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The Female Perspective: Underage Red: Classy, Creepy or a Waste of Time?

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!


Let me start today’s blog by saying this, I am not a huge fan of Kat Von D, I find her kind of annoying, a lot hypocritical and mostly fluff. That being said, I found out about this makeup controversy (yes, MAKEUP) the other day and felt strongly compelled to write about it. I even reached out to Ms. D herself (via Twitter) to ask if we could chat about it but haven’t heard anything back. So solider on I will!

Kat Von D is in trouble again!
Kat Von D is in trouble again!

First off, here’s the deal: Kat has a makeup land through Sephora, punk shades, tattoo coverup, etc, etc…all stuff that is very much Kat Von D. It’s expensive and I don’t pay huge bucks for makeup so I don’t own any of it and I have never even looked at it since I never find myself inside of a Sephora store.

Recently, Kat decided to name one of her shades of lipstick “Underage Red” – well, cue the uproar! People thought she was promoting violence towards underage girls, pornography, etc. So Kat went to social media (like we all do these days) to defend her name choices, here are her words (via Facebook) on the matter:

Oh look, that lipstick promotes creepy behavior...oh wait, CREEPS promote creepy behavior...my bad.
Oh look, that lipstick promotes creepy behavior…oh wait, CREEPS promote creepy behavior…my bad.

UNDERAGE RED.

I have never expected everyone to understand or see things the way that I do.

With that being said, I can understand why some have found reason to be offended in regards to my choice in naming a lipstick “Underage Red” – but I feel the need to correct those of you who have clearly misinterpreted the name itself, and the inspiration behind it.

I should mention first, that I am the sole creative force behind my brand. I am the one responsible for naming every single shade, so I don’t see why anyone should aim any backlash towards such a great company like Sephora, who ultimately has no creative input on such matters. Although I do sell exclusively through them, my brand is it’s own independent entity.

Now, when naming a lipstick, my process may be different than other brand founders. For me, I can look at a shade and it usually evokes a feeling. Some names, of course, aren’t as sentimental and are more literal, but i remember clearly the day i named “Underage Red.”

“Underage Red” was one out of four lipstick shades that I released at the very start of the makeup line, seven years ago. It launched, alongside 3 other variation of red shades: “Hellbent,” “Misfit,” and “Lolita.”
Out of those 4 shades, “Underage Red” was the matte, borderline-neon, fire-engine red.

I clearly remember wearing a variation of this shade when I was 16 years old. I also remember the feeling of wanting so badly to go see a specific concert at this age, and not being able to get in to the venue because I was underage. Back then, I was already deeply in love with punk rock music, and although in the eyes of many (including my parents), it may have been inappropriate for me to be wearing lipstick. But i did.

“Underage Red” is not a girly, pink shade. It is not a sophisticated, deep red either. It is an unapologetic, bold red. To me, “Underage Red” is feminine rebellion.

I am fully aware of my overly expressive, poetic, and sentimental tendencies at times – especially when it comes to naming shades and collections in my makeup line. But for that, I will never apologize. Most names, whether inspired by my favourite bands, lyrics, personal muses and memories, are very close and dear to my heart.

Since day one, my number one goal when creating any beauty product was (and always will be) to provide the creative tools for self-expression and to empower those who choose to wear it.

It has NEVER been a goal of mine to inspire sexualization of any sort, let alone promote a destructive lifestyle.

Anyone who knows or follows me, is very aware of my personal lifestyle choices which include celibacy, sobriety, conscious living and [above feminism], human rights. Although, i would never force my views and opinions onto others, i most definitely find it offensive being accused of the opposite.

These wild, and horrific accusations proclaiming that any aspect of my makeup line would ever promote the degradation of women, statutory rape, sexual behavior, human trafficking, underage drinking, or even idealization of fleeting youth, goes against everything I stand for. So, please excuse me if I find those articles and comments appalling and inaccurate.

If you read the word “underage” and you automatically jump to a disgusting conclusion, I ask you to perhaps question your own mind and thoughts. Consider the damage such negativity can actually cause, verses actually help.

So, NO. I refuse to sacrifice my integrity and creative freedom. NO. I will not be pulling “Underage Red” from my collection. And NO. This is not an apology.

Lastly, to my true fans and followers:

Thank you for your support, always. I ask that you don’t engage in arguing with those who may not agree, or understand. The truth is, there ARE real existing problems in this world, and the last thing we need is to lose focus in pointless arguments.

I also ask that you please not worry! Yes, “Underage Red” is currently sold out (I believe due to all the long time fans of this shade assuming I might discontinue it.) But rest assured, it’ll be back in stock as soon as possible for you.

With Love,
Kat Von D

Sephora: Expensive makeup and they get into trouble via Kat Von D, fun times for them.
Sephora: Expensive makeup and they get into trouble via Kat Von D, fun times for them.

Yeah, it’s a lengthy post but it makes a few really good points.

“Underage Red” was one out of four lipstick shades that I released at the very start of the makeup line, seven years ago. It launched, alongside 3 other variation of red shades: “Hellbent,” “Misfit,” and “Lolita.”
Out of those 4 shades, “Underage Red” was the matte, borderline-neon, fire-engine red.

This shade of lipstick has been out since 2014, so why the uproar now? Why even make a huge fuss about the name of a lipstick? When you read her reasons behind the name as well as her description of the color it really all makes sense. I’ll be honest, when I read the names of shades of nail polish or any kind of makeup I typically shake my head in amusement and move on with my life. I don’t become offended because all it is is the name on a piece of makeup. Kat Von D isn’t going around proclaiming that underage sex and abuse is where it’s at, she’s simply reviving a feeling a nostalgia she felt when she saw the shade. Very simple.

One thing Kat Von D is, is a feminist, it can be hard to see beyond the barely-there outfits and wild makeup, but she’s someone who has always connected strongly with her feminine side and tried to do what is right by women (does she always succeed, no, neither do the rest of us humans). Another thing is that she doesn’t have a great history when it comes to naming her shades (Cue the outrage over her shade named, “Celebutard” which Sephora ultimately discontinued because it was offensive) and add to that,  she has another shade named “Lolita” and a few have asked if Kat has decided to create an entire “Sex Offender Line” of makeup.

As Kat says on one of her Facebook posts, “at the end of the day, it’s only a f-ing lipstick” and I think we all need to focus on that. The fact is, being angry over a lipstick name is a great way to avoid discussing topics that truly matter, namely the ones Kat has been accused of promoting such as sex trafficking, statutory rape, abuse, and more. Perhaps instead of becoming incensed by something innocuous (or stupid) that a celebrity does, we could become angry about things that actually matter. Such as the recent law in Indiana that was passed that clearly discriminates against gays. Maybe people should get in an uproar about that instead of jumping around angrily because a woman famous for her tattoo’s named her lipstick something risqué.

Besides all of that, the more we talk about it (and I’m aware of my guilt in this as well), the better she does. I mean hey, the shade sold out!

Either way, it gives us all something to think about, namely, what matters more; a lipstick or the world?

What do YOU think? Sound off in the comments folks!

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The Female Perspective: A Little Something Different Part II: A Chat with Jill Thompson

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!


Recently I was given the opportunity to talk with comic book artist and creator Jill Thompson. Jill has been working in the comics industry since the 80’s, when she did work for First Comics and Now Comics. In the 1990’s she became the artist for the Wonder Woman series and has since worked on The Sandman, Death: At Death’s Door and many, MANY more. She created the truly AWESOME Scary Godmother comic that is a MUST read for any comic fan. You can check out more of her work at her website (and I highly recommend that you do)!

Jill was kind enough to respond to some questions I asked her about feminism and the comics industry. Jill is a big proponent of allowing the new voices to speak and has asked that people spread the word that if you see her at a Con, feel free to go up and chat with her, she loves to talk to her fans and to up-and- coming artists.

OK, now onto the interview, Enjoy and feel let me know your thoughts in the Comments!!!


Artist Jill Thompson
Artist Jill Thompson

How do you feel about feminism in the comic world today? If not feminism, what are your thoughts on how female characters are drawn?

I’m a feminist. I don’t think that’s a bad word. Some people mistakenly believe or want to believe that it’s somehow anti men. To me it means that you respect all people and treat everyone as equals. It means you have an even playing field. 

What do you have to say to young girls if they want to get into art of any kind, but especially comics?

I say this to all aspiring artists male or female  who come to me for advice.  Learn the rules of drawing! This means you must study anatomy, life-drawing (that’s drawing from real people, animals and things; food, furniture, structures, clothing, cars, bicycles) perspective, design, color theory, etc. Once you master them you can apply all of that to comics and storytelling and bend and stretch the rules.

Next, PRACTICE everyday! The only way you get better is to put in the hours!!

Use reference to draw objects but do not be a slave to it. You’re not always going to be able to find exactly what you want on your Phone. Or heaven forbid, you have no internet access! You must  be able to manipulate basic shapes and turn them into whatever you need. Use your imagination!!

I subscribe to the school of “good comics storytelling is 80 percent silent”. The majority of your story should be able to be understood by someone who does not speak your native tongue. To me the dialogue and captions in comics are the icing on an already delicious cake! 

Your storytelling should be able to evoke an emotional response from your reader. You can create suspense, elation, relief, sadness, joy through your story pacing. 

Experiment with camera angles and shadow to help create a mood. 

Keep a notebook/sketchbook with your story ideas and daily sketches. Fill it up and make a new one! 

While your fans probably already know this, can you tell me what brought you to drawing comic books?

I’ve always wanted to draw comics. It’s one of my earliest memories, copying Peanuts strips from the newspapers. I realized that I wanted to be a cartoonist, a creator of comics stories.  I liked the language of comics as a way to tell stories. I had so much great inspiration in material along the way!!

My father used to bring me comics from the newsstand when he would come home from work on Fridays. At first, Archie Comics, which were my early favorite ever since I bought an orange crate full of vintage Archie’s at a house sale as a 9-year-old. To make a long story short, my interests in comics changed as I grew older. My father noticed that there was a comic book store in the town adjacent to us and took me there. It was like heaven for me. Yes it smelled musty like old paper but the owner, Rick Manzella, carried a great selection for a time when there really were no comic shops to speak of.

So I would save my babysitting money and pedal my bike over there on Saturdays and feed my comic addiction in boxes of back issues and new comics. And thankfully there were more varieties of comics to add to my repertoire as needed! I went from Peanuts to Archie to Spider-Man to X-Men to Elfquest, Lloyd Llewelyn, Love and Rockets, nexus, The Badger, Elementals, The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Anime and Manga,Judge Dredd, 2000AD to Moebius and more!  

Around the time I was fifteen, I was introduced to comics conventions. And to clarify, these were not the media extravaganzas they are today. They were not even the large comics-only events that conventions were less than a decade ago. These were tiny affairs held in the ballroom of some hotel or another. Mostly retailers selling old comics and portfolios of art and a couple of guests. Ours was at the Americana Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. My father took me to my first one but soon would simply drive me downtown and drop me off at the hotel with instructions to meet him back outside at 4 pm.

I would go inside with my sketchbook and watch the artists draw. I was usually the only girl there. And one of the only teenagers there. But I was surrounded by comics and artists who encouraged me. One artist in particular, Bill Reinhold, would look at my art, critique the things that were artistically incorrect and not only tell me why it was wrong but also how to do it correctly. He encouraged me to attend the American Academy of Art when I graduated art school and taught me that you have to know all the rules of art I mentioned earlier and not just copy the comics I liked. And I suppose I’m doing the same now for anyone who is willing to do the work.

How do you create your characters? Do you consider how they’ll be perceived by a younger audience when you do create them?

If you’re talking about The Scary Godmother, I really started out as a happy accident. I was making a gift for my first niece when she was born. Subsequently it turned into my first creator owned project. I was trying to make a comic that was entertaining to me but a gateway for kids to get used to reading the comic format. I mostly try to amuse myself first and make sure it is suitable for both young and old. The same goes for my series Magic Trixie from Harper Collins. Just like any other form of entertainment, you can’t just expect every person to suddenly like comics at 13 if they are not accustomed to reading it or reading in general. But I subscribe to the belief that reading material for children or a younger audience need not shelter them from life’s lessons. I cannot stand bland, ‘everyone gets a medal’, everything is nice, can’t have anything scary or dangerous types of Children’s stories. I prefer telling interesting G rated stories with drama and capable main characters that all ages can enjoy. 

If you haven't read "Scary Godmother" you need to get on that...STAT.
If you haven’t read “Scary Godmother” you need to get on that…STAT.

Recently, you posted this comment on FB…

“Women and Girls who like and want to make comics! Please come and show me your art at conventions! Do not be afraid or shy! I want to help you succeed! I do not bite! But I might give you an educational critique to help you improve your skills! wink just like Bill Reinhold did for me!! He is amazing and I love him so! Use me as a resource! I have a great helper Kyle Joseph Schmidt who will sell all teething awhile I help you! Come watch me draw and paint!! Here are the requirements!

1. Yes, your pin ups and character designs are nice! Please choose two of your best ones!

2. Do sequential comics pages that have backgrounds, locations and storytelling! You know how you can watch the Hush episode of Buffy and know what is going on with no dialogue? That’s what you need to show! Word balloons are icing on an already delicious cake!

3. Let’s do this! You are amazing and the world needs your comics! And I want you to support yourself by doing what you love, okay! You might need more work, but you’ll never get better if you labor in obscurity!

4.Please Repost!”

What is your biggest hope for this kind of post? What do you hope to get out of this more than just young girls coming up to you at conventions? (I, for one, think it’s awesome and I 100% agree with you – there NEEDS to be more female comic creators!)

I recently was the guest of a comic convention in Monterrey Mexico and I was honored and humbled by all the Mothers who brought their daughters over who were interested in art to meet me to show them that ‘Yes, you could achieve your dream of drawing comics if you were a girl’. I never had any doubt that I would draw comics someday, I always assumed that if I drew well enough and kept learning, I would succeed. I had the full support of both my parents in my dream of drawing comics. I went to art school on Scholarship, Pell Grant and through the help of my parents. But I know that not only do some kids not have the support of their parents, they might live in a cultural setting that has an outdated or limited view of what careers a woman should do. And the fact that I’ve met scores of girls who tell me that I was the first female artist who made them believe that they could achieve their dream of becoming a comics artist makes me want to help as many of them succeed as I can. 

Maybe the girls are shy, or afraid to show their artwork to someone they admire. I know I was intimidated the first time I wanted to show my art to artist John Byrne! I loved his art but I was frightened by his sarcastic personality when he engaged with his more unusual fans. I was so nervous! I spent the whole day watching him draw and every time the crowd would thin out and I’d get close enough to talk to him, I’d scuttle back behind the remaining few fans.  Thankfully Terry Austin was sitting next to him and watched me do this nervous dance all afternoon and asked to see my sketchbook. He then showed it to John who gave me the thumbs up! It was a great moment for me! I know what it’s like to be intimidated and scared. So if I can do anything to make up and coming artists feel comfortable and welcome, I want to do it!  The comics community has plenty of room for new stories, ideas, formats and genres! 

I am first and foremost an ambassador for the medium of Comics Storytelling. I love it and I want everyone to have a favorite comic and maybe that comic is yet to be created by one of these girls! 

Recently, Erik Larsen went to Twitter to complain that female characters like Batgirl, Super Woman and Ms. Marvel are too “overdressed” have you seen this (if not, the link is below) and what do you think about it? Especially since Ms. Marvel is a teenage character!

Haven’t seen it. Poor costume design is poor costume design and that could be scantily clad  or heavily shoulder padded. I think if you’re creating a costume for superheroes, male or female, it should be practical and wearable. It can be sexy. I love sexy stuff! What one designs for a Sci Fi story is different than what one would create for a Sword and Sorcery Fantasy story. We’re creating beautiful things for beautiful characters. Its part of the world you create and should be an extension of the character’s personality, whatever that might be. It’s a form of fashion design. There’s a place for Bob Mackie/Cher at the Oscars style outfits as well as athletic workout gear. But remember, I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who can run in high heels. I also know what happens to your boobs if you try and throw a punch in a strapless corset or bustier…one thing stays facing forward and the other things move with your body. This is a good place for the winky face emoticon, as well!

I say let the artists who create the superhero costumes wear their own designs and run a Spartan Race and we’ll soon see how practical it is! 

And really, cosplay has shown us what looks fantastic in real life and what looks uncomfortable or impossible to navigate in for longer than a photograph.

Who are some of your influences and why?

Ha, wow! In comics?! That’s a hard question to answer completely, I’d be afraid I’d leave someone out! Let me throw out a few …Dan DeCarlo, Bob Bolling, Harry Lucey, Chuck Jones, John Buscema, John Romita, John Byrne, P. Craig Russell, Wendy Pini, Steve Rude, The Hernandez Brothers, Rumiko Takahashi…the list is enormous and changes with new artist discoveries! 

For everything else- Andrew Loomis!

I’m a fan of amazing illustrators from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.

I can walk through the Art Institute and be inspired by something new each time I go there! 

I’m influenced by things I hear or see everyday! You never know what might spark a new idea! 

Jill Thompson's Wonder Woman is pretty phenomenal if you ask me.
Jill Thompson’s Wonder Woman is pretty phenomenal if you ask me.

Thank you so much for your time Jill, I really enjoyed chatting with you and learning more about what makes you tick both creatively and as a feminist in the comics world. Let’s hope this helps to spread your message and to get more young women coming up to you at conventions to talk or show off their art!

For more on Jill Thompson, click here.

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The Crank File: What I’m Reading This Week 3/25/2015

Welcome back comic book fans to The Crank File issue #9. The Crank File is an open forum where I will offer speculations, reviews and ravings on all things comics.

It wasn’t the 1990’s last week, but it sure felt like it. We saw a revival of Turtlemania and experienced full blown speculation insanity. People went ballistic over the ending of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #44. The death of Donnie was completely unhyped and came as a surprise to everyone. Most store owners were unprepared to handle the sudden surge in demand for the book, causing it to absolutely blow up on the secondary market. Both regular covers are already trading around $30 each and the 1:10 variant has cracked three figures. This was a $4 book on the shelf last week. With all the excitement surrounding TMNT#44’s ascent into the collectible stratosphere, it’s staggering to think that we could see another book repeat the feat this week. Booyakasha.

Here’s what I’m reading this week.

The Top of the Pile: Autumnlands Tooth & Claw #5 Image 

Tooth & Claw #5

If you read my past reviews, you’ll find out rather quickly that I absolutely adore the Autumnlands series. The first four issues of this tale of anthropomorphic wizards and warriors have delivered gorgeous artwork and masterfully balanced story telling. How will our band of heroes survive the oncoming assault by the Buffalo warriors? Can the Great Champion actually restore magic to their world? The action has slowed down a bit in the last two issues, but it seems as though the pieces are slowly moving into place. I’m hoping that Busiek and Dewey are ready to set it off in issue 5.

The Mainstream One: Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 DC Comics

The_Multiversity_Ultra_Comics

Grant Morrison’s Multiversity series has been a bizarre journey through a vast interconnected DC Universe that is as brilliant as it is ambitious. It has been a fascinating vivisection of comic books, examining the medium as a reflection of our current social condition. In the second to last issue, Ultra Comics breaks through the metaphysical fourth wall of the comic book page and lands in our hands. The “Ultra Comics #1” comic has made several notable appearances in other Multiversity stories, so I’m totally intrigued to see what’s inside. Morrison himself called Multiversity: Ultra Comics “a haunted comic book, actually, it’s the most frightening thing anyone will ever read. It’s actually haunted—if you read this thing, you’ll become possessed.” Bring it on you madman.

The Indie One: Squarriors #2 Devil’s Due

Squarriors 2

Another anthropomorphic adventure making the list this week. Although the story line feels a bit more traditional than Autumnlands, it’s the artwork that really makes Squarriors stand out. The pages are beautifully painted with realistic lighting and character designs, creating a dramatic edge that breathes life into the story. If you can stomach the 3-month release schedule then you should definitely check this title out. Originally solicited as a 4 part mini-series, Squarriors has already been green lit for a second series.

The One I’m Buying for the Cover: Sirens #1 NYCC exclusive variant Boom!

Sirens NYCC

Adam Hughes’ is considered by many to be the best in the business. Although he can be criticized for over-sexualizing his female subjects, there’s no denying the talent. His covers are stunning and his style instantly recognizable. This Siren’s #1 cover is no exception. Previously only available at the New York Comic Con, I’m picking up this beauty if it is available.

The Speculation One: Darth Vader #3 Marvel

Darth Vader 3

Introducing a new character to the Star Wars universe, Darth Vader #3 has already sold out ahead of release and could be hard to find on shelves Wednesday. If Aphra becomes a major character in the Star Wars universe, or if her character makes it into the movies, then this could be a key book. Pick up extra copies of this one wherever you can find them.

Last Week’s Leftovers: Silk #2 Marvel

Silk_2

This would have been TMNT #44 if I thought that there was any possibility that copies are still sitting on shelves anywhere. I picked this issue up last week for the ASM#301 Phantom variant cover swipe, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. With the huge amount of love Spider-Gwen has been receiving, I think this book has been getting overlooked and is actually the stronger of the the two new Spider-lady titles. Robbie Thompson’s writing is both humorous and heartfelt and I find Stacy Lee’s artwork positively charming. Regular covers of issue #2 should still be readily available. Pick one up and prepare to be bitten.

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The Crank File: What I’m Reading This Week

Welcome back for The Crank File #8. The Crank File is an open forum where I will offer speculations, reviews and ravings on all things comics. This will be the start of what I plan to be a weekly segment where I let you in on what I’m picking up at my local comic shop every Wednesday.

Here’s what I’m reading this week:

The top of the pile: Outcast #7

Outcast #7 Kirkman & Azaceta

I’m really digging the atmosphere Kirman and Azaceta have created in this gritty tale of demonic possession. The first arc was a bit of a slow build but the stage has been set for some seriously creepy stuff to go down in Outcast volume 2. I’m hoping the pieces start coming together and that we finally get some answers about our mysterious protagonist and his supernatural abilities.

The mainstream one: Batgirl #40

Batgirl 40

Although she’s been making headlines this week for Rafael Albuquerque’s controversial Joker variant cover, you should be paying attention to what’s happening to Batgirl in story. An unknown entity has been harassing Babs Gordon claiming to be the real Batgirl. The ending of Batgirl #39 and Barbara’s story in Secret Origins #10 seem to hint that she has unintentionally created an AI version of herself. #40 should be an exciting read with some potentially big revelations. There’s also a totally rad Purple Rain movie variant, making this pick a no-brainer.

The indie one: Alex + Ada #13

AlexAda13

Things have gotten bad for Alex and his sexy, sentient ladybot Ada. Unlocked robots have been outlawed by the government and a nationwide bot-hunt is closing in on our heroes. I usually don’t dig romance stories and I was originally put off by the whole man loves a robot angle. But this book has totally won me over with it’s whip smart dialogue and societal undertones. Alex + Ada has shown huge amounts of heart and is one of my favorite reads this year.

The #1 one: Chrononaut’s #1

Chrononauts 1

Time travel stories have been done to death but Mark Millar and Sean Murphy are an all star creative team, so I’m willing to give this title a couple of issues to see if they can bring something new to the genre.

The one I’m buying for the cover: Silk #2 Phantom Variant

Silk 2

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed issue #1 and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next to the plucky Cindy Moon. Absolutely in love with the ASM 301 cover swipe. This one’s going to look great sitting next to my Spider Gwen Phantom variant.

The speculation pick: Green Lantern New Guardians #40

Green Lantern 40

Rumored to be the death of White Lantern Kyle Rayner.

Last week’s leftover: The Surface #1

Surface 1

It’s been called pretentious, pseudo-scientific, existential nonsense and it is a thing of beauty. The Surface peels back the layer of conventional thinking and unabashedly lays out its unique vision of reality and imagination. The artwork is gorgeous which helps prop up these lofty ideas. This book is not going to be for everyone so copies will likely still be available on the racks. A must read for anyone who has questioned the nature of existence.

 

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The Female Perspective: Erick Larsen and Too Many Clothes…A Story That Makes Me Go…Huh?

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!


There is some debate going on in the comic book world today about comments made by renowned artist Erik Larsen. Larsen went to Twitter recently to declare that he thinks that female superhero’s today are wearing “unflattering” or “bulky” costumes. Basically saying that he thinks they are wearing too many clothes.

Yes, you read that correctly. They wear TOO MANY clothes. Read on for Larsen’s comments.

Larsen1 Larsen2 Larsen3 Larsen4 Larsen5 Larsen6

Larsen7 Larsen8

Mr. Larsen may be a great artist and comic creator, I won’t deny his legacy in that regard, but to go around spouting this type of contradictory nonsense is not only asinine but it is counter-productive to all that women in the comics industry (and beyond) are trying to achieve. Women in comics can wear clothes and still be powerful, attractive and strong. He complains that Spider-Woman and Batgirl are already covered so they don’t need more clothing. He also goes on to state that their costumes are cumbersome and unflattering. Let’s take a look, shall we?

batgirlcostume

635544608591237491-SpiderWoman-profile

Hmmmm…I don’t know about you but I don’t see anything wrong with either costume. They are bad-ass and don’t seem to be interfering with the action. I refuse to discuss whether their costumes are “flattering” or not – that’s sexist insanity since we don’t discuss that when it comes to male superhero’s.

Also, Larsen manages to contradict himself pretty well. He complains that these aren’t real characters and shouldn’t be drawn that way and yet then goes on to list all the reasons their outfits would get in the way of their abilities. Huh? It’s a comic book and is therefore granted a certain amount of leeway but at the same time, we want the kids who read these books to realize that women (and men) should not be created in stereotypical ways. I don’t want my superhero’s to look like me but I also don’t hover under the delusion that real people without abilities can look this way. The fact is, I’m an adult and so many young kids don’t have the same life experience and knowledge that I do, they often grow up thinking that men and women can and should look this way and that if they don’t, they’re failures. There has to be a healthy dose of reality mixed in with the fantasy.

Finally, Larsen spends some time criticizing Ms. Marvel’s costume, now, while I haven’t read the Ms. Marvel comics, I am to understand that she is a teenager. To me, her costume seems appropriate for that age but what Mr. Larsen seems to want is for her to be half-naked. Seriously? I don’t care how amazing you are in your field but to complain that a teenage character is too covered up, even in a comic, is pushing things too far.

She's a TEENAGER Larsen. Get a grip.
She’s a TEENAGER Larsen. Get a grip.

It’s been said many times before and will most likely keep being said but the fact is, women in comics are drawn overly sexy. Plain and simple. It needs to change to encompass more diversity in body types, styles and personality. While the “big two” take small steps in that direction, there always seem to be people who speak out against creating women in more realistic (but still heroic) ways. There is nothing wrong with our super ladies being a bit more covered up, it doesn’t make them any less bad-ass.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I honor that for Larsen. I do not respect his thoughts and I do not agree with them. I think his thinking is the “old thinking” in the comics world and it needs to be eradicated. We need more thinkers who realize that both men and women in comics can be drawn with clothes on and as powerful, brave and heroic.

What do YOU think!?!? Does Larsen have a point or is he way off base? Tell me in the comments!

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The Female Perspective: A Little Something Different Today…Meet Tara!

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!


I decided to do something a wee-bit different in todays blog post. From time-to-time I come across products that are really great and I want to be able to tell a large amount of people. This blog is one way for me to do that. I wanted to share with everyone some info I learned about Essential Oils this week due to my friend and doTerra consultant, Tara Devany.

Tara Devany, Wellness Advocate & Consultant for doTerra oils.
Tara Devany, Wellness Advocate & Consultant for doTerra oils.

If you have ever wondered about essential oils or how to use them, then this will give you a little bit of cool info on them. Read it and feel free to share or contact Tara on her Facebook page for even more great info on oils and how they can benefit your life.


Mmmm...essential oils are perfect for massage!
Mmmm…essential oils are perfect for massage!

Wellness Advocate Tara Devany: Essential Oils Are Your Friend!

Essential oils are one of those items that are useful but seem intimidating to many. It can often be overwhelming to decide which oils to choose. The fact is, oils are a wonderful and natural item to incorporate into your day-to-day life. You can use them for cleaning, body care, perfume, in your humidifier or even as a lip balm! The possibilities are truly endless! Besides their many uses, they smell fantastic!

I had the pleasure of talking to one of my good friends, Tara Devany, about her new role as a consultant for the doTerra company. According to doTerra’s website their mission is to;

“bring a new standard of therapeutic-grade essential oils to the world. [We] wanted something different that would appeal to all people—from those who knew nothing of essential oils to those who were considered experts in the field.”

Tara is now part of the doTerra family as a “Wellness Advocate” someone doTerra explains as being a person who;

introduces, educates, and sells dōTERRA products in their local markets through person-to-person contact and globally through personalized web shopping sites.”

I sat down and talked to Tara about her love of essential oils and found out some of her favorite uses for them. I also asked her why we, as consumers, should invest in doTerra essential oils.

Cedarwood is a rich, woodsy scent that is perfect for men or women.
Cedarwood is a rich, woodsy scent that is perfect for men or women.

What do you love about doTerra oils or essential oils in particular?

Essential oils are compounds naturally produced by plants to defend against pathogens and to attract pollinators. We can extract these oils from the plants and use them aroma- therapeutically.

doTerra provides products that are grown indigenously and have farms around the world that support local economies. Though they aren’t certified organic or fair trade their practices reflect those values. The testing they do to ensure a therapeutic grade essential oil, which is what you want, sets a bar for the industry. They have their oils third party tested for many things including for the presence of pesticides and guarantee the purity of their oils.

What made you decide to be a consultant for them? What makes you feel comfortable recommending oil use to others?

I was approached by my mentor Jodi Dyer Tefft about using and selling doTerra products at a time when I was beginning to return to work after taking a couple years to raise my son. I felt I was able and I genuinely wanted to contribute more financially to help support my family, but it needed to be something I enjoy. I enjoy being a part of the transformation and the process of discovery when people are seeking ways to empower themselves and their families to healthier living.

Personally, I always look for products with the least amount of ingredients and for ingredients that aren’t just non-toxic but also promote homeostasis, or your bodies natural tendency to seek balance. doTerra essential oils fit both criteria and have the added benefit of smelling wonderful.

Lavender = Yummy
Lavender = Yummy

What are some of your favorite uses for essential oils?

  • Melaleuca (tea tree) and lavender mixed with distiller water makes a great yoga mat wash.
  • Lemon oil or the Citrus Bliss blend are invigorating and work well for improving your mood during the long winters or to help keep students attention in a classroom
  • The wood oils like cedar wood or sandalwood make a great natural scent for men.
  • doTerra also makes breath freshening Beadlets filled with peppermint to aid digestion. They also have an immune support blend called ON Guard.

What are some of your favorite oils and why? What are their benefits?

I love that making your own cleaning products is a cinch with essential oils. Adding essential oils of tea tree, rosemary and lavender to an apple cider vinegar and baking soda rinse helps promote healthy hair and scalp. Add thyme to that for balancing the oils on your scalp.

doTerra's ON guard beadlets.
doTerra’s ON guard beadlets.

Why should people buy doTerra oils specifically?

I think people should incorporate the use of essential oils into their daily lives to improve their health. doTerra makes purchasing oils easy and attainable. Start small with the Introductory Kit of lemon, lavender and peppermint. Visit and become a member of my group on Facebook, focus in~ Essential Oils, and share your experiences or find information. Ask questions so we can learn new things together as a community. I think the success of an endeavor hinges on the support created by the community you are a part of and we would love to be that community.


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me Tara! For those that want to buy some wonderful oils make sure to check out Tara’s website!

*It should be noted that none of the statements in this article have been approved by the FDA.


What about you? Do you use essential oils regularly? What kind of tips or tricks can you offer about their uses? Sound off in the comments!

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The Female Perspective: My Favorite Book Is…

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!


I thought that I would change things up a bit today and write about something dear to my heart, books. I admit it, I have an addiction to the written word (duh) and I cannot possibly ever have enough books. Not eBooks mind you but REAL, physical books. To that end I sat down today and tried to contemplate what my “favorite” book is.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.

The fact is, I had to go with the book that has made the biggest impact upon me, the book I read over and over again on an almost yearly basis. Each time I read it, I find some new nugget of wisdom, some new moment or some new lesson.

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For me, that book would have to be Stephen King’s The Stand. It is by far one of the most well written of his works and the sheer expanse of the book can be overwhelming to most. At a healthy 1,472 pages you don’t read this book unless you are serious about it.

For those of you who haven’t picked up this novel yet (and shame on you, kidding!) The Stand is Stephen King’s answer to the “end of the world” genre. He doesn’t create zombies or a flood or any other type of disaster. No, King decides that the world will be caused by a mistake at a military base that studies (and creates) nasty, nasty germs. This particular bug is dubbed the “super flu” by many and “Captain Tripps” by others. It’s a truly devastating virus, causing delusions, high fever, lots of gross mucous and the infamous “tube neck” – it ends up killing about 80% of the human population in the span of a month or so.

But that’s not all…

King diabolically crafts a story about death and disease but includes a true battle between good and evil. The “good” being the folks who meet up with a 108-year old woman named Mother Abigail. They make camp in Denver, Colorado (that was oddly the scene of a mass exodus during the epidemic so it is strongly lacking in corpses like so many cities). They are a varied group of survivors. From the musician and playboy, Larry Underwood to the stoic and brave cowboy that is Stu Redman. They know, from dreams they all have that evil  is preparing for an onslaught and they have to prepare themselves.

The “evil” is represented by Randall Flagg, also know as “the walking dude” or “the black man” – he is a creature made of pure evil. He is unsure of his past but he knows he has been an integral part of so many uprisings and brings a feeling of dread to everyone he meets (even his followers). This camp sets up in Las Vegas (of course!) and includes criminal Lloyd Henreid (as his lieutenant) and The Trashcan Man (who is an insane pyromaniac who actually ends up being a sort-of hero). This camp is made up of criminals, drug addicts and confused souls who though that “the walking dude” was the right path for them.

Randall Flagg is one bad man...or creature...
Randall Flagg is one bad man…or creature…

Where Flagg is a tyrant, Mother Abigail is a welcoming and open soul. Flagg crucifies people who don’t follow his “rules” while Mother Abigail mostly leaves her people alone to do their (and God’s) will. It’s a wonderful study in duality. We see that the world truly can be broken into two camps, good and bad, God and The Devil. It’s also a story about redemption and discovering who you are. Many of these folks never had a real purpose in their lives before it the world ended. Nick Andros (one of the “good” guys) is a deaf and mute young man who drifted from town to town, doing odd jobs. He becomes a powerful force and finds that he can be a leader. Same with Larry Underwood, who is said to be “no nice guy” at the start of the book but in the end, manages to summon his strength and bravery and do his best to save his people.

I don’t want to spoil the end (and it’s a good one folks) but I want to say that it’s well worth reading. The Stand might be one of King’s finest works because it doesn’t rely on gore or cheap scares. No, he shows us how great a writer he truly is by crafting a story of biblical proportions.

Nick Andros is an important character and he gets the holy heck beat out of him more than once...
Nick Andros is an important character and he gets the holy heck beat out of him more than once…

Currently, The Stand comes in every format you can imagine and is easily found at bookstores and online. What’s really fun is that it also comes in a graphic novel addition which is well worth a ready. The editors did an awesome job editing this massive story into a comic format. The artwork is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

So tell me, what’s YOUR favorite book and why?

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The Female Perspective: Photoshop & Celebs, We Want The Unobtainable

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!


There is a DeviantArt & Facebook artist named David who took it upon himself to photoshop some famous ladies with added weight. OK, I see what he is trying to do, he is trying to flip the idea of what makes up beauty in todays celebrity-obsessed culture. Unfortunately, when I look at these pictures, I just get annoyed.

Sigh.
Sigh.

Why do I get annoyed? Here’s why:

  1. The women have either giant bellies or are pregnant.
  2. The photoshop is done in a sloppy fashion.
  3. I am really tired of women being photoshopped for the pleasure of others.

You’d think as a curvy lady I’d appreciate his message but I don’t. Simply put, I find what he is doing to be insulting to the women he photoshops along with being so ridiculous that I can barely even look at the pictures without laughing hysterically. Not once does he put in a larger lady shape that is actually healthy looking. I also think he confuses pregnancy with being overweight and uses them interchangeably.

I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being a larger lady, I think that what matters is that you are healthy and happy. The fact is, not everyone feels that way. Many people like to fat-shame those that are larger, they choose to judge another person by their size (it’s happened to me before) and that is insanely unfair. Someone like this artist David is trying to make what could be a valid point but I’m not sure he succeeds. Because these are famous women, you know they don’t look this way and so it ends up looking like they are wearing a fat suit. I want to like what he is putting out because I think there needs to be a serious conversation about body acceptance but I just cannot get on board with his message.

The fact is, I am tired of women (and men) being photoshopped. When did we become a culture that needs perfection in every magazine or online picture? There was recently a huge uproar when photo’s of an un-Photoshopped Beyonce were leaked. Her followers went NUTS. They could not believe someone would release such “unflattering” photos of their Queen Bey!

I saw the photos, they were great. They showed us a Beyonce who isn’t “flawless”, who has pimples from the half ton of makeup she needs to wear on stage. They showed us a Beyonce who is real and maybe that’s not what her followers want to see. They don’t want to think of their “Queen” as anything but perfection. For me, it only made me appreciate her hard work and her true beauty even more.

Un-Photoshopped Beyonce: She's still pretty gorgeous if you ask me.
Un-Photoshopped Beyonce: She’s still pretty gorgeous if you ask me.

This obsession with perfection is bizarre. We aren’t perfect beings and neither are the celebrities we adore. Why do we feel the need to hold them up to a level they cannot possibly attain (except through Photoshop)? Take a look at Cindy Crawford, she recently posed for photos and they are not edited in any way. Can you say gorgeous? She is perfect in her imperfection and it honestly made me like her more.

Cindy Crawford, perfect in her imperfections.
Cindy Crawford, perfect in her imperfections.

The fact is, our culture is obsessed with perfection. We are obsessed with the unobtainable. From plastic surgery to make a young man look like Superman to Extreme Corseting to give a woman a 16-inch waist like Jessica Rabbit, we want something that nature doesn’t create. To me, there is a reason that nature doesn’t create it, because it’s not natural! Yeesh.

I am hopeful that with time, the photoshop craze will die out and we’ll get to a place where natural beauty impresses as much as perfection does. In the meantime, artists like David will continue to raise eyebrows with their attempts to bring attention to the topic of beauty and body shaming. Maybe one day body shaming won’t exist and body acceptance will be the norm. That would be awesome I think.

What do YOU think? Do you like David’s work? 

For a little chuckle, check out these 33 Photoshop Fails of 2014 and tell me we haven’t all gone a bit overboard with Photoshop.

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The Front Row View: The Time Machine (1960)

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

time

In honor of this past weekend’s Daylight Savings Time, I’m paying tribute to George Pal’s classic 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The pleasant Australian actor Rod Taylor plays the Time Traveler as a man who is eager to delve into the mysteries of science, yet is conflicted over how Mankind has used the tools of science over the years. He is weary over the warmongering of his brothers and thinks that Man’s existence is precarious. Taylor is likeable, yet a certain melancholy hangs over him, as if he feels that Man is doomed to extinction no matter what he does. He time travels (in a beautifully-designed machine) to the year 802,701 and encounters the peaceful, childlike Eloi, a fair-haired people who appear to spend their days doing nothing more than eating and playing in an Eden-like future. The Time Traveler is hopeful at first. He grabs at the possibility that Man has progressed socially and scientifically, no longer having to worry about conflict, and is free to pursue his days relaxing under the sun. But then come the Morlocks. Anyone who saw this movie when they were young enough can tell you of their nightmares upon seeing these subterranean beasts. I won’t go into any more plot details, other than to tell you that The Time Machine is a diverting treat, full of adventure and captivating science fiction. Some of the Oscar-winning special effects have an antiquated charm (such as the “lava” used in the nuclear blast scene), but most of the others have aged very well (the sun streaking across the sky like a yo-yo, the mannequin dressing and undressing itself). It’s a good one to see for the whole family, but smaller children might find parts of it scary (Have I mentioned the Morlocks?). Other time travel movie recommendations: Nicholas Meyer’s 1979 Time After Time (H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper in modern-day San Francisco) and, of course, Robert Zemeckis’ blockbuster Back to the Future trilogy.

-Jim

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Fresh Popped Corn: March 2015 Movie Trailers

Once per month, we provide an overview of movies released for the coming weeks, and recommend to our readers where to spend their movie dollars, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers are provided so you can see exactly what we are excited about!  Movie release dates are subject to change.

March 6th
Welcome back to another month of Hollywood and beyond’s newest releases to your local theaters.  March kicks off with the much anticipated Chappie, which features a robot that oozes personality.  We still fondly remember Short Circuit with Steve Guttenberg, but this time we get an evil Hugh Jackman (yes, he is playing the BAD GUY!) trying to take out Number 5, er Chappie the break dancing robot!  So, what else might be in store for those of you not interested in that sci-fi robot interest story?  Well, we have a movie sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel hits theaters with an impressive cast that includes Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, and Dev Patel.  The 2011 original was a pleasant surprise and here is to hoping that the second go around is as enjoyable.  Next up, comedy fans will have Unfinished Business to seek their teeth into, starring Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, and Dave “Brother of James” Franco as a group of businessmen travel to Europe to seal a deal and have their worlds turned upside down.  Meanwhile, for you documentary fans there is Merchants of Doubt, which profiles the paid pundits who are paid to go on TV to talk about all sorts of topics ranging from pharmaceuticals to climate change.  Chappie is going to be where the money is at this week, but it is The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that has us most intrigued.  Both look like fine choices for March’s first weekend at the theater (especially with the advanced critical buzz) and they are appealing to much different groups.  Check out both trailers below and tell us what you think!

March 13th
Disney gets its box office engine going again with the release of the live action Cinderella.   We have the adorable Lily James as the title character along with Haley Atwell, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Stellan Skarsgard heading an outstanding cast for the re-imagining of this classic.  Will the Maleficent formula work for Cinderella?  The forecast looks bright, we think.  Liam Neeson takes another turn as a vengeful dude with a gun in Run All Night.  He might be type cast at this point, but people seem to like that.  Horror fans are in store for a little nod to the 80’s style genre film with It Follows, starring Maika Monroe.  In Seymour:  An Introduction, Ethan Hawke directs a documentary about Piano instructor Seymour Bernstein.  A little bit of everything in week two you could say. Once again, we offer you two trailers appealing to two decidedly different audiences with Cinderella and It Follows.

March 20th
Shailene Woodley returns with the second installment of the Divergent series with Insurgent, ensuring that the teen to twenty-somethings will be flocking to the theaters.  Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, and Idris Elba star in The Gunman, about a former military man and contractor with PTSD who must trek across Europe to clear his name of atrocities and expose the truth of his service.  The people who brought us God’s Not Dead return with Do You Believe, about a dozen people whose lives unexpectedly intersect as they search for deeper meaning in their existence, starring Mora Sorvino, Lee Majors, Alex PenaVega, Sean Astin, and more.  An intriguing independent movie, Kumiko Treasure Hunter, stars Rinko Kikuchi as a Japanese girl who discovers the movie Fargo on videotape and becomes convinced it holds the secrets to a lost treasure in America.  In Danny Collins, Al Pacino plays a washed up rock star who attempts to recapture old glory after the discovery of a letter personally written to him by John Lennon.  Annette Benning and Jennifer Garner co-star.  And in Spring, a young man escapes to Italy from the USA amidst personal crisis only to involve himself with a woman who is not what she appears to be in this seemingly H.P. Lovecraft-inspired horror.  When looking at the line-up of movies on paper, we were surprised to find that Danny Collins had such a charming trailer.  And The Gunman looks to be the other big winner in our eyes this week.  Check out both below!

March 27th
The last weekend of the month boasts a hefty lineup beginning with the new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard, about a milquetoast dude whose pending prison sentence requires him to toughen up.  The animated Home features the vocal talents of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, and Jennifer Lopez about an inept alien race that seeks to hide from their sworn enemies.  Kiddies all over the place with this Dreamworks release!  Next up is Serena, a depression-era drama starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, about a timber tycoon whose future is uncertain after his marriage to the title character.  Cupcakes is a comedy out of Israel about a group of friends who become unlikely contestants in a world talent show when their mobile mock-up of the Israeli entry into the show goes viral.  The Riot Club is a UK offering about a couple of Oxford students whose drinking and drugging exploits, as part of an aristocratic club that believes money can buy anything, lead to even greater sins.  And finally,  in the comedy While We’re Young stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a couple whose lives are in upheaval following the involvement of a younger couple played by  Amanda Seyfried, and Adam Driver. It seems a good time to get some laughs in our cinematic diet, and the new Ferrell/Hart combo may be just the movie to provide them.  Check out the trailer below.

See you next month for the April trailers.  In the meantime, share with us what you are looking forward to seeing this month at the movies!

-The Great Stories Team