Picture once again an alternate timeline where the mythological Amazon society was real, and exists up to the present day.
The United States placed the first human being on the surface of the Moon in 1969, and in doing so all but won the race to the Moon. As a result both the other nations of the world and the American public lost interest in space exploration, America would go on to complete 5 more missions on the Moon with near non-existent public attention. Head of Themyscira’s Space Operations, Xanthippe Gazis had succeeded in putting Amazons into orbit multiple times, and was ready to start making their own attempts to reach the Moon. Because the propaganda branch of the Themysciran government agreed that man should not be able to claim to be the only one to have set foot on the Moon, military leadership allowed Gazis to go ahead with her plans. She would have to operate within the budget constraints, however. To get to the Moon she had no more than 6 launches, as many as it took NASA, but with a far weaker rocket.
The Amazon P-14 rocket had been responsible for carrying ships into low-Earth orbit, however it was far too weak to do the same with the vessel planed to fly to the Moon, even with the new efficiency modifications applied. Gazis’ engineering team made the decision to use the “Earth-orbit rendezvous” approach: using two rockets to each carry half of the ship, then assemble the components in orbit. Six launches thus became only three flights. One to test assembly, lander separation and flight procedures, one to do the same in lunar orbit, and one to land. Any of these missions failing would mean no Amazon moon-landing. There was no room for error.
The first mission was executed in 1970, and was deemed a flawless success after the assembly and lunar-lander flight was completed without problems. The second mission saw the first Women to lunar orbit in 1971, however once there, a radar malfunction forced the lander to return early to the command ship. Despite this only half successful mission Gazis chose to allow the third crew to attempt a landing, after the mission commander argued that they could pull it off despite the errors that occurred with the previous crew. So it came, that in 1974, after a lengthy period of tests and examinations, the crew lead by veteran astronaut Petra Arma placed women on the Moon for the first time, and paved the way for Themyscira’s glorious future in space.
This image is of the vessel to make the landing, the Andromache (with the landing craft Alkaia), in Earth-orbit shortly after assembly. Commander Arma oversaw proceedings from inside the command pod, while co-pilot Celaneo Axiotou and engineer Eriobea Kyrkos exited the cockpit to perform the final examination before trans-lunar injection.
Here is a game I love very much, yet rarely do any fan art for: Darkest Dungeon.
Darkest Dungeon takes place in a fantasy world beset by eldritch evil beings. As the heir to a noble house, you return to your forgotten home to cleanse it of the horrors unleashed by your ancestor. You manage the reconstruction effort of the local hamlet, as well as guide your unfortunate heroes as they delve into the various infested areas. All the while your efforts are narrated by the haunting voice of Wayne June as the ancestor. The game plays much like X-COM. It is all about risk management, proper preparation, making the best of a bad situation, and living with the consequences of your mistakes.
No Lovecraft inspired horror would be complete without a Sanity mechanic. Heroes have not only health points, but a stress meter as well. If the stress gets to high then their resolve must be tested. Most of the time they will crack under the pressure, turning hopeless, masochistic, selfish, or something similar, causing them to act against your instructions, stress out everyone else in the party, and bring your dungeon-run to an abrupt end.
However, every once in a while when the stress overflows, when the group is on the verge of destruction and all hope seems lost, the hero will turn Virtuous. And when it happens it is the single greatest feeling in the world. She will be engulfed in golden light and bring hope to her companions, as the ancestors voice triumphantly echoes over the scene:
Good evening. I’m Lemorack, and I bid you welcome to my site.
Video games have allowed me to thoroughly examine my own personality from multiple angles. I know that “evil play-throughs” of video games are popular, that is a play-through of an RPG style video game (or similar one where player choice impacts story) where the player role-plays an evil character. Murder, steal, betray, rule the world as an evil overlord and the like. I get the concept. Sometimes it’s just fun to be bad, to let loose and allow all the inhibitions to give way to the built up frustration. It’s make-believe, after all. I have tried multiple times to play an evil character and never finished, because my fragile soul couldn’t handle it. This makes me feel both good an bad. Good, because it means my parents did a good job of raising me to be compassionate by nature, but bad because I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on some good fun. I did, however, find a loophole in the workings of my conscience: I can easily play evil characters, as long as they’re Vampires.
It is said that everyone is the hero of they’re own story. The key to being truly evil is to start seeing yourself as a hero while you do. I’ve liked vampires for quite a while as effective villains, and I’ve been trying to pinpoint when and why they recently started to turn into heroes to me, if that is actually the case.
Lemorac-ula the first
Lemorac-ula the second
Thus far I have three self-portraits where I depict myself as a vampire. The first was an attempt to sort of theme my profile pictures across social media to Halloween, even going as far as to change my twitter display name to Lemorac-ula, in an objectively hilarious play on the name Dracula. I strongly dislike the first picture in retrospect. The goofy grin was a result of me wanting to show of the fangs, just so all who look at the picture can easily identify the mythical creature. The second time around I chose to go more subtle. Of all the profile pictures I had the second Lemorac-ula is likely my favorite (close tie between that and Medivh). The third I never used as a profile picture, as that was never my intent with it. But of all my self-portraits, not just the ones I used as profile pictures, the Vampire Lord takes an easy first place, though that is largely due to the company he keeps.
I went through most of my youth not having seen a single Dracula film. The only vampire movies I saw were by chance during random flips of TV channels. Most of them were garbage, or sub-par at best. I encountered far more vampires in games. Off the top of my head I’d have to say the first ones had to be from Heroes of Might and Magic III, and the very similar game Disciples II. The first time I played as a vampire in a game was in The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim, and it wasn’t really much to write home about. I had a random throwaway character who would do all the things my main character would not: missions for the thieves guild, the dark brotherhood and eventually the court of Harkon. That is where things started to turn. Skyrim’s legendary modding community turned the game’s mediocre, uninspired vampire experience into possibly the best existing gaming example, on the count of how customizable it is.
This was right around the time the Twilight series became a popular film franchise, as well as becoming the Justin Bieber of cinema: a movie for which there were no centrist feelings, they were either adored or despised. You can easily guess which camp I was in. Simultaneously I recall there being a TV series also featuring vampires called True Blood, which I will confess knowing absolutely nothing about. But vampires had something of a golden age. Rather than the villainous predators they are they received a conversion to sympathetic pretty boys. And I want to say: I get it. I do not approve, but I understand. Vampires are attractive for numerous reasons. They have elegance, they have charm, they are inherently mystical and seductive. But more than just that, they are dangerous. Dangerous is exciting, especially when it’s just fantasy. It’s the reason such poorly written garbage as 50 Shades of Gray was popular, and it’s also part of the appeal of say Amazons. Elegance and beauty, with just the right amount of danger mixed in. Who doesn’t like a bad boy? And no, you can be sure it’s not just a female preference. I know I’ve had my fair share of villainess crushes in the past. But I like them because of their evil side, and I can accept that. I don’t need to turn them into sympathetic characters to justify my attraction and resolve the cognitive dissonance.
Nevertheless, I felt the vampire mythos come under attack and a desire to rush to it’s defense, to protect the vampire image from this, what I considered slander it was receiving. I was motivated to preserve my vision of what the real vampire was like, and she was not sympathetic. Vampires are predators. They are wolves in a world of sheep. They feel the same amount of sympathy for mortals as we do for cows: they don’t care, for to them we are just food. Since then I have read Dracula by Bram Stoker and seen every major Dracula film, not including the most recent Dracula: Untold (2014), because I was told it tries to turn Dracula sympathetic again. The movies had their ups and downs. I consider Nosferatu and the 1931 Dracula an obvious high point, though surprisingly both the Francis Ford Coppola version and the Hammer films to be confusing at best, and just disappointing at worst. As much as I adore the portrayal by Lugosi Béla (Bela Lugosi for everyone not born Hungarian) my favorite Dracula might be looked upon as a controversial pick: Dracula: Dead and Loving it. I just have a soft spot for Leslie Nielsen, and despite him being a parody of the character, I actually find him to be a better Dracula than any other I can think of.
“Renfield, if I am discovered we must flee.”
“Yes. I’ll escape and meet you at Carfax.”
“No, that would be to dangerous. They will search there first.” says Leslie Nielsen’s Dracula, shamelessly pointing out a major plot hole from the 1931 movie. “I have moved my coffin to the abandoned chapel at the top of the cliff. When you come make sure you are not followed.”
To then put the cherry on the cake, I recently also watched the Netflix Anime: Castlevania, and loved every second of it. This was the first time I found myself actively rooting for both sides: the vampires and the hunters. Dracula was sympathetic without being good, he was an evil tyrant, but one still felt for him, understood why he chose to wipe out humans. Still it was also clear why the heroes had to end him. The only real villains here were the church, and boy did they get what was coming to them!
So why do I like vampires as much as I do? I have several theories. For one I might be at odds with my own mortality and find the idea of living forever to be very appealing. More likely is that I relate to them on a level. For what vampires mostly are is an elegant, beautiful facade hiding base, vicious desires. Maybe I see them as liberators from outdated human morals, kind of like what the zombie apocalypse means for society. When you consider how appropriately sexist the original book is (I say appropriate, because it was written in 1897) you can even make an argument for Dracula being the tragic hero of the story. A man who liberates women from the society that chains them down and keeps them from reaching their full potential, and gives them the opportunity to let their desires free and overcome those who tried to keep them down.
“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer–both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.”
Or maybe vampires are just cool. Maybe I’m just putting far too much energy into answering a pointless question. But I like to know the reasons for things, and I enjoy discussing theories that are on my mind. So to conclude let me just say:
“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men´s eyes, because they know -or think they know- some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”
Activision Blizzard has come up among the topics of my blog posts quite a few times. As of the past decade or so, give or take, I have had very little good to say. As a matter of fact my opinion on the company is just straight up terrible. For the most part I don’t like drying attention to Things I Hate. On the internet the opposite of love is, after all, not hate but apathy. I make a constant exception in the case of Activision Blizzard for one reason and one reason only: Very few companies I can think of have been this consistently responsible for creating some of the most defining works of entertainment that I experienced as a child. To put it simply: Blizzard’s games defined my childhood, and it breaks my heart to see what they have become.
Warcraft. I imagine many people have that one specific story that changed everything. As children we were told fairy tales. Evil creatures would do evil things, and valorous heroes would perform heroic acts to put a stop to them. But at some point the lines became blurred, heroes could become villains, and good deeds would not always go rewarded. For me that story was Warcraft. I was too young to understand the story of StarCraft back when I first played it, my deep appreciation for the storyline of that game would not develop until much after I had finished Warcraft 3. But Warcraft was the video game that shook the foundations, the story told to me that turned Fairy Tail into Fantasy.
Anyone who knows even just a little bit about me or my work knows how important powerful female characters are to me. Being able to play such a character in a video game has actually become an important selling point when I shop for games. This was also the period where that started to mature, where the women in the games that I played began shaping my perception into what it is today. A while ago I had done a series of tribute drawings to those women in video games who stuck with me as the most prevalent, the ones who had the strongest influence. Warcraft, even just Warcraft 3, has no shortage of such characters. Ladies search is Jaina Proudmoore, or Sylvanas Windrunner stand out as such. And while I am fond of both of those characters, as far as I’m concerned neither can hold a torch to Tyrande.
“Women! They’re women!”
“Yes. They almost look like elves, but they’re far too tall, and far too savage.” said Grom Hellscream when the night elves were encountered for the first time, for the Orcs were on edge as the whispering voices in the woods gave them a haunted feeling. Indeed there were spirits among those ancient trees, but they were not the danger. The sentinels were. While literally all than night elf men spent centuries sleeping, the protection of the forest was left in the hands of the sentinels, Night elven warrior women, who’s prowess in battle and fearsome tactics were enough to keep even orcs on their toes. Common Tolkien fantasy would have us thinking of elves as peace-loving Forest dwellers, who welcome guests with open arms, warm fires and leafy food. Not these elves. If you do not respect nature then the only greeting you will receive from a Sentinel is an arrow to the chest. One can imagine what an elf must be like, if an orc would characterize them as “too savage”.
Priestess of the Night Elf goddess Elune, Tyrande is the leader of the sentinels. Despite the previously mentioned numerous other prominent women in the campaign of Warcraft 3, Tyrande still stuck out the most to me. When I think Warcraft 3 it is her face I see. She is both a powerful priestess, and a cunning warrior, though not without her own flaws. Many millennia of protecting the forest clearly made her weary of outlanders, she would not give her trust easily. These all perfectly complemented by her love, arch-druid Furion Stormrage, and his softer more peaceful perspective make for possibly the only fictional couple you make me question my thoughts on relationships.
“You realize that we will age as these mortals do. Our powers over nature will wane in time. “
“If pride gives us pause, my love, then perhaps we have lived long enough already. I will proceed to the summit and prepare our defenses there. Whatever comes, my love, remember… Our bond is eternal.”
I stopped following the Warcraft storyline after Cataclysm. Any and all semblance of interesting writing has completely surrendered to the games Alliance vs Horde mentality, which in my cynical opinion, is a despicable attempt to profit off of a fanbase of rivaling groups. As such, my interests in any further developments have long since evaporated. But as I have probably mentioned before, I have chosen not to let the company Activision Blizzard has become to Taint the fond memories they gave me as a child. I acknowledge, that the game is nowhere near the masterpiece it appears through nostalgia goggles in terms of storytelling, but that will never make it any less special to me.
Undyne from the video game Undertale has been on my shortlist for a while now. I have yet to make a list of my favorite video game women from current games as opposed to those of my childhood, but if I did, this fish-lady would easily make the cut. Determined and headstrong, as well as the true hero when you need one most. Among others, she saved me from my slump.
As someone who is not a professional artist I lose my confidence like I lose my TV remote: all the bloody time. I am 90% self taught. I took just a year and a half of professional training in classical art at the end of high-school, other than that my only teacher has been practice. I don’t have the drive to look up and watch videos, I don’t even have the willpower to convert to another art software. My only means of improvement has been drawing. Just drawing, drawing and drawing again. I need to finish pictures in order to keep myself motivated, the method of producing page after page of posed hands just doesn’t work for me, even though it would really do me some good. My drawings are far from masterful, but often I end up with a finished drawing that doesn’t even meet my own standards. It is times like these when I lose most of my confidence in my ability to draw, and that sends me into a slump.
If I convince my self that I can’t pose a figure, then for the next few attempts I am guaranteed to mess up all my poses. If I get the sense that I cant compose a picture, I will be unsatisfied with anything that comes out of my pen. This will then lead to several sketches I start doing and then give up on less than half way through. That then leads to weeks or even months without a finished drawing, without something uploaded to my site or my DeviantArt. My recent addition of making timelapse videos also has a tendency to hold me back. When I know I’m going to record my process it gives me the need to have the composition ready in my head, so that the start of the video doesn’t contain the many minutes of me messing around with the starting sketch before I get the final one. But if I just draw without recording it, that’s another drawing that doesn’t get uploaded to Youtube. The need to go all out, combined with the unwanted extra pressure has the effect of keeping me from sitting down and starting to draw.
There is only one way I have ever been able to combat this problem. When I get stuck like this, the picture I do finish has to restore my sense of ability, and make all the pressure pay off. Simply put, I have produce a kick-ass drawing, and that means I have to draw something that really inspires me. It is always some awesome, badass woman who comes to my rescue in such a case, one even more so than the ones I draw regularly. Below are a few examples of the women who restored my faith in myself at such times in the past.
This time it was Undyne.
Undertale is as close to a timeless game as I can think of. It has a simple but appealing visual style, amazing soundtrack, engaging story with a cast of wonderfully written characters, and a method of storytelling that touches beautifully on video games as a medium. Without being overly explicit, the events within the game world make subtle comments on concepts like player agency, choice and consequence, persistence in the face of adversity, and even watching video games played on video or live-stream. To say anything more is to spoil the game, so beyond that I shall only say a few words about Undyne.
“Now I know you aren’t just some wimpy loser. You’re a wimpy loser with a big heart!”
Tough and relentless on the outside, but warm and fuzzy on the inside with a heart of gold. She can come off as hard and overly aggressive, but when push comes to shove you can count on her to put her life on the line to protect others, and no danger of any size will get her to give up. She is the perfect character to help inspire me not to back down from the things I love and, above all else, to stay determined.
“You’re going to have to try a little harder than that!”
I still have Starcraft on the brain. As such I feel like talking about Sarah Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades.
A while ago, before this website existed, I did a number of tribute drawings for my personal five most influential female characters in gaming when I was young. Kerrigan was one of them.
Starcraft is a sci-fi story that takes place in a far future setting, where certain human colonies in space had broken off from the home world, and taken on lives of their own. The Terrans share that sector of space with two other alien species: the insectoid, hive-minded Zerg; and the ancient, far advanced Protoss. Their are no real good guys in this story, nor any single, world threatening villains. Almost all factions in the sector are full of jerks, and all you can do is try to stay alive while being as little of a jerk yourself as you can. For this reason, Starcraft was probably the most mature story in a video game I experienced as a child.
Sarah Kerrigan was a psychic special-ops soldier, known as a Ghost, fighting for a militant rebel group known as the Sons of Korhal. Arcturus Mengsk, the group’s leader was set on overthrowing the Confederacy, the ruling power of the sector. He helped rescue Sarah from a life of being experimented on by the Confederacy, and so earned her loyalty. Later Mengsk would lure hordes of Zerg to ravage Confederate planets, and leave Kerrigan behind to die. His methods would earn him the position of Emperor. However, Kerrigan did not die at the hands of the Zerg. Rather they transfigured her into a Zerg-Human hybrid, unshackled her psychic powers, and tied her to the Zerg Overmind’s will. When the Protoss forces later destroyed the Overmind, Kerrigan was released, free to get revenge on all who wronged her.
No matter how hard the writers of Starcraft II would later try, Sarah Kerrigan is not a redeemable character, nor is she a tragic hero. She is a villain, plain and simple. While under Zerg control the Protoss Templar, Tassadar used her predictability against her. “You are your own worst enemy.” he told her. And she took that lesson to heart. Once freed she hatched a plan to destroy the Overmind for good, and get vengeance on Mengsk. She united the Terran and Protoss factions of the sector against the recently arrived United Earth Directorate forces, only to whirl around and betray her pawns once they had outlived their use. She killed Mengsk’s best military leader, and left him to rule what little rubble there was left of his old empire.
“Oh, come on, Arcturus. Did you really think I’d allow you to come into power again? You practically fed me to the Zerg on Tarsonis! You’re directly responsible for the hell I’ve been through! Did you honestly think I’d let you get away with that?“
“But you said revenge was secondary to defeating the UED!“
“I lied. I liberated this planet because it was the UED’s primary staging point, not because I was under any obligation to you. I used you to destroy the Psi Disrupter. And now that I’ve got my Broods back, you’re no longer necessary for my plans. I think I’ll leave you here, Arcturus, among the ashes of your precious Dominion. I want you to live to see me rise to power. And I want you to remember in your most private moments that it was you who turned me loose in the first place.“
In the same day she would also kill Fenix, a Protoss warrior who fell in battle, and was placed into a mechanical body, called a Dragoon, so he could continue to fight. He had proven to be a resourceful warrior, even in his weaker state. So he too needed to be dealt with.
“This is a betrayal, most foul, Kerrigan! We were fools to have gone along with this charade!“
“You’re right Fenix. I used you to get the job done, and you played along just like I knew you would. You Protoss are all so headstrong and predictable, you’re your own worst enemies.“
“That’s ironic. I can remember Tassadar teaching you a very similar lesson on Char.“
“I took that lesson to heart, Praetor. Now, are you ready to die a second time?“
“The Khala awaits me, Kerrigan. And although I am prepared to face my destiny, you’ll not find me easy prey!“
“Than that shall be your epitaph!“
With Fenix dead, Mengsk’s empire in ruin, the UED fleet crumbling, and her former close friend, Jim Raynor swearing revenge, the Queen of Blades had insured her position.
“It is done, Cerebrate. They’ve all been destroyed. Let us return to Tarsonis to rest. For the first time since my transfiguration I am wearied of the slaughter.“
As I mentioned, Starcraft II would continue to try and strip Kerrigan of her complexity, her independence, her character, and any clothes she wore previously. She was retconned into being in a romantic relationship with Raynor, who would go on a mission to cleanse her of her Zerg transfusion and her evil intent simultaneously. But as far as I am concerned none of that happened. It could not. No magic artifact could undo the Queen of Blades, because no one made her either. She may have been betrayed by Mengsk and infested by the Zerg, but all she did after, she did of her own free will. She slaughtered millions, ravaged worlds, used and betrayed those once close to her, and all without the slightest sign of regret (excluding perhaps that one line above).
She is no hero. But she is easily one of the most influential female character in gaming from my childhood, and I maintain: in my eyes the most badass villaness, strike that, villan in gaming to this day. The heroines of my childhood showed me the good that strong women had within them. Kerrigan is a constant reminder to me of the power they have at their disposal, should they ever give in to their own lust for power and payback.
“You see, at this point… I’m pretty much the Queen Bitch of the Universe. And not all your little soldiers or space ships will stand in my way again.”
I was a huge fan of the internet personality Totalbiscuit (John Bain). He passed away this spring due to cancer. In his absence his Youtube and Twitch activities are being carried on by his widow, Genna. She had appeared in several of his gaming videos before (E.G. WTF is … Octodad), and they were always my favorites. The whole situation has obviously left her in a great deal of stress, so as a fan of the channel, and of her, I decided to show my support the only way I know how: by making a drawing. Keep it up, Genna!
Let’s now talk about StarCraft. Yet again we are talking about one of my favorite games, and wouldn’t ya know it, it’s a Blizzard game… My love-hate relationship with Blizzard stems from the dissonance between what the company gave me in the past, and what it has become nowadays. I know this can sound a lot like a “back in my day” argument, but personal taste aside, there are plenty of objective reasons to dislike the modern day Activision-Blizzard.
But that is off topic. I want to talk about StarCraft. A real- time strategy game that became one of the most prominent esports of its time. The expansion of the game, Brood War, is still touted to be one of the, if not the best competitive video game to date. I’ll leave the truth about that statement up to the experts, StarCraft was never that to me. I never competed in the online scene, I was there for its story.
Oh, yes! There was in fact a time when Blizzard wrote really compelling, mature stories, rather than the Saturday morning cartoons they create nowadays. StarCraft took place in the distant future, where societies of humans had broken off from Earth and created factions out in the farther sectors of space. Also inhabiting this area of space were the hive-minded Zerg, a race of giant, insect-like creatures bent on spreading all across the galaxy; and the Protoss, an ancient race of highly advanced aliens who saw themselves as superior to all others. There were no good guys here. The Zerg just wanted to consume all, the Protoss were bent on eradicating all life on Zerg infested planets indiscriminately, and the several Terran factions were just as bad as the others. Indeed, the Terran story of the game has you leaving the corrupt and incompetent Confederacy to join a militant group called the Sons of Korhal, only to find out that they too are just as vile as the ones before. This is why I found this game so intriguing. There was no single big galactic evil to overcome, just you and your buddy Jim Raynor trying to not be bad in a world of bad guys.
Not the first game, nor the expansion had any happy endings. Victory in the first game came only through the self sacrifice of the Protoss hero Tassadar. In the aftermath, the betrayed ghost operative turned infested Zerg psychic, Sarah Kerrigan enacted a plot to wipe out all other factions. Heroes like Alexei Stukov and Fenix lost there lives to betrayal. And if you have never played any of the games, than none of these names mean anything to you, but to me every mention of them brings back feelings. And the treatment of this beautifully dark and tragic story in the second game and its expansions invokes anger. I won’t go into detail here, know only that it was new Blizzard working on the story now. Characterizations were radically changed, what was once mature and interesting became dumbed down, and formulaic, relationships were altered to fit a simpler revenge story, and overall the whole thing just sucked. The game play was loved by everyone, and the multiplayer scene was huge, but as I said, the game was never that for me. But the truth is Activision Blizzard just doesn’t make games for people like me any more.
StarCraft did give me many things. Awesome gaming memories, one of the my favorite female characters in video games, beautiful music, and a fantastic story.
Picture, if you will, and alternative history, where the mythological Amazon society is real, and existed all the way to present day.
In 1969 the United States landed the first human on the Moon. With the race to the Moon all but lost, the Soviet Union abandoned its failing lunar manned spaceflight missions. In 1972 the last American manned lunar mission was completed, and further ambitious plans to send people back there and to Mars were set aside in favor of the Space Shuttle program, the ISS and other mucking about in low-earth orbit. With no international competition it seemed like humanity’s exploration of other worlds would come to a swift halt.
What the world didn’t count on was the Themysciran Space Program. The Amazons had always been quick to adapt to new ways of war, and when the race for rockets became the new arms race, they wasted no time in catching up. Just as in the USA and USSR, the greatest rocket scientist in Themyscira had dreams greater than just launching warheads on other countries. Inspired by Verne and Méliés, she dreamed of sending women into space. And like Korolev and von Braun, the Amazons got an idealistic dreamer to lift them to the stars.
In 1964 Themyscira launched the second woman out into orbit. Following that the missions in space continued, always trailing behind their larger US and Russian counterparts, but nevertheless keeping the pace just behind. A crew of two women flew around the Moon in 1971, and in 1974 woman set foot on the Moon for the first time in history. While other nations abandoned their lunar programs in favor of low-earth orbit and un-crewed deep space probes, the Themysciran Program kept returning to the Moon, performing a new landing once every year, creating a small orbital outpost by 1982, and the first functional surface base by 1991. Today, the Amazons operate the only spacecraft capable of performing returning lunar flights, and became the number one way to get to space after the Space Shuttle was discontinued in 2011, with private companies only now starting to catch up. The Amazons are currently performing annual test flights of their interplanetary vessel, aimed at making a return trip to Mars next year.
This picture shows one of the reusable Moonships, the Telepyleia (Τελεπψλεια) on its way to the Moon. The ship has a crew capacity of 10, and is equipped to land on the Moon and return without the need for refueling in orbit. Two of the four astronauts visible in this image are on their first trip, while the other two are experienced spacewomen, one of whom is about to complete her third lunar landing. Can you guess which is which? 😀
I’m reminded of things I want to talk about all the time. I love many things and have much to say about most of them. A recent release has got me thinking about Lara Croft again, enough to inspire my next drawing even. So check out the drawing below, watch the Timelapse too if you want, and if you are curious you can keep reading to find out some of my thoughts on the hero of the Tomb Raider franchise, in particular her recent self.
Lara Croft is one of my earliest gaming memories. A friend owned Tomb Raider II back when I was a kid, and we spent many hours playing it on their old Playstaion I. Frustrating as it was for me to get anything done in that game, Lara Croft became one of the first female gaming characters to shape my perception of women as a whole. I was introduced to her before the age when boys start to find girls attractive, but her gaming prominence extended well into my teenage years as well, so yeah, like many others I too was pulled in by the character’s sex appeal. She does have plenty. But unlike many others I don’t consider Lara’s beauty to be the secret to her success. It may have been what first caught many people’s attention, but that alone would not have been enough to fuel a series of twelve plus games. Something else kept us around.
Even from her early polygonal conception,
when the most memorable things about her games were how impossible it was to grab onto a ledge, a few things were apparent about Lara’s character: She was an adventure seeking action hero on the trail of secrets from humanity’s past, akin to Indiana Jones; She had training and understanding in the use of firearms; She had a reputation, fame and resources to support her adventures; Above all else she was in it all for the thrill and the excitement. “I’m sorry, I only play for sport.” Throughout the following games players became more familiar with Lara’s attitude. She was a tough, athletic lady with an acrobatic fighting style and a quip or two when it mattered most.
We did, however, know little about her past, other than the fact her parents were not around, and they left her with a mansion and a butler.
It was in the next trilogy of games, the Legend trilogy (named after the first game in this new series, Tomb Raider: Legend) that more light would be shed on this aspect of her story. After the death/disappearance of her mother, her father drove himself and his reputation to ruin in pursuit of finding her. These games focus on her getting to the bottom of the family mystery, putting her parents memories to rest along the way. Despite the dark tone of the plot, the games are made much more light-hearted, mostly to the credit of Lara herself. With a new plethora of side characters helping her, Lara goes through these adventures, and what I personally consider to be the height of the series, with a confident attitude and plenty of witty banter. Simply put, she made those games fun.
Then the reboot happened… Truth be told, I very much liked game one in this new trilogy. It was marketed as Lara’s new origin story. Gone was the confidence, gone was the wit and the humor and gone were her iconic dual pistols.
The new Lara was an unsure, insecure and fearful young adolescent girl, with no experience and little to make her interesting as a person. But after all, that is what origin stories are for, right? Never mind the fact, that we got many glimpses into Lara’s past in earlier games, and saw that she was a fearless, cocky little girl in the face of dangers back then. In this version she is transformed into the woman we all know and love through this one experience, right? Well, kind of. There is a clear path Lara takes toward becoming the Tomb Raider here, her confidence, her skill, even her wit occasionally show signs of development.
“Seems anyone close to you has low survival odds.” Says Reyes, just after Lara witnessed another of her friends die.
“Better keep your distance then.” She replies, in probably the only Tomb Raider moment of the new trilogy.
By the very end of the game she finally has her guns back, she is standing triumphant over her captor as well as an ancient Japanese ghost, and her thirst for more adventure is awoken. Pretty awesome as far as origin stories go. Not the Lara of the past, for sure, but a satisfying tie-in to the old awesome action heroine we were waiting for. But sadly, there were more games to come.
I was baffled to learn that throughout the next game Lara NEVER held two pistols. Instead she got shoved into the new Hunger Games action heroine mold of “badass lady with a bow”. Everything that game one was building up to was gone. No wit, no humor, just the same stealth-action protagonist from the last game.
I understand that much of this must have been game engine limitations, which is why the plot of the second game followed the first one’s formula so closely, but that was far from the only problem with new Lara. I did not recognize this girl. She was… boring. I wish there were a better way for me to say it, but that’s it. Never did she have anything but the most cookie-cuter, straight forward dialog.
“Forgive my daughter. She can be overcautious.” says Jacob, after his daughter just threatened to kill her.
“In her place, I would be the same way.” she replies, with no intonation, no expression of any kind. Old Lara would definitely have had something witty to say in that situation. Not even an attempt. And the game is just full of moments like these. Worst of all is the scene where Lara is standing over the defeated Trinity leader, Constantine, surrounded by fire and crumbling ruin. A situation practically served for a badass one-liner.
“It was not supposed to be like this.” he says, grasping his wound. “This was my destiny!”
“This was never your destiny.” She replies. Again absent any emotion what so ever.
I’d go on, but you get it at this point. Suffice it to say that I was hoping the latest game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider would at least try to bring some of the old Lara back, but no. Just more of the same. Boring dialog, no emotion save for constant self doubt and deprecation, no dual pistols.
Regardless of what the future brings for Lara, she will always be that same amazing influence on me that she has been. She was the first woman I remember for being in what was typically considered a male role, and she absolutely killed it. It makes me sad that new generations will see her as this female action hero stereotype they made her into, without any outstanding personality or traits of her own, but the games are receiving plenty of critical praise, and they’re all financial successes so… maybe it’s me. I hope to see the Tomb Raider truly return one day in all her former glory, in new settings and with new perspectives, but still remaining true to what made her into the icon she is. But if that Lara is truly gone, well, the old games aren’t going anywhere. Let the new fans have their hero. I already have mine.
Norse mythology speaks to me the way no other does. I adore the visuals often associated to it: cold winter landscapes under the light of the Aurora; glorious, decorated wooden halls shinning among the snow; men and women adorned with runic tattoos feasting and sparring till the final battle at the world’s end.
And of course the Valkyries.
Topping the list of my most beloved groups of mythological women, the Valkyries were tasked with selecting and guiding the souls of the greatest warriors to fall in battle to the halls of Valhalla. They are also destined to ride into battle come Ragnarök. And I don’t envy the fire-giants at the front of the charge that day. Well, okay, maybe I do a little…
My first ever contact with these amazing women was through a rather unlikely source: a children’s cartoon called Samurai Jack, the story of a Samurai warrior wandering the landscape of a cyberpunk future trying to find a way back to his time, so that he may defeat the evil being, Aku, that now rules the world. Along his travels he finds himself in the long destroyed home of the Norse, where he hears the calling of an ancient voice. In the depths of the mountain he comes face to face with the source: a giant Lava Monster. Jack learns the identity of this strange creature to be that of an old Norse warrior cursed, by the same evil creature that sent him to the future, to forever be stuck in his new rock body, never to join his fallen comrades in Valhalla. He explains to the Samurai that the only way for him to be accepted to the side of the gods is to fall in glorious combat. Hearing the monster’s plea Jack agrees to fight him.
The moment where Jack draws his sword and calls out to the monster to prepare himself was a really powerful moment for my young childhood self. It was, you see, only a few episodes earlier in the season that Jack teamed up with a warrior woman to hunt down a magic gem that could help him return to the past. Alas, as the gem was finally within his grasp the woman revealed herself to be Aku in disguise. Jack’s faith in the good in all people is his only real weakness, and he is taken advantage of more than a few times throughout the show. And even after experiencing a betrayal like that, he is still willing to take the monster at his word with no way to be sure of his intentions. And the payoff is truly spectacular.
After a hard fought battle Jack strikes the monster down, and the events that follow became ingrained in my mind ever since. In a glorious burst of light the warrior regains his mortal form, shouting at the top his lungs: “I am FREE!” Shortly after, however, the years he spent in his kingdom of rock all catch up to him, and he collapses on the ground an old man. Jack rushes to his aid, but with a smile on his face the warrior asks only that Jack hand him his sword. With his final breath he thanks his savior.
Then the skies burst open and a heavenly ray of light shines down at them. From within the blinding radiance two golden armored women descend on white horses, and land on the ground before them. The sight of those two magnificent figures framed in the light will forever be the most powerful image I have ever seen. And without a word spoken, Jack watches as the Valkyries carry the warrior back with them to the Hall of the Gods.
Simplistic and dumbed down as it was, this was my introduction to Norse mythology. And what an introduction it was. 15 years later I still tear up at the very thought of that episode’s final 5 minutes. So to pay tribute to one of my defining childhood experiences, I made my own recreation of that impactful scene.