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Calico Cooper

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Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

By nature, people are curious creatures. We love to hear about famous parents, but in reality, WHO someone is ends up being less important than HOW that someone tackled the role of mom or dad. For Calico Cooper, lead singer of the band Beasto Blanco, her father – rock icon Alice Cooper – nurtured the “little weirdo” inside of her and in the process, unleashed a creative Machine Girl who acts, directs, produces and choreographs.

I didn’t have parents telling me to get my head out of the clouds, so they never came out,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Cooper to discuss her band, finding her balance in a sea storm, and… crocheting?

TrunkSpace: You have had the unique experience of growing up with a rock icon and legend, Alice Cooper, as your father. What was that like and how has that played into your own personal creative endeavors?
Cooper: I am so blessed to have him creatively to look up to, but also he is a wonderful father. He has always championed that I saw things differently, even as a kid. I was a little weirdo. Now as an adult performer, I can see how that helped me become so uninhibited. I didn’t have parents telling me to get my head out of the clouds, so they never came out. The part about him being a legend is something I’m proud of, but never something I feel I have to compete with. We are different animals.

TrunkSpace: At the young age of 18, you began working as a creative professional, choreographing the Brutal Planet tour for your father. What was that experience like, and what would you say was the biggest lesson you took away from the experience?
Cooper: I learned there are grown men that CAN take direction from an 18-year-old girl and grown men that cannot. (Laughter) No, but I learned how to work on the biggest scale you can work on very early on. How stage combat worked, how magic tricks worked. How lights and sound and costumes can pull an audience into a world of fantasy that they don’t want to leave. Alice has always been able to create that, and I paid attention and learned how.

TrunkSpace: Acting, directing, singing and more. You’ve worn many creative hats in the industry of entertainment. Do you have a favorite one? If so, why?
Cooper: As cheesy as it sounds I kind of get off on being a “triple threat”, if people even use that word anymore. The fact that I can act and have decades of strict ballet training allows me to do things on stage with my band that makes the show unique. With acting, when I audition, there are ways I can use my voice because of the music training. I feel like everything informs everything. A big ol’ artsy symbiosis. The skill I have now that I wish I had earlier was being able to direct and produce. Now that I can do that, I can just make what I want when I want. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes its a miss – but at least I can.

TrunkSpace: You have inhabited a variety of characters for tours, TV and film. Which would you say is your favorite and why?
Cooper: I have been all over the place. I have played serial killers and soccer moms. I am currently loving playing Machine Girl in my band Beasto Blanco because she keeps changing… evolving. I keep getting to play with her. I notice some tours she’s meaner, some sexier, some downright ridiculous. I’d say her because I’m never done testing her boundaries. Haven’t found any yet.

TrunkSpace: The character of Machine Girl you have created is powerful and enigmatic! What do you hope fans, especially of the female variety, take away from your character?
Cooper: There is power in the damaged. When I first created her I covered her in bangs and bruises. Sort of an outer badge of courage. I always thought there was something so alluring and sexy and powerful about female warriors. I added a dash of a sense of humor and The Machine Girl was born.

TrunkSpace: Beasto Blanco has to be one of the best names for a rock band that we have ever heard! Can you tell us a bit about how the name and band formed?
Cooper: It’s meant to be that beast that explodes out of you at the darkest bottom of a pit. When you make that choice to get up and walk back toward the light instead of lay down you become the beast. It can’t be touched, it can’t be stopped. It’s a force of nature. It’s crazy how people resonate with it. It crosses age groups and race groups, boys, girls… one thing we can all understand is being stepped on and finally saying, “no more”.

TrunkSpace: You have toured around the globe with Beasto Blanco – by land and by sea. What is it like to perform on a cruise ship? Are there any specific challenges while rocking out on the ocean?
Cooper: Have you ever worn 7-inch heels and stood on a folding chair in a sea storm? Because now I can say I have. I love touring in any capacity. I’ve been living on a tour bus since I was 18. The rock cruises are such a unique experience. You play your shows, but the rest of the time you are WITH the fans – eating together, chilling on the beach. You get to know the people who love your music, which is not always easy to do on tour with our schedule. I’ve met some of the greatest people on those cruises.

TrunkSpace: What are the challenges and differences between choreographing for an Alice Cooper show and performing with Beasto Blanco? They must be two similar yet completely different beasts to tackle.
Cooper: The major difference is spontaneity. The Alice show is this massive production with a million moving parts. Most of which can kill you. (Laughter) So as organic as it seems it’s very staged for safety and music’s sake. So when you direct or choreograph it, it has to be something that can be done that way every night – arena or theater. With Beasto, it’s so raw. I know where to be when, but you will never see the same show twice. I don’t know what I’m gonna do at any given moment, and that has a sense of danger to it. It’s fun for me because ANYTHING can happen. I think the audience gets off on that danger.

TrunkSpace: Given your background in entertainment, is there a creative element for Beasto Blanco you would like to branch out into, say, comic books or film, or maybe even a specific type of tour?
Cooper: We are MADE for comics. We look like living, breathing cartoon characters. We have a Beasto “Origins” film in the works and it’s grimy and dystopian and full of hope. I’m excited.

TrunkSpace: Is there any aspect of the creative field that you have yet to dabble in that you would like to try your hand at?
Cooper: The only thing I don’t do on or off stage is crochet, so maybe that.

TrunkSpace: Pumpkin spiced everything is hitting the shelves and we’re eyeing bags of candy corn in the stores. Fall is nigh! We imagine that has to be a special time of year for Machine Girl and Beasto Blanco. Any special plans for this October fans can look forward to?
Cooper: If someone offers me candy corn I consider it a threat. But cool news, Beasto is going to do an October ONE NIGHT ONLY live event in conjunction with MONSTERS OF ROCK, so as we speak, I am trying to make a costume that partially melts. I’ll let you know that works out for me.

But keep up to date with our upcoming performances at www.beastoblanco.com and on Facebook/Insta/ and all major music streaming robots!

 

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Trunk Bubbles

Essential Comics: The All-New, All-Different X-Men Era

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ESSENTIAL COMICS:
THE ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT X-MEN ERA

Mutants. Children of the Atom. Feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect. They are The X-Men!

Originally created almost 60 years ago by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the strangest superheroes of all have had a long and expanding career not only in comic books, but also in movies, TV and video games. Their popularity has been a roller coaster ride, going from zeroes to heroes, ebbing and flowing over time, on the brink of cancellation one day and expanding to multiple titles the next. The X-Men saga is so vast, full of fascinating characters and stories, that it might be impossible to build a single timeline for all of them. However, in today’s Trunk Bubbles feature, we will recommend an essential X-Men storyline you can find collected in a hefty volume under the title “Uncanny X-Men Volume 1”, or available online in the Marvel or Comixology apps

Although the story of the X-Men formally started in 1963 with the release of X-Men #1, you can ask any mutant’s aficionado and every single one of them will tell you the same thing: The Claremont- Byrne era is exactly what you need, if you´re looking for the essence of the X-Men.

After a few years of reprinting stories in the original X-Men tittle -while some characters’ stories developed somewhere else in the Marvel Universe- Len Wein and Dave Cockrum took one more shot at the concept of the X-Men in the oversized “Giant Size X-Men #1, revamping the title with a radically different and diverse cast, which included a Canadian super weapon (Wolverine), a Russian farm boy (Colossus), an African woman revered as a goddess (Storm), a circus freak that looked like a demon (Nightcrawler), a powerful native American (Thunderbird), an arrogant Japanese super hero (Sunfire), and a cocky Irish man (Banshee). The only familiar characters were field leader Cyclops and the X-Men founder, Professor Charles Xavier, who drafted these new characters for a mission: to find the original missing X-Men. And then, the world would never be the same again.

With the success of Giant Size X-men #1, Marvel resumed publication of the X-Men book, keeping the original numbering, but this time Chris Claremont was the man in charge of telling the stories of this new -and huge- iteration of the X-Men, first with artist Dave Cockrum, and later with John Byrne. During the first 40+ issues of this legendary run, we would witness the death of a newcomer to the team, the love triangle of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Wolverine, the troubles the new members faced while getting used to living in a new country, their battles with classic villains like Magneto and brand-new foes like Protheus, and the cosmic saga that introduced us to the Shi’ar Empire, the Starjammers and the new identity of X-Men founder Jean Grey as Phoenix.

Now, there are some things you should keep in mind when you read this long epic in one sitting: Comic books were very different 50 years ago. These stories are the foundation of what the X-Men became years later, thus, you might find some issues that doesn´t necessarily match with the rest of the bunch, due to the pressure of delivering 22 bimonthly- and then, monthly- pages of story. Although Claremont planned storylines months in advance, it was clear that some issues were more “stand alone” than others, filling the gap with a break from the ever-expanding action.

Additionally, these issues are loaded with text in the bubbles and captions. There was always an omniscient narrator providing information on two fronts: some text allowed the reader to pick into the mind and feelings of the characters, while other captions basically described the action you could already see in the page. This narrative style is frankly outdated for today’s standards, but again, you must be aware of the times and context in which those stories where crafted. The plus side of this narration tool is that you could have a lot of things happening in 22 pages, unlike modern narrative styles, in which, typically, stories are meant to be developed in a 5 or 6 issues arc, in order to be collected soon in a single volume. Yes, back in those days, collected reprints were very rare, and the idea was for the reader to pick up the next chapter each month.

As for the art, Cockrum left the book in issue #107, and John Byrne took over artist duties from #108 to #143. Cockrum and Byrne set the visual style of the X-Men for years to come, disregarding a single uniform for the whole team, and creating a unique identity for those characters, color coding them to be easily recognizable in each shot.

Have you ever read these stories? Or do you want to enjoy them for the first time? Drop us a line in any of our social media outlets and let your voice be heard.

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The Featured Presentation

Jun Yu

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Photo By: Brett Erickson

In a summer that has pretty much been film-free, the first true blockbuster is busting more than our block. Movies have always been an escape, but with the release of Mulan on Disney+ this past Friday, it is a reminder of what was and of what what will be again… normalcy.

For star Jun Yu, who plays Cricket in the film, Mulan is an experience that goes well beyond the official run time.

I learned so much and gained so many beautiful memories with everyone,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Yu to discuss who he is most excited to have see the film, his love for music, and why he has taken up ceramics.

TrunkSpace: As far as debuts go, you’re coming out firing on all cylinders! What does it feel like to be kicking your film career off with such a big, anticipated project?
Yu: I’m truly honored to be a part of such an important and special film. I am really excited to share all the work we’ve done with the world, but mostly I cannot wait for my mother to see what her love and support has created.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, Mulan is your first project, but in addition to that, it was also your first audition. With so many firsts on one job, what is the biggest lesson/takeaway from your experience shooting the film that you’ll keep with you throughout your career moving forward?
Yu: I’d probably say that you can never be afraid to fail and to enjoy the journey.

TrunkSpace: In the film you place Cricket. Without giving away any spoilers, what do you think audiences are going to love most of all about the character when they sit down to watch the film?
Yu: I hope they enjoy the innocence Cricket helps bring to the world of Mulan. Cricket is shy and naive, but with a little luck, he finds a family.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Mulan that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life?
Yu: Mulan will forever be the starting pistol that kicked off my career. I learned so much and gained so many beautiful memories with everyone. I will always carry the love everyone on the project shared with me.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a musician and rapper. What does music offer you creatively that acting alone can’t achieve?
Yu: I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m a musician and rapper, but music is something I love to do. Music gives me just as much as acting does but just a little differently. Music gives me confidence in my voice as an artist. I need both in my life and sometimes lessons from one helps me reach higher levels in the other.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor/artist and how do you overcome those insecurities when they make an appearance?
Yu: I’m a pretty big perfectionist, who tends to fixate on minute details. I’m trying to overcome the fear of failure. Because of this, I’ve actually taken up ceramics!

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Yu: No, I would not. To me, the fun part about life is the adventure off into the unknown. I’m going to want to enjoy this ride.

Mulan is available now on Disney+.

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Listen Up

Cf Watkins

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Photo By: Griffin Hart Davis

For singer-songwriter Cf Watkins, the songs that make up her latest album, Babygirl, aren’t just about who she is as an artist, but where her art was influenced. The places that we identify with are sometimes just as important as the people we make connections to, and as those places leave us, we call on them in non-physical ways.

Often the only way for me to visit these places, especially as they change and disappear over time, is to write songs that bring me to them,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

Her latest single, “The Tell”, is available now.

We recently sat down with Watkins to discuss self-soothing through song, her first songwriting experience, and how major life changes have impacted her art.

TrunkSpace: You are from North Carolina but have lived in Brooklyn for the last nine years. How does WHERE an artist is from influence WHO that artist becomes? Where do you most hear your roots in your music?
Watkins: I definitely believe all of the places I’ve lived or explored have played a role in who I am and the art I create. Whether it is longing for that place, or feeling fed up with it – places, for me, have offered relationships just as intimate and complicated as people have. You hear that a lot in this record – there are a few songs about homesickness, one about the memory of my Granddad’s backyard, another that visits the park in my hometown where I hung out as a teenager… all of these places are strongholds of identity and comfort for me. Often the only way for me to visit these places, especially as they change and disappear over time, is to write songs that bring me to them.

TrunkSpace: Who is Cf Watkins the artist, and, would the you who first picked up a guitar and started playing be surprised by the answer you’re giving today?
Watkins: Wow. Who is Cf Watkins the artist… hmm. When I am creating art, I am usually in my own little universe. I have always used art as a way of self-soothing. When I visualize who that person is, it does actually feel pretty unchanged by time. The little 7-year-old tomboy, wandering through the woods behind her house, looking for crawdads in the creek, singing songs and telling stories to her dog – is, I think, very much the same person I am when I am writing or sharing now. I hope my art feels like an invitation into my inner world and heart.

TrunkSpace: Your latest album, Babygirl, is due to drop on October 16. Between the pandemic and the social unrest, it has been a very difficult year for many people. Do you hope that by releasing Babygirl in the midst of all of this that maybe your music will be the temporary escape people need – that it will allow them to “check out” for a bit?
Watkins: This year has been incredibly eye-opening. It has been emotionally and, in many cases physically, exhausting for so many people. I guess I wouldn’t describe my hope for this album to be an escape or an invitation to check out… but more to be a friend on the journey. There is so much going on right now that is very important for us to stay alert to, despite the challenge and despite the pain. Especially as November draws nearer. However, I do realize that regardless of everything going on in our outer world, we all have inner worlds as well, we are all still experiencing the daily moments of small joys, dramas, pains, and connection. I hope that Babygirl will connect with the people that need it in those moments.

TrunkSpace: Normally you would tour to support a new release, but that is not something that is possible in every state right now. How has promoting the upcoming album changed? How do you get the word out when people can’t get out themselves?
Watkins: Yes, I am just trying to creatively roll with the punches. I have been doing some shows virtually, and am planning to do a conversational series on Instagram with other artists. A lot of promotional efforts have turned to social media, which I am trying to get better at but it doesn’t come naturally. But I also think this is just another way to learn how to find community and connection even amid a pandemic.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about you as both an artist and as a person in sitting down to listen to Babygirl front to back?
Watkins: I guess that I’m a romantic.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Watkins: There is a lot of incredible talent featured on this album – Max Hart, who produced the record and is a featured instrumentalist throughout, is such an inspiration to me and it was so amazing to collaborate with him on this record. All of the musicians that are featured – every single one of them – is amazing and I am so filled with gratitude and disbelief when I think of getting to create something with such talented angels and artists.

TrunkSpace: While you are no doubt focused on the album and promoting this particular collection of songs, have you found yourself to be creatively-inspired during the pandemic? Has isolation led to increased songwriting?
Watkins: It’s hard to say – I’ve gone through a lot of changes during the past five months. I’ve moved out of New York, I’ve lived in my parents’ basement, a six-year-long relationship has ended, I’ve adopted a dog, and I’m moving to Nashville. All of these changes have definitely been fodder for a lot of songs, albeit who knows if anything will ever come of them. I think many people are going through similar experiences – where the pandemic has had a hand in turning their lives inside out swiftly and unsympathetically. For many, it has obviously led to much darkness and challenges, and I suppose for others it has likely led to revelations and movement. For me, change inspires creativity and stagnancy seems to deter it – and this pandemic has created both.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to overthink a song? Can a songwriter tinker so much that the breath of the song is exhaled?
Watkins: The minute I start trying to figure out the song, the song vanishes. I would guess nearly all of my completed songs have shown up without warning, the ones I try to wrangle out or morph never get finished. Every songwriter’s process is very different though, and I also hope that my own process changes as I do.

TrunkSpace: What is the first song you ever wrote and do you, A.) still perform it, and B.) what does that song say about who you were then?
Watkins: The first song I ever wrote on a guitar was in 8th or 9th grade… my dad had gotten me a guitar for Christmas and I would spend hours fiddling around on it while I sang. I don’t remember the song at all, but I have a vivid memory of going over to my childhood best friend’s house and asking him and his parents to listen to me sing it. I sat down and I think the whole song was maybe two chords over and over and when I finished I looked up and his dad was crying. It was very sweet and it made such an impact on me. His dad was clearly a very sensitive and loving man, but knowing a song I created made him feel something – that was very inspiring and encouraging to me.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Watkins: Hmm, probably not? I feel like we’ve learned enough from the Back to The Future franchise that time travel is not worth the trouble.

Watkins latest single, “The Tell”, is available now.

Babygirl is due October 16.

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The Featured Presentation

Jimmy Wong

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Photo By: Diana Ragland

Although Mulan was destined for a theatrical release, 2020 had other plans. With the arrival of COVID-19, many studios shelved their summer blockbusters, opting to wait out the storm, but Disney called an audible and the result was a massive tentpole movie premiering directly into our homes. This suits star Jimmy Wong just fine because  he believes it’s not where you see a film like Mulan that matters most, but who you see it with.

While people don’t get to enjoy it on that big screen, the more important part about theater, to me, has always been the uniting experience that comes from watching a movie together with your family or your friends,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Wong to discuss rays of hope, united New Zealanders , and why Mulan is so groundbreaking.

TrunkSpace: Does Mulan feel like a special release, because in a lot of ways, you’re giving people an escape at a time when they need it more than ever?
Wong: Yeah. I was talking about this the other day as well. In this current time period of the world, I think everyone is looking for a ray of hope. Quite insane in every part of the spectrum, it seems. And so I think having the ability to be able to watch this movie in an un-stressful way at home is going to be a really big part of what makes this whole release special. Even though it wasn’t as intended, and it wasn’t the idea, it’s still something that will be, I think, a wonderful escape for a lot of people.

TrunkSpace: And in terms of the industry, it could revolutionize the way things are done moving forward.
Wong: Yeah, exactly. And I think a big part of this as well was, this was a decision that was made out of necessity as much as it was out of convenience. And I think for a movie like this, that I’ve personally been waiting now almost five months to come out, I’m just so relieved that it finally is going to be able to be released in some way. And a big part of me is deeply sad that people won’t be able to enjoy it in the theater at the current moment, because it was a movie that was filmed with really big aspirations and with an amazing crew and a director of photography that is extremely talented, and has the ability and capability to make a movie that moves you. We even called one of the lenses that we used on the set the Lawrence of Arabia lens because it created such an epic shot. This is the kind of feel that we’re going for with this movie. While people don’t get to enjoy it on that big screen, the more important part about theater, to me, has always been the uniting experience that comes from watching a movie together with your family or your friends.

TrunkSpace: The beauty of it is, it can always be re-released into theaters when the dust settles on the pandemic, so in a way, we’ll be able to have our cake and eat it too!
Wong: Yeah. And I obviously can’t speak for any of the marketing or movie plans from the Disney side, but it would definitely make me very happy to be able to watch this in the theater when it is safe to do so. Maybe as early as, I don’t know, next summer or something? Because I think that would be a wonderful time to make sure that everyone around the world does get to see this movie because the story is so universal, and is going to be inspiring to so many people that that’s my main concern still.

TrunkSpace: We talked about it being the biggest movie to go this route in terms of distribution. How big of a movie was it to be on the set of? In terms of scope, was this the biggest project you’ve ever worked on?
Wong: It certainly was. And it was interesting because we did a lot of it not in the United States – not in Los Angeles. And so we got to work really closely with people that were deeply connected to our director, Niki Caro, because she is from New Zealand, and has a lot of the resources in that native country of hers to be able to make a movie like this possible. There was obviously a lot of times when they had to really be careful about how they spent the money, and how they budgeted it out, to just make it work because it’s such a huge project. So for me, it was really exciting to walk on set and see 300 people, all of them, for the most part, being native New Zealanders, and knowing that a lot of these people had history working on amazing projects, like The Lord of the Rings, and a whole list of other things.

So to me, it was great. We’re walking into this with the experience of all of these people that have this really deep, close, personal connection to each other because they’ve all worked in the same industry together, in New Zealand specifically. And in Hollywood, a lot of times you walk onto a set, and everyone has a ton of experience, but they all come from different places, different experiences. It was great to feel that unity that was just really prevalent on set. And you could feel it with the familiar nature of everyone there, that even though there were sometimes hundreds of people on set, it still felt like a very personal and intimate production.

TrunkSpace: And with so many people and moving parts, that commands a lot of direction to capture a scene or moment.
Wong: Yeah, absolutely. And big credit to Niki to find so many talented and badass women to take on all of these major roles as well. That, to me, is why this movie is groundbreaking in a lot of ways. It’s not only the first Hollywood movie to feature a full Asian cast at this budget level from a company this big, but it also features an incredible, incredible crew that is directed by a woman and crewed up by so many other amazing talented women as well. And I think, for being a story that, again, is all about a woman, it’s this wonderful confluence of a bunch of different things that I think will make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives when they watch it for the first time.

TrunkSpace: Obviously, it’s based on an immensely popular animated film. How does a movie like this stand on its own without getting comparisons to what came before?
Wong: I think being a Disney movie, and especially a Disney remake, no matter what, you’re going to open yourself up to those comparisons just because Disney is such a massive influence. So many people have seen and enjoyed the original movie. A big part of this that really rings to me as special, though, is that Niki is not just some director there to do a job. If you look over her prior movies – Whale Rider, McFarland, USA, North Country – so many of those movies have a strong, independent young woman at the center of them, prevailing against incredible odds, and becoming something even better and stronger at the end of it through the hero’s journey. And I think that’s what makes this version of the movie so special is that you get to have a director that is intimately connected to this kind of tale, and is able to tell it with such craft and accuracy that it stands on its own by itself.

At the same time, you have the entire backing of a studio like Disney, that is going to ensure that no matter what, when you watch this movie, you’re still going to be – if you are a fan of the original – you will be reminded of it, but not in a way that takes away from the vision of the director. So I think that’s all, again, a combination of a lot of factors that went into a project like this. And typically, the bigger the budget, the less control you feel that directors and the crew have. But in this case, Niki really had such a grand vision, and a specific way that she wanted to tell this story, and all the research that they put into it as well… the end product stands on its own as this incredible piece of just beautiful cinematography and beautiful storytelling, wonderful score, great sound design, incredible action. If you never saw the original, you wouldn’t be missing it.

TrunkSpace: And the original impacts a specific generation at the time, and now this version can impact a new generation in a completely different way.
Wong: Yeah. And something I like to keep reminding people about is, people have all sorts of opinions about this movie, about the franchise, about the companies that are involved, about the countries that are involved… and I like to remind people that at the end of the day, yes, your opinions, of course, they matter. I have opinions of my own. But so many people, especially the young kids who will watch this movie, will not ever hear a single one of those opinions when they put this on the screen and watch it for the first time. And it really does have the potential to be that incredible story, or inspiration, to so many of them. As much as we like to complain about the corporate nature of the world, and all these other things, we can’t discount that fact. And that fact that gives me hope that this movie can transcend all of the media around it.

TrunkSpace: It’s all relative, right? We grew up in the ‘80s, and movies like Back To The Future and Star Wars were incredible inspirations, which are movies that plenty of people also have opinions about. You can’t choose where you find your cinematic inspiration, regardless of who is backing a film.
Wong: Yeah, absolutely. And the fact that so many people will see this movie because Disney is, obviously, an ace with their marketing – and they’re going to do that to get it around to as many people as possible – it gives me a lot of happiness in my heart as well, just to know that I might not be the person that watches this and walks away from it going, “I can now do something I didn’t think I could do before,” but I know that’s going to be the case for a lot of people.

Mulan is available on Disney+ today.

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Trunk Bubbles

Review: X-O Manowar

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Trunk Bubbles Review: X-O Manowar (Vol 5) #1

Story: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum

Art: Emilio Laiso

Colors: Ruth Redmond

Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Published By: Valiant Entertainment

Cover Price: $3.99

Super quick recap if you don’t know who X-O Manowar is:

Visigoth warrior prince Aric of Dacia was abducted, along with several members of his clan by a race of plant-like aliens called The Vine, hundreds of years ago. After several years of captivity, Aric manages to escape and steal The Vine’s most powerful weapon: a legendary suit of armor called Shanhara. Chaos ensues due to Aric’s inexperience with Shanhara’s powers and rocketed back to earth. However, there was a problem. Time is a big ball of wibbly wobbly time-y wime-y stuff, therefore, the Earth he left is not the same he returns to, since hundreds of years had passed. As a result, we now have a very interesting dichotomy: an ancient, warrior-minded Visigoth prince, wearing a super powered high-tech alien armor, bent on destroying his enemies and trying to reclaim the land that was his by royal right. Think of him as a mixture of Captain America (a man out of time), Thor (deity of a warrior race) and Iron Man.

Now, outside of the pages, X-O’s publication history has been a bit chaotic. Originally created by legendary authors Jim Shooter, Steve Englehart, Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith for Valiant Comics, the character and title have had their fair share of revamps, leading up to its most recent iteration in the third volume of X-O Manowar published by the company now called Valiant Entertainment.

This first issue puts our hero and the reader in the middle of a space battle, wasting no time with introductions or recaps, but instead using expository dialogue between Aric and Shanhara as a way to introduce the character and his world to new and seasoned readers alike. I have to admit I missed most of the previous volume of the series, and I was surprised by the fact that Aric and Shanhara now have actual conversations, since in previous volumes Shanhara was sentient, yes, but silent. These interactions will help both Aric and the reader to get through the rest of the story, providing information and character development.

Another thing that surprised me was Aric´s behavior as a “lost in the present” hero, which might work for the character and the story, if you forget the fact that Aric has been around in our time for a while, and already has had lot of contact with other people, fought against other heroes and villains from the Valiant Universe – like Ninjak and Toyo Harada, for example- and was even part of a superhero team himself in the pages of Unity; and there isn’t any indication that this is a complete or soft reboot for the character. However, if you are new to X-O Manowar, you might catch up really quick and still enjoy the book, since the writing is solid and the characters have a distinctive voice.

The artwork is good and uses a clear, traditional super hero narrative with overlaid panels, splash pages and character that break the boundaries of the panel to emphasize action and drama when needed, and resorts to cleaner panel layouts for conversations and interactions between Aric and the rest of the regular human cast of the book.

Although this first issue was released on March 2020, you are still on time to grab a copy –physical or digital – and wait a couple of months for #2, which was scheduled for an April release, but has been pushed back for November due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. And in the meantime, you can also look for previous volumes of the series, available in affordable trade paperbacks, deluxe hardbacks or convenient digital collections published by Valiant Entertainment.

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Listen Up

Chelsea Pribble

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As an artist who believes in writing about real emotions and experiences, Chelsea Pribble poured herself into her debut EP, Second Movement, facing her own ups and downs head on through the lyrical truths embedded in her songs. As the pandemic of 2020 came into focus, she turned back to songwriting, reshaping her anxiety into creative fuel.

I think the best times for me to create are when my emotions are heightened and I have the space and time to do so,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “The isolation and a lot of the fear centered around the pandemic pushed more feelings to the surface for me.”

We recently sat down with Pribble to discuss self-doubt, the impact of music, and why she chose to step back in promoting Second Movement shortly after its release.

TrunkSpace: We can not only hear the emotion when listening to your Second Movement EP, but we can feel it. As a songwriter, can creating be an emotionally-exhausting practice for you? Do you put so much of yourself into a song or project that you need to step away to refuel when you’re done?
Pribble: Thank you! It definitely can be, but I typically don’t feel exhausted or drained immediately after writing a song. Most of the time, I feel more energized and, if I’m writing late at night, I generally have trouble falling asleep. I think most of the songs I end up writing are about emotions that need to be felt. In those moments, I’m creating and feeling everything at the same time, and I walk away feeling much lighter and more in touch with what I need. Writing “Pas de Deux” helped me feel more settled in a romantic relationship and “Overgrown” helped me understand I wasn’t getting the right kind of support from family. But, after long days in the studio recording Second Movement, I definitely needed to recharge and rest. Being in the studio was, for one, completely new to me and I felt very exposed. It was also the first time I had to balance capturing the feeling I had when first writing the song, focusing on the details like getting specific about when to use vibrato, and executing all of that while feeling nervous. That process was much more draining for me overall.

TrunkSpace: When you’re investing so much of yourself physically and emotionally into something, can it be difficult to turn over control and give it to the world? As exciting as it can be to release new music, can it also be terrifying?
Pribble: I went through waves of self-doubt and fear that others wouldn’t enjoy it, as well as the excitement of all the potential possibilities, throughout the entire process and I’m still feeling those things. In moments of fear, I questioned whether I should even be releasing the music. When it was time to release it, I had to dig deep to find the joy and excitement that sharing art with others gives me no matter the size of the audience or the “success” of the project. When I acknowledge that this music really means something to me, I am able to tap into that joy and relinquish control.

TrunkSpace: How do you manage expectations when it comes to your career? Do you find yourself assigning possible outcomes to your music and how that will then lead to other career journeys, etc.?
Pribble: I think it can be easy to get swept up in the fantasy of “making it big” or getting signed to a reputable label and I definitely have had those thoughts. I usually manage my expectations by getting back to the basics – I love writing songs and want to keep doing it regardless of any outcome and I’m drawn to music as a means of expressing myself because of how much music and songs have impacted me throughout my whole life. When I think about it that way, I know that music and songwriting will always be a part of my world and it doesn’t feel so high stakes. When I’m in that place mentally and emotionally, I don’t feel driven to write from an external place – all the motivation comes from inside. It also helps me realize what I really want, which is the creative freedom I had on this EP and the support and encouragement of an amazing group of collaborators.

TrunkSpace: Who is Chelsea Pribble the artist, and, would the you who first looked to music as a career be surprised by the answer you’re giving today?
Pribble: I would say I’m still discovering a lot of who I am as an artist, but one thing I know for sure is I have uncovered and strengthened my voice throughout the making of this EP. Artistically, I believe in writing about real feelings and experiences and I feel very passionate about integrating dance with my music when it fits. I think the past me was still searching for what I actually wanted to say and how to present myself – sometimes I wrote what I thought might be entertaining for people to listen to during live shows. This creative growth also happened to mirror what I was going through personally. So, ultimately, “past me” would feel relieved to know that I’ve arrived.

TrunkSpace: Second Movement was released in February, just prior to the emergence of quarantine and social-distancing. As we were forced into isolation, did you find yourself turning more to creative endeavors/songwriting? Was this a creatively fruitful time for you?
Pribble: It was a creatively fruitful time for me, fortunately! I think the best times for me to create are when my emotions are heightened and I have the space and time to do so. The isolation and a lot of the fear centered around the pandemic pushed more feelings to the surface for me. I was also fortunate enough to have access to a private dance studio with a grand piano. One of my favorite evenings was some time in early May when it stormed. I was in the studio in the dark and ended up writing a few new songs. I feel like I have an even clearer trajectory for the next record because of the time at the studio.

TrunkSpace: How did COVID-19 impact your career this year following the release of Second Movement? Did it require you to change the way you were promoting the EP?
Pribble: Honestly, I took a step back from promoting for many reasons. Mainly, it didn’t feel right to push a personal agenda when so many people were and are suffering. Though it has been tough, the biggest impact the pandemic has had on my career is fostering a clearer understanding of what I want from it.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about you as both an artist and as a person in sitting down to listen to Second Movement, front to back?
Pribble: I think someone could learn, based on the lyrics, that I’ve been in tough relationships and used music as a way to heal, and based on the music and arrangements, I’ve been exposed to a lot of classical music and it’s really woven into my musical style.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and did that manifest during the creation of this particular collection of songs?
Pribble: I think what generally bothers me the most about myself is my lack of training and inability to communicate by reading or writing music. In the studio, there were some technical questions about what I was playing that I couldn’t answer well verbally. I could play it, which worked, but I definitely felt a little embarrassed.

TrunkSpace: What is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? When it comes to your career, what would be the ultimate prize?
Pribble: At the end of the rainbow, for me, would be a life where I can center everything around creating – writing, recording, and performing songs and choreographing and performing dance. That’s the ultimate dream.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Pribble: I don’t think I would jump ahead for a glimpse into the future. I am definitely curious, but I think knowing what lies ahead would make it more difficult to enjoy the process and accept where I’m at right now.

Second Movement is available now via Sea Change Records.

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Sit and Spin

John Calvin Abney’s Shine Like A Friend

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Song Title: Shine Like A Friend

Single Sentence Singles Review: Abney writes music that lifts you up even when you’re feeling your most down, and with “Shine Like A Friend,” he proves once again that there’s no better stimulant than a song crafted from his guitar.

Beyond The Track: Abney’s fifth studio album, Familiar Ground, is due November 20 from Black Mes Records. Pre-orders are available here.

And that’s why…

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Sit and Spin

William Elliott Whitmore’s My Mind Can Be Cruel to Me

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Song Title: My Mind Can Be Cruel to Me

Single Sentence Singles Review: With eight full-length albums under his belt, Whitmore redefines the mind’s self-destructive ways with refined songwriting, creating a feeling that places you on a stool with a cold beer in front of you… and in a head space that is all too relatable.

Beyond The Track: What’s the song all about? Here is what Whitmore had to say about it.
Our memories and thoughts can be torturous at times. Mark Twain called it the ‘devil’s race track’, when a line of thought and worry goes around and around in a circle inside our brains. Is the mind a separate entity from the body? At what point does it feel as though our brains are actually betraying us?”

And that’s why…

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Trunk Bubbles

Miguel “Mike” Mora

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Name: Miguel “Mike” Mora

Website: Here or Here

1. Favorite character growing up:
Since I was a child, and up to this day: Conan the Barbarian.

2. Favorite character now:
Well, there are a lot of them, and I couldn’t say I have a favorite. It depends on the artist in charge.

3. Your most recent work:
Right now I’m finishing a one-shot story for Neymar Jr. Comics, as part of the INKED series.

4. How would you describe your style?
Dirty! (Laughter) Regardless of the tools, digital or analog, I always end up making a mess. I would say my style is a bit… dark? I don’t know, maybe, but with a cartoonish flavor, so to speak.

5. Is there any particular artist that has inspired you throughout your career?
Uff… many, really too many to tell. You can find some influences in my drawing style, but there are other artists whose style I like, and don’t necessarily influence me directly, from Alfredo Alcalá, Frank Miller, Mignola, Jae Lee, etc. But if I should name a real influence, because of his way of thinking and what he has achieved in life, without a doubt it should be Todd McFarlane.

6. How did you break out in the comic book industry?
In a magazine called Angels edited by R.G.Llarena (Heavy Metal) in the ‘90s.

7. Is there any character from any comic book universe that you like to draw while sketching for warm ups?
Actually, I almost never do sketches and pinups, I go straight to the pages. I like telling stories more than drawing characters for no reason. But well, sometimes you have to adapt, so I push myself to draw a thematic sketch from time to time.

8. Are there any characters or titles you’d like to work on in the future?
Sure, Conan or Spawn. Pretty obvious. (Laughter)

9. What would you say is your greatest strength as an artist?
Well, I don’t know if it’s a strength, but I try to focus on storytelling and deliver quality pages. I´m not sure if I’ve managed to do just that yet.

10. You are currently working on The Painted Men mini-series; how would you describe your experience drawing these characters?
It’s been a lot of fun, their stories are action-packed, and filled with monsters – which I love to draw, by the way! And although my style is not realistic, I tried to capture the personality of their comic book counterparts with the references I found of them online.

11. Quick question: Mi and Graine, or Aleks? And why?
Definitely Aleks… because… who doesn’t want to be a masked man with an axe!

12. Can you tell us something about your next comic book projects?
I hope to keep collaborating with more Neymar Jr. Comics stories, and to be able to develop some personal projects that I have been working on. I’m often on the lookout for new projects.

13. What piece of advice would you give to young aspiring artists out there who are considering to make a career in the comic book industry?
Start now! Seriously, start sending submissions to publishers of all sizes. Send out your work to people who are already working in the field and who can give you feedback: artists, editors, colorists, etc. Be always receptive to their recommendations and comments, that way you’ll be able to take your art to the next level. And of course, keep practicing, you never stop learning.

 

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