Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 7 Results

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

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

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Horrorathon - Monster Squad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 10/25/17

The end of October's coming too fast!  As I'm working on my last draft of Old School Evil, I'm splitting my time between reading through the manuscript at work and finding places to edit and my time at home where I'm making the actual edits.  Unfortunately, the time at home is not available as my work time so while the notes are plenty, the edits are not.  Still, I am hoping to make those edits as soon as possible.

One of the changes I've been focusing on lately is the supporting characters.  One of the biggest criticisms I had from my finisher group is that the supporting characters, the ones Jayce finds during his adventure, are not as fleshed out as they should be.  And it's true.  They played a part in the book, but I never spent too much time defining their motivations and goals, or even their pasts.  I knew what they were when Jayce found them, but not much before or after that.  So on this last draft, I'm finding places to expand on them.

There are three of these characters, each of them the children of a villain just like Jayce.  Jeff, Jayce's first friend (whose name may end up changing to set himself apart from Jayce's new name), is the son of Professor Rex, the leader of the Terrorsaurs, the villains from Defenders of Dino City.  After finding him, Jayce is tasked with finding Nicky, the daughter of Big Gun, one of the antagonists from Ultra City Ultra TwinsThe third I'm keeping a secret since I haven't introduced his father yet. 

While each of these characters wanted something within the book, I didn't put much a reason behind it, no long-term goals or deep motivations.  So I'm trying to add those in - Jeff feels abandoned by his father and wants to know why and gain some kind of acceptance.  Nicky, who group up with a shitty mom, was raised to feel useless, like she will never amount to anything and eke on by.  Once she found out about her father and all the villainous things he's done, she feels empowered to show how "bad-ass" she can be too.  Carlos follows a similar path, but at completely opposite ends.

I don't think any of these changes will drastically change the story, but since these characters all play a big part in this book and the rest of the series (however long it turns out to be), it makes sense that they are fleshed out as much as possible.  And these changes will only dictate how they act further along in each of their stories.

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 7 will be posted next week and I think it's going to be a great fight.  I'm glad it's going to be two magic users battling it out, makes it a little easier to compare the pair's abilities.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 7 - Venger

This week we're taking a look at the infernal wizard himself, Venger from Dungeons & Dragons. I never got a chance to watch this show as a kid, and he was the first villain I found when I was doing the second half of my Villain Retrospect series, and I was astonished that we had an actual accomplished villain here.  Venger proves himself to be a real powerhouse in practically every episode of his show and I honestly feel sorry for any of his opponents.

Venger's got himself some impressive powers, but his most used one is shooting mystical bolts from his hands.  Though most of them aren't shown to cause any damage (as it is with Skeletor's blasts), he can cause avalanches and blow holes in stone walls.  Sometimes the bolts are replaced with some form or energy ball or bubble, but it has the same effect - even when it's reflected back at him, it's strong enough to knock him off a cliff. 

His defenses are also strong, he's shown on multiple occasions to deflect magical blasts from other wizards with his palm.  That's just awesome.  Other times when he's hit, he shrugs it off most of the time, and only a few times was he ever knocked back.
Often you'll find Venger on top of his horse, which I don't think has a name, but it looks cool as hell with a black skull face-plate.  Venger himself has wings that double as a cape, but he only seems to fly when he's riding the horse, so I think the wings are just decoration and the flight is a power the horse has.  I mentioned him falling off a cliff before and instead of flying back up, he teleported away, so I'm pretty sure he cannot fly at all.  The teleport is only a one-time ability too, so I'm not sure I can count it.

Venger also shows the ability to conjure up illusions, whether they're free-floating or in a magic orb.  Not too useful, but they always show up in the most awesome way at the end of the episode.  In three occasions in the 13 shows I saw, he was trapped by another force in some temple or castle and to escape, he obliterates the entire structure in an atomic bomb-looking explosion, where the mushroom cloud morphs into his visage.  It is such a powerful image and if I had seen it as a kid, I would have been blown away. 

It's often said that Venger is the most powerful sorcerer in the show (besides Dungeon Master, apparently), and it only afraid of one thing; Taimat, the five-headed dragon.  In fact, in an unproduced final episode, the kids decide to defeat Venger once and for all by using Tiamat.  I think to examine Venger's strengths, we need to take a look at Tiamat's.  Each of the five heads breaths a different elemental effect - the main head is the typical fire, but the other heads appear to breath ice, poisonous gas, shadow (?), and electricity.  He appears to be invulnerable to any of Venger's blasts, although he was hurt when Venger enhanced his attack with the kids' magical weapons.  Too bad it only happened once.  Besides that, Venger ends up being chased away by Tiamat when they face off.  If that's the only thing he's scared of, that's still damned impressive.

To see his opponent, Lady Diabolyn, click here.  To see the rest of Bad Guy Beatdown, click here.  And make sure to check back next week to see them square off in Round 7.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Retro Horror Movies - Maniac

With Halloween fast approaching, I'm doing something else today. It's still Old School Evil, but instead of 80s cartoon evil, we're looking at 80s slasher flick evil.  The Banzai Retro Club (formally the 80s League) is posting on the first horror movie they saw that really scared them. 

Make sure to check out the rest of the Banzai Retro Club's posts to find even more scary movies.  More will be posted as they become available.

And for me, the first film that really scared me is absolutely 1980's Maniac.

I'm starting off with a story. When I was 9 years old, my parents dropped me off at our aunt and uncle's house for the weekend.  I remember it was the same weekend that I saw the first trailer for the Transformers movie, but that's besides the point.  Now those two were the coolest family because even at our young ages, they let us get away with anything. We told dirty jokes, watched filth, and generally never wanted to go home.  One night while we were there, she took us three kids to the video store and we each were allowed to rent a movie.  Any movie. That is a lot of power to give to someone that hasn't even reached double digits.

My older brother picked out some adult practical joke show, my young brother picked out House, a pretty cool horror film, and picked out Maniac.  How someone could allow a 9-year-old kid to rent a movie with that picture on the cover is beyond me.  We went back to their house and I won the coin toss to watch my movie first.  I loaded it in the VCR and sat back to watch this train wreck of traumatization on a little kid's psyche.  I mean watch the trailer and tell me if you think my aunt and uncle were lousy guardians (they really weren't!).

I'll be honest with you.  I made it through about 10 minutes before sobbing and begging my uncle to turn it off.  I think we watched House later that night and I was fine with it and I loved a lot of the other slasher films I saw as a teen, like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, but I don't think I'll ever watch this movie, even 30-some years later. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 10/18/17

Okay, this is my third time trying this.  I've written the post out twice on the Blogger app, and both times the app just fails me spectacularly.  Lucky, my computer is letting me access the site at work again after blocking me for a few days.

Anyway, the main thing I wanted to talk about was the change to Bad Guy Beatdown.  I know I said before that the change to one post for each combatant was something I wanted to do, but it's just necessary.  It was easy to do when it's shows I'm familiar with or have short runs, but 26 episodes in a little over a week is too much to do when there's a baby at home and I'm editing my book too.  I don't want anyone to think this is a ploy for more pageviews, because it definitely isn't that.  I'm worried about losing readers' interest going this way, but it's a necessary evil.

Editing is going well.  I'm still planning to be done by the end of the month but it'll be tight.  I have another sample of the book planned by the end of the month.  After that it's art and the dreaded blurb, which I forgot about until last weekend when my writing group met.  Luckily I'll have their help perfecting it. 

In case you're not aware, the blurb is the stuff on the back of the book that goes over some of the story.  It's usually the same stuff you'd see on the Amazon page for the book as well.  It's similar to a query but has to be careful not to give too much away.  I'm terrible at queries and I'm sure I'll be just as bad at this as well.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 7 - Lady Diabolyn

Okay, I've got a confession to make.  During the last few rounds, I went back and forth between introducing both combatants in the same post and giving each of them their own post a week apart.  I've decided the only way I'm going to do this is the latter - I just can't watching 13 episodes of two separate cartoons in one week.  I've got a wife, and a kid, and a book I'm supposed to be editing.  I hate having to do it this way, but it's the only way I can do it and keep a regular schedule. 

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So with that out of the way, we're looking at Wildfire's villain, Lady Diabolyn.  Evil sister of the once queen of Dar-Shan, her goal is gaining the crown from her niece and rightful ruler, Princess Sara.  Diabolyn, while possessing an awesome name, has no powers of her own, instead relying on the Spectres of Darkness, a multi-faced cloud of smoke.  The Spectres were trapped in an urn by Sara's father and pledged to help Diabolyn in her quest after she freed them. 

The Spectres' powers are pretty great, allowing Diabolyn to shapeshift into a dragon, cause lightning to strike, and turned her five minions, the Goons, from human into winged... things.  Okay so that power isn't that impressive, though she was once able to summon a horde of similar goons from the Spectres.  The only problem is that she needs to call on the Spectres any time she wants to use their powers, which backfired on her once when they decided to take matters in their own hands and abandon her.  That episode, they were able to take human form, travel to the real world where Sara lived, shoot fireballs from their hands, summoned a horse, ropes, and lightning.  Either they're holding back on Diabolyn or they weren't able to grant so many powers to her.

Now we're going to take a look at Lady Diabolyn herself and what her typical plans were.  Everything boiled down to making herself the ruler of Dar-Shan, but going about the weirdest ways, like making a golden dress out of fairy cocoon fibers just so she could look the part.  She turned into a dragon in that episode, but thought the best way to steal the crown was looking pretty.  She made a wish at a well that turned a frog into the king of Dar-Shan, and she decides to marry him.  I'm sure the writers tried keeping her plans simple and superficial because they thought that's what girls would like, but it really hindered making her a good villain.

Next week, we're looking at her opponent, Venger from Dungeons & Dragons.  It's funny how a random tournament generator pitted two magic users against each other.  Makes for some interesting battles!