Monday, July 25, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Tex Hex

Tex Hex is a villain I had the luck to watch somewhat recently while Bravestarr was living it up on Netflix.  I didn't get much of a chance to watch it when I was a kid, preoccupied with a ton of other shows, including Filmations bigger hit - He-man and the Masters of the Universe.  As such I wasn't too familiar with Tex Hex, and I'm glad I got a chance to get to know him more recently.

Gotta love that mustache.
He sits in a pretty different place than most of the villains I've looked at so far.  It could technically be argued that he doesn't have a place on this list.  Even though he was the primary guy fighting Marshall Bravestarr and leader of the Carrion Bunch, Tex Hex got his power from a bigger villain called Stampede. 
Tex Hex, probably about to get yelled at.
Unlike Mumm-ra who received his power from "the forces of evil" which were never really seen in the show, Tex Hex regularly answered to Stampede, taking orders and, more often then not, being punished for his failures.  Stampede corrupted Tex and gave him his powers, which were permanent (unless Stampede chose to take them away).  But even with his vast powers and screen time, Bravestarr never faced Stampede alone as far as I can remember, instead fighting with Tex Hex and his goons most of the time.

I really enjoyed the time I had watching Tex Hex work his magic.  Compared to his peers, he was a hilarious villain, laughing a lot, making jokes, and generally looking like he enjoyed himself.  He had a flair that not many other villains shared.  Yes he was serious, sometimes, but he was often shown just having a good time.  Another interesting aspect of him is that he was shown to be conflicted about his villainous behavior a few times: once when letting medical supplies go off-world, and once in the usual Christmas episode.  We can all remember Skeletor being swayed by the Christmas spirit when he was stuck with some nerdy Earth kids, but Tex Hex showed some real regret when his former girl was involved.  There's a difference there, honestly, because you could believe Tex Hex's change of heart; no one would fall for Skeletor actually being nice just because a couple of moron kids are cold.  Not to mention the Christmas episode shows Tex Hex's past, something only a few other villains had showcased.  It worked incredibly well in making Tex Hex a memorable villain.

Which is it, purple or pink?
Let's go with some ratings. 
Coolness - 4.  While I love the cowboy aesthetic and the long bushy hair and mustache, the guy was purple.  It made for a decent match with his primarily green outfit, but they could have gone with a darker color to make him more menacing looking.  And compared with Filmation's other villain, whose face was a skull(!) Tex Hex comes across kinda goofy looking, especially with the bunched up lips. 
Effectiveness - 4.  I can't remember any time that he actually got away with anything, but considering he had the opportunity to ruin Christmas and deny kids some much-needed medicine, I'm assuming he was at least a little successful.  That probably doesn't count for much with Stampede though.

As a side note, Tex Hex was the biggest inspiration in creating Sidewinder, one of Old School Evil's villains.  They share a lot of their old west look and magic firepower.  Hmm, maybe I should share some more about that later this week.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Next Step

As I sit here watching Transformers: The Movie, I consider what the next step is for Old School Evil, and how the movie mirrors my plan a bit. After being on the air for a number of years, Hasbro planned to make the big leap and bring their flagship series to the big screen. It was a huge step for a Saturday morning cartoon to get a theatrical film, and one only a few had made before. It was also a huge risk, making room for the new characters by thinking the ranks of the ones we grew up with. Such a big risk, that the similarly-planned GI Joe movie was relegated to home video release.
I find myself in a situation where I need to figure out a plan to move forward as well. Old School Evil is written and edited, read over by a large number of friends and other writers. After more drafts than I ever devoted to a project, the manuscript is a close to being perfect I can reasonably get it. It's time for publishing.
And I can say I'm ready to make that step. I've researched agents that I feel may be interested in my book. Agents who might like a humorous combination of sci-fi and fantasy. Over the next week, I'll be sending out query letters and sample chapters to fifteen of these agents. While waiting for responses, assuming I'll get any, I'll be looking for a second list if agents. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I'll have caught someone's interest.
During that time, I'll also be working on the blog, continuing with the villain retrospects, modeling various assets from the books, and creating some promotional material. And of course, Old School Evil 2. Did I say I was planning a series?
First things first: let's hope one of next week's submissions has "The Touch."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Miles Mayhem

Miles Mayhem, Max Malice.  There's no wonder who the inspiration is to the villain from Old School Evil.  They share the same vaguely military uniform.  They're older looking than their cronies.  They're gruff, grumpy looking dudes.  Since you've never see Malice, you'll have to trust me - they're a lot alike.

There are a lot of pictures of this guy shaking his fist.
Unlike my last retrospective, I'm a lot more familiar with Miles than Mumm-ra.  Why?  Because M.A.S.K. is the only other show besides Transformers that I've wanted to collect.  Well, I wouldn't mind owning He-Man, but so far I don't.  Anyway, Miles's show is easily one of my favorites.  It shares a lot of aspects with Transformers, now that I think about it.  You've got shape-shifting vehicles and characters with special powers.  Let's looks at each of these separately.

It changes from a flying vehicle into... another flying vehicle?

First, the vehicle.  In no other show is a vehicle so closely related to a character.  Each one had their own distinctive ride, and Miles had arguably the coolest of them all.  You have a helicopter, already a pretty cool vehicle, and dwarfed by one other original M.A.S.K. toy (Rhino).  But then, you flip a few switches and suddenly, you've got a freakin' jet!  That was bad-ass!  Way cooler than Matt Trakker's Thunderhawk, in my opinion.  What would you rather fly in, a car with its doors up, or an actual jet?

Second, you've got M.A.S.K.'s signature weapons.  Each of the characters wears a mask that basically grants them special powers.  There's x-ray vision, levitation, phase shifting.  Basically any power you can think of.  Miles's mask, Viper, shoots highly corrosive acid, perfect for melting safes to steal whatever was inside.  In a cartoon where most of the powers are supportive, it's cool seeing one so much devastating potential.

I can't see outta this thing!
As I've watched through this show more since buying the series set, I have noticed however, that Miles Mayhem is a little short-sighted.  In contrast to many of his villainous peers, Miles's plans ran the gamut from stealing jewels to finding ancient weapons, with all sorts of weird stuff in between.  I mean, there's an episode where he robs a bank - that's child's play.  You have these great vehicles and powerful weapons and what you want is money?  For shame, Miles, for shame.  It really demonstrates that Miles has no real ambition.  Megatron wanted to steal Earth's energy, Skeletor wanted to get the secrets of the ancients from Grayskull, Cobra Commander wanted world conquest.  What did Miles actually want?  No clue.  If it was ever actually mentioned in a show, I must have missed it. The blog Cartoonopolis makes a great argument for V.E.N.O.M. (Miles's organization, interestingly also snake-based) just starting out and needing capitol, but since that was never argued in the material, it's just a very fitting theory.

Let's get to the rating - Coolness: 3.  I'll be the first to say I love this guy, but if you take away his vehicle, he's just an old guy in a fake-looking military outfit.  His voice isn't memorable and even his mask is pretty bland compared to some of the other characters.
Effectiveness: 3.  Miles's plans go awry as much as every other villains' did, but I would give him more props if his plans were more evil than robbing stuff.  Compared to others, Miles just doesn't stack up.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Taking a break

Hey everyone, sorry post today. Wife is giving birth soon, but I'll be posting again on Monday with another villain retrospective (this time with someone I'm a little more familiar with) and an update on the book later in the week.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Mumm-ra

Why was this always cooler than the big scary guy?

I've never been very familiar with Mumm-ra.  Whether it was just too hard to find Thundercats on television, or I liked the mutants better, or something else, I have no idea what Mumm-ra does.  I know there's that cool stock footage transformation scene when he summoned the forces of evil, and I remember the bandages flying around his head like Medusa.  Beyond that... not much. 
What I don't know about this guy:
1.  Why did he want the Sword of Omens?  Did he know about it before the Thundercats landed on Third Earth?
2.  Why did the mutants work for him?  I seem to remember he made them work for him, but how?
3.  What kind of powers did he have?  I know powers were fluid with 80s cartoon villains, but they usually had some kind of theme.
4.  What was his origin?  Was this ever even shown in the series?

Seriously? This is absolutely insane.
I can't remember much about Mumm-ra.  Well, besides Ma-mutt.  What was the purpose of that?  Was Snarf not kid-friendly enough, they needed another mascot? And why wasn't it named Mu-Mutt?  They couldn't even spell it right to share the naming convention?

Now, I can't criticize this guy too much without knowing him, but I can't help but think of the correlations between him and Skeletor.  You've got a blue monster villain with ill-defined powers that wanted the good guy's sword.  I know people tend to compare their heroes, He-man and Lion-o (their names even have the same hyphen!), but I think their villains are the true copycats.  Mumm-ra gets his powers from a mysterious force, and it could even be argued that Skeletor did the same, since he once worked for Hordak and the Horde. 

To me that raises one question:  Why do cartoons share seemingly everything?  Did everything come from a pool of cartoon tropes?  Was there a lot of crossovers with writing staff?  One day, I'd love to ask a writer just that.

So let's rate this guy. 
In terms of coolness, I have to give Mumm-ra an 8.  I mean look at the guy, he one of the most imposing of his peers.  He's a mummy!  Then he becomes a bigger, less-clothed mummy.  Granted, I think the chest tattoo of the two-headed snake looked out of place, since he was the only one with an insignia, but it wasn't any different than Megatron's Decepticon symbol.  Well, I guess it is, since Megatron's fit on a robot chest, it could be a paint application.  Mumm-ra's should have been a crest or amulet with it and it would have looked cooler.  Regardless, Mumm-ra was one scary guy.
Effectiveness - You'd think since I couldn't remember the cartoon much, that I couldn't give him a rating on this.  Seriously, though, it's not as if any cartoon villain was ever truly effective and none can be rated over a 5 (without a movie to boost it, of course).  One thing I do remember if him usually showing up in the end after the mutants screwed things up, so I think it's safe to give him an average 5

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Production Bible - Hurricanines

When I started creating cartoons for Old School Evil, the first character that sprang from my mind was a cross between M.A.S.K.'s Miles Mayhem and Thundercats's Mumm-ra.  

A marriage made in... somewhere gross.
A military leader that could change into a Universal monster.  It's a simple recipe and from that I created Major Max Malice the Menacing.  He was a kick to make up, especially after switching out the mummy powers to a werewolf, shifting whenever his rage took over.  

The full cartoon took inspiration from two very different sources: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe.  You had a crack military unit and mutated into animals, and in the case of the Hurricanines, they were dogs of all breeds.  The different characters popped out of my twisted head as fast as I could type, the episodes streamed like I was watching them on Netflix.  I had an absolute blast creating this show.  And to make it as authentic as possible, I present to you the first few pages of the Hurricanines Production Bible.

Of course, the real production bible is written to completion, including every section that I mentioned in my previous production bible posts, but I've got to keep some of the stuff to reveal later, along with some other mock memorabilia.  Rest assured, by the time the production bible was done, it could have passed for a pitch for a real cartoon - 30 years ago, when they didn't need to be deep or make sense.  Just the way I want it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Cobra Commander

Before I go any further with the retrospectives, I must make a confession.  While I admit to being a fan of all of a lot of different 80s cartoons, I've only closely followed Transformers since it's original series' demise.  I collected all of the DVD sets, movies, and kept track of its various reboots.  But with most of the other cartoons, once their original series was over, they disappeared.  It's not like I could go back to watch them again, since most of them weren't even released on DVD until Shout Factory came along and a few have sporadically been posted on Netflix.  And since then, I've only bought the M.A.S.K. set (the only one I've really wanted to go back and watch again, if I'm being honest).  What I'm saying is that for most of these retrospect posts, I'm just going on memory.

Pointing in the direction to run away.
And my memory of Cobra Commander was a whiny bitch.  He was a cool looking bitch, though, with that shiny blank faceplate and helmet.  Many people will remember that the voice actor for ol' CC here was the same as Starscream, the late Chris Latta.  That gave him two of the biggest roles in two of the biggest 80s cartoons, and he bacme probably the second most recognizable voice in animation, after Frank Welker (Megatron, Soundwave, Dr Claw, practically every animated animal ever!).  If there's one thing you can remember about Cobra Commander, it was his voice.  If there was two things, it would be his voice yelling, "Retreat!"

Where they spent most of their time.
The biggest difference between Cobra Commander and Megatron was their armies.  Megatron lead the Decepticons, a group of individually named and designed characters, while Cobra Commander lead Cobra (duh), an army of nameless generic troops.  Even while their enemies, GI Joe had characters filling out their ranks, Cobra had only a handful of villains that stood out from the crowd.  The rest were these lowly goons, wearing bandannas and suspenders.  What a sad bunch of guys they were.  Did they get good insurance?  How do you persuade so many able-bodied regular people to join your terrorist agency besides a lot of benefits.  If there was one thing Cobra had a lot of, it must have been a ton of stock options.

Look at that pimp.
A lot of villains from the 80s had a second-in-command, their usual target for their frustrations when their plans went awry.  Cobra Commander had a surprisingly different relationship with his - Destro didn't take a lot of crap from him.  Unlike Starscream, Destro wasn't just one of troops.  He had his own role apart from the army.  He didn't take a lot of orders and spit out a lot more flack at the leader (a dynamic shared with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Shredder and Krang).  Destro generally had no desire to take over Cobra from the commander.  In fact, none of the other named Cobra characters (Baroness, Xomat and Tamox, Zartan, Major Bludd) tried mutiny, at least until Serpentor showed up.  It was an interesting dynamic that Cobra Commander didn't have to worry about anyone stabbing him in the back.  Maybe I'm just forgetting them.

Let's get to the ratings:

I got a rock.
Coolness - 7.  I mean look at that helmet.  It's such an iconic look, and ironically, it's never really been improved upon, with half masks and scratch marks and whatever they were trying to do in the live action movie.  If I was stuck grading him based on the hood he wore, I'm afraid I'd have to drop him down to a 3, since he looked a little too KKK for me.
Effectiveness - 2.  I remember the first episode I watched of GI Joe, it was that big multi-part weather dominator story.  The stakes were higher, the villains more competent, the world at risk!  What happened after that?  Cobra Commander bungled even the most simple of plans.  They were thwarted by Barbeque and window wiper!

Overall, Cobra Commander had the look to be something great but definitely not the skills. Turning into a snake was the best thing that could have happened to Cobra.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Creation of a Cartoon

I posted last week about Production Bibles, the most important document made during the creation of a cartoon.  I've only seen two production bibles, for the Batman and Transformers series, but there's enough there to get an idea of what most production bibles will contain.  With that information as a template, I set about creating the various cartoons that inhabit the world of Old School Evil.

There are five main topics covered in a production bible.  The introduction - the main story of the cartoon, as concise as possible, no more than a paragraph or two.  It covers any relevant backstory, characters, and settings.  Think of it as the elevator pitch of the cartoon. 

Next you have the general series concepts.  This is any background info you need for the writing team.  Transformers didn't have much in this section, but the Batman: TAS had a few pages devoted to this and was split into three different parts: Writing Style and Structure, 3-Act Structures, and Humor Guidelines.  The structures are the most interesting part, guiding writers to take advantage of the animation medium and to keep the viewers interested with big cliffhangers.

Third, you've got the characters.  This is a huge portion of the bible, describing each character in detail.  Both bibles also include character models to be used in the final animation, sometimes using action poses and faces for different emotions.  Every character that has any recurring role is listed here and any pertinent information about them is spilled out.  I mean, the reporter in Batman had her own pages!  Interestingly, this is the one part that may have the biggest deviation with the final cartoon.

Fourth, and I'm not sure if this is as common as the other areas, you have the settings for the characters.  The Bat Cave, for example.  It treats their bases as another character, describing what kind of facilities they have.  As such, there's also big deviations here, as the Decepticon base had the space bridge inside, instead of the different locations it appeared at in the cartoon.

Lastly, you've got episode premises.  These might be listed as the specific episodes planned for the series or just ideas for the writers to expand upon.

When I created the villains of the Old School Evil world, I used the production bibles to expand from a basic idea to a cartoon complete with episode list and toy ideas.  It equaled a virtual ton of supplemental information that gives my characters a fully fleshed-out backstory.  In the end, I ended up with 13 distinct cartoons, each with their own characters, storylines, and settings (well two of them are connected and share some details).  My favorite part of the is they fit perfectly in with the cartoons that existed in the 80s, with their totally out-there origins and nonsense characters.

But beyond just creating extra characters I could use in my book, it got me thinking of actual toy lines; how the figures would look, what articulation they'd have - all of it to fit within the toy aesthetic of the 80s era. And that's something I certainly want to toy around with in the future.

Come back next week to check out the first production bible I created; the Hurricanines!