Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Superhero Media: Dragonball GT

The entire time I've been a Dragonball fan, I've never understood the hatred that exists for Dragonball GT. Certainly, out of the big four (Dragonball, DBZ and DB Super), GT is the weakest, but doesn't make it truly bad by any measure. I actually enjoy most of GT more than I do the Majin Buu, Dark Buu and Kid Buu sagas of DBZ, but I know I'm in the minority there. I honestly struggle to understand why GT is so maligned, especially before Super was created, when there was no "alternative" time-line (except for Zero Universe which we'll come to in the fullness of time); the 'best' explanation I can come up with is misogyny, which I haven't found to be a major issue in the Dragonball fanbase, at least compared to other geek communities. Most of the character designs are from Toriama, the plot is never any more ridiculous than any of the other Dragonball stuff. Whilst training with Uub, Goku is accidentally wished back to being a child by Emperor Pilaf using the "Dark Dragon Balls". The balls scatter throughout the universe and Goku, Trunks and Pan have to go get them. 

Finding the balls runs a lot like classic Dragonball in space, which works for me, but it would have been nice if a couple of the characters from that era could have shown up as well. From fighting Kid Buu, the power level is actually scaled back and Goku is forced to fight enemies that have interesting powers beyond punching and energy blasts; hypnotism, body-snatching and just fucking gigantic (as in, planet-sized) villains give Goku a run for his money without needing to find a new form of Super Saiyan. Eventually, the artificial life form, Baby, is unleashed and makes its way to Earth, corrupting the entire population and Goku must discover the power of Super Saiyan 4 to save his friends and family. I actually like SS4 more than I do SS3 because of the link back to the Oozaru powers from the Saiyan Saga, and the fact that the power is so great, even Goku can't control himself and almost causes colossal amounts of collateral damage. Yes, it's disappointing that Pan never goes Super Saiyan herself and the banter between her and Giru gets grating, but the Z Fighters losing because they're unwilling to hurt their teammates makes for interesting storytelling.

Dragonball GT gets really good once Baby is defeated and, literally, all hell breaks loose. As two versions of Android 17 race towards each other, every dead villain from the franchise comes back and the heroes have to fight them again. This may sound like a retread, but the fights are fun and there are a few references that mark Fusion Reborn as being canonical, so it makes me really happy. The Shadow Dragons are mostly pretty interesting, excepting Omega Shenron/Sin, but I really think making there be negative consequences for overusing the Dragon Balls was a stroke of genius. At the end of the series, Goku basically ascends to a higher plane of being with the Earth Dragon in what is the best ending any of the Dragonball animes have. Don't listen to the angry fanboys online, check out Dragonball GT for yourself, there's a lot to enjoy there. Also, I really like the theme song, but apparently everyone else hates it?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Alternate Supers - Babidi's Minions

As much as I prefer the Cell Saga, I do enjoy essentially all of Dragonball Z up to when Buu splits into two beings and everything starts to feel a bit padded. Something I've always really liked is Babidi and his team of villains, it's a fun collection of characters with a unique look and a nice bit of diversity. I'd actually like to see more of them, maybe in a spin-off and/or fan manga, I think they're that much fun. You can bet I'll be gathering a team as soon as Jasco get their DBZ minis game out and having them fight the Avengers, JLA or BPRD. Good inspiration for a team of villains if you're in the market, too. 

The Minions of Babidi 

The great wizard Bibidi challenged the gods themselves in his lifetime with his living weapon, Majin Buu. When he was finally defeated, it fell to his clone, Babidi to finish his revenge. Babidi spent years gathering a team of warriors, monsters and killers to hunt down the dormant Majin Buu, becoming a feared force in his own right before finding his quarry on the backwater planet of Earth. 

Babidi - The Great and Powerful

A powerful wizard, Babidi can scry, teleport and entrance people, but perhaps his greatest power is to draw out the evil in people and corrupt them to his side. Physically weak, Babidi relies upon others to do his dirty work, often disposing of his minions when they're no longer of use to him. A classic "evil mastermind", Babidi works well from the safety of his command room, sending out his warriors to do the actual fighting, maybe even finding a convenient "anti-hero" in the opposing team to bring over to his side. Great narrative potential there, think along the lines of "Majin Winter Soldier" or "Majin Hellboy". 
Majin Dabura - The Devil King 

I always have a soft spot for genuinely bad villains with a strong moral code, in D&D terms, the "Lawful Evil" kind of bad guys that will let the hero live if the fight isn't fair and care about their own ethics more than the victory itself. Majin Dabura is essentially the Lucifer/Satan figure of the DB universe, possibly literally, he is a fighter born, having led his armies to victory countless times before being brought under Babidi's sway. In the programme, Dabura is all on board for killing the gods, but once he sees the unchecked destruction that Majin Buu is about to begin, Dabura turns against his master; he simply cannot conscience the acts that will follow. Really wish this guy would come back. 

Majin Yakon - The Monster

Not enough supervillain teams have a straight-out monster in them. Yakon is a monster from the dark reaches of the cosmos which feeds on light itself. Sure, he's dispatched pretty quick by the sayians, but imagine the amount of less powerful foes that he's devoured in the darkness. I'm starting to come around to the idea of having "Horror Movie" monsters as superhero antagonists, not just Predators, Aliens, Jason and Freddy, but some more generic monsters as well. Why not have a salivating, inhuman beast get released on the heroes by the mastermind? If it lives in the dark and preys on the weakest first, why not? 

Pui Pui - The Warrior 

He's a bit of a joke in the series, but Pui Pui probably didn't get as confident as he was without winning a few fights. Every team needs a brawler, and Pui Pui is Babidi's, at least until Vegeta shows up. An alien from a higher-gravity planet, Pui Pui has the usual DB traits of super-strength, endurance, energy projection and flight. Not the most memorable character in the history of the programme, but there's a reason he's on the team and not everyone gets to be the protagonist. 

Majin Spopovich - Unstoppable

Another character I wish we'd seen more of, Spopovich was a washed-up professional martial artist who sold his soul to Babidi for power. In the World Martial Arts Tournament he is shown to be a formidable fighter, regenerating damage and seemingly impervious to pain. He would basically be the "brick" in any super team, soaking up damage and being able to dish it out when he has to. The scene where Videl has broken Spopovich's neck and he just picks up his head and puts it back is perfectly creepy and a great villain moment; exactly what I want when I need to demonstrate how tough the bad guys are.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Superhero Media: Batman Vs. Two-Face

I'd be hard pressed to find an actor whose legacy really compares to Adam West, at least outside of Doctor Who alumni, so in a perfect world, his final performance would have been something a bit better than Batman Vs. Two-Face. That's not to say that Batman Vs. Two-Face isn't good, but it never manages the heights of Return of the Caped Crusaders and just comes across a little more flat and not quite as fun. The draw for this animated outing is the casting of William Shatner as a '66 version of both Harvey Dent and Two-Face, which is, of course, absolutely brilliant. Have you seen those images and lists that work around social media with things like "Casting the Avengers in the '90s" or "If Doctor Who was American"? You may have noticed that these images have no real basis in reality, but are just exercises in fan-casting; who is and was cast in various roles is more complex than someone having been around at the time. This isn't the case with Shatner as Two-Face, as during 1966-7, he was using the fame he had garnered from Star Trek to work across television, trying out new roles and shaking the legacy of Kirk. Batman may just have been a good fit. 

The, delightfully bonkers, premise of Batman Vs. Two-Face is that Hugo Strange has invented a device to extract all of the evil from some of Gotham's greatest criminals, something goes awry and District Attorney Harvey Dent is horribly scarred, turning him into Two-Face, the duplicitous duelist! The majority of Two-Face's crime spree plays out in the opening credits, with Harvey Dent's face eventually restored and the plot settling in to a mystery about a series of crimes. Yes, Batman Vs. Two-Face borrows heavily from both The Dark Knight Returns and Hush, but it's such a fun mash-up with the '66 Batman style that any comparison kind of glosses by without mention. I get the feeling that many of the ideas for fun references were used in Return of the Caped Crusaders and not a lot was left for the follow-up. In fact, I get the feeling that there wasn't really an initial intention to make Batman Vs. Two-Face, that, perhaps, Return of the Caped Crusaders was a surprising success and a quick sequel was stamped out to cash in on the wave of empathy resulting from Adam West's death. 

The, kind of, sad thing is, that even though Batman Vs. Two-Face isn't great, it still rates more highly than any live-action Batman film since The Dark Knight. I think, outside of the death of the second greatest Batman we've ever had, that's the tragedy of this film and the current state of the DC films. A blatant, nostalgia-baiting, tie-in to a television programme that went off the air before the 1970s started is a better film than almost every big-budget, Hollywood-produced, live-action DC superhero epic that has come out since a wannabe auteur take on urban blight and objectivism through the lens of Batman. No, I'm not letting that go. But doesn't that sound completely insane to you? I'll admit that I have more Marvel comics on my shelf, but I so have All Star Superman, The Dark Knight Returns, 52, Blue Beetle, Knightfall and countless other DC trades and graphic novels on my shelf, so I was really hoping that I'd have seen Animal Man, Nightwing and/or The Question in a live-action film before I'd seen Scott Lang or Man-Ape. At least I have Warner Premiere putting out entertaining films like this one.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Miniatures Finished: Polished Turds

Needed some MCU Dark Elves for my SS4RPG campaign but I didn't like the Heroclix offerings. With a bit of scrounging, I came up with some 3rd Ed 40K Dark Eldar and went about making them less terrible. I now have a decent "force" for SS4 or maybe some smaller Sci-Fi games. 

 The full force, seven "characters" for SS4. 

 The Dark Elf Sorcerer is flanked by two Kursed. The Sorcerer is converted Reaper Bones with a spare GW Squig as her familiar, Kursed are Heroclix.

 Dark Elf squads are supported by heavy weapons. 

 In the tradition of all great (and not so great) Science Fantasy, NCOs are armed with melee weapons. 

 The new heads look a lot better than the ones in the kit, mostly GW Dark Elves and Eldar. 

 Far from my best work, but good enough to have hordes of minions for the heroes to defeat.