Mortal Kombat: Collector’s Edition Comic Book Review (1992)

Written and illustrated by John Tobias, the co-creator of Mortal Kombat, Midway’s mail-order one shot is still considered canonical by hardcore fans of the games.  With physical copies being difficult to track down today, I decided to find some scans, determined to discover whether or not the title stood the test of time.

what worked for me

In an earlier entry, I said that part of my appreciation for the original game stemmed from the fact that it was developed by a small team.  It might be true that many hands make light work, but storytelling (in my opinion) is best accomplished by a few, practiced hands.  John Tobias was responsible for much of the mythology and backstory of Mortal Kombat.  According to the sketches made public via Twitter, he modeled the cast upon Jungian and other legendary archetypes.  Having Tobias as the sole writer and artist for the comic gave it an authenticity and focus I didn’t anticipate.


The narrative strikes a metaphysical cord about an inch deeper than most comics would have bothered at the time.  The sorcerer Shang Tsung, specifically, undertakes a pilgrimage to the mountains of “rural Japan,” in order to petition the local thunder god Raiden (who happens to based off an actual Japanese deity, by the way).  Tsung, who is Chinese, tells Raiden, “I have traveled through your lands, spoken your language and your religions to deliver this message.”  I suppose I responded to this because Tobias could have simply written a gratuitous scene where the unscrupulous mystic draws a circle on the ground and delivers some on the nose dialogue.

Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition is a story driven comic.  Watching the path the key characters travel to the tournament was my favorite aspect.  The panels are transporting, made all the more realistic and coherent by Tobias’s artwork.  It resembles the bent towards anatomical correctness (for the males, anyway) that was popular in the ’90s, but also feels like a signature style belonging to Tobias.


what didn’t work for me

Liu Kang has always been a conflict for me.  As an archetype, he fits into the franchise perfectly.  The problem, from my standpoint, is that in all of the official material, he doesn’t have anything compelling in his story arc or back story.  He’s simply a Shaolin monk who wants to see the Mortal Kombat tournament removed from Shang Tsung’s corrupt hands.  I have no issue with Kang being a simple Every Man, but I would like to know why he feels so passionately.

I have similar feelings concerning Sub Zero and Scorpion’s inclusion later in the story.  But where the ninjas are concerned, I have no problem with brevity.  A little mystery concerning the origin of their feud is welcomed, but I feel like they’re confrontation was shoe-horned in.


My only other qualm does, unfortunately, have to do with the era.  There’s something about the ’90’s and over expressed science fiction henchman that bothers me.  Notice Kano’s driver with the face-length scar and suspender belts.  Coupled with the automatic weapon in the passenger’s grip, the Kano panels pulled me out of the story.  But as we’ve established, there was a lot of that going on in science fiction (and action, and drama and comedy…) back then.


Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition simultaneously breaks the ’90’s molds and embraces it.  Despite some set backs inherent in the franchise, it remains a story-driven comic book; and story often redeems period or minor flaws for me.  The artwork is impressive and the coloring’s even and smooth.  Even if I was completely ignorant of the games and movies and stumbled upon this comic I would have been mystified.  It left me wanting more.  Four out of five stars!



Gothel: Episode One, Now Available

“Once upon a time, there lived a young and beautiful Princess with a higher calling. Weary of worldly life and the excess of court, Gothel Morcades became a sister of the holy cloister. There she truly lived happily ever after…until her heartless father offered her hand to a wicked King.

From saint to sinner, from healer to witch, this is the story of Mother Gothel, the keeper of the maiden Rapunzel.”

Today I’m pleased to present the first episode of my serial Gothel, following the rise and fall of Rapunzel’s mysterious captor. Episode One is also available in paperback.

Gothel: Episode One (Preview)


Thursday, March 8th marks the start of my new serial, following the rise and fall of Rapunzel’s captor, Mother Gothel.  The journey begins with the following preview.


“There once lived a man and his wife who had long wished for a child, but in vain. Now there was at the back of their house a little window which overlooked a beautiful garden full of the finest vegetables and flowers; but there was a high wall round it, and no one ventured into it, for it belonged to a witch of great might, and of whom all the world was afraid.”

-The Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel


The wind rushed the blue pillars of the cloister, painting the garden with bright waves of incense. From the shadows, Gothel Morcades, Princess of Aealdor pushed a broom across the flagstones. The heady smoke of prayers lifted her. Her brown eyes closed but her cool hands repeated the rocking motions, guiding the stern elder branches through yielding old leaves and stray earth. High above the pale bricks and painted limestone of the Kannon of Saint Bruna, a lone hawk sounded. Gothel Morcades wrapped herself around its song, fierce and free like the keen of a feathered drake. Beneath the brown robe of the young dune’s habit, Gothel’s heart swelled. Today she was two and twenty, almost to the hour of her birth. For eight years she had dwelt within these open walls, beneath this roving sky, cradled by leagues of sturdy forest. The dramas of court were far behind her.

Her eyes opened, tracing the vibratory dance of a bee along the low hanging wisteria off the flagstones. As it passed, Gothel counted the tolling of a bell. One ring at midday summoned the novice dunes of the cloister to the office of the kannoness. Two rings summoned the adepts. The princess counted two and carried the broom down the shaded pathway. Through late summer, the doors of the cloister leading to the Kannon proper were left open. Gothel passed through a round wooden portal behind a parted curtain. Even at midday, the chamber of dark bricks was lit by many candles. Smoke of a bitter sort lofted down the auxiliary altar of squat Saint Engred, the beggar who lifted the drowned body of young Saint Bruna from the forest pool before the first geyser sprang to life. Gothel’s father had been named for the saint, whose coarse mane of hair recalled his own. Seldom did she pray here, with its low ceiling and tarnished draperies tended by the novice dunes. At the back of the room, the princess climbed five stone stairs to a sunny foyer with wide rugs and high curtains recalling the garden’s wisteria. Here she was joined by two of her fellows, and then five and eight as silent dunes young and old passed from the open doors flanking the chamber from the left and right. Gothel Morcades flowed behind them in a stable train up the dais and the tower stairs leading to the office of the kannoness.

Wendolyn Crown was six and seventy. She had been the kannoness and high dune of Saint Bruna’s for more than forty years. She sat behind the low desk like a dusty parakeet perched upon a branch. The old woman was surrounded by salvaged furniture. A full length mirror dominated the western corner and in the east, a coral vase sprouted feathers. Gothel recognized the plumage of enfields in the black and russet shades, those cunning, flighty foxes prized by the hunters of Aealdor. The green and blue feathers belonged to the harmless, leaf-eating drakes, cousins of the fearful dracones. “Sisters, I will come to the point. Grave news has reached me,” said the kannoness. On her desk, a scroll of parchment curled upwards. Gothel Morcades recognized the stock from her father’s office. “The city of Amata, seat of the Holy Sarum Empire has fallen.” She did not pause to address the questions or gasps among the sisters. “The soldiers of the Holy Empire who protect this Kannon and protect our Circle have withdrawn. The military outposts along the coasts and the hill country were also vacated. As we speak, two hundred of the Empire’s warships sail from Rodor to—I suspect—defend the ruins of the Sarum’s legacy.” At last she paused. Her eyes met Sister Gothel’s and lingered until one of the younger sisters spoke.

“What of the King? Does he send his men to protect us?”

“Patrols from the capitol will increase from once to twice daily, but never after dark. There is some concern with the northern border. The Mandaro, Lord of Esmere, was never a friend to Aealdor.  Now that we no longer have the defenses of the Empire, King Engred will need the balance of his army far north,” said the kannoness.

It was Thalia, one of the older, wiser adepts who offered the voice of reason, “Advanced curfew,” she said, “and the circle could hire private guards along the cloister gates.”

Mother Crown nodded. “I said as much to Father Yorice at the Circle. Be assured, a sentry will be placed atop the Circle’s bell tower. Being higher than our own modest tower, a band of lawless men or Esmerian scouts, would be easy to spot,” she frowned and rolled her eyes, “granting us a running start.”

“But let’s be reasonable. We’re much more likely to be raped or burgled by a single passerby without a guard staff in the Kannon. I move for hunting knives, for us adepts and the novice ones. Make everyone feel safer, it will,” offered Sister Thalia. But Mother Crown did not answer. Her thoughts ran sluggish circles around the King’s daughter. Gothel Morcades, with the broom she’d brought with her, looked more like a witch than a dune. Wendolyn thought she knew how it was; the younger woman with dreams behind her eyes heard the bell and climbed the tower without discarding the tool. She was always forgetful, eternally lodged elsewhere. Much like the Jester in the well known card game; her face turned upwards, her feet about to strode across a cliff.

“Perhaps. But not now, I think. For now, we will close our gates before sundown. And we need only lodge the wounded and the ill. No more peddlers or vagrants for the time being. And a strict curfew, as you said, Sister Thalia.” The old woman nodded. “Now don’t go looking mournful through the cloister. I’m counting on you to enforce my decision upon the novice class.” She made a flippant, shooing gesture not necessarily urging dismissal. Mother Crown meant to terminate the direct line of questioning. She understood a fair amount of political questions remained, and she encouraged them. But the first question was poised about the grounds.

“What about the hot springs?” asked one of the younger dunes. She stood so near the Princess Gothel, for a moment the kannoness thought it was her. She flinched, as if the question was preposterous. The springs in question were situated between the Kannon and the Circle. Wendolyn’s mind went immediately to the legend of Saint Bruna, a beautiful child plagued endlessly by her jealous mother, a local queen. Once, the devout girl of eight years stole into the forest to escape her pagan mother and fell through the darkness into a pool which flowed from Lake Gedref. The princess drowned, but when her body was removed by an old beggar, four gleaming geysers of hot water boiled forward. The water revived the saint, who went about the kingdom spreading the message of healing and salvation. Factually, the boiling waters did contain certain properties considered curative, and the site became a destination for Circle pilgrims.

“Of course,” the old woman answered impatiently, “the springs will be visible from the Circle’s tower. But, no doubt the Lord will deal with heathens who seek to defile it.” She looked away from the young adept. “Are there any questions about the nature of Sarum’s disappearance from our shores or the fate of Aealdor?”

One middle aged adept asked about the attack on the city of Amata across the eastern sea. Mother Crown nodded vigorously, restored by the logical question. “Yes! There are rumors, at this stage. Word has reached King Engred of fires among the ruins. One wonders if the dracones groomed by the state have taken action. Of course, the Holy Empire has long been enemies with Esmere and common knowledge dictates the presence of war ships perpetually docked along their coastal cities.”

“But which bodes worse? Feral dracones or the mobilized fleet of Esmere’s navy?” asked a younger adept beside Sister Thalia. Again, the kannoness would not answer. She shrugged, keeping her eyes upon the darning hands of Sister Gothel on the broomstick. How long her fingers were. It was like she gestured through a private conversation.  Or convulsed, like a cat stuck within a troubled dream.


The skies opened, drawing sparrows from the garden with rain. A full week had passed since the meeting with Mother Crown. Gothel Morcades stood beyond the cloister, dusting stout bottles from a shelf above the apothecary. Thunder rattled the glass like heavy footsteps. Gold embers of dust crossed a narrow shaft of sunlight through a window on the eastern side The flakes dulled when the clouds linked and danced when the sun held sway. Soon she counted the bottles and made a register of the ones she’d fill come evening. The young woman descended the ladder as a novice called her name. Lightning struck the field outside the eastern gate, and Gothel absorbed the shock through the cobbled floor of the apothecary. The voice belonged to a young widow named Pearl who had arrived last fall. The Princess smiled when the novice entered. She had yet to register the panic on the dune’s face.

“I—From my room, I saw it!”

Gothel tilted her face. “Forgive me, sister. You saw…?”

Pearl took the adept by the forearm. Together they reached the flagstones of the cloister. The novice pointed at the garden, to the rough tangle of fur and wings and arrows amid the roses. Rain blurred its features, but Gothel thought she knew the creature. She motioned for Pearl, “Find Mother Crown, quickly!” The novice dune ran towards the kannon. Gothel advanced upon the garden. Larger than a lion it was, with a wingspan of five feet. And it was breathing; she could tell as the rain slowed. A low moan escaped the bear. An owlurus, she corrected herself; the proud and noble creature was the central figure of her family’s royal crest. She had never seen one in person.  It was common knowledge that the endangered owlurus rarely took to open air. The mountains and caves were their haunts.

“Gothel Morcades!” The horrified voice of Mother Crown jolted her. The old woman was joined by an archer. Gothel reached out her hand to steady them. They stood beneath the cloister, frozen. Gothel crouched beside the owlurus. On its side it laid, with a shallow arrow lodged above the ankle. Another jutted from the opposite shoulder. Not the archer’s arrows; these were crude and makeshift.

It’s eyes opened and a voice escaped its mouth. “How… deep?” Footsteps crossed the drenched lawn. Gothel reinforced her gesture to steady them. Mother Crown ignored her charge.

“Be still, will you,” she said to Sister Gothel. The old woman half knelt on the damp earth. The archer made to steady her. “Did you speak?” she asked the owlurus.

The beast winked its eye and tensed.

“You’re in no danger here.” She motioned to a dune or two Gothel could not see. “We will examine you. The wounds seem superficial to my eyes, but I am old. My wards,” she paused, checking behind her shoulder, “are capable.” At least twelve dunes and the pair of guards retained from the entrance appeared. Gothel Morcades was pushed aside, mutely. She remained on the grass, hands folded across bent knees, fixed upon the depression of the grass after the owlurus had been lifted upon the stretcher. Her eyes held the relics of blood and feathers and sunken earth. She would not move when the storm returned in earnest. Wendolyn Crown stood by her side a moment longer.

“…an omen,” the young woman said as the back of the kannoness turned to her.

The old woman paused. Gothel, perhaps, was not truly speaking to her. “Beg pardon?”

“…but the House of Morcades will fall, even though,” she trailed off, inaudibly. Thunder resounded and Mother Crown left the adept dune where she knelt, praying to the stained and beaten ground.


GOTHEL, Part 1 Available 3.8.18

“There once lived a man and his wife who had long wished for a child, but in vain. Now there was at the back of their house a little window which overlooked a beautiful garden full of the finest vegetables and flowers; but there was a high wall round it, and no one ventured into it, for it belonged to a witch of great might, and of whom all the world was afraid.”

-The Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel

Once upon a time, there lived a young and beautiful Princess with a higher calling.  Weary of worldly life and the excess of court, Gothel Morcades became a sister of the holy cloister.  There she truly lived happily ever after…until her heartless father offered her hand to a wicked King.

From saint to sinner, from healer to witch, this is the story of Mother Gothel, the keeper of the maiden Rapunzel.   A serialized novel from the author of Rough Magic, Gothel begins Thursday, March 8th.


Cover image, “The Witch,” and design by Thomas H. Kainaroi © 2018.  Used with permission.

David Lynch: The Art Life (Documentary Review)

“Versatile but unpretentious…”

Last night I was treated to Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes’ documentary, David Lynch: The Art Life.  It was a refreshing break from the foreign dramas I’ve been watching on Netflix.  I struggled whether or not I should write a review for you, but ultimately I feel I’d like to offer something to the ongoing conversation.



The Art Life is a versatile but unpretentious look at Lynch’s trajectory as a painter and filmmaker.  The documentary is dominated by unobstructive sunlight, from the home videos of the artist’s childhood haunts to the present day sequences shot behind his home.  None of this daytime ambiance obscures the darkness of some of his work or Lynch’s ruminations on his troubled teenage years.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount and scale of artwork we were treated to on screen.  Lynch’s meditations on his creative process and the urges behind his work are simply invaluable, and shouldn’t be summed up here.



The only time I felt restless while watching The Art Life was around the twenty minute mark.  There was a period where Lynch was recapping his teenage life and I thought, Is this going to play out like a Biography Channel special?  I was concerned the documentary would become too linear, like a high schooler’s report on an assigned historical figure.  This gradually passed, settling into an agreeable wavelength that felt like a conversation with Lynch.


After all is said and done, I thought David Lynch: The Art Life was an energizing palette cleanser.  The film is cerebral, but I found it more refreshing than ground breaking.  It’s certainly the most motivating look at an artist’s life I’ve seen on screen in a long while.  I would probably watch it again under the right circumstances.  I’m uncomfortable smacking grade levels on documentary reviews, but if I had to relate a star level, I would say it’s a 3.5 out of 5.


Mileena (Featured Fatales)

“Red bricks, dark tables and cigarette machines. That was Pizza Hut in the ’90s. Yes, there were jukeboxes, but after sunset, the Hut frightened me. I was born in ’87, and during grade school, it felt like hours passed waiting for pizza. They had trifold menus, so there was nothing for me to draw on. Sometimes I’d have a classmate with me for a sleepover. When we had extra quarters, he’d suggest the arcade machine. It guarded the restrooms, glowing white and red, like an electric tombstone. This was MORTAL KOMBAT: Gold dragons, goofy, costumed actors, and a curved screen behind dirty glass. From the beginning, the violence didn’t interest me; the story did…To be fair, it was Mortal Kombat II that hooked me.  I always had Nintendo’s Player’s Guide in the back seat of the family van and the cartridge in my console.  The Shakespearean drama of Kitana, a princess turned assassin, and her clone Mileena, haunted me.”

-From “Undefeated,” my deconstruction of Mortal Kombat ’92


When Mortal Kombat II was new, Mileena was probably my favorite character.  She had long, dark hair like Balent’s Catwoman and Carmen Sandiego.  She was graceful but deadly, fighting with digitized sai and teleporting drop-kicks.  Being a queer grade schooler, I immediately projected myself onto her.  I suppose it’s common for trans kids to play as characters from the opposite sex in video games, but I was also Mileena, Kitana and Princess Peach on the playground.

The Player’s Guide introduced Mileena as the twin sister of Kitana, the rightful Princess of Outworld.  It wasn’t until her non-canonical game ending that we learned the truth about Mileena’s origins:  Beneath her mask, Kitana’s twin was actually a disfigured clone.  And so Mileena and I both had secrets. Coupled with her status as Shao Kahn’s spy, the enigma of Mileena mystified me.  Her absence from the game’s sequel only served to fuel that flame.


Emerging from some awful movie like All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, my third grade self stumbled into a dark arcade.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 starring a harder, grittier Mileena.  It seemed Kitana murdered her clone by the end of the previous game, but the tactful Emperor Shao Kahn accomplished her resurrection.  But all was not as it seemed, Mr. Kahn, as Mileena had struck a cord with the fallen Elder God Shinnok during her tenure in the Netherrealm.  Shinnok would later arrive as the antagonist of Mortal Kombat 4‘s story line, but in the meantime he had retained Mileena’s services as a spy.

Newly reanimated, the faux princess discovered she could read Kitana’s mind.  So Mileena in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 had two corresponding story arcs:   For Kahn, she was ordered to hunt down her rogue sister Kitana.  This fell in line with Mileena’s own agenda, as she had cultivated a deeper hatred of the Edenian Princess in the Netherrealm. For Shinnok, Mileena was charged with monitoring Shao Kahn’s invasion of Earthrealm.  The Elder God had plans for the surviving members of the dramatis personae which would not go into effect until the following game.  Deep stuff for a fighting game.

Tracking her sister would allow have allowed Mileena to avenge her murder, but series cannon required Kitana and Liu Kang’s forces to prevail.  Any confrontation between sisters spared both their lives, and Mileena was recalled to the Netherrealm to regroup with Shinnok’s forces, following the Emperor Shao Kahn’s defeat.

After Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and its update Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mileena fell under my radar.  I never played Mortal Kombat 4 or its update, subtitled Mortal Kombat Gold.  Middle school was an especially awkward period for me and I didn’t play video games as often.  The Zordon Era of Power Rangers had also wrapped and in many ways, I found myself facing the end of childhood.  Particularly traumatic moments in my life landed smack dab in the middle of those years.  I find it humorously synchronistic to examine Mileena’s character designs for Mortal Kombat Gold and its resulting era; specifically the cold, dead eyes of her resurrected body.  It was also the period when my sexuality really developed, and I have few positive memories of those experiences either.  Mileena, meanwhile, seemed to be pushing the envelopes of her own sex appeal.  The majority of the renders and costumes that came out of those later games were laughable, bordering on sexual exhibitionism and parody.  The 90’s may have had an unhealthy habit of over sexualizing its femme fatales, but the early 2000’s took the pervy cake.



Mileena returned to my life during my mid-twenties.  I was doing some research for a graphic novel script and found myself reading up on the Mortal Kombat story lines I had missed.  Apparently, Mileena had survived Mortal Kombat Gold.  Shinnok’s plans involved an invasion of Kitana’s homeland Edenia, but grudging Mileena had a score to settle.  She contrived for the Princess’s escape from the dungeons, allowing herself to hunt down Kitana personally.  Perhaps Mileena–scantily clad, insecure Mileena–had something to prove to herself.  Perhaps it was never a case of sibling rivalry or courtly intrigue.  Either way, Mileena failed to avenge herself upon Kitana.  She was captured by the former assassin and jailed for years in the Edenian castle.

Even now, I find myself appreciating Mileena’s ability to go underground periodically.  It’s an endearing attribute my favorite female villains tend to have.  The sequel to Mortal Kombat Gold did not feature Mileena.  Her return, during the events of Mortal Kombat Deception, is best reviewed in the warrior’s own words…

   “I am a creation of sorcery, the hybrid of a Tarkatan warrior and the Princess of Edenia. My purpose was to eventually replace my… sister… Kitana, from whom I was cloned. Kitana regained her memories, however, and uncovered the plot to supplant her. After Shinnok’s invasion, she cast me into her prison, where I remained until Baraka freed me. My hatred for Kitana consumes my every thought. But Baraka tells me that his new lord, the Dragon King, has possession of Kitana’s body and uses it as his personal bodyguard. My only chance for revenge against her will be to serve Onaga and pose as the Princess, leading her precious alliance of Edenia and Outworld to their doom.”


Here she receives some stellar character development.  No longer sated by her office as assassin and spy, Mileena moves onto Mortal Kombat Armageddon with a taste for conquest….

Outworld was MINE! Posing as the Edenian wench Kitana, I gained command of her army and with it took control of Shao Kahn’s fortress – all in the name of “peace.” I had planned to continue my charade until the Edenian forces could be corrupted enough to follow me as Mileena, the true conqueror of Outworld. But my plans were foiled when the fortress was attacked – Shao Kahn had returned! And he was not alone! As I watched the initial assault from the safety of the imperial balcony, I recognized the two warriors who aided him: Goro, Prince of the Shokan, and Shang Tsung, wretched Sorcerer of Darkness – my creator. They crushed all who defended the stronghold. I hid in the throne room and commanded the Edenian mages to cast a defensive ward upon the main door. It was of no use. Their magic was nothing compared to the might of Shao Kahn. He shattered the door and strode in as confidently as ever. As he stood before me, the two mages rushed to defend their princess, positioning themselves between Shao Kahn and myself. What a surprise it must have been when their own “princess” stabbed them from behind. They fell limp to the floor. Shao Kahn paused, momentarily confused. Removing my veil, I knelt before him, “Welcome home, my master.” Shao Kahn accepted my surrender and later ordered me to capture the Earthrealm warrior known as Shujinko. He was to be used as a bargaining chip to help forge an alliance with Onaga, the former ruler of Outworld. I sent the fool an invitation, hoping to utilize his arrogance and pride by acknowledging his heroic deeds. The ruse worked; soon he was at the main gate. Reiko’s men, dressed in the armor of slain Edenian soldiers, led him directly to the throne room where he was confronted by the new Dark Alliance. I did battle with him as Shao Kahn commanded, defeating him with surprising ease. He was then cast into the dungeon, where he will remain until Onaga arrives. I do not relish serving Shao Kahn. I am destined for greater things. An entire realm was once in the palm of my hands – and I will not rest until I regain that status! Though it will be impossible to rule Outworld now that Shao Kahn has returned, there are other realms ripe for the taking. Edenia will be mine!

From errant assassin to undead spy, Mileena’s evolution came to an abrupt ending in 2006 with Armaggedon.  The game’s house-cleaning story line centered upon a blazing pyramid employed by the Elder Gods as a fail safe against the over abundant warriors tearing apart the universe with their endless battles.  Mileena was killed during the race to the pyramid’s top, drawn like a moth to its divine flame.

Thunder God Raiden and returning overlord Shao Kahn survived the battle.  Before Kahn could claim victory, Raiden sent a message to his past self in an alternate timeline, effectively rebooting the franchise.


One could argue the rebooted Mileena from Armaggedon’s sequels falls into the original character’s arc, but there are distinct differences in the events retold as Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate 3′s plot lines.  Mileena is a markedly different character in origin and personality after Armageddon.  In Mortal Kombat (2011) and X, she is depicted as a playful, murderous loon; not unlike current interpretations of Batman’s nemesis Harley Quinn.  Here the clone ultimately serving as Mileena was brought to life during the events of Mortal Kombat II‘s tournament.  In the original timeline, she was created years earlier.  As we can see from the above deconstruction, the original Mileena was several degrees more calculating and mindful.

All in all, the drama of Mileena was engrossing.  Though the transitional games marred her evolution with sexually disturbing costumes, she returned as a compelling character for the final installations.  Unlike Kitana or their contemporary Jade, Mileena was thoroughly villainous.  She showed no potential for Karmic healing or remorse.  In my mind, she prevails as one of gaming’s most enduring femme fatales.




From Jade Crawford, the author of ROUGH MAGIC and AMMA, comes BREAKING SILVER, a serialized retelling of the events leading up to L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” BREAKING SILVER explores rural America through the eyes of the Gales, a family of outcasts haunted by demons within and demons without. Here we meet Tip, the gifted son of a drifting misfit. By the age of five, Tip struggles with questions of identity, chief among them his obscured past and gender identity. As the Gales dive deeper into their own history, the witches of Oz take steps to shield themselves and their homeland from a prophesied storm of mythic proportions.

Originally released as seven serialized episodes, Breaking Silver is my retelling of the events leading up to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Parts 1 and 2 are available together in paperback and a 99 cent digital edition. The series wrapped in January, 2018, with a two part finale.  The collected edition is now available in paperback and digital edition.


WEDNESDAY: The Complete Collection of “Breaking Silver,” my serialized retelling of the events leading up to
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” arrives in paperback.

“From Jade Crawford, the author of “Rough Magic,” and “Amma,” comes “Breaking Silver,” a serialized retelling of the events leading up to L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

BREAKING SILVER explores rural America through the eyes of the Gales, a family of outcasts haunted by demons within and demons without. Here we meet Tip, the gifted son of a drifting misfit. By the age of five, Tip struggles with questions of identity, chief among them his obscured past and gender identity. As the Gales dive deeper into their own history, the witches of Oz take steps to shield themselves and their homeland from a prophesied storm of mythic proportions.”


Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling, by Rick Whitaker (Book Review)


Recently, I reread Rick Whitaker’s harrowing memoir, Assuming the Position.  When I last crossed paths with this book, I was in my early twenties and identifying, loosely, as a gay male.  Today I’m four days short of thirty one, and more or less pegged as a genderfluid, femme leaning transperson.  Much has changed for me, especially the ways I relate to my male side.  Reading gay nonfiction has helped, but its rare I find a narrative I resonate with as much as Whitaker’s.

What Worked For Me

Assuming the Position recounts the author’s tenure as a male prostitute in New York City.  He could have written a direct, linear chronicle of his dates and erotic adventures.  But I don’t think that’s in Whitaker’s nature.  Instead, he delves into those memories while examining the impulses that lead him to that decision.  It’s a thematically charged book, but subtle enough to make for quick reading.

I’d forgotten the author grew up, like me, in Ohio.  I especially liked the examination of those years.  I assume that section of the book took time and care to weave through the over arching narrative.  A less skilled author might have made it feel shoe-horned.


I connected to the author’s growing distaste for acclimating himself in nine-to-five society, and his affinity for working outside of the law.  Given his experiences, it’s understandable, and Whitaker never came across as a naive kid going through an empty caloric, “fuck the establishment” phase. His book is a sometimes crushing, sometimes cathartic account of life on a different wavelength.

Ultimately, the author’s reasons for quitting prostitution are made clear, and they’re not only sensible, but thoughtful.  Whitaker felt he had grow reactive, moving from dates, to an after bar, to a score and back again.  He felt he had become an animal in some sense, and inelegant.  Self aware deductions like Whitaker’s tend to pull a book together for me.



In my review of Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman, I said that the author made me “supremely uncomfortable,” at least twice.  I came to the conclusion that whatever qualms I had with the book would always be trumped by the fact that the writer managed to get “under my skin.”  This is even more true for Whitaker’s book, being a memoir, and it makes the inclusion of said moments important to the narrative; and quite brave of him, I have to say.  Whitaker gave himself to this book.


Every so often, I finish a book that became such a part of my routine, that I go through a process like mourning after.  Assuming the Position was that kind of book for me.  It connected with pivotal but separate aspects of my past, present, and probably my future.  There was a kind of magic mirror for me in Whitaker’s narrative.  I don’t think I’ll be able to read it again for another ten years, but I’m grateful I revisited it.  5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.




Divatox (Featured Fatales)

If I could describe the antagonist of Power Rangers Turbo in one word, it be “irreverent.”  Cunning but careless, resourceful yet indolent, Divatox commanded a gang of mutant pirates, cyborgs and mercenary monsters.  Her tenure spanned two years of Power Rangers history, and she was the first female villain to receive an action figure.


Divatox was first utilized by the unsuccessful film Turbo: a Power Rangers Movie, sometime between the fourth and fifth seasons of the parent show.  While the movie was a commercial failure (it nearly bankrupted the franchise as a whole), Hilary Shepard’s portrayal of the villainess was memorable.  She didn’t take herself as seriously as a Rita, Machina, or even a Scorpina might; but she managed to overplay her wardrobe and sarcastic demeanor to a level Power Rangers hadn’t seen before.  The cleavage was, let’s face it, ridiculous.  It was in very poor taste and was ultimately a sad product if its time (See my entry on Jim Balent’s Catowman from the ’90s), but I think it was somewhat organic to the character.  This was a villainess who flaunted every aspect of her personality, and Hilary Shepard (then Shepard-Turner) has said that she ad libbed much of the character’s personality.  I would argue that Shepard herself was the co-creator of Divatox.  And she often played the Rangers’ nemesis as a loose cannon.


Here’s something else that set Divatox apart from her predecessors: When she first appeared in Turbo, it was made abundantly clear that the new villainess was a career criminal; a pirate captain, specifically.  She wasn’t out to conquer the world and she boasted no empire or thousand-year backstory.  Elgar, her so-called nephew, made a comment about wanting to go back to “pillaging” and “plundering.”  Divatox, whose goal in the film was to forge a partnership with the “demon-like” heavyweight Maligore, said she wanted to “use his powers to raid all the riches in the universe.”  That’s not to say she didn’t progress and re-asses her goals as the story evolved.  For myself, it made Divatox a more enjoyable character.

Speaking of change, Hilary Shepard went on maternity leave when the Turbo story line continued on the small screen.  For the first half of the fifth season, Power Rangers Turbo, the arch-villain was played by Carol Hoyt.  Hoyt portrayed Divatox markedly different, but I think it was understandable.  She chose to accentuate the character’s tactful, cerebral side, underplaying her spastic aspect.  Hoyt was fun to watch, and I’m glad she didn’t try to channel or mimic Shepard’s take on the character.

Concerning her agenda during the Turbo season, Divatox simply wanted revenge.  “The ruination of my plans,” she said in the first episode, “must not go unpunished!” To which she was referring to the death of Maligore at the end of the movie.  Divatox initially tries to spoil the Rangers’ high school graduation.  When the plan failed, she repeatedly focused on destroying Angel Grove–rather indirectly.  More often than not, her rinse, lather, repeat strategies included the planting of unsuccessful “detonators” (you couldn’t say “bomb” on children’s television) and the deployment of a comical monster.  She grew increasingly frustrated as the season progressed, eventually settling in to her old loose canon temperament when Hilary Shepard returned.

It should also be mentioned that Carol Hoyt played two roles during Power Rangers Turbo; seeing as the second role tied directly into Divatox’s character arc.  By the end of the three part premiere of season five, the Rangers’ mentor Zordon was replaced by a female phantom called Dimitria of Inquiris.  Dimitria was basically Carol Hoyt’s Divatox in a white gown and veil.  It was implied several times that the two women were twin sisters.  In fact, an entire episode is dedicated to a message from Dimitria’s home planet which stated that her birth records have been “tampered with.” The messenger, Visceron, did not know the identity of the missing twin, but a later episode (“The Millennium Message”) implied Divatox may actually be conscious of her relation to Dimitria.


Before Dimitria formally arrives on Earth, Divatox is conscious of her.  She does everything she can to block the sage’s impending arrival, showing real fear and panic at the prospect.  When Elgar questions her about her hatred of Dimitria, Divatox declares, “This planet is only big enough for one of us!”  Or something like that.  Maybe she said “galaxy.” This show was so on the nose.  Either way, she decided Dimitria would have to be “eliminated.”  While the “mysterious” identity of Dimitria’s twin sister is never spelled out in certain terms, it does serve to deepen Divatox as a character and open some doors for her backstory.

Divatox, we can discern, was abducted as an infant by a family of space pirates, chief among them an unnamed “Pop” and a sea hag dubbed “Mama D.”  She has at least one unnamed sibling in this adopted family and a brother known as General Havoc.  Havoc and Mama D both make guest appearances.  Mama is characterized as a pushy, unloving matriarch with an Endora meets Medusa theme.  General Havoc is cordial, and is dedicated or at least fond of his sister enough to spend a hundred years building a “Space Base” near Earth’s moon for her.


Divatox relocated her sub-craft (the piranha themed vessel she is seen tooling around in through the Turbo installments) to a docking port within the Space Base near the halfway point of season five.  From there she dedicated her time to building “Divazords” to match the Rangers’ own Zords and generally making their lives difficult.  She cultivated a particularly strong grudge against their new allie, the masked Phantom Ranger, and even managed to pilot a Divazord herself.

As the difficult season reached its end, the pirate queen grew resourceful.  During the final two episodes, her tenacity paid off.  Divatox utterly destroyed the Rangers’ Megazords and essential artillery.  Her crowning achievement was a full scale assault following the discovery of the Power Chamber.  The Chamber and the Turbo powers themselves were obliterated during an explosion.


She would have destroyed the Rangers too, had she not been summoned to the Cimmerian Planet by an envoy from the Dark Specter, leader of the United Alliance of Evil; of which Divatox was at least affiliated with.  The Cimmerian Planet played host to the “Grand Monarch of Evil’s” celebratory banquet following his conquest of the Planet Eltar and its sage, Zordon.  Outgoing Blue Ranger Justin called Eltar “the source of all our powers.”

Divatox joined the banquet where she was reacquainted with her frienemy Rita Repulsa.  While we’ll likely never know the full extent of their history, we can assume they were acquainted through their mutual affiliation with Dark Specter’s alliance.  It is curious to note that flashback scenes, set at least a year before the events of Power Rangers In Space (the season following Turbo), feature Divatox’s Piranhatron foot soldiers attacking space colony KO-35 alongside the new arch villain’s Quantrons.

Divatox and Rita both angle (humorously) for command of Dark Specter’s interstellar craft the Dark Fortress and its mission to eliminate the Space Rangers, but the office is given to fresh faced Astronema, the “Princess of all Evil.”  Astronema becomes Divatox’s rival and the two of them cross paths at least twice more onscreen.  Divatox is relegated to the role of Zordon’s roving jailer, to which she quips in passing, “Why don’t I get any of the good gigs anymore?”  Though she does see some action, including a scuffle with the Phantom Ranger.

“Countdown to Destruction,” the two part finale of Power Rangers In Space was originally intended to end the six year franchise.  As such, closed endings were written for all of the recurring characters; including Divatox.  She was last seen conquering the planet Gratha.  When Zordon of Eltar died on the Dark Fortress, the resulting wave of energy vaporized most of Dark Specter’s forces.  While the likes of Elgar and Rygog were eliminated, Divatox was presumably cleansed of the evil introduced to her by her adoptive family.  When the light cleared, Divatox was shown to be a healthy brunette woman in a wavy white gown.  She was essentially dressed as Dimitria, more or less confirming their status as sisters.  The last frame we have of Divatox shows her rejoicing.  “I’m alive!” she declared.

She walked a similar path to Rita, all things considered.  While Repulsa later appeared as the wise Mystic Mother on Power Rangers Mystic Force, Divatox has never returned to Power Rangers, save for a recap episode of Dino Thunder.  But if Rita’s fate was any indication, we could assume she donned a mentor or “kindly sage” role as well.  My boyfriend recently pointed out the resemblance of  Princess Shayla from Power Rangers Wild Force to Dimitra and cleansed Divatox.

Fans of Power Rangers are divided when it comes to Divatox.  She polarizes people; I get that.  Turbo was poorly received, as a movie and a season.  She’s often criticized as cartoony and bratty.  But she was also marketable enough to warrant an action figure, unlike Rita and Scorpina.  She may not have been as powerful as Rita, but she was ultimately more industrious.  If she was bratty she was certainly less so than Trakeena, who succeeded her after the Zordon-era.  But Trakeena was undoubtedly more sober than the pirate queen or any of the arch-villainesses who preceded her; so Divatox was quite a dichotomy.  I think that’s what’s made her so endearing to fans through the years.


Will we see Divatox again?  I hope so; whether as a part of the continuing series or a version from another media.  Kyle Higgins, writer of the ongoing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series from BOOM! Studios could do great things with her.  Hilary Shepard, meanwhile, pointed out the resemblance between Divatox and Rita from the 2017 Power Rangers movie on her Facebook (she’s lots of fun if you’re not following her, by the way), so she remains in people’s consciousness.  I would bet we’ll see her again.  In the meantime; thanks for the memories, Divatox.