Andy’s Current Favorites: June 2020

GhostAndy

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Hey Gang! Andy Larson here, back with another set of quick hits on lots of different pop culture related stuff that’s been scratching my itch recently, but not so much that I would want to write a whole article about any of it.

As we continue into month 3 of the COVID enforced isolation, I have had to get creative in staving off my kids’ cabin fever. With many of the stores still closed, that means I’ve had to dig into my “on card” stashes of action figures and other toys, to provide them with brand new goodies for some of these all day imagination filled play-fests.

As such, that means I’ve had to finally break out some of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures I had squirreled away for such a “rainy day” to beef up our Eternian ranks. One of those figures which I dug out of moth balls was a little known figure made in the final years of the toy run based off a single appearance in an episode of the Filmation cartoon from the 80s: Strong Arm!

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Yep, from one of my favorite episodes of the original series “She Demon of Phantos”, Strong Arm is a metal faced, blue mohawk sporting Evil Warrior with such a massive extendable steel hand, that I’m sure it even makes Fisto green with envy. The toy comes complete with a really neat Flash Gordonesque retro looking ray blaster, which I wish I had more of, because I feel it fits the overall aesthetic that you want from MOTU when you think of a gun.

Although some might laugh at the overall weird hodge podge of styles going on with a figure like this, I couldn’t be more pleased with his overall kickassitude. He fits perfectly into Skeletor’s rag tag bunch of misfits even with his dumpy looking ears, clashing yellow gloves, and orange jump suit.

Then again, it’s probably because again I have such fond memories of his one and only appearance in that He-man cartoon adventure. It was one of the first episodes of the show I had ever watched and like other Filmation only characters like the heroic Lizard Man and the evil Fang Man, after watching the episode, I scoured toy shelves for weeks in hopes of finding that figure despite the fact that they never actually made one.

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By the way, after opening the toy, I did go back and watch that original episode again with my kids. It honestly doesn’t really hold up that well, as like Strong Arm himself, it’s a odd collection of ideas.

The weirdest one being this evil mind controlled witch who gets her jollies by imprisoning He-man in Photanium chains just to watch him break out of them.

Yeah, like some sort of strange bondage kink. Very bizarre indeed…

 

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Current Book I’m Reading:

Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic

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Alright, you caught me. You might have guessed from the first section of today’s blog that I’ve had Flash Gordon on my mind recently aka the retro laser gun comment. It’s just that since last month and my discussion of the Dejah Thoris book I covered, I’ve been wanting to read more Flash.

I mean sure you get the same fantasy related science fiction filled with sword fighting and scantily clad beautiful ladies as you do in John Carter, but for some reason I always felt Flash Gordon had a little more refinement. Not so much class, but definitely modesty as at least his females were fully clothed.

Anyways, the only problem with Flash Gordon is that there’s more “bad” than “good” interpretations, especially in recent years with the Jeff Parker/Doc Shaner series being one of the few exceptions. So that meant I could re-read the Alex Raymond stories for the 600th time or scour the universe for something just as good.

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to look far as I found this collection of the Al Williamson Flash Gordon strips and comics published throughout the 60s, 80s, and mid 90s. That included his appearances in King Comics, the motion picture adaption, and a little known mini series Marvel put out in 1994.

Simply put, Williamson’s Flash is arguably the closest anyone else has ever gotten to capturing the same spirit of grandiose swashbuckling high adventure in outer space that was a hallmark of Raymond’s original strip. As I’ve mentioned many times before, without the work done by Raymond and then Williamson with Flash Gordon, we would not have Star Wars. These are the strips and the style that inspired George Lucas to reach for the stars and deliver to us a highly operatic interstellar saga where rocket ships engaged in dog fights and individual duels between skilled warriors were the basis for the rise and fall of entire empires.

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This particular book contains some truly terrific stories from that Al Williamson era, including surprisingly enough the original “God of the Beast Men” story written by Archie Goodwin which was the basis for a really wonderful episode of the Filmation Flash Gordon cartoon of the early 80s. I always loved that story with the gigantic stone idol and the animistic tribe willing to sacrifice Flash and Dale to its flaming maw. It’s just the right mix of again ancient mythology and space age sensibilities that make this whole franchise one of my all time favorites.

Plus, with the introduction by Sergio Aragones and the expert editing by another of my favorite artists in Xenozoic Tales‘ own Mark Schultz, this entire book has easily become one of the new darlings of my comic collection. Even if you aren’t exactly a fan of Flash Gordon himself, if you are a comic historian, fan of science fiction in general, or just someone that enjoys beautiful art, you own it to yourself to pick up this book. Highly recommended!

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Current Favorite Video Game:

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

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Well, I shouldn’t say this is my favorite game. That would infer that I enjoy it in the traditional sense of a video game that brings me joy through the act of playing it. What I should say is this game is my current favorite time waster on my phone, just like other games such as Marvel Puzzle Quest and He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe.

In fact, the game has recently supplanted Pokemon Go! in that arena, which has recently gotten too unwieldy for me with the whole not being able to go anywhere or interact with anyone other than the grocery store and walks around my local parks.

First developed in 2015, the game is primarily a turn based combat simulator that allows players to collect characters from the Star Wars Universe and have them battle in 5 or 6 person teams to win more stuff to again collect more characters to win more stuff…and you get the idea.

Although initially the game is fun in terms of actually playing the battles, you soon learn that you can just put the battles on “auto pilot” and thus it becomes just another resource farming and grinding game played at certain points with you have enough energy as to not pay for anything extra with real money.

Still though, as someone that’s been a Star Wars fan and as I mentioned all last month has been insanely into it again thanks to my kids, it is scratching that collectors bug in that even though I’m never going to use “Darth Revan” from Knights of the Old Republic or “Jedi Master Shaak Ti” in an actual fight, I desire so much to own them in this game that it does keep me playing day after day.

Damn the folks that make these stupid games! They sincerely keep me from playing real games what with the convenience of just pushing an app button on my phone when I don’t want to watch another episode of my wife’s show “Working Moms”. Even the Nintendo Switch can’t compete with that…

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Current Favorite TV Show:

Thundercats Roar!

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Now I’m sure this entry is going to somewhat divisive for our Thundercat fans out there. I mean I would have been super pissed if they took this approach for a reboot with Masters of the Universe, but lucky for me they haven’t.

And before anyone says otherwise,  I still like this show despite being a fan of the original Thundercats show. In fact, most of the time I actually prefer that original Thundercats show to the Filmation He-man program as an adult as the animation is generally better and the action/storytelling more in line with GI Joe or Transformers in terms of being semi-serious. So I should have been someone that took offense with the comedic intent of Thundercats Roar, and I’ll admit when I first saw the first episode, I was skeptical.

However, I would also be lying if I didn’t admit that I haven’t laughed out loud uncontrollably at times with this new show! Sure it’s drawn comparisons to Teen Titans GO! but as a fan of that show too, I don’t view that as a bad thing at all. The dialogue is witty, the comedic timing terrific, and with the right mix of meta humor poking good natured fun at the original source material, it’s a winning combination for a show both my kids and I can enjoy.

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I’m especially a fan of the Lion-O persona, as his thoughtless, narcissistic, man-child personality reminds me of so many folks I’ve met through out my life just cranked up to 11. That including myself, as my wife and podcast co-hosts will attest that I can be a boisterous over-excitable dullard at times. Especially when he’s paired against the Tygra character who has been cast as a overly sensible, prissy, worry wart  in the vein of a C-P30. That combination has always been solid gold in terms of comedy.

For those that are still pissed over the direction they have taken with Thundercats Roar!, let me remind them that they tried doing an “ultra serious” “continuity heavy” “adult” version of the Thundercats back in 2011 with the reboot. It was cancelled after one season, where as Thundercats Roar! has garnished positive reviews from both critics as well as a new audience of young kids that are rediscovering this franchise for the first time.

Sometimes nerds are just wrong, and they should just lighten up! Besides how can you hate a show with this catchy of the theme song?!? I’m serious! This is like Sealab 2021 level of hum worthy greatness!

 

 

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