Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 12/13/2017

This month has just about killed me.  My family has run into so many troubles this month that I don't think I can do anything else but stay afloat.  A week after my roof opened up and leaked into my bedroom and office, I rear-ended a pick-up and totaled my car.  My insurance has to be shaking its head about now.

It's gotten me to realize that I need to take a bit of a break.  Old School Evil is going to go on hiatus for the rest of the year - with a few exceptions, in case Banzai Retro Club is going to have a crossover post for Christmas.  With the 8th round of Bad Guy Beatdown just finished up, the first tier is halfway done, so it feels like a good time to take a break.  I'll post a summary in the beginning of January and we'll go on to our next fight - Overloard vs Overloard, Spiral Zone's and Blackstar's villains.

Once the new year starts, I'll jump back in to editing, writing, and design works for Old School Evil and the sequel.  But until then... I'm done with 2017.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sparkplug - The Only Good Sidekick

After last week's post on the 5 worst mascots, I decided to do a post of the 5 best mascots/sidekicks.  But you know what the problem is?  There aren't that many good ones!  For this entire week, looking for any sidekick who wasn't annoying or a detriment to their teammates, there was only one name on my list - Transformers's Sparkplug.

Introduced at the end of the first episode of Transformers, along with his son, Spike, Sparkplug worked on an oil rig attacked by the Decepticons in their search of energy sources.  At first trying to fight off the invading robots by throwing wrenches, the oil workers were forced off the rig by Megatron.  Sparkplug was pinned against a wall by Rumble, but when the robot knocks Spike into the water as well, Sparkplug kicks rumble off him and dives in after his son.  Later, when the humans are saved by the Autobots, Sparkplug and Spike join them in fighting against the Decepticons.

From that point on, Sparkplug shows that he's a much bigger help to the Autobots than his son could ever hope to be.  While Spike is out screwing things up left and right, being caught by the Decepticons or giving away the Autobots' positions, Sparkplug toils away helping Ratchet fix his fellow robots.  How an oil rig worker knows how to fix alien robots isn't really explained, but if that's your biggest problem with the logic in this cartoon, I think you're sitting pretty.  I think some of his best scenes are when he's arguing with Ratchet on how to fix another Autobot.  It takes balls to argue with a giant robot about how to fix another giant robot.  It would be like arguing with a rabbit on how to do surgery on a human.

Sparkplug had a few key episodes, both of which kind of put him at odds with his son.  The first is The Ultimate Doom, which had Sparkplug mind-controlled along with a ton of other humans by the evil scientist, Dr. Arkeville.  When Spike tried stopping Sparkplug from leaving, he back-handed Spike!  I've always wished I could do the same.  Later, in Autobot Spike, after his son is injured in a Decepticon attack and left in a coma, Sparkplug builds a new robotic body for Spike out of a bunch of Autobot spare parts, turning him into a sort of Frankenstein's monster (which is really creepy, since that means the Autobots have a closet full of extra body parts).  Spike finally gets even for the slap in the first episode, shooting Sparkplug off a cliff before regaining his senses and saving his dad.

The rest of the first two seasons of Transformers had Sparkplug as Ratchet and Wheeljack's assistant, helping create devices and repair damages.  He was capable and reserved, staying safe in the Ark and staying out of trouble.  That makes him way better than his son and about 99% of the other mascot/sidekick characters.  Looking at the criteria for a bad mascot, Sparkplug rates almost perfect - he wasn't too involved with the stories most of the time, he only twice caused the problems the Autobots faced, and he wasn't the least bit annoying, even voiced by the fantastic Chris Latta without any of his signature whine.  In fact, I just learned that right now as I'm writing this as I had no inkling that Latta had provided his voice.

There's not one other sidekick I can think of that comes close to Sparkplug in terms of usefulness and not irritating but had such a high amount of screen-time.  It's a real shame that when the movie hit that Sparkplug just disappeared with no explanation.  It's a real shame too since he was replaced by his grandson, Daniel, an even worse sidekick than Spike was in his prime.   

Monday, December 4, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 8 Results

“Have they found it yet?” Saw Boss asked the Monster Minds assembled before him.
Gun Grinner spoke up first.  “We’ve followed the Lightning League to the planet Symbion.”
“Symbion?” Saw Boss mused.  “I have heard of that world, devastated by a chemical accident not unlike the one that birthed us.”  He pointed at his minions with a clawed hand.  “Catching Jayce with the root is our priority, but send a group of troopers to investigate the lab where the disaster has occurred.  It could possibly be of benefit to us.”
“Yes, master,” K.O. Kruiser said.  He and the others left to relay the orders to their respective troopers.
Saw Boos touched his fingers to his head and telepathically observed the trooper’s location.  The roots he had launched to reach the planet had sprouted in a large clearing in the middle of a forest and had grown over the canopy, matching the lush vegetation.  Saw Boss considered how hospitable the planet would be to the Monster Minds – he would have to suck up all the resources to feed his organic army.  He sat in his throne and waited for victory.
From atop the Cliffs of Agony, General Spidrax watched the encroaching horde spread over his Dark Doman.  After almost all technological advancements had been lost in the Great Cataclysm, the world had been reduced to archaic means of transportation, and General Spidrax doubted the so-called heroic Sectaurs from the Shining Realm was capable of creating a new way to travel.  He had never seen creatures like that, a combination of plant-life and metal – perhaps it was a different species of Sectaurs that he had never met before.  He needed a closer look.
He kicked his stead hard and Spider-Flyer – the massive flying tarantula – took to the air.  Unlike the Sectaurs from the Shining Realm, Spidrax was unable to tele-bond with his Insectoid, and instead enslaved it through force, something he was planning to do the same to the trespassers in his domain.  He brought Spider-Flyer down to the ground just out of sight of them and examined them as they passed.
The invaders were metal chariots which seemed to be piloted by sentient plant-life.  Spidrax had seen plants like this before in the Dark Domain, vines that would lash out and grab a Sectaur from their stead.  Seeing them now, untethered to the soil, gave him wicked ideas, especially the one rider with massive fanged jaws.  As the last of them passed, Spidrax kicked his stead again, flying into the open, before bringing them down towards the vehicles. 
Though the venom that flowed through Spidrax’s whip was concocted to incapacitate a Sectaur, he had no doubts its barbs could harm the plants as well.  He lashed out at the plant in the rear scoring a hit directly behind the toothy maw.  The plant immediately went limp and the vehicle swerved to the right before rolling into a tree. 
The two other vehicles turned around, throwing up dust from their wheels.  One vehicle, which had a barbed four-headed flail atop it, flung itself at Spider-Flyer, but the Insectoid leapt out of the way and latched down on the vine just under the weapon.  Its powerful mandible sheared the plant in half and the vehicle crashed into the first. 
The last vehicle, with one large mace at the end of its stalk, swung wide, almost catching Spidrax in the torso and sending him flying from Spider-Flyer’s saddle.  Spidrax leapt from his mount, landing in the open bed of the vehicle just behind the plant’s root.  He pulled his slazor sword from its sheath and plunged it into the vine.  The mace swung around and around, trying to dislodge the blade until Spidrax swiped the sword through the rest of the stalk.  The vehicle toppled onto its side before Spider-Flyer land on it and began gnawing on the mace-end of the plant.
Spidrax sighed as he slid his slazor back in its holder – these overgrown weeds were less impressive than he had originally thought.  Still, the metal chariots could make for functional reinforcements.
Saw Boss observed the short battle telepathically, tapping his fingers on throne.  “This new warrior is indeed capable.  He must not be allowed to join forces with Jayce.”
“We will send more troopers to apprehend him,” K.O. Kruiser said.
“No,” the leader of the Monster Minds replied.  “Make preparations for teleport, I’m going to handle this new threat myself.”
Gun Grinner stepped forward.  “Master, you need not worry--”
“Fire the drill vines,” Saw Boss said, pointing to his minions. 
They backed down and a moment later, missiles launched from the Monster Mind base, streaking towards Symbion.  “The vines have reached the surface,” Terror Tank said. 
Saw Boss telepathically checked the vines, seeing the ring of vines beginning to grow around his fallen troopers and the one that defeated them, still examining his kills.  Ready to teleport his base of operations to face the attacker, Saw Boss held a finger up in front of his face and spoke the incantation, “For the victory of the black light, I go!”  Energy flowed through the headquarter’s walls and in a blink of an eye, it traveled across the galaxy into the center of the circle of vines growing on the surface of Symbion.  The lab materialized in flashes of light, driving the native to jump onto his insectoid mount and taking to the air.
The front ramp of the lab opened and Saw Boss stepped out to observe the new planet.  His eyes went to the sky and met with the mounted warrior.
“What manner of magic is this?” he said.  He unholstered the two pistols and leveled them at Saw Boss.  “You are like no Sectaur I have ever seen.”
“I am no Sectaur,” Saw Boss said with a wave of his hand, “Whatever that is.  I am Saw Boss of the Monster Minds.  And your doom.”  Saw Boss stepped down the ramp and as he descended, his body took on the appearance of his many troopers.  His flesh converted to metal and a massive plant-life appendage grew from his back.  When he reached the planet’s surface, he was no longer humanoid, but a vehicle with a slanted face on the front with a gleaming steel sawblade pitched above it.  The blade spun up with a great whirring noise and swung at the Sectaur and his flying mount.
“Spider-Flyer, up!” he said, jerking at the pommel of his saddle and pulling his stead from the saw’s reach.  “You’ll have to do better than that to take down General Spidrax!”  He fired his pistols at the Monster Mind, its blasts digging divots in the ground around him as they bounced off its metal skin. 
Blasters mounted on both sides of Saw Boss’s face pitched up and fired back at Spidrax.  The flying insect zipped around to avoid them, but its great size made evasion difficult and one blast finally caught it in a rear leg.  The giant spider shrieked, but stayed aloft with some forceful direction from Spidrax. 
Another swipe of the saw blade came close to the injured spider, forcing Spidrax to reassess his position. He flew higher, still facing Saw Boss, now wielding his sword and shield.  “Do not consider this a victory, interloper.  I will be back with the full power of the Dark Domain.”
Not wanting to lose his advantage, Saw Boss commanded the vines surrounding them to reach up and weave together, creating a dome too thick for Spidrax to escape.  The Sectaur flew up against the organic net and slashed at it with his sword.  “Spider-Flyer, chew through the vines!” he ordered, but even working together, they made no progress on forming an escape route.
Saw Boss fired another volley of energy blasts at Spidrax, one shot catching Spider-Flyer’s wing.  Unable to stay aloft any longer, the giant insect plummeted to the ground.  It scrambled to its feet then lunged at Saw Boss, it’s massive mandibles flexing.  A quick swipe of the vine on Saw Boss’s black brought the blade spinning clean through the center of Spider-Flyer, splitting him in two.  Examining his kill, Saw Boss found his victory snatched from him as Spidrax’s body was nowhere to be seen.  He looked up and found the Sectaur hanging from the vine canopy, wildly slashing at the vegetation and creating a hole big enough to crawl through. 
Saw Boss reached out telepathically to the vines above him, entangling Spidrax in its tendrils.  As he struggled in the plant’s hold, a single vine twisted around his neck.  The other vines retreated from the Sectaur, hanging him from the leafy noose.  Spidrax fought to free himself as the vine lowered him to Saw Boss, but he had almost stopped by the time Saw Boss decapitated him.
Click here for General Spidrax's respect thread and here for Saw Boss's. 
I could see this fight going differently if Saw Boss didn't have telepathic control of all the plants, but with that on his side, General Spidrax had no hope.  His mastery of all that vegetation could have easily over-powered Spidrax without him being there.  Spidrax doesn't show any capabilities to overcome all those plants, even with Spider-Flyer's powerful jaws. 

The Winner
Click here to see the winner of the last round of Bad Guy Beatdown.  And check back next week as we will be summarizing the results of the first 8 rounds.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Top 5 Worst Mascots

The mascot: a character in a cartoon that isn't specifically on the team of the good guys, but follows them along, sometimes helping out, but just as often causing or worsening a problem the good guys are dealing with.  Created to be something the younger viewers would latch on to in a cartoon, the writers frequently overdo their ticks and habits to make them into annoying sidekicks that everyone wished weren't there.  These characters were never human (or human-like if the show wasn't based on earth) but some of them could speak, though we often wished they couldn't.  Often times they were created for comic relief, but considering the antics of the villains could easily fill that role, these characters just weren't necessary.

Today we're going to look at the top five worst mascot characters based on 3 criteria: how much are they involved with the good guys, how often do they screw things up, and how annoying do they sound.  Even though the first two criteria are pretty important to the story, I feel like the last one is the most damning of all.

Before we begin, I wanted to give an honorable mention to Slimer from The Real Ghostbuster. I really liked Slimer in the beginning of the series, but as it went on and he was shoe-horned into more episodes, he started grating on my nerves.  Then finally, the show was expanded to an hour with Silmer getting top billing and his own shorts.  Hearing his whining over the theme song, culminating with the "And me! And me!" at the end made my blood boil.  If it weren't for the early episodes where he just annoyed Venkman, he would be near the top of my list.  Still, there are worse mascots and that should really tell you something.

5. Kowl
Bow's companion in She-Ra was a far stretch from his Eternian counterpart (more on him later).  Cowl was a butterfly/owl combination of a sort, and didn't really do much of anything in the cartoon besides make a lot of quips towards Bow, which won some points with me because Bow's one of the worst characters in the show.

4. Orko
Everyone should have known he was on this list, but I'm sure his placement near the bottom is a surprise.  Orko's biggest problem was how often he caused problems for Man-at-Arms.  His magic spells constantly went wrong with "hilarious" results, but pretty often his bumbling caused series issues for the Masters, such as sending Prince Adam's power sword into the past.  Other times, he's been able to help He-Man, and in truth, is one of the only characters to know his secret.  Orko speaks English as well as the other characters in the show, even if it's a bit exaggerated or overly-enthusiastic.
3. Snarf
If Orko makes the list, then of course Snarf will.  Snarf appeared as Lion-o's caretaker while he was a kid at the very beginning of the Thundercats and for some reason never gave up on that doting mother shtick.  Look, Lion-o's buff as hell, he's the freakin' leader of the Thundercats, he doesn't need some cat lizard running around taking care of him.  To top it off, he had the most obnoxious habit of saying his own name all the time.  I don't have to tell you why that was annoying as hell.
2. Uni
I feel the need to start this one off with how much I love Frank Welker.  Basically, if you've heard any kind of animal noise in a cartoon, it was provided by Mr. Welker.  And while I appreciate a lot of it, that baby unicorn from Dungeons & Dragons is not one of those times.  Uni is one of the rare animal mascots that can't actually speak English, and while that frees us from hearing a weird accent or annoying speech pattern, instead we were assaulted with a ton of panicked bleating that got on your nerves after less than a second.  To illustrate how irritating it is, when I was watching the show, every time Uni would cry out, my wife thought our baby was throwing a fit.
1. Oon
You know it's bad when from a show that has three mascots, you're the worst one - Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors has multiple mascots, including a flying fish that kinda makes bubbly sounds, three little robot lizard things that just get in the way, and Oon, a miniscule talking set of armor.  I hate this guy with a passion; always boasting about his magic lance, but cowering at the first sign of a Monster Mind.  He's so far out of his league and he knows it.  He supposedly was the protector of Jayce's father and we all know now how he got captured.  Too bad he trusted his safety to a hunk of junk like Oon.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 8 - Saw Boss

We're finally back to Bad Guy Beatdown and we're taking a look at General Spidrax's opponent, Saw Boss from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. 

Saw Boss was created by accident by Jayce's father when trying to find a cure for world hunger.  He quickly back the ruler of other lab-grown mistakes called the Monster Minds and quickly went to taking over the galaxy using the lab that spawned him as headquarters.  From atop his throne, he ordered his troopers to hunt Jayce and bring him the Magic Root, which when reunited with the half Jayce's father possesses will destroy the Monster Minds for good. 

The Monster Minds generally refer to the whole bad guy set-up for the cartoon, including Saw Boss and his minions, the other creatures that were grown in the lab and human-like bodies, but covered with plants, huge heads, and some kind of weapon-ized hand, and the troopers, which are the vehicles that grow out of plants (is some really cool and gruesome animation, no less - you get to see their internal organs form right before they turn metal).  These vehicles are mostly metal cars or trucks with goofy faces on the front and a plant-like weapon on their back, like a flail or a set of fanged jaws, and resemble one of Saw Boss's minions. 

Saw Boss has a lot of telepathic control over the troopers, commanding them to do whatever he wants even from across the galaxy.  He can see what they see and also cast an illusion of himself over one of the troopers to speak to someone facing the vehicle.  He also can control the ravenous vines that are shot out from his headquarters, forcing them to attack and strangle whoever is unfortunate enough to be within their reach.  This is what Saw Boss does in practically every episode - sit on his thrown and boss his minions and troopers around. 

Another ability he uses pretty often besides the telepathy is teleportation of his headquarters.  Sometimes it requires an incantation, like "By the force of the black light, I go," sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the troopers need to make the receiving location ready for teleportation, sometimes it doesn't.  It's not very consistent about how he does it, but one thing is pretty apparent - there's no distance he can't reach and it takes no time to prep.  He wants to go somewhere, anywhere, and he's there.  There's one big flaw with it though - his teleporting somewhere doesn't really benefit him.  His forces don't grow stronger being closer to him, he doesn't have a store of more troopers within the headquarters, there's no firepower built into it.  There's really no point in him moving it at all.

Lastly, Saw Boss can assume the form of one of the vehicles, the aptly named Saw Blades.  When he takes the vehicle form, he's much larger than a regular Saw Blades and in one instance was able to grow a pack of vines off the back of his vehicle form.  Saw Blades is, of course, named after the massive circular saw that hangs over the hood of his form and able to cut through solid ice and stone (but not metal).  Being connected by a thick vine, the saw can be oriented in any direction and stretch quite a bit from the vehicle, one time lashing out at least a few dozen yards.  There are also blasters mounted on either side of the vehicle's face.

As far as weaknesses, Saw Boss displayed one glaring one in episode, Future of the Future.  Calling on a magic ring Jayce has, a bright light flashed, which blinded Saw Boss and his troopers and forced a retreat.  I'm not sure if it was because the light was magical in origin, but considering Saw Boss speaks a lot of the "Black Light," he might just be weak against anything bright.  Besides that though, there doesn't appear to be any real weakness holding Saw Boss back.

To see Saw Boss's opponent, General Spidrax, click here.  To see the previous seven rounds of Bad Guy Beatdown, click here.

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 that 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 threw 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. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 7 Results

“Lady Diabolyn!” Dweedle cried as he ran through the castle.  “Lady Diabolyn!”
“What is it, you little cretin?”  Lady Diabolyn sat on her throne with a bored look on her face, resting her chin in her hand.  Before her interruption, she was ruing her defat at the hands of the child Princess Sara and her pet, Wildfire.  It felt like a more productive option than listening to her goon, but she humored him.  
“There’s a wizard in the land!” Dweedle said, pointing about the room as if she could see whoever he was blathering about from where she sat.  
She scoffed.    “There are many wizards in Dar-Shan,” she said, going back to her boredom.
Dweedle’s enthusiasm dropped a tick, the short furry goon slumping his shoulders.  He tapped his chin with a stubby finger.  “But he’s searching for you.  Word is he wants to help you with a related problem.”
“I have all the help I need with the Specters,” she said, and grunted.  “Not that they’re much help either.”  A stiff wind brew through her throne room which caused her to scowl as if someone had insulted her.  “You heard me,” she said under her breath.
The urn sitting next to her throne rattled with another gust of air.  Dweedle cowered from it on the opposite side of her.
Lady Diabolyn bolted out of her chair.  “Maybe it is time I look for some outside assistance.  It’s not as if I’m bound to the Specters.  Dweedle, find this wayward wizard and bring him to me.”
Dweedle scurried out of the room, relieved to no longer be in the presence of the angry spirits that had turned him from human into the creature he was today.  
A dark cloud of smoke seeped from the urn behind Lady Diabolyn as she plotted.  The smoke swirled together, creating a slow vortex of smoke.  From out of the putrid air, the faces of a buzzard, snake, and wolf emerged, each of them with glowing red eyes.  “Be cautious,” the wolf hissed.  “We know of the mage you spoke of,” said the buzzard.  “He is extremely powerful and cannot be trusted,” the snake added.
Lady Diabolyn laughed.  “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of him,” she said, turning to her evil benefactors.  “I’ll use him to get rid of Princess Sara and when Dar-Shan is mine, maybe I’ll convince him to free you completely from that prison you’re in.”
She glanced out the window and saw someone approach on a black stead.  Judging by the look of the rider, it could only be the wizard Dweedle spoke of: the dark black cloak and red hood were the typical attire of magicians – it was similar to her own regal outfit – but the single horn on the side of his head was a nice touch.  And did he not have a nose?  An interesting look, even if it goes a bit too far for an evil-doer.
She hurried down the stairs from her throne room to meet her visitor as Dweedle lead him into the castle’s foyer.  “Lady Diabolyn,” Dweedle announced, “I present to you…”
“Venger,” the wizard said before dismounting his horse.
“Welcome to my home,” Diabolyn said demurely.  It’s never too soon to start any sort of seduction. “My servant tells me you have a problem similar to one of my own.  Something we could work together to resolve?”
Venger’s expression bordered contempt.  “Children.  Visitors from another world are causing me grief in mine.  I seek a merger of power to reject them from my lands so I can rule unchallenged.”
“Oh, then we do have the same problem!” Diabolyn said, taking another few steps towards Venger.  “A child who lives on Earth and makes frequent trips here just to block my path to the crown.”
Venger sneered. “Earth? The home of my own trouble.”
Lady Diabolyn smirked.  “Then it’s settled, we’ll work together to expel both our rivals.”
“You and I?” Venger asked, looking down at the witch. “I seek no union with you.”
“But I was told you wanted to work together!”
He brushed by her to the stairwell to Diabolyn’s throne room.  “I want the power of the Specters of Darkness, which you so happen to possess.”
“No, you can’t,” she shouted, running up the stairs to bar his path.  “I won’t let you take them from me.”
“You’ll have no choice.”  He held his hand open to Lady Diabolyn and a bolt of fire erupted from his palm.  The ball of flame streaked towards Lady Diabolyn, but she was pushed out of its way at the last moment by Dweedle.  The fire struck him in the side, throwing him against the wall.  He slumped to the floor with a wisp of smoke drifting up from his wound.
“You want the Specters’ power?” Lady Diabolyn shouted, “You’ll have it!  Specters, to me!”
The mass of swirling smoke smashed through the door at the end of the stairwell, creating a vortex dark enough to be lost in.  The Specters surrounded Venger and engulfed Lady Diabolyn.  From within the smoke, thunder cracked and a bolt of lightning was flung at the wizard.  
Venger held his hand open and deflected the attack with his palm.  Another bolt shot out at Venger but he caught the energy in his hand and launched it back into the smoke.  “Is this all the power you have, Specters?” he shouted.  “I expected more!”
“I’ll give you more!” Daibolyn screeched from within the vortex, her voice shrill and roaring at the same time.  She emerged from the smoke, towering over Venger, her neck long and slender, wings jutting from her back, and her face full of fangs, transformed by the Specters’ magic into a magnificent ebony dragon.  She reared back her head, flame coursing from her open maw, and hurled a stream of fire from her mouth.
Venger leapt out of the way, mounting his horse once again.  The cloak on his back unfurled into a set of obsidian wings and the rider and stead shot into the air.  “There is only one dragon I fear and you are not it!”  His hands seared with red energy and he tossed brilliant bolts of destructive force at Diabolyn.
She took the full brunt of Venger’s attack in her torso, throwing her backwards up the stairs and into the smoke of the Specters’ form.  The roiling storm that made up the Specters abated, revealing Diabolyn, returned to her human form and laying prone on the stairs.  The Specters’ faces appeared from the cloud of smoke and addressed Venger.  “You are indeed strong, Son of Dungeon Master,” the snake hissed.  “We would offer our power to help you in your quest,” the wolf said.  “If you’d free us in return,” the buzzard cawed.
“Free you?” Venger said, unimpressed.  “Your power is paltry compared to my own.  You offer me nothing.”
“You dare?” the heads said in unison.  Before the Specters could react further, Venger held both hands above his head, glowing blue.  A bubble of pure energy surrounded the Specters.  The smoke churned inside, casting lightning against their cage, but unable to burst free.  He brought his hands together, shrinking the orb of energy, as he strolled into the throne room atop the stairs.  He forced the bubble into the ceremonial urn and with another blast of searing flame, he sealed the vessel shut.  “Perhaps though, you could be useful to me. A battery to focus my energies through in the absence of the children’s weapons.”
“Wait,” Diabolyn said, standing up on weak legs.  She approached Venger, who made no move of reproach.  “Take me with you.  I could be of use to you.”  She composed herself and gave him the demure look just as when he first arrived.  “If you become ruler of your land, surely you’ll need a queen as well.”  Her expression changed to one mixed of hope and despair.
He looked down at her and sneered.  “My land requires no queen.  And when I conquer yours as well, it will have neither a queen nor a princess.”
Outside of the castle the wounded Dweedle, carried outside by the rest of Diabolyn’s goons, watched in horror as his lady’s castle was engulfed in a massive explosion and the fires above flared as they took Venger’s demonic visage.
Click here for Lady Diabolyn's respect thread and here for Venger's.

Similarly to last round, this battle came down to magic and who controlled it. Venger is an insanely powerful wizard, while Last Diabolyn has no magic of her on and relies on the Specters' magic. Without them, this fight would have lasted less than a second and ended with her being imprisoned or burned alone or something. 

The second thing to consider is that the Specters' magic isn't even that powerful. They've been able to shoot lightning and change Diabolyn into a dragon, but Venger's been able to do similar stuff all the time. He's destroyed while castles with his power, something the Specters have shown nothing close to. In the end, even though they were an eternal force of darkness, they couldn't stand up to a master magician like Venger.
The Winner
Click here for last round - Big Boss vs. Dr. Scarab.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Horrorathon - Monster Squad

Last week, I told the story about first horror movie I’d ever seen – a movie no kid should have been allowed to pick from the video store.  But if I had waited another year, I could have seen a horror movie aimed at kids called Monster Squad.  

While taking five of the world’s most famous monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon – and throwing them into one movie could have gone a much darker route, instead we’re told the story of how a bunch of kids thwarted their plans to take over the world.
The story begins centuries ago, with Van Helsing battling Count Dracula over a powerful amulet.  Though Van Helsing is lost, Dracula survives the ordeal.  Fast forward to the present and Dracula is assembling the world’s most dangerous monsters to once again attempt to plunge the world into endless darkness.  

With Van Helsing gone, the world’s only hope lays in the hands of the Monster Squad, a group of kids who worship monster movies.  When the leader of the group is handed down Van Helsing’s diary, they learn with the help of the “Scary German Guy” that the time is right for Dracula to rise once again.  Dracula’s after the amulet from the beginning of the movie, which was hidden in a crypt where the diary was found.  After barely escaping with the amulet, the kids face off against the monsters in the town square.  Reading the incantation in the diary opens a portal into limbo, sucking away all the monsters, including Frankenstein’s Monster, who had sided with the children and turned against Dracula, saving the day.
There are some great moments in this movie, including one of the funniest lines in all of cinema: “Wolfman’s got nards!”  

The monsters steal the whole show, which is to be expected, but there is a bit of an unbalance between them.  Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster have the biggest role in the bunch, understandable since they’re the most popular, but the Mummy and the Creature are short-changed.  They die easily and appear to have no abilities.  Usually the Mummy is shown to have some sort of power in their movies, but in here he’s slow, powerless, and killed because his bandages got caught on something while he was hanging onto a car.  That’s pathetic. 

Surprisingly, the Wolfman gets a lot of screentime, besides just getting kicked in the balls.  While in human form, he fights Dracula’s influence and tries to get the cops involved, who unfortunately don’t believe him.  After the nutshot, he’s seemingly killed by dynamite but his body pulls itself back together; only silver bullets can kill him after all.   I think this movie may have been where I got my obsession with werewolves.
The Universal Monsters have had a rich history – if you want a refresher on all of them, I’d definitely recommend Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness series.  James Rolfe has covered just about every film they’ve been in – including Monster Squad itself.  To me, Monster Squad rivals the Goonies as one of the best kids adventure films there is.  While the kids themselves weren’t as memorable – I can’t name a single one of them while the Goonies’ names are easy to recall (maybe it was the nicknames they used) – the story of how they tackled the strongest monsters in the world is certainly worth a watch, even if just to hear Dracula call a 5-year-old-girl a bitch.

This post is written as part of Maddylovesherclassicfilm's Horrorathon. Make sure to check out the rest of this year's monster mashes there.