How Many, Jenny...?
June 5th, 2015
The Mysterious Meta-Jenny
I've been meaning to write this for a while now.
I believe and have long believed that writers aren't just making stuff up.
Every writer who has ever penned a memorable script or book (or drawn a comic strip) will tell you that they have experienced something.., odd.
"S/he stole my idea!"
That's the first reaction. But then, (assuming the writer isn't a slave to ego), the realization will eventually dawn that, no, not only was the idea *not* stolen, but in all likelihood it was not stolen several times over.
To explain, I'll give a brief overview of my earliest experience with this weird phenomena...
When I first came up with the idea for Thieves & Kings, it was all there; it unfolded itself to me and I was in love with it, and for the next seven years I toiled to bring the story and artwork into focus. A few months before I was about to finally take the first comic book to market, in the midst of that rising current of nearly unbearable excitement and anxiety, mad hopes and nettling fears as the big day approached, I decided to pause from the drafting board for an afternoon. I went out to watch the latest Disney animation. A new film called, "Aladdin".
Well, it was a fantastic film. I loved it. But it also sent cold chills down my spine and I thought I might throw up right there in the theater. I wobbled dazedly out into the cinema parking lot, muttering hoarsely, "Everybody is going to think I stole T&K from this film!" --I mean, it's the same story. The characters are all the same. Dashing thieves and cool princesses and magic and rooftop chases. It's all right there! But for the most subtle shifts in esthetics and design, for every other intent and purpose, I was telling the exact same story! (T&K, I should point out, was inspired long before by the 1001 Arabian Nights. That's the reason Rubel's name has a vaguely Arabic sound to it. And it's why, like Aladdin, he's a thief.)
Of course, my fears came to nothing. The gulf between my little comic book series and Disney's blockbuster production was so wide as to render any similarities between the two stories virtually unrecognizable when placed beside one another. Nobody accused me of stealing anything, -which would have been an easy enough accusation to refute had they done; Just look at the mountain of pages and sketches and various T&K development materials I'd been generating for years prior to Disney's film release. But nobody noticed, and if they did, nobody cared enough to lift a finger to point.
Now, I am by no means the first author to experience this phenomenon. -Except sometimes it's not quite so cut and dried. Sometimes there are similarities between two stories which even the un-invested layman will pick up on. "Hey! This author totally *stole* that idea!" And yet, except in cases of actual plagiarism, (it does happen), most such authors will react much as I did, innocnetly and categorically insisting that they had no contact with any other artists or writers, indeed, no notion whatever that there was another creative effort under way out there pushing the same characters and worlds forward into published actuality. And there isn't a single writer I've known who hasn't experienced some variation of this author's deja vu to some extent or other.
And with Jenny. . , well, you can just multiply that experience by a factor of a whole damn lot.
I began to notice that the name "Jenny" seemed to come up a lot in science fiction. And not just any science fiction, but the sort of science fiction which involved time travel, time loops, immortality, sorcery and dimensional reality jumping.
After enough pings on my pattern-spotter, I decided that this whole subject was a fair bit more pingy than I was used to. There were a good deal more Time Traveling Jennys out there than there ever had been Rooftop Swashbuckling Rubels. I decided it might be illuminating if I started taking notes...
The following list is by no means complete. (I'm actually quite a poor note-taker, so these are largely cobbled together from memory.)
I'll start with one of the older ones first. Those of you familiar with the art of dream analysis, I'd invite you to pull out those skills now as you read through these. There's so much "ping" going on, it's like a table tennis championship...!
1948, Portrait of Jennie
A struggling artist encounters a girl in Central Park, New York. She is wearing clothes which are nearly half a century out of date, and he makes a sketch of her, (which later becomes the basis of the 'portrait'). Over the next year, he encounters her several more times, and at each meeting is puzzled by the fact that she appears to be growing up much more rapidly than is possible and that she seems to be experiencing events that he discovers took place many years previously as if they had just happened.
1979, The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan
-A time travel romance featuring Lindsay Wagner
. (The same woman who played sci-fi's Bionic Woman
). In this film, Wagner's version of Jennie and her husband move to an old Victorian style home, where she finds a beautiful dress in the attic. When she tries it on, she suddenly finds herself in another era, traveling between the past and present whenever she dons the dress. She learns the house was once owned by an artist who died under mysterious circumstances. She meets the artist and eventually falls in love with him.
Jenny; the Doctor's Daughter. Doctor Who
. The famous Timelord (David Tennant
) in one of his adventures finds himself plugged into a machine which instantly grows a whole new person from a sample of his skin; a young woman named Jenny, (played by Georgina Moffat
), who now carries Timelord DNA. She is a bright-eyed warrior let loose into the universe at the end of the episode. (Interestingly enough, the actress is the real-life daughter of Peter Davison
who played the 5th Doctor in the long-running series. -And in January of 2011, she became engaged to David Tennant.
Did you follow all of that?
Actually, Doctor Who and Jenny have a few odd brushes with one another, which is appropriate given that no other TV series contains the sheer quantity of reality-bending time travel sci-fi as does Doctor Who.
First of all, actress Billie Piper
, before being launched into geek fame in her celebrated roll of Rose Tyler
, companion to the 9th and 10th Doctors, she played a Jenny in a low budget (and critically panned) horror film, The Spirit Trap
In that story, Jenny was a psychic able to see across time into the past where a murder had taken place. (Incidentally, this is similar to the manner in which Jenny Mysterious performs much of her time travel; she goes into a meditative state and projects herself across time.)
There's another Rose Tyler from an entirely different science fiction show. A show they made twice; once and originally in Britain, and then due to its popularity, made again in the U.S. for American audiences. The production was called, Life on Mars
, about a police officer who is hit by a car and wakes up thirty years in his past, in the 1970's. In the American show, the main character's mother was, "Rose Tyler". (So named, because the creative staff were fans of Doctor Who). The actress who played her was one Jennifer
Another British science fiction show called, Primeval
about freak time windows and rogue dinosaurs, also featured a character named Jenny. --A minor player appearing in only the first season and a handful of episodes thereafter, but she had an interesting story; She began out in the first season as, "Claudia Brown" who, after a catastrophic time-altering event which permanently changed reality, (updating sets and shuffling actors), showed up again in a startling re-introduction as, "Jenny Lewis". Same person, different life story. --Another theme explored in Jenny Mysterious.
Jennys show up in numerous supporting roles in time and dimension hopping sci-fi properties. After Joss Whedon's Firefly was prematurely ended by the geniuses over at Fox Television, several of the starring actors were scooped up by other productions, (partly out of respect and patronage, I would like to think.) Jewel Staite, who played the cool and funky engineering genius Kaylee on "Firefly" found work on the set of "Stargate Atlantis" as Doctor Jennifer Keller
. (Another Doctor.)
Before that, in his breakout series, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Whedon created the character of Jenny Calendar - a teacher and practicing witch in Buffy's Sunnydale high school.
No time travel history is complete without mentioning Back to the Future
. One Jennifer Parker
was Marty McFly's girlfriend, and appeared as multiple versions of herself across the three films.
Another girlfriend and motivational drive behind the main character's journey through time was a Jenny from the silly and forgettable, but otherwise harmless, Hot Tub Time Machine.
What about the Big One? Was Jenny in Star Trek
? You bet! -And not just any supporting role either, but THE supporting role; Captain James T. Kirk's own mother!
In the 2009 re-boot of Star Trek, audiences witnessed the birth of that famous captain with actress Jennifer Morrison
playing the lead role. It should be noted as well that the 2009 Star Trek featured the entire re-writing of time thus allowing for everything we thought we knew about the Star Trek universe to be re-envisioned.
In the popular Hunger Games
book/movie series - Katnis Everdene, rebel leader in the future dystopian world is played by the charismatic Jennifer Lawrence
. (As it happens, I know a girl who is essentially the spiritual and physical clone of Lawrence. Her name is Amber and she sings like an angel. A blues
(a small role - played by Judy Greer, Casey Newton's mother in Disney's "Tomorrowland") The first image which came up in google search was the red-head Greer shown wearing a shirt with a heart on it.
"A Winter's Tale
" Film 2014 - Virginia Gamely
played by Jennifer Connelly, is the love interest in the present day end of this time-travel story. Virginia's daughter is seen in visions as the, "girl with red hair".
In the 2015 film, The Age of Adeline
- A story of an immortal woman, Jenny appears again. In the present day end of this century-spanning tale, the story circulates around a 10 year period where Adeline is living under the assumed identity of, you guessed it, "Jenny". Played by Blake Lively and - Co-starring Harrison Ford.
Down under, in a short time travel series produced by Austrailan TV, "The Girl from Tomorrow"
, with dyed purple hair, teen rebel drummer, Jenny Kelly
becomes best friend to the title character.
Jenny has played supporting roles as the rebel friend before. -Closer to home, in Toronto Canada to be exact, (the same staging area of my own variant of the Red Sorceress), the upbeat and oh-so-nice and generally brilliant, (I really enjoyed this one), "Being Erica"
featured in a handful of episodes the troubled friend of the time-hopping Erica Strange, one Jenny Zalen, (played by Paula Brancati).
The Time Traveler's Wife
(2010) had no characters and nobody in the cast with the name of Jenny. However. . . The screenwriter told interviewers that he penned the tale with Brad Pit and Jennifer Aniston in mind for the lead roles. (That one's a bit tenuous, but still...)
How about books and comics?
- is a character who appears in John R. Neill's Oz
book titled The Wonder City of Oz.
The thirty-fourth book in L. Frank Baum's continued Oz series published in 1940. Jenny Jump is a fifteen-year-old American girl, who gained fairy powers and used them to come to the magical Land of Oz.
- "The Authority" British sci-fi comic book character, a powerful and magical eternally young woman who leads a special operations team in huge battles against inter-galactic/cross-dimensional weirdness.
And then there's this stand-out example of cross-dimensional oddness; Jenny Everywhere - A creative commons character / dimensionally omni-present Jenny with memories of all her experiences in all dimensions all over. Very interesting stuff. Comics creators are invited to use this character however they like so long as they hold to the basic theme, and dozens of stories and cameos have been the result.
I first ran across Jenny Everywhere in the German photo comic Union of Heroes where she shows up to teach the main character a bit about super-hero abilities. Quite incidental to that, (she shows up in a later chapter), I found the opening panels of the photo comic strikingly similar to the opening scene in my own Jenny Mysterious GN, with the same bedroom set-up and sudden waking of the main character, but in his case, he rises beneath the sleeping form of the eerily familiar cartoon woman painted on his wall. Ideas leak across realities in the most curious of ways. (There's even matching stuffed animal critters in the room.) -I want to stress here again that there has been zero contact between myself and the German creator at all, and when he was putting his work together, I'd not yet posted or circulated any of my own Jenny material. These two comic page #1's happened as they did entirely independent of one another. It's just one of those pingy thingys. I cut the two together so you can compare the panels for yourself. (Below)
Jenny has also appeared, or at least left her tracks in the video game world. -Though, I'm not quite so versed in that lore, I did chance across mention of something called, "The Friends of Red Jenny", and upon looking that up, discovered a game title called, "Dragon Age".
The Friends of Red Jenny is a Robin Hood-esque organization tucked in the world of the game series, providing grist for one of the player quests. From the game wiki: "[...] the Friends of Red Jenny are a secret society that perform elaborate revenge schemes ranging from petty thievery to contractual assassinations on those who would prey on the lowborn of society. Usually though, it's an expansive network who all contribute in disparate ways to random acts with a desired goal of mutually profitable ends. The organization is a leaderless resistance as they have no structural hierarchy and each cell is compartmentalized by location and headed by varied leadership."
-Sounds like the sort of thing Jenny Songwhit might set up and leave active around the multi-verse.
Jenny even made it into the world of merchandising with the Jenny Doll. Wikipedia has this to say:
"Jenny is a 10.5" fashion doll produced by Japanese toy company Takara since 1982. The doll was originally known as the Takara Barbie, but became "Jenny" in 1986 after Takara ended their licensing agreement with Mattel. The differences between the Takara Barbie and the Western Barbie are that Takara Barbie was altered to suit Japanese preferences. Takara Barbie is shorter, her eyes are less round, the mouth is closed, and the doll's figure is less mature than the Western Barbie's. Takara Barbie did not sell very well, and sold better after she was renamed Jenny. Like her Western counterpart, Jenny wears a large variety of outfits, which often include street fashion, school uniforms, kimonos, and other uniquely Japanese costumes, such as "Bullet-Train Stewardess Jenny". Today the Jenny doll is a sentimental favorite doll in Japan."
Okay. That's quite enough.
I feel like I'm missing a few; that I've come across another Jenny or four, but that's plenty for now. I don't have a particularly clever observation to make at the tail end of this blog post. The list is the observation. Please feel free to make what you will of it, (if nothing more than Mark is a little obsessive in his connecting of etheric story dots). I'm fine with that.
Now, I hope you will pardon me; I have to go bake a sheet of cookies before 7 AM. I haven't done that in years! -Not at 7 AM or any other time of the day. There's this.., cookie-requiring event I'm tied to, and so I must hunt for chocolate chips and baking powder. I think. Do you put baking powder in cookie dough?
I bet Jenny would know. She's the cookie cutter type.
Cheers, and have a great day/night wherever you may be.
June 5th, 3:43 AM