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Logan: The End of an Era

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If you’re one of the movie goers who contributed to Logan’s $85.3 million domestic opening over the weekend, then this review is for you. For everyone else, you may want to go see Logan before reading. The following article Logan: The End of an Era will contain spoilers. This will be your only warning. Clear? Good. Now that we have that bit of business out of the way, I wanna talk about the movie everyone else is talking about. That’s right if you haven’t guessed it, I was one of the nerds…sorry, geeks who ventured and braved the crowds to see Logan. I sat shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers to witness the end of an era. Which era? The Wolverine, or at least Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as one of the more popular characters in the X-Men lexicon. And let’s face it, this may very well be the end of the character Logan as well, for the time being. At this stage, I don’t see anyone else picking up the reins and having much chance of success. But, that’s a conversation for another day. As I said, I wanna talk about Logan.

Here’s a quick synopsis from the always loveable IMDb:

“In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.”

Not a bad synopsis, as simple as the basic premise and catalyst of the film itself. Better than the typical three words they usually give movies. And they’re not wrong, as the movie opens, the year is 2029, and sleeping Logan is woken by a gang on the Texas-Mexico border attempting to steal his tires. Logan stumbles on the scene and gives a somewhat slurred warning for the would-be “bad guys” to do themselves a favor and take off.  On par with what most red shirts do, they ignore his warning and shoot him down. A typical setup for any superhero action movie. But there’s somewhat different here. Something amiss. Wolverine isn’t getting up as fast as he used to. He’s taking a lot more punches until he’s basically driven into an animal like state, lashing out wildly and somewhat lazy. EVenutally in what would have normally taken him seconds, he finally dispatches the would-be thieves, jumps back into his car (a limo BTW), and takes off. He stops at a nearby gas station and runs into the bathroom to clean himself up. It’s here we see more evidence that something is not right with our beloved hero. His body is riddled with poorly healed scars. Marks that would have in the past healed over in a blink of the eye, are now a visible roadmap who his harsh existence.

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So, I’m not going to do a play for play on this review. If you’ve seen it, then you already know what happens.

For the most part, Logan (as a movie) felt very familiar. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Wolverine as the reclusive hero or even the reluctant hero. In just about all the movies thus far in which Wolverine makes an appearance, he has been the grumpy cigar smoking asshole everyone loves, except for in Days of Future Past (my favorite X-Men movie) in which he took lead role as the dominant leader of the pack, and of course his cameo in X-Men Apocalypse, one of the few highlights of that movie where they finally got the Weapon-X story arch right. Tell me I’m wrong, but besides those two movies, has not Wolverine always been the “reluctant hero?” And that’s okay. It’s his MO. What it really means is that director James Mangold will have to work twice as hard not to bore the shit out of long time fans. Something he wasn’t quite able to do in his first foray with Wolverine in The Wolverine (2013), which to be fair was much better than the previous Wolverine movies, the duo bust that-shall-not-be-named (Last Stand and Origins), he still fumbled a bit with the ending. The majority of The Wolverine was pretty good, I thought. Bringing Logan out of his guilt and into his true purpose as a soldier/warrior.

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Carrying into Logan, Mangold brings the evolution of this “warrior’s tale” to its final conclusion, in a movie that works as both a western and as a dystopian without having to resort to a dismal apocalyptic future. No, the Sentinels are not to blame. Nor is Bolivar Trask. Or even Col. Striker…well, perhaps his legacy is to blame for some of it. No, the real bombshell is that it was Xavier’s degenerative brain disease that is to fault in the so-called “Westchester Event,” as he called it in an impromptu confession of sorts, to the deaths of the mutants, or at least the X-Men. Most of the backstory is left to interpretation and not filled in with lazy narration or exposition. This “revelation,” just before Xavier’s final moments, reveals that this is NOT just another reluctant hero movie, this isn’t a rinse and repeat from Mangold’s first go with Wolverine back in 2013. Logan was a hero, he was a warrior and a soldier, but after witnessing the deaths of his friends, an event that would send any hero Helter Skelter, he’s simply lost his purpose, his banner…now set on caring for himself, and also an ailing aged Professor, and of course Caliban is there too.  Can you image?He’s caring for the man who killed his friends, not malevolently of course, to no one’s fault but the disease. Still…what a burden, right? Enough to make anyone a selfish prick.

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So, the motivation makes sense, and though they make stem from the same vein as previous films, the differences make all the difference. Logan is a wounded, dying animal driven into a corner, and as such furiously defends himself and his very selective circle. But then a strange woman arrives and begs for that “hero,” the legend that this Wolverine, to return and help guide a young mutant, Laura (who happens to be his daughter), played wonderfully by Dafne Keen, to a place called Eden on the Canadian border. Eden is a place mentioned in a comic book, along with a set of GPS coordinates. But Eden doesn’t really exist, and it does exist. This part of the story was kinda brilliant, playing off audience expectations. Seeing an X-Men comic, kinda fourth wall; kinda not, showcasing a sentimental view of the X-Men and this place called Eden, which Logan constantly tells Laura doesn’t exist because it’s in a comic book, therefore fictional, and then, in the end, Eden does exist, but not in the way audiences may have expected. Eden was simply a rondevu point for the escaped children who were part of an initiative designed to re-create the Weapon-X program, the same program that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton and claws.

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From here the conclusion is drawn in the sand. Thanks to the children, and some hair trimmings, Logan becomes what he was always meant to be. Not a warrior for hire, but a hero. A very angry and very very violent hero, facing off against what he could have become had he remained in the original Weapon-X program, a rampaging, feral, mindless killing machine. This clone aspect was interesting and very symbolic, forced to square off against one’s past, a somewhat distorted mirror image. For a moment, I thought X-24 looked somewhat like Sabertooth from that dreadful Origins movie with the mutton chops. For a story arch this long, spanning seventeen years, the ending of Logan was exactly how it should have ended. Just like with the “what happened to all the mutants” question, the “why isn’t Logan healing” is also kind of fill in the blanks. The assumption I think is that Logan is suffering from some sort of long-term exposure to adamantium. his healing factor is all but burnt out now. Knowing this, we should have known going into this movie that Wolverine was not going to ride off into the sunset. This was his last mission, not to save the future, but to give the future a chance. While sad, the ending is fitting, as Laura and the other children bury Logan, marking his grave with a wooden X, and running off into an unknown destiny.
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I’m sure more will be said regarding all those metaphors and symbolisms we grazed over about family and parenthood or fatherhood, and all that. For now, let me close this review with one final summation. Why did “they” have to get Wolverine right on the FINAL movie??? Seriously. Finally, as audiences would no doubt want more, we’re given the last bill. The emotional setup was near-perfect, opening the curtains by giving us a brief look at Deadpool 2, everyone laughing and then closing the curtains with Logan’s death and an uncertain future for a new generation of mutants. And the no after credit scene added to the realization, this was it. Perhaps not the end of the X-Men, but certainly the end of an era.

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars. 

Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Apocalypse Meow. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, both Dwelling and Emerging and Conceiving, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can keep up with Thomas and all his strange books by joining his author newsletter, at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

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Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)

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From the span of 1989 thru 1996, Tales from the Crypt sent delightful chills down the spines of millions of viewers as they tuned in to HBO and whatever mad macabre story was about to be unleashed for the next twenty plus minutes. The Danny Elfman theme and horn blasts and the creaking gate ushering us into a decapitated mansion, lightening crashes, and still the camera and the song moves us past the foyer and into the lower regions. Cobwebs and dust cover everything. This place looks abandoned. Buts its not. Just as we reach the bottom, from an aged and rustic coffin, as if conjured by an ellipses of manic cowling, jumps the Crypt Keeper, nearly devoid of flesh, howling with his cankerous jittering laughter, “Welcome, to Tales from the Crypt.” And we watch, popcorn resting in our laps, feet dancing as the title screen comes on and the green ooze comes down in driblets.

If you’re like me than you no doubt have plenty of nostalgic memories of this show. Starting with “The Man Who Was Death,” staring the underrated William Sadler, and ending, seven seasons later, with “The Third Pig,” (the only animated episode) staring the cuddly Bobcat Goldthwait as the Big Bad Wolf. Not forgetting three movies, Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood, and Ritual (the made for TV movie with Tim Curry). Looking at the movies, my favorite has to be Demon Knight, not only was it the first, but it was also one of the best written and directed of the movies, staring again William Sadler and Billy Zane (back when Zane was actually still considered a good actor). Bordello was okay…my biggest qualm was Dennis Miller, the dude can do a hell-of-a monologue, but acting…ugh! Ritual was decent enough to spend an evening. I’m a big fan of voodoo horror and this had the dark arts in spades. Plus, Tim Curry…need I say more?

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As for the regularly aired episodes, its hard to say which one was the best. Every season brought on a new collection of guest appearances from some of the most recognizable names during the 1990s. From Adam West to Amanda Plummer to Andrew McMarthy and Anna Friel and even Arnold Schwarzenegger, not forgetting the late great Bob Hoskins and Burt Yong, there was also Carol Kane and Brooke Shields and Ghostbuster alums Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, Cheers alum George Wendt starred in The Reluctant Vampire, and everyone’s favorite Jedi Master Ewan McGregor guest stared in Cold War, and there was also Hector Elizondo and James Remar, even gangsta extraordinaire “you think I’m funny” Joe Pesci, and the lovable Indian Jones co-star John Rhys-Davies, Full House fellow John Stamos was on the show as well as Kathleen York, and our favorite FBI agent in the piney woods Kyle MacLachlan turned bad guy in one of the more twisted of episodes, “Carrion of Death.” Bill “game over man” Paxton and the always creepy Brad Dourif made  an appearance in Season 5. And there were many more celebrities that found their way onto one or more Tales from the Crypt episodes, each one seemingly trying to out-do the last.

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Now, deciding which one is “the best of the best,” well…lets see what other horror nerds have to say. Ranking in as their number one, Bloody Disgusting named “The New Arrival” as their personal favorite. Fangoria listed “Cutting Cards” staring both Kevin Tighe and Lance Henriksen as their number one pick. Cinema Slasher has Season 3’s “Undertaking Parlor” as their be-all episode, starring Jonathan Ke Quan, Jason Marsden, Aron Eisenberg, and Scott Fults, “a group of young, wannabe filmmakers that, while spying on an undertaker, discover some creepy and immoral actions being taken.” iHorror lists holiday special “All Through the House” as their numero uno and Den of Geek lists “Fitting Punishment,” among others, as one of the most terrifying episodes to air on TV.

Which episode is my favorite?

Hmm…

How about instead of one, I give you five?

Sounds fair, right?

Sorry. I cannot name just one with a show that spanned nearly a decade.

Not in any particular order, I’ll start my first top pick for Tales from the Crypt episodes with “The Man Who Was Death.” Okay. Sure. Given. This was the first episode of the show, and ought be honored as such, but least we not forget, the story was actually really scary, and socially pointed. My next pick will be, obviously, “Death of Some Salesman.” Of all the shows that’ve aired on Tales from the Crypt, this particular one nearly won the show an Emmy…and it was all because of Tim Curry. If you’re not a fan of infamous voice and stage actor and one of the best drag mad scientists ever to grace cinema, I challenge you to watch this episode and tell me he’s no good. My next favorite also comes out of Season 1 with “Collection Completed.” An elderly man is forced into retirement and soon begins to butt heads with his loony tunes wife. Driven insane by all the pets his wife  brings into the house, Walsh decides to taxidermy all her furry companions.  To say she is not happy would be an understatement, and the end will leave you chilled to the bone. “Carrion Death” is my next favorite, mostly due to Twin Peaks good guy turned bad guy in Tales from the Crypt, Kyle MacLachlan, but also because of the pacing of the episode, the slow build of terror, even though you can pretty much guess what’ll happen in the end, its still horrifying to watch! My last on this favorites list will have to be “Yellow,” from Season 3. Not only am I a pretentious nerd when it comes to period pieces, but the episode is also wonderfully filmed, almost ornate in feeling, and it boasts a 40 mins run time (the longest episode in TFTC history).

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Despite being off the air for twenty years now (feeling old?), a majority of the episodes still carry quite a punch and are actually very relevant. Tales from the Crypt harnessed the best of what those 1950s EC Comics and Twilight Zone and other pillars of twisted anthologies had to offer, giving us some of the most wonderful forewarning of being careful what we wish for, treating others as we’d like to be treated, and other stories of campfire morality. Tales from the Crypt showcased the best of what horror can be and inspired (and still is) countless generations of future filmmakers and storytellers. If you’re a fan of the show, what were some of your favorite episodes or moments? Mention them in the comments below.

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Thomas S. Flowers creates character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas at a safe distance by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

Revenge is a dish best served with BBQ!

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Killer Croc: a few things you might want to know

Just this past week the biggest announcement to date was released regarding the casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (LOST) as the one and only Killer Croc. Okay…so maybe not the biggest news concerning the upcoming live-action adaptation of Suicide Squad. Perhaps you might consider Jared Leto as The Joker to be the biggest news. Or maybe Will Smith as Deadshot. Well…as terrifying and dastardly as The Joker and Deadshot may be, Killer Croc remains my favorite among the Batman universe villains. Killer Croc is easily twice as frightening as any other baddie. And not just because of his appearance, no. But because of who and what he is — how he came to be, and what he remains, human at our most basic level. Here’s a little skinny on Killer Croc. Just a few things you might want to know:

Mutation

Killer Croc was born…different. A genetic disorder that gave him his reptilian appearance. As he grew older his strength increased and he found he had the ability to regenerate. However, regeneration came with a cost. Each time, according to comic book lore, Killer Croc uses his gift he becomes more animalistic or reptilianistic, if you will. Not just in behavior but in appearance as well. My first introduction to Killer Croc was in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), however, in that series he was not very impressive. Just some grey looking dude with a bad attitude. My second introduction to Killer Croc was my favorite because he was at his lowest most primal state, in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I can still remember the feeling of both awe and dread, thinking: ‘I have to face off with this dude later? Jeezzus!’ But underneath it all, Killer Croc is still human, despite his appearance or behavior, no matter how much he wants people to think otherwise.

History

Killer Croc wasn’t always Killer Croc. He was Waylon Jones, for a time. A classic trademark of Batman villains, Mr. Jones was not born a monster, but became one through years of abuse and torment. In his case, because of his monstrous outward appearance. In fact, according to comic book lore, “Killer Croc” was a nickname bullies gave him when he was just a boy. Eventually, Waylon disappeared and only Killer Croc remained. He’d spend the majority of his young adult life in reform schools or behind bars. After prison, he joined a traveling circus and performed by wrestling giant alligators to the death under his destined name, Killer Croc. This is the background I hope writers use in casting Killer Croc in Suicide Squad, the circus performer gone rogue. But its doubtful they’ll make use of his history. There is a point in some of the comic storytelling where Killer Croc tries to take over the mob in Gotham. When that plan fails, not just because of Batman’s heroics, but because Bane breaks his arms, he pulls a stint in Arkham Asylum. After escaping, he flees into the sewers, becoming even more bestial, and consuming human flesh.

Suicide Squad

To the best of my knowledge, Killer Croc was never in any of the old Suicide Squad comics and his role in the film has been undefined, for the time being. However, there has been a directorial tease regarding where the new upcoming movie will take us, Arkham Asylum. As mentioned above, in the hit 2009 video game with the similar title, Asylum could very well be the place Suicide Squad bumps into Killer Croc. As much as I would love for the big baddie to have a larger role in the film, I have a gut feeling he’ll just be making an appearance or playing a part through a small portion of the film. Say, prison escape or something like that. Discovering Killer Croc in Arkham will be the best way to introduce this largely unfamiliar character to larger audiences. As Arkham is both dark and creepy, it would make the perfect setting to showcase the monstrous Killer Croc. The movie is set to release next year, but hopefully we’ll get more details as they become available.

Who is YOUR favorite Batman baddie? Let us know in the comment section below!


Hellblazer Original Sins: Modest Review

hellblazer book coverTo be honest, I never really considered reading Hellblazer, or maybe I considered it (after seeing the 2005 flick Constantine staring none other than Keanu Reeves!), but never acted on the impulse, till the underrated Constantine show kicked off on NBC. The show is amazing, and just as I previously said, does not get enough credit from NBC. But the real reason why I was finally convinced to seek out the comics was it seemed that the show was drawing from the source material (comics) heavily. While the weight of said influence could be argued among reviewers and other such nerds and geeks, I’d say its an equal medium. Story plots are certainly drawn from the source but obvious changes have been made to jive up the original 1980’s story structure for today’s modern audience. With that said, let me get back to my review of the actual comic collection!!

I’d say this is a mighty fine start for anyone new to the series, myself included. The only bit that threw me for a loop was the Swamp Thing addition at the end. It was muddied with the Damnation Army storyline and I ended up confused with where it was going. When I got to the end, though, it was made clear. The best part of the collection was “Hunger” and “Feast of Friends.” It was tragic and horrifying, very similar to the aired episode on TV. However, it was more haunting in the book, because Gary Lester was more of a unwilling participant as the eventual vessel to contain the hunger demon. Several of the comics in the collection dealt with familiar social issues during the mid to late 80’s. It was interesting to step back and reexamine those political unrests. Another favorite from the collection was “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which dealt with a town still reeling from losses during the Vietnam War. Another really good one was “Extreme Prejudice” that dealt with white supremacist groups in England during the 80’s. It was an interesting look back in time, but I think what really made the comic great was the creature assembled from a mod podge of body parts from the slain racists, aka the Devil’s Mockery.

 

Overall I’d say it was a great start in a long journey of getting to know John Constantine. I’m looking forward to picking up volume # 2!!


Something Nerdy This Way Comes

Is it just me, or does it seem like nerds have completely taken over everything worth watching? Don’t get me wrong, I am a nerd, and — as one of my favorite drive-thru commercials often says — “I’m lov’in it.” No complaint here. Its just strikingly odd to find such a concentrated pooling of nerd based entertainment in a incredibly bottle necked period of time. Lets count the cost. Marvel is dominating theaters. DC is smoldering television. And horror in general has made a lot of strides since the decade of reboots (the early 2000’s) in both theaters and television. It is truly an amazing time for nerds. Sure, there have been some misses. But there have also been a lot of hits. And it feels as if our movies and shows are picking up traction and getting better and better as the decade moves along. Yes. This era of nerdom will pass, sadly. Trends come and go on the evening tide. However, the time for mourning has not yet come. Instead, we should be celebrating the advancement of these amazing nerdy forms of entertainment.

If you have not yet partaken in the nerdness, no judgments my friend. Though I do feel a little sad for you. If you’re looking for a solid base to jump into the fray, considering any of the following movies and television shows! You will not be disappointed.

Iron Man (2008): If you’re going to start anywhere, Iron Man would be a good option. Back in 2008, Iron Man was one of the first “good” superhero movies that teed up the Marvel line up quite nicely.

Iron Man, 2008.

Iron Man, 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avengers (2012): If can skip all the individual movies, the set up for the mother of all nerd movies; however, I do require that you at least watch Captain America: The First Avenger before watching The Avengers. You can skip Thor and Iron Man 2 if you want.

Avengers, Mondo Poster, 2012.

Avengers, Mondo Poster, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain America: Winter Solider (2013): Okay. So maybe flicks like The Avengers are a little too crowded for your tastes. Or perhaps its a bit too nerdy and comic bookish. Again, no judgments. If The Avengers isn’t cutting it, try Winter Solider. This last Capt America movie was by far one of the best Marvel movies yet. That’s right…even better than Guardians of the Galaxy (Judge away nerds!). It was old school espionage, giving a nod to both the Cold War era action movies and toward the comic. I loved the first Capt flick cause I’m a sucker for period pieces, but Winter Solider was just so damn good, especially during an era when we’re just now looking back and analyzing the post 9/11, post Patriot Act world.

Capt America: Winter Soldier mondo poster, 2013.

Capt America: Winter Soldier mondo poster, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gotham (Fox television): DC may be getting creamed in the theaters, but damn if they’re not dominating cable television!! In an area where Marvel seems to be stumbling hard, DC has done nothing but pick up momentum since Arrow aired a few years back. Now we’ve got the Flash, Arrow, Constantine (my person favorite, thus far), and Gotham. And some nerds are protesting this new re-telling of Gotham origins; however, I am not one of those critics. I love the show, especially since I was never a hardcore reader of Batman growing up. The show gives assuming and nostalgic easter eggs while still maintaining a well thought out story. The Flash is a little campy, but watchable. The Arrow has been hard core since the start. And Constantine, as I said above, is one of my favorites because its the more gritty side of DC. An amazing combination of horror and comic. Gotham is worth the watch, if anything, to at least see a new origin take on Oswald Cobblepot, my favorite DC villain, second only to Killer Croc.

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And there are many more, of course, not mentioned here in this article. Supernatural has made a strong come back from last season’s snorefest. American Horror Story is still one of the best horror anthologies ever to grace television boxes. Sleepy Hallow comes and goes, depending on the episode, definitely worth checking out on Hulu at least, or wait for the inevitable Netflix release. And The Walking Dead has also made a triumphet return, much to the joy and satisfaction of zombie nerds everywhere. Personally, I feel as if I’ve never had such a hard time keeping up with shows as I used too. Either way, I hope the trend lasts and continues to grow.

 

What are some of your favorite nerdy shows to come out? Or are you still waiting for yours to make an appearance?


Terrifying Moments in Cartoon History

who's ready for breakfast?

Not to sound like the old guy in the room, but Saturday morning cartoons just aren’t the same anymore. In fact, Saturday morning cartoons seem to be nonexistent. Sure, there are some originals, like Rick and Morty and Adventure Time, but for the most part kids nowadays are being feed a refried equivalent to what my generation watched back in the 80’s and 90’s. Marvel based cartoons (Avengers, Hulk, X-men), thanks to the recent surge of super hero movies during the 2010’s, have found themselves gaining rating with the younger generation. DC’s Young Justice League seems to be rather popular these days. There is even going to be a new take on Batman, called Son of Batman, though I doubt it’ll have the same luster as the original animated series. And sweet baby Jesus, even My Little Pony has made a (some what disturbing) come back! My favorite Saturday morning cartoon, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been revamped and are as popular as ever, there is even a Micheal Bay live action adaptation coming out. And will we see the evil cogs being manipulated by the brain-ish blubbering Krang? No, I seriously doubt he’ll make an appearance.

Why?

the always impressive and genius, Krang

While today’s cartoons may mimic the ones from our Saturday morning heyday, they are however not the same. It seems like cartoons, or at least the cartoons I enjoyed, back in the 80’s and especially the 90’s were darker, grittier. Not because these pre-HD days, but because the writers and producers seem more willing to take risks and weren’t afraid to show audiences something disturbing. Looking back on it now, even cartoons as far removed from what’s consider traditional horror, would sometimes introduce new character origin stories or plot arcs that involved something tiptoeing the verge of gruesome. Consider the following Terrifying Moments in Cartoon History and tell me if kids are still getting the same cartoons as we did:

 

1.  Clayface (Batman: The Animated Series)

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Even now, I can still remember how Batman: The Animated Series was the sole Saturday morning cartoon I looked forward to the most. but when I watched the washed up has-been actor Basil Karlo jumped by a bunch of shadowy gangsters who poured a tub of experimental, addictive cosmetic (which applied in small doses, allowed Karlo to hide his scars) over his gurgling face, I was a bit surprised and applauded this daring take on a iconic comic villain. I’m not sure what was more intense, watching Karlo near choke to death or that he was an absolute sympathetic character who wasn’t really a complete “bad-guy.” He was just a guy who made not so great choices and went through something horrible. This is what made the Batman of the 90’s so darn good. Not all villains are caricatures, sometimes they are people who rationalize their own reasons for doing the things they do.

2. Baxter Stockman (TMNT)

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TMNT had a few questionable character creations (Bebop & Rocksteady), but Dr. Stockman takes the cake. This was a Saturday morning kids cartoon that gave a nod to Goldblum’s 1986 eccentric scientist who’s experiment does terribly wrong (watch, The Fly, if you have no idea what i’m talking about…go, now, watch). A CHILDREN’S CARTOON MIND YOU!! No judgments, but damn… could you imagine if some PTA crazed soccer mom saw this reference…and actually understood that Baxter was totally Seth Brundle?!?

3. Man-Spider (Spider-man, 1994 Fox Animated Series)

how's about a little kiss?

Spider-man was another Fox Saturday morning animated line up that I enjoyed as an adolescent. It was fun with lots of action and plenty of villains for Peter Parker to fend off. Until the morning when Peter became the monster and transformed into this cuddle bug. The story followed a “what-if” scenario that’s actually part of the larger Spider-man comic universe where the bite that gave Parker his abilities continued to change him.

4. Ghash (The Real Ghostbusters, 1986)

"come to me..."

Believe it or not, the Real Ghostbusters animated cartoon used to be widely popular. And for a cartoon based on a comedy about a business that catches and contains ghosts, we should expect some aspect of macabre. However, the episode Slimer, Come Home was a little bit darker than what my younger self anticipated. I can still remember the howling growl of Ghash calling the other poltergeists to him, “Come to me.”  There was just something about the Lovecraftian mouth on the stomach and the bubbling skin that kept me from eating pizza for at least week.

5. Morph (X-men Animated Series, 90’s)

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Nothing was more exciting than getting to watch the X-Men on Saturday mornings. But… in the first few episodes fans were introduced to some rather complex and disturbing content. The death of Morph is a moment in animated history I will not soon forget. Everything seemed to be going right. The mutant crew were giving as good as they got from the Sentinels, but Wolverines screams of anguish for the loss of his friend burrowed deep in my memory; his loss was our loss.

I think it goes without saying, they don’t make em’ like they used to! My favorite old an saying is how back in my day, cartoons actually scared you. What are some of your favorite terrifying cartoon moments? Leave them below in the comments section!

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Often called The Hemingway of Horror, Thomas S. Flowers secludes away to create character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was soon published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow from Thomas at a safe distance by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

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Buy FEAST for $2.99 eBook / $5.99 paperback

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Batman Arkham Origins & the Symphony of Emotion

October is crawling. The anticipation of both Halloween and the release of Batman: Arkham Origins is almost too much! While Halloween is easily sedated by simply screening the many wonders of horror and spooktacular films, like: The Thing, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Frankenstein, and so on; but, what can be done to quench our unsteady nerves as we wait and wait and wait, as it seems, for Origins’ release? Besides playing one of the two predecessors, Asylum or City, the only thing left is to tediously scourge and watch as many YouTube videos as we can muster. Such as the below video from RobotGamer1HD:

Which isn’t half bad. Here, we at least get a look at some of the game play. What did you think? Awesome, right?!? Seriously, thinking back when Arkham Asylum was first released, who would have thought the game (before you played) was going to be so amazing? The greatest part was being able to put ourselves into the story and from the very get-go, was so pleasantly surprised how much the game did not suck. How being competed wasn’t a complete waste of time (cough-cough Mass Effect 3). One of the most clever parts with this new generation of Batman games…and yes, clever, are the stories, the little tugs on our emotional heart strings, pulling us deeper into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and making us a part of his world: from the Asylum, being dosed with Scarecrows toxin and subjected to nightmarish flash backs of when mommy and daddy got shot, and with Arkham City, when Wayne’s very life was on the line through the entire game, the poison within slowly eating away on our insides. Plus, plenty of action to make the game masculine enough to call ourselves men (or ladies, whatever the case may be)! Here is one of the newest clips for the upcoming Batman release:

While there isn’t any actual game play; the story is very much alive in this just shy of a minute TV spot. Here we see the catalyst for Batman’s existence. Besides the original CGI Origin video released several months ago, this particle clip is my next favorite. Why? Sure, its rather simple and also rather short. Where you don’t see much; you feel plenty: the raw energy of vengeance being transformed into something greater, something criminals would fear and victims hope. The reason why so many of us nerds love the series and are, again, excited to don the mantle of masked vigilante and take part in one the greatest story arcs yet created.

Batman: Arkham Origins releases in just over a week! Oct 25, 2013…


Happy Birthday America

For me nothing says America quite like Captain Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Created during WWII, the Cap was one of the most popular characters of the 40’s. He gave an identity, a face, a model for good verses evil (via The Red Skull). Even in the recent film, The First Avenger took both old and new audiences into the murky depths of the Second World War and showed us the virtue of a true hero. Unfortunately, during the McCarthy era (1950’s) the Cap’s popularity waned. The 50’s proved to be one of the most paranoid decades our country has ever seen, regarding the Second Red Scare, and when hero’s such as Captain American would have been beneficial, we simply didn’t know who we could trust, specially folks representing the government. Fortunately, for us, the Cap was reborn, or defrosted I should say, during the 60’s in the face of Americas largest and bloodiest battlefield, Vietnam. The Cap has remained in circulation ever since with even more dramatic story arches, remaining a figure for good in a world where good and evil are constantly blurred.

Captain America remains one of my favorite Marvel characters, even in the star packed Avengers film. The best line from The First Avenger has to be between the small Rogers and Dr. Erskine. When asked if Rogers wanted to kill Nazis, Steve replied: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullets. I don’t care where their from.” I can’t quite say why this line gets me, except because, perhaps here, Steve hints at the true nature of heroes. Heroes do not seek out violence, but they also don’t back down in the face of danger. Captain America alludes to how, I suspect, many American troops have felt over the past two hundred or so years. Democracy doesn’t seek out fights, but sometimes, in the face of oppression, we gotta do what we gotta do, like knocking out Hitler over 200 times!

With that being said, Happy Birthday America and everyone have a safe and celebratory 4th of July.

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