The story of the Wonder Woman jacket that’s smashing gender stereotypes

Of all the cool things I saw at WonderCon last weekend, the one that really stuck with me was a bit surprising.

While checking out the exhibit hall, my sister and I dropped by the booth of Hero Within, a sophisticated but geeky fashion company that specializes in men’s wear and recently branched out into women’s clothing as well.

While browsing, we happened to notice a mannequin adorned in a denim jacket with Wonder Woman’s signature “W” stitched across the shoulder blades in a subtle but stylish design.

It took us a few minutes to notice that the jacket was made for men.

This didn’t seem like that big a deal at the time, but after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that jacket. After all, in the world of superhero fandom there is this antiquated tradition that Wonder Woman is for girls and Batman and Superman are for boys.

Merchandising and marketing of comic book properties still tends to fall squarely along gender lines and to me, and lots of other female fans, this feels ridiculous and outmoded. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Hero Within’s Wonder Woman Denim Jacket is nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to challenging gender stereotypes in the geek fashion world.

Curious to explore this subject further, I reached out to Hero Within founder and CEO Tony B Kim, who told me the story behind this intriguing piece of Wonder Woman-themed outerwear.

Released in March 2017 as part of the company’s summer collection, the jacket was not initially well received by male comic book fans. It was greeted by many negative comments on Facebook and Instagram, and many of them were – sadly and perhaps not surprisingly – of a homophobic nature.

The design for the Wonder Woman jacket did not originate accidentally. Kim started brainstorming the product in 2016 and put careful thought into it with the intention of challenging industry stereotypes.

“I knew it was time for a change,” he said.

“Since the beginning of fandom, gender stereotypes have ruled who we consider ‘our heroes.’ With such a lack of heroine representation on the big screen, I knew Wonder Woman could potentially change the barriers that existed. I wanted to create a Wonder Woman piece for men that was both smart, masculine and classic — a denim jacket seemed to be the right solution.”

In a blog post about customers’ reaction to the jacket, Kim said he’s been a Wonder Woman fan since childhood, despite “enormous pressure” to only identify with male heroes such as Rambo, Rocky and Mr. T. One of his all-time favorite comic series was George Perez’s Wonder Woman run from the 1980s.

“From that series, I learned that it was OK to have women as heroes. Batman and Superman shouldn’t just be for boys and Wonder Woman just for girls. Being a hero is about courage, sacrifice and honor. Last time I checked, neither sex has a monopoly on those qualities.”

When Kim took the concept of the Wonder Woman jacket to major wholesalers, he found they didn’t necessarily agree with this concept and were “hesitant” to invest in the piece.

“They just didn’t think it would sell.”

Nevertheless, Kim persisted. When he posted the first images of the jacket online in spring 2017, it was met with mixed reactions.

“A vocal minority of men could not understand why a man was modeling a Wonder Woman jacket,” he said. “Soon after, the homophobic responses ensued. I got plenty of hate tweets, messages and e-mails.”

Eventually, according to Kim, fans began defending the product.

“The common sentiment from other females was, ‘We’ve been wearing Batman and Superman for years, why can’t you wear Wonder Woman?’”

When the jacket went on display for preorder at WonderCon 2017, it was met with “plenty of buzz,” Kim said.

“It was really fascinating to hear a couple discuss why it was or wasn’t ok for a man to support Wonder Woman.”

When Patty Jenkins’ record-breaking movie adaptation of “Wonder Woman” hit theaters in June 2017, Kim said the criticism stopped, but wholesalers continued to reject the jacket design.

Kim said this ended up being good in the long run. “I needed the stock because the sales for it has been so strong. In fact, I am almost out of inventory.”

The jacket tends to appeal to both men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, Kim said.

“Honestly, the interest has been all across the board — not just one type of customer (which is fantastic). I think that says more about the success of Wonder Woman and the need to support heroines in culture.”

Kim believes geek fashion has “the potential to provoke and change culture.”

“In a small way it can push the needle of change and help redefine who we consider our personal heroes. Wonder Woman is not a hero for a certain gender but she is a hero for us all. Our clothing should reflect that.”

Founded in 2015 and officially licensed by DC Comics and Marvel, Hero Within remains the only company to create multiple Wonder Woman pieces for men, Kim said. (They also offer a woven shirt for men.)

They plan to continue to do so, as well as create more items featuring female heroes for both men and women.

Photos courtesy of Hero Within. 


If you think ‘Wonder Woman’ was snubbed cause it’s just a comic book movie, think again

Every year, the Oscar nominations are announced and a handful of films are famously snubbed.

It’s an annual routine, but when the Academy recently revealed the list of candidates for best picture of 2017, one snub in particular felt personal.

Omitted from the list of nine excellent nominees was “Wonder Woman,” director Patty Jenkins’ long-awaited, box-office-record-smashing film based on an iconic DC comic book character.

Yes, this movie was a massive financial success — no guarantee of Oscar love, I’ll admit — but for many women, it was also an earth-shattering cinematic experience. I’m not being dramatic when I say it literally changed our lives.

Now, I can honestly say I never actually expected “Wonder Woman” to be nominated for best picture.

I wished that it would be nominated. I hoped that it would be nominated in the way I wish and hope America would elect a woman president of the United States or that the gender pay gap would disappear.

I’d like these things to happen. I’d be ecstatic if these things would happen. But I don’t really expect them to happen, at least any time soon.

I’ve covered the Academy Awards for more than a decade, first as an entertainment journalist at a local newspaper and then as a blogger. I’ve studied, and analyzed, and written about the ceremony and its particulars extensively, so I know a few things about how Hollywood’s “biggest night” goes down.

There are certain types of movies the voting members of the Academy can’t resist. And there are others they simply deem unworthy of the little gold guy Hollywood holds in such high esteem.

Though the Academy has made a concerted effort in the last few years to diversify its membership, especially after the #OscarSoWhite fiasco of 2015, women still represent only 28% of the group’s membership with people of color representing a meager 13%.

So it’s an undeniable fact that the majority of Academy voters are white males, and many of them are old, to boot.

These guys tend to love dreamy, artistic foreign films that remind them of their youth, like “Call Me By Your Name”; edgy dramas by auteurs, featuring method actors, like “Phantom Thread”; original indies that make them feel hip, like “Lady Bird”; character-driven dramas packed with brilliant actors, like “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; and anything by Steven Spielberg (voila, “The Post”).

And they simply cannot pass up a good, manly war film, which is why “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour” are also included on this year’s best picture list.

It is not my intention to disparage any of the best picture nominees. Each and every film is remarkable and absolutely deserves to be there.

I’m simply illustrating the point that certain movies, no matter how well-made, or  groundbreaking, or well-received by audiences, will never be included amongst this elite group because they don’t happen to be the Academy voters’ cup of tea.

Comic book movies fall into this category with a vengeance, and “Wonder Woman” is a comic book movie.

When I was writing for the newspaper, I frequently vented my frustration over the Academy’s lack of appreciation for a genre that has quickly become Hollywood’s biggest moneymaker while striking a major cultural and emotional chord with audiences.

The fact remains, however, that if a comic book movie as elegant, complex, and thought-provoking as Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” can’t get nominated for an Oscar, then no comic book movie can.

(It was a nice, little touch when Marvel’s “Deadpool” was up for best picture at the Golden Globes last year, but it didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning.)

The Academy’s bias toward flicks based on one of America’s most populist forms of literature is the most obvious reason “Wonder Woman” wasn’t nominated.

Then again, it wasn’t nominated in any category at all, not even for a technical award, like visual effects, or editing, or costume design, where sci-fi flicks — another genre neglected by Academy voters — and even the cheesiest of action movies are often made welcome.

One could argue that Jenkins’ work doesn’t rank up there with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Baby Driver,” but then I remember the goosebump-inducing genius of the “No Man’s Land” scene, and I scratch my head a little.

The truth is, “Wonder Woman” isn’t just a comic book movie. It’s a revolutionary achievement of representation that brought to life the heroine women didn’t even fully realize they needed until they saw her in all her glory.

It’s a deceptively simple piece of popular entertainment that is also electrifying and empowering … if you happen to be female (or a sympathetic male).

I don’t want to be an Oscar party pooper here, ranting about sexism when there are many, many commendable highlights to be found in this year’s list of nominees.

The Academy did break form by including genre films “Get Out” — a scathing racial satire disguised as a horror flick — and “The Shape of Water” — the oft-snubbed Guillermo del Toro’s lyrical gothic fantasy — in the best picture field.

Bleak and beautifully-wrought comic book drama “Logan” is recognized with nods for screenwriters Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green.

In terms of achievements for women, “Lady Bird” helmer Greta Gerwig became only the fifth female director in Oscar history to be nominated, while “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison became the first ever female nominee in her category.

“Mudbound” writer-director Dee Rees is recognized in the best adapted screenplay race (one could argue her film should also appear on the best pic list), alongside three women in the original screenplay category.

Then there is the best animated feature film field, which is encouragingly packed with female contenders.

These victories may be relatively small and too long in coming, but they’re worth celebrating.

And yet …

I can’t help but think, if “Wonder Woman” made the aging, white, male voters of the Academy feel all the feels the way it made women of many different ages, races, and walks of life feel all the feels, that sucker would be at the top of the best picture list with at least a dozen nominations.

A girl can dream anyway.

Photos:, Rotten Tomatoes,

However unlikely, 2017 was the Year of the Woman

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Geek Goddess interview series will return next Wednesday. Until then, I offer some thoughts in honor of the new year.

Image result for womens march 2017

For me and many other women, the beginning of 2017 was marked by a profound feeling of defeat.

We were still reeling from Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, and a series of nasty shocks that only served to highlight America’s festering rape culture.

An admitted – nay, even proud — sexual harasser was about to be sworn into the nation’s highest office.

He and his party achieved this victory by waging a divisive campaign of mistrust and misogyny against his opponent, who might have otherwise become America’s first female president. To add insult to injury, a large percentage of women voters helped put this man in the White House.

A disconcerting feminist backlash was brewing (if you doubt it, consider that so many people were confused about what exactly feminism is or questioned its legitimacy enough that the word was one of Merriam-Webster’s most searched-for terms in 2017).

My reaction to these events was utter despair.

I developed an unhealthy social media attachment, fearing that somehow if I put down my phone or looked away from the latest headline for even an instant, the world would implode.

I was angry, depressed, disillusioned. I longed to channel my outrage into productive words and action, but was at a total loss as to what I should do — paralyzed, helpless, hopeless.

I wasn’t alone in experiencing these emotions. The worldwide Women’s March, which took place on Jan. 21, was proof of this. All over America, and around the world even, women were feeling sad, furious, traumatized, triggered.

We didn’t even know then what the rest of 2017 would hold: natural disasters and catastrophes at home and abroad, violent shootings, racism rearing its ugly head, absolute political lunacy, the constant, looming threat of nuclear war, and a massive sexual harassment scandal that rocked Hollywood and corporate culture to its core.

Somehow we survived it all and here we are in 2018. Not much has changed, really, at least circumstantially but – to me, at least — the mood feels dramatically different.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a record number of women are gearing up to run for office in 2018.

Or maybe it was Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, in which a group of powerful women managed to completely upend one of Hollywood’s biggest nights – complete with black gowns, Oprah’s speech, and the awkward but necessary speaking of truths — and transform it into a righteous, deafening cry for an end to sexual abuse.

Of course, there are the naysayers who claim it’s all shallow industry posturing and that celebs should just shut up and stick to entertaining, but to me that night was a transcendent moment of feminism, solidarity, activism, intersectionality, and support for victims instead of shaming. It may be the start of an imperfect movement, but hopefully it’s just a tiny taste of what’s to come in 2018.

Hollywood’s fledgling Time’s Up movement is a powerful example of what can be achieved when women band together and lift each other up.

I experienced this power on a personal level throughout 2017 as I traveled a painful, rocky, and ultimately constructive path from despair back to hope. I did not travel it alone. Never before have I felt so buoyed and inspired by other women.

One of my favorite fellow bloggers and I quite literally kept up a running Facebook Messenger conversation for the entire year.

We talked about everything from our political disenchantment, to our disgust with racism and antifeminism, to our own experiences with misogyny and harassment. At times, it felt like we were just wallowing in depression, but these candid chats were a balm to my struggling soul.

When I was paralyzed by inaction and a lack of purpose, one of my dearest friends from college invited me to join her text support group and also challenged me to do what I could, despite my limitations.

She inspired me to start a prayer group, which in turn became another network of support as our small band of women gathered monthly to commiserate with and console each other while seeking spiritual solace amidst the tragedy of  2017.

Toward the end of the year, my sister, Fawn Kemble, founded a writers group inspired by the legendary Inklings. At a bookish pub in Los Angeles, we met to discuss the individual hurdles we faced as writing women.

We ended up discussing so much more, and I left inspired by the strength and spirit of these poets, screenwriters, novelists, and bloggers who are pressing forward with their calling despite the overwhelming obstacles faced by female scribes.

Ava DuVernay

I found encouragement in other places, as well. In the work, words, and example of pioneering women in pop culture, fearless warriors like comic book writer Gail Simone, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, the late Carrie Fisher, “A Wrinkle in Time” filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and many more, who busted through barriers with grace and steely determination.

On a final note of gratitude, I was especially heartened by you, the readers of No Man’s Land, who have formed a small but smart, feisty, and devoted community of passionate geeks, both male and female. I have enjoyed our dialogues and interactions immensely since I founded the blog.

I’ve been endlessly inspired by the talented, creative, wildly intelligent, fabulously rebellious women we’ve featured so far on No Man’s Land.

Among them: geek mom and comic book guru Kristy Rivas; Harry Potter fan extraordinaire Ann-Laurel Nickel; Jill Warden, aka Faizeh, the belly-dancing queen; philosopher, feminist, and sci-fi fan Brenna Humann; cosplayer Sara Parrott; knitting wizard Dawn Branch; pumpkin carver and Pop! collector Stephanie Patterson; 501st Legionnaire Lindsay Ludvigsen; Awkward Spinster blogger Fawn Kemble; bibliophile Caitlin Hawkins; visual effects artist Elaine Wu; animator and dinosaur fiend Christine Simon; Orthodox Jewish Mandalorian Merc Corinne Finkelstein; documentary filmmaker Marisa Stotter; droid-loving Keri Bean of JPL; Shawna of; therapist and anime enthusiast Dareece Shaw; and illustrator Mai Kemble.

My top priority this year is to continue to showcase women’s voices in geek culture and celebrate even more unapologetically nerdy ladies.

The media has predicted that 2018 will be “The Year of the Woman.”

As far as I’m concerned, we’re already there.

Photos: YouTube,

Star Wars director problem presents a golden opportunity

Star Wars has a director problem. That much is clear.

Last week, it was announced that “Jurassic World” helmer Colin Trevorrow and the studio were parting ways due to that notorious, old standby, “creative differences.” Trevorrow was deep into the development process of “Star Wars: Episode IX,” and word is there were issues with his script as well as conflicts with studio chief Kathleen Kennedy.

Lucasfilm is now considering replacements with rumors suggesting seasoned “Force Awakens” director/producer J.J. Abrams or “Last Jedi” helmer Rian Johnson could step in.

This supposedly amicable divorce comes on the heels of the firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller during production of the Han Solo spin-off. Veteran Ron Howard is in the process of mopping up that mess.

The cast of the Han Solo movie.

Before that, Gareth Edwards managed to survive the entire making of “Rogue One,” but only after Tony Gilroy stepped in for rewrites and reshoots. The patchwork, crisis-barely-averted nature of that relationship is on full display in the entertaining, but uneven spin-off, which became a box-office hit anyway.

And nobody seems to want to remember the dismissal of director Josh Trank, who was set to shepherd an unnamed Star Wars film until his career imploded due to his unprofessional behavior during the production of “Fantastic Four.”

I hope I’m not the only one who finds it annoying that online journalists have swallowed hook, line, and sinker a narrative that portrays Kennedy and company as victims doing their best to corral an unruly stable of volatile, out-of-their-league filmmakers who aren’t up to Lucasfilm snuff.

“Star Wars: Episode 9, who needs movie directors, anyway?” declares a headline from Den of Geek.

Meanwhile, on the Nerdist website, Alicia Lutes writes: “The news comes as a shock to many, and a welcome surprise to others who were concerned about Trevorrow’s spotty track record. … However, it is important to note that Trevorrow’s firing is completely reasonable.”

Well, actually, we have no idea if the sacking of a director who was once an indie darling, delivered a massive, albeit critically panned hit, followed by flop “The Book of Henry,” is completely reasonable. It will be awhile until full details of his exit from “Episode IX” emerge, if ever.

So far, it is anyone’s guess whether the Star Wars director problem can be chalked up to the studio’s perfectly innocent bad luck in hiring a bunch of edgy, young upstarts or the fact that Kennedy and company don’t really want these auteurs to put their unique vision and original stamp upon the hallowed franchise that George Lucas built.

I suspect the latter, but I can’t prove it. Maybe it’s something in between those two dichotomies.

I’m not here, however, to defend Trevorrow. I loved his debut film, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” but his work since then doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Neither does his seeming inability to champion strong, female characters in his films.

I am writing, instead, to issue a challenge to Kennedy and Lucasfilm.

Now that the “Episode IX” director’s chair sits empty, it is the perfect time for Lucasfilm to step up and hire a women to take over production of the last chapter in their latest trilogy.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kennedy is one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, a veteran producer, co-founder of Amblin Entertainment, and Lucas’ appointed successor. She is an advocate for women, maintaining an executive team that is more than 50% female.

Nevertheless, Kennedy seems to be dragging her feet when it comes to giving a woman the opportunity to helm a Star Wars film, even though she has said in the past she has every intention of making it happen at some point.

Why continue to delay the inevitable?

There’s no reason an experienced woman can’t take over production of “Episode IX,” and it would be fitting, considering the film is the culmination of the saga of Rey, one of the strongest female characters in cinema history.

If Lucasfilm is wondering who they should hire, I’ve got some ideas for them. (Keep in mind that I have no idea if these women would even be interested or available to direct a Star Wars film, but there are lots of good possibilities, nonetheless.)

  1. Ava DuVernay: Hiring DuVernay would be an absolute no-brainer. A veteran, critically acclaimed movie and TV director and producer, she is already a member of the Disney team, in post-production on “A Wrinkle in Time.” The movie is an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s sci-fi/fantasy classic, which gives DuVernay the necessary special-effects experience, not to mention showing off her flair for wonderfully diverse casting. As a bonus, the “Selma” and “Queen Sugar” director is a science-fiction fan and a buddy of J.J. Abrams, who apparently turned to her for advice while editing “The Force Awakens.”

  1. Patty Jenkins: She’s probably going to be too busy directing the follow-up to this summer’s “Wonder Woman,” but Jenkins has proven she possesses all the chops needed for a big-budget sci-fi extravaganza like “Episode IX.” The filmmaker of indie hit “Monster” clearly has a gift for showcasing powerful women, like Rey, and recently negotiated a historic deal for the second “Wonder Woman” film, making her the highest paid female director in history. Delivering a critical and box-office hit would be no problem for her.

  1. Kathryn Bigelow: The most famous woman director in Hollywood, at least until Patty Jenkins came along, Bigelow is known for her gritty, emotionally harrowing films of combat and conflict, including “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Detroit.” Who knows? With her pedigree and expertise in entering typically male dominated territory and helming complicated, sizable productions, maybe she could finally win a Star Wars film a best picture Oscar?

  1. Michelle MacLaren: MacLaren’s achievements are in the world of television, which some would argue may not provide the experience she needs for a massive sci-fi movie. But the director of big-budget fan favorites, including “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Westworld” certainly has as much experience as some of the aforementioned dudes hired and fired by Lucasfilm. The fact that she’s worked on some of the best written shows in TV history – and we all know TV is better than movies now anyway – is an epic bonus.

That’s just a short list for Lucasfilm to work with, but there are many other possibilities when it comes to female directors and they are no riskier than, say, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who directed “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” for god’s sake.

They include “Frozen” director Jennifer Lee, S.J. Clarkson of “Jennifer Jones,” “Deep Impact” helmer Mimi Leder, “The Night Manager” director Susanne Bier, “Punisher: Warzone” maker Lexi Alexander, “Bobadook” director Jennifer Kent,” Karyn Kasuma of “Girlfight” and “Jennifer’s Body,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” director Reed Morano.

So there’s the challenge, Lucasfilm.

Your move.

Photos: Lucasfilm, The Collectors Cantina, The Playlist,,



Let’s call this the summer of THE BADASS LADY

Traditionally, Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer as kids settle back into school and adults bid bye-bye to their dreams of beach days.

It’s also the end of Hollywood’s favorite movie season, which means it’s time, once again, to celebrate the Badass Ladies of Summer.

The Badass Ladies of Summer originated in 2014 on my first blog, after I spotted an encouraging trend of women delivering strong, wildly entertaining, box office-stealing performances in a typically male-dominated season.

Past Badass Ladies include Emily Blunt in “Edge of Tomorrow,” Charlize Theron as Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina,” Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad,” and the endlessly funny female-led cast of “Ghostbusters.”

Now, to 2017.

As we all know, this summer was owned by one badass lady in particular. It’s tempting, in fact, to declare that she may be the badass lady to end all summers of the badass ladies.

I’m talking, of course, about Gal Gadot, star of the long-anticipated “Wonder Woman” movie, directed by another badass lady, Patty Jenkins.

Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot on the set of “Wonder Woman.”

Not only is “Wonder Woman” the first legit female superhero movie — “Elektra” and “Catwoman” clearly do not count — it’s a bonafide box office smash, the highest-grossing movie of the summer and the most successful movie in the DC extended universe (a universe populated mostly by dudes.)

It’s worth remembering that “Wonder Woman” achieved these impressive landmarks after enduring months of rumors of the film’s impending box-office demise. There was more than a whiff of sexism in the air as website upon website speculated as to whether a female-fronted comic book movie could ever be expected to soar, let alone survive.

“Wonder Woman” appears to have utterly demolished the Hollywood boy’s club, but as usual, things may be more complicated than they seem. Judging by the rest of the summer, bad-ass ladies are still struggling to make their mark on a testosterone-fueled cinematic season.

Two of the summer’s biggest critical darlings, “Dunkirk” and “Baby Driver,” were almost shockingly male-dominated in terms of casting. Directors Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright may have had perfectly valid reasons for this, but it’s difficult to ignore the absence of central, powerful, or compelling female characters in these admittedly excellent films.

Katherine Waterston in “Alien: Covenant.”

It’s not as if women were missing entirely from the summer landscape, but when they did show up to fight monsters, run away from or trigger explosions, and kick butt alongside male co-stars, their presence was often a disappointment.

Scarlett Johansson’s star turn in “Ghost in the Shell” was all but scuttled by a major white-washing controversy. Meanwhile, Brie Larson, Sofia Boutella, and Cara Delevingne scrambled to be noticed amidst the mediocrity of, respectively, “Kong: Skull Island,” “The Mummy,” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

Katherine Waterston should have had a well-deserved breakout moment in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” but her Ripley moment was obscured by a series of cheap, misogynistic horror clichés, including multiple, lingering shots of a woman’s severed head and a gruesome nude shower scene.

With something as delectably empowering as “Wonder Woman” on our summer plates, it’s tempting to let all this slide, but clearly Hollywood is still in need of many more bad-ass ladies to give it the kick in the butt it requires to realize that strong roles for women are the way of the future.

That said, we’re here to laud the ladies who did break barriers, cross boundaries, and inspire awe with their bad-ass acting and action prowess. Their ranks may be small, but their performances packed a huge punch.

Dafne Keen in Logan: Keen was only 12 when she starred opposite Hugh Jackman in the latest and bleakest of the Wolverine spin-offs. Her performance as mutant X-23, aka Laura, is the stuff of a parent’s nightmares, but it’s truly amazing in its total avoidance of child actor clichés.

There’s never anything cutesy or cloying about Keen or her relationship with Jackman’s aging, disillusioned Logan and Patrick Stewart’s decaying Professor X, who become her protectors in a world where mutants are hunted and all but extinct.

Clawed and feral, Keen is a furious, beastly ball of rage and survival instincts. At one point, she casually emerges from a melee, clutching a severed head. Mute for the first portion of the movie, when she finally speaks and cracks an unsettling smile, we get a glimpse of her uncommon talent. She may be young, but she’s already a badass lady.

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”: It’s magnificent, really, the way Gadot so naturally embodies the iconic role of the Amazon warrior princess of comic book legend. There’s no swagger in this performance, just humility, grace, and unabashed joy, which makes it a pleasure to watch.

Director Jenkins deserves credit for working closely with Gadot to develop the role of Diana, a goddess who leaves her sheltered life on the all-female island of Themyscira to become the benevolent champion of a self-destructive human race.

It’s not that Gadot’s Diana isn’t feminine or beautiful. It’s that her femininity and beauty never define her. As she intervenes in World War I, believing that meddling god of war Ares is behind the conflict, she fights with courage, honesty, intelligence, and humor, supported by a posse of male sidekicks.

She is the ultimate superhero for the Trump era, compassionate, unstintingly righteous, thoroughly unconflicted about her divinity. She’s better than us, but she understands our plight.

Gadot is featured in action scenes, elegantly staged by Jenkins, that are the empowering stuff of little girl’s dreams. In a scene showcasing the fierce battle skills of Themyscira’s Amazon warriors, including Robin Wright’s gob-smackingly awesome Antiope, Jenkins quietly renders moot the male gaze we’re so accustomed to seeing in action movies. To recognize it is to realize it is possible to do away with this tired cinematic convention, and that’s historic.

Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde”: It didn’t attract the attention that “Wonder Woman” did, but “Atomic Blonde” deserves just as much praise for its bold subversion of action movie stereotypes.

Set in 1980s Berlin, it features Theron as a spy navigating Cold War intrigue and blatant sexism to retrieve a stolen list of agents for the British government. Mysterious, passionate, and solitary, Theron’s Lorraine is as hard-boiled and badass as they come. Her sex appeal and flair for ‘80s fashion are the least interesting things about her.

Theron did a majority of the stunts in the film, which are brutal, intense, and authentic. It’s refreshing to see a woman fighting realistically, even if, like the men in most action flicks, she can endure more of a beating than is humanly possible.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if Theron’s steamy lesbian sex scene is an exploitative male fantasy or a daring depiction of female pleasure.

At any rate, “Atomic Blonde” confirms Theron’s rightful place in the Badass Ladies hall of fame.


Introducing the Geek Goddess Interviews …

The Internet is lousy with websites dedicated to pop culture, but only a handful of them feature women’s voices or are concerned with women’s issues.

There are some great ones — The Mary Sue, A Mighty Girl, and Her Universe come to mind — but, by and large, the content circulating on the geek Interwebs is written by and for men.

The No Man’s Land blog was created, in part, to address that imbalance. The site’s top priority is giving voice to fangirls who boldly pursue their geeky passions in whatever form they may take.

In that spirit, we’re proud to introduce our regular Wednesday feature, The Geek Goddess Interviews. (We know. We know. It’s a cheesy name. Just go with it.)

Every week, we’ll chat with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways — in career, family activities, hobbies, activism, opinions, creative pursuits, and other realms of expression.

We hope these simple snapshots will motivate other women to passionately embrace the fandoms they love and to do so with pride.

I’m always looking for interview subjects, by the way, so if you happen to know someone who might be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email,

For our debut interview, I’m proud to introduce one of my dearest friends, Kristy Rivas of Lancaster, Calif.

Kristy is a former teacher, a duty aide at a local elementary school, a comic book enthusiast, an expert movie buff, and the best convention buddy you could ever ask for. I’ve often benefited from her comic book wisdom and recommendations.

Kristy was a die-hard Wonder Woman fan long before a certain Amazon warrior made her big movie debut. One of the most interesting things about her, though, is the way she shares her geeky interests with her husband, David, and her children, 10-year-old Noah and 7-year-old Audrey. They have to be one of the coolest families ever. 

Kristy Rivas with her favorite comic book writer, Gail Simone.

Were you interested in “geek culture” as a kid or did that come later? When did you embrace the lifestyle?

I was not interested in “geek culture” as a kid. I did not read comics and I was not into sci-fi. After I was married, my husband decided to let me know that he was into “geek culture.” I was taken aback when he wanted to display his He-Man and Batman action figures in our home. He slowly began to draw me into some of his geekdoms. He introduced me to comics.

I began to embrace the lifestyle around 2005. There were a combination of factors that led to my embrace of it. My husband began buying Batman comics, Batman Begins came out, and we had made friends with a few self proclaimed geeks.

You’re a comic book reader. How did you become interested in that?

My husband would pick up Batman comics sometimes and I would read them too. I really enjoyed the Batman comics. In 2008, he bought me a Wonder Woman comic written by Gail Simone. Then, in 2009, Brian Q. Miller began a Batgirl run with Stephanie Brown and Gail Simone was writing Birds of Prey. These were the comics that really brought me into the comic book world. I am a comic book fan because of Gail Simone.

Marvel or DC?

DC Comics. Marvel films.

(Christopher) Nolan’s Batman trilogy and (Patty) Jenkins’s Wonder Woman (from DC) are my favorite hero films.

What are some of your favorite comic book titles?

Both of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey runs.
Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone.
Court of Owls by Scott Snyder.
Batman: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder.
Brian Q. Miller’s Batgirl run.
The New 52 Batgirl by Gail Simone.
New 52 Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello.
Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb.
Gotham City Sirens.

You were on the Wonder Woman bandwagon long before the movie became a hit. What drew you to the character?

Hope, power, love, faith, and strength. She has the strength and goodness of Superman but isn’t afraid to do what is necessary, including killing a foe. She has the sense of justice of Batman but doesn’t let it rule her life. She is a stranger in our land. She came as an ambassador and fights for us even though she isn’t one of us. She has faith in humanity. She is a great warrior. She is just AWESOME!

What did you think of the movie?

I thought the movie was fantastic! Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did a fantastic job of bringing all that Wonder Woman stands for to the screen. The no man’s land scene gave me goosebumps.

What are some of the other fandoms you’re interested in?

Star Wars, Disney, Orphan Black, Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Rivas Family, from left to right, Kristy, Audrey, Noah, and David. And, of course, that’s Chewbacca in the middle. The family poses with the Wookie at Disneyland.

Geeky interests and activities are a big part of your bonding time with your husband and kids. Could you talk about some of the interests you all share, as well as some of your individual interests?

We all love games so we play some geek themed games together. We will play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, or Disney Cranium a lot. We also love to go pick up comics together. My husband and I go to WonderCon and to a lot of geek centered films. I don’t really do many activities by myself. I really love that
we can do so many things together.

What are some of the geek-related things you enjoy doing together?

We love to watch The Flash and Supergirl together. We also love buying comics, Free Comic Book Day, playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly, attending the D23 Expo, going to see Star Wars films opening night, lightsaber duels, and many other fun things.

What are some of the collectibles you’ve amassed together or individually?

Oh man, we have so many Funko Pop! figures between us. We also have many geek related Legos and action figures. We don’t have any real collectibles though.

What do you feel your kids have learned from your encouragement in these areas of interest?

I don’t know. This stuff is widely accepted right now. It’s a good time to be into geek culture. We are having fun.

Kristy and her kids enjoy reading comics together and sharing in lots of geeky activities. Above, Noah and Audrey take a comic book break.

What would be your advice for families who want to incorporate these types of activities into their time together?

Go to Horizon Comics (in Lancaster, Calif.). Rodger is great and he will help you find something you like. Have fun with it. They might not love what you love. Encourage them to find something that they love. If you go to a Con, be relaxed.

You’ve attended a lot of conventions, including WonderCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and D23. What are some of your best memories from those events? What do you enjoy about cons?

Cons are so much fun! I have met Gail Simone twice, Ashley Eckstein (of Her Universe), Jim Lee, my husband met Scott Snyder, and we have been to many fun panels. My favorite con memory is just watching my kids enjoy the D23 Expo. Hearing their laughter during the DuckTales panel, watching as my son got his Oswald book signed by the author, watching my daughter jump into Scrooge’s money bin, and enjoying the time we have together sharing in our geekiness.

I love the atmosphere at the cons. I love that there is always a panel I want to see. I love hearing about where they are taking my favorite book characters or hearing people talk about where they wanted the Wonder Woman movie to go. I love the cool costumes that people have made. It is just a fun activity to share with those I love.

The Rivas family, from left, David, Noah, Audrey, and Kristy, pose for a comic book-themed family photo shoot.

As a woman, is there anything you would like to see change in the world of geek culture or fandoms?

Acceptance. Some people don’t like all the strong, female characters that are front and center. Honestly, I have seen some really good changes recently. Ashley Eckstein and Her Universe have expanded. I loved that they sold Wonder Woman merchandise and they are selling more decor now. Shea Fontana is doing a great job with DC Superhero Girls, which we all love, and is now writing Wonder Woman. Nicola Scott was doing the art work for Wonder Woman recently. Star Wars has Forces of Destiny and many other great books and comics.

Those are all great things. I would love to see more DC stuff out there for my kids in the comics. They did a great job with DC Superhero Girls but now my son’s left out of the DC comic loop.

I think things are moving in a great direction for girls and women right now. I want that to continue. Wonder Woman kicked ass! (The) Captain Marvel (movie) cast Brie Larson, which is fantastic. Maybe they are learning that women are awesome too! I also love that Black Panther looks amazing!! Also, the fact that Rey (of Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Wonder Woman were front and center, strong, fun and not sexualized. Women are so much more than sexual objects and for people to leer at. Let’s keep that going.

What’s the next event or big release (movies, comics, etc.) you’re looking forward to?

The Dark Nights Metal comic looks exciting. That came out but we don’t have our copy yet. I also heard that Gail Simone has something in the works. Also, The Last Jedi!

You’re a fan of “Orphan Black,” which recently wrapped up its final season. What did you think of the finale? (SPOILER ALERT!)

I thought the finale was great. I enjoyed that we got to see the clones defeat Neolution, encourage Sarah, start curing all the Ledas, and be able to continue their lives. It brought everything together and tied a nice bow on it for us.

Who’s your favorite clone?

Oh man, I have two. Alison and Helena.

Kristy, Audrey and Noah in front of the Batmobile at an event.

Welcome to No Man’s Land

Something happened to me in June.

I’m sure certain people will scoff when I say that in June a movie changed my life. Or maybe it didn’t quite change my life, but it changed the way I saw the world and it changed the way I saw myself.

In June, I saw Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”

After decades in development limbo, DC’s long-awaited comic book adaptation arrived exactly when I needed it most, after months of demoralizing political and social setbacks for feminism and female wellbeing in general.

Despite what James Cameron says, “Wonder Woman” is a feat of female representation the likes of which Hollywood never seemed capable of delivering before. The fact that it also became the biggest hit of the summer, breaking records left and right, was just icing on the cake.

Left to right, Gal Gadot, director Patty Jenkins, and Chris Pine on the set of “Wonder Woman.”

Sure, “Wonder Woman” is a deftly written, wildly entertaining, gracefully executed, slickly produced big-budget comic book movie. It’s also so much more.

As star Gal Gadot charged into battle, bullets pinging off her silver gauntlets while soldiers cowered in the trenches, for perhaps the first time, little girls did not have to stretch their imaginations far to put themselves in her place. They were finally granted the same delight boys have long enjoyed, watching Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Batman, or any other epic hero on a hero’s journey to save the world.

For grown women, the experience was even more profound.

Starved for female cinematic role models of power, strength, courage, compassion, intelligence, and heroism, the sight of Gadot’s Amazon warrior presiding over kick-ass action, not as a sidekick or sexual object, but as a three-dimensional hero who reflects back to us all that is best about our own humanity, was revelatory and unexpectedly cathartic.

There were tears. I assure you, they were tears of joy.

Gal Gadot greets a young Wonder Woman fan at a signing.

That said, it would be foolish to assume “Wonder Woman” changes everything.

For all we know, Hollywood will  jump on the female-led action movie bandwagon for a couple years before going back to business as usual. The worlds of science fiction, fantasy, videogames, comic books, cosplay, and TV and movie fandoms will likely remain minefields for women to navigate. Girls and women will still have to fight for their voices to be heard, in fictional worlds as well as the real world.

What has changed then?

Personally, I’m feeling more hopeful about the potential for women to step up and take their place at the forefront of geek culture, to blaze trails and envision ourselves in roles we thought we might never assume.

This hope has inspired a new project, a blog dedicated to the voices of women who are passionate about fandoms of all kinds. It’s no coincidence I’m launching this endeavor the day before “Wonder Woman” is released in digital HD.

The title of the blog? No Man’s Land.  Because this project is very much in the spirit of Wonder Woman but is by no means limited to the subject of Wonder Woman.

My intention is that No Man’s Land would be an outlet for the resources and skills I’ve honed during a more than 15-year career as an entertainment editor, film critic, blogger, and freelance writer.

Most of all, though, I want to have fun, and I want you to have fun too. This will most often take the form of shameless and enthusiastic discussion of all our favorite geeky things.

So we’ll be talking about Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, and Harry Potter, and Stranger Things, and comic books, and anime, and comic book movies, and conventions, and television shows, and books, and collectibles, and cosplay, and whatever other nerdy thing we happen to be obsessed with at the moment.

And Star Wars. Lots of Star Wars. Because it’s Star Wars!

No Man’s Land will also endeavor to highlight the stories of women who are passionate about various fandoms and express this in fascinating ways, in pioneering careers, creative pursuits, unusual hobbies, family activities, and many other avenues.

We won’t shy away from talking about feminism, politics, social issues and perhaps even subjects that are painful, complex, or controversial.

Guys, despite the blog title, this is a space where you are welcome. We’d love your thoughts and contributions because we know so many of you are on our side.

Readers, I’d love it if you would function as my lasso of truth by offering your comments, feedback, suggestions, content ideas, pitches for guest posts, or whatever is on your mind.

Let’s get out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the battlefield.

Photos: Heroic Hollywood, YouTube, CBR, DC Comics.