Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 8/16/17

What happened this week?  I haven't posted anything since last Wednesday Wrap-Up!  I haven't made any headway into the Umbra vs. Doc Terror battle because watching a season of the Mighty Orbots is such a chore!  I just don't like the show because it feels like a subpar combination of Inspector Gadget and Voltron.  Umbra basically is a second rate Dr Claw, commanding an ever-rotating cast of minions with a deep grumbly voice.  The only good thing I remember from the show is the fantastically animated intro.  Maybe I should just start with Centurions, since I actually liked that show.

I've been working on the second draft of book 2, making slow progress.  There's so much to be changed that I'm basically rewriting the entire thing, so it's helping keep my interest.  I got some more feedback on one of my favorite sections in the first book too and I want to share it soon.  Have I ever introduced the main character, Manny?  I know I've mentioned him before, but I don't think I've really given him a proper introduction.  I think I've got to write up a good post to show you who he is very soon.

There's no other real news now, but I feel like talking a little bit about my inspiration as I'm writing this story.  When my finisher group was giving me feedback for OSE 1, Russell, the only member of the group familiar with the cartoons mentioned in the book, asked if I'd read Ready Player One.

He compared my story very closely with Ernest Cline's book, specifically with the reverence to retro pop culture.  "Of course, I've read it!" I replied.  Honestly, I was a little disappointed in it - I felt it referenced every bit of 80s pop culture except the cartoons!  So I feel Old School Evil's filling that hole!

Surprisingly though, I didn't read it until after I wrote the first few drafts of Old School Evil.  It wasn't an inspiration to write the book, but seeing all the references and respect he showed for D&D and arcade games did show me a change I needed to make in my book.  Originally, Old School Evil had a lot of indirect references to cartoons and toys - I was worried that naming the shows would alienate readers that weren't intimately familiar with it.  But seeing all the namedropping in Ready Player One, I decided to do the same with my book and hoping nostalgia works its magic with Old School Evil too.

Another inspiration for me, one I read before writing Old School Evil, was This Book is Full of Spider: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It, by David Wong. 

I absolutely loved the movie based on his first book, John Dies at the End, so I absolutely had to pick up the second book.  John and Dave, the two slacker/stoner/reluctant heroes had some hilarious adventures, but it was their voice that really inspired me and shaped the way Manny and his friends talk and behave.  There's so much sarcasm and dark humor in his stories, but I think this one is the very best of them, and a ton of fun.

Both of these books are great reads though, and are some of my favorite reads.  Without these books, I'm not sure Old School Evil would exist, or it would feature a boring character making a ton of half-formed references about "cartoons with robots" and nameless action figures.  If you're interested in reading either of them, click their pictures above and check them out!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-up - 8/9/17

I hope I'm not coming off as too conceited, but I met with my finisher group on Monday and the three other members loved Old School Evil!  There were some flaws of course, that's to be expected with everything, but I got so many compliments on the story, the petting, the characters, the idea, that I was blushing through the whole thing.  Wow, I totally am coming off as conceited, aren't I?  Truth be told, I was told the book was good but it still needs a lot of work, mainly with the characters and their motivations and jumps in logic.  I meet with my other group tomorrow where they'll go over one of my newer chapters, one that comes with a big revelation for the main character, Manny.  Once I get that feedback, it's back into it for another few drafts.

I've been fighting this decision for a while now, but I think it's time to face facts - I need an editor.  I've told myself for a while now that instead of hiring someone to do a line edit, I can take care of it myself with a few out loud readings, but I don't think it will really cut it.  I had read somewhere about letting the computer do it with a text-to-speech program, but even that isn't foolproof.  With how much it costs to do it though, I need to wait for my tax return, so hopefully I'll have it ready to publish by the middle of February.  Why?  Because it's my birthday on the 15th so it's an easy deadline to see.

Since the time to publish has been moved out so far, I've been rethinking my cover.  I was originally planning to do one that's 3D-modeled, with the implements of the main villains and their Legacies.  I've got two of them modeled already, but still need to do some refinement and, of course, texture mapping.  I changed my plans when I started thinking of publishing sooner - I have no idea how to do mapping in Blender and that would take a while to learn.  Instead, I would make a cover out of the title image; the blueprint background, the robotic designs, the typewriter text.  I'd need to redo some of the images to get them higher resolution , and I'd update the various images on the blog at the same time.  I mean look at the Wrap-Up image above, you can barely pick out any of the detail on HammerSlammer.  So I think I can use this as the cover of the first book, and maybe the 3D-model stuff can be the cover of the second book.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Megatron Collection

With Megatron winning last week's Bad Guy Beatdown, I figured it might be time to show off my Megatron collection with it's two newest additions. 

Left is a new Kre-o Battle Changer and right is The Last Knight Legends figure.  I thought the Kre-o line was cancelled, but an eagle-eyed shopper spotted this new pack at Dollar General, and a few of us have spent a lot of time tracking them down.  On a side note, the C-clamps on the set stink and I already broke the one that holds the gun on in tank mode.  Boo.  Anyway, onto the rest of the collection!

I am a huge fan of Megatron (it was really hard not to let that sway his battle), and have been collecting his figures all the way back to Beast Wars.  The oldest figure I've owned continuously is Beast Wars Transmetal II Megatron, and he's one of my favorites - Action Master Megatron is the oldest one I own now, though I only bought it a few years ago off eBay (I have the tank too, but it won't fit on the shelf with everything else). I've broken down my collection by shelf.

Top shelf is mainly movie figures and the Unicron Trilogy characters.  Probably my least favorite characters, but the toys are pretty awesome.  And yes, I know that's Cybertron Galvatron and not Megatron, but I like the colors better, so I'll give it a pass.  There's also ChoroQ Megatron, but I honestly don't even know where he's supposed to fit.  WfC belongs on the bottom shelf, there just isn't any room.  The bottom shelf is my favorite Megatron characters: Beast Wars, Animated, and Prime.  You'll notice the presence of Robot Heroes figures there, but none are on the top shelf.  I have all of the movie Robot Heroes Megatrons, but i'm planning on getting rid of them and only keeping the G1 and BW figures because they actually look good.  The Transmetal figure's in beast mode because of GPS - Gold Plastic Syndrome, which made certain gold or gold-speckled pieces really brittle.  One of his arms broke off when I transformed him once for my Megatrons Anonymous comic and after super-gluing it back on, I've left him in beast mode.

That leaves the middle shelf.  This is really my pride and joy - the real history of Megatron.

The OG Megatron is actually a re-release from decades ago, and I only just took him out of the package within the last few years.  The stand he's set up on is from one of the Titanium figures.  I haven't even applied the stickers.  I've got Action Master and G2 Megatron in there - what a difference of size between the two figures!  I found G2 at toy show a few years ago, and even though the electronics still work - "Megatron Attack!" - all of its accessories are missing.  I've got two awesome statues and a number of other non-transforming figures, including Revoltech Megatron.  The cannon broke off one time when setting up a picture for the comic and it's been taped on lazily since then.  I really need to try some glue instead.

I am so insanely proud of my Megatron collection and it's taken a lot of time, money, and effort to track them all down.  Besides the older figures I have, some of my more prized pieces are Alternity (I have the black and red but would have preferred the more faithful silver one), Megabolt Megatron from Beast Machines/RiD, and a broken Armada Happy Meal toy.  There are only a few I don't have that I'd love to get down the line - Sega Megadrive, maybe a Kid Logic figure, a model kit (I've got the metal one but haven't assembled it yet), and even though it looks like crap, I should get the War Within Titanium figure some day.  And of course, that phenominal new Masterpiece figure.  Oh yeah, a better case to display them in too!

Oh, I forgot one!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Top 5 Transformers Cartoons

Last week, I wrote about my top 5 80s cartoon reboots and said "I could have easily made this about the top Transformers reboots because there have been over a dozen iterations of the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons."  It's true!  There are a metric ton of Transformers cartoons and they all run the gamut from fantastic to eyeball-stabbingly terrible. 

And now we're getting a new one - Transformers: Cyberverse!  This show promises to take us back through the Transformers's entire history, doing cartoons inspired from every show produced, even Generation 1.

So I think it's high time I go through every iteration of the Transformers and pick my all time 5 favorite series.

5. Beast Machines
Beast Machines did something new for Transformers and in some aspects it worked.  It turned the act of transforming from something Cybertronions took for granted into a meaningful event.  They had to learn to transform all over again, something that took a lot of concentrations and sometimes lead to failure.  I know it was too big of a change for some people - they thought the animation of it, with the model just kinda morphing into the other model, and the new cheesy motto "I am transformed" being a little too much for people to accept.  But what it did with the characters, notably Rhinox, was something unexpected and honestly, refreshing.

4. Transformers: Prime
Prime started out great - awesome animation with fantastic models, Frank Welker finally back as Megatron, and a rounded out cast of interesting Autobots and Decepticons.  The kids were probably the best human characters since Generation 1 (I fall in the small camp that actually likes Miko), and we had Ernie Hudson doing a spot on job as Agent Fowler, probably the coolest human in any Transformers fiction. The show had a ton of promise, but went off the rails a bit in the last season, dropping interesting threads and killing off awesome characters for no good reason.  Overall, I'd say this show didn't stand above the rest story-wise, but this is probably the most well-produced series so far.

3. Generation 1

I'm sure this is controversial, not putting G1 on the top of the list, but as much as I loved it as a kid and can still watch it today, it's got some serious flaws that I cannot overlook.  I mean, it was written just like any other 80s cartoon, where plots were spit out by various teams with out any consistency.  Animation studios didn't care how the final product looked.  But even with those problems, the original series is endearing as hell and so many great shows have followed in its wake, it's impossible to not still love this show thirty-some years later.  It holds up to this day as a monumentally fun watch, and definitely one I plan on sharing with my kids as well.

2. Transformers: Animated
Do I really need to go into this again?  Yeah, because there's a lot I didn't cover in the last list.  I talked about how different it was from the original show, but I didn't really talk about what made this show so awesome on its own.  First, the voice cast is excellent.  David Kaye, who voiced MEgatron in about 5 different Transformers series, took a turn as a young Optimus Prime and did an outstanding job at it.  Corey Burton, originally Shockwave in the G1 cartoon, upgraded to Megatron, giving him such an evil voice, especially with the Decepticon's new war cry - "Transform and Rise Up!"  I think it also has one of the absolute worst deaths in the show - truly heartbreaking with how brutal and heartless it was.

Before I go into number 1, I want to give an honorable mention to Rescue Bots. 
When I first heard about this show being for the younger kids, I wrote it off as a bunch of sappy nonsense.  But once my son was born, I decided to try it out and found it was a very fun show.  I never thought a show could do so well without the Decepticons ever showing up.  The cast of characters - human and Autobot are interesting and the techno-savvy town is a great backdrop to their learning adventures.  The fact that this show crosses over often with Transformers: Prime, and a character from it has joined the cast of Prime's spin-off, Robots in Disguise is such an awesome touch.  The show's end came pretty abruptly, but there's a new cartoon, Rescue Bots Academy taking it's place with new characters that I can't wait to introduce my boy to.

1. Beast Wars
Beast Wars takes place in the far-flung future of the Autobots and Decepticons, after the end of the Great War.  Maximals and Predacons have become the new Cybertronians, and peace has ruled for hundreds of years.  During an exploratory trip, Optimus Primal's ship is shot down and crashes on an alien world.  Megatron follows them down onto the planet, covered with unstable energon.  They take on beast modes to protect them from the radiation and a new war begins.  Everyone thought this show was a new beginning for the Transformers, their leaders in new bodies and commanding all different troops.  But come the second season finale, when this new Megatron finds the Ark filled with offline Autobots and Decepticons, you realize this is somehow past, present, and future of the original show.  It was a stunning reveal.  Sparks, the life force of the Transformers and their version of a soul, started here and have become a staple of Transformers lore from here on out.  It's had a long lasting effect on Transformers and is widely considered the very best Transformers has had to offer in its long history.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-up - 8/2/17

August already?

First off, something funny.  I got another rejection yesterday.  I can't remember the agent's name, but I had sent a query to him so long ago that Query Tracker had closed it automatically two weeks ago.  Here's an example of why I've decided to self-publish.  Having moved to electronic queries, the response time was supposed to have been much quicker, yet I'm still only getting responses five months later.  And for it to only be one of those "I'm not the right fit" form replies is just disappointing.  Oh, well, glad I'm not worrying about this now.

I've still be writing almost every day now, which feels great.  It's not a lot each time - I'd definitely lose NaNo with this meager output - but it's way better than what I was doing at the beginning of this year.  Don't ask me how soon I'd be able to finish this draft, but I know someday it'll be completed.

I think I've said this before, but one thing I want to do before I can finish the first book is build up some supplemental stuff.  I'm talking about the Production Bibles for the main cartoons represented in the book, namely Hurricanines, Defenders of Dino City, Ultra City Ultra Twins since the main characters are from those.  I'm planning to do a few other shows for characters that show up a few times in the cartoon as well, so there will be six production bibles in total.  These are all written but, need a look over to make sure they're ready to share.  The one problem I've got is the logos and titles. 

You've got such great logos and title screens here with some great effects on them.  I need to take a lot of my own logos, some of which I haven't even come up with, that feel like they fit in with these.  I've only gotten one I consider completed (Huricanines as seen below).
I still need to come up with a title for it.  For the logos I had first made, I took fonts I found for free online and just plugged it in.  If you look at those title screens above, only a few of them look like they just took a regular font and modified it a bit.  Hopefully, I can create some title screens that really fit with their logos and look completely original.

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 4 is out and I am pretty proud of how it turned out.  Almost everyone on Facebook agreed that Megatron was going to stomp Miles, so to keep the battle relatively even between the two combatants was important to me.  Miles was always destined to lose, I think, but there's no way he'd go down without hurting Megatron.  Next round is coming up, but may be delayed a week because of how much I need to watch.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to watch a bunch and keep on track to post the respect thread next Monday for Round 5 - Doc Terror from Centurions vs. Umbra from the Mighty Orbots.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 4 Results

“Starscream, have you been able to locate the meteor yet?”
The whiny voice of Megatron’s second-in-command shot out of his communicator.  “Megatron!  I had triangulated its whereabouts and was on the way there--”
“And?” Megatron shouted.
“It’s not my fault!  The Autobots intercepted me before I could get there!  Your goons Skywarp and Thundercracker turned tail as I continued to fight them, but it was no use.  I was forced to retreat for repairs!”
“Your cowardice knows no bounds, does it, Starscream?” Megatron said, launching into the air.  “I must have that meteor, the metals contained within are impervious to Autobot weapons.  You find a source of materials to repair yourself and the three of you meet me at its location in one megacycle!”
“One megacycle?” Starscream screeched.  “That’s not nearly enough time to repair the damage I sustained as I valiantly fought--”
“One megacycle!” Megatron shouted.  “If you do not meet me there, I’ll deactivate you myself!”
“Yes, Lord Megatron.”  The indicator on Megatron’s chest went out as the communicator shut off.  The massive robot flew across the countryside, surveying the radiation readings emanating from the space rock.  He could see no sign of the Autobots near it.  “Good, the meteor is mine for the taking.” He said to himself as he descended into the valley the meteor had crashed in.  As he touched down on the ground to claim his prize, a blue and orange helicopter crested the other wall of the valley.
A voice came out from the hovering vehicle.  “I don’t know who you are, but that meteor and all its power belongs to me.”
“A human, challenging me for what is rightfully mine?”  He spat out a laugh.  “Come take it from me!”
“Gladly.”  With a series of shifts and contortions, the helicopter transformed into a sleek jet bristling with laser cannons.
“An Autobot!” Megatron shouted.  He had never seen an Autobot with an aerial mode, much less a Transformer with two alternate forms, but there was no mistaking one of his accursed enemies had followed him here.  Megatron launched into the air to fight on equal footing.
Miles Mayhem had never seen a robot move so gracefully as it flew into the air.  Perhaps after he had destroyed its pilot, he could salvage its remains for his own evil deeds.  Even with its great maneuverability, he flew Switchblade in circles around the mechanoid and easily outpaced it in a pursuit. 
He performed an Immelmann turn, flying up and rolling over to face his adversary head-on.  He triggered his joystick and shot a barrage of laser fire from his front laser cannons. 
The robot rolled out of the way and took a vertical position.  “Your firepower is nothing compared to Megatron!” He placed his left hand over the massive cylindrical cannon on his right forearm and took aim at Switchblade.
Mayhem barely had time to avoid the massive blast of energy.  He rolled Switchblade twice in the air in a jerking motion, barely leveling out before hitting the canopy of the valley floor.  Another blast followed it, but Miles was prepared and activated his afterburners.  He flew towards the robot and launched a pair of missiles just before passing it.
The two projectiles struck dead center, creating a massive explosion that swallowed the robot.  Miles shook his fist in celebration, but dropped it as the robot appeared from the cloud of smoke and debris.
“Enough of this!” the robot yelled before backflipping in the air.  During the maneuver, his body twisted and shrank in on itself until it resembled a massive floating pistol.  Even without anyone holding the weapon, it aimed at Switchblade and produced a stream of devastating energy.
The blast struck Switchblade’s left wing, causing Miles to lose control.  As the jet dropped towards the valley floor, he pulled the handle at his side, reverting Switchblade to its weaponless helicopter mode. 
The robot expanded and changed back to his robot mode.  Dropping down to the ground, he laughed out loud.  “Have you lost the fight already?  Come take me on in robot mode, so I can crush you between my own servos!”
Miles wasn’t sure what the robot spoke off, but decided he had the right idea.  With Switchblade’s weapon systems offline, the only option was to ram the robot and hope the collision would take it off-line.  Switchblade would similarly be taken out of commission, but Miles knew he’d have no problem facing whoever piloted it while Viper still worked. 
Switchblade’s increased maneuverability in helicopter mode made evading the robot’s cannon fire was a breeze for Mayhem.  He weaved around each blast, steadily closing in on his target.  The robot must not have expected such an unorthodox attack and recoiled, covering his chest with the massive black cannon on his arm.  Just before they connected, Miles ejected from Switchblade.
The explosion sent shrapnel showering over the valley and puncturing Mayhem’s parachute as he descended.  He crashed through the forest canopy, but his fall was broken by the undergrowth.  He climbed out of the tree line to survey the damage to his opponent.
The robot survived the kamikaze attack, though his right arm, and the cannon mounted on it, had had taken the brunt of the damage.  The weapon had been blown clear off and the robot’s hand and forearm were reduced to a twisted metal skeleton.
“A human?” the robot screamed.  “You’ll pay for that, you miserable flesh-bag!”  The robot raised his mangled arm as if to bring it down directly on top of Mayhem.
“Viper on!” A stream of highly corrosive acid shot out from Miles’s mask, glowing hot.  It connected with the robot’s wrist and instantly began eating through the surviving metal.
The robot recoiled as the acid sprayed down his arm and towards his chest.  Miles turned on the scanners within his mask and searched for any other weak points in the robot’s construction.  Though he could not find any obvious cockpit, he spotted a chamber in the chest that had to hold something vital. He tilted his head down, bringing the stream of acid across the robot’s torso and eliciting a cry of pain from the mechanism. Miles smiled as he assumed Viper had melted into the pilot’s cockpit within the robot’s chest.  “I had hoped to salvage your robot when I defeated it, but if I have to melt the entire thing to slag to secure the meteor, so be it.”
A giant metal hand swung in from the side and grasped Mayhem before yanking him up into the air.  The sudden movement startled Mayhem into deactivating his mask and the acid stream petered out.  The robot lifted him up with its left hand, threatening to crush him within its grasp.  Miles tried aiming down to melt through the massive fingers that bound him, but the structure of his mask kept him from firing so close to his body.  As he came up through the air, Miles found himself face-to-face with this so-called Megatron.
“Nobody does that to me and continues to function, robot or otherwise!”
As Miles drew breath in to activate Viper once again and melt the robot’s face off, the hand jerked closed and his body exploded into a fine red mist.
Click here for respect thread.  
This battle turned out a lot closer than I thought it would be.  While Megatron obviously had a huge advantage with his size and firepower, Switchblade's maneuverability in both jet and helicopter mode kept Miles safe for a while.  Miles's only real advantage is his Viper mask, which has demonstrated the ability to melt through even alien metals, so Megatron's Cybertronian body was not impervious to it like most Earth weapons.  Still his size and strength was too much for Miles to handle and brought Megatron to a delightfully messy win.
The Winner

Friday, July 28, 2017

Top 5 80s Cartoons Reboots

For fans of 80s cartoons like me, the current wave of nostalgia shows no signs of stopping.  That can be a great thing, because there's this resurgence of the shows we used to watch, targeting newer generations while playing towards the older fans.  It can be a bad thing as well as some new takes on old properties are disappointing or downright terrible.  It's a shame because some resurrection attempts forget to include the aspects that made the originals so well-liked, but when they get it just right, we get something really special.

For this list, I'm going to look at my favorite reboots of the cartoons I loved as a kid.  Ones able to capture the spirit of the original and maybe in some cases lift it up above the source material.
5. GI Joe: Renegades
GI Joe has had a rough history.  Ever since the original Real American Hero series, they've have a difficult time staying relevant.  From GI Joe Extreme, the beefed up 90s version, to their terrible movies, to the ultra-violent GI Joe Resolute.  Following the last one came GI Joe Renegades, following a small cast on the run from a massive terrorist organization that has already taken over America.  In this series, Cobra has its fingers in everything including the government, turning GI Joe into the bad guy the American people blame for a terrorist attack, and sending another military organization to capture them.  With the smaller cast, they can focus on the characters better, learning why Duke is such a compassionate leader, and Snake Eyes's injury that left him mute.  It's a great show that takes on aspects of the A-Team, and shows what the Joes can do when faced with insurmountable odds.

4. Extreme Ghostbusters
Man, I'm going to get a lot of shit for this one.  I've never understood why this show isn't more loved.  In the 90s Columbia made a handful of cartoons based off movies like Godzilla and Men in Black.  Most were decent and did a good job expanding the lore of the shows while getting rid of the more comedic elements.  One of the shows they created was Extreme Ghostbusters, but instead of just making a new adaptation of the movies, it followed up on the Real Ghostbusters with Egon and Janine mentoring a younger team of Ghostbusters. I thought the newer members were a good fit for the show, but the best parts are when it made connections with the previous series, including Kylie's own history with the Grundel, a ghost captured during the original show, and the appearance of the rest of the first team in the series finale, putting both groups together.  The interaction between the two are so fun.

3. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
The original He-Man series was a slapdash of toy ideas without many ideas behind them.  Besides Teela's birth and Orko and Marleena's homeworlds, no one had a backstory (Skeletor's connection to Hordak didn't come until She-Ra's series).  The rebooted series attempts to fix that, explaining where He-Man's powers have come from and how Skeletor came to be skull-faced to name a few.  It does a good job of it and also goes on to explore Eternia more, introducing new races that different Masters belonged to.  The voice cast was excellent and the way they poked fun at the original's opening was hilarious.

2. Voltron: Legendary Defender
If only Netflix would pick more 80s cartoons and update them like this one.  I was never that big a fan of the original series, but I absolutely love this reboot, which uses computer animation to bring Voltron to life and the excellent animation studio that worked on the Legend of Korra to make everything else.  It's a fantastic update explaining the origin of the team and their robots, an overarching story line instead of monster-of-the-week formula, and a few surprises thrown in to keep the show fresh.   Best thing about it is it's the only show still in production, with a new season coming next week!

1. Transformers: Animated
I could have easily made this about the top Transformers reboots because there have been over a dozen iterations of the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons.  It started with the CGI Beast Wars in the 90s and a new series has been coming out every year or two since then.  There have been high points and low points - the Unicron Trilogy being the worst of the worst, but for me the best one so far has been Transformers Animated.  What we have here is the biggest change up of a tired formula.  Optimus Prime is no longer the commander of the Autobots, but a disgraced leader of a small salvage and repair crew.  The Great War is over and everyone believes the Decepticons to be irradiated.  Optimus and Co. find themselves on Earth where Megatron's head has been brought back online by a human scientist.  It's an incredibly fresh set-up, voiced by a great cast and a surprisingly dark backstory.  I won't deny that the new art-style (which I love) is controversial, and the increased importance on the human cast, including human villains the Autobots need to fight, can be a bit distracting, but overall, this is the best series we've had since the original because of how different it tries to be from its predecessors.  Sometimes changes don't work out, but in this case, it succeed brilliantly.