Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 12/13/2017

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

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

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sparkplug - The Only Good Sidekick

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 8 Results

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Top 5 Worst Mascots

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

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

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

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

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