Fringe Theory – Badass Chicks

Angela Robinson, who directed Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded and wrote and directed D.E.B.S., is currently working as a producer, director and writer on Season 4 of The L Word. She is also at work on New Line's upcoming film Jenbot and Disney's Witches.

The badass chick has taken a drubbing in the last couple of years, much to my dismay. Movies like Elektra, Ultraviolet and Catwoman bombed, leading the industry to declare that nobody wants to see movies about women kicking ass. Buffy and Alias are off the air (sad), and we wait with bated breath to see if Joss Whedon will ever get the greenlight to make Wonder Woman.

But do not despair. Below is a list of below-the-radar badass chick stuff to make you proud.

No. 1: Strangers in Paradise
Somebody gave me Strangers in Paradise, in the form of individual comics, to read a couple of years ago, and I had trouble getting into it. I put it down and forgot about it. But I picked it up again last Christmas and kept reading, and it blew my mind. Strangers in Paradise is a graphic novel written by Terry Moore, this straight, white, married guy in Houston, Texas, which makes absolutely no sense. The women and lesbian characters are so wonderfully written and carefully drawn that it's truly bizarre that this story comes from this guy. But I met him, he's cool, and his story is fantastic.

It's the story of friends/lovers Katchoo, Francine and David, and their relationships, affairs and fights over the course of a lifetime. It is set against the backdrop of a crazy, violent crime story involving an evil, wealthy, lesbian mobster who runs a shadowy organization known as the Parker Girls — an institution of which Katchoo, our lesbian hero, was once a part and has now escaped from. Katchoo tries to start over and re-enters the life of her one true unrequited love, Francine (a presumably straight girl-next-door who has too many boy troubles), but Katchoo's violent past follows her, and soon Francine and everything Katchoo holds dear is in danger.

At the heart of the story is this heart-wrenching, funny, romantic tale of two women who are soul mates, and how life, circumstance and their own stupid baggage conspire to keep them apart. It is about the line between love and friendship, straight and gay, enemies and lovers — Terry manages to fit it all in, ricocheting from dark crime story to romantic comedy to good old-fashioned drama. It is pretty impossible to describe the tone, but somehow it works. And the artwork is amazing.

I was so into Strangers in Paradise that I stalked Terry at a Comic-Con earlier this year, and we are going to team up to try and bring Strangers in Paradise to the small screen in some incarnation in the next year or two.

The entire series has been collected into five pocket books, where you can read the series from beginning to end. A warning: The first two books start off a little slow, but are definitely worth reading because they set the stage for when the series really kicks in, in Books 3 and 4. They're comic books, so they're a fast read. Order them up for this holiday season, put away a little time and curl up with a good graphic novel — you won't be disappointed. (You can buy it here, or check out the web site at www.strangersinparadise.com.)

OK, No. 2 recommendation: Y: The Last Man
Wow. I can't say enough good things about this graphic novel series. If my mind wasn't blown to pieces by Strangers in Paradise, the remaining pieces of grey matter would be incinerated by how incredibly good this graphic novel is. OK, here's the premise. On a given day, at a given moment, every man on earth dies from a mysterious plague except for one: our hero, Yorick Brown. Yorick now exists in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited entirely by women, and he must survive long enough to figure out why he was the only man not killed by the plague, reboot the human race, and hopefully find his fiancée, who was visiting Australia at the time of the apocalypse.

Now, in less capable hands than those of the exceptional writer Brian K. Vaughan and the inspired artist Pia Guerra, this premise could be really cheesy and turn into a one-man sexual escapade along the lines of “if you were the last man on earth with a million women …” Instead, the team behind Y: The Last Man has imagined a plausible, frightening action-thriller which asks the question: What would a world run by women be like?

The government is devastated; farming, shipping and commerce are in shambles; the economic rubric of the world comes crashing down. How does one eat, sleep, survive? What happens to sexual identity in a world without men? Does it even exist? How are groups and communities organized in the absence of a patriarchy? The series examines all these issues while introducing us to a badass and motley group of women committed to helping Yorick stay alive.

Yorick himself is a funny, bumbling, sensitive guy who — and this is the series' first great move — decides he wants to stay committed to his fiancée and not have sex until he finds her. So expectations are entirely reversed. You've got the last man on Earth and he does not want to have sex. (Happily, a few of the ladies do.) Check it out: Buy it at Amazon.com or check out Vertigo Comics Online.

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