Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Glenda, Fairy princess

7.5 Glenda, Fairy Princess

Here’s a supporting cast member in the Aeaea universe who I developed just because I thought it was odd

Glenda Goodfellow is a pre-teen girl living in the generic American town of Springdale. After her mother’s death when Glenda was just a child she was raised by her father until he re-married Harriet Hiss and provided her with a pair of older step sisters. Unfortunately, Anastasia & Drusilla Hiss are mean spirited girls who use their popularity and good looks to cover for their various dastardly deeds, often maneuvering things so that the somewhat plain and bookish Glenda would take the blame. This changed when her father gave her a piece of her mother’s jewelry: a key shaped locket which if held and turned opened a mid-air door to a cabinet of wonders!

It turns out that Glenda’s mother Ella was actually the princess of a fairy kingdom who fell in love with Glenda’s father from afar. She relinquished her throne to be with him. The key opens the door to her mother’s closet, full of shoes and her dairy, which told Glenda a truth her father had never suspected and hints that foul forces might try to worm their way into our world through the connection of her union with a mortal. Fortunately, Ella’s shoes are magical giving Glenda an arsenal of tricks to help her (on order of importance) stop her step sisters antics, protect her father from harm, win the heart of the winsome Perry Charm and save the world.

·         Magical Shoe Closet (Primary) Her key amulet lets her quickly open her mother’s closet and trade shoes to get new powers. These include Glass Slippers (making her a beautiful, charming graceful adult; which lasts 15 minutes after she removes them), Puss-N-Boots (become an 30” anthropomorphic cat with a +3 on fencing rolls), Seven League Boots (teleport up to 21 miles), Winged Sandals (fly at 700 mph), Invisibility Shoes (turn invisible), Giants Boots (Grow to 21 feet tall), Dancing Shoes (super agility and martial arts), and the ability to duck into the closet for up to 3 minutes at a time (a sort of pocket universe trick).
·         Lucky (secondary): Glenda is luckier than she has rights to be, which helps her when she pokes into things with which she ought not be involved.
·         Student (Tertiary) her best subjects are History, Literature and Biology; she is also Precocious, a bonus with adults, though it provides no benefit to her peer group, where she is notoriously inept.
·         Naturalist (Rare) Glenda is at her best in the woods, where she can Befriend Forest Animals and slink. She received equestrian training, though ‘finances’ have forced these to be cut back to make space for her step-sisters' hobbies.

Publication History: Glenda was a 1950’s comic book that shared shelf space with Archie and Casper, meant as being a relatively comedic look at suburban teenage and pre-teen life. The book was created by committee for the Universal Comics line in the wake of the comics code, and puttered along with modest sales to the female readers. The stories were formulaic and the art rather pedestrian. In 1961 the book took a slightly more adventurous tone under Universal Comics Line owner Buck Carlson’s desire to grab just slightly more market share. The book was given a single regular creative team – Ms. Darcy Mercer took over penning the book (female view and all that) with Robin “Smith” Suzewitz and Mike Baker doing the artwork –  and the orders to punch it up a bit.

Mercer, a huge fan of the Lang “Fairy Books” introduced more and more fairy tale elements, including the unseely threat to Glenda’s father, to put some more violence in the stories. She also obliquely dealt with issues of puberty and change in Glenda’s struggles to fit in and her first stabs at painful romance. Readership improved, though there were several cases where Mercer had to be strongly edited at the last minute to keep from stepping over the boundaries set by her bosses. Eventually there was what she later described as a “flaming row” with her editors over her subversive topics and she left the book in 1968. The book never had a named writer again, and UC was content to let the book languish. 

Universal Comics was therefore in for a shock when the Gay rights movement claimed Glenda as an icon, with flags bearing her image and the motto “come out of the closet” were flown at the gay pride parades in 1970. In retrospect the idea of gawky, awkward youths becoming beautiful when they wear their mother’s shoes was more than a little ripe with homosexual subtext, but no one had noticed it – not even Mercer, who was if anything writing with a feminist eye, for all that she quickly championed the cause that co-opted her character.

To give credit where credit is due, UC never cancelled the Glenda book, and even started reprinting Mercer stories as part of their Glenda Digests. There was some talk of lawsuits to protect the purity of their image but Buck Carlson stood firm against it: for one thing, sales were sales; for another Buck was at heart still the Ad Astran who listened to Dr. Nostalgia as a child. While he never warmed to “the swishes”, he saw this as a moment to protect “that glorious polyglot future.” The only real change was that Springdale, which had been anonymously Middle America previously, suddenly became West Coastal.

With the Conflagration and merger of the UC comics lines in 1985 Glenda, Fairy Princess was explicitly written in, with Springdale resting somewhere near San Francisco, where she is an occasional feature in Aeaea, even as she remains her immortal teenage self, in perpetual angst-filled romantic longing for Perry Charm and in conflict with her step-sisters.

GM notes: Glenda’s origins are a little complicated, but the first seed was the 1990’s made for TV mini series The 10th Kingdom. In that the king of the trolls had a pair of magic shoes that turned him invisible, and when he captured the female lead he threatened to put her in “dancing shoes”. I thought “cool!” and was then heartily let down when those turned out to be metal shoes heated red hot rather than, ya’know, shoes that would force her to dance, as would befit a fairy tale. From there was born the idea of a closet full of magical shoes. In doing the write up for Dr. Nostalgia’s publication history I wanted to include an invented book alongside Archie, and the idea of the magic shoe heroine re-surfaced in my brain. The gay pride icon angle hit me immediately, so her name specifically references Ed Wood’s transvestite epic Glen or Glenda. Once we had that it was clear that she would be make a good occasional PC in Aeaea, assuming that anyone else has an interest in playing a ‘tween with magic shoes.

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