Happy 65th Anniversary, Peanuts!

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The Peanuts comic strip is now 65 years old! This calls for a special post! So, I’ve decided to celebrate with my top 10 favorite moments in both the strip and the cartoons.
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10. Snoopy stands up to the cat next door. Charlie Brown’s next-door neighbor has one freaky cat. This cat is actually capable of knocking down Snoopy’s doghouse with one mighty swipe of its paw. In one story, Linus runs to Snoopy screaming that the cat next door has caught Woodstock. In one shining moment of courage, Snoopy leaps off his doghouse and fights the cat, winning what looks like a hard fight. In the end, he discovers that the cat was only playing with a yellow sock puppet. But as Linus points out, Woodstock would’ve been honored to know Snoopy went through for his little buddy.
9. In one strip, Peppermint Patty was sleeping through math class, causing her z’s to become math problems.
8. “He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown”–all of it, but particularly the ending where instead of punishing Snoopy for running away from home, Charlie Brown forgives him. It’s basically the Peanuts version of Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. I’m not sure if it’s on DVD, but I’d say watch it. It’s one of the best specials.
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7. The strip above, where Lucy learns just how important it is to count your blessings.
6. In a Sunday strip, Peppermint Patty’s dad gives her roses just because he knows that when she gets older, lots of boys will try to woo her with flowers. He wanted to be the first boy to ever give her flowers. Aw! And what makes this even better? Schultz himself did the exact same thing to his oldest daughter.
5. For the entire history of the strip, Charlie Brown’s baseball team infamously never won a game, except by forfeit because the other team couldn’t show or by rain cancelling the game before it could finish. (neither of those count, of course) But in a 1993 strip, they actually won a game! In fact, he even scored the winning run!

Continue reading “Happy 65th Anniversary, Peanuts!”

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

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It is never “only a dream”, John Constantine. Here less than other places”–Dream, Sandman #3: “Dream a Little Dream of Me

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. One of his best works ever was his comic book series Sandman. Sandman takes place in The Dreaming, the same realm we enter when we sleep.  It’s ruled by a family called the Endless. Each member of the family is an anthromorphic personification: Dream, Death, Destruction, Delirium, Destiny, and Desire. Dream, also known as Morpheus, is the primary protagonist.

What I like best about Dream is that he is resigned to his station. He is neither good nor evil, but neutral.  His deeds only serve to preserve the realm of dreams, which is neither good nor evil.  (Although Sandman does do heroic deeds on occasion, they are done for his own purposes)

The first story arc, Preludes and Nocturnes, covers the first 8 issues of the comic.  In my opinion, it’s the strangest arc in the series. The Vertigo line rarely interacted with DC’s main comic book universe, and Sandman is no exception.  (In fact, many titles, like Invisibles and Y, the Last Man had nothing to do with DC’s universe at all) Characters like Cain, Abel, Martian Manhunter, and Doctor Destiny all appear in the story. Iechnically, Cain and Abel were really only the hosts of DC’s House of Mystery comic and were based on their biblical namesakes. They are immortal to an extant. In this version, Cain constantly murders Abel, not that it matters. I don’t get these appearances. However, I do like the way Sandman retrieves his dreamstone from Doctor Destiny by goading him into fighting him in the realm of dreams, where Dream is more powerful.

One of my favorite moments is when we first meet Lucifer in Hell. Lucifer would later become a key player in the comic’s main story and eventually got his own spin-off soon after Sandman ended. (and yes, I am considering reviewing that series as well) Here, one of his demons, Chronozon, has stolen Dream’s helmet, one of the three totems he is searching for in the story in order to regain control of his realm (OK, technically Chronozon is Beelezebub’s demon, but he and Azazel share hell together with Lucifer.) They meet each other in a challenge to determine who can create the strongest manifestation.  The battle ends when Chronozon becomes “…anti-life, the Beast of Judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds … of everything.” Dream’s counter? “I am Hope.” At the end of the battle, Lucifer and Dream have this exchange:

Lucifer: The million lords of Hell stand arrayed about you. Tell us, why should we let you leave? Helmet or no, you have no power here–what power have dreams in Hell?”

Sandman: “You say I have no power? Perhaps you speak truly. But–you say dreams have no power here? Tell me, Lucifer Morningstar…Ask yourselves, all of you, what power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven.

Hate and evil are weak against the light.

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My other favorite moment is the final chapter, “The Sound of Her Wings”, in which we meet another member of the Endless, Death (who eventually received two one-shots: The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life). Death is perhaps my favorite character in Sandman.  She is not a chilling grim reaper or a brooding ruler like Hades. She is a vibrant, lively woman who is pleasant to all she encounters.  I would much rather meet her when my journey on this realm ends before I meet Jesus.  Her introduction is excellent and like Dream, we are meant to ponder why we fear such a charming woman.

Next month, I will review the second arc, The Doll House.

Transformers 30th Anniversary Tribute: Transformers the Movie

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In 1986, the Transformers franchise got its first of many overhauls–the only Transformers movie you should ever watch.  For the conclusion of my tribute, I’ve decided to review it.

For season 3, Hasbro wanted to take both the cartoon and the franchise in a new, darker direction, as they were discontinuing many toys from the original line.  The movie killed off many of these characters, including Prowl, Megatron, Optimus Prime (more on these two in the next paragraph), and Starscream (who would later come back as a ghost).

The movie also introduced quite a lot of characters, including Wheelie (ugh), Wreck-Gar, the Quinticons (who would become more important in the actual show), Galvatron, and Hot Rod.  It also introduced the villain Unicron, who was basically the Galactus of the movie.  Megatron was converted by him into Galvatron when he found him adrift in space after being mortally wounded by Optimus.  He used this new lease on life as Unicron’s “herald” to exact revenge on his foes, especially Starscream.  Meanwhile, Ultra Magnus is temporarily elected as leader before it’s discovered that Hot Rod is destined to be the new leader. When Hot Rod takes the Matrix of Leadership (which Unicron covets), he becomes Rodimus Prime, and gains the power to destroy Unicron.

So why is this movie such a big deal? First of all, the movie was animated by Toei, the oldest animation studio in Japan (makers of Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon). Toei had also done the in-betweens and cleanup work on the actual show. The movie had a much bigger budget, causing the animation to become more defined in the movie.

Secondly, the voice talent was excellent. Not only does it have mainstays Peter Cullen, Gregg Berger, Chris Liotta, and several others from the show, but there were some big-name stars as well.  Unicron was voiced by none other than Orson Welles.  Welles was the man back in the early days of radio and movies. Perhaps his most famous accomplishments were creating Suspense, the infamous War of the Worlds radio play, and The Shadow. He also created the landmark movie Citizen Kane. Unicron was his last role, as he died soon after the movie was finished.  Galvatron was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. (if you don’t know who Leonard Nimoy, that’s one impressive rock you’re living under since it has Internet access.) Wreck-Gar was voiced by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.

Then there was the music.  Like many movies from the 80’s, it was a great soundtrack.  It had Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs.

There’s also his other song “Dare”, which is also great.

For some strange reason, you also hear “Dare to Be Stupid” by Weird Al when the Junkions and their leader Wreck-Gar show up. I never understood this inclusion. Nothing against Weird Al, but the song just seems out of place with the others I mentioned.

Critics everywhere have panned this movie.  My problem with that is that critics are always expecting Shakespeare.  Transformers wasn’t meant to be Shakespeare.  I scoff at the criticisms of the Transformers cartoon as an overlong commercial. Hasbro is a toy company. They’re a business, and in my opinion, they’re not nearly as bad as some other companies out there.  As a child, I thought Transformers was the best toy line ever, second only to He-man and the Masters of the Universe.  I may not be as big a fan as I used to be, but I am glad that the Transformers was a part of my childhood.

Transformers 30th Anniversary Tribute: Top 10 Decepticons

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I’m sure you’ve heard the line “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” Well, in the case of the Decepticons, that line doesn’t apply. The Decepticons were great villains for the show and I had so many favorite villains. Here are 10 of them.
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10. Skywarp (alt mode: airplane) VA: Frank Welker
Skywarp was just one of several voices Frank Welker had on the show, and one of the best. What made Skywarp so cool? Not only was he one of the most cunning members of the Decepticons, but he could teleport! I loved the way he got the jump on the Autobots with this talent. Fun fact: Check out Frank Welker’s LOONG list of characters he’s voiced over the years. The man is amazing!thMJROU4UD
9. Soundwave (alt. mode: boombox) VA: Frank Welker
Soundwave had, IMHO, the coolest voice on the show. That booming filter was just creepy to listen to. Not only that, but he was a freakin’ army! He had several cassettes all ready to do his bidding: Ravage, Lazerbeak, Buzzsaw (who eventually “disappeared” from the show for some reason), Ratbat, Frenzy, and Rumble.
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8. Blitzwing (alt modes: tank and jet airplane) VA: Ed Gilbert
Blitzwing was one of several “triple-changers”, meaning he had not one, but two alternate modes. The thing that bugged me was that I knew there were Autobot triple-changers too, but we almost never saw them on the show. Blitzwing was my favorite of the triple-changers. Come on, he’s a tank! What’s not to like?
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7. Thrust (alt mode: Jet airplane) VA: Bud Davis
Hoo boy, was Thrust ruthless. This was one Decepticon you DIDN’T want to cross.
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6. Mindwipe (alt mode: bat) VA: Stephen Keener
I want to take a moment to talk about the Transformers comic book Marvel ran. In the Headmasters mini-series, we met Mindwipe. This evil Headmaster (the Headmasters had separate partners who transformed into their heads, hence the name) had the ability to hypnotize people and Transformers. Hypnosis is one of my favorite abilities, so I thought he was a great villain.
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5.Cyclonus (alt. mode: Jet) VA: Roger Carmel–movie, Jack Angel–TV
Cyclonus was one of three Decepticons introduced in the movie, along with Scourge and of course Galvatron. Of the three, Cyclonus was the one I liked the best. He was the most ruthless Decepticon ever and was fiercely loyal to the cause.
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4. Thundercracker (alt. mode: F-14) VA: John Stephenson
Did you really think I’d forget one of the true fan-favorites? Thundercracker was one of the best ever! I mean, even his name sounds like something to fear!
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3. Shockwave (alt. mode: Ray gun) VA: Corey Burton
Shockwave was a Decepticon you watched very closely, because you just knew he was looking to take over sooner or later, but unlike Starscream, he bided his time. Fun Fact: Corey Burton has a pretty impressive resume. Among his roles include Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s dad), Dracula (TWICE!), and Jaga in the very underrated reboot of Thundercats.
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2. Megatron/Galvatron (alt. mode: Gun) VA: Frank Welker
Aw, yeah! Megatron was Frank Welker’s best character. A smug talker who had some of the best moments in the show. He was a worthy opponent for Optimus Prime, and showed us just why we should fear him. Especially when he turned into Galvatron. But more on that next week.
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1. Starscream (alt mode: F-14) VA: Chris Liotta
MEGATRON HAS FALLEN! I AM YOUR NEW LEADER! (I had to)
I just loved Starscream. It was fun to watch him constantly backstab Megatron and try to usurp his position as leader of the Decepticons. He would stop at nothing to achieve his goal, and he finally did become leader…for about 20 seconds before Galvatron practically obliterated him in the 1986 movie. But death couldn’t stop him. He came back in the show as a ghost and still managed to be a thorn in Galvatron’s side in his numerous attempts at revenge. Sure he may not be able to defeat Rainbow Dash, but I still love this dude. Fun Fact: Back in the 80’s if a cartoon had a backstabbing villain, chances are Chris Liotta did the voice. He was also Decompose on Inhumanoids (One of the scariest 80’s Saturday morning villains ever!) and Cobra Commander himself.
Next week: I conclude my Transformers tribute with a retrospective of the Transformers 1986 movie.

Transformers 30th Anniversary: Top 10 Autobots

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The Transformers franchise is now 30 years old.  It’s my favorite toyline from the 80’s.  To celebrate, I’m counting down my favorite Autobots and Decepticons. Let’s start with the Autobots.

10.Blaster
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(alt. mode: Boombox VA: Buster Jones)
Blaster was the Autobot counterpart of Soundwave. I loved how rebellious he was. The thing that bothered me the most about Blaster is we almost never saw his cassettes, but we saw Soundwave’s all the time.
9.Blur
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(alt. mode: Cybertron Car VA: John Moschita) Ever wonder why Blur talked so fast in the cartoons? It’s because he was voiced by John Moschita, a man famous for talking super fast. Don’t believe me? Just watch this Micro Machine commercial.


8. Arcee
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Arcee was one of the few female Transformers we saw in the cartoon. To this day, the franchise still has few females. It kinda makes you wonder why they created them in the first place.
7. Jetfire
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(alt. mode: Jet airplane VA: Gregg Berger) Jetfire makes this list because he’s the only Autobot who’s a former Decepticon. I thought it was great that the cartoon showed that Transformers could change their allegiances.
6. Wheeljack
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(alt mode: Race car VA: Chris Liatta) Wheeljack is the brains of the Autobot team, and I always rooted for the brainy member of the heroes team. He was one of the most entertaining members of the team, mostly because he was the closest thing to a heroic mad scientist I had ever seen.
5. Bumblebee
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(Alt. Mode: Volkswagen Beetle VA: Dan Gulvezan) Bumblebee may seem small, but he’s not to be trifled with. What’s even better is in the original cartoon, we had the same guy who voiced Spider-man from Spider-man and His Amazing Friends play Bumblebee.
4. Ironhide
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(alt. mode: Van VA: Peter Cullen) Ironhide is a battle-hardened veteran of the Autobots. I had this toy and my favorite thing about it was separating his back half and revealing his missile launcher.
3. Ultra Magnus
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(alt. mode: Car carrier VA: Jack Angel) I liked Ultra Magnus because of how he was portrayed in the movie. He was nervous about the big shoes he had to fill as new leader (until Rodimus proved to be the better one, but we’ll talk about that later) I think anyone would probably be nervous in his position. The toy version was one of the best toys in the line, even if it was one of the most difficult ones to manipulate into robot mode.
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(alt mode: Race car VA: Scatman Crothers) Jazz is the most laid-back member of the Autobots. His VA also voiced Hanna Barbera’s classic 70’s superhero, Hong Kong Phooey, and was actually a jazz singer himself.
1. Optimus Prime
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(alt. mode: Semi w/tractor-trailer VA: Peter Cullen) Come on, don’t tell me you’re surprised he’s number one. He’s the Autobot leader and the best one they ever had. A true father to his men, who listened to the opinions of others before forming his own and always provided an ear to any who needed them. His toy was similar to Ironhide’s, with a separate attachment for the trailer that revealed a missile launcher and a 6-wheeled vehicle called Roller, which was used for surveillance. When I made up Transformers stories, my Roller talked like R2D2, with bleeps and blips.