Monday, June 30, 2008

Greatly Belated Book Reviews: The Great Gold Steal

I was digging through my gigantic old bookshelves the other day, when I came across an old gem-the second ever prose novel written about Marvel characters. Specifically, it was:

This book really is an interesting chapter, if you will, in superhero history, albeit a very close to completely forgotten one. Let's take a look at the cover for the book:

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia-I've got the book right next to me, but scanning it would be too much rigamarole right now. Maybe later [the image could be bigger, then].)

Note that Cap (and of course this is the Steve Rogers Cap) is carrying a gun. He does actually use a gun in the book, although it's probably a semi-automatic instead of the submachine gun on the cover (it's someone else's, of course).

(Note also that he's got the word CAPTAIN floating above his right ear and AMERICA above his left. From the fact that the back cover has the same painting of Cap with the same words floating above the same ears, some people might assume that the words were part of his character design, floating surreally behind his head everywhere he went-if they'd never read comic books before. No wonder people have trouble getting into comics from outside.)

Anyway, remember I said that this book was the second ever prose novel covering a Marvel character? (The first, an Avengers novel, was written by a guy who wrote nonfiction about UFOs, by the way.) It was written by Ted White (whose Wikipedia article was linked earlier), and was perhaps the first ever attempt at revamping supercharacters in a way that made them more realistic. (I don't know about the Avengers book.) Within the novel, Cap's origin is revisited in a way that is marginally more realistic-the time over which he is transformed from puny Steve Rogers to the massive Captain America changes from about thirty seconds to around a month-still incredibly fast, but more realistic nonetheless.

It maintains that Cap is "in no way superhuman" (although this is from Cap's mouth, and he's a modest fella), but in this novel he has steel-enhanced bones, temporarily had total conscious control over his bodily functions (during his transformation), is virtually immune to weather-based extremes of heat and cold, has an extremely powerful healing factor (he burned seven pounds in order to recover from a concussion and several other injuries), the kind of strength and reflexes that only action heroes possess (which might not be at car-flipping and bullet-dodging levels, but is superhuman nonetheless), and wasn't even slowed down by two bullets punching through his thigh. Not superhuman? Right. (Incidentally, obviously this was well before a certain character was introduced.)

The differences are sufficient enough that the Appendix to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe website created an alternate universe page for it. For instance, the Red Skull reappears, but it seems to be completely independent of the similar event in the comics. When the Avengers are mentioned (complete with Marvel-style footnotes from "Smilin' Stan Lee"), it ignores the Hulk and exclusively calls Henry Pym Giant Man. (It does mention that he had shrinking powers, and I suppose Cap never really met Pym in his Ant-Man identity back then, but whatever.) There are numerous other tiny differences, and we also, in flashback form, get a huge load of stuff about his origin-in fact, I'd say that the origin story and his life before Captain America, etc., took up nearly a third of this 118-page story.

Another interesting facet of the novel is that it explores the effect of a superhero wearing a mask. I remember reading the novelization of the "death and rebirth of Batman" novel, Knightfall (I re-read it quite recently, in fact), and the parallels between the mask-wearing there and the mask-wearing in The Great Gold Steal are strong, even though a good twenty-some years separate them.

But to illustrate the real significance and relevance of this book relative to the comic book present, it's interesting to just look at the chapter titles:

  1. Death by Laser
  2. Who Is Captain America?
  3. Rebirth!
  4. Nazi Treachery
  5. With the Avengers
  6. Into the Vault
  7. Captain America Is Dead!
  8. The Eagle Screams
  9. Robin's Song
  10. Unmasked!
  11. The Screaming Machines
  12. The Great Gold Steal
  13. Birds of a Feather

It's highly disappointing that the first chapter lacks an exclaimation point. (Also, if anyone can think of appropriate junk to link to for the other titles, go ahead and bring it up.)

Anyway, the plot is that a number of villains with bird-themed names (all plainclothes, however) are going to try to steal $13 billion in gold from the federal repository in Manhattan (in 1968 dollars at 1968 gold prices).

Death by Laser was not, in fact, a ridiculous usage of lasers in James Bond fashion, but a drive-by shooting with a small, portable unit (and it was highly effective-some people mistook the wounded man for a drunk, as there was no gunshot and he wasn't bleeding). And yes, the guy died.

Who Is Captain America? to about halfway through With the Avengers are origin/flashback material. Into the Vault is where Cap gets on the trail of the villains, entering the vault from which the gold was being slowly stolen. (Go figure.)

Captain America Is Dead! is mostly from the POV of the villains, who believe that they have managed to kill him, by blowing him up. He escapes through his powers.

The Eagle Screams is so-called because the leader of the bird-villain ring, Eagle, decides to step up the operation.

Robin's Song is about Robin, the attractive female slightly inconsistently described (her hair apparently changed color) agent who baited a trap for Cap (and her trap, natch). Predictably, Robin later frees Cap (it's thankfully not romantic, although there's a bit where Cap momentarily wonders if perhaps she's the mysterious agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. that reminds him of someone). Why? Because Cap points out that a billion dollars in gold is a monumentally difficult thing to cash in. Also, later on the Red Skull (how does he figure into the plot? Keep reading to find out!) talks about Robin as if she's a piece of meat.

Unmasked! features Sparrow, another of the birdbaddies, insisting on unmasking him (hm, mysterious), and unmasking him. This is connected to the exploration of the power of the mask. It also brings up the possibility that perhaps there were other Captain Americas, interestingly from the mouth of Sparrow (hm...).

The Screaming Machines were the electrical generators that Sparrow and his thugs wrecked to cause the blackout that let them attempt to pull the operation off. (Kinda disappointing, really. It's interesting to note that Ultron [previously linked] debuted the same year this novel did, though.) It also sounds like the name of a rock band.

Hm, The Great Gold Steal. This title looks familiar. Oh, yeah, it's the title of the book. Weird. They only manage to grab between $3 billion (Sparrow's estimate) and $1 billion (Cap's high-end estimate).

Birds of a Feather is a predictable title, but it is revealed that Sparrow is actually Eagle! Gasp! Then, Cap tells him to take it a step further and reveal his other double identity-Eagle is actually James Gaughan! Gasp! Wait, that doesn't mean anything to you? Oh, Gaughan was the bank executive that Cap met earlier. And then it was revealed that James Gaughan was actually SPOILER ALERT the Red Skull! GASP! Then, it is revealed that one of the thugs is actually a communist agent! Gasp!

Anyway, this story is a fun little superhero romp that reads more like a spy drama, all things considered, and my quite honest assessment is that it's a pretty decent piece of pulp fiction. (Of course, I've read books like The Star Kings, The Solar Invasion, and The Cometeers without flinching, so my standards just might be a little bit different from yours. Also, I think I will review all three of those books at some point.) If you can find one for less than $10 and you like superheroes (and you don't mind reading a novel-and let's face it, it's pretty short), I would strongly recommend it. (My mother probably bought mine for a dollar or less-my family goes to lots of yard and garage sales.) Even if you don't think it sounds exciting as a comic book fan, I think that you should look into it-it has historical value. Really.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Super Robot Wars Sunday: Keisar Ephes vs. the world!

Well, not quite literally. But his attack is named End of the Galaxy, as near as I can tell.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tributes and Homages: Where do they begin?

So I was poking around YouTube, and found this clip from a series called Gear Fighter Dendoh:

This clip is a lot of fun because the creators are tributing series that they had created previously.

For instance, the numerous guns with which that robot (Dendoh) has armed itself all belonged (more or less) to the robot Xabungle:

The bow and arrow come from Raideen:

And that sword could probably come frome any number of different robots, although I don't currently recognize-WAITAMINNIT!!

He uses the bloody yo-yos!


(Note: The above video seems to be taking Combattler V seriously. This should be a felony.)

After getting over the fact that this robot is using the crazy awesomest silly robot weapons I can think of (the only weapons I can think of offhand that are cheesier are all from recent Super Sentai, and they're less believable), I started thinking in a serious way about tribute/homage-heavy stuff.

Hardly anything new for me. I mean, I like Transformers, for crying out loud. Anymore, that's almost one big fat tributefest.

But still, I was looking around some more...

That robot (Baan Gaan) looks an awful lot like Xabungle in terms of general scheme, doesn't it? (Mr. Wholelottaguns from up a little ways.) He even transforms fairly similarly.

Then again, that transformation might be homaging the more closely related Exkaiser:

I mean, these two robots are from the same metaseries, and they do both have sword type weapons and animals on their chesplates (features Xabungle doesn't share with either).

I suppose the only people who know the truth are the designers and God.

Anyway, so I was looking around a little more, and found this clip, which for me is sort of like an "oldie but goodie," as I found it a long time ago and really loved it, and finding it again is great fun:

What makes this clip for me is the theatrical music. It's so... so... I'm not even sure how to put it, but it makes the clip both completely typical of anime and completely un-anime somehow all at once. (Fun fact: This clip technically would qualify for my Super Robot Wars Sunday posts.)

Anyway, not the point. Big swords often are given to robots, and there are lots of them, but the first really big robot sword that did the mass-shifty thing that I know of belonged to Great Exkaiser, a form of Exkaiser:

Where does it end/begin?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Real Superhero Adventures: The Fastest Man Alive

So I was reading about the Flash. (I don't know which one.) If you've never read the article I'm linking, take a minute to at least skim it.

Back yet? Okay, good.

There's a problem with Flash being emperiled by a fall out of a plane. According to various descriptions of his powers, the reason he can run at the speed of light and whatnot is because his powers (colloquially packaged hereafter as "Speed Force") cancel out all negative effects of travelling at high speeds. Let me repeat with shifted emphasis: cancel out all negative effects of travelling at high speeds. That means that the Flash can throw a punch that sends someone on a near-orbital trajectory.

Doesn't being able to throw a punch that powerful sound more damaging to one's body (albeit to an extremity) than falling out of a plane?

Granted, if you look at it this way, Flash's powers become potentially more awkard than even Superman's comparable abilities. I mean, if you look at Wikipedia's Speed Force abilities section, the Flash basically could have more powers than Silver Age Superman. And even just with the Speed Force protection quality, if you apply it in a logical way with the laws of physics (namely the Theory of Relativity), the Flash becomes pretty much invulnerable:

Superman: Flash, you're out of control and have too much power for one person to be allowed to have. I'm going to arrest you.
Flash: You're one to talk, Supes.
Superman: I thought you might refuse to give up to my completely unreasonable demands. Eat fist, Flash! (punches the Flash, sending him flying) Hm, why didn't he bother dodging?
Flash: (sailing through the air, miles away) Because I'm immune to the negative effects of travelling at high speeds, including crashing into crud. And that includes your fist.
Superman: Darn. Guess I'll have to drop the Moon on you.

And if you do include some of the Speed Force abilities that have been attributed to various speedsters, it gets worse:

Superman: Now that I've pinpointed your location, I'll go grab the Moon and-hey, why can't I move?
Flash: I've stolen your kinetic energy. Ha, ha, ha.
Superman: Darnit Flash, now it's personal!

Anyway, in all truth, superspeed is always an awkward power, one that writers really can't afford to forget the consequences of (but usually do).

Not to say I don't like superspeed. Executed well, it can be awesome. Executed the way it's usually executed, it often makes me roll my eyes.


It seems kind of like every time one of the numerous thunderstorms that's been rolling through the NW Ohio area comes through, it does it right when I'm about to get on the computer. Hence my not posting yesterday. Um...

Look! A Xabungle video!

Laugh, doggonit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Transformers: Starscream's Life (and death) Stinks

Starscream doesn't get to have much fun. Somebody's always killin' him.

Note: Music video. This scene is one of the most popular Transformers scenes to put into a music video, but nobody wants to touch putting the actual clip up. Dunno why.

(If you want to see the above sequence with the original audio, look here.)

It's nice to know that some things never change.

And now for something completely different!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wikis: My Own Personal Hobby

I like wikis a lot. How much? I have fifteen wikis in my favorites list. Some of them are for things I'm only marginally interested in (Star Trek, for instance). I like wikis that much.

There are "weak" wikis, whose low staff results in every single article they contain having cleanup tags (see the GaoGaiGar-Betterman wiki for an example of this). Some wikis just fall short of their potential (see the ReBoot wiki-it's got typos galore). Some are horribly formatted. (Last time I checked, the Digimon wiki [yes, I've read the Digimon wiki-shut it up, you] had horrible gigantic lists as pages that not only took forever to load but froze up windows just from attempts to scroll for five to ten minutes at a time on a brand new computer.)

Then there are the wikis that are legitimately good. The One Piece wiki is very well put together, for instance.

Then, there is the king of wikis, the alpha and omega: Teletraan I: The Transformers Wiki. Why is this wiki so great? Because it looks at its own fandom and content in a critical, clever, and humorous way, and is still highly objective and informative.

As for why I like wikis in general: The random button. I love random buttons. I'll even go to freaking Wikipedia and hit the random button. (You'd be surprised how often I found something good that way.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brave Robots: Wacky Robot Action

On the subject of my last Brave Robots general post, my sister helpfully located a loose episode summary on some seemingly abandoned LiveJournal blog. Be warned: Fangirly content exceedingly high. But not in a bad way. (The blogger reveals the true facts behind the existence of mecha reproduction. Okay...)

Anyway, here's a clip from... er, I believe the series is Da Garn.

Not to gloss over the fact that the elf kid's parents, friends, family, everyone he's ever known, etc., were all killed in the explosion of his home planet, two of said people vaporized in front of his eyes, and another impaled on a spike and dropped at his feet, but...

The fight scene between Seven Changer (or however his name goes-the robot that popped out of the statue) and that flying saucer/crab thing struck me as somehow incredibly funny. Also, that statue looked like Brave Raideen (of a fairly similar name but apparently no relation to Brave Robots).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Super Robot Wars Sunday: That's a BIG Hammer

So that's how I seem to have felt on the subject of blogging for the past couple of days. Like an $80 toy, gathering dust, for sale for a quarter. In effect, not pleasant. Dunno why.

So it's already Sunday again, and time for a SRW video. This time we have another giant boss, Keisar Ephes. There are a lot of YouTube videos featuring Ephes, comparitively speaking. This one features him taking a beating (as do most of them):

Ouch. As I've said, GaoGaiGar is scary. Using a hammer approximately the size of the Moon only adds a bit to that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stupid Video Of The Day: Punches In The Face

There's this really stupid funny DVD out there called Space Thunder Kids. Aside from the hideously funny title, Space Thunder Kids is amusing because it's made up of spliced-together footage from like fifteen different cheap Korean anime and was dubbed so badly it's a crime against humanity. If you find one, like giant robots or space battles, and don't mind getting your brain scrambled, I highly recommend it-it's only a dollar.

Here is a "music video" that someone made from Space Thunder Kids footage.

Because Chris Sims only posts his kicks to the face once a week.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brave Robots: Looks Like Goldran Has Another Problem

It's really hard to research Goldran on the Internet. Wikipedia doesn't have an article for it, and most of what you find while doing searches for it are listings for it on other sites with brief, cursory, and useless summaries. This, despite it having the best television ratings of any of the Brave Series.

So this was a real eye opener when I found it.

Gasp! Goldran has children! Within the span of the series! With a really ugly female robot! Who is nowhere near big enough to produce quadruplets of that size!

And yes, for those of you who are having trouble telling, that is Goldran getting menaced by his buddies, and who is the "papa." A tip is that his legs have the same design on them as his giant dino-robot combination form's chest. Also, those kids are so lucky they take after their father.

Seeing as how I have no knowledge of the series whatsoever outside of Wikipedia remarking that it was "played more for humor" than some of the previous Brave series (thanks a lot, Wikipedia-I couldn't tell), it could well be that all this madness was actually part of an evil plot to keep Goldran occupied while the villains got away with things. Don't believe me? BEHOLD!

Goldran is apparently a total wimp when it comes to women. That probably explains how he ended up with such an ugly chick.

Also, while I understand a grand total of none of the dialogue (aside from stuff like "papa"), did it seem to you like Goldran wanted to run away in the first clip, and his friends were bullying him over deadbeat dad behavior?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Super Robots: Gattai-Sexual Metaphor?

It should be noted that both these clips feature transformations that are magical, rather than the physical, engineered transformations I prefer. I'm not going to make that big a deal out of it, though.

Be warned: There's a lot more bosom showing than in most videos I post here.

This Gurren Lagann clip isn't so bad in terms of what I'm talking about here (it's mostly gaggy, although my dirty old mind wondered about the one chick's reaction to the phrase "gattai" and the use of the term "it" when talking about gattai), but the Godannar one is WAY over the top. I can't even bring myself to type about everything that's wrong with this clip:


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Super Robot Wars Sunday: Final Boss vs. Boss Borot

The Super Robot Wars/Taisen games are games that, by United States laws, would never get made because of the massive amount of rights information. Fortunately, Japanese creators never let the legal system get in the way of a cool concept: Teaming up any and every super robot and mecha from Japan ever devised (from anime).

Super Robot Wars J featured one of the most massive final bosses of all time (not really) and Boss Borot. It's inevitable they would meet:

I love that boss's attack.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Moment of What The: Who Are You Really?

I have a question. Can this kid...

...actually be from Japan? Don't tell me that there's even one boy born in the last thirty years living in Japan who's never seen a robot team combining before, and who doesn't know (or believe) that a combined robot would be more powerful?

Brave Robots: Goldran Seems To Have A Problem

In terms of the actual physical design, my favorite Brave Robot lead character is probably Goldran. His alternate giant thing mode is a nasty-looking horned carnosaur/Godzilla hybrid thing, and his robot mode has an awesome aesthetic. However...

...he's clearly in for a lot of hurting. And it looks kind of like he had a lot of really huge red enemies to fight:

Stinks to be Goldran.

Super Robot History: The First Super Robot

I can't seem to focus on one single topic, can I?

Before designating "the first super robot," it is important to establish a definition of "super robot."

In my mind, a "super robot" must have the following qualities:
  1. The super robot must be much bigger than a human being, and preferably larger than a car or most other vehicles.
  2. The super robot should possess vast strength and virtual invulnerability, to the point where it can swat around things that aren't super robots or giant enemy warships, doomsday weapons, monsters, etc. like poorly made toys.
  3. The super robot is more or less (preferably more) humanoid, often looking something like a man in armor.
  4. It is controlled by a human being (or, barring that, a single or small number of living or seemingly living operators).

This last distinction is important because there are lots of giant robots that don't qualify because they are independently intelligent, i.e., Transformers. (Transformers are like super robots, but I think the concept is a distinct genre. They have more in common with the original story upon which The Day The Earth Stood Still than with super robots, although this was almost certainly unintentional.) Thus, Brave Robots are sometimes true super robots and sometimes not-once again, genre blurring.

There is one more distinction that is necessary to consider for super robots: whether or not the controller must be a pilot or an operator (i.e., operating it remotely, like the modern combat/scout drones).

If it is not important that the controller is a pilot, then the first super robot is almost certainly Tetsujin 28 ("Iron Man Two Eight"), a robot so old that TV was still in black and white.

Gotta love that theme song. Anyway, this series was dubbed as Gigantor here in the United States:

Gotta love that theme song, too. It should be noted that, even though the series is blatantly aimed at children, this series recently earned a PGtv rating because Gigantor steps on people.

If piloting is a necessary requirement for a robot to become a super robot, then the first super robot was actually the prototype for nearly every super robot that came later, Mazinger Z (there is no easy way to translate this name, as it only means something by wordplay-"majin [mazin]" means a magical or demonic being).

That theme song is fun in a '70s/early '80s anime kind of way. Mazinger Z is relatively unknown in the States, but did see a series over here as Tranzor Z:

Yuck. Bad intro. You can see how Tranzor Z set the trend for super robots in the States, too, though, something I'll likely mention more later with respect to Voltron.

Mazinger was so popular when it came out that it may have spawned Japan's modern love of all things robotic/mechanical within the manga/anime context. It also established ideas that are dominant in super robot history:

  1. Super robots have "attacks" that are projected from the robot's body in implausible ways.
  2. Super robots are piloted rather than simply controlled.
  3. The cockpit is in a separate, detachable section. (This particular idea's dominance was almost universal in the few years after Mazinger came out.)
  4. The robot launches his fists as rocket-like weapons that strike enemies.

Mazinger also launched a host of sequels and semi-sequels, some as recently as this decade. Its influences are almost incalcuable, and in the post immediately preceding this one, you can see an influence more obvious than most.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brave Robots: Stupid Might Gaine Clip

I found this the other day on YouTube, and I laughed.

It should be noted that Might Gaine is considered the "other" Brave Robot series worth noting, primarily because it is the most dramatic and darkest. According to critics, it is "generally considered the best" of the Brave series. It certainly seems, from this clip, to be the most self-aware, as it is parodying its own genre here.


Apparently, this is how you top the best theme song:

Note that I'm not really much of a fan of what I've seen of GaoGaiGar Final because of the change in animation styles, but this was apparently the modified Final theme, and I quite like it.

Comic Book Death: Editorial Hammer of Deaths

Considering that my last post had a parody animation of GaoGaiGar where the robot was wielding a ban hammer, the timing of this post is ironic.

Editorial death control, in my mind, is the most current and controversial topic in comic book deaths. Why? The big one right now is probably Barry Allen.

It has more or less been openly stated that the reason Grant Morrison, author of Final Crisis, has decided to bring back Barry Allen is because he's the Silver Age Flash, and he likes the Silver Age version of any given character best. Barry Allen has been gone for twenty three years, and bringing him back almost certainly required the complicity of DC's major editors.

But that's less the point. I don't care that much about Barry Allen, although as previously noted some are rather bothered. A case I do care about is Spider-Man and Aunt May.

Aunt May "died" back in the early/mid '90s. After her "death," the editors and writers repeatedly said that they would never bring her back. At that time, Peter and Mary Jane were about to have a baby. When the baby should have been born, apparently at the editor's behest, the baby disappeared. (It was strongly implied the disappearance was a kidnapping, but the presentation was apparently ambiguous enough that it could easily have been a death instead.) Writer Tom DeFalco, creator of Spider-Girl, wanted to bring her back, and apparently stated that he would "bring back May [Spider-Girl]," but instead Aunt May came back.

That's hardly the worst of it, though. The most recent event involving poor Spidey and his poor aunt has attracted a lot of flack. Aunt May is fatally wounded by a sniper gunning for Peter Parker, and as a result, Pete makes a deal with Mephisto, in which he essentially sells his marriage to the devil so that Aunt May can live. This causes him and almost everyone else to forget that he was ever married, Aunt May and almost everyone else to forget they ever knew that he is Spider-Man, Harry Osborn to come back from the dead, and Mary Jane to possibly become a superhero. (Okay, at least one good thing may have come of this.)

What's my point? This seriously messes up more than ten years of continuity, and no one can figure out just what's what anymore, essentially because someone doesn't like Mary Jane Watson being married to Peter and thinks that Aunt May is more important to Spider-Man. (This isn't the first time that this particular someone tried to screw up Spider-Man.) This is also the point in which they tried to bring back Gwen Stacy. This whole idea upset the writer so much that he apparently struggled with this individual, who I will persist in not naming directly, and was browbeat into writing the controversial storyline. (Not that this entirely lets the writer off the hook-he contributed to this monster, although he at least has the good grace to apologize for it.) The big editor has claimed that "there will be a payoff" for One More Day, but the current highly successful storyline, Brand New Day, in the words of multiple bloggers, completely and totally does not require Peter Parker to be single, despite what this editor claims.

The sad thing is, this guy will think that the sales vindicated his actions, yet the biggest criticisms of the new story come from elements actually introduced by One More Day. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brave Robots Again

I know I've been blogging a lot on robots this week, but bear with me.

I was looking around on YouTube again, and found a video that really amused me:


BAN HAMMAAH! Heh heh heh heh heh.

East Vs. West: Why "Dubs Suck"

Lots of people blast dubbed anime for being stupid. No matter the quality of voice acting, rewriting, or whatever, you'll always hear at least one person announce "The Japanese version was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better."

Do you know why the Japanese version always sounds better?

It's because Japanese is an inherently cooler sounding language than English.

Anything and everything sounds cooler in Japanese, or spoken by someone whose first language is Japanese. (Well, almost. I'm sure people would find a million examples that weren't. But that's not the point.) Japanese is one of those languages that is just blessed with a "sounding cool" factor (another language that I particularly like is German).

I'll grant you, part of this is because I don't speak Japanese, and thus don't understand the really stupid parts. For that matter, for some reason, those silly Japanese think English sounds cool. But a Japanese guy shouting GaoGaiGar (actual pronunciation: GAO GAI GAH) is going to sound better than some guy, with perfect English enunciation, saying GowGuyGrr. (The clip of a dorky English-speaking narrator saying GowGuyGrr can be found here. Considering the quality of the rest of the VAs, where did they find such a dope to do the narration?) This particular dub was just really lucky to find possibly the only English speaker in the world who doesn't sound ridiculous shouting anime attack names.

EDIT: Okay, they improved on that really dopey narrator (the previously shown clip was apparently an online preview, and this is from the actual release), but he still doesn't sound as good as the Japanese one:


Blogging About Bloggers (and comic books too)

One of my favorite blogs is Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep!!, a snarky blog about comic books. I read a lot of snarky blogs about comic books, and this is one I only started the other day, but it's still one of my favorites.

Why? Well, this is a good reason.

The primary reason I read this one is because it presents something of a dissenting opinion. Most comic book readers speak warmly of Grant Morrison, but this guy rags on him almost incessantly. (Well, he does at the moment, anyway.)

He also has blogged about one of my own pet peeves, comic book death. His title (and opening sentence) for it is brilliant.

Aaaaand I often find I don't know how to end a given blog post.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brave Robots-Braver Than You, Anyway

As should be fairly clear from previous posts, I love super robots and I love Transformers. These are not the same thing, as you should know from previous posts.

Since both of these sort of came from Japan, it figures that Japan would figure out that it'd be fun to mix the two up and see what happened. So Japan took sapient transforming alien robots and mixed them up with fist-firing, sword-swinging super robots and got Brave Robots.

Later Brave series eschewed alien origins in favor of AI robots, but the concept remained fundamentally the same from the first, Exkaiser, to the last, GaoGaiGar, regardless-big freaking robots that transformed and also happened to talk.

GaoGaiGar is far and away the most popular of the series, and it's no wonder:

Seriously, how do you top that theme song? GaoGaiGar is credited as being the series that gave a giant middle finger to the whole culture of grim, dark anime that had climaxed with Evangelion, and also as being a primary impetus in reviving the super robot phenomenon to its current elevated status in Japanese culture (which, really, is where it belongs). Any series that tries to punch Evangelion in the face and gives a boost to super robots is by its very definition awesome. (I'm not saying that because I hate Evangelion. I don't. I just don't like it. However, it should be noted by anyone who thinks that Evas from Evangelion were scary customers that GaoGaiGar fought the moons of Jupiter hand to hand. All of them. Pretty much at once, although he had some help.)

One of these days, when I have money, I'll probably buy the DVDs of the recent GaoGaiGar dub. I've seen a lot of clips (and, I'll be honest, some episodes) of GGG on YouTube, and I know what the series looks like. Purists, trust me when I say that this dub seems to be pretty much as much like the Japanese version as possible without actually having all the VAs speak in Japanese.

I am amazed that they found a guy who sounds so much like the Japanese VA. For a minute, I thought it was the Japanese version (some of the dialogue is hard to follow). (Here's more or less the same clip from the Japanese.) Also, my sister would be amused at the VAs, as many of them are from her favorite anime dub of all time. And, for anyone who has seen something that goes over nine THOUSAND!, this should look familiar. Also, anyone put off by the narration style should consider that technically speaking, this show was supposed to be aimed at little kids.

At some later date, I'll relate a brief sort of history of Brave Robots as best as someone who has never really seen any Brave Robots series can.

As a parting shot, the spellchecker thinks GaoGaiGar should be "groggier."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yet Another Robot Video

Now that I've figured out how to get past the problems with embedding videos, I seem to be addicted to it.

At first glance, this video (from Panzer World Galient, which has no good resources so I won't bother linking any) doesn't seem that wacky. But let's think about what happens in it.
  1. The red robot (Galient?) sets up his big gun in his shield.
  2. He shoots the slag out of a bunch of robots without guns. (Some of them appeared to have missile launchers, but only one used his, and he was a terrible shot.) When I say "a bunch," I mean enough to conquer a Cold War era Eastern Block country in fifteen minutes.
  3. He puts down his gun and jousts with a giant centaur knight robot using wheels in his feet.
  4. Finding that, despite his superior redness giving him the advantage, he and the other guy are evenly matched in raw power, so he breaks off.
  5. He turns his sword into a whip and uses it to pull over the centaur knight robot and take away his lance.
  6. He cuts that bugger in half.

You can practically hear the badguys here saying "Why the *!@# does he have a gun when we don't?" "How is this fair?" "Run away!" "Mommy!"

Tip for the evil overlord types: If one or more of your enemies' giant robots has a gun, make sure yours do too.

Also, train your robots' pilots to cheat when fighting. The big centaur knight could have thrown his shield in the red robot's face to stun or distract him, but instead he met with the same fate that anyone who opposes Wolverine does, bisected down the middle.

And this kind of stuff seems to be typical for the series:

Man, that red robot has them totally outnumbered.

Also, why the heck is the series called "Panzer World Galient?" I see neither panthers or Third Reich battle tanks.

More Clips Of Giant Robots, This Time With Music

For some reason, this makes me want to laugh really hard.

Catch It!

I was trawling around on YouTube, and found this video.


Because it makes perfect sense for a missile not to explode just because a giant robot caught it.

And, oh yeah, nukes can't destroy more than a city block or harm human beings.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Moment of What The: He-Man Minicomics

Lots of the He-Man minicomics that came packaged with the toys were pretty inane little things. (Okay, let me be frank-most of them were pretty inane.)

Some of them, on the other hand, were better-some were made by Bruce Timm, and he went on to work on other things. But that's incidental to what I want to talk about:

Why do so many of them share such strong elements with individual cartoon episodes?

Most of these comics, especially the very early ones, have absolutely no relation to the cartoon. There's no sign of Prince Adam because He-Man is some barbarian, the Sorceress is supplanted by the Goddess, who looks like Teela, and that's pretty much only the tip of the iceberg.

But others are creepily like weird-looking duplicates of cartoon episodes, only... not.

Some are really obvious: The Dragon's Gift is pretty much the same as The Dragon's Gift. Considering that Larry DiTillio is rather famously supposed to have based the episode on a tabletop RPG scenario he once wrote, it seems likely that the minicomic version was ripped straight from the episode, with the comic attempting to cram the deep characterization and interactions into fourteen tiny pages. (It fails-it reads more like a bad summary of the episode.) Of course, it is also possible-possible, not likely-that it went the other way, but I really have no way of being certain.

Other episode/minicomic parallels are misleading: Double-Edged Sword's parallels to Double Edged Sword is confusing. Stuff from a whole bunch of other episodes seems to creep in-He-Man and Ram-Man working together to break a forcefield is from somewhere else, and the plants parallel the Creeping Horak's assault on the palace (in a loose kind of way). Only the little kid wanting to be a member of the Palace Guard is also present, and the moral is completely reversed. Also: Teela wears pink.

Then there's the most confusing of these: Siege of Avion reads as if it were a combination of first-season episode Reign of the Monster and second-season episode Betrayal of Stratos. Character Delora from the He-Man series bible shows up in Siege, but she never appeared in the cartoon. There's a staff which is a combination of the Staff of Avion and the Egg of Avion, allowing Skeletor to summon demons and giving the Avions the power to fly. There's a scene where illusory duplicates of Delora are used as decoys, paralleling a scene from Reign with illusory duplicates of Stratos. Traditional enemies of Avion invade as a cover for Skeletor's theft in Siege and Reign. And of course, in all three an army of Avion...ians run around. In all seriousness....

What the fig?

East Vs. West: Ideon and Jean Grey

When comparing manga/anime with Western comics/cartoons, there's a lot of information to be found on stylistic differences, reinterpretations, and so on. Sometime soon, I'll do a similar article comparing Superman to Son Goku.

So what do Jean Grey and the Ideon have in common?

Themes and Powers:
Jean Grey is powered by the Phoenix Force, a power source of death and rebirth, which is an embodiment of the unborn and the collected life force of the entire universe.
The Ideon is powered by the Ide, a power source of death and rebirth, and pretty similar in terms of scope.

Power Level:
With the Phoenix Force, Jean Grey can potentially destroy worlds or devour suns.
The Ideon blew up the universe.

Jean Grey is a 5'6", 115 lb. redhead.
The Ideon is a giant red robot that stands over three hundred feet tall and weighs over five thousand tons.
(Hm. At least they're both red.)

Other Features:
Jean Grey was cloned or duplicated at least twice, and at one point was merged with the clones and duplicates. Also, she brought herself back to life at least once aside from the duplications and false deaths.
The Ideon was made up of three unique vehicles that combined. When piloted by younger people, the Ideon was more powerful-it was once piloted by a baby.

I think that this can be viewed as one of the relatively few instances where the Japanese series doesn't make an otherwise similar character into a cute girl instead of something perhaps more logical; of course, they go with the other Japanese path.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Random Links: Things That Amused Me

I'm going to have trouble with calling these posts things that aren't exactly the same.

Japanese transforming robot phone toys. Dang those goofy things look happy.

How can you make a video that dull to go with this song? Seriously, it's really spottily matched up. The only reason it isn't totally nonsensical is because whoever made the video is trying to induce a seizure with rapid scene cuts. Gaack and whoever it is recycles a lot.

Does movie director Michael Bay have Rammstein songs stuck in his head? It might explain a few things.

True Transformer scales according to the fans. But how tall is Devastator supposed to be?

Freaking scary not-really-birds. Big ones.

Okay, another Transformers/Rammstein music video. A certain amount of irony that the song is "Amerika" but the video's clips are set in Qatar.

The astronaut of tomorrow? I've probably heard of this guy before, but I just thought I'd throw this in here.

Sense of Dread

A lot of the websites I regularly visit are down today, and some others which aren't haven't updated. Frustrating.

That has nothing to do with the main topic of this post, however. As I sit here, this persistent low booming emanates from my computer's speakers. Why?

Because there's a really goobery webmaster out there.

Check out this website.

Now, I'm as big a fan of giant transforming robots as anybody, but did you really have to do that with the site? What if I'm listening to music?

Okay, website rant aside. I'm not sure just what I think of this concept. On the one hand, as I said, I love giant transforming robots. The fact that the normal-sized "Dread Force" robots will be 80' tall is staggering. The art looks good, and as long as the coloring is clear, it should be able to tell the story.

On the other hand, it kind of sounds like it will be Transformers minus any sense of humor or cheerfulness or wonder. The robots are human-built war machines which have gradually adapted intelligence for themselves.

Part of the appeal of Transformers, for me personally, has always been that the Transformers were always something that could be identified with yet were still incredibly alien. I'll grant you-Transformers has often been schlocky. But Transformers is also fun.

Whether or not Dread Force will be any fun is questionable at this point.

I will keep an eye on it, though.

Um, go look at the Transformers Wiki if you like or are possibly interested in Transformers and haven't seen the site before. It's randomly funny.

(runs away)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cultural Exchange

My sister wrote a very long blog post the other day.

I have my own two cents to throw in:

If you're against cultural exchange, and react to it in the same way that the people my sister is complaining about do, you're basically a Nazi.

Suggesting that something from another culture should be ignored/kept away simply because it is from another culture (which seems to ultimately be the crux of a lot of these reactions, even though those who have them would deny it) is a form of xenophobia, the central feature of fascism, of which Nazism is the best known example.

You can disagree with me if you want-after all, this is my opinion. But it's still an unpleasant, hateful, and at worst evil mindset.