Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Fortunately, YouTube is a great resource for this, and I've used it to its fullest potential here.
Inhumanoids is one of those series which most people have some idea is out there, but nobody seems to care about. The best resources out there for it are Wikipedia (sad), some website where a guy suggests taking a shot every time a monster screams in a Chris Latta voice while watching it (he proclaims you'll be hammered in half an hour), and, well, YouTube.
Why is YouTube a good resource?
Well, aside from the obvious presence of that intro right there, YouTube has the entire series on it.
Apparently, Hasbro, owners of the Inhumanoids franchise, don't really care about things they can't make money off of, and are letting YouTube be for the time being.
And so I saw the entire series.
Moving on. Inhumanoids is one of those odd ducks. Like many '80s cartoons, it featured toy-based characters, often sloppy animation, and pretty decent voice acting. Unlike most '80s cartoons, it featured a horrible onscreen death.
Yes, you read that right. Some guy fell into a swamphole (literally in the swamp) of toxic chemicals, and died screaming a horrible screaming death. Of course, he came back in an episode or two, resurrected by the dino-zombie D'Compose, but still, he died a horrible screaming death onscreen. I mean, we didn't see blood or guts or anything-it's still a cartoon, and only Gargoyles got away with showing large amounts of blood here in the USA. But still.
I digress. The other thing about the Inhumanoids cartoon was its rather unusual concrete flow of time. Two of the characters get married, for instance, and the last episode of the series actually explicitly takes place a minimum of three months after the previous one. More remarkable, perhaps, is that the series itself is a complete series. Its ending, while open-ended, is a genuine, workable ending, and it's not one of those really irritating cliffhangers that so many cartoons I've watched have inadvertantly ended with.
The other thing about the series that is interesting to me is that it had an edge to it. Specifically, it feels like the works of H. P. Lovecraft modified for a young audience. Not really wee little kids, because, gee, violent horrible onscreen death, but the feel of the series is very much parallel to the works of Lovecraft, and his strange, horror-filled universe. It is crammed with monsters that are foreign to us and which we normally don't notice. It's just a little bit less scary than Lovecraft's work theoretically is. That, and it has funny, cartoonish names instead of randomly strung together letters.
As one last note, the character Auger, who was basically Wolverine with a drill (on his battle armor) instead of claws (and was a skilled mechanic instead of being a feral mutant), ran for president in the last episode. And won. (This is even funnier than it sounds, because like someone else who ran for president and won, he's bald and wears purple. And battle armor.)
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
(In response to the trailer's last statement, and the title of this post) Um, no thank you.
You know, I watched this movie as a kid. But I never, never, even in my wildest and most fever-inspired dreams, actually suspected that it was a theatrical release.
Lots of people express disdain, to put it gently, for the Rock Lords (stronger even than their disdain for Gobots). Little wonder:
(Sad fact: I've got more than half of those toys.) Yes, the Rock Lords get around by climbing hills, turning into rocks, and then rolling down them. (They actually do this in the film.) Yeah, Megatron's useless altmode looks less bad now; at least he changes to a convenient carrying size.
Of course, since they lived on a planet made entirely of rocks, covered in nothing but rocks, they could use their rock forms for camoflage. (Seriously, they did this too. You'd think that the other guys would learn to recognize what all their enemies looked like, but noooo...)
Despite this, I still mostly like the Rock Lords movie. While the Gobots cartoon in general is far inferior to Transformers (even G1), the Rock Lords movie is thoroughly watchable. I mean, it's not like it's super awesome or anything...
...but it's completely tolerable. I mean, the Rock Lords are actually sort of interesting (for some reason I've always really liked the Fossil Lord-the combination of a bone theme and a codgery, hissing voice is pretty unique, especially in a good guy), and while the good guys come out on top, it actually feels like a real (as opposed to a fake) desperate battle. The Gobots are practically (as indicated above) minor cameos for much of the film.
And while the film lacks either Pathfinder or Buggyman, Bugsie is present (and it seems to be his only appearance), so that rather makes up for it.
Failed '80s toy franchise cartoon week is a go.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I recently found a website with pretty decent information about that most maligned of transforming robot series/toylines, Gobots. (My lone previous mention of Gobots can be found here. Also, note that the website's creator is a borderline rabid anti-Transformers and pro-Gobots partisan, a true rarity on the Internet. Another note on the website: He's Batrain.)
With names like Dumper, Pumper, and Dive-Dive, is it a wonder that Gobots got its clocks cleaned?
One thing Gobots did right by comparison to Transformers, though: Female Gobots were actually Gobots. The earliest female Transformers were pretty much sex objects (particularly poor Firestar, who ought to file for a restraining order against the TFWiki guys).
I mean, the cartoon itself was bad, but the treatment in this particular area was superior to its counterpart.
Friday, December 26, 2008
It's a rather unusual film, and must be approached from a different angle than most movies. It's more of an anthology than anything else. The film's description calls them "six mostly related segments" or some such thing, but they're really only very vaguely related. (Several of the films share supporting characters, but it's like saying that two Batman stories are consecutive because they both have Alfred. Some of the connections that are supposed to be made between the segments make no sense, such as the supposition that In Darkness Dwells is immediately followed by Working Through Pain.)
Each segment is directed and animated by entirely different teams, although the voices of the recurring characters tend to be the same. (Batman is Kevin Conroy, reprising his role from Batman: The Animated Series.)
Since each segment is so markedly different, it'd be better to divide them up into their components and look at them individually.
Have I Got a Story For You is the first segment. It was made by the same studio which made a popular but ugly movie called Tekkon Kinkreet. (Lots of people praised the movie, and it got awards, but I just can't get past how ugly the animation is.) And unfortunately, the animation is rather similar to that movie's.
However, it's a pretty good segment anyway, mostly because it's one of my favorite Batman stories: A bunch of kids tell each other warped stories of just what Batman is. As far as I'm concerned, this story borders on being the most fun Batman story.
And ugly animation aside, it's a pretty good one. The sequence where Batman is a hideous terrifying shadow monster vampire thing is probably the best, because the style suits the trippy segment.
But this film is a good place to start because it sets the tone for the wider anthology. Each part of it is depicting someone's distinct vision of Batman, and it works well for the film as a whole.
Crossfire is a Batman story of a different streak. As with the first, it is more of a "story that takes place in Gotham and features Batman very heavily" story than a "Batman" story. We don't get into Batman's head any more in this segment than in the last one, although we get more out of him than "Thanks, kid." And the animation, which is nice, serves to wash the taste of the last one's animation from the mouth.
Field Test is an odd segment, for more reasons than Bruce Wayne looking like a bishonen. Using the term "electromagnetic pulse" to describe a magical force field is just insane, thank you very much. It also feels like it doesn't belong in the same time period as the other segments. And it confuses the viewer with the gang bosses Maroni and "the Russian," both of whom were put away at the end of the previous segment, both being out on the street (well, in large yachts, actually). But it doesn't matter so much, because it actually does give us a snapshot of Batman's psychology-he won't use the forcefield again, because its ricochet effect could put others' lives in danger during firefights.
In Darkness Dwells initially promises to be a good segment, but it has too many weird things about it for me to talk about it positively. The mouths, for one, are animated in a truly... disturbing way. They're incredibly active and mobile, and super-explicitly enunciate every single letter of every word. The segment also features really bad-looking animation like Killer Croc sliding around like he's got no legs but a mass of tentacles or something hidden under the water, or Batman dynamically moving at three quarters of a mile per hour away as guys look impressed at his exit, or for that matter the hundred foot wide statue head that follows him through a sewer pipe and nearly crushes him to death (wait, what?).
Working Through Pain is a frame story that features a set of connected flashbacks to when Batman journeyed to India to learn to control pain. Why is he flashing back to this? Because he's been shot. There's a very painful (heh) moment where he takes out a little gadget and uses it to cauterize the wound. (It really sounds like it hurts. Conroy is good at those in-pain bits.) At the end, whilst wallowing around in garbage waiting for Alfred to pick him up, he finds that the garbage has a ton of guns sitting in it, and gathers them all up obsessively. When Alfred reaches him and offers his hand to pull him out, Batman looks up at him and says "I can't." (Incidentally, Batman is my mom's and my sister's woobie, and sis totally had a "poor woobie" moment in response to this. Mom wasn't watching.)
Deadshot is the last bit, and features Batman fighting Deadshot on a train. That's pretty much it, although it wraps up some of the so-called subplots from the other bits.
All in all, Gotham Knight is worth it if you like Batman and you like anime, and may be worth it if you just like Batman. Despite it having come out quite a while ago, it's still all over the place (just like this one), so if you thought about it and didn't get to it, it should still be easy to find.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Okay, I'll stop now. (Tetsujin 28 [Iron Being/Man two-eight] was originally from a 1956 manga, which later became a 1963 anime. I catalogued some information about Tetsujin here, and you can find intros for later series also based on the character here, here, and here. Yes, those are all different series. There also was apparently a live action movie, but the trailer looks disgraceful.)
-Signing off, and Merry Christmas Eve.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
No, not that Iron Man.
The book was written by someone named Ted Hughes. The title was coincidental-it was originally published in England, and its title was changed to The Iron Giant before publishing over here.
So, other than really nice movies and having metal armor and the word "iron" in both their names, what do they have in common? Even in the original book (a children's book), the Giant was a superhero.
So what did he do there?
According to Wikipedia, after an initial scare, the Giant was accepted by the local village (which, by the way, was in England), but the peace was short-lived because
astronomers monitoring the sky make a frightening new discovery; a massive "star spirit" shaped like a black dragon moving from orbit to land on Earth. The "Star Spirit" crashes heavily on Australia, later demanding humanity provide him with food. Terrified, humans send their armies to destroy the Star Spirit, but it remains unharmed.
OMG just like in the comic books!
When the Iron Man [Giant] hears of this global threat, he allows himself to be disassembled and transported to Australia. There, he challenges the Star Spirit to a contest of strength: if the Iron Man can withstand the heat of burning petroleum for longer than the Star Spirit can withstand the heat of the Sun, the Star Spirit must obey the Iron Man's commands forever more; if the Iron Man melts or is afraid of melting before the Star Spirit undergoes or fears pain in the Sun, the Spirit has permission to devour the whole Earth.
After playing the game three rounds, the Star Spirit is so badly burned that he no longer appears physically frightening. The Iron Man, by contrast, has only a deformed ear-lobe to show for his pains. The Star Spirit admits defeat.
Boy, the Star Spirit was dumb.
So, yeah. Probably just a lot of eerie coincidences... I think.
Monday, December 22, 2008
As I have mentioned in the past, Iron Man is one of my all-time favorite superheroes. It has at least a little bit to do with the second season of the Iron Man cartoon from way back (intro here), and also to do with the fact that that Iron Man is sort of what Batman would be like if he actually made some kind of logical sense and wasn't simultaneously trying to be DC's version of Wolverine (i.e. the non-ultrapowerful guy who can trash all the ultrapowerful guys by flicking his pinky and his fan base in their general direction).
I also really like the armor for some reason.
So I was much more emotionally invested in this movie than, say, any of the Batman movies ever (I've pretty much decided I'll never deliberately watch any of them) or even the Spider-Man movies (the way they did Doctor Octopus just didn't work for me, something I may discuss at some point).
And I wasn't disappointed.
There are lots of little details that really worked. In ways, it seems rather like they were using the cartoon as more of a template than the comic-the iconic chest-mounted life-saving gadget thingy, for instance (though for all I know something similar was in the comic; I've just always been under the impression that he was usually wearing something much bigger in the comics till he got the old shrapnel in his heart junk removed), and also their conversion of Jarvis into a house computer (in the cartoon, the house 'puter was named Homer and had a green holographic avatar).
One thing I loved was the modification of the repulsors into this multifunction blaster/thruster combination. When Tony is testing out his arm unit when Pepper walks in, and remarks "it's completely harmless" you just know it's going to blow something up.
Lots of people, I know, don't make a big fuss about the little technical details, but I obviously love them when they're interesting, and they were in this movie.
The movie also addresses, indirectly, the question "why don't you just put that stuff in a big tank thing and get an even better weapon? Nothing says you couldn't!" Tony doesn't put his Iron Man weaponry into anything bigger than a personal suit because he doesn't want to. Stane puts the weapons into a suit the size of a small tank (he doesn't have quite as many slick weapons, but still sticks to the same technology-he's operating on different principles entirely) and gets something much stronger in a straight fight-because he wants to. Obviously, I'm simplifying considerably when I say this, but this explains so much of what happens in the movie.
The movie also has something in it which I've refered to before, which I will here call the "Spaceknight effect." Watching Iron Man blow away and physically crush the terrorists can be very unsettling. (Perhaps my empathy has improved, or perhaps I've just been seeing more things with this in them lately. I don't know.) It balanced out a bit with bits that struck me as funny-the part where the Mark I's arm gets jammed in the cave wall, so some guy walks up and tries to pop him off, but gets hit by the ricochet, the bit where he pops up out of the crater he crashed into after he was shot down by the tank (the ash on his mask made him look really mad), and the bit where he takes the guy who had been leading the purge expedition and says "he's all yours" and throws him at the villagers' feet, with a brief Robocop punch-through-wall-and-grab-that-guy bit (okay, that's not funny, but it's edifying). Moments like Iron Man's shoulder needle missile things popping up and killing fifteen guys in the span of a breath were very scary.
On the other hand, I love they way they characterized Iron Man. A lazy bum at the beginning, but only because he's confident in the world, and so he's chosen to resign from it beyond his creating technology to help it. When it comes down to it, he does care, and that's important. The way he cares doesn't strike me as heavy-handed or excessively moralizing-he realizes that he's helped kill people that he genuinely (if distantly at first) cared for, and his seeming 180 is a result of his guilt over what is essentially the shattering of his secure worldview. And he makes it clear through his actions that he cares, because he takes risks to avoid bringing others to harm-notably in his efforts to save the airman whose chute doesn't deploy, while the wingman is right there and ready to open fire on him.
Also, while writing a sense of humor into Iron Man apparently isn't what has always been done, it's pretty much necessary for the character from my perspective. Don't ask me what it is, but for some reason, if you can't at least quirk an eyebrow at him, he doesn't work as well. (I don't know that much historically about Iron Man's portrayal-I know that at times he's been funny in the comics.)
The movie as cinema? I liked it. I was a little surprised at Stane's betrayal of the Ten Rings (suppose I shouldn't have been), but I guessed early on (like, the first time I saw footage of some bald guy from the film, and read that there was an Iron Monger prop that had been spotted on the set) that he'd be the big bad of the film itself-I mean, come on, he's freaking Obadiah "Iron Monger" Stane. And yes, I picked up on who the Ten Rings sort of is. I have to admit, some of the bits where he was putting the moves on women put me off a bit (it's good they removed the Dubai house scene), but it's a part of the character-like James Bond, or for that matter like Batman if Batman took that seriously.
Making Stane Tony's "mentor" is kind of a "Spider-Man Movification" of the character, but it works really well here. And unlike Spider-Man 2's version of Doc Ock, Stane is as greedy and coldhearted an *untranscribable* as he was in the comics. (It's also interesting that they cut out Stane's being monomaniacal to the point of death aspect, as he committed suicide in the comics.)
Also, I'm very amused that Tony spontaneously threw out the bodyguard explanation for the Iron Man identity and proclaimed that he actually was Iron Man during the press conference. Obviously, they weren't worried about being slaves to the comics.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Notice anything... significant about Lightan there? He hangs out with a kid who's what, ten? And he transforms (through incredible size altering power) into a cigarette lighter.
"Oh," you say, "lighters have other purposes. It's perfectly innocent."
What if I told you that the kid formed a club/team called the One Pack Rangers?
I rest my case.
Moving on. Lightan is pretty typical of the Tatsunoko robots in that he kicks and beats the living daylights out of things many times his size. (Unlike most of the robots I mention in these profiles, by the way, Lightan is self-aware and self-controlled.) Like a certain other robot I've mentioned, he does so with extreme brutality. His "signature" move is jabbing his hand into an enemy robot and tearing out the "heartbox energy device."
But that's not the only case of Lightan's brutality. Observe:
Ouch. And again, ouch. Granted, it's a fighting game, in which size is often a liability rather than an advantage, and it was two on one, but nonetheless... ouch.
One last note: Lightan had many sidekicks who resembled R2D2/Transformer hybrids... which were all named [adjective] Lightan.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Case in point: "The five mile fallacy."
To summarize what encompasses this "fallacy" in super succinct form:
- Within the films, comparison between the Executor (the superlarge flagship used by Darth Vader in ESB and ROTJ [see size comparisons between it and other SF behemoths at Jeff Russell's Starship Dimensions-it's much bigger than a Borg cube]) and other vessels clearly and consistently indicate the vessel is approximately 19 kilometers (between 11-12 miles) in length (taking into account the stated size of the standard Star Destroyers, which are about a mile or 1.6 km).
- An official sourcebook stated that the Executor was approximately five miles in length.
- The official material that came after the sourcebook very consistently used the incorrect figure.
- Lots of people got mad.
- Eventually, there was a correction.
- Now the "correct" figure is the "official" one.
Apparently, scale is consistent throughout the films. If I recall correctly, there are actually discussions of the size of numerous objects throughout the films, such as a comparison of Endor's size to the second Death Star. Even other subjects have had a ridiculous amount of investigation into them-see this incredible discussion of Darth Vader's injuries, for instance. (Some folks just have too much time on their hands.)
Say what you like about the films, old or new, but they've had a lot of craft put into them.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Type XXI U-boat
Type XXIII U-boat
Panzer VIII "Maus"
Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte
Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster
Jets and rocket-propelled aircraft
Heinkel He 280 - the first jet fighter
Messerschmitt Me 262 the first operational turbojet fighter/bomber
Messerschmitt Me 163 "Komet" the first operational rocket-propelled fighter
Focke-Wulf Ta 183 jet fighter
Arado Ar 234 - the first jet bomber
Horten Ho 229 "flying wing" jet fighter/bomber
Bachem Ba 349 manned rocket-propelled interceptor
Silbervogel sub-orbital antipodal bomber
Heinkel He 162 jet fighter
Flettner Fl 282 "Kolibri"
Focke Achgelis Fa 223 "Drache"
Bombs and explosives
Fritz X air-to-ship glide bomb
Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb
German nuclear energy project
V-3 cannon "Hochdruckpumpe" (a multi-stage cannon)
Fi 103 (V1) - the first cruise missile
A4 (V2) - the first mid-range ballistic missile
Rheinbote - the first short-range ballistic missile
Wasserfall supersonic ground-to-air missile
Hs 117 Schmetterling ground-to-air missile
Enzian ground-to-air missile
Ruhrstahl X-4 wire-guided air-to-air missile
Fliegerfaust/Luftfaust hand-held automatic rocket launcher
Sturmgewehr 44 - the first assault rifle
Sturmgewehr 45 - prototype
Zielgerät 1229 Vampir night-vision equipment
FG 1250 Tank Mounted night-vision equipment
(Links to articles on at least most of these can be found in the article.)
You may have heard of some of these; if you follow this blog, you might have heard of the Schwerer Gustav (seen in a video in this post about GaoGaiGar). While not the longest ranged or absolute largest-caliber gun ever built, it was the biggest. (It didn't see much action-it mostly just demolished some fortifications and an ammo dump or two during a very heavy artillery action.) It wasn't a very practical weapon; when assembled, it needed two parallel sets of train tracks in order to move. But this was hardly the craziest place German engineering went during the war.
Aside from many innovations that became common, Hitler called for the construction of other weapons comparable to Gustav. (Trivia note: If you've ever heard of a cannon called "Big Bertha," Bertha Krupp was the wife of Gustav Krupp, and the original guns were named for them. No joke.) One of the more ambitious, not to mention totally insane, was the Landkreuzer Ratte.
What was the Ratte? Well, first, its name probably comes from another relatively similar (although less ambitious) vehicle called the Maus (also in the above list). The Maus was the largest tank ever built. Maus=mouse, and Ratte=rat. This should begin to give you an idea of how the Ratte compared to the Maus, which weighed 188 tons. The Ratte, had it been built, would have been a minimum of 1000 tons, and analysis indicates it would have been more likely to come out to a final weight of around 1800 tons-ten times the size of the Maus. (The Maus, incidentally, never saw combat-mechanical problems bogged the prototype down while it was in transit, and it was blown up in an effort to keep it out of Russian hands.)
The Ratte would have been armed with a naval turret, so massive that ordinary tank shells would have been worthless against it, and armed with a bank of anti-aircraft guns-much like a naval vessel of the time, hence the name "Landkreuzer" (landcruiser).
While hardly the first megatank concept, the Ratte is probably the most impressive. It also came in a time when it was already obsolete-as air power proved in the WWII naval combat theaters, battleships, which the Ratte basically was, were rapidly becoming obsolete. Not only did the Ratte suffer from being an obsolete concept, it further suffered from being a poorly considered one-the Ratte's sheer size would have made it very, very slow, meaning it could have been bombed from very high altitudes with reasonable accuracy. Travel would have been awkward in any case-it would have been far too heavy for any bridge, although its clearance would have let it ford rivers, and it would have destroyed any road or town through which it might have travelled. (Incidentally, the Ratte and other crazy proposed superweapons are documented in a book called My Tank is Fight!, a book that I must read at some point.)
Is it any wonder that comic book authors came up with this kind of stuff? I think not.
Here's some of our ideas.
Pitch: The Survivor contestants are locked in a twenty story office building with no outside contact except for janitors, caterers, and that annoying host guy. Instead of Exile Island, the person who gets "exiled" would be sent to the Exile Basement, a.k.a. the Dungeon.
Pros: It'd be easier to rush them to the hospital in case of emergency.
Cons: They would probably be able to stand sticking to their regular clothes, and they would also not get all skinny because of the air conditioning.
Pitch: The Survivor contestants are blasted to Mars.
Pros: A very exotic locale.
Cons: It'll be a long time before this locale is available.
Survivor: Disney World.
Pitch: Does it need explanation? Okay, very brief skit:
A little kid is holding hands with his/her parent, holding an ice cream cone, cotton candy, or some other treat.
The bushes rustle.
A grizzled, sweaty, lightly clothed individual peeks out from the bushes, and gazes hungrily at the child's treat.
Pros: Funnest Survivor ever. Also, there'd be no licensing issues.
Cons: Little kids would cry.
I seriously want to see all of these.
Monday, December 15, 2008
And on Friday, he said this:
It’s just a fairly dull movie remake with great special effects, big names, beautiful faces, and no proper ending.
One Saturday in August, I said this:
I have to say, I don't really care for The Day the Earth Stood Still. It's a slow film, which in and of itself isn't much of a problem. However, I just couldn't get into it.
So, the film really is an accurate remake.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Now, I'm not actually a Magic player. I have had some casual interest in TCGs (don't ask which ones) mostly because it seems like a simple way to break into gaming as a creator (no, really-I'm serious). Magic, as the oldest of trading card games, has the most experienced of the TCG creators in it, and they take the game as a game very seriously. (Many card game designers view the game as a way to force people to buy ridiculous numbers of cards. Magic has elements of this for competitive play, but it's thoroughly systematized into the game itself.) So it's a good place to look for creativity.
One place to look which is helpful for creativity is Mark Rosewater's column, Making Magic. Mark Rosewater is clever, funny, and holistically so in his process of writing columns as well as designing cards. He has some interesting things to say on elegance, and also on how his techniques can be applied to pretty much anything. This includes weddings. Yes, he broke down how he and his wife designed their wedding.
Another column (which I am less familiar with, as it started after I stopped regularly visiting the site) is Savor the Flavor. This column is all about how to consider the "flavor," that is, the plot- and world-building elements, of the game. Thus far, while many of the columns are Magic-specific, they are lush with ideas for worldbuilding (this article has given me ideas for how to build parts of a fantasy magic system). Also, the articles themselves are written in rich language.
One column that I used to read was House of Cards. The reason I stopped going regularly to the M:TG site, actually, was because House of Cards (which was about combo decks, which collapse when they don't "click," hence the reference to building structures out of playing cards), stopped being written by Mark Gottlieb. Mark Gottlieb was (and is) far and away my favorite author for the site, because he is somewhere between brilliant and insane, and in the best (and funniest) possible way. Now he's the guy in charge of the M:TG game's rules, which is an irony because he traditionally preferred putting together decks that bent or outright fractured those rules. Now he enforces them with a diabolical iron fist (pretty close to his own words).
-Signing off, because I'm now feeling creative and I need to do something.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I need to start looking stuff up before I post stuff here.
Behold: A Wikipedia page.
Yes, that character, Nagraj, can "arguably be termed as" the longest running star of an Asian Indian comic. And, in keeping with the hilarity of the Nagraj comic I've previously examined, the Wikipedia article itself is a source of great entertainment.
Nagraj was originally conceived as an enemy of international terrorism. Interestingly, in his debut, Nagraj was unleashed as an international terror weapon by the evil scientist Professor Nagmani. Nagraj in this first mission was tasked to steal golden statue of a Goddess from a temple protected by tribal devotes, snakes & by a mysterious more than 300 years old Sadhu named Baba Gorakhnath.Nagraj succeeded in his task but upon confrontation with Gorakhnath & his mystic Black Mongoose Shikangi was defeated. Gorakhnath read his mind & found out that Professor Nagmani had implanted a mind controlling device in form of a capsule in Nagraj's head to keep him under his control. Gorakhnath operated & removed the capsule from Nagraj's head setting Nagraj free who became his disciple & vowed to eliminate crime & terror from the Earth. Since then Nagraj has thrice toured the World & defeated many villains & terrorists.
This is nuts. Note the heavy and unconventional ampersand (&) usage, and the run-on sentences and incomprehensible grammar, not to mention some just plain wrongness. For instance, let's examine the first two sentences closely:
Nagraj was originally conceived as an enemy of international terrorism.
Interestingly, in his debut, Nagraj was unleashed as an international terror weapon by the evil scientist Professor Nagmani.
Wait, what? An "enemy of international terrorism" is "unleashed as an international terror weapon" by a mad scientist guy? I think that what the writer of the article was trying to say was lost in this nonsequitur. Nagraj becomes a terrorist-fighting agent after his origin story, apparently.
Also, "Presently Nagraj lives as Raj in a fictional Metropolitan City Mahanagar as an empolyee [employee] in a TV Channel secretly owned by himself."
Conveniently, the article is modelled after the format of Western comic book characters, and thus has a "Powers and Abilities" section. Let's see what some of them are.
Nagraj has the power to vaporize himself into minute particles and become invisible but he can remain in an invisible state only for three seconds.
He can vaporize himself to become invisible! Woo! But he can only be invisible for three seconds. I suppose that is kind of impressive-most people who get vaporized stay invisible forever.
His body is a container of millions of "micro-snakes"(sukshma-sarpa) which he can release at will from his wrists to grow and carry out a variety of tasks.
My sister's first reaction was "So, he's like a cutter or something?" Sadly, I had to say "No, I think they just kinda pop out." Incidentally, it mentions earlier in the article, although not in the Powers and Abilities section, that Nagraj's body contains no white blood cells because it's got snakes instead. That's hardcore.
He can form ropes out of groups of snakes, for use for swinging on or lassoing objects.
Hmm... Sounds familiar somehow.
His bizarre ability to contain snakes means he is home to a number of allies, whom he can release to carry out independent actions using their own abilities.
Yes, Nagraj is a snake container. And, if you don't know what kind of abilities such "allies" might grant him, here's a hint.
His only vulnerability is the situation when someone is successful in cutting off his body part completely, after which he cannot regain that part and also looses [loses] blood which in turn means the loss of snakes and his powers.
Um, how do we know that he can't regain "that part?" Looks like he's got all his fingers and stuff to me.
Another funny feature of the article is the "list of Nagraj's major alive enemies who can be expected to make a comeback in his future issues." My favorites are "Tutan Khamen," the ancient Egyptian mummy "whose main power-source, his mask, was snatched away by Nagraj," and "See-Through," "an invisible soul which thieved a big share of Nagraj's shape-shifting power & still wants more." Sadly, the list doesn't mention Shakoora, the villain of the comic I've looked at, who apparently was slated to be Nagraj's archnemesis in a Nagraj cartoon(!), which was apparently yanked before it aired.
Also, there is apparently an ongoing "crossover event" which is running long. That also sounds familiar. The crossover is primarily with another character from the same company named Super Commando Dhruva. (Dhruva has an enemy named Grand Master Robo, who "has extra-ordinary physical abilities. His body is immune to the poison of Mamba snake. On his left eye, he has a metallic eye, through which he shoots powerful laser beam." Hehehe.)
I'm sure I could say more (lots more), but that's enough for now.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
In this case, I don't mean making the audience laugh, although that's tricky enough. What I'm really talking about is characters laughing.
Now, there's a lot of reasons a fictional character might laugh. Relatively rarely do they have to do with something being funny. More frequently, particularly in cartoons and comic books and the like, we see characters laughing because they're confident in some kind of plot or have just enacted terrible vengeance. This, obviously, is villainous laughter.
The primary difficulty with villainous laughter is that it can be difficult to convey laughter in a convincing way on a comic book page. Also, some people find it to be a trope of certain genres or to be cartoonish or silly. (And what, may I ask, is wrong with cartoonishness and silliness?)
On those relatively rare occasions where characters are laughing at something they find funny, writers often fall into a trap not unlike the trap of small talk: Uninterestingness.
In the audio commentary for Pixar's Monsters, Inc., one of the commentators remarks that if characters laugh, it has to be funny for the audience, too. This is generally true. If you can't laugh at a joke, then there's no reason your characters should (keeping in mind how well the joke works in the medium you're working in).
There are actually a few exceptions to this rule, and they rely on how you play the joke (or other form of humor-I'll stick to "jokes" for simplicity's sake).
The first exception is to, through narration or another means, admit that the joke isn't very good, and have at least some characters criticize it or otherwise fail to be amused. For instance, I very clearly recall that in some story or another (I don't remember which, sadly), a character is giving a lecture, and a person in the audience makes a "smart remark." The narration then refers to the "smart guy" by the term "wag," indicating that the author didn't take the joke to be funny, despite the response from others in the audience. (This sounds like something that Isaac Asimov would do, but I can't be sure.) Note that some readers will be critical of such a move, so you should be judicious with this method.
The second exception is character-based, and sort of similar to the above method: Have a character who is a bit of a flake laugh at it. We can see this (sort of) in the "Fish-Eaters Anonymous" (Fish are Friends, not Food) meeting in Finding Nemo. The mako shark, hearing what he thinks is the punchline to Marlin's attempted joke, cracks up, admitting a second later that he doesn't get it. (If it had been a real joke instead of an interrupted one, it could have been played exactly the same way.) Flakes can also be lame pranksters or something similar in this respect.
The third exception is in the timing. I'll refer again to Finding Nemo. At the end of the movie, we finally hear the punchline to the joke that Marlin has been trying to tell the entire movie-and we never hear the entire thing. Yes-acceptable laughter by omission.
Of course, generally speaking, depicting humorous laughter within fiction is just as tricky a situation as humor itself. Your mileage may vary.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Well, despite my age (25), I frequently have fits of nostalgia codger-style.
What's really scary about this is that many of these fits are nostalgia for that which precedes my birth.
Take, for instance, old newspaper comics. Way before my time.
I can still experience them vicariously through such works as The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics.
And I'll tell you what, the old folks are right when they say "The funnies were better in the old days." With the notable exception of Calvin and Hobbes, which defied newspaper conventions while generally staying within the three or occasionally four tiny panels to which modern dailies are relegated, most newspaper comics are forced to rely on either cheap one-off gags or a very slow-moving continuous narrative.
Those were the days when Mickey Mouse packed heat.
I kid you not. In a protracted daily storyline (even though it was forced into a small space, it was a smidgen larger than that of today's daily newspaper comics), Mickey Mouse once went on a prospecting adventure, and during it, he carried a revolver. He also buried two guys up to their necks in the middle of the desert.
Again, I kid you not.
Then there's Thimble Theatre. For those of you not in the know, Thimble Theatre is the "birthplace" of Popeye, the immortal and memorable spinach-eating sailor better known nowadays for the numerous cartoon shorts in which he starred.
In a series of Sunday comics in the aforementioned Smithsonian collection (well, I think they're Sunday pages, but the Smithsonian collection's notations are awfully sparse), Popeye embarks on a prolonged sea voyage with his old sailor buddy, Bill Barnacle, an almost suspiciously similar sailor with a heavier build and a slightly less cartoony form. (Speaking of suspicious similarity, have you ever noticed that it's always the sailor-themed characters with a little horde of "nephews" that look just like them?)
I'll grant you, this stuff is dated, but it's good stuff. Wacky, weird, and illogical, but it still follows a pretty strong logic all its own, and the Smithsonian author states "it may be the finest example of pure comic-strip narration" to date. (The book is from the late '70s. Dang, I read old stuff.)
Speaking of old stuff, Prince Valiant existed in this era. The main difference between it then and it now? More finished (by which I mean "using better printing techniques") art in a smaller area (the '30s vintage Prince Valiant has eight panels of varying but large size, and takes up a very good-sized page; the modern strip has about five panels which take up little more than the standard size of a Sunday comic). That, and the storylines are a bit more modernized, taking on less of the King Arthur story concepts and just kind of running around with cavemen and junk like that. (Speaking of Prince Valiant, at one point when I remarked that I don't usually read it, my mother said that we had to stop getting the Sunday funnies. She was mostly joking.)
So, yeah. Huzzah for old comic strips.
Friday, December 5, 2008
The central "Space Knight" concept is that a human(oid) either dons or is merged with some kind of super-high tech armor, and then becomes a tiny flying warship, capable of walking the street as easily as blasting space invaders whilst in space. The mind boggles-only the thought of shaking hands with Superman can really be scarier than shaking hands with a tiny interstellar warship, and the problem with the warship is that it's scary looking. Never mind that Superman could crush your hand into coal, at least he can smile at you while he's doing it.
Both Tekkaman/Teknoman and ROM are essentially exactly this concept. The only differences are in little niggling details such as:
- ROM uses space guns and space mitten-fists. Teknoman uses space swords and space whips and giant mega space shoulder blasters. (Win: Teknoman.)
- ROM kills (sort of not really) Dire Wraiths and Skrulls the whole way, leaving piles of ash throughout his travels, and leads Galactus to destroy his enemies' homeworld. Teknoman kills his friends and family because they've been brainwashed into Teknomen. (Win: ROM, if only for style points.)
- ROM comes from outer space. Teknoman comes from Earth, but was part of an exploration mission to the outer solar system. (Win: ROM.)
- ROM is able to journey across the entire universe, sometimes with help from others but apparently usually under his own power. Teknoman usually has to ride a rocket just to get into orbit, though once he's in space he can usually move pretty well. (Win: ROM.)
- ROM can fight space warships hand to hand. Teknoman can fight space warships hand to hand, and also fights space monsters in space hand to hand (ROM only really seemed to fight space monsters on the ground). (Win: Teknoman.)
- ROM must, if he ever wishes to become human again, undergo surgery which will more or less place his brain back in his body. Teknoman takes all of fifteen seconds of transformation sequence to go back and forth at will. (Win: Eh, take your pick.)
- ROM's world made many Space Knights, and he usually had them as allies, although he sometimes was forced to fight them. Teknoman's creators were the alien invaders and created many Teknomen, and he was usually forced to fight them (despite the majority of them being his family members). (Win: Teknoman.)
The thing that makes the Space Knights intriguing yet highly unsettling in both settings is still the fact that they're simply tiny warships in human shape with giant warship power. These guys split big battleships in half for the heck of it, and sometimes they break into enemy warships and go hand to hand with the pilots, apparently mostly for the heck of it. I know I'd get the heck out of any military, no matter how strong, that had to fight a few dozen Space Knights. Too much risk I'd get mitten-chopped/saber-chopped by some boarder, and that's assuming no explosive decompression.
Of course, the question one must always ask when faced with the Space Knight is: How can they be powerful enough to fight warships? And further, if the Space Knight can be that powerful, why don't they just put that technology into far bigger warships than a tiny person-thing?
Questioning it, though, is pointless (especially in the ROM setting, where ROM coexisted with the Hulk, and occasionally sparred with him). Space Knights are great fun, and they need to have more written about them.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The other reason, of course, is that sometimes they get bigger weapons than the big ones.
The sad thing is, both the bigger robot and the missile are proportionately far smaller than the originals, and that would still have happened in the series.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Oh, Japan, could you please give me something to put in my blog?
Fun (and funny) as this video is, it's posted under "Howto & Style" on YouTube, which is funnier than the video itself.
The robot dinosaurs are fun, if a little short of movie special effects (but then, what do you expect?), but what's up with the little "it's never too late to study!" thing at the end?