Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hasbro, why do you hate me?

I had a decent collection of Transformers as a kid and one of my favorites was Weirdwolf.  This was one cool guy - a Headmaster, which meant his head turned into another smaller robot and he had a cockpit for it to sit in while he's in wolf mode.  One of the coolest features though were the slide-open rocket launchers on his shoulders (non-working of course).  He was easily one of my favorites, even over Skullcruncher, a similar Transformer that turned into a crocodile with the little robot hiding in his mouth.

Anyway, Hasbro has recently resurrected the -Master line with Titans Return and with it, Wolfwire, a brand new Weirdwolf but with better articulation (and a lot smaller).  I'm stoked!  I can't wait to get this guy!  Even if it has a stupid name due to trademark reasons, I can get this great update to one of my favorite figures as a kid. 
Except I can't.  Because Hasbro's distribution has been so scattershot with the enter Titans Return line.  Most of the stores in my town are completely sold out on almost every Titans Return figures.  Even worse, those same stores don't even have the figures listed on their online storefront.  These figures just don't seem to exist anywhere in my little hamlet.  Unfortunately, the only place I can find them are online-only toy retailers that add a few extra bucks onto their MSRP and have extraordinary shipping rates.  I may want this figure soon, but paying almost twice their asking price to get them is a little more than what I'm willing to do.  Come on, Hasbro, get these toys shipped out!  I really don't want to have to go the next state over to find these!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Mon*Star

I'm trying something new today.  I don't ever remember watching Silverhawks.  I know the show was about guys wearing metal suits and flying through space, but I always dismissed the show as a Thundercats rip-off (I didn't know the production company Rankin-Bass made both shows).  I don't know the heroes, their powers, or their villains, lead by Mon*Star, whoever that was. 

So today, instead of a real retrospective, I'll be doing some research into who Mon*Star was and what he can do.  I'm watching a few episodes of the show - the first story arc, since we all know villains are much more menacing and competent when a show starts, and then two episodes from later in the series, when villains generally lose their bite and the writing team struggle to come up with cohesive storylines.  I'll also be reading up on their abilities and history on whatever wikia I can find.  So let's start with Episode 01 - The Origin Story.  What a creative name...

First a slight intro to the cartoon.  The Silverhawks are a military-like group of space police with really lame powers and flat personalities.  They fight against Mon*star - a space mobster - and his equally goofy cronies.  His powers include a star-shaped beam from his eye, shapeshifting into an even uglier version of himself, and riding in a space squid.  I couldn't make up anything this stupid if I tried.  Let's tackle him one thing at a time.

1. His original form looks like it was stolen from a character in Thundercats with the giant red mane.  It's a little extreme, but I can live with that, but then you see that ugly face with the star eye-patch.  He's got the same grating voice as Mumm-ra.

Admittedly kinda cool.
2.  He gets his powers from the Moon Star.  What the hell is a Moon Star?  It looks like a moon, but somehow it's a star too?  It's like calling Earth the Planet Star.  For some reason he always needs a transformation chamber to change, but in the first episode, he does it in a jail cell, so what's the point of the chamber?  The light just needs to hit him and he changes, so he moves his entire base through space to aim the Moon Star's light in at him.

3. Mon*star's other form, which doesn't have a name as far as I could tell, looks even worse than his original form.  I mean, my god, that thing is ugly.  Spikes all over your face don't make you look scarier, it makes you look like a cactus.  He's got rockets on his elbows, but in the three episodes I've seen, he's been sent tumbling through space for at least a few minutes before he remembered them in two of those episodes.  In the third one, he just forgot he had them.

Right before it got shot down by a bird.
4. He rides around on a squid.  For a show about hawks, you'd think he'd have a vulture or something.  But no, a squid is okay.  It flies around space just fine in the first episode, but then Mon*Star gives it some rocket stuff anyway.

5.  He also shoots his star beam out of his eye, but all I've seen it do it hit the squid and make the armor appear on it.  In the second episode, the beam chased Quicksilver around for a while, but then it disappeared without hitting him.  I have yet to see it successfully do something against the heroes.

6. He got defeated so easily in every episode I saw.  Well, he wasn't defeated in the first episode, but he sure looked defeated.  In the second episode, he ran away after Quicksilver used a smoke cloud (you'd think that would be his squid's power to help retreat).  The other episode, he got hit by an asteroid and went tumbling away through space again.  I don't even think he did anything in that episode besides plan a race.

I can safely say that this is the saddest villain I've seen so far. In an attempt to make him look imposing, they made him just disappointingly goofy. 
In both coolness and effectiveness, Mon*Star gets a 0.  I feel for you, Mon*Star.  You could have been cool, but without any definable powers, a mish-mash of dopey henchmen, and a generic space mobster role, you'll never be more than a second-rate Hordak.  Third-rate Hordak.  That's better.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rocking out and Working it

While celebrating the Transformers movie's 30th anniversary by browsing the metric ton of posts covering it on Facebook and the articles about its production, I happened upon The Cybertronic Spree, a freaking awesome band!  Not only do they play covers from the soundtrack, they do it in some kicking cosplay.  I only wish they had a more songs on their YouTube page.  When are they going to cover Dare to Be Stupid? 

In other news, I've reworked the first chapter of Old School Evil and am waiting for my critique group to give it a once over while I'm working on my query letter.  For those unawares of how the publication process goes, the best route to getting your book out there is to find an agent to represent your work.  The first step is to send a query letter, which is a very short description of your book.  Along with that, some agents request a short bio and a synopsis.  Once I have all those ready, I can start sending them out to whoever I feel is the best fit for Old School Evil.  Until then, I'll be rocking out with the Unicron horns \m/

Monday, August 8, 2016

Transformers: The Movie 30th Anniversary

Thirty years ago today, we were graced with one of my favorite movies.  I remember seeing the ads for them leading up to their release, begging my parents to take me to it.  I had the movie poster hanging on my wall.  I waited for the day it would finally show up in theaters... and I finally got to watch it three years later.  As odd as it is, once the movie came out and it was apparent I wasn't going to see it in theaters, I forgot about it, until a few years later, I saw the cassette in a video rental store.  My dad rented it for me and I remember finally got to watch the movie!

I don't remember the movie from that first viewing.  I can't tell you if I cried when Optimus Prime died or if I was shocked to see a planet transform into a robot.  I do remember afterwards, being so upset in the morning as I prepared to go to school, slamming my hand on my dresser and asking why Ironhide had to die in such a brutal death.  Ironhide was my man!  I cried manly little kid tears that morning.
It wasn't until a while later that I rented the movie and made sure to make a copy of it for myself.  I watched it with my parents this time, totally afraid I'd get in trouble when Ultra Magnus said "Damnit!", though my parents didn't say anything.  I had heard rumors of a worse word in it, but dismissed them since my copy didn't have it.  No way would they say shit in a cartoon, and I was glad because I might have gotten in trouble for that one.  I must have watched that copy once a week for months before I lent it to my brother's friend, who stole it.  I bought the video a few months later and continued watching it over and over again.

Transformers: The Movie was an incredible piece of work.  Sure it had its fair share of mistakes (which I don't think I need to go into here), but it took a simple cartoon where the bad guys come up with a ridiculous scheme only to be beaten by the good guys then escape to fight another day, and they elevated it to show the real cost of a war that had lasted for millions of years.  Autobots died, Decepticons died, our heroes died and new leaders emerged to fill their shoes.  Millions of kids felt their hearts break with Optimus's death (and Ironhide's!), something that none of the writers expected.  I think it was then that people realized that Transformers and other properties could become more than just the toy commercials they started out as.  Kids really cared about the characters and had trouble seeing them replaced by this new generation.
The movie introduced a slew of new lore and characters, stuff that would be built on for years in reboots and comics.  Unicron became this almighty thing, "beyond our wildest imagination."  A planet-sized Transformer. I often tried figuring out how big he'd have to be to be in scale with the figures I had at home.  I remember thinking the toy would have to be the size of the moon (I was not a smart kid).  The Autobot Matrix of Leadership appeared, a mysterious device that became a magic relic in almost every series to follow.  Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod, Arcee, Springer, Kup; all these new Transformers with fancy vehicle modes that looked like nothing on Earth.  These guys were really from Cybertron!  And Galvatron rebuilt by Unicron from the dying Megatron, immediately killing Starscream, that was chilling.  The immediate show of incalculable power.  How could the series follow up on this? 

I suppose I should talk of the quality of the movie, since it's such a major step up from the series.  There are of course the animation and continuity errors - some character show up immediately or long after they'd already been killed.  However, the animation quality is incredible, with glowing screens and flashing shadow in every scene.  The music is likewise leagues above the cartoon, with a full-length score and some kick-ass metal songs throughout.  I'd dare say that this movie is some of the very best animated work from the 80s.  Sure, it doesn't stack up completely with Disney's work, but it far surpasses any other theatrical runs from other cartoons, like Bravestarr: The Movie and Go-Bots: Battle of the Rock Lords.  Even compared to the GI Joe movie, it's incredible (maybe minus that opening scene, but I still hold any scene in Transformers above it).

Even to this day, I sight Transformers: The Movie as an important milestone in my life.  It showed me how big the scale of stories could be.  It gave me an interest in more adult sci-fi.  It taught me about death, something I hadn't experienced in my life up to that point. I still watch the movie every so often, even though I'm on the doorstep of my 40th birthday.  I'll continue watching it far beyond today as well.  I'll laugh at the mistakes in it.  I'll groan at some of the dialogue.  I'll smirk at Spike's and Ultra Magnus's potty mouths even.  But most of all, Ill appreciate it as the holy grail of my childhood, a cartoon that reached beyond Saturday mornings to the big screen.

This post has been edited as part of the "Then (and Now) Blogathon" on RealWeegieMidget Reviews.  Click here for the second part, a new review on Transformers: The Last Knight for the  "Now (and Then) Blogathon on Thoughts All Sorts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Transformers Retrospective

Found an incredible article here about the writers' experience working on the original Transformers cartoon.  I've always been fascinated with the behind-the-scenes of how these cartoons have been made and I'd love for the opportunity to ask David Wise and Flint Dille and any other writer for their insights while working on Transformers or any other cartoon they've worked on.  I think the best tidbit gleaned from this was that different writers were assigned to different episodes and had no idea what the other writers were coming up with.  It would be such a difficult task keeping the stories from contradicting each other, but overall, I think the editorial staff did a great job (besides the whole Megatron/Constructicon origin thing, of course).