Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cat burglars

Image and text © Michael Chevy Castranova

The idea of cat burglars as heroes is not new, in movies or comics. There was a silent French movie serial in 1915 called “Les Vampires” in which a gang of thieves — a woman, in particular — dressed in black, scurried across roof tops and, well, stole things. Parts of it are pretty fun. (You can find it on DVD and YouTube.)
Over years we’ve had Cary Grant as John Robie, aka the Cat, in Hitchcock’s 1955 thriller “ToCatch a Thief” up to Paul Rudd as “Ant-Man” just last summer.
Catwoman has been longtime Batman foe/friend in comic books, movies and most recently in “Gotham,” as played by Camren Bicondova — though she’s more of a Cat-teenager in this latest TV iteration.
Tyler Wilson’s own cat burglary is a bit less clear. It’s stated often in “Slipped” that she has stolen, and she’s taken on the name of the Scarlet Sparrow, the infamous cat burglar of Paris, from her missing father. Or rather, that name been thrust upon her.
But she wears the scarlet mask and gloves, and her agility and stamina come from her ballet training. That’s how she’s able to scoot up and over the walls you see in chapters 362 and 364.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thinking around corners

Image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

I’ve always preferred heroes who weren’t simply courageous — that is, they acted even if they were afraid of the possible outcome — but also were clever.
What I’ve tried to do with the Scarlet Sparrow is make her willing to make dangerous choices but also smart enough to consider what’s around the next corner. That’s what chapter 363 of “Slipped” is about: Tyler suspects the reason they’ve been given for sneaking into a guarded complex — and you’re right, we the readers weren’t privy to the reason — is false.
She and Cartier Tour, her unwilling ally in this adventure, and Pip the dog now have to find out what’s really what.
And we also have to keep in mind that even though she’s often courageous, tough and smart, she more often than not acts rashly — with less than ideal outcomes.
As one enemy once said, she creates chaos wherever she goes.

And speaking of heroes, it was excellent to see, even belatedly, that “Jessica Jones” on Netflix was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award, for star Krysten Ritter. It is one of the best things I’ve watched on television — streaming or broadcast — in a very long time, and Ritter’s performance is astonishing. You really should watch it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cartoon acrobats

Image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2016
The thing in comic book heroes these days — on TV and movies, and in the books — is everyone seems to be a gymnast and everyone is a master of some form of martial arts.
Even the much-praised Daredevil on Netflix, though he starts in a boxer’s stance, still flips about and kicks opponents in the head as often as using his fists.
That’s one of the refreshing things about the near-perfect TV version of Jessica Jones — she can jump, but there’s no acrobatic cart-wheeling in space. No Vulcan karate chops; she just slugs the bad guys. Or drops a refrigerator on him.
When the Scarlet Sparrow lost the Time Sword a few years ago in “Slipped,” I needed to figure out a way for her to defend herself. Guns definitely were out. And it had to be some means that would make sense for the 1920s.
So I figured the athleticism of dancers — I’m thinking of ballerinas I’ve known — would be different and a nice touch. That would explain her keen sense of balance and being able to achieve great jumps (both key traits of a cat burglar), as well as excellent stamina.
You can see an example of that in chapter 362, panel three.
As for Cartier Tour, in panel two, her unique skill set will be explained soon. Well, soon-ish.