Sunday, January 31, 2016

Moon Knight's Most Badass Moments (so far)

For those of you who haven't been paying attention or just really suck at remembering stuff, my favourite comic book character (also: I'm the one who's into comic books) is Moon Knight. And for those of you who aren't me or like twelve other specific people, Moon Knight is a "superhero" in the Marvel Universe.

He looks like this:

While it's hardly a unique trait among comic book characters, particularly superhero types, one of the major things that makes Moony my main man is that he's a total badass. He's a maverick who plays by his own rules and when he's not being outright ignored by the superhero community at large, he's being actively shunned by them. Even Deadpool winds up doing more team-ups than him. This also makes him something of an underdog - he doesn't really have any powers and when he's in trouble he (usually) doesn't have the option of calling up Tony Stark or Nick Fury.

Now before I launch into an essay on all the stuff that makes Moon Knight my avenging spectre (ha) of choice let's return to the main point which is he's badass. With that said, here is a sampling of some of his most badass moments.

Spidey didn't like posing for this one
Honourable Mention: Ultimate Moon Knight crazies himself back to life (Ultimate Spider-Man #110)
Haven't done the honourable mention thing in a while because I don't want to somehow undermine the five choices I make, but I thought that since this isn't the regular 616 version of Moon Knight, I could get away with it.

Moon Knight only appears in a couple of arcs of Ultimate Spider-Man but writer Brian Michael Bendis definitely does him justice. I think that's partly because he's really not very different from his classic incarnation. He's still former mercenary Marc Spector, now wealthy and sometimes moonlighting (I had to) as a New York cabbie who also dresses in the aspect of Egyptian god Khonshu and fights crime. The costume is given a bit of a tweak (as you can see) but his methods, personality(ies) and genuine craziness are all pretty much intact, although the personalities are shuffled a bit.

Our moment occurs in the second arc containing Moon Knight, "Ultimate Knights", a nod to the Marvel Knights comics in 616. Moon Knight first met Spider-Man in the arc "Warriors". The two fought for awhile and Moony succeeded in totally freaking Spider-Man out. Here, Moon Knight teams up with him, Shang-Chi, Daredevil, Iron Fist and Dr. Strange in an effort to take down the Kingpin, who is pretty much EXACTLY the same as his 616 counterpart. Shang-Chi had previously attempted to infiltrate Fisk's organization via posing as a skilled assassin for hire (actually to replace Elektra who had been killed by...Moon Knight) but his cover was blown rather quickly and he barely escaped alive. The group decides this was still a good idea, and, as part of their larger plan, should be attempted again. Moon Knight volunteers to be the one to do it and everyone agrees at once since Fisk isn't that familiar with him (as he was with Shang Chi and is with DD and Spidey).

Ultimate Ronin
It goes quite well at first as Moon Knight creates the character of Ronin (a nice nod to something concurrently going on in New Avengers, also written by Bendis) and is quickly hired. Of course it still winds up a disaster as ruthless assassin Ronin eventually asserts its dominance over all of Moony's personalities and he goes from undercover agent to full on baddy. The situation in his head is actually visually illustrated for us as we see the personalities all meeting and discussing the situation together. But in addition to Steven Grant (who is now the cabbie - there is no Jake Lockley), Marc Spector (businessman) and Moon Knight, Ultimate Moony also has a nameless little girl personality. She's also eyeless. Because that's cool. Ronin murders Moon Knight, drives off the others and takes over. Spider-Man actually has to fight Ronin after the latter is ordered by Kingpin to apprehend him and is quickly defeated. But taking out the hero in his own book isn't Moony's badass moment here. No, that comes when he finally is discovered by Fisk and is promptly executed by two mooks. Shot in the head and dumped in the outskirts to send a message to other costumed vigilantes in New York.

Except Moon Knight eventually gets back up. How did he pull this off? No healing factor, no illusion powers, nothing like that. Back in his messed up mind, we see the other personalities urging the seemingly dead Moon Knight persona to wake up. The little girl screams at him a bit to no avail. Then Ronin comes over and gives a try, grabbing his head and yelling "Get up!" It does the trick.  The personality revives and so does his physical self. He staggers to a police station, takes off his mask and has Fisk formally charged with attempted murder leading to his arrest (something none of Spidey and the others could achieve).

So there you have it: Moon Knight is actually too crazy to be killed. Badass.

5. Burning His Ties To The Avengers - Literally (Marc Spector: Moon Knight #50 Volume 3)
Yeah, screw those guys
While the Marc Spector: Moon Knight series was the longest running, it really wasn't one of the more memorable runs for the character. The creative team was always in flux, causing the tone and direction to fluctuate along with it. Sure, some cool and important stuff happened like Punisher killing Marc's insane brother Randall (something he thought he'd done himself years previously), visiting a couple of alternate universes and participating in Acts of Vengeance hijinks, but as a whole it was kinda weak.

Still, one of Moony's most badass moments does indeed happen in this series. I'm not entirely certain of the order of events but I'm reasonably sure that at the time of the series's opening, Moon Knight was a member of the West Coast Avengers. He (along with Tigra and Mockingbird) leaves the team in issue #41 but it's established at some point later on in Marc Spector Moon Knight that he's still considered a reserve member and thus has a membership card. So-called misuse of said card was one of the actions that led to Moon Knight's fiery resignation from Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

The Avengers, in disarray after the events of Operation Galactic Storm and Captain America's subsequent resignation as team leader, became increasingly concerned with Moon Knight's actions, particularly using his membership card to gain access to the Latverian consulate and attack Doctor Doom (an extremely badass act in itself), his ties to the Punisher as well as villain Tombstone and the revelation (captured on television no less) that he'd been housing some kind of demonic presence in his body - Demogoblin by way of Hobgoblin. Anyway, Moon Knight, busy with his own affairs, repeatedly ignores the team's calls insisting he come in for a meeting.

 Finally, he agrees to go after an altercation with Thor. They spend so much time debating the pros and cons of having him on the team as well as whether or not his actions require some sort of disciplinary measures on their part, that he up and leaves while they're babbling. They don't even notice until seeing the smoke from the flaming membership card he leaves behind.

4. The Raid, Superhero Style (Moon Knight #5, Volume 7)
I'm assuming the elevator wasn't working
This one doesn't require much setup. In the latest Moon Knight series, kicked off by writer Warren Ellis, standalone stories limited to single issues replaced the common practice of story arcs spanning multiple comics. After six great stories Ellis moved on but later writers mostly followed his example. In this particular issue, the second last written by Ellis, Moon Knight storms a dilapidated apartment complex to rescue a kidnapped young girl.

In what is a clear homage to awesome action movie The Raid, (director Gareth Evans's name can be seen spray painted on a wall in one of the panels), Moony makes his way from the ground floor to the sixth, cutting a brutal and bloody swath through all resistance.  His nasty fighting style has been showcased in many issues over the years but perhaps this is the single one that celebrates it the most. I'd point out some of the highlights except: 1. Pretty much every panel is a highlight 2. I really couldn't do them proper justice. So just seek out the comic for yourself, in print or digitally.

Moony with a sidekick?
3. The Final Moon Knight/Midnight Reunion (Moon Knight #12, Volume 4)
One thing Charlie Huston firmly re-established in the Moon Knight mythos is that for someone without any powers, the guy can take a hell of a lot of punishment. This is illustrated in spades in the two Huston story arcs "The Bottom" and "Midnight Sun". The next badass moment comes from the latter.

Way back in the very first Moon Knight series, our hero came up against a flamboyant art thief called The Midnight Man. Despite his initial seeming lack of a threat, he would quickly become something of a nemesis for Moony, culminating in his going insane after having his face disfigured from a fall in one of their encounters. He went from daring cat burglar with a thing for theatrics and mind games to another damaged opponent, bent on revenge. Then he died.

Years later, during the Marc Spector: Moon Knight run, Marc would be faced with a new chapter in the saga between himself and Anton Mogart (Midnight Man's real name): a young man named Jeff Wilde, who claimed to be Mogart's son. But this wasn't the old "son of a vanquished villain shows up for revenge" schtick; Jeff wanted to help Moon Knight. His reasons were never all that clear. He said something like he wanted to make up for all the trouble his father had caused Marc but by offering his services as costumed sidekick Midnight, he just caused trouble of his own.

Still, Moony reluctantly agreed to take him on, feeling somewhat responsible for what happened to the kid. But Jeff, while not entirely without guts and talent, wasn't very effective as a crimefighter and more often than not blatantly disregarded Moon Knight's advice and orders. Eventually his bumbling got him captured by the lunatics at the Secret Empire (an offshoot of Hydra considered too crazy even by their standards) and they did the logical thing: turned him into a superpowered, killer cyborg. Sometime later, he apparently died.

But years after that, Huston revealed in "Midnight Sun" that Midnight was still alive and had become completely unhinged and completely obsessed with having a showdown with his former mentor. To get his attention he went about murdering people and ripping their limbs off to use them as hands in clocks traced in blood. The hands pointed to midnight.
"I knew I could save you, Jeff."

Moon Knight tracked him to a makeshift lair in the sewers (much like one Mogart fashioned years before) and was promptly overwhelmed when attempting to ambush Wilde. With the aid of a female cyborg assistant, who apparently had nursing skills, Midnight (now dressed in his own Moon Knight costume) tortures the bound (to a giant clock face) Moon Knight by removing parts of his spine with a pair of plyers. Yup.

So this goes on for a few minutes until lady cyborg gets upset, clobbers Midnight and frees Moony, who is, you know, not in the best of shape. She whines to him for a bit about how she and Midnight are unable to die and how Midnight had assured her Moon Knight would be the one to "save them". She expresses her disappointment in him. Moon Knight, having somewhat regained his wits says "I can save you." He rips the minute hand off the clock and leaping off the platform, plunges it down Midnight's throat, ending the latter's torment. A pretty emphatic form of closure on the whole Midnight Man/Midnight saga.

(That was the badass moment but if you're wondering about loose ends, I'll just inform you Moon Knight also "saved" the woman by telling her walk out of the tunnel and gaze at the full moon for her salvation. In doing this, she is blown away by the heavy ordinance of Moony's helicopter.)

Moon Knight: Secret Avenger
2. Making Deadpool Say Uncle (Vengeance of the Moon Knight #8, Volume 5)
Charlie Huston's resurrection of Moon Knight in 2006 (his first ongoing series since the mid nineties) was what absolutely solidified his status as my all-time favourite not only superhero but comic book character, period. As with Ellis nearly a decade later, Huston kicked off the series but only stayed on for about a third of its run. He wrote two amazing arcs (named in the previous entry) then writing duties were taken over by others. While I enjoyed seeing an overmatched Moony take on the Thunderbolts after Norman Osborn (head of H.A.M.M.E.R. at that time) sicced them on him, the final arc of that series, "Down South", with a mostly out of costume Moon Knight fighting cartels in Mexico, was a big letdown for me.

This was immediately followed by a new series, Vengeance of the Moon Knight (Volume 5), that had a somewhat new direction: Moon Knight trying to be a bit more "heroic" (this being The Heroic Age of Marvel at the time) and erase some of the ill will he'd built up in the superhero community and public eye. So he's basically making a concerted effort to not, you know, kill or horribly maim his opponents or cause too much collateral damage. He does so well in this he impresses Steve Rogers enough to recruit him to a new Avengers team, albeit a secret one (um, Secret Avengers) that no one outside of it will be aware of. A pretty big turnaround after Rogers's "I don't like your style, mister," speech to Marc Spector back during Huston's run.

Anyway I'm mentioning all this to properly set up the next badass moment. Sure, Moon Knight has been playing by the rules and even playing well with others - things he's definitely not known for - all to very encouraging results. But he's still Moon Knight and operating this way was...kind of getting to him.

Enter The Merc With a Mouth, Deadpool.
You shouldn't have mentioned the healing factor, Wade

Deadpool was doing what he does - he was on the job to assassinate some crime boss for a woman whose life had been destroyed by said crime boss - when Moon Knight arrived and stopped him. Said crime boss was confined to a hospital bed at the time and of course, the new "good boy" Moon Knight couldn't allow him to be murdered while helpless. Deadpool of course taunts him for this as they fight (Moony didn't know who the heck it was and would later refer to him as "that welfare-looking Spider-Man) and asks: "Come on Casper, where's that killer instinct?" Moon Knight tells him he's about to see it but Deadpool is incredulous: "Sure. You're Lee fucking Marvin with me - who can't be killed."

Well. He shouldn't have said that. Moony draws a sword (OF COURSE he has a sword) and declares: "Game on." Deadpool answers with his own blade but now that Moony isn't holding back anymore, it's really no contest. He proceeds to slice and dice the annoying mercenary until there's not a whole lot left to cut. He dispatches one of the most badass characters in the Marvel U with ease. Deadpool concedes defeat with a: "*Kkkkkkkkk* Uncle*" and Moon Knight stalks off remarking how he really needed that. And so did we.

1. Another Faceoff With Bushman Ends In A Face...Off (Moon Knight #2 Volume 4)
Well, it really was a face only a mother could love
As this list has already demonstrated, acts of horrific violence are pretty routine for Moon Knight. And while I hope I've shown that he still has badass moments that don't directly involve them, you shouldn't be all that surprised that our number one entry is yet another. And this one tops them all.

Moon Knight #1 of the 2006 series ends with a broken and disheveled Marc Spector. We're shown he's been out of the hero game for quite awhile and that his life has subsequently fallen apart, lashing out and alienating the small handful of people in the world that actually care about him. We see him sporting a beard while sitting in a chair yelling at his Khonshu statue. It appears he doesn't even have his faith anymore. Not in his god and not in himself.

Moon Knight #2 gives us the flashback that shows how he arrived in such a state. Fittingly, it's a battle with his arch nemesis, the man who inadvertently created Moon Knight, the vicious Raoul Bushman. The two are slugging it out on a rooftop. Moony provides some great running commentary as they go at each other:

How many times before a guy figures it out? How many times do you beat a guy down? How many times do you take him out? Before he knows you're better than he is? He never got it. Guess that's why he's called a nemesis. So, how many times can you do the same thing? Before you get sloppy? Blame it on arrogance. Blame it on a bag of tricks grown tired. Blame it on the passing years. Blame it on him. Blame it on our hatred. The hatred born from slaughter. Slaughter born from friendship. Friendship born from recognition. Recognition of a kindred soul. Souls hating each other. Hating as you can hate only one thing. The reflection in the mirror.

Oh, this can't be good

You won't see Batman doing that
Eventually the fight goes over the side of the roof and Moon Knight is badly injured, hitting his legs off a fire escape on the way down. Lying sprawled and broken in the alley, he's nearly defenceless as Bushman, staggering through a barrage of crescent moon darts and collapsing at his side, manages to bite his enemy's face right through the mask with those terrible filed teeth. Moon Knight somehow manages one final punch then grips Bushman's face in one hand while retrieving one more crescent dart with the other.

Then he peels off the guy's face.

I think it's only too appropriate that Moon Knight's most badass moment ever is also the one which led directly to a downward spiral which nearly destroyed him physically, mentally and spiritually. After two years on the sidelines, wallowing in self pity and abusing pain killers, he managed to pick himself up once again (with a little help from his friends, of course). He's a character who has died and been resurrected several times in continuity, but it's this resurrection of his life, pulled off not by an ancient Egyptian god but by the man himself, that is his greatest comeback.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Essential K-Pop Songs of 2015

The time has come to share more music randomness from South Korea. This year was tougher than last to sort out the top five slots. There was so much variety and throwbacks to decades past that incorporated old and new genres that I love. Like last year I wanted to highlight a few songs and the artists that made an impression on me. I hope you find something here that entertains you.

Do not be afraid, my friends. The whole point of this list is to present something unfamiliar that you wouldn't have discovered otherwise. Let's go!

5)Wonder Girls - I Feel You

Album: Reboot
Back in 2007, Wonder Girls was perhaps the first k-pop group that I became familiar with and they dominated the airwaves in Korea with some catchy hits. Over the years some members changed, others worked on solo projects for a while, and the group went on hiatus in 2013. They reformed this year as a four member band with an 80's concept, playing instruments for the first time as part of their performance.

I was happy and surprised to find an upbeat number with a music video that captures the neon haze and ridiculous glam of the eighties so well. Even the production quality and mix feels very true to form for the retro sound. Plus, there's something very entertaining to me about a girl performing rigid dance steps in heels and one-piece swimwear while jamming on a keytar. If any of this rings your bell I highly recommend checking out their entire eighties themed album Reboot that features this song. It's a solid eighties concept album that does everything from Madonna-esque dance pop to darker synth-rock, and the whole thing sounds truly truly truly outrageous.

4)Lim Kim - Awoo

Album: Simple Mind
There's something so lovely about Lim Kim's voice. Her breathy singing is unique - often ethereal - and I've enjoyed every song she's put out. So I was thrilled to see her release a full album this year.

"Awoo" has a less than conventional sound with its up and down pitched melody, and simple bass line, but it's that voice that makes it so pleasant and pulls the whole thing together. So many of the tracks on the album are a dreamlike experience, with her quiet voice guiding you over heavy electro beats. I highly recommend listening to it as you drift off to sleep.

If you ask me what is supposed to be going on in the video, it's hard to say. There seems to be a teasing theme going on, and Lim Kim acting like a cat, but besides that I don't have a clue. It's very colourful, well produced, and suits the unusual sound of the song. Like a lot of Korean music, it's the quirkiness that draws you in, and Lim Kim is a talent to watch.

3)Hyukoh - Hooka

Album: 22
Hyukoh is a four member indie band that have been part of the underground music scene for a couple years, but really gained wider success this year with multiple hits. Oh Hyuk, the leader of the band, has been especially busy collaborating with other singers and producers throughout the year and he has lent his soulful vocals to several songs that I love.

While there were other songs for Hyukoh that peaked higher on the Korean music charts in 2015, "Hooka" was the one that I kept coming back to again and again for its chill intro that builds into a solid blues rock tune. The style and especially the chorus reminds me of The Doors, but I have no idea where the band draws their inspiration. I haven't gotten that specific vibe from any other tracks.

Many of their songs have both English and Korean lyrics, but the English is easy to miss because of pronunciation and unclear meaning. I don't consider it a downside, but just an element of their style. In "Hooka" the harsh pronunciation adds intensity as the song progresses.

All in all, Hyukoh is band I'm excited to see more from in the new year. I think you'll agree.

2)Brown Eyed Girls - Brave New World

Album: BASIC
In Korea, Brown Eyed Girls have been making an impression on the music scene for a decade now, and the song in question is from their sixth album, proving that these girls are still working hard to be innovative and to last in this competitive industry. You may even be vaguely familiar with them if you happened to watch Psy's follow up song to "Gangnam Style". In his music video for "Gentleman", the core dance choreography is lifted directly from BEG's hit song "Abracadabra". One member of the group, Gain, even appears in the video alongside Psy performing the dance she made famous.

When I first listened to "Brave New World" it caught me a little off guard. The song changes gears throughout and it felt jarring in the beginning. It was on repeat listens that the song took hold in my brain and I could appreciate the brilliant composition.

"Brave New World" opens strong with a throwback sound reminiscent of late 70's Michael Jackson, then quickly shifts into a more modern beat. The instrumentation driving the song is amazing and I love how the contemporary pop elements melds with an underlying orchestral arrangement that's sprinkled with funk and disco. The chorus hits hard with powerful vocals, and then I can't sit still. Later in the song listen at the rap breakdown (at the 3:17 mark) where the song filters down to something new, and then builds back up with strings as the beat returns. Every time I listen I keeping hearing new details.

The music video also fits the song well, with it's futuristic imagery and settings, and the ladies look stunning. Overall the song is excellent for its creative arrangement, the strong vocals, innovative transitions, blending of genres, and wrapping it all up in a stylish presentation. I can't get enough of this song, and I hope you give it a listen, or two.

1)Red Velvet - Dumb Dumb

Album: The Red
Okay you guys, this last one is crazy as fuck. The first viewing is an all out assault on the senses, and the song is wild and bombastic. Red Velvet debuted in 2014 with four members: Irene, Wendy, Seulgi, Joy, and most recently, Yeri joined in 2015. Fun Random Fact: Wendy grew up in Canada from an early age and auditioned here before joining the group.

The music video alone is worth checking out for the insane production value and screwy imagery. You have objects smashing apart in slow-motion, a rag doll robot dance, cloned girls marching down conveyor belts, giant mechanical claw arms, impossible boxes of flailing legs, and so on. Some people say the imagery in the video is depicting the manufactured idols of the Korean pop industry. That would explain the cartoonish factory producing and packaging identical looking girls. In that way Red Velvet could be making a statement about itself as a group and the nature of pop idols in Korea. Or it could just be more typical wacky k-pop stuff.

Despite being a rookie group Red Velvet is quickly gaining success with the release of their first full album The Red. It hit Number One on Billboard's World Albums Chart in September and this video was ranked #9 in Rolling Stone's 'Best Music Videos of 2015'. Honestly, I don't think I listened to another current album - K-pop or otherwise - more than "The Red" this year. It's just that much fun.

"Dumb Dumb" is brassy, experimental, and like the rest of the album, bursting with energy. These girls have real talent, and their vocals shine on every track. If you enjoyed this, then I recommend "Ice Cream Cake" their single from earlier in the year which I feel is easily as good as "Dumb Dumb", but I didn't want a group or artist appearing twice on the list.

It may seem like nothing but flashy nonsense to some, but Red Velvet delivered a crazy upbeat song with a memorable music video, in one of the best top-to-bottom pop albums I've heard in some time. Check it out.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cole's Favourite Transformers

When I was a kid, I watched lots of the popular cartoons of the day ("the day" being the mid eighties through mid nineties, mostly). Some of those even included shows geared towards girls, like the original My Little Pony (more because of its timeslot than anything else, I think, although I'm not trying to make excuses here) and Jem (which I genuinely enjoyed for some reason). But still, being a boy, it was stuff like He-Man (and, yes, She-Ra), GI JOE, M.A.S.K. and Voltron (which became my favourite when I was much older) that I liked the most. Hell, even more forgettable stuff like Bravestarr was alright by me.

But one show stood above them all. This was the show that I followed as closely as I could and collected as many of its toys as my parents would buy for me. Since the entire purpose of this show was to get kids to buy their toy line, in my case I would say mission accomplished and then some. This show of course was The Transformers. Even though some episodes and characters were totally phoned in and stupid, and there were animation errors aplenty (more than any other cartoon I can think of) I'd contend that actually the vast majority of the content was really good. I mean, as this was a show created simply to advertise a toy line, it would be understandable if it was all halfassed, forgettable crap. But I believe its creators really put a lot of effort into the animation, characters and stories. It's amazing how well much of it still holds up even all these years later.

Because the series's main mandate was to sell toys, TONS of characters were introduced. Of all the shows I watched as a kid, Transformers easily had the biggest cast. And as I've said, this definitely led to a quantity-over-quality approach. With so many characters, good guys and bad guys, vying for screentime, many of them were one-dimensional and lame, with their only redeeming quality being perhaps their transformed mode.

This also led to a lot of annoying voices since, with such limited time to develop characters, the easiest way to differentiate between them was making their voices and/or way of speaking somehow stand out from everyone else. This gave us results such as THREE characters who spoke in rhyme (Jazz thankfully only briefly, Blaster occasionally and Wheelie ALL THE GODDAMN TIME),  the tank, Warpath, endlessly punctuating his sentences with exclamations of "Bang!", "Zoom!" and crap like that, some weird accents (Tracks, Outback, and someone who appears on this list) and miscellaneous weirdness like the Dinobots (speaking like braindead retards), Blurr (talking like a superfast retard) and Seaspray (gurgling?).

There were some great characters, though. And, of course, Transformers exists in all kinds of media besides the show, like comics, movies as well as tons of different updates of the show. So plenty of characters were given more dimension there. All are in different continuities and sometimes make changes to various characters. For this list I'm considering characters based on ALL their appearances. Let's get to it.

5. Razorclaw (Transformed mode: Lion)
While hardly a major character in any incarnation of Transformers, Razorclaw is still the leader of the Predacons unit, and that has to count for something. Actually, in the IDW Comics continuity, the Predacons are considered one of the most elite units in the entire Deception force. And, typical of being a Predacon I guess, in most media he's shown to be one of the most capable fighters when it comes to hand to hand combat.

He's proven himself a good leader as well, with a sort of all-business attitude that's actually kind of unique among Decepticons. I guess I like him because the Predacons are my favourite Combiners in all of Transformers and, as their leader, he's their best representative. He transforms into a lion and is often able to overwhelm opponents in this mode. When in robot form he wields a really cool sword (officially called a sonic sword as it's able to emit powerful vibrations) and you know I love swords. Not many transformers, Autobot or Decepticon, have swords so this makes him unique as well. An effective tracker as well as commander, it breaks my heart I never had his toy.

Personal Crowning Moment of Awesome: I'd go with the episode "Nightmare Planet" from the original animated series. Specifically when he's forced to team up with Autobot, Springer in battling his way out of a castle created by Daniel Witwicky's dreams (yeah, it's a weird one).  The castle is owned by a fearsome dragon and Springer, wielding some kind of trident, rode Razorclaw (in lion mode, obviously) and they charged the dragon, managing to kill it. Serving as horsey for the enemy may seem like an odd pick but trust me, it's really cool.

4. Galvatron (Transformed mode: Laser cannon)
Well, I think you'd all agree that this guy definitely is a major character. Some people might've even doubled down, taking the old Megatron/Galvatron route, fitting in two characters
for the price of one. They'd certainly be justified in doing so. But to me, Megatron and Galvatron are separate characters and should be treated as such. While in most continuities, most notably the original show, he was formerly Megatron, he wasn't in all of them. In the IDW comics, for instance, he is a completely separate character who actually predated Megatron by millions of years. And even if you are dealing with a continuity where he isn't, I still believe the change (or, transformation, if you'll allow me) was enough that there's really nothing tying him to Megatron anymore besides a fanatical desire to defeat the Autobots.

If this list was a few slots longer I would definitely include Megatron because he is awesome and probably one of the best villains you can find. He's extremely powerful, brutal, charismatic and, even though it's true he kind of loses all the time (such is the fate of the villain), actually quite a competent leader. He's even shown to be quite rational, sometimes putting aside his hatred of the Autobots for the sake of the greater good (although in those cases the greater good only counts because it involves saving his own skin and that of his Decepticons). It seems every time he dies he manages to come back and just his name strikes fear into the hearts (or...circuits, I guess) of Autobots and those on the side of good.

So why am I picking Galvatron over him? For starters, one key difference between him and Megatron is that he (Galvatron) is most definitely NOT rational. While Megatron could certainly became enraged and occasionally fly off the handle, this is basically the permanent setting for Galvatron. He's always screaming and ranting and raving, threatening everyone around him. While that could just as easily be an argument for why he isn't as cool as Megs, personally, it just really appeals to me. Galvatron is a fucking lunatic and I love him for it. It makes him wildly unpredictable and ridiculously dangerous. In the continuity of the Generation One cartoon, it's his defeat at the hands of Rodimus Prime (The Transformers The Movie) that really drives him over the edge. Things get kind of confusing after that because in both this continuity (as continued in the Transformers Headmasters series that never aired in North America) as well as the Marvel Comics continuity, there are diverging timeliness involving his path, so multiple versions of him result.

In the world of IDW comics, Galvatron hails from Cybertron's fabled (and oft-referenced) Golden Age, which predates that continuity's setting by a few million years. That's before there were such things as Autobots and Decepticons and he was actually close friends with that era's Prime, Nova Prime. Here he's part of a spaceship crew (the first Ark) that is lost in an anomaly sending them into what's known as the Dead Universe, where he became an undead being. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that he eventually shows up in the present to trouble the Autobots.

In most continuities he's presented as even more powerful than Megatron, which is really saying something. Hell, in some he's nigh invincible. I love the purple colour scheme (purple seems to always work so well as the colour of evil in various things for some reason) too.

Personal Crowning Moment of Awesome: For a guy like him, there are many but it's tough to beat his arrival on Char just after his rebirth at the hands of Unicron (The Transformers The Movie). The devastated Decepticons have reluctantly allowed Starscream to assume leadership in the wake of Megatron's demise when suddenly Galvatron touches down with the also newly created Cyclonus.

Starscream: Who disrupts my coronation?
Galvatron: Coronation, Starscream? This is bad comedy.
Starscream: Megatron? Is that you?!?!
Galvatron: Here's a hint! (Transforms into cannon mode and blasts Starscream to ashes)

It's so awesome you should see it. So here you go.

3. Sky Lynx (Transformed mode: It's...complicated)
Here we have a truly unique transformer. This guy doesn't even have a robot mode. Instead Sky Lynx is a sort of triple-changer who actually has FOUR (just three in the Marvel comics though) unique forms, those being: lynx, space bird (?), space shuttle bird with lynx legs? I don't know. But it doesn't matter because he's awesome. And he knows it too. In fact, he repeatedly lets everyone around him know just how awesome he is. Just how full of himself is he? Well, consider this quote from the Generation One show: "Before you do anything, think, 'Is this what Sky Lynx would do in my position?' , and you will not go far wrong." ("Call of the Primitives").

Holding the rank of Lieutenant Commander, which maybe isn't all that impressive because Grimlock does too, I'll always associate Sky Lynx with my memory of the commercial for his toy (which also featured the Predacons/Predaking, something we'll explore in further detail below) which used footage from the show as well as catchy musical hook ("It's Sky Lynx!). I actually had this commercial on tape, as it appeared during an episode of Ducktales, another great cartoon from that era.

By Season Three of the Generation One show, Omega Supreme was still around but Sky Lynx seemed to take over as the Autobots's de facto mode of transportation when going on missions deep in space and/or to other planets. And, unlike the Decepticon equivalent for this, the triple-changer Astrotrain, he actually retained his giant size. Strangely enough, while in his own shuttle mode, Astrotrain is large enough to transport many of his fellow Decepticons (a good example is in the movie right after the battle at Metroplex where Starscream tosses out the nearly-dead Megatron) but as a robot, is the same size as the average transformer. The two have actually battled each other several times. But, as the aforementioned commercial suggests, it's the Predacons Sky Lynx has a real rivalry with, clashing with them on numerous occasions. In the Generation One episode, "Call of the Primitives", where he is front and centre, it must have really galled him to be lumped into the same group as the Predacons as well as the Dinobots and the various animal cassettes. In that instance he immediately named himself leader of that group. Also to his shame, during the show he was often mistakenly animated with a Decepticon insignia. How insulting!

Personal Crowning Moment of Awesome: While his rescue of the Aerialbots (as Superion) in the episode "The Big Broadcast of 2006" (a favourite of mine) deserves a mention, I'd say it was his role in locating and bringing back a Quintesson during the Hate Plague ("The Return of Optimus Prime parts 1 & 2"). Fortunately one of the few Autobots not infected by the plague was the magnificent Sky Lynx as he was the only one left capable of spaceflight. The Quintesson he retrieves is successful in restoring Optimus Prime to life and Prime discovers how to stop the plague. Sky Lynx then helps Optimus against Galvatron and although he later does wind up being infected by Rodimus, his prior actions led to the curing of the plague.

2. Optimus Prime (Transformed mode: varying kinds of 18 wheeler truck)
Like on some of my other lists, we've come to an entry on a character who is so iconic and so celebrated that I'm at a loss for what to say about him. There have been many, many different incarnations of the Transformers over different forms of media. And while some can get pretty different and "out there" when compared to the original show and Marvel comic, the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, is always present. Although his character doesn't exactly appear in the Japanese animated series Super God Masterforce, his form does at the least (Ginrai) and as far as I can tell, that's really the lone exception.

Naturally it's his depiction in the Generation One cartoon that still stands as probably the most iconic and it's the one I draw the most from with the current ongoing IDW comic series coming in second. I mean, honestly, how could he have had the same initial impact without the brilliant voice talent of the legendary Peter Cullen? Even Michael Bay and the geniuses behind the live-action film series realized that there was no way they'd succeed if they didn't get the man himself to once again voice Prime. And  while you can say what you want about those movies, back in 2007 when I saw the first one, hearing Cullen's voice in the theatre literally sent shivers down my spine.

Optimus is leader of the Autobots but he's not the type to lead from the back. Whatever's going on, he's in the thick of the action. And while it's true that many characters on the original show were often poorly written and forgettable, Optimus was ALWAYS well-written, exuding courage, strength, wisdom and compassion that often transcended the cartoon. As weird as it sounds, this giant transforming alien robot warrior was actually a good role model for the children who watched the show. He always showed reluctance to battle the Decepticons and often expressed his disappointment and frustration with constantly being forced to fight. He lamented that Megatron and the Decepticons couldn't learn that their way of attempting to conquer everything around them by force was wrong, that it was anything but glorious. But when it came time to fight, he was ready.

And really, there was no one better at it. As I said, Optimus was an incredibly "hands on" leader. He wasn't just a brilliant commander and tactician but was unequaled in battle prowess. Whether he was firing away with his ion blaster laser rifle, fighting hand to hand or even in vehicle form, he was a force to be reckoned with, able to defeat many enemies single-handedly, best Megatron one on one and even fight off much larger opponents. The Decepticons knew to fear him and few would dare engage him without plenty of support.

Probably the best depiction of Optimus becoming a Prime is the IDW comic miniseries Transformers: Autocracy. Set on Cybertron just before the Great War (the beginning of the millions of years of Autobots vs Decepticons conflict), Autobot commander (of what was a special police unit back then) Orion Pax is given the task of rooting out terrorist Decepticon cells sowing dissent throughout the city-state of Kaon. The Prime at that time was Sentinel Prime.

As noted above, some version of Optimus Prime exists in every incarnation of Transformers and while they have their differences, all are great leaders. Still, Peter Cullen, much like Kevin Conroy with Batman, gives the definitive vocal performance and his is the voice I hear in my head whenever I read any of the comics.

Personal Crowning Moment of Awesome: Too many to mention, obviously. He had one in nearly every episode of the original show and plenty more were to follow in other shows, comics and movies. He even has some great ones in the much-maligned live action films. Personally, I love his highway battle with Bonecrusher in the 2007 movie. Even his death scene in the animated movie could be considered one. But for me, it's not a moment of glorious combat or even that dramatic a moment that always resonates the most. I'm going to give it a pretty long setup because I think that's the only way to give it proper justice so bear with me.

In the Generation One cartoon, there's an episode called "The Core" wherein Megatron has the Decepticons construct a massive drill to tap into the earth's molten core. The plan is to harvest geothermal energy thus giving themselves either an alternative to Energon or possibly an ingredient to make it; it's never explicitly stated.

The plan, as pointed out by Starscream, is incredibly risky as the deeper they drill, the greater the chance of breaching the core and causing the earth to explode. Megatron brushes this off, saying he has a contingency plan in place: a space bridge capable of teleporting the Decepticons to Cybertron is nearby in the event of the drill threatening the earth's stability. The Constructicons build and operate the drill.

As you would expect, the Autobots discover this plan and try to stop the Decepticons. To counter the power of Devastator, whom they know Megatron would surely deploy against them, Wheeljack and Chip (Spike's wheelchair-bound friend) created "dominator discs" - small discs that need to be placed on each individual Constructicon. Once this is accomplished, when they combine to form Devastator, the discs will activate and allow the Autobots to take control of Devastator.

Blah, blah, blah. They get the discs on the Constructicons, predictably the drill goes haywire and the earth is in danger, the space bridge becomes damaged so now the Decepticons are in the same boat and Megatron agrees to work with the Autobots to save the planet. Devastator, who had briefly been under Autobot control as planned but isn't anymore, uses his strength to destroy the drill. But when he returns he finds Megatron and the other Decepticons have fled. Chip tells him his "noble leader" ran to save his own hide but Devastator, loyal to a fault, states he left to plan his next attack, as a good leader would. He takes off and Chip sighs. He says he was hoping that Devastator/The Constructicons really would join the Autobots but dismisses it as a "dumb old dream." As the music dramatically comes up, Optimus comforts Chip with these words: "Hang onto your dreams, chip. For the future is built on dreams. Hang on."

Maybe that seems like me making a big deal out of something rather simplistic but between the writing, the music and Cullen's delivery, I think it will always be my favourite Optimus Prime moment. It's stuck with me ever since I first saw it more than twenty-five years ago.

1. Starscream (Transformed mode: F-15 Eagle fighter jet [Gen 1]; F-22 Raptor [IDW])
Just like with Optimus Prime, you pretty much can't do a version of Transformers without the scheming, treacherous Air Commander Starscream. So known and revered is he for his conniving nature that he is actually the Trope Namer for such characters across fiction. Simply put, nobody out-Starscreams Starscream.

The earliest indication of Starscream's ambition is in his bio on the box for his original 1984 toy, where it's mentioned that he desires to lead the Decepticons. Then in the very first episode of the original show, within the first five freaking minutes his stance is heavily hinted at and he winds up making a power play, beginning a long streak of failure. Seriously, even in the episodes where he didn't have any specific plan to overthrow Megatron, he's always criticizing him, quite openly. This of course leads one to wonder why a ruthless commander like Megatron would ever tolerate Starscream. Hell, Cracked even did their own list on this subject back in 2009.

The accepted explanation for this is that Megatron, as a Decepticon, actually values and encourages a certain amount of ambition and guile in his troops, plus, since Starscream is so bad at seizing power, he gets to constantly punish him and demonstrate the folly of challenging him to the rest of his underlings. And it isn't lost on Megatron that for all his whining, scheming and criticizing, Starscream still is a very capable and effective soldier. He is the leader of the Seeker jets after all and does instill a healthy amount of fear and respect in the Autobots. This is even shown in the 2007 film.

Still, sometimes he does prove to be more trouble than he's worth. The episode "Starscream's Brigade" may be the best example of this from the Generation One show. After another unsuccessful attempt to take out Megatron, Starscream is beaten by his superior then dumped (by Laserbeak - arguably the most effective Decepticon there's ever been if you stop to think about it) on a remote island in the south Pacific. Here he discovers several old wrecks of military vehicles from World War Two and is inspired to create an army of his own. He brazenly makes his way to Cybertron and steals the personality components of five renegade Decepticons that were stored in a detention centre. He returns to the island and installs them in five of the vehicles. Thus the Combaticons were born.

Starscream, by virtue of activating his new "friends" without installing energy absorbers, leaving them dependent on him to get some for them, is able to get them to do what he wants. Eventually he leads them in an attack against Megatron and the Decepticons and at first, they're winning. Megs plays his trump card, having the Constructicons merge into Devastator. However, the Combaticons show they also are Combiners and form Bruticus, who quickly despatches his giant counterpart. Only the late arrival of the Stunticons saves the day, with their combined form, Menasor, taking Bruticus by surprise and defeating him. For once, Starscream's actions have real consequences as Megatron banishes him and the Combaticons to deep space, having Astrotrain dump them on a distant asteroid.

After so many humiliating defeats and setbacks, Starscream finally does manage to depose Megatron, throwing his nearly lifeless body out of Astrotrain (oh, the irony!) after the disastrous attack on Metroplex. Of course, his stint as leader is short lived as the newly born Galvatron arrives to destroy him. (The Transformers The Movie)

As much as I love Starscream from the original show, it was in the comics where he often really shined. Longtime Marvel scribe Simon Furman  would portray him as more intelligent and often sarcastic. Here he suffered less defeats and humiliation and was often the main focus of many stories. He was a bit more respected by his comrades and his enemies here and he was always very competent.  The IDW comics would follow this approach. He's one of Megatron's first supporters before the Great War and, because of his charisma, was deployed as a Decepticon recruiter. Two of his targets that didn't join up were Blurr and Hot Rod but with many others he was successful. But it wasn't just his silver tongue that made him an effective operative. He, along with an assist from Shockwave, assassinated a room full of senators, beginning in earnest Megatron's rise to power on Cybertron (Megatron Origin). However, it wasn't long before he began to conspire against his leader and aided Scorponok in overthrowing him. Once again, this was a temporary state of affairs and Megatron would resume his position. Starscream would grow disillusioned with the Decepticons, tiring of the state of endless warfare. It was revealed that Megatron chose to keep him around as reminder to always watch his own back, as treachery was part of the Decepticon way.

There's plenty more and not just in the versions of Transformers I've mentioned but that's the stuff I know best and we can't be here all day, can we? Starscream will always be one of the most memorable and prominent characters in Transformers and he'll always be my favourite. He's been a scientist (that's his backstory in the Generation One show, where he was friends with fellow scientist Jetfire/Skyfire), air commander, Decepticon recruiter, Decepticon leader and even a freaking ghost. As previously noted, his scheming, treacherous ways are the stuff of legend even outside of Transformers and his deeds as a warrior shouldn't be overlooked.

Personal Crowning Moment of Awesome: There are many but how about personally shooting down Air Force One in the IDW comic All Hail Megatron #3?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Spooky Movies for Halloween

It's that time of year where the days get shorter, the air gets cooler, and the world gets a little spookier. There is nothing better to watch at this time of year than a good scary movie! Here is a list of some great horror films to watch this Halloween season.

5. Trick 'R Treat

Trick 'R Treat is a Halloween anthology film that was released in 2007. Horror typically lends itself to anthology films, but there aren't many with the pedigree of Trick 'R Treat.

The film features four stories, all centered around Halloween and taking place on the same night. The intertwining thread is a character named Sam; a young trick-or-treater wearing orange pyjamas and a burlap sack over for a mask.

Trick 'R Treat is perfect to watch around Halloween, not only because it's set on Halloween night, but also because it features all the spooky stories that you think of around this time of year! There's jack-o-lanterns, tainted candy, urban legends, and monsters.

You can tell a lot of love and great talent went into making the film, which is unfortunate because it went through a development Hell taking two years to be released. As a result, it only saw a limited theatrical run before being released on DVD. The film has garnered a cult following, however, and as a result of great home video sales a sequel went into production in 2013. Hopefully this isn't the last we've seen of Trick 'R Treat and that creepy little costumed Sam!

4. Halloween III

Let's get the obligatory Halloween film out of the way!

The fact of the matter is that this is the time of year to watch Halloween films and there are several great entries that you can pick from that franchise to enjoy during the month of October. I've decided to switch things up a bit and feature the black sheep of the series, Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Halloween III is a completely different tale from the other films in the franchise in that it doesn't feature the iconic slasher Michael Myers and there are no babysitters in sight! Instead we follow Dr. Dan Challis, portrayed by a mustachioed Tom Atkins, who is investigating a novelties company, famous for their signature Halloween masks.

If it sounds like a weird premise, you seriously don't know the half of it. Veering about as far away as possible from the themes and story of the first two films, John Carpenter (director of Halloween and Halloween II), Debra Hill, and Tommy Lee Wallace (long time collaborators of Carpenter's) went with a story that's about as Halloween-y as you can get! Halloween III blends a tale of witchcraft, science fiction, and Celtic religion.

About the only connection between this film and its two predecessors is the fact that it takes place during Halloween. Originally Carpenter, et al. wanted to make a series of films that would take place around Halloween, but would all have different stories. After the success of the first film the decision was made to make a direct sequel, sew that story up once and for all, and then move on. Halloween III was their attempt to take a new direction, however the film did not do well at the box office, pulling in the lowest gross of any Halloween film to date.

It is an absolutely crazy movie, but if you're looking for something interesting to watch this Halloween season, there's nothing like a movie featuring Druid robots, Stonehenge, and creepy Halloween masks! 

3. The Monster Squad

How could you have Halloween without Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon!? Well get this, 1987's The Monster Squad features all of these infamous characters in one film! Not only that, but this is a kid's adventure movie, not unlike The Goonies from 1985. There's just not enough of these movies!

The story follows a group of pre-teens and kids that have an after-school club known as The Monster Squad, where they get together and talk about their favourite monsters and horror movies.

Little do they know that their beloved creatures and tales are real! Count Dracula is anxiouisly waiting for the day when he can sacrifice a virgin and, with the help of a mystical amulet, take over the world. He was thwarted in his efforts 100 years previous by his arch nemesis, Van Helsing, but the famous vampire hunter was unsuccessful in destroying the amulet, so Dracula is back and the only ones that can stop him are the experts... The Monster Squad!

The special effects and monster makeup was handled by none other than Stan Winston, himself, and they looks awesome. They keep the classic look-and-feel you remember from the Universal horror films, but add a fresh and modern look, as well.

The Monster Squad was, sadly, a failure upon its release back in '87. I think it's because it straddled the line a little too much between a kid's movie and something for teenagers. Looking back at it, it definitely seems tame, but some people are just too stuffy!

You have some seriously funny moments and unforgettable dialogue. There are several characters in it that are very memorable, which I can't say about a lot of films I've seen. It's not only funny, but scary and at times even heartwarming. This movie has it all!

It's criminally underrated (a term I don't use often) and is on my Halloween watch list every year. It should be on yours, too!

2. Nosferatu

I would be remiss if I didn't suggest something classic in this list and since most people who know me would expect me to choose my favourite classic horror film, Frankenstein, I decided to switch it up and choose something even older: Nosferatu.

Nosferatu, originally titled Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens in its native German, is an expressionist film directed by FW Murnau in 1921, seeing its release in 1922. Murnau wanted to film an adaptation of Bram Stoker's infamous novel, Dracula, but could not obtain the rights. As a result, many of the terms and phrases of Stoker's novel were changed - vampire became Nosferatu, Count Dracula became Count Orlok - and the movie was made anyway, which didn't sit well with Stoker's widow.

Ultimately the Stoker family won in court and all copies of Nosferatu were ordered to be destroyed. By a little luck a few prints of Nosferatu managed to escape destruction and are now a part of the public domain.

The story is very much the same as that of Dracula, with only a few names changed; an old and reclusive Count in Transylvania is looking to buy real estate in the German town of Wisborg. Thomas Hutter is sent to meet the Count only to come face to face with Nosferatu! The "Bird of Death"! Count Orlok makes his way to Wisborg and the hunt is on to kill the evil Nosferatu.

As I mentioned previously, the film is expressionist, which in my opinion makes it creepy all on its own. To make things even scarier, Max Shreck portrays Orlok, who has got to be one of the scariest looking vampires ever seen in cinema.

Shreck's portrayal of Orlok became legendary in the film industry after Nosferatu was released, because of his own mysterious background and his incredible portrayal in the film. This rumour persisted for years and was the subject of the film Shadow of the Vampire, in which John Malkovich portrayed Max Schreck who was hired by Murnau to play Orlok because he was a real vampire.

The stark imagery, use of light, real Eastern European landscapes, coupled with Shreck's unprecedented portrayal of the Nosferatu make this film a very scary watch. The film is not only black and white but silent and when it was displayed at a theatre a musical track would be played live by a symphony. Most of the original music by Hans Erdmann has been lost, but many composers have created their own soundtracks to the film in its subsequent video releases. I'm not sure which soundtrack I've heard while watching the film, but I believe the release is called Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors (a translation of the film's original German title) and is composed by Hammer's James Bernard.

If you think an old black and white film can't be scary, I dare you to watch Nosferatu with the lights off this Halloween!

1. The Blair Witch Project

I think a lot of people overlook The Blair Witch Project as a great flick to watch at Halloween, but I watch it every year around this time. Not only is it actually set just before Halloween, but it involves a witch! I have watched this movie numerous times - as recently as last night - and I can honestly say that it still delivers the scares and the chills.

The film is infamous for being the mother of the Found Footage subgenre, but I think the thing that really makes it special is its experimental nature. The filmmakers, Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, really put the actors in this film through their paces.

Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams, although they were given direction by Sanchez and Myrick, were legitimately sent into the woods for several days, given very little to eat or drink, and were subjected to actual scare tactics during the night scenes. The film, in a lot of ways, was a real psychological experiment and I think that is what makes it makes it so compelling to this day.

The marketing for the film was ahead of its time, as well. The Internet was a burgeoning phenomenon in the late-90s and had taken hold in many homes in North America. The ad marketing for the film played it up as if it were a true story and the website was chock-full with information and documentation lending to the idea that the film was all real.

This was even coupled with a faux documentary, which aired on TV, that acted as a teaser for the film and gave some credence to the idea that it all really happened. I know I bought into the hype! I waited eagerly to get into a theatre and finally see the film, back in 1999.

If you're looking for a good scare this Halloween season, then give The Blair Witch Project a try. If you're outdoorsy, I guarantee the woods will never look the same!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Alternate Worlds of Mega Man

When Mega Man was first released in 1987 I'm fairly certain that its creators at Capcom never expected that their game about a little blue robot shooting pellets at other robots would become the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

Mega Man is such a beloved icon that he has seen many homages and has been used in all sorts of other games and media, including spin-offs by Capcom themselves.

With Mega Man's 30th Anniversary looming and Capcom announcing a new animated series and feature film with 20th Century Fox I thought it would be fitting to take a look at a selection of some of the best and worst versions of the Blue Bomber that have surfaced over the last 28 years.

5. Worlds of Power

I recently posted an article on my site Retro-Def (shameless, I know) about Metal Gear and in researching the original NES title I rediscovered the Worlds of Power novels that were published in 1990.

They were edited by Seth Godin, written by several writers (including Godin himself), and published by Scholastic under the nom de plume "F.X. Nine". The idea was to take some of the most popular Nintendo games at the time and develop them into short novels as a gateway to get kids reading.

One of those novels was "Mega Man 2" written by Ellen Miles. It was one of two "junior" editions in the series - the other being "Bases Loaded II: The Second Season" - which meant they had a slightly smaller page count in comparison to the other novels in the series.

As was the case with all of the Worlds of Power books, the authors took great liberties with the storyline, often going off of what little they could find in the games' manuals, some of the gameplay, and notes that Godin had developed as a sort of "bible" to follow in their writing.

In many ways Mega Man 2's adaptation is no less wacky than any of the others, but it certainly stands out. In the novel Mega Man has already faced off against Wily's robots in the past. When Dr. Wily re-emerges with a new cadre of Robot Masters, Dr. Light decides it might be prudent to clone Mega Man to shore up their odds.

In his attempt, however, he pulls some sort of weird Geppetto and accidentally makes Mega Man into... a real boy! That's right, Mega Man is alive in this story, but still has to face off against Dr. Wily's evil robots.

As he is no longer a robot, Mega Man has to carry a handheld laser in this story, which may have been an attempt to answer the question as to why he was brandishing one on the box art of Mega Man 2. If it was then the great irony is that all weapons were removed from the covers of the Worlds of Power books, so instead of Mega Man blasting at Quick Man it just looks like Mega Man is shaking his fist sternly.

Mega Man is also at another disadvantage in this story, as he no longer has his copy abilities. Instead he takes the weapon of each of the Robot Masters he defeats so that he can use them down the line. Interestingly enough he can still consume "E-drinks" to regain his energy, even though he's no longer a robot.

I actually owned this book when I was a kid, although I can't seem to find my copy. I have no recollection of the storyline, whatsoever, and as a kid I may not have found it totally weird, although I suspect I would have. The one thing I do recall is that at the end of each chapter there would be a small hint that you could actually use in Mega Man 2 on the NES!

4. Captain N: The Game Master

Captain N: The Game Master was a Saturday morning cartoon series that aired on NBC from 1989 to 1991. It actually started out as a story in the pages of Nintendo Power, Nintendo's former official magazine, entitled "Captain Nintendo".

The story's writer, Randy Studdard, brought the character he'd published in Nintendo Power to some Nintendo executives as a "spokes-character" and even proposed a TV show. The greasy execs decided they liked the idea - but didn't want to play Studdard - so they went to DIC Entertainment with a very similar show idea, which became Captain N.

The show ultimately focused on a teenager by the name of Kevin Keene who is playing Nintendo with his dog Duke and is sucked into Videoland, where all of his favourite video game characters actually exist.

The show featured Nintendo-owned characters like Pit (erroneously named "Kid Icarus" in the TV series), Mother Brain, King Hippo, and Eggplant Wizard, but also - and somewhat surprisingly - there were licensed characters, like Simon Belmont, Dr. Wily, and Mega Man!

To say that the series took liberties with the source material would be the understatement of the century. Simon Belmont is portrayed as a womanizing dolt who is obsessed with his looks and is afraid of his own shadow and Mega Man is perplexingly coloured green and has what could be classified as the most grating voice in cartoon history.

You can't really blame the writers in taking some liberties with the subject matter on this one. They were trying to deliver a kid's cartoon based on characters that, at the time, didn't exactly have the deepest back-story. That said, I would say that the writers could have done a little more research. Mega Man's green hue, for instance, is often attributed to the fact that the animators played the game on a TV set with maladjusted colours and they actually thought that he was green and not his signature blue.

Although Mega Man is depicted as a loyal and powerful little fighting robot, having him prefix almost every other word with "mega-" and giving him that awful smoker's voice makes him a little hard to take whenever he's on screen. At the end of the day, though, I usually enjoyed the Megaland (Mega Man's home world in Videoland) episodes the most, because they often did a decent job of depicting what a Mega Man level might look like in a 3D space.

I give Captain N's weird little green Mega Man a bit of leeway, because I grew up with the cartoon, but in the end he is nothing like the true blue Mega Man he was based on.

3. Mega Man Animated Series

Captain N: The Game Master wouldn't be Mega Man's last foray into animated television. In 1994 Capcom, in association with several other production houses - namely Ruby-Spears Productions - decided to develop a Saturday Morning Cartoon-style Mega Man series.

The show was developed in Japan, but was animated in such a way so that it would blend in well with Western expectations of cartoons, and as such didn't go with an anime style. They also didn't depict Mega Man or Roll as children and instead went for a more grown-up, teenage look.

The show follows the events laid out in the first Mega Man game pretty closely. Dr. Light and Dr. Wily are working on advanced robots together and come up with a prototype version. After some issues, Dr. Light wants to scrap the prototype, but Dr. Wily steals the plans and goes on to create the robot in secret, which of course ends up being Proto Man. This is probably the biggest deviation from the canonized Mega Man storyline set out in the games.

Dr. Light goes on to build Rock, Roll, Ice Man, Guts Man, and Cuts Man. Dr. Wily kidnaps the robots, reprogramming the latter three. When he sets his sights on Rock and Roll, Rock lies to Dr. Wily - something he believes robots can't do - and tricks him into letting himself and Roll go free.

Dr. Light then sees that a warrior is needed to fight Dr. Wily and protect the world from his evil deeds, so he re-programs and upgrades Rock into Mega Man.

The show was a fairly big success and went on to spawn action figures from Bandai, as well as VHS releases of several episodes. This was ultimately a blessing and a curse, however, as Bandai would eventually drop the toyline because of poor sales, which prompted Capcom to pull the plug on the show after the second season, even though a Season 3 was already fully planned.

This was especially a bummer, because at the end of Season 2 there was a time warp, which brought Mega Man X, Vile, Spark Mandrill, and Sigma from the future of 21XX into 20XX. This same premise would go on to be explored in the relatively new Mega Man Archie comics, so if you are a big fan of the Mega Man Animated Series you can scratch that itch!

2. Bad Box Art Mega Man

Bad Box Art Mega Man is one of those things that I could never have imagined would exist in any sort of tangible way, but of course Capcom somehow managed to make him an actual character in their ever-growing roster.

It all started with Mega Man Universe, a scrapped game that was being developed for Xbox Live and Playstation Network, which was basically going to be an online, 2.5D side-scrolling Mega Man game where users could create their own levels, as well as customize their own characters. It was a great idea and is one of the two Mega Man projects that Capcom inexplicably cancelled in 2011 after Keiji Inafune left the company, the other being the hotly anticipated Mega Man Legends 3 for the Nintendo 3DS.

The game was not only going to include character creation and customization, but also several DLC characters, like Ryu from Street Fighter and Arthur from Ghosts n' Goblins. Another character that was teased for the game was none other than Bad Box Art Mega Man.

A complete joke character, Bad Box Art Mega Man is based on the horrific North American box art from the original NES Mega Man game. Referred to as "US Mega Man" in Japan, he is depicted as wearing yellow and blue armour and carrying his Mega Buster like a gun. The only difference between how he and a normal Mega Man character was intended to play in Mega Man Universe was that Bad Box Art Mega Man was only going to be able to shoot two shots at a time, unlike Mega Man who can shoot three.

This was all teased in an awesome claymation cartoon, which I would suggest you watch, but I can't find it anywhere on the web. Capcom might've been brushing this one underneath the carpet after the backlash of cancelling Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3. The image above stands as proof that the video existed.

Bad Box Art Mega Man wasn't down and out. During the development of these two Mega Man games a joint venture between Capcom and Namco was also brewing in the form of Street Fighter x Tekken, which featured fighters from Capcom and Namco game series. In what is widely considered to be an apology to fans expecting those Mega Man titles, Capcom added Bad Box Art Mega Man to the SFxT roster.

In this version Bad Box Art Mega Man is depicted as overweight and very boisterous. He says things like, "It's time to bring home the bacon!" He is sort of a cross between the look of Bad Box Art Mega Man and Megaman Volnutt - the hero of the Mega Man Legends series - as he is described as a digger and treasure hunter.

I for one wish that Mega Man Universe somehow gets greenlit again and that I get the opportunity to play through a game as this weird little oddity in the world of Mega Man.

1. The Protomen

What may be the most interesting and unique version of Mega Man is the mindchild of The Protomen.

The Protomen are a rock band based in Nashville known for their very gritty, indie style and most famously for their namesake: concept albums based on the world of Mega Man.

The band themselves are actually an enigma. They all use stage names based on different pop culture references, like "Murphy Weller" from Robocop and "Reanimator", a Stuart Gordon film loosely based on a Lovecraft story. The band is mostly comprised of students the Middle Tennessee State University's recording program and different musicians and artists from the area of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When they play on stage they wear costumes and make-up, which thematically reflects their music, but also acts to hide their true identities.

The band has become famous with "Nintendocore" music enthusiasts for their first two albums, known as ACT I and ACT II. These albums are centered around the world of Mega Man's first six games, but this isn't the Mega Man you know and love. They've created this dark, dystopian world that essentially uses the story you know as a launching board and then goes in their own direction.

In their first album's story Dr. Wily rose up using a robot army and took over "the city", which serves as the entire scope of their world. Dr. Light, once a partner of Wily's, stood up against Wily's regime and created what he considered to be an unbeatable robot, Proto Man. Proto Man attacked Wily and his Robot Masters, but was defeated and literally torn apart.

In his grief, Light created a new son, Mega Man, who he dissuaded from fighting against Wily and his robots. Over time, however, Mega Man hears the stories of his brother's heroism and wants to fight back against Dr. Wily, take back his city, avenge his brother, and save the masses from their horrible lives under the thumb of the machine.

ACT II, entitled "The Father of Death" serves as a prequel to the first album and tells the story of Thomas Light and Albert Wily, inventors trying to create robots to perform jobs that are dangerous for humans, like mining and manufacturing. It details Albert Wily's rise to power, his betrayal of Thomas Light, and what leads Light to creating Proto Man in an attempt defeat Wily and end his rule over the city.

I'm reticent to give any more details than I have about the world the Protomen have created in their music. I can't emphasize enough just how much I enjoy their music and how their version of Mega Man stands out for me. They consider themselves storytellers, which is very apparent in their lyrics and the tone of their albums. ACT I features a dark, gritty sound, purposefully recorded in mono, meant to help mentally describe the city after everything changed and Wily took over. ACT II is a much cleaner sound, meant to reflect that we're seeing the world before "the bomb dropped".

The music may seem jarring at first and it may not be for everyone, but I encourage anyone that considers themselves to be a music enthusiast and a big fan of Mega Man to listen. It is a very different take on the world set out by Keiji Inafune some 28 years ago, but it is unlike any Mega Man you've witnessed before and likely ever will.