Thursday, June 28, 2012

#0058: April O'Neil

You know how you have toys that you never played with? They’re funny old things, really, and they all made their way into your possession through various different means: perhaps it was a well-intended but misguided gift one misty Christmas morn?

“Oh, neat! Thanks nana, I love Bratz…”

Or you might have been the unfortunate victim of a poorly selected ‘lucky dip’ pick, one of my favourite marketing ploys that potentially forces you to buy multiples of the same toy until you find the right one. My dear buddy ULM is a great example of this: you’d have to dissolve his packaging in order to reveal his visage, and I can’t particularly see myself as having been exactly chipper about unveiling the mighty White Washer.

“Eww, what is that? Can we put it back in the bag?”

Oftentimes, at least in my childhood, my robust collection is filled to the brim with lots of padding; that is to say, toys that I owned purely to round out the roster. It’s a guilty admission, no doubt, because whereas some kids had no toys at all, I had toys purely for the sake of fleshing out my lore. And even then, it’s not like I adhered to the framework set out before me: the Ninja Turtles’ most frequent ally was actually Simba, and he could fly upon command, and take out entire armies on a whim. Plus, he’s working on his roar.

What, then, could April O’Neil offer to my playtime experiences? A strong, independent female figure? An alternative to rescues always being orchestrated by Raphael (or James on odd days?) More yellow than Dick Tracy?

Well, in actuality, all she offered was the yellow. Because frankly, bitch looked like an uppity banana.

I never picked up on the gender inequality in my beloved Turtles as a kid, but it was most certainly there: every important character other than April was a guy, and he was cool/funny/badass/Krang. In April, we had the Turtles’ link to the outside world: the human ally, who is able to give them all the dirt on who’s committing what crimes, and how she will scope it out and inevitably end up being captured by said criminals.

She was often typecast as the damsel in distress; a token dangling in front of the Turtles (ironically much like a banana), that would force our boys into action. In my opinion, they didn’t necessarily have to use April in this role: they could have really given her a lot more depth as a character by having those useless drones Irma and Vernon getting snatched up more often.

There was always this sexual tension between the Turtles and April as well, which seemed mildly perverse. Had Vern been the one getting saved all the time, would that still be the case? …I mean would they still have had the hots for April. Not Vern. Though the world could have used more gay superheroes. Northstar got married to his partner yesterday, did you know that? TOPICAL.

From my original recollection, April’s accessories were all of her appropriate tools of the trade: a microphone and video camera that literally condemn her to a more appropriate role on the sidelines, a suitcase that has since worked its way into the possession of other figures (I liked to pretend Scrooge McDuck was going to work), and yeah sure, a ninja star, to help her appear slightly competent, though in practice it would more likely remind me of that scene in TMNT2 where she’s pretending she knows how to use Mikey’s nunchaku.

She also features a handgun. …Wait, what?

Remember how I was shocked about how Ace Duck was packaged with a pistol? Apparently, this was more commonplace than I had realised, because that innocuous-seeming briefcase apparently transformed into a gun, and I never even realised it. It’s not like it’s especially hard to deduct: there’s even a picture of April on the packaging unloading a round into another April who’s innocently attempting to conduct an interview.

I mean, wow. This throws my whole perception of April into jeopardy. In the cartoon, she’s just this stupid reporter with horrible fashion sense. But here, in toy form, she’s this stupid reporter with horrible fashion sense who will fucking kill you. This is more than a little intense, but in all fairness, she was walking the mean streets of New York in the 80s, so when you think about it, it’s actually quite reasonable.

And all the while, she just has this disinterested expression on her face, and the vaguest hint of a smile. It’s mildly akin to being shot in the face by the Mona Lisa.

…Holy shit, this also means that Scrooge McDuck brought a gun to work with him every day. My childhood is ruined.

Moving on as best as we possibly can, April sports a monster wedgie, and just like the aforementioned Ace Duck, she also has the Turtles logo on her back. I’m sure that this is to help remind kids that this toy is actually in some way related to our Turtles, but it seems a mite bit silly, considering that April was supposedly trying to keep their identity a secret when this toy was made. I mean, later on, she was all for telling the world about the Turtles, trying to talk up how good they are, how hard they work for New York, how they’re voiced by Rob Paulsen and Townsend Coleman, all the nice stuff about them.

One thing I never fathomed, was that apparently a large number of kids had a crush on April O’Neil. This much is confessed on multiple blogs and websites, and more illustrations than you could shake a bo staff at. Me personally, I had none of that fascination. Indeed, I was entirely indifferent to April, despite her exaggerated breasts and skin-tight jumpsuit. Was I different from other kids? Or was it just less fun to ogle her than to attempt to attack her in Turtles in Time when, like Julius Caesar or Wallace Wells, she urged you to ‘FIGHT’?

She was invincible, actually, which makes me assume she would have been much better suited to fight Shredder. Plus, she’s packing heat, and apparently capable of following you through your time travels with the sole intention of barking orders at you. Damn, April is much deeper than we thought. More than just a booty call, eh?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Words... I have no words...

There are some days in life when you think you have everything figured out. That the world is normal, and makes perfect sense.

And there are other days, when you find your Steve Urkel colouring book. I'll say no more. Just sit back and be privy to the best opportunity I ever had as a child to use my brown crayon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

#0057: N64 Gamer/Nintendo Gamer

For many years, I have always enjoyed a good magazine. You can’t beat today’s Internet for immediate, live content; always updating and expanding. But there’s still that great, real feeling about holding a magazine in your hands. Particularly back in the days before said Internet, where magazines were our major source of information on particular subjects.

Back in the mid-90s, my mag of choice was Nickelodeon Magazine. Then, it shifted to focus on various video game magazines. Next, it was all about pro wrestling magazines. Then, American football-based magazines. And now, it’s Sports Illustrated, almost exclusively. You can see the very progression I made towards manhood over the years. I’m pretty sure the exact day could be pinpointed to a particularly racy Stacy Keibler cover.

Obviously, jumping continents required my preferred reading material to shift (which is why it’s such a bitch that you can scarcely find Sports Illustrated anywhere here), so it wasn’t until about 1998 that I found the magazine that I would collect most prolifically. That particular magazine was Australian-made N64 Gamer, and later, Nintendo Gamer.

I’m not sure how much I can elaborate on the observational literature of others, but golly, I had a grand old run with these things. In this particular stack here, I have thirty-one editions. That’s a little bit under three years’ worth of publications, spanning almost the entire lifespan of the magazine (March ’98 to June ’01).

I was majorly bummed when I discovered that Nintendo Gamer was going out of print; it had been my #1 source of information for upcoming games, and I would over-analyse each and every picture to try and figure out what to expect. Who was this strange baboon-looking fellow in the upcoming Donkey Kong 64 game? What was going to happen in this next Pokémon title: a fully-fledged console RPG experience? Why was Mario playing tennis, and why was I so damned excited?!

One of the things I love most, looking back on these things, is that most of the screenshots from the old Nintendo 64 games are supremely ugly. Nowadays, each image leaked to the public is so incredibly detailed, so high resolution and lovingly crafted, and people will still go absolutely apeshit over things they don’t like. It's as if they feel personally offended when graphics fail to live up to their expectations.

But here, it’s all just out there in its dreadful, 64-bit glory. It’s like a really hideous nudist; it’s out there, and it’s proud of how it looks, but good lord, do yourself a favour and look away!

Retrospectively, I also enjoy observing how poorly edited early editions were; making frequent spelling errors, and oftentimes reporting completely fabricated data as fact. You might think I'm exaggerating, but they constantly took random images from unreleased games, made some sort of sweeping statement about what was happening, and printed it in the captions. Nobody ever really noticed or cared, because by the time that game had been released, it was several issues later. But it's amusing to spot now. I don't make false statements myself, but I figure that with my position as king of Tunisia, I would probably get in more trouble if I did.

There isn’t really much more that I feel I can say about these magazines, so I leave you now with some particularly pleasing scans…

Some of the captions were top-notch.

Remember when Luigi's Mansion looked revolutionary?

Don't blame me. I voted for Bulbasaur.

Do you remember where you were when you discovered the Wario Stadium shortcut?

What is quite simply the most spectacular piece of fan-art ever: Mario smashing a PlayStation with what appears to be a gigantic turd. Momma must be so proud.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

If it ain't broke...

...then don't fuck it up!!

Be it far beyond me to rant on this blog without context. The point of this project, in its purest form, is for me to clear away toys. Occasionally, I'll refer to some oddity from the past that I don't intend to get rid of, or reminisce on something with fondness.

But today's entry is entirely about me being pissed off that someone decided to fuck with my childhood.

I have briefly before alluded to the art of Stephen Gammell, whose work was most famously on display in Alvin Schwartz' 'Scary Stories' series of books. Effectively, these images; surreal, morbid and hideous, are the most impactful part of these books. They really speak to the 'nightmare' aspect in all of the stories; stories that, in words alone, can sometimes pass for mild, even innocuous.

For thirty years, these books terrorised children, though in my experience, it was in a good way, a way that made me shudder. But apparently, these things have been victim to widespread bans, not simply for the violence found in the tales themselves, but predominantly, because Gammell produced some really creepy shit.

And as of last year, they finally did it. They changed the artwork. Those motherfuckers.

The books were re-released with illustrations by Brett Helquist, These new pictures are, in my opinion, simple, blasé, and in no way memorable. I don't intend for this to be a vindictive snarl at Helquist, because for crying out loud, he had to tone things down to bring the books back to 'acceptable standards', didn't he?

My sister only owned the third book, so in order to capture the disappearing collection in their original glory, I ordered the box set on eBay, which, according to the picture in the listing, contained the art of Stephen Gammell.

Today it arrived, and lo and behold, I was misled. Apparently, eBay has a catalogue that most book images are drawn from, and the listing (and all other eBay listings that showed the original cover) has since been updated.

And I'm fucking upset. (Though for the record, the seller offered a full refund, and the listing contained a disclaimer stating that contact should be made to ensure the accuracy of the third-party imagery. So really, it's more my fault for careless online shopping than anything else.)

I know, I shouldn't be too pedantic about it; the point of a book of scary stories is to read the scary stories, but to me, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell go hand-in-hand. Without one, the other is incomplete.

For example, in the third book, there is a story titled 'The Dream'. In it, a woman is intending to move to a new town, but has a bizarre nightmare where she is in an unusual room that she does not recognise. A pale woman approaches her, warning her that she has arrived at an evil place, and must flee at once. In response to this dream, she moves to a different town instead, and in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, ends up in that very room from her dream. The pale woman confronts her, and she leaves at once.

Sure, it's a little eerie, but nothing bad happened to her. We need to see something that helps feed us her fear: to share with us that dread, that something wicked is transpiring here.

Here are the accompanying images to The Dream. On the left, Gammell's original illustration. On the right, Helquist's updated piece.

As you can see, there's no comparison, because Helquist isn't even attempting to emulate what Gammell did. And like I said, it's not like he should have, because that would have defeated the purpose of updating the illustrations in the first place. Helquist's interpretation isn't necessarily inferior. It's just different. And that's not what I want.

It's Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles all over again, only this time, it has affected the world. Have you ever had a piece of your childhood changed beyond your will? And has it gotten you as riled up as this has, or am I just being a whiny little bitch?

Monday, June 4, 2012

10,000 squizzes could net you SUPER PAPER MARIO!!

Oy vey! It's finally happened, a number of great significance: INAKA has netted a grand total of 10,000 page views. Break out the champagne if you like, but temper your excitement, because truth be told, I think roughly 6,000 of those views were from me.

Regardless, I thought we'd celebrate with our very first competition! Yes! A competition with a prize, no less!

Answer this one simple question, and you could nab yourself a copy of Super Paper Mario! No fees, no catches. I'll even pay for the postage, because I'm just that kinda guy.

The question: What is the real name of the Ugly Laser Man?

The conditions: Keep in mind, I'm Australian, so this is in fact a PAL version of Super Paper Mario, only playable on a PAL Nintendo Wii. So all you lovely Yanks out there, keep this in mind!

Also, yes I'm aware that this is a pretty old game, but if you want to seek some sort of fresh relevance, you could claim that it'll help prepare you for the upcoming 3DS iteration. Aye? Aye.

So send in your answers! Typically, only two people regularly leave comments, but perhaps the promise of free stuff will entice you? You have nothing to lose, and a lovely papery Mario to gain!

...On a similar yet unrelated note, you might be pleased to know that a familiar old foe is Krangin' out over at Toyriffic...
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