Christmas in July Special: Emshwiller, Bunch and ‘A Little Girl’s Xmas in Modernia’

Ed Emshwiller—known affectionately as Emsh—is one of those names that only fans of classic science fiction and fantasy will probably be familiar with, but within that community the artist held some prestige.  He is most known for doing pulp magazine covers and interior art, particularly for Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  When one thinks of sci-fi art of the 50s and early 60s, it is probably Emshwiller’s style that comes most readily to mind.

David R. Bunch was a science fiction and satirical writer who is best known for a series of short stories set on Moderan, an Earth analogue world where everything has become largely mechanized, including the people of Moderan themselves, and those people live inside giant computerized structures called Strongholds which are at perpetual war with each other.  Bunch wrote dozens of these stories, most of which have been collected in the Moderan volume and in various science fiction anthologies.  One of these stories, A Little Girl’s Xmas in Moderan, was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (though it was retitled A Little Girl’s Xmas in Modernia, probably due to some copyright conflict with the name Moderan).  It became the cover story for that issue, with cover art from Emshwiller.

It is a strange story told from the point-of-view of a kindergarten-age girl—known only as Little Sister in the story—one of the few citizens of Moderan who hasn’t yet become a cyborg and thus retains her full humanity.  Bunch contrasts her nicely against her father, who is almost entirely machine at this point and, although fully sentient, has essentially lost touch with what made him human in the first place, including being a father to his two children.  The entire family—father, mother, son and daughter—each live in their own house with robot servants to attend their every need.

The Moderan series was an early representative of the New Wave of science fiction, which completely revolutionized the genre, but today Bunch and his Moderan stories have mostly been forgotten.  One interesting aspect of Little Sister is that she spends much of the story completely naked, even in though it is the dead of winter.  I suspect this is to remind the reader that she is, indeed, fully human.  Like artists who use nudity symbolically to communicate the child’s vulnerability, Bunch utilizes Little Sister’s nudity to show that human beings are vulnerable, even emotionally, and yet, in comparison to being fully mechanized, this vulnerability may be preferable, because at least it is still human.

I am including here both the magazine cover and the original illustration.  Unfortunately, the latter is not quite as high quality as the former, but it should be sufficient.

Ed Emshwiller - The Mag of Fantasy & Sci-Fi (cover)

Ed Emshwiller – The Mag of Fantasy & Sci-Fi (cover)

Ed Emshwiller - The Mag of Fantasy & Sci-Fi (cover) (detail)

Ed Emshwiller – The Mag of Fantasy & Sci-Fi (cover) (detail)

Ed Emshwiller - A Little Girl's Xmas in Modernia

Ed Emshwiller – A Little Girl’s Xmas in Modernia

Apparently there are other Moderan stories which feature these characters, including one called A Little Girl’s Spring Day in Moderan (which, unfortunately, is not included in the Moderan collection).  As a treat for you all, I am going to include the full text of the story in this post!  Enjoy!


A Little Girl’s Xmas in Moderan

by David R. Bunch

It was in Jingle-Bell weather that Little Sister came across the white yard, the snow between her toes all gray and packed and starting to ball up like the beginnings of two snowmen. For clothing she had nothing, her tiny rump sticking out red-cold, and blue-cold, and her little-jewel knees white almost as bones. She stuck up ten stiff fingers, and she said, “Daddy! Something is wrong at my place! Come see!” She lisped a little perhaps and did not say it all as precisely as grownups, because she was just past four.

He turned like a man in the bottom third of bad dreaming; he pointed two bored eyes at her. Damn the kid, he thought. “What the hell deal has Mox got us into now?” he said. And he sang the little rhyme that made the door come open. Then as she stepped toward him he saw the snowballs on her feet. They were melting now, making deep furrows in the green rug spread across his spacious thinking room. The tall nap, like flooded grass now along little canals bending away from her feet, was speckled white here and there with crumpled paper balls. His trial plans and formulas peeped out like golf balls.

Coming back across the iron fields of nightmare that always rose to confront him at such times, he struggled to make the present’s puzzling moments into sense. Damn the kid, he thought, didn’t wipe her feet. All flesh, as yet – her own – and bone and blood, and didn’t wipe her feet. The snow melts!

He motioned her to him. “Little Sister,” he began in that tired dull-tinny voice that was his now, and must be his, because his larynx was worked all in gold against cancer, “tell me slowly, Little Sister. Why don’t you stay in your plastic place more? Why don’t you use the iron Mox more? Why do you bother me at all? Tell me slowly.”

“Daddy!” she cried and started to jig up and down in the fits that he hated so, “come over to my place, you old boogie. Something needs fixing.”

So they went across the big white yard to her place, past Mother’s place, with her snow-hurt limping and naked, and him lumbering in strange stiff-jointedness, but snug in a fire-red snuggie suit of fine insulation with good black leather space high-tops. Arrived at her place he whistled at the door the three sharp notes. The door moved into the wall and Mox the iron one stood sliding the iron sections of his arms up into one another until he had only hands hanging from shoulders. It was his greeting way. He ogled with bulb eyes and flashed his greeting code.

“What would you have done,” her father said, “if I had not come with you? You brought no whistle for the door.” Three sharp notes sprang at him from the normal holes of her head, and the heavy door rolled softly out of the wall until it shut them in the gay red-carpeted room with a Xmas tree – the father, the naked little girl and the iron Mox. And she was impishly holding the whistle between her teeth, grinning up at him. “I had it all along,” she said and dropped the whistle into the tall red grass of her room’s carpet.

She wiped the waning snowballs from her feet and sidled her icy-cold rump over toward the slits where the heat came through the wall, soft and perfumed like an island summer. Her knees turned knee-color again and her rump became no longer vari-colored cold. It became the nicest of baby-pink little-girl rumps, and she stood there a health-champion of a little miss, all flesh and bone and blood – as yet – pointing at an angle toward the ceiling. “The star!” she said. “The star has fallen down.” And he noticed that she was pointing toward the tree.

“What star?” he started to say, across the fog that always smelled like metal in his mind these last few years, and then he thought, Oh hell, she means the Xmas star. “You came across all that yard,” he asked incredulously, “to annoy me with a thing like that, when Mox – ?”

“Mox wouldn’t,” she broke in. “I asked him and asked him, but he wouldn’t. It’s been down since the fifteenth. You remember when those dumb students went home in their jets early and fast and broke the rules and shook the houses down. BOOM! and the star fell down. Just like that. Well, he’d just do silly when I asked him, like you just now saw him, just shake his arms up into his shoulders and ogle. Pretty darn dumb, if you ask me.”

“But what about your mother?”

“I asked her when I was over to her place, over a week ago. But she’s been too busy and tired. You know how Mama is, always having that plastic guy rubbing parts of her, that she says hurt, and jumping on the bed at any little thing. Sometimes I think that guy’s in love with Mama. What’s love?”

What?! What’s love? Should I tell you, did I know? Love is – is not an iron ceiling on a plastic . . . But – oh, never mind! Hell! – How’s her star?”

Twinkle twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a mama in the sky. Heard that on the programs advertising diamonds.”

“Just answer the questions. How’s her star?”

“Up real shiny, last I saw. But heck, Mama probably never even looks at her star, because that plastic guy – ”

“And Little Brother’s star?”

“Humph, Little Brother! Beat his star up about a week after we put ’em up. Said it was just what he needed for the rear end of his space tube. You know how Little Brother is about space.”

“And so yours is the only star that has fallen. Mother’s is still up, though she doesn’t have time to look at it, you think. Little Brother took his down in the interest of space. Yours just fell.”

“Daddy, where is your star, Daddy?”

He looked at her, and he thought, Damn these little girls. Always so much sentiment. And so schemy, too. He said, “I had Nugall store my star away. It’s somewhere with the tree, in a box. It interfered with my deep thinking. I’ve got to have entirely a bare room, so far as Xmas trees are concerned, for my deep thinking, if you don’t mind.”

For just a moment he thought she was going to get the sniffles. She looked at him, float-eyed, her face ready to buckle and twist into tearful complaint. But she held and stared at him more sternly, and he said, “Sure, I’ll fix the damned star for you. Drag me a chair over. And then I must rush right back to my place.” (Dangerous, this being together so much. And so old-fashioned. And besides, he had been really cooking on a formula when she burst in.) So he stood on the chair she dragged to him, and he fixed the frosti-glass star to its hook in the iron ceiling and he adjusted the star until it was almost impossible to tell that it wasn’t attached to the green plastic tree. Then he whistled at the door.

Just as he was passing through the opening, leaving, he felt something tug at a leg of the fire-red suit. Damn! It was she again. “What now?” he asked.

“Daddy!” she piped, “you know what, Daddy? I thought, what if we’d go over to Mother’s and Little Brother’s places, since it’s Xmas. And you’ve got on your red suit. Isn’t this a very special day? I’ve been hearing on the programs – ”

“No,” he said, “it isn’t a very special day. But if you want to – and you’d probably do a fit about it if you didn’t get to – come on.” So after she had put on a green snow suit, they trudged across the white yard, a strange study in old Xmas colors, and they stopped first at Little Brother’s place, who was just past five.

Dressed in a pressure suit and sturdy beyond all sense, from the weight lifting and vitamin taking and breakfast-of-champions eating, he wanted to know what the hell all the nonsense of a visit was about so early. And he let them know that Nogoff, his iron man, was taking care of everything at his place very well, thank you. Then he strode about in his muscles, sturdy beyond all meaning, and he showed them the new jet tube part he had hammered out of the star, and they left pretty soon from his surliness. On the way over to Mother’s place Little Sister suggested that she thought Little Brother thought too much about rockets and jets and space. Didn’t Father think so? Father agreed dully that maybe he did, he didn’t know, but really, could one ever think too much about rockets and jets and space?

As they walked along, over the yard to Mother’s place, she kicked up snow and chortled and laughed and told off-color jokes – she had heard them on the programs – almost like a normal little girl should. Father tracked dourly through the unmarked snow under the featureless gray sky and thought only how all this nonsense of walking so early was making the silver parts of his joints hurt, and before he’d had his morning bracer, too. Yes indeed, Father, for the most part, was flesh only in those portions that they had not found ways to replace safely. He held on grimly, walking hard, and wished he were back in his hip-snuggie thinking chair where he worked on Universal Deep Problems.

At Mother’s place they found her having one of her plasto-rubs from the plastic man, who did truly act a little odd about Mother. Do you suppose he wasn’t really all machine but was a man who had been replaced part by part until it was impossible now to tell where the man left off and the robot plastic began? Father worried about it for half a second and then dismissed it. So what if he was? What could he do to Mother? And what if he did, what would it matter? Mother – new alloys now in almost all the places.

Little sister yelled MERRY XMAS! at the top of her good flesh lungs, and Mother turned through the waist only, as though on a swivel in that portion, and Father coughed dry in the metal of his embarrassment.

“’Twas Little Sister’s idea,” he mumbled. “So sorry, Marblene. I guess Mox hasn’t been watching her programs right, her insisting on Xmas trees and all this year, and now the idea of a visit among the folks of the family. I’m sorry, Marblene.” He coughed again. “So out of date.”

Mother blazed at him from her very plain blue eyes that were almost all ‘replaced’ now. It was clear that she wished to continue her rub with the plastic man as soon as possible. “Well?” she demanded.

“That’s all,” he mumbled, “if Little Sister’s ready.” Then for some silly reason – he couldn’t explain it afterwards, unless it was because he wasn’t all ‘replaced’ yet – he said a silly thing, something that would obligate him months hence. “Do you – I mean, would you – I mean, could I,” he stammered, “could I see you a couple of minutes, maybe at Easter? Our places are just across the yard from each other, you know. Maybe when I’m all ‘replaced’ I won’t be able to walk.” He hated himself for pleading.

She airily tossed her left hand, and fluttered those fabulous ‘replaced’ plastic fingers, and great rays of light shot and quavered and streamed from rings of ‘moderne’ diamond. “Why not?” she said resignedly. “What’s to lose? If Jon’s through in time – ” Jon was her plastic man – “we’ll talk a bit on Easter.”

And so it was done, and over, and soon they were again outside in the yard. “I guess I won’t have to walk you back will I? You have your whistle, don’t you?” he said.

“No,” she said. “I dropped it in the red rug. I just remember I did. I heard it. It squished down in the wet. While the snowballs were melting. Maybe I could come to your place!”

Damn these little girls, he thought. So tricky. Always scheming. He’d have to start having her ‘replaced’ as soon as he could after Xmas.

“There’s nothing of interest at my place,” he hastened to say. “Just my hip seat and my thinking space and Nugall.” He didn’t see any use to tell her about Nig-Nag, the statue woman who wasn’t quite all metal, that he kept under the bed until he needed her so much that he had to . . . there were some things that you just didn’t tell a daughter, not until she was much older or well on the road toward being all ‘replaced.’ “Tell you what we’ll do,” he said. “I’ll walk you back to your place and I’ll whistle at the door and you can go in to Mox. Your star’s all fixed and everything. You’ve had quite a Xmas!”

So they walked back through the iron-cold snow to her place, under a sky that was rapidly thickening in a day turning black. And as her door glided open he felt so relieved that he stooped and kissed her on top of the head, and he tapped her playfully a little on her good flesh buttocks as she passed through the plastic entrance. When she was gone he stood there thinking a little while outside her house. Like an old man in the starting third of a good dreaming, he stood nodding, prompted perhaps by things from a time before the time of ‘replacements,’ wondering maybe if he had not paid some uncalculated and enormous price for his iron durability.

While he stood thus idly musing, a light high and wee came up suddenly – from eastward, from toward the coast airports – and moved fast down the murky sky toward him, gaining speed. Soon the countryside all around recoiled from a giant blow as the barrier burst. He heard Little Sister behind him scream and beg for him to come back, and he knew without looking that her star was off its iron hook again. Like some frightened monster eager to gain its lair he dug in harder with his metal feet and lumbered off across the yard to his place, anxious to rest again in his hip-snuggie chair, desirous to think further on Universal Deep Problems.

The light, unswerving, went on down the sky, high and wee, like a fleeing piece of star, like something for somewhere else in a great hurry.




After School Memories

Reading RJ’s post about High Feather and after-school memories made me think of the times my sister and I would come home from school and watch cartoons. It seems strange now, but I remember us getting jazzed about watching He-Man and Masters of the Universe. I guess it was just something to do because the plots were obvious, the characters totally unbelievable and there was this annoying moral at the end of every story. However, there was this cute superheroine that appeared in two episodes so I get to share my reminiscences with you.

She is called the Starchild and besides being cute as a button, she has superpowers which others are trying to use for their own selfish purposes.

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (1)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (1)

In the first episode she appears in, two factions are arguing over custody and the main characters have to intercede in the best interests of the child. She has the power to make people like her, but her powers can be used for protection when needed. To demonstrate that she gets manhandled quite a lot from people, ogres and other creatures in the first episode.

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (1)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (1)

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (2)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (2)

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (3)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (3)

In the second season, she is abducted by a sorceress who desperately needs her as barter so she can free her father from the Realm of Evil. In the end, Starchild has to help our heroes get through a portal to escape from that realm.

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (2)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (2)

Growing up, I figured that He-Man was just another kids show until I started watching the Sut Jhally videos. It happens that when my sister and I were in school, regulations regarding prime time children’s television were severely relaxed and programmers no longer had to pretend to provide educational or uplifting material to young viewers. He-Man was the first show invented completely to sell toys (Mattel action figures). The idea was that kids would walk to their drugstore or whatever and collect the figures—crying to their parents the whole time until they got what they wanted.

Naked Power: Alan Moore and Winter Moran

Among aficionados of topnotch comics writing/storytelling there are few writers more famous (or more deserving of that fame) than Alan Moore.  Many of his greatest works (From Hell, A League of Extraordinary Gentleman, V for Vendetta and of course Watchmen) have been adapted to the big screen, some more successfully than others—Moore, true to character, has disavowed them all.  A quirky Brit known in the comics industry as much for his politics (and his hoariness) as for his writing, Moore is a dedicated anarchist and free speech advocate who hasn’t so much invited controversy as kidnapped it at gunpoint and forced it to deal with him.  He’s also clearly a genius.

One of Moore’s most controversial works was the erotic one-shot comic Lost Girls, co-authored and illustrated by his second wife, Melinda Gebbie.  The story took three young girls who were the protagonists of famous children’s fantasy books: Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Wendy from Peter Pan, and explored their erotic lives.  Although it deals primarily with these characters as adults, apparently (I confess I haven’t read it), there are scenes from their childhood as well.  The story flirts with dangerous ideas and subverts the notions of innocence that we often associate with these fairy tale characters and with children in general, and consequently some booksellers will not stock it in their store for fear of an obscenity charge, perhaps recalling the rash of police raids on comics shops and bookstores that took place back in the late eighties and early nineties.  It was because of cases like these that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund formed in 1986, an organization strongly supported by Yours Truly.  (Note: The CBLDF always accepts donations, so if you feel like giving to a good cause that—like us—is on the front line in the war for freedom of speech, I recommend giving to the CBLDF!)

Less controversial (but no less provocative) was the Miracleman series, a new take on a much older character, Marvelman—indeed, in the earliest appearances of the revitalized character, he was still called Marvelman, but when the rights passed over to Eclipse Comics, the name was changed to Miracleman to avoid copyright conflicts, and many of the original issues were retrofitted with the new name and identity in republications.  Moore’s run on the series coincided with the longest and most successful era for the revamped superhero, and as you would expect from Moore, the story was much darker and more violent—way more violent—than the character’s ’50s and ’60s incarnation and deals with his origins and eventual rise to godlike power and status on Earth.  This run was eventually collected into four graphic novels, all of which I highly recommend if you can get your hands on them—unfortunately, original editions of the books are going for a pretty penny on Amazon these days.

But, I digress.  Not only was the writing on the series fascinating and challenging, the artwork in it was consistently gorgeous, done by the likes of Alan Davis, Rick Veitch, Gary Leach and my absolute favorite artist on the series, John Totleben, whose inking is superb on so many levels.  Good inking is really the key to creating good comics art; if the inking is poor, then even the best of colorists often can’t save it.  But fortunately, Totleben is one of the best, despite being partially blind.

The story of Miracleman as conceived by Moore is one that starts with a traditional origin story but then quickly flies off into the darker and more complex corners of superhero mythology.  Moore is a master at exploring the psychological motivations—good, bad and ugly—of people who routinely put on strange costumes and fight crime and/or who have superpowers.  Among superheroes, Marvelman/Miracleman is one of the most powerful, a British analogue to Captain Marvel, who was himself Marvel’s answer to Superman.  In Moore’s vision, this demigod, not content with simply catching criminals, decides to rearrange Earth to his own liking, often with spectacularly surreal results, and to set himself up as benevolent supreme ruler of the planet.  Initially this is received well by civilization because many of Earth’s biggest problems are solved by Miracleman and his equally superpowered wife, but soon the facade begins to crack.

The Golden Age era, covered by the fourth collection, was finished, but not by Moore.  His successor was perhaps the only person the equal of Moore’s particular brand of creativity and intellect, Neil Gaiman.  Grant Morrison also did some writing on the series, making it the only comics series I’m aware of that all three members of what I call the Holy Trinity of British Comics Writers—Moore, Gaiman and Morrison–worked on, though there are probably some comics fans out there who can prove me wrong.  At any rate, although never completed, Gaiman had promised to present his hero in three different eras.  With the Golden Age complete, the second era, the Silver Age, was begun by Gaiman but was never completed.  It begins to show the erosion of Miracleman’s created utopia, and also focuses more on the the characters at the peripheral and how they are impacted by their new reality.  The final arc, the Dark Age, would’ve seen the complete destruction of Miracleman’s paradise and perhaps the downfall of the character himself.  Alas, we will probably never know.

One of the more ingenious characters Moore devised for Miracleman was Winter Moran, the daughter of Michael Moran and Avril Lear, Miracleman and Miraclewoman respectively, and as soon as she’s born she proves to be not only a worthy successor but someone who might soon rival her father and mother.  Immediately upon being born she speaks perfect English and is able to fly.  Not long after that, she leaves Earth altogether for a few years.  When she returns she is four years old, still as naked as the day she was born but much, much wiser, having explored the galaxy and encountered many alien races, one of whom she married, as we will soon learn.  But that’s not the only shocking thing she did while away from Home System: she also has sex (albeit in an artificial body).  In a funny scene in Miracleman Book Three: Olympus, when Winter reveals she’s had sex, her father, who is perhaps the most powerful being on Earth at this point, reveals he is a typically worrisome parent, and for all his intelligence and prudence, he has no idea how to handle his super-precocious four-year-old daughter.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pls 2-4)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pls 2-4)

As the scene progresses, we see that Winter is dissatisfied with her father’s “redecorations” of Earth, and this is likely intended to foreshadow Winter’s eventual rise and challenge to her father’s supremacy.  Winter, it seems, is being set up as the eventual villain of the Dark Age.  But for now she is simply a super-powered, super-intelligent 4-year-old girl who, like Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, has transcended the need for clothing.  We are aware that she has no particular attachment to human notions of modesty or conventional morality; it is perhaps a short leap from there to the understanding growing in Winter’s consciousness that humanity are as ants to her, or simply toys for her to play with as she pleases.  Or destroy.  Notice Totleben’s delicate Art Nouveau-infused work on Winter’s hair and the background designs here.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pl 5)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pl 5)

Soon Winter is an active participant in her new world.  But what does she do?  She makes it easier and more comfortable for women to give birth to a new strain of genetically modified super-babies like herself.  Hmm, why is Winter so interested in bringing more of such children into the world?  Is she perhaps creating her own army of super-children for an eventual takeover of Earth?  Notice Winter teaching the super-babies how to fly.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 117, pl 1)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 117, pl 1)

In Book Four: The Golden Age, after Neil Gaiman took over writing the series, Winter takes a backseat to another little blond super-baby, Mist, who, like Winter, tends to float around naked.  But Winter does make a prominent appearance in a peculiar way—she is the heroine of her own children’s book (which, incidentally, is being read to Mist and to her normal, non-superpowered half-brother by their mother).  The book is called Winter’s Tale and details what happened during those first few years when she traveled and explored the galaxy on her own.  The comic cleverly presents the pages of the book as part of the storyline, with occasional interjection panels where Mist, her brother and their mom discuss the book.  Here is the first page of Winter’s Tale:

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons - Miracleman - Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 94)

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons – Miracleman – Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 94)

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the story deals with Winter’s meeting with the Lantiman of Sauk, who immediately asks Winter to marry him, which she does.  The context is important here—let’s remember that this is being revealed through a children’s book that exists in Miracleman’s reality, and that it is being read to two children at the same time the reader is experiencing it, one a miracle baby herself, the other not.  The Lantiman reveals forthwith that Winter is simply the newest in his collection of child-brides, and the reader understands that we are now looking at an alien pedophile, and that he is presented positively in the fictional book.

Oddly enough, Winter and the Lantiman never have physical sex.  This fact is not presented in the story, but we know it’s true because the writer points out that Winter is looking for the Qys system–she has not yet met the Qys, the hyper-advanced species that introduced her to sex, at least by Winter’s account in Olympus.  It makes sense that the Lantiman’s relationship with his child-brides is not a sexual one in any conventional sense, given that it is not bound by species, and also owing to his gigantic size, which would make sex with Winter (and presumably most or all of his child-brides) nearly impossible anyway.

So, what is this love the Lantiman has for young girls of every species that compels him to marry them if it isn’t sexual?  I reckon it is something akin to the feelings many of Pigtails’ readers feel—it is not conventionally sexual in itself, but it recognizes the holistic beauty of children, which includes their sexuality.  It is the timeless fascination that little girls hold for some adult males like myself, the recognition that they are a kind of ideal human.  Not that I would ever want to marry a little girl, but for me this blog is analogous to the Lantiman of Sauk’s marriages; it is born out of something that transcends mere beauty or sexuality or any other such physically rooted concept.

And in that light, Winter, who is herself a transcendent version of the little girl—a little girl who is near to achieving her perfect potential—is a natural fit for the Lantiman.  Unlike child-brides in traditional cultures, the Lantiman does not seek to control Winter.  Indeed, he gives her an entire planet, a world for her to play with and control.  He is apparently not interested in her merely as a physical form (though the notion that he also finds little girls physically beautiful is not excluded here); he is interested in her as a little girl who is fully able to express her every desire because of her godlike abilities.  Hence, the Lantiman’s feeling that Winter was the best bride he ever had.  Notice that when Winter is ready to leave him, he does not stop her from going.  Granted, the account is being filtered through Neil Gaiman (as the proxy writer of the children’s book) for the children of the Miracleman universe, so we may not be getting an accurate account of what actually happened between Winter and the Lantiman.

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons - Miracleman - Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 100)

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons – Miracleman – Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 100)

And now, I have something really special for you.  This is the first actual illustration of mine I’ve featured on this site, and it is my interpretation of Winter Moran.  This piece is 11″ × 14″ pen & ink on Bristol board, done mostly in pointillism (I was going for Virgil Finlay-esque), frameable, signed by me on the front and back, and it is for sale.  If you’re interested, you can contact me off the board and we will arrange something.  Meantime, I hope you enjoy it!  This is the first of what will likely be a series of pieces I plan to post here with little girls as the common theme, most of which will be offered for sale.

Edit: SOLD – Sorry, but this piece is no longer on the market.  Thank you for your interest!

Pip Starr - Winter Moran (2015)

Pip Starr – Winter Moran (2015)

Little Whoopi Goldberg?

I can’t help it; it is in my nature to notice little things. I am always fascinated by Hollywood’s casting of children to represent the childhood version of some main character. Good casting requires that they not only have a close physical resemblance, but have something of the character of the particular actor. What struck me recently is that this has been done at least three times in films starring Whoopi Goldberg.

Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in 1955. It appears she early had ambitions to become an actress and changed her name to sound Jewish, figuring that would give her an edge in Hollywood. Goldberg is also a skilled comedienne and I am delighted to have some excuse to mention her on Pigtails in Paint.

(School Photo of Caryn Elaine Johnson)

(School Photo of Caryn Elaine Johnson)

One of her most imaginative roles was that in Sister Act (1992). Playing a casino singer called Doloris, she witnesses an execution conducted by her mobster boyfriend and must be sequestered until she can testify against him. A very clever hiding place was needed and so she poses as a nun in a financially-strapped convent where her natural singing talent finally transforms the place. In the beginning of the film, we see a flashback of her as a Catholic schoolgirl being asked to recite the names of Jesus’ twelve apostles. Her younger self (Isis Jones) has a wise mouth and instead of giving the expected answer, she offers the names of The Beatles.

Joseph Howard and Emile Ardolino - Sister Act (1992)

Joseph Howard and Emile Ardolino – Sister Act (1992)

In another role even further outside the box, Goldberg plays Lucy in the TV movie Call Me Claus (2001). It seems that every 200 years, a new Santa Claus must be recruited and trained. Lucy is destined to be the next one, but there is a catch. As a little girl (Tinashe Kachigwe), her Christmas wish to Santa was for her father to come home from Vietnam. Instead, the family returns home to learn that he was just killed and she has since been disillusioned about Christmas and the current Santa (Nigel Hawthorne) must convince her to embrace her destiny and take on this great challenge and opportunity.

Paul Mooney, Sara Bernstein, Gregory Bernstein and Brian Bird - Call Me Claus (2001)

Paul Mooney, Sara Bernstein, Gregory Bernstein and Brian Bird – Call Me Claus (2001)

The third example is not a flashback; in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called Rascals, a transporter accident somehow turns a handful of crew members including Guinan (Goldberg) into 12-year-olds (Isis Jones, again). Guinan is a mysterious character of indeterminate age who tends bar on the Enterprise and offers periodic wisdom to the crew. Goldberg accepted this role enthusiastically because Star Trek had a special place in her heart. The original series was cutting edge in many ways and perhaps one of the most significant was that a Black woman (Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols) played a starring role. Before then, Black women tended to play stereotypical subservient roles such as maids, cooks and nannies. Here Guinan and Ro (Michelle Forbes/Megan Parlen) discuss their predicament.

Gene Roddenberry, et al - Star Trek: The Next Generation: Rascals (1992) (1)

Gene Roddenberry, et al – Star Trek: The Next Generation: Rascals (1992) (1)

Another scenario worth mentioning on this episode is that another crew member, a botanist called Keiko (Rosalind Chao/Caroline Junko King) is married and her husband Miles (Colm Meaney) is in the awkward position of trying to be a supportive and comforting husband.

Gene Roddenberry, et al - Star Trek: The Next Generation: Rascals (1992) (2)

Gene Roddenberry, et al – Star Trek: The Next Generation: Rascals (1992) (2)

This little observation makes me wonder: is there some record as to which actor or actress has been portrayed as a child the most?

RanXerox: An Idea Whose Time Has . . . Gone

The late ’70s and early ’80s were a paradoxical time.  Crime rates, including violent crime, peaked in the United States, and films had become notably darker and more violent, as well as more sexually daring in some ways.  They had even started to address child and adolescent sexuality and child sexual abuse much more directly (and, it should be said, quite often controversially here in the states).  Pretty Baby (1978), You Are Not Alone (1978), The Tin Drum (1979), Beau Pere (1981) and Pixote (1981) had all come out in this period.  As you’ll note, all but one of these were foreign releases, and the exception, Pretty Baby, had a foreign director.

Meanwhile, the precedent for America’s treatment of these themes had been set by 1976’s Taxi Driver, it seems (ironically, a film about a psychotic man who is unable to process his own attraction to a 13-year-old prostitute–played by a young Jodie Foster—and consequently goes on a violent shooting spree.)  This film, perhaps more than any other, I think encapsulates the American mindset with regard to child sexuality.  In a very real sense America is Travis Bickle, and it isn’t surprising that Jodie Foster’s character from the film eventually inspired a very real Bicklesque lunatic, John Hinckley, Jr., to make an assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life.

But film wasn’t the only medium in which Europeans explored underage sexuality.  There were also a few European comics working in this territory.   Of course, they often came with about a metric crap-ton of qualifiers and subterfuge, so as to get around censors.  Although comics are really a much better medium for addressing this topic than live-action film (given the fact that no real children need be involved), in some ways it has been even more subject to taboo than film has.  This may be because comics had traditionally been thought of as a kids’ medium, which only began to shift after the Underground Comix revolution of the late ’60s.  It was also in the late ’70s—1978 to be specific—that Europe gave birth to one of the most outrageous examples of comics dealing with underage sex, Tamburini and Liberatore’s RanXerox.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (pg. 15 - splash)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (pg. 15 – splash)

I have already mentioned how these explorations often used subterfuge to get around the censors, and RanXerox is the perfect example, for, although certain female protagonists of the series—including one of the main characters, Lubna—claimed to be 18 years old, it is visibly obvious that they are in fact much younger.  Not that there aren’t extremely tiny, nearly flat-chested 18-year-olds in real life, but what are the odds that two of them would be friends?  What’s clear here is that Stefano Tamburini and Gaetano “Tanino” Liberatore were conspiring to pull a fast one over on their readership, and for the most part they succeeded.

RanXerox got it’s start in a small Italian publication called Cannibale in 1978, but it really didn’t become well-known until the American sci-fi and erotica magazine Heavy Metal picked it up in June of 1983.  Right from the get-go the series was controversial, not only because of its blatant sexual transgression and graphic violence but also because its original title, Rank Xerox, was a dead rip-off of a very real business entity.  Eventually the title was shortened to RanXerox of course, but again, this was just a sly way to get around what was actually intended by its creators.

The story is set sometime in the future and revolves around RanXerox himself, an ultra-violent, snub-nosed musclebound cyborg constructed from parts of a copier machine (hence the name) and his precocious drug addicted girlfriend, the aforementioned Lubna.  RanXerox is a Punk Age monster, a force of unchecked violence and rage, yet he is often mistreated by his young girlfriend, the only person he loves.  She is therefore the only one who can actually tame his violent tendencies, though mostly she exploits his talents to clear obstacles from her own path.  Richard Corben, another Heavy Metal alumnus, says it best:

RanXerox is a punk, futuristic Frankenstein monster, and with the under-aged Lubna, they are a bizarre Beauty and the Beast. This artist and writer team have turned a dark mirror to the depths of our Id and we see reflected the base part of ourselves that would take what it wants with no compromise, no apology – and woe to the person who would cross us. But it is all done with a black, wry, satirical sense of humor.

But why has Corben suggested that Lubna is underage?  After all, by the third page in the very first story arc in HM we are told that Lubna has recently turned 18.  One at first wonders why it was necessary to make this fact known so soon.  But the creators didn’t stop there; there are references to both Lubna’s age and the age of her friend Martine (who sleeps with Ranx after Lubna is separated from him for a time) throughout.  It’s possible the creators were overcompensating for their own insecurities about the youthful appearance of these characters, but it’s more likely some editor or publisher insisted on it.  Ironically, the constant references to the girls’ ages only serves to draw attention to the fact that physically they are nowhere near 18, and appear to be more in the neighborhood of 12 or 13, which was obviously Tamburini’s intended age for them.

But their youth isn’t simply gratuitous.  The point was to show a future based on projections of the social and criminal trends of the time, a future in which ever-younger kids fell prey to the corrupting lure of the drugs, casual sex and general misanthropy that dominated youth culture in the late ’70s.  To reinforce this point, an even younger girl—a child no older than 3 or 4—is often seen on the street corner that Lubna and her friends haunt; she wears outfits that expose her tiny undeveloped breasts and makes obnoxious comments to Lubna and others.  She’s a little Lubna in training, another sign of the growing inverse relationship between the age and worldliness of the characters in the RanXerox universe.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 17, panel 4)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 17, panel 4)

The story begins with Lubna on the prowl for another fix of “plasma” in her home city of Rome, Italy, as she begins to feel the ache of withdrawal.  They eventually wind up in the home of the wealthy, psychic (and psychotic) painter Rainier, who gets her high and then tricks her into shutting down her robotic lover and protector.  Afterwards, he and his compatriot dump Ranx’s inanimate body near the Colosseum and kidnap Lubna for purposes unknown.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 20, panel 4)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 20, panel 4)

As it turns out, Rainier has plans for both Ranx and Lubna, using the former (after tampering with Ranx’s head) to kill an entire club full of people, though the real target is an art critic Rainier despises who happens to be at the club at the time.  But there’s a notable scene just before the massacre where a small girl offers a rose for sale to Ranx, only to be met with a particularly brutal response from the still-malfunctioning robot, whose impulse control has been compromised.  It’s scenes like these that earned RanXerox its notoriety.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 51, panel 8)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 51, panel 8)

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 52, panel 1)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 52, panel 1)

It’s eventually revealed that Rainier has the notion to use Lubna as part of an art piece to be titled Cadaver of a Young Drug Addict.  But of course, Ranx comes smashing into his apartment and breaks his neck, even though Lubna isn’t there.  It’s striking that the first major villain of the initial story arc is a pretentious modern artist who makes ridiculous amounts of money off his meaningless art, and Liberatore, a mere comics artist in many people’s eyes, no doubt relished seeing Rainier meet his end at the hands of his and Tamburini’s creation.

With Lubna now missing and Ranx still hunting for her, he temporarily hooks up with Lubna’s friend Martine, who appears to be about the same age as Lubna.  They have sex at Martine’s place, and the girl, a student of Bioelectronics, at last repairs his busted brain.  It’s noteworthy that in some reprints of these stories this scene was heavily censored.  Particularly bothersome to the censors was the appearance of Ranx’s penis.  Their tryst is interrupted by the sudden intrusion of Martine’s insanely jealous and abusive boyfriend outside her door, but Ranx makes short work of him with a single well-placed punch . . . through the door.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 22)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 22)

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 23)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 23)

Later, as Martine is changing the battery in Ranx’s back, a group of street thugs make a particularly conspicuous comment about her age, with one of them mistaking her for a 12-year-old and another correcting him.  Later the group plans to gang rape the girl, with one of them commenting, “I bet she’s got an ass on her as tender as a filet.”  Ranx, of course, doesn’t go for that.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 25, panel 5)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 25, panel 5)

After several violent episodes and a lot of traveling around the city, Ranx eventually finds that Lubna is being held prisoner by a wealthy, leather mask-wearing man named Volare and goes after her, only to be captured by Volare, who intends to use the robot to stage a Fred Astaire routine as part of a retrospective on the famous dancing actor.  His speech to Ranx amusingly references Heavy Metal, the very magazine the story is running in.  It seems Tamburini was doing meta before meta was cool.  Meanwhile, Lubna is watching a cartoon with a bird character who proclaims, “Goddamn it!”  A quite prescient observation when one considers the popularity of shows like Family Guy, South Park and American Dad today.  (Remember, this series was published in the early ’80s.)  Here it’s just another sign of the decadence and social decline of the future.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 57, panels 1 & 2)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 57, panels 1 & 2)

By now Lubna has bought into Volare’s promises of wealth and fame and blatantly manipulates Ranx by appealing to his love for her (not to mention giving him a hand-job) as they fly to New York in Volare’s private plane!

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 58)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 58)

Ranx agrees to this as long as Lubna can stay with him, but Lubna betrays her robot mate by remaining with Volare while Ranx is training, ostensibly so as not to distract him but more likely because she is attracted to Volare’s wealth and power.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 59, panels 5 & 6)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 59, panels 5 & 6)

After 24 hours, which is all Ranx’s electronic brain needs to memorize Astaire’s entire song-and-dance oeuvre, Ranx and Lubna are at last reunited, with Lubna ironically behaving very much like a child.  Observant readers will note that she is listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 60, panel 4)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 60, panel 4)

In the final issue of the first story arc, Lubna seems to have age-regressed not only behaviorally but even physically.  She may be attracted to Volare, though more than likely it’s just the drugs talking.  While Ranx is performing in the show, she attempts to seduce her abductor in a scene that is likely to send shudders down the spines of anti-abuse and anti-human trafficking advocates everywhere.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 (December, 1983) (page 35)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 December, 1983) (page 35)

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (December, 1983) (page 36)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (December, 1983) (page 36)

While Ranx is performing, Lubna attempts to seduce Volare; unfortunately for her, Ranx notices.  He stops the show and smashes his way to Volare’s balcony box.  Violence ensues.  The object of his hatred is destroyed, yet Ranx is profoundly affected by this last and worst of Lubna’s many betrayals and, atypically for him, stands up to her abuse in a humorously inappropriate way that symbolically acknowledges her true age: he gives her a bare behind spanking.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 (December, 1983) (page 39)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 (December, 1983) (page 39)

For something so controversial, RanXerox has had its influence on other creators, most notably manifest in a surreal French fantasy film called La Cité des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children), directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, which really deserves its own article on Pigtails in Paint.  The physical resemblance of One and Miette to Ranx and Lubna cannot be overstated.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro - Ron Perlman and Judith Vittet in 'The City of Lost Children' (1995)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro – Ron Perlman and Judith Vittet in ‘The City of Lost Children’ (1995)

RanXerox is a role that was made for Ron Perlman, if it could ever be filmed.  Of course, it can’t.  Indeed, the environment is such today that even a comics magazine like Heavy Metal likely wouldn’t dare repeat it.  It’s a concept whose time has gone.  Or has it?  There have been sexually precocious minors in comics since RanXerox‘s time, though, to my knowledge, rarely without some built-in moral consequence, where bad things befall the child and/or the adult involved with them, or they are clearly the product of sexual abuse.  Yet, in its way, RanXerox may be the most moral story of all of these, for I imagine few people can read it without being repulsed by the characters’ behavior somewhere down the line.  These are not people we would likely ever want to meet, and that may be Tamburini’s point.  When you imagine a future filled with these blatantly immoral folks, you can see that Ranx and Lubna’s world is a true dystopia, one created not by government oppression but by gradual desensitization and moral erosion of the populace.

Tamburini might’ve believed this was where we were headed as a society.  Of course, he was wrong.  Reality never follows so straight a path.  As for Tamburini himself, only three short years after the first run of RanXerox in Heavy Metal (1986) his lifeless body was discovered in his apartment in Rome.  He had apparently died from a heroin overdose.  He was 30 years old at the time of death.

In addition to the HM runs, this series has been collected into books (three major volumes) and translated into several languages.  Here is the cover for one of them, RanXerox 2: Happy Birthday, Lubna.

Tanino Liberatore - Ranx 2: Happy Birthday, Lubna (cover)

Tanino Liberatore – Ranx 2: Happy Birthday, Lubna (cover)

And a cover for the Spanish comics magazine El Víbora (The Viper), featuring Ranx, Lubna, Martine, the toddler girl from the street corner (who Lubna sometimes babysits and whose name I do not know), and another girl I don’t recognize.

Tanino Liberatore - El Víbora, No. 47 (cover)

Tanino Liberatore – El Víbora, No. 47 (cover)

An unidentified image of Lubna working on Ranx:

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox

And just for the hell of it, let’s throw in an illustration of these characters by Paul Pope.  You’ll note that Pope also did a tribute illustration to Moebius’s short story The Apple Pie.

Paul Pope - Ranxerox and Lubna

Paul Pope – Ranxerox and Lubna

You can read the entire first story arc and a handful of the other RanXerox issues (as well as most of the early issues of Heavy Metal) at this site.  The first story arc runs from issue v07 #04 (July 1983) through issue v07 #09 (December 1983); there’s also a great interview with Liberatore in that December ’83 issue.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: RanXerox

URBAN ASPIRINES: RANXEROX: By Tanino Liberatore and Stefano Tamburini

Comic Vine: RanXerox (Character)

Eva, Lovely Girl and Defective Robot

Eva is a 2011 Spanish film by Kike Maíllo, usually considered to be science fiction. Outwardly it deals with robotics and one sees several animated robots in it with various roles from receptionist to pet; but to me, this feels like showing off. There is nevertheless a poetical aspect to them as they can be switched off by saying “What do you see when you close your eyes?”

Then there is Max, the perfect human-looking robotic butler, cook and cleaner, brilliantly played by Lluís Homar, who proactively takes care of everything in the house without needing any orders and can even adapt his emotional level to suit his client’s tastes; however, his personality seems too perfect and predictable to capture our interest.
There are also several discussions about science between the adult human characters: Julia (Anne Canovas), director of the robotics research program, Álex (Daniel Brühl), the scientist who strayed from the project for ten years, his brother David (Alberto Ammann), and Lana (Marta Etura), Álex’s former love now living with David. To a large extent, I find their talk pedantic, it looks like the script writers and the director know nothing about science, research and the people who make a living doing it.

Besides robotics, there is a bit of adult romance, with a love triangle between the two brothers and the woman they both love. However, I find this aspect of the film a pointless distraction from the real story.

So, where does the interest of this movie lie?  In Eva, it is the fascinating and beautiful ten-year-old girl played by Claudia Vega and her complex relationship with Álex.  Her name appears fifth in the opening credits, but deserves to be first (or at least second, after Brühl), since she is in fact central to the film.  The first image is of Claudia Vega as Eva.

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (1)

Here goes the story; the year is 2041. After ten years of absence abroad, Álex returns to Spain to resume his project of a new-generation robot indistinguishable from a human being. He is greeted by his brother David and meets again his colleague and former love Lana, who is now with David. After visiting Julia’s laboratory at the university and discussing it with her, Álex decides to work on his project in his late father’s house outside town, which has a lab in the basement. There he gets Max to take care of his material needs. Looking for a model for his robot, he meets Eva in the street. Being invited to dine at Lana’s home, he discovers that Eva is in fact her daughter.  Here we see Eva with Lana.

Eva with Lana

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (2)

In the following days, Eva bicycles to his house, and he works on experiments with her in his lab, measuring her emotional reactions to design the psychology of his new robot. Here, Eva is inside Álex’s lab.

Eva inside Álex's lab

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (3)

Álex becomes attached to her. After flirting with Lana followed by a fight with the jealous David, Lana visits Álex in his lab and reveals that during his ten-year absence, she completed his robot project, and that Eva is the result—a robot, not a girl. But Eva is listening from a window just above the basement. This shot shows Eva listening.

Eva listening through the window

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (4)

Panicked at the revelation, Eva flees to the mountains where she has a battery failure and becomes unconscious. Lana finds her and replaces the battery. Waking up, Eva feels betrayed and, still panicked, pushes Lana over a cliff and runs back to Álex’s house where Max takes care of her. Then Julia comes and tells Álex that when Eva was built, she did not pass the security tests, so was supposed to be deactivated, but Lana took the initiative of halting the procedure so Eva could live with her. Julia insists that Eva must be switched off, saying that she is not a human being and that “she did not hesitate to kill Lana”. Álex answers that he will do it himself.

The most interesting part of the film comes on the last day. Álex greets Eva with, “Good morning, princess”. After an outing with Max to go skating and see the mountains, Eva tells Álex “I want to become a gentle little girl” before their return home. The final scene has a strong erotic undercurrent; in the lab, Eva takes Álex by the hand, goes to a bed, takes off her shoes and lies down on it. Holding Álex’s hand, she tells him how Lana used to read her a tale from the Arabian Nights about a princess marked for death by her prince thwarting execution by reciting endless stories to him night after night. Eva falls into Álex’s arms, begging for his protection when he says the fateful sentence, “What do you see when you close your eyes?”; she collapses and dreams about being in a family with Álex and Lana.

Kike Maíllo - from Eva (2011) (5)

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (5)

In the relationship between Álex and Eva, there are allusions to a “predator” theme. The first time they meet, as he watches her from his car, she jokingly calls him a pervert; when he gives her a single piece of candy, she jests that he is a “professional pervert”. Her tale is also suggestive of Little Red Riding Hood; first, because she wears a red cloak, but also because in visiting Álex in his lab, she disobeys Lana’s order never to leave town with her bike.  Here, Eva is seen wearing her red cloak.

Eva wearing her red cloak

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (6)

Director Kike Maíllo gave several interviews to French and Spanish cinema journals and one can get an idea of his views about the mind and behaviour of Eva; I have translated some excerpts from a few French ones.

In an interview with Cinespagne, the journalist mentions that Eva:

“…is a woman in the body of a little girl”, and Maíllo says, “It is a character difficult to define, since one never knows where she stands. Is she flirting with Álex or is she having a friendship?”

In, the journalist mentions that “the relationship between Eva and Álex is rather peculiar” and Maíllo says:

“Álex, the programmer, is looking for a model for his child robot and he finally chooses Eva, who is not really a 10-year-old little girl. Anyway, the jokes that she throws at him and her actions (verging on flirtation) are not those of a girl her age. Her character is written as a woman in the body of a child—a Lolita in some way.”

On, he says:

“But because she is a woman in the body of a child, she is a Lolita. She is clearly not a child as one would think…For me, Álex is not interested in children; they bore him. When he sees them at the university, he remains indifferent. It is just because she is very special; she speaks like an adult. She is able to understand and play with the word ‘pervert’ just like an adult. This is something that you would hear from the mouth of a 16-year-old adolescent, not of a 10-year-old girl.”

These words illustrate the relentless tendency of our culture to incapacitate and desexualize young people at ever increasing ages. In reality, children are very curious about sexuality; they gather whatever information they can from playground talk or the internet. Long ago, I personally heard an 8-year-old make a sensible jest about “dykes”. Moreover, at age 10, children are able to elaborate rational judgments, and their sexual orientation is to a large extent established. Hence adults are regularly astonished by the feats of preteens, in awe and wonder at an 11-year-old who behaved responsibly as a rational adult in a critical situation, explaining afterward that she just did what she had learned, or a 13-year-old who performed good scientific research leading to real applications; but conversely, adults become both frightened and fascinated by so-called “Lolitas”, girls who express their natural sexuality.

In all pre-industrial cultures, teenagers were treated as adults and in many “primitive” societies, children at around age 10 underwent initiations, often painful, in order to mark their passage into adulthood.  In fact, there is nothing abnormal in Eva’s behaviour with Álex; she is just an intelligent and autonomous girl.

Another problem is the harshness of the decision to terminate Eva because, as a humanoid robot, she is “dangerous” and committed a homicide. Indeed, sometimes children accidentally or intentionally kill people, but they are not killed in return. Are artificially intelligent beings not given the same human rights?

In an interview with Abus de Ciné, Maíllo states,

“In my film, the point of view is always carried by the humans, on the capacity to forget that one is facing a machine—above all, if one wants to create a link, a relationship. In ‘A.I.’, this point of view goes very far. It lets us think that a day will come when machines will be so evolved that they will be able to have feelings. Personally, I don’t believe it. They will always be characters; they play roles, deceive us, imitate us. They are only reflections.”

One sees here that the director really thinks of artificial humans like Eva as inherently soulless and defective and that they could never be like humans. In fact, they are deviant, thus they do not deserve a human life. Eva’s abnormality, confirmed at the end, was suggested at an earlier moment in the film, when she takes psychological tests and we see that she does not correctly interpret emotions in human faces—a bit like autistics.

In Steven Spielberg’s film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the robot child was considered defective by humans, but he was finally redeemed as humanity became extinct and were replaced by robots. There is no such prospect for Eva.

Deviance was first identified and persecuted under religious authority, using the term heresy. The heretic seems pious, but is not, since he actually serves the Devil. Only the orthodox can be a good person. The orthodox sins despite his faith, while the heretic sins because of his perverse belief. Later on, the clergy was replaced in part by psychiatry (as explained by Thomas Szasz), and the deviant became the madman, then the sexual pervert; the latter idea took other names such as sexual psychopath, predator or paraphiliac. His vice has evolved through the last two centuries, from masturbation to homosexuality and finally to pedophilia. The sexual deviant does not feel love, but only lust. The orthodox heterosexual seeks happiness, falls in love and engages in courtship; the deviant seeks sexual gratification, targets a victim and engages in selfish grooming and manipulation. Sex crimes committed by the orthodox are just individual cases of anti-social behaviours; the same crimes committed by the deviant are supposedly an expression of his true perverted nature.

So deviants are to be removed from society, the religious heretics were burned and the sexual ones are locked up (sometimes remaining so after serving their sentences), or subjected to chemical castration; and robots can simply be switched off. However, as Alex Proyas’ film I, Robot showed magisterially, perfect obedience and conformity on the part of robots leads to tyranny, so robotic deviance is necessary to preserve freedom. I guess the same holds for human beings.

The great mathematician Alan Turing, who during World War II helped crack the secret codes of the German Navy and invented the principles of computers—and proving the extent of their limitations—also discussed the intelligence of machines. He proposed the “Turing Test” which stated that a machine interacting with humans—that is indistinguishable from a human being—must have intelligence; he answered the numerous objections to the idea of a machine’s mind. Incidentally, he was a sexual deviant by the standards in the UK of the fifties and he was convicted for homosexual behaviour. In order to avoid prison, he was forced to undergo chemical castration before later committing suicide.

A film critique (in French) by Olivier Bachelard in Abus de Ciné says about the character of Eva:

“However the latter does not appear sufficiently ambiguous to make us adhere to an idea of potential danger.” It concludes, “…a tension that rises progressively, without reaching for peaks. It is there that the film disappoints somewhat. By excessive gentility, it remains inside political correctness, engenders little suspense and remains within the domain of gentle illustration, despite its discourse about latent violence. It is as though maybe someone used the famous reinitialization sentence on the director, ‘What do you see when you close your eyes?’. One would have liked to see a real thriller. They preferred to offer us a little film targeting families. One comes away a little bit disappointed, but subjugated by some images.”

Indeed, in some ways Kike Maíllo spoiled his own film by remaining stuck to the infantilizing “family” style and not daring to challenge current prejudices about everything that is not “normal”.  Here, we see Eva approaching Álex’s lab.

Eva coming to Álex's lab

Kike Maíllo – from Eva (2011) (7)

Video interview of Kike Maíllo in AlloCiné (in English with French subtitles, and commentary in French).

Al Parker and Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt”

We lost one of our earliest and most important American science fiction and fantasy writers a couple days ago when Ray Bradbury passed away.  I devoured Bradbury’s short story collections when I was in high school.  A few months ago, while researching the art of illustrator Al Parker, I encountered an illustration he’d done for Bradbury’s story The Veldt which I first read in one of those collections, The Illustrated Man.  Because the story (and the illustration) features a little girl, it is appropriate for this blog.  Initially I set it aside for a future post on Al Parker, but I decided this would be a better time to post it.

Bradbury was a man of immense heart and imagination, who wrote several now classic stories and novels, including the anti-censorship masterpiece Fahrenheit 451.  Battling censorship is of course an issue very dear to me.  R.I.P. Ray Bradbury—you will certainly be missed.

And here’s a nice little summary of the story (that hints at the ending, in case you want to read it).

Addendum: If you’d like to see something really cool that’s based on The Veldt, check out this sweet animated music video for Deadmau5’s song of the same name featuring vocals by Chris James.


Al Parker – Illustration for Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Veldt’ (1950)

Wikipedia: Al Parker (artist)


From Margaret Matchin on June 27, 2012
Hello, I would love to find the book with the Al Parker illustration in it. Can you tell me which one it is? there are a couple on E Bay, and I am trying to figure which one it might be…..thank you . Peggy

From pipstarr72 on June 27, 2012
Hi, Peggy. The illustration originally accompanied a printing of Bradbury’s story (under the title The World the Children Made) in the September 23rd, 1950 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. The story itself can be found easily today in the Bradbury anthology The Illustrated Man. As far as where the illustration might have been reprinted, I simply do not know. I encountered it on the internet and have not seen it elsewhere. It may be in a book of Al Parker’s work or it may not be. Sorry I could not be of more help.

Dark Album Covers

I’ve posted a few already, but there’s no shortage of darker album art featuring young girls (especially for metal bands), so I decided to round the last few up into a single post.

The cover of Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me was originally featured on Pigtails on March 3, 2011 as a stand-alone post [deleted since — Editor]; here it is again . . .

It is by photographer Nicholas Prior.


Nicholas Prior – Untitled #44 (2003)

Nicholas Prior (Official Site)

Brand New (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Brand New

Dark New Day - Twelve Year Silence (cover)

Dark New Day – Twelve Year Silence (cover)

Wikipedia: Dark New Day

The artwork for the self-titled Evelyn Evelyn album was done by the multi-talented Cynthia von Buhler; it reminds me a bit of the work of indie comics genius Charles Burns. I also love the whole backstory that was created for the fictional conjoined twins that supposedly make up the band (who are actually Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley).

Cynthia von Buhler - Evelyn Evelyn - Evelyn Evelyn (cover)

Cynthia von Buhler – Evelyn Evelyn – Evelyn Evelyn (cover)

Cynthia von Buhler (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Cynthia von Buhler

Wikipedia: Evelyn Evelyn

Stuck Between Stations: Evelyn Evelyn (An interesting and amusing review of the band and how it performs.)

Fates Warning - Parallels (cover)

Fates Warning – Parallels (cover)

Fates Warning (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Fates Warning

Highlord - Instant Madness (cover)

Highlord – Instant Madness (cover)

Wikipedia: Highlord

I love this next one! Probably my favorite of the whole batch. Creepy and haunting for sure. I also dig how all of his album titles sound like titles from some bizarre YA sci-fi series.

Liquid Stranger - The Arcane Terrain (cover)

Liquid Stranger – The Arcane Terrain (cover)

The Liquid Stranger (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Liquid Stranger

Muse is one of my favorite heavier bands, and this album is fantastic. This is not the original album cover but rather the alternate gatefold. The images are similar, except that on the cover the shadows are going in a different direction and a man is standing in the spot where the little girl stands.

Muse - Absolution (alternate LP gatefold)

Muse – Absolution (alternate LP gatefold)

The back of the Absolution tour DVD also depicts a young girl standing amongst the shadows of the airplane men.

Muse - Absolution (back cover, tour DVD)

Muse – Absolution (back cover, tour DVD)

Muse (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Muse (band)

I like anything with a post-apocalyptic feel to it, and this next one definitely fits the bill.  There are actually a few bands/musicians called Oxygen, but this is a French act I know very little about. You can order the album here and that’s about all I can tell you at this point.

Oxygen - Le Dernier Clair de Lune (cover)

Oxygen – Le Dernier Clair de Lune (cover)

Queens of the Stone Age . . . another awesome hard rock band. Quite unlike anything else that’s out there right now.

Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze (cover)

Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze (cover)

Queens of the Stone Age (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Queens of the Stone Age

This is a Christian band and I’ve never heard them. This cover struck me as dark but hopeful, which is about right for a Christian album, and it also reminded me of the work of the AES+F art collective.

Run Kid Run - This is Who We Are (cover)

Run Kid Run – This is Who We Are (cover)

Wikipedia: Run Kid Run

Here’s an interesting cover in that it was originally a book cover (from the urban fantasy series The Borribles, in which runaway children living underground eventually turn into immortal rat-like humanoids.) I love the fact that most of the rat kids in this image are boys but the group is led by a girl. With a knife.

Savatage - Sirens (cover)

Savatage – Sirens (cover)

Savatage (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Savatage

Yet another cool post-apocalypse-themed cover:

We Are the Fallen - Tear the World Down (cover)

We Are the Fallen – Tear the World Down (cover)

We Are the Fallen (Official Facebook page)

Wikipedia: We Are the Fallen

Led Zeppelin’s ‘Houses of the Holy’

I’ve kind of been holding off on this one because it is one of my favorite albums ever and has one of my favorite covers as well.  The cover was designed by Aubrey Powell of the famous Hipnosis graphic design firm, which created many now iconic album covers of the ’60s and ’70s. The image features what appears to be a multitude of nude children climbing toward the peak of a rocky hill but in fact there were only two models for the children, brother and sister Stefan and Samantha Gates, who were photographed multiple times over the course of ten days on site at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  The design was inspired by the finale of Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal sci-fi novel Childhood’s End, in which millions of naked children are taken en masse from earth by aliens. (Little known fact: Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film of this book but couldn’t because the film rights were owned by someone else, so he opted to film another of Clarke’s novels instead, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Too bad–I would rather have seen Childhood’s End made into a movie, but alas it wasn’t to be.)

Both siblings look back on this experience with understandably mixed emotions, since the days were cold and rainy and the children were required to spend much of the time nude. Nevertheless, Stefan loved being naked anyway, as he points out in this article, and Samantha remarks in the same article on how nobody thought much of the children’s nudity back then, which underscores perfectly how attitudes have changed drastically in the last forty years.  However, because of the nudity the album was banned from parts of the US South for many years.  Stefan had later come to see the album cover art as a bit malign (Samantha disagreed) and had never listened to the album up until 2010, when he traveled back to the Giant’s Causeway to experience the album there and came away with a new appreciation for it and a changed perspective on the cover image.  Both children went on to careers in the media, Stefan as an actor and presenter on assorted cooking shows and Samantha as an actress.


Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (full image)

Aubrey Powell - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (front cover)

Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (front cover)

Aubrey Powell - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (back cover)

Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (back cover)

The inner sleeve image depicts a nude man holding one of the children (probably Stefan, judging by the hair length) over his head, though the figures are seen at a distance against the backdrop of a castle.  This was in fact Dunluce Castle, which is very near the Giant’s Causeway.

Aubrey Powell - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (interior)

Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (interior)

Samantha Gates in 'The Water Babies'

Samantha Gates in ‘The Water Babies’

Aubrey Powell (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Aubrey Powell (designer)

Led-Zeppelin (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Led Zeppelin


From Hugh Ziegler on April 13, 2012
Here we go — Houses of The Holy — at last!
This is what I get for being too busy to visit here in time.
I visited Aubrey Powell’s website — prints of his art work are available — but for $ 1,000 and up.
Okay — I love Samantha and Stefan, but that is a bit steep even for me.
Samantha got busy — I’ve read about Hajime Sawatari’s photographic adaption of “Alice In Wonderland” and an apparent sequel called “Alice from the Sea”. Worth a look?

From pipstarr72 on April 13, 2012
Yes, I finally put it up. From what I’ve seen of Sawatari’s book (on the web), it may well be worth the money. I suppose it depends on how serious a collector you are and how much money you have to play around with. I didn’t realize that was Samantha Gates portraying Alice; if it is (and it certainly does look like her), she was younger than she appears to be in film stills I’ve seen. I think the book was first published in 1973, the same year Houses of the Holy came out, which would mean she is fairly close to the same age on the album cover and in the book. That seems about right.