Thursday, March 19, 2015

Let's Get Avengerous Lives!

It has been a few years since I've posted here, but now I'm committing to post here on a regular basis.

I'm launching a new webzine called Let's Get Avengerous, and this is the companion blog.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Women Martial Artists

Only time for a brief entry today.

Check out this article:

Women in Martial Arts

by Olivia Chang

"Silly me," I thought as I snapped out or my daydream. How could I possibly have imagined that I could fight side-by-side with Jean-Claude Van Damme to ward off evil villains. Maybe it was the movie Lethal Weapon 3 that shed a glimmer of hope. Rene Russo played a feisty Internal Affairs officer with impressive martial arts skills who held her own as she and Mel Gibson fought off "cop-killers" - hardly your usual femme fatale role. She repeated her role as Sergeant Lorna Cole in Lethal Weapon 4.

As a martial arts movie buff, it was refreshing to see a female action hero. In years past, martial artists Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee were afforded the opportunity to bring their skills to their larger-than-life characters on screen. This was not so for their female counterparts. Russo's role seemed to be the exception. For decades, female action heroes were few and far in between.

Read the complete article at the link above.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Avengers: Mr. Teddy Bear

The first season of The Avengers starred Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee. In the second season, Hendry's character had left and he's never mentioned.

But Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale was not yet Steed's main partner. There were a couple of episodes with another doctor, and six episodes with a female singer called Venus Smith (who was not a martial artist, nor a polymath, like Cathy Gale). However, the Gale episodes quickly became the most popular, and by the end of the season, she would be the sole partner - as well as in the third season, it would be Cathy Gale and Steed alone.

Mr. Teddy Bear was the first Cathy Gale episode shown, but not the first episode filmed. In this episode, Steed and Gale already know each other.

A hired assassin code-named Teddy Bear is making life miserable for the British secret service. Steed is tasked with catching him. (They know his name, they know his victims, but they don't know what he looks like). Steed goes to Mrs. Gale's with his plan, she is to hire Mr. Teddy Bear to kill him - Steed.

In the second Gale scene, Gale's dislike of Steed - mild as it is - is evident. (She's to kill Steed on the behest of her employers, not on her own account, and she smiles when she says it.)

Steed has an annoying habit of snapping his fingers when he orders a projectionist to go from slide to slide, and Cathy Gale's memory is revealed to be photographic.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Avengers and Mrs. Cathy Gale

The TV audience's first view of Mrs. Cathy Gale, John Steed's second partner in The Avengers.

The Avengers is one of the most popular TV shows to come out of England from the 1960s. John Steed as the male lead, partnered with Cathy Gale, most well-loved with Emma Peel, and finally with Tara King, set the standard for future action adventure shows with strong male-female partnerships.

How'd it get started?

The first season of the Avengers starred Ian Hendry as a doctor whose fiance is killed by drug crimals. He vows revenge, and is shortly recruited by the mysterious John Steed to help him fight crime. Steed at this point wears a fedora and casual clothing....the iconic bowler hat and brolly won't make its appearance for some time. At this point Steed carries a gun, is tough, and sarcastic.

Although the season was a success, Steed was getting more press than Hendry's character, so Hendry decided to leave. Several scripts were left over, so the producers got a novel idea...why not make Steed's next partner a woman?

It was at this point, in late 1961/early 1962, that Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise comic strip had just begun, and was very popular. Brits in this time period may also have been familiar with the "Ju Jitsu Suffragets" led by Emily Garrud. As I posted previously, Garrud was one of the first women to teach martial arts in the Western world, in the early 1900s, and during 1913 was the baritsu and ju jitsu trainer of the 30-women strong Bodyguard of Emmeline Pankhurst, who was agitating for women to be given the right to vote.

Tomorrow, I'll start synopsizing the plots for each episode of the two seasons of The Avengers co-starring Honor Blackman as Mrs. Cathy Gale.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Edith Garrud and the Ju-jitsu Suffragettes

Around the world, women were denied equal representation until early in the 20th century. (And of course, in Middle Eastern countries, women are still suffering under the boot of oppression -- women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive cars, for example, and of course we've all seen the eyes of women staring out of burkhas that cover the rest of their face...lest the sight of their beauty inflame the lust of men....)

Women both in England and the US agitated for the right to vote - staging sit-ins, hunger strikes and so on.

Edith Margaret Garrud, nee Williams (1872-1971) was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world -- specifically in England.

In about 1893 Edith married William Garrud, a physical culture instructor.

In 1899 the Garruds were introduced to the art of jujutsu by Edward William Barton-Wright, the first jujutsu teacher in Europe and the founder of the eclectic martial art of Bartitsu (which Arthur Conan Doyle claimed Sherlock Holmes was an expert at, under the name Baritsu).

Five years later, they became students at former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi's jujutsu school in Golden Square, Soho. In 1907 Edith was featured as the protagonist in a short film entitled "Ju-jutsu Downs the Footpads", produced by the Pathe Film Company.

When Uyenishi returned to Japan in 1908, William took over as the owner and manager of the Golden Square school and Edith became the instructor of the women's and children's classes.

The Garruds popularised jujutsu by performing numerous exhibitions throughout London and by writing articles for various magazines. Beginning in 1908, Edith also taught classes open only to members of the Suffrage movement. From 1911 these classes were based at the Palladium Academy, a dance school in London's Argyll Street.

In January of 1911 Edith Garrud choreographed the fight scenes for a polemic play entitled "What Every Woman Ought to Know." In August of that year one of her articles on women's self defence was published in Health and Strength Magazine.

In 1913, as a response to the so-called Cat and Mouse Act whereby Suffragette leaders on hunger strikes could legally be released from jail and then re-arrested, the W.S.P.U. established a thirty-member, all-woman protection unit referred to as "the Bodyguard". Edith Garrud became the trainer of the Bodyguard and taught them jujutsu and the use of Indian clubs as defensive weapons. Their lessons took place in a succession of secret locations to avoid the attention of the police. The Bodyguard fought a number of well-publicised hand-to-hand combats with police officers who were attempting to arrest their leaders.

On several occasions they were also able to stage successful escapes and rescues, making use of tactics such as disguise and the use of decoys to confuse the police.

The Bodyguard was disbanded shortly after the onset of the First World War. W.S.P.U. leader Emmeline Pankhurst had decided to suspend militant suffrage actions and to support the British Government during the crisis, and therefore no longer required protection.

Now wouldn't that make a great movie!

(The photos are from a short film Garrud made, and its an actor in the police uniform.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Let's Get Avengerous

The purpose of this blog is to document all the "Avengerous" women in fiction - from TV around the world, to media such as games, movies, magazines and so on.

Today more than ever, girls and women need positive role models. The amount of un-positive role models out there is frightening.

Occasionally, I'll post "real world" heroines here, as well. I may also comment one girls and women who need to be slapped... 13 year old girls who beat up another girl because that girl kissed her boyfriend, women on welfare who keep on having children, and so on. Then there's the commercials where women participate in their own degredation. Spike TV, which has shows I like such as CSI, for example, also have crap like Manswers (how many boobs does it take to screw in a lightbulb, and there are actually four women gathered around in a circle with their silicon-huge breasts as if they are actually trying to use them to screw in a lightbulb...I just want to slap those women.

But mainly, I'll strictly stay with fiction!

Here's a pop quiz... did you know that Diana Rigg was not the first choice for Emma Peel? That honor goes to Elizabeth Shepherd. However, after several days of footage were shot, Shepherd was replaced. Unfortunately, none of her footage seems to still exist, but there are a few photos of her.

Note that she is wearing an orange leather outfit. This is because the color orange showed up as "black" better in black and white TV, then did color.

(This is from the first episode of The Avengers which starred a new partner to replace Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale, "The Town of No Return".)

All photos and screencaps shared in this blog maintain their original copyright. They are shown here only for educational purposes, to provide critical commentary on the event in question.