Face Off: Thoughts on “The Joker: Death Of The Family”

Dammit, I tried.

I had me a long, honest discussion with myself. I said, “Well, Phil–doesn’t this look good? Haven’t you been intrigued by the New 52 and quite enjoyed Batman Incorporated?”

I said, “You’re right, voice. Also, I enjoy spooky. Spooky is good.”

So I picked this trade up (I read trades now–my premade explanation goes something like “I’m an adult”) and I took it home. It felt like a dishonest purchase because I had already been fairly unimpressed with the storyline behind The Joker’s (ahem) facial reimagining. But I figured, hell–just go with it. Sometimes the stalest cookie provides the most gratifying gas.

batgirl14What followed the next couple of days was a frustratingly uneven experience–like a broken electric blanket that leaves you warm and womb-like one minute and delivers painful bolts to your scrotum the next. As we passed from one book and author to another, there was a numbing yo-yo effect that somehow marred even the good authors assigned to it. Gail Simone’s take on Batgirl was, as always, nearly perfect. On the other hand, I went into the book unsure of whether or not Teen Titans would ever be worth reading, and came out the other side with an answer I won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t enjoyed a cocktail with me (hint: I do not like the Teen Titans and never will, apparently).

Hell, near the final few books, it felt like they were just re-telling the same storyline over and over again. Joker tricks our fearless hero, babbles about weakening the Bat while our fearless hero stares at him fearlessly from his or her fearless bonds. Usually he kills someone you love (who was probably introduced an issue or two before).

Oh, and he shows you a gore-spattered covered dish just in time for the POV to change. That’s apparently a very important part of his designs.

But when it’s good, it’s just so good. I’ve mentioned Simone, but John Layman, Peter Tomasi, and Scott Snyder are really solid writers, as well. But the brass they’re polishing is attached to a bloated, overthought, and underwhelming ship that may or may not require further Titanic metaphors in the future.

The faceless Joker is your girlfriend’s Jagermeister tramp stamp that she got on spring break. I mean, it looks okay now that she’s young and taut. But years later when you’re looking for a house and she’s asking you to pick her up a bottle of calcium tablets on the way home from work, it’s just going to look kind of confusing and out of place.

It’s a massive build up to a conclusion that leaves you anything but stirred. All of the Joker’s horror-filled escapades–they mean nothing in the end. All of his horrible threats are snatched away far too easily. There is no consequence, and in the end, no one has learned anything, no matter what the dreamy epilogue suggests. And no, before you ask: that isn’t the point.

So, oh well–ho hum. This could have been done so much better. If they wanted to shock us, couldn’t they have just gone with subtlety and detective work?

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Meet The New Boss: Thoughts on Civilization Revolution 2

Civilization has always been one of the most meaningful gaming experiences of my life, trailing back about as far as Sid Meiers decided that he wanted to peddle a more brightly colored version of electronic crack. It’s a smart, grandiose sort of experience for those of us who weren’t content to play a single hero on the ground floor–we were the egomaniacs who wanted to be gods.

For years, Civ has made and remade itself in various incarnations, with one of the more recent being the Civilization: Revolution iteration. With a simpler, more cartoony style than most of its predecessors, Revolution was released in 2008 for consoles, and later for mobile devices. It was a scaled-down, more streamlined experience, adapted with newcomers in mind, but nuanced enough to entertain even the most jaded of grognards. I’m of the opinion that Revolution was meant to be a colorful taste to get console gamers to dive into the more complex, sprawling hinterlands of Civilization IV and later Civilization V.

On July 2nd of this year, 2K Games released Civilization Revolution 2 for iOS, or, as I like to call it: Civilization Revolution 1 for everything else.  That’s not to suggest that it’s a bad game–far from it. But it’s essentially the Civilization Revolution that was too complex to be originally ported to mobile devices in the first place.  The first incarnation of CivRev was a vastly clunky and primitive experience compared to its console iterations, and that seems to be where this sequel has shined through.

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Your victory conditions are largely the same as the original, with a few new pieces thrown in. Goal challenges are a nice touch, with bonuses offered as an incentive to various conditions, i.e., research a certain technology by a certain time, or have a number of cities by a specific year. There are a couple of unlockable leaders and a few new technologies and wonders, but the real reason for Civilization Revolution 2 seems to be that it just flat-out doesn’t look as awful as Civilization Revolution originally looked as a mobile game.

It’s lush, gorgeous, and heavily engaging in all the ways the original CivRev for the iPad was not. Animations run smoothly, and the color-palette runs an interesting gamut that is one part cartoon and one part tabletop terrain. I’d argue that it’s actually prettier than my more-familiar Xbox 360 version.  But seasoned Civ players looking for more than the opportunity to play as Winston Churchill against a pretty backdrop (which admittedly is an amazing incentive) might find themselves disappointed. Multiplayer is conspicuously absent, and details such as unit selection aren’t always terribly obvious.

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That said, it’s pretty clear that CivRev 2 isn’t meant to replace or overthrow Civilization V (or IV, for that matter), but instead supplement and entice. Players unfamiliar with Sid Meiers’s Jabberwocky of a game could (and will) be drawn into a classic entry in the canon of strategy gaming. Old-hat civ players will have a scaled-down but still meaningful experience that they can take wherever they go.

Ultimately, what Civilization Revolution 2 represents isn’t a new crown upon the brow of the Civilization franchise itself, but an improvement on what tablet gaming can be. And if that means in the future we can be playing Civilization 5 on our iPads between sessions of Civilization 9 on our PC, it just might be worth it.

The Insanity of Superheroes: Thoughts On “X-Men: Days Of Future Past”

The earliest tapestry of comic book to film adaptations is filled with one misfire after another. Many nerd historians point toward the technical limitations of the time. But beyond the inability to make a properly stretchy Mr. Fantastic or a suitably terrifying (read: not silly-looking) Thanos lies the issue of creative limitations.  It goes without saying that what works in a comic book doesn’t always work in a film. The sprawling storylines combined with the pure nonsense of the superhero genre is enough to scare away anyone with only the faintest knowledge of the different between The Brood and The Skrulls.

For that reason, the superhero-mania that Hollywood is going through is littered with familiar faces that have been vastly simplified. From Spidey’s organic webshooters to “yellow spandex” snark from Cyclops, the ridiculous backgrounds of your favorite heroes has been cleaned up for the general viewing public. Which is for the best, really. I mean, think of the most elaborate storylines that have occurred in the most accessible comic books. They make Passions look like Fun With Dick And Jane.  And it can make for entertaining movies, even if you have to spend three and a half hours at a Denny’s explaining to your girlfriend why it’s such bullshit that Beast has blue fur before they even bothered to introduce Apocalypse.

And then comes X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

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More than any other comic-to-film adaptation, Days Of Future Past encapsulates a delicious mouthful of the batshit insanity of what goes on in your average comic book storyline. Alternate dimensions, time travel, secret Presidential mutants–it’s all there. And it’s actually accessible to your average moviegoer, which is damn impressive.

Based on the Chris Claremont X-Men storyline of the same name, Days Of Future Past follows Wolverine as he travels back in time to lead the younger versions of his fellow X-Men–including a burnt-out Charles Xavier who is now addicted to a mutant power-numbing serum that allows him to walk.  They must stop the shapeshifter Mystique from murdering Boliver Trask: the man responsible for the Sentinels and a future that sees mutants hunted down and imprisoned (or worse). Turns out, Mystique’s assassination of this 70’s Lannister causes humankind to agree that Mutants deserve a genocidal ass-whoopin': a fate that involves far more face-melting and head stomping than I personally anticipated.

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The plot is such an elaborate retcon for the sins of X-Men 3 and Origins: Wolverine that I’m amazed they didn’t call this entry X-Men: Mistakes Were Made. Prerequisite snark aside, I think that we can all agree that an attempt to polish the failures of previous X-Men films is an abundantly noble goal. And it actually succeeds with flying colors, with Bryan Singer using Simon Kinberg’s exciting script in order to lead two exceptional casts: that of the original X-Men trilogy, and that of the more recent X-Men: First Class.

And the cast is more than a little terrific. Nearly everyone reprises their roles–from parallel Magnetos through Michael Fassbender and Sir Ian McKellan, to Anna Paquin popping in briefly as Rogue (and somehow getting alarmingly high billing for her trouble). Peter Dinklage and Jennifer Lawrence bring all the skill and panache we’ve grown to expect from them, and no one delivers vague, tough-guy dialogue quite like Hugh Jackman. But the supporting character MVP absolutely goes to Evan Peters as Quicksilver. While his getup might look like a half-assed cosplay experiment, Peters is the most memorable part of this film. Seeing Quicksilver reimagined as an ADD-riddled teenager with sticky fingers leaves a massive smile on one’s face, and leads to one of the best demonstrations in recent memory of how a mutant’s powers work. He is so overpowered, in fact, that the entire movie could have ended in fifteen minutes if Professor X hadn’t needed someone to drop his stupid rental car off (I am being absolutely serious about this).

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The drama of X-Men: Days Of Future Past does occasionally feel a tad disproportionate. Kinberg’s plothole-filled understanding of time travel, for example, is far more believable than James McEvoy’s heroin-addict style needle fumbling. I understand that a major part of Wolverine’s mission was to get the young Xavier off the happy-feet sauce, but that detail is glossed over enough to be nearly pointless. Seriously: Charles Xavier kicks his habit faster than a queer teenager in a “pray the gay away” demonstration video. And in a movie about time travel, superheroes, and giant robots, substance abuse really shouldn’t be such a distraction. It’s also true that the exposition of the storyline is repeated so often that I found my eyes rolling in my skull like a plastic clock shaped like a cat.

Pictured: Conquistaclock.
Pictured: Conquistaclock.

Granted, this redundancy may have been more for the sake of the audience that is more used to X-Men as a straightforward beat-em-up, which I suppose is forgivable if it means inducting more Muggles into the undiluted insanity of comic books. And it’s not like it kept us from some amazing battle scenes. The future battles between the X-Men and the Sentinels are absolutely amazing, with an awesome display of different powers: from the laser-rifle badassery of Bishop (who is criminally underused) to the Portal-esque bouncyhouse physics of Blink. Basically, everyone getting a chance to show off just how foot-stompingly cool they are–just in time to get torn to pieces by the Sentinels. Sincerely: some of the mutant deaths at the hands of the Sentinels are just as hard to watch as they are cruelly inventive.

There is no doubt in my mind that X-Men: Days Of Future Past is one of the best X-Men movies ever made–if not the best. It’s possible that this is due to its loyalty to the source material–one might even call it the movie’s “comic purity”. But largely I believe that the true culprit here is the same thing that made the original X-Men comic books such a success: their longevity. Over time, we grow to know these characters–we love them and empathize with them. And when that’s possible, it’s easiest to figuratively dig the knife in by using a robot to literally tear their heads off. What can I say? It make for sublime popcorn fare.

Safe In Lemuria: Thoughts On “Child Of Light”

Few things can excite me more than an RPG with the promise of rich narrative. If that statement sounds redundant, I understand. The MVP of game styles when it comes to story and character has always effortlessly belonged to the roleplaying game. But in this day and age, nearly all games have experience points, advancement systems, and character classes–whether they can be rightly classified as RPGs or not. For better or for worse, the genre of RPG has become more and more hazy as time has gone on. So I always feel a genuine thrill of excitement when another “pure” RPG takes the spotlight.

So you can imagine my anticipation when I first read about Child of Light.

Child of Light is the story of a small girl named Aurora. Thrust into the strange and sometimes frightening world of Lemuria, she must find her way back to her home in Austria. It’s an Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland tale with a Germanic fairy-tale twist that is just as charming as it is moving.

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The first thing you’ll notice in Child of Light is the gorgeous art direction. The watercolor characters and scenery seem to float onscreen, complemented by a delicate, yet sweeping musical score. More than just about any game this year, Child of Light proves itself to be a true work of art. The characters are unique and creative, but they’re nothing compared to the epic grandiosity that is Lemuria. The gorgeous landscape makes for some of the most fun I’ve had exploring a digital world since Skyrim. It’s compact but wildly varied, with dozens of hidden places for you to discover. In this fairy-tale land you’ll meet trolls and wizards and fairy queens–birds that talk, and fish that sing.

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“Now wait just a goddamn minute…”

It’s this aesthetic and overall mood that almost feels like Child of Light is picking up where games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons left off. It’s a feeling of melancholic wonder–laughter through tears. And if it feels like I’m referencing that particular game quite a bit lately, it’s only because 505 Games knows exactly where to deliver the whimsy knife–and I think they left their mark on a lot of games. Though where Brothers went with mute characters, Child of Light opts for rhyming verse–really well written rhyming verse, at that. Initially it feels like this is a gimmick that is going to get old really fast (see the Shakespeare’s Star Wars books for example), but they don’t overdo it. When dialogue is used (and it isn’t sparse, by any means), it feels necessary and carefully thought out and crafted. The result is a cast of characters that you feel a real kinship to, even in the space of a ten hour game.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Child of Light doesn’t do very much that one could call unique, but it doesn’t do anything wrong, either. The turn-based combat system should be familiar to any gamer with a pulse, though its interruption system offers up enough challenge to keep you engaged. The opportunity that the enemy has to endlessly stop a player from attacking makes for a frustrating game when said player is attempting to just dial it in.

The use of gemstones called “oculi” to power and buff one’s abilities is a simple touch that allows for enough customization without resorting to the massive arsenal you would see in a larger RPG. This is a particularly nice counterpart to the sprawling skill trees that Aurora and her companions each have. As lengthy as they tend to be, they’re far from inaccessible, as you’ll find yourself leveling up after every other combat scenario.

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You control both Aurora and her firefly friend Igniculus, which makes for interesting player choices. Do you use his ability to blind enemies while Aurora winds up for another slash of her sword? Or do you hover him over one of your characters for some slow but steady healing? The use of Igniculus makes for a unique experience, though only being able to fight with two characters at a time made me feel as if I was missing out, particularly with such a short game.

And as gorgeous as the scenery is, I felt that not including a more localized map was a mistake on Ubisoft’s part. There were more than a few places that I wish I could have returned to quickly and easily, but found that I had to wander around a fair amount before I remembered where exactly they were. And while this is actually a testament to how unique and varied the different landscapes of Child of Light are, it still added an annoying burr to an otherwise wonderful experience.

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“‘Turn left at the face in the road’? Well what the hell does that… Oh.”

The other gym sock filled with angry bees that comes from this game has less to do with the gameplay and more to do with the publisher’s choice to accompany Child of Light with release day DLC. And while this is a subject that has been tackled by many critics in this profit-centered era of gaming, I feel that it’s important to point out that Child of Light is already a short enough adventure without having the nerve to request more money right off the bat. On the other hand, one could argue that one only has to shell out $20 to get the full game with DLC, and that’s not too much to ask. And while that’s a fair point, I would have been happier to just pay $20 to play every bit of the game all at once.

Minor annoyances cannot, however, hide the fact that this is an amazing experience. Child of Light is about how we deal with tragedy. It encourages us not to accept the sadness passively, but to strike out against the darkness with everything we have within us. It’s a meaningful, complex game wrapped in a rudimentary veneer.

With a visual aesthetic that matches its simple and beautiful story, Child of Light is the sort of game that makes me hopeful. I honestly feel that there is a level of wonder missing from the majority of our games. And you don’t have to put on a pair of wings and sprinkle fairy dust on everything to achieve it. But the simple, honest feeling that you get from games like this can really change things for future projects–particularly when it comes from a AAA studio like Ubisoft.

Child of Light is the latest entry in that delicate genre of sad, bleary-eyed whimsy that has been so ever-present in indie games this decade, and I was thrilled to play it. Dreamy and heavily atmospheric, it is some of the most fun I’ve had playing a game this year.

Child of Light was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, and is available for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U, and PC. It will be released for the PS Vita in July.

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Computer Savings Time: “How To Survive”

After a brief vacation-style foray into the worlds of stand-up comedy, nerd cons, and recreational unconsciousness, The Conquistadork has returned! And I’ve returned with a new style of article that I like to call “Computer Savings Time”.  Inspired by a PVP strip by Scott Kurtz about the effects that aging and marriage has on a gamer’s availability for play, “Computer Savings Time” will be about games that have been available for a little while, but I’ve only just gotten around to playing and thinking about.

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And the strip it’s based on is 14 years old, so even the inspiration is appropriately dusty.

I’m not married, but the theory remains the same: I’m old, I have a full time career outside of this blog, and sometimes it takes me a while to try out new and exciting game candies.

So get off my back, you abusive children of mine!

Today’s game isn’t even all that old, having been released in the fall of 2013.  And trust me–they’re going to get a lot older than that. So let’s begin:

How To Survive is a 3rd person action-adventure/survival horror game published by 505 Games, the fine folks behind the very amazing and wonderful Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons (one of my favorite games of 2013). In it, you play one of three survivors who find themselves on one of a small cluster of tiny, zombie-infested islands. Your reason for being there is unclear, but you don’t have time to ponder that: your mission is to collect supplies, craft gear, and escape hordes of the undead with your meaty parts intact.  With the help of the mysterious Kovac and his bizarre book, How To Survive will have you creating elaborate homemade weaponry, repairing boats, and stuffing dead tabbies.

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*What* you stuff the tabbies with is really your business.

It’s a simple game with a morbid sense of humor, and its setting and crafting system immediately brought to mind Dead Island. And while it’s fairly short and far less elaborate, I actually found myself preferring How To Survive to its first-person-slasher cousin. Its thirst, hunger, and sleep meters really made you feel as if you were fighting not only the undead, but your very nature. Your speed is betrayed by exhaustion–your accuracy degraded by thirst. You hunt and gather to survive, all while tearing your way through zombies, infected stags, and horrible abominations. It’s an intense experience, and actually pretty satisfying.

That’s not to suggest that it’s without flaws. My biggest gripe with How To Survive has to be the controls. Available for PC, Playstation, Xbox, and Wii U, I chose the console route, so I can’t tell you if using a keyboard and mouse makes it any better. But I found that some of the button choices defy logic.  Why, for example, is my attack button the right bumper? Doesn’t it make sense to equip my trigger finger with an actual trigger? Instead, the right trigger corresponds to the dash command, which can really screw up carefully laid plans. Caution is highly advised in this game world, so you can understand my frustration when I place a bead on a zombie, take careful aim, and then run headlong into it (I presume I would be clanging an actual dinner bell if I could fashion one out of twine and vulcanized rubber).

This and other perilous control choices (left joystick to move, right joystick to aim) give combat a pretty hefty learning curve. However, as you progress and gain experience, you get the hang of it, and even learn to appreciate the challenge. One of the first items I was taught to craft was a bow and arrow, which I assumed I would never use. Hours later, I was sniping zombies with glee, like some sort of cackling, bloody-mouthed Oh Jin-Hyek.

That's right: I went with some other famous archer, you elfie pantywaste.
That’s right: I went with some other famous archer, you elfie pantywaste.

Which brings me to the crafting system. How To Survive impressed me by going beyond the usual “a stick and a knife = an axe” that we’re used to with many other survival games. There are herbs to gather, medicines to create, engines to fuel, and even diving-tank propelled bullets to fire. There isn’t a massive catalogue to put together, but it’s certainly unique, and each of the three characters you can choose from brings his or her own craftable goodies to the table. There’s lots to collect–so much, in fact, that I found myself bellowing in frustration on many occasions. You only have so many slots to fill–and later in the game you’ll find yourself spending a huge amount of time weighing the value of one item over another. The good news is that if you drop an item, you can always come back to retrieve it–assuming you can remember where you left it.

Issues like these could have been solved with a feature that I was honestly surprised that a survival game like this was lacking: some sort of home base system. You sleep in various secured locations throughout the four islands in How To Survive, but none of them have anything to do with you. Despite having to clear the safehouses of small armies of zombies, they’re not what I’d call “yours”. I would have loved to have seen some sort of housing system–perhaps complemented with traps that you could craft. And while you were at it, you could have a safe place with specific spots to store loot.

Just need a "Home Sweet Home" needlework and we're good .
Just need a “Home Sweet Home” needlework and we’re good .

There isn’t much to talk about regarding the audio-visual aspects of How To Survive. The graphics are serviceable, in a Diablo-esque sort of way. The music (what little there is) is decently atmospheric, even if it stops and starts rather abruptly. Nothing about either really wrecks the game, though. Even the odd voice acting and occasional misspelling I can forgive for the sake of How To Survive‘s overall delivery of a “get in and slash” survivor game.  It’s a flawed game that happens to be really fun with some worthwhile challenges.  And while I wouldn’t really recommend paying full price for it, you could definitely do worse than to pick it up during a Steam sale or your console’s gamer-capitalism equivalent.

5 More Franchises That Michael Bay Can Use As Nightmare Fuel

If you’re like me, your first thoughts upon watching the trailer for the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot went something like “OH SWEET JESUS THE BEAST THAT THE SUMERIAN SCRIBES FORETOLD HAS ARRIVED! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE BEFORE IT CAN PLAY THE DISSONANT NOTES THAT WILL SUMMON HE WHO IS CALLED MOR’TEHLYGLISH!”

Ahem.

Yes, it’s true: with the advent of this latest reboot, the powers that be have chosen to cast rubbery, dead-eyed creatures that will haunt your nightmares forever. But enough about Megan Fox.

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And I know–the actual results of a giant mutant turtle would probably be pretty horrifying if it actually played out in real life. And I suppose this beats the hell out of the original idea of making them fucking aliens.  But why stop there? Why not take some other in-theory-horrifying franchises and just bring on the pain? I’ve compiled a list to get you started, Bay. I double mutant dog dare you.

 

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Earthworm Jim

The star of some amazing video games and a handful of terrible cartoons, Earthworm Jim is a literally a mutant earthworm inside of a spaceman suit. He wisecracks, he blows things up with his excellent space gun, and his villains (folks like Professor Monkey-For-A-Head and Bob the Killer Goldfish) are absolutely hilarious. All of that adds up to a great character.

However, you can’t downplay the physical… uhm… “limitations” of creating a live-action Earthworm Jim. That segmented head, those bulging eyes, and let’s not forget those teeth.  Oh sweet mother of god those teeth. Gigantic molars, each the size of a shot glass.  Each one of those teeth is a panicked shriek to the world in some forgotten language. “Don’t make this into a person!” they cry.

All of that isn’t even accounting for the level of mucus that will splatter the camera every time Jim uses his head as a whip.

 

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SpongeBob Squarepants

Now, I don’t watch SpongeBob, so I’m not exactly an authority on the subject. I know that that’s an odd thing to point out, but you have to understand: this show has danced merrily on the boundaries of both children’s and twisted adult’s television sets alike. This show is so ever-present that the autocorrect on my computer is forcing me to capitalize the “B” in SpongeBob for god’s sake (although it didn’t force me to capitalize god–I know your pagan secrets, computer).

My inexperience aside, I know a terrifying creature when I see one. And if its true that Bikini Bottom was once a testing site for nuclear testing, then you can just smell the Bay wafting in with the tide. You think Michaelangelo’s surfer dialect coming out of a seven foot, bile-infested turd is bad? Wait until you hear that prissy, high-pitched voice coming out of what I can only assume will resemble a urine-soaked tampon. It’d go pretty well, I imagine. While SpongeBob has never been as perverted and odd as Ren and Stimpy, it still has enough nonsensical edge to it that TampaxBob CylinderPants will be a big hit with the drug crowd. And speaking of which…

 

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Ren & Stimpy

Ren & Stimpy was my SpongeBob Squarepants. A show that was just as much for adults as it was for children (although many of us would argue that it wasn’t for children at all), Ren & Stimpy was embodied with exactly zero of the cuteness that other kids shows seemed to drip with. If SpongeBob is about zaniness and nonsense, Ren & Stimpy is about pure, unadulterated madness. A Chihuahua and his idiot cat friend beat each other senseless, travel through space, and enjoy various bodily functions.

I think where this would work as a Michael Bay-esque flick would have to be their interaction with humans. A properly designed creature based on either Ren or Stimpy wouldn’t look like a dog or cat in the slightest. Throw in a human cast that reacts to them as if they were any other pair of pet quadrupeds. And then have Ren and Stimpy act as they do. I’d like to watch Mark Ruffalo react to Ren tearing out the nerve endings in his gums. Or have Gwyneth Paltrow clean out Stimpy’s litterbox full of Gritty Kitty. The latter example is a fantasy that’s been floating around in my skull for quite some time, and is unrelated to Michael Bay’s hypothetical adaptation.

 

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Crash Bandicoot

I never played Crash Bandicoot. But look at that thing. That monstrosity is like, 90% head. It’s horrifying. Can you even imagine what that would look like if Michael Bay’s pack of scalpel jockeys got ahold of it?

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Jesus fucking Christ.

 

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Watership Down

Some of you knew this was coming. For those of you who had parents who loved you and would never dream of subjecting you to this, Watership Down was a cartoon based on a book about a group of rabbits who are looking for a new place to live, which sounds adorable. Until you get to the turf wars, the gassing of underground bunnies, and the blood–sweet Jesus the blood. It dealt with the classic themes of genocide, despotism, and god-bunnies, so you know it was perfect for those budding adolescents.

How to make this into a Nightmare Bay McClassic? You film this puppy Milo & Otis style (birthing scenes optional). Amp the stunt bunnies up on crystal meth and set those adorable warriors loose in an underground series of man-made tunnels that would put the Viet-Cong to shame. Three days and a whole truckload of editing later, you’ve got a new classic that will create two or three decades worth of goth kids–I absolutely guarantee it.

 

Come, World: Thoughts On “Sex Criminals, Volume 1″

You know you have a good story on your hands when one of the authors dedicates it to “anyone, anywhere, at literally any time in human history who ever rubbed one out”.

Now, I don’t really collect comics like I used to. I used to march my happy ass to the store every Wednesday to collect my latest issues of graphic glory, sealing each special serial in plastic and cardboard when I got home. But frankly, time marches on, and as I got older, I found I had less and less patience for the stacks of comics that lined my bedroom walls. I retired into the class of “trade paperback reader”–doing my best to make my collections of Conan and New Avengers look like classic literature. I’m happy with my aged nerdisms, and haven’t really considered going back to diving into each issue month after month.

Hell, I can barely keep up with Game of Thrones.

Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick collects the first five issues of a comic series that began in September. A series that has made me seriously consider returning to the monthly fold. Sex Criminals is the funniest, smartest, most wonderfully executed comic I’ve read in years.

On the surface level, the plotline is actually pretty simple. Girl learns that she can literally stop time when she orgasms. Girl meets boy who has the same ability. Girl and boy rob banks.

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But underneath all of that is something that is blissfully wonderful on a nearly chemical level. Written and illustrated by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy, Sex Criminals is a story about sex, the recession, sex, mental illness, sex, and Vladimir Nabokov. There’s so much to delve into that I can’t even begin to do it justice.

Effortlessly funny, it’s also genuinely touching and moving. Beyond a story about sexual liberation fighting against the fascism of repression, this is an honest-to-god story about love. It’s about sharing yourself and your most vulnerable truth with a person who seems to know something about you that you’ve never shared with anyone else. It’s about the force of passion, and the beautiful idiocy that can come from that passion.

It is also about turning dildos into stun-guns.

Sex Criminals has amazing narration–these protagonists break the fourth wall with the same skill and style that they use to break quantum physics. The style of the art is sexual but not tacky–light-hearted without being childish and cartoony. It all flows beautifully.

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