ASCII and Ye Shall Receive: X-Men

It seems somewhat appropriate that the show open from the 1990s animated X-Men series has itself mutated into a new form – animated ASCII art with chiptunes!

Be back next week as yet another classic TV theme gets mutated (but hopefully not mutilated)!

Godzilla: The Series Vs Kong: The Animated Series

Friends, with the release yesterday of the highly anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong from Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures, the promised confrontation hinted at in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters has arrived. As a matter of fact if everything had gone according to plan, you would be hearing a non-spoiler review of Godzilla vs. Kong on a new episode of the Saturday Frights podcast today, however it was not to be… you’ll just have to wait a few more days to learn what we thought of the new film.

Having said that though I thought today might be the perfect time to remind you of two animated series that featured the adventures of Godzilla and Kong. In this case that would be the late ’90s Godzilla: The Series as well as Kong: The Animated Series from the early ’00s, both shows interestingly enough found themselves being aired on Fox Kids.

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Godzilla: The Series ran for two season on Fox Kids beginning on September 12th of 1998, with the last new episode airing on June 15th of 2001. A continuation from the events that took place in the big budget reboot attempt by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin of Independence Day fame. While Godzilla was not a box office bomb, the amount of revenue earned by the live action feature wasn’t enough for TriStar Pictures to invest in continuing the film series. And while the movie wasn’t exactly met with open arms from longtime Godzilla fans, the animated series turned out to be surprisingly popular.

The show followed the exploits of Dr. Nick Tatopulos, voiced by Ian Ziering (Beverely Hills 90210), who it is revealed found one egg that was left intact after the bombing of Madison Square Garden. The egg hatches and the new Godzilla imprints itself on Nick, who as a founding member of H.E.A.T. (Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team) takes care of and trains the giant Kaiju to protect humanity from the increasing number of mutated creatures who have begun to appear all over the World.

The popularity of Godzilla: The Series led to two different Game Boy Color titles being released, with Godzilla: The Series published in 1999 and Godzilla: The Series – Monster Wars the following year. In addition there were plans for Trendmasters to produced a toy line for the animated series in ’99 but it appears the line was cancelled before it went into mass production. At the very least we have this unaired TV spot for the proposed toy line, featuring Godzilla and Cyber-Godzilla, the latter being the alien resurrected corpse of the Godzilla from the live action film!

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As I understand it, the popularity of Godzilla: The Series did not go unnoticed, which is why Kong: The Animated Series was put into production. Airing as part of the BKN block of animated shows in 2000, the American-Canadian series would jump over to Fox Kids in 2001, where the first 13 episodes were aired over the Summer. Kong: The Animated Series would eventually be brought to Toon Disney in 2005, to take advantage of the hype for the then upcoming Peter Jackson helmed remake of King Kong.

Kong: The Animated Series focused on the friendship between a young man named Jason Jenkins and a cloned version of King Kong, from samples taken by Jason’s grandmother, Dr. Lorna Jenkins, after the tragic death of the Kaiju by the squadron of biplanes during the incident at the Empire State Building. Thanks to the Cyber-Link technology invented by his Grandmother, Jason is able to merge on a genetic level with Kong and lend his intelligence and martial arts skills to the giant ape. Interestingly enough the show explains that this merging is not an easy balance to maintain, each personality is attempting to become the dominant one, so this link cannot be maintained for a great period of time.

The main antagonist in the series is an evil scientist by the name of Professor Ramon De La Porta, who manages to steal Dr. Lorna Jenkins’ Cyber-Link, which he uses on various animals to create Kaiju strong enough to battle Kong. In addition the Professor is after the Primal Stones located on Kong Island, powerful artifacts that were originally used to imprison a demon named Chiros the Destroyer. With the Primal Stones in the Professor’s possession he would be able to take over the world, so it is up to Jason and his friends with the help of Kong to put an end to those plans.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY KONG – The Animates Series – Official Channel.

Kong: The Animated Series released two direct-to-video films after the television series came to an end. The first was Kong: King of Atlantis in 2005 and the second was Kong: Return to the Jungle and was released two years later. In addition the animated series managed to have two games developed and produced for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, the 2002 game was based on the television show while the 2005 title was based on the first animated film.

So there you have it, a look at Godzilla: The Series and Kong: The Animated Series. You might be interested to know that the latter is available to watch from that official YouTube channel link, a nice way to while away the hours before you can head out and see Godzilla vs. Kong for yourself.

Let us know in the comments if you remember watching these animated series, or if perhaps you preferred The King Kong Show from the late ’60s or even 1978’s Godzilla cartoon instead?

Do You Remember The 1989 X-Men Animated TV Pilot?

Friends, many comic book fans can remember tuning in on the morning of October 31st of 1992 to catch the premiere of the X-Men animated series on Fox Kids – for the first half of the two-part pilot entitled Night of the Sentinels. I was most definitely one of those fans, as by the time that the series debuted I had been collecting X-Men comics for about five years – thanks to picking up The Uncanny X-Men #213 – but my first introduction to the team of Mutants was courtesy of an 1982 episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends series entitled A Fire-Star Is Born. The second season episode not only provided an origin story to the character of Firestar – but allowed us to see animated versions of Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, and a curiously now Australian version of Wolverine – to say nothing of the power of the Juggernaut.

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At the time I caught that episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, I had no clue that in the comics the character of Wolverine hailed from Canada. But it would not be the last time that he was presented as being Australian – case in point – seven years later when the Pryde of the X-Men debuted. A television pilot that was first showcased as part of the syndicated Marvel Action Universe show – initially featuring Dino-Riders, RoboCop, and reruns of both the 1981 Spider-Man series as well as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

Doing a little research online, supposedly Marvel Productions decided to use the funding for the 13th episode of the RoboCop series to produce the Pryde of the X-Men pilot. And while it appears that some fans of the X-Men comic took umbrage at Wolverine being Australian instead of Canadian, most at least were impressed by the quality of the animation provided by Toei Animation. As a matter of fact, thanks to the Wikipedia entry for Pryde of the X-Men, we have this quote from Rick Hoberg (The Mighty Orbots) – who acted as producer, a storyboard director, and story editor:

“I ended up being the voice director on the show, and I was forced to use the Australian version of Wolverine (which coincidentally, foreshadowed the casting of Australian actor Hugh Jackman in the live-action X-Men film), because all of this Australian stuff was popular at the time – the Mad Max films, “Crocodile” Dundee, and so on – it was going to turn out (in the comics) that Wolverine was an expatriated Australian. The direction of the character however never got beyond the plotting stages and Wolverine remained Canadian in the comics.”

Interestingly enough the Internet Movie Database lists Stu Rosen as the voice director for the TV pilot – perhaps Hoberg had to step in for Rosen at some point? Speaking of voices, the pilot featured a pretty impressive cast of voice artists – including the likes of Michael Bell (G.I. Joe), Earl Boen (The Terminator), Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe), and Frank Welker (The Transformers) to name a few. To say nothing of featuring the late and great Stan Lee in the role of narrator and an extremely awesome theme song by Robert J. Walsh (Muppet Babies, The Inhumanoids).

The story for 1989’s Pryde of the X-Men revolves around Kitty Pryde being inducted into the X-men – not only introducing the members of the team but also setting the stage for their conflict with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants.

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I find the 1989 X-Men television pilot quite entertaining and one can’t help but wonder what the series would have been like if it had been picked up – what other characters and storylines from the comics would have been featured? At the very least we can be thankful that Pryde of the X-Men managed to be the basis for 1992’s exceptional X-Men arcade game by Konami!

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In 1986 Mattel Wanted You To Have Enough GUTS!

Friends, it was around 1985 or possibly 1986 that a new toy line was released by Mattel that made me sit up and take notice, it’s 2 inch tall collectible figures tied into the WWF wrestling craze of the day and was named M.U.S.C.L.E. (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere). These hard rubber intergalactic wrestlers quickly became a favorite of mine, even to the point it overtook my love of G.I. Joe. Better yet with Mattel offering the collectible figures in 4 packs, the 10 pack that resembled a plastic garbage can, and even a 28 pack – there was the very real possibility when visiting the local Walmart that I could bring home a couple of new wrestlers thanks to their low price tag. I never came close to collecting all 236 figures although I believe I topped over 50 when all was said and done.

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I think it is a safe bet to say that most kids during the mid-80s had no clue that Muscle Man, the brave leader of the Thug Busters – or Terri-Bull of the villainous Cosmic Crunchers – were actually Kinnikuman toys from Japan. In fact the Kinnikuman series of collectibles that we knew as M.U.S.C.L.E.’s came about thanks to the popularity of a manga series that began in 1979. I do not believe I was aware of the true origin of Mattel’s M.U.S.C.L.E. line of collectibles until I found about it thanks to a Wizard magazine or possibly an issue of ToyFare. I will say though I was quite the fan of the 2003 anime series that was shown on Fox Kids – originally released overseas as Kinnikuman: Second Generation – here in the States we knew it as Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy!

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M.U.S.C.L.E. was not the only small collectible figure to hit the market back in the day – while my favorite when all was said and done was Matchbox’s Monster in My Pocket series – Mattel would in ’86 also release GUTS! With their military setting the GUTS figures obviously came with specialized weapons – all based on which 2 pack you were managing to pick up. The Akido Force collectible figures featured weapons such as samurai swords, shurikens, pole weapons, and more. The other forces you could pick up to bolster your GUTS! army included Green Berets, Laser Fighters, Underwater Demolition Team, Ground Troops, and last but not least were the Jungle Fighters!

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It seemed to me with their paint schemes that the GUTS! figures were a little more detailed – not to mention that they had names, perhaps Mattel was taking a page from the Hasbro G.I. Joe handbook? With the likes of Hot Flash (armed with a quad rocket launcher), Mike Nebula (laser pistol), Dart (shurikens), and Slugs Magee (machine gun) – you felt like your armies were being populated with some interesting characters. Each of the individual forces were made up of 10 collectible figures and in addition Mattel would end up producing two vehicles for GUTS! The hard part for myself was trying to find the toy line, the only place I recall ever seeing them was in the discount aisle of the local Kmart store.

What about you though, do you remember Mattel’s GUTS! figures – did you manage to collect a mighty army of your own?

Batman: Strange Days Needs To Be Continued On DC Universe

Friends, I really do like the character of Batman – I’ve mentioned before that there are a surprising number of items in my home that back up this statement – with shower curtains, drapes, soap dispensers and of course collectibles. While it is true that it was another DC Comics title that I first collected – which was Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew by Scott Shaw and Roy Thomas, my favorite heroes as a kid were Captain America and Batman. Perhaps thanks to seeing the Caped Crusader on Saturday Mornings helped to cement my love of Batman – it was when the Family Channel began airing the ’66 Batman TV series before the 1989 film was released though that my devotion to the comic book character went into overdrive.

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It was also around this time that I started going to the local comic shop, before I would pick up comics at the grocery store – this was after the gas station down the street stopped selling them. Rock Bottom Books was the name of that comic shop and I am proud to say that it continues to be in operation and that 31 years later I still have a box there – even if my pull list has become significantly smaller than back in the day. I bring this up as it was a time where I was able to just walk into the store and pick up Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean or the actual four issues that make up the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns miniseries by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. I guess what I am trying to say is that it was a very good time to be a fan of the Dark Knight of Gotham City.

It was about to get so much better though, because three years after the cultural phenomenon that was Tim Burton’s film adaptation – we got Batman Returns and more importantly Batman: The Animated Series debuted on Fox Kids. And while I very much love the films by Burton and even more so with what Christopher Nolan brought to the table – there has never in my personal opinion been a better representation of Batman than the version presented in the animated series.

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I will tackle that show one of these days on the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast – you can take that promise to the bank – but the reason for this article today is a wish that Bruce Timm’s Batman: Strange Days short would get picked up as a series or movie by the DC Universe streaming service.

Video and Article Image Provided by DC.

Released in 2014 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the character – Bruce Timm crafted an animated short that not only paid homage to the character’s original 1939 appearance but to the Fleischer Studios Superman theatrical shorts too. With the DC Universe showcasing past Batman animated series… although not Beware the Batman… as well as original animated series like Harley Quinn – how cool would it be to let Timm return to this 1939 Elseworlds idea and run with it?

The Dark Knight agrees!