Sunday, June 25, 2017

James Horner Blogathon - The Land Before Time

Two Blogathons in a row about Don Bluth's movies? I didn't plan it this way, but when will I ever be able to talk about his movies?

Land Before Time is probably Don Bluth's most famous movie. So it's a wonder I've never fully watched it before. Maybe it was because of the massive string of direct-to-video sequels it spawned, none of which Mr. Bluth was involved in. For some reason, they all became musicals as well, and unfortunately for them, they didn't have the excellent James Horner to score them. The original story follows Littlefoot the Apatosaurus searching for a hidden valley after his mother is killed by Sharptooth the T-Rex and he's separated from the rest of his family. He meets a few friends and overcomes the prejudices they were taught against the other species. It's a great story, dark when it needed to be like Bluth's stories usually are, but a little too cute for my tastes the rest of the time. I guess I preferred my dinosaurs to be aliens or robots.

James Horner's score is great here, balancing scary panicked music while Littlefoot's mom fights off Sharptooth with a light, playful melody while a bunch if flier children fight over a berry. In truth, I wasn't too familiar with his work before researching this blog post. I'd heard his name some places, but John Willians and Danny Elfman were the only composers I could recognize. And here I found out some of the stuff I thought they did, was Horner's work after all. So many movies!

Anyways, back to this movie. I'm glad I took the time to finally sit down and watch this one. It's a cartoon pedigree, watching the movies Mr. Bluth made after he split from Disney. Though this one is far from my favorite, that is still held by NIMH, this one is still a great kids film, and one I had to watch without my wife since she said she'd cry through the whole thing. And I can see why.  Bluth's movies had a real darkness to them, not lightening things to avoid scaring the kids, or making them feel sad.  And James Horner's score does a fantastic job punctuating that.

This post has been made as part of the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon presented by Film Music Central.  Please make sure to check out the other great posts about this fantastic composer!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up: 6/21/17

I can't believe I missed a week.  There have been some big changes at my work and my primary co-worker is out of the office this week, half of last week, and next week as well.  However, this week has been a lot better and I've been able to accomplish stuff!

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 2 has started and next week we'll see who comes out on top.  I'm having a lot of fun posting this tournament and watching a lot of the cartoons that I haven't see in decades, if at all.  But the big thing is that I've finally started working again on OSE 2.  Nothing huge so far, but I'm  working on the first chapter again after it got a sound thrashing in my critique group. It's a little smoother now, I think and as soon as I'm done, I'll be submitting to the group again. 

I'm in the process of reading the first book in my finisher critique group as well.  It's a good story so far and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.  It's a much different task than reading a chapter each a month from the writers in my main critique group.  While I'm used to commenting on smaller things like grammar changes to make and questions about specific details, this group wants a focus on the big things like theme and pacing while ignoring the small stuff.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it.  I'm hoping to do one or two last passes through OSE 1 before I submit it, but I've got a few months before my novel comes up.  Hopefully after that I can work on the cover as well and get this book out on Amazon and wherever else.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 2 Cy-Kill vs. Tex Hex

Sorry for the delay, but Round 2 is a go!  This time we're pitting the leader of the Renegades from Gobotron, Cy-Kill, against the mystical cowboy, Tex Hex.  Cy-Kill's feats were pretty easy to track in his first thirteen appearances, but Tex Hex gave me some of the same problems as the Queen last round since he didn't show up in about five of the episodes I watched with the Dingoes being the antagonists in the others.  I was a bit surprised by that, thinking Bravestarr would go the same route as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which had Skeletor being the main bad guy in about 99% of the episodes.  Either way, I was still able to get plenty demonstrations of his powers, which were a little more definable than his skull-faced compatriot.

Let's start with Cy-Kill.  Being an alien robot gives him some pretty obvious advantages.  He's made out of metal, he can turn into a motorcycle, and he has all sorts of energy weapons.  Like the rest of his robot kin, he shoots powerful blasts from his fists instead of having handheld weapons, so he's never truly disarmed.  He also is able to shoot energy beams from his eyes, something he can use in his alternate mode (which looks incredibly stupid, I might add). Size-wise, he looks to average about 11-12' tall, though that fluctuates quite a bit.  In one episode (Renegade Alliance), he survives getting his arm blown of without as much as a cry, but considering the Scooter survived a similar crash unscathed, I'm not sure if that's a positive or not.  and with all evil robots, Cy-Kill can fly.

Tex Hex's powers are mostly based around a western theme.  Rescued form the brink of death by the mystical Stampede, Tex Hex gained a slew of magical abilities.  Blasts from Tex's fingers and eyes can do a whole slew of things, but the most common ability I saw had to do with summoning snakes.  He was able to create giant flaming serpents by either shooting the smoke from a fire or a handful of dirt he'd thrown in the air - most of them being between 12 and 30 feet long, and one of them big enough for him to ride on.  Not all of them are big though, as he turned a prospector's claim into a little lizard once. 
He can also shoot people causing them to levitate in the air, one time lifting two people a few feet off the ground and another sending one of his goons across the desert.  Lastly, he once turned into a big ugly monster, but was still soundly beaten by Bravestarr, so it's not certain if this change granted him any extra strength or abilities.  Having previously been an outlaw, Tex Hex also relies heavily on his blaster and though it has shown to do some weird stuff a time or two, it generally acts as just a gun, but powerful enough to blow a whole in a ship.  Since every villain needs a quick means of escape, Tex Hex has the ability to turn himself into smoke or sand and fly away.  Even though he's shown the ability to teleport in a flash similar to Skeletor, this smoke/sand power is a lot more commonly used.

Both of these villains are pretty powerful and have a decent range of abilities, but which one will come out on top?  Find out next week!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 6/7/17

It's been a busy week!    Monday, I posted the results of the first round of Bad Guy Beatdown, where Skeletor wiped the floor with the Queen of the Crown.  It was a great fight and I had a blast writing the little battle for it.  In fact, that's the only writing I've done in the last few months and it felt like a relief still being able to spit out a story. 
Next battle is going to be Cy-Kill from Go-Bots and Tex Hex from Bravestarr with the respect post coming this Monday.  I was really hoping to have the Renegade square off with Megatron, but that's such an oft-written battle with Megatron coming out on top every time, so I'm okay at least delaying the fight, assuming Cy-Kill survives his first round.
Yesterday, I coolaborated with the 80s League in another monthly crossover event, this time looking at 80s commercials, specifically looking at the ones for the toys that the cartoons they were showed during were based on. Man, that's a confusing sentence to write.  There are a few Leaguers still writing their posts so I'll be updating it throughout the week with links to their stuff.
Another new thing going on lately is I've just joined a second writing group, this one focusing on reading completed novels from other writers and giving whole critiques on them.  This group will be looking at the big picture of a book and instead of giving feedback on minor details and bad grammar like my other group does, will be looking at things such as plot holes, continuity, and theme.  I'm really excited for it because that means I'll be one step closer to publishing Old School Evil.  After that, I've just got to make up a cover, write out a few blurbs, and hopefully I'll be able to publish that sucker so you all can read it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Commercials in Commercials

The 80s League is back at it this month and we're taking a look at our favorite commercials from the best era of television.  Check out the links below to see the other leaguers' favorites and I'll keep adding them as they pop up.

Real Weegie Midget Reviews - 5 80s Prime Time Soap Star Ads

80s Reboot - 80s Commercials- Where's Herb? post and Podcast

Rediscover the 80s - Memory Jogger Podcast Special: Saturday Morning Commercials

As a blog that's focusing on cartoons from the 80s, I'm stuck in a quandary; can't the cartoons themselves be considered commercials?  One of the reason they only for prominence in the 80s was toy advertising in the form of cartoons was banned by the FCC.  Once that ban was lifted, dozen or even hundreds of cartoons flooded the airwaves, each of them jam-packed with images of thousands of toys waiting in the store shelves for kids to snatch up.  But even during the commercial breaks in these 30-minute toy ads, we got more ads!  For hours a day, kids were bombarded with toys adverts
within toy adverts - the only break we had was cereal commercials and half of those were tie-ins to the cartoons we were watching.  What a time to be alive!

As exciting as the cartoons were, the commercials had to be doubly so to get a kid's attention in such a short span of time (you know, in case it wasn't aired in the middle of a cartoon or something).  Take a look at the above Transformers commercials - you had brand new animation for the commercials that looks a little better than the show themselves, the toys rolling around through massive sandboxes, a kid with picket-fence teeth and glowing eyes who later transforms himself into a robot - all sorts of awesome stuff.  And you have to love the "Does Optimus Prime Die?" promotion for Transformers: The Movie.

Another great thing about these commercials is that the cartoons were limited to what figures and toys they were able to put on screen - there was only so much time and room in the cast list.  Though the cartoons were mandated to feature certain toys (leading to characters based on older toys being written out or just disappearing from the show), not everything could be featured.  These commercials were the only place you'd see certain characters and accessories.  Watch the He-Man commercials above and around the middle of the video, you start seeing a ton of stuff that never made it to the cartoon.  And for good reason, because they got freaking weird.

It's amazing how many commercials we got, especially when going through old videos and seeing how many you might have missed as a kid.  As much as I loved watching Transformers, I don't really remember any of the commercials they aired.  And I'd grown out of some of the cartoons by the time He-Man was introducing the light toys and electric playsets.  But what I wouldn't give to have that awesome Eternia toy!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 1 Results

“Skeletor!” Evil-Lyn shrieked through a mental projection into Snake Mountain’s throne room.
The skull-faced evil warrior sat up from his chair where he was spinning a crystal and contemplating his next move against Castle Grayskull.  The witch’s face materialized in the glass sphere sitting atop the table in front of him.  “What do you want, witch?” he yelled.
“I’ve been captured!  You must free me!” she cried.  The vision the viewer displayed showed her locked in a glass cylinder in the middle of a mechanical red room.
“A telepathic call for help?” another voice asked within Evil-Lyn’s proximity.  The vision before Skeletor shimmered and was replaced by a purple face wearing a spindly crown.  “Is this the master you spoke of betraying?”
“Who are you?” Skeletor shouted, leaning into the image.
“I am the Queen of the Crown!” she returned with the same incredulous tone he had used.  “Monarch of the Crown Empire and your new ruler!”
“What?!” Skeletor stood up and shook his hands in the air.  “Skeletor has no ruler!”
“Once I steal the magic-infused life-force of your traitorous minion here, I’ll raise an army of Slaver Lords to take over your measly planet before moving on to the rest of the galaxy.”  The image reverted to Evil-Lyn, still stuck inside the transparent tube but now the mechanical implements at the top had come to life with electric sparks. 
“Skeletor, you must save me!”
“And why should I, Evil-Lyn?  What was this I heard about betrayal?”
“I sensed the queen as she approached Eternia and made contact with her, hoping to expand our reach beyond our planet.  Of course, I would have negotiated you a place high in her empire, Lord Skeletor. I --”
The device in Evil-Lyn’s tube surged with electricity and coursed through the witch’s body, sending a scream through Skeletor’s crystal ball loud enough to crack its surface.
“I should let the Queen do whatever she wants to you for turning against me again, fool.  But no one threatens to take over Eternia but me!”  He held his Havoc Staff over his head and disappeared in a flash.
Within the lab on board her starship, the blue-skinned man shimmered into existence directly before the Queen. 
“That’s his real face?” one of her guards said as he materialized.
“And I thought Killbane was ugly.”
“Silence, fools!” the Queen said.  The two agents snapped to attention.
“Release Evil-Lyn now,” Skeletor demanded, pointing his staff at the glass tube still cascading electricity through her.  The ram’s head glowed in white light.
“How dare you come to my ship and order me around!” the Queen screamed.  She relented and a sly smile curled her lips.  “Feel free to take her once I’ve extracted her life-force, though.  I’ll even let you leave this ship with it.  But know this: When I’ve created a super Slaver Lord with her psychocrystal, I’ll be sending it after you first.”
“No one threatens me!” Skeletor shouted, blasting a white beam of energy at Evil-Lyn’s prison and shattering the glass holding her.  Evil-Lyn collapsed out of it and with another flash of light from the staff’s head, Skeletor teleported her off the ship into Snake Mountain.
“No!” the Queen screamed, pointing at the console to her left.  “I hadn’t drained enough life-force from her to even power an ordinary Slaver Lord!”  She turned her attention to Skeletor who even without the flesh on his face, she knew was grinning at thwarting her.  “Crown agents, seize him!  If I cannot steal the witch’s life-force, I will steal this monster’s!”  The two agents at her side aimed their rifles at him.
Skeletor’s head craned back with a hearty laugh. He pointed his staff at the two guards and a spray of green gas erupted towards them.  In just a moment the two agents collapsed to the floor in a deep sleep.  He turned the staff towards the Queen.  “I expected more from you!” he said with another deep laugh.
“Oh, I have better!” She swiped her hand toward the evil warrior and a wave of pink telekinetic energy surged outward. 
Skeletor held up his hand to the attack, reflecting the energy from his palm and sending it above her.  She lunged to the right just in time to avoid the falling debris.  “Let me show you true power!”  He pointed his staff to the throne behind her and blasted it, destroying the chair in a cloud of smoke.
Shielding herself from the rubble, she cried out.  Suddenly the white robed figures stationed around the room jumped to life, surrounding Skeletor.  One grabbed the middle of his staff and attempted to rest it from his hands.  Over the blank face of the figure, the holographic image of the Queen appeared with a wicked smile.  While the others grasped at Skeletor and struggled to take him down, the Queen-faced figure cackled, “You’ll make a fine addition to my Slaver Lords!”
“No!” Skeletor screamed, shooting a beam of light from one of his fingers into the Slaver-Lord’s face, obscuring the illusion floating above it.  He slammed the end of the staff to the ground and a shining blast exploded, blinding the Slaver Lords around him and causing the Queen, who had been seeing through each of them, to cry out in pain.  The figures surrounding Skeletor collapsed to the ground. 
“A neat trick,” Skeletor gloated, “I could use some minions like those instead of the bumbling boob you captured.” 
As the Queen struggled to get to her feet, she concentrated what was left of her mental powers on the blue-skinned foe.  She reached out telepathically, sending out a wave of maddening energy deep within his mind. 
Skeletor clutched at his skull and fell to his knees, the Havoc Staff clamouring on the ground beside him.  Images of the Queen danced in his burning consciousness.
She advanced on him, holding her fingers to her temples.   “You were a fool for coming here, Skeletor.  My mental powers are at their strongest within this ship.”
Leaning on his staff, he shakily got to his feet, resisting the Queen’s psionic assault.  “Then I shall turn the ship against you.”  He fired a blast at her feet.  The floor rumbled before the metal sheeting ripped up and curled into a cage around her and pulling her hands down to her waist.  “You have impressive power,” he said in a low voice, “I cannot deny that.”  He snatched the glowing red jewel from the chest on one of the Slaver Lords lying at his feet.    “Power that will help me finally defeat He-Man and rule Eternia.” 
He crushed the gem in his hand.  The psionic feedback flooded the Queen’s mind and she cried out in pain.  Skeletor destroyed two more before the Queen was rendered unconscious.  With each psychocrystal destroyed, the Slaver Lord it was attached to had shimmered from existence. He shattered the gem from the final Slaver Lord for good measure. 
With all his enemies in the Psychocrypt defeated, Skeletor took the glowing crystal from the machine that syphoned Evil-Lyn’s life force and affixed it to his Havoc Staff between the ram’s horns.  A new midnight blue Slaver Lord materialized before him with a glowing skull floating over its hooded head.  Skeletor roared with laughter as the Queen lay comatose at his feet.
Skeletor's powers are much more well-rounded than the Queen's, being able to shoot explosive blasts from his staff and his fingers and being able to manipulate his surroundings as well.  While the Queen was powerful in the Psychocrypt, his powers weren't strong enough to subdue him.  The major disadvantage she had is with her Slaver Lords who, while letting her see and hear anywhere they are, have no other discernible strengths.  In the end, Skeletor's abundance of powers won out.

The Winner

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 1 Skeletor vs. Queen of the Crown

It's the inaugural Bad Guy Beatdown fight.  This week, we're looking at the powers of each of the combatants, next week we'll see the who wins. This week, we're looking at Skeletor, the evil warrior from Eternia and the Queen of the Crown, leader of the Crown Empire.  Ordinarily, I'll watch the first thirteen episodes of the series and note their abilities and powers displayed in each episode.  Unfortunately, The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers has so many different villains (one thing I loved about the show), so I had to jump around a bit to look for the Queen's appearances.  I'm not sure of this is a bad sign that in the first round I have to break the rules, but otherwise, the Queen would have completed nothing without the aid of a giant soul-sucking machine, and that's not fair.  It should also be said that the Queen has an army of stormtroopers, but Skeletor shows a robot army in a few episodes as well, so I'm leaving them both out.  After listing their abilities, I'll pick the ones that will go with them into battle.

Anyway, let's take a look at the Queen's powers.  Her abilities are primarily in the psionic range.  Using the Psychocrypt, she can steal a victim's life force and create psychocrystals, which power her Slaver Lords.  Slaver Lords are the backbone of her empire, allowing her to see and hear whatever they see or hear.  She can also take direct control over them whenever she needs to, including speaking through them by displaying a hologram of her face. 
She has strong telepathic and telekinetic abilities.  In the episode "Mindnet", the Rangers' own telepath, Niko, uses her powers to search for the stolen half of the Mindnet device.  When she finds out the Queen has it, she's hurt by the Queen's telepathy.  Another episode shows she can make telekinetic blasts from her hands, which destroys a stone column.  Unfortunately, those last two powers are only evidenced in a single episode apiece, so I'm not sure how powerful they really are.  Still, the Slaver Lords allow her to be almost anywhere and they do show to have a bit of enhanced strength, being able to block a kick from Niko, then pick her up.  I'm giving the Queen a few powers, including some telepathy, minor telekinetic blasts, and a handful of Slaver Lords accompanying her into the arena.

Skeletor, on the other hand, has a rotating list of powers, being able to do new things in about every episode.  One episode, he can create a clone of He-Man with a point of his finger, and in another he can shoot sleeping gas from his staff.  But there are a few powers he displays in almost every episode.  Of course, there's teleportation because he's got to escape back to Snake Mountain every time he loses.  There's Filmation's patented white blasts - they hit with a burst of light and no discernible damage.  One episode they do indeed blow up Skeletor's flying ship, so they've got to be pretty powerful. 
Skeletor also has the ability to see far-off events through the back of his Havoc Staff's ram skull.  He can also create bursts of light from the staff to blind enemies.  He's shown a few abilities to bring things to life and control them, from animating stone golems to controlling plants, and even turned a tree to stone, which sounds like a big game of rock, paper, scissors.  He's also adept and blocking or dispelling others' spells, even deflecting blasts with his hand. Skeletor's powers are also some of the strongest on Eternia - in Reign of the Monster, he's able to pull open Greyskull's jaw Bridge, even with the Sorceress inside the castle trying to keep it closed.  Skeletor's powers will include his blasts from both his hands and the staff, defense against other magic, and some elemental control.

So there you have it - both combatants' powers are listed.  Who do you think will win when they go head-to-head?  Check back next week for the results!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Medicine in Movies Blogathon - Secret of NIMH

Secret of nihm is my favorite Don Bluth movie. While a number of his films cater exclusively to the youngest of kids, which I suppose cartoons probably should, secret of nihm is at times definitely not for children.

Secret of NIHM follows the adventures of Mrs. Brisby, the recently widowed mouse taking care of her sick child. Because her late husband, Jonathan, died a hero, Mrs Brisby is destined to save the field from an unknown danger. While many of the creatures in the field, the land surrounding a farmer's house, lead simple lives, the rats are far from ordinary rodents. Living within the farmer's rose bush, the rats have mastered electricity and even some form of magic. All thanks to NIHM.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a vested interest in the rats, calling throughout the movie and asking about their abilities. Abilities the received after they were captured on the streets and injected with untested chemical formulas. A number of rats and mice we subjected to the trials and found they were learning to read and figure their way out of their cages.

They escaped and while most of the mice were lost in an air duct (a character points out they absolutely died, just one of the dark tones of the movie), two survived, one being Jonathan Brisby, who earned the rats' eternal gratitude by opening the final hate to their freedom.

NIHM wants to clear out the rats for whatever reason and they know it, preparing for a move to a safer place. Before they can go, they pledge to help move Brisby's home from the party of the farmer's plow. She can't move her family because her son is sick with pneumonia, being treated by the other surviving mouse from NIHM, Mr. Ages, wise intelligence manifested in medical knowledge.

Secret of NIHM is an incredible movie, early one of the best to come out of the 80s. And like many others of this age, it had it's fair share of villains. Though NIHM is treated as the big looking evil threatening all of the rats, there's a traitor on their midst with Jenner. He wants to take control of leadership by killing Nicodemus, the eldest and wisest among them. He uses Brisby's relocation as the best opportunity, cutting the ropes holding the cinder block home aloft and crushing the old rat under it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 5/24/17

Prepping for my first round in Bad Guy Beatdown right now.  I keep forgetting I've got to take notes on 26 episodes, who would have thought watching cartoons was so much work.  I'm thinking of making up a page for all of them like the Villain Retrospects series and the old Flashback page (which is still waiting for a revamp).

Old School Evil hasn't made much progress, but I'm joining a Finishers critique group so I'm hoping to have the first book polished and ready to publish soon.  I'm not sure when I'll publish it though, there are a few more things I want to have ready before I put it out there.  I'm kinda wondering if I should set up a deadline, like the new year or something...  In the meantime, I'm still researching how to do it, with the covers, the formats, and everything else.

Monday, May 22, 2017


After having gone through all the characters from my Retrospective series, I got to wondering who the most powerful villain was.  If all of them were to face-off, who would come out victorious?  Forget about who was cooler and had the most effective plans - whose abilities come out on top?

I decided the only way to really find out is a tournament. Thirty-two villains step into the ring, two-by-two and fight it out.  I created a bracket and randomized the entries.  A few of the villains I've covered in my series won't be admitted here - Emperor Dark for not doing anything for his whole series, Dr. Claw for being mostly hidden through his series, and Baron Greenback for being a tiny toad.  Unicron and Cobra-La are also out since they both kind top the charts.  But the rest of the contenders can be seen here:

For each fight, I'm going with Death Battle rules - I'll be watching each show and take notes of each villain's powers and abilities.  I'm limiting myself first 13 episodes of each show to be fair to those shows that didn't make it that far.  Each round will be made in two posts - the first week will cover the villains' abilities through the episodes, and the following week will have the results, told in a short story since I'm not about to try to animate this.  I wish I had some way to show it better, but I'm hoping to at least draw some picture of the winner triumphant.

Of course, I welcome everyone's comments on who they think should win, and I'm looking forward to hearing any disagreements, but please realize, this isn't going to be a popularity contest.  If it was, I'd automatically make Megatron the winner.  But I'm curious who really kicks the most ass here and I want to be as impartial as possible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Who's the Coolest & Most Effective Villain?

When I started the Villain Retrospect series, I aimed to rate each of the bad guys on their coolness and effectiveness.  Looking back, I wish I had picked a few more categories to rate them in: power, intelligence, strength, etc.  Basically, something like the Tech Specs the old Transformers used to have, only without the red decoder.  I have plans to go back through them all for the tournament, but that's coming up in a bit.  For now though, I want to go over what I learned on the two that I covered.  I'll look at the top three of each category.  Click on their image for the post where I cover them more in-depth.

3. Genghis Rex
How can you not love a villain that is a Tyrannosaurus?  Yeah, he's an anthropomorphized dinosaur, but he's still got the giant toothy maw, what else can you ask for?  Not only that, but he's got a cool personal ship and a starship that looks like a massive metal version of himself.  If he had a cooler voice, he could have gotten a higher grade.
2. Shredder
I won't deny that later down the line, Shredder turned into a laughing stock.  It's a shame too, because he has such potential to be a top-notch bad guy.  He's got a great simple look - the blades covering half his body, the samurai-like helmet, and the purple cape - and a great raspy voice provided by James Avery.  The fact that he was a ninja, and sometimes could stand up to all the turtles at once, is icing on the cake.
1. Megatron
Was this ever in question?  There are good reasons why he's always been my favorite villain.  He's extremely powerful, intelligent, and intimidating. Frank Welker lends him a threatening voice and one of the best maniacal laughs in cartoons.  People may give him crap for transforming into a pistol that needs to be shot by someone else, but I have no problem with it.  Makes more sense to me than a camera at least.

Most Effective
3. Overlord (Spiral Zone)
I've got to give this guy credit - he took over almost the entire country, turning half of it into his Spiral Zone and reducing its citizens to mindless zombies.  He sees the Zone Riders's plans from a mile away, often times turning their tricks against them.  It's not often you see a villain so capable and creating such a threat against half the population.
2. Venger
I'm not sure how I missed this guy as a kid.  Venger is a combination of awesome power and a demonic image, paired perfectly with Peter Cullen's best villain voice.  The fact that he was so much more powerful than the good guys he faced was something most cartoons steered away from, making him one of the most capable characters in the whole show.
1. Queen of the Crown
I have to give the old lady credit - she knows how to run an empire.  Using the power of the Psychocrystals, she steals the life force of every human and alien she captures to build an army of Slaver Lords.  In the first episode, she kidnaps the wife of the Galaxy Rangers' leader and even though he's able to recover her body, the Queen still keeps her spirit locked away for the entire 65-epsiode run.  I can't think of a single villain that can beat that ruthlessness.

Now we're going to take a look at the lowest of both categories and it's pretty funny that the lowest scores of both coolness and effectiveness are the same, so I'll be looking at the last five.
Least Cool & Effective
5. Doc Terror
If someone had described to me a scientist that was half human, half-robot and controlled a drone army to wipe out humanity, I would have expected someone so much better than this.  Doc Terror takes all those expectations and throws them out of the door, instead being a loud-mouthed, easy to anger bore.  If they made him more methodical, dare I say more like Emperor Dark, I would have ranked him a lot higher on this list.
4. Saw Boss
I understand why they made named Saw Boss like they did, but wouldn't it have made more sense to give him a different name since most of the time he doesn't have a saw? It's not like he turns into the bladed vehicle all that often, instead sitting on a chair, telepathically commanding his troops. Saw Boss is also in the odd situation as the villain hunting the good guys down in every episode, instead of them stopping the Monster Minds from some criminal act, so you'd think he'd have an easier time completing his goals, but no, he can't even catch them either.
3. T-Ray
It's telling that I can't find a single thing online that tells me who provides T-Ray's voice.  It's not bad, though it's the same gurgle-y voice that the rest of Rankin-Bass's bad guys have.  His look is just as bad though and he's inept with a weapon - how does a whip even work underwater?  Not to mention it gets used against him every time he uses it.  It's telling that the first thing he does in the show is release a worse villain and then immediately surrender to him.
2. Mon*Star
Good God that's a stupid looking villain.  Like Mumm-Ra, he has a transformation into a stronger form, but I don't even understand why.  Mumm-Ra as a small, frail form most of the time and turns into a muscle-bound bruiser, but Mon*Star already is a big guy, so why bother?  Even worse, the stronger form is stupider looking than this one with beady eyes, toothy mouthplate, and elbow blasters.  Seriously, I think he would have gotten off better if they combined aspects of both forms and didn't have him change at all.  At least T-Ray always looked the same.
1. Big Boss
I absolutely hate this guy. He's so incredibly bland!  He's a mob boss, so let's make him fat and talk in a stereotypical mafia accent and give him a pet to stroke.  But he's in the future so let's give him a metal hand and do the same thing to his pet.  He fills the role of the villain who barely does anything, instead barking orders to others and yelling at them when they fail even though he did nothing to help out.  Such a complete loser of a bad guy.

What do you think of the lists?  Do you disagree?  Maybe you think Big Boss kicks ass and Megatron sucks eggs.  Leave a comment and let me know.  And if I left anyone off the list, make sure to check out the Villain Retrospects page to see what other villains I've covered.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tearjerker Blogathon - The Incredibles

The Incredibles is easily one of the best films I've ever seen. When Pixar, known for pumping out the highest-quality movies out there, decided to turn their attention to a superhero family, my interest shot through the roof.  As a toy collector, I loved their Toy Story movies, but as a comic book reader, I was even more stoked for this movie.
The Incredibles follows the titular Mr. Incredible as he's forced out of the superhero game and raises a family, all the time yearning for the chance to return to saving lives and beating up bad guys.  The beginning of the movie sees him marrying the flexible Elasti-girl, mowing down enemies on the way tot eh chapel.  Unfortunately, his exploits injures a number of civilians who sue him and the government that allowed him to operate outside of the law.  Superheroism is deemed illegal and anyone wearing a cape or mask goes back to the normal workforce.

The ensuing 9-to-5 life Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible's alter-ego) finds himself in is something I think we can all sympathize with - stuck in a dead-end job, living with the knowledge that we were meant for something greater.  I certainly feel like that ever day, bent over a desk, dealing with complaints that I can't do anything about, this desire for adventure burning within me.  Anyway, that's not the tearjerker part, although as I get older, it haunts me more and more.

While his wife is able to leave the superhero game behind and is content to raise their family - Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack - Bob sneaks out with his friend, formerly known as Frozone, to find crimes to stop.  Saving tenants from a burning building doesn't turn out the way he wanted, which leads to a conflict with the police and an even bigger one with the missus.  That's not all he gets though, as an invitation comes in for some interesting work - addressed not to Bob, but Mr. Incredible, and the timing could not be better as he just loses his job for punching his boss through a building - haven't we all wanted to do that?

That's enough of a recap, though, because if you haven't seen this movie yet, just go out and watch it. Mr. Incredible's return to the superhero game, bringing his entire family along with him, is such an amazing story of redemption.  There are so many parts during the film that bring tears to my eyes - Dash on the water, Bob wanting to keep his family safe, the family triumphant - but there is one scene that always chokes me up; the airplane.
Just watching this clip before posting it got me weepy.  This scene is just perfect - the tension, the tech jargon, the rising music, the fear in the kids, Bob's reaction to finding out they're on board - it all comes together to create one of the greatest and most dramatic moment in film for me.  I love the fact that all of the call signs Helen uses are correct but comes down to her just crying "Abort, abort, abort!" near the end.  Bob's simple "No!" upon hearing there are children on board always chokes me up. Even seeing Mirage's face before that does.

Brad Bird does a fantastic job using this moment to illustrate a point that Helen makes to the kids later on - the enemies they face will not hesitate to kill them.  From that moment on, the threat is absolutely real, and the kids need to use their own abilities to keep each other safe.  The action only ramps up from there, culminating in a massive fight back in their home town.  

The Incredibles deserves to be on everyone's top ten movie list.  The voice cast is perfect, filled with smaller name actors who fit their roles to a tee.  Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter do a great job as Mr. Incredible and Elasti-girl, and Jason Lee does an amazing job as the vengeful Syndrome.  Even the kids' voice actors, who haven't had any other roles before this movie (and only a few after) do an amazing job bringing the bashful Violet and hyperactive Dash to life.  The biggest name in the movie is Samuel L. Jackson, playing Frozone, and he gets arguably the funniest scene in the movie.

I cannot tell you how excited I am that the much requested sequel is coming out next year.  So far there hasn't been any other news about it besides the entire cast returning, but I know we can expect to see the same humor, action, and of course a few tearjerker moments that made The Incredibles so endearing.

This post is made in part of Moon in Gemini's "No YOU'RE crying!" Blogathon.  Check out all the rest of the tearjerker moments on her blog and have the tissues ready!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 5/10/17

Yay! The new Wednesday Wrap-Up image is up and running.  Sure, it's mostly reused assets and a couple of stock photos, but I like the work in progress look to it.  At least it's a lot better than the other stock photo that really didn't have much to do with Old School Evil.

I'm also working on a graphic for the Bad Guy Beatdown coming up this month and a few infographics for next week's post as well.  Still trying to hammer out some art style to use for the combatants along with more Flashback Friday characters.  It's an art-centric week!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Krulos

I have no idea how I missed Dino-Riders as a kid.  This show would have been so up my alley my head would have exploded.  It takes all the dinosaur action from Dinosaucers and amps it up to 11 with people riding fully-armed terrible lizards!  Up until this point, my life has been a lie, but now I finally see what's been missing this whole time.

In outer space, the Rulon Empire chases the Valorians mercilessly.  Trapped in a tractor beam, the groan-inducing Questor (seriously, what is with these leader names sucking lately?) instructs his good guys to activate the STEP - Space Time Energy Projector - which opens a doorway to prehistoric Earth.  The Rulons follow the ship and both crashland on the jungle planet and find themselves surrounded by dinosaurs.  The Valorians use telepathic necklaces to tame the dinosaurs, becoming the Dino-Riders, while the evil Rulons use a cool-sounding device called a Brain Box to enslave his own forces. 

The cartoon is incredibly well animated for its initial episode, including a lot of special effects and great 80s dinosaur anatomy (the Godzilla-like T-Rex stance). It looks amazing and is a fantastic way to start the show.  While the following episodes have a bit of a drop in quality, I would say it still is a little higher than its peers - I didn't spot any animation errors or recycled animation. 

The Valorians are your typical heroic clich├ęs - the wise leader Questor (again played by Dan Gilvezan), the brash Youngstar (an even worse name), telepathic healer Serena, and a few other fighters that blend in together.  Where the originality shines is the Rulon Empire, made up of a spattering of different alien races.  There's Rasp and his army of Vipers, Hammerhead and his own Hammerhead troops, and Antor, leader of the Antmen.  There are a few other creatures in the ranks, but these three are the most prominent and always vie for Krulos's second-in-command. 
Krulos himself doesn't fall in any of their races, instead being a frog-faced, red-eyed behemoth wearing a glass dome over his head.  He manages to yell everything that comes out of his mouth, which luckily for him, sounds great because he's voiced by Frank Welker.  His voice is just a little different enough from his Dr. Claw and Megatron, falling somewhere in the middle.  As every main character in the show is assigned a partner dinosaur, whether through telepathy or brain boxing, Krulos decides only one dinosaur will do. "I must have the mightiest of all - Tyrranosaurus Rex!"  Unfortunately, the first episode has him spending most of his time trying to tame the giant lizard and losing it by the end before doing it over again the episode two. 
Once he's got it under his control though - whew, that's a lot of firepower.  He's practically unstoppable and while some of the dinosaurs have some well-designed weapon placements (I especially like the Torosaurus's gun-hiding shell), the Tyrannosaurus Rex has to be one of the coolest and easily the most imposing one among them.  Even if it has a basketball hoop on its belly.  That doesn't look like the most stable or comfortable of perches.  It's funny to think that since Frank Welker no doubt voiced all the dinosaurs in the cartoon that he would have done both Krulos and his steed. 

I really appreciated all the work that had been put into this cartoon with how carefully the animator were to use different dinosaurs correctly - the this show and Dinosaucers did a good job keeping the species distinct and dropping their names often.  The latter show made me want to be an paleontologist as a kid and if I had seen this show as well, I'm sure it would have cemented that decision.  I know the show's creators focused the show on dinosaurs because of the cool factor, but I wonder how many kids were inspired to grow up to study fossils because of shows like this.  Imagine if it had a dinosaur-centric PSA at the end, just a profile of a different species before the credits.

Anyway, let's rate this guy!
Coolness - 7.  Krulos is indeed one of the coolest villains I've seen and he owes that to two factors; Frank Welker and the T-Rex.  Mr. Welker gives him a great raspy (funnily enough, he does voice Krulos's lieutenant, Rasp as well) voice that is distinct enough form his other villains and is the perfect combination of the two.  He's physically imposing compared to his troops, standing taller and wider than any of the other characters on the show and he gets the dinosaur that matches that.  You'd think that maybe having a face that looks like a toad would be a detriment, but compared to his goofier looking subordinates, it works in his favor.
Effectiveness - 3. Krulos falters a bit here since his plans for two episodes just involved bringing his dinosaur under his control.  It's not until the third episode that he really makes a plan and goes with it.  By brain boxing a ton of triceratops-like dinosaurs, he creates a stampede to trample the Valorians' base and steal the STEP crystal.  Once he returns to base with his prize, he finds out it was switched with an ordinary quartz and it explodes in his face.  So instead of just trampling the entire Valorian base and just destroying everything, which he certainly had the manpower to do, he decides to run away after getting the crystal - somehow also leaving his T Rex there.  That's some short-sightedness right in the face of victory. 

And now for some big news: It's my 100th post!  Since starting the Old School Evil blog, it's taken me almost a year to get through all of the villains I watched as a kid and those I missed along the way.  And now that I've completed my list, it's time for the Bad Guy Beatdown!  I've got one more article planned to post next week, some number crunching from all the cartoons I've watched, and then the fight begins with a breakdown of the rules and workings.  Keep checking back to find out who our first competitors will be!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Flashback Friday: Hurricanines Redux

A few months ago, I posted the Hurricanines logo in the first Flashback Friday post.  I had made the design and splashed on a pretty lazy color scheme.  Yesterday I thought I'd try out some better colors and I like what I ended up with.  The logo below has some of the blues that I really wanted in it and a bit of the gray muzzle that the original had.  I also decided to open the mouth instead of having the line above, just so it has a good silhouette with all the design elements - that way I can do a single color sticker or something without losing out on the snarl.

I need to find a better font to match the image or better yet design the font myself, but I'm not too concerned with it now.  I'm just glad to have something that works better than the initial design.  What do you think of the color? 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-up: 5/3/17

Big shake-ups here at Old School Evil this week.  Unfortunately, the image above is not one of them yet. 

The decision has been made to self-publish Old School Evil.  The agent search, though short, has been extremely disheartening.  I haven't come to this decision lightly, but I want to have creative control over the project, including cover and other art assets and I feel this is the best way to go.  It'll still be a while before I'm ready to publish though - I've decided I want to go through another draft or two to clean things up and add some stuff in.  I think in the end, the book will be that much better for it.  I'm also hoping to get into a critique group that covers finished novels so I can make sure it's totally ready.

Because of the changes to the plan for Old School Evil, a few things have been cut as well.  As I originally envisioned making a toyline and a webcomic that used the toys, I realized that was way too much work at this time and have put it on the backburner.  I would still love to make the toys someday, but I think I'd prefer to wait and see if I receive any amount of success with the book before I try it.  Maybe I'll do some Heroclix-type figures before stepping up to full-sized action figures, but that's still going to be a while.

I'm still planning to finish the show's various titles and logo images, but I think it'll be a little while before I finish any more of them.  I need to rework a number of the logos I've already shared here.  And probably redo that terrible Flashback page.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Cobra-La

In 1986, Hasbro was in a rush to bring its two biggest franchise to the silver screen.  Transformers and GI Joe were being developed for movie adaptations and would eventually share a lot of common features: a new generation of heroes, a death of the leader of the good guys, a goof-off gets promoted, and a massive new enemy force.  Transformers got Unicron, a world-eating planet-sized Transformer; GI Joe got an ancient underground race of serpents called Cobra-La. 

You can guess which one is better remembered.

Cobra-La makes its grand entrance in the Joe movie with the appearance of its most interesting member.  A cloaked figure interrupts a roast of Cobra Commander after another failed mission, easily making its way through all of Cobra's defenses.  While everyone thinks it's an assassination attempt on their new leader - the genetically-modified Serpentor - in reality the intruder wants to give him a job.  She reveals herself to be Pythona, a scaled chick with eye shadow that would put the Misfits to shame.  She tells Serpentor he was destined to lead her people and asks that he steals the Joe's Broadcast Energy Transmitter.  They attack the Joe's to retrieve it and Serpentor is captured in the process.  Cobra Commander, abandoning his successor, takes his army to the land of Cobra-La.

I was never the biggest GI Joe fan, having much preferred Transformers.  When that movie came out and I finally saw the sheer size of the threat that was Unicron, I was awestruck. Afterwards, when I found out GI Joe was getting a movie, I went into it thinking it would be the same scale of entity, something massive that could destroy the world.  And then I saw Cobra-La.  No - then I heard Cobra-La.  The first thing you'll notice is anytime theie generic soldiers are on screen, they're constantly shooting "Cobra-la-la-la-la-la-la!"  It's the absolute worst battle cry I've ever heard.  The Tick yelling "Spoon!" is better.  If there's one complaint you'll hear about this movie, it's the battle cry.
It gets better from there.  When the Joes follow Cobra after their retreat in the Himalayans, they find themselves in a hidden valley of exotic plantlife.  They barely have time to take the sight in before they're attacked by Cobra-La's resident bruiser, Nemesis Enforcer.  It sounds more like its job title, but that is indeed his name.  The guy single-handedly picks up a tank and with the claws on his wrist, rip it open.  It's an impressive sight, considering most of the fighting in the cartoon before this has been with lasers and a few fists.  The rest of Cobra-La is armed with a number of organic weapons, like four-headed serpents, stink bugs, and even a carpet made of crabs. 

After another raid on the Joes to free Serpentor, we finally meet the leader of Cobra-La - and I'm not kidding here - his name is Golobulus.  Couldn't we have gotten better names here?  Or at least something snake-like?  No, we get a leader with a name that sounds like something you'd pick out of your nose (and I admit Unicron wasn't much better just one typo away from Unicorn). Anyway, he comes out riding a giant space bug, looking like he ripped off Dr. Scarab's eye.  He claims he had inspired Dr. Mindbender to take the DNA from the world's worst people and create Serpentor and immediately puts Cobra Commander on trial.  Did we just lap ourselves back to the beginning of the movie? 
We find out that Cobra-La used to dominate the world before the Ice Age froze them and started the age of barbarians.  Golobulus plans to use spores to revert modern humanity to its savage, mindless roots, with only those within Cobra-La safe from their effects. 

My problem with Cobra-La and GI Joe the Movie in general, at least compared to its robotic companion film, is that the stakes they created weren't nearly high enough.  The beginning of TFTM had an absolutely brutal massacre, thinning out the Autobot ranks, which made the emotional depth in the movie that much greater.  I know Duke was originally going to die and he was only said to have gone into a coma after the backlash Prime's death brought Hasbro, but it softened the Joe movie so much that it felt that the stakes weren't any greater than any of Cobra's previous plans.  Humanity was always in peril in the series, and Cobra-La did nothing to elevate that.  I'm not saying I'd want a large bodycount like the shuttle scene in TFTM, but I would have preferred some reason why the new recruits had to take over.  Not to mention that fact that Cobra-La had no influence in what happened to Duke at all, since Serpentor had caused the injury using a skill he had before he even met Golobulus.  Again, it could have happened at any point in the series.  To make the movie feel even more like a regular episode, it started out with a big fight scene, playing their usual theme music and with the same opening narration.  Don't get me wrong, it's animated beautifully and has a shit ton of action, but it put me in the mindset of watching the series and nothing more than that.

Another issue I had was with Golobulus himself.  Considering how competent and intimidating his two lieutenants were, the main guy himself was entirely too disappointing.  Hasbro again went with a big name actor, trying to impress the adults taking in their kids, but Burgess Meredith didn't have the presence to really scare any kids.  He sounded old more than anything.  He looked laughable floating around in his bug head, especially when Serpentor had the much cooler looking throne that did the same thing.  When he finally does reveal it to only be a ride, slinking out on his snake lower half, it's all too short and doesn't add much to the fight. He doesn't even get a really prolific death either, being thrown in a chasm - the same way Nemesis Enforcer went down.  He did get stabbed in the eye though, which is cool, except it was edited so you don't see it actually happen.  

The only truly scary thing in the movie is what happened to the deposed leader, Cobra Commander.  We learn his origin as a scientist in Cobra-La that scarred his face during an experiment.  Golobulus had given him the power to create the ruthless terrorist organization, Cobra.  When that failed spectacularly, Golobulus used the spores on CC again, which mutated him into a snake, a slow process which seemed to drive him insane as well.  He shows up at the very end of the movie to save Lt. Falcon from an attack that had almost killed Duke, but then is never seen again.  While the mutation was really screwed up, enough that you felt sorry for the guy, I wish there would have been more recognition for him in the end.  As it was, I think the writers just forgot about him.  Which is a shame, considering this is the only change the movie makes to the GI Joe roster.

Overall, I just wish Cobra-La had a bigger impact on the show following it.  Transformers ended up not just with a bunch of new guys, but lost a lot of its old ones.  It had a new bad guy that stuck around til the end of the series.  GI Joe got none of that since Serpentor stayed leader afterward. Cobra-La served no reasl purpose but to make us feel bad for Cobra Commander.

This post was made as part of the Great Villain Blogathon 2017 run by Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy.  Check out the rest of the villains there by nearly seventy film, television, and book bloggers!