Archive for October, 2013

Random Top Five: My Favorite Halloween Costumes

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Pumpkin Witch Husband says hi, too.

Pumpkin Witch Bride wishes you a hauntingly happy Halloween!

The Halloween season is upon us once again, and with it will come a collection of kids in creepy, kooky, altogether ooky costumes to my family’s front door for Halloween candy.  I love seeing the continuous parade of different costumes and designs, taking note of which classic monsters I see and which new characters in pop culture have been transformed into costumes.  Here are some of my favorite Halloween costumes that I watch out for every year; I wonder how many of them will show up on my doorstep tonight?

5. Vampire

A formal ensemble, a toothy grin, a telltale widow’s peak: all of these are the classic signs of a vampire showing up at your door.  I remember going as the close cousin of Grandpa Munster once myself for Halloween, complete with a cape, a widow’s peak, and a set of fake fangs that made it hard for me to talk but certainly helped me to look the part.  It was one of my favorite costumes and I am glad it still seems to be popular among today’s kids.  I am not sure what it is about a formally dressed blood-sucker that appeals to people, but at least it teaches kids the value of a good outfit for a black-tie dinner.

4. Princess

 A majority of the little girls that stop by for candy every year are often dressed as princesses, queens, or other royalty.  It is a credit to their parents, guardians, and friends that their crowns don’t go to their heads and they gain a kingdom-sized ego.  A lot of the princesses I see on Halloween are dressed in a multitude of colors, not just pink.  I’ve seen princess costumes decked out in blue, green, red, purple, aquamarine, neon yellow, mint green, and many other colors.  Truly a rainbow of royalty!  I wonder if I’ll see anyone dressed as princesses from TV and movies tonight.  I always see a few Disney princesses here and there, but will Disney’s newest and youngest, Sofia the First, be represented?  How about a few My Little Pony princesses like Celestia, Luna, Cadence, or even Twilight Sparkle?  Whether two legs or four, there’s going to be princesses for sure!

3. Frankenstein

For the record, I am referring to Frankenstein’s monster, not Dr. Frankenstein himself; I don’t really like the idea of a scientist who decides to “play God” and reanimate the dead.  Regardless of my feelings for the man who created him, I think the monster himself is A-OK.  I love the look the Frankenstein monster was given: the green skin, the rectangular cranium, the neck bolts, the simple brown coat and pants, the plain black overshoes.  It’s a clean, uncluttered design that screams “instant icon.”   I think it looks great as a Halloween costume, a statue, a hood ornament, or even an airbrushed T-shirt drawing.  Boris Karloff made it menacing yet sympathetic, while Herman Munster made it unusual yet ordinary and genial.  Both emotional extremes suit the design just fine in my opinion, and it is definitely one that brings a smile to my face.  Just keep me away from the Bride of Frankenstein, though: I just keep picturing the rats and other vermin that must infest that tall hairdo of hers, so gross!

2. Mummy

It’s a dead guy wrapped in a whole hospital supply closet’s worth of gauze returned to life and shuffling around, scaring the populace with every step.  For some strange reason, though, I don’t find the sight of this creature as terrifying as I used to.  It probably started with that cute little-girl mummy in that one Scooby-Doo movie, or maybe with the notion that in The Scorpion King, the guy who will eventually become the star of The Mummy Returns is played by Dwayne Johnson, one of humanity’s living definitions of the word “cool.”  It could have been that one attempt I made to dress up as a mummy with a bunch of toilet paper wrapped around myself (it kept falling off because I didn’t want to use tape).  Somehow or other, I’m just not scared of mummies anymore.  A while back, I watched The Mummy’s Curse, the final appearance of Lon Chaney Jr. as the original movie mummy, Kharis.  I expected to be scared out of my wits by the mummy’s shuffle-step, but I instead became endlessly fascinated by the way he gave Mr. Spock a run for his pointy-eared money by successfully applying the Vulcan nerve pinch to all his victims roughly two decades before the heyday of Star Trek.  He could give most professional wrestlers a lesson or two as well in the intimidation department.  I guess I just like mummies a lot more these days than I am scared of them, and what’s wrong with that?

1. Ghost

Whether or not you believe they actually exist (TV says “yes,” my beliefs say “no,” the ghosts themselves would probably say “maybe” if they had mouths and vocal cords), you can’t help but smile at the sight of a kid with a plain white sheet draped over their heads with a couple of big eye holes cut out.  Even though I’ve rarely ever seen anyone at my front door dressed in this exact costume,  it is a design which I still like seeing every year in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Mr. Brown’s ghost design is a little different from all the other ghosts in that special.  His ghost costume has more cut-out eyes than a potato and his line, “I had a little trouble with the scissors,” is such an understated and hilarious line that I break out into a huge grin every time I hear it.  It is for that very line that I think of the ghost as my Halloween costume of choice.

What’s your favorite Halloween costume?  What was the best costume you ever wore?  Do you think today’s costumes are better or worse than the costumes of the past?  Let me know in the comments, and have a happy and safe Halloween!

Pop Culture Haikus: Batman Arkham Origins Edition

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
I could've sworn I saw Superman wearing this one time...

The Batman logo: because even mysterious, shadowy vigilantes need an easily identifiable corporate symbol.

Batman Arkham Origins is the third in a series of highly successful video games starring one of the most famous comic book superheroes.  The game depicts a young Bruce Wayne only two years into his crime-fighting career.  Gotham City is celebrating Christmas Eve, but the Dark Knight will not be able to celebrate a “silent night” for very long.  Gang leader Black Mask has placed a fifty million dollar bounty on Batman’s head and eight of the world’s deadliest assasins have come to Gotham to try to collect.  Even worse, the corrupt Gotham City police, viewing Batman as a vigilante and threat to the common good, will not hesitate to fire upon the Caped Crusader.  I purchased a copy of the game recently and have had a lot of fun exploring the world of Batman’s early days.  So, once again, I feel it is appropriate to pay tribute to some of the game’s characters, settings, and important objects in the form of Japan’s signature “five, seven, five” poem style.  They are probably the closest thing Gotham is going to get to actual Christmas carols this holiday season, so feel free to hum along.

Batman

Gotham’s darkest knight/Young, inexperienced man/Must become fearsome.

Gotham City

The night rules this town./Crime and corruption touch all./Who turned out the lights?

Black Mask

Mob boss hides his face/Owns criminals and police/Yet he’s just human…

Enigma

Mysterious foe/Challenges Bat to find clues/He’ll be Riddler soon.

Penguin

Likes gangs and gambling/Dresses henchmen in parkas/Prefers small sardines.

Batwing

Batmobile as plane/Takes Bruce from point A to B/Without turbulence.

Final Offer

Penguin’s gambling sub/Home to secret “fight club” brawls/”Bird” keeps all the bets.

Batcave

Bats’ hero HQ/Not much to look at just yet/Still, home to cool bats.

Batmobile

Sits in cave corner/Just chassis, still being built/Can I drive it soon?

Blackgate Prison

Houses criminals/Just ordinary bad guys/Arkham holds supers.

Captain Jim Gordon

Commissioner?  No./Fights his own bosses a lot/May work with Bats soon…

Crime Scene Reconstruction

 Bruce scans clues, solves crimes/Digital recreations/Computer sees all.

Alfred

Batman’s only friend/Sidekick way before Robin/Lot funnier, too.

Bruce Wayne

Came back from exile/Has a small, slight social life/Keeps mostly to himself…

Batman Arkham Origins provides a great portrayal of a period in Batman’s history which, while explored almost to exhaustion in the comics, has not really been featured very prominently in other media.  I am looking forward to exploring every inch of this early version of Gotham City and seeing what other surprises await me.  If you’ve played through Arkham Origins, what do you think of the game?  Would you like to see more of this particular part of the Bat-mythos?  Let me know in the comments, and keep tuning in for more Pop Cultures Haikus and other cool stuff, same Bat-time, same Bat-blog!

Paragon Fantasy Wrestling Part 3.5: An Elite Halloween

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Paragon Fantasy Wrestling ArenaThe fourth installment of Kellogg Thoughts’ premier (and only) fantasy wrestling league finds our heroes and villains gathered for a special Halloween edition of Thursday Night Elite.  The fans are in for a real treat as the wrestlers will likely use every trick they know to try to come away with a victory, but two particular “Halloweenies” will pull a heinous act that might leave most old-school wrestlers rolling in their graves. 

One quick note: I forgot that the previous installment promised a different set of matches for the next edition of “Elite,” so consider this installment a special episode.  We’ll cover all of those other matches (Kendall Catcher vs. Rick Orson, Jeb Colt vs. Fire Sumo, Clarion talking to Warp Galactic about a “business proposal”) in the next installment.  Besides, I thought the idea of having the characters in costume for the Halloween season was too good to pass up!  So, enjoy this special supercard of fantasy costumed wrestling! 

Thursday, October 31- 8:00 P.M.

There is a chill in the air, but that hasn’t stopped fans from rapidly filling the Paragon Fantasy Wrestling arena for a holiday edition of “Thursday Night Elite.”  Halloween is upon us in Paragon City, Illinois, so Paragon Wrestling officials have allowed fans and wrestlers alike to come in costume.  (The wrestlers are allowed to wear the costumes only during their entrances and must take them off before their matches begin.)  As an added bonus, any and all fans who decide to arrive in costume get a free goody bag with a few candies and neat autographed 8×10 photos of some of Paragon’s top stars.  Some of those stars will be in action on the card tonight, with two notable undercard fights featuring up-and-coming wrestlers and an epic tag team main event.

The first match of the night pits Billy “Bo” Roberts against Kendall Catcher.  Country star wannabe Bo is dressed as a giant red-and-blue electric guitar (with the guitar’s stem adorning the top of his head) while “Mister Capsule Mons” Catcher’s costume makes him look like a giant green cow.  “Goooood evening, everyone,” Kendall says to the crowd over the arena’s sound system.  “What do you think of my new Milkmon costume?”  A collective groan rises from the audience in response to this lame pun, the loudest groans coming from a group of kids in Old McDonald and animal costumes seated at ringside.  Bo replies, “How about you mooooove on over and let a real costume take the spotlight?”  He proceeds to lightly bop Kendall on the head with the stem of his electric guitar and takes in a smattering of cheers.  “Milkmon” mooooves to a corner of the ring and sulks a bit as he takes off his costume.  Bo takes off his guitar costume as well and moves to the center of the ring ready to grapple with Kendall as the bell sounds to start the match.

Roberts locks up with Catcher, both opponents flexing their arms and struggling for the initial bit of leverage.  Catcher loudly “moos” at Roberts in an attempt at intimidation, but Bo maintains his composure and the crowd boos even louder at Catcher.  Roberts gains leverage and pushes Catcher down onto the mat.  Because Catcher’s shoulders touch the mat, the referee is obliged to consider this a pinfall and reaches a count of two before Kendall can break away.  Kendall grips Roberts and attempts to lift him up onto his shoulders, but Bo shifts his weight and slides back down, grabbing Kendall’s arms and puts his right foot into Kendall’s back to pull his arms in a devastating stretch.  Kendall screams in pain and walks quickly toward the ropes.  He grabs the top rope and the referee instructs Roberts to let go of the hold before the count of five.  Bo breaks it up at two.

Catcher goes for a clothesline, but Bo grabs his arm and twists it, causing more pain signals to shoot through the nerves in Kendall’s arm.  Kendall takes this wrenching motion in stride and sticks his leg out, tripping Bo up and causing his body to crash to the mat.  Kendall goes for the pin, but only gets to two before Bo kicks out.  Kendall gestures to Bo for another lock up, but Bo instead spins him around and slams him headfirst into the mat with a running bulldog powerslam.  Kendall tries to get up and turn his head in Bo’s direction, but Bo latches onto Kendall’s head and applies a crippling crossface submission maneuver.  The pressure of the hold incapacitates Catcher leaving him with no choice but to tap out in defeat.

“Here is your winner, Billy ‘Bo’ Roberts,” the announcer excitedly tells the crowd in attendance.  Bo takes in the adulation and throws in a few air guitar moves for good measure.  Catcher gets up from the mat and raises Bo’s arm in a show of good sportsmanship, then goes to the remains of his “Milkmon” costume lying on the arena floor.  He pulls out some strange green milk and says to Bo, “Here, winner.  You ought to try some of this stuff, it’s good for you!”  Bo turns down the offer and walks back to the locker room.  Catcher shouts after him, “Wait!  If you try this, the Good Moo Goo Milk Company will give you a big endorsement check!  That’s how I was able to get this costume for tonight!”  It’s too late, though; Bo is already gone.  “Ah well, I think I’ll have a glass for myself then!”  He produces a glass from his costume and fills it with the green milk.  He guzzles it down, leading to more loud groans and gags from the audience.  “Come on, it’s mint flavored!” Catcher tells the crowd as Elite cuts to a commercial break.

Thursday, October 31- 9:12 P.M.

The Finisher walks to the ring in his traditional gear.  Once he climbs into the ring, he explains why he is not joining in Elite’s Halloween festivities.  “I have chosen to go without a costume this evening because I believe my wrestling abilities should be enough to scare away most spirits.  While the rest of you cowards hide behind masks and cower in your costumes, I, the Finisher, will face these fears head-on and show them why I am the only thing to be feared on this planet.”

“The only thing you’ll be fearing is the long arm of justice!” shouts Rick “Super Kid” Orson as he lowers himself from the arena ceiling on invisible piano wire, clad in a red singlet and his traditional yellow mask and black-stars-on-cheeks facepaint.  “I have been waiting for a chance to analyze you up close.  How come your offense of only finishers is so effective?  Are you hiding something from all of us?  You are hiding something, aren’t you?  Give up what you’re hid-”

Before Orson can finish his sentence, the Finisher has already grabbed him by the legs and spun him in a giant arc.  After five or so revolutions, the Finisher lets go and sends “Super Kid” flying into the corner.  The Kid gets up and the bell rings to start the match.  Before Orson can regain his senses, the Finisher is all over him, scooping him up in a standing crossface chickenwing maneuver.  Bob Backlund‘s favorite wrestling hold is enough to make Orson pass out.  With Orson passed out, the bell rings to end the match, but the Finisher keeps the chickenwing locked on for a few more seconds before letting go at the referee’s urging and the crowd’s protests.  The Finisher has once again demonstrated how the power of one wrestling hold applied at the right time in the right way can decide the outcome of a match.  Can anyone finish the Finisher?

Thursday, October 31- 9:56 P.M.

Elite comes back from its final commercial break with the main event match already in progress.  The tag team attraction of Clarion (whose costume is a lime-green toga) and Warp Galactic (an asteroid) vs. Ricky Bolero (a cowboy riding a papier-mache bull) and Fire Sumo (Japanese calligraphy spelling out his name on a cape) has been nothing short of the epic that was promised to fans.  With all of Warp’s gloating about the future, one would think he would not get on well with the ancient Greek stylings of Clarion.  However, much to everyone’s surprise, Clarion and Warp have actually gotten along very well, dominating most of the match while Bolero and Sumo have been trying to figure their opponents out.  The ringside commentators have speculated that the “business proposal” between Warp and Clarion has fueled their desire to win this match, and judging from the way they have been firing on all cylinders this night, that might possibly be the case. 

Warp has just sent Ricky to the canvas with a European uppercut variation that he calls the “Venusian uppercut.”  Ricky crawls over to Fire Sumo while Warp tags in Clarion.  The self-styled “Greek god” hurries over to Ricky and pulls him by the leg back to the bad guys’ corner.  Clarion gets down to the mat and starts putting a figure-four leglock on Ricky.  When he has it fully cinched in, he bends himself upward to tag in Warp.  Warp climbs to the top turnbuckle and jumps off spread eagle style and lands on Ricky’s stomach.  Ricky winces but holds onto Warp’s leg for a brace and gets back up.  He continues to hold onto the leg and pulls it out from under Warp, putting him in an anklelock. 

Now it’s Bolero’s turn to drag Warp over to the good guys’ corner.  Just before Ricky can make the tag to Fire Sumo, Warp breaks free and makes it over to tag Clarion.  Ricky tags in Fire Sumo who quickly moves to intercept Clarion.  The crowd roars with cheers and boos as Sumo and Clarion exchange blows.  Clarion rocks Sumo with cumulative open-fist punches to the chest, but the big man is still maintaining his balance.  Clarion then backs into the ropes and charges at Sumo with a wild clothesline.  Sumo blocks the Paragon Elite Champion and pushes him down onto the mat.  He jumps up and, with feet out, lands seat-first on Clarion knocking the wind out of him.  Sumo drags Clarion over to a neutral corner, climbs onto the top rope, and prepares himself for a high-flying maneuver which would surely finish Clarion off. 

It would have, but Warp moves around the ring apron to where Sumo is perched and pushes him over the side.  While this is happening, Clarion gets up and distracts the referee with an argument about his “terrible officiating.”  Clarion then covers the dazed Sumo for a three-count while Warp knocks Ricky off the apron during the count to prevent him from breaking it up, thus ensuring that the bad guys win.

After the match, Clarion and Warp address the fans saying, “We just wanted to tell you that we have mutually agreed to a business deal.  Next week, you’ll learn all the details.  For now, though, here’s a little hint.”  The lights dim in the arena.  The fans are confused and a bit agitated.  A loud rumbling can be heard coming from the entranceway.  When the lights come back on, an armored SWAT team-like van is parked on the entrance ramp.  Clarion and Warp pick Ricky up from the arena floor and toss him into the open doors of the “paddy wagon.”  Warp climbs back into the ring, picks Sumo up with some difficulty, and tosses him over the ropes to where the wagon is parked.  Clarion gets Sumo into the van and closes the doors.  Clarion and Warp get in and drive up the entrance ramp and out of the arena, the good guys still inside and the fans more confused and alarmed than ever.

The commentators are just as frustrated as the fans are.  “What kind of business proposal necessitates the use of a police van like that?  What could this possibly mean?” one announcer says to his partner.  “Well, looks like we’ll have to wait and hear from Clarion and Warp next week, and hopefully, they’ll have an explanation,” the other replies.  The advertised matchup of Jeb Colt vs. Fire Sumo is obviously up in the air, but Kendall Catcher will be free to take on Rick Orson, and the business deal will be fully addressed on the next Thursday Night Elite!

What do you think of our ongoing storylines and character development?  Would you like to see more “holiday-themed” episodes in the future?  Let me know in the comments, fight fans!

Pop Culture Haikus: WWE Edition

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Paragon Fantasy Wrestling ArenaPop Culture Haikus are the traditional Japanese poem style (remember the syllable rule: “Five for one, seven for two, five for three”) reworked to fit today’s biggest pop culture icons.  For the first edition of this feature, the characters of Marvel’s Agents of Shield were immortalized in haikus.  For this second installment, I wanted to pay tribute to one of my favorite pastimes (since 2006, anyway).  The following haikus are based on some of my favorite colorful personalities of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment; at least, that’s what it went by until WWE decided to simply go by its initials in 2011, but who knows with those guys anymore?).  Links to each subject’s Wikipedia page is provided for those interested in learning more about them.  If you want to see them in action, just search their names on YouTube or Google; trust me, you’ll find more than enough information on each person – more than you would have thought possible!

John Cena

The champ’s moral code:/”Hustle, loyalty, respect.”/Not bad for a start!

CM Punk

Chicago’s toughest/Antihero to many/It’s clobbering time!

3MB

Three men in a tub/Claim to be a real rock band/Can’t carry a tune.

Hulk Hogan

The Three Demandments:/”Eat vitamins, say prayers, train.”/Works wonders, bro!

Randy Savage

“Macho Madness” rules./Adrenaline and chaos/Elizabeth loves!

WrestleMania

The grand stage is set./The players combat gladly./Winner: box office.

Monday Night Raw

A three hour tour/Live, free, quality wrestling/Something for nothing.

Vincent Kennedy McMahon

Wrestling mastermind/From commentator to boss/He’s longest-tenured.

Howard Finkel

Iconic talker/Voice of all the biggest shows/First and still the best!

The haikus are done/What do you think of them, hmm?/Comment below, please!

Pop Culture Questions: Only the Lonely Edition

Friday, October 11th, 2013

question-mark-63979_150I had a sudden flash of inspiration this morning and for whatever reason I have a bunch of new Pop Culture Questions to ask (and answer, naturally).  I also have Roy Orbison’s song “Only the Lonely” stuck in my head at the moment because I was thinking about making this edition all about lonely or isolated characters.  But then again, a lot of these guys do make friends along the way, so maybe they aren’t really all that lonely after all.  Either way, I think they are all great characters and certainly deserving of a little attention, so here’s my two cents on them.

Will Bolt be all right after the events of Bolt?

 Disney’s Bolt tells the story of a dog who is the lead star in a hit TV show filmed in Los Angeles in which he is portrayed as a secret agent.  Bolt has been led to believe that his fictional secret agent life is real (the show’s director surmises that, “If the dog believes it, the audience believes it.”), which has in turn caused him to become intensely protective of his owner, Penny (played wonderfully by Miley Cyrus, years before that whole “twerking” thing got out of hand).  One day, the director decides to set up a “cliffhanger” to increase the show’s ratings, and so Penny is “kidnapped” right in front of Bolt’s eyes (in reality, she is just taken off the set and hidden away from Bolt).  The poor dog is heartbroken and determined to get his owner back, so he subsequently breaks out of his trailer, accidentally gets trapped in a shipping box bound for New York City, escapes his confinement, and goes on an epic cross-country journey to reunite with his owner.  By the end of the movie (kind of a spoiler here, but since it’s a Disney movie, I don’t think it should be much of a surprise), Bolt has reunited with Penny and they both (along with her mom and a few tagalong friends Bolt meets on his journey) retire from acting and move to a ranch house in Oklahoma, far from roving TV cameras and any hint of danger, where Bolt can live out the rest of his life as a normal fun-loving dog.

I love this ending, but I have two major problems with it.  One: Are Bolt and his family truly safe from the TV world?  Who’s to say there isn’t some TMZ-type gossip monger out there looking to do a “Where Are They Now?” segment on Bolt and they’re slowly narrowing down the spots he could be hding in?  I know from experience that once those cameras find him, they’ll just keep on coming and never, ever leave.  In this age of Google Earth and elaborate information sharing and social networking, the odds of Bolt and his family simply disappearing from public view are, in my view, slim to none.  Two: Is Bolt capable of thinking and behaving like a normal dog after all he has been through?  He’s a TV dog who, until just recently, thought he was an action hero.  He’s hard-wired to dodge bullets, subdue bad guys, and routinely perform extreme feats of derring-do.  And you expect me to think that Bolt is just going to forget about all this stuff and go back to fetching a ball and sitting, rolling over, and doing all the normal things other dogs do?  I can easily imagine Bolt one day snapping back into TV hero mode and nearly taking a bite out of the mailman who he perceives as an agent of the “green-eyed man.”  One thing’s for sure, though: he’s definitely going to be the most athletic, agile pet on the block.

Do Garfield’s Halloween plans for this year include crushing loneliness?

Whenever Halloween comes around, I always seem to recall a particular sequence of Garfield comic strips I first came across in one of the orange fat cat’s excellent reprint collections.  It first ran in newspapers from October 23-28, 1989 (check out all six strips in the sequence in this RetroJunk article) and is quite possibly the weirdest and most thought-provoking series of comic strips I have ever read.  Garfield wakes up one fine Monday inside an abandoned, boarded-up version of his house.  There isn’t any food in the house, and more disturbing, Jon and Odie are nowhere to be found.  Garfield looks around a bit and discovers that the house has been sold and that neither he nor his family have lived at the house in years.  By the end of the week, the feline has nearly succumbed to loneliness.  In desperation, Garfield admits that he needs Jon and Odie.  After he does this, things suddenly turn back to normal.  Jon and Odie are back and the house is just as it has always been.  Garfield embraces Jon and Odie and the week ends on a happy note.

These Garfield strips are very special to me.  They are rather insightful about the human condition and the need we all feel (or should feel, anyway, I think) to depend on and help others to survive.  As much as Garfield likes to belittle and tease Jon and Odie, he needs them in order to keep his sanity.  Without them, he is just a cranky cat with a knack for routinely eating every morsel of food near him.  Such a creature couldn’t possibly survive for long without a little help and love.  Good thing Jon and Odie have plenty of love to go around.  (By the way, the article mentions that the Garfield sequence bears a strong resemblance to the “Valse Triste” sequence from the Italian film Allegro non Troppo.  I really like this piece of animation with a ghostly cat wandering around an abandoned house; it makes a perfect companion to the comic strips, so check both of them out and tell me what you think of them.)

Does this Squidward “Alone” sequence from SpongeBob Squarepants truly stand alone as the greatest expression of loneliness in animation history?

Okay, deep breath here: the above clip from SpongeBob episode “SB129” features Squidward Tentacles standing in a white void (well, it’s not entirely white: there are a few colored squares off in one corner and an astonishingly weird series of sound effects filling the void slightly) and expressing satisfaction at finally getting away from the eternal (and yellow, porous, and spongy) bane of his existence.  After he says he is all “alone,” he shrinks down into nothingness while versions of the word “alone” in various fonts, sizes, and shapes pop onto the screen.  All of those “alones” shrink down and disappear, too.  I have seen this sequence literally tens of hundreds of times since it first aired in 2000, and I still can’t figure it out.  Is Squidward literally alone?  Is he just imagining the void and all those people saying “alone” over and over?  Where is this white void, exactly?  What time and space does it occupy?  According to the SpongeBob Wiki, it’s called “Nowhere.”  I don’t know about you, but I sure think this place certainly takes you somewhere all right.  Also, how would you know if you were in the middle of “Nowhere?”

How do you feel about loneliness?  Do you feel better alone or with company?  Do you like the Lone Ranger?  Fill the comment box below with your thoughts; sentences make it feel less lonely.

Random Top Five: My Favorite “Necessary Evil: Super Villains of DC Comics” Two-Page Origin Stories

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
Talk about a fall from grace...

Lex Luthor opened a fun theme park ride? Truly a fiendish plot to destroy us all!

For a while now, I have been looking into the philosophical and cultural impact superheroes have had on the world.  This research has rekindled my interest in comics and led me to discover many amazing concepts, characters, creators, stories, and other great comics information.  One piece of comics-related business on my “cool radar” is the new documentary Necessary Evil: Super Villains of DC Comics set to be released on Blu-Ray later this month.  In it, DC Comics writers, editors, and other comics personalities will discuss some of the most iconic bad guys and gals in popular comics culture.  I recently finished the companion book that was released last month and was impressed by the roster of nasties collected therein as well as the stories explaining their origins and motivations.  I particularly liked the many two-page origin stories for some of the villains which concisely and creatively explained their long, complex histories in a small amount of space.  The following five villain origins blew me away the most.  If you manage to get your hands on a copy of the book, I highly recommend you give these parts a look first.

5. Gorilla Grodd

I became familiar with this “super-gorilla” from his time with the Legion of Doom on Challenge of the Superfriends.  I also came to know many other great comics villains through this show, especially episodes about some of their origins.  Through an expisode from “Legion of Doom”, I learned of Grodd’s origin and was  introduced to his birthplace, Gorilla City.  He was once an ordinary gorilla until a chance encounter with aliens who performed experiments on him gave him a highly advanced intelligence and the weird “force of mind” power to take over others’ brains and make them do his bidding.  Quite frankly, I thought he was an absurd character and easily the oddest member of the Legion.  Come on, he was a talking gorilla!  It was pretty hard for me to take that seriously as a young boy, but I later grew to love him because he was indeed so different, which made him somehow awesome in my view.   His two-page origin in the Necessary Evil book has a fantastic portrait of him and his jungle home in classic four-color goodness, but my favorite image in it is the opening panel of him just sitting and drinking tea in a purple armchair next to a roaring fireplace.  That drawing alone sums up a lot of how I feel about Grodd: he’s intelligent, slightly intimidating, and just plain weird all at the same time.  That may not be the most believeable premise I’ve ever heard of, but it certainly works well for a classic comic book villain.

4. The Riddler

Batman’s villains are among the most famous in comic books, and as you can imagine, they are heavily featured in Necessary EvilThe Joker and Clayface both star in long-form stories in the book while many of the other Bat-Baddies receive two-page origins.  A lot of these retellings seemed plain-Jane to me, but I did like how the Riddler origin turned out.  Edward Nashton cheated on a puzzle contest in elementary school and spent the rest of his life conning people with games and riddles.  He only went after Batman in an attempt to outwit the greatest detective in comics.  It was fun looking at how the Riddler’s look has changed over the years, from his green-and-purple question mark-filled long johns in the 1960s to his dapper green jacket, purple bowler hat, and question mark-topped cane in the 1990s and beyond.  I was also surprised to learn that the Riddler was recently a good guy, of sorts, in the comics, dispsensing clues to other criminals’ crimes to any interested parties for a small fee.  I was a little disappointed with this origin, though, because its writer forgot one thing: to include riddles!  I have one small question for that guy: If the Riddler asks a riddle and no one sees him ask it, did he ever ask it at all?  Something to think about…

3. The Scarecrow

Yes, another Batman villain has made my list, but this guy’s origin has once again been graced with some great art.  Dr. Jonathan Crane is a disgraced professor kicked out of his university for using his students as test subjects for his theories concerning fear.  In revenge, Crane takes on the disguise of the suitably scary Scarecrow and uses his nightmare-inducing fear gas to terrify his victims, including a certain bat-themed superhero.  The Scarecrow is one of those characters that just scares the living daylights out of me when I first look at him.  To me, he looks just like a gangly straw figure come to life and moving in a way that is not at all natural.  No wonder he’s been such a great villain since the ’40s!  He is truly the living personification of fear.

2. Lex Luthor

Naturally, Superman’s greatest archenemy gets the front spot of Necessary Evil.  His two-page origin tells the story of the rise of Metropolis and the legend of Superman from Lex’s perspective.  Luthor’s family was instrumental in funding many of the building and public works projects that helped make Metropolis the “City of Tomorrow,” but Lex only cared about himself.  He grew up to become a successful businessman and enterpeneur, and even the U.S. President at one point, but throughout, all that he could think about was his own bitter jealousy toward the more civic-minded and beloved Superman.  This mindset is reflected in the art for Lex’s origin story as Luthor is the center of the action yet everyone else looks to Superman, a subtle turn of events but profound in understanding Luthor’s motivations.  Incidentally, this origin is preceded in the book by an excellent story from the year 2000 in which Luthor goes over a local news puff piece concerning his run for the presidency.  It really opened my eyes to the cold feelings Luthor probably goes through all the time in the comics and almost made me feel sorry for the poor guy.  He is still jerk, of course, but it’s not like that worldview wasn’t formed without cause.

1. Bizarro

Me like Bizarro Superman’s origin story.  Whether he be evil “imperfect” clone of Superman or just from really freaking weird planet of Bizarros where everyone do opposite of normal Earth people (technically called Htrae, in case that make you lose sleep at night), me think Bizarro just plain fun character and probably great guy to hang out with, if only he could get past lousy mindset of doing everything the opposite way.  Naturally, Bizarro’s two-page origin in Necessary Evil actually run backward, with beginning appearing at bottom of page two (with villain of honor facing away from viewer) and end of story appearing at top of page one.  Sure, it confusing to follow, but if American fans of Japanese manga can learn how to read comics right to left, then surely we all can learn to read, talk, and think backwards like Bizarro do.  (By the way, me thought about writing this in more direct Bizarro-speak, but that hurt me brain too much.  Also, me tired of writing like scholarly Cookie Monster, so it okay if we stop now?)

What you think of villains in comics, TV, or elsewhere?  Anything you like/dislike about them?  Let me know in comments.  Also, try not to speak in Bizarro-speak too long, otherwise you get stuck doing it all day!