Strip Talk #34: Let us heartily pontificate on WB’s implosion

Whew, where do we begin in the whirlwind downfall of DC in the past several months? Just as we heaved a collective sigh of relief at the Justice League Snyder Cut being … better … than its theatrical release, out of nowhere came news that Warner Bros. disowned Zack Snyder, cut Batgirl and instituted massive layoffs.
Sure, we’re still getting The Flash’s solo movie – maybe – because Ezra Miller just lost their mind completely. But the movie is finished – we think, don’t quote us – so it’s got to go somewhere, and Warner Bros. seems keen to keep Miller around.
However, we don’t have a clear-cut Batman with Ben Affleck up in the air. Some weeks he’s still going to play Bruce Wayne and the Bat and then some weeks, well, we just don’t know. Robert Pattison is still hanging out after the success of The Batman, but he, too, is a maybe.
And then there’s Henry Cavill’s status as Superman. It’s much like Affleck’s status: Sometimes he’s still Superman and then he’s not and he’s out and they have to start the search for the newest Man of Steel. As of press time, he’s officially back as the character, but it was weird and distracting and wholly unnecessary. Cavill is excellent as Superman, and it’s not a good look to leave him dangling.
You know what else isn’t a good look? Firing a bunch of people during a time of upheaval, sickness and death. No one should be worried about their jobs during a global pandemic. But guess what DC and Warner Bros. Discovery employees are doing? Worrying about who’s getting the ax next. They’ve cut the Batgirl film also, which is a lot of jobs also gone up in smoke. Nope, not a good look, especially during the still-going pandemic.
And let us not ignore the blight Warner Bros. is affecting at Cartoon Network. Messing around with that mainstay of cartoon goodness and screwing creators out of their work is definitely a bad look. Folks remember when you are trash to your talent. The trash business practices stick with folks long after you’ve managed to clean up your balance sheet.
We try to equally praise DC as much as we adulate for Marvel around these parts, but it’s really hard to do so when DC takes out the knife it constantly removes from its own back and replaces it with an even bigger broadsword of self-sabotage smithing.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Property Review: Street Fighter (1994)

Damme it, this isn’t Street Fighter

“1994 was a good year for coke but a bad year for Street Fighter and Jean-Claude Van Damme.” This is the prevailing sentiment around Gaming Insurrection, considering GI’s editors were teenagers at the time and able to remember exactly how that situation played out.
Street Fighter was riding high at this point with the superb Super Turbo (the subject of this issue’s feature) having been released earlier in the year, a movie with big names attached coming down the pipeline, and its maker Capcom flush with cash. However, all of that would soon crash and burn, thanks to the movie.
Let’s start with the basics: What exactly is the Street Fighter movie about? If you know anything about the franchise’s storyline, you can at least recognize Guile, Chun-Li, and Bison. Guile and Cammy are hunting Bison, a dictator hell bent on world domination. Bison is into some of everything: Drugs, human trafficking, murder, extortion, and illegal arms sales. The intrepid officers are joined by news reporter Chun-Li, former Sumo wrestler E. Honda and boxer Balrog, who are out for revenge against Bison for his various misdeeds. The ragtag crew eventually meet and work with Ken and Ryu, who are con artists trying to scheme against Bison enforcer Sagat. The rest of the World Warriors – Dhalsim, Vega, Dee Jay and Zangief – work for Bison while Blanka is Guile’s friend who is transformed into the beastly roller because of Bison’s experimentation.
For the uninitiated, this seems like a lot and silly. Even for those of us who play the series faithfully, it is exactly that. None of this matches the series storyline, except for Bison, Guile, and Chun-Li. In the games it’s eventually revealed that: Cammy is a clone of Bison; Charlie is not Blanka; Dhalsim, Dee Jay and Zangief don’t work for Bison while Balrog does; and, Ken and Ryu are not con artists. Ryu also doesn’t have a last name. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of inconsistencies in this film, and we haven’t touched on the fact that Guile and Cammy don’t work together, and Guile and Ken don’t appear to know each other despite them being brothers-in-law in the games (editor’s note: Ken’s wife, Eliza, and Guile’s wife, Jane, are canonically sisters.). You could explain this away by saying this is an alternate timeline, but Street Fighter hasn’t ventured into that territory as some of its competitors have, such as Mortal Kombat. There is no bright spot with this unnecessarily muddied storyline because all it does is make the characters one-dimensional and slightly easy to understand.
The only bright spot in all this mess is the late Raúl Juliá. Juliá, the incomparable stage great, shows up and carries the film on his broad shoulders in his unfortunate last role before his death in 1994. Bison is appropriately over the top and goofy, but Juliá does it with such aplomb that you kind of root for the dictator despite his terrible acts. Juliá inspires that, though it doesn’t hurt that we were already fans of the terribly missed thespian through the Addams Family films. Van Damme, Ming Na Wen and Kylie Minogue are there, but are they really, though? Van Damme was cast as Guile and made the star of the show even though that role traditionally falls to Ryu. And per the usual that we’ve come to expect from Van Damme, though he has the moves and skill set to pull off the fighting aspects of the character, he doesn’t have the acting chops and he looks nothing like the character. This version of Guile is nothing like the game version and that’s perhaps one of the weakest aspects of the entire thing. He simply wasn’t believable even when you’ve already suspended disbelief this far. The consolation is that everyone else – including Wen and Minogue – resemble their characters in at least façade.
Combining the stunning lack of foresight in Van Damme’s casting and the ridiculous script that doesn’t resemble the games gets you this muddled mess of a send up. At least the ending scene – with the remaining actors recreating their characters’ win poses from Street Fighter II – ties it back to the franchise in a tangible way.
Believe us when we tell you that this was not, in fact, perfect.

Like the games: 1
Acting: 5
Story: 5
Total: 11/30 or 3.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Marvel character highlight #32: Captain Marvel

Name: Carol Susan Jane Danvers/Car-Ell

Alias: Binary, Warbird, Ms. Marvel, Catherine Donovan

Affiliation: Avengers, A-Force, Alpha Flight Space Program, Guardians of the Galaxy, Infinity Watch, Mighty Avengers, NASA, New Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Starjammers, Ultimates, United States Air Force, X-Men

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, durability, agility, stamina, and reflexes; energy manipulation, absorption, and projection; human/Kree physiology granting resistance to toxins and poisons; “seventh sense” granting flash precognition; accelerated healing factor; and, flight

Background: Carol Danvers began life as a child of a human father and Kree mother. After joining the U.S. Air Force and piloting experimental fighter jets and working in intelligence gathering with Wolverine, Danvers joined NASA as their security chief. There, she became entangled in the adventures of the Kree Mar-Vell, who also was known as Captain Marvel. After Captain Marvel saved her a number of times, she grew to trust him and admired him. After a run in with the Kree Yon-Rogg, an experimental Kree device exploded near Danvers. She was seriously injured and disappeared. She later resurfaced with superhuman powers, christening herself Ms. Marvel. She later worked closely with the X-Men and the Avengers, changing power sets multiple times because of outside influences such as the Brood.

Relationships: Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel), close friend and mentor; James Howlett (Wolverine), close friend; Marcus Immortus, “husband”/son; Chewie, pet

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

Appearances in other media:
Television: X-Men the Animated Series, The Super Hero Squad Show, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Avengers Assemble, Spider-Man, Marvel Future Avengers, Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight!, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron, What If …?, Ms. Marvel

Film: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher, Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Marvels

Video games: X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, Marvel Heroes, Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Contest of Champions, Marvel: Future Fight, Zen Pinball 2, Marvel Strike Force, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Marvel Avengers Academy, Marvel Power United VR, Marvel Battle Lines, Marvel Super War, Marvel Duel, Marvel Future Revolution, Fortnite, Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Top 5 on The Strip: Bad SF cartoon edition

Akuma and M. Bison didn’t meet until the end of SF2
This requires some knowledge of Street Fighter lore. The only time that Akuma and M. Bison met was at the end of the World Warrior tournament in the second game. It’s canon that Akuma performed the Raging Demon on Bison and killed him. They didn’t meet in a cave and interact there. Ever.

Balrog isn’t a PC whiz
Balrog is canon to care only about getting paid while in the service of M. Bison. There is no way that he was doing any sort of IT monitoring or PC services for Bison. Also, there is no way that he could perform any sort of typing with boxing gloves on. It’s physically impossible.

Cammy and M. Bison weren’t lovers
OK, this is sort of confirmed to be kind of true because Bison had her brainwashed to believe that she was his lover previously. However, the ick factor that accompanies this also requires some knowledge of SF canon. Official word from Capcom is that Cammy is a clone body created for Bison. He’d be making out with himself.

M. Bison and Guile aren’t friends
There is never a time in SF lore that M. Bison and Guile were ever friends or helped each other. Never. M. Bison personally murdered Guile’s best friend, Charlie Nash, in Street Fighter Alpha 3, which takes place before Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Guile’s vendetta is solely based on this. This frame never happened.

Zangief never worked as a Bison minion
The only adaptations where Zangief worked for Bison was in the live-action movie and in Street Fighter II V, neither of which are considered canon. He usually is friendly with the other World Warriors, save Guile, who is one of his motivations to defeat. Given that the cartoon is based on the live-action movie, that’d be why, incorrectly, Zangief is shown to be a henchman.

Otaku Corner: Great Teacher Onizuka

Great Teacher Onizuka inspires kids, otaku alike

In this issue’s Otaku Corner, we’re going to time travel back to the late ’90s/early 2000s to focus on an anime classic that is situated in a high school setting. Instead of having a student wishing for their romantic sempai to notice, the main character is an interesting fellow: A former motorcycle gang leader who barely graduates from a lesser-known university who tries his luck in teaching high schoolers. Who is this man? He’s Eikichi Onizuka also known as “GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka.”
Based on the manga of the same name by Tohru Fujisawa, the anime takes viewers along Onizuka’s journey from former gang biker to game-changing teacher. Onizuka applies at Holy Forest Academy expecting that he would be teaching high school female students who would fall in love with him. Instead, he’s assigned to Class O, consisting of troublemakers and blackmailers. After saving a Class O student from committing suicide twice, Onizuka uses his skills of tough love to reach out to the students. After noticing Onizuka’s brave actions, the school’s Chairwoman offers Onizuka the teaching position, provided he would have to live in a school storage room.
As the anime continues, Onizuka befriends the class-o students who tried to get him kicked out and joins him in various typical anime situations ranging from helping a female student get her big break in acting, to keeping a promise to pay for a school field trip to Okinawa. Onizuka pulls through with his promises while driving the school principal Hiroshi Uchiyamada crazy with either Onizuka’s crazy luck or his precious Cresta sedan being totaled by Onizuka nearly every episode. In the anime’s last episode, Onizuka uncovers a sinister plot by a corrupt teachers union to pin a former Holy Forest student’s suicide on a Class O student. Onizuka takes matters in his own hands by taking the blame, exposing the teachers union’s actions and flees to America where he continues teaching at a California high school while showing his new students how he does things.
Let me state this: Onizuka is a teacher I wish I had in high school. Knowing when to dish out discipline and support to at-risk kids is an artform. GTO accomplish this goal as an anime high school series by showing that teachers can be among those who are major influences in kids’ lives. Noriyuki Abe, known for his work on “Bleach,” keeps true to Fujisawa-san’s original work – showing how Onizuka adds tough love and teaches life lessons to students while mixing comedic elements. I felt invested with each episode, which provided life lessons and fun along the way.
Credit goes to Tokyopop and its CEO Stuart Levy for maintaining GTO’s originality and casting impressive English voice actors such as Steve Blum to play Onizuka, Wendee Lee as school director Sakurai, and Onizuka’s love interest, Azusa Fuyutsuki. Levy showed excellent wisdom with additional top names such as Tony Oliver, Richard Epcar, Michelle Ruff, and the late Robert Papenbrook to play voices of various characters. Papenbrook gets special recognition for his role as Principal Uchiyamada whose beloved Cresta sedan is always either totaled or stolen during encounters with Onizuka’s exploits. The music for GTO is top-notch with the first session opening theme performed by L’ Arc-en-Ciel and the second opening theme done by Porno Graffiti. After seeing the complete series of GTO, I’m now in the hunt to acquire the manga volumes, if I can still find them.
“Great Teacher Onizuka” is a definitely among anime’s greatest series. For GTO to convince a non-high school anime viewer like me to take another look at this genre, I was impressed. I have a piece of advice for inspiring teachers-to-be: Study hard and follow the way of Eikichi Onizuka. And, for those current and former teachers who give their best to their students: Thank you for all you do. We at GI salute you!

Brandon Beatty is associate editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #24: Street Fighter II V

Series: Street Fighter II V

Episodes: 1-29

Premise: Ryu and Ken are teenage martial artists looking for strong challenges in the world of Street Fighter. Along the way, they meet up with other characters from the fighting game series such as Fei Long, Guile, Chun-Li, Vega and Zangief and work together with their allies to take down the world-dominating M. Bison.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s a great adaptation of the fighting game series with a few changes. If you know anything about the series, this will help fill in some blanks for the story if you’re missing some connections. Also, it’s a great starter anime.

Breakout character: Guile. The long-standing street fighter makes his grand entrance in Episode 2, where he completely demolishes Ken and Ryu in separate fights. Guile is shown to be one of the strongest fighters in the series as he should be.

Where it’s going?: There isn’t a second season since this covered all of the Street Fighter II games up to Super Turbo.

Top 5 on The Strip: Anime pop off edition

1. Avatar Aang vs. Fire Lord Ozai
Listen, we’d been anticipating the final fight between the Avatar and the Fire Lord just because it was built up and hyped for the entire run of the show. It didn’t disappoint, either. Aang finally mastering the Avatar state and absolutely obliterating Ozai’s bending abilities was epic. Specifically, seeing the Avatar state in a state of mastery for the first time is what did it for us.

 


2. Goku going super Saiyan for the first time
Goku reaching super Saiyan for the first time against Freiza was boss for so many reasons, chiefly because it was the end of a long-drawn out arc. But this was also ham because we’d been teased with it so many times in the first arc of Dragon Ball Z that you knew it was going to be beyond great when it finally did happen. Seeing Goku’s hair turn golden with rage for the first time and then demolishing Freiza was simply awesome.

 


3. Ichigo vs. Ulqiorra
Even though Bleach peaked with the Soul Society arc, seeing Ichigo achieve his Hollowfied form against Ulqiorra was one of the highlights of the entire Hueco Mundo arc. This signified that Ichigo wasn’t even in his final form, and he was suddenly more powerful than most of the boss characters that Aizen could throw his way. And the crazy part was, he STILL wasn’t done yet.

 


4. Midoriya reaches faux 100% One for All
My Hero Academia is great at pacing Midoriya’s steady increase in power and him reaching the faux 100 percent of One for All is a crucial development. Not only did he reach the max limit of his power with the quirk, but also he stayed in the state without adverse effects. That was only because of Eri’s quirk rewinding the damage, but it was fascinating to see what One for All could be capable of in the future.

 

5. Naruto turns into Nine Tails versus Pain
Naruto enthusiasts will point to this fight as the beginning of Naruto’s ridiculousness and a glimpse into his true potential as a Jinchuriki within the series. Pain was no joke and the fact that Naruto embraced the Nine-Tailed Fox’s ideology if only briefly meant that he was ready at all costs. He manifested all nine tails but was stopped by his late father. Imagine if had he manifested all nine and been allowed to keep manifesting them.

Anime Lounge #23: Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1

Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Episodes: 1 to 20

Premise: The Avatar, a being who can channel the four elements – air, water, earth and fire – is missing, and the Fire Nation is dominating the world in their absence. Teenagers Katara and Sokka stumble upon the mythological teenage boy Aang, who had been thought lost 100 years earlier, and free him. He joins with the brother-and-sister duo to master the four elements and save their world from the Fire Nation’s tyrannical leader, Fire Lord Ozai. Along the way, they must dodge the Fire Nation’s crown prince Zuko, who struggles to regain his honor under pressure from his father.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Avatar is stunning in its world building and investment in character depth. You’ll get hooked quickly on the mythology of the Avatar and how Aang will save the world.

Breakout character: Zuko. Though he struggles in a fruitless quest dealing with honor that he didn’t lose, you come to realize that the fire-bending master is not the true villain here.

Where it’s going?: Aang will learn to master all four elements and will struggle to save the world while dealing with the grief of losing his people. It’s a fascinating journey to see just how much all the characters will grow in bending and otherwise.

Strip Talk #33: Marvel vs. Capcom 2 still irritating after 22 years

Y’all, I swear that I love Marvel. If I could spend the rest of my life researching Marvel, I would do it. If they offered a doctoral program, I would be the first to sign up and spend hard-earned money on the mere suggestion of obtaining a degree in Marvel science and lore.

With that said, my love for Capcom is not so great. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of different Capcom fighting game series. But there is a certain element to how Capcom does things that doesn’t sit right with me on several different levels. And Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a shining example of the disdain I feel for the home of Mega Man and Ryu.

The premise of the series is cool: Take a large roster of who’s who from Marvel and Capcom and mash them together in teams of 3-on-3 fighting. With at least 90 percent of the roster appearing in a previous Versus title, you’ve got name recognition from the previous games. You’d think this would make an excellent experience considering if you’re playing this, more than likely you’re already familiar with some of the characters. No, you’d be wrong, because somehow out of 56, maybe 10 are viable, decent characters. Considering long-established tiers, the S tier includes five surefire, tournament-winning characters and then characters used for the assists. Five though?

And imagine what the learning process was like when the game was first released. Chaos, pure and simple. I was around for that, and it was beyond frustrating. The general atmosphere of the fighting game community was trash, but then add the fact that some folks hated on others simply for their choice of characters and you have a toxic mix of arrogance and stupidity behind a fighting game based on superheroes, mutants and dudes who throw their burning fist energy at each other internationally.

Beyond the garbage tier list establishment and the toxic community surrounding Marvel as it were, let’s get into the game itself. The mechanics were kind of trash and could have stood to receive a patch or 10. Guard breaks, while useful, happened way too much in the meta of the play scene. Yes, it’s about matchups and knowing how to counter at the right time and execute. But one character dominating teams shouldn’t have been normal. For awhile there, before the top echelon of fighting game competitors like Justin Wong and Sanford Kelly proved you didn’t need Cable to be viable, you could get a random assortment of characters played in competition and maybe a Cable thrown in every so often. But, once everyone learned about five bars of meter with Cable on point meant punishing assists with Tiger Knee Air Hyper Viper Beam, well, you were in for teams featuring Cable 1,000 percent of the time. Casual play went out of the window quickly, which quite frankly, got old fast.

As much as I enjoyed the series in the early days and Marvel in general, I never could quite move past Marvel vs. Capcom 2. After some years of reflection, I realized it just wasn’t the game for me. I was among what I believe is the minority that wasn’t sad to see Capcom lose the Marvel license for 10 years, and I wasn’t particularly invested or interested in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, either. Come to think of it, it really was Marvel vs. Capcom 2 that doused the flame of my love for fighting games for a good 15 years. It’s 2022 and I’m just getting back into enjoying Street Fighter and other fighting game series after a long hiatus. I blame MvC2 for that. Despite loving Marvel, this is a direct product that I have learned to do without.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Property Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

First Avenger Assembled

Around these parts, we are known Marvel enthusiasts. So, it was a big surprise that while we’d seen all the majority of the MCU offerings, we hadn’t seen Cap’s origin.

We love Cap from the end of his time in the MCU, but we were pleasantly surprised by the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan’s introduction.
Captain America’s story in the MCU starts out much like the comics: Steve Rogers, a frail sickly man who is super patriotic, wants to fight for his country in the already-in-progress World War II. Even though he has an admirable fighting spirit, he’s rejected at every turn. That is until Dr. Abraham Erskine comes along with his Super Soldier Serum. The good doctor looks at Rogers as a suitable candidate for the serum, not because he’s the perfect soldier, but because he’s a good man. The project – attended and funded by Howard Stark and observed by Peggy Carter – is a rousing success, transforming the poor orphan into the strong, able-bodied Steve Rogers that we know and love. But here’s where things go wrong for our young super soldier: Erskine is murdered by the Nazis, and with him goes the future of the project.

Steve is now a one-of-a-kind freak asset, and the U.S. government doesn’t exactly need him to go do the things the main army is already accomplishing. However, when news of his childhood bestie James “Bucky” Barnes’ capture reaches his camp, Steve steals off to the front lines to rescue him and Bucky’s unit almost singlehandedly and proves his worth. Steve then manages to change the outcome of the war effort through bravery but there’s a cost: The Nazis manage to get their hands on the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube. Steve tracks it down and engages in battle only to win but lose Bucky and be lost to history for 70 years after crashing his plane to prevent the Cube from being recovered.
Given our previous reviews of MCU films and our glowing praise for the development of Steve Rogers, it’s not a secret that we love the characterization of Captain America. You learn here that Steve has always been worthy (for the purposes of wielding Mjolnir) and why. This isn’t a platitude that bares out in Avengers: Endgame just because he did a few good things. It’s built into Steven Grant Rogers’ DNA, from the moment that you see him fight a bully with the makeshift shield to the minute that he jumps on a fake hand grenade without thinking of the danger to himself. The Man out of Time is, in fact, the best man for the job because he is that job.

And while others are excellent in their roles here, let us take a minute to appreciate the outstanding job Chris Evans does with the role. Evans is so perfect a choice for Captain Rogers that 11 years later, we cannot picture anyone else playing the role. Evans’ earnest portrayal of the character shines through and propels the movie beyond the standard origin story. And his chemistry with the also-excellent Sebastian Stan and Hayley Atwell is a notable highlight. Hugo Weaving also deserves mention as a good villain in the story. He isn’t over the top, but a subtle smoldering foil to the good captain’s plans to end World War II.

We are massive fans of Captain America from the angle of Winter Soldier but with the seeds planted here, we now have the lead up to why we claim Winter Soldier as our favorite MCU film. First Avenger isn’t the first film in the MCU, but it certainly ranks high in the pantheon of character establishment in the world of Marvel superheroes.

Like the comics: 8
Acting: 9.5
Story: 9.5
Total: 27/30 or 9

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.