Green, Pink, and Gray are the New Black #1: Green

Good day, everyone! Welcome to the latest entry in my relatively new column here at the Thoughts on diversity in Nerd Culture. For today’s brief post, I wanted to point out a trend that I’ve noticed in older pieces of speculative work and leave you all with a few questions. Shall we dive right in?

The idea that fans of science fiction are, on average, more tolerant toward racial and cultural differences among their peers is an old one, though an idea I have found very little written about. In my own conversations, this is usually traced back to the original Star Trek and its first televised interracial kiss between Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner, and such episodes as the classic “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” available in its entirety on YouTube (if you have a free hour and a knowledge of what was going on in 1969 when this originally aired):

The title of this new series within the larger column on diversity is actually drawn from my experiences with Star Trek and how one can argue that learning to see humanity in colorful aliens does in fact make you more likely to see someone who doesn’t look like you as a human being. For this first part, I will look at characters with green skin.

Star Trek – the infamous Orion slave girls

This is an odd choice, I know. Given how incredibly sexualized Orion women generally are as a rule in Star Trek, it is almost baffling to realize that they hold all the power within their culture. Either way, is there ever a question that these women are intelligent, emotionally complex beings?

DC Comics – J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter

Originally a sort of Silver Age alternative to Superman, the Martian Manhunter is oftentimes the conscience of the Justice League. He has even been referred to as saintly in his moral character. He carries with him the emotional weight of hailing from a culture that destroyed itself through racial strife and warfare, and his time on Earth is spent largely in the pursuit of peace and security. It bears noting that a science fiction-themed team that lacks visible racial diversity oftentimes does include a green member, exemplified best by the Martian Manhunter (voiced perhaps purposefully in the Justice League cartoon by the great Carl Lumbly) and the next entry in this list.

Image of the Martian Manhunter taken from http://spider-bob.com/heroes/dc/MartianManhunter.htm
Image of the Martian Manhunter taken from http://spider-bob.com/heroes/dc/MartianManhunter.htm

Dragon Ball Z – Piccolo

The Namekian character Piccolo is a complex being who starts out as a villain but, through his own sense of honor and dignity, is changed by the respect and forgiving natures of his former enemies into one of Earth’s greatest heroes. Always portrayed as an introspective character, it is fascinating to watch the shifting of Piccolo’s moral compass as time passes.

Image of Piccolo taken from http://piccolo-dragonball-z.en.softonic.com/
Image of Piccolo taken from http://piccolo-dragonball-z.en.softonic.com/

And that is my list for today. What do you all think of it so far? What do you think of the central ideas of this week’s entry? Do you think this sort of practice in some speculative fiction to effectively trick the less tolerant into being more tolerant has merit? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to be on the lookout for the next entry in this column.

Yoko Tsuno: Smart Women, Science and Space Ships

by Natacha Guyot

When I was eight years old, I remember getting a Millenium Falcon toy (which I still have) that was large enough to have quite a few details included inside and not just outside. The day I got it, I also received another gift: one of the volumes from the Yoko Tsuno comic series. It turned out to be the 20th volume, that included not only a time travel story but also bonus drawings with concepts for the previous books. I had no idea when I got sucked up into The Astrologer of Bruges that I would fall in love with this series and that its female protagonist would become one of my greatest inspirations, right up with characters such as Leia Organa and Mara Jade from Star Wars, Jo March from Little Women or Dana Scully from The X-Files.

The Yoko Tsuno series was created in 1970 by Belgian writer and artist Roger Leloup and it is still in publication, with the 27th volume already announced. Strong, smart, accomplished female characters have always been very important to me, just like diversity in other aspects is. The female protagonist is a Japanese electrical engineer, trained in martial arts and a Buddhist, who moves to Europe in the beginning of the series. She gathered many friends as years went on, starting with her male colleagues, Vic Video and Pol Pitron.

One thing I particularly like about Yoko is that her author never felt the need to reduce her to any kind of sexualized object. She carried on with many adventures and relied a lot on her friends and family as she can’t do everything alone. She also adopted a young Chinese girl, Morning Dew, as a single mother. Her intimate life never had to be brought to the foreground. There are several hints about her and Vic Video being an item, but the author always chose not to confirm the relationship so that readers could see it however they wanted to.

Yoko and Morning Dew. Image from http://www.amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.
Yoko and Morning Dew. Image from http://www.amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.

I like the familial dynamic that isn’t so orthodox either. The exact living arrangements of the main characters aren’t a focal point, but Yoko often travels everywhere with Vic, Pol and Morning Dew, and later on with Mieke as well, Pol’s fiancée that the young man met during a journey to the 16th century. So it is likely that Morning Dew grows up with quite the familial circle as they all watch after her. Yoko also befriended one of the Vinean women, who appeared in many stories since then, in the first one: Khany. I like their friendship and how the long distance/online friendship is pictured even years before the Internet as they aren’t able to see each other that often, but are still so close knit. I picture these two as sisters, even more than I do Yoko and the teenager from the future, Monya, that she meets later in the series, no matter how much I also enjoy this other female character.

The comic series gives a lot of room to science and technology, likely because of Yoko’s background. Some stories take place in a contemporary setting while others include time travel or interactions with the Vineans, a humanoid alien species introduced in the first volume. The different directions the series has adds to its richness and keeps it fresh. While regular and recurring characters show up in the books, one never knows what the next volume will be about, because there isn’t a strict order in when to switch from contemporary investigations to time travel to the Vineans’ stories.

Yoko and Khany. Image from http://amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.
Yoko and Khany. Image from http://amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.

I love how egalitarian (gender, species, era, etc.) values are so important in the series. At the end of the Titans (8th volume), the Vinean Khany explains that they chose one of Yoko’s lines to be inscribed on an alien’s tomb, because this is the ideal with which Yoko came to them and to others and that such ideas need to be transmitted to the Vinean children. Yoko’s words were the following:

‘The shapes that differentiate matter very little. Beings matter little if their thoughts ally to build a universe.’

Up to this day, only a few volumes were translated into English, and I would recommend to read them in the following order, instead of their order of publication in the USA:

The Curious trio (#1 Le trio de l’étrange), published July 2012
The Devil’s Organ (#2 L’Orgue du Diable), published July 2013
On the Edge of Life ( #7 La Frontière de la vie), published July 2007
Daughter of the Wind (#9 La Fille du Vent), published July 2009
The Time Spiral (#11 La Spirale du temps), published January 2008
The Prey and the Ghost (#12 La Proie et l’ombre), published July 2008
The Dragon of Hong Kong (#16 Le Dragon de Hong Kong), published July 2010
The Morning of the World (#17 Le Matin du Monde), published June 2011

If you can read in French, all the volumes are still available for purchase. One way or the other, if you enjoy solid female characters, diversity and Science Fiction, I highly recommend this comic book series.

And since I saw Pacific Rim, I want a movie or television adaptation made with Rinko Kikuchi portraying Yoko because she would be absolutely perfect for the part!

Hey, Listen!

My Editor-In-Chief has asked that I give you all a sort of “about me” blog entry.  Well, here it goes.

I’m 26 years old and have lived in Indiana all my life.  I have been married for nine months to my wonderful wife, who is pregnant with our first child!  Like the EIC, I attended Wabash College.  Unlike the EIC, I do not have a Bachelor of Arts in English.  My degree is in German.  I have never really had any idea what to do with it, as I was not an exceptional German student.  None the less, I have managed to survive pretty well so far.

My nerd credentials are somewhat extensive.  Star Wars was my first science fiction memory and love.  I couldn’t have been much older than 8 when I first saw A New Hope, in its original release edit.  We were over to dinner at a friend of my father’s house.  I realize now he probably wanted as much to share Star Wars with my brother and me as to distract us so the adults could talk.  But it was that day that sparked my love of space and all its magnificent glory…and sometimes danger.

Additionally, I grew to be quite the fan of Star Trek.  This will undoubtedly draw some hissing breaths from some readers, but we are more common than you might think.  My next major sci-fi love would not come for several years after that.  During that in-between time, my videogame love expanded with such classics as Sonic the Hedgehog, Warcraft (I’m talking MS-DOS version), Rebel Assault II, and the like.  As I got into middle school and high school, I discovered things like the realm of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Stargate SG-1, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Shogun and Rome Total War.

There are still more nerd influences that have shaped me into my current form.  Games like Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Dungeons & Dragons, television shows like Transformers: Beast Wars, Spiderman: The Animated Series, the animated X-Men series of the 90’s, Batman: The Animated Series, and other various superhero cartoons, as well as Doctor Who, Farscape, and Game of Thrones.  As you can see, the list is quite extensive.

It is my hope that some, if not most, of this is something we have in common.  I hope to expand on that commonality as my posting continues here on the Thoughts.  For now, I would love to see comments that highlight some of your favorite nerd influences.  Please comment with them below!

The Road So Far… Updated

Any other fans of Supernatural out there? Image from http://i268.photobucket.com/albums/jj23/angel-de-guarda/Supernatural/Day19_20000.jpg
Any other fans of Supernatural out there? Image from http://i268.photobucket.com/albums/jj23/angel-de-guarda/Supernatural/Day19_20000.jpg

Hello again, everyone! I hope all your weeks are going well. I wanted to go ahead and announce our fourth contributor, the amazing and accomplished blogger Natacha Guyot. Go and check out her personal blog and ready yourselves for an awesome comic book post from her that will be up in the next few days.

That is all for now, but I’ll keep you all posted as the situation continues to develop. As always, thank you all for being here!

The Road So Far…

Any other fans of Supernatural out there? Image from http://i268.photobucket.com/albums/jj23/angel-de-guarda/Supernatural/Day19_20000.jpg
Any other fans of Supernatural out there? Image from http://i268.photobucket.com/albums/jj23/angel-de-guarda/Supernatural/Day19_20000.jpg

Good day, everyone! I hope you all had a lovely weekend in general and I hope that all of my fellow Americans enjoyed their Independence Day celebrations. Today, I wanted to give a bit of a progress report on how things are shaping up with the blog’s expansion.

We now officially have three new contributors–Candice (whom you can get to know through her personal blog, Carving Out a Space), Phil (our resident Star Wars guru who will be introducing himself shortly), and Tim (a veteran teacher who has some things to say about that). Expect to see some posts from both Candice and Phil over the next couple of days. Tim’s first post should be up within the next few days or early next week. Also expect to see more from me as the week wears on.

We have a couple of more contributors (fellow bloggers who are also fairly busy with non-blog-related life stuff) in the wings, but I’ll announce them as time goes on and we work out more post ideas. Either way, I am also very thankful to them for agreeing to help me with this project.

For now, let’s welcome Candice, Phil, and Tim to our nerdy little thought-filled space. If the spirit moves you, please feel free to comment below. See you all again soon!

A General Announcement

Greetings to everyone reading this. Thanks for being here. I wanted to briefly announce the advent of several new contributors to this blog. The title of the blog may not be general enough anymore, but all our thoughts will be as one. These new contributors will be uploading on their own and receive full authorial credit for their contributions, of course.

I’ll effectively be the editor-in-chief of the Thoughts from here on out, depending on how all of this goes. That aside, I also hope to keep posting my daily thoughts and the occasional longer piece. Expect another soon.

Anyway, be on the lookout for supplemental announcements about specific contributors over the coming weeks. If any of you reading this are particularly nerdy about some subject (anything, really) and want to add your thoughts to this collective, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

ISO: Lost Batman Comic (and don’t forget about Free Comic Book Day)!

Here’s a post from my Batman column at Sourcerer where I seek help in finding an old issue of Batman from the 90s. Can anyone give me a hand in this search?

Sourcerer

batsignal2by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the Senate hearings that eventually led to the stifling of comics as a medium, so I’d like to ascode_seal_mar1955k for a little help in finding a lost comic book. In its own weird way, I hope this stands as a tribute to all of our losses in terms of what comics could have been for the past few decades. If we find the book I’m seeking, I hope that can stand as a symbol that what is lost in comics can be regained.

Back in the early 90s, my dad bought me my very first issue of a comic featuring Batman. Due to time and typical childhood stupidity, that book is now lost to me, when it should have an honored place in my collection today. I don’t remember a lot about the comic…

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