A Follow-up To My Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission Review

I did a review on “Super Dragon Balls: World Mission” a year ago, which is a trading-card video-game based on the classic Dragon Ball franchise. Dragon Ball tells the story of a crazy alien farmer with magical super-powers named “Goku”, who is on a never-ending quest to beat up everyone who looks remotely stronger than him. That’s a very short summary of this 600+ episode anime/manga series, but it’s the general gist of it.

The series is filled with a ton of characters, locations, and special attacks that only ever get used a few times. It’s almost sad how many characters get introduced in this series, only for the writers to instantly forget about them. A major complaint about the franchise for the longest time was that the writers often didn’t do anything with its massive cast.

This all changed in 2010, when Bandai-Namco released the “Dragon Ball Heroes” arcade game. The idea behind Heroes was that it was a trading-card game where you could scan the cards into the arcade machine and have them appear in the game itself. The twist was that over 99% percent of the franchise’s core cast was playable in the game! That’s right, almost every minor and major character was playable.

Yes, even obscure movie henchmen like Doore and Amond were playable. The problem was that you had to buy the cards in booster packs to play as them in the game, and a fair amount of them weren’t cheap to get. Since card-games and arcade games were pretty much dead in America at the time, we never got the game.

While the game did receive various ports, we surprisingly never got those either… Until 2019. Early in that year it was announced that the latest port of the game was not only coming to Nintendo Switch, but was also being released worldwide! I was finally able to try Dragon Ball Heroes in the form of “Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission” during that year, which reignited my love for trading card games.

As previously mentioned, I have already reviewed the game. The thing is that the game was so massive that there was no way I would fit it into a proper review. If I did, then the review itself would’ve been 20 pages long. So, I thought I’d do a followup a year later and just go into some of the things I didn’t touch on previously. I also want to touch on what’s changed/improved within said game.

For one thing, the card creation system is truly insane. When writing the review, I had only messed around with it a bit. Turns out that the card creation system is super complex, since you can actually beef up weaker cards by “selling” previous cards. You can then dump points into the cards you keep and upgrade them to an insane degree.

This is good when you’re making a 3-star custom card, since those allow you to slot in 2 abilities, instead of having the singular slot that a 4-star card gives. Also, the amount of characters you can get for these cards is staggering. There are hundreds of characters you can make a card out of, some of which don’t even have playable cards in the game itself!

Something I loved about this game was the free DLC. In a rare move for a Bandai-Namco game, every piece of DLC for this game is added as a free update. This includes over 200 brand new cards and even several bonus missions. It’s honestly surprising that they would give all this content away as free updates, especially when Bandai-Namco likes to over-price DLC for maximum profit. It’s nice to see them finally do updates for a game without charging a cent for them.

I also really dug the game’s “Arcade Mode”, which I don’t think I touched on much in my original review. It basically takes all the arcade-exclusive scenarios from the Japanese version and lets you play through them. I love doing these, mainly just to experience these unique scenarios. I’ll tell you this now: You have not lived until you’ve done the arcade quest-line where you play as businessmen versions of all the Z Fighters!

Honestly, my opinions on the game as a whole haven’t changed too much. I STILL love this game and I break it out from time-to-time. It’s one of the few card-based video-games that I can really get into. Sure, the visuals haven’t aged well at all and the gameplay can be repetitive, but it’s hard to deny how much of a love-letter to the franchise this game is. Here’s hoping this game continues to get updates into the future!

Project: Gorgon Is A Weird Game… AND I LOVE IT!

 

We live in a day and age where certain video-game genres are slowly dying out. Racing and puzzle games aren’t as common nowadays, despite receiving new entries from time to time. Another game genre that has fallen by the waist-side is the “MMORPG” genre. MMORPG stands for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game” and it was once one of the most popular genres in gaming.

Over time, MMOs became less prevalent. The problem with an online game is that it needs people playing and paying for it to be successful, which most MMOs struggle to pull off. However, despite the genre dying off, MMO games are still being made. Case-and-point: Project Gorgon.

Project Gorgon is what happens when you let people with creative and nutty minds craft an MMO from the ground up. On the surface, Gorgon looks like your standard fantasy game. In actuality, it’s a rather creative and bizarre game filled to the brim with weird NPCs and unique skill-trees.

The NPCs in this game are truly insane. They’ll often give you quests that involve asking other people to engage in “naughty behavior” with them, or make you fight a bear in a farm-house. Even a quest that’s as simple as “kill a bunch of enemies” can result in some fun NPC dialogue and interactions.

Another good thing about the game is its various skill-trees. There are standard skills in this game, like “Swords” and “Fire Magic”. However, you also level up other skills like “Dying” and “Cartography. Yes, dying is a skill in this game! There’s also “Beast” skills in this game, which involve you being cursed into the form of an animal. You level up each form individually, as if it’s a skill.

With so many different skills you can level and each one featuring special bonuses for leveling them up, you have a ton of ways to customize your play-style. That’s not even factoring in the multiple playable races, some of which have unique features and must be unlocked by doing certain quests.

The game also has a ton of single-player content for one to engage in. You can do any quest or dungeon with a party, but the game is still fun and manageable if you play solo. Currently, the game is in “Early Access”. Being a game that’s still far away from being fully finished, I can’t give a full review on it yet. The game is fully functional and rich with content in its current state, but I wouldn’t feel right giving it a review before it’s done.

What I can say is this: Project Gorgon is a weird and awesome MMORPG. It hearkens back to classic MMOs and does them justice, while still bringing something new to the table. It’s refreshing all around and embraces the craziness of its world and mechanics. I’d say to wait for a full release before getting the game, just so you can experience this masterpiece when it’s fully complete.

Living With Asperger’s

Author’s Note: This is an article written by me that was featured in the “Saskatoon Star Phoenix” nearly a year ago. You can find the original link to the article here. This article details how I live with my Asperger’s, and how I’m able to work and be successful in spite of it.

My goal was to make something that would both inspire myself, and those who read it. It wasn’t easy discussing my Asperger’s, or having it shared in such a wide capacity. However, the support I got from posting it was truly inspiring to me. As a result, I ended up writing more this year than I had in any year previous!

How can I live with Asperger’s? This is a question I often find difficult to answer.

Asperger’s affects many individuals in different ways, and some it may barely affect at all. Asperger’s is a learning disability, one that can hinder or help a person in many numerous ways. How does it affect an individual?

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to share my experiences with living this disability, and how it has affected me in both good and bad ways.

I’ve had Asperger’s all my life, even as a child. In my younger years, I found it difficult to interact with certain individuals. I didn’t always have a clear understanding of social interaction, so making friends could sometimes be a bit of an undertaking. Luckily for me, I had a good circle of friends who understood my “difficulties” and respected me.

Some of said difficulties included: Not catching onto obvious things right away, a difficulty maintaining proper eye-contact, an extremely short attention span, and rather awkward hand-eye co-ordination. Despite these “shortcomings,” I found I was actually quite skilled at various things.

As I grew older, I developed a knack for menial chores. Repetitive tasks very rarely bored me, which allowed me to become more skilled at certain jobs. Where someone may find a certain job to be a bit too bland, that’s never been too much of a detriment for myself. I also found that having Asperger’s doesn’t affect my work all that much.

It does tend to affect others though, I know of a few people who have difficulties managing their learning disability in work environments. What I think employers can do to better facilitate workers with Asperger’s and similar learning disabilities, is to form an understanding.

It’s best to cut them some slack in certain areas, but not too much to the point where it seems you like favoring this one individual. It’s best to be accommodating to that individual’s faults, while at the same time making use of their best traits. For example, a person with Asperger’s may have difficulty fully grasping the workplace training they are given.

This could be because they have problems with their attention span, or it could be they have difficulty in soaking up certain bits of information. Regardless, it’s best to spend some more time with that person to make sure they fully grasp the training. While in some cases it may seem like a bit more of an undertaking, I think it’s worthwhile to both the employer and employee.

Asperger’s doesn’t just affect how a person may act in the workplace, but also outside of it. This is especially true when it comes to me, or one of my friends. I may have difficulty fully understanding a person, or may be a bit less attentive than I should. Otherwise, my learning disability doesn’t usually get in the way of my accomplishing my given tasks. These “weaknesses” may have affected me a bit more in my early years, though I found I had mostly mastered them within the span of a few years. Over time, I realized that some of the things I felt were weaknesses, were in fact strengths.

For example, I used to think I was too imaginative for my good. I took my imagination for granted, and in many ways tried to ignore it. Years later, I would discover that my over-abundant imagination was very useful. I was able to use this boundless imagination to help with my writing, both the writing of business correspondence and that of the free-form writing I tend to do.

Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t alone with how I felt. I met and befriended many people with learning disabilities similar to my own, and learned how they dealt with their problems as well. One particular friend appeared to talk to himself a whole lot, to the point where I would occasionally show concern towards him.

However, he wasn’t talking to himself in a way that would alarm people, rather he was just practicing voice-work. He had a passion for voice-acting and the cartoon medium as a whole, and was extremely good at impressions. I’ve seen him do some amazing voice-work in YouTube videos here or there, and he has really shown talent in that department.

It was meeting this person that I realized something: That the quirks that come with Asperger’s and autism aren’t terrible things, they have their upsides and downsides. People without learning disabilities are the same way, possessing traits that are both positive and negative in nature.

It is not just the two of us that had this though, every person with a learning disability I met had some special talent that sprung out from a quirk they had. Another example is from one friend who I’ve had since I’ve moved to this city. He has a passion for videos, and watches a ton of them. This what got him interested in video editing, wanting to both improve his craft and get paid employment out of it.

People like my friends have helped me realize that every roadblock in life comes with a detour, and that every negative has a positive. I never grew up with people who had disabilities like myself, so getting to both know and learn from these individuals allowed me to grow as a person.

By understanding my friends and their own struggles with learning disabilities and mental illnesses, I was able to better cope with the issues I had. After a while, I realized what my strengths and talents were. I realized I was skilled with writing, dancing, being imaginative, being a hard-worker, and being a good friend. I finally realized that having Asperger’s was more of a gift than a curse.

The thing about have Asperger’s is that it may make interactions with other people somewhat awkward. I think the best way to interact with someone with Asperger’s is to understand where they are coming from. Things like lack of eye-contact and awkward hand-gestures aren’t a sign of disrespect, they are more akin to a nervous reaction.

The thing is, most people are nervous when talking to someone they don’t know. People with learning disabilities are most likely to show this physically with awkward tendencies. It’s best to be respectful and patient with people who have learning disabilities, as they usually mean no offence with what they do.

That brings us back to the original question: What is it like having Asperger’s? To me, there is no distinct definition of how it feels to have it. My brain is wired a bit differently, I sometimes misunderstand what’s being asked of me, or don’t clue in to certain things right away. That doesn’t make me any less of a person, it just means that I deal with difficulties like any other person.

While having Asperger’s does apply a few more trials and tribulations to my life, they are never too overwhelming. I have to deal with a few obsessive compulsive behaviours, and the occasional bout of forgetfulness. Asperger’s used to affect me a lot, to the point where I was a lot more forgetful and had much less control over how I acted.

I feel that both my friends and I have come a long way since we were first diagnosed with Asperger’s. In many ways, I feel like I’ve overcome several issues associated with my disability. While I still have struggles here or there, I definitely feel like I have a handle on my learning disability now.

I want to continue to grow as a person, while learning more about myself in the process. The biggest thing I’ve come to learn is that having Asperger’s does not make me any less of a person. In fact, I’ve found that its really helped improve me as an individual. I can understand and respect the differences of other people a lot better now, as well as respect my own shortcomings and strengths.

I feel that my Asperger’s defines me, but in a positive light. I’m an individual who has grown and understands how the world works, and how to integrate into society better. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for my friends, family, and everyone around me. It doesn’t make me any less of a person, nor does it make me superior. Like anything else, it’s just another part of who I am.

Casshern Sins: A Forgotten Anime Masterpiece

The world of anime is a fickle mistress. Tons of solid anime shows come out each year, but only a handful of them manage to obtain any sort of relevancy. This is true for many different forms of media, but it especially rings true for anime. I can’t tell you how many times I find a really good anime and find out later that nobody else watched it. Case and point: Casshern Sins.

Casshern Sins is a rather obscure and short-lived anime, but one that has definitely left an impact on me. The show revolved around a robot named Casshern, who wakes up in a post-apocalyptic version of earth. With no memories of who he was or what he did, Casshern finds himself amidst a planet-wide crisis. Most of the human race has died and robots rule the world. However, the robots are dying off as well. Succumbing to a fate known as the “Ruin”, the race of mechanized beings are slowly rusting to death.

Casshern quickly learns that not only was this Ruin caused by him killing a human girl named “Luna”, but also that he is the only one immune to it. With a rumor going around that devouring Casshern will make one immortal, the amnesiac machine must deal with the consequences of his previous actions.

Believe it or not, Casshern Sins is actually a reboot of a much campier and older anime called “Casshern”. That version of the story was an action-based superhero show, which was common for the era it was made in. Sins is completely different, in that it’s more of a melancholic look at how the past can affect one’s future.

Casshern is constantly being torn apart by the pain that comes with the crimes he committed in the past, crimes which he can’t even remember. The show also paints a lot of its narrative in mystery, often making you question whether what you’re seeing is real.

While Casshern’s past is steeped in regret and pain, elements of his past would routinely show up to contradict it. For example, Luna shows up alive and well at one point in the series, despite her apparent demise.  The show is full of similar mysterious elements, often creating this surreal atmosphere.

In essence, this show is a complex puzzle that the viewer has to piece together while watching along. As such, it’s not a show that can be watched and enjoyed by everyone. Casshern is not your typical anime protagonist either, he’s an immortal machine with a broken past. He tends to angst over a lot of his past, which can turn off the average viewer.

Regardless of how angst-y are protagonist is, I feel the show is structured perfectly for what it is. For one thing, the show is an “action” show without a lot of action. Each episode has some sort of fight scene, but it’s usually brief and is generally a character-building moment. No fight in the series is there just for the fun of it, with each one showing the futility of fighting and war.

While the show can sometimes be fairly blunt with its messaging, it does it in a way that’s genuine. Character development on this show is fairly strong, which definitely adds to the experience. There’ll be episodes where Casshern bumps into someone in the wasteland with an interesting backstory and adventures around with them for a bit, learning more about himself and his own emotions in the process.

The cast for this show is interesting and all of them have their own unique view-points of both Casshern and their world. For example, you have the character of “Lyuze”. She presents herself as hating Casshern at the start of series, due to the calamity he unleashed upon the world. Seeing that this isn’t the same Casshern that doomed the world, she eventually starts to see him as a friend and something of a love interest.

You also have the robot dog, “Friender”, who becomes Casshern’s travelling companion after his introductory episode. Friender acts as a silent ally for Casshern, often helping him out when he loses control. There’s also a much larger cast of characters that appear frequently as well, who often shake up the show’s rather episodic formula.

In essence, Casshern Sins is a strong show focused on character development and world-building. The show can be slow and preachy at times, but it makes up for it by being an overall entertaining experience. Looking back at it, this show just may be one of my favorite anime of all the time.

The fact that its mostly faded into obscurity at this point is rather disappointing. While people who watched it on Toonami or an online streaming service will remember it fondly, I’m sure many others have forgotten it has existed. It’s a shame, because I’ll always love this show no matter how much time passes.

Limozeen: The Best Fake Band of All Time

I’ve made it no secret that the Homestarrunner cartoons are some of my favorite web-shows of all time! This is a online cartoon series that has been running for nearly 2 decades and put out a lot of quality content. This series revolves around the dimwitted Homestarrunner, the supposedly “cool” Strong Bad, and a host of other crazy characters. By far, one of the most interesting group of characters the site has ever produced was the band “Limozeen”.

Originally thrown out as a possible good band name in the Strong Bad Email called “Band Names”, Limozeen quickly became a recurring set of characters withing the Homestarrunner universe. The group is portrayed as an “80s hair metal band” filled with a ton of over-the-top members. The lead singer is a man who is constantly screaming at all times, named Larry.

The band also has other members, but Larry always seems to be the most prominent when they show up. What I loved about Limozeen (aside from their music) was the fact that they often came across as losers. For example, they had an extremely unsuccessful 80s cartoon that got cancelled halfway through the pilot. On top of this, Larry is so desperate to hang around with other people that he’ll even personally ask his own fans to join his guild in a MMORPG.

Limozeen was always the most interesting part of the site, at least in my eyes. Unlike most of the characters on the site, Limozeen were portrayed by live-action actors. The Chap Brothers, the creators of the site, and 2 of their friends got together to play this fake band. They went all-out on trying to look like a hair metal band and even wore those silly blonde wigs musicians from that era were known for!

By far, the best thing about Limozeen is their music. They are mostly known for “Nite Mamas” and “Because It’s Midnite”, two of the most rocking tunes the internet could conjure up! They sound like your stereotypical heavy metal songs from the 80s, complete with nonsensical lyrics and plenty of guitar solos!

I think the main reason I like these characters so much is that they add a lot to the fictional world that Homestar and friends live in. Having “real” bands within this universe helps flesh it out more. It also gives the Chap Brothers the excuse to add in some live-action sequences to their cartoons.

To me, Limozeen is more than just a fake band made for a popular web-cartoon. The songs created for this band are legit bangers and the band-members have so much personality that it’s hard to forget their names. They will always be the best fake band to me, because they’re just that good.

Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings is a forgotten MASTERPIECE!

Lord of The Rings

Middle-Earth is one of the most celebrated fantasy settings in all of fiction. It’s home to both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of The Rings” books, but also encompasses a much grander universe present in its various spinoffs. Middle-Earth is also the setting of the various movies adapted from the Lord of The Rings books. While a lot people may clamor to the famous LOTR films made by Peter Jackson, my favorite Lord of The Rings movie is MUCH older than that.

Let’s talk about “Lord of The Rings (1978)”, an old and rather forgotten film by Ralph Bakshi. For those of you who don’t know, Ralph Bakshi was a pretty famous director of animated movies in the 70s and 80s. Ralph Bakshi put out classic animated films like Fritz The Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Wizards. He was known for making animation for adults, which was a rare thing at the time.

It was only natural to have this man direct a Lord of The Rings film adaptation, which is a book series aimed at an older audience. This movie is amazing for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, it adapts the entire first book and the first half of the second book. It’s able to handle adapting these books extremely well, even if some really good parts were cut for time.

It’s certainly a faithful adaptation and a rather lengthy one at that. This film is over 2 hours long, which is pretty damn long for an animated film in the 70s. Speaking of animation, that’s probably one of the best things about this film. The animation is stellar and it even mixes in traditional animation with rotoscoping techniques! Rotoscoping is when you take live-action footage and draw over it.

Using this technique, Bakshi and his team were able to produce stellar animation that allowed for more flexibility than what traditional animation allowed at the time. Hell, they were even able to depict giant armies fighting each other using this technique! At the time, such a battle would’ve been way too expensive to produce with standard film animation.

I also liked the film’s story, despite the condensing of its plot. Despite the removal of fan favorite characters like “Tom Bombadil”, the film follows its source material quite closely. It revolves around Frodo and Gandalf’s quest to cast the “One Ring of Power” into the fires of Mount Doom and destroy it.

I’ve oversimplified the plot, but that’s the main gist of it. Along the way, Frodo and Gandalf are joined by various colorful characters and form a “Fellowship”. The Fellowship are then tasked with making their way through this world filled with evil and completing their quest to destroy the One Ring.

Couple this with an amazing soundtrack, fantastic voice-acting, and a ton of dark atmosphere and you have one of the most intense fantasy films to come from this era. I will admit that the film does have problems. For one thing, the film doesn’t always mix in the rotoscoped animation with the traditional animation very well.

A good example of this is the rather trippy sequence in the tavern, where Frodo is drawn and animated normally and the rest of the crowd are clearly real people that have been drawn over. Still, some of this animation mixing works in the film’s favor. For example, the horrifying ring-wraiths are rotoscoped and it gives them a rather unnatural feeling in scenes that involve traditional 2D animation. It definitely fits these hideous monsters well!

Now you can see why this film is one of my favorites. It’s an epic fantasy film with good characters and stellar animation! It’s a shame that most people have forgotten this movie nowadays. It’s a film that definitely deserves a second look from any hardcore Lord of The Rings fan! In my opinion, it’s the “One Film To Rule Them All”!

No, I am not apologizing for that joke.

The Unknowns: Professional Superhero Outcasts Chapter 2

Author’s Note: Originally, I wanted this series to focus exclusively on Sean as it’s sole protagonist. Sean Waking was based on the legend of “Sun Wukong”, also known as The Monkey King. I thought it’d be cool to base a character off an old Chinese novel that I really dug.

While developing the story, I thought of other characters that would fit the team and thought I’d introduce them in side-stories before bringing them into the main cast. That way, each hero gets to be a protagonist of their own series before joining together. Reggie Thompson is one such character.

Reggie was inspired by the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty, Rob Thomas. The inspiration hit me in the lyrics of his Real World song, which went “I wonder what it’s like to be a superhero.” I liked the idea of some regular dude becoming a superhero, so I came up with this troubled outcast hero who manages to be both a hero and a menace at the same time.

Chapter 2: The God’s A Monster Part 1

At the same this was happening, a very different story was unfolding elsewhere. Several miles away from Dyna-Charge city laid the small town of “Ultra-Drive”. The town of Ultra-Drive was home to only a few superheroes and a near endless amount of supervillains. The reason for there being so few superheroes in town is that being a superhero in this neck-of-the-woods place wasn’t as profitable as it was in Dyna-Charge. The STRB had no standing in the town and there were no superhero-based organizations present in the city at all.

As such, more people turned towards villainy as that proved to be far more beneficial to one’s self. As such, the city was flooded with wannabe villains who wanted to drain the town’s plentiful economy and use the finances to move out of it. Despite repeated supervillain attacks, the town was surprisingly prosperous and had seemingly limitless funding. No one knew how the town kept getting as much funding as it did, making it a grand mystery in this quiet town.

Still, one may wonder why only a small group of heroes is able to hold back the overwhelming forces of evil in such a small town. The real reason for this is due to one man, Reggie Thompson. Reggie was a seemingly normal guy at first glance. He wore a blue shirt and pair of blue jeans, which was his outfit of choice. His hair was blonde and somewhat messy, due to him never bothering to style it.

He also wore a pair of black runners that had seen much better days. While Reggie did seem normal on the outset, he was far from being your typical guy. Reggie had superhuman abilities that were at godlike levels. He had super strength that could allow him to lift mountains, super-speed that allowed him to outrun bullet trains, and a level of invulnerability that bordered on the absurd.

It was due to these godlike abilities that Reggie was an outcast. Due to an incident 20 years that ended with Reggie losing control of his powers and leveling part of the town, everybody quickly lost trust in him. He became an outcast, despite eventually gaining control of his immense powers.

Nobody would talk to him or look him in the eye. Instead, people would just run away whenever they spotted him! He was an outcast, but he didn’t mind too much. In fact, he found that his status as a “harbinger of destruction” meant that he could go anywhere and do whatever he wanted! Nobody had the guts to tell him he couldn’t do something and he certainly had the power to back that sentiment up.

Today was just another one of those days where he was allowed to do whatever he wanted! It was a sunny day outside while Reggie was strutting around town. People saw the 6 foot tall bringer of destruction walking around and quickly moved out of his way, fearing that he would obliterate them if they they looked at him wrong.

He made his way over to a nearby bowling alley and opened the glass door to the building. He strutted inside the building and everyone inside it immediately took notice of him. People stopped dead in their tracks and looked right at him as a dead silence gripped the building.

“Sup, everybody?” Reggie asked in a very nonchalant tone. The people around him ignored his greeting and panicked at the very sight of him. They ran around screaming and freaking out. They quickly ran past Reggie and piled out of the building, fearing for their lives as they did so.

Reggie simply shrugged his shoulders and walked over to the corner of the bowling alley. After everyone had vacated from the premises, Reggie decided to enjoy himself. He made his way over to a vending machine near the farthest bowling lane and pulled a small coin from his pocket. Sliding the coin into the vending machine’s slot, Reggie quickly punched in the number for his desired item.

A can of soda rolled down from the machine and into the chute at the bottom. Reggie reached in and pulled the can from the machine, like an explorer grabbing a rare diamond. Plucking the soda from its resting place, he gripped it firmly in his hand and walked over to a table.

Reggie sat down and was about to open his can of soda, only to be interrupted by the sounds of screaming from outside. “Can’t a man drink his soda in peace?!” Shouted Reggie as he abruptly stood up. Reggie ran towards the door and pushed it open, right before walking outside.

He immediately spotted the thing that was causing people to freak out: A giant monster made out of blue goo! This giant slime ball had a visible mouth and piercing yellow eyes. “Fear me, town of Ultra-Drive! I am Mr. Gelatinous, the greatest villain of all time!” Shouted the slime-ball in a strange and echo-y tone of voice.

Reggie looked up at the slime monster and proceeded to glare at him. “Get out of my town, I’m trying to drink soda!” Shouted Reggie while staring up at the slimy monstrosity. “Look at the balls on this one! You dare challenge the mighty Mr. Gelatinous, little one?” Asked the blob of slime as he moved closer to Reggie.

“Nah, it’s not a challenge. Pretty sure something needs to be difficult to be a challenge.” Said Reggie in a smug tone-of-voice. “Ah, to be so young and foolish! Very well, you shall be the first to die!” Shouted the blob as he advanced on Reggie. Reggie balled his hand into fist and held out his arm. He then pulled it back and smacked it directly into the giant blob with a hearty punch.

The blob’s body began to vibrate, before exploding violently! Bits of slime rained down from above as the blob’s body split apart. “What the hell?!” Shouted the many pieces of Mr. Gelatinous in tandem with each other. “No one interrupts my quality time and gets away with it. Leave now and I won’t break you into smaller chunks!” Exclaimed Reggie as he narrowed his eyes at the blobs.

“Very well, I shall leave! Just be warned, you haven’t heard the last of Mr. Gelatinous!” The individual blobs then slithered away into nearby sewer grates and effortlessly entered them using their liquid bodies. The blobs soon disappeared from sight, leaving Reggie alone. Reggie looked around and found that nobody had seen him fend off the giant blob. Everybody had vacated the streets and nobody had bore witness to Reggie’s heroic feat, just like always.

He let out a deep sigh and hung his head in disappointment, right before re-entering the bowling alley. It was always the same with him: He’d do a heroic act, but either nobody around would see it or nobody would care. He was an outcast to everyone else, someone who was treated as a monster for something he did by accident 20 years ago. Reggie gave his head a good shake and decided to shove those bad thoughts to the back of his subconscious. He decided to focus on the good and re-entered the bowling alley.

As Reggie walked through the empty bowling alley and towards his table, he noticed something odd. His soda was still there, but it appeared to be encased in some kind of translucent green pyramid. Said pyramid appeared to be made out of some kind of strange pulsating energy. “What the heck is this?! How am I supposed to drink my soda in piece now?” Asked Reggie as he stared at his encased soda.

“Don’t you know that stuff will rot your teeth, dear boy?” Asked a strange and ethereal voice from behind. Reggie turned around and found what appeared to be a bunch of floating green triangles made out the of same raw energy that covered his soda! The triangles flew about and then drifted towards each other. The triangles then began to interlock with each other, forming a vaguely humanoid shape in the process. They formed into a strange triangle-man, like something out of a weird sci-fi movie from the 80s.

Reggie stared at the bizarre triangle-man in awe, while being utterly confused at what the being was. “Hello, good sir! I’ve come here to talk to you about something. Tell me… Is it true you killed your own parents 20 years ago?” Asked the triangle-man in his bizarre and alien-sounding voice.

Reggie narrowed his eyes at the triangle-man as repressed memories came flooding back. Memories of an event that forever changed who he was a person and forever cemented his status an outcast. It was recalling these memories that caused Reggie to freeze in place, unable to say or do anything. All he could do was stand there as flood of both rage and sadness began to overtake him…

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.