Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cyclops and Wolverine Split the X-Men in Half

Wouldn't you know it? The minute I stop reading the X-Men, it gets good.

Let's set the stage here for a moment. Currently in Marvel's X-Men comics, the mutant race is near extinction. Professor X and Magneto and have taken a step back to finally allow their golden boy, Cyclops, to become the surviving mutants' general. Allies and adversaries alike are flocking to his cause and his chief lieutenant is Wolverine.

Wolvie's been a bad boy as of late, however. Leading X-Force, he belongs to a secret team that quietly but violently snuffs out the X-Men's adversaries away from public eye. Originally endorsed by Cyclops, Wolvie and company have been going renegade since.

This summer's big X-event (that I'm bowing out from) is called Schism. Although the hows and whys are still vague, apparently Wolverine and Cyclops will finally have a falling out SO epic that they'll split the X-Men into two teams. The mutants' flagship book, Uncanny X-Men, will be cancelled and in its wake, a new Uncanny as well as Wolverine & the X-Men will come back to kick off Regenesis, a theme that will encompass all the X-family of titles.

Marvel has slowly been unveiling teaser covers the past few weeks to the books, featuring a blacked-out cast and only one character colored in. With the last two being shown last night, I finally realized it's a puzzle that I haphazardly smushed together.

Team Cyclops encompasses Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, New Mutants, and Generation Hope. The fact that Cyclops himself isn't there...? Well, it doesn't bode well for poor Cyke's fate at the end of Schism.

Cyclops' honey, Emma Frost, is of course front and centre alongside Jubilee, an alternate universe Cable, and Sebastian Shaw, a villain that Emma recently mind-wiped. Weird.

You can also sorta kinda see Juggernaut, Sunspot, Warlock, and Hope. Watch out for Hope. She's the Mutant Messiah with the same red hair and green eyes of a certain X-Man who has a tendency to rise from her own ashes.

Team Wolverine encompasses Wolverine & the X-Men, Uncanny X-Force, X-Men: Legacy, and X-Factor.

In there we can see the lil' Canucklehead himself, another alternate universe refugee Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Cyclops' brother Havok.

X-Force shows Psylocke, Deadpool, Nemesis, and Fantomex while the rest are kinda vague and blurry.

Clearly, Wolverine has the best toys but I'd still follow Emma to Hell and back since she's got front row seats.

So who's side are you on? Team Cyclops or Team Wolverine?

Oh, and big thanks to IGN for collecting all the teasers!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sue Blu and You

When you've watched as many old cartoons as I have, you tend to pick up on when you've heard the same voice over and over again. In any given era, there's probably only a small group of voice actors who bounce around from one show to the next (See Phil LaMarr or Cree Summer who've played every single Black cartoon character for the past fifteen years).

While watching the first season of Bravestarr, the female lead's voice kept nagging at me until I took to the interwebs and discovered it was none other than voice actress Susan Blu.

Blu is best known for her work as the Transformers' first lady, Arcee, in the original Transformers movie and seasons three and four of the show.

One actor voicing several characters is common practice in animation and Transformers was no exception. Blu also filled in as Marrisa Fairborne, the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye of the Transformers' sister show, G.I. Joe.

Blu would reprise her role as Arcee in Transformers: Animated and although she never picked up where the pink lil' bot popped up, she was the voice director for nearly every spin-off of the Transformers franchise, including the current series, Transformers: Prime where her beloved Arcee is an integral character.

Blu performed double duty on the aforementioned Bravestarr as well. She voiced both the female lead/love interest to Marshall Bravestarr, Judge J.B. McBride, and also the femme fatale, Vipra.

Judge J.B. was an odd duck for the Eighties as she wore, well, a lot of clothes and was actually not a kidnappee plot device. Although super sexy for a snake woman, Vipra didn't fare as well, relegated to villainous oaf with a great rack.

Although Smurfette is best known as the only female Smurf/dried-up whore in the village, there were actually two others.

Sassette was the young ginger tomboy while Nanny Smurf was a later addition to the cast and was, again, voiced by Susan Blu.

I always envisioned Nanny Smurf to be the original town hooker who had to retire and become Smurfette's madame. Made sense to me. And it still does.

Blu didn't just play with the boys, however. With several shows boasting mostly female characters, she was quick to jump on the My Little Pony wagon, voicing Paradise, Phluma, AND Buttons!

Frankly, I'm surprised she didn't do the voices for more ponies... they all sounded like estrogen-infused munchkins who just sucked on a helium tank...

Jem & the Holograms were also a place where Blu briefly called home. There, she voiced Stormer, the only sympathetic character from the band of bitches, the Misfits.

She also played the recurring character Lindsay Pierce (sometimes known as Lind-Z), who was a big-haired entertainment reporter and gal-pal to Jem.

Lastly, she was the voice of Galadria from one of my favorite (but extremely short-lived) shows, Visionaries. Bleak and dystopian, Visionaries wasn't a feel-good show but it did sport some wicked toys. Each character had an animal totem on their chest that they could transform into.

While the men enjoyed becoming lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!), the ladies were sunk. Literally. The villainous Virulina was a bad ass shark while Susan Blu's character, Galadria, was a lame dolphin.

Fail.

On top of voice action, Blu has been a voice director for Spider Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Tick to name a few. She also patented the "Sue Blu" technique of improvising popular with today's voice talents.

Maybe I'm gushing a little bit here but I think she's pretty damn rad and my hat's off to you, Sue!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Shreddies Toy Threaddies

A few weeks ago, bleary-eyed and pre-coffee, I was pouring my cereal into a bowl when something popped out of the box and BLAM, landed right into my pile of Corn Flakes.

I picked up the hidden treasure to find it was an All Bran bar. A cross-promotion to rope you into buying some more supposedly healthy products owned by General Mills.

Framed by dried flakes, my mortality was staring me in the face. I looked down at this plastic wrapped bran bar and secretly wished it was a cheaply-painted toy instead of a reminder to worry about my regularity.

Disappointed and nostalgic, this got me thinking to cereal premiums of the past that I remembered fondly. Although toys in cereals were common marketing practice in the past, they're a dying breed now.

Oddly enough, despite the valleys of different sugary cereals out there, it was Post Cereal's malted whole wheat squares, Shreddies, that boasted the best of the best.

This was first prevalent with their ThunderCats promotion. I loved ThunderCats. I still do. But while I was affluent with Masters of the Universe and Star Wars action figures, my parents put their foot down when I begged them for ThunderCats toys.

My cousin had Slythe. My best friend had the Thunder Tank. Rumor on the playground was that the school bully even had the Cats' Lair! But I was without and feeling my first twinge of jealousy. And blood lust.

Luckily, Shreddies came to the rescue. My mother was astonished when I requested Shreddies as the new breakfast-of-choice but jumped at the chance to retire Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes for while. My decision was not a cry for wheat but had more ulterior motives.

While everyone else was boasting about the ThunderCats toys they had home, I was the proud bearer of ThunderCats temporary tattoos, for all to see. Cheetara was on my eight-year-old bicep as if she were a pin-up girl. The Cats' logo on my forearm. And Lion-O over my heart. Yeah, I was committed to the cause.

Shreddies also offered a contest where you could win ThunderCats toys and I jumped at the chance! Sending in my three UPC symbols and hoop dreams, I waited for weeks for my toys to arrive. Then months. Then I forgot about it entirely. Then, oddly enough, long after ThunderCats stopped even being cool, this asshole showed up in my mailbox. Tuska. The lamest toy of them all. Not Panthro, not Vultureman. Tuska. I still have his manatee-esque punk somewhere in a box to prove that I actually won a contest but it was a bittersweet victory.

Tuska's arrival had actually coincided with my new obsession: The Real Ghostbusters. Like ThunderCats before them, my folks were wise to my fits of fancy and ever-changing tastes so they abdicated from buying me Ghostbusters toys. Jerks.

Once again, Shreddies came to the rescue with more rub-on tattoos. Only this time they were glow-in-the-dark. It was two great tastes that tasted great together!

Although I didn't have an Ecto-1 to call my own, I did have Slimer and Janine's gummy portrayals branded on my body. And if I got lost in the woods, I would be easy to find. My mind was always on safety.

After the Ghostbusters mania burned out, we had a few years (or maybe months, who knows?) before the next big thing was to hit.

During this dark time of half-assed and uninspired cartoons and toys, miniature plastic army men toys were all the rage. They began with M.U.S.C.L.E and evolved to Monster in My Pocket which was a personal fave.

Featuring monsters of legend like the Chimera, Medusa, and even ol' Nessie, these monsters were all packed with bios, detailing their origins. Shreddies helped out my collection with monsters made especially for the cereal! I ate so many Shreddies over those two months it was actually a little disturbing. After getting the witch in every damn color, I needed more... MORE!

Luckily I was finally saved by the cash cow of the 1990s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When they hit the airwaves, they hit hard and fast!

I won't even begin to talk about their vast and insane marketing scheme but I will talk about four plastic rings that came in Shreddies and were shaped like the Turtles' faces. Yeah, the rings were too small to fit on your finger, they featured the first letter of the character's name, and they didn't look all that much like they did in the cartoon. But I had to have them. Worse, with their popularity exploding, Shreddies extended the line to include Splinter, April O'Neil, Shredder, and Be-Bop. It was out of hand and I was forced to raid my grandparents' Shreddies stash to try and collect them all!

The Turtles' reign was long and, at times, downright ugly. Even Shreddies themselves seemed to tire of it and moved on to something completely unexpected: primetime sci-fi.

Striking a deal with Paramount, they began to market Star Trek: The Next Generation starships. You had your Enterprise-D, a Romulan Warbird... they were all well and fine but came in the exact boring grey color. Maybe the idea was for you to paint them? I dunno, me and smearing color onto plastic was a terrible idea.

Shreddies learned from this miscalculation by offering stamps from the Next Generation spin-off, Deep Space Nine.

It was a strange offering to say the least. You could stamp Odo and Quark's faces to anything in the house... all while holding on to their heads.

Although I'm sure my mother (and lower intestine) approved of this practice of chowing down Shreddies for more toys, what neither realized is that I hated Shreddies. To this day, the smell churns my stomach. And worse, to kill the flavor, I poured about two cups full of sugar to every bowl. Straight from the bag no less. It's no small wonder I don't have diabetes. But instead, I had free toys, cherished memories, and one blown-out sphincter.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Battle of the Fruity Horses!

It's the eternal question... which cartoon horse with the baritone voice would win in an ultimate battle to the death?

Rainbow Brite's steed, Starbrite?

Or She-Ra's unicorn, Swiftwind?


YOU decide!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Fisting Fun for EVERYone!

Y'know how each generation will become more tolerable and open-minded than their predecessors? Well toy companies are really broadening sexual exploration to kids early. Bi-curiosity? Nope. Orgies? Not yet. Anal? Getting close.

I'm talking of course about fisting! The toy-of-choice to market movie franchises the past few years are fists. Giant, vibrating, lights n' sound, spring-loaded FISTS!

It started out innocently enough. When Ang Lee's horrendous and overly-sappy The Hulk movie came out, Hasbro released several toys but few were as popular as the Hulk Hands.

Big, green, and mean, these ginormous foam fists were the size of your head. When you hit your little sister with them, they'd also make either crashing noises or Hulk himself screaming "Hulk SMAAASH!"

Being a pervert, I couldn't help but hit people in the ass and scream "Hulk FIIIIST!" Unfortunately, I didn't know what was to come...

I've covered this before but it demands further attention. Terminator: Salvation, while no box office behemoth, had a pretty substantial toyline. Again, when I saw this "T-600 Power Fist" in the toy store I was shocked at how brazenly inappropriate it was.

Granted, I'm not an eight-year-old (in body anyway) who just wants to transform himself into a Terminator but... well... it vibrates. And the fist is spring-loaded to fire off. And it would easily fit in in any sex shop.

I mean come ON!

The next summer saw another bomb, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The first movie's toys saw success with an Optimus Prime mask so the second movie tried to strike gold again with a Bumblebee mask that also came with the Autobot's signature "Plasma Cannon."

This mean sucker transformed from metallic fist to laser cannon. Don't let the cheery yellow paint job fool you, this puppy would BLAST your ass. In more ways than one.

Last up is this summer's latest addition to the fisting fever.

Green Lantern's "Battle Fist" simulates a green energy fist springing from GL's ring. Nothing screams role playing fun like a translucent green fist coming at your face.

Worse, it would propel out from a telescoping tube and the fist itself could fire off for that extra deep penetration.

Maybe I'm a sick individual (okay, I think that's confirmed now) but you can't help but feel just a little uncomfortable to see these in toy aisles where kids are firing fists at each other.

Hell, throw in some axle grease, crystal meth, and no small amount of determination and any of these toys could star in a German porn.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

ThunderCats Ho No You Di'n't!

After endless, tantalizing months of waiting, I finally saw the first episode of the new ThunderCats series that premiered on the Cartoon Network this past Friday, July 29th.

In a word? Amazeballs.

But I never get away with just one word so let's see how this new series stacks against the old.

First and foremost, Lion-O's father is voiced by the original voice actor for Lion-O, Larry Kenney! Listening to Claudus cry out "ThunderCats, HOOO!" one last time made me squeak a little bit.

In the '80s series, the ThunderCats shared a very Superman-esque origin story. Their planet Thunderra was going to explode for some damn reason so they packed up and left but their convoy was destroyed by their mortal enemies, the Mutants. Only Lion-O's ship, carrying the Lords of the ThunderCats, survived to crash on Third Earth and rebuild their civilization.

The new series starts instead with the ThunderCats as the ruling class of Third Earth, enjoying all the best land and resources in their walled kingdom (named Thunderra). They relied more on swords and sorcery than long-thought extinct technology. Like the original, the 'Cats were also massive assholes and it's hard to root for them since their civilization was cruel to subservient species, spoiled by their riches, and over-confident douchebags.

Another glaring difference was that Lion-O and Tygra are brothers... although one would assume from different mothers since lions and tigers don't share much in aesthetics.

Lion-O, the heir apparent, is naturally a giant goof who dreams of technology and the world beyond Thunderra's walls. Tygra, a little jealous of his brother's right to the throne, is a bit of a kiss-ass who's great at everything that Lion-O isn't.

It's a weird combo but it actually gives Tygra some much needed personality he lacked before and a built-in conflict between the two bros.

One conflict is that hos just might come between these two bros, with both virile men having an eye on Cheetara. Although Cheetara's affections have always been muddled, she clearly has more than a passing interest in Lion-O.

Power hungry gold digger? Maybe. But girl knows which brother to bet on.

Another interesting evolution of Cheetara is her powers. Still the little speedster, she is also now one of Jaga's magic-wielding clerics, a nod to her mental powers in the original cartoon.

Wiley Kit and Wiley Kat make an brief but memorable appearance. Still mischievous little dicks, they're now street urchins and con artists who steal to stay alive.

They also talk about some city of gold that will make them rich... clearly a less-than subtle clue to a future storyline that will probably entail whacky results.

Naturally, all good things must come to an end. The ThunderCats' own greed caused resentment amongst the Lizards who attacked Thunderra... with technology!

Dun, dun, dunnnn!

Slythe, no longer just some sass-talking Mutant, is now the leader of these Lizard people and an ally of Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living who apparently does not like sunlight... much like he was weakened by his own reflection before.

Another ally of Slythe was Grune. A traitor to the ThunderCats in the 1980s, he hasn't changed much in twenty-some years.

Grune totally turncoated again and helped Mumm-Ra and the Lizards destroy Thunderra, kill Claudus and Jaga, and make the ThunderCats race an endangered species with only Lion-O, Cheetara, and Tygra left on a quest to find the Book of Omens.

Way to step up, Grune.

But surely there are other survivors... we already saw a cameo by a certain blind 'Cat who was obviously Lynx-O, a late addition to the cast in the original series.

Hopefully his cohorts Bengali and Pumyra will follow suit some day.

On the whole? The show was an all too familiar ploy to sell toys. But hell, so was the original show.

It's definitely got promise and I'm beyond giddy for more. MORE! There are still more characters yet to be seen (uh, like Panthro?) and more reimaginings of Third Earth to be seen.

Oh yeah, and last thing? Snarf doesn't talk but he's still annoying as fuck.

SNAAAARFF!