A Flaw in a Wrinkle in Time

This review is late. Very late. But I found this draft, and better late than never. Here goes.

I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid. Loved it then, love it now. I did not even think about strong female hero. I saw a flawed heroic geek. I was (and still am) a geek. I think that geeky angry Meg planted a seed or two for my geeky angry character Super Holly Hansson. What did I think of the movie?

What I liked

Meg. Geek girl with a hot temper! I think Holly has some Meg in her.

Charles Wallace. Super smart little boy, with a proper hint of creepiness at being way too smart.

Oprah, when she was HUGE. That size difference make Mrs. Which stand out in the movie. In the book, she has no set physical appearance.

It. A giant brain, as done in the book, would not work in a movie. Well, it might have worked in the 1960s. In this movie, It is a nasty space-spanning web that looks a lot like neurons in a brain. Clever!

What I did not like

The movie story felt rushed and underdeveloped. Meg is introduced, shown to be hot-tempered and geeky smart, she meets the immortal ladies, and then it’s WHEEE, let’s find Daddy! And how long did it take for Charles to be seduced by the dark side, several seconds of multiplication tables? We needed to see, as in the book, Charles falling into evil due to his own arrogance.

Aunt Beast was cut out. In the book, that was a necessary scene for Meg’s development: when she first meets and escapes from It, her flaws are showcased! And she has to face them down. In the book, the line, “I give you your faults” gave Meg her best comeback: “But I’ve been trying to get rid of them for years!” In the movie, the line went over like a lead balloon and Meg had no comeback. If they could turn The Hobbit into a trilogy, they could have added time for a big furry auntie.

Meg’s flaws were mostly removed. In the book, she is stubborn, she yells at her dad in a soul-stabbing hurtful way, her emotions are as stable as nitro glycerine, you do not insult her brother Charles if you want to chew your dinner afterwards, and she is a strident non-conformist (okay, that last one is kind of a good thing). In the movie, she’s tough. So tough that she does not need Aunt Beast or her dad, and she does not make up with her dad because she never hurts him in the first place. Movie Meg is more mature than her dad, didn’t the scriptwriter ever watch Leave It To Beaver? When Meg lands on Camazotz again, I wonder if they should have played the James Bond theme. Leave the super competent hero role to Sean Connery, I loved Book Meg as a flawed geek. (Hmm, is James Bond a Mary Sue?) I was and still am a geek, and proud of it, man! Yes, non-conformist Super Holly has lotsa Meg in her!

Calvin. His rough edges were sanded off. Sure, as in the book, he fell for Meg, which was great. But in the book, he also conflicted with her: he wanted to protect her (which she did not want) and he yelled back at her and about her: “She’s backward!” When I write my characters Super Holly (hot tempered super geek) and Cal Critbert (more mature super-intellectual), they argue, they fight, and they stay head-over-heels in love. When you have different personality types, you get conflict. There was NONE, ZERO, ZIP between Meg and Calvin. BIG disappointment.

“Be a warrior.” That did not belong in this story. Meg is a geek girl, not a soldier. Lisa Simpson does not need a catchphrase, and neither does Meg.

The immortal ladies were too glamorous. Oprah lost her otherworldliness when she became human size. She should have been big and then small, never hitting the correct size. They coulda done a Tinkerbell joke! In the book, one lady was old, one was plump, one was formless. In the movie, they were Disney fairies.

The religious element was toned way down. Jesus, Buddha, others were mentioned in the book. Not here. I have been wondering about my novel “The Comic Book Code” (Stewie Griffin: “How’s that novel coming along, HMMMM?”). Specifically, should I back away from the Holy Grail thing? (Holly having Grail-type DNA, thus bringing superpowers into the world). I do love the line in Captain America when the Red Skull asks Cap, “What makes you so special,” and Cap says, “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” But Holly grew out of my trying to write a satire of The DaVinci Code. I’m considering a dream sequence with a Jesus-and-Mary type couple (the guy looks like Wil Wheaton). I say to this movie: Thanks for making up my mind for me! I ain’t backing off. (P.S. Cal Critbert is atheist, and I ain’t backing off from that either, you Trumpy evangelical traitors! Nyah nyah nyah!)

What I did not care about

The actress being African American. Meg’s skin color was irrelevant. She was played by a fine actress, doing the best job she could with a flawed script. I liked her. I know this casting bent some racists out of shape, and thoughts like that keep me warm at night. But me? Like Stephen Colbert said in his Colbert Report days, I don’t see color!

Conclusion:

This movie is a huge improvement on the 2003 version. But flaws make characters interesting. Disney, wait several years and try again, and PLEASE keep Meg’s flaws next time. Like Super Holly, Meg is an angry and flawed geek, not a Mary Sue!

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Captain Marvel and Super Holly: Let’s you and her fight!

I saw the Captain Marvel movie. Loved it, of course. But I wondered: who wins in a fight, Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers or Super Holly Hansson? (When two mightiest-of-the-mighty superheroes meet for the first time, they ALWAYS fight! But why?)

A FEW MILES AWAY FROM SOME CITY IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. A FEW HUNDRED FEET STRAIGHT UP.

Captain Marvel wipes a drop of blood off her lips, thrusts her hands toward heavyweight-boxer-posed Super Holly hovering ten feet in front of her, and photon-blasts Holly’s up-arrow chest-logo! ZZZZAP!!!

Super Holly is knocked back fifty feet. “OW OW OW OW OWWWWW!!! That really STINGS!!!” She flies toward Captain Marvel, punching telekinetic-transparent blue bowling-ball fists onto Captain Marvel’s kisser! POW POW POW POW POW!!!

Captain Marvel says, “OOF OOF OOF OOF OOF!!!” and raises her fists just in time to parry Holly’s super right hook. But not Holly’s left uppercut: BIFF!!! Then Holly and Carol get close and personal.

POW POW POW POW!!! “Take it back, Captain Marbles!”

ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP!!! “I have nothing to take back from you!”

“You know what you said!” PUNCH PUNCH KICK KICK PUNCH!!!

“I did not start this, but I shall end it!” PUNCH PUNCH FEINT HEADBUTT-KERRRRUNCH!!!

“OOOTCH!!!” Holly rubs her beaky nose and smiles with respect. “Good one! Your mommy teach you to fight dirty?”

Captain Marvel aims her glowing hands at Holly’s face. “No, your nose happens to be a big target! And I don’t remember my mother.”

Holly’s smile instantly vanishes. Her lips tremble. She blinks her big, liquid blue eyes. Her voice cracks: “You… you don’t? Nothing at all?”

Captain Marvel takes a closer look. “Holly? Are you crying?”

Holly wipes off a tear. “I lost my mommy and daddy when I was five. My Uncle Pops was a great father figure after that. But I miss my mommy every day. I do everything I can to hold onto the memories. That’s why I wear the strawberry lip gloss.” Another tear goes down Holly’s cheek. “My mommy smelled like strawberries.”

Carol lowers her glowing fists, and the glow fades out. “You poor thing.”

Holly floats closer. “No, you poor thing. You don’t even know what you’re missing.”

They hug. They sob. And they fly to the nearest coffee shop.

A TABLE AT A COFFEE SHOP PATIO.

Carol sips an iced coffee and laughs. “Harry Headbutt sounds like a hoot! We have a big hulking guy too, but he tries to be good. But does that Icy Guy always get the best of you?”

Holly slams down her third iced mocha, licks her lips, and smiles. “Ice Cream Guy. And somehow, he does. That Thanos guy sounds like a real tough customer.” Holly sighs. “Too bad I wasn’t around to help.”

Carol sips her coffee. “I would have welcomed that. In the fisticuff department, you’d have given him a run for his money.”

Holly laughs. “Yeah, it would have been fun to belt him in his big fat mouth right when he starts pontificating about genocidal righteousness. Why didn’t that idiot just double the resources?”

Carol swallows her coffee and cocks her head. “I should have asked him that. But defeating him would take more than super-strength. The power of his Infinity Glove would have been more than a match for you.”

Holly smirks. “Really? Hold up your right hand, kinda like you are about to snap your finger and erase me from existence.”

“Um, okay.” Carol raises her hand and prepares to snap her fingers. Then she smiles wickedly. “And now, with a snap, I shall erase you from—”

“Yoink!” Holly is holding her right hand up, and it is holding Carol’s glove. Holly is smiling wickedly.

Carol looks at her gloveless hand. And back to Holly. “Neat trick.”

Holly tries on the glove. “Hmm, a little small. All I did was right-hand pantomime my telekinesis into your glove, expand it, and yoink off the glove.”

Carol nods and giggles. “I would have loved to see the look on his big purple face.”

Holly hands back Carol’s glove. “Of course, Batman would have beaten Thanos. Batman’s the smart one.”

Carol waves her hand dismissively. “A guy in a bat suit? When there are lives at stake, I’ll fly that plane. Costumed wannabes should stay grounded.”

Steam blasts out Holly’s nose. She stands up, fists cocked and ready! “YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!”

Carol stands up. “I’ll do no such thing! We should leave the battle to us soldiers, not to a guy in a Halloween—” BIFF!!!

Holly has her left hook cocked and ready! “Not so easy insulting my idol with a mouth full of knuckles, is it, Captain Marbles?”

Carol wipes a drop of blood off her lips and raises her glowing fists. “Punch me again, and I’ll put my photon blast in a place it is not supposed to be!”

And the fight is on. Again.

On Jan 24, I am an open mic headliner!

Thursday, January 24, sometime after 7pm, at the Cafe Frascati literary open mic (for writers of stories and poetry) in downtown San Jose (315 S 1st St.), I will be the headliner. That means I am on stage for about 15 minutes instead of the usual 4-5 minutes for the many and various storytellers and poets. I will perform The Intellecta Rhapsody, where Super Holly Hansson gets into a big argument with her boyfriend’s Batman-esque car (she punches a hole in its dashboard, it shoots her in the face like Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd), and then she has to team up with the car to defeat a gangster and his gang (think Edward G. Robinson, “Yeah, yeah, Rocky got you good! Yeah! Yeah!”). I will do some fun voices: robot car, Patton-esque general, Rocky gangster, dopey henchmen. The background music is the classical Hungarian Rhapsody. I will bring Super Bad Hair Day books to sell. My latest shipment (fixing a typo and a little mark on the cover art) came in yesterday. The Intellecta Rhapsody script is in the book.

Thank you, Mighty Mike McGee (open mic host with the most!) for having me as a headliner. I’ll try not to let it go to my head. Mike will pay for my dinner that evening. Now, where’s my star on Hollywood Blvd?

R.I.P. Batton Lash, Super Holly’s first artist

I just read that Batton Lash, the artist who drew the cover of Super Bad Hair Day, has passed away. Super Holly Hansson is crying herself to sleep tonight.

On my page of Batton’s Super Holly artwork, see the evolution of Batton’s Holly artwork. Batton was a great artist: smart, classy, professional, experienced, and a nice guy. Oh, and he was a great writer too. Read Supernatural Law. I am richer for knowing him, if only at comic cons, and through emails. Holly and I will miss him.

RIP Stan Lee. Humans entertain, gods bore.

A bright light has gone out in the world. I was but a kid when Spider-Man and Fantastic Four were first published. Compared to DC Comics at the time, Stan’s characters were more flawed, more human, more fun. Super Holly Hansson is the Superman of my writing world, but she is not a perfect boy scout. She is a geek girl with a short fuse. Lesson learned.

John Trumbull ran an article a while ago that showcased Lee’s dialog when some of the jerkier fanboys would say it was ALL Kirby and ALL Ditko and Stan just took all the credit. In the article, John showed a panel from Fantastic Four, Lee’s writing and Kirby’s art.

And one from New Gods, Kirby’s writing and art.

Have I mentioned that one way to have Super Holly Hansson give you a fat lip is to call her a goddess? Putting “Gods” in a title puts me off. Fellow writers tell me that they like how Holly is “very human.”

On Stan Lee’s Fresh Air interview, he asked Terry Gross to imagine a monster: 12-feet tall, purple skin, breathing fire, two heads. In the 1960s, a typical superhero would have said, “A creature from another world – I’d better capture him before he destroys the city.” Spider-Man might say, “Who’s the nut in the Halloween costume?” Stan said he tried to do dialogue that represented the way real, flesh and blood, three-dimensional people would talk. What better writing advice can I get?

Stan loved making original sound effect words: “btkooom” (the third O is, of course, silent) and “PFZZAKT” (a bullet going through a wall). I have been a little lax with crazy original sound words lately, but I admit that I still love Harry Headbutt punching Super Holly and then she clobbers him with five: THOOM! POW POW POW POW POW!!! THOOM! POW POW POW POW POW!!!

Stan said he used those fun alliterative names (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Sue Storm) because he had a bad memory. I use them too, I like their sound: Holly Hansson, Katsuko Kimura, Cal Critbert, and my favorite: Harry Headbutt! (Nice when the name says a bit about the character.)

P.S. I was going to have a Stan Lee type character in my stories: Dan Mann. But I already have three older men in Super Holly’s life: her Uncle Pops, Bennie the rubber cop, and Lash the barber. So I am gender-flipping Dan Mann into Fran Lee. When I FINALLY finish The Comic Book Code, Fran will be the head of a Marvel-type company who publishes Holly’s graphic novel, The Last Super. She will know comic book history. She’ll be Jewish. And she will have some of HERstorian and writer Trina Robbins in her soul.

Fault Zone Uplift readings on Nov 10

Fault Zone Uplift: What Goes Up

At the San Mateo Library (55 W 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA), Saturday Nov 10, 10:30am-12:30, Fault Zone Uplift authors (like me!) will read their stories. I will read from What Goes Up, my Super Holly Hansson story with Holly’s saddest ending ever. (My evil plan! Get them laughing, then break their hearts, MOO HAHAHAHAHA!!!) This is a CWC (California Writers Club) Peninsula Branch event.

Kittygirl loves wasabi ice cream artwork!

At Campbell Con, I had Nelson Kuang (instagram: BurntGreenTea) draw Kittygirl enjoying an ice cream cone and saying her favorite ice cream flavor. (That is the ice cream that Kittygirl likes in my short story, “The Fiendish Brain Freezer,” in my Super Bad Hair Day book on Kindle. Super Holly likes strawberry.) Nelson put Super Holly in there also, that was nice of him. I love this anime look! Dig those Kittygirl claws!