Saturday, July 25, 2015

SuperDickery History

If you've been browsing the crazier realms of DC Superhero comics, chances are you've stumbled upon the Silver Age of SuperDickery, where Superman (and friends) are for all intents and purposes, acting like complete jerks to each other.  This Twilight Zone is the result of values dissonance and catering to children that seems bizarre to adult minds a generation later, because they weren't developed to their tastes. (Go ahead, try to read some of the stories today's children are all crazy about.  Chances are you were just as wild for the same old junk your parents disapproved of.)
Q: How’d this all start?
A: Back in November of 2004, a guy named Mike Miksch started a thread at a Transformers message board called The Allspark about insane comic book covers throughout the ages. Initially it was a laugh in at the expense of Lois Lane Comics, but before the responses had even gotten past the first page, Mike had posted a pair of pictures depicting Superman burning a father’s day gift from Jimmy and laughing in Lois’s face as she begged him to prevent her from being forced to marry Titanman, and inadvertently set the tone for the resulting 30+ pages of responses:
Technically he said “Superman is such a dick,” but the “such” was subsequently dropped from the mantra. And from there it spread across a fair number of blogs and other discussion board forums, which Mike didn’t become aware of until his coworker came up to him and told him he’d seen the thread and was surprised that Mike started it. From there it was imitated by I-Mockery when they did a write up about about stupid comic book covers focusing on Jimmy Olsen comics. That made the front page of Fark.com, where someone posted a link to the original thread on The Allspark, so it all came full circle.
At more than a quarter million views, that thread beats out the nearest competitor ten times over. Such is the appeal of Superman is a Dick.

Take in account that these lurid covers were sales pitches to incite curious customers into reading the contents just to gain some comprehension about just why these respectable iconic figures were going to such lengths, and you get some idea for the mad rush for filling in the gaps, even when the answers were somewhat lax in giving perfectly plausible reasons for undergoing such contrived circumstances.  In actuality, due to DC's mandate, the covers were designed first, and then the story revolved around finding plausible (or implausible, depending on your suspension of belief) reasons for indulging such practices in the first place.  In contrast, Marvel had the comic artwork worked out first, and then ensuing dialogue was implanted later.  (Some might say extensively in some instances)  The comic weirdness resulted in a wide range of reactions as noted below:
  • I think my brain just snapped in half...
  • This thread is awesome. People call the good old days wholesome, but damn, people were on some screwed up drugs back then.
  • How did comics last? By making a lot of money by selling comics to a wider audience than 20 year old geeks. Lois Lane was also the best selling comic series of the 1960s. Seriously. Not even Marvel at it’s peak could top it.
  • I can’t believe I’ve never seen these covers before.
  • Who were these comics marketed to anyway? Young girls or young boys? Or were they trying for both?
  • And why did they make Superman a dick or Lois a bitch in every issue?
  • Wonder if the folks at Something-Awful can do anything with these covers. These pages are begging to be photoshopped.
  • Hell, a ton of them already look like they were photoshopped.
  • I’m weeping from reading this. Seriously, I can’t stop laughing. I think blood is going to start spraying out of my temples.
  • You know what this thread needs?  Hostess Fruit Pies.  The only sure way to stop villainy.
  • Jesus H Christ, this things are incredible. I can’t believe they’re real. I don’t think you could make them funnier or more unbelievable if you were purposely trying.
  • Oh man. Those are absolutely hugging hilarious. Pure gold, man... I’m laughing my ass off.
  • What frightens me, is how these things sold. Just who actually bought them?
  • People threatened by marriage and papooses, I’d gather.
  • I just spent the last hour laughing my butt off and putting every single one of these on my computer.
  • I’m not gonna be to sleep because of the pain in my sides from all the laughing.
  • OMG, what IS all of this absolute CRAP!? I may never be able to read another comic again, I’m so scarred!
  • Why do you people keep doing this to me!? It’s like a compulsion, I can’t not look.
  • Was the writers intention to make Superman look like a dick? It’s surprisingly easy how quickly he managed to shrug it off and become a respectable superhero in the last twenty years or so.
  • I left this thread Friday and when I came back, it exploded into a dozen pages and everyone’s changed their avatar. If any topic in this world deserves such attention, it’s these comic covers.
  • I found boxes of these comics on Saturday and wanted to get one or two, but they’re pretty valuable, so none were in my price range. Still, it was cool to see some I didn’t catch here.
  • Wow. They just keep coming and coming. Great stuff...
  • Oh my God. I just found this and I haven’t stopped for 15 minutes. Tears are streaming from my eyes, and my stomach literally hurts. Please make it stop.
  • How can words EVER encompass a description for this thread?!
  • I had to register and say thank you to all who contributed. This has been one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
  • Hoooooly poop.
  • I just noticed that this thread has 129,240 views. That’s gotta be a board record of some kind.
  •  I couldn’t help but notice... all the really ridiculous shit here is from Silver Age DC!
  • ... and seems to be focused around one character in particular!
  • That Lois Lane title must’ve been like Archie Comics on acid, man.
  • What were they smoking up there?
  • And what’s with the “Interspecies Romance” angles on Supergirl?
  • My favorite thing about these Silver Age weird-ass covers is stuff like that isn’t even vaguely sensible.
  • Wow, how times change. In the Golden Era, Superman was a dick. Then John Byrne wrote Superman, and Supes wasn’t a dick, but then Byrne... well... y’know.
  • I wanna see an Elseworld where Superman’s characterization is REALLY based on these covers.
  • Why DID DC like to depict Superman this way? There seems to be an awful lot of naive psychosexual weirdness, which you often see in stuff trying the hardest to be “family friendly” in the DC of the 50s and 60s. Odder is that Jimmy could be seen as having been meant as an identification character for young reader (though of course, when we were kids we hated Robin and Jimmy and liked the heroes, not their wussy sidekicks; kids never seem to mind when the sidekicks get killed), which takes on an unconscious air of sadism and contempt for their readers.

Since then, there's been a webpage devoted to SuperDickery, along with other noteworthy covers and panels.  However, it hasn't been updated in several years, and it's also been laden with viruses and Malware (to the extent that I'm worried about linking to it).  Even if those problems were addressed, it also has the fault of only choosing ONE line of commentary for the accompanying cover, and isn't usually the funniest one.  Not to mention that the AllSpark forum that inspired these covers is no longer in circulation.  To make up for that oversight, I've compiled a list of Fifty of the most extensive amusing replies to various covers, as well as other covers of potential interest.  There were more, but I felt that 50 was approaching the breaking point.

SuperCrack after the break:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More of Hagar's ol' Castle

When I posted comics of Hagar's Castle years ago, I thought I'd plumbed the depths of the extent of the brief rare instances that Hagar lived in a mansion several stories tall.  Turns out there were several dailies that had the Viking Father living in a Medieval high-rise as opposed to living in a simple cottage.

By themselves, they're little more than strange aberrations, but clearly, if you look at the selection of comics in a certain order (not chronological), their story makes a certain kind of sense.

First off, Hagar acquires a castle from one of his many raids:

Next, the castle broken apart and rebuilt, much like extra-large Legos, or David Xanatos' attempt to free the Gargoyles from their curse.

These parts are then carefully laid onto a pre-planned foundation holding nostalgic value to the owners.

This resilience onto personal preferences rather than forward thinking can lead to unintended consequences:

Once everyone's settled in and gotten acclimated to the new conditions, there's the new hurdle - getting used to the extra-large dimensions.

While the extra space may provide an intimidating factor from preventing nosy neighbors peeking into your yard, some may show no resistance to the contrary.  This can also mean that they have more rooms than they could possibly need, as well as the greatest enemy to Professor Charles Xavier:

Stairs.

This becomes more obvious when accomplishing even the simplest tasks becomes a surmountable obstacle due to the distance between two lines becoming longer than usual.

Likewise, any collateral damage they may acquire would have long-term consequences that would take years of repair.

In short, having a castle may be impressive, but keeping and maintaining it is more trouble than its worth.

Better to just let kings and monarchs go to the trouble of living in them, and raid them whenever necessary.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mansion of the Brain Fogs

The animated Asterix movies have generally been rather disappointing in how they take the wonderfully satirical books and turn them into lushly drawn pieces of mediocre stories that only display a fraction of their intellect. Often enough, relying more on stretch-and-squash animation for humour, rather than their playful wordplay they were better known for.  Ironically enough, the first Asterix movie was decried for being TOO faithful to the book, being little more than a straight retelling.  Other movies padded out their length with unnecessary songs and animated pratfalls that hardly contributed overall to the story.

So it was something of a pleasant surprise to see an animated adaption that actually managed to live up to the quality of the original.  What made this trailer sell it for me is the humour that while shows aspects of slapstick, also has moments of intellect that are on par with the books themselves.

Mansion of the Gods is one of Julius Caesar's most subtle plans - rather than try to conquer the indomitable village through means of force, he intends instead to bring the mountain to the molehill by transplanting Roman Culture right in their backyard. Of course, this plot is faced with resistance from the construction, and the Gaul's reluctant to allow any building flats to be built in the first place. But when they see that their efforts to impede the buildings get completed means that the slaves will wind up working long hours for nothing, they decide to intervene by giving the slaves a dose of their magic potion. However, this backfires as the slaves, rather than use their power for escaping, use it as a bargaining position for freedom and better pay once the buildings are done.

When the Roman tenants move in, the Gaulish village is faced with the prospect of making money off their bartering system and figure they want some of that action, which causes divides between those who want to keep their old lifestyle, and those who see an opportunity where none previously existed.

There are a few instances of historical anachronisms, but nothing pop-cultural that would be considered obsolete within a few years.  Another welcome change is having the overused Centurion Voluptuous replaced by Centurion Somniferus (who's never referred to by name) since he's more typical to the Roman guards surrounding the village who aren't normally corrupt, and are constantly exasperated at their troops.

While the English subtitles have the advantage of being faithful to the translated names, there are a few instances that could've been better rewritten to capture the same tone as the books.

One of the greatest enjoyment from the Asterix books is the list of varied punny authentic-sounding names for new Romans, and this movie gave us several, ranging from Giveusabonus (Anglaigus), Anonymous (Petiminus) and Mischiefus (Apeldjus).  Yet for some reason, there's a different turn of phrase between the trailer and the translated version.

This isn't the only instance where the trailer was different from the movie.  In the book, the scene where Chief Vitalstatistix asks his Gaulish warriors if everyone's had their magic potion (to which Obelix bluntly replies a flat "no") has two different takes in the trailer and movie:


One more changed scene near the trailer's end was where a Roman Legionary was about to taste some of the Magic Potion that gives Invulnerable Strength(TM), when he's interrupted by Obelix at the crucial moment:

This wonderful pun was given a slightly less effective (if equal meaning) treatment in the movie:

Of course, it's not only wordplay that's objected to, but the lack of usage of certain terminology that would be immensely familiar with fans of the books.  Earlier, there was Unhygienix's confusion over how much Sesterce his fish cost, as opposed to a single Sestertius, or more commonly known from the proper plural of Sestertii.  Likewise, everybody knows the proper name for the oval stones Obelix carries behind his back, and occasionally teaches Doxmatix to catch.  What we get instead is a more literal name for Menheirs.  Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

By far, the biggest indignity is neutering Obelix's trademark catchphrase, "These Romans are crazy!" with the following:

It feels like the translation could've handled another proofreading from someone who was a fan of the books, and not just the names. At least they're better than the online translated subtitles which is just the original text gone through GoogleTranslate with lousy timing reminiscent of Chinese subtitles.  (Which are more annoying and incomprehensible than funny, certain exceptions notwithstanding)

Despite these quibbles, Asterix: Mansion of the Gods is a worthy watch worth repeat viewings, which shouldn't be considered surprising, since one of its co-directors was Louis Clichy, a former Pixar animator (Wall-E and Up).  The other, Alexandre Astier worked on Kaamelott, a humourous take on the King Arthur legend, which I know little about, and will reserve judgement, since it seems somewhat popular.

One last thing - Brain Fog is more of a French idiom than an English one, and its inclusion feels slightly clumsy.  A better saying would be "I don't know, I'm all confused."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Squirrel Girl Vs. One Punch Man

Saitama: Well, it's been three months since our last encounter.  I hope you've been practicing.
Koro-Sensei: Hah!  It is to laugh.  You'll be pleased to know that I haven't been idle.  In between my teaching lessons, grading homework and evading assassination attempts, I've been covertly tailing you.
Saitama: (Thinks back to noticing a round-headed figure in the discount shopping mall before it ran off in embarrassment)  I *thought* that was you.
Koro-Sensei: (Blushes) Yes, well, I tallied up my totals, (points to numerous pie charts) and reached an inescapable conclusion.  (Pauses for dramatic effect)  It is IMPOSSIBLE for me to conduct enough free time to do the amount of training that you did.  You've had three years - I have less than one year.
Saitama: (Looks disappointed) So, what you're saying is that you didn't do any exercise at all.
Koro-Sensei: Grr.  You-you-!  (Composes itself) Anyways, during the course of my investigation, I decided to delegate my assignment to an expert who'd be more capable of giving you a workout than I possibly could.
Saitama: (Cracks knuckles)  Sounds like an excuse to me.
Koro-Sensei: I think this opponent may actually give you a challenge, and maybe even give you that adrenaline rush you've long been seeking. I give you... Squirrel Girl!  (Blares entrance music from several horns, tubas and vuvuzelas from underneath its cloak)

Squirrel Girl: (Enthusiastically) HI!
Saitama: (Politely) Hello.
Koro-Sensei: You may laugh at her appearance, but let me assure you that her ability is anything but!
Saitama: I wasn't laughing.
Koro-Sensei: She's faced off threats ranging from Dr. Doom to Thanatos to Galactus to Wolverine, and beat them all single-handily with no outside help or Deus ex Machinas to help her.

Squirrel Girl: Um, excuse me, but who's this guy?
Koro-Sensei: You don't know who he is???  He's taken out numerous threats, ranging from Drygar the Destroyer, to Abominus the Galactic Threat and Terminus the Terminal.
Squirrel Girl: I'm sorry, but I've never HEARD of any of these guys you just mentioned.
Koro-Sensei: Goes to show how effective he is.  He has no reoccurring villains, since pretty much everyone he faces head-on never comes back for a rematch.
Squirrel Girl: YOU'RE still here.
Koro-Sensei: (Flustered) Okay, those he spares out of the goodness of his heart gain a momentary reprieve.

Squirrel Girl: Fine, out of sheer curiosity, I'll fight him for you.  Still haven't caught your name yet.
Saitama: (Booming voice) They call me... caped baldy.
Squirrel Girl: Didn't quite catch that.  Oh well, a little workout for 1000 Yen shouldn't be too much of a hurdle.
Saitama: You're aware that 1000 Yen is like 10 bucks where you come from?  And there's a bounty on his head worth 10 Million Yen?
Squirrel Girl: (Turns to meet Koro-Sensei's guilty eyes)  Really???
Koro-Sensei: (Trying to whistle inconspicuously and failing) Do you have any idea how much a teacher makes on their salary??
Squirrel Girl: Sounds like it'd be more profitable to go against you instead.
Koro-Sensei: Oh... Oh no!  My secret science project has suddenly rebelled and backfired on me!  Who could've seen this coming??
Classroom: (Thinking) Seriously?!

(Squirrel Girl launches a punch towards Koro-Sensei that is immediately blocked by Saitama)
Saitama: Not so fast.  If you're going to fight this teacher, you've got to go through me first.
Koro-Sensei: (Has tears leaking from under his eyes) Saitama...
Saitama: (Turns head halfway around) Don't look so relieved.  Once I'm done with her, I'm fighting you next.
Koro-Sensei: EEEEEK!!!

Squirrel Girl: I don't understand - why are you going to so much trouble to protect someone who'll destroy the Earth?
Saitama: He's the only opponent who's managed to last more than five seconds against me.  Besides, no matter how you look at it, he's human.
Squirrel Girl: (Peeks over at Koro-Sensei)  THAT'S a human???
Saitama: Okay, he's a little taller than usual, but that's no reason to discriminate.
Squirrel Girl: I don't think height is the problem here...

(Squirrel Girl launches a series of punches, kicks and feints that Saitama easily dodges)
Squirrel Girl: You're pretty good, but how about THIS?!  (Makes chittering noises)  (Dozens of squirrels come swarming up around Saitama's body and feet)
Saitama: Hey... where'd all these squirrels come from?
Squirrel Girl: Impressive, isn't it?  I can summon legions of squirrels to do my bidding!
Saitama: Aren't they terribly infectious creatures?
Squirrel Girl: (Waving hand, pointing finger in front of mouth) SHH SHH SHH!!!  Don't let them hear that!!  You'll reduce their cuteness quotient, and make them feel bad!
Saitama: It's not exactly a national secret.
Squirrel Girl: If you're going to insult my furry little friends, I'm not gonna hold back!
Saitama: I don't like being violent towards women.  Especially women heroes.  But if you insist...

(Saitama lands a punch on Squirrel Girl that causes ripples to echo out in the air behind her body)
(Squirrel Girl stands there looking stunned.  The nearby squirrels are also looking on in shock.  For some reason, Saitama also looks surprised)
(Saitama raises a single finger and experimentally pokes Squirrel Girl on the shoulder)
Saitama:  You want to try that again?
(Squirrel Girl nods reluctantly)
(Saitama winds up a bigger punch, stronger and faster than the last one, sending it towards Squirrel Girl's midsection, resulting in an echoing sonic boom that rattles the windows in buildings in a 50-mile radius)
(Squirrel Girl stands there looking unaffected)
Saitama:  Huh.  That's really weird...  It's like you're not even there.

Koro-Sensei: AHA!  Just as I thought!
Nagisa: Uh, excuse me.  Could you explain what's going on?
Koro-Sensei: Well, when I was conducting my surveillance on Saitama, I noticed an interesting contradiction.  He was able to blow away apocalypse-causing threats with nary a sweat, but was completely defenseless against harmless animals.  (See Rule #4)

Koro-Sensei: In short, he can only release his full strength against planet-destroying threats.  And although he walks away from crippling blows with nary a scratch, he can be hurt by ordinary household pets.

Squirrel Girl: Well, it looks like you're at a severe handicap.  How about you just give up?
Saitama: I don't have to hit you to beat you.  (Punches the ground, sending boulders of turf and deep sedimentary rocks flying upwards, scattering nearby squirrels away)
(The squirrels having seen Saitama's strength up close have lost their will to fight and are running away as fast as their tiny legs can carry them)
Squirrel Girl: Don't be scared!  He's trying to intimidate you!  His punches can't hurt you!  Just swarm all over him and -
At that moment, Squirrel Girl had a sudden premonition.If she forced her squirrel underlings to infect the strongest foe she'd ever faced thus far with their germs, she'd be going down a path of corruption from which there'd be no going back.A road of darkness that she'd constantly decried in the past, and would wind up becoming a hypocrite for daring to use an underhanded technique for the sole purpose of "winning" at all costs.
But would that cost be worth selling her soul for? 

Squirrel Girl: Um, excuse me, but would you mind not voicing out my inner thoughts??
Koro-Sensei: Well, sorry, but not everybody is as fluent in squirrelspeak as you are.  I'm just translating for the benefit of those who're wondering why you're just standing there.
Saitama: Well, all your squirrels have run away.  There doesn't seem to be much point in us fighting anymore.
Squirrel Girl: I'm not done yet!  I can still try to win against you!
(Squirrel Girl rushes against Saitama with her retractable claws, while Saitama futilely tries to punch Squirrel Girl with no effect)

Koro-Sensei: Uh-oh.  I should've seen this coming.
Nagisa: What?
Koro-Sensei: Squirrel Girl's power is to win against overwhelmingly powerful opponents that would otherwise never be beaten in a fair fight, while Saitama's power is to easily win against overwhelmingly powerful opponents with little to no effort.
Koro-Sensei: In short, their abilities cancel each other out.  Unless there's some kind of buffer or handicap, this fight will remain a perpetual stalemate that'll never end.

Saitama: Look, there's no real point to this.  We're not getting anywhere.
Squirrel Girl: I agree.  It seems ridiculous to fight over a misunderstanding when we're not even having any fun over it.
Saitama: It must be nice to be thrilled at employing every single available resource you can get against overwhelming odds.
Squirrel Girl: Exactly, EXACTLY!!  There's nothing like the rush you get from winning!
Saitama: And yet, you don't seem able to bring me that kind of euphoria you so warmly embrace.  I'd love to be as chipper as you for winning all the time.
Squirrel Girl: Hey now, don't pout!  I'll think of something.  So, what do we do?  Play Video Games?
Saitama: (Makes a face) Ugh, no.  That's such a cop-out.
Squirrel Girl: Well, I don't feel satisfied without concluding our fight properly.

Squirrel Girl: How about if I wear a suit of strength-enhancing armour?
Saitama: Been there, done that.  They didn't do much for me.
Squirrel Girl: (Looks over at Koro-Sensei) What do you know about that alien human over there?
Saitama: Not much, but there's loads of informational pamphlets out there.  (Holds up trading card that has Koro-Sensei's stats on them)

Squirrel Girl: (Reads a bunch of footnotes and cross-referenced information in the margins)  This is quite comprehensive for a national secret.
Saitama: I don't bother with that junk.  All that matters to me is that he's smart and fast.  Everything else is just noisy data dumps.
Squirrel Girl: (Walks in the direction of the school)
Saitama: Hey, don't get close to the schoolteacher.
Squirrel Girl: I'm not going to fight him.  I'm going to use him.
Saitama: (Looks confused) Use him how??
Squirrel Girl: If you bothered to read your priceless card, you'd notice that Koro-Sensei can change his body at will, and can wrap around his students to protect them, serving as a wind-resistant suit.

Saitama: Yes...?
Squirrel Girl: Sensei, how would you like to feel a young girl's body pressed against yours?
Koro-Sensei: (Looks pervertedly pleased)  I'd like that very much, but you're not my type.
Squirrel Girl: Even better.  I want to get inside you.
Koro-Sensei: Uh... shouldn't that be the other way around??
Squirrel Girl: There's a point to this madness.  (To Saitama) Go ahead, try punching me again.
Saitama: (Shrugs, gives another wind-up and punch with similar wind velocity towards Squirrel Girl / Koro Sensei)
Squirrel Girl: I... felt that!
Koro-Sensei: Are you crazy??  You could've taken my head off!!
Squirrel Girl: These are my conditions if you want me to fight this guy.  And I don't want some flimsy excuse like how you're suddenly allergic to squirrels.
Koro-Sensei: (Nervous) Funny you should mention that.  *Cough cough*  See?  New weakness.  I simply wouldn't be able to fight at full strength.
Saitama: That's fine with me.  Oh, and if you try to do anything funny to Squirrel Girl's body, (does a mock sideways hook) I'll punch you.
Koro-Sensei: No - NO!  This wasn't supposed to happen!  You guys were supposed to fight each other, not gang up on me - NO!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The following Squirrel Girl / One Punch Man teamup Vs. Koro-Sensei has been censored for your consideration, since you would be overwhelmed by its awesomeness, leaving you feeling disappointed with any future fights for years to come.  You'll just have to fill in the excitement yourselves.
The resulting aftermath is a schoolyard brimming with dozens of weird-looking alien instruments among a field of debris, and the two heroes fist-bumping each other while Koro-Sensei lies panting out of breath in a nearby field where despite his exhaustion, is still swiftly dodging his student's bullets and knives aimed at his direction.
Squirrel Girl: That was fun!  We should do this again!
Saitama: Well, you certainly lasted longer than expected.  You must be feeling pleased with yourself.
Squirrel Girl: I'm just sorry I wasn't able to make you feel as chipper as I do.
Saitama: Don't worry, I have a little something planned later.
(Squirrel Girl leaves)

Koro-Sensei: Well, you must be satisfied with your little battle, so I'll be going back to class now...
Saitama: We're not done yet.  I said after I fought her, you'd be next.
Koro-Sensei: But - but I just spent three hours dodging your attacks!
Saitama: I wasn't fighting you, I was fighting her.  You just happened to be in the way.  Now that we're all done warming up, let's get serious.
Koro-Sensei: Mercy!
Saitama: Super Move Serious Series.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Muppet Noir

Just recently, it was reported that a long-awaited personal project of Brian Henson, entitled The Happytime Murders, a Noirish take on the Muppet world is finally being developed.  One of the challenges of an art form that's normally thought of being aimed at children with little more entertainment value and plotting than a typical Punch and Judy show is elevating the medium to new heights that it'll be enjoyed by all ages, and not be restricting to parents who'd otherwise be bored out of their skulls.

You could say that Jim Henson managed to achieve that monumental feat with giving hand puppets distinctive personalities that could be gleamed by their appearance, manner and speech.  Then that was further ramped up by having the same puppets interact with celebrities who somehow managed to convincingly talk to them without giving away what Berkeley Breathed called "The Big Bird Secret".

Then, later technologies and innovations with foam gave rise to animatronics that could emulate more complicated facial movements than could be achieved by manipulating the interior of a ventriloquist dummy, even as operating such a system required co-ordination between at least three people.  The finale to the quasi-Simpsons rip-off, The Dinosaurs is well-remembered for being devastating in its hard-hitting message.

Such efforts are made possible by having said puppets becoming more than just stage props to be bandied around whenever convenient, and bypassing the audience's suspension of disbelief by making the puppet's actions appear fluid and believable, even when the wires are visible.  Yet despite their effectiveness, Hollywood Studios are more concerned about expanding their efforts on CGI, even when actors are more receptive to responding to impressive large scale monsters appearing in front of them, as opposed to play-acting against a green screen, which is an occurrence that's happening with alarming frequency.

All this is pretty much moot, since chances are you've been paying more attention to this Future Shock 2000 AD short story by Mark Millar, which surprisingly enough, succeeds at bringing the Muppets into the realm of noirish underbelly of overhanded prose in a world where cops are corrupt, women are dangerous and the streets are forever running with blood, and you can only relate to events through double-entendred metaphors.

It's too bad that there's only five blotted letters in victim "D"'s last words, since it would be extremely 4th-wall breaking  if the alphabet serial killer happened to be Mark Millar himself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July the Nothingth

As with other calendar entries, this month is fairly sparse, with a single line that'll be repeated fairly often:

July 14 - Bank Holiday (N. Ireland) - Not applicable

Further adding to the list of overwhelming letdowns, here's the cover of the 1991 Ziggy calendar:

Rounding out, we have the most obvious (and disturbing) Mr. Bean "improvement".
Barriers
Edmund Blair Leighton, 1853-1922
Happy Canada Day everyone in Canada, and happy July 1st to everyone else.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On Beyond Cthulhu!

Said young researcher Randolph Carter,
Talking of an old God surrounded by water,
Assuring me he wasn't completely bats,
Started his lesson off with: "The R is for Rats.
The L is for Leng.  The Y is for Yith.
And the next letter is E for Eldritch.
The H is for Hastur.  If found earlier,
One would see that they spell out R'lyeh."

"R'lyeh is where Elder God Cthulhu rests,
Which as far as I know, is all for the best.
To free him would require the masses teeming
'In his house at R'lyeh, Dead Cthulhu waits dreaming'.
As long as he naps, we're kept well assured
That his delayed presence is no threat to the world.
With nothing else that could make our minds unfurled."

Then he nearly fell down flat on the dirt
After I scribbled down a single word
That upon first sight, made his head hurt!
And I said, "You can stop if you want, with Cthulhu.
Most people normally stop at Cthulhu,
And I'm warning that so should you!
The things I've seen, and the places I've goed,
Go far beyond the realm of Cthulhu mythos.
I'm telling you this as one of your friends,
My knowledge starts where your discoveries end!"

Let's go further,
Like Abdul Alhazred,
An Arabian Scholar who went off on his meds.
The very next step where our journey begins
Is in the pages of Nec for the Necronomicon.
A blasphemous tome filled with monstrous creatures
Dangerous summoning rituals and outrageous features.
Everything he saw was caught for posterity
And this book was banned for its notoriety,
Which increased bootleg copies, which only goes to show,
That people actively seek out what Man should not know.

There are some Elder Gods you'd better not invoke their wrath
Starting with Shub, which stands for Shub-Niggurath
Whose feats and exploits are touted in song,
The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.
While most cults operate involving specificities,
The one devoted to her exists in abject mystery.
Her birthrate and devotion is not just for show,
And if you want to know more, the world may never know.

Next up is Nyarl which stands for Nyarlathotep,
The best and the worst man you've never met.
His gender is androgynous, his motives ambiguous,
His intellect a genius, his intentions nefarious.
Has hundreds of thousands of aliases and forms,
And invents objects that work beyond ordinary norms.
Was once a Pharaoh in times of Amenhotep,
And just like cats, never lets us forget.

There aren't many that are cut from the same cloth,
And they broke the mold with Yog for Yog-Sothoth.
A mass of writhing circles made luminous,
Through space and time, is omniscient and ubiquitous.
Knows everything that happened, and everything that will,
Making the future somewhat less of a thrill.
Has an impressive and weirdly intimate nepotism
For both knowing and being the gate's guardian.
The reason Yog-Sothoth can be quoted chapter and verse
Is that it is somehow locked outside our universe.

Among the creatures that can help you lose your broth,
Is the letter Shog, which stands for Shoggoth.
Hulking shapeless monstrosities of uneven design
That were built to withstand the end of all time.
Servants to ancient creatures older than our galaxy,
Responsible for crafting non-Euclidean geometry.
Were once stunning creatures capable of making you faint,
But they rebelled too far, and now remain dormant.

When the Earth was still young long ago,
The world had Mi which starts for Mi-Go.
Large crustacean flies with bat wings,
Tendrils, tentacles, among other things,
They warp your mind in more ways than one
By transferring your thoughts between aeons.
Your brain is pickled alive in a jar,
Then put on a mystic voyage beyond the stars.

Of all the Letters capable of making your mouth froth,
Is the letter Az, and Az is for Azathoth.
An immensely powerful being of immeasurable size
Spanning a distance two galaxies wide.
Is the father of Nyarlathotep, among other things
But unlike his son, is blind and cannot think.
Is held at bay by a dozen musicians
To distract and drown out his infantile babbling
Because if there's anything worse than a selfless God,
It's an irreplaceable ruler that's an absolute clod.

When you go beyond Cthulhu...
Going past the quay,
You find competition entering the fray
Who existed for centuries, despite being found yesterday.
One of these which is only a decade old,
Is the letter Zal, which stands for Zalgo.
Going against it is difficult to be proactive,
Because its very corruptive presence is radioactive.
Its name alone can warp the fabric of reality,
Breaking physics, and increasing enmity and apathy,
And a rise of nonsensical-sounding cities.
The reason that people alone are immune,
Is that Zalgo only influences comics and cartoons.
Over the brains and through your eyes,
Look out world, Zalgo comes by!

The places I took him!
I went farther,
Showing young naive innocent Randolph Carter
That the mythos he knew was just a starter.
That there were deities capable of reshaping long-held conceptions
And uncomfortable truths that would cast new perceptions.
I took him beyond the pages of my guidebook,
And I like to think I did him some good...

Because at the end, he said,
"Ia!  Dagan!
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Wgah'nagl,
Cthulhu
Braggin!"

His mind now broken, he spins verses of purple hues.
He should've stopped at Cthulhu.
Will YOU?!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Idle Games - the Bane of my Existence


To any avid readers of my blog, I’m sure you might’ve noticed a certain decline of entries as well as quality of posts, with brief bursts of creativity coming few and far between.  There’s a (stupid) reason for that, and it’s something of a secret shame that I’m now, like recovering alcoholics, willing to admit.  For the longest time now, I’ve been hopelessly addicted to a new brand of online gaming that’s only recently gained traction and copycats - Idle Games.

These notorious timesinks can be worse than Candy Crush (which I was also addicted to, until I ran out of patience at a level that required more chains / powerups than I was capable of getting through luck).  They start out so simply - do one action multiple times to gain some currency that’ll do the job for you.  Gain more currency, and the computer can do the job faster than before.  The rise in mass income will be necessary in order to obtain higher-priced items that’ll make the computer work faster.  And once you’ve finally gained enough, what do you do?  You can choose to go back to start, only this time, you’ll be able to regain your resources faster than the first time around!

If there was ever a cure for narcolepsy, Anti-Idle would be it.  In fact, Anti-Idle was the main reason behind why my mouse broke, which caused me no amount of undue aggravation, because I was double-clicking when I needed to single click instead.  This wouldn't be much of a factor for Button Basher, but a serious impediment for Whack-a-Greg, FCG and using enhancements.

There have even been articles about these Incremental Games, which pointed out the irrational appeal of the satisfaction of having progress made while you’re not even looking at the screen.  There’s just something about obtaining massive amounts of false profits that just rings a compulsive need we didn’t even know we wanted until we got it.

However, there were some significant decrements to this.  For starters, if you tried to use another browser, window, tab or program, your process would be radically decreased, since the Frame Per Second (FPS) would be affected by the amount of conflicting data competing for your attention.  Which meant that you had to compromise by devoting all your time to one single screen, and having reduced windows for all your other programs for maximum effect.  The other detriment is that just standing by idly isn’t good enough - you need to actively play the game to achieve the numbers needed to accumulate ever-increasing rewards.  I was spending a lot of time planning ahead, trying to make use of time-specific events, constantly reshuffling my inventory and stats.

This plays havoc on anyone with OCD tendencies, since these games have achievements and quests that require compulsive hoarding of supplies in order to afford the very things you want.  Why settle for a measly 10,000 cookies when you can buy a machine that’ll net you 100,000 within seconds?  It’s all for the satisfaction of seeing that tiny blurb “Achievement completed!” pop up.

I was having fantasies of doing an elaborate Game Novel of Anti-Idle, not unlike those Worlds of Power books of yesteryear.  Mine would involve a simple farmer boy who, once he'd saved enough money from harvesting trees, was able to go and do some basic training, which would allow him to press a button, play in an arcade, bet on races, play card games, play with the stock market, a mock tabletop RPG, and even do some fishing.  All this would be interlaced with his involvement in adventuring, which would for the most part, be fairly linear, going into new unexplored territory, face a strong enemy, and be surprised to find out they'd died and lost all their rings.  At some point, the character would be able to be strong enough to face down the embodiment of CHAOS, and eventually, other strong bonus enemies that'd increase his fighting power.  This would give the sensation of playing the game without actually playing it.  Of course, this would need time away from the game in order to write said Fanfiction, of which was becoming increasingly rare.  For a long time, Anti-Idle was the only thing that made me feel alive.  However, at a certain point, there comes a time when a game no longer delivers the satisfaction you’re constantly seeking, and the lack of updates finally clinched it for me.  I’d been compulsively playing, hoping that I’d be able to make use of my hard-earned work, since it’d be such a waste if all this effort was ultimately for nothing.

It was only recently that the creator, Tukkun, announced that he’d been getting tired of working on Anti-Idle, and his computer containing files relating to the game recently crashed; that he announced that he was working on another incremental game that would have ties to his popularly broken game.  I knew that I would be able to stop once I reached a certain level of completion, but thought it would be two months from now, when I felt confident that I’d do enough Impossible Ascensions.  (If these sentences mean nothing to you, consider yourself lucky)

Sometime last night, my modem suffered a temporary Critical Existence Failure, and couldn’t connect to the internet.  Fortunately, my game continued to play on without further assistance, but it worried me that if my router no longer worked (and on a national holiday that the stores were closed), I’d have to preserve my daily run by transferring to another computer that I wasn’t comfortable with.  At that point, I realized that I was going through a lot of trouble and effort for a game that was taking up too much of my life, and saw this as a big honking neon sign that maybe it should be time to finally stop.

Now, maybe I’ll go back and play again when there’s confirmation of updates, or I’ve got enough time on my hands to waste several hours going through the Endless Dungeon to acquire higher tiers of Demon Slayer Armour, but the amount of effort needed to acquire these items suggest that I’ve gone through enough punishment.  In the meantime, I'll be going through withdrawal symptoms, which hopefully, will spur larger bouts of creativity from my stimulant-deprived mind.

Half of me is hoping that these games will never get their long-awaited updates, and half of me is secretly hoping that the wait will be worth it.  I hope I'll be able to resist, but knowing my past experience, I probably won't be able to.