Friday, February 27, 2009

I Call This Self-Promotion In The Tags, Even Though It Isn't Mine

I have in the past mentioned my sister's webcomic, The Law of Purple.

However, I have only mentioned her other webcomic, Alien Revenant, in passing, and well before it came out.

There is a reason I waited-I felt that it was best to discuss it after the first chapter was completed.

Guess what? It ended today.

In her notes that precede the first chapter, she describes the intended span and breadth of AR and its universe (here's a hint: It's big). One thing she doesn't go into is that it has a lot of detail.

Such as actual alien languages being involved. On page 9 of the first chapter, the reader can begin to see the presence of one of four languages that my sister has developed for use in the comic. (The first word of the language that appears shows up earlier, but I don't count it because it was a curse word, and people love to make up alien curse words. There's little effort involved in sprinkling made up words in someone's regular speech.)

Yes, one of four.

My sister has often mentioned to me as she works on these languages that she is incapable of simply doing word-for-word replacement for alien languages. (In effect, the devising of "alien words" and then using English grammar and idioms without any real work.) She must create the whole language, based on linguistic rules she's learned from taking four years of German, just generally being a "language nerd," and from the several language dictionaries that float around the house. Yes, she feels compelled. (She can be hard to live with some days.) And once she devises grammar, she must further invent totally different idioms (e.g., "take a picture" is idiomatic; in German it's "make a picture") for her alien characters to use.

But the fun part of this is that it's not merely being used in dialogue and the like. On page 10, we can see a movie poster with a review blurb on it-entirely in an alien language. (Don't worry-it's all explained in my sister's news notes and the like.) On page 13, we can see a bilingual sign. On page 15, we get our first word of the second mentioned language, and a lot of dialogue in the first one. (She gives subtitles.) And on page 20, we get significant dialogue (well, technically a monologue, sorta) in a third language. And on page 21 the chapter ends. (If you're wondering about the fourth language-I can't say much without giving spoilers, but it's present here and there.)

Page 20 deserves a bit more mention. The alligator-like animals, not to mention the rest of the swampy ecosystem, have been around for years (in her backstory), and she has been developing those on and off the same way she has been with the language.

And she's been updating this comic three times a week, and another five times a week. (Not perfectly consistently, but as much as she can.)

Quite an achievement, methinks.

-Signing off.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Very Short And Ugly Career of Missileman

Who, you may be asking, is Missileman?

A very short-lived supervillain. His career lasted for all of two pages.

In all seriousness, this guy makes the Human Flame's career look downright glamorous. And that's before Final Crisis.

Let's take a look at the dude and see his costume.

Pretty ugly fella. (Also, "uff?" Seriously, Supes, are you tripping or something?)

So what are Missileman's accomplishments? Well, he destroyed a bridge "before the very eyes of Superman." He also blew up a car and damaged some buildings. (I considered doing one of the little random filler posts I've been doing with a panel from that page, where Superman proclaims "Today I won't leave you Missileman!" but that's a little too out of context bad even for me.)

So Supes flies over and grabs at him, but Missileman boldly proclaims that "nothing can stop me today, Superman!"

Then Superman throws him into an erupting volcano.

The end.

No, seriously-the end. That's all she wrote-guy's dead.

See, whoever the heck wrote this weird little story wanted to have a villain for Superman to fight. And since, in Nagraj comics, they apparently don't take prisoners unless the dude's immortal, the guy had to make someone up, because he was certainly not allowed to kill off even the least important of Superman villains.

So, yeah. Really, this is a very elegant demonstration of why Superman needs to be such a nice guy, isn't it? His comics would just fall apart if he wasn't.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


...came out of smoke-smiling.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Writing Techniques: World Building

I have previously alluded to the concept of world building, but never gotten into specific details about it.

This is kind of funny, really, as I approach fiction from the perspective of world building first.

I suppose I should define the term before I keep bandying it about. Basically, what I am referring to when I say "world building" is the idea of ensuring that the fictional world that the characters of your story inhabit has internal consistency.

There are two ways to do this. First, you can "world build" on the fly. Make up a few rules right at the beginning, make those rules clear through statements or actions, and then add new ones as they become relevant, invoking them whenever weird stuff happens.

The second way is much more proactive: Build the world your characters inhabit before you write the story itself. I suppose one could call this the "genesis method."

Each method has strengths and weaknesses.

The on-the-fly method is generally good if you're on a tight schedule, i.e. you're working for hire. This is how most people do it, I think. The downside is that the rules can be inconsistent with each other, actively clashing with each other and making no sense when taken together... and there's also the risk that one of the rules being stupid because one came up with it when rushing will break down the fictional construct unless an arbitrary and even stupider rule pops up.

The "genesis method" tends to be much more cohesive and holistic, creating a world that one could believe exists, and having answers for story points ready-made. Usually, exceptions to rules are either less bizarre or they don't exist because the rules themselves were more carefully considered before they were adopted. The downside: This method takes forever. (Take it from someone who knows from personal experience.)

I suppose there are many possible examples; Lord of the Rings, for instance, was written and revised over decades, while you can just tell that the comic book universes were made up completely on the fly, and any illusion of cohesiveness is just that-an illusion. But I don't feel like going into it deeply.

-Signing off.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Character Distillation: Martian Manhunter

Martian Manhunter is another of those characters with a long and very sad history.

Very, very sad history.

Let's get to the meat of this: The bullet points. (I love bullet points.)
  1. Martian Manhunter is an alien being who just happens to look vaguely human.
  2. Martian Manhunter is insanely powerful.
  3. Martian Manhunter is relatively poorly known except to fairly hardcore comics fans. (Yes, this really is part of the character.)
  4. Few if any writers know or care much about Martian Manhunter, so he tends to get written as a wimp and smacked around a lot.

For a good amount of documentation on Martian Manhunter of all kinds, there are two good blogs, Every Day is Like Wednesday (already linked, although you'll have to dig into the archives, as it's been a while) and The Idol-Head of Diabolu (a very Manhunter-centric blog). This is ultimately where I've learned most of what I know about him.

With regards to J'onn J'onnz's alien-ness (by the way, if you don't know, that's pronounced "John Jones"-chalk one up to comic book silliness), J'onn J'onnz, in one story, became addicted to pseudo-Oreo cookies, and then, in order to cure himself of this addiction (it was an actual drug addiction with physiological symptoms, not a psychological one), he purged himself of his addicted cells and fried them with his heat vision. You don't really get much more alien and weird than that.

With regards to his insane power levels, well, he has super strength, super resistance to injury (I hesitate to call it invulnerability), super speed, telepathy (powerful enough to launch a psychic attack on a small army while dying), telekinesis (he can use the powers of the universe to create an ice cream cone), intangibility, invisibility, heat vision, shape shifting, extreme regeneration (he can grow a new everything, and once grew a new person out of himself-it was a human named John Jones), and in his early Silver Age comic appearances, the ability to snap his fingers to do almost anything. (I am so not making this up.) On one occasion, he totally mauls (note: scroll down a bit for what I'm linking to-it's the third picture down) a guy with pretty much all the powers of Superman and then some. On one occasion, Superman listed Martian Manhunter at the top of the list of beings on Earth he'd be afraid to face in battle. His only weakness is to fire (what), and that pretty much only works when the writer feels like it.

With regards to his obscurity-well, he's shown up in two or maybe three cartoons, once as a brief cameo and another time as a major character for most of the run, albeit a toned down, less interesting version of himself. He has not had his own title in decades, and his runs in comics are generally either short or purely as a supporting cast member. And so hardly anyone knows who he is, other than pretty hardcore comic book fans and trivia fiends (of which I am the latter).

With regards to the last point-well, it's pretty much the Henry Pym effect. While good ol' Pym has, apparently, managed to crawl out from under this particular rock for the moment, at least for the purposes of one author, Martian Manhunter has recently been killed over it. (Don't worry-he'll probably get better.) Of course, this is a corollary of point #3, as well, as Martian Manhunter dying doesn't keep comic books from being sold.

And really, we come to the crux of what I'm driving at-choosing to kill Martian Manhunter was a lazy answer to the question "How do we make the latest crossover look like Serious Business?"


-Signing off.

Friday, February 20, 2009

East Vs. West: Starship Troopers

Having talked in the past about somewhat odd adaptations of older science fiction, you might think that is going to be the subject of today's post.

And it is, but not in the way you might expect.

The Starship Troopers OVA (thoroughly weird intros here and here) is generally agreed to be perhaps the most faithful of any film renditions of Robert Heinlein's original novel.

And if for no other reason than the movie over here pretty much ignored the fact that the titular "Starship Troopers" were supposed to be dudes in really heavy-duty armor, this is the correct assessment.

The OVA also featured the only depiction of the drop pods mentioned in the book. Judging by the clip, they probably embellished the Bugs the same way the movie did, though. Anime's been doing that a lot longer than film has.

-Signing off.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Super Robot Profiles: Dancouga(r)

Super Beast Machine God Dancouga(r), also known as Dancouga(r)-Super Beast Machine God and "God bless the Dancouga" (I kid you not), is basically a Voltron-type super robot series.

What I mean by this is that the series features a squad of similar vehicles which all combine into one huge ultimate weapon robot. (What distinguishes the "Voltron-type" series from a "Getter-type" series is that the individual Getter craft don't actually do much of anything; Voltron-type series often have fighting sequences involving the individual vehicles or ships. I know that Voltron was not the first series to do this, but it's a term that's simple for me to use and which most people will recognize.)

Unlike many of those, Dancouga(r) didn't actually combine until the sixteenth episode, nearly halfway through the series.

Beyond that, Dancouga(r) obviously paid much more attention to its individual components than most previous series, and in keeping with that, each of the component robots was actually in and of itself a triple changer-i.e., a transforming robot with three modes (in this case, a basic vehicle mode, an animal fighting mode, and a humanoid robot fighting mode). And like the Voltron Lions, each of the Dancouga(r) components was capable of defending itself and even taking the fight to the enemy pretty well. And in and of itself, Dancouga(r) had a much more sophisticated and complex design than Voltron, without losing much if any of the charm.

Also, Dancouga(r) was animated in the mid-'80s, which means its animation style is the kind I love-not too stylized and tons of shadow.

So pretty much, you could say that it's Voltron for people who like pretty things.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cartoon Profiles: Silverhawks

Silverhawks was one of a number of '80s era cartoons that people still sometimes talk about. Produced by Rankin/Bass (which made a bunch of old Christmas specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman), it was considered more or less the spiritual successor of the slightly earlier cartoon of mostly similar nature, Thundercats, which is a tad more well-known.

The main reason I remember this series, the only reason it made as strong an impression on me as it did, is because I really like the animation. It's nice. (My sister comments that it animates shiny stuff the same way '80s anime does-i.e. the right way. She also says she likes they way they draw hands.)

However, the series itself does bear some discussion, and it'd be really dumb for me to do this post and not talk about how cracky it was.

Silverhawks features a galaxy called Limbo which is most unusual. It has air in the regions between its planets and stars, for instance. (Hmm, I seem to be talking about a lot of nonsensical outer space ideas lately.) The bad guys fly around in what are essentially rocket-powered, wheel-less, convertible Cadillacs. In fact, the only closed spacecraft I can remember are the Mirage (the Silverhawks' jet-like spacecraft) and a craft that was equivalent to an armored car from one episode. Wackier still, when characters fall off of things that are transporting them through space, they fall downward relative to the orientation of the transport. That's not what Einstein meant, dudes!

Of course, it was kind of necessary the way they made the series, especially since one of the badguys had weather powers (SPACE WEATHER! SCIENCE!), and I suppose it was pretty nifty when they did this kind of stuff in Treasure Planet... Although Treasure Planet was more sensical when it did it.

Moving on. As many shows like this do, Silverhawks has a motley crew of colorful and hideous monster/alien/robot guys of indeterminate nature as the villains. (If you remember Skeletor's guys, these guys were pretty much just like that. For that matter, so were these guys.) There was Windhammer, the aforementioned weather guy, who manipulated outer space weather with his, you guessed it, giant tuning fork. There was Melodia, an '80s style rocker gal who used music as a weapon. There was Mumbo Jumbo, a minotaur man who turned into... a larger bullish thing. There was Hardware, obviously the technical guy. There was Mo-Lec-U-Lar, who could turn into anything in a flash of light. (He also, on at least one occasion, seemed to teleport.) And then there was Buzzsaw, whom everyone I've seen the opinion thinks is awesome. Buzzsaw was a robot (gold in the show, green as a toy) armed, as his name suggests, with circular saws. He could throw them, and he could rev them up by pulling on one of the starter cords in his chest. He also just had this air of menace and bulk that the other bad guys couldn't match.

Then there's Mon*Star, who I'll talk about in a moment.

Basically all of the Silverhawks except for the kid character, the Copper Kid, and the pilot of their ship, Bluegrass, had exactly the same basic power set. Even their pet bird Tally Hawk.

Yes, you read that right. Tally Hawk had the same powers they did.

All of the Silverhawks could fly in space except for Bluegrass. (He was always sitting in the cockpit of the Mirage, which could detach as a fighter craft, strumming his guitar. I am so not making this up.) All of the Silverhawks except for Bluegrass and the Copper Kid had built in laser cannons. Yes, even Tally Hawk. Giving a bird laser cannons doesn't seem like that good an idea, does it? (Bluegrass probably used his guitar as a weapon on any occasion where he needed an individual one, which couldn't have been often; it probably shot lasers or something. The Copper Kid threw boomerang discs as weapons. Sure, give the kid character a weapon more likely to backfire on him as well as less effective, why don't you? Apparently it was a traditional weapon from Kid's home planet, though. The planet of Mimes. Yes, the planet of the Mimes.)

What this ultimately means is that the Silverhawks are lightweight Space Knights. I want to say that they're Space Infantry, but that's not right-Space Infantry would only have enough flying power to manage short-distance jaunts, such as a boarding action. Maybe Space Light Cavalry? I dunno. I think I had a phrase coined for it the other day, but it's not coming to me.

What makes this more interesting, though, is that they aren't the only ones. Their archnemesis Mon*Star actually is a fully fledged, 100% genuine Space Knight, with the armor, the strength, the space flight, and the weapons (although sadly he rarely demonstrates this physical power, and there are never really any big spacecraft for him to demonstrate it on). He even has a magical transformation, initiated by exposure to the light of a star called the Moonstar, and in perhaps the most awesome iteration of the concept, Mon*Star's Space Steed is a freaking GIANT SPACE SQUID name Sky-Runner. That totally beats Pegas(us).

And if Rankin/Bass did one thing right with its '80s cartoons, it did the big bads right. Mon*Star was not only a huge and scary guy in general, he had the power to paralyze or mind control almost anyone. Granted, he seemed to have a limit on how long he was able to maintain his Space Knight form and the mind control alike, but still. On one occasion he used his paralysis and mind control powers on three of the six main Silverhawks (Quicksilver, Steelwill, and Steelhot-er, Steelheart), while Bluegrass and Copper Kid were stuck outside and Tally Hawk was attached to a machine that was sucking out his lifeforce. (Yeah, that would be the other reason I remembered the show which I forgot about earlier-Mon*Star was terrifying. He was showing Tally Hawk to the guy he had under his direct control, Quicksilver, just to be a jerk.)

-Signing off.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Greatly Belated Book Reviews: Atlantis: The Antediluvian World

This book, incidentally, is now record holder for oldest book I've reviewed, unless you count my vague allusions to old Arthurian mythology, which I don't, especially since none of that is actually reviews.

If you've read anything modern that takes the existence of Atlantis seriously...

...this book, by Ignatius Donnelly, probably started it all.

Note that I am not approaching this particularly as either a skeptic or a believer. Skepticism and wild belief alike are not conducive to discovery and learning. (My sister, when I related various things I was reading about, basically threw fits and shouted about how "Atlantis is a story made up by Plato!!1!")

The edition of the book that I read was the 1949 edition. In effect, it was long after the time of geology in its infancy, but still before plate tectonics became the primary explanation of many mysteries of the geological record.

That said, no matter how crazy Donnelly's theories got (and they were actually not that crazy), he had nothing on the editor of the 1949 edition.

First off, this editor, Egerton Sykes, thought the Hörbiger theory was totally rock solid scientific fact.

If you've never heard of this theory and are too lazy to follow the link, I'll summarize the basic tenets of this theory, originally put forward by an engineer with no formal learning in advanced physics:
  1. The world is made of ice.
  2. No, seriously, that's the theory.
  3. Celestial bodies are made of ice.
  4. Yes. The moon is ice. This is why it's so crackly.
  5. The solar system was created when a big star exploded because a smaller, waterlogged star fell into it.
  6. This theory came to him in a "vision" after the creator of the theory concluded that the moon was made of ice because it looks crackly.
  7. Gravity stops somewhere outside of Neptune's orbit.
  8. The Earth once had a different moon, and when it melted away, it was replaced by the current one. (This is the primary application of the "World Ice Theory" as pertains to the editor's interpretation of Donnelly's book.)
  9. I am not making this up.

By the way, this theory was immensely popular in Nazi Germany, especially since it had been created by a good and patriotic German engineer/businessman rather than a Jew (it was considered an acceptable alternative to the Theory of Relativity-and I'm still not making this up).

Another theory forwarded by Sykes was the idea that some guys sacrificed offerings by stinging them with jellyfish and then feeding them live and paralyzed to giant squids.

Did this guy read a lot of comic books or something?

Anyway, Donnelly's theories were reasonably well-founded on the science, history, and archaeology of his day. For instance, then-recent soundings of the floor of the Atlantic indicated that the area where Atlantis would more or less have been (based on Plato's story and on Donnelly's other research) was considerably higher than most of the Atlantic's ocean floor. This is actually still entirely true.

He also suggests that the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Toltecs, the pre-conquest Peruvians (typically erroneously called the Inca or Incans-this would, by the way, be like calling the Egyptians Pharaohnians), the Egyptians (speak of the devil), the Phoenicians, the Hebrews, the Chaldeans (i.e. the ancient Mesopotamian civilization), the Aryans (keep in mind that this is the anthropological Aryans, who were the originators of the Indo-European language group and the founders of the Hindu religion, and not the Nazi propaganda Aryans), the Celts, the Etruscans, the Turanians (forebears of the Mongolian peoples, and by extension the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese), the Mound Builders, the Basques, and basically anybody who's ever had something resembling civilization were actually descended from or took their traditions and technology from the Atlanteans.

He goes on to suggest that the Greek mythology of the gods was a somewhat corrupted history of Atlantis, and that this is corroborated by things such as the idea that heaven and the dead were in the west in all European cultures, often explicitly about where Atlantis would have been.

He suggests that the Deluge stories of all peoples were all accounts of peoples who had escaped the destruction of Atlantis and assumed themselves the only survivors.

He analyzes the etymology of the name, connecting it with as far-reaching things as Aztlan (of Aztec mythology) and Olympus. (Those are not actually as far apart as they appear to be.)

He suggests that the Atlanteans were the first island people to become a world power, colonizing America, Europe, and the Mediterranean, and possibly trading as far as Pacific or Indian Ocean coasts, further suggesting that ancient Egypt's status as a nation that had seemingly come out of nowhere fully formed and then gradually decayed until its destruction proved that it was the last surviving colony. (A lot of Egypt's most impressive achievements were pretty early in its history.)

He basically says all sorts of crazy things. One of his claims is that an Atlantean invented gunpowder. (He equated this Atlantean with Zeus because of Zeus's Cyclops-forged thunderbolts.) According to Wikipedia, gunpowder was invented in China, so I guess that's out...

Obviously, the book itself doesn't really hold together. (The book also got on my sister's nerves because the author happily said "obviously," "the only conclusion we can draw," etc. He attributed numerous legends of large creatures, including the Cyclops, the Hekatoncheires [hundred-handed giants], and a creature called Oannes which supposedly came from the sea and taught the Babylonians everything they knew, to ships. How would someone mistake a boat for a land-going giant, exactly?) The research is too old, and too much has changed since then. Anyone looking for something useful on Atlantis that takes the story seriously ought to go to a newer source of some kind, preferably a scholarly one instead of one that says "by the author of this book which is compared to the theories of Erich von Daaniken."

It's really fired up my imagination, though.

-Signing off.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Trick Question

So, the other day, I see this ad over someone's shoulder, one of those "quiz ads."

Which is heavier?
  • A ton of cookies.
  • A ton of feathers.
  • Neither; they both weigh a ton.

Generally, the obvious answer is "neither." A ton is a ton, yes?

But there's a little bit too little information here to be sure.

For instance, if you're shipping them, "neither" may not be the correct answer. (Bear with me-I know that there's no particular reason this is important, it just amuses me.)

I would hold that, during shipping, a ton of feathers would in fact weigh more. Why? Because it's less dense, it would require more packaging to ship.

Unless, of course, we're talking cookies that are being packaged for immediate sale. (Which we probably are.) If they're individually packed cookies, especially, there's going to be a heck of a lot of packaging involved there.

So... too little information. Really.

-Signing off.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Super Robot Profiles: Bismarck

Sei Jushi Bismarck (translated roughly as "Star Musketeer Bismarck," or so Wikipedia would have you believe) was a series that had a rather understated cowboy theme.

You might possibly recognize it as being Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs...

...which took that cowboy theme (if you don't believe me about this theme, take a look at the toy) and hit you in the head with it. How much does it do so?

Peter Cullen dusts off his John Wayne impression to be the giant robot. The dub version of the giant robot, if you didn't notice, is named the Ramrod, which apparently was slang among cowboys for being the big guy/leader in a gang. (A ramrod is also the device used in an older gun, such as a cowboy-era revolver, to drive the gunpowder and bullet into the gun.)

Taking it even further was some coloring storybook I remember having as a kid, which featured a really Western-style story. All I really know about the series from that, however, is, well, nothing. (I would never have known from that book that there was a giant robot at all. In fact, it wasn't until I started looking for this kind of stuff on the Internet that I realized, hey, giant robot!)

Something I did learn, however, was that April/Marian totally looks better as a redhead. And that the armor these guys wore looked really good in all black. Ahh, childhood!

-Signing off.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cartoon Profiles: Skysurfer Strike Force

Skysurfer Strike Force is one of those numerous reasonably good quality but nearly forgotten cartoons that aired in the '90s and featured mediocre to good animation and mediocre to downright goofy writing, which the viewer usually doesn't care about because it's just an excuse to keep the action going. (It was also blessed with good voice acting.)

If you watch the intro, it actually gives many insights on the series. First, it is clearly sentai (i.e. Power Rangers) inspired, with a team who have transformations into costumed superhuman "modes." The animation is very anime-like, and the end credits further reveal that it was basically animated entirely in Japan. (Further supporting this is the fact that one episode, when the writers apparently got lazy and gave the animators space to "ad lib" scenes, the situations on screen suddenly became intensely anime-like.) Even more Japanese is the fact that the series opening has "bio cards" for the characters, and they list blood types. (For those not in the know, numerous anime and manga supply the blood types of characters as part of accompanying materials; the Japanese believe that blood types can signify the personality of a person.) And the second season's theme music (both the opening and ending) were performed by a Japanese all-girl rock group called Super Junky Monkey.

The series is extremely episodic by nature, because status quo is king. There's a pretty delicate balance between the flying-surfboard-riding pseudosentai team and the evil Cybron's scientific genius and "army" of bionic cyborgs (bioborgs). If the good guy lead, Jack Hollister (I feel silly typing these names), were ever to make any progress in avenging his father and stuff, the series would probably disintegrate. So nothing permanent ever happens.

If you're used to watching cartoons, though, this is not an issue.

Anyway, as many cartoons in this sort of genre (pseudo-scifi-cartoon-action-hero) do, the series is populated by bad guys with numerous cool powers... and terrible names.

There's Replicon, who can turn into almost anything-he frequently changes his arms or even his head into automatic weapons, cannons, or even missile launchers. He's also nearly indestructible, as being blown up only puts him out of sorts for a few moments. (He once had his head exploded and he was thrown out of a jet; his head reformed a split second later and he laughed as he shapeshifted into a parachute.)

There's Noxious, who can spray gasses (no fart jokes, shockingly) that can do anything from knock people out to temporarily turn people into huge mutant anthropomorphic animals. No joke. When one of the good guys, notable for being the mean and edgy one (his team name is Soar Loser), is hit by this, he comments afterwards that he had no idea what had just happened "but it looks like fun."

There's Dr. Five Eyes, who has an eye on his chest and an extra one on both the front and back of his head, who has hypnosis and telepathy centered in the eye on his forehead. (In case you're counting on your fingers, he has three extra eyes; that's why he's "Five Eyes.") He also looks something like a green-haired clown.

There's Grenader, who explodes (and regenerates) when you pull out a pin on his chest. This makes him one of the most pathetic of the baddies, as anybody with half a brain will pull the pin out and run away, and he can't actually control himself. Of course, he's invulnerable to being exploded in general, but still...

There's Lazerette, who aside from having possibly the most annoying of these names, is probably the most competent in terms of mental ability, and who can shoot lasers (who would have thought) from her eyes and mouth. She's also voiced by Venus Terzo, who voiced Black Arachnia. They're almost the same character at times.

There's Chronozone, who is not in fact a zone but does have very inconsistently portrayed powers over time. He can teleport, though he's usually too dumb to remember that and thus usually just spins around his clock-themed pendulum flail. He also can "follow" people to places they've recently been, allow others to move through time at different rates, and similar stuff, but he uses these powers rarely. Like I said, dumb.

And then there's Zachariah Easel (ha ha ha), apparently a failed artist (I am not making this up) who is not only a skilled painter and only about three feet tall, but has the power to create solid holograms from nearby images. Understandably, he spends most of his time hiding behind a bigger bioborg, most often Chronozone; he's the most likely to be tasked with noncombat jobs. I also imagine that the other bioborgs call him "Weasel" behind his back.

The series is frequently hilarious, both intentionally and otherwise. Cybron alone is a gold mine of humor. At one point he imperiously intones "Skysurfer One [Jack Hollister] is in jail!" Another time, Cybron, who is about eight feet tall when you count the computer tower on his head, walks into the low-hanging doorway with a clang... and just stands there, holding a conversation as if everything was normal. To be fair, the poor dude can't move his head at all. I'm not even sure I've ever seen him lean over, for that matter. Guy must need a lot of help getting dressed in the morning.

The series has recently had a somewhat spotty DVD release in the form of Digiview DVDs, which are the somewhat notorious no-budget super-minimalist $1 DVDs that have proliferated in the past few years (among their other releases is the epically confusing and infamous Space Thunder Kids). Despite my gripes, the video quality is quite nice, and if you're the least bit interested, four episodes are certainly worth a buck.

Having two of these DVDs myself, I'll probably document a few more of the notable incidents of the series, such as the two-part Attack of the Slitha Monsters!, which certainly deserves its own post. (Not for being good so much as being a huge mass of wasted potential. You could have written a whole series on the basis of these two episodes, yet in true episodic fashion these elements are dropped like a hot potato once the end credits for part 2 roll.)

And on that note...

-Signing off.

Monday, February 9, 2009

On The Subject of King Arthur...

There have been many, many adaptations of the King Arthur myths and legends, over and over again. (It started early, as mentioned here.)

Several have been cartoons, of course.

I remember watching this one.

But not this one. (Not a wonder, because it was never dubbed into English.)

Then there's the video game (or whatever) that I've heard about where "King" Arthur is a cross-dressing underage anime girl...

Moving on.

Over the years, I've read many iterations of the King Arthur mythology. It's just something that appeals to me. (This is the best modern reinterpretation, bar none-it actually makes some historical sense. The historical inconsistencies can be listed in eight bullet points, where any other effort ever made at Arthurian legend would only be able to do such short a list by listing the things it had in common with history. I mean, for crying out loud-T. H. White's version had Robin Hood [excuse me, Robin Wood] older than Arthur. What. [If you don't know, if Arthur actually existed, he lived somewhere between 300 AD and 500 AD. Robin Hood's legend was set during the reign of Richard the First, who was part of the post-Norman Invasion royalty. The Norman Invasion took place in 1066 AD. Seriously, White, what.]) They tend to follow the same general gist-Arthur takes the throne despite various obstacles (such as being the previous king's illegitimate son), he turns out to be a pretty tough fighter and a pretty nice guy, and then he dies too young. There's usually a form of Merlin, and sadly there's usually a form of Lancelot. (I hate Lancelot. I disagree with the sentiment that many have that Lancelot makes the whole legend.)

Less familiar are the Charlemagne legends. These are interesting if for no other reason than one of the major participants is a woman. A woman knight. (Her name is Bradamante, in case you're interested.) That, and they are (in the version I've read, anyway) worked into the Arthurian framework.

Hm... I'm sure I could say more, but my time has been eaten by my computer. Sigh. I may resume this later.

-Signing off.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shakoora... this dwarf mad magician Shakoora, who wishes to rule the whole world.

-Signing off.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who Now?

"What was that name again?"
"Edgar Allen Poe."
"There is no such author listed in our files."
"Will you please check?"
She checked. "Oh, yes. There's a red mark on the file card. He was one of the authors in the Great Burning of 2265."
"How ignorant of me."
"That's all right," she said. "Have you heard much of him?"
"He had some interesting barbarian ideas on death," said Lantry.
"Horrible ones," she said, wrinkling her nose. "Ghastly."
"Yes. Ghastly. Abominable, in fact. Good thing he was burned. Unclean. By the way, do you have any of Lovecraft?"
"Is that a sex book?"

Excerpted from "Pillar of Fire," collected in Ray Bradbury's S is for Space.

I was kind of startled to be reminded that Ray Bradbury is still alive. Most of his contemporaries (Asimov and Heinlein come to mind) have been gone for a decade or so now, and Arthur C. Clarke finally kicked the bucket last year, so he and Anne McCaffrey are just about the last ones now.

As a sort-of-fan of Lovecraft, this passage amuses me horribly. What makes it even better is that the first time I read it, I had no clue just who this "Lovecraft" guy was. "Sex book" would probably have been my first guess, too.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Super Robot Profiles: God Mars

God Mars (also known as Six God Union Godmarz, Six Gods Unit, and [hilariously] Hexademonic Symbiote Godmars) was one of the fairly numerous shows about a big combining robot thingy.

On this side of the Pacific, God Mars is probably most famous among the Japanese die-cast toy circles, and its Soul of Chogokin (a sort of super-high-end collectible "toyline" where average retail price is well over $100) recently won Toy of the Year on one such site.

One notable fact about God Mars is that the original '80s era toy was to have been retooled to become the Mighty Orbots toys. It's just as well this didn't happen-it would have been pretty hideous.

Anyway, the series itself seems to have had more plot than simply BUNCH OF ROBOTS SHOW UP FIGHT COMBINE WIN. The series' main protagonist, some guy, was sent from outer space to Earth as a baby. Why? So that when he grew up, he could use the bomb in the robot that brought him to blow up the Earth!


Of course, this seriously begs the question of why the robot wasn't simply sent to destroy the Earth all by itself. Seriously. But they used this plot point in an interesting way-since the kid is raised on Earth, he loves Earth and wants to protect it (didn't see that coming [/sarcasm]), and so he uses the robot (named, you guessed it, Gaia-wait, that wasn't your guess?) to fight the bad guys. But if he ever dies, the bomb in Gaia will go off, destroying the Earth.

The big bad is fine with this, and tries to kill him, with, among other evil schemes and whatnot, the protagonist's brother who was raised to hate him. But it turns out that the kids' dad, who wasn't totally cool with this whole thing, sent five more robots to help him when he grew up. And these five robots combine with Gaia into God Mars. (The robot that merges with Gaia to become God Mars' torso is strangely called Sphinx, most of the rest are named for planets or moons, one is called Shin, and the last is called Ra.) Eventually, when the main villain is defeated, the villain (who looked suspiciously similar to Darth Vader) exploded into a thousand spores of hate disease or something typically Japanese.

As far as I know, up to the point where this series was released, it was the first robot made up entirely of smaller but still humanoid robots. It was also, to my knowledge, the first combining robot with that many components. The series itself also has some fairly original (in both the good and the bad sense) enemy mecha designs (images can be found on these Italian pages).

It also had a pretty nice theme song.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Robot Wars... Tuesday?

Low on energy, creativity, and time (DARNED COMPUTER), so here's some random stuff.

In case you're wondering, the robot is one Dis Astranagant, one of the most powerful robots from the Super Robot Wars games (click the Super Robot Wars Sunday tag if you're curious). Why is it so powerful?

Because it's powered by the souls of the dead.

To be fair, the Ideon, which was a robot from an anime that appeared in the games, was powered by the force of unborn souls (or something-it's kinda hazy like so many anime), so it's got precedent. But whatever.

-Signing off.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Writing Techniques: Science Fiction/Fantasy

(Gee, where did the time go? Friday was so hectic here, I never really got around to blogging. It's really like I started the weekend early-I don't blog on the weekend anymore mostly because I rarely have good opportunities to get on the computer...)

Any science fiction series worth more than a buck (of your money) has certain characteristics it internalizes when it is created.

Take Transformers.

(Not mine, get your own.)

While, in its early, low budget days, Transformers tended to just grab everything it could to hammer into the hapless Transformers toy line, even then they had a clear sense of what Transformers essentially was: A series about robots that turn into stuff and also beat the stuffing out of each other.

An actual note on some company memo about developing the story of Transformers (paraphrased significantly): Forget complex stories, we want action!

The vast majority of science fiction, even that which "aficionados" of science fiction dismiss as not being true science fiction (Transformers is in this category, as are 99.9% of ostensibly sci-fi comic books-and in the absolute strictest sense, I think they're right-more on this in just a bit), has some kind of internal consistency.

This might be no more than "everything must be unspeakably awesome," but that is a rule.

But the point is, there must be rules. (Some have suggested that the same is true of magic; certainly, it makes fantasy stories more dramatic if the main character's abilities are defined. The lines between this form of fantasy and the form of science fiction I'm talking about aren't razor-thin, they're imaginary. Only the genre trappings are different.)

"True" science fiction basically takes an idea having to do with science, and writes a story about it. The kind of science fiction I'm talking about, which I'll call "pop" science fiction, might use "real science" to create a plot twist, but no more than that. This form of scifi doesn't care about real science except as a cue to the reader that this is "science fiction" rather than "fantasy." I mean, the fact that some people regard the various Gundam series, or for that matter Star Wars, as actual science fiction is a clear sign of this. (Sorry, those of you who are fans of these series: The science is a lie!)

This fantasy/science fiction framework (the idea of a reality that follows set rules that aren't quite the same as our reality's) is actually my favorite framework for fiction. Pretty much everything I read, watch, or want to write for my own entertainment is in this unclassified genre. Why do I like it?

Because, while it's impossible, it feels real.

And that is all I have to say on the subject today. No actual advice on the rules themselves, since those are common but good ones are hard to come by. (I may feel more like it later.)

-Signing off.