Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 8/30/17

Another Wednesday, another wrap-up.

Today, I'm going to talk about chapter titles.  Old School Evil doesn't have them right now, but I've been thinking for a while that it needs them.  And not just generic titles either, I'm planning to pick them out of episode titles from all the various cartoons I've watched.  I've got a list growing of all the titles of He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, Go-Bots, etc. and I think I can find plenty of potential titles there.

I haven't started my final edit for OSE 1 yet, but I did get the latest draft all set up in Scrivener.  Scrivener is a fantastic word processor that lets you do all sorts of things that Word just isn't up to snuff with.  Sure, I use Word at work for all my editing, but Scrivener's ability to save snapshots of previous drafts and to let you drag and drop sections makes editing a breeze.  If I could have any program installed on my work computer, it would be that.  And possible Blender.  But then I'd never get any work done.

So now the only thing left to do is start that last draft, and that's going to be a beast.  I need to change my sleep schedule so I can get up earlier and do it before work, but my sleep has been so bad lately, I barely wake up to get to work.  I need to start making some major changes if I'm going to complete this, and as close as I am to publishing, I'd be a fool for not trying them.  Step 1.  Quit browsing Reddit when I go to bed.  This is going to be harder than I thought.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 5 - Umbra vs Doc Terror

This week we're looking at just one of the this round's combatants because their cartoon is such a pain to slog through.  I can say now with utter certainty that I hate Mighty Orbots.   What a terrible cartoon.  Next week, we'll look at his opponent, Doc Terror from the Centurions.  After their fight, we're going back to covering both fighters in the same respect thread.

Anyway, I will admit I was wrong about Umbra.  In my Villain Retrospect, I stated that Umbra didn't actually do anything until the final episode when the Orbots attacked him directly.  I jumped the gun - it seems he was able to do accomplish a few things of his own in three other episodes.  In episode 3, he's able to broadcast a hologram of something instead of just his face to the Galactic good guys and he could hack their broadcasts.  He was also able to hack a planetary defense grid, but only after someone else had shut it down.  He moved the Shadow Star through space once, using what looked like boosters on the surface.  And finally, in Episode 8, he showed some real chops, using telekinesis to move Dr. Phoenix's corpse and bring it back to life.  He shot Dr. Phoenix with a virus through a random monitor and remotely controlled him and a number of other devices infected with said virus.  Finally, he used a holographic projection to remotely shut down Dr. Phoenix (he was half cyborg) even after the virus had been disabled. 

Umbra's ability to hack into machines and transmissions is going to be difficult for Doc Terror to overcome, but the real challenge will be fighting Umbra inside the Shadow Star, Umbra's own personal moon.  In the last episode, the Mighty Orbots takes the fight to Umbra and fight their way through Umbra's defenses.  And those defenses are pretty formidable.  He's got a whole army of Shadowbots and a massive robot called the Destructitron.  He can capture opponents within force bubbles and create illusions and even muse mental powers to confuse and incapacitate enemies.  The Orbots were only able to win by destroying Umbra's computer banks within the Shadow Fortress.

I'm not sure how Doc Terror has a chance against Umbra, especially if he has to take the fight to Umbra's home turf.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 8/23/17

Not a lot going on this week.  Been stuck covering for two people while my co-worker is sick, so I don't have as much free time at work to read, write, or edit.  Hopefully, the rest of this week goes a little smoother here.

Next month I'm going to my first comic convention!  It's a little one here in Reno, but I want to get an idea of what it's like to run a table and try to drum up sales.  Since I'm planning to publish next year, I'm going to have to start doing some rounds in at conventions here and hopefully in Sacramento, and this first visit will be as much a research trip as anything else.  Luckily, my wife's agreed to come with me (well I told her she was coming) and hopefully we meet some pretty cool people there as well.

On a sad and personal note, tomorrow, we are losing one of our cats.  Tinkerbell's been my wife's cat for close to 15 years and we just found out last month after her appetite had changed that she has lymphoma.  She's a sweet cat with a little bitchy streak, and we're all going to miss her so much.  It's going to be weird without her in our bedroom, getting stepped on her every night when she hopped up on the bed to get to my wife.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Top 5 Voice Actor Surprises

I've been trying to write a post on the voice actors of 80s cartoons for a while now.  Who starred in the most cartoons?  Who had the most diverse range of characters?  That kind of thing.  I built a spreadsheet of a bunch of actors whose names appeared in so many credits, but somehow I think I miscounted and I have to start over.  I'm definitely going to keep going with it because I have such a huge amount of respect for voice actors - they do such amazing work and hardly get any real credit for it.  I hope that changes someday, but in the meantime, hopefully, a couple posts will make up for it a little bit. 

Today, I wanted to talk a bit about voice actors that surprised me when I found out who they were. People you wouldn't expect to show up in cartoons, or a familiar name from something else showing up. 

5. Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie
As a kid, I had no idea who Orson Welles was.  In fact, of all the celebrity names in Transformers: The Movie, I don't think I recognized one of them.  Okay, maybe Judd Nelson.  That's the weird thing about stunt casting - throwing traditional in-person actors into voice rolls - it's done for adults more than the kids, to try to give a certain pedigree to a project.  Honestly, I hate this kind of casting - voice rolls should go to the best actor, no the biggest name - and it practically originated here.  I've learned since watching the movie who Orson Welles was, same as Robert Stack (Ultra Magnus), but I don't think I ever found out who Lionel Stander (Kup) was.  Still, it was a huge surprise to find out Unicron was voiced by titan in Hollywood, even if he hated the roll.

4. Uncle Phil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Shredder's voice in the first nine seasons of the Turtles cartoon was pitch-perfect.  It was deep and capable of some pretty scary and threatening speeches.  I loved hearing him taunt the turtles and then turn around and whine like a child.  It came as a big surprise to find out e had another regular roll in the 90s, as Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  James Avery's two roles were so different, I didn't believe it until much later when IMDB was up and running.

3. Law & Order in The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
This one I didn't find out until last year.  My wife watches a ton of Murder, She Wrote.  There's a recurring character, Harry, that sounded a little familiar.  Then I figured it out, he's Agent Zachary Foxx from The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers!  He had since moved up to a starring role in Law & Order and maybe even more surprising, he played Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast

2. David Kaye as Optimus and Megatron
This is isn't so much a surprise to find out, but more about how well it worked.  Starting in Transformers Beast Wars, David Kaye took over voice work for Megatron.  He played the Predacon leader completely opposite to Frank Welker's, giving him a scheming, sly voice that made him my absolute favorite iteration of the character.  After Beast Wars ended, Kaye continued to play Megatron through the Unicron Trilogy, but when Transformers Animated started, they cast Corey Burton into the Decepticon Commander.  Choosing to make Optimus a younger, less experienced leader, they recast him as well - and David Kaye got the roll!  He had a youthful and unsure quality that fit the cartoon well and made him stand apart from the confident and imposing Peter Cullen and Gary Chalk performances.

1. Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion in Gargoyles
This one is just bonkers.  Half the main cast of ST: TNG appears in Gargoyles - Jonathan Frakes (Ryker) as David Xanatos, Michael Dorn (Warf) as Coldstone, Bent Spiner (Data) as Puck, and Marina Sirtis (Troi) as Demona.  LeVar Burton and Colm Meaney made single appearances as Anansi and Mr. Dugan respectively.  Even more surprising is that Kate Mulgrew of Voyager played Queen Titania, and Nichelle Nichols from the original series played Eliza's mother, Diane.  If only they could have gotten Patrick Stewart to play a part!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 8/16/17

What happened this week?  I haven't posted anything since last Wednesday Wrap-Up!  I haven't made any headway into the Umbra vs. Doc Terror battle because watching a season of the Mighty Orbots is such a chore!  I just don't like the show because it feels like a subpar combination of Inspector Gadget and Voltron.  Umbra basically is a second rate Dr. Claw, commanding an ever-rotating cast of minions with a deep grumbly voice.  The only good thing I remember from the show is the fantastically animated intro.  Maybe I should just start with Centurions since I actually liked that show.

I've been working on the second draft of book 2, making slow progress.  There's so much to be changed that I'm basically rewriting the entire thing, so it's helping keep my interest.  I got some more feedback on one of my favorite sections in the first book too and I want to share it soon.  Have I ever introduced the main character, Manny?  I know I've mentioned him before, but I don't think I've really given him a proper introduction.  I think I've got to write up a good post to show you who he is very soon.

There's no other real news now, but I feel like talking a little bit about my inspiration as I'm writing this story.  When my finisher group was giving me feedback for OSE 1, Russell, the only member of the group familiar with the cartoons mentioned in the book, asked if I'd read Ready Player One.

He compared my story very closely with Ernest Cline's book, specifically with the reverence to retro pop culture.  "Of course, I've read it!" I replied.  Honestly, I was a little disappointed in it - I felt it referenced every bit of 80s pop culture except the cartoons!  So I feel Old School Evil's filling that hole!

Surprisingly though, I didn't read it until after I wrote the first few drafts of Old School Evil.  It wasn't an inspiration to write the book, but seeing all the references and respect he showed for D&D and arcade games did show me a change I needed to make in my book.  Originally, Old School Evil had a lot of indirect references to cartoons and toys - I was worried that naming the shows would alienate readers that weren't intimately familiar with it.  But seeing all the namedropping in Ready Player One, I decided to do the same with my book and hoping nostalgia works its magic with Old School Evil too.

Another inspiration for me, one I read before writing Old School Evil, was This Book is Full of Spider: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It, by David Wong. 

I absolutely loved the movie based on his first book, John Dies at the End, so I had to pick up the second book.  John and Dave, the two slacker/stoner/reluctant heroes had some hilarious adventures, but it was their voice that really inspired me and shaped the way Manny and his friends talk and behave.  There is so much sarcasm and dark humor in his stories, but I think this one is the very best of them, and a ton of fun.

Both of these books are great reads though and are some of my favorite reads.  Without these books, I'm not sure Old School Evil would exist, or it would feature a boring character making a ton of half-formed references about "cartoons with robots" and nameless action figures.  If you're interested in reading either of them, click their pictures above and check them out!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-up - 8/9/17

I hope I'm not coming off as too conceited, but I met with my finisher group on Monday and the three other members loved Old School Evil!  There were some flaws, of course, that's to be expected with everything, but I got so many compliments on the story, the petting, the characters, the idea, that I was blushing through the whole thing.  Wow, I totally am coming off as conceited, aren't I?  Truth be told, I was told the book was good but it still needs a lot of work, mainly with the characters and their motivations and jumps in logic.  I meet with my other group tomorrow where they'll go over one of my newer chapters, one that comes with a big revelation for the main character, Manny.  Once I get that feedback, it's back into it for another few drafts.

I've been fighting this decision for a while now, but I think it's time to face facts - I need an editor.  I've told myself for a while now that instead of hiring someone to do a line edit, I can take care of it myself with a few out loud readings, but I don't think it will really cut it.  I had read somewhere about letting the computer do it with a text-to-speech program, but even that isn't foolproof.  With how much it costs to do it though, I need to wait for my tax return, so hopefully, I'll have it ready to publish by the middle of February.  Why?  Because it's my birthday on the 15th so it's an easy deadline to see.

Since the time to publish has been moved out so far, I've been rethinking my cover.  I was originally planning to do one that's 3D-modeled, with the implements of the main villains and their Legacies.  I've got two of them modeled already, but still need to do some refinement and, of course, texture mapping.  I changed my plans when I started thinking of publishing sooner - I have no idea how to do mapping in Blender and that would take a while to learn.  Instead, I would make a cover out of the title image; the blueprint background, the robotic designs, the typewriter text.  I'd need to redo some of the images to get them higher resolution, and I'd update the various images on the blog at the same time.  I mean look at the Wrap-Up image above, you can barely pick out any of the detail on HammerSlammer.  So I think I can use this as the cover of the first book, and maybe the 3D-model stuff can be the cover of the second book.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Megatron Collection

With Megatron winning last week's Bad Guy Beatdown, I figured it might be time to show off my Megatron collection with it's two newest additions. 

Left is a new Kre-o Battle Changer and right is The Last Knight Legends figure.  I thought the Kre-o line was cancelled, but an eagle-eyed shopper spotted this new pack at Dollar General, and a few of us have spent a lot of time tracking them down.  On a side note, the C-clamps on the set stink and I already broke the one that holds the gun on in tank mode.  Boo.  Anyway, onto the rest of the collection!

I am a huge fan of Megatron (it was really hard not to let that sway his battle), and have been collecting his figures all the way back to Beast Wars.  The oldest figure I've owned continuously is Beast Wars Transmetal II Megatron, and he's one of my favorites - Action Master Megatron is the oldest one I own now, though I only bought it a few years ago off eBay (I have the tank too, but it won't fit on the shelf with everything else). I've broken down my collection by shelf.

Top shelf is mainly movie figures and the Unicron Trilogy characters.  Probably my least favorite characters, but the toys are pretty awesome.  And yes, I know that's Cybertron Galvatron and not Megatron, but I like the colors better, so I'll give it a pass.  There's also ChoroQ Megatron, but I honestly don't even know where he's supposed to fit.  WfC belongs on the bottom shelf, there just isn't any room.  The bottom shelf is my favorite Megatron characters: Beast Wars, Animated, and Prime.  You'll notice the presence of Robot Heroes figures there, but none are on the top shelf.  I have all of the movie Robot Heroes Megatrons, but I'm planning on getting rid of them and only keeping the G1 and BW figures because they actually look good.  The Transmetal figure's in beast mode because of GPS - Gold Plastic Syndrome, which made certain gold or gold-speckled pieces really brittle.  One of his arms broke off when I transformed him once for my Megatrons Anonymous comic and after super-gluing it back on, I've left him in beast mode.

That leaves the middle shelf.  This is really my pride and joy - the real history of Megatron.

The OG Megatron is actually a re-release from decades ago, and I only just took him out of the package within the last few years.  The stand he's set up on is from one of the Titanium figures.  I haven't even applied the stickers.  I've got Action Master and G2 Megatron in there - what a difference of size between the two figures!  I found G2 at toy show a few years ago, and even though the electronics still work - "Megatron Attack!" - all of its accessories are missing.  I've got two awesome statues and a number of other non-transforming figures, including Revoltech Megatron.  The cannon broke off one time when setting up a picture for the comic and it's been taped on lazily since then.  I really need to try some glue instead.

I am so insanely proud of my Megatron collection and it's taken a lot of time, money, and effort to track them all down.  Besides the older figures I have, some of my more prized pieces are Alternity (I have the black and red but would have preferred the more faithful silver one), Megabolt Megatron from Beast Machines/RiD, and a broken Armada Happy Meal toy.  There are only a few I don't have that I'd love to get down the line - Sega Megadrive, maybe a Kid Logic figure, a model kit (I've got the metal one but haven't assembled it yet), and even though it looks like crap, I should get the War Within Titanium figure some day.  And of course, that phenominal new Masterpiece figure.  Oh yeah, a better case to display them in too!

Oh, I forgot one!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Top 5 Transformers Cartoons

Last week, I wrote about my top 5 80s cartoon reboots and said, "I could have easily made this about the top Transformers reboots because there have been over a dozen iterations of the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons."  It's true!  There are a metric ton of Transformers cartoons and they all run the gamut from fantastic to eyeball-stabbingly terrible. 

And now we're getting a new one - Transformers: Cyberverse!  This show promises to take us back through the Transformers's entire history, doing cartoons inspired by every show produced, even Generation 1.

So I think it's high time I go through every iteration of the Transformers and pick my all-time 5 favorite series.

5. Beast Machines

Beast Machines did something new for Transformers and in some aspects, it worked.  It turned the act of transforming from something Cybertronions took for granted into a meaningful event.  They had to learn to transform all over again, something that took a lot of concentrations and sometimes led to failure.  I know it was too big of a change for some people - they thought the animation of it, with the model just kinda morphing into the other model, and the new cheesy motto "I am transformed" being a little too much for people to accept.  But what it did with the characters, notably Rhinox, was something unexpected and honestly, refreshing.

4. Transformers: Prime

Prime started out great - awesome animation with fantastic models, Frank Welker finally back as Megatron, and a rounded out cast of interesting Autobots and Decepticons.  The kids were probably the best human characters since Generation 1 (I fall in the small camp that actually likes Miko), and we had Ernie Hudson doing a spot on job as Agent Fowler, probably the coolest human in any Transformers fiction. The show had a ton of promise, but went off the rails a bit in the last season, dropping interesting threads and killing off awesome characters for no good reason.  Overall, I'd say this show didn't stand above the rest story-wise, but this is probably the most well-produced series so far.

3. Generation 1

I'm sure this is controversial, not putting G1 on the top of the list, but as much as I loved it as a kid and can still watch it today, it's got some serious flaws that I cannot overlook.  I mean, it was written just like any other 80s cartoon, where plots were spat out by various teams without any consistency.  Animation studios didn't care how the final product looked.  But even with those problems, the original series is endearing as hell and so many great shows have followed in its wake, it's impossible to not still love this show thirty-some years later.  It holds up to this day as a monumentally fun watch, and definitely one I plan on sharing with my kids as well.

2. Transformers: Animated

Do I really need to go into this again?  Yeah, because there's a lot I didn't cover in the last list.  I talked about how different it was from the original show, but I didn't really talk about what made this show so awesome on its own.  First, the voice cast is excellent.  David Kaye, who voiced Megatron in about 5 different Transformers series, took a turn as a young Optimus Prime and did an outstanding job at it.  Corey Burton, originally Shockwave in the G1 cartoon, upgraded to Megatron, giving him such an evil voice, especially with the Decepticon's new war cry - "Transform and Rise Up!"  I think it also has one of the absolute worst deaths in the show - truly heartbreaking with how brutal and heartless it was.

Before I go into number 1, I want to give an honorable mention to Rescue Bots. 

When I first heard about this show being for the younger kids, I wrote it off as a bunch of sappy nonsense.  But once my son was born, I decided to try it out and found it was a very fun show.  I never thought a show could do so well without the Decepticons ever showing up.  The cast of characters - human and Autobot are interesting and the techno-savvy town is a great backdrop to their learning adventures.  The fact that this show crosses over often with Transformers: Prime and a character from it has joined the cast of Prime's spin-off, Robots in Disguise is such an awesome touch.  The show's end came pretty abruptly, but there's a new cartoon, Rescue Bots Academy taking its place with new characters that I can't wait to introduce to my boy.

1. Beast Wars

Beast Wars takes place in the far-flung future of the Autobots and Decepticons, after the end of the Great War.  Maximals and Predacons have become the new Cybertronians, and peace has ruled for hundreds of years.  During an exploratory trip, Optimus Primal's ship is shot down and crashes on an alien world.  Megatron follows them down onto the planet, covered with unstable energon.  They take on beast modes to protect them from the radiation and a new war begins.  Everyone thought this show was a new beginning for the Transformers, their leaders in new bodies and commanding all different troops.  But come the second season finale, when this new Megatron finds the Ark filled with offline Autobots and Decepticons, you realize this is somehow past, present, and future of the original show.  It was a stunning reveal.  Sparks, the life force of the Transformers and their version of a soul, started here and have become a staple of Transformers lore from here on out.  It's had a long lasting effect on Transformers and is widely considered the very best Transformers has had to offer in its long history.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-up - 8/2/17

August already?

First off, something funny.  I got another rejection yesterday.  I can't remember the agent's name, but I had sent a query to him so long ago that Query Tracker had closed it automatically two weeks ago.  Here's an example of why I've decided to self-publish.  Having moved to electronic queries, the response time was supposed to have been much quicker, yet I'm still only getting responses five months later.  And for it to only be one of those "I'm not the right fit" form replies is just disappointing.  Oh, well, glad I'm not worrying about this now.

I've still been writing almost every day now, which feels great.  It's not a lot each time - I'd definitely lose NaNo with this meager output - but it's way better than what I was doing at the beginning of this year.  Don't ask me how soon I'd be able to finish this draft, but I know someday it'll be completed.

I think I've said this before, but one thing I want to do before I can finish the first book is build up some supplemental stuff.  I'm talking about the Production Bibles for the main cartoons represented in the book, namely Hurricanines, Defenders of Dino City, Ultra City Ultra Twins since the main characters are from those.  I'm planning to do a few other shows for characters that show up a few times in the cartoon as well, so there will be six production bibles in total.  These are all written but, need a look over to make sure they're ready to share.  The one problem I've got is logos and titles. 

You've got such great logos and title screens here with some great effects on them.  I need to take a lot of my own logos, some of which I haven't even come up with, that feel like they fit in with these.  I've only got one I consider completed (Huricanines as seen below).

I still need to come up with a title for it.  For the logos I had first made, I took fonts I found for free online and just plugged it in.  If you look at those title screens above, only a few of them look like they just took a regular font and modified it a bit.  Hopefully, I can create some title screens that really fit with their logos and look completely original.

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 4 is out and I am pretty proud of how it turned out.  Almost everyone on Facebook agreed that Megatron was going to stomp Miles, so to keep the battle relatively even between the two combatants was important to me.  Miles was always destined to lose, I think, but there's no way he'd go down without hurting Megatron.  Next round is coming up, but may be delayed a week because of how much I need to watch.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to watch a bunch and keep on track to post the respect thread next Monday for Round 5 - Doc Terror from Centurions vs. Umbra from the Mighty Orbots.