Andy’s Current Favorites: July 2020

GhostAndy

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Hey Gang! Andy Larson here, back with another monthly set of quick hits on lots of different pop culture related stuff that if I was smart I would write several smaller articles on, but hey I tried that approach and nobody read them either.

As you might recall from last month’s article, I’m finally getting around to opening some of my “On Card” Masters of the Universe Classics Figures based on increase in my kid’s boredom thanks to limited summer camp and swimming opportunities this Summer of COVID. As a result, I’d thought I’d give you another update as this past month I got around to opening up this bad ass character from the MOTU live action movie from 1987.

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Yep, that’s Big Daddy Blade, in all his berserker pirate status. What’s not to love about this figure. The Chain mail armor, the energy whip, the rows upon rows of swords. This guy is definitely nobody should f*ck with just for refilling his Big Gulp at the local 7/11 several times before paying.

Although some MOTU purists would be apt to point out that he’s just basically the same Evil Warrior as the much more well known villain Tri-Klops what his lack of bifocal vision and obsession with pointy things, I feel like there’s more than enough room in the MOTU canon for both. Yes, I’ll agree Tri-Klops is the superior figure, but then again as you can read on my Top 5 Classic MOTU toys list, there’s pretty much nobody other than He-man that’s in that rarefied atmosphere.

I think Blade fits a very important role as one of a slew of intergalactic bounty hunters that anyone from Hordak to Skeletor might hire to track down some space faring Master who has gone off the reservation as it were. In this way he fits perfectly with his evil “partner in crime” Saurod, as both have that unique interstellar yet savage look and again both hail from that same original movie.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll write my own fan fic about Blade actually being Tri-Klops’ brother, similar to the Hound and the Mountain relationship from Game of Thrones. Both master swordsmen, both bad ass trackers, both in desperate need of eye protection.

Seriously, what is with these guys? Did they own Red Ryder BB Guns as kids?!? Invest in some safety googles before you poke yourselves completely blind!

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Current Comic Book I’m Reading:

History of the Marvel Universe

by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez

 

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Often times on this part of my monthly blog, I talk about a comic book series that I want to give a shout out to, but I honestly didn’t think I’d have enough to say to fill up an entire Andy’s Read Pile review on. Mark Waid’s History of the Marvel Universe I think is the absolute perfect example of this.

It was immensely satisfying, but in the same way that reading an illustrated wikipedia entry would be. Or maybe it’s more akin to reading a very informative well written text book. It serves a purpose more than tells a story. As such, it’s not really something you talk about your experience doing, but just something you do.

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But as I harp on so very often on the podcast, given the nasty sometimes impenetrable wall which is mainstream Marvel continuity for new fans, books like these really do serve an extremely valuable purpose in helping bring folks into the tent. Like for someone that is new to comics and wants to know a lot about the chronological history of the 616, this series is an absolute no brainer.

It provides details on the most important events of the Marvel Universe in a very clean concise narrative manner with terrifically expressive original illustrations, while at the same time providing a recap of those same events in the back using snippets of the original source materials and where you can find them. In that way, if some part of the history really scratches an itch for you, you know where exactly you can go in your local comic shop to get the full story.

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It’s very similar to the old “Handbooks to the Marvel Universe” which were released in the 80s that gave you an A to Z listing of all the Marvel characters, so that when one you didn’t know showed up in a book, you could look through your guide like you would an encyclopedia.

Honestly, I loved those books as a kid as it was sometimes even better to just read about the history of some random jabroni like The Gardener, rather than track down some hard to find Incredible Hulk story just to find out a little more on this obscure Elder of the Universe. As a result, given this series is pretty much written in the same vein, I really enjoyed it too.

However, at the end of the day, it’s just a retelling of the Marvel events in snippet form so it’s not really something I can grade or dissect other than to say Mark Waid did an excellent job in breaking down over 80 years of Marvel history into just 6 issues. And an extra kudos for the fact that he completely left out the fact “Spider-man: One More Day” ever even happened. Somethings I agree are best left forgotten!

(BTW: There’s evidently an oversized Treasury edition version of this book. I really got to track that down for my kids. They love those big page comics!)

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Current Favorite Video Game:

Rygar

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I’m sure there are a ton of folks out there that are sick of me talking about video games that were released decades ago that just happen to be my “favorite” from month to month, but this one is truly special. For those of you that read my Top 10 NES games of all time , you’ll know that this simple fantasy related Metroidvania type platformer is arguably my favorite NES game ever.

Technically a port of a much less interesting side-scrolling arcade game, Rygar for the NES took the concepts of a jumping, discarmor wielding warrior battling against endless hordes of monsters to free the world of Argool from the nasty lion headed beastie named Ligar, and for once made it better than the original. You’ve heard me rag on the NES from screwing up arcade ports, like the original Double Dragon being a one player game or the original Donkey Kong forgetting to give you the pie factory level.

But Rygar for the NES is like that shimmering exception. By adding an open world aspect, items to collect with unlock other parts of the maps, and experience driven power ups, Rygar took on more of that classic Legend of Zelda-esque feel in terms of a fantasy based action RPG. It was more than just a basic run & gun which swapped out the “gun” for one of the most unique weapons in all videogames in the yo-yo like discarmor. This was a quest and one that demanded that you conquer it.

Of course the biggest problem with the original game was it lacked any password or save battery, so despite having unlimited continues, the only way you could beat the game was to leave your NES permanently switched on for the duration (however long that was).

But now that this game has been released for the very first time legitimately as a part of  Nintendo Switch’s Online NES library, you can finally play this game as it should have been intended: with breaks.

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I mean it’s can be an extremely frustrating game with the timing of jumps and endless hordes of respawning monsters, so you definitely need some time to take a break at times before you snap your controller in half. But with the save state feature and more importantly the “rewind” (which I’ve been using a lot for the first time with Rygar), I feel tons more folks will give it a go and in doing so walk away with a greater respect for this overlooked NES gem.


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Current Favorite TV Show:

Droids: The Animated Adventures of C-3PO & R2D2

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Now I wouldn’t say this is my “favorite” show. I honestly don’t have one of those given I don’t watch a ton of TV normally. But as I’ve mentioned previously, all throughout this COVID quarantine, my kids have really reconnected with the Star Wars universe in a pretty massive way. As such, I’ve been struggling to find more original content for them to digest. Despite Disney+ having all the movies, the Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance cartoons, and some Lego specials, I have noticed there are some pretty glaring omissions.

Sure, there’s probably good reason from a “product brand” perspective with things the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which Lucas has tried to distance himself for decades, but I think the Ewok movies Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor should be included because they have a very Disney “kid friendly” appeal.

However, I think the biggest missing part of the Star Wars extended universe from Disney+ at this point is the original ABC Saturday Morning cartoon series “Droids” which ran from 1985 to 1986 for 13 episodes and one hour long special. This show chronicled the misadventures of C-3PO and R2D2 during a period when they had been separated from Captain Antilles, with whom Bail Organa entrusted the pair after the events of Revenge of the Sith. During this time, they helped out a successive set of “new masters” including a pair of speeder bike racers turned rebel fighters, the king of an alien planet, and a merchant/adventurer named Mungo Baobab.

Interesting enough, this cartoon has a lot of Star Wars continuity nods, including appearances by famous Star Wars bounty hunters Boba Fett and IG-88, Imperial storm troopers, the Boonta Eve Classic, and mention of the planet Bogden. Plus it’s got Anthony Daniels doing C-3PO’s voice so I don’t think that can get more canon.

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Yet for years it seems that the movers and shakers at Star Wars top brass have distanced themselves from this important cartoon series. The last time it was released on DVD was in 2004 in a limited sense as Rick McCallum produced a release of the story arcs overall entitled The Pirates and the Prince and Unchartered Space, covering 75% percent of the original series.  Luckily I picked up a copy of this release, so we’ve been able to watch these episodes around my house, but it’s a shame other kids aren’t that lucky.

Disney+, please hear my plea. Release this cartoon series on your streaming service. It is a wonderful, all ages type show that can entertain our young Star Wars fans out there for many more hours with quality content and stories. I mean Batman: The Animated Series architect, Paul Dini, wrote some of the episodes for Pete’s sake. It deserves to see the light of day now that there’s a platform specifically for it!

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