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December 2003-January 2004

Dennis Kucinich Vote for Frodo.
What's New
Stream of Consciousness
My Personal Life

What's New

A Return to Sanity


Okay, so I haven't updated in over a month. First I was buried beneath a pile of finals, and then I was buried beneath a pile of Christmas insanity.

Christmas is not my holiday. This year, I had the good sense to forego my originally-planned rants on the subject; Brent has been doing some fun Christmas stuff, including an all new Holy Trinity Adventure.

New Year's, on the other hand, seeks to combine two of my all-time favorite things, beer and nostalgia. Prepare for a look back at the past year's worth of games, movies, and whatever the fuck else in an update someday soon.

This is also a good solid decade of foolishness from myself and my esteemed colleague Brentai. KGB contributed a terrible little image that, against my best wishes, I just can't bring myself to put at the top of my page. I am a weak man.

New Life, and of course new archive page and corresponding change to the archive index.

Games of '03


I've started off my Nostalgia '03 kick with a brief Stream on games. More substantial ones ought to follow in days to come.

Toons of '03


Remember those banners nobody ever used, which said "Games, toons, comics"? Well, my Year In Review Stream Series is up to toons now.

Comics of '03


Actually, it's technically a few hours after midnight -- happy New Year, everybody. I know it's been good for me -- saw a bunch of old friends and got my hands on a Quantum and Woody fridge magnet.

Speaking of Quantum and Woody, I'm closing off the trinity of topics with Comics. Though I think tomorrow might be a good day for reflecting on Events.

Welcome, JR Fans


Evenin'. Just thought I ought to update since the lovable JR "Thor" Antrim went and put my URL up on his page. Yeah, he finally printed me after all these years -- he actually printed me twice on his RPGamer column back in the day, if memory serves, but my name didn't end up attached to either one for whatever reason. Though I'm also responsible for the Optimus Thor hack and the de Loco/Doc Ock lookalike.

Anyway. I should probably put a bit more content up if I'm going to go impressing my new gawkers, but I think I've worn out my cartoon/comic book geek rants for awhile and nobody wants to hear exactly what I thought was wrong with Dark Knight Strikes Again and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, so maybe next time. ...Yeah, I went and put myself on a Batman kick with that Stream. Dammit.

I may yet reflect on Events of '03, though most of them sucked, or perhaps concerts I went to -- of which Neil Young's Greendale was by far the best, and one of my all-time favorites.

Meantime, welcome, and feel free to poke around a bit.

Happy Birthday, Brent


Happy 21st to Brentai. I know what you mean about the ass-backwardness of life, old chum; I spend my winters in Flagstaff and my summers in Tempe.

Have also added a new avatar to the Features page. I was going to explain the joke, but then I decided that would be boring and stupid.

Stream of Consciousness


'03 In Review: Games


I decided to start this off with my thoughts on this year's games, but then I realized I really haven't played many new games this year, and my opinions on those few are pretty redundant vis-à-vis every single game site out there. Still, for a quick review:

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: I still want my overhead view back, but am resigned to the fact that this will never happen. Wind Waker doesn't improve on many of Ocarina of Time's flaws, and the water combat is atrocious, but controls are tight and you just have a lot of new really cool moves. Plus, fan service.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: You can have countless hours of fun with this one, but it's way too easy, the plot is boring and insulting to the player's intelligence, and the judge system totally sucks balls.

Final Fantasy X-2: Finally the series stops taking itself so damn seriously. Good use of the Class System. Sorta nonlinear, in the same way that Mega Man is nonlinear. ...Which brings me to:

Mega Man X7: All right, I'm only a few levels in, haven't even unlocked X(!) yet. But the voices are mostly bad (not as bad as 4, of course), I fucking hate Axl, and the transition to 3D is shaky.

Mario Kart: Double Dash: Hell of a lotta fun, as long as you've got a friend or three. Races are much more fun than battles for a change, owing largely to the fact that most of the battle courses suck.

Mario and Luigi: I'm only twenty minutes in, but it's made me chuckle a couple times.


'03 In Review: Toons


I was going to throw in some movie opinions, but then I realized that on the Internet, movie opinions are even more redundant and banal than video game opinions. So I'll just say Kill Bill reminded us, amid the disappointing Matrix sequels, that style over substance can still be awesome, and I quite liked Return of the King despite a few odd bits. (And cutting Saruman, of course, which I'm prepared to call a stupid mistake in the second film rather than a stupid mistake in the third, since the second was, after all, where it belonged.)

Now onto something which, hopefully, I can gush about more comfortably: cartoons.

First, let's talk Justice League. Batman: The Animated Series debuted right before I turned ten, and I have fond memories of coming home from school to watch it every day. It was a fantastic series which has lost none of its charm over the past decade (and let's face it, even such venerated cartoon series as Transformers had some really terrible episodes). All in all, they need to start releasing complete-season DVD sets. (You listening, WB? I got forty bucks for you right here; pay attention.)

I missed most of the Gotham Knights, Superman, and Batman Beyond series that followed, and have only caught one episode of Teen Titans to date, but I got interested in Justice League just over a year ago -- it was on on Saturdays before the new He-Man. Now it's on at 10 Saturday nights, which translates to 11 in Arizona where we don't do the DST thing.

And I gotta tell you -- I'm not the only one who remembers the Batman toon. My friends and I all seem to be just a bunch of big kids, as we've come to habitually spend our Saturday nights over in Ian's dorm clustered around the TV. "We can't miss this week's, guys -- it's got the Joker."

Complex characters and plots made Batman what it was, and Justice League has proven a worthy successor...though the best bits are still the ones with Batman and the rest of his cast. Seeing a sleep-deprived Batman fighting off a foe who controls dreams by staggering into a coffee shop and ordering a triple, then punching out his windshield and cranking up Frere Jacques on the radio, leaves me feeling all warm inside, though I'm not precisely sure what radio station makes a habit of playing Frere Jacques. Guest appearances by Clayface and the Joker likewise came out fantastically.

But the other six Leaguers have their own charm too -- other great episodes this season have included Hawkgirl and Grundy's stand against Cthulhu ("So Fate commands!") and a powers-deprived Superman fighting packs of wolves with a sword in a post-apocalyptic future. And then there was that one where Green Lantern totally made out with Hawkgirl. And we finally found the answer to the question that's been on all our minds: yes, that's a mask, not her face.

Now I'll take a quick break from children's cartoons and give Futurama a nod -- a fantastic show which played a premature siren song last August. ...By a freakish coincidence, that very same last episode is just starting as I write this. It's a pretty fine last episode; most series should be so lucky to go out on such a high note. But I still hate Fox forever for cancelling it.

Back to kids' cartoons now.

Why wasn't my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this awesome? Sure, I cut my teeth on the old Turtles cartoon, but my dad, who could barely stand it, got me into the old Mirage comic instead. In short order, I didn't care much for the cartoon either.

And that's where the new cartoon comes from: the Mirage comic. The violence is toned down and it's full of surfer slang and toy commercials, but it's still a damn fine cartoon. More than anything, it's got the soul of the first TMNT movie (AKA "the one that didn't suck").

One of the most purely joyful moments I have experienced in years of my sad, dull life took place on this very cartoon.

Leo and Shredder run toward each other...
...jump into the air...
...cross swords...
...and the Shredder's fucking head slides off.

I sit speechless for an indeterminate period...
...and then utter:
"Holy shit...they actually did it."

The climax of the infamous Return to New York comic arc -- I never thought I'd see it animated in a million years.

Sure, they had to have the headless Shredder stand up and walk away with his head under his arm at the end of the episode -- they've made him into some kind of immortal or something -- but if that's the sacrifice it takes to get away with on-screen decapitation in a children's cartoon, I'm not going to complain.


'03 In Review: Comics


Let's start with the 600-pound gorilla in the middle of the room: 2003 marked the return of Astro City.

Astro City was released sporadically for years, and then stopped entirely for years more, due to an ailment straight out of a comic book: its writer, Kurt Busiek, was afflicted with an unknown illness. Finally diagnosed with mercury poisoning -- one of the few circumstances, I suppose, in which this news would actually be welcome -- Kurt's now being treated and Astro City is finally back.

There are no words to describe just how good this book is. Astro City may just be my favorite comic of all time. Alternately down-to-Earth and full of wonder, nostalgic and fresh, it tells of heroes and humans, paying homage to sixty-five years of comics history while always adding something new to the table. Every time I read an issue of Astro City, I put it down feeling better about comic books. (All right, all right, so Local Heroes #3 was actually a bit sub-par. Still a good comic, but below par for Astro City.)

Kurt's chosen one of his best-known approaches to this year's miniseries: self-contained stories focusing not on the superheroes but on the man-on-the-street types who see them every day. Part of his motivation for five individual stories (which eventually turned into four as he decided to stretch the last story out to two issues) was simple caution -- if he got sick again, he didn't want to do it in the middle of a story arc this time -- but it's also a fantastic formula that has been a cornerstone of some of his best work (he made his career with Marvels, remember).

It all comes down to one simple thing -- if you're not reading Astro City, you should be. Even if you don't read comics at all.

Moving on -- and what a tough act to follow, but I think this book does it admirably -- we come to the second year of Peter Laird and Jim Lawson's new TMNT. The book has only gotten better in its second year.

One of the things that struck me, since my childhood, as fresh and unique about the Turtles comic was the way it handled death -- a pretty meaningless and open-ended concept in most comics. While TMNT brought the Shredder back from the dead once, it did so by a brilliant and original means, and when Leonardo killed him the second time (see yesterday's comments on the cartoon adaptation), he stayed dead.

And now it's happened again: this year's TMNT climaxed with the death of Master Splinter. No violence, no melodrama or cheese, just death by old age: he goes to feed the birds and he just keels over.

The funeral was brilliantly executed, all the Turtles in perfect form -- especially Leonardo, always my personal favorite. And in a fantastic bit of fan service, Laird worked in nearly every friend the Turtles ever made in the original series, some friends who haven't been introduced yet, and himself and co-creator Kevin Eastman as attendees.

Again, what a tough act to follow, but moving on, Astro City isn't the only crowd-pleaser I hadn't seen for awhile. Warren Ellis, through with --

It bears noting that, halfway through that sentence, I left the house, and have now returned some twelve hours later, following a New Year's party.

Anyway. Warren Ellis, through with Transmet, has at last returned to Planetary and even begun to release it on something vaguely resembling a regular schedule. The best issue of the year, however, wasn't a regular Planetary but the Batman crossover.

Ellis, you must remember, hates superhero books. So whenever he does a superhero book, he takes it in some different and unexpected direction. With Batman/Planetary, he took Bats from an angle seldom seen -- make that from about a half-dozen different angles. Planetary, on the tail of a criminal who can warp realities, encounters all of Batman's most famous incarnations -- modern, '60's, Frank Miller, original Bob Kane, on up through Alex Ross. A brilliantly surreal, and wholly appropriate both for Planetary and for Batman, approach.

Other titles: X-Statix continues to please; Black Panther's cancellation bums me out, but let's be honest, the last year or so was just a lead-in to The Crew anyway; Voltron is my personal favorite of this year's '80's revival titles, even better than Transformers (and the less said about Thundercats the better).

My Personal Life



Games: Final Fantasy X-2 (yeah, got my POS2 working again), Mario Kart: Double Dash, Mega Man X7. It's a busy time of year.

Books: The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories.

Created 03.12.26
Uploaded 03.12.26
Last Updated 05.10.15