02: The "Secret Origin" of Dr. Sonya Beta Gannon!

What's this

To most of Tetsuko's readers, Dr. Sonya Gannon is as new a character as Tetsuko herself. There may be, however, a few of you who may be seeing "something familiar" about our buxom brainiac; this is my way of coming clean about the good Doctor's original creators and purpose ...my way of giving credit where it's due.

And the rest of you will, I hope, find these details of the inspiration for Sonya entertaining and informative.


The story begins in 1987 with my good buddy Charles Treadwell (with whom I was soon to collaborate on the infamous "Maxwell Madd And His Wrestling Women!") Charles would introduce me to a couple who would have a profound effect on my life: Kurt Black and Jane McGuire, who would in turn introduce me to Japanese animation (anime), and the bodacious Dr. Sonya Beta.

Kurt and Jane, hailing from California, were the editors of the newsletter/magazine of what was at the time the largest organization of anime fans in the country, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization (C/FO). Kurt and Jane established the Orlando chapter of C/FO and, in a bit of felicitous nomenclature, named it the Central Florida Operation; the chapter's official abbreviation was thus CFO2 (Cartoon/Fantasy Organization - Central Florida Operation). The "meetings" (which were more like casual get-togethers of somewhat like-minded fans of anime and animation in general, science fiction, comics, cult movies and TV) were usually held at Kurt and Jane's place, where a good time was had by (almost) all. The programs were almost single-handedly provided by Kurt and Jane, who possessed the largest collection of VHS tapes I (at least) have ever seen! Hundreds of tapes, hundreds of anime series, movies, even unaired TV pilots and other "video obscura".

Dr. Sonya Beta, by Vaunda PerryThe CFO magazine vol. 2 no. 7, (1984) announced CFO2 as "The Newest Addition to the Illustrious Roster of C/FO Chapters", and gave an unsuspecting world its first glance at its mascot, "Dr. Sonya Beta" (left). Since the drawings and "Thesis" that introduced Sonya were executed by CFO2 member Vaunda Perry, I think it safe to credit her with Sonya's creation.

By Vaunda Perry

In regards to the first question that usually pops up about our mascot, Sonya refuses to tell anyone her age. This is based on her theory that all classic character types are ageless in appearance, and she fully intends to adhere to that tradition as long as make-up plus camera angles allow. Whatever the date may have been, she was born in the northwest town of Tellyville, Oregon.

Sonya perceived early on that tube personas maintained and fostered a "larger-than-life" image of themselves in order to demand the viewers' attention. So, she set out to emulate that effect in real life to see what would result. Needless to say anyone who has seen Dr. Beta will attest to the success of the campaign, The success was so complete that by the time Sonya attended Voltes High School [VHS], she had become convinced video was a creed to which she could dedicate her life.

Sonya grows up

Rapidly Sonya outgrew her small town roots and packed her bags for the campus of T.V.U. and the big city grind. She soon wound up in the department of Video Broadcast Psychology speculating on how the media could be used to further influence the masses. With the advent of the home video recorder, whole new worlds of possibilities opened for Dr. Beta (who saw an unlimited potential to invade private ids). It is further rumored that one Japanese businessman was so impressed with her theories that his first recorder design was produced as her namesake. Of course this is only a rumor but the good doctor does nothing to deny it.

On leaving college her thesis, "How To Create Video Addicts for Fun and Profit", earned Dr. Beta the highest possible honors. This paper is still thought of as a classic text on tube saturation theory. Because of this it has become the bible of many a media mogul in the audio/visual industry today.

Once out in the real world she was quickly snapped up by the well-known "Playbeta" organization as the perfect blend of tape and tact (not to mention certain other assets). The company soon found themselves in total agreement with her idea that if you control their viewing habits, you have them by the purse strings. Needless to say, "Playbeta" continues to make a profit from it to this day.

After her stint as "Vidmate Of the Year", Sonya found herself with no lack of job offers (including one sultan who offered to empty his harem for her). So Sonya has settled into a more intellectual path. She is currently employed with the Covert Operations branch of the C.I.A., researching the amount of brain damage resulting from repeated exposure to "Mayberry R.F.D." reruns. The last known case, an Agent Murphy, is said to have been sighted fanatically following the show from network to network around the country.

Other than that, Dr. Beta is swamped with requests from talk show hosts, lecture agents, and a mixed bag of suitors. All of these Sonya says she accepts sparingly, since she is, after all, just a shy country girl. Honest.

Leading a "Larger Than Life"
existence can have its drawbacks,
and kimonos become a course
in Advanced Engineering.
(Text and art by Vaunda Perry)

Sonya would soon be joined by a sidekick, "Beta Max", a sentient VCR with cartoonish eyes who used his power cord as an arm.

art by Vaunda Perry

Sonya was a favorite subject of the many artists the CFO2 had among its members. Their varied interpretations of the monumentally-mammaried mascot graced the club's monthly newsletter, the "Gathering Gazette". Sometimes she appeared as herself; often she would take on the costume or other attribute of a character in one of that month's screenings, as seen in the examples below:

Sonya in semi-samurai drag
by Vaunda Perry
Beta Gundam
by Richard McJordan

In repose
by Brad Vancata
Happy Birthday, Sonya!
by Vaunda Perry

As "Auntie Entity"
by Mike Manning
Sonya joins Gatchaman?
by Vaunda Perry

So that's how anime gets subtitled!
by Greg West
"What do you mean,
'Dirty' Pair?"
by Carol Hynson

by Vaunda Perry by Vaunda Perry

And yes, one of those artists would be me. Here's my very first drawing of Sonya Beta, as part of a "jam" drawing with friends and fellow Gatherlings Charles Treadwell and Dave Mitchell, to illustrate the bulletin's "3-in-1" theme (that Gazette combined three months' meeting and screening schedules and program notes).

Three times the Sonya!

At the time, I was unaware of Sonya's most distinctive "attributes"; Charles more or less shoved the sketch on which he and Mitchell had finished their work, and suggested I add my version. Totally at a loss over what to draw (the pose had been roughed in, but no guide as to theme or costume), I almost declined; since at the time I was still laboring over my "Leenah of the Lions" concept, Charles suggested I draw Sonya as a jungle girl. I would also attend the gathering noted in the bulletin, met Kurt and Jane, got sucked into the eye-popping, mind-bending world of Japanese animation, and was given a more informative introduction to the good Doctor. But...

I was soon to find out that the national C/FO was being wracked by the all-but-inevitable squabbling that strikes far too many fan organizations, a pattern very familiar to almost anyone who has particpated in organized comics or SF fandom. As the national structure withered away, the CFO2 members continued the tradition of informal "gatherings": no official "club" structure, no dues (just bring some snacks and sodas to the "Gathering", or chip in for pizza, beer and postage for the Gazette), just friends getting together for a monthy "TV party". Kurt and Jane would set the program (with suggestions and feedback from the "Gatherlings", natch) and would put together the gazette with program notes (usually reprinted from articles they'd already written for the C/FO Magazine) with any articles or artwork any Gatherling would care to contibute.

I soon became more and more involved in the production of the "Gathering Gazette", contributing spot illustrations, covers... even a comics story! Here are some of my favorites:

Sonya & Max

"Way rad, duuude!" That's Max in the pumpkin

Uh, Sonya... move your arm just a little? Tatakae! Iczer Beta!

Valentine '89 (suit design by Greg West) Treasure chests!

Playbeta - Holiday Cover
Inspired by the December 1968 cover of Playboy, featuring Cynthia Myers

Unfortunately, the comic was never finished; Kurt and Jane were the heart of the Gatherings, and when they moved to New Mexico in the early '90's the impetus to continue the Gatherings was gone. But the comic - what there is of it - is here. (The first page is NSFW - Not Safe For Work - but after that you're probably okay.)

art by Vaunda Perry
art by Vaunda Perry

Exit Beta; Enter Gannon

Flash forward to about 1998 or so. The character of Tetsuko has been banging around my head for about five or six years, as I consider (and discard) various and sundry concepts: How strong? where was she born? how did she get her strength? is she an "official" superheroine, or do things just "happen" around her as with Satin Steele or Muscle Girl? I finally settled on her current concept, a college student who gets injected with an experimental serum that unpredictably gives her superhuman might. So now I needed a scientist to develop the serum; maybe Tetsuko could work for him as a lab assistant... That's when I felt Dr. Sonya Beta knocking on my mind's door: "Let me back in!"

I wasn't sure how the people who'd been involved with the creation and development of Dr. Beta (some longer than me) would react to the wholesale appropriation of her look, name and history; so although I wanted to keep the look, I decided to change her name somewhat. My first thought was to use another Greek letter "gamma" for her last name. But even in a comic like Tetsuko, inspired by manga/anime where names like Belldandy, Cutey Honey, Shampoo, and Kasumi Liqueur abound, I couldn't shake my desire to give my characters "plausible" names. So I altered "gamma" to the more "real-worldly" Gannon. I kept the thick curly hair, the glasses, and the heart-shaped mole on her right cheek, and used a more manga-derived design for her face, and - because I could - I gave Dr. Gannon "even more of a good thing" (or in her case, "two good things"...) And unlike Dr. Beta (who according to Vaunda's "Thesis" "...refuses to tell anyone her age"), Dr. Gannon is in her late twenties - early thirties yet possesses three doctorates, being somewhat of a prodigy (graduating from high school at age thirteen). She hides well the fact that she's one of the world's wealthiest people, making her fortune mostly off of royalties for the several hundred patents she's registered (not all under her own name, of course...)

And there's more yet to the delectable Doctor Gannon that will be revealed in future installments of Tetsuko ...Oh, she has some secrets!

All text and/or art credited to specific individuals are copyrighted by that individual; this author pleads "fair use" for their inclusion in this article. If you are the artist and/or author of said works and feel your copyright has been violated, please contact me and I will remove your material from this site, with my apologies.

All other text and/or art is ©2005 David C. Matthews