Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Flash Season 1, Episode 7: Power Outage

This week's episode of The Flash was quite the jam-packed affair. Not only did Barry lose his powers, but he got them back with an upgrade to boot. And we got not one, but two villains. Three, if you count the brief return of Girder.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
In a flashback scene, we see the origin of yet another villain who got his powers from the particle accelerator explosion. This time it's a young man named Farooq Gibran, who's watching the particle accelerator come online with his two friends. Farooq is blasted by the wave and becomes and "electricity vampire" called Blackout. He blames Dr. Wells for his transformation, and for the death of his two friends.

In the present, Dr. Wells uses his fancy computer to monitor the news from Barry's future. He tells Barry he needs to "kick it up a notch," whatever that means. Blackout arrives at STAR Labs to exact revenge on Dr. Wells. Barry confronts him, but Blackout zaps him and feeds on his energy or life force or something, which steals his speed. When Dr. Wells checks his computer again, he discovers the future's been altered and there's no mention of the Flash anywhere.

Now powerless, Barry begs the STAR Labs Gang to restore his super speed. Dr. Wells suggest "jump starting" him with an electrical charge similar to the lightning that gave him his powers in the first place. It's dangerous, but when Blackout breaks into the Lab, Barry realizes he has no choice and goes through with it. Unfortunately the jump start doesn't work.

Dr. Wells is bummed about the power loss, but he seems less concerned with Barry's health and more upset that the future's been altered. He secretly frees Girder from his cell as a diversion. Blackout attacks Girder and kills him. Whoops! So much for a rematch between him and Barry.

Eventually the STAR Labs Gang figures out that Barry's powers are back, but he's suffering from performance anxiety. He finally gets his groove back when he sees Blackout is about to fry Dr. Wells. He rescues him at very super speed, traveling faster than Blackout's lightning bolts. One of Blackout's stray bolts catches him though, and he begins to feed on Barry's energy. It's too much for him to handle though, and he overloads and dies.

Meanwhile, the Clock King takes a short leave from Arrow and holds the entire Central City Police Department hostage. Detective West, Eddie and Iris are all inside and in danger. Eddie's shot but gets better later, and Iris ends up taking out the Clock King by herself, without the Flash's help.

In the Obligatory Creepy Dr. Wells Tag Scene, Creepy Dr. Wells checks his computer and sees that the future's back to normal. He then takes some blood from Blackout's body and chuckles to himself that he can use it to unlock the secret of the Flash's super speed.

Thoughts:
• The title of this week's episode is pretty clever, referring both to Blackout's power and Barry's loss of his speed.


• Blackout is a newer character who was introduced in the 2011 miniseries Flashpoint. This TV version has little or nothing to do with the comic version.

• Farooq is transformed into Blackout by the particle accelerator wave. Man, the show's really getting its money's worth out of that explosion. I hope that's not gonna be the origin of every metahuman all season, or it's going to get old fast.

• As the wave approaches, Farooq warns his two friends to get in the car. So apparently a car can shield you from a particle accelerator wave. Good to know.

• Barry tells Caitlin how much he enjoys being the Flash and having super speed. What a refreshing attitude! I've grown very weary of DC's stable of grim, mopey superheroes who resent their powers. It's nice to finally see someone who enjoys being super.

• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but here goes. Barry stops for coffee on the way to work (although apparently not at the same place where Iris works) and is frustrated to see a long line. He then uses his super speed to make everyone's coffee for them, including his own.

A couple things here. First of all, unless this coffee shop offers just one type of coffee, there's no way in hell he could possibly know what everyone wanted. 


Secondly, Barry might have super speed, but the espresso machine doesn't. Unless he can make objects speed up by touching them, the coffee's going to pour out of the spigot at the normal rate. He'll be super frustrated as he watches the stream of coffee pour excruciatingly slowly into the cups.

Told you it was hardcore!

• Outside the coffee shop, Barry's held up by a mugger. He smiles broadly as he uses his super speed to disarm him, remove his clothing and bring a cop over to arrest him, all in the blink of an eye.


So what's the cop supposed to do? By the time the cop appears, Barry's already taken the mugger's gun away. Unless he whispered in the cop's ear at super speed, all he's going to be able to do is arrest him for wearing his underwear in public.

• Dr. Wells' futuristic computer has a female voice and is called Gideon. Is that something from the comic? I'm assuming the name is somehow relevant, but if it is I'm not sure how.

• Dr. Wells tells Barry that his super speed could lead to dozens of discoveries and medical breakthroughs. He conveniently leaves out the part about how that might work though. He then tells Barry that "Speed is the key to progress. You need to kick it up a notch."

I'm not quite sure what he means here. Does he think Barry's been slacking? Does he think he can run faster and just hasn't been doing so? Has he been watching too much Emeril?


• When Barry loses his powers, Dr. Wells checks his futuristic newspaper and sees that it's changed. There's no longer any reference to the Flash in it, which causes him to freak out.

This pretty much cements the idea that Wells is from the future. If the future is changing, might that mean he could change as well? Or even disappear altogether, Back To The Future style? No wonder he's so anxious to restore events!

And by the way, that headline in the altered newspaper about the Postal Service collapsing in 2024? Haw! I wouldn't be surprised if we see that particular news item long before then.

• Blackout attacks Barry and sucks the life force or speed energy or something from him, rendering him powerless.


That's definitely bad news for Barry. But what about the fact that there also appears to be a lightning bolt going.completely through his chest? Shouldn't that kill him? Or is his "altered" DNA protecting him somehow?

• After Barry loses his powers, he mentions he had to make his way back to STAR Labs by using Uber. I wonder if someone watching this episode ten years from now is going to scratch their head at that reference.

• Caitlin is puzzled by Barry's loss of power. She says his DNA was transformed by the lightning strike, and it's not possible to untransform DNA.

Why not? If lightning can transform him, why can't another strike untransform him? Seems reasonable to me.

• I had a feeling we'd see Girder again at some point, but I didn't think it would be this soon. The second that Dr. Wells got up out of his wheelchair and stood in front of Girder, I knew he was toast. He wouldn't have revealed his secret to him if he expected him to survive the encounter. Too bad. He could have been a fun character to keep around.

• When Barry learns that Dr. Wells released Girder as a diversion to buy them more time, he accuses him of using them all as pawns in an unholy chess game. He's right of course, and I was interested in seeing just how this would drive a wedge between the two of them.

Then after the commercial break the whole matter is apparently forgotten. I guess Barry also forgives at super speed.

Girder's death also neatly wipes out Barry's boneheaded move to reveal his secret identity to him last week. Well, that was certainly convenient!


• Over at the Central City Police Department, William Tockman, aka The Clock King, escapes custody and holds everyone inside hostage.

Clock King made his debut over on Arrow in Season 2 . He was a former employee of Kord Industries (which I assume is a nod to Ted Kord, aka the Blue Beetle) who suffers from MacGregor's Syndrome, a fatal made-up disease. He's using his remaining time to steal money to help his sister, who has cystic fibrosis. Talk about your hard luck cases!

He tells Detective West he's trying to escape from custody sohe can say one last goodbye to his sister.

Sigh... must we make every single super villain sympathetic? Must they all be poor, misguided souls? Why do their illegal activities always have to be justified somehow? Why can't a villain just be evil for the hell of it? I guess it's a sign of the times we live in.

By the way, this MacGreggor's Syndrome that Clock King has? That's the exact same disease that Mr. Freeze's wife Nora had in 1997's Batman And Robin. You know, I love all this world building and the shared universe concept. But associating yourself with that particular cinematic turd is a bad, bad idea.

• Eddie Thawne tries to take out Clock King, but is shot and wounded in the process. So I guess that pretty much torpedoes the idea that Eddie is secretly the Reverse Flash. If he was, he'd have simply zipped out of the way of the bullets, right?

Maybe he's just not the Reverse Flash yet.

By the way, I really wish the comic writers had come up with a better name than "Reverse Flash." If he's truly the reverse of the flash, then wouldn't he be... slow? His other name, Professor Zoom, ain't much lot better.

• Blackout stalks the corridors of STAR Labs, looking for Dr. Wells. When Wells tells Barry that he's going to have to kill the electrical intruder, he balks at the notion. 
Dr. Wells screams, "HE'S A MURDERER!" 

That's an interesting thing to say, considering he's killed at least two people since the series began.

• Blackout says the average person generates 342 watts of electricity. A quick trip to Google tells us that the amount is variable, depending on what a person is doing. You generate around 500 watts when you're running, and about 100 when you're lying on the couch. So I'll give them this one, even if the amount mentioned is oddly specific.


• When confronted by Blackout, Dr. Wells recites a list of names of people who died as a result of his particle accelerator explosion. This list is a goldmine of DC Comics character references.

He mentions Blackout's friends Jake and Darya, who were most likely made up for the show. He then mentions Ralph Dibney (who's the Elongated Man), Al Rothstein (Atom Smasher), Grant Emerson (Damage), Will Everett (Amazing Man), Bea DaCosta (Fire) and Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm). 

It's implied that these people are all dead, but we know for a fact Firestorm is going to make an appearance soon. Who know, maybe the others on the list will as well.

• Barry gets his powers back— and then some— right as Blackout attacks Dr. Wells. From Barry's accelerated point of view, Blackout's lightning bolts slowly make their way across the room toward Wells. It was a very well done scene.

It also means that Barry is now moving much faster than the speed of sound, which has sort of been his limit the past few episodes. Much, much faster. The speed of lightning is variable as it travels through the atmosphere, but most people agree it's around 220,000 mph. Barry had to be running even faster than that! Speedy!

• Blackout tries to absorb Barry's powers again, but this time it's too much for him and he overloaded and dies. 
Caitlin very seriously tells Barry, "He choked on you." Ahem. Surely there was a better way to phrase that sentence.

• Barry visits Eddie in the hospital and brings him flowers. A nice gesture I suppose, but do guys really do that for other guys?

• 
So... how is Dr. Wells planning on keeping Blackout's dead body in his super jail? Are the cells refrigerated? 

Wells then extracts some (dead) blood from Blackout, saying it's the key to unlocking the mystery of Barry's super speed. It's all he can do to keep from throwing his head back and letting loose with a patented evil laugh at this point.

This is obviously meant to suggest that it's Dr. Wells who becomes the Reverse Flash instead of Eddie, but at this point, who knows?

• Next week: The Flash/Arrow crossover event! Cool! Now if only the people in charge of DC Comic TV shows were in charge of the movies.

This Week In Embarrassing Adult Geek Sleepwear

Welp, it's that time of year again, when my email inbox is stuffed to the brim with hundreds of sales, special offers and once-in-a-lifetime deals. I delete them by the bushel, but for everyone I trash, two more pop up like hydra heads.

I ignore the vast majority of them, but occasionally one will manage to briefly grab my attention before it's relegated to the trash bin. An astounding majority of them are ads for Adult Geek Sleepwear, which seems to have become a thing now.

I have a feeling that most people would never actually buy these items for themselves. Instead, they have that air of Desperate Xmas Gift about them. You know, things purchased by people who have absolutely no idea what to buy you, but kind of remember that you like that one show about the guy with the long scarf.

If for some reason you do buy any of these for yourself and actually wear them to bed, pray to whatever gods you worship that your house never catches fire and you have to stand out on the front lawn at 3am while the neighbors gawk at you wearing your Doctor Who onesie. You've been warned.

Let's take a closer look at the various Embarrassing Adult Geek Sleepwear there is to be had, shall we?

First up we have the stylish Tenth Doctor Hooded Onesie. This sleek little number does its best to simulate David Tennant's trademark pin striped suit and brown overcoat, and fails spectacularly.
Say, is that a sonic screwdriver in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
For some reason there seems to be a plethora of upsetting Doctor Who sleepwear available, far more than there's room to show here. Make of that what you will.

Here we have the TARDIS Hooded Onesie. which is only slightly less ridiculous looking than the previous entry. 

Here we have yet another chic Doctor Who-themed hooded onesie. I honestly don't get the appeal of these. Is there really that big of a market for adult sleepwear that you have to unzip all the way to the crotch when you need to pee in the middle of the night?

This one is apparently supposed to echo a traditional sweater design, and is festooned with dozens of little TARDISES (TARDI?).

All things considered the design of this one isn't all that bad. It's just that it's printed on an oversized adult version of an article of clothing meant to be worn by an infant, which is nothing if not off-putting.

Speaking of off-putting, we have this smart little number, the TARDIS Hooded Summer Onesie.

At long last you can dress like an overgrown man-child year round with this cool and classic sleep set made specially for those sultry summer months.

Again with the Doctor Who onesies! I told you there were a ton of them! This one's not as disturbing as it is just plain ugly. It's hard to see, but there are TARDISES hidden in there somewhere.

Of course once you finally manage to crawl out of bed at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, you can't very well parade around the house in naught but your adult onesie. That's why you'll need one of these Doctor Who TARDIS or Fourth Doctor terrycloth robes.

Guaranteed to soak up gallons of Doritos flavored Mt. Dew during even the most spirited Call Of Duty gaming sessions.


You can even purchase Doctor Who Boxers for some inexplicable reason. Shown here are the Eleventh Doctor Boxers, which strangely enough are designed to look like a shirt, bowtie and sport jacket, and of course the inevitable set of TARDIS boxers.
If anyone even thinks of making an "It's Bigger On The Inside" joke I swear I'll turn this car right around!

Doctor Who isn't the only property to be desecrated by this distressing trend. Here we have a set of Star Wars Jedi and Darth Vader Hooded Robes.

You won't have a bad feeling about this in these sassy sleepwear from a galaxy far, far away!


For those of you with a bit of a wild streak, there's this classy Chewbacca Hooded Robe (what's with all the hoods?) that looks exactly like it was made from my bathroom rug, right down to the texture and perpetual dampness.

You'll go where no sleepwear has gone before with these dashing Star Trek: The Next Generation Mens & Womens Pajamas. Shields up! Red alert!

Why should sci-fi fans have all the fun? Comic book fans can dress like disconcertingly enormous babies as well! Behold the Batman and Superman Onesies!

Holy Trendsetters, Batman!

The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on TV right now, so it's no wonder they got in on the geek sleepwear act.

Now you can hunt down the undead or just read the morning paper in your official The Walking Dead Sheriff Rick Grimes Bathrobe. It's to die for!

This robe will also apparently cause your head to swell to Brobdingnagian proportions, but that's another story.

If you're one of those who feels a little "dead: inside when you first wake up, why not try The Walking Dead Walker Robe? Why eat brains when you can just wear this "smart" little number?

Just in case all that wasn't disturbing enough, feast your eyes on these: Yep, we now live in a world in which it's possible to buy Underoos for adults!

Available of course in Man Of Steel, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, He-Man and Skeletor.

Hopefully I won't receive any of this sleepwear for Xmas, because I'm warning everyone right now, if I do, it's going in the back of the closet with the novelty doormats, talking fish and Panini makers.

I'll stick to sleeping in a t-shirt and shorts, thanks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 7: Crossed

There was quite a bit going on in this week's episode. Despite that, somehow it still felt like a placeholder whose only purpose was to set up the dreaded Fall Finale.

I've whined many times before about how I hate this new trend of splitting seasons in half, so I won't subject you to it again. Except to say that I don't like it. At all.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Daryl and Noah arrive back at the church and talk Rick and Co. into charging into Atlanta to rescue Beth and Carol. They set up a dubious barrier in front of the church, where Carl, Judith, Michonne and twitchy Father Gabriel stay behind.

Meanwhile, Glenn, Maggie, Rosita and Tara all wait for Eugene to wake up after being punched by Abraham a couple episodes back. Abraham, still sore after finding out there's no zombie cure in Washington D.C., pouts at the side of the road. Glenn, Rosita and Tara decide to go fishing, as the audience thrills to all the post apocalyptic action.

Father Gabriel sneaks out of the church and is almost immediately attacked by a walker, in a subplot even less interesting than the fishing one.

In Atlanta, Rick wants to kill everyone in Grady Memorial Hospital to get to Beth and Carol. Tyreese talks him into capturing a couple of cops and offering a prisoner exchange instead. They capture several of the Grady Bunch, but Sasha proves she's the biggest idiot on the entire decimated planet and lets one of them escape, which I'm sure won't come back to bite them in the ass next week.

Thoughts:
• Finally, some relief from the "spotlight" episodes, as we cut back and forth between story lines. Yes, focusing on a smaller group for an entire episode is a nice change of pace, but it should be used in small doses. Do it too often and you end up shortchanging your other characters. 

Take Michonne for instance. I almost forgot she was on the show until this week. After all the character building they did with her last year, she's had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do so far this season. She's pretty much set dressing at this point, while they focus on far less interesting characters. That's why three straight weeks of these spotlight episodes is way too much.


• The title of this episode is kind of interesting. There's a comic series called Crossed that's a blatant ripoff of very similar to The Walking Dead. As you might expect, it's about the survivors of a world-wide plague that's plunged the world into chaos.

There are a few differences though. In Crossed, the infected don't die, they become dangerous homicidal maniacs that can't be reasoned with, who carry out their most disgusting and perverted desires. They're characterized by a red, cross-shaped rash that appears under their eyes and down the bridge of their nose (hence the title).

The Walking Dead has gone into some pretty dark territory in the past, but it looks positively Disneyesque next to Crossed, which seems to delight in seeing just how much rape, torture, dismemberment and worse it can cram into every issue. It gives the word gratuitous new meaning. I've glanced at a couple issues in the comic shop and felt like I needed to take a hot shower afterward.

I doubt that this episode's title was an homage to the Crossed comic, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.


• While the others are fortifying the church, Father Gabriel makes himself incredibly useful by noticing the Termite blood on the floor of the altar and trying to wash it off.

I couldn't help but think "Out, damned spot! Out I say" when I saw this scene. Say, that literature class finally came in handy for something!
 
• When Carl is talking to Father Gabriel, he says something about how they can't stay in one place for very long. There's a very oddly timed shot of Michonne (remember her?) listening to this exchange, as a funny look crosses her face.

Uh-oh. I smell another Michonne "I'm a ramblin' gal and can't stay here anymore" plot complication brewing.

• Does anyone really care what happens to Father Gabriel at this point? I know I sure don't. Other than hoping he doesn't endanger Carl, Judith and Michonne, he can limp right out of the series as far as I'm concerned.

By the way, when he escapes the church, he accidentally steps on a nail and has to pull it out of his foot. I'm not sure, but I think I might have detected the possibility of some subtle Christ imagery going on in that scene.


• So I guess Eugene is most likely a drooling vegetable now, right?

A couple episodes ago Abraham knocked him out with a single punch, which wasn't all that surprising. What was unusual is that it appears he's been unconscious for the better part of a day. Long enough for Maggie to build a makeshift tent for him so he wouldn't get sunburned.

See, traumatic brain injury (or concussion) ranges from mild to severe. The length of time you're unconscious is what's really important, as that's how the severity of the injury is measured. 


If you're out for less than thirty minutes, that's a mild concussion. You might be woozy when you wake up, but most likely you'll be fine. If you're out for more than half an hour, that's a severe concussion, and you need to get to a hospital, stat. If you're out for six hours or more like Eugene, if you ever do wake up, you're probably going to need someone to feed and clothe you.

• Rick's taken a really dark turn lately. When discussing their rescue plan, he talks about slitting the Grady Bunch's throats like he's talking about buying new shoestrings. 

It's a bleak world indeed in which Daryl is now the voice of reason.
• Rick & Co. enter Atlanta and lure a couple of Grady cops out so they can capture them. The plan goes bad of course, and they have a shootout on a street full of half melted walkers.


It took me a minute to realize why the Atlanta walkers were melted into the pavement. It's because the Army tried to napalm them back when the city fell.

Didn't that happen a long time ago though? Have they really been lying there fused to the street for several years?

• During the shootout with the Gradys, one of the cops attacks Daryl. He pins him to the ground near one of the melted walkers, which comes perilously close to biting him.

Fortunately Daryl is a resourceful chap, and sticks his fingers in the eye sockets of another fused walker and uses its skull like a bowling ball to knock out the Grady cop. Strike!

You know you're watching something special when the sight of a man tearing the head off a living corpse and beating another man with it is played for laughs.


• One of the Grady Cops captured by Rick & Co. is named Bob Lamson. He seems like a decent enough guy at first, but ends up getting into Sasha's head and tricks her into letting him escape.

Rick should have known that Lamson couldn't be trusted. He already betrayed Captain America as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned HYDRA traitor Jasper Sitwell.

• This whole Grady Bunch plot line is confusing me. When Beth was first abducted by them, it was implied that they were all cops who were trying their best to maintain order in the hospital, and things had gone horribly wrong as they overstepped their authority. 


Now we find out from Lamson that there are no real cops left, and he and the others are apparently civilians who are pretending to be policemen.

Why the pretense? Who's it benefitting for them to pretend to be cops? The people they round up on their patrols? Do the indentured orderlies know that the officers aren't really cops? I feel like I'm missing something important here.

• Sasha wins the "Boneheaded Move Of The Season" award hands down in this episode. While Lamson is in her custody, he starts ingratiating himself to her, and says he recognized one of the melted walkers in the parking lot as someone he used to know. He asks Sasha to end his friend's suffering. Amazingly she falls for his bushwah, and while she's looking out the window for his walker pal he knocks her out and ends up escaping.

Jesus, you could see Lamson's betrayal coming down the street like a goddamned Thanksgiving parade float. I've been generally impressed that the characters haven't acted quite as stupidly this season as they have in the past, but that all went out the window in this episode. 

If her bone-headed move should somehow get her killed, then she deserves it.

• Maggie and Abraham are chatting when Eugene finally wakes up. Maggie hears him groan and walks around the front of the firetruck to tend to him.

Note that the scene cuts there; we don't actually see her help him up or anything. I wonder... wouldn't that be something if next episode we see Zombie Eugene gnawing on Maggie's leg, right as Glenn and the others come back?

Hey, it's possible. Eugene's storyline is pretty much over at this point (although he's still around in the comic, long after his confession) so it would be a good sendoff for him, and a shocking way to end the first half of the season. I doubt if it'll happen, but if it does— you heard it here first!


• My prediction for next week's Fall Finale: There'll be a big shootout between Rick's group and the Grady Bunch, someone in the opening credits will die, and it'll all end with a big cliffhanger that won't get resolved for months.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Santaur Vs Santataur

I was doing my annual pre-Black Cyber Monday Online Xmas shopping today, and I ran across this on the Archie McPhee website. It's an Xmas ornament of Santaur, apparently cooling his genitals on a convenient snowbank.

Ahem.

"Santaur" looks a bit familiar, doesn't he?

I'll expect the first of my royalty checks by the end of the week, Archie McPhee. You can send them to me care of my blog.

See the rest of the one true Santataur here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

RARRR!! Card Game Art

Two years ago this very month I was first approached by Kevin Brusky of Ape Games about creating artwork for their RARRR!! game. 

RARRR!! is a multi-player card game, in which players create their own kaiju and pit them against one another while destroying various cities.

As a long-time Godzilla fan, this assignment was right up my alley. Why, it's like I'd been training my whole life for this!

Over the course of the two years I created twelve different monsters, numerous power cards, syllable cards (to help name your monster) and more.

I also created twenty four city cards for the various monsters to destroy. Each of these cards featured an image of one of the kaiju standing over the skyline of a city. Sounds simple, but it was anything but. It's easy to find images of the London or Tokyo skylines. But try finding reference photos of Jakarta, Lima and Mumbai.

It all worked out in the end though, and it was a pretty enjoyable project. Ape Games was very easy to work with too, which helped a lot. They seemed to like the art I provided and had very few changes. That's always a plus!

Here are a few of the monster characters I designed. There are a few more, but this is enough to give you an idea of what the game looks like. I don't want to post every card here, as there are well over a hundred of them.

As you can see, we tried to include most of the basic kaiju monster types, such as giant lizards, apes, pterodactyls and insects. Hopefully none of them are close enough to their cinematic counterparts to generate any lawsuits.

I actually sketched out quite a few more monsters than were actually used, including a giant turtle (natch), an enormous chameleon, a Mecha Godzilla type, a Gargantua and a Megalon-esque monster. Those five were rejected as we narrowed the list down to twelve.

If you're wondering, the symbols at the bottom of the cards pertain to the power the kaiju possesses, such as electrical, fire, radioactivity and poisonous gas.

The letters and symbols in the upper right corner are how you go about creating a name for your character (there are additional letter cards in the game).

Here's an example of the power cards from the game, demonstrating the various levels of power your kaiju can display. 

In the Level 1 card, the giant robot's slightly sparking, like he just walked across the carpet and touched the doorknob. At Level 2 he's firing a beam of electricity from his cyclopean eye, while at Level 3 he's going all in with a spectacular, if deadly, display.

So how'd I create the kaiju cards? I thought you'd never ask! 

It all starts with a sketch, of course. After getting the sketch approved by Ape Games, I placed it on a card template.

I then started blocking out the basic shapes. Actually I drew these shapes on a layer under the sketch, but I left it off here for clarity.

I drew about 95% of the game art in InDesign. What's that, you say? InDesign's a page layout program! You can't draw in that! Well, yes you can. InDesign has a set of basic drawing tools, and I find it much easier to work with than Illustrator, which is what most people use for drawing. In fact I would go so far as to say I cannot stand working in Illustrator. I've tried working in it and I just can't stand it. So InDesign it is.

The advantage of using a vector program like InDesign is that once your art is drawn, you can scale it up as much as you like without loss of quality.

I then started adding the various body parts, such as the arm, legs and tail.

By the way, I made this lizardy monster blue, since Godzilla is usually depicted as green. Remember, we don't want any pesky lawsuits!

I then added the facial features. Hey, it's starting to look like something now!

I seem to remember Kevin at Ape Games telling me that all my characters look like they're pissed off. I think that was a compliment.

Next I started adding various little detail lines to flesh out the monster's body.

Then I added his teeth. Monsters need lots of sharp teeth, dontcha know. I made his teeth kind of yellowish, not because he doesn't brush, but because white choppers would have been invisible against a white background. Planning!

Next I added his back spines, because all giant lizards worth their salt have them. Kevin suggested adding the forehead horn to further distance him from Godzilla.

Then I added shading to give him some depth and volume. I did this by drawing various transparent black shapes over the monster, using the blur command to give them a soft edge, and pasting them inside the various body parts. It's simpler than it probably sounds.

Lastly I added some spots here and there. Why? I don't know, but it's something I always do. A drawing of a monster doesn't feel complete unless I add some spots to it.

I then added the background. I used Photoshop for the background, because InDesign doesn't do scratchy edges or painterly color blocks very well.

The blue monster was blending in with the blue background, so I added a white outline and a drop shadow to make it pop. I can't believe I just said "make it pop." That's a phrase every graphic designer dreads hearing.

And finally I added the various symbols and icons to the card. 

And there you have it! Repeat all that several dozen times and you've got yourself a card game!

Early on I also created this box art for the game. I reused several of the monsters from the cards and added them to a city scape, complete with attacking jet planes and searchlights in the sky. The RARRR!! logo was done in InDesign as well.

Everything here was drawn in InDesign, except for the mushroom cloud, which was done in Photoshop.

Ultimately that box art wasn't used, mainly because the shape and size of the box changed. Ape Games took my art and re-purposed it for the new box, and did a great job. 

You can't really see it here, but the art forms one continuous image all the way around the box. If you line four of the boxes up side by side, it makes a little table top mural.

So there you have it! RARRR!! isn't the first card game I've worked on, but it's the most fun. The games getting great reviews, and from what I've seen people seem to enjoy playing it. If you'd like to order it (and see the rest of my art!), head on over to Ape Games and pick up a copy or three.

M-O-O-N, That Spells, "I Have A Slightly Better Feeling About This"

Way back in June of this year I posted an epic rant about the news that Hollywood was adapting Stephen King's massive novel The Stand into a single measly film.

As a long-time fan of the book I didn't see any way one film could possibly do the story justice. The 1994 ABC miniseries was six hours long and they still had to drop characters and subplots for time.

It also didn't make sense to me from a monetary standpoint. Hollywood is positively desperate for film franchises these days, and The Stand could easily be turned into three films. Heck, the novel is already divided into three "books" for the filmmaker's convenience. Turning it into a movie trilogy seemed like a no-brainer to me. They could even split the last film in two, as is increasingly the fashion these days.

Welp, behold the massive influence of my powerful and highly influential blog!

This week writer/director Josh Boone announced that The Stand is indeed going to be turned into three, and possibly even four films. Just like I said it could be! Finally! Was that so hard, guys?

You're welcome, fans of the book. Thanks to me, we're getting our three, and maybe four Stand films.

Although this is welcome news indeed, there are still a few worrisome details about the project:

• Josh Boone's only two directing credits so far are the romantic comedy Stuck In Love and the "teens with cancer" tearjerker The Fault In Our Stars

Can the perpetrator of such schmaltz really do justice to a horror-fantasy epic about a world-ending plague?

• In a recent interview concerning The Stand, Boone said, "So I think we are going to do like four movies. I can't tell you anything about how we're going to do them, or what's going to be in which movie."

Once more with feeling: The novel is already divided into three parts, each of which has a beginning, middle and end. All you need to do is take the book and turn it into script format! The hard work's already been done!

• Lastly, back when the plan was to make just one movie, Boone said, "I really wanted to do an A-list actor, really grounded, credible version of the movie."

Oy vey iz mir! There's that word again, grounded! What the hell does that even mean? It's one of those buzzwords that everyone keeps saying, that sounds like something but doesn't mean a goddamned thing.

Josh Trank, who's currently ruining The Fantastic Four film over at Fox, keeps saying he's making a grounded version of the comic. Because of course if ever there was a story that needed to be grounded, it's one about a man who can stretch his limbs like a rubber band, a woman who can turn invisible, a guy who can burst into flame and a man who's made of orange rocks. 

I swear to Thor, if I hear the word grounded in reference to scifi or comic book movies one more time, I'm going to lie down in the middle of the Expressway.

I'm trying to look on the bright side here though. The fact that Warner Bros. finally got it through their thick heads to make three of four films is a good sign. Let's just hope it doesn't turn out too awfully grounded.

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 8: The Things We Bury

Wow, there was quite a lot going on in this episode, so let's get right to it.

But before we do, one thing-- there's only one more episode this year and then the series is going on hiatus until March. MARCH! That's four months! I hate, hate, hate these damned split seasons that every show seems to be doing these days. 

This series is firing on all cylinders right now and building up a really nice momentum, and they're going to throw that all away-- and risk losing their audience-- by going off the air for four goddamned months. I guess I'd have to be a studio executive to understand the logic behind this.

We will be getting the eight episode Agent Carter series in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s absence, but still... going off the air for four months seems like a bad idea to me.

OK, enough whining. On with the review!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We begin in the closing days of WWII, with the secret origin of Werner Reinhardt, aka Daniel Whitehall. He's forcing a bunch of Chinese villagers to grab hold of the Diviner, which naturally turns them all to stone. Well, all except for one woman who can pick it up with no ill effects, and who totally won't turn out to be Skye's mom. 

Whitehall is about to find out what makes this woman tick, when he's captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and interrogated by Agent Peggy Carter herself. She locks Whitehall in prison for 45 years.

Whitehall's an old man when he's freed from prison by secret HYDRA agents. Now an old man, he somehow tracks down the Chinese woman from before. The woman, who totally isn't Skye's mom, hasn't aged a day in 45 years. Whitehall performs horrifying experiments on her, discovers her anti-aging secret and somehow transfers it to himself.

In the present day, Coulson and the rest of the Team cook up an extremely complicated plan to hack into an Australian satellite system so they can discover the location of the secret alien city from Coulson's wall carvings. You know, the city that absolutely isn't the home of the Inhumans.

Meanwhile, Evil Ward captures his older brother Christian and takes him into the woods, to the well in which their younger brother Tommy died. Evil Ward says Christain forced him to throw Tommy down the well, while Christian says he tried to stop Evil Ward from doing so. They're both such despicable people and so good at lying that at this point I don't care which one is telling the truth. Maybe Tommy jumped into the well of his own accord just to get away from the two of them.

Bakshi kills himself during his interrogation by Mockingbird, Skye's dad teams up with Whitehall because he secretly wants revenge against him for killing Skye's mom, and Evil Ward teams up with Whitehall as well, because why not.

Thoughts:
Whitehall was released from S.H.I.E.L.D. prison in 1989 by order of Alexander Pierce. You may remember him from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He was the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D. who was also secretly a HYDRA agent.

At the time of Whitehall's release in '89 he still had a pronounced (and not very convincing) German accent, but in the present day he doesn't. 

I guess 25 years is long enough to get rid of an accent. If you work at it, that is, and you're not Arnold Schwarzenegger.

• Agent Carter questions Whitehall about the Diviner. He tells her it was brought to Earth by "blue angels" who came down from the sky.

I doubt he's talking about the US Navy & Marine Corps stunt flying team. He's almost certainly referring to the Kree, one of the more prominent alien races in the Marvel Universe, and most likely the source of the magical GH-323 that brought Coulson back to life.

Whitehall's "years in prison" montage-- in which the camera slowly rotates 360 degrees around his cell as it changes over the decades-- was very well done.

• Coulson wants Fitz to practice assembling some sort of technobabble device so that S.H.I.E.L.D. can hack into an Australian satellite system. Fitz isn't sure he can do it, and reminds Coulson that he only has one good hand now.

Is this new? I know Fitz suffered brain damage from almost drowning, but I don't recall him mentioning nerve damage to his hand before.

• Skye's dad chastises Daniel Whitehall's methods for discovering the secret of the Diviner. He tells him the old saw that performing the same action over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.

I don't know how that belief got started, but I don't buy it. Why is performing the same action more than once a bad thing? If you get in your car and turn the key and it doesn't start, does turning the key again and hoping it turns over this time mean you're insane? If it doesn't start on the first try should you just abandon your vehicle and walk home, lest you're put in the looney bin?

• In 1989, Whitehall finds Skye's mother, who hasn't aged a day since 1945. He gruesomely (and I do mean gruesomely!) dissects her to discover the secret of her immortality. He figures out what makes her tick and somehow applies this secret to himself, shaving years off his actual age.
 
How exactly would that work? How does one extract immortality from one person and apply it to another? Did it involve a transfusion of her blood? Did he inject himself with her DNA? Or did she have some sort of "immortality organ" right next to her spleen and he stuck it in his own gut?

• Also in 1989, Skye's dad finds the mutilated remains of her mother and vows revenge against Whitehall. Actor Kyle MacLachlan looks a good 25 years younger here, and I'm assuming they did a healthy amount of CGI de-aging on him. If so it was very well done, especially for a TV budget.

• During Mockingbird's interrogation of Bakshi/Buckshi/Bokshi, he bites down on a poison capsule in his cheek and kills himself rather than betray Whitehall. I guess now we'll never find out exactly how his name was supposed to be pronounced.
 
• Although I think Evil Ward is vastly more interesting than Good Ward, I reeeeeally don't care about his backstory or his nutty family. The scenes with Evil Ward and his brother were the dullest part of the episode.
 
• Next week: Well, there ain't no next week, as ABC apparently thinks we'll all be standing in line waiting for Best Buy to open on Black Friday and won't have time to watch TV.
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