Friday, January 31, 2014

Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month): Wing Commander Academy by Kalan

Hey! What are you doing just sitting there!?! Don't you know there is a space war on?!? Epic battles are raging in distant galaxies! Generations of both sides have been at the others' throats! There have been mass casualties AND the enemy has contaminated countless natives on alien planets in their conquest of the universe! “Wait...why would they do such a thing”, you say? Well, I don't know, but there are 13 episodes of awesome because of it. Those ruthless Kilrathi are gunning for the flying ace Wing Commander Academy cadets in this month's Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month).
The show is somewhat of a prequel to the Wing Commander game series. Airing September 1996 – December 1996, it had a short run, wherein little background is given. We get a tidbit here and there with our cadets but nothing is in-depth. Thirteen episodes don't really grant the opportunity to delve into character history. It was released on DVD in 2012 or so, but is available online obviously. I think it’s prudent to let you know I never played the Wing Commander games, I'm not a flight simulator kinda gal, so if at any point you find yourself thinking “duh, that's in the game”, deal with it, I have no point of reference between the two, but the cartoon is awesome so here we are.
One of the choicest aspects of this show by far is the voice actor cast. As I was watching for the first few times, I kept thinking “man, those voices sound pretty familiar” and my brain tossed about a few folks who might have been behind them. I try not to do any reading on the shows I watch to test myself, but this time I had to do a little reading because I had to prove myself right/wrong. Wing Commander Academy got an amazing all-star voice cast - I was pretty stunned. Prepare yourself, friend, because you're about to have your mind blown by all the awesome. For our main hero, Christopher “Maverick” Blair, we get the ear candy of Mark Hamill, and because of that I always giggle when this character makes video recordings for his dad. Tom Wilson brings Todd “Maniac” Marshall to life, Commodore Geoffrey Tolwyn is the face and voice of Malcom McDowell, Dana Delany is Gwen “Archer” Bowman, Lauri Hendler provides Linday “Payback” Price and mechanic Maya McEaddens, Pat Fraley shows up for most of the series as various voices. In “The Last One Left” rebel pilot Daimon Karnes reappears and just happens to be voiced by Ron Perlman. The first time I watched “Recreation” I walked into the kitchen to get some more coffee and from the other room I heard a VERY familiar voice and ran back into the room and turned my TV up to be sure, AND IT WAS! Michael Dorn was uncredited in the series, but you just always know that voice.
The protagonists this time are humans/humanoid aliens referred to as Terran by their enemy and they are part of the Confederation. They're a headstrong squadron of academy cadets that have been granted “on-the-job-training” aboard the Tiger's Claw and for young’uns they're seemingly on the front lines of combat. These kids, along with the rest of the Terran Confederation are at war with a not-so-snuggly race of humanoid cats, the Kilrathi.
The Kilrathi are ruthless warriors with a code of honor comparable to that of Klingons (they also have a lot in common with Romulans) – death before dishonor, die with a weapon in my hand and a war cry in my throat, and so on. They do not, however, value their “word of honor” when given to a Terran, but I mean, they're the bad guys, so that's just pretty much par for the course of bad guy-man-ship. The clans within the Kilrathi ranks are at odds with one another as well it seems, but they have a common deep-seated hatred of all the good guys.
There are some interesting concepts addressed by the series, all relatively familiar with science fiction based in space. For me, the show draws really heavily from Star Trek (the original series and Next Generation). In “The Most Delicate Instrument” four of the cadets are afflicted with a sort of neuro-electrical space madness of Takei-magnitude. They attack other cadets and we actually lose a character in this episode – Blizzard is blown to bits by the love of his life before he can cause further damage. Strangely, for a kids show, there's quite a bit of explode-y death and in “Price of Victory” the Emperor's daughter tells a group of her subordinates they should “commit Sukarath” (I'm spelling phonetically here, because I wasn't able to find the correct spelling on the internet) which is pretty obviously a suggestion of suicide. There are portals which allow access between star systems called “jump nodes” and some of them have a tendency to be unstable. In “Lords of the Sky”, Maverick and Maniac are stranded on a planet where the natives have been turned into Kilrathi worshipers, complete with giant cat statues and human sacrifices. They also trick another planet's inhabitants, the Telosians, to construct a giant monument to the Kilrathi god Sivar, with the intention of sacrificing the entire race upon its completion. These cats are pretty despicable creatures.
Probably one of my favorite episodes, and one I've mentioned already, is “Recreation”. In this episode, the Tiger's Claw crew discover a space ship pod drifting in space and this dude called the Warrior King (Dorn) in suspended animation is inside. They are instructed to take the pod and the Warrior King to Oasis. The cadets are given some shore leave on this tropical paradise planet, considered by both the Confederation and the Kilrathi to be “off-limits” for combat, when who should show up but some Kilrathi. Warrior King is after an all-powerful orb weapon, and so are the Kilrathi. This episode was apparently part of a 4-series crossover on USA's Action Extreme Team block with Mortal Kombat, Savage Dragon, and Street Fighter. I haven't gotten to two of those, but I have the Street Fighter series. It is almost unbearable. I haven't been able to get through it yet, it's on my “I Hate The Fact That I Have To Watch This To Gain Cartoon Nerd Supremacy” list. I'll get to it eventually.
The animation for this show is way above par for the time period. The late 90s were on the cusp of computer generated animation taking over and this show avoided the “PlayStation” graphics that I really just absolutely abhor. It's not as hand-animated-looking as, say the Filmation gems, and has some anime-ish moments but it's still got that 80s feel to it, so I love it. The colors are consistent, bold and crisp and there is a lot of attention to detail on the ships and the planets. The show's intro song is pretty rad, no lame lyrics or anything, just some jammin' guitar and some space ships and lasers and stuff.
While you can get through the whole series several times over in one day, Wing Commander Academy is a very worthy watch. Not so involved that if you miss one episode you have no idea what is going on for the other 12 (haha), but detailed enough to maintain the interest of my rather ADHD-riddled brain (which is probably mostly due to excessive cartoon viewing in the first place). It isn't one that I would necessarily force other people to watch like some of the other shows in my library, but it is perfect for a cold winter day's viewing.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Needless Things Podcast Episode 17 – Adam WarRock: Racing to the High Five!

I couldn’t be more excited and quite frankly impressed with myself as far as how this year is shaping up so far. I am pretty awesome.
Just let me have this moment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Toy Review – Masters of the Universe Classics Strong-Or from Mattel

NOTE: Episode 17 of the Needless Things Podcast was supposed to go up today. It's an interview with Adam WarRock and I am super-stoked about it. So of course Podbean shit the bed and isn't allowing me to upload the audio. So here's a review of Strong-Or. Hopefully I will be able to upload the WarRock interview tomorrow.

I am totally surprised at how bummed I am that’s Club Filmation has come to an end.

I obligated myself to this sub-Sub with tons of reservations since it was for six figures and only two were announced before the cutoff date. The two shown – Icer and Shokoti were awesome, though. So I had hope for the remaining four. And I have to give Matty a lot of credit because not only were the remaining four pretty great (except maybe Nepthu), they were very unique and different characters. They were individuals that managed to stand out amongst your existing collection rather than just oddities that you immediately wanted to stick at the back of the shelf (like the Star Sisters and the Fighting Foe Men). Despite the fact that most of these characters were fleeting parts of my childhood that were forgotten long ago, they were interesting enough to be fun now.

Strong-Or was a heck of a way to close the sub out. Rather than shit out awful or unwanted characters like Club Infinite Earths and Club Eternia, Club Filmation released a bizarre, kickass figure to finish 2013.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Toy Review – Marvel Legends The Wrecker from Hasbro

I bought Wrecker for two reasons:
  1. I already have Thunderball and Piledriver and Wrecker is their leader. Good planning, Hasbro.
  2. He was listed on Amazon for the completely sane price of $14.99 (with free Prime shipping).
Well, the fact that he’s purple and green appealed to me as well, but did not influence my decision much.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Toy Review – Quarter Scale Batman ’89 from NECA

I love Tim Burton’s Batman and no amount of internet snark or intolerance will ever change that. It was one of the most formative and influential movies of my youth and I’m honestly not sure there has been a movie since where I felt the hype and anticipation so keenly. More than that, the movie actually delivered.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Needless Things’ Happenings of Note

I don’t expect this to become a regular feature, but there are several things that I wanted to mention that wouldn’t have worked out to 1,000 words each, but that if I stretch ‘em out a little (A LOT) I might be able to combine them into a post.

CAUTION: There may be some rambling.

But first – some Rumbling!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Toy Review – Suicide Squad Harley Quinn from DC Collectibles

I keep breaking my DC Collectibles rule.

As I’ve mentioned before, I stopped collecting DC’s in-house action figures for a while. When a toy can’t survive simply standing on the shelf - let alone a thirty-six inch drop – you have a shitty line. I’ll never forget coming home one day and finding Catwoman’s forearm just lying next to her on the shelf. The figure hadn’t fallen over, the arm just… fell off. This is when I was living by myself, so unless a ghost decided to break just that one figure DC was making shitty toys.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Toy Review – DC Signature Collection Ra’s al Ghul from Mattel

Ra’s al Ghul is my favorite Batman villain. That’s the only reason I always get his stupid name right. The correct pronunciation has varied across media, which drives me insane. Before I ever heard it, I pronounced it “rohz”.

Side Note: I do not understand how dictionary pronunciations work. I never have.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Toy Review - Masters of the Universe Classics Strobo from Mattel

Strobo is another one of those minicomics weirdos that I don’t know anything about. But I have to say - just judging from him, Geldor, and some of the other minicomics releases that I would like to read all of the minicomics.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Toy Review – Marvel Legends Black Panther from Hasbro

My fifth grade teacher – Mrs. Moody – was one of my favorites.

Side Note: She was not, in fact, moody.

She was pretty and her classes were fun and I seem to remember fifth grade being fairly pleasant overall. This one time she had all of the students over to her house for a party.

Stop it. That’s not where this story is going.

So we all went to her house – something that I’m sure is unheard of now and I can’t imagine any sane person wanting the little jerks that pass for children nowadays in their home anyway – and had pizza and played some games and had a good time. At some point during the event her husband – Mr. Moody (also not moody) – escorted us down to the basement. Once we got down there I could not believe what he showed us.

Okay, seriously – stop.

There was about twenty feet of homemade shelving housing two rows of comic book long boxes. I had never seen such a thing in a grown-up house. I didn’t know grown-ups could even own comic books. I didn’t know that grown-ups did anything that was fun. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Toy Review - Masters of the Universe Classics Sea Hawk from Mattel

Sea Hawk comes to us from the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon series. That’s why I don’t really know much about the guy, but all it took was one comparison to Han Solo for me to be fine with getting a figure of him.
Side Note: Why the heck hasn’t She-Ra been rebooted? Imagine a new Princess of Power cartoon done in a modern style. Not all serious and anime-influenced like the 2002 Masters redux; more like Super Best Friends Forever and maybe a little bit of Adventure Time. Let’s face it – almost everything on TV today could benefit from the world-building lessons taught by Pendleton Ward.
Heck, the related toy line could be done as full-on dolls, Monster High style.
Well, a Solo comparison and seeing Sea Hawk’s sassy purple neckerchief.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Toy Review – DC Total Heroes from Mattel

I don’t usually review toys that I buy for my son, as that would get overwhelming, but since these are pretty much the replacement for the DC Universe Classics figures I thought I should at least cover the initial offerings. I was going to start off with a rant about how thanks to Mattel’s foolish mis-management and weird character selection and inflated prices we’ve seen the official end of the DC Universe style 6” scale action figures. I mean, I’ve certainly predicted it enough times.

But you know what? That style of figure has lasted around a decade in one form or another and I have to admit that it’s pretty impressive. Mattel may have (definitely has) made a lot of terrible decisions regarding the various DCUC lines, but they managed to keep the 4 Horsemen designed figures relevant for a long time without long-term media support. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Comic Book Update - January 2014

With a new year comes some evaluation of the comic books I buy on a monthly basis. I mentioned in my Phantom Manifesto that I needed to drop five books, so I am going to do that today.
If you’re new here, this is a post where I provide a little commentary about the quality of the comics I read. I don’t do in-depth reviews or plot synopses or anything like that (mostly). I’ll just talk about how much I enjoy books (or don’t) and whether I think you should buy them.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Needless Things Spotlight: "My Own Wreckage" by Beau McKnight

I've been wanting to feature short form fiction on the site for a while now. I wasn't quite sure how to do it and what form it should take. But I always want to expand what Needless Things is and can present. So when my friend Beau asked me about publishing a short story he had written, I felt like it was time; especially with the start of a new year.

This will be the first installment of the Needless Things Spotlight, where I will publish fiction from various sources; maybe even myself. Let me know what you think. I know Blogger is shit for comments, so please leave feedback on my El Phantasmas Facebook page or on the Needless Things page. And if you have something you would like to publish but aren't sure how or where just drop me a message.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Toy Review - Masters of the Universe Classics Geldor from Mattel

Geldor is another one of those Masters of the Universe minicomics characters that I know nothing about and have no attachment to. I mean, aside from the fact that he has Mr. T’s haircut and the stylish livery of one of the Exterminators from Zardoz.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Needless Things Podcast Episode 16: "The Human Hand Grenade" dany only

Hey Phantomaniacs – it’s an all-new year and I’m proud to be kicking it off with an interview I’ve been waiting over a year for. My goal is to bring you no less than twenty-four new episodes over the next twelve months, and I have a lot of cool stuff planned.

If you don’t know, dany only (yes, that’s correct – no caps) is a professional wrestler that’s been working the Southeast for over a decade now. He’s a three time APW Tag Team Champion, a former GCW Tag Team Champion, and held the NWA Anarchy Tag Team titles with his partner, Stryknyn, for 77 days. All he ever wanted to do was wrestle, and he does it as much as he can. Over the years he’s developed a strong philosophy about the business and the people in it, and he’s not afraid to voice that philosophy loudly and often. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013 in the Geek Seat - for the ESO Netowork

First go and listen to Episode 196 of the Earth Station One Podcast. I'm not on it, but that's why you're getting this post today.
Okay, now read this:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Toy Review – DC Signature Collection Ocean Master from Mattel

I remember reading an Aquaman comic book in my youth and being very disappointed. I thought it would be about Aquaman palling around with dolphins, fighting undersea monsters, and maybe high-fiving Superman at some point. I don’t remember what the story was and I have no idea which issue it was – I probably wouldn’t recognize the cover if you showed it to me – but I remember being very bummed out after I read it. As a result, I didn’t read Aquaman comics for a long time, despite the fact that he was one of my favorite Super Friends (I have always had an affinity for anything with an aquatic theme).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Toy Review – DC Signature Collection Huntress from Mattel

Hello, Phantomaniacs, and welcome to an all-new year here on Needless Things! I’m going to be trying out some different toy review formats in the coming weeks, so let me know what you think.

I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of expert on Huntress, or try to claim that my initial interest in the character went beyond that fact that she wore purple and very little of it. But in the years since I first remember her standing out – probably during the mostly excellent “No Man’s Land” crossover – I have grown to like the character quite a bit. Whether she’s the daughter of a mobster or of Bruce Wayne and Selena (or is it Selina? I always spell it with an “e” because I had a friend in high school that spelled it that way so it seems right) Kyle. Though I prefer the mobster’s daughter story. It speaks more strongly to me. Not that I’m a mobster’s daughter or anything – it’s just that whole “sins of the father” thing is such an effective and life-spanning narrative device. That can motivate a character pretty much forever.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Phantom Manifesto

Before I get into today’s post I want to lay down a sort of State of The Phantom address.

Or something.

My work schedule has already fucked 2014 all kinds of up, but I am still determined to make the most of this year. As a matter of fact, things have already begun to get exciting.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What Would I Say?

It’s amazing how many mind-bogglingly useless apps get created for Facebook. I tend to avoid using any sort of Facebook apps, as I do not have the income to throw away on vegetables, race cars, and candy that do not, technically, exist. I also do not want to inundate my Facebook Friends and Acquaintances with invitations and requests for things that they absolutely do not give one little, bitty shit about.

If only they all had the same consideration for me.

Every once in a while, though, you come across an app that is just harmless fun for a few hours.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Toy Review - Masters of the Universe Classics Lord Dactus from Mattel

I feel like such a fraud. I always claim that the 2002 Masters of the Universe cartoon is my favorite iteration of the franchise – and it is – but then Mattel puts out a character like Lord Dactus or… uh… Chef Lion Face… that I do not remember from the series at all.
Luckily for me, my baseline for liking MOTUC figures isn’t “do I know this character?”, it’s “does this figure look awesome?” This means that I waited for Chief Carnivus to go on sale and only bought him because I was buying something else and decided “why not?”, but was happily expecting Lord Dactus.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Toy Review - Masters of the Universe Classics Mantenna from Mattel

Mantenna was highly anticipated by everyone who pays any attention to the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. Partially because he was one of the last remaining heavy hitters from the Evil Horde, but mostly because we all wanted to see how Matty was going to handle a figure that seemingly defied re-use of parts – whether it was going to use existing parts or be a source of parts to future figures.
Once Matty finally revealed the production pictures, even the most strident of Matty cynics had to admit that the finished product was breathtaking. For the most part the Four Horsemen do a bang-up job on this line, but every once in a while they create something truly spectacular.