Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Fantasy & SF

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FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF FANTASY & SF

 

To celebrate my recent feature for my Top 10 Girls of Game of Thrones, I’ve revamped my Top 10 Girls of Fantasy & SF (and also included its page in my page menu). After all, what would my Fantasy Girls feature be without looking at, you know, the girls of actual fantasy?

 

Accordingly, these are my top 10 girls of fantasy and SF – I’m talking literary fantasy and SF (although potentially including screen adaptations of literary fantasy and SF – and open to special mention for original fantasy and SF film or television).

 

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(10) DAENERYS TARGARYEN – A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE / GAME OF THRONES (1991)

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Dah-dum-da-da-dah-dum…

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Sorry – I got caught up in the opening music. Surely you were expecting this entry? Of course, I have also done my Top Ten Girls of Game of Thrones, but there can be only one on my Iron Throne of fantasy girls  – Daenerys Targaryen.

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Daenerys Stormborn. Daenerys of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name. The Queen Across the Sea, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, the Unburnt and above all, Mother of Dragons.

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Or in one of my favorite quotes from the girl herself, as she is born again in blood and fire with her dragons:

 

“The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of dragons, mother of dragons, don’t you see? Don’t you SEE?”

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And apologies to her actress Emilia Clarke, but I prefer my silver-haired violet-eyed Daenerys Targaryen from the book (but somewhat older than in her early teens, when she is married off to Khal Drogo in the book). Although I do have a soft spot for her body double, Rosie Mac.

 

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Daenerys is frequently hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world – and is the stuff of fantasy even there. (In the television series, a harlot cosplays as her, to a hearty cheer of “Mother of Dragons”).

 

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Of course, it is not simply her appearance, but her character as one of the most badass and kickass females in fantasy. Initially a meek and timid girl abused by her creepy older brother Viserys, she is married off to Khan Khal Drogo for the promise of his Mongol Dothraki army in the reconquest of the Seven Kingdoms. However, she takes her position of Khaleesi thrust upon her (literally in the person of Khal Drogo) and makes it her own – eating a raw stallion heart, foretelling that her son will be the Stallion That Mounts the World. Unfortunately, things don’t quite work out that well as she loses both husband and son, but she emerges as the closest thing the series has to a superhero – mother to three dragons and conquering queen at the head of her army. (Unfortunately, she then spends an interminable amount of time sitting around the conquered city Meeren, while we’re all waiting for her to return to Westeros and kick ass there). Her superhero status is also demonstrated as one of the few characters with a strong moral compass – particularly as that feature usually marks one out for an early (and typically grisly) death in the series.

 

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As Tyrion Lannister summed her up with his usual eloquence:

 

“I know that she spent her childhood in exile, impoverished, living on dreams and schemes, running from one city to the next, always fearful, never safe, friendless but for a brother who was by all accounts half-mad…a brother who sold her maidenhead to the Dothraki for the promise of an army. I know that somewhere upon the grass, her dragons hatched and so did she. I know she is proud. How not? What else was left to her but pride? I know she is strong. How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If she had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. Astapor, Yunkai and Meeren are proof enough of that. She has survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandalled feet.”

 

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And given the popularity of the TV series, she has been a popular choice for cosplay.

 

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(9) WHITE WITCH – THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE (1950)

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I do like my bad girls – and they don’t get much badder than the White Witch of Narnia. I suspect I may not have been a typical child, but when I read the Narnia Chronicles, I was enchanted by her. Turkish delight? Yes, please! Mmm…wait, that is something sexual, isn’t it?

 

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After all, she’s there in the very title of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the centerpiece of The Narnia Chronicles. In that book, she is the principal adversary, putting Narnia on ice and crucifying killing Jesus the Lion King Aslan. And as much as Aslan can be cuddly (when he’s not being preachy), you have to admit she’s pretty badass about it, trying to defy all those prophecies stacked against her – sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve and all that. (I guess Narnia doesn’t teach evolution in its schools).

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Of course, she goes down, but she goes down swinging. And there’s whispers of her in the sequel, Prince Caspian – that she might come if you call her (“whoever heard of a witch that really died?”). Her back story looms large in The Magician’s Nephew, where we learn her name as Jadis, last of a long line of monarchs of the cruel world Charn, before destroying her world with the Deplorable World – a spell so destructive it lays waste to everyone but the person uttering it. Left in a magical slumber, she is woken by the interlopers from our world and brought to Narnia, where she plays the role of serpent in its Eden. It’s disappointing that she doesn’t return as the ultimate adversary in The Last Battle instead of that foul imposter Tash.

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Tilda Swinton played her cinematic character perfectly, but I prefer the appearance of my literary White Witch – white skin, black hair and red lips, kind of like if Snow White became the Evil Queen.

 

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(8) GALADRIEL (GOLDBERRY) – LORD OF THE RINGS (1954)

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“Do you like what you doth see . . . ?” said the voluptuous elf-maiden as she provocatively parted the folds of her robe to reveal the rounded, shadowy glories within. Frito’s throat was dry, though his head reeled with desire and ale.

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She slipped off the flimsy garment and strode toward the fascinated boggie unashamed of her nakedness. She ran a perfect hand along his hairy toes, and he helplessly watched them curl with the fierce insistent wanting of her. “Let me make thee more comfortable,” she whispered hoarsely, fiddling with the clasps of his jerkin, loosening his sword belt with a laugh. “Touch me, oh touch me,” she crooned.

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Frito’s hand, as though of its own will, reached out and traced the delicate swelling of her elf-breast, while the other slowly crept around her tiny, flawless waist, crushing her to his barrel chest. “Toes, I love hairy toes,” she moaned, forcing him down on the silvered carpet. Her tiny, pink toes caressed the luxuriant fur of his instep while Frito’s nose sought out the warmth of her precious elf-navel.

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“But I’m so small and hairy, and . . . and you’re so beautiful,” Frito whimpered, slipping clumsily out of his crossed garters. The elf-maiden said nothing, but only sighed deep in her throat and held him more firmly to her faunlike body. “There is one thing you must do for me first,” she whispered into one tufted ear.

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“Anything,” sobbed Frito, growing frantic with his need. “Anything!”

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She closed her eyes and then opened them to the ceiling. “The Ring,” she said. “I must have your Ring.” Frito’s whole body tensed. “Oh no,” he cried, “not that! Anything but . . . that.”

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“I must have it,” she said both tenderly and fiercely. “I must have the Ring!”

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Frito’s eyes blurred with tears and confusion. “I can’t,” he said. “I mustn’t!”

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But he knew resolve was no longer strong in him. Slowly, the elf-maiden’s hand inched toward the chain in his vest pocket, closer and closer it came to the Ring Frito had guarded so faithfully . . .

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Yeah, that’s not Galadriel. Nor is it The Lord of the Rings, as you might have guessed from the substitution of Frito for Frodo (and boggie for hobbit). It’s from the parody Bored of the Rings. Actually, it’s from the teaser ‘excerpt’ in the prologue – which, as part of the joke, is not in the book itself (much to my bitter disappointment).  But it totally should be Galadriel! When the Fellowship of the Ring see Galadriel in her elven queendom of Lothlorien, they all collectively exclaim “phwoar!” Well, not quite, but they do talk a lot about her afterwards.

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Galadriel herself needs little introduction to fans of the literary or cinematic trilogy – the predominant female character in Lord of the Rings, the elven Lady of Lothlorien. Galadriel is probably the most powerful of the elves in Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings – and wields the most powerful elven artifacts, one of the three elven Rings of Power (Nenya, the Ring of Water) as well as her Mirror.

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However, Galadriel is more than just the most powerful elf in Middle Earth. She embodies the divine feminine in it, with her pervasive spiritual presence in the narrative. Indeed, with her many titles of the Lady (Lady of Lorien, Lady of the Golden Wood, Lady of Light) show the influence or at least an echo of the Virgin Mary from Tolkien’s Catholicism – Our Lady of Middle Earth. Like the Virgin Mary, she intercedes rather than actively wields power in the War of the Ring (unlike, say, Eowyn, who punches out the Lord of the Nazgul). However, her intercession does provide critical help, without which the Ringbearer’s Quest would have failed.

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Sadly, the elves, as the most powerful magical beings in Middle Earth (and wielders of the only Rings of Power outside Sauron’s control) tend not to actually do anything in the War of the Ring other than prance about their woods and go West – and Galadriel is no exception.

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And sometimes Galadriel just went clubbing

And sometimes Galadriel just went clubbing

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As awesome as her intercession or spiritual presence was, it would have been even more awesome if she had played an active role – like joining the Fellowship. It is clear enough in the books that she wielded magical power of extraordinary magnitude. The cinematic version of Middle Earth made explicit what was implicit in the books – that when faced with Sauron (or the One Ring), she could transform into a practically omnipotent being of unfathomable power. In the third Hobbit movie, we all saw her kick Sauron’s ass (at Dol Goldur) all the way back to Mordor – and wondered why we didn’t see any of that in The Lord of the Rings.

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Or even darker (and sexier), if she had indeed taken the Ring for herself when Frodo had offered it to her. Instead, all she gave us was a mild teaser of her power – from the book “In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen! And I shall not be dark, but beautiful as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!”

 

O yes! Our Lady of Pain... You know you wanted to see it!

O yes! Our Lady of Pain… You know you wanted to see it!

 

Ah – did anyone else in the audience other than me think that would have been AWESOME! Or was as excited by the prospect of this elven goddess as Dark Lady. Only me? Surely not! Long live the Dark Queen!

 

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Close runner-up is Goldberry. Of course, those who are only familiar with the cinematic version are asking “Who?” She’s the wife of Tom Bombadil, who wasn’t adapted into the cinematic version – because it’s hard to adapt his story-diverting weirdness. Tom Bombadil is a strange hippy who hangs about the Old Forest near the Shire – to hear him say it, or more precisely, sing it :”Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow / Bright blue his jacket is and his boot are yellow”. Seriously, it goes on like that for three chapters, even as Tom defeats eldritch abominations such as malignant tree Old Man Willow and the Barrow-Wights just by singing to them (and swinging with the hobbits afterwards, exhorting them to “run naked on the grass” after saving them from the Barrow Wights – it’s like a crossover with the musical Hair but with nude hobbits). Of course, this tends to give away that this capering loon may just well be the most powerful being in Middle-Earth. It’s not quite clear what he is, but many theories orientate on him as a primal nature spirit or embodiment of Middle-Earth itself.

 

Anyway, of course Tom has a smoking hot blonde wife Goldberry, “Daughter of the River” (so probably also a nature spirit – or nymph, if Tolkien had been less prudish), a woman so hot that Frodo spontaneously bursts into song just at the sight of her.

 

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(7) DEJAH THORIS – A PRINCESS OF MARS (1912 PULP – 1917 BOOK)

 

Dejah Thoris is the love interest of John Carter, the Confederate Civil War veteran, who is transported by astral body projection to Mars, or as its inhabitants call it, Barsoom, in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Mars series. Dejah is, however, no mere love interest – as the title character of the first book, A Princess of Mars, she is indeed the princess of the Martian kingdom of Helium, a kingdom of the so-called Red Martians (as opposed to the other Martian races). In appearance, she is essentially human but for her red skin, and of renowned beauty throughout Barsoom:

 

And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life… Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect. She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

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Or in other words, phwoar! No, really – that is essentially the reaction of the male population of Barsoom, regardless of Martian species. (As her Comicvine entry dryly captions her image – coveted by all). As the above quotation indicates, she is particularly stripperiffic – indeed, she makes a stripper look over-dressed by comparison, with no clothing except for some body jewellery and heels (because a Martian princess has to wear high heels). However, in this, she is typical of the Martian population. Indeed, what is it with aliens and nudity? ET, the Greys – they all have the technology to cross interstellar space but walk around naked? Is that why Earth is left alone, because we’re too uptight in a galaxy of alien nudists? Of course, that might explain the probing. Anyway, it certainly has made Dejah popular with fantasy and comics artists, although challenging to find art in which she does not appear too naked.

 

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Oh – and she lays eggs. Given that she’s clearly mammalian, I guess that makes her some sort of monotreme, like a platypus or echidna. Eggs or not, if our first contact is not with aliens like the Red Martians or at least Dejah Thoris, I’m going to be bitterly disappointed…

 

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(6) JANE PORTER – TARZAN OF THE APES (1912)

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Jane Porter? Perhaps you know her as Jane Clayton or Lady Greystoke?

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Of course, Jane has more recognition as the wife of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero and Lord Greystoke. Yes – Tarzan is an English Lord, or more precisely, Viscount, with a seat in the House of Lords, which would make Parliament much more interesting. (His parents were marooned and died on the Atlantic coast of Africa, where Tarzan was raised by apes).

 

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Theirs is a cross-Atlantic relationship, as Jane is an American from Baltimore, the daughter of professor Archimedes Porter. Tarzan encounters her in his very first book, Tarzan of the Apes, when she is marooned in his jungle coastline, which must be something of a Bermuda Triangle for pulp fiction coincidence. Anyway, Jane so inspires Tarzan that he leaves his jungle home in pursuit of her and travels to the United States, learning French and then English en route.

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Unfortunately, they are star-crossed lovers at first, as he desists upon learning that she is engaged to his cousin, William Clayton (there’s that Bermuda Triangle of pulp fiction coincidence again). Ultimately however, they are united and married in the sequel, The Return of Tarzan, subsequently having a son, Jack – or his ape name, Korak. Jane figures prominently in Tarzan lore, particularly in screen adaptations – most recently with Margot Robbie as Jane.

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Is there any fantasy girl Margot Robbie can't be? No. No, there is not.

Is there any fantasy girl Margot Robbie can’t be? No. No, there is not.

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Initially at least, Jane was a recurring damsel in distress to be saved by Tarzan – and admittedly, she does seem to be pretty useless in most fantasy art depictions, with Tarzan saving her from one beast or another – but she does become a capable adventuress and jungle girl.

 

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(5) BRIDES OF DRACULA – DRACULA (1897)

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The Brides of Dracula are the trio of seductive female vampire ‘sisters’ who reside with Count Dracula in his castle in Transylvania in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. The novel and its title character defined modern literary and cinematic vampire mythos, although of course vampires predated it in folklore and fiction. So too did the Brides define the modern female vampire, although seductive female vampires again predated them, most notably in Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla – an influence on Stoker’s novel.

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The Brides are not named in the novel, nor even referred to as the Brides of Dracula, although that is how they have been captured in popular culture or imagination, not surprisingly given the sexual subtext of Dracula. And the Brides have certainly captured the popular imagination, as the definitive dangerous and seductive female vampires. As vampires, they are powerful in their own right, bewitching their male victims and even defying Dracula himself on occasion. They easily overwhelmed Jonathan Harker and would have drained him, but for the intervention of Dracula (who offers them the contents of a wriggling sack instead, suggestive of an infant child). They also are formidable opponents to Van Helsing (while beckoning to Mina Harker as a ‘sister’).

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It seems that Dracula collects brides, because that’s just the way he swings. Upon disembarking in England, he seemingly has no plan other than picking up new brides, preying upon Lucy Westenra.

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More notably for the narrative, he then preys upon Mina Murray (subsequently Mina Harker) – although the latter helps destroy him.

 

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The Brides recur throughout screen adaptations, notably in the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola (with Monica Belucci as one of the Brides).

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But also, much more campily, in the unfortunate film that was Van Helsing.

 

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Dracula also found new brides in the equally campy (but somewhat more entertaining) film Dracula 2000.

 

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Let’s face it – as long as we retell stories of Dracula, the Brides won’t be far behind.

 

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(4) WENDY DARLING (TINKER BELL & TIGER LILY) – PETER & WENDY (1904 PLAY – 1911 NOVEL)

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JM Barrie is best known for the eponymous trickster hero Peter Pan in his original play and novels, as well as a source of subsequent adaptations, allusions and inversions in popular culture – “a playful demigod, with aspects of Puck and Pan” and “a cultural symbol of youthful exuberance and innocence”. However, Peter’s Edwardian English companion, Wendy Darling (or Wendy Moira Angela Darling), is also one of the icons of fantasy and might well be argued to be the true protagonist of the stories. Wendy’s most iconic visual imagery owes itself to her animated Disney adaptation – with her blue nightdress, blue ribbon and brown hair.

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The elements of Peter Pan have lent themselves readily to adaptation and popular imagination – Neverland, the Lost Boys, pirates, Captain Hook, the crocodile, mermaids and fairies (with their magical pixie dust). Wendy’s role in the stories are as its most developed and mature character. While she is a lover of childhood stories, particularly about Peter Pan himself, her adventures with him from their outset involve her in a more mature role caring for the other characters, including sewing Peter’s shadow back to him. Not surprisingly, she ultimately embraces growing up and returns with her brothers to her family in England.

 

Of course, popular culture has offered different interpretations of Wendy, including the blonde ‘Lost Girl’ of Zenescope Comics’ Neverland.

 

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And of course there is her innocent flirtation with Peter himself, much to the chagrin of that other iconic fantasy female, Tinker Bell. Indeed, as the unofficial mascot of Disney, Tinker Bell might even be argued to be more iconic than Wendy.

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Tinker Bell is Peter’s fairy or pixie companion, who famously enables others to fly through her pixie dust (and happy thoughts). And equally as famously, like other fairies dependent upon human belief for her survival. She is loyal and helpful to Peter, but prone to outbursts of more negative emotions, such as (potentially murderous) jealousy towards Wendy. The extremes of her personality are attributed in the story to the fact that due to their size fairies can only hold one feeling at a time, so that there is no counterbalance when she is angry for example – “Tinker Bell was not all bad. Sometimes she was even all good”.

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In the original stageplay, she was played by lights and voiced by bells, but the book sexed her up a little (for an Edwardian children’s book) – where she is “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage”. Her most iconic visual imagery owes itself to the Disney character, which took that description and ran with it. I mean, look at her – she’s as cute and sexy as hell, with her big blue eyes, blonde hair and hourglass figure in that short skirt.

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However, other adaptations have featured a more exotic or aptly fey appearance, although they tend to follow the sexy Disneyesque model.

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Finally, speaking of – ah – exotic, there is the native American princess Tiger Lily, another of Peter’s female companions. (For a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, he certainly has acquired something of a fantasy female harem).

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Although the whole native American aspect of Neverland may be one of the more, ahem, unfortunate aspects of Barrie’s creation and its Disney adaptation, particularly to modern sensibilities.

 

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She’s still one of my favorite fantasy girls, particularly in other adaptations of the character.

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(3) DOROTHY GALE (WICKED WITCH & GOOD WITCH) – WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900)

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“I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”

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Dorothy Gale is one of the iconic fantasy females, even if more from the 1939 cinematic adaptation than the original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Through her adventures with their vivid imagery and characters, not least the central trio of her companions in the original novel and cinematic adaptation (the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion), Dorothy has been a source of adaptations and allusions throughout popular culture.

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Dorothy is fundamentally (mid-western) American, befitting the protagonist of what was intended as a modern American fairy tale. She’s a Kansas farm girl (although she subsequently becomes a princess of Oz and lives there – in the numerous sequels), an orphan raised by her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, with her equally iconic dog Toto. Famously, she and Toto are swept up in a tornado to the Land of Oz.

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However, Dorothy is more iconic in popular culture through the 1939 cinematic adaptation (portrayed by Judy Garland) than her original novels. Her appearance was never set out in the books, so that her cinematic appearance has become iconic – although it did retain the literary description of her clothing as her trademark blue and white gingham dress. Otherwise, the film condensed the novel – but most significantly altered the ending, that it was all just a dream – unlike the original novel, where it was all definitely real.

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Dorothy’s adaptations in comics, such as those featured here, have of course in the tradition of comics tended to depict an adult (and buxom) Alice in darker fantasies (with titles such as The Warlord of Oz or the Witch-Queen of Oz). They tend to keep her blue and white clothing, just less of it – it’s definitely not Kansas any more!

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A particularly apt adaptation for this American fairy tale involved Dorothy as a Western gunslinger with her horse Toto and guns with ruby-colored handles (and bullets) – titled The Wicked West (of course!)

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Close runners-up are her magical adversary and patron respectively, the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch Glinda.

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Ironically, although the Wicked Witch is Dorothy’s iconic adversary from novel and film, she is rarely even referred to in the literary sequels and it is the Nome King who is the principal adversary. She derives her iconic status – complete with flying monkeys and an inexplicable tendency to have her weakness, water, at hand – from her cinematic portrayal by Margaret Hamilton, which also introduced her green skin. Subsequent adaptations have often retained the green skin – as in the revisionist novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire, in which she is the protagonist.

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Glinda on the other hand was the Good Witch of the South in the novel, the most powerful sorceress of Oz – but the film combined her role with that of the Good Witch of the North, a separate character in the novel. This had the unfortunate effect of making her seem rather less good in the film – as she could have readily told Dorothy about the ruby slippers (from the silver shoes in the novel) at the outset, rather than seemingly sending a “little girl” off to face down the Wicked Witch.

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(2) ALICE – ALICE IN WONDERLAND / THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (1865 / 1871)

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“Curiouser and curiouser”…

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Few fantasy females are as iconic as Alice, the protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass (although the two books are often merged in popular culture) – although her iconic visual imagery owes itself to her animated Disney adaptation, which “has done the most to fix her image, to wed her firmly to a blue dress and white pinafore, to blonde hair” (and blue eyes). Through the vivid imagery or encounters of her adventures, as well as their potential symbolic allusions, Alice has lent herself readily to adaptation and popular imagination.

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Of course, the original literary protagonist was a Victorian era child of 7 years age, but she wins the silver medal of my top ten on the strength of her allusions and imagery in popular culture, extending to adult characters and adaptations (as in the fantasy art in this feature).

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Allusions to Alice have earned their own trope on TV Tropes, which notes that the original novels can be associated with surreal or psychedelic fantasy, drug imagery (as in Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit), gothic horror and other aspects of Victorian England, such as steampunk.

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As TV Tropes notes, “the name ‘Alice’, when used in a reference to Alice in Wonderland, therefore tends to be used for fantastical, ethereal characters or concepts, and that goes double if her last name is a variation on Carroll” (or Liddell – but more about that later). Other frequent references include white rabbits or going down the rabbit hole (as in The Matrix) – into a world of the hero’s journey that doesn’t conform to real world logic (and in which our heroine has to use intuition, a good heart, and an ability to acquire allies).

Not to mention cats

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And tea parties – or Mad Hatters.

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As for Alice herself, Lewis Carroll described her (when writing on her personality in “Alice on the Stage”) as “wildly curious, and with the eager enjoyment of Life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood, when all is new and fair, and when Sin and Sorrow are but names — empty words signifying nothing!”. I can’t think of a better – or more endearing – description than that.

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For Carroll, there was, at least to some extent, a real Alice – Alice Pleasance Liddell, who inspired Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when she asked Carroll to tell her a story on a boating trip in Oxford. The extent to which his character can be identified with Alice Liddell is not clear (and the brunette Liddell certainly did not resemble the blonde illustrations in the original book by cartoonist Sir John Tenniel). However, there are direct links to Liddell in the books – they are set on her birthday and her half birthday six months later (with the corresponding age), they are dedicated to her and the letters of her name are featured in an acrostic poem in the sequel.

 

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As Catherine Robson wrote in Men in Wonderland – “In all her different and associated forms—underground and through the looking glass, textual and visual, drawn and photographed, as Carroll’s brunette or Tenniel’s blonde or Disney’s prim miss…in novel, poem, satire, play, film, cartoon, newspaper, magazine, album cover or song—Alice is the ultimate cultural icon, available for any and every form of manipulation, and as ubiquitous today as in the era of her first appearance.”

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(1) RED RIDING HOOD (CINDERELLA & SNOW WHITE)

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Few fantasy female characters are so iconic on a worldwide scale as the female protagonists of fairy tales (who deserve and will get their own top ten) – and my personal favorite fairy tale girl is Red Riding Hood. We all know her as the female protagonist pitted against her wolf antagonist, while visiting her grandmother (and being saved by a huntsman). In the words of TV Tropes (where she has earned a number of tropes), in her original fairy tale incarnation, Little Red Riding Hood was a naïve and helpless girl at the mercy of a vicious predator – “the story has become so ingrained into Western culture that any time we see a little girl dressed in a red hooded coat on television, it is reasonable to expect that something terrible is going to happen to her (or the trope of Little Dead Riding Hood).

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redRRH-PHOTOSHOOT

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The symbolic narrative is almost mythic, the young girl into the dark woods and the dangerous stranger (and his male gaze? What big eyes you have!) in the guise or shape of a wolf (or werewolf), who may or may not be a literal wolf – beast or predator, animal or human or perhaps something else that is both and neither. After all, the wolf would seem to be no ordinary wolf, relying on his magical power as much as his physical danger – as demonstrated by his human speech and guile to Red Riding Hood, or his impersonation of her grandmother.

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There are many interpretations or versions of the classic fairy tale, many of which sexual, as well as those that adapt or subvert the original narrative. Of course, in the latter, she tends not to be so little any more.

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Little Red Riding Phwoah!

Little Red Riding Phwoah!

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And she often tends to be badass – “tough, streetwise and able to take care of herself, thank you very much”

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Such interpretations often change her confrontation with the wolf from passive to active – and combine her role with that of the huntsman, hunting down the wolf herself. Others may well merge her role with that of the wolf itself.

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Close runners-up are those other iconic fairy tale heroines, Cinderella and Snow White, who similarly to Red Riding Hood, are passive protagonists in their original tales. Cinderella is one of the oldest, best known and most universal stories in the world, the archetypal fairy tale princess from rags to royalty. As TV Tropes quips, lost footwear resonates with us all!

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Cinderella is the persecuted heroine (as classified by the fascinating Aarne-Thompson system of classification of fairy tales – check it out!), who rises from unjust oppression to triumphant reward through beauty and magic.

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Or perhaps a ballroom blitz!

Or perhaps a ballroom blitz!

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Again there are many interpretations or versions, including modern adaptations and subversions – in which there are variations of the villains (female or male), the events, her magical patron (I have a soft spot for the Grimm version, in which it is her dead mother who plays fairy godmother), the object of identification (the classic glass slipper is the Charles Perrault version adapted by Disney) and the final revelation.

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Snow White is a similarly persecuted heroine, although her evil stepmother is also the evil queen and witch, as well as being beautiful herself (and insanely obsessive about it). Again, we all know the elements of the classic fairy tale – the evil queen and her magic mirror, the huntsman (again in a saving role, despite being the queen’s henchman), the dwarves, the poisoned apple, the enchanted slumber and glass coffin, and charming prince (presumably fresh from his divorce from Cinderella).

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Again, there are many interpretations, versions and modern revisions – the latter often making it darker and edgier. Not that there isn’t ample room in the original to be dark enough – we tend to forget the cannibalism (or blood magic perhaps?) where the queen orders the huntsman to cut out Snow White’s heart and give it to her to eat. Fortunately, he lets Snow White go and substitutes the heart of an animal. (Perhaps the queen should have asked for Snow White’s head instead). In the words of TV Tropes, because of Snow White’s rather unusual appearance (eerie pale skinned brunette) and the disturbing psychological issues in the story, it is frequent subject to Grimmification or darker and edgier treatment – including a personal favorite of mine, Neil Gaiman’s short story “Snow, Glass, Apples”, where there is a “perspective flip that take some of the more eerie parts of the story, and makes them much, much worse”

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O yes - much worse...

O yes – much worse…

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Game of Thrones: (1) Daenerys Targaryen

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF GAME OF THRONES: (1) DAENERYS TARGARYEN

 

Daenerys Stormborn. Daenerys of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name. The Queen Across the Sea, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, the Unburnt and above all, Mother of Dragons.

 

Or in one of my favorite quotes from the girl herself, as she is born again in blood and fire with her dragons:

 

“The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of dragons, mother of dragons, don’t you see? Don’t you SEE?”

 

 

 

Surely you were expecting this entry? Could there have been any doubt? There could be no other in the top spot.

 

Apologies to her actress in the series, Emilia Clarke, who as portrayed her admirably, but ultimately I just can’t resist the silver hair and violet eyes of Daenerys Targaryen from the book.

 

Although I also have a soft spot for Emilia Clarke’s body double in the series, Rosie Mac

 

She is frequently hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world – and is the stuff of fantasy even there. (In the television series, a harlot cosplays as her, to a hearty cheer of “Mother of Dragons”).

 

More Fantasy pinup art by Andrew Tarusov, in the style of a classic advertisement

 

Of course, it is not simply her appearance, but her character as one of the most badass and kickass females in fantasy. Initially a meek and timid girl abused by her creepy older brother Viserys, she is married off to Khan Khal Drogo for the promise of his Mongol Dothraki army in the reconquest of the Seven Kingdoms. However, she takes her position of Khaleesi thrust upon her (literally in the person of Khal Drogo) and makes it her own – eating a raw stallion heart, foretelling that her son will be the Stallion That Mounts the World. Unfortunately, things don’t quite work out that well as she loses both husband and son through dark magic, but she emerges as the closest thing the series has to a superhero – mother to three dragons and conquering queen at the head of her army. (Unfortunately, she then spends an interminable amount of time sitting around the conquered city Meeren, while we’re all waiting for her to return to Westeros and kick ass there).

 

 

I have a soft spot for this Disney Princess style for Daenerys

 

Apart from her dragons, she is one of the few characters with a genuine superpower – invulnerability to heat and fire (although that is a quality more in the TV series than the books). Her superhero status is also demonstrated as one of the few characters with a strong moral compass – particularly as that feature usually marks one out for an early (and typically grisly) death in the series. And she just may be the Prince(ss) Who Was Promised, the legendary hero Azor Ahai reborn – indeed, she fits the prophecy to a tee. (She would also seem to be the younger and more beautiful queen prophesied by a backwoods witch to take everything from Cersei Lannister – although we book fans are still hanging out for the ‘valonqar’ or little brother to choke the life out of Cersei. Come on, valonqar – really get your hands round there and squeeze!)

 

I love it when cosplayers get those violet eyes right!

 

As Tyrion Lannister summed her up with his usual eloquence:

 

“I know that she spent her childhood in exile, impoverished, living on dreams and schemes, running from one city to the next, always fearful, never safe, friendless but for a brother who was by all accounts half-mad…a brother who sold her maidenhead to the Dothraki for the promise of an army. I know that somewhere upon the grass, her dragons hatched and so did she. I know she is proud. How not? What else was left to her but pride? I know she is strong. How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If she had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. Astapor, Yunkai and Meeren are proof enough of that. She has survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandalled feet.”

 

 

Art by Ross Tran

 

And of course, she is going to “break the wheel”, the spokes of which are the great Houses of Westeros, crushing those beneath them as they rise and fall:

 

“I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will”.

 

Hail to the Queen!

 

Mark her words – “I am no ordinary woman. My dreams come true”

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 20: Mayhem of the Micro-Judges (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 175)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 20: MAYHEM OF THE MICRO-JUDGES

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 175)

 

Judge Dredd and his fellow Judges have been miniaturized by a ‘galactic salesman’ using space warp technology. What has this to do with the Judge Child Quest? Not very much except to fill out two episodes before the showdown with the Angel Gang on the planet Xanadu.

 

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree – but we’re not talking about that Xanadu. Although, come to think of it, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was also interrupted when writing that poem by some salesman from Porlock (or so Coleridge claimed), much as the Judge Child Quest is here – and just as annoyingly.

 

Fortunately, one of the Judges’ bikes was also miniaturized with them – and they use it for their tiny great escape from the Salesman’s suitcase in which they’ve been imprisoned. Unfortunately, the readers are now subjected to their tiny great escape, although it is amusing to see the miniaturized Judge Dredd on his bike launch a Lilliputian attack on the Salesman’s foot. The attack culminates in the Salesman succumbing to one of his own space-warp globes, shrinking down and out – while Dredd, correctly identifying a ‘reverse space-warp globe’ restoring himself (and his bike) to normal size.

 

Of course, he then uses more globes to restore the other Judges and robot crew to normal size, while repacking the suitcase with the Salesman’s miniaturized wares, now including the Salesman himself, to be kept in suspended animation for subsequent judgement.

 

Yeah – what the hell did I just read? I wasn’t a fan of these two episodes when I first read the Judge Child Quest and I’m not a fan of them now. Dredd concludes in his log that Mega-City One scientists will have a field day examining all the miniaturized wares, although I would have thought they would have been much more interested in the warps. Those devices would seem to be incredibly useful in their potential back in Mega-City One, but they are quickly forgotten, like these episodes should have been. Anyway, on to Xanadu and the Angel Gang!

 

TO BE CONTINUED – THE ANGEL GANG FOUND!

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 19: The Salesman (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 174)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 19: THE SALESMAN

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 174)

 

We’re headed towards the conclusion of the Judge Child Quest. Thanks to Oracle Spice and the jigsaw diseased Prosser, Judge Dredd has discovered that the Angel Gang have taken Judge Child to Xanadu (and disturbingly, that the Judge Child may be evil).

 

The conclusion plays out in surprisingly conventional Western style, which is perhaps fitting with the Quest going full circle back to its Western-themed origin in the Weird West styled Cursed Earth (and Texas City). Interestingly, Strontium Dog – Judge Dredd’s closest rival to a running series (albeit a distant second, like all other desserts to chocolate) – also plays out like a spaghetti Western IN SPACE! (And with mutants). This makes it something of a Clint Eastwood companion piece to Judge Dredd – Judge Dredd is a futuristic dystopian Dirty Harry while Strontium Dog is a space opera Man with No Name.

 

Anyway, before we get to that conclusion, there’s a weird alien episode or two left with The Salesman, except these two episodes feel misplaced since unlike other episodes, they do nothing to advance the Judge Child Quest (via Oracle Spice or otherwise).

 

 

The Salesman opens with Justice One docking at a galactic refuge station in response to a distress call en route to Xanadu. Who builds, maintains or services these stations? And writes on them in English? And why it is designed like a lighthouse in the vastness of space? And how useful are they in that same vastness of space?

 

All those questions go unanswered and even the distress signal is nothing more than galactic spam, as Judge Dredd and his fellow two Judges are greeted by an alien ‘salesman’ who introduces himself as Rinus Limpopop Quintz. Travelling salesman doesn’t seem to be a lucrative idea or profession in space, particularly when waiting for passing spaceships. And he is obviously alien in appearance but the thing that disturbs this arachnophobe most is that there seem to be giant spider legs on his head. Is it some weird arachnid humanoid, or more probably, has he simply skinned a giant spider to wear its legs on his head?

 

And he’s as annoying as any other spam, although one interesting feature is that his travelling salesman bag is like the Tardis, with some sort of dimensional warping device (Terlian warpers, as the Salesman name-drops) that give it infinite extra-dimensional space inside. However, that’s not all they do – as Dredd and his crew soon find out.

 

Dredd of course tells him that they’re not buying, which prompts sinister words from the Saleman: “Travellers find it pays to deal with Rinus Limpopop Quartz – before Rinus deals with them!”

 

And how he deals with them is how he collects his inventory – he steals it by miniaturizing spacefarers using his space warp devices, as well as gas to sedate them and then keep them in suspended animation in his suitcase. Fortunately, Dredd’s quick reflexes with his respirator negates most of the gas and he recovers to find himself in Rinus’ suitcase, for a boxed set of three Mega-City Judges (including Judge Hershey and the spaceship pilot Judge Larter, in case you’d forgotten). Dredd fixes their respirators to revive them and they begin to plan their escape – they might be downsized but not out…

 

Also featured this episode – Dredd says the expletive “Stomm!” It just doesn’t have the same bite as “Drokk!”, drokk it.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – MAYHEM OF THE MICRO-JUDGES

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Game of Thrones: (2) Sansa Stark

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF GAME OF THRONES: (2) SANSA STARK

 

“I did what I had to do to survive, my lady. But I’m a Stark – I will always be a Stark!”

 

You go, girl!

 

Sansa Stark takes her rightful place as Lady of Winterfell and Queen of the North, not to mention my second place entry in my Top 10 Girls of Games of Thrones.

 

More pinup fantasy art by Andrew Tarusov

 

Some people dismiss Sansa, particularly in the earlier seasons, but those people are fools. Yes, Sansa started as naïve, but what else did one expect of a teenage girl raised to be a noble lady? She may have been naïve but she was never stupid – and she rode a very steep learning curve indeed. There is a tendency to overlook her for her admittedly badass killer sister Arya – now the Westerosi version of the Terminator and the mighty morphing T-1000 from Terminator 2 at that. Don’t worry –  the House of Stark loves you too, Arya. But let’s face it – there is no way Arya, or any other Stark for that matter, would have survived as Sansa did as a hostage of the Lannisters. Sansa learnt to play the long game. In the words of Rolling Stone, “if a Disney princess had night terrors, the story of Sansa Stark might be what woke her up screaming”. Indeed, Sansa survived the direct abuse of the two greatest psychopaths in the series, Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, not to mention the manipulation of narcissistic sociopaths such as Cersei Lannister and Littlefinger. No character has grown quite like Sansa. In the words of Buzzfeed, her skin has gone from porcelain to ivory to steel.

 

 

And even in the belly of the beast, she remained defiant. When Joffrey taunted her about giving her Robb Stark’s head, she calmly gave it back to him – “Or maybe he’ll give me yours”. She even manipulated him into the Battle of the Blackwater, by noting that her brother Robb was always in the thick of the battle “and he’s only a pretender”.

 

You go, girl!

 

She even called Ramsay Bolton a bastard to his face, something virtually no one else has done and survived. And when Ramsay, uniquely taken aback, weakly replied that he had been naturalized by royal decree, she calmly fires back “Tommen Baratheon? Another bastard”.

 

And of course who can forget her words as a true Lady of War on the eve of the Battle of the Bastards – “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.”

 

You go, girl!

 

Or her classic putdown of that slime, Littlefinger – “Did you know about Ramsay? If you didn’t, you’re an idiot. If you did, you’re my enemy.”

 

YOU GO, GIRL!

 

In fairness, Littlefinger did give us Dark Sansa. Mmm…Dark Sansa.

 

 

I just can’t help quoting some Sansa fans:

 

Blogger Rhiannon Thomas of Feminist Fiction wrote “in an abusive situation that would break so many people, Sansa survives” – with a courage “keeps her alive and in the game where characters like Arya would not last five minutes”.

 

In an article published on MTV.com (Sansa Stark is the only Game of Thrones Hero Worth Rooting For”), Crystal Bell wrote “Sansa’s greatest strength as a character has been her unwavering resilience. She was tortured and humiliated for seasons by the unhinged man-boys around her. She’s been the subject of everyday sexism and misogyny since day one. And yet, she survives, even as armor-clad heroes fall before her.”

 

Bennett Madison of Vanity Fair wrote “As far back as King’s Landing, Sansa’s between quietly protecting herself, working on her stitchery while taking cool measure of everything going on around her, learning how to game the system, and slithering through situations that would have gotten the best of the show’s more flashy or impulsive characters. In ‘Battle of the Bastards’, she got to show a little flash of her own; by being defiantly, gloriously correct in her convictions, by saving the day with her foresight and savvy, and by feeding Ramsay to the dogs.” O yes – feeding Ramsay, o so deliciously, to the dogs…

 

It might be noted that her abuse at the hands of Ramsay Bolton never happened in the books – and it is a little puzzling exactly what Littlefinger’s plan is when handing Sansa over in the series, except defaulting to what he’s always done best, being a pimp. That’s particularly so given what he confesses to her to be his ultimate ambition – himself on the Iron Throne with her by his side. Actually, that could work, with just some slight modification…

 

There – much better! You know you want it!

 

THE QUEEN IN THE NORTH!

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 18: Prosser, the Puzzle & Pa Angel (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 173)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 18: PROSSER, THE PUZZLE & PA ANGEL

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 173)

 

Judge Dredd is running (or more precisely riding his motorcycle) against the clock to solve the puzzle of the Jigsaw Man – the man named Prosser who has some mysterious connection to the Judge Child. Of course, that hot tip came from the bad toad trip of Judge Lopez on Oracle Spice, so it’s a little questionable. However, it’s the only lead Dredd has – and he has less than an hour to find Prosser, as the latter is rapidly disintegrating into randomly diminishing body parts from Jigsaw Disease.

 

Being Dredd, he successfully tracks Prosser, but only just in time as Prosser is in the final stages of disintegration. Fortunately, his remaining body parts include his mouth, otherwise Dredd would have been at a dead end – although how Prosser hears Dredd is beyond me as he doesn’t appear to have any ears left. But then, it’s not as if Jigsaw Disease has any hard and fast rules – as Prosser’s disembodied mouth shouldn’t be able to talk in the absence of a larynx or lungs, but it continues to function as if it were still attached to the rest of Prosser’s body.

 

Dredd exhorts Prosser “Tell me what you can of the Angel Gang – and the boy, Owen Krysler”. Remember the Angel Gang, way back in Texas City? The original subject of the Judge Child Quest, before it diverted into the Oracle Spice Quest?

 

Anyway, the puzzle is solved – Prosser was the pilot of the spaceship the Angel Gang hijacked when they abducted the Judge Child. Helpfully for Dredd, they gave Prosser their ultimate destination when they offered to pay him to take them there- the planet Xanadu. However, things soured when the Angel Gang ejected the passengers into space, essentially from boredom. Spooked by the casual slaughter, Prosser demanded some guarantee of payment and Pa Angel offered the precognitive services of the Judge Child, held on ice in suspended animation. However, in reply to Prosser’s question about collecting his money, the Judge Child laughed – “Disease takes you! No hands to hold your money, no eyes to see! Ha, ha! All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never put Humpty together again!”

 

Well, that was unsettling. Fearful of disease, the Angel Gang ejected Prosser in an escape pod and he ended up on “this crazy planet”, where he indeed contracted Jigsaw Disease. However, just before his sole remaining body part, his disembodied mouth, pops out of existence, he adds one last twist – the Judge Child is evil: “But don’t you see? I only caught the disease here! If the kid hadn’t told them, they’d never have set me adrift! I’d still be alive! The boy killed me – as surely as if he’d stuck a knife in my heart! He sent me to my death – and he laughed about it! Your precious Judge Child is evil! Evil!”

 

Uh-oh.

 

Dredd muses on this in his mission log – “What worries me is the Judge Child…He’s more than just a pre-cog – he can twist the future. Manipulate it – and not always for good…The child my city is depending on, is touched by a…a streak of evil!”

 

Oh – and Lopez is dead, from that single drop of Oracle Spice. Don’t do Oracle Spice, kids!

 

TO BE CONTINUED – SALESMAN!

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 17: The Jigsaw Man (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 172)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 17: THE JIGSAW MAN

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 172)

 

And now we come to my personal favorite amidst the Judge Child Quest – Jigsaw Disease! You do not want to catch Jigsaw Disease – a disease so alien it does not make any sense. If anything, it doesn’t seem to work on a biological level so much as an extra-dimensional one. Parts of the body vanish, literally like taking pieces out of a jigsaw – and although they are clearly not there as things pass (or fall) through the now vacant spaces, the remaining body parts stay in place and continue to function as if the missing body parts were there, even down to a disembodied eye or mouth. Uh…quantum entanglement? Of course, there’s no real explanation other than magic or fantasy. (Indeed, I’d love to see jigsaw disease or a variant of it in a fantasy setting).

 

 

As the patient himself exclaims to his doctor on an alien world (that itself, like Jigsaw Disease, resembles a surreal Magritte painting), “It just doesn’t make any sense! How do I say together? Why don’t I feel any pain? Where am I disappearing to?”

 

Worse, despite the painlessness of it, jigsaw disease is fatal. As the alien doctor informs his patient – “There is no cure for jigsaw disease. When a piece of you is lost, it’s lost forever! I’d give you forty days at most. You’ll go on wasting, until…you’re just not there!”

 

What’s all this got to do with the Judge Child Quest? Well, as the episode narrates, “a few days earlier in another part of the galaxy”, Judge Dredd is about to start toad-tripping on an Oracle Spice magical mystery tour. More precisely, Judge Dredd assigns that particular vision quest to Judge Lopez. Remember him – the Judge other than Judge Hershey accompanying Dredd and that has spent the entire mission with Dredd breaking his balls because of his moustache? Lopez protests Dredd’s order (“It’s because of my moustache, isn’t it?”) but Dredd coldly informs him that it’s because his personality profile shows him to be the most unstable member of the crew and accordingly the most receptive to Oracle Spice. Finally – a job I’d be uniquely qualified for!

 

 

Anyway, it doesn’t work out too well for Lopez, as the Oracle Spice is one bad acid trip. As Hershey observes – “He’s got the screamers!” Dredd exhorts Lopez to concentrate on the Judge Child, which leads to this obtusely oracular oratory from Lopez before becoming comatose – “Bedlam! Bedlam! But hurry! Hurry! All the king’s horses couldn’t put Humpty together again!”

 

Well, that was helpful. Was that worth dying (and killing Lopez) for, Dredd?

 

Apparently so, as the ship’s computer translates Bedlam as an old Earth name for planet Ab (or perhaps AB?) in the Warp System. Sure enough, that’s the alien world on which our Jigsaw Disease patient is located. Of course, to the residents of that world, the patient is the alien – and an illegal alien at that. The alien police identify their singular human patient to Dredd as Prosser – and as awaiting deportation. Unfortunately, prior to Dredd’s arrival, Prosser has become paranoid that the aliens are withholding the cure and essentially mugs the alien doctor to abscond with it. Hence he is missing when Dredd arrives to interrogate him – and worse, the ‘cure’ he absconded with is no such thing but essentially a euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’ drug, designed to speed up the rate of the disease, and he’ll be gone within the hour. Uh-oh.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – PROSSER, THE PUZZLE AND PA ANGEL!

 

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 16: Sagbelly (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 171)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 16: SAGBELLY

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 171)

 

As we saw last episode, Judge Dredd is dead – really dead as opposed to nearly dead. Of course, he gets better – through resurrection by magic. I mean, it’s as obvious as when a certain beloved broody Game of Thrones character is dead, but there’s a certain Red Priestess at hand in service of the Lord of the Light and his proven track record of resurrection magic. In this case, it’s an actual necromancer – you know, that school of magic in which that otherwise sharp dividing line between life and death is just a guideline. So…yeah.

 

Before that, however, we’re introduced to the great toad, or as Murd the Necromancer hails him, toad of toads, Sagbelly – and verily it is a really big toad. Sagbelly is also the destination of those plump human sacrifices, slurping them down with his prehensile tongue, and the inspiration of that rarely heard line in popular culture – “No, not the toad!”.

 

After feeding the toad, Murd decides there’s room for one more sacrificial snack, which is of course Judge Dredd, freshly resurrected after extracting the sword – “The sword is removed. It is time to bring this one back from the dead! Rise, Judge Dredd! Let life once more course through you!”  One wonders why Murd just didn’t leave Dredd dead but that is probably because Sagbelly likes his food live and squirming. Perhaps the better question is why Murd didn’t leave him disarmed. In fairness, Dredd doesn’t seem to have his gun but he still has his boot knife, as we shall see.

 

To his credit, Dredd doesn’t miss a beat, notwithstanding his death and resurrection – “Listen, creep, I came here for the Oracle Spice. Give me some and let me go and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble!”

 

For a necromancer, Murd is not particularly bright – or perhaps he maxed out his intelligence at the expense of his wisdom, although I never understood the distinction between those two ability scores in Dungeons and Dragons. Whatever the case, he starts monologuing to Dredd like the hammiest Bond villain – or breaking the first rule of Oracle Spice Club. Indeed, in an expositional feat, Murd won’t shut up about Oracle Spice, although he does slip in that he’s been in the necromancy business for ten thousand years (as he proudly shows off his drinking fountain with ten thousand years or Spice in it). Remember last episode when I preempted that the Oracle Spice is essentially just licking a toad, although admittedly a really big one? Yeah that, except it’s more licking a toad’s ass – the Oracle Spice comes from a wart on Sagbelly’s “sacred hindquarters”, one drop for each sacrificial life.

 

In fairness, Murd at least has a better death trap than most Bond villains – as Dredd finds himself in Sagbelly’s pit with Sagbelly’s tongue wrapped around him – as well as staying around to watch. As mentioned previously, Dredd still has his boot knife – which he puts to good use by stabbing Sagbelly’s snout. He also still has his bike communicator, which he again puts to good use after Sagbelly drops him – ordering his bike outside the castle to send up flares. As Dredd surmised, both Murd and Sagbelly are hyper-sensitive to light. Dredd spears Murd with one of the stakes from the pit – and as he falls, Murd is swallowed up by a half-blinded Sagbelly in a reflex action. Guess the Oracle Spice didn’t see that one coming, huh?

 

Murd’s necromantic Watchers crumble into dust with the end of their master’s magic, leaving Dredd free to take a flask of Oracle Spice, prompting one last appearance by Murd’s ghostly necromantic recording – “Take it! Use it if you dare! It takes ten thousand years to understand Oracle Spice – and even then it is dangerous!”. Just leave a message after the beep.

 

Dredd destroys the remaining fountain of Oracle Spice. There’s no more where that came from either, as Dredd observes Sagbelly’s dead body upon leaving, having fatally pierced himself through his gullet on the stake that also ran through Murd – “Must’ve been something he ate”.

 

TO BE CONTINUED – THE JIGSAW MAN

 

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 15: The Necromancer! (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 170)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 15: THE NECROMANCER!

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 170)

 

With this episode, the Judge Dredd comic takes a turn into dark fantasy – as if that wasn’t obvious from its title. Although we do ultimately learn that the fabled Oracle Spice is essentially licking a toad – admittedly a really big toad. Oh – and Judge Dredd dies. For real. Not almost dies as happened every other episode in The Day the Law Died. Actually dies.

 

Whenever the Judge Dredd takes a turn into this much fantasy, it always feels a little jarring. Yes, I know I say that when the titular Judge Child Quest is for a precognitive psychic child, himself predicted by a precognitive psychic Judge (science fictionalized as Psi Judge). I know I say that when one of the joys of Judge Dress is that it is an anarchic fantasy kitchen sink, playing with any SF or fantasy tropes – and that when it is SF, it’s not particularly hard SF. It just feels too much when they lay the fantasy on too thick, as Judge Dredd is at its best as dystopian SF satire.

 

Anyway, Dredd notes in his mission log that even the name of the planet Necros is sinister and moreover the “dark brooding planet of unknown evil” will be expecting them – “one thing is certain…they will be expecting us for they have the Oracle Spice”. And unlike your average horror movie haunting, the evil doesn’t procrastinate with pranks before manifesting itself (which is only fitting for six pages of comic) – it cuts right to the chase materializing from a cloud of vapor as Justice One approaches the planet itself.

 

“I am Murd the Oppressor, Necromancer of Necros, Lord of Darkness, Keeper of the Sacred Toad!”

 

That doesn’t bode well – particularly as the spectral projection is apparently physical enough (and large enough) to force the ship to land on the planet, although at least part of that seems to be the effect of illusion on Dredd and his companions.

 

Rather than risk the other members of the mission (for the moment at least, as he tells them if he fails that they may have to get the Oracle Spice), Dredd departs the ship alone – just in time to intercept an offering of sacrifice to the oracle by the mysteriously human inhabitants of Necros.

 

“We bring you ten fat men, forty days a-feeding!”

 

Christmas must be cheery on Necros – on the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me and all that. Anyway, a bell tolls and the stalk-eyed Watchers emerge for the sacrificial takeaway, hauling the men back to a castle of manifest doom. As I said, Dredd intercepts the sacrifice – the Watchers shoot magical black flame at him but it’s no match for Dredd’s bike cannon as he guns them down.

 

However, Murd is scrying from inside the castle (in his physical form in the same appearance but much smaller than his planetary projection) and pronounces death on Dredd – literally, as Dredd is enveloped inside a phantasmagoric bubble and a Watcher impales him with its sword.

 

 

See? Dead.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…SHLICK! SHLOCK! GULP!

Mega-City Law – Judge Child Quest 14: I am a Natural Hazard! (Complete Case Files Volume 4: Prog 169)

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – JUDGE CHILD QUEST 14: I AM A NATURAL HAZARD! 

(COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 4: PROG 169)

 

Judge Dredd pulls off an Iwo Jima moment in the war between the alien Lurgans and Gallipardans. As much as I love the iconic pose of US Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Second World War, I have to admit it might be even more awesome being pulled off by a guy on a motorcycle.

 

Like this, only with motorcycles!

 

For that matter, Judge Dredd and other characters from 2000 AD replicated the pose more faithfully for the comics’ namesake issue in the year 2000.

 

 

Back to this battle, Dredd has decided to take matters into his own hands to stop the slaughter and bring the battle to an end (not least so that he and Judge Hershey can leave the battlefield) – literally in this case, by taking the Lurgan flag and planting it in Gallipardan home territory. As he informs Hershey – “The way I see it, the game is over when this flag is planted on the enemy hill. Okay, let’s see if we can stop to this slaughter!” By that he means the larger slaughter, since he and Hershey still have to slaughter a few Gallipardans en route, but of course he does it.

 

 

However, the referee calls foul, quoting the rulebook at Dredd – “According to the rulebook, no player may plant the battle standard before all the enemy have been killed”. (One wonders why the rules provide for battle standard at all in that event). The referee should have known better than to quote the rulebook at Dredd. He is the Law, after all, which extends to the rulebook of war on an alien planet. “More slaughter for the folks at home, eh? Well, read your rulebook again, creep – it said no player. I’m not a player – I’m a natural hazard!”

 

 

You sure are, Dredd, you sure are. And he’s got them there – the war’s over. In game control, Dredd finds the answers he needs for his Judge Child Oracle Spice Quest from the grateful Lurgan general, who tells him that the Oracle Spice can be found on the Planet Necros. And if you didn’t guess from that name, the Lurgan adds that it is an evil place. EEEVIIILLL! Okay, he didn’t do that last bit, but you get the idea…

 

TO BE CONTINUED – AFTER THE WAR, THE HORROR