I Should’ve Played This Sooner: Mega Man X5

Saturday, August 25th, 2018
Mega Man X5 box art

Everybody get it out of your system now – this is the Guns ‘n Roses one, not the “WHAT AM I FIGHTING FOOOOR?” one.

If I had to succinctly describe my relationship with Mega Man X, it would be “casual acquaintances”. We met through a mutual friend (the original Mega Man series), we hung out a little back in the day (as I’d only ever really played X through X3) but lost touch after that, and every once in a while I’ll see something about it on Facebook. Sounds like a lot of adult friendships, right?

It’s all true, though. For some reason Mega Man X never quite held the same sway over me that the original series did. Part of it may have been timing, as the original series were part of my formative gaming memories – Mega Man 5 being the second video game I ever played in my LIFE, for instance – whereas Mega Man X would come along much later and kind of just be “Mega Man again, but better this time”. To that point, while I owned (and very much enjoyed) Mega Man 8 for PSX, I never bothered with the X series after 3. I had vague memories of renting one of them and not being very impressed, and otherwise I was just sort of aware of the later games by reputation. Not a good reputation, mind.

It was with that reputation in mind that I bought the Mega Man X Legacy Collection for my Switch. Having purchased the original Mega Man Legacy Collection on no less than three platforms because I’m a giant sucker (and partly out of a desire to support Frank Cifaldi), I figured this was a good chance for me to actually play and finish one of those Mega Man X games I never bothered with. Despite my disappointment at learning the initial hideous translation that resulted in everyone having Guns ‘n Roses and/or anime-pun themed names (literally, I want to meet whoever thought of the name “The Skiver” and just ask them why) I knew Mega Man X5 was considered one of the better ones, and since it was at one point positioned to be the final game in the series, I figured that was the safest one to go with.

And you know what? It was fine! Not…great, but fine. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Of A Mild Interest”: RIP Steve Ditko

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018
steve ditko dc comics profile

I have a big soft spot for red-and-yellow pseudo-mullet Starman, even if he’s not the grumpy antique dealer one

As I mentioned a little earlier in my Detroit Comix Party post, as a kid I didn’t exactly get comic books but there were always exceptions.

While a lot of the big obvious stuff like Superman and all of the X-Men that weren’t Cable tended to whizz by me, I would occasionally glom onto something for reasons I couldn’t really articulate, often due to external media. I knew about Fantastic Four and Batman through cartoons and movies, I knew about the X-Men through video games that I’d rent even if I didn’t know jack about their source material, and a lot of the “comics” I liked carried something of a qualifier as to why I knew about them or how.

My introduction to Steve Ditko came from a similar place. The first work of his I would ever be aware of would be, of course, Spider-Man, and also thanks to video games (of which the Sega Genesis had a surprising amount), and while I liked Spider-Man for what it was I can’t say I had a greater appreciation or understanding of comics as a result. I was 6 years old. I just liked his costume.

Years later, mostly thanks to an issue of Watchmen, I would both discover Steve Ditko’s importance in the history of comics, and be frankly shocked at the amount of things he was involved in. I can’t act like I was aware of them in any kind of ground-floor capacity, and most of my most impactful comic book discoveries (at least in the more mainstream Marvel/DC sense) would come between the ages of 18 and 25 so I was a late bloomer on this, as I was most things in my life.

But good lord was it impressive to learn about the various Ditko creations that had some kind of impact on comics I’d read over the years. Learning about The Question and his development into Rorschach was big enough for me – as I type this, there’s an autographed Question action figure above my desk – and even if later incarnations of the character were more Buddhist and mullets and less Ayn Rand and murder, The Question is one of my all-time favorite comic heroes and deserves better treatment than he’s gotten lately, since he’s a demon now or whatever. (Shout out to any of you reading this who spent a lot of time talking to me on forums about The Question and/or Jawbreaker.)

The more I read, the more I’d find out about Ditko and the influence he had on comics I’d like later. He wrote the best version of Blue Beetle, who would later become a mainstay of the funnier (and better) Justice League spin-off books. He created Captain Atom, who was like Superman but cooler and scarier somehow. He created The Creeper, who got a series of fun solo adventures and appeared in one of the better Batman: The Animated series episodes. The New Gods! Hawk and Dove! Legion of Super-Heroes! One of the earlier Starmen (Starmans?), which as many of you know is literally my favorite comic of all time, at least in a later incarnation. For god’s sake, the man even once drew a coloring book for Transformers that my sister and I would own (and refuse to color in).

steve ditko bumblebee transformers coloring book

They all still manage to have Steve Ditko faces, even if they’re…you know, robots.

I can’t sit here and act like I’m an expert on Ditko, nor can I really speak with any authority about the vast majority of comic books period, let alone stuff he worked on. I am, however, continually impressed with how his work would shape the look, presentation, and tone of things I’ve loved throughout my life, and even if I disagreed with the vast majority of his politics, you can’t argue with results (goddammit!) and I love his work all the same.

steve ditko self portrait

Of course, he probably wouldn’t care either way, would he?

Looking For Figures From The Great Beyond: RIP Toys R Us

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

toys r us port huron michigan

Out of the last four posts I’ve written for this blog, two of them have been about beloved retail fixtures of my childhood headed to that great shopping mall in the sky.

It’s a combination of the inexorable march of time and the realities of life and capitalism in America today, neither of which care much about where I bought my first Sega Saturn games – or at least not nearly as much as I do.

By the time you read this post, the last Toys R Us in America will have closed, and I’m worried that even if I didn’t want to, I guess maybe I did grow up. Read the rest of this entry »

Dispatches from Detroit Comix Party

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018
20180623_164602

Behold, a portal – TO KNOWLEDGE!

I’ve always had kind of a weird relationship with comics.

Like, as a kid, I read the usual shit – 90s Batman, the occasional Spider-Man, Transformers (to nobody’s surprise), and I’m sure by virtue of being alive in 1997 I own an issue of Spawn somehow.

But even by then, I was already a little more into the…less popular stuff, I guess. I remember owning issues of things like Scud the Disposable Assassin and Milk & Cheese at a surprisingly early age (and would, of course, go out of my way to complete said collection later), I read The Tick strictly because of the cartoon (and would find myself ‘not getting’ the comic because for god’s sake I was 8), and I once made my dad spend a lot of money on an issue of Flaming Carrot thanks to the presence of the Mystery Men – yes, the Tom Waits movie.

These would later become a gateway towards smaller comics like the works of Daniel Clowes and Seth, which would lead me to even smaller locally-produced books, and so on and so forth. With a small handful of exceptions (Starman, mostly) it’s safe to say I’ve purchased more independent comics than I have the big time stuff, even if that means I frequently feel left out of bigger conversations about The Avengers and what have you.

Something about these books was just as appealing to me as the full-color major label comics the stores also sold, even if they were frequently cheap, gross and/or scary, and often well over my head. I say this not to indicate how totally cool I am (because let’s not pretend like I’m the only person with this story, and also Cable is still my favorite X-Men character so what the fuck do I know?) but more to explain why I’d be so excited to go to Detroit Comix Party.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Weatherstar 4000 and You

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Remember when I had a blog? It was fun, even if it didn’t know what the hell it wanted to be – sometimes I wanted to be a Youtube celebrity, sometimes I wanted to just be Matt from Dinosaur Dracula, and either way the results were mixed and I was trying too hard to be too many things at once.

I think my problem is that I wanted this to be “my thing” – like one day I wanted to somehow get invited to E3 or do press at Youmacon at something, and as great as that would be I just didn’t have the time to devote to it because I also had a band I was trying to get off the ground.

Eventually the band won out, and the blog fell by the wayside. I’m not going to say I’m back by any means, but I’m going to try to write a little more about the stuff I’m actually interested in – toys, robots, wrestling, Nintendo obscura, etc. The sort of stuff I used to write about before I got distracted.

Anyway, let’s talk about something a bit more pleasant: remember how great The Weather Channel was?

 

I, like many people my age, used to sit here and watch The Weather Channel endlessly as some kind of fun, calming background noise, and it’s recently re-entered my rotation thanks to Youtube for those nights where I’m too drunk/high/weary to put something on that even requires a modicum of attention. It’s like a white noise machine except I can pretend I’m still at my grandpa’s house on summer break, and then suddenly there’s a Dorf commercial. I think we could all use a little calming background noise these days.

Catch you soon, hopefully.

My Final Trip to Gibraltar

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Sign outside of Gibraltar Trade Center, Mt. Clemens Michigan

It’s funny how we get attached to certain places, isn’t it?

We all have the usual childhood memories: playgrounds, carnivals, grandpa’s house, the video store.  That said, I know each one of you reading this has super fond childhood remembrances of somewhere not quite as ‘standard’. Places like a skeezy boardwalk, or a gross bar and grill your family would go for dinner, or the weird gymnastics hall you had a birthday party at.

Growing up I loved stuff as much as I do now, a fact you may have gathered from how I’ve posted about toys a number of times already. And as you might have noticed, a lot of the stuff I liked was either from slightly before my time (Ghostbusters and Transformers), a little harder to come by through the normal means (anime crap, import Famicom games), or both. For a very long time, if you lived in Southeast Michigan, the best place to get any of that stuff was a little place called Gibraltar Trade Center.

Clearly using “trade center” as a gussied-up synonym for “flea market” or “dirt mall” (as my sister and I would start calling it after we first saw Mallrats), Gibraltar was a paradise of whatever random purchases the 90s could throw up on you. Unsharpened swords, wolf paintings, comics and toys from the past 10-15 years, overpriced import anime goods, T-shirts with your name lovingly airbrushed over a picture of a sunset, computer parts, and some of the greasiest goddamn pizza you can imagine. Gibraltar quickly became one of my favorite places in the world as a child, and would remain so other than a brief and sad period in the mid-2000s wherein it was overrun by gross white people that super wanted to sell your Confederate flags and “war memorabilia”.

It was a constant fixture in my life, the kind of place I could always go whenever I needed to find some Game Boy games.

And suddenly, I heard it was closing.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Old Turd Sandwich: ARMS

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Some games are just too big, too popular, or too obvious to waste a lot of your time on, and for those games Video-Tron 2000 offers THE OLD TURD SANDWICH! A much more economic way to save you, the beloved consumer, time and energy by boiling a review down into one good thing, one bad thing, and one more good thing!

In this inaugural installment of The Old Turd Sandwich, we take a look at Nintendo’s new spring-loaded Punch-Out!! replacement, ARMS!

For a lot of people it seems like Nintendo just can’t get anything right. They’re either not using their old properties correctly, not introducing new properties, or some horrible, rage-baiting combination of both.

They’ve done a lot to combat this perception lately, what with Splatoon and Breath of the Wild and all, but it feels like not that the Switch is on the market it really feels like they’ve come out guns blazing. This year alone we’re seeing the newest games in Nintendo’s two biggest franchises (Mario and Zelda, although I’m sure you knew that), a resurgence in franchises long thought dead (if you’d told me anytime within the last 7 years that we were getting both a remake of Metroid 2 and a fourth Metroid Prime game I would have done that thing where I double-take at the bottle of booze I was drinking), and a strong showing of brand new games. Games like ARMS.

ARMS is to fighting games what Splatoon is to shooters: a colorful, accessible, Nintendo-ized take on a genre they usually don’t get too into (other than Smash Brothers at least) that offers a surprising amount of depth if you want to look for it, and a good casual multiplayer experience if you’re not the kind to count frames and assign tiers to everything.

So it’s out, I have it, and I’ve spent all last week playing it (on my fancy new yellow JoyCons, because Nintendo’s best accessories are always bright yellow). Let’s give it THE OL’ TURD SANDWICH!

Read the rest of this entry »

No, Anya, Au Revoir: RIP Sir Roger Moore

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Roger Moore is the first of the officially recognized James Bond actors to pass away. And in life, he always got way too much shit.

See, James Bond was one of the first ‘things’ I ever got into slightly later on. I always liked video games, I always liked music, I always bought toys. But during my senior year of high school, thanks to a combination of various factors, I got SUPER into James Bond. Like, read all the books, watched all the movies, played all the video games, even tracked down the occasional comic they did.

And in my burgeoning days of Bond fandom, visiting forums and reading articles, one thing seemed to jump out at me – people weren’t too sure how to feel about Roger Moore.

Some said he was too comedic. Some said they hated his portrayal of Bond. Some say he had the worst writing and directing of the series. Whatever the reason, it seemed like the internet just never care for poor Sir Moore.

I don’t exactly think that’s fair. I’ve seen his James Bond, I’ve seen his Simon Templar, I’ve seen his Lord Brett Sinclair, I’ve even seen him in ffolkes, and I think Roger Moore is a fantastic example of an actor who’s always willing to do the best he can with what he has to work with.
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My First Month As A Switch Owner

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Even with as bitter as I am these days, and I freely admit I’m a cranky contrarian who’s hard to talk to a lot of times, there’s a few things in the world that can turn me back into a gibbering nerdy 12-year-old like I’ve secretly (?) always been. It’s a short list of things that include “seeing Weird Al in concert” and “WrestleMania weekend”, but one of the big ones is the launch of a new Nintendo system.

I’ve had a streak of owning every Nintendo system at launch since the 64 (which only technically counts since my parents wouldn’t let me play it until the following Christmas, but it’s not like I’m still mad or anything) and no matter how many system launches I’m there for, or how many times I’ve found myself slightly let down after the fact, the launch of a new Nintendo console or handheld turns me into a frantic child, giddy at the prospect of what’s to come.

To literally nobody’s surprise anywhere, the Switch announcement was no exception to this. In fact, I was probably more excited for the Switch than I was their last few systems, and I say this as someone who never shut up about the Wii U even long after that ship had sunk.

Something about the lineup, the design of the system, and the enthusiasm about the idea that Nintendo seemed to put forth every time they talked about it got under my skin and I spent entirely too much money to make sure I got a Switch at launch.

I’ve spent about a month or so with it (as of this writing) and, as hyperbolic as this sounds, I can honestly say that not only is it my favorite new console in a very long time, it may have actually gotten me excited about video games again.
Read the rest of this entry »

Four Toys I Bought At A Car Show

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

(Straight off the bat, I 100% ripped off the format and idea for this post from Dinosaur Dracula, a blog whose author I have been a fan of for a very long time and who is much better at this than I am. Go check out his stuff if you want to see what this post is SUPPOSED to look like, or if you just want to see a grown man drink 20-year-old Kool-Aid packets!)

Recently I’ve found myself getting hardcore back into wrestling. I bring this up because it’s going to be kind of a throughline for the whole article, even if it isn’t strictly about wrestling toys. As a kid I grew up pretty staunchly pro-WCW, watching years worth of Nitro episodes (and furthering my decades-long streak of always picking the wrong side in the important kid’s pop culture battles, having also grown up preferring DC to Marvel and the Genesis to the SNES) and occasionally dabbling in WWF RAW or In Your House when I’d find myself in the company of a fellow wrestling fan, but I really drifted away from it in recent years. I can’t quite put a finger on how or why it happened, but around 2015 I suddenly found myself possessed to watch Wrestlemania that year, and ever since then I’ve been both keeping up on the new stuff and going back to revisit stuff I either watched at the time or missed out on due to reasons.

I bring this up to clarify why, exactly, I was at a car show. I’ve never really been a “car person” as such – there’s cars I like, I tend to get picky about the cars I drive, but like I don’t tend to get as excited about seeing old hot rods or NASCAR vehicles the same way an actual car person would, and as such I tend to find myself skipping the myriad car shows around Detroit.

This year was different, though. I heard through the grapevine that Autorama was going to offer a chance to get autographs from none other than the former leader of the Bullet Club, AJ Styles. As my favorite current wrestler I had to meet him. I did, it was fun, and afterwards while wandering around the show killing time I made a remarkable discovery: there were people at Autorama that sell toys. Elated by having just met the Nature Hoot, I took a poop around the weird toy corner and this is what I left with:

Read the rest of this entry »