Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 11/15/17

I've been pushing through the self-publishing lessons and taking notes on everything, but I'll admit I have been distracted this week.  See, I've been running into a problem lately while looking at the long-term goals of Old School Evil.  I have 4 books planned - the main trilogy starring Jayce as he learns to be not only a Legacy but a leader - and a spin-off book, which is a screenplay idea I came up with a long time ago that I've adapted to fit in the OSE universe.  But once those books are written, I wasn't so sure where else to take Jayce and his pals. 

So I got to thinking of the other generations within the Old School Evil universe.  The world Jayce inhabits is based off cartoons from the 80s and some of the 90s, where you've got small groups of colorful heroes fighting villains, like the Transformers and M.A.S.K.  Some of them are even anthropomorphasized animals like TMNT and Biker Mice from Mars (which I have and probably never will watch).

But what about the other eras, like the 70s and the 2000s?  Obviously there were villains before people like Max Malice and Big Gun, right?  But what were they like?  I had to look at the most popular cartoons of those eras to figure out what their bad guys were like. 

When looking at the 70s, the answer's pretty simple: they were ordinary criminals that dressed in elaborate costumes to scare people away from some sort of treasure.  We're talking Scooby Doo!  After that cartoon became a hit, it launched a whole genre of mystery-solving teens that had a talking mascot; there's Speed Buggy, the talking car, Jabberjaw, the talking shark, and even the Funky Phantom, the talking ghost - though I assume most ghosts talk so it's not that special.  The problem with this kind of show is that none of them had recurring villains - they were always just random people that liked wearing Halloween costumes and fog machines.  Once they were arrested, that was it.  Somehow I need to come up with a specific villain to fit that style of cartoon.

The 2000s presents its own kind of problem.  The majority of the popular cartoons here fall in the collection genre - if it's got a different name, I don't know it.  Most of them are, sometimes unfairly, considered Pokémon clones.  Digimon (my favorite of the bunch), Monster Rancher, Yugi-oh, and the like.  The problem is that villains are not so easy to pin down.  Yes, some of them have rivals or human bad guys, but some of the other ones have massive monsters as bad guys.  It's difficult to come up with a certain type of character for Old School Evil when the bad guys in these cartoons vary so much. 

I've got ideas for some of the cartoons I'm going to make up for each era - the 70s cartoons are easy as heck as long as you come up with a crazy mascot to join the crew.  I'm planning to come up with three cartoons for each of them, since I still want to focus on the main 80/90s eras for Old School Evil, but I always have so much fun coming up with new cartoon ideas that I might end up with more.  Most importantly, this has me thinking of maybe another trilogy, and an excuse to stick with Old School Evil for a lot longer than I first planned.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight Review (Ugh!)

I have dreaded this day for months.

As a massive Transformers fan, I have gone from excitement, to trepidation, to anger, to outright dread whenever a new Transformers movie comes out.  I'm not saying anything almost all 80s Transformers fan hasn't already spouted all over the internet - these movies are all universally panned by true retro fans.  I'm not saying I hate all new Transformers stories - the various cartoon series that have come after the movies are pretty great, including one of my favorite reboots ever, Transformers: Animated.  

What I am saying is that almost everyone involved with these movies save, Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, don't give a shit about Transformers, and all the evidence I need to support that is in the latest movie, The Last Knight.  At first glance, you could say the writers care about the Transformers lore than came before, specifically taking a lot of cues from the 1986 masterpiece, Transformers: The Movie.  Okay, masterpiece might be a little rich, but compared to this, it might as well be Citizen Cane.  Besides the callbacks to the first movie, they also brought back a few things from the previous films, like John Toturro's Skinner, Josh Dehamel's... whatever his character's name was, and Wheelie.  There was even a picture of Shia.  The only problem is that NO ONE gives a shit about them!  "Not enough connections to the previous film" was the bottom of the list of complaints raised against these movies.

Anyway, TLK on paper shares quite a bit from the original movie - there's Unicron and Quintessa, both first showing up in the 1986 movie for the first time as the monster planet and the Quintessons, a race that is later shown to have created the Transformers.  But then you see that Unicron is actually planet Earth - a plot point not from the original series but from one of the most recent shows, Transformers: Prime and was introduced a ton better there.  And Quintessa while sharing a similar name and role, is nothing like what appeared in the first movie, instead just being some female robot. It's a real shame because they both got so close to the source material but made minor changes that ruined their potential.

So let's get to the crux of the story, or at least as much as I can since my eyes glazed over less than a half hour in.  Earths' governments have banded together to make Transformers illegal.  Is illegal even the right word?  Transformers are a race of sentient beings - that's like saying dogs are illegal.  Owning one could be illegal, but dogs existing doesn't really fall under international law.  Anyway - I'm getting ahead of myself.  Kids sneak into an Alien No-Go Zone and find a girl who lives there and....

Ugh I can't do this, literally and figuratively.  The story is a hot mess and trying to explain it is practically impossible.  Transformers: The Last Knight, at its very core, just doesn't make sense.  It's as if four or five people got a list of keywords, like Unicron and knights, and little girl, each of them wrote a totally different script, they through all the pages in a pile, and made a movie with the first handful of pages they grabbed.  I wouldn't be surprised if this actually happened since Hasbro assembled a Writer's Room of creators to build a Transformers universe, and this is the retched result of that collaboration.  Thank Primus it's over though.

Of course, the nonsensical plot is far from this movie's only problem.  For a movie called Transformers, they don't get much time to shine. They're on screen a lot, true, but the entire story is human-driven.  The people in the movie, who I refuse to name because they're not worth the effort, make all the decisions, form all the plans, and hold all the knowledge - the Transformers are just there to do carry out orders and shoot their guns.  None of them have any distinct personalities, just different ways of speaking, like accents or exclamations.  New character Hot Rod, again a callback to a main character of the 1986 movie, is here "characterized" by having a French accent and a gun that he has to say freezes time every time he pulls the trigger.  The future leader of the Autobots and the chosen of the Matrix of Leadership is reduced to a goofy-sounding phrase in a fancy car.  And the rest of the computer-animated cast follows the same pattern.  The only redeeming factor in this hodgepodge of disappointment is hearing Frank Welker back in the role he originated - Megatron.  Even Peter Cullen's performance here is disappointing as it doesn't sound like him through most of the movie due to the angry groaning he does.

I could go on about the humans, the story, the forced connection to King Arthur and Hitler which contradicts everything else we've learned in the previous abominations, but I just can't relive it.  There's a reason this movie has forced a massive Chinese financier to pull support for Paramount.  I can only hope this failure forces Hasbro to take a close look at this story and just reboot the franchise, but the upcoming Bumblebee movie seems to be following the same tired formula.  At least it has a different director behind it - and one whose movies I've actually enjoyed, as well.

Now I'm going to go watch the first Transformers movie to get the taste of this disaster out of my mouth.

This post has been made in part of  "Now (and Then) Blogathon on Thoughts All Sorts. Click here for the first part, a review of Transformers: The Movie for the "Then (and Now) Blogathon" on RealWeegieMidget Reviews.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Dan Gilvezan - The Real Leader of the 80s

Everyone knows Dan Gilvezan as Bumblebee from the 1894 Transformers.  Through the entire series and the movie, Dan played one of the most important characters throughout the cartoon.  Bumblebee was partnered with the token human character, Spike, so he was in practically every episode.  Because of the popularity of the character in the original cartoon, Bumblebee was made the main Transformer in those ridiculously bad Michael Bay movies.


Dan played Bumblebee as the overly optimistic kid-friendly character.  He was always eager to help, even if it was just to get captured.  He did a fantastic job playing a supportive character to Peter Cullen's Optimus Prime.  Every kid I knew wished they could be Spike just to play around with the cute yellow Volkswagen Beetle and go on awesome adventures.  I mean, he started a trope of yellow, kid-friendly characters, like Cheetor in Beast Wars, Hot Shot in the Unicron Trilogy, and outside of Transformers, you've got Pikachu and Agumon in Pokémon and Digimon respectively.  Yellow characters are targets for kids to latch on to, and Bumblebee pioneered that trend.


But here's the weird thing about Dan - most of his roles in the 80s weren't supporting characters.  In a lot of the action-oriented, toyline-related cartoons that he was in, he appeared as the leader of the good guys.  Dino-Riders (Questar), Sectaurs (Dargon), Spiral Zone (Commander Dirk Courage), and Ring Raiders (Victor Vector) all had him appearing as similar strong, stalwart commanders.  All of them sounded practically the same, though some of them were more compassionate or aggressive depending on the show. 


There's some interesting things in his filmography - three of the four cartoons where he played top billing only ran for one short season.  Dino-Riders had 13 episodes with a special final episode, and Ring Raiders and Sectaurs were 5-episode miniseries.  Spiral Zone is the only show that actually lasted the 65 episodes that got them into syndication.  I must mention that Dan's other big role was Spider-Man in the Amazing Friends cartoon.


The most interesting thing to me is that while he played a ton of leader roles in cartoons, Peter Cullen became famous for the lone leader role he played.  Peter mostly played villains like Venger (from Dungeons & Dragons) and Nemesis (from Robotix) and supporting roles - even one to Dan's Dargon in Sectaurs. I wonder if Dan sees Peter's fame from the Transformers movies and gets jealous, I know I would.  Actually, I doubt he has any hard feelings.  Dan still has a little to do with the franchise - he makes appearances at Transformers and retro conventions and he's released an incredible book about his experiences with Transformers called Bumblebee and Me: Life as a G1 Transformer, even voicing a great promo for it. 
I've got the book and it's a great read if you're interested in behind-the-scenes stuff from this cartoon a few others he talks about.  Check it out if you get a chance, it's some great insight into the roles he's played in cartoons and our childhood in general.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 11/8/17

First off, I am so glad I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this month.  Maybe next year I could try it again, but I'm focusing on finishing Old School Evil.  There's not a whole lot to report this week in that regard.  I've got designs sketched out for all the cartoons that are to be included in Old School Evil - Hurricanines, Defenders of Dino City, Ultra City Ultra Twins, Citizen Robo, Genius InQ, and Zane and the Wild Zoobots. I had the production bibles posted on here before, but formatting the page with them all was a pain in the ass, and since they're going to go into the book, I've decided to remove them for the time being.  I'll get them back up someday before the book comes out though.

Besides the art, I'm also taking as many crash courses in self-publishing too.  Reedsy has a great one, and a few other worthwhile topics, like cover design and marketing.  A big shoot-out to Reddit's selfpublish and selfpublishing subreddits as well, since they're both huge sources of knowledge.  I'm looking forward to learning it, but there's a lot of shit to jam in my brain, and I've got two months to make sense of it all.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 8 - General Spidrax

It's round 8 and today we're looking at General Spidrax, leader of the Dark Domain on the planet Symbion.  After a science experiment went wrong, the inhabitants of Symbion evolved to a new species of telepathic people called Sectaurs (also the name of the cartoon), while the bugs on the planet grew to massive sizes and were named Insectoids.  Because of the telepathic abilities, Sectaurs were able to tele-bond with their Insectoid partners.

Some on the planet weren't lucky enough to become Sectaurs, which meant they needed to enslave theit Insectoid partners.  That's how Spidrax got his flying stead, Spider-flyer.  At least that's what Wikipedia says - it's never explained in the cartoon.  What we do know about Spidrax's biggest asset is this - it can fly.  That's just about all Spider-Flyer does in the cartoon.  Only once does it acually engage in any combat, against Prince Dargon's Dragonflyer (their good guy equals), and all it does it wrestle with its front legs.  While flying.  Again, Wikipedia says that it shoots venomous webs, but it's never demonstrated in the cartoon. Spider-Flyer's one weakness seems to be mud, as it's thrown into the muck by Dragonflyer once and had trouble getting back out.

Besides Spider-Flyer, General Spidrax has a few other tools, namely his whip.  His ability to use it varies so much during the five episodes of the cartoon.  He's able to lash it around people's wrists, waists, or weapons, but if he's trying to actually hit someone with it, he'll never hit them.  One one episode, he tries to whip Dargon about twenty times, but he's able to jump out of the way ever single time.  But in the same episode, he's able to shatter a chair with one hit of his whip.  So it's powerful, and good at disarming someone, but it sucks in actual combat.  He catches someone once and threatens to poison them with it, but as far as I know, it's a hollow threat.  He's whipped with it once when Dargon steals it, and he hits one of his subordinates, and while it sounds like it hurt the recipient, nothing suggests it was poison vs a regular hit.  Unfortunately, his whip isn't a reliable weapon - even though Spidrax was able to block a sword swing with the whip's handle (which didn't look safe at all), the whip itself was cut twice in five episodes, and stolen once.  I guess he has an unending supply of them.

Spidrax has a few other weapons as well, including a sword, a shield, and once wielded a blaster.  His aim sucks with the gun, but he seemed to be a pretty competent swordsman, even while mounted and flying.  One note about the blasters in the cartoon - they all seem to shoot some kind of dart.  Spidrax was hit by one in the shoulder and pulled it out without any sign of pain or injury.  Maybe it hit his armor and startled him?  Another side note - apparently the bad guys can all see in the dark.  One of the bad guys mentions it, but there's no clear scene when it's demonstrated.  But it's canon, I guess, so I have to count it.

So those are his powers and abilities, but I want to take a quick look at his competencies.  As far as Spidrax's planning goes, he's pretty stupid.  We're talking about a guy who has a head start to some special power, and squanders it to set traps that just involve shooting at the good guys from higher up on the cliffs.  And it never works!  No matter what he plans, it never goes well for him.

Make sure to check out the previous rounds of Bad Guy Beatdown here!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Food in Film - TMNT 2: Secret of the Ooze

Now that Halloween is over and our guts are full of chocolate and peanut butter (or at least mine is), it's time to turn our eyes to something more substantial.  No, I'm not talking about turkey - okay well, I am - but we've got a whole month to wait before we can chow down on that.  What do we eat in the mean time though?  It's too cold out to grill burgers, and I'm coming down from my sugar high, so there's only one option, and that's pizza.  And there's no better pizza than the stuff during the opening credits of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze.


I mean, look at that greasy, stringy, delicious mess.  Those slices look positively mouth-watering.  The movie starts out with five minutes of credits over which everybody from cabbies to cops chowing down, and I want to join them.

Okay, it's kind of a weird intro to a Ninja Turtles movie.  Yes, pizza has been a staple of the Turtles' diet since day on of their cartoon in 1989.  Every episode has them scarfing pies, with each consecutive appearance having worse and worse toppings.  Check out this montage of their orders and see how disgusting it gets as the series went on.
Peanut butter and clams?  That's disgusting!  I think over the course of the series, I was turned off pizza for a while.  Want to see something even worse?  James Rolfe of the Angry Video Game Nerd had a pizza party where he tried all these things!

Of course, when the Turtles came to film, their eternal cravings came with them.  The first movie had a few little scenes that centered around pizza, a couple funny jokes, but didn't focus on it much.  And thankfully, since they were doing a promotional thing with Domino's Pizza, they had to stick with traditional toppings.  I can't imagine how much money they made off the product placement in that movie. They even put Domino's 30-minute delivery guarantee in it, and we all learned a valuable lesson from Michelangelo -  "Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza."

Domino's wasn't the only pizza place to get a chunk of the Ninja Turtles change. Between the first and second movie, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello were the stars of an atrocious touring music show. The less said on it the better, but guess who plugged $20 million into the tour's production - Pizza Hut. I can't find any pictures of that promotion, and it's definitely for the best, since the tour was so bad and Pizza Hut probably disavowed all knowledge of a promotion.

That takes us to the second movie with its mouth-watering opening. You'll notice none of the pizza has a special name. There's no company logo with it, besides the generic "Roy's Pizza" name (which may be some famous place in New York, and if it is, I'm sorry, Roy). Pizza plays a more important role in the movie too, being an important plot point for delivery boy and budding martial artist Keno to find the Turtles. More than that though, pizza's popularity kinda parallels the Turtle's own fame. Just as pizza is spreading across New York as this cultural icon, so too have the Turtles become the popular kids property at the time. They had become king of movies, and the further they went, so too would their desire for pizza, and so our own cravings would grow as well. There's not a more popular food in all of pop culture, I believe, and a lot of that has to come from the Turtles and their insatiable appetite.

This post was made in part of Silver Screenings and  Speakeasy's Food in Film Blogathon.  Make sure to check them out for all your scrumptious cravings.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 11/1/17

It's finally finished. At 78,800 words, Old School Evil's final draft is completed. I fleshed out some character motivations, I have the main character a little more introspective moments, and I cleared up a lot of little quibbles, and I think it's as good as I can get it on my own.

I'm just pleased I was able to finish it in Monday and didn't have to go over my November 1st deadline.