, Monica’s mum – an interesting twist to the origins story.
Considering the Kree-Skrull War’s overwhelming importance in the comics – in fact, “The Kree-Skrull War” happened to be Marvel Comics’ first major cosmic story-arc, featured in The Avengers in 1971, written by Roy Thomas, with art provided by Neal Adams and both Buscemas (John and Sal).
With such multiple plot-threads, it is difficult to determihe which aspects, if any, will make it into this movie. It is surprising how no mention of that major, seemingly-eternal conflict has not featured in the MCU.
Strangely enough, although Ms. Marvel spent the first few ishs of her solo ’70s series trying to come to terms with her Kree powers, there was never any mention of the Skrulls: sinister alien shapeshifters.
However, in Marvel Team-Up # 62 she joins Spidey to fight the Super-Skrull: a Skrull antagonist possessing the powers of the Fantastic Four (see below):
July 2012 marked the moment when Carol Danvers officially assumed the title of Captain Marvel.
In a dramatic reintroduction of the character, its writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, had offered an irresistible pitch: it could “pretty much be summed up with ‘Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.'”
Carol rejoined The Avengers the following year, starring in the Captain Marvel / Avengers Assemble crossover storyline: “The Enemy Within”. She and her Avenger teammates must do battle with Yon-Rogg, the Kree officer responsible for the explosion that caused her to receive her powers, and in defeating the Kree, Danvers loses her memories...
And in May 2014, Carol Danvers joined the Guardians Of The Galaxy.
When asked, during one interview, that all-important-question:
“Who is the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe?”
the late, great Stan Lee immediately replied:
“Galactus. Without a doubt.”
Continuing the MCU’s unabashed trend of distorting the original comicbook plotlines, Kevin Feige – Marvel Studios’ Head Honcho – has stipulated that Captain Marvel IS the most powerful being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it is intriguing to discover that the Captain Marvel movie will be set in the ’90s – most tantalisingly, over twenty years before Tony Stark became Iron Man…
It will certainly be interesting to see a de-aged and patchless Nick Fury and such familiar faces as Korath and Ronan again.
Unlike Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War – both devoured (with glee) on their respective days of release – this blogger won’t be watching the 21st instalment of the MCU until next week.
Why?! you cry.
Saving it for a (hopefully special) birthday treat 🙂
Captain Marvel: Die Hard With Avengers 😉
Captain Marvel is released this Friday: March 8 2019 – International Women’s Day(!)
To fellow survivors of THE SNAP,
How ya doin’?
Excited for Captain Marvel? This 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!
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!
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”
Love, light and peace. 🙂
I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night…
Heck, this man only happens to be Nicolas frickin’ Cage! Here he’s Red Miller, a lumberjack, but – hoo boy! – he’s NOT okay. “Crying?” Ha! That’s putting it mildly. Brooding in his bathroom, Cage is growling with grief and hollerin’ with hate in his own legendary, inimitable way, splashing vodka down his throat and over his wounds, ‘cos a wacko redneck hippy cult known as Children Of The New Dawn infiltrated the blissful, pine-scented haven in the Pacific Northwest which he had shared with his girlfriend, Mandy. Until they killed and cremated her...
From Panos (Beyond The Black Rainbow) Cosmatos, prepare for a blood-red phantasmagoria of ethereal imagery and INSANE violence.
Just one long horrific gonzo bloodfest, this most certainly is not.
No, in one of its most striking scenes, in order “to get the girl,” Brother Swan drives deep into the woods and blows the Horn of Abraxas, thus summoning a biker gang known as the Black Skulls – NOT your ordinary bunch of drug-addled Peter Fondas. This movie rams all logic and reality into the furnace, revelling instead as an almost-delirious, acid-drenched dark fantasy. Therefore these queasy riders just happen to be monstrous psychos in spiked leather gear – as if they chugged in from Mordor via the Mad Max wasteland – “speaking” with suitably deep and demonic drawls. Mercifully, we never get a proper butcher’s at their ugly mugs – perhaps it’s just as well! Once, apparently, they were normal men, but The Chemist cooked up “a special batch” of psychedelicacies, transforming them into the freakiest bunch of devilish antagonists since Hellraiser’s cenobites. They’re mostly depicted as menacing figures, eerily silhouetted against the thick, crimson smog…
As you just heard, the intense images herein are ably and effectively complemented by Johann (Arrival) Johannsson’s in turns blistering and breathtaking soundtrack. Sadly, Johann passed away shortly before the film’s release last October, so there is a message: “Dedicated to our friend Johann Johannsson” during the end credits – the only time this whole production presents something sane and respectful.
Arguably the outstanding track is the Love Theme; wonderfully evocative of Vini Reilly AND Robert Fripp at their sublime best- it’s uncanny. Even reminded me of Popol Vuh’s mesmerising score for Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1974), itself a dizzying descent (down the Amazon river) into an ever-swirling madness.
If you go down in the woods tonight – hey! – you’re sure of Nicolas Cage being your BIG surprise! Having already played the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance – (twice!) Nasty Nic knows plenty about exacting big paybacks.
Here – by Jove! – he’s as cross as two sticks. And crazy?! Oh yes. Ol’ Rage Cage is – as we say in Blighty – a few Hobnobs™ short of a full packet…
Speaking of hobnobs, the leader of the New Dawn cult is Jeremiah Sand, a Manson-like, failed musician nutjob played by Linus Roache. Personally, it wasn’t his performance that unsettled me, but his uncanny resemblance to a disgraced ’70s UK children’s TV presenter…
Thou shalt not mess with an unbalanced woodsman who makes his living using a chainsaw. Well, really: you’d think those dozy Dawn dipwits would know that!
Straight after his beloved has been killed, Red staggers indoors; the Children forgot to switch the TV off: cue the movie’s most surreal moment: a bizarre (and thankfully FAKE) commercial for Cheddar Goblin, a horrendous puppet barfing cheezy chunks over a couple of giggling children sitting at their breakfast table!
In order to wreak his lunatic revenge spree against Sant, his New Dawners AND the Black Skulls, Red pays a visit to an old chum: Caruthers (played by Bill “Predator” Duke) a taciturn recluse who lives in a dilapidated trailer elsewhere in the forest. He’s been looking after “The Reaper”: Red’s CROSSBOW.
And that’s not all! Whoa, no!
Red even goes to the trouble of forging The Beast: his very own badass hippy-hackin’ AXE. Ah, those Dwarf-lords in their mountain halls would have been proud…
It’s very convenient that Red has someone like Caruthers with which to discuss his revenge-spree. At one point, Caruthers remarks: “These arrows cut through the bone like a fat kid eats cake.”
HELLO? DID ANYBODY SAY CAKE?! 😉
Mandy herself – played here by Andrea Riseborough – exudes a fragile and doe-eyed beauty, and uet there’s something creepy anout her otherwise innocent look. It’s like watching Shelley Duvall in The Shining all over again…
Although its never mentioned, Mandy seems to have suffered a shocking experience at some point in her past, for she has totally withdrawn from civilization, to nestle in the healing tranquility of nature, and while away her days producing comic book art. And reading dark fantasy novels. It would have been nice to see more of Andrea (Birdman) Riseborough and Nicolas (Birdy) Cage together, but let’s face it: this “visionary director” seemed far too eager to bring on this
If teenage Brad had gawped at this, he would certainly have squealed with delight at the numerous sequences of blood-spewing on display here. But these days…
Perhaps it’s a tad too excessive (for me).
Perhaps one has reached that stage in life where the flow of excellently-crafted words pouring forth is infinitely more preferable…
There’s no point in developing these one-dimensional cult members – everybody knows that gruesome ends await each one of them anyway! As to be expected, Red is haunted by disturbing dreams, but here, all those brief sequences are… animated.
And – oh yes – there’s a tiger. A live – not animated, LIVE – tiger. What’s it doing there…? Heck, not even yer ol’ buddy Brad can explain that one…
Apart from a President Reagan speech on the car radio, and a couple of retro football shirts, there is little indication to suggest that this “supremely unnerving horror dimension” is actually set in 1983. Retrobrad had half-expected an ’80s soundtrack(!), but: soz, folks, there’s no Cyndi Lauper or Kajagoogoo to bop along to here…
However, there is an intriguing assortment of retro-references. The chainsaw duel is reminiscent of the duel featured in The Texas Chinsaw Massacre 2 (1986). And these proceedings commence with the classic Universal Pictures logo from the 70s (a personal fav!)
At one point, Red mutters something about: the psychotic drowns where the mystic swims, alluding to the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell (see above!)
Incidentally, the epilogue – considering the cram-packed cavalcade of chaos and carnage that preceded it – is a surprisingly pleasant, almost-incongruous, but very much appreciated, totally non-trippy bittersweet sequence. Having shattered our senses and churned our stomachs, Cosmatos sees fit to round it all off by well and truly rending our hearts. (If you can call it that, the post-post-credits scene is just a still image – a montage of Mandy‘s artwork).
Would Brad recommend this gvindhouse show?
Aww gee, that’s a toughie.
There are some unusual and truly astonishing visual flourishes here, but, as forewarned, you will have to endure truly disturbing images lurking within. If and when you decide to watch, make sure that Auntie Mary has left the room…
Stuff the sequels. Raze the remakes.
We need MORE unique works like this, but: less gore, next time… please?
And oh no, Brad will definitely NOT be sending Mandy away!
“Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy…”
Honestly, how can a “movie” as DEMENTED as this, offer such a hauntingly BEAUTIFUL Love Theme as this…?
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
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.
“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…?”
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 cupcake… exchanging 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 behind. Stay 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:
“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… …”
“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?”
“Good boy. Over and out.”
“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… …?”
“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 you, you 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-”
“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… …?”