September 14th, 2008


A Galaxy of Fun

In fourth grade, my class did a project where we created our own imaginary countries, each with its own theme. Mine was "Computerland," where the roads included Disk Drive and Memory Lane. In the following year, we had the project of designing our own galaxies. As you might expect, hardly anyone's was really much of a galaxy. I might have been the only person to even include more than one solar system, and I only had somewhere in the vicinity of twenty, not billions. Still, it did give me a chance to be creative. My galaxy was called simply "The Great Galaxy," and the main inhabitants were simply called Aliens, with a capital A. They were tall creatures with red, green, or blue skin, and antennae on their heads, who dressed in jeweled robes. There were several things I never quite decided about these creatures, including how they reproduced. I once had the idea that each one had two offspring that started off as spores, but I sometimes figured that were both males and females. The whole galaxy was ruled from the planet Tweeadadot by a being known as the Alienking (all one word), which I derived from Tolkien's Elvenking in The Hobbit, a book I'd recently finished reading. The Tolkien influence could also be seen in the planet inhabited by dwarves, with names like Ackin and Snackin. I also had influence from The Cowardly Lion of Oz, in my figure of the galactic population as some big number that was probably still way too small to be the population of an entire galaxy "and a half," like the lions in Mudge. My explanation was that one of the blue dragons (yes, this galaxy also had dragons) had gotten into a fight with Minnephraphtolopolar, the guardian of the galaxy, which had resulted in the dragon's being cut in half, and the guard's having to have one arm replaced with a laser cannon. Minnephraphtolopolar was a Mookasookadookalooker (with the double O's pronounced as in "loop," rather than "look," despite the K's after them), a creature that looked like a shorter, squatter version of the Aliens. I think their appearance was largely inspired by one of the pictures of monsters in the Dungeon! board game. This particular Mookasookadookalooker guarded the gate in the wall that surrounded the whole galaxy, which I probably realized even at the age of eleven didn't really make sense, but I thought it was kind of a neat idea.

I created other sorts of animals for this galaxy, and even a few plants. The main example of the latter that I can remember is the Kannavoosk, which tears arms out of the sockets of passersby and eats them. (Yes, I had a quite disturbed mind sometimes.) As far as animals go, there was the Foof, a furry creature with a forked tongue that inhabited the planet Oonafoof, which could be reached by Tweeadadot on foot. See, Tweeadadot and Oonafoof were in the Smooshed System, where all of the planets had gotten mashed together in some way I never explained. I got the idea from a sloppy watercolor picture I made, which looked like, well, several planets stuck together. Anyway, while it was possible to walk from Tweeadadot to Oonafoof, the only explorer who ever tried it ended up being eaten by the Foofs (Fooves?). I can also recall writing about the Kookans, human-sized crow-like birds who were experts at spaceship creation.

I made a poster of several different kinds of spaceships for this project. I remember one was shaped like a shark, and another like a snake. There were also arrow taxis, which could be shot through space by giant bows. I don't think this would actually work, but I'm still rather fond of the idea. It's sort of like the cannon transport service in The Secret of Mana, I suppose.

Before I end this post, I'd like to mention two other locations in this galaxy. One is the Floating Ocean Nebula, which was used as a swimming pool by celestial giants. The other is the Pizza Planet, the surface of which is made entirely of pizza, and which is home to nymphs known as Pepperonids.

I think that's enough to start with. In a week or so, I'll introduce you to some other aspects of the Great Galaxy.

O Captain, My Captain

Okay, since some of you asked for these, here are my reviews of a few more Captain N episodes:

How's Bayou? - I think this is the only episode other than the first to use live-action footage. And I'm pretty sure it's the same live-action footage from that episode, because why waste money on shooting more? We all see footage of the game, which is supposed to be The Adventures of Bayou Billy. I've never played that game, but I think people who have said it doesn't actually look like that. Hello, whatever company made that game! They're giving you free advertising! Why not give them some actual game footage? They apparently got it right that the game is really hard, though.

From what I've read, there are actually two versions of this episode, with the second one having been cleaned up somewhat. It's the original version on the DVD, though, and I think they accidentally played an exchange between Mother Brain and Eggplant Wizard out of order, so it really doesn't make sense. But anyway, it's not too far into the episode that, with no fanfare whatsoever, we meet Dr. Wily. He's actually closer to his in-game appearance than most of the other characters, although he's really small for some reason. He talks with a German accent, and is constantly wheezing. Maybe he has asthma or something. He's easily the most competent villain on the show, though, being able to invent pretty much anything. This time, it's a remote controlled robo-cat, which Mother Brain uses to lure Duke (and, hence, Kevin) into Bayouland. The Captain has a tough time of it until he meets Bayou Billy, who teaches him the ways of the swamp, sort of like Yoda with a Southern accent and pet alligator. We also get to see Eggplant Wizard attach an outboard motor to King Hippo. At the end of the episode, Kevin gets a star that kills villains, and it ends up disintegrating Mother Brain, Hippo, and Eggy. The Brain says something about rematerializing, so she's obviously not gone for good (it would have been a rather short show if she had been), but it is a more thorough defeat than usual.

The Most Dangerous Game Master - This one actually has a fairly clever plot, with Dr. Wily building an android version of Mike Vincent, a bully who tormented Kevin back in California. King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard go to the palace to record his memories on a device that looks like a hand-held tape recorder. Oh, also, the android later states that he has one hundred megabytes of memory. That's late eighties technology for you, I suppose. Anyway, the villains manage to gain access to the palace by disguising themselves as TV repairmen, taking advantage of the fact that the TV has stopped working. I can only assume that this was somehow Mother Brain or Dr. Wily's doing, but we never find out just how. As is typical for cartoons, characters can wear the crappiest disguises and still not be recognized. Simon asks if he knows the two goons from someplace, and King Hippo replies, "Nope, never been to Someplace. Been No Place Special a few times." Pretty good joke (kind of Carrollian in structure, actually), but can we ever have an animated series where the characters DON'T fall for really bad costumes? Then again, it IS Simon we're talking about here, and Kevin seems to recognize Mother Brain's minions right away. By then, though, it's too late. The two escape the palace in a mushroom-copter, and bring the memories back to Wily. The android lures the N Team to Castlevania, and while this isn't the first visit in production order (I believe that would be "Mr. and Mrs. Mother Brain"), it is in the order the episodes appear on the DVD. Mike shows up with Count Dracula and some other monsters. But wait, did I say "Count Dracula"? Actually, while he's a semi-regular on the show and is obviously SUPPOSED to be Dracula (complete with Bela Lugosi accent and frequent repetition of "blah"), everybody just calls him "The Count," or sometimes "The Vampire Count." I'm not sure if there was a copyright issue or what. Actually, I believe I've read that the instruction booklet for the first Castlevania game just calls him "The Count," so maybe that explains it. I don't know. Regardless, Simon blinds the Count with a camera flash, and then captures him with his whip. Also in the battle, Kid Icarus defeats the Wolfman with a Bon Voyage Party arrow. I have to hand it to the writers for coming up with some pretty amusing ideas for trick arrows. Anyway, despite the N Team's success with the monsters, Mike uses the Pause button on his own Power Pad to capture them. Yes, the android has its own Power Pad and Zapper, but I don't think that's too crazy. I mean, Wily is clearly capable of inventing robots that can jump really high, move quickly, and freeze enemies in their tracks (Flash Man being the obvious example of that last one), and that seems to be most of what the Power Pad can do. Anyway, to make a long story short, Mike's attitude starts to backfire on Mother Brain, and Kevin eventually reminds him of the good times they had together before Mike became a bully, causing the robot to switch sides, leading to his destruction. I appreciate how Kevin managed to use the fact that the Mike android was programmed with his own memories to his own advantage. That's some smart writing as far as this show goes.

Videolympics - At the beginning of this episode, Mother Brain finds out about the Three Sacred Treasures of Mount Icarus. I'm not sure why they didn't just call it "Angel Land" like in the actual game, but maybe that was too religious-sounding for Saturday morning. The Captain N comics refer to it as "Mount Olympus," which makes more sense. Oh, well. The villain challenges the N Team to a Videolympics at Mount Icarus Colosseum, with the winner taking control of the palace. The good guys wonder if it might be a trap, but they decide to go along with it anyway. Wait, even if it weren't obvious that EVERYTHING Mother Brain proposes is a trap, isn't it enough that you're staking the future of Videoland on a contest? As another review points out, though, that's basically video game thinking. Go along with everything, and just fight it out if you end up in trouble.

The N Team switches to sports outfits to practice for the Videolympics. I have to say that, in a tank top and short shorts, Lana looks even sluttier than usual. Mother Brain's team is also practicing, using the world of Punch-Out for that purpose. An unidentified shadow boxer there is knocked out by his own shadow, a gag that had been used in Police Squad!, the short-lived TV show that inspired the Naked Gun films. Also, we find out that Spiro Agnew is a boxer in Videoland. Actually, the poster just says, "Spir Agne," but what else could it mean?

Finally, we see the actual Videolympics, including such events as a race through an electric maze, another race on flying chariots, and a waterfall dive. Incidentally, Lana wears a one-piece for the dive, suggesting that the only time she DOESN'T show off her midriff is while swimming. Oh, and the Colosseum moves around to different places for the events. Mother Brain's team cheats constantly in order to win (which Mother Brain hopes will improve her image, which I suppose is in character for her), but King Hippo ends up throwing the chariot race in order to obtain the last Sacred Treasure. With all three treasures together, Mother Brain banishes the N Team to the Warp Zone to Oblivion, and...well, that's it for this episode. This is actually the only two-parter in the series, with the next one picking up where this one left off. And that one is:

Mega Trouble for Megaland - The Warp Zone to Oblivion ends up sending the N Team to the place where all warp zones intersect. If Mother Brain had known that, she might have tried something else. Sure, the warps could bring them pretty much anywhere, but isn't that true of any unknown warp? The team tries out some warps, with Simon taking one that lands him in a cannibals' stew pot. I forget who it was who asked this question, but why do tribes who show no other signs of familiarity with metal-working always have metal cooking cauldrons? Maybe some salesman made his fortune selling them. Anyway, Lana discovers the Videoland version of Yankee Stadium, which might well be on the Baseball World that the team visits in the third season. It's Kid Icarus who finds the Colosseum, and the others soon join him, only to find out that a week has passed there. Mother Brain has conquered Mount Icarus, and has two of those monsters who look kind of like Kraid appointed as overseers. Maybe one is the real Kraid and the other the fake one. Kid Icarus claims that he can destroy the Three Sacred Treasures with the Mirror Shield, the Sacred Bow, and Fire Arrows. Isn't the Mirror Shield actually one of the Sacred Treasures, and another the Wings of Pegasus, which Kid Icarus must already have if he's flying? Then again, we never actually find out what the treasures are that Mother Brain has, since they always remain in their chests. But getting back to the story, Kid Icarus and Simon go to take these treasures from Medusa, except King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard are blocking the way. It's now Simon's turn to use a bad but somehow impenetrable disguise, allowing him and Kid Icarus to slip through the warp. I believe Medusa is basically a giant eye in the Kid Icarus game, but in the show she's closer to her traditional mythology portrayal of an ugly woman with snakes for hair who turns anyone who looks at her into stone. She tricks Simon into looking at her, but Kid Icarus defeats her with the Mirror Shield, restoring Simon and the other warriors who had been turned into statues.

Meanwhile, the rest of the N Team heads for Megaland, which Dr. Wily plans to use the Sacred Treasures to conquer. They meet Dr. Light, or as this series calls him, "Dr. Wright." This is probably because the earlier Mega Man games were unclear on what his name actually was, just as they sometimes spelled Wily's name as "Wiley," or even "Willy." Dr. Light is just as short as Wily, and has a cucumber-shaped nose, elf ears, and liver spots like Mr. Burns (not that anyone would have known who Mr. Burns was back in 1989; it's weird remembering a time when The Simpsons wasn't yet on the air). The team decides to take on Cut Man (or "Cuts Man," as they call him) first, and the stage actually looks fairly faithful to the game. The group is crushed by a Big Eye, but comes back at the beginning of the stage, where Kevin mentions that it took him fifty times to get to Cut Man when he played the game at home. And this guy is supposed to be the Game Master? This time, however, the team makes it past the Big Eye, and through Cut Man's gate. Now here's where it gets weird. The corridor to Cut Man's room contains robots who look like the other five main ones in the first Mega Man game, but they each go down with one hit. After Kevin beats Cut Man (by tricking Duke into thinking that he's the new gardener; I guess the Keenes must have been pretty well-to-do if they could afford their own gardener), he says that there are still five other robots to defeat, so I have no idea who their likenesses in the corridor were supposed to be. I guess we can chalk it up to sloppy writing. We don't actually see any of the other robots' stages (that would have made for an awfully long episode, after all), but the team eventually reaches Dr. Wily's lab, where he's used the Sacred Treasures to revive all six master robots. When Kid Icarus shows up and destroys the treasures with a Fire Arrow, though, that's the end of those robots. And the revived warriors drive Hippo and Eggy out of Mount Icarus, so everything is back to normal. Which means that Mother Brain is coming right back with another evil plan in the next episode, but I haven't re-watched that yet, so you'll have to wait for more reviews. I'm sure you're all disappointed. :P