Top 5 on The Strip: Animated superhero cartoons

Batman animated series

1. Batman: The Animated Series

The standard bearer for modern superhero cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series was gritty, dark and fresh off the success of Batman Returns. It’s well-drawn with a neat art deco style and the voice acting set the standard for future series. If you weren’t watching this every day after school, you missed out. Immediately go back and watch this from beginning to end.

Teen Titans

2. Teen Titans

Teen Titans took a different tack when talking about Robin’s squad of heroes. It’s a great look at the younger superheroes of the DC universe in a group that still stands today. Featuring Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, the show focuses on the group being young superheroes while also being teenagers with typical teenager problems. The voice work is fantastic and the animation is top-notch as well.

tmnt 1987 series

3. TMNT (1987 series)

We’re well-known TMNT fans here at GI and that love stems from the old black-and-white comics as well as the original animated series. That series, with its ’80s attitude and charm, managed to get us into the Turtles to start and paved the way for the juggernaut that was and still is the Turtles franchise. Outstanding voicework — featuring the likes of Jim Cummings and the late James Avery — make it one of the best ’80s animated series and a good introduction to the TMNT universe at large.

X-men fox animated

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

Aside from the classic theme, X-Men: The Animated Series featured a stellar voice cast and stories that mostly stayed faithful to the comics. At the time of its 1992 inception, this was unheard of in comic properties translated to TV. X-Men established several characters as favorites: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Gambit and Jubilee. It was so great that incarnations of the characters featured in the show have been used in multiple video game properties since.

spiderman-1994

5.  Spider-Man (Fox)

Another great Fox animated series, Spider-Man was a fantastic showcase of the web-crawler’s style and storylines. It featured quite a few of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery and touched on a lot of his story arcs with accuracy and maturity not usually seen in comic book shows. As with X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man had great voice acting that carried over into video games produced thereafter, such as the Marvel Versus series.

Property review: Super Mario Bros. Super Show & The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

SMBSS cartoon
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show

Mario impresses in cartoon form

Super Mario Bros. Super Show Vol. 1

When you’re able to have a live-action show and you’re a household name throughout the world, you can afford to do whatever you want and take whatever licenses you want with your own source material. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show did just that over the course of a year with the live-action adventures of Brooklyn-based Mario and Luigi and the animated capers of the Mario Bros., Princess Peach and Toad.
It seems odd to say a year is enough time to explain the happenings of the Mushroom Kingdom, but the weekly show lasted 52 episodes and fully explored the world that Mario and Luigi found themselves in after getting sucked down a warp pipe. The show captures the essence of Super Mario Bros. and even throws in quite a few references and ideas from Super Mario Bros. 2 Japan and USA. The level of detail is a bit haphazard from time to time (there are some anachronistic things in the animated portion of the show — such as Bowser being in charge of Wart’s minions), but overall the show is extremely well done and entertaining. And, as a Mario fan, you get a glimpse into the early days of Mario mania, the time before Mario was as recognizable as Mickey Mouse.

Like the games?: 8.5
Acting/Voice acting: 7.5
Story: 8

Overall: 24 out of 30 or 8

 

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3 animation soars

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

Of the three Mario-based cartoons produced, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 has the distinction of being the best and most accurate. Sure, some of the Koopa Kids’ names are changed, but you still know it’s Mario and that it’s unmistakably Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the most popular games of all time.
The story is closer to the games this time with Mario and crew taking on Bowser and the Koopalings’ various plots to enslave the Mushroom World and — unsurprisingly — humanity. The animation is slightly rough in the beginning episodes but by the end of the series, it picks up and looks more like the game in terms of quality. The voice acting is top-notch from start to finish, even if our favorite captain, Lou Albano, no longer provided the voice of Mario.
If you like Super Mario Bros. 3 as much as we adore the game, you probably already own the series on DVD, which doesn’t have extras, sadly. The best reason to own this, however, is for the novelty and Mario collection completion sake.

Like the games: 9
Voice acting: 9.5
Story: 8

Overall: 26.5 out of 30 or 8.8

 

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.

Strip Talk #23: Animated Mario has wins, losses over the years

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineCartoons, to me, fall in the same sphere as anime and comic books. If you tell a good story, I don’t care what medium you choose to tell it in. If it happens to be about something I love, chances are I’m even more for it. So it goes with Mario. I have loved the portly plumber since 1988, the first time I played Super Mario Bros. and died on the first goomba on the first level.
With that love of Mario cemented, I started looking for other avenues in which to pursue my affection. I found them in the only animated Mario show out at the time: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
Super Show was fantastic in the fact that Captain Lou Albano and Danny Wells really were Mario and Luigi for the live-action segments, and the animated portion of the show was really well done. Super Show got a lot of things Mario right, despite the combination of the then-unheard of Japanese version of Mario 2, Mario 2 USA and the first game. But, while I loved Super Show, the fever pitch in America for Super Mario Bros. 3 began and it was then that I truly fell in love with animated Mario.
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of my favorite Nintendo-themed properties.
First of all, it was based on Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the greatest games ever made and one of the few The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 games that lived up to the hype that preceded it. Second, the animation was great and really made you think about things from the perspective of the world Mario was in. Sure, I didn’t like the references to the real world because I associate Mario with fantasy and the Mushroom Kingdom, but I could kind of look past all of that so long as it didn’t happen that often. What Adventures did was take the concept of Mario the game to Mario the cash cow, meaning Mario was everywhere at this point. It didn’t hurt that McDonald’s had toys based on the game and TV show in their Happy Meals at this point, either.
After the hype of Adventures died down, though, there wasn’t much animated that I really cared for. Super Mario World’s cartoon didn’t do it for me and it didn’t seem to have the same magic that the previous cartoons captured from the games.
The brief cornucopia of Mario animated brilliance came to an end, and there haven’t been any replacements since. At least the game was fun while it lasted.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #18: Days of Future Past isn’t a reality fast enough

 

Photo by Brandon Beatty/Gaming Insurrection GI recently took a field trip to the movies. Editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks stands with the X-Men: Days of Future Past promotional poster.
Photo by Brandon Beatty/Gaming Insurrection
GI recently took a field trip to the movies. Editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks stands with the X-Men: Days of Future Past promotional poster.

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineIt’s no secret that I favor Marvel over DC in the grand scheme of comic book things. I always have: I began watching X-Men: The Animated Series almost as soon as the show began airing, and I’m far more knowledgeable about Marvel’s characters for several reasons. One of those reasons is because I find the writing in Marvel properties to be far more tight and logically sound, even with some of the more preposterous plots roaming around the Marvel universe. And one more reason is because the X-Men: Days of Future Past arc is my all-time favorite of any comic book series.

Partially because of the introduction of Bishop and the fact that Sentinels finally get their moment in the spotlight, Days of Future Past is pretty fun to watch and read. I’ve seen the entire Animated Series adaptation and I have to say it’s my favorite. Yes, I’m well aware that Kitty Pryde is the original person to travel back in time in the comics, but I love Bishop in that role. It was possible to believe that Bishop would find a way back and become a catalyst in the future changing, or shifting, if you believe that parallel universes replace each other.

And the best part about the entire saga? For me, the lack of Summers overexposure. I can even deal with the pushing of Wolverine here if it means that I won’t have to deal with the combined might of Jean and Scott at the forefront. Yes, we get a little bit of that “Summers magic” with Rachel Summers but it’s a small price to pay for the relative comfort of knowing that neither Jean nor Scott are hoarding the spotlight yet again. Though, my problem with the tale is who the hell is Rachel Summers exactly? If you don’t do some advanced reading and figure out who she is on your own, you might never figure it out.

Despite some loopy alternate universe travel and sketchy explanations for Summers’ involvement, the tale is solid. I liken it on the same level as Age of Apocalypse in that there’s a plot involving villains who manage to take over the world through their own nefarious means and misguided extremism. Except in this case, the plan backfires and everyone — mutant and human — suffer the consequences. You can’t get more “X-Men” than that.

With a movie adaptation coming in about two months (May 23, as a matter of fact), you can be rest assured that I will be there on opening day more than likely. I’ve been awaiting this newest installment of the X-Men movie franchise ever since the Last Stand debacle since I don’t consider X-Men: First Class a true sequel to Last Stand; it’s a reboot, albeit a good one. I’m ready to jump back into the world of the X-Men, and what better way than to leap into the arms of my favorite arc on the big screen?

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #17: Rogue

Name: Anna Marierogue

Affiliation: X-Men, Avengers Unity Division, Salvagers, Lights, Advocates Squad, X-Treme X-Men, X.S.E., Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Special abilities: Rogue has the ability to absorb the talents, knowledge, memories, personality and abilities of a person that she comes into direct skin-to-skin contact with. The transfer of these abilities and knowledge is relative the length of time that she touches the person, though the transfer can become permanent. When she first absorbed an ability, the transfer was involuntary. As of the events of the Mutant Messiah arc, she has gained complete control over the usage of the absorption. With the absorption of Ms. Marvel’s (Carol Danvers version) powers, Rogue gained flight, near invulnerability and superhuman strength. She has since lost the Ms. Marvel powers, but retained the absorption ability.

Background: Rogue began life in Caldecott County, Miss., with her father, mother and maternal aunt. One night when she was 14 years old, she kissed a boy, Cody Robbins. At the moment that they kissed, Rogue’s latent mutant powers activated. The activation put Robbins in a permanent coma. Rogue then ran away from home and eventually ended up in the care of Mystique, who used her to further the goals of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Rogue permanently absorbed the powers of Ms. Marvel during a fight and joined her once-foes, the X-Men. Rogue later became involved with Gambit, lost her Ms. Marvel powers and fully realized the evolution and development of her powers after a trek to discover the true intent behind diaries of Destiny.

Relationships: Owen, father; Priscilla, mother; Carrie, aunt; Cody Robbins, crush/first kiss; Gambit (Remy LeBeau), lover; Mystique (Raven Darkholme), foster mother; Destiny (Irene Adler), foster mother; Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), foster brother; Graydon Creed, adoptive brother

First Versus appearance: X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Appearances in other media: Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, X-Men (Sega Genesis), X-Men: Mojo World, X-Men: Mutant Academy 2; X-Men: Next Dimension, X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Marvel Heroes, Deadpool, X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Days of Future Past (film), X-Men: The Animated Series (television), Marvel Anime: X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men (television), X-Men: Evolution (television), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (television)

Strip Talk #17: When the X-Men ruled the weekend

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineI grew up in a household where Saturdays were prized affairs of laziness and doing absolutely as little as possible. Mostly, we sat around reading romance novels (my mom), playing cards or board games or doing a little housework well before noon so that the rest of the day was free to be leisurely. As a child with a little disposable income in the form of an allowance, I indulged in simple pleasures such as comic books, visits to Red Wing Rollerway (RIP), and movie and arcade trips. These were all to be done on my days off from school. They stayed my trivial pursuits throughout my teenage years, but a new rule was put into place in 1992, the year I entered sixth grade: Under absolutely no circumstances could I be out of the house between the hours of 11 a.m. and noon. X-Men the Animated Series was on.

I created that rule after the first time that I watched an episode in that first season. I was prone to sleeping late to start with, but I woke up one Saturday morning to realize that there were X-Men on TV. I’m not even sure how I stumbled across it other than there was a small child in our household who also loved Saturday morning cartoons. The problem was that she didn’t consistently watch the same things every week, so I was at the mercy of a toddler who didn’t know Cyclops from Havok. I quickly explained the situation to mama, who understood the importance of my comic book love — she, once upon a time, was a devoted reader of Spider-Man. That weekend, I formulated a plan to watch the show from her bedroom — where I spent most of my time playing video games anyway — and made sure she knew what time and channel to turn to once I was up for the morning. I still, however, had to get her to warm up to not scheduling events and trips out too early before the show. I wanted to immerse myself in the world of the X-Men, not be out of the house tooling around JC Penney for a shirt that I would probably never wear.

The show was mesmerizing and drew me in to follow the greatest group of superheroes to have ever been created. The storylines were mature, and with great voice acting, I came to immensely enjoy the exploits of Marvel’s merry band of mutants. After two seasons, we moved into an apartment of our own and I was free to watch the show in the privacy of my own bedroom. Sadly, it wasn’t the same, though I still enjoyed the show.

In the days before DVR and Internet, there was no way to catch up on a broadcast if I missed it and no one recorded it on VHS. Slowly but surely, I fell out of getting up to watch the show. But that year of waking for X-Men has stuck around with me. Those were the days of mutant magnificence in animated form.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseym@gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #05: Kaicho wa Maid Sama Ep. 1-12

Kaichou Wa Maid Sama

Series: Kaicho wa Maid Sama

Episodes: 1 to 12

Anime-LoungePremise: Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president at a formerly all-boys high school. She also works at a maid cafe on the side to earn money to support her family. Misaki has problems relating to the male members of her class so she comes off a little more than brusque and overbearing. One of her classmates, Usui Takumi, happens upon her by chance as she’s being intimidated by a group of men. It just so happens that he comes to her rescue as she’s working so he learns her secret. Thus begins the saga of Misaki and Usui, she trying to keep her secret and he trying to get her to open up to him. It’s pretty obvious from the beginning that Usui is in love with Misaki but she’s about the only person in the cast that doesn’t realize it.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s a fun story about maid cafes and hardworking students. Also, with the “she’s in love but doesn’t know it yet” angle, it’s worth keeping up with the series just to see when Misaki will make the connection between herself and Usui’s continued presence and actions.

Breakout character: Usui Takumi. Yes, you could make the case for the cross-dressing Aoi, but he doesn’t exactly inspire the way Usui does as the lead. Besides, Aoi is just a kid who manages to show up and try to grab attention that he doesn’t really need. He’s cute enough already. Usui has that leading man act down by the third episode and never really lets up after that.

Funniest episode: Episode 6 — Man, Ayuzawa School! — Misaki manages to have her photo taken as a maid and Usui finally says something to her after the photo gets out into the open. Not to spoil it, but expect romance in this episode and Usui nearly killing himself trying to be romantic.

Where it’s going: Just who is going to find out — if ever — that Misaki is a maid is the future. And will Misaki and Usui ever get together?

Top 5 on The Strip: The Super family

 Superman

Superman — The Man of Steel himself is probably the best incarnation of the super family. He was the originator of the series and thus carries the name on when other incarnations drop in and out of the DC continuity, like Supergirl. The others in the lineup are literally just watching the throne.

Superboy Superboy — There have been several versions of Superboy but the most prominent is the little boy who would become Superman. DC has since stated that Superman didn’t have adventures until he became an adult but that hasn’t stopped the multitude of other versions, such as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths being.

Supergirl - Kara Zor-El Supergirl — Supposedly, the story goes that the daughter of Zor-El — Superman’s uncle — survived the explosion of Krypton since she was living in Argo City, which was cast off into space when the planet exploded. Kara Zor-El was the last survivor, giving Superman one of his only living clansmen known to have survived the catastrophic event that created the lore. Her existence is removed during and restored after the 1985 arc Crisis on Infinite Earths.

KryptoKrypto the Superdog — Superman might have godlike powers on Earth, but on Krypton he had decidedly human emotions and that extended to having a pet. Krypto was used as a test subject to experiment with rocket flight. Jor-El — Superman’s father — realized Krypton was going to explode and wanted to test a way to get himself and his family off the doomed planet. Krypto was sent out into space, but the rocket was knocked off course. Drifting through space for years, the dog was found and rejoined Superman during his Superboy years.

BizarroBizarro  — The ultimate in “the evil clone/twin did it” storyline, Bizarro exists only because Lex Luthor, as usual, was messing around with things he didn’t understand. Luthor recreated the duplicating ray that was used previously on Krypton by Gen. Dru-Zod and on Earth to accidentally create a duplicate version of Superboy. Luthor also creates a version of Bizarro after the Crisis on Infinite Earths arc while trying to create a clone of Superman.

Top 5 on the Strip: Spider-Man’s weirdest foes

J. Jonah Jameson

What’s the deal with some dude putting your paycheck in your hands and then constantly snatching it away because he wants to fire you on a whim? We couldn’t work for J.J. Simply put, there’d be a labor dispute, and he’d be sued a million times over. All because he was having a bad day.

Mysterio

Spider-Man’s foes, though grounded in reality most of the time, sometimes give us the distinct impression that there’s problems afoot in the world that we don’t know about and don’t want to know about. Case in point: Mysterio’s head is screwed up, figuratively and literally. All we know is that in one version, he’s a special effects master and in another, he’s an android, sent by the special effects master, from a different dimension. Right.

Venom

Eddie Brock’s version has made our Top 5 list before and for pretty much the same reason: He’s weird and awesome. Anytime you go around screaming “We want to eat your brains,” you make a list of weird. And also, referring to yourself in the plural third-person point of view because your body has bonded with an alien symbiote automatically means you qualify for the crazy.

Doctor Octopus

The guy has four tentacles welded to his back that he can telepathically control to kill. That’s all that needs to be said about him.

Green Goblin

Dear Norman Osborn, We at GI would like to thank you for being sufficiently crazy and paranoid because you mixed chemicals that gave you a green hue and sent you on a killing spree. We do appreciate the myriad crazy attempts you and your (equally crazed) offspring have made over the years to kill Peter Parker. But, please, do us a favor and lose the tights the next time you’re resurrected. Sincerely, Gaming Insurrection folk

Property review: TMNT Vol. 1 (1987 animated series)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1

Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2004

Turtles fight bare bones DVD

True children of the ’80s will tell you that one of the things imprinted in their memory is what they watched on television. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were important then, and children soaked it up. So, imagine GI’s surprise when the DVDs were finally released for public consumption. Spanning nine seasons, some of the most important establishing material is found in the first season, and the DVDs provide a look at the opening five-part miniseries that launched the show. But, if you’re looking for a quality introduction to the Turtles, keep looking because this version isn’t all that great.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

The quality of the presentation is terrible for starters. While it’s obvious this is a show from the ’80s and broadcast quality isn’t going to be as good as say 2004, when the disc was released, it still should be better than what’s here. Then, add in quite a few graphical errors, a lack of extras on the disc and the confusing inclusion of several episodes from the 10th and final season and you have a poor mess of a DVD.

Great voice acting and a killer soundtrack help, though. It’s something when a series can draw you in because of its soundtrack and perfect casting, and the first season of the show managed that greatly. Practically speaking, the first season’s merits save the DVD from most of its negative traits.

And, we can get around it all because it’s the Turtles, and having the series on DVD greatly increases the amount of problems we’re willing to put up with just to have the series in our collection. We can’t complain that much as children of the ’80s and as superfans of the series. We just wish the quality was a little better and some of the behind-the-scenes material had been added here. That would be have tubularly awesome.

Plot: 8

Like the comics: 3

Casting: 10

Total score: 21 out of 30 or 7

What to watch

The five episodes here are the five-part miniseries that introduced the Turtles in animated television.

1. Turtle Tracks: The introduction and origin story of the Turtles. Keep in mind that this origin story greatly differs from the comics and film.

2. Enter the Shredder: The introduction of Krang and Shredder, and also the creation of Rocksteady and Bebop.

3. A Thing About Rats: Baxter Stockman is introduced and joins with Shredder.

4. Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X: Krang’s partial backstory is given and Dimension X is named. Michaelangelo gains a love interest.

5. Shredded and Splintered: Shredder and Splinter switch bodies, and Splinter’s bond with Turtles is fleshed out.

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 and 30 overall.