Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why Aren't You Reading This Comic? Templar, Arizona, by Spike

Don't lie. You really want to read this comic.

When I sat down to write about why I like Templar, Arizona, this is the only thing I was able to even write for like, an hour:

Omg. Omg. Ok. Templar, Arizona is the coolest. Thing. EVER. Oh man, you don't even know. I love it so much. SO MUCH. I would have Templar, Arizona's BABIES. I would stand outside its window with a boom-box. It. Is. The. Awesomeness.

Which is pretty pathetic, and makes Templar seem like Justin Bieber. And me seem like I'm 12.

Templar, Arizona is about as far from Justin Bieber as you can get. First of all, it isn't a person (or maybe some sort of gremlin, the jury is still out) like Justin, so that makes them pretty different right from the start. Templar also doesn't make shitty music. Also, unlike Justin, it is mature and deep and fascinating and a little dark and disturbing.

Gah! Ok, Justin, you're dark and disturbing too, just stop making that face oh god.

I'm getting the feeling I should start over.

Templar, Arizona, the webcomic, is an imaginative and vibrant tale of a city and its inhabitants, written and drawn by Spike, a lady so amazingly talented it's almost unfair. Templar, Arizona, the city, is an imaginary town in the middle of its own dust bowl that exists in an alternate reality to our own. Spike describes it as a reality in which bits of history happened differently, technology grew down a slightly different path, and things are just subtly... different. The result is a world in which the Sikh empire never ended, Nile Revisionists still worship ancient Egyptian gods and have their own Little Cairo, just about anyone can get their own tv show, and the city is dotted with clay bars, restaurants in which you can eat a puppy, completely inappropriate statues, and cafes where they'll kick you out if you speak anything less than the complete truth. Templar is full of cults, crazy subcultures, and political movements, and Spike does a great job of convincing you that they're all plausible. She has said that she's gotten e-mails from people who sincerely believed that Jakeskin (a scary cult that believes it's their duty to hasten the fall of civilization), Reclamation (a quasi-communist movement that takes over old buildings, refurbishes them, and opens them as free housing for the impoverished), or the Sincerists (a subculture in which participants vow never to tell any lies) seem likes good ideas, which she said scares her a little. I don't blame her; the Jakeskin in particular scare me to death.

Scary. As. Hell.
So what's the story, I hear you ask? Well, I'm not going to tell you, because I don't think anyone but Spike herself really knows where all this is going. I will tell you that Ben, a young man who fled his parents in Yakima under mysterious circumstances, is the closest thing get get to a main character. Ben is shy and rather reclusive, but he's forced out of his shell (more or less against his will) by his neighbor Regan, a huge woman, both literally and personality-wise. Regan has absolutly no filter between her brain and her mouth, she just does not give a fuck. She wouldn't give you a fuck if you were lieing fuckless in the desert. She just steals every scene she's in. That's her up at the top there.

Regan introduces Ben to the city and several of its inhabitants. This includes Gene, a cheerfully brain-damaged guitarist with connections (boy, are they connections) to the Jakeskin, his daughter Zora, who is already smarter than her father at six years old, and Scipio, who I just adore. He's a huge yet gentle man who practices Buddhism, wears kilts, and has a pet chicken named Flora. It's like he was made in a lab for me to fall in love with.

Yes please.
There are lots and lots of other characters. Tuesday, who dances naked on TV and her "frienemy" Curio, two privileged King Street girls constantly dueling with each other over petty bullshit (Tuesday always wins), Morgan, Ben's crush that works at a fashion magazine but doesn't care who knows how she feels about Saturn, the Elliots, two desperate guys living on the streets who happen to have the same name and recently got themselves into some deep shit, and Moze, a lovably laid back member of Gene's band who has a very high opinion of his own dick, I could seriously keep going for quite a while but I will spare you. There is just so much in Templar that it's hard not to just babble on about it forever. The thing to remember when reading Templar is to not spend too much time trying to understand it all the first time through. The comic is multi-layered and complex, and things that seem to make no sense or serve as background noise or filler take on new signifigance on a second, third, or fourth read-through. And I encourage you to read it more than once, you'll be glad you did. I love it so much that I bought the books (Spike drew me a custom picture of Regan in the front of my copy of volume 4, eee!), and I read through them over and over, at least once a month, I think. The books themselves are great because they have a section in the back where Spike explains some of the more cryptic things going on in the comic, as well as some extra drawings. If you read through the online comic and enjoy it, I highly recommend shelling out for the books. Once again, you'll be glad you did.

In conclusion, Templar, Arizona is one of the best comics on the web right now, hands down. You really need to read it. If you don't read it, we're not friends anymore. I'll just leave the link right here. Remember, our friendship depends on it.

Sunny out!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunny's Top Thirteen Fictional Geek Chicks

Let's face it. You're far more likely to run into male geeks and nerds on tv shows, in movies, video games, just about any media. Where's the love for the geek girls, huh? Well I'm going to shine the spotlight on thirteen of my favorite fictional geek chicks, because for some odd reason, I have an affinity for quirky women with lots of brains and maybe a few weird obsessions. I have no idea why. *cough* Why thirteen? It's my favorite number. You wanna fight about it? No? Good.

Let's jump right in!

13. Gadget Hackwrench (Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers)

If you don't remember the glory days of Disney cartoons, well, I weep for you. You don't know what you missed out on. Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers was about a team of crime-fighting rodents, and Gadget here was hands down the coolest of the bunch. A skilled pilot, mechanic, and inventor, Gadget could think (and talk) circles around the other Rangers. She was basically like a two inch tall, female MacGyver; she could take any old pile of junk and make it into just exactly what they needed to get out of any jam they got into. It's no surprise that both Chip and Dale had the hots for her, but in true nerd fashion, she never even seemed to notice. Who has time for romance when you have so many things to invent, anyway?

12. Zoey (Left 4 Dead)

Zoey, the sole female survivor in Valve's excellent co-op zombie gore-fest Left 4 Dead, is completely capable of holding her own alongside three dudes in the face of legion upon legion of angry undead. Wanna know why? The power of B movies. Zoey was spending her freshman year of college like so many of us did; skipping class and hanging around in her dorm room watching horror movies. She was on the verge of failing when, lucky for her, the zombie apocalypse broke out. It turned out that having intimate knowledge of everything George A. Romero ever made was an advantage once everyone she knew was dead or infected, and she can now put that previously useless knowledge to good use kicking undead butt. And in the end, isn't that what every geek wants?

11. Ezri Dax (Star Trek: Deep Space 9)

There were a lot of women from the various Star Trek series that I could have chosen; the series did contain a lot of scientists and doctors, after all. But I think Ezri was the one that most embodied what it is to be geeky, even when you live in a geek fantasy. A young ensign on her first commission aboard the Destiny, Ezri never had any interest in joining with a symbiont, something her people the Trill see as a great honor and only reserved for the best and brightest. But when her ship is transporting the Dax symbiont, recently rescued from it's former dieing host Jadzia, it suddenly becomes ill, and Ezri, the only Trill aboard, must join with it to prevent its death. Ezri takes on a responsibility she is not ready for and doesn't believe she is worthy of, all in the midst of a devastating war. It's this insecurity, and her eventual ability to overcome it, that make her geeky... well that and her adorable crush on Dr. Bashir. Girl cannot just spit it out and tell him she digs him till almost the very end of the series. Haven't we all been there, ladies?
10. Codex, aka Cyd Sherman (The Guild)

First of all, I gotta say that I love Felicia Day. She's one of my favorite irl geek girls, so it's no surprise that her character on The Guild, the awesome web-series she writes and stars in, makes my list. Cyd, who goes by Codex in the unnamed MMO at the core of the show, is shy and insecure, and uses the game as a way to escape her dull and unsatisfying life. But when her game friends start invading her reality, Cyd has to figure out how to channel the confident Codex she plays in game and use that courage in her real life. I see a lot of myself in Cyd; I'm certainly a lot bolder and outgoing while playing online games than I am in my every day life. She also deals with a lot of the same things real women who play video games deal with, such as either being hit on or dismissed by other players because of your gender. It's really fun to watch her come into her own, to see her get pushed and pushed by the craziness of her guild-mates and the assholes of their rival guild until, finally, she breaks out of her shy shell and shows everyone, including herself, how strong she really is.

9. Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)

Oh, Lisa Simpson. She's a bookworm, she's a band nerd, and she can be an obnoxious little know-it-all at times, but damnit, I love her anyway. I think anyone who got picked on in school for daring to think reading was fun can identify with her. Way smarter than just about everyone else around her, constantly tormented by her jerkass brother, outcast at school and misunderstood by her parents, Lisa embodies what it is to be young, opinionated, geeky and female. I know a lot of Simpsons fans find her annoying, but honestly she's sometimes the only one in that stupid family I can stand. Every time I catch a Lisa episode, I root for her. Don't worry Lisa, it get's better. You'll really blossom in college.

8. Kaylee Lee Frye (Firefly)

Kaylee is just about the cutest nerd you'll ever see. She just loves machines... I mean LOVES them. Ahem. Kaylee is the mechanic on board Serenity, but her unofficial jobs include being cheerful, having cute umbrellas and eating the HELL out of strawberries. Kaylee treats Serenity like a member of the crew, and the ship seems to love her as much as she loves it. Don't we all feel that way about our beloved machines from time to time? At least until our computer decides to be a dick and crash while we're writing an essay or our speakers refuse to work no matter what we do or the 360 red rings right in the middle of Fallout 3 and... never mind, I just remembered I actually hate machines. Kaylee, you are a better woman than I.

7. Penny (Inspector Gadget)

It is no secret that Penny was the real brains behind that bumbling idiot Inspector Gadget. I mean, come on. Gadget is constantly getting outdone by a 5th grader and a dog. Someone needs to see about getting him into some remedial classes or something. But oh man, I wish I had Penny's tech when I was ten. A computer that looks like a book? A utility wrist watch? Bad. Ass. Penny's not just tech savvy, she's resourceful and brave, which is good, considering she pretty much has to save herself whenever she gets into trouble. Honestly, the show should have actually been called "Penny and Brain! guest-starring Some Moron With a Helicopter in His Hat."

6. Harley Quinn (Batman)

Most people, when they look at Harley, don't think "geek chick" right away. "Dangerously unhinged psychopath," tends to pop up first. But think about it. In some ways, she's almost the ultimate geek. She was a doctor, so you know she's smart, despite that Jersey girl accent and, you know, the whole "crazy" thing. But what really drives it home is the fact that she takes fangirling to a whole new, utterly disturbing level. She's got such a crazy obsessive crush on the Joker that she puts on a harlequin outfit and follows him into a life of crime, becoming his most loyal henchmen, all just to get his attention. I mean, I thought those crazy ladies on that one message board who all thought they were married to Severus Snape were crazy fangirls. Nope, Harley is the Queen of All Fangirls, and if you disagree, she'll shoot you in the face with a pie bazooka. Piezooka? Whatever.
5. Tali'Zorah nar Rayya (Mass Effect)

Mass Effect is another series with a lot of characters that one could call "geek chicks." Hell, Shepard can be a geek chick if you choose to play her that way. I almost put Liara up here, but in the end I had to go with Tali. Tali is sort of a geek chick by necessity; when you're entire race lives on a giant flotilla of second hand ships roving around the galaxy, and your immune system is so bad you risk death if a tiny puncture in your environmental suit causes you to catch a cold, you better know your stuff. Tali spends most of her time in the engine room of the Normandy (the sound of the engine reminds her of home), and is the closest thing your crew has to an expert on the Geth, the sentient robot race that thanked her ancestors for creating them by kicking them off their home planet. A male Shepard can start a romantic relationship with her in the second game, and she admits to developing a crush on him after he saved her, invited her to join his crew, and whisked her off to help him save the galaxy. Hell, I can't blame her for that.

4. Velma Dinkley (Scooby-Doo)

Velma was one of the first geek girls I was ever exposed to. The only one with half a brain in Mystery Inc., Velma was usually the one who solved the mystery, and it was her job to explain how the villain of the week had set up the scam at the end of every show. Velma gets dumped on sometimes for being the "ugly one" compared to Daphne, but I think that's pretty unfair. Girl's got curves, and she owns them! Look at her rocking that miniskirt! She also has people swearing up and down that she's a lesbian at times, but speculation on a cartoon character's sexuality aside, what evidence is there for that? That she didn't hook up with Shaggy? All that tells me is that she's got standards, and doesn't need to jump on the first scraggly-bearded stoner she sees to boost her confidence. She's resourceful, she's smart, and she's 100% herself. Go Velma!

3. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

Hermione isn't just a geek, her geekery flies in the face of wizardly racism! Prejudiced wizard Purebloods believe they're inherently supirior to wizards with Muggle blood; they do everything from call them insulting names to outright persecuting them in the last book. Despite her Muggle parents, Hermione is repeatedly referred to as the best witch of her age. So suck it, Purebloods! This lowley little Moodblood (I'm taking it back, ya'll) is way smarter and better at magic than your posterboy Draco Malfoy, a stark warning about the dangers of inbreeding if I ever saw one. Not only that, she uses her supirior magic ability and awesome huge brain throughout the books to help Harry, fight the forces of evil, and generally be all around awesome. Hermione's geekery is practically a political statement. She is living proof that bigotry is stupid and you can do just about anything if you work hard and read the right books.

2. Agatha Heterodyne (Girl Genius)

The world of Girl Genius is one made by geeks, for geeks, and populated almost entirely with geeks, but Agatha is in a class all her own. She's a Spark, a sort of mad scientist with an uncontrolable urge to do crazy, often irrisponsible things with science. Why? For SCIENCE, of course! There are many Sparks in this world, but Agatha, the daughter of two of the greatest Sparks of all time, is miles above the rest of them. It takes a lot of chutzpah to be the the maddest mad scientist in all the land when the world is basically run by them, but she manages it. She builds robots in her sleep. She comes up with crazy impossible plans at a moments notice and pushes the bounds of known possibility just for fun. She straps herself into devices meant to kill her and then bring her back to life in order to save her friends. She has a sentient castle full of monsters, traps, and rooms that move. Death rays get her all hot and bothered. Girl is fierce, is what I'm saying. She takes being a geek and turns it into a crazy, deadly artform.

1. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

I know I cannot be alone in this one. Belle was by far my favorite Disney heroine, the first one I remember seeing that had wants and desires beyond getting married. Her dad went and let her read books, and she went off and got ideas. And the whole town was just so weirded out by her. A woman reading books?! The very idea! Belle taught me one of the most important lessons of my young life; Books are way more important than boys. Immune to the questionable "charms" of the meatheaded Gaston, Belle wanted to see the world outside her village and find someone who could understand her. She was intelligent and outspoken and didn't let anyone tell her what a woman should or shouldn't do. She stood her ground, and eventually got to marry a guy who could give her a whole library as an engagement present. That's way better than any stupid ring.

So that's my list. If I left out your favorite geek chick, go ahead and tell me about it in the comments. Coming up soon is a review of the webcomic Templar, Arizona and my musings on the world of Fallout.

Sunny out!