Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Mall Santa

This is a short story my friend Jon Miranda and I devised for some original characters I intend to use in a larger future project. Jon created the character of Brock, all other original characters are my own. Santa is based a little on his depiction in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum.


“I wanna see Santa!” cheered Brock.


Brock was nine years old and was at the mall with his father, Rudolf, and his baby brother Ben.


Rudolf noticed the small bench area, now fitted into Santa's throne, with an elf helper. A small line of kids were there, waiting to tell Santa their Christmas wishes and get a photo with him.


“All right,” replied Rudolf, with the little chuckle in his voice that always accompanied it when he was pleased.


Brock smiled and hurried to the line as his father followed with the stroller as Ben chanted “Bwock,” the only way he knew how to say his brother's name, which also happened to be his first word. Rudolf and his husband Isaac had both tried to teach Ben their names. Surprisingly, Ben instead said “Abiguhl,” meaning “Abigail,” the name of his birth mother and aunt who was still staying with them.


As Brock got to the front of the line, Rudolf took Ben out of his stroller and helped Brock hold him as the two brothers went to see Santa.


“Toby said that there was no way the real Santa Claus would be at our mall,” Brock commented, knowing that Toby was a big liar. His father would be honest with him though.


“Why shouldn't it be the real Santa?” countered Rudolf.


The elf—likely a college student needing some extra money—waved Brock over, and the young boy walked up and was helped onto Santa's lap.


“Well, hello Brock and Ben!” chuckled Santa. He was a round, jolly man with a rich, white beard and kind eyes.


“Thanna!” cried Ben happily.


“Hi...” Brock said timidly.


“Well, Brock, is Ben being a good little brother?” Santa's voice was deep and warm.


Brock nodded.


“Yeah, um, he's good,” he replied. “Um, are you the real Santa?” He tilted his head, looking at Santa.


"Well, of course I am!” Santa laughed merrily. “Remember how I brought you a splendid copy of Thor's mighty hammer Mjolnir last year?"


Brock's mouth dropped open. “Wow, you really are him!” He began bouncing on Santa's lap.


“Now,” Santa began, “did you leave your letter on the window sill this year for my friend Kilter to pick up?”


Brock nodded.


“Yeah, my daddy told me to. He said it'd get to you faster. Does that really work?”


“Of course! Kilter goes around and picks them all up, and we try our best to fill the order. Now, you've been a good boy, right?”


“Yes!” Brock cheered, then he stopped as he remembered something. “Well, I did get in a fight with Toby when he made fun of my friend Rubien. I punched him in the eye.”


Santa looked at Brock gravely.


“Ah, him. I don't like my children fighting and hurting each other, but sometimes boys are very naughty and make other boys act naughtier. I'll try to bring him something nice regardless. Just try to restrain yourself when he turns up.”


Brock nodded. “I will, Santa, I promise!”


The elf gave candy canes to Brock and Ben and told them to smile for a photo and took it, handing a quickly made cheap print to Rudolf.


“Thank you!” Brock said as he climbed off of Santa's lap.


“Don't forget Ben!” Santa reminded the boy.


“Oh, right!” Brock said as the elf helped Ben into his arms. “He's been really good! Can you make sure he gets something really cool?”


“I will!” promised Santa. “Ben, who's your best big brother?”


“Bwock!” called Ben.


Santa laughed as Rudolf stepped forward and helped Ben back into the stroller.


“All right,” Rudolf sighed, “let's get you your clothes now.”


Brock grimaced.


“No, I don't want to go buy clothes right now.”


“Come on, you're growing like a weed!” Rudolf reminded his son as he leaned over to him.“And I'll let you pick out superhero shirts!”


This changed Brock's mind and he grinned widely. “Yeah! Yeah!”


Rudolf chuckled and led his son over to H&M.


“Okay, you go find some shirts and pants,” he instructed. “Look for ones that are a little big for you. I'll pick out your socks and underwear."


“Ew, yuck,” Brock scowled as he walked over the racks of clothes and began picking out anything he might like to wear.


“Hello, Brock,” said a low, melodious voice.


Brock felt a chill ripple down his spine. Something felt very wrong. He looked around. “Hello?” he asked.


A tall man with pale blonde hair and pale grey eyes stepped in front of Brock.


“Nice to see you," the man went on, looking down at the little boy with a cruel smile. "Fancy seeing you here. I suppose you don't remember me?”


“No,” Brock said, shaking his head.


“My name,” the man said quietly, “is Damian, and I've known about you for a long time. I know more about you than your fathers have let you know.”


Brock stepped back. “I don't know any Damian… you're a stranger!” He frowned and shook his head.


“Brock, haven't you wondered where you came from?”


Brock shook his head. “N-no...”


Rudolf was a few yards from Brock, holding a packages of underwear and socks.


“Brock?” he called.


“Come on,” Damian almost whispered. “They only lie to you.”


“No,” Brock retorted, shaking his head. “Leave me alone!” He tried to walk past the man.


Ben was looking around in his stroller. “Bwock!” he cried, as if he was unable to see his brother.


Damian stepped towards Brock. “I just want to tell you the truth.”


“Leave me alone!”


A store employee asked Rudolf to calm down Ben. Rudolf lifted the baby from the stroller and hugged him, looking around anxiously for Brock.


“Excuse me,” said a deep voice behind Brock. “This child does not belong with you.”


A hand placed itself on Brock's shoulder and he looked up to see a tall old man with piercing blue eyes. He had a long, white beard over his chest and wore a scarlet robe with silver trim.


Brock gasped. “Santa?”


“Come on, Brock, I'll take you back to your father.”


He turned to Damian.


“And if you dare try to harm this child again, there will be consequences." He helped Brock pick up his clothes and took him to Rudolf.


“Dad!” called Brock as he spotted his father.


Rudolf hurried to hug his son. “Brock, there you are!”


“Better keep an eye on this one,” said the tall old man, before he suddenly changed before their eyes into the Santa they'd seen earlier. “Merry Christmas to you all!” he said and walked out of the store.


“Thanna!” called Ben happily before turning to his brother and calling “Bwock!”


“What happened, Brock?” asked Rudolf.


“Some man was trying to talk to me,” was the reply. “He told me he wanted to tell me the truth about my life.”


Rudolf sighed. “Well, there are a few secrets we have, Brock, but we'll tell you when you're ready. Right now, we just want you to be a happy boy, okay?”


Brock shrugged. “I don't know if I should trust you, though.”


Rudolf smiled. “Santa trusts us with you, is that good enough?”


“All right,” Brock replied, grinning, “I'm very happy.”


Rudolf chuckled, bought Brock's clothes and then took his sons to the car.


“We'll have a merry Christmas, won't we?” he asked as he buckled in Ben.


Brock nodded his head and smiled brightly. “I know. I love you dad.”


“Love you too, buddy,” chuckled Rudolf as he got in and buckled up.


As the car drove away, Damian watched from the parking lot.


“Someday,” he whispered to himself, “someday... I'll make them pay.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Fantastic Four

It's not uncommon these days for people to like superheroes. Particularly now that we have comics, novels, television, video game and film versions aplenty. I was mainly raised on DC heroes, watching Batman the Animated Series on weekdays and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman on Sunday night. But I did happen to notice one Marvel property I really wanted to get into.

Mainly from ads in the few Marvel comics my dad did buy (their licensed Disney titles) and the few glimpses of the animated series on Saturday morning Fox programming (we mainly watched ABC shows), I wanted to get into Marvel's first family.

The amazing thing about the Fantastic Four is that they were really what kicked off the Marvel we know today. Shortly after they came on the scene in 1961, readers of Marvel comics were introduced to Spider-Man, Ant-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and the X-Men. Later, many of the characters Marvel had introduced formed The Avengers and revived Steve Rogers, the original Captain America who had been originally introduced in 1941. So the Fantastic Four was really the beginning of the modern version of Marvel.

The strange thing about the team is that they didn't really start off as a superhero magazine. I've heard this explained that National Comics (now known as DC Comics) were distributing titles by Atlas Comics (which was transitioning to Marvel Comics). As Atlas was better known for comics about monsters, the first issue of The Fantastic Four featured the heroes wearing street clothes and battling a giant monster. This way, it wouldn't appear that Timely was trying to compete with National's popular superheroes such as Superman and Batman.

The Fantastic Four also had an origin firmly rooted in the 1960s. Reed Richards was working on a spaceship to get the US ahead in the space race, except it lacked enough shielding to protect them from cosmic rays. Regardless, his pilot, Ben Grimm, agreed to fly the ship anyway, and Reed's fiancee Susan Storm and her brother Johnny came along on the test flight. They were affected by the cosmic rays, which forced them to crash-land the ship, and then they discovered they had been granted some unique abilities.




For anyone who might have become with the Fantastic Four after reading more recent comics featuring the characters or watching some of their film or TV adaptations, going back to the original comics written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby can be a shock. The stories start off as cookie cutter man vs. monster tales and the characters feel darker and grimmer. But that changed with the third issue.

In that third issue, the Fantastic Four finally became full-fledged superheroes with costumes, their "flying bathtub" Fantasticar, and a base called the Baxter Building.

One thing that quickly became part of the Fantastic Four was crossovers with the rest of the Marvel universe. In the fourth issue, Lee and Kirby revived Namor, one of Marvel's first superheroes, only now giving him reason to become a villain. In the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man, the titular hero visited the Baxter Building to see if he could join the team before discovering that they didn't actually pay. (No bad on Spidey as he mainly wanted to earn money so Aunt May wouldn't have to worry about it.) The first black superhero the Black Panther and the Inhumans first appeared in The Fantastic Four, and the team would have notable stories where they'd meet the Hulk and Daredevil, and at different times, She-Hulk and Scott Lang's Ant-Man were replacement members of the team.

And then, of course, there's Doctor Doom.

Doctor Doom first appeared in the fifth issue of the magazine with a brief origin that would get expanded on in time, as often happens in comics. Basically being a man with extensive knowledge of science and technology and a huge interest in black magic and sorcery, what made Doom so interesting was that with no powers of his own, he was able to pose not just a threat to the superpowered Fantastic Four, but also to many other heroes in the Marvel Universe.

Other notable Marvel rogues would first appear in The Fantastic Four, such as the shapeshifting alien race the Skrulls, the planet-devouring entity Galactus and his herald (and later spinoff hero) the Silver Surfer, and Annhilus of the Negative Zone.

As time went on, the Fantastic Four would find its feet being a comic that went very much into science fiction while having a core group of main characters who were very much a family. Sue and Reed have children, and have their problems, and there have been times they've even taken time apart. Ben and Johnny both have romantic relationships and they share a relationship where they are basically brothers who squabble and prank each other and even fight, but at the end of the day, they care very much about each other.

Time would go on, and while new details about the crew would turn up, they largely stayed the same. (Although at one point, they changed to FF: the Future Foundation.) Recently, though, due to declining sales (and possibly some movie rights issues we'll discuss in a bit), Marvel cancelled The Fantastic Four. The characters are still very much in the Marvel universe, but no longer have their own magazine.

In recent years, Marvel heroes making the jump from the comic book page to the big screen has become a huge trend, particularly as Marvel themselves began making their own movie adaptations of their stories under the auspices of Marvel Studios. Marvel's series of films has become popular because they shared an interconnected universe from the start, and has now branched off into television and Netflix shows.

However, Marvel Studios does not have the exclusive film rights to every Marvel hero as many of them had been licensed out during the 1990s in order to keep Marvel afloat. Many of the licenses have expired or deals have been struck so Marvel can use those characters in film. Currently, Universal has the exclusive rights to distribute films starring the Incredible Hulk, and seemingly Namor as well, while Marvel can use those characters in their films. Sony had the exclusive rights to make and distribute films based on Spider-Man, but has recently partnered with Marvel to let Spider-Man appear in their movies. Fox retains rights to the X-Men franchise and due to their relationship with Constantin Film, the Fantastic Four. (Rights to the Punisher, Ghost Rider, Daredevil and Elektra were licensed out, but have now returned to Marvel.)

So far, four films have come from Constantin Film's ownership of the Fantastic Four movie rights. The first was a 1994 film directed by Roger Corman. Updating the origin story to change it from the space race to do an experiment with a powerful comet called Colossus, the movie actually wove a fairly decent story around the origin and Doctor Doom's origin. However, the script was not great and the low budget glaringly obvious in the special effects and overall production design. It was never officially released, believed to either be an "ashcan" production made to only satisfy extending Constantin Film's option on the film rights and never to be released anyway, or that Avi Arad of Marvel Studios was afraid of the film damaging the brand and bought up the film, cancelling its release. However, bootleg copies of the film are widely available for free viewing online.

Then came a pair of films in 2005 and 2007, distributed by Fox, featuring Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon as Sue, Johnny, Reed, Ben and Doctor Doom, respectively. These films captured the fun spirit of the Fantastic Four's family dynamic, but the first only gave them Doom as an antagonist, and also gave him superpowers due to also being affected by the same cosmic storm that gave the heroes their powers. The film did little to make Doom a majorly formidable villain, and did not depict how knowledgeable he is supposed to be. Thus, the fight at the climax feels anticlimatic with four heroes against one villain.

The second film, Rise of the Silver Surfer, brought the Silver Surfer into film, but unfortunately reimagined Galactus as a cloud-like entity rather than the fearsome giant from the comics. (It's been suggested the cloud is his conveyance in the film, but when compared to the fantastic designs of Jack Kirby, it's very disappointing.) The film also works in Reed and Sue's wedding around the coming of Galactus, and also Doom's attempt to steal the Surfer's power. It did improve on the previous film, but once again had the team taking on one villain at a time, which does little to justify them being a team.

It was announced in 2009 that Fox was looking into another new film version which finally came out this year. Largely trashed by critics, this Fantastic Four took inspiration from the Ultimate Fantastic Four continuity, in which Marvel heroes were retold in a fresh continuity with decades of developed history to adapt into it as seen fit. This take made the heroes much younger, and changed the origin from the space race to teleportation into another dimension. The film, however, goes for a gritty, joyless revision (Ben's catch phrase "It's clobbering time!" was reworked into what his older brother would say when he beat him), which removes much of the critical family angle, and also makes Doom into a mad, overpowered being who has lost all reason and is also too quickly dealt with. The film made far less than either of the two previous films, not even making back twice its budget. Fox announced a 2017 sequel before the film's release, but given the very troubled production and low sales of this film, a cancellation of that project seems quite likely.

It's been said that Marvel offered an undisclosed deal to Fox who refused, and with the cancellation of The Fantastic Four comic book and the word that no further X-Men characters are to be created (many of the X-Men's "mutants" being re-labelled "Inhumans," to which Marvel owns the rights), it seems clear that Marvel is not interested in developing properties that Fox has sole film rights to.

With the failure of the latest film, fans have been calling and even petitioning for Fox to either give the film rights to the Fantastic Four back to Marvel or for them to partner with them, just as Sony is now doing with Spider-Man. As Marvel has done a fine job of bringing their characters to the big screen, I'm inclined to agree with them. Furthermore, I believe the property would be better served in the larger continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Regardless of whether Fox or Marvel makes the next film reboot of the Fantastic Four, here's what I think should happen.

Don't waste a lot of time with the origin
The origin story of the Fantastic Four is touchy because it requires a lot of time onscreen to build up the characters before they get their powers and then again afterward. However, their powers are supposed to subtly magnify personality traits they had. All that really needs to happen is just some dialogue that clarifies they got their powers in a failed test of an experimental spacecraft due to cosmic radiation. This way, you have to introduce the characters once, not twice.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a good opportunity is coming with the 2-part Avengers: Infinity Wars films in 2018 and 2019. As those films will feature a threat to earth coming from outer space, films following could address the need for more advanced spacecraft to monitor extraterrestrial life. As such, a company such as S.H.I.E.L.D. or Stark Industries could hire Reed and his crew to work on the next model. As they launch the craft, some of the shielding falls off (possibly due to sabotage by a potential villain), which exposes them to cosmic radiation. This could be threaded through other Marvel films so that the first Fantastic Four solo film in this continuity starts the characters off with their powers.

Don't rush out Doom right away!
We get it, Doctor Doom is the biggest villain in the Fantastic Four property. However, he is severely underserved by being quickly defeated as he has been in all three films produced with Fox. Although none of his film incarnations have been perfect, the 1994 film depicts him best by having him be cunning and actually being able to throw an army at the Fantastic Four, and also escaping at the end. It would be a better idea to build up Doom for a third film that focuses solely on him.

Furthermore, it would be a better idea for him to keep his classic origin from the comics, perhaps even depicting him getting his mask in a post-credits scene of the first film. His gaining powers along with the heroes is from the Ultimate Fantastic Four continuity, which never felt as threatening as the classic version.

The Fantastic Four has several other villains that could be used instead, so why not let one of them come to the big screen?

Make sure they stay a family!
The Fantastic Four is called "Marvel's First Family" for a reason. The family dynamic the Fantastic Four has is critical to making them work onscreen. If you were to do an entire film that led up to them launching their spacecraft, that dynamic would be what you need to make people understand that these are those characters. Without that, you might as well not even bother.

My next point for the Fantastic Four entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the crossover potential. Part of the charm of the comics is that they exist in a universe with other superheroes, and help them out when possible. Seeing Human Torch and Spider-Man team up on the big screen could be very cool, or seeing Reed Richards going head to head with Tony Stark, or maybe even Ben Grimm having fisticuffs with the Hulk! And why not add Susan Storm to Marvel's lineup of remarkable female characters? And who wouldn't want to see Charlie Cox appear as Daredevil in a big screen version of the classic story A Blind Man Shall Lead Them? And with Infinity Wars giving us Thanos as the big bad, following him with the destructive Galactus or even Annhilus would be great.

I'm sure that The Fantastic Four comic book will be relaunched in the near future, and I hope it's received much better than it was when it went on what I'm sure will just be a hiatus. As for films, who knows, but I hope the next one isn't a mess like Fox's most recent effort.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ellan

Once upon a time, in a little house by a little town in a kingdom far, far away (some place you've probably never heard of), a young man named Ellan lived with his family.

Ellan's mother had died long ago, and his father had remarried to a widow. Lady Belda was a well-intentioned stepmother, with her own two daughters: Lila and Jami.

A few years after the two families united, Ellan's father died while out on a trip. Lady Belda ran things as well as she could, budgeting and scraping by to take care of her daughters and stepson. But after Ellan turned 18, she told him he was now the man of the house and would need to help with the care of the household.

This is not to say Lila and Jami didn't help out. They'd help milk and gather eggs and sell the spares in town as Ellan would go to take care of business. In this way, the family lived happily and respectfully and quite well off.

One day a handsome young man named Roderick bought some milk from Lila and stayed to talk with her. Afterward, he would come by and speak with her every day, and Ellan and Jami realized their sister was falling in love. They mentioned it to Lady Belda after this had been going on for about a week.

"Yes," she said, "I knew this would begin to happen soon. One by one, you will all fall in love and get married. Jami will sooner or later find a husband, and you, Ellan, will find a wife, and she will become the lady of the house."

Ellan nodded and thought about all the women he'd met. Did he think any of them might be one he'd want to marry? To be honest, no. The thought had never crossed his mind before. But never mind, he probably just hadn't met the right girl yet. It was something that would make Ellan wonder for quite some time.

Some weeks later, Ellan had finished his business and was bringing some lunch to his sisters to the market when he heard a cry:

"The Prince is coming!"

People in the market hurried towards buildings and carts, clearing the way for the prince to ride in. As the horse bearing the prince came in, everyone bowed or curtsied to the son of the king and queen.

Except Ellan. He was about to bow until he actually saw the prince. "What a handsome man," he thought. He stood and stared as the Prince and a mounted guard stopped to see the people.

"You, bow!" shouted the guard. It took Ellan a second before he realized that the guard was addressing him, and he began to bow.

"No, wait," said the Prince with a kind voice, "it's perfectly all right." He smiled at Ellan. "You may all rise!"

Everyone stood and began to resume their business as the Prince and the guard rode away towards the palace. It was then that a little song came to Ellan's head.

The sweetest sounds I've ever known
Are still inside my head
The kindest words I've yet to hear
Are waiting to be said

The most entrancing sight of all
Is yet for me to see
And the dearest love in all the world
Is waiting somewhere for me.

He never told his stepsisters about what he had thought in the marketplace.

The Prince had just been returning from spending a few years training to be a good king in a nearby kingdom. Now he was heading home to join his parents in their royal court.

After talking about what he'd learned in other countries, his mother asked him if he'd found a bride.

"It often happens that you meet a woman who will be your bride while you're away training," she said. "That is how I met your father, and your grandmother met your grandfather."

"Yeah, son, is there anyone?" asked the King.

The Prince drummed his fingers on the table. "No," he said at last. "The girls I met were lovely, but... well, none of them struck my fancy."

"Surely," replied the Queen, "there must be someone out there who will."

"I suppose so," the Prince said nervously.

"Well, why don't we try to have you meet some?" the King suggested.

"A wonderful idea!" laughed the Queen, clapping her hands. "We'll have a ball and invite all the eligible maidens in the country!"

So it was that the next day that a page rode out into the marketplace with two trumpeteers who sounded the trumpets. The Page began to sing:

"The prince is giving a ball!"

Everyone in the marketplace crowded around and sang in excitement, "The prince is giving a ball! The prince is giving a ball!"

The Page smiled and sang, "His royal highness, Christopher Rupert Vwindemier Vlandamier Carl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman..."

"HERMAN?" laughed Ellan out loud.

"Herman!" the Page repeated before continuing, "...Gregory James is giving a ball!"

"The prince is giving a ball!" The people sang. "The prince is giving a ball!"

"Our daughter's looking dreamy-eyed," chuckled a father.

"The prince is giving a ball," sang his daughter, "they say he wants to find a bride, he may find one at the ball!"

"If only he'd propose to me," muttered Ellan under his breath.

"I pray that he'll propose to me!" sang a young woman.

"Why shouldn't he propose to me?" wondered another one.

"I wish I hadn’t married Sam," sighed a somewhat older woman.

"Pull in your little diaphragm," instructed a mother to her daughter.

"I'll wear a gown of satin jade," the daughter sighed.

"And me I'm in a pink brocade," laughed another woman.

"And me I'm in the second grade!" groaned a little girl.

"The prince is giving a ball!" the people sang. "The prince is giving a ball!"

The page repeated his proclamation:

"His royal highness, Christopher Rupert, son of her majesty Queen Constantina Charlotte Hermantrude Guinevere Mazie..."

"MAZIE?" wondered a few people in the crowd.

"Mazie!" repeated the Page. "...Marguerite Ann is giving a ball!"

"The prince is giving a ball!" Ellan thought in excitement. "The prince is giving a ball!"

"I wish I didn’t like to eat," sighed a woman with a rotund belly.

"I wish I were demure and sweet," groaned a woman with a snaggle tooth.

"I wish I were a bolder girl," whispered a girl near Ellan.

"I wish I were a younger girl," laughed an old woman dryly.

"I wish I were an older girl!" added the same little girl.

"The prince is giving a ball!" The people sang. "The prince is giving a ball!"

The page decided to finish the proclamation: "His Royal Highness, Christopher Rupert, son of his majesty King Maximilian Godfree Lancelot Leopold Sydney..."

"SYDNEY?" laughed the old woman.

"Sydney!" the page groaned. "...Frederick John is giving a ball!"

And with that, the page rode away. Ellan walked towards his stepsisters as the people sang, "The prince is giving a ball! The prince is giving a ball! The prince is giving a ball!"

Lila and Jami were amused by Ellan's news about the Prince. "I wonder if everyone will be allowed to go?" wondered Lila. "I love Roderick, but I wouldn't mind going to the ball just for fun."

"Me too," added Jami. "I don't think I'd want to marry a prince, but a night to dress up and dance would be nice."

Ellan chuckled quietly to himself. He wouldn't mind meeting the prince, but if the ball was to find a woman for the prince to marry, he wouldn't have much of a chance to say two words.

Formal invitations had been sent out to every home and Lady Belda was excited.

"We must go!" she cheered. "I'll fix up our finest dresses and you two will look so lovely at the ball! And imagine if the Prince decided he wanted to marry one of you!"

"But I love Roderick," replied Lila. "I don't want to marry the Prince."

"Well, what about you, Jami?" asked Lady Belda. "You're not attached to anyone."

"Well, I want to go," she began.

"Then we'd better hope he picks you!" Lady Belda laughed and went off to the kitchen to begin preparing dinner.

Later that night, as Ellan was heading to bed, he was passing Jami's room and heard her singing softly.

"I'm as mild and as meek as a mouse
When I hear a command I obey.
But I know of a spot in my house
Where no one can stand in my way.
In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
and the world will open its arms to me.
I'm a young Norwegian princess or a milkmaid
I'm the greatest prima donna in Milan
I'm an heiress who has always had her silk made
By her own flock of silkworms in Japan."

Ellan entered the room and sat down with Jami.

"I really don't want to marry the Prince," she sighed. "I wish mother would understand that."

Ellan hugged her.

"Can I tell you a secret?" he asked her.

She nodded.

"I want to meet the Prince, I... I like him," he said.

"You love the Prince!" she chuckled. "That's okay. I don't want to marry him because I find myself liking other women."

Ellan laughed and sang,

"I'm a man men go mad for love's a game I can play
with cool and confident kind of air.
Just as long as I stay in my own little corner
All alone in my own little chair."

Jami smiled and sang.

"I can be whatever I want to be.
I'm a thief in Calcutta, I'm a queen in Peru.
I'm a mermaid dancing upon the sea
I'm a huntress on an African safari,
It's a dangerous type of sport and yet it's fun
In the night I sally forth to seek my quarry
And I find I forgot to bring my gun.
I am lost in the jungle all alone and unarmed
When I meet a lioness in her lair
Then I'm glad to be back in my own little corner,
All alone in my own little chair."

Ellan and Jami hugged.

"Good night," said Ellan and he went to his bedroom.

In a few days, the night of the ball arrived. Ellan had taken out his best suit and made sure it was in the best shape. Lila, Jami and Lady Belda made their best dresses look spectacular. As a carriage arrived to take them to the ball, the family met in the front yard.

"Why are you dressed up?" Lady Belda asked Ellan.

"Oh, I thought I'd go to the ball as well," was the reply.

"But the Prince is looking for a bride. They don't want young men visiting."

"Actually," interjected Jami, "the invitation said that the Prince was seeking a bride, but it said all were invited."

"By which we must assume he only wanted women," Lady Belda said calmly.

"Perhaps I could go as a chaperone and dance?" Ellan said. He had to get to the ball.

"No, the invitation didn't say anything about that. I'm afraid you'll have to stay at home, Ellan."

Ellan sighed and went inside as he heard the carriage pull up and his stepfamily get inside and drive off. Quietly, he began to sing to himself.

"In my own little corner,
In my own little chair,
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wing of my fancy,
I can fly anywhere,
And the world will open it's arms to me.

"I am in the royal palace,
Of all places!
I am chatting with the prince,
And king, and queen.
And the color of all those ladies' faces
Is a queer sort of sour apple green.
I am coy and flirtatious when alone with the prince
With cool and confident kind of air.
I'm the Belle of the Ball in my own little corner,
All alone in my own little chair."

He sighed.

"Fol-de-rol and fiddle-dee-dee,
Fiddle-dee-faddle-dee-foddle.
All the wishes in all the world
Are poppycock and twaddle."

Ellan looked up and saw at the open front window, an older gentleman dressed in a nice purple suit. It took him a moment to recognize him as godfather. who he had not seen in years but still sent gifts to the family from time to time.

"Hello, godfather," Ellan said, "nice to see you."

"I thought you might be lonely," said Godfather. "And I knew what you'd be doing."

Ellan looked sheepishly at him and the Godfather sang,

"I just knew I would find you in that same little chair
In the paling bliss of a foolish dream, but...
Fol-de-rol and fiddle-dee-dee,
Fiddle-dee-faddle-dee-foodle,
All the dreamers in all the world
Are dizzy in the noodle!"

"I'm in love with the prince!" said Ellan. "What can I do about that?"

"There's no shame in loving someone," grinned the Godfather. "But, you realize, you can't just storm into the ball and declare your love. Anyway, how would you get there?"

Ellan sighed. "I don't know. There's a pumpkin growing outside. I guess it'd make a fine carriage if it was big enough. And maybe those four white mice we caught today could pull it, if they were, I don't know, turned into horses."

"But that is impossible," chuckled the Godfather. He stepped inside and began to sing.

"Impossible for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.
Impossible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage.
And four white mice will never be four white horses.
Such fol-de-rol and fiddle dee dee of courses.

"Impossible!"

Ellan sighed. It looked like his dream would never come true. Then the Godfather continued to sing.

"But the world is full of zanies and fools
Who don't believe in sensible rules
And won't believe what sensible people say
And because these daft and dewey eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes
Impossible things are happening every day!"

"Wait," Ellan murmured. "If impossible things are happening every day, then... I could go?"

"Perhaps," said the Godfather. "If you wish hard enough."

"Then I will!" Ellan declared. "No one will stop me!"

Almost on cue, he saw the pumpkin outside grow large and turn into a golden colored carriage and the cage holding the four white mice broke open as the mice grew into handsome horses. As Ellan went outside to look, the Godfather followed him out, and Ellan didn't notice that a pair of brightly colored wings had sprouted from the Godfather's back.

"It's possible for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.
It's possible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage.
And four white mice are easily turned to horses
Such fol-de-rol and fiddle dee dee of courses

"Quite possible!

"For the world is full of zanies and fools
Who don't believe in sensible rules
And won't believe what sensible people say
And because these daft and dewey eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes
Impossible things are happening every day!"

Ellan looked at the Fairy Godfather (for Fairy he was) and smiled. "Oh, thank you!" he sighed.

"One more thing," said the Fairy Godfather, "you've got to get changed a little."

"What's wrong with my suit?" asked Ellan.

"Well, if you really want to make a scene, it'll take a little more than that."

---

Jami looked around at the ball, all these beautiful women! Maybe the Prince wouldn't be the only one to find a bride... She and Lila were waiting in a long line of young women waiting to dance with the Prince. Many of them would dance with the Prince for a minute or two, a few went as far as five minutes, before he sent them to one of the gentlemen waiting to dance with the ladies.

Lady Belda had been instructed to go ahead and dance with the gentlemen, and in a few moments, she found herself dancing with Roderick.

"Oh, what a shame," she sighed as she danced. "Ellan wanted to come and I thought he wasn't wanted. Well, hopefully there'll be other times that we can indulge him. He works so hard."

The line moved as a nice, leisurely pace, but soon the Prince was dancing with the last young woman. He appeared bored and was about to go sit with his parents, when a trumpet sounded.

"A late arrival!" called the page.

Everyone looked up as a young woman entered and walked down the grand staircase. She was tall, and seemed a little thickly built. She had flowing auburn hair and dark hazel eyes. She wore a shimmering silvery-blue gown that flowed neatly from her waist and on her feet were crystal slippers.

She walked stepped onto the dance floor and the Prince walked up with her and they began dancing gracefully.

"She's beautiful," sighed Lady Belda. "I think the Prince likes her."

She watched a little longer before commenting, "She looks familiar."

"I know," said Lila, "but I can't place her."

Jami watched and a thought struck her. "Oh... my..." she chuckled.

"Do you know who she is?" asked Lady Belda.

"No," grinned Jami. "Never seen her before!"

Five minutes passed. A few of the girls who the Prince had passed over watched him continue dancing with this mystery woman. Some of them began to sing.

"Why would a fellow want a girl like her
A frail and fluffy beauty
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a solid girl like me?

"She's a frothy little bubble with a flimsy kind of charm
And with very little trouble I could break her little arm.

"Oh, oh why would a fellow want a girl like her
So obviously unusual
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a usual girl like me?

"Her cheeks are a pretty shade of pink, but not any pinker than roses
Her skin may be delicate and soft, but not any softer than a doe's is

"Her neck is no whiter than a swan's
She's only as dainty as a daisy
She's only as graceful as a bird!
So why is the fellow going crazy?

"Oh why would a fellow want a girl like her,
A girl who's merely lovely,
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a girl who's merely me?

"What's the matter with the man,
What's the matter with the man,
What's the matter with the man?"

If the Prince or the mystery woman heard this, they ignored it. The Prince began to sing.

"Ten minutes ago, I saw you
I looked up when you came through the door
My head started reeling, you gave me the feeling
The room had no ceiling or floor.

"Ten minutes ago, I met you,
And we murmured our how do you dos
I wanted to ring out the bells and fling out my arms
And sing out the news.

"I have found her, she's an angel,
With the dust of the stars in her eyes.
We are dancing, we are flying,
And she's taking me back to the skies!

"In the arms of my love, I'm flying,
Over mountain and meadow and glen.

"And I like it so well that for all I can tell
I may never come down again.
I may never come down to earth again!"

The mystery woman smiled and she and the Prince left for the palace gardens. The other women went back to dancing. Some of them sat down, some had refreshments, and a few decided to go home. Lila danced with Roderick, but Jami went to have a seat.

Jami smiled to herself and another young woman sat down beside her. "You seem to be having a good time," the stranger noted.

"Well, I just came to have fun," Jami replied. "I didn't want to marry the Prince."

The other woman laughed. "Me neither! It's most certainly not what I want."

Jami looked at her. "Well... what do you want?"

The woman smiled at her. "I'd like to... well... talk with you, to be honest."

Jami smiled at her. "All right. We can do that. I'm Jami."

The woman sat closer to her. "Rose," she replied.

Out in the garden, the Prince and the mysterious woman looked at the moon together.

"Haven't I seen you before?" asked the Prince.

"You may have," said the woman in a soft voice. "I'm very busy in the market."

"That must have been it," he shrugged. "So, what's your name?"

"El... Ella," she said shyly.

"Tell me more about yourself."

Ella looked at the town's clock tower that was clearly visible from the palace garden.

"Well, my parents died some time ago," she said, still in that soft voice. "But I'm all right now. My father married again and I live very happily with his second wife and her daughters."

The Prince nodded.

"I wasn't sure if I would really meet anyone I'd want to meet tonight, but that was before you came in."

He began to sing again.

"Do I love you because you're beautiful,
Or are you beautiful because I love you?
Am I making believe I see in you
A girl too lovely to be really true?

"Do I want you because you're wonderful,
Or are you wonderful because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover's dream
Or are you really as beautiful as you seem?"

Ella sang softly.

"Am I making believe I see in you
A man too perfect to be really true?
Do I want you because you're wonderful,
Or are you wonderful because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover's dream
Or are you really as wonderful as you seem?"

They embraced quietly. Just then, Ella noticed the clock again. It was nearly midnight.

"Oh no, I have to go!" she said.

"You can stay!" the Prince said. "I promise, whatever it is, I'll be fine with it."

"No, I mean, I have to leave or else!" Ella nearly shrieked. "You can't see me ever again!"

"But I love you!" said the Prince.

Ella burst into tears and ran away. The prince went after her, but she had a head start. In a few moments, she had boarded her golden carriage and had driven away into the moonlight.

The Prince sat dejectedly on the steps before noticing that beside him was one of Ella's crystal slippers. It had obviously fallen off during her flight. He picked it up and thought carefully about how he might find this mysterious Ella once more.

---

Lady Belda and her daughters came home to find Ellan waiting for them. It was after two o'clock in the morning, but Ellan seemed energetic still and had tea waiting for them.

"How are you still awake?" chuckled Jami. "I would have thought you'd be exhausted."

"I was too excited to hear about how you all met the Prince," he replied with a smile as he handed the teacups around.

"Well, yes, we met the Prince," admitted Lila, "but he didn't spend much time with us."

"Oh, and I must apologize, Ellan," said Lady Belda. "It turned out you would have been welcome, after all."

"That's all right," he grinned. "I can imagine what it would have been like anyway."

He began to sing.

"When you're driving through the moonlight on a highway
When through the moonlight to a dance you are breathless
With a wild anticipation of adventure and excitement and romance
Then at last you see the towers of the palace silouetted
On the sky above the park and below them is a row of lighted windows
Like a lovely diamond necklace in the dark."

"It looks that way," chimed in Lady Belda, "the way you say, he talks as if he knows."

Ellan smiled and continued.

"I do not know these things are so; I only just suppose
I suppose that when you come into the ballroom
And the room itself is floating on the air
If you're suddenly confronted by his highness
You are frozen like a statue on the stair.

"You're afraid he'll hear the way your heart is beating
And you know you musn't make the first advance.
You are seriously thinking of retreating
Then you seem to hear him asking you to dance
You make a bow, a timid bow, and shyly answer yes."

"How would you know that this is so?" asked Lila.

"I do no more than guess," replied her stepbrother.

Jami beamed at her stepbrother and began to sing.

"A lovely night,
A lovely night,
A finer night you know you'll never see.
You meet your prince,
A charming prince
As charming as a prince will ever be.

"The stars in the hazy heaven
Tremble above you
While he is whispering
'Darling, I love you.'

"You say goodbye,
Away you fly
But on your lips you'll keep a kiss
All your life you'll dream of this
Lovely, lovely night."

Ellan smiled at her.

"Did you have a good time?"

"She fell in love!" laughed Lila. "With a girl named Rose!"

"And what's the consensus on that?" asked Ellan.

"Well," said Lady Belda. "I must admit, it wasn't what I expected, but if my daughter is happy, then I suppose I have no reason to disapprove."

Ellan smiled as the girls finished their tea.

"Now, we'd better hurry to bed," Lady Belda went on, "or we won't be able to make it to the market in the morning!"

Ellan and his stepsisters were a little late getting to the market the next day, but business appeared to be continuing as usual.

Suddenly, horses began galloping through the marketplace, followed by the Page calling, "Make way! Make way for the Prince!"

Everyone cleared the street and bowed. The Prince rode in with the Page, who was carrying a small bundle.

"By order of the Prince, every woman in the marketplace will try on this slipper!"

Everyone stood and looked at the Page pulling the crystal slipper from the bundle. Ellan whistled.

"Well, you better get on with business, Ellan," remarked Lila. "We'll go ahead and wait for the Prince to get to us."

"I don't have a lot of business to tend to today," Ellan replied. "I can wait."

"That's a good idea," commented Jami, smiling at her stepbrother.

Ellan and Jami watched anxiously as the Page and the Prince went to every woman in the marketplace and had her try the slipper. It seemed to be just a little too big for any of them. Some had long enough feet, but their feet were too thin. Frustratingly, the Prince and the Page came to their booth last.

Lila tried the slipper first and her foot was just a little too small. Jami was much the same story.

"Well," sighed the Prince, "I guess she's not here."

"Perhaps she had to sleep in, sire?" asked the Page.

"Maybe you should try my stepbrother!" suggested Jami, pushing Ellan forward.

"Jami, don't make fun of the Prince!" groaned Lila.

The Prince chuckled, but then he looked at Ellan, who bit his lip.

"Shall we go, sire?" asked the Page.

"No," the Prince replied. "Try the slipper on him."

Ellan removed his boot and the Page held the slipper for him to try. Taking a deep breath, Ellan closed his eyes and slid his foot into the slipper.

"Impossible things are happening everyday..."

Ellan opened his eyes and saw his Fairy Godfather standing behind the Prince, smiling.

"It fits!" cheered the Prince.

Ellan looked down and saw his foot fitting neatly in the slipper. Lila, the Page and nearly everyone else in the marketplace looked at Ellan in surprise. Rose—who happened to be in the marketplace—ran towards Jami and held her hand as she watched.

The Fairy Godfather raised his hand and Ellan's clothes turned into a fine glowing silver suit with leather shoes with crystal studded buckles.

The Prince stepped forward and reached his hand for Ellan.

"It was you," he said quietly. "You were the mysterious woman I danced with. I recognized your eyes."

Ellan smiled. "It was my Fairy Godfather's idea," he replied. The Prince turned to the Fairy Godfather who crossed his arms with a big smile as his wings appeared.

"It worked, didn't it?" the Fairy Godfather commented.

"And you love him anyway?" asked Lila.

"Why not?" asked Jami.

Ellan and the Prince laughed and looking at each other, they kissed. The Fairy Godfather raised his hands and sang as Rose and Jami also held hands and kissed.

"Someone wants you
You know who
Now you're living
There's music in you

"Now you'll hear
Something new
Someone's playing
The music in you

"Now you're living
You know why
Now there's nothing
You won't try

"Move a mountain
Light the sky
Make a wish come true
There is music in you

"Now you can go where ever you want to go
Now you can do whatever you want to do
Now you can be whatever you want to be
And love is a song you will sing your whole life through

"Move a mountain
Light the sky
Make a wish come true
There is music in you!"

So, Ellan and the Prince went on to get to know each other better. Lila and Roderick also developed their relationship, as did Jami and Rose. In time, all three couples married. Lady Belda was given a suite in the Royal Palace and Roderick, Lila, Jami and Rose all were given positions in the court.

"Perhaps," Lady Belda would often say, "things don't turn out as I think, but all I really wanted was for my daughters and stepson to be happy, and now they are. Perhaps the odds of that happening were impossible, but as Ellan's godfather would say, 'Impossible things are happening everyday!'"



The idea of writing a genderswapped Cinderella came when I went to see the new Disney film earlier this year. I decided to reivist the Rodgers and Hammerstein version starring Brandy shortly after, which I hadn't seen since it firist aired in 1997. I then checked out the other TV versions, and then I began to get the idea to write the story using the songs from that musical. (So yes, all songs copyright R&H.)

My main inspiration came from the original 1957 version starring Julie Andrews (you can definitely tell with the Godfather's entrance), with secondary from the 1997 version. But my biggest inspiration came from my friend Hannah Byram, who suggested that I not only genderswap Cinderella, but also the Fairy Godmother, who would be played by John Barrowman. She helped me figure out who could play each character and while talking to her, I thought about what making the main character a male would entail.

Since Ellan (a male version of "Ella," Cinderella's real name in many versions) is a male, he would not initially be perceived as a rival for his stepsisters' possible romantic future. I initially decided that both stepsisters would have their independent romantic interests, but then realized that it might be more fun to make one also attracted to people of the same sex (Ellan and Jami could be homosexual, bisexual or pansexual and just mainly feeling same-sex attraction at the time). I decided to have this fairy tale world follow some old fashioned rules with the whole idea of "the man of the house" rules, but would have little trouble accepting same-sex relationships. (That was Hannah's idea. She said there was enough homophobia in the real world without inserting it in our fairy tales.) The whole idea of Ellan attending the ball in drag was there from the start.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed the story!