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!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fave 80s Music Videos - Stan Bush "The Touch"

It's time for another 80s League crossover event and this month we're talking about our favorite 80s music videos!  You know, the bygone days when stations like MTV and VH1 actually showed videos instead of endless strings of reality shows full of horrible people!  Make sure to check back here later this week and I'll have the rest of the league's posts right here.

80s Reboot Overdrive - Podcast Blog

Killer Kitsch - 1980s Music Videos

For my pick, you had to know this was coming.  I've gone on record stating Transformers: the Movie is one of my favorite things ever in the entire world.  There's not a single thing I dislike about the movie, even including its animation/continuity errors and my favorite Dinobot, Snarl, only showing up in two blink-and-you'll-miss-it scenes.  As soon as the movie came out, I had to get the soundtrack, so I can listen to that awesome metal version of the theme song whenever I wanted to.  But I was seven and had no idea how soundtracks worked, so when I looked up White Lion at Target, I could never find the Transformers theme.  I was bummed out, so I recorded the song off the movie onto a tape, which my brother immediately copied over it.  Young punk, I'll straighten him out yet.

Fast forward a decade and change, I go to Empire Records in New Orleans and searching through their CDs and I happen upon the soundtrack!  I bought it that very minute, ignoring the fact that I didn't happen to own a CD player yet.  Whatever, I'll buy one too.  I listened to that soundtrack like crazy, which gave me a real appreciation for the rest of the songs on it.  I was already a fan of Weird Al (Dare to be Stupid is still my favorite song of his), but I'd never heard of Inspector General (name changed from Kick Axe for the soundtrack) or this guy, Stan Bush.  But his song "The Touch" rocked my fucking world!  Imagine my surprise to find out it had a video playing on MTV this whole time.

And this video is the most 80s thing I've ever seen.  Stan Bush, his feathered hair dancing around like crazy, riffing on his guitar while it blocks laser blasts and fires off electricity.  It's amazing, watching him do his magic while scenes from the movie play in the background.  There's so many awesome things happening behind him, like Devastator merging for the kill and Unicron's transformation. 
I think it's a little weird that he's singing about kicking ass while Autobots are dying: "You're at your best when the going gets rough - you've been put to the test, but it's never enough!" plays right as Brawn is killed by a Megatron-wielding Starscream.  Either way, it's impossible not to get pumped when the music drops to those few piano notes while Rodimus Prime opens the Matrix.  The only thing I can think of more awesome than this video is seeing characters from the movie rocking out to it as well.

Ever since the movie, Stan Bush has become a massive icon in the Transformers fandom.  Even better than that is Stan Bush has embraced us, appearing in the various Transformers movies and games since then and playing gigs at Transformers conventions (you can watch his concert form last years BotCon here).  And yes, it absolutely sounds just as awesome these days and makes me giddy to hear it.  Stan Bush, you sir definitely have the Touch!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Baron Silas Greenback

I remember watching Danger Mouse as a kid and for some reason the end credits gave me a real downer vibe.  Every time those credits started, with the woman singing that Danger Mouse was the strongest, the quickest ("He's the best!"), I was sure he and Penfold were going to die.  Yeah, there's the bombs and giant letters trying to crush or maim him, but there was something more that just filled me with dread.  Maybe I though one episode they'd actually succeed and Danger Mouse would die and then the show would have been over. 

Danger Mouse was a British cartoon featuring the titular hero saving the United Kingdom from all sorts of threats.  He's receive his orders from Colonel K (I always read his name plate and Colon Elk), and he and his helper Penfold would stop whatever nefarious plan had been set in motion, whether it was a giant robot (for a mouse) or kidnapping bagpipes (which live in the mountains of Scotland, don't you know?).  Most of those plans would be the work on one Baron Silas Greenback, criminal mastermind, and his lackey, Stiletto.  While the cartoon focused on diminutive animal characters, and most didn't show a single human being, the targets of Greenback's schemes were sometimes human and more often than not world leaders.
The cartoon draws a lot of parallels with the James Bond movie series, but was more specifically based off the 1960s television show, Danger Man.  Originally starting off quite serious in the pilot, Danger Mouse's creator turned the cartoon silly to fit the anthropomorphic characters better.  I've never had a chance to watch the pilot, but I can't imagine what it would be like if it weren't goofy like the show ended up being.  I am glad they changed the villain's name in the transition - Greenback fits a lot better than Greenteeth.

Speaking of the Baron, he's your typical James Bond-esque bad guy.  He's even got the cliché white pet, replaced here as a caterpillar named Nero.  It makes a lot of weird noises and bounces up and down and that always got me to laugh as a kid.  Greenback's got a really raspy voice and I can't help but think that might have been the inspiration for Dr. Claw's voice as well.  You'll usually see him sitting at his desk running his hands down Nero's back and shaking his fist in the air, but there are the rare instances that he leaves his hidden base to spearhead his schemes.
Most times, though, Stiletto is out on his own, controlling whatever mechanical creation is terrorizing the world.  Originally played with an Italian accent, when it was broadcast on Nickelodeon, he was changed to a cockney.  I don't know why it would have mattered, as a kid, I doubted I could tell the difference.  Greenback had another toadie (get it, Greenback's a toad) called Leatherhead that showed up in a few episodes before going off to read comics forever.
Considering Danger Mouse had made the shift from a more serious cartoon to a goofy one, it's going to be difficult to rate this guy.  Is he supposed to be cool?  Is he supposed to be effective?  I don't think so.  Greenback is a caricature of your typical James Bond villain, and the precursor of the similarly slapstick Inspector Gadget.  I think rating this guy in the same categories as real villains like Saw Boss, Tex Hex, and Doc Terror doesn't do them justice and ruins the humor intended.  So I'll give Baron Greenback a pass.  I wonder if he's any better in the remake.  Hmmm, remakes...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flashback Friday: Onyx Corp

It's a few weeks late, but we're finally talking about the villains from the Eco-BeetoBots - Onyx Corp.  Led by the greedy, conniving Jet Onyx, Onyx Corp only cares about the bottom line, not giving a single thought to any person that might be hurt, or even the very planet.  Seeing the riches he could gain by leveling a forest and building a giant mall to sell him products, he sends in his construction team to tear everything to the ground.

When the Eco-Beetobots possess his equipment to defend the forest, Jet is unphased and orders his team of mercenaries to take them out.  Using specialized equipment, the drivers battle the Eco-BeetoBots, with the survival of the Wise Sequoia and all the forest denizens at risk.
The Enemies -
Jet Onyx, villainous owner of the Onyx Corp, wants nothing more than to raze the forest and pave it over.  He imagines the whole expanse as a shiny black sea of asphalt.  He hates nature in any form.  After his initial attempt at paving over the forest was stopped by the Eco-Beetobots, he calls in a number of specialized vehicles to combat them.
Buzzcut – A scorpion-styled construction vehicle with two front-mounted saw blades on the front and a crane on the back.  The saw blades are built into claw-shaped armor.  The crane on the back has a claw strong enough to split a tree in half.  The front and back half of the vehicle are able to separate into two vehicles.
Driven by Brick and Block, the Basker Brothers.  They’re loud and obnoxious, always screaming at each other.  Each one pilots a different half of Buzzcut.
Flamespitter – An ant-styled front loader.  The shovel can split and create pinchers and a nozzle in the middle can shoot fire.
Driven by Erkins, a really angry, sneering man talks in an accent that’s hard to understand.  Gets angry when he’s asked to repeat himself then gives a one or two word response very clearly.
Full-Bore – A wasp-styled driller.  The back of the vehicle is one giant drillbit on a pivot from the cab, letting it go in any direction.  
Driven by Stern, a quiet and sneaky who likes to take his own path instead of working with the others.
Hefter wishes to make a wall around the forest to protect it.  After using the materials left behind by an Onyx construction team, he uses the fallen trees from their last battle.  When even that doesn't finish the wall, Hefter decides to use some of the live trees in the forest, considering them acceptable losses.  When the rest of the EBB finds out about the missing trees, Hefter tries to blame it on Onyx Corp, but is soon found out and taught the follies of his ways.
Drummer feels he is only holding the rest of the EBB behind and decides to leave the forest.  He's captured by the Onyx Corp and made to produce a special acidic mix of cement in his drum.  When the Onyx Corp takes him with them on a battle with the EBB, the EBB is loses due to being outnumbered.  Stagger gives Drummer the confidence to fight back and saves  them by spilling the cement on the Onyx Corp vehicles.
The EBB are fighting the Onyx Corp when Stagger's old insect home is crushed.  He fights off the Onyx Corp filled with rage and checks on the house when the battle is over.  Stagger finds that his son his hurt and goes to the Wise Sequoia asking for her to save him.  She turns him into Lifter the forklift but the Onyx Corp attacks just then and is able to capture all the EBB except Lifter.  He's able to surprise them and save his father and his friends.
Rhazer wants to build a tower so they can always see Onyx Corp coming.  When the tower is complete, they see Onyx approaching and brace for an attack.  However, Full-Bore has drilled under the tower and destabilizes the foundation, threatening it into falling onto the forest.  Rhazer has to accept that it must be destroyed to save the forest.
Full-bore digs a tunnel under the Wise Sequoia and Flamespitter lights its roots on fire.  As the tree weakens, the EBB tries everything to save her, but nothing works.  Hauler figures out the only way to save them is to destroy his dam and flood the tunnel, but can the rest of the EBB get out in time?
Stagger wants to build a moat around the forest but a family camping in the forest is trapped in the rising water.  The Onyx Corp attack the EBB during construction.  The team have to split up to save the campers and stop the river from flooding the forest, all while fighting off the attackers.
Stagger and Lifter leave the forest for some rest after a fight with the Onyx Corp.  Onyx comes back and captures the two and hold them hostage, forcing the others to surrender.  With all of the EBB captured, the rest of the forest saves them with insect swarms attacking the drivers or sabotaging the vehicles.
Jet Onyx decides to fire the drivers of his vehicles for their incompetence, using remotes to control the vehicles.  The remote malfunctions and decides to destroy the Onyx Corp tower, thinking it's the biggest tree in the forest.  The EBB see the threat to the city, but they argue about whether to save them or keep their secret.  In the end they decide to save the city, but without revealing their insect modes.
Drummer messes up a new construction project and encases the Wise Sequoia in a cement-like mixture.  Without their connection with her, they lose their vehicle modes and revert to ordinary beetles again.  With Onyx Corp approaching, they have to hurry to free the Wise Sequoia and regain their EBB bodies to fight them off.
Hauler wants some time alone and goes to an empty construction site.  While resting, a construction crew shows up and tries to use Hauler before he reveals himself.  He befriends the human and they figure out Onyx is going to try to create an avalanche and crush the forest.  The human says he's just a worker and doesn't want to be part of such destruction and helps Hauler sabotage the explosion.
Onyx releases a swam of robotic termites to tear down the forest.  The EBB are too big to stop them and have to revert to regular insects to stop them, leaving Lifter alone to fight Onyx Corp.  The beetles are not able to stop them, but Lifter figures out that the robots are also drawn to electronics and turns them against the Onyx Corp vehicles.
An earthquake hits the forest while the EBB and Onyx Corp are fighting and they all fall into a tunnel underground.  They have to work together to keep the rest of the forest from collapsing on top of them.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up: 4/19/17

I don't have much to share today, but I've got a decent reason for it.  I finally got my new computer! 

True, it's ugly as hell, but it'll work for a while.  I also bought a Wacom tablet so I can do some more art as well.  I'm feeling more motivated than ever to actually do this stuff since I've got a computer powerful enough to accomplish it.  And with the dirth of free art programs out there like GIMP and Inkscape, I won't have to rely on my 10-year-old Adobe programs to create it.  So while nothing got done this last week, I did spend most of it downloading new programs and configuring the computer to my liking (and yes there's games on it too).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Top 5 Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episodes

Okay, I know this isn't a cartoon so it's breaking the cardinal rule of Old School Evil (1. Uh... cartoons!).  But come on, no matter which one of the mads you're talking about, they're about as cartoony as the likes of Megatron, Skeletor, or Saw Boss.  The Forrester family and their second bananas have the lofty ambition of their cel-shaded peers, failures blamed on lackeys, and the maniacal laughs down pat!  If these guys were animated, they'd fit right in here with the rest of these lovable losers.  Clayton, Pearl, and Kinga are among the most diabolical for their treatment of their respective hosts and I couldn't love them more for it.

Now an admission: I never got a chance to watch the show during any of its original runs.  In fact, I didn't even watch until my 21st birthday.  I went to the video store to find something to watch and picked up Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. I'm pretty sure I knew it existed before in some form, I drew a picture of it in my high school yearbook, but this was my first real experience with it.  And holy crap was it awesome!  I had to have watched that movie daily for at least a month.  And this was way back when video stores existed and everything was on tape.  That's a lot of rewinding.  So my first real chance to watch its splendor was thanks to Rhino video and Suncoast, and because of that was kinda limited.  I bought a ton of the boxed sets and went through them all over and over again.

I couldn't have been more excited that MST3k got a chance to return to the air so I could watch some first run episodes!  I backed the Kickstarter as much as I could (it wasn't much) and now that it's on Netflix, I've been able to watch two episodes.  And let me tell you, it's just as good as the old episodes.  The cast and crew is great, the props are adorable, and the humor is spot on.

But back to the original!  Today, I'm picking my favorites, the ones I couldn't help but press play on again as soon as it was back at the beginning of the tape.  Here we go!  All images courtesy of the MST3k Wiki

5. Skydivers
I may be opening myself up to some heated debate, but I've always preferred Joel over Mike.  But even I couldn't resist putting this movie on the list.  Coleman Francis had three of the worst movies in the MST3k library and this is the one that's always stuck in my head.  The wooden acting, the terrible dialogue, and the sluggish plot are perfect fodder for Mike and the Bots.  This movie has one of my most repeated lines in it, when the inept Pete looks down at the looming ground in awe, leading Mike to claim, "Hey, I can see my feet from here!"

4. Cave Dwellers
I would watch a whole movie of Joel and the Bots slow-motion sword fighting if I could.  The mighty Ator fights his way to save the kingdom from evil, getting poisoned and captured too many times along the way.  The opening bit where the old guy tells his daughter about Ator's history is hilarious for the monster spider puppet alone.  Also gotta love Joel flubbing his line during the shaving joke.  "May I just, uh, cup one of your pecs?"

3. Pod People
Another movie with weird non-related, filter-heavy images during the credits, it just adds to the many ideas weaved together to make nothing that resembles a coherent plot.  Pod People tries copying the successful formula ET showed, throwing a kid and an alien together, while also surrounding him with drunk uncles, a crappy band, inept hunters, and another blood-lusted anteater.  "Trumpy, you can do stupid things!"

2. Mitchell
Rumor has it Joe Don Baker has said he'd kick the MST3k crew's collective asses for the jokes they made as this movie's expense.  I can't say I blame him because they roast this movie and its thoroughly unlikable hero.  The trio's terror as they are forced to watch the love scene between Baker and Linda Evans is a high point - I can't help but crack up as they scream and vomit! "Baby oil?  NOOO!!"

1. Manos: Hands of Fate
Did you expect anything less?  This movie serves as a tribute to the saying "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."  A manure tycoon decides to make a movie and without a cast or equipment sets out to do it.  What comes out of it is a truly amazing specimen - A movie where every aspect of it is deplorable.  Luckily, all that filth serves as a wealth of material for Joel and the Bots.  I honestly can't do this movie justice here - if you haven't seen this movie (and what are you doing here if you haven't?) or you've seen it a million times like I have, do yourself a favor and go watch it now.  "Filmed on location in a vacant lot."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Darkstorm

I remember growing up thinking that the heat-rub insignia on Transformers were the coolest thing ever - stickers that only became visible when you pressed your fingers on them.  The technology behind them was so hard to fathom - but them came along holograms.  That was some real space-aged futuristic stuff there and they were everywhere.  They were even on my dad's credit cards!  A few toylines started using them as their main action feature as well, including Battle Beasts.  But then we got Visionaries which took the idea so much further with an awesome cartoon.

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light told the story of a world where all its technology is lost and the people are forced to return to its medieval roots, with castles and knights becoming commonplace.  A wizard named Merklynn offers to anyone that would beat his challenges special magic in return for doing his bidding every so often.  Fourteen knights complete the quest and are given magical totems based on their strengths - by calling forth their powers, they become their creature avatars.  Ten of the knights also receive power staffs which, when an incantation is read, summons a powerful creature the bearer can control.  The other four are given the ability to power the once dead vehicles.

The knights are clearly divided among the virtuous and villainous sides, but only a few are aligned to the main hero or villain in the beginning.  Darkstorm, the big bad of the series, gains the allegiance of the rest of the evil characters by saving them from traps during Merklynn's trials.  I'm not sure how they were all captured since they had escaped or beaten their rival good guys, but whatever.  It's not a strong allegiance anyway, as they all fight for the right to treasure two episodes later.  It does last long enough for them, now calling themselves the Darkling Lords, to capture all of the heroes and steal their power staffs.

Darkstorm himself a pretty decent villain, and I'm glad to see how he gains the servitude of most of his lackeys (two sniveling cowards were working for him at the beginning of the series).  Only his unflinching greed stops him from maintaining his group's loyalty.  He also pledges a truce to all the knights after gaining their powers so they can use them to help the people.  Of course, he doesn't keep the truce, but that "general sliminess" is how his powers are determined.  His power staff grants him the power of decay and the incantation to call it is only freaking awesome:
"By what creeps, what crawls, by what does not; let all that grows recede and rot!"
The winged creature above flies out and just by touching a person, ages them greatly.  He can also revert the power by calling out a second spell:
"Power of rot, obscuring truth, what once was old restore to youth!"
His totem creature is a little underwhelming in comparison: the Mollusk.  Half of the Darkling Lords gets disappointingly small or weak animal totems, and Darkstorm falls into that lot.  Using his power, he transforms into a giant snail with spindly arms.  He does, however, have the only ranged attack in that form, shooting acid. It's a fitting creature for a guy like Darkstorm, but I'm not sure which I'm more surprised at: that he didn't get a more imposing creature or that he didn't complain about it.

So let's rate this guy!
Coolness - 6. Darkstorm is an example of a villain done right.  He's got the imcomparable Chris Latta  providing his voice (though fellow bad guy Cravex gets Latta's usual rasp).  He's got a good dark color scheme that makes him stand out among the consistent red and purples of his underlings.  His powers are some of the strongest and stand out among the others.  And he's a greedy bastard as well.  What else can you ask for in a villain?
Effectiveness - 5. There's no denying he knows what he's doing.  In the first episode, he manages to gain a tenuous loyalty to his fellow bad guys by saving all of them from off-screen traps.  In the next episode, he manages to capture all of the good guys and lock them in a dungeon.  He even manages to steal one of the heroes's totem animal.  I'm not even sure how he did it or how the hero got it back.  Anyway, up until then, he's probably one of the most successful villains around.  But then he ruins it all by claiming all the treasures to himself and not giving his men a cent.  And when all your lackeys are mercenaries and thieves, that's a big mistake.  The third episode has the Darkling Lords turn against him and each other, allowing the good guys to escape.  The bickering continues as the two teams fight and ultimately leads to the bad guys' defeat.  If only Darkstorm was willing to share. But what kind of villain would that make him?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Villain Retrospect - General Plague

The writers of Sky Commanders had an impossible task: take a toyline centered on a single action feature, in this case, ziplines, and build a cartoon around it. They failed miserably.

The Sky Commanders are a highly-skilled group of mountaineers tasked with exploring a new continent that has erupted in the south Pacific and brought a new, powerful element to the surface - Phaeta Seven.  The element is so devastating that anyone who controls it can take over the world.  And General Plague intends to be that man, leading his group of imagination-devoid Raiders to get it.  

Because the terrain of this new continent is ever-changing, it requires specialized equipment to traverse it, namely Laser Cables and Battle Tracks. Laser Cables were shot from each persons backpack and upon hitting a solid surface, they changed to a line
that the backpack could slide on. They do have jets and hovercrafts, but for some reason this is the most reliable way to get around, even though the tethers snap easily or the grapple point breaks almost every time they use it.  It's a flimsy excuse, and in one episode when a new recruit asks why not just use jets all the time, the writers had to avoid the subject with a conveniently-timed earthquake.

The cartoon does everything it can to make the zip-lining backpacks cool, but jumping from one line to the other and "Hot-wiring," which electrically propels them across the line doesn't do much to make up for every other scene being someone plummeting into lava or fog.  The characters themselves are all pretty flat besides the big Eskimo, Kodiak, who speaks with a Russian-sounding accent.

General Plague suffers from this as well, of course.  His name doesn't make sense since he doesn't have any biological weapons.  I sometimes think they switched this guy's name and Overlord from Spiral Zone - Plague name sounds much more fitting for that cartoon.  He's limited to the same travel as everyone else and doesn't even get his own dedicated vehicle like General Summit, the leader of the good guys.  He just flies around on his Deception Raider (really hard not to type out Decepticon) with its voice-activated missiles.

It's not until the fifth episode where Plague gets a chance to really shine.  For most of the episode, he plays cat-and-mouse with summit, constantly upstaging him and getting him stuck in perilous situations.  It's a pretty cool episode and a good display of Plague's abilities.  up until the part where one of his goons is about to throw him in lava - suddenly Plague says to stop and instead uses him as bait for the rest of the Sky Commanders.  What the hell, dude?  You could have killed him and then you set up an obvious ambush against your forces!

Let's rate this guy:
Coolness - 4.  General Plague isn't a bad villain by any means.  He's got the villain color scheme down and while wearing his backpack, he looks a lot cooler than any of the Sky Commanders.  He's got the usual villain eye scar (same eye as Dr. Scarab even).  His voice is provided by Bernard Erhard, who also played another Hanna-Barbara villain, Cy-Kill.  While it sounds a lot like the Go-Bot, the more human touch comes across as a precursor to Clancy Brown's Lex Luthor, which is pretty cool.  A few times I forgot it wasn't him.
Effectiveness - 2.  No one seems to take him too seriously - in one episode, he randomly attacks the Sky Commander base before leaving.  Summit muses, "Why's he giving up so easily?  Who cares."  I feel the same way.  General Plague is a terrible excuse for a leader, and most of the bad guy screen time goes to his lackey Rath.   If it weren't for the first half of the episode mentioned above, he'd a get a zero.

Friday, April 7, 2017

No Flashback Friday today

Sorry for the late notice, but there will be no Flashback Friday today due to family appts this morning.  Next week, we'll be looking at the enemies of the Eco-BeetoBots, Onyx Corp.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up: 4/5/17

I'm not exactly sure what happened to this week, but I accomplished none of the stuff I said I would. I'm making up a parts list for a new computer and bought myself a new drawing tablet to do some coloring and inking for the sketches once I get more of them done.  Since nothing got done last week, the plan stays the same for this week.  Hopefully I'll get some of them completed this time.

1. Citizen Robo's logo. I'm contemplating building it in Blender instead of Illustrator (mostly because I'm still working with Illustrator CS1, which is old as shit and missing a ton of features).  Maybe I'll try both and see how it looks.
2. More sketches.  I've got the rough figure, now I want to stylize it to make it just right. 
3. Since I've gotten in touch with the 80s League, I've got to talk to them about building my audience.  I'm also hoping to talk to a friend of mine about possibly self-publishing.  If I do decide to go that way though, I've got to pick up the pace on OSE 2 so I can have it ready shortly after publishing the first book. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Top 5 80s Cartoons

As I'm working my way through a whole slew of cartoons I missed as a kid, my mind keeps going back to the shows I happened to catch.  The ones that got me to wake up, as a 3rd grader no less, at 5:30AM just to watch them before school, and the ones I rushed home to so I didn't miss an episode.  I admit I was obsessed with these cartoons as a kid and for good reason - these cartoons were the best of the bunch.  That's why today I'm covering my Top 5 Cartoons of the 80s.  I talk a lot about cartoons and though I've mentioned a few of my favorite shows and villains, I don't think I've ever spelled it out. 

5. Dinosaucers
What kid didn't like dinosaurs?  They showed up in practically everything.  But so few of them took dinosaurs and built a whole show around them.  But Dinosaucers took it a whole step further and made them aliens, flying around in space ships and shooting lasers at each other.  The Dinosaucers kept close to their roots, being able to Dinovolve - turning into full-fledged dinosaurs!  The cartoon included a group of kids called the Secret Scouts, but who cared about them when you have giant talking dinosaur people?

4. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
He-Man kicked all sorts of ass.  As a kid, I wasn't into comics, so I didn't know much about how powerful Superman was, and I didn't care because He-Man was lifting mountains and pushing moons out of orbit just fine for me.  He-man had an array of great character designs, especially on the Evil Warriors side with Skeletor, Trap Jaw, and Triclops.    And let's be honest here, we all loved seeing the evil stuff Skeletor planned, and we wanted him to win just once.  Sure the stories were hokey, and the PSAs at the end were cringe-worthy, but I just loved seeing big muscly-men wrestle and throw stuff.  And any kid from the 80s that said they never held up a stick and shouted "By the Power of Grayskull!" was a freaking liar!

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
What was better than barbarians and wizards?  Ninjas and... turtles?  It was a crazy idea, but it became the most popular cartoon idea to come out of the 80s.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is everything a kid could want - you had all the character clichés (the preppie, the nerd, the jerk, and the party kid) kicking the Foot Clan's butt with swords and nun-chucks.  It was a like a dream come true for a sugar-addled elementary student.  Raphael was always my favorite for being the smart-mouthed insult slinger, but almost everyone else loved the party dude Michaelangelo.  I can't think of a single friend I had that liked Leonardo, but as I grew up, I changed to like Donatello the most.  The villains were great as well with the samurai-like Shredder, his mutant henchmen and of course, the living brain, Krang. 

2. M.A.S.K.
Mobile Armored Strike Kommand may not have been able to spell its name right, but it spelled huge interest in me as a kid, taking the Transformer formula and adding a bit of GI Joe in.  You got the little action figure - each with a mask that gave them special powers - and you got a vehicle that could go from normal to bristling with weapons.  Cars could fly, motorcycles launches manned torpedoes, and gas stations became massive armed fortresses.  There were codenames galore with vehicle and mask names getting shouted every few seconds.  I loved the toys and would often mis-transform my Transformers to add them to my M.A.S.K. ranks.

1. Transformers
Easily my favorite cartoon and toyline, and that's going from my childhood to current time.  Transformers combined the action figure and vehicle concept so well be merging the two into one toy and they replicated that perfectly in the cartoon.  There was plenty of shots of each character in both their modes so you knew exactly what you were getting when you went to the toy store.  The characters in the cartoon had such a range of powers like teleportation and electromagnets and big personalities too - from the old, faithful Ironhide wanting to show he's still a soldier after all his years to the scheming, power-hungry Starscream always plotting to take Decepticon leadership.  As the show went on more Transformers flooded the episodes and though they didn't get as much screentime, they had plenty of personality to make sure you always remembered them.  The episodes were full of laser fire and explosions and though they got silly every so often, the giant robot action kept me glued to the tube.

So those are my favorites, and it was pretty hard to single some of these out.  There are so many great cartoons that I watched as a kid, and I'm finding out I missed a lot of great ones too.  Leave a comment below and let me know what your favorites are, and I'll be sure to check them out as well!

This post is made in connection with the 80s League as we expand our crossover events.  Check out the rest of the league's posts below to see what shows they love too!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Dr. Scarab

There are a lot of doctor bad guys in cartoons - Dr. Claw, Doc Terror, and now Dr. Scarab. Seeing what Scarab and Terror have done, I'm wondering what Claw's credentials are.

Dr. Scarab, originally Wilmer Sharp, Ph.D, was a brilliant pioneer of bionics, though not as great as his brother, Amadeus.  Dr Scarab had no intention of using his genius to help people, however: All he wants for himself is immortality and one day world domination. While Amadeus saved the Bennett family with his bionics tech, Scarab wrangled up a group of minions and augmented them with his own, somewhat inferior devices.  So nothing new there, he's your typical scientist bad guy, right?

Not really - because this guy's kinda cool.  Just like how Doc Terror didn't seem to fit the scientist mold by being a deep-voiced power-hungry bastard, Dr. Scarab here breaks the mold as well by being... pretty awesome.  He plays around, like when he's spinning his bionic implant scrambler on his finger, while pretending to be a radio DJ.  Hell, I'd listen to his broadcast, he's actually funny.  He's got the usual repertoire of insults for his goons, mainly for the scheming Glove and idiotic Mechanic, and he's not above punishing them for doing something right because as he says, he's "unpredictable."  I'll admit, it got a laugh out of me.

Image via Graphs, Paper, and Games
Indeed, much of the Bionic Six cartoon is the same way - I'm not really sure where things are going to go.  There is the tried-and-true plot, with Scarab trying to find an power source or magic object, or he plots to stop the Bionic Six, but then they throw in a surprise visit from one of the kid's ghost dad. I didn't expect a show focusing on bionic implants to have a recurring specter.  Nor did I expect to see that in addition to his group of augmented lackeys, Dr. Scarab has at his disposal an army of generic robots named Cyphrons.  Or that he's created Bionic Masking Units, which renders him and his goons undetectable by using holograms.  That's a lot of powers he has access to, and even though I didn't see it myself in the five episodes I watched, apparently he can shoot lasers out of his bionic eye and has enhanced strength of his own.

So how does this guy rate?
Coolness - 4.  I want to give this guy a higher rating on account of his personality.  He's funny and interesting and as generic as immortality is, it's not as bad as taking over the world.  He's voiced fantastically by Jim MacGeorge, doing an impression of George C. Scott mixed with a little of William Shatner's pausing speech pattern.  But just look at him.  He's an incredibly ugly character, fat and blobby with a cliche doctor's uniform.  He even has the head mirror and stethoscope for some reason.  You'd think that if he wanted to love forever, he'd want to look good doing it, right?
Effectiveness - 3.  He does have some interesting plots and they do seem to get some traction as well.  In the first episode, he's able to steal the power source from the Valley of Shadows before IQ tricks him into losing it.  And when he's using the bionics jamming radio waves, he manages to get Rock-1 hurt, and by her brother no less.  This guy isn't a slouch, but he does suffer from traitorous lieutenants, something he doesn't do much to deter either.  I just wish I could see him use some of his own bionic powers.