8/13/18

New Short Comic - Swamp Ape

This is a concept I still really, really love. Again, I have work to do when it comes to clarity. Everyone who has read this so far has had to ask me questions about it. Which is bad. But I'm learning.

I get so incredibly sensitive about human and animal welfare. I become overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness when I see others hurting and I've recently discovered that I can sometimes write my way out of the melancholy, like a lobster scooting backwards out of a trap.

I was watching a particularly moving story about abandoned orangutans one day, and I decided I wanted to write them a guardian. So I did.

Page 1


Page 2

I think this script is better than Author. I can feel myself getting a better handle on how to harness the turn of the page or the natural way the eye reads left to right and up to down for the benefit of reveals. You would think a lifetime of reading comics would make an initial attempt at writing them less clumsy. 

Alas...

I'll take better. Better is good. It's certainly better than not trying at all.


New Short Comic - Author

I'm still learning this format. It's hard. I'm obviously struggling with clarity. But the artist (Javi Laparra) and letterer (Justin Birch) I'm working with are tremendous. I don't want their work to go unseen just because I'm a perfectionist Debbie Downer.

I have three more scripts I'm currently redrafting that are better. Prey, Sunk, and Mothers. But this was my first attempt at a short comic. Two pages only. The concept has been knocking around my brain since college.

Obviously, the idea was fresher back in 2003. It's been done to death now. Back then, I was still really obsessed with Shane Black's The Long Kiss Goodnight. I thought about how funny it would be if an ordinary woman just thought...well, you'll see...

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~

These were Patreon exclusives for a few months. A two page short comic costs me about $400 to create. If you want to chip in to help me continue creating short comics, essays, or anything else, consider becoming a Patron here: https://www.patreon.com/audreybrownwrites or sending a one-time donation to: https://www.paypal.me/AudreyMarieBrown

I'm so intensely thankful to the people who support me. I also take requests and commissions! This month, I'm writing a creative nonfiction essay about my grandma for Liz Tippy!

7/20/18

3 Things I Still Love: Angela Lansbury, Angela Lansbury, and Angela Lansbury

Yes, I keep it next to my oil diffuser,
because I'm #basic. 
I'm writing an essay about how the brilliant Dame Angela Lansbury continues to stay relevant. She's not just a childhood favorite. She's a legitimate role model for a million reasons I'm currently trying to put into words.

I even keep a framed picture of her on my desk. It was a gift from my friend Jen about ten years ago. I've displayed it in every office since then. Is it a little weird? Sure. But I do enjoy watching people slowly figure out who it is, then try to get up the nerve to ask if she's my grandma.

Anyway, while I draft, I want to make sure you know about the Angela of three key eras. This is your homework, my friends.


1. Classic Film Angela Lansbury

To you, she may be the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast or a witch in training from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. But her career spans decades. There's another Angela most of you don't know. The one who got an early start in the studio system by taking on the "bad girl" archetype...and taking it on quite well.



In the unsung Judy Garland classic The Harvey Girls, she even got into a full-on fist fight with Judy. That alone makes the movie worth a watch, but so does Judy, the soundtrack, and this... 



2. Broadway Angela Lansbury

Angie once tread the boards for fifteen years straight and has since returned for many runs. She's a triple threat. She originated iconic roles and spent plenty of time in classic shows. (Mame, Blithe Spirit, and Gypsy just to name a few.) By her own account, she kept ticket sales rolling along and made sure she got ten percent of the take, to boot.

She also worked with her best friend, Bea Arthur, many times. How much do you wish you could go back in time and have a lunch date with these two?



3. Television Legend Angela Lansbury

My favorite role of hers is still that of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. There's something innately empowering about the character. She enjoyed her time as a mother and a wife, she's clear about that repeatedly in show dialogue.

We meet her in the pilot as a widow, but she's still a vital, involved member of her community. She then goes on to find world-wide success as a mystery writer, using the skills she's developed through research to solve real murders. She bakes bread when she needs to think. She travels extensively. She's always direct, but never rude. Not even to the actual murderers when she catches them.

Plus, she even helped Magnum P.I. once. Speaking of which, no, I'm not watching the new Magnum. I know you didn't ask, but I have a lot of feelings.


You get the sense from interviews that Angela Lansbury is a lot like Jessica Fletcher. She speaks confidently about making deals, demanding excellent pay and working conditions, and treating the crew well in this series of interviews from EmmyTV Legends.org. She understands her own agency.

On a lighter note, she also pulled hosting duty for the Academy Awards. Honest to God, sometimes if I'm having a tough day, I watch this just to cheer up. (She also did one-off, televised theatrical productions like this.)


Bonus: She also did a workout video. See? Renaissance woman. 



I think I've made my point. I'm one of those writers who writes to discover. I don't really know what I'm trying to say until I gather all my research and take a few cracks at it. I'm just as curious as you are about what's brought Miss Lansbury to mind in such a strong way lately.

I'll keep you up to date...



And also...

I still love the internet for making this.

6/28/18

Hammer Pants: The Making of a Nerd


What I like to call...the aftermath.
I turned into a nerd the way people in movies change into werewolves. All at once and completely against my will. 

Pictures of me from fourth grade play like a makeover montage in reverse. At first, the images show a normal-enough little girl with straight teeth and mismatched clothes.

(Please say the following line in the voice of Jacques Cousteau.)

Then...a rapid progression.

(Un-Jacques)

Due to a growth spurt, my clothes didn’t fit. Stretch pants were suddenly too short. Shirts with tight sleeves cinched around my forearms, cutting off circulation. Like I was a traveling ventriloquist act and my suitcase got switched with my dummy. 

Then I had to get glasses. I could've gone with something subtle. Say, tortoise shell frames and a sensible round lens. I panicked instead. Overcompensated. My mother encouraged me to lean into my inspiration, which was half Janine from Ghostbusters and half psychedelic Lisa Frank folder. The pair I chose had massive lenses, pink and purple frames, and a tiny rainbow unicorn.

I attempted to rebound from the glasses with a chic new haircut. It came out regrettably bowl-shaped. I looked like Charles Nelson Reilly. 

It was as though I was standing at the center of a Rube Goldberg machine designed to wreck my self-esteem. The glasses set it off. But each choice I made in an attempt to recover only brought me closer to my ultimate fate. 



~

The most likely answer to my patchwork appearance was that my parents allowed my three older sisters and I complete creative freedom. So we used it.

My oldest sister Shannon had bleached, punk rock hair and an all black wardrobe. She listened to heavy metal. She looked like a rebel but she still made straight A's. My middle sister Heather favored neutrals and stonewashed jeans. She was always situated over a craft in progress or tucked away in a corner reading novels about dragons. My youngest sister Leanne wore soft pinks and chocolate chapstick. She knew how to draw and she wasn't afraid to talk to boys. Her contemporary hairstyles were marvelously successful. And big. “How do you get it that high?” Mom would ask, leaning in for closer inspection.

All those sisters with rock solid identities made it hard to find my own. So I sort of...didn't try. I was too consumed with movies and TV. I was preoccupied with befriending my teachers; fixated on winning prizes at spelling bees and science fairs. 

In other words, I was a card-carrying, tries-too-hard nerd. And now the external matched the internal. I was a four-eyes.



What's that? Proof, you say? Oh, I've got proof.

-In first grade, I entered the talent show. I asked my principle to stand on the side of our school stage and blow bubbles into a fan while I performed an interpretive dance to ELO's "I'm Alive". 

-In sixth grade, I forced my parents to lug a record player all the way to school so I could play a Ravi Shankar album for atmosphere during my presentation on India. 

-For several Halloweens in a row, I asked my mom to make me a dead anything. A dead bride. A dead princess. Anything to reclaim the Halloween where I asked to be grapes and everyone assumed I was Fruit-of-the Loom. It didn't matter how goth or Wednesday Addams my costume was each year. I was forever labeled as the girl who dressed as men's underwear. 
  
In other words, I was in desperate need of cool points and there was nothing cooler than Hammer pants. They ballooned at the thigh and cinched at the calf. Comprised of yards of fabric, they were handcrafted into parachute-style pants and so named for the man who made them famous, M.C. Hammer.

I genuinely loved M.C. His songs were positive and upbeat. They were about never giving up on your dreams. And praying. That was my kind of pop star. If my devotion to him happened to help me blend in with the other kids at school for once - just this once - that would be a happy bonus.  

That plan, however well-intentioned, went...awry.


Leanne could do things like THIS with her hair. (And mine, if you look at the pic behind us.) 
~

One autumn afternoon in fourth grade, I arrived home from school to find a pair of brand new Hammer pants waiting for me. “Here they are! Ta-da!” Mom stood up from her sewing machine in the kitchen and unfurled them.

“No way! Can I put them on?” I asked.

“Sure.”

Because my mom could sew, my Hammer pants were unique.  You couldn't just purchase a pair like mine. These were Hammer couture. I was even allowed to choose the material. Dark blue with tiny pink roses. Because nothing screams “rap” like a nice floral.

Plus, I made small changes in design to enhance the overall effect. I added ornamental sailor-themed buttons around my hips, for no particular reason I can remember. I guess I thought multiple good things thrown together would equal something great. 

What better way to inaugurate my Hammer pants than with a nice gentle bike ride around the neighborhood? If some of the kids from school happened to glance out their windows to see my cool new pants, flapping in the breeze like a proud flag, so be it. 

“Can I go ride bikes? In my pants?” I asked urgently.

“Yes. But don’t get them dirty. I just finished them, okay?”

I yelled, “Okay!” halfway through the familiar creak of the front screen door. 

I heard her stern, “I mean it!” through the window as I clunked my heavy bike down the concrete stairs of our front porch. The bike once belonged to Heather in the late seventies. It had a lavender banana seat and giant handlebars. It was big. It was sturdy. The way station wagons were sturdy. Or Hulk Hogan. Or the Titanic.  



~

In my hometown, the best place to ride bikes was the cemetery. The path that wound through the gravestones was paved. Which meant it was smooth and you didn't have to worry about cars. It was hilly and green, bordered by a horse farm and cornfields. And it was quiet. For obvious reasons.

Most neighborhood kids did at least a lap or two every day after school. But they pedaled fast. After all, Thriller was still relevant.

With my less than steady riding skills, it was where I liked to go best. Because on top of all my other nerd qualifications, I was also bad at sports. A volleyball once ripped off my glasses. A badminton racket gave me a black eye. I tripped in gym class in such a way that I flipped 360 degrees before face-planting. Twice.

I was even hit in the face with a hockey puck at an Indianapolis Ice game. I wasn't just bad at sports. My face was magnetic.

When I pushed off to cruise down the block toward the cemetery, my handlebars wobbled back and forth. I struggled to keep the lavender behemoth upright. Soon enough, I found an easy rhythm pedaling. I sat up extra straight. If clothing made a statement, that day my pants would’ve screamed, “Look at me, I’M NORMAL FOR ONCE!”


Until.

At the second turn of the cemetery, my pants and I went too fast around the bend. Instead of hitting the brakes or toppling the bike, I let it cruise full speed directly into a leafy oak tree. I collided with it face first. Correction. The handlebars hit the tree; creating the momentum that then planted my face into the bark. Mouth first, like an accidental Evil Knievel

A neighbor ran to tell Mom there was an emergency. I sat hunched over and crumpled in the grass. I tried not to move. The salty tang of blood filled my mouth. Mom pulled the station wagon around the same bend I just careened down. I saw her face turn white through the windshield.

She stopped the car and hopped out, leaving the door open behind her. I had only one thing on my mind. “I didn’t get any blood on the pants,” I said. The tears finally started to roll.


She hugged me tight. “It’s okay, it’s okay. I don’t care about the pants.” 



~

When we arrived home, there was a hurried phone call to the dentist. According to the latest in early nineties medicinal phone assessment, I was fine. (I was not fine.) I had to gargle with saltwater twice a day for the next two weeks to prevent infection. If you’ve ever had a mouth injury, gargling with salt water ranks right up there as the very last thing you would want to do, tied with eating hard shell tacos and repeatedly singing the national anthem. 

As the swelling went down, it became apparent that there were many trips to the orthodontist in my future. Specifically, one front tooth was jutting straight out. A bucktooth. Singular. The rest of my teeth were sent on different growth trajectories entirely. I now had a set of chompers that would make Gollum recoil in horror and politely suggest, “Braces, precious?” 

I was now the bucktoothed, giant-glasses-wearing girl with the Vulcan haircut. I was the kid who had run full speed into a tree for no explicable reason. No amount of Hammer pants could’ve fixed my problems now. 

My transformation was complete.




~

This essay started as part of my 2011 Master's thesis, a memoir titled Growing Up Weird. The first chapter was published as a standalone essay on Hello Giggles, you can read it here.

If you want to chip in to help me continue writing essays, consider becoming a Patron here: https://www.patreon.com/audreybrownwrites or sending a one-time donation to: https://www.paypal.me/AudreyMarieBrown

I'm so intensely thankful to the people who support me. I also take requests and commission. This month, I'm writing a creative nonfiction essay about my grandma for Liz Tippy!

5/28/18

3 Things I Still Love: The Coen Brothers Devotion to Classic Film

1. Hail, Caesar!



Related Thing: Why Do People in Old Movies Talk Weird? & tracing the roots of the homage in Hail, Caesar!


2. Raising Arizona



Related Thing: I see Raising Arizona as following the classic mythical western template. There's no better example of that than the most iconic spaghetti western of all time, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Sergio Leone intended to create a satire. He accidentally elevated that which he intended to critique. He was simply too good at it.

(The most popular theory to emerge states that the three main characters of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly are Gods who have descended in the disguise of humanity to wage spiritual battle on Earth.)

The Coens have an innate understanding of how tight scriptwriting and intense focus on small details can amplify a seemingly run-of-the-mill story. A focus on simplicity of plot and clarity of character transforms a story into an artifact. Something audiences can read meaning into, as so many have done with Raising Arizona. (Many people posit that the entire film is Hi's dream sequence or slow death, populated by people he interacts with while serving time.)

In other words, good writing consistently stokes fan theory culture.


3. The Hudsucker Proxy



Related Thing: Pee Wee's Lament and relevant information about why I think Jennifer Jason Leigh's character is an overt homage to Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday.

5/17/18

New Comic and Podcast Episodes!

My Patreon patrons and past Leaves donors received a new two-page comic this week. In which our heroine isn't quite as tough as she imagines...


If you want to know more, hop on my bandwagon over at Patreon. Also, my very nerdy comedy podcast, Movie of the Year, churns out new episodes weekly. To quote the great Karina Longworth, join us, won't you?



4/27/18

Seven Predictions for Avengers: Infinity War

UPDATE: 1 out of 7. Yikes. 

To be honest...I didn't love it. I didn't go back to see it again, which is almost unheard of for me. So....yeah. Still processing.

ORIGINAL POST:

The great Marvel Rewatch of 2018 has concluded. I hit everything except the first two Thor movies.

(Sorry, big guy.)

The first Avengers was a masterwork of what-if scenarios involving established characters. I hope this movie also takes full of advantage of quirky pairings, inevitable personality conflicts, and comic book references.

Before I head out to Avengers: Infinity War tonight, I wanted to record my predictions.

Here are my top 7:

1. I think they all die, including one or more of the Eternals*. Tony's vision in Ultron was foreshadowing. The man is a genius. It wasn't just his fear Wanda saw, it was that big beautiful brain of his working through multiple probabilities.

There might be one survivor at the end. It should be Ant Man or Dr. Strange, but it will probably be Iron Man since he's the father of the MCU, by way of Jon Favreau. Whoever they may be, I think they'll use one of the infinity stones to go back in time or to an alternate dimension to change things for the next movie.

The final frame or bonus scene will probably be a Back to the Future-esque scene of the lone survivor meeting Captain America during World War II. Cap will say, "Who are you?" The character will smile and we'll cut to black.

2. Black Widow will die protecting Captain America or vice versa. Those two are bros4lyfe. Actually, Cap owes her more than a few favors by now. If we're never gonna get a Black Widow movie, I hope our talented and illustrious spy gets more of the attention in this movie and the next. She's second in seniority out of the entire cast. Please give her more to do.

3. Someone will use the time stone to send Cap back to see Peggy. OR they'll use the mind stone to make him believe he's back in time as a way to temporarily distract him or take him out of the fight completely. I know, I know...wishful thinking and how I am the king of it. I just really want a Peggy cameo.

4. Thanos will be more reasonable than we expect. All great villains must be correct in some way in order to be compelling. Marvel is great at sympathetic bad guys. Loki was kinda right about how humans were made to be ruled or dominated during vacuums of power. Ultron was right that we were killing the planet. (For the record, I still love that movie and I don't understand the mass hatred.)

Random relevant quote: "You're not wrong Walter, you're just an a*@hole."

5. I hope Red Skull shows up. I realize that's not much of a prediction. His absence still bothers me. I've always believed he was meant to be the big bad of Marvel's phase one. I thought the tesseract opened some kind of generic version of the bi-frost and transported him...I don't know...some kind of place.

I thought for sure he'd show up in Thor's universe at some point until all those reports surfaced about how much Hugo Weaving loathed the makeup process and swore to darken Marvel's door no more.

But it would be really great if he ponied up for a cameo to tie up that loose end.

6. One or more of the female characters form friendships. So many of them have been relegated to being the only woman on their team. It would be great if one of the Wakandan warriors commented on this in a humorous aside. Come oooooon, Bechdel...mama needs a new pair of shoes.

7. I think Hela could be percieved as the Goddess of Death and I think that's who Thanos is smiling about at the end of the first Avengers when Wesley from Buffy in prosthetics says, "...is to court death." Run on sentence, I know. I'm just...I'm amped. As mentioned in point number 4, I think Thanos will have a rock solid reason for being the Mary Poppins of murder.

I have a lot more thoughts, but I'm almost too hyped to put them down right now. I've thought maybe Vision or Loki might somehow pose as one of the other heroes at the end because said actual hero is dead. And I don't know...other stuff. Is it Christmas morning yet?!

I'm pretty much a sugar-crazed toddler right now. I've been worried about Infinity War and worried about the Russo Brothers making things so dark that the movie won't be fun to watch. But the spoiler-free reviews I've read say otherwise, so I'm officially excited.

What do you think will happen in Infinity War?


*I originally called the Eternals "Celestials" because I'm a dingbat sometimes.