The Unknowns: Professional Superhero Outcasts Chapter 1

Author’s Note: Having grown up as someone who felt like an outcast to the community, I decided to write something that captures that feeling. I’ve combined it with my love for superheroes to create this ongoing written series! Something I want do with it is have certain chapters focused on different protagonists or parts of this world and how they intersect with each other. Please enjoy my pilot chapter of what I believe is going to be an amazing ongoing series!

Chapter 1: The Monkey’s a Joke Part 1

Societal norms are the worst kinds of cliches. A society excepting something as “normal” often transforms it in ways people never intended. A concept that’s considered “obscure”, “weird”, or “strange” loses its true meaning when brought into the mainstream. Case and point: Superheroes. Once upon a time, superheroes were fantastical stories about super-powered individuals. They were comic-book stories aimed at casual readers, due to their bizarre characters and scenarios.

Over time, superheroes expanded out of the page and into cartoons. The cartoons evolved further and were adapted into superhero films. These films evolved even further into large “Cinematic Universes”, which encompassed every superhero in their entire brand.

At this point, humanity thought that superheroes couldn’t expand further from there. One may think that we would have run out of ideas on how to milk a concept, but humanity finds a way to surprise itself every time. In the year 2050, many humans had started developing super-powers or supernatural skills.

People started gaining powers through magic, science, dormant abilities that suddenly awoke, or even through genetic splicing. Nobody quite knows what started this trend, but many people considered it the “natural progression” of superhero worship. This rise of superheroes in our society lead to the creation of the “Superhero Team Registration Board”, or the “STRB” for short. People with superhuman capabilities could apply through this board to join a pre-existing “Superhero Team”, or even create their own.

Of course, this isn’t a simple thing for most aspiring superheroes. You see, being a superhero isn’t about having “cool powers” or “amazing skills”. No, being a superhero is down to your looks. Are you handsome, cool, or deadly-looking? Well, you’re on your way to being the next “Fantastic Man”! Are you ugly, lame, or silly-looking? You’re sidekick material! Even if you have cool or useful powers, no will care about them unless they look “extremely awesome”.

As it turns out, superhero society is just as materialistic and fickle as the human society that proceeded it. Thankfully, this wasn’t a permanent thing. In fact, due to a singular superhero team, the status quo changed over night. Heroes who didn’t fit into this fractured version of society were allowed to be successful and remembered for who they were.

This team was known simply as “The Unknowns”, a team of no-name superheroes who came out of the woodwork to save the world from a major impending threat. I’m getting a head of myself, aren’t I? Let’s flash back to the beginning and tell our story the right way.

It was a busy and bustling day in “Dyna-Charge City”. The city was filled with civilians, superheroes, and sidekicks. It wasn’t too common to see a street filled with both average people and freak-shows that spit flames from their nostrils. Having this many superheroes around during the day often meant that crime was at a low during work hours. However, night was when crime really reared its ugly head.

This is why “superhero recruitment drives” were often held during the day. Today was the day when one of the biggest recruitment drives ever was being held! The STRB’s main building had lines that reached as far as the eye could see. Many goofballs in costumes were lined up to enter the building, like a bunch of nerds trying to get into a comic book convention.

The building itself was massive, being big enough to house thousands of superheroes in it at once. The building was colored white on the outside and was made out of a powerful metal called “Invincium”, which is said to be near indestructible. At the top of the building were the words “Superhero Team Registration Board Main Building” in big golden letters.

Most of the superheroes auditioning today had amazing powers and skills, but most of them weren’t “superhero” enough to appease the building’s facilitator. Said facilitator was “Henry Hyde”, a grumpy middle-aged man who used to train superheroes back in the day.

Henry was a balding, flabby, and bitter old man. He hated his job and everyone around him, to the point where his attire reflected that. He wore a crummy old business suit to work, one which was in dire need of repairs. There were holes along the sleeves and it was clear that Henry hadn’t done anything with it in years.

The day went on and on, agitating Henry greatly in the process. After several hours, the line was finally starting to thin. Little by little, the last few wannabe superheroes came and went. After several hours, it looked like Henry’s “shift from hell” was about to end! He packed up his briefcase, making sure to stuff every single document he could into it.

The papers were “superhero bios”, containing all the relevant info on today’s candidates. Much like handing in a resume at potential employer, the bios would be useful in showcasing the heroes’ strengths and weaknesses. Henry stretched his flabby arms in the air, before letting out a deep yawn.

He was ready to go home and relax, but he hadn’t counted on a late arrival. Climbing the stairs to the building was one last hero, one who was an outcast due to his appearance. The creature reached the top of the stairs and strode into the building, causing Henry to instantly take notice.

The being appeared to be anthropomorphic simian. His body was covered in brown unkempt fur, which appeared to shimmer with a strange golden glow. The monkey-man wore an outfit that consisted of golden armor with sheets of red fabric attached to them. Atop his head was a strange golden crown with an oriental design.

The simian creature appeared to be 6 feet tall and had an air of confidence to him. He had a long prehensile tail, one that could stretch and be operated as if it was another limb. The monkey grinned as he stared as the disheveled desk clerk. “I am Sean Waking, but I go by the superhero name of “Monkey Prince!” I’m here to join a super-team!” Exclaimed the simian creature proudly. He snapped his fingers, causing a piece of paper to magically appear in Henry’s hand.

There was an awkward silence between the two, while Henry just stood there and stared at the Superhero Bio that the monkey just hand him.. After several minutes, Henry looked back at the monkey and opened his mouth. He didn’t speak, but rather let out a hysterical laugh at the creature standing before him. Sean was not amused and crossed his hairy arms in dismay. “What’s the problem?” Sean asked, while glaring at Henry.

After a few seconds, Henry composed himself. “Sorry, pal. You’re just not superhero material! You look more like a comedy relief sidekick, or some kind of animal mascot! You’re not fit to be a legitimate member of a superhero team.” Stated the overweight man, while looking at the simian from top to bottom.

“What, so you mean I can’t be a legit member of a super-team because of how I look?” Asked Sean while angrily tapping his hand-like foot against the ground. “Of course! You have to be cool-looking, attractive, or badass to be a superhero! You? You’re more like a rejected action figure design from decades ago! Not even the cool action figures, you’re more like the kind of stuff that would litter the bargain bin at the back of the store.”

Sean huffed at Henry’s response, annoyed by what he was being told. “Look, do you know what kind of power I possess? What kind of skills I have?” Asked the monkey, who was getting increasingly annoyed by Henry’s reactions to his appearance. “Not a clue, but I don’t care. I’m sure it says what your powers are in your bio, but I can assure that nobody cares. A real hero is one who’s appearance is merchandise-able, one who can be played by sexy actors in film adaptations, one who will actually bolster comic book sales! You ain’t none o’ those, pal!”

“So? Why can’t I just be a trendsetter? Why can’t I be drafted by a team and prove myself with my unique powers, rather than be weighed down by what people perceive as “appealing”? Why must I cater to the general audience’s perception?” The inquisitive monkey was starting to get on Henry’s nerves, especially since he had enough of these super-powered losers to last a lifetime. Henry took Sean’s bio and grabbed it with his meaty hands, before tearing it to shreds. Sean looked on in dismay at his destroy resume as the angry facilitator glared back at him.

“Fine, I’ll show you why we only choose superheroes based on looks! Afterwards, I want you to GET LOST! Now, come with me.” Henry then marched off, while motioning for Sean to follow. The simian shrugged his shoulders and did as instructed, following the middle-aged man through the building.

Henry lead the monkey-man into a large hall, one that was covered with tons of pictures. All of the pictures appeared to be of famous superheroes. Amazing heroes like “Carla Cosmos” and “Laser-Face” all had their pictures featured here. These were true heroes, the ones people write countless comics and movies about!

Henry lead Sean to the end of the hall and were met with a single isolated picture at the very back. The framed picture appeared to be in a state of decay, complete with frayed edges and broken glass. The picture wreaked of neglect and looked liked it hadn’t been cleaned in years.

The picture inside the glass appeared to be a superhero made out of red slime. “Who’s that guy?” Asked Sean, who turned to look at Henry. “This LOSER is “Slime-Lord”. He was a professional hero, some may argue the best! He had everything: Comic book adaptations, movies and even crummy fast food joint tie-ins!” Exclaimed Henry with a strong surge of passion in his voice.

“So, what happened to him?” Sean asked while swishing his fuzzy tail around. Henry took a deep breath in and sighed deeply, “Well, his powers went out of control during a space mission. During a massive battle on an alien planet, Slime-Lord began to grow to an uncontrollable size. He turned into a monster and killed at least 20 other heroes. Carla Cosmos was forced to pick him up and throw him into a black-hole just to save the others.”

Sean gasped at the revelation, “I’m sorry to her that. Those people shouldn’t have died at the hands of someone they trusted as an ally.”  Henry scoffed at Sean’s response. “Don’t give me your false sympathy. The only reason those people died was because they put their trust in someone that wasn’t attractive or cool-looking. The greatest tragedy of all time was caused by an ugly superhero who couldn’t control his powers! This is why freaks like you can’t join professional super-teams.”

Sean attempted to say something, but he just couldn’t muster a word. What could he say to convince someone who was so stuck in there own ways? He knew what Henry was saying was misguided, but he just couldn’t debunk it. “If you still want a super-team, then it’s best to make your own. Just don’t come crying to us if you accidentally or purposefully kill everyone.” Henry said, before walking out of the hallway.

Sean sighed and followed Henry silently towards the exit. Henry opened the door and Sean exited the building, still wallowing in self-pity. “Good riddance!” Shouted the angry middle-aged man as he shut the door behind him. Sean wandered around Dyna-Charge City at night, still bummed out by what the STRB worker said.

He held his left monkey-paw in front of his face and stared at the birthmark attached to his palm. This special birthmark was shaped like a monkey and was known as the “Simian Sigil”. This granted Sean both the appearance and powers of The Monkey King, Sun Wukong. Sun was a character from an old Chinese novel who had power to rival the gods.

Sean could only use a portion of Sun’s power at the moment, but it was certainly enough to make him a threat to most super-villains! Still, how could he be a true hero when he looked like this? He had been an outcast his entire life and not even his own parents respected him. That’s when he remembered something he heard long ago from an old friend: “It doesn’t matter how silly you look as long as you get the job done!”

These words of wisdom brought a small smirk to Sean’s face, but it wasn’t enough to break him out of his slump. He needed something more than just a few recollections of encouragement. That’s when Sean heard something that chilled him to the bone: The beating of wings in the air.

This normally wouldn’t be a problem to Sean, but these wing beats were surprisingly loud! He looked up and found that the beating was coming from the wings of a giant flying beast! Said beast had a body covered in shimmering green scales, an extremely long tail, and a pair of pointy horns atop its head. What was flying overhead was unmistakably a dragon!

The dragon was flying towards the forest and Sean knew he couldn’t let this beast get away. He knew that if he followed this dragon and eradicated it, then people would finally acknowledge him as a true hero! With that thought in his head, the monkey took off running and ran towards the flying dragon. Using his enhanced agility and speed, he was able to properly keep up with the flying beast. He followed behind the dragon as the two entered into the darkness of the forest…

The Best Marvel Cartoon Nobody Ever Watched: Silver Surfer

The 90s was a weird time for Marvel comics. Not only was Marvel selling off all the movie rights to their various superheroes to major studios left and right, but they also greenlit several cartoons based off their biggest properties. This lead to the creation of classics like Spider-Man: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series. These two cartoons gave Marvel a pretty big foothold in television animation, at least in the 90s.

It was at this time that Marvel was trying new things with their cartoons and seeing what worked and what didn’t. For example, we got a decent Iron Man cartoon and a rather lackluster Fantastic Four show. Out of the myriad of Marvel cartoons we got during the 90s though, I don’t think anyone ever expected Silver Surfer to be one of them!

For those of you who don’t know, the Silver Surfer was a semi-popular Marvel Comics character who spun-off from the old Fantastic Four comics. He was once known as “Norrin Radd”, an alien from the distant planet of  “Zenn-La”. After sacrificing his form to the world-eater called “Galactus” in order to save his planet, Norrin becomes Galactus’ herald and searches for new planets for the world-eater to devour.

Bestowed with the title of “Silver Surfer” and phenomenal cosmic powers, our hero eventually breaks free from Galactus’ control and uses his new abilities to help various planets. On paper, a concept like this probably wouldn’t translate well to animated form. However, Saban managed to not only adapt it perfectly, but also make it a truly interesting and engaging show!

What makes it so interesting? Well, let me explain! The Silver Surfer cartoon follows that brief story synopsis I just laid out. After the Surfer escapes the employ of Galactus, he travels through the galaxy to find his home planet and his one true love. This leads into what I love most about the show: It’s exploration of the crazy cosmic stuff Marvel was known for in the 60s-70s!

You see, Marvel’s original depiction of space was eerie and mysterious way back when. It also had a bit of a cheesy nature to it, but it was drawn in such a unique and foreboding way. The beings that dwell within this bizarre space are creepy aliens, powerful cosmic entities beyond our understanding and insane mechanical contraptions with nightmarish designs.

All of this celestial craziness was brought to life by artist Jack Kirby, who injected life into this cosmic void through the use of his iconic art-style. Jack Kirby’s art became synonymous with the first few decades of Marvel Comics’ existence and defined those early generations.

Silver Surfer emulates both Jack Kirby’s art-style and the mysterious nature of space very well! While most modern Marvel shows and movies depict space as something you’d see in Star Wars, Silver Surfer takes a very different route with it. The cartoon embraces the Lovecraftian nature of space depicted in those early comics, while also emulating Jack Kirby’s distinctive art-style.

The film also brought fairly comic-accurate versions of many of Marvel’s oldest characters. For example, Thanos does what he does in service of his Lady, much like in the comics. On top of this, Thanos manages to be a legitimate threat without the use of the Infinity Gems or an army, unlike in the movies!

The show is very accurate to the comics, despite it still taking creative liberties with the source material. Still, it’s one of the closest adaptations to any Marvel comic ever made and it should be applauded for just that alone! This show also has a great art-style, an epic intro, stellar animation, solid voice acting, a good story, and a fantastic story-arc that stretches out throughout the entire series.

You’d think that a show that had all that going for it wouldn’t be cancelled after a single season, but Silver Surfer sadly was. Despite Silver Surfer’s amazing writing and characters, it just couldn’t hold the attention of most 90s kids at the time. It certainly doesn’t help that Marvel went bankrupt around this time, which greatly contributed to the show’s cancellation.

Looking back at it now, I can see why the show was failure. Despite its great animation, it relied too heavily on cell-shaded CGI graphics. The use of dated CGI clashed horribly with the 70s-esque visuals. It probably doesn’t help that the show lacked a lot of the classic mainstay Marvel characters. Classic characters like Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Fantastic Fou,r and The Hulk was nowhere to be seen on this show!

This coupled with the show’s darker direction and lack of comedy made it unappealing to the average 90s kids. It’s a real shame, especially since something like this would’ve been a hit nowadays! I could totally picture a more adult-oriented version of this show airing on Adult Swim or Toonami.

Unfortunately, Silver Surfer is now owned by Disney and it’s extremely doubtful we’ll ever see a newer and darker version of this forgotten show. At the very least, the show is now featured on Disney+ and is accessible to anyone with a subscription. Having experienced the show for the first time ever on this platform, I gotta say it was a real trip!

I feel so bad about never getting to watch this amazing show as a kid. This was something like I had never seen before from the realms of children’s animation. It was a series that played up the strangeness and oddities of space, while giving us a relatable and tragic protagonist. That’s why I can definitely say that this is one of the greatest cartoons ever based off a Marvel comic book!

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle AKA The Crossover That Nobody Asked For and Everybody Loves

I’m a man who loves a good crossover. Seeing popular characters I love team-up is one of my favorite things in the world! Hell, I can’t tell you how many times I watched that old episode of the 90s Spider-Man cartoon where he met the X-Men. To me, a good crossover is one that makes sense and is something that most people clamor for. However, not all good crossovers follow those guidelines.

For example, Mario + Rabbids is a crossover absolutely NOBODY asked for, yet EVERYBODY loves. This was one of the earliest releases for the Nintendo Switch and it’s one a lot of people seem to enjoy. This is very interesting, especially when you consider the fact that not a lot of people outside of France liked the Rabbids.

To most people, they were just typical annoying mascot rabbits. Heck, a lot of people disliked them even more than the Minions! Still, these weird mutant marshmallow beasts proved popular enough to get several games and a cartoon! This eventually lead to the series crossing over with the extremely popular “Super Mario” series of games!

The game’s story is simple yet interesting. A young inventor’s device is stolen by a group of the titular “Rabbids”, which they use to merge a bunch of stuff together. Through their misuse of the device, they begin to merge the worlds of Mario and Rabbids into one. Mario must then work together with some of the Rabbids to stop the destruction of both worlds. It’s pretty simple stuff, but the writing tends to be miles better than most modern Mario games!

The best way to describe Mario + Rabbids’ gameplay is that it’s “X-Com for kids”. The game plays like a tactical RPG, but pulls in characters from two different kid-friendly game franchises. You play as Mario, his friends and Rabbid versions of them. You get 8 party members in total, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Mario is a good all-around character but doesn’t excel at anything. Another example is that the Rabbid version of Mario is a good melee fighter, but he doesn’t lend himself well to ranged combat.

The game also features typical RPG trappings, like skill trees and many different weapons to equip. This gives you a small degree of customization and it allows you to make certain characters fit different roles. The game’s main loop revolves around you traversing various Mario-themed worlds and fighting bad guys. It’s nothing too out of the ordinary for a Mario RPG, but it still works.

The game’s graphics are amazing and each character has a surprising amount of expressions! The voice-acting is also super solid, but the obnoxious voices for the Rabbids tends to get pretty grating on the ears. Speaking of things that annoy me about this game, I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that I couldn’t remove Mario from the party and that I always needed to have at least 1 Rabbid in the party with me. This made party customization a bit limited.

The game is also fairly easy most of the time and doesn’t offer much of a challenge, but that’s to be expected from a Mario game. Overall, I enjoyed this game. Sure, it’s easy and party management is fairly limited, but it’s still a solid game! It’s also the perfect length and will usually take the player just about 15 hours to complete. I’d say wait for it to go on sale before buying it though, because it’s not the kind of game that I feel a person should pay full-price for.