Archive | March 2019

A Peanuts Prospectus: When Peppermint Patty learned the truth about Snoopy

When she was introduced in the Peanuts comics during the mid-60’s, Peppermint Patty quickly established herself as one of the series’ stand-out characters.

With her less-formal attire and athletic prowess, she was definitely different from other girls in the series like Lucy or Violet. She would also be one of the first characters to give Charlie Brown a nickname.

However, one of Patty’s traits that would follow her through a number of storylines, was how she sometimes misinterpreted things. From misunderstanding a skating competition, to the meaning of “a school for gifted children,” she would often come to conclusions that would usually make the kids around her quietly roll their eyes.

PPS-2One of the biggest misconceptions she made, was in regards to Snoopy.

In August of 1966, Peppermint Patty and her friends played Charlie Brown’s team for the first time. Upon meeting Snoopy, she would utter words that would cement her views on the team’s shortstop, for the next 8 years (see right).

There would even be times when it would seem fairly obvious that Snoopy was a dog. When Charlie had to leash Snoopy at one point, Patty asked him if it was really necessary (most likely assuming Charlie was being a little extreme on ‘the kid’).

PPS-3She would even claim that Snoopy’s doghouse was a “guest cottage” owned by Charlie Brown’s family, and that Woodstock and his fellow bird friends were a pack of “little guys.”

While Patty excelled at sports, it was in school that she often found herself struggling. From falling asleep in class to mostly getting “D-minus” grades, it seemed like a constant struggle she could never overcome.

In March of 1974, Patty decided she was going to quit school, and just live in Charlie’s “guest cottage” with Snoopy. Marcie tried several times to get her friend to come back to school, before finally losing her temper!

Marcie attempted to violently drag Patty off of Snoopy’s doghouse, resulting in a struggle that caused the structure to collapse! It was soon after that Marcie became so fed up with Patty, that she could hold her tongue no longer.

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It would take Patty a little while to process what she had been told. Two weeks later, she rang up Charlie Brown. While Patty did most of the talking, she did admit that it took her awhile to admit her mistake.

“My pride had the flu, Chuck,” she said.

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Patty’s revelation was never shown in any of the Peanuts compilations I read as a kid, so I never did find out when she realized her mistake. It wasn’t until Fantagraphic Books released the comics from the year 1974, did I finally have my answer.

While I many not have seen the revelation in print, I did see it in animated form when the storyline was adapted for the 1980’s cartoon series, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. The animated adaptation followed the story very closely, though swapped out the end bit of Patty admitting her errors to Charlie Brown, in favor of Snoopy pretending to be a helicopter, and flying Patty back to her school.

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Retro Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Season 5, Episode 25) – The Masks

Over the years, Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone series would often tell stories about the flaws of human nature. Whether it be pride, arrogance, or greed, many episodes would often show people reveling in their deplorable behaviors, unable to turn the mirror on themselves until it was too late.

As the series wound down in it’s fifth season, there were still plenty of lessons to be learned. And in The Masks, Serling attempted to show what lies beneath the surface, of some of the worst of humanity.

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Our episode starts in New Orleans, and wealthy Jason Foster is at death’s door. As a doctor leaves Jason’s bedside, Rod Serling appears, and begins his opening narration:

Mr. Jason Foster. A tired ancient who on this particular Mardi Gras evening will leave the Earth. But before departing he has some things to do, some services to perform, some debts to pay, and some justice to mete out. This is New Orleans, Mardi Gras time. It is also…The Twilight Zone.

TZ525-1We soon find out that Jason has sent for his daughter and her family to be with him in his final hours. However, as they greet the old man, Jason chastises each of them.

His daughter Emily he mocks for being a hypochondriac, claiming she always seems to be ill with something. His son-in-law Wilfred Sr, he mocks for his heartless business sensibilities. His Granddaughter Paula (he notes) has just been fussing over her reflection in the mirror since she arrived, and for his Grandson Wilfred Jr, he calls out his (past) love of torturing small animals.

Jason then sends the family off to have dinner (prepared by his servants), and they then meet him in his study. Here he shows them a series of masks he’s had “created” by an old Cajun. He claims they are worn only during Mardi Gras, and the tradition is that a mask reflect the antithesis of it’s wearer.

TZ525-2Jason then analyzes each of his family members, to determine which mask they shall receive.

Wilfred Sr claims himself to be ‘an affable man,’ and Jason selects a mask for him: a face containing greed, cruelty, and avarice.

For Emily, he bestows the mask of a self-centered coward, which he claims to be her opposite.

Paula’s mask shows vanity and insolence, while Wilfred Jr’s is the face of “a dull, stupid clown.”

For himself, Jason’s mask is a skull, given that he is still alive.

Naturally, none of the family members want to wear the grotesque creations, but that is when Jason points out that none of them even care to be in his presence…except to see him die and claim his estate for themselves. He reveals that their wish will be granted, upon the following condition: the family are to wear their masks until midnight. If any of them removes their mask before then, they will forfeit the inheritance, and be sent away.

TZ525-3The family reluctantly give in to the demand, but as the clock closes in on midnight, they start to complain, demanding this game come to an end. It is then that Jason starts to cough.

When Emily asks her father if he feels weaker, Jason mocks the ‘note of hope’ in her voice.

“Why must you always say such miserable, cruel things to me!?” she demands.

“Why indeed, Emily,” Jason responds sharply, “Because you’re cruel, and miserable people. Because none of you respond to love. Emily responds only to what her petty hungers dictate. Wilfred responds only to things that have weight, and bulk, and value. He feels books, he doesn’t read them. He appraises paintings, he doesn’t seek out their truth, or their beauty. And Paula there lives in a mirror. The world is nothing to her but a reflection of herself. And her brother. Humanity to him is a small animal caught in a trap to be tormented. His pleasure is the giving of pain, and from this he feels the same sense of fulfillment most human beings get from a kiss or an embrace. You’re caricatures, all of you! Without your masks…you’re caricatures.”

It is then that the clock strikes midnight. As Jason’s voice quiets, his body stiffens, and then goes limp. Wilfred checks his pulse, and joyfully declares the old man is dead. He gleefully pulls off his mask…revealing that his face has melded to it’s inner-contours! The same holds for the others when they remove their masks as well.

TZ525-4The head servant then call for the doctor. When he examines Jason’s corpse, the skull mask is removed, but his face remains the same as before.

“This must be death,” remarks the doctor. “No horror, no fear. Nothing but peace.”

As the servant takes Jason’s mask away, we see the now-deformed family members in the foyer, as Serling’s closing narration is heard:

Mardi Gras incident. The dramatis personae being four people who came to celebrate, and in a sense, let themselves go. This they did with a vengeance. They now wear the faces of all that was inside them, and they’ll wear them for the rest of their lives. Said lives now to be spent in shadow. Tonight’s tale of men, the macabre, and masks…on The Twilight Zone.

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Growing up, The Masks was one of those Twilight Zone episodes I remembered very well, most notably due to Robert Keith who played the late Jason Foster.

Some episodes could be carried on the backs of some rather eccentric characters, and Keith’s voice has a certain ‘eeriness’ that one could almost mistake for Vincent Price in how he chastises his relations.

What is most notable about Jason Foster, is that his character breaks some of the standards of a Twilight Zone episode. Usually a wealthy, eccentric man such as himself would be the one learning a lesson. I guess since Jason is at death’s door, he is the exception since he can’t take his fortune with him.

The lessons to be learned are instead given to his family members.

Out of all of them, it is Emily (played by Virginia Gregg) who seems to show the most ‘concern,’ though Jason throws all of it back in her face no matter what treacly sentiments she musters.

Wilfred Sr (Milton Selzeer) is the one who tries to grin-and-bear-it through most of the events, most likely trying to keep his ‘eyes on the prize.’ However, the most opinionated notes from the family come from Paula (Brooke Hayward) and Wilfred Jr (Alan Sues). Paula loudly complains about being unable to take part in the Mardi Gras celebration right outside the house, and Wilfred is one of the most vocal when it comes to wearing the masks.

One interesting fact about the episode, is that it is the only original Twilight Zone episode directed by a woman. Ida Lupino starred in one of the series’ first season episodes, but her simplicity in telling an “intimate story,” really keeps things in perspective here.

Rarely are all of the characters ever in a single frame, and most of the time, their faces take up quite a bit of a scene. Plus, there are some nice little character moments and camera choices to be had. A prime example comes when one of Jason’s servants hears his relatives are coming, and she quickly shoves a flower into a vase, showing just how she feels about them.

The Masks is one of a few Season 5 episodes (along with Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) that often ends up on a number of Top 10 lists for The Twilight Zone. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 55 years since it debuted, but like a number of episodes made back in the day, it seems there are still lessons to be learned from it…even if the person giving the lesson isn’t much better than those he’s teaching.

 

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 1) – Butterfly Follies

After almost a full year, Star vs the Forces of Evil returns…for it’s final season.

The story of Star Butterfly took some rather dramatic turns in it’s last one. The Battle for Mewni was one of the biggest season openers the series had, and the revelations that happened at the end revolving around former Queen Eclipsa and her daughter Meteora, led many to wonder what would happen next.

And so…here we are, ready to see what series creator Daron Nefcy has planned for her cast of characters, and what will become of the Kingdom of Mewni.

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After rumors surface that former Queen Moon Butterfly is still alive, Star Butterfly, Marco Diaz, and former King River, set off across the kingdom in search of her.

The search eventually leads them to a Pie Carnival, with several signs indicating that Moon may be among it’s people.

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Like some previous episodes of Star, Butterfly Follies has the task of trying to tell not only it’s own story, but allow newcomers to play catch-up regarding what has happened since the previous season’s ending.

This causes the pacing of the storyline to feel rather uneven. There are even some jokes that the show tries to keep making us think are funny, but they come off as a little lame.

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One element that was touched upon in Season 3, was the relationship between Mewmans and Monsters. Star had attempted to bridge this gap, but with her giving up the throne to former Queen Eclipsa, it seems that a new rift has formed. While many in the monster community enjoy the breaking down of barriers (and happily thank Star for what she did), a lot of mewmans see Star’s decision as being incredibly stupid and foolhardy.

This is evident at the Pie Carnival. The show writers not only poke fun at the Walt Disney Company’s incessant merchandising in some of the carnival’s scenarios, but also in the use of acting productions to poke fun at the aristocracy (in probably one of the episode’s funniest moments).

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There’s a cornucopia of returning characters we see again, from Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom, to Eclipsa herself. However, the main focus is on the search for Moon. King River once again plays into the storyline as “a bumbling idiot,” save for a scant few moments where he gets downright emotional. Marco Diaz as a character, also seems to just be here as support for Star, which is a dynamic of his character I always enjoy (though the Starco shippers may be disappointed that their fanship fantasies are sidelined here).

Star is definitely front-and-center in this episode, and the bright spot to me was seeing her taking some very serious initiative in trying to find her Mom. However, we also see some vulnerability in her, when she begins to question if some of the decisions she made when she was Queen temporarily, were actually a good idea.

We also get to see that she can now use magic without her royal wand, but whether we’ll get to understand why or how, remains a mystery.

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Best line from episode (said by King River): “We’d love to stay, but we don’t want to!”

Final Grade: C+

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “…that’s not how the Narwhal Blast works!”

 

Overall, Butterfly Follies feels like a weak season opener. It has a few moments that I did enjoy, but it feels like a few episodes I saw last season. In them, the story seemed to dawdle until the final few moments, where we were then hit with something that probably would have contributed to a much livelier episode overall.

Our re-introduction to the world of Star vs the Forces of Evil seems to tell us that the craziness of it’s storytelling is still going strong, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered…and given the show’s track record, I feel only a small handful will ever reach that stage by the time the show reaches it’s conclusion.

In the next episode titled Escape from the Pie Folk, it looks like Star Butterfly isn’t going to be straying very far from pies, and our next review will tell us a little about what she encounters.

 

Book Review: Star Wars – Queen’s Shadow

As he worked on editing his Star Wars prequels, George Lucas soon had to make some storytelling choices. Ultimately, he felt the main focuses for his new trilogy, were the rise of the Empire, and Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace.

This would lead to drastic scene cuts for one particular character: Padmé Amidala. Gone was the chance to learn more about the former Queen of Naboo, as she became little more than Anakin’s love-interest in Episode II, and a fretting mother-to-be in Episode III.

There were many like myself that wondered about her political backstory, and one of them was author E.K. Johnston. Having already written a story about Star Wars character Ahsoka Tano, Johnston was excited to go back in time, and reveal more about one of her favorite characters.

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Following her final term as Queen of Naboo, Padmé Amidala is unsure of what she should do next. Upon meeting the newly-elected Queen, she is surprised when the new ruler wishes her to represent their planet in the Galactic Senate.

Padmé accepts, and soon finds herself in the capital city of Coruscant. With a new chapter starting in her life, she attempts to find her way in a new political arena, far outside the scope of her home world.

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For much of the story, Amidala is far removed from the main players of the prequel trilogy. While there are some minor asides to R2-D2 and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, she is usually surrounded by several handmaidens, and some Naboo security forces. It is with the former, that Johnston is most concerned with for supporting characters.

The attempts to give little bits of backstory to almost every handmaiden during the first chapters of the book does become a bit much, and it almost feels like Johnston begins to get a little lost in trying to keep some of them relevant to Padmé’s life. Even a chapter that chronicles part of a mission that her most loyal handmaiden named Sabé undertakes, feels like it could have been jettisoned, and simply replaced with her reporting to Padmé instead.

The main focus of the story regarding Padmé, is her attempting to understand how she can fit into the Senate. Who can she trust? How transparent can she be regarding her actions? And probably most important: does she make decisions for just the good of her home world…or does she have to think moreso of other planets and systems with her senatorial powers?

Much like how some saw parallels to certain real-world events during the prequel film’s releases, some may be a bit surprised at how Johnston writes about Padme’s treatment via holonet newsfeeds. Back in 1999, there were some who mocked Lucas’ idea that a teenager could rule an entire planet when Episode I was released. Johnston channels that mockery into the story, as Padmé tries to prove her worth amid reports that someone like her does not belong in the political arena.

It is also in regards to Padmé’s adventures within the Senate, that I found the story to be lacking. I know politics isn’t necessarily exciting for some, but I felt Johnston could have delved deeper into Padmé’s character, by seeing how she would handle a number of different issues brought before the Senate. As it stands, we only see her tackle a small handful.

There are also a number of references that have been inserted for many different Star Wars fans to pick up on. While I was familiar with names like Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, some such as Rush Clovis and Mina Bonteri, will probably excite anyone who has watched the Clone Wars television series. We also get a return to some familiar locations, including one I definitely did not expect to visit.

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I’ve only read a few books in relation to the Star Wars series over the years, but I was curious as to what Queen’s Shadow could give us regarding Padmé.

E.K. Johnston shows a definite love for her source material, but it feels like she struggles to maintain focus. When the story zeroes in on Padmé herself, that was when I found myself turning pages to find out more. It was half-way through the book that I started to really get pulled in, and it made me a little sad that it took so long for the story to grab my attention.

This isn’t to say I felt Johnston should have jettisoned the handmaidens. Given her wish to hand over some extra character development to them, maybe she could have focused on a collection of short stories regarding the numerous young women who served alongside Padmé during her life.

In conclusion, Queen’s Shadow tells a decent story, but it could have been so much better.