Give Me Some of Those Funky Fresh Beats

What if I told you a game could truly deliver almost everything and deliver it in package that explored almost every visual style that video gaming has used? What if I told you this same game could use recycled jokes, tropes and find brand new ingenious spirited ways to make them feel new and inspired and make you laugh with joy & excitement all over again?

What if I told you in 2017 the adventure game point n click scene was still alive and flourishing more then before and thistime it was being kept alive by Germany or some other European country but that America, the UK and other countries where they speak English… like… um… erm… Australia.

Well it is and they do… this time I’m talking about a post apocalyptic mutant genre bending humor escapade called Paradigm, an eponymous title of the hilarious adorably gross disgusting cute lead character you will “control” throughout this adventure (does one ever truly control or do we just guide them through predetermined conclusions of the dressing of puzzles and interaction to deliver a story but in an interactive environment? A discussion for another time perhaps.)

Jacob Janerka, ALMOST solo creator of this brilliant, stupid, silly, wonkers, what am I doing here, I love this, oh my god I’m going to throw up art project is an amazing illustrator and designer. Every painting in this is lovely even when it’s showing a super weird creature, every pixel piece lovingly developed and boy is there a lot of 2D pixel goodness, but not in the point n click game genre. The way the game used 2-D is so almost mind-bending because it’s unexpected and needs to be experienced to truly appreciate it utter ridiculousness yet perfection.

Just one of the ugly pretty mutants you’ll meet.

To get a really good idea of how wacky, wild, weird, funny, silly and also how awesome an artist he can be, other than Paradigm one just needs to scope the proposed Seinfeld point n click he started developing while finishing the game. It went a tiny bit viral and Nerdist featured it last year.

The fact alone that Jacob wants/wanted to bring a show about nothing, in which you’d basically do nothing and yet for some inexplicable reason laugh at things that aren’t funny gives you some hint into maybe how his mind works… or maybe doesn’t work.

An example of Janerka’s amazing painting skills. Look at this vastness. Look at that crazy pigeon.

There are some “what are you serious?” ideas in the game where you wonder if he’s crazy with skills or just really talented. Here are some ideas you usually don’t expect in a point n click without actually spoiling the game itself.

  • Multiple Endings
  • Pay Window
  • Beatboxing
  • Boss Battles
  • Computer Crash
  • 2 Headed Cat (oh wait… nevermind)
  • Art in the corners that looks awesome and adds enjoyment but has nothing to with the game….wait… nevermind. Still it really is done well, I personally found myself staring at every corner.
  • You actually can TALK, PICK UP, and USE every sincle interactive item. Maybe not in the way you expect, but you can. Especially the TALK and… Pick Up? Well, if you don’t try to pick up EVERYTHING and I MEAN EVERYTHING? You are not giving yourself the fun.

    Just on the 2D bits in the game and an example of how the game goes unexpected places.

Another great addition which will having you play multiple times so as to not ruin your immersive experience the first time around, or maybe you will ruin your immersion and just do it on every screen, but you’ll probably forget so you better make saves or yes, you’re playing all over again is the Developer Commentary. These are thing that have existed throughout time but traditionally only remastered games (like the ones Doublefine has done of LucasArts) get them. Very few games have them on release of a brand new Intellectual Property. I honestly can only think of the games by Wadjeteye/Dave Gilbert to have done this. Jacob takes it another step though and does it is as a visual treat on top of the audio. It’s just a thing… a very artsy thing. There’s commentary also from the game’s musician Jonas Kjellberg (which I haven’t even brought up… it’s another layer all together).

Jonas Kjelberg created sounds, beats, synthwaves, guitar hooks, belly slaps, snores, boops, blips, and more. The music in this game is so wonderful it needs an entire article of its own to be truly explored. Luckily there is a soundtrack coming at some point, as it needs dissemination, deconstruction and reverberation. To be truly appreciated. Each piece works within the construct of the game, but also sound like they’d be amazing on their own.

Another piece of 2D pixel work. Here you are dating a toaster. Yes, you read that correctly.

One of the things I really love about the game is how original it is while doing BLATANT tributes, self deprecating itself to what came before, while acknowledging how different and special it is, while at the same time being ludicrous and a waste of time. Yet isn’t what all entertainment is? Something to appreciate and waste time? What else would we do? Be productive? To what end? To the end to be able to sit down and waste time with others creations and then be inspired to make our own creations and then the cycle begins again. Mundanity, Insanity, Back to 1 till we die. Yet till that comes, take some time out of your schedule to play PARADIGM.

Paradigm is currently (released April 5th, 2017) on Steam for $14.99.
You can also get it at GOG.
Or if you prefer The Humble Store.
And if you’re reading this week of April 5th, it’s 10% off… if not… it’s more and still completely worth it.
It’ll run on PC and MAC (Linux is in the pipeline). Jacob Janerka also wants you to know that he unironically listens to ABBA regularly and thinks about if dogs have internal monologues.

Population 81 (strike that) 80

In 1987 at the tender age of 10 I had owned a Commodore 64 for a few years, falling in love with Infocom, Sierra, Tellarium and other individual games in the adventure genre. It was in October of that year that like many others my mind became warped, disturbed and happily pushed on a path of no return with the release of Maniac Mansion. The SCUMM system developed Ron Gilbert, Garry Winnick, David Fox and the rest of the team at Lucasarts changed gaming as we know it so many ways. My love for adventure games and point and click grew from that day, getting my hands of everything from LucasArts as it came out, but I’d actually follow Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick as closely as I could as they moved onto other works. Humongous Games was for kids, but dang it if you couldn’t find enjoyment in Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam and Spry Fox you didn’t like fun. Especially fun, while less a Ron Gilbert game and more Dave Grossman, was Moop & Dreadly. The Cave was definitely something new, different and unexpected, but Ron’s concepts were still clear. His out there thinking for puzzles and his abstract writing. Yet still nothing he had done ever felt like it captured the spirit of his early work.

That all changed with Thimbleweed Park; and not just because it literally feels like a lost Lucasfilm game from say 1992 (the game takes place in 1987 but Pixel art was definitely not at this level yet) right after Lechuck’s Revenge but before Day of the Tentacle with Double Fine’s Tim Schafer. Having the team that developed Maniac Mansion come back together to devise a truly new, but old classic point and click adventure born from the new fundraising and therefore self publishing platform of Kickstarter has allowed for something that was probably just like Broken Age was once envisioned into something bigger, prettier, more vast and more impressive then ever imagined when originally conceived. In fact as I played through the game I could not believe how epic it became. While only taking place in a small town, the scope of the story and the way it is told will blow you away and catch you off guard in surprising and wonderful ways.

Thimbleweed Park is beautiful. Every inch of it despite being pixels is dazzling. The characters truly become alive with powerful animation, true detail and grit. Helping this is of course the scripting of Gilbert and David B. Fox. Making these characters truly real is the amazing cast though. Thimbleweed Park is through and through a true puzzle game in which hard mode, your brain will get twisted and twizzled to the point of maybe being fried, but at the same time, you are never truly stuck. The solution is probably staring you in the face. You must remember this a game of five distinct characters and you play them all and can switch between one. Like Maniac Mansion you rely on each other to solve certain puzzles. It’s a fun and exciting thing that can really only be experienced in a video game. Helping yourself out by helping yourself but as two people? In the real world or in most video games that involves another actual human, but in adventure games, you get to be both people. It’s amazing… and as I said while it’s a game through and through, the cast really brings it to life.

Acclaimed voice director Khris Brown put together some amazing folks for this. Nicole Oliver, an anime American adaptation legend, who most recently is known for her work My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and has worked on another Ron Gilbert game in Death Spank plays the tough as nails FBI agent. Ian Garret, the most popular voice of Dragon Ball’s Goku and the voice of multiple characters on Ninjago and a long list of roles brings Ransome the Clown, the game’s most interesting, funniest, and wildest character to life invoking a bit of Norm MacDonald, Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldwaith and Sam Kinison to create a guy you can’t but love to hate and hate to love. Our wayfaring ghost without a chance, who whines and whimpers but is a joy to play as is given a bit of gravitas and sympathy by Alex Zahara, a longtime character and voice actor of stage, small screen, anime, games and most recently Amazon’s hit series Man in the Highcastle as Diehls. Rounding out our main cast are Javier Lacroix, a Spanish actor with a long list of commercials to his credit as deceptive to his actual age, as he sounds perfect as the young, seemingly mysterious other FBI agent and Elise Kates, a sound designer who has worked on Girls Makes Games The Hole Story as what could be considered our lead protagonist Delores, a game developer who returns home to Thimbleweed Park just as the mystery begins who is right in the middle of it all.

One of the cooler parts about Thimbleweed Park is once it’s said and done there are so many reasons to go back, especially on Steam as there are a few wonderful achievements. Yet, on top of that, unless you plan to sit through them all on a first play-through drastically causing pacing to the story to go to a crawl there tons of books to read as well as phone messages to listen to for the completest in you. They just add another layer to the actually to the game and it’s creation from day 1 to release and should truly not be skipped to feel fully immersed in the town and world created.

Thimbleweed Park is available for $19.99 on Steam, GOG, Xbox Live, and Mac App Store as of Launch, with other platforms coming in the near future.

(This review was built from an advance copy of Thimbleweed Park, which I finished days before launch and has kept my mouth shut about even though I want to talk and hear from everyone about it. Go play it folks, beat it, then talk talk talk talk talk and then talk some more)

 

The Group of Sadly Forgotten Weirdos who did evil things

Comics have a history of weird, wacky, unusual or even actually lame, annoying and “maybe we’d be better off without but were stuck with them so we better learn to live with it” characters. Some of them only existing for one issue, others despite their complete nuttiness and/or annoying and/or pointlessness lasting for decades. These characters run the gamut from good guys to bad guys to sidekicks to henchmen and even just supporting characters (such as Steve Lombard of DC Comics’ Daily Planet in Superman comics). Some of these characters were just also not as awesome as others, so because of one thing or another they’ve been less highlighted and become lesser known then their counterparts.

In the second volume of a series from Quirk Books by Jon Morris, titled The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains, the author highlights many of these characters on the “evil” side of the board from the Golden Age to today’s comics including Image and Dark Horse. As the introduction suggests, much like in the first volume, these characters are less regrettable then they are possibly forgettable or more unpopular. Per that a slightly more well known Marvel villain Batroc the Leaper is featured in the The Silver Age section of the book. He of maybe anyone in the book seems almost out of place as he’s been featured in a variety of cartoons, had a toy and was even portrayed by one of the few household names in MMA, Georges St. Pierre in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Despite this, the profiles in The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains, are entertaining, at times informative and a wonderful collection focusing on characters what else-wise get the short shaft.

The true highlight of the book is the Golden Age section as if delves deep beyond Marvel and DC to many of the strange and varied companies of the time that published what are now obscure buried treasures in the regrettable factor is that it is regrettable they are not more easily accessible for readers of all pockets and locales. The Golden age has had a fair share of new collections, notably The Green Llama by Dark Horse and the work of Fletcher Hanks (whose character Lepus is featured on the cover of Legion) from Fantagraphics and most recently Craig Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes, a great companion to The Legion of Regrettable Super Villians , in which the originals are remastered, but a lot of the titles featured in Jon Morris’ books have not had that privilege. Therefore the pages and profiles he provides to a far gone past of crazy creation is most welcome as many of these comics would costs 1000s to own because of rarity of existence in this day and ageTo promote the book, Jon has also drawn illios of the first of  the book’s profiles (these excellent illustrations unfortunately are not in the book itself).  One of the editors at Quirk, Rick Chilot has done some as well for marketing. Here are three that I liked (but I like all of them).  Go to @calamityjon and @rickchillot on Twitter for more.

from the anthropomorphic version of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel AKA Shazam titled Hoppy, The Marvel Bunny. Created by Chad Grothkopf, a quality artist of the 30-40’s who also worked on DC Comics

a true golden age classic the book provides pages from the unsung Prize Comics this character was in. the book credits Paul Norris and Dick Sprang, major players in DC’s Golden Age as the creators.

Not to be confused with Batman, he appeared in Police Comics-the home of Jack Cole’s Plastic Man. A creation of what could be also a regrettable creator George Brenner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains by Jon Morris will be available wherever you like to buy books on March 28, 2017 from Quirk Books.  You will regret it if you don’t pick it up for yourself to devour, learn, discover, rediscover, laugh and maybe even cry over these amazing characters of yesteryear and today who coulda been contenders but barely even made it to the ring.

(this review was written from an advance copy of the finished product)

National Pro Wrestling Day 2017-The Young Lions Cup (Giving Back Through Wrestling)

On February 4th, the fun filled lucha-libre party known as CHIKARA, a performance based all ages wrestling company shall present National Pro Wrestling Day 2017. It is done as a yearly event since 2013 as a fundraiser as well as a place for fans old and new to discover and appreciate the company.

My first NPWD was 2014 when during the time CHIKARA was embroiled in a storyline in which it had been closed down and was fighting for its return. It was an exciting event and it pulled me into CHIKARA more then I ever was, although I was pretty pulled in at that point. I unfortunately have not made it to a NPWD since but have been to a share of CHIKARA events.

Thus year I change that as I head to the Wrestle Factory to experience an event headlined by the Young Lions Cup. The Young Lions Cup is a tournament held during the early years of CHIKARA which featured the debuts of talent from elsewhere and the graduates of the wrestle factory school of CHIKARA taking on some more established but still relatively young CHIKARA talent.

National Pro Wrestling also features other matches and in many ways is the unofficial start of a CHIKARA season. On top of that and most importantly in many ways while the show itself is free it is a Charity Fundraiser and Awareness event. Each year something very special is chosen, and this year is no different.

The best way to explain the The Superkick Foundation is to directly take from their mission statement:

The Superkick Foundation is not your average non-for-profit charity. We are comprised of young people who have a genuine desire to make a difference in the country and in the world, with no mixed messages on hidden agendas. Massive wrestling fans primarily based out of New York City, we intend to serve a variety of different individuals in the most beneficial ways. Regardless what mainstream outlets view professional wrestling, we recognize that these remarkable athletes, regardless of skill, put their bodies on the line every time they step through those ropes. It is a high-risk job, all for the entertainment of the fans, with insufficient reward. Through our work, we want to thank these performers for doing what they do for us. As young humanists, we also serve people in genuine need. With donations from professional wrestling fans and other outlets, we intend to serve homeless and low-income men, women, children, and veterans, with useful merchandise such as clothing, toys, or other useful materials. We hope that by that providing these new, clean, and unique items, we will instill a sense of confidence in these needy people: not only assuring them that there are people who care, but perhaps influence them to better their lives. We will run events, fundraisers, midnight runs, and random drop-offs to achieve our mission. For professional wrestlers, we hope that they will benefit off of the items that we will purchase from them, but we also will assist them with medical bills, insurance costs, or costs to help them make it by in a groundbreaking financial assistance program for these wrestlers. This foundation believes that athletes who work in such a high-risk occupation should not be struggling, financially, in any kind of manner. Additionally, we wish to provide young people with good and honest jobs, to aid them in their futures and to help us carry out our goal. We pride ourselves on being a 100% fan-run organization, run by young, brilliant, and philanthropic individuals, and we will work tirelessly and with the fighting spirit of our beloved pro wrestlers to make a significant difference to the world we live in.

If you need to know more direct yourself here:

http://www.superkickfoundation.org/boardblog/still-have-questions

and for the official fundraising page for those not attending NPWD or who want to donate before or after I direct you here: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/national-pro-wrestling-day-2017

This years batch of talent for the Young Lions Cup are particularly exciting to me… much more so then last year’s event. In no particular order here they are and some personal thoughts from me.

Sylverhawk & Razerhawk: These two are brand new Chikara talent making their in-ring debuts at NPWD but they quickly have come favorite of mine. They are two of a trip with Nytehawk and together collectively known as Cyberhawx 2000. They are a combined parody of Silver Hawks, M.A.S.K., Power Rangers and professional wrestling’s Tekno Team 2000. They seem to be stuck in the late 90’s/early aughts with their tweets, blogs and even style of promo and I love all of it. I even did fan art really early on.

Emperador Azteca: Chikara has him being as representing AULL, but I have to still assume this the Emperador who hails mostly out of IWRG and last year was in a match with Chikara’s long time stars Ophidian & Silver Ant. In that match which is online he does a crazy dive. I’m personally more impressed with the monkey and feel it’s a missed opportunity to have monkeys fighting, but hoping this young man impresses.

Space Monkey: Speaking of Monkeys. This “Canadian” Astronaut who has been to the stars and back is a seriously awesome worker. His gimmick is wonderful and he’s super fun on promos with all his eeps. I’ve had the pleasure and luck of seeing Space Monkey perform in a couple matches the rare occasion I’ve chosen to go to a show in NYC.

Ashley Vox & Delmi Exo: These two sisters have come a long way. One of them is basically a mermaid, the other a space princess, or something like that. It’s cool, trust me, together they’re Team Seastars. Constantly improving their ring style, adding some serious fun to their promos. They’ve been part of CHIKARA for awhile and we both in last year’s Young Lions Cup. They’re still early in their career to be part of this. Also if they bring their manager Jawsolyn this time I’m sure fans will go crazy.

Travis Huckabee: The young referee of CHIKARA who made many mistakes and was known as No Last name Necessary, finally has that last name. He’s graduated from wrestling training and ready to hit the ring running. Travis is a good kid and someone to definitely look out for in this contest. He has lots of support from the fans, fellow wrestlers and also needs to watch his back for a few enemies out for him as well. I see a bright little future for the young fighter, but only time will tell if his dream will not become a nightmare.

Cornelius Crummels & Sonny Defarge: These two rapscallions whose gimmick was inspired by the works of Charles Dickens. Taken their names directly from the works of the writer (Nicholas Nickelby & A Tale of Two Cities) and furthermore being scrupulously unscrupulous businessmen who tend to always be unwashed and slightly sickly. They’re also two of the most talented Wrestle Factory who I think we’ve only seen the tip of skillset yet. They’ve been working for the last year or so, but seeing them in this environment as singles should be interesting.

Everett Connors: I don’t know much about this young and upcoming St. Louis mainstay, but he’s been proving himself in the midwest. He has a relationship with CHIKARA favorites and some could say St. Louis’ favorite son The Submission Squad. This alone could definitely work in his favor.

Cajun Crawdaddy & The Hermit Crab: The Crustaceans have been super fun, super strange, and super dangerous since popping up. Crabs pincers scare me, they scare everyone. I mean he’s a crab. Crawdaddy isn’t so not scary himself, he’s too salty. Hermit Crab like Sea Stars has experience in singles and the YLC, while this I think will be the first Crawdaddy gets to work by himself since returning from a long injury.

Travis “Flip” Gordon: One of the most gifted athletes in this tournament and despite his short experience one of the better known next to Space Monkey. In a career spanning less then 2 years his skills and body mastery has landed him matches at CZW, Limitless, Maryland Championship, Beyond and even EVOLVE. It’s a big deal to get him to CHIKARA and just as big a deal for him to come to CHIKARA. He’ll be one to watch… mostly cause he’s so fast you just don’t want to miss it.

Steven Mainz: This young Canadian comes out training from the International Wrestling Syndicate Dojo. He’s gone toe to toe with a few bruisers including TDT, a team who came through CHIKARA in 2016 and had two of Match of the Year contenders. He’s also worked in NCW, stomping grounds to CHIKARA alumni 3.0… so the kid comes to the tournament with a pedigree.

There is currently at the writing of this two unnamed slots in the YLC. One had previously been announced but circumstances have changed beyond the control of CHIKARA. This unforeseen circumstance allows for mystery and possibly great excitement as it can be anyone. Other outside talent, other wrestle factory graduates seeking their opportunity.

The show on top of the tournament features two one on one contests.  Dasher Hatfield, a character with lots of history who currently is an old time baseball player but may be debuting a new gimmick per his twitter will be facing the man known as Juan Francisco de Coronando, an Ecuadoran aristocrat who takes 5 minutes just to get to the ring.   In a first time ever encounter, a former fake ant who is also a former military grunt and now brute force competitor Missile Assault Man will meet with Race Jaxon, the high flying half of the tag team know as N_R_G.  In recent times Race has shown a more arrogant, aggressive side so this could be boilburner.

On top of those is a tag team bout featuring The Closers, a team large, strong, imposing men.  One who this writer has had the pleasure of training with during his short time of trying a career in professional wrestling taking on CHIKARA’s own cop Warren Barksdale (who competed in last year’s YLC) and his debuting tag team partner Meloni, collectively known as The Force.  There is also a trios match of major proprtions for long time CHIKARA fans as the group known as The Colony (a group of ants) take on the now named Legion of Rot, a pairing of Hallowicked (a pumpkinheaded monster), Frightmare (a living ball of energy) and Kobald (a goblin) who were last together by hypnosis, but now by choice.  What is their mission now without a leader?

Finally, as current importance on a huge card such as this Ultra Mantis Black, the center of many seasons of CHIKARA shall address the crowd to reveal his next step.  Mantis on top of being a wrestler is also an activist and lead in a hardcore band.  His speeches are events unto themselves.

You don’t want to miss it.

Here’s your pertinent links:

http://nationalprowrestlingday.com/
http://chikarapro.com/events/upcoming/02-04-2017_national-pro-wrestling-day-2017

Deaths in Pop-Culture- Jan 2017

2016 was such a hard hitting year of notable actors, authors, musicians, politicians and more that the deaths of 2017 will possibly seem so much less.  Especially in the turmoil of everything happening and when we want to look up the upside of all the fun, exciting good things to come.  Yet, so far alone in the first 25 days of this year we’ve had a share of passings that most of all pop-culture around the world would feel and some in lesser circles but still notable.

In no particular order here are some of them with minor to major details.

Alfonso Wong – A Hong Kong artist born in mainland China, became famous in Asia for the creation Old Master Q.  While not widely known elsewhere it has been translated into English and his work known by fans and inspired creators worldwide.  The BBC did a wonderful covering on his career upon his passing.

Tony Rosato – Comedic Canadian actor who was on SCTV as well as SNL regular for Season 7.  He was also a noted voice actor best known for his role as Luigi in Super Mario cartoons.  He also sadly did a two year stint in prison instead of being given mental health he desperately needed for committing a minor charge of “harassment” against his own wife and slipping through Justice’s cracks

Lynn Phillips – A television writer and journalist.

Babette Cole – British Children’s Author and Artist.

Bill Marshall – Canadian Producer, helped found the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as well other Canadian film and television mainstays

Phillip Bond – British actor with appearances in Doctor Who (The First), The Avengers, and The Onedin Line

Gorden Kaye – Star of ‘Allo, ‘Allo

Manlio Rocchetti – Italian make-up artist who received the Academy and Emmy award for his work.

Timothy Alan Smith – Professional wrestler who worked under the names Rex King and in the WWE as Timothy Well, 1/2 of the tag team Well Dunn.  (His partner Steve Doll, known as Steve Dunn, passed away in ’09)

Francine York – Beautiful character actress of television and film, notably in Jerry Lewis films.

 Lamar Dupré Calhoun – Rap producer for the group WC and The Madd Circle under the name Crazy Toones.

Buddy Greco –  Recording artist of all genres.  A contemporary of Sinatra and Presley, but never as famous as either.

Pascal Garry – Belgian cartoonist, took over from Peyo on The Smurfs after a two year apprenticeship in Peyo’s studio .

Jimmy Snuka – Fijian professional wrestler known as “Supafly”.  Also a murder suspect and known criminal, passed away without indictment on a reopended trial after being declared mentally unfit.

William Margold – prolific porn actor and director

Butch Trunks – One of the two drummers in The Allman Brothers craziness.

Miguel Ferrer – American actor of film and television including cartoon voice over work.  Major notable roles in Robocop, DC cartoons, Twin Peaks and his final role as Granger, the much loved boss on NCIS: Los Angeles.

Dick Gautier – American actor and voice over actor best known for his work on G.I. Joe and Transformers.

William Peter Blatty – American novelist, screenwriter and director.  Most famous for The Exorcist.  I personally loved John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!

John Watkiss – British Comics and storyboard artist.  Worked for DC Comics, as well as a multitude of movie studios including Disney.  Was working on Surgeon X from Image till his passing.

Harry J. Middleton – best known as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s right hand man.

Yanni Alexis Mardas aka Magic Alex – a guy who somehow convinced The Beatles to let him be part of their entourage and spend lots of Apple Studios money, yet never contributing anything successful other then being that guy who tricked the Beatles.

Shigeru Kōyama – Japanese actor who appeared in many films and television including a Zaotichi, a Godzilla and Ridley’s Scott’s Black Rain.

And as I wrote this entry Mary Tyler Moore, world beloved actress of stage, film and small screen passed away after a long illness.  For many she will be considered the first important death of this year, but I feel all these are as are any I might’ve missed.

In a world of pop-culture with music, television, comics, wrestling, video games, movies and more… there are important figures from agents, to publicists who shall pass.  They all made their mark and all were important so sometimes we must find time to acknowledge them.

 

2017: A Look Ahead

2016 is near its end or it’s over based on when you read this. It was a rough year in many respects, but it gave us a ton of excellent pop-culture. 2017 as of now promises to do the same. There’s SO much to look forward to. To list it ALL would take forever so I thought I’d just focus on a few things here and there.

NETFLIX is hitting hard with a multitude of shows debuting or returning. Amongst them:
Degrassi: Next Class Season 3 – Available January 6, 2017.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1 – Available Jan. 13
Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1 – Available Feb. 3
Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 1 – Available March 17
Sense8: Season 2 – Available May 17
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later- Date TBA

In terms of Network television I can highly recommend the 12th and final season of BONES on FOX premiering Jan 3rd. I’ve seen the first three episodes and they are very hard to comment on without spoilers, but plot twists, reveals, robots and one of the greatest actors of any generation Hal Holbrook are involved.

The reimaginging of the L. Frank Baum saga by Matthew Arnold finally happens with David Schulner (creator of Do No Harm) and so far poorly reviewed but keeps getting work Tarsem Singh at the helm. If anything NBC’s Emerald City looks like it’ll be definite event TV or fail drastically and get cancelled before all 10 episodes even air. One or the other should be fascinating to watch.

legobatman

In terms of films I’d have to say LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is high on my anticipated list. Sure it’s not by the actual writer/directors of Lego Movie (they’re busy making Lego Movie 2) but it has a good pedigree and every teaser and trailer has me excited.

I’m also intrigued by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. For his first follow-up to Instellar to be a WWII flick is fascinating. It’s also his first SOLO project since Inception as brother Jonathan was busy creating and developing the excellent Westworld. Equally fascinating is the amount of work put into this film. It’s not a remake of the late 60’s film, so it’ll truly interesting to see what stories Nolan chose to build upon to coney emotion, gravitas, and character even when the lead character is still the operation and Dunkirk itself (the film was actually filmed there).

Also pulled in by the adaptation of Dave Egger’s The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. James Pontsold makes visually enticing, perfectly paced films and chose the easiest and simplest yet not simple Eggers novels to turn into a film.

There’s a ton of amazing video games coming 2017 too but this site is still without an XBoxOne or PS4 so the focus is on PC games but those that will not require a $5000 rig to run.

First up on the excitement board is Full Throttle Remastered the next rebuild of the classic Lucasart’s games designed by Tim Schaeffer which Double Fine was able to get the IP rights back for. I’m really curious to see how they update some of the worse parts of the game like the combat and the maze puzzles. I’m not completely sold on the art actually but I’ve been happy with DF so far, so I’m in.

Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier (First Chapter out, but the rest hits 2017) is awesome. I already reviewed it and I’m excited for the rest.

thimbleweedAlso excited for platform point & clicker A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.
Third person action adventure co-op player TROLL AND I.
2-D Shooter with old school animation CUPHEAD.

and most especially, Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox and teams’ THIMBLEWEED PARK, the pixel point & click dream of a game I think many thought Broken Age would be. I loved Broken Age, always will, but Thimbleweed Park is looking bigger and better then I ever imagined it could be. I didn’t get to back when I wanted to, but I wouldn’t been able to back what I wanted anyways. This is probably number one on my experiences for 2017 I look forward to.

There’s a share of BOOKS coming out as well.

First up two genius female writers tackling heroes from Marvel and DC.

Shannon Hale (with Dean Hale) does The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Meets World and Gwenda Bond comes forth with a third in her awesome Lois Lane series with Tripleflaminglips Threat.

There’s a really cool STEVEN UNIVERSE ORIGINAL GN coming out called TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL by the show’s co-creator Ian Jones-Quarterly, Jeremy Sorese, Asiey Barbie and Josceline Fenton

Michael Crichton’s never before published posthumous novel DRAGON TEETH comes out May 23rd. It’s a Western during western times but about dinosaurs!

Neil Gaiman ventures into both old and new territory retelling the tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and more in NORSE MYTHOLOGY scheduled for February 17.

George Saunders first ever complete novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO comes out February 14In music I’m mainly excited for one album.

The new The Flaming Lips titled Oczy Mlody. AFAIK I believe I’m seeing them live in March as well so that makes 2017 awesome.

Carrie Fisher

81uorsyucvlIf you’ve never read The Best Awful, the amazing insane crazy follow-up to Postcards from the Edge you’ve truly missed out. Carrie’s usage of her real life to create a heart breaking, brutal, visual brilliant word play was IMHO her tour de force. While her multiple memoirs are just as breathtaking as well as her one person show, her ability as a novelist while “NYT Best Selling” needs to be more acknowledged. She came from a crazy childhood, led a crazy life and in spectacular fashion she had what could be considered a crazy death. Died like she lived… A Princess Warrior and General of the Resistance.

A New Frontier is still full of Pain & Walkers

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When you go into anything associated with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead you know to expect dread, pain, and situations in which you feel that everyone was in a “screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t, so may as well just screw it” place in their thought patterns. From the comics, to every season of the AMC series, and through Telltale’s now 4th game its an inescapable feeling. You go in with the intention that you’re about to have your heart strings pulled, that people you like or even love quickly might die, with that gripping of wanting to turn away and leave because you can, unlike the characters stuck in the universe of the walkers, factions and a falling down society. Yet you don’t, you venture forth, with each death, with each kill, your eyes and/or ears stay affixed.

In the case of The Walking Dead from Telltale Games it becomes even more painful. You are at times deciding who lives and who dies, you are struggling with the difficult decision of who to trust, of what is the right plan of attack. Just as in the earlier versions of the game, it never feels like you are making a small choice either. While some things will happen no matter what you decide, just as Season 1 and Season 2, A New Frontier presents you with choices that will definitely make you wonder “what if?”.

For my first playthrough in terms of writing up the game and presenting it to you I chose to come in as if I knew nothing. It might be hard to actually say how effective this was since I’ve got that tight connection to Clementine from being a previous player, but I really feel the writers did their best in allowing someone to come into A New Frontier completely blind, new to this world of The Walking Dead, pulled in by the shows recent resurgence of popularity.

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The Telltale series has really been an interesting ride. I’ve written about TWD Season 1 but never got to tackle Season 2 as much as I should have and since it’s creation, the company has since explored the shows popular character Michonne, delved and reimagined Batman, made an original story based on Minecraft and next year tackle Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

It found it actually fascinating in Season 1 that you played a character with a slighty scewed moral code, only for season 2 to toss you into playing the girl who went through hell and back in season 1 only for her to go back to hell and maybe stay there but keep surviving. With season 3 here we are leaping into another character with an interesting backstory that gets established but not completely covered by the end of episode 2. We get a new layer to the girl we’ve been living with Season one, or if you are new to the series a character you quickly find intriguing simply because Clementine is a truly intriguing character. The flash back sequences flesh out the new character you control in Javier, and then flesh out his new “partner in crime” in flashbacks. It might be jolting for new players to be thrusted so quickly into a new character after starting with Javier like this, but it’s done so well it can be forgiven.

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What can’t be forgiven, but I also let it slide is that at times with QTEs (and yes, the game is full of QTEs) I had to switch back and forth between controller & mouse/keyboard because of the response time. You can and will die in this game and unfortunately sometimes the checkpoint between when you died is just a tad long in the tooth. It was actually in two particular instances (one in Episode 1, another in Episode 2) where I found myself getting a little frustrated by game mecahnics. Yet, at the same time without these, it wouldn’t be a game, it’d just be a choose your adventure which is something some players have complained about in the past. The delicate balance Telltale works on to create interactive story versus actual game are actually intriguing.

Another small nitpick is that my gear can handle TWD at the highest graphics with ease, while Batman still has to run at the lowest possible.  Are we not sharing engine fixes at Telltale between teams?

What can’t be denied (at least for this player/viewer) is the emotional investment quickly gained which caused screams of NO, AH, and even AWWW at times. And at the end of Episode 2, you don’t have a “Wait, WHAT?” moment, you are a strange non existing being and must be expelled with a crowbar to the head like the little walker you are.

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode One: ‘Ties That Bind’ Part I & Episode Two: ‘Ties That Bind’ Part II are now available for download.

These first two of five episodes in The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier are available starting today on PC from the Telltale Online Store  or Steam ,

You can also get it on the Xbox Games Store for Xbox One®  and on the PlayStation®Network for PlayStation 4.

(this review was written from a pre-release copy offered gratis from Telltale)

2016: The Year That Was (Making The Best of a Bad Thing)

2016 isn’t over but it will be soon. It’s been a really rough year for many folks, for pop-culture, for the world as a whole. Yet, many of us still stand and we can’t just stop. We must keep going. On that fact I want to reflect on the good things that happened in 2016. For myself, for my friends, for pop-culture, so I’ll do my best. In terms of movies, TV and music I’ll only mention those that were at least from my view less mixed and truly favorable opinions of what was delivered and even if some mixed what I felt were a really nice thing to make 2017 look happy and smiley. These are incomplete lists, not definitive and just trying to capture some of the good in such a bad year. This also was an incredible year for professional wrestling. From debuts, to folks making it to a bigger show, to smaller shows becoming bigger, it truly was way too many grand things to truly list.

MOVIES (this list should probably be longer, but I’m way too critical and also have not seen many of the films being given FYCs for Awards)
Zootopia
Deadpool
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Kubo and the Two Strings
Hardcore Henry
The Jungle Book
Zoolander 2
Captain America: Civil War
Keanu
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass
The Secret Life of Pets
Nerdland
La La Land

TELEVISION (both Network, Cable, and Internet)
Mr. Robot Season 2
Gravity Falls – “Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls”
Regular Show in Space
Grease Live
The Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Trial
Westworld
Suits
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Elementary
The DCTV CW Crossover (and all of Supergirl, Flash, Legends… only some of Arrow)
Luke Cage
Shut Eye
Fuller House
Preacher
Blindspot
Gotham
Timeless
Lucha Underground
Devs Play by Double Fine X 2 Player Productions
The Venture Bros.
Braindead
Planet Earth II
Dreamcorp. LLC
Royal Pains final season
Steven Universe
Blunt Talk
Girl Meets World
Degrassi: Next Class

MUSIC (This is way more a personal thing)
Green Day – Revolution Radio
Good Charlotte – Youth Authority
Sixx A.M. – Prayers For The Damned and Prayers for the Blessed
Lady Gaga – Joanne
Panic at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
Miike Snow – iii
Sia – This Is Acting
Animal Collective – Painting with
Cheap Trick – Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello
Pet Shop Boys – Super
Travis – Everything At Once
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
Sabrina Carpenter – EVOLution
Waterparks – Double Dare
David Bowie- Blackstar
DNCE

VIDEO GAMES (again this is personal and to stuff I played & loved and stuff I wish I gto play but didn’t have the console of required PC power)
Oxenfree
Not A Hero
Uncharted 4
Firewatch
Amateur Surgeon 4
Batman – The Telltale Series
Slayaway Camp
Dots and Co.
Watch Dogs 2
Day of the Tentacle Remastered
Samorost 3
Quantum Break
The Final Station
Dishonored 2
Headlander
Kathy Rain
The Witness
Small Radios Big Televisions
Mother Russia Bleeds
The Banner Saga 2
Quadrilateral Cowboy
This is the Police
No Man’s Sky
Burrito Bison: Launcha Libre
Obduction
Mafia III
Let it Die
The Last Guardian
The Walking Dead – The Telltale Series: Season Three
INSIDE
Yakuza 6

COMICS (this is personal as because of limited funds and the higher cost of comics while pay checks stay the same I don’t get to read as much as I like these days and hence do not get Previews to explore independents more then I’d like)
West Coast Avengers
Howard the Duck
Future Quest, Wacky Raceland, The Flintstones, and even Scooby Apocalypse (the HB reboots)
Sugar & Spike-Metahuman Investigator from Legends of Tomorrow
The Adventures of Miru
The Twilight Children (Darwyn Cooke’s final published to date interior art work)
CAGE by Genndy Tartovsky & Stephen DeStefano
Superfuckers Forever by James Kochalka
The Red Hook by Dean Haspiel

and here’s a few PERSONAL highlights for the author of this (me)
Kaiju Big Battel with Liza followed by FTW Wrestling where I hung with the workers during. Saw Scotty Too Hotty do the worm.
Day out at mall in CT with mom, Al’s and Al’s family.
Becki’s Moving Party.
Passover with mom, Al and Al’s family.
Mike and Lauren moving into a house.
Trip to Philly with Nick and Terri.
Best man at Nick and Terri’s wedding.
Guns n Roses: Once in a Lifetime with David S.
Tarin becoming a full fledged hairstylist.
Hanging out with Brad at my place and his place and other places.
Hanging out with David at his places, other people’s places, parties, events.
Robots Will Kill 15 Year Anniversary.
Ad Hoc 10th Anniversary party.

Here’s hoping 2017 will be better in the ways that 2016 was not and that in terms of pop-culture things will continue to be excellent.

Jervis Cottonbelly and The Hobo as Muppets

Jervis Cottonbelly and The Hobo are currently one of the top tag teams appearing on CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM HOLLYWOOD.  Collectively they are known as Friendship Express.  Both men have traveled as singles around the U.S. making a mark for the last 3-4 years in very colorful characters.  It is impossible to miss that the Hobo’s voice makes him a dead ringer for Rowlf the Dog (played famously by Jim Henson).  On that concept I saw for a long time trying to decide if Jervis was Fozzie, Kermit, or maybe even Gonzo.  It was the Rowlf and Fozzie performances that helped me cement the choice though.  It took me a long time to finally buckle down and take the concept from idea to drawing, but I did and Jervis and especially Hobo truly loved it and now I share it here on PCS.

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