Magic, She Wrote

Bedknobs and Broomsticks – I seem to recall liking this movie pretty well as a kid, although even then I recognized it as kind of a second-rate Mary Poppins. It’s again set in England with precocious children, a stern caretaker who can work magic, David Tomlinson in a major role, a sequence that mixes live action with animation, and songs by the Sherman Brothers. It’s also mostly episodic and rather slow-paced, albeit considerably shorter than Mary. I understand quite a bit was cut from it to keep the film under two hours, including a few of the songs. I heard one of the excised songs, “A Step in the Right Direction,” when I worked at a toy store; it was on one of their CDs. On this viewing, I can’t say I liked it that much, although it had its moments.

The film takes place during World War II, with three children being evacuated from London to live with an eccentric old person. Yeah, that’s also how The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe started, isn’t it? The kids soon find out that their reluctant caretaker, Eglantine Price (played by Angela Lansbury, who was only in her late forties at the time; apparently Disney approached Julie Andrews but she turned down the role), is studying witchcraft through a correspondence course. When the school is closed before sending her a vital spell, they travel to London to find the headmaster, using a bedknob that Miss Price enchants, and experiencing a psychedelic trip on their way there. The headmaster, Emelius Browne (played by Tomlinson), turns out to be a slick-talking but not very good street magician who copied the spells out of an old book, and definitely didn’t expect them to work. He was unable to send the last spell because his copy of the book is incomplete, so they search the market at Portobello Road for it, leading to a really long song-and-dance sequence. They find out that the rest of the book is in the possession of a shady old collector known simply as the Bookman, and the spell isn’t in his part either. Their main clue is that the medallion worn by the sorcerer Astoroth (presumably named after the Grand Duke and Treasurer of Hell, who in turn got his name from a Phoenician goddess), which had the words of the spell on it, was taken by animals to which he had given human intelligence.

For some reason, nobody appears particularly interested in the rest of the book, even though there are quite a few pages there. Anyway, there appears to be a link between these animals and a picture book that Paul, the youngest child, finds in the abandoned house where Mr. Browne is squatting, and this leads to the animated part. There’s another song-and-dance sequence, this time in an undersea grotto filled with animated fish, where for some reason no one has any problem breathing or singing.

On the island itself, the visitors find that the medallion is in the possession of the king, a bad-tempered lion who fancies himself a great soccer player. Mr. Browne agrees to referee a soccer match, and it’s not too surprising that the next fully animated feature released after this was Robin Hood, as both the drawing and animation styles (very much not up to earlier Disney standards) and the slapstick action of the match are pretty similar to that film.

Mr. Browne manages to steal the medallion, but it doesn’t survive the trip back to England, Miss Price guessing that it didn’t survive the transfer between worlds. Fortunately but frustratingly, the words are also in Paul’s book, making the whole last part of the movie moot.

The characters are then captured by a Nazi scouting party, because isn’t what you’d expect so soon after a bunch of cartoon animals playing soccer? Yeah, I know it was already established as taking place in wartime, and these are some pretty bumbling Nazis, but it’s still a rather dark turn.

Miss Price uses the spell she just learned to animate a bunch of suits of armor to scare off the invaders, and then decides to give up witchcraft. Mr. Browne has developed feelings for her and the children, but joins the army instead of moving in with them. Also perhaps worthy of note is that Miss Price’s skittish cat, Cosmic Creepers, shows up quite often to react to things; but nobody seems to particularly care about him. Poor cranky kitty.

While I probably would have guessed that this movie was based on a book, I wasn’t actually aware of which book until fairly recently. It’s actually two books, The Magic Bed-Knob and Bonfires and Broomsticks, now usually published in one volume as Bed-Knob and Broomstick.

The author, Mary Norton, is best known for The Borrowers, which I haven’t read. The combined volume is a quick read that I completed in e-book form on a bus ride yesterday. So how do they compare to the movie? They somehow manage to hit a lot of the same points and even some of the same lines while telling a completely different story overall. There are no anthropomorphic animals, no search for any missing spells, and while it still takes place during WWII and there’s a brief thought on whether magic could aid in the fight, no Nazis.

That didn’t stop someone from releasing an edition with this cover, though. I’ve never been fond of movie tie-in covers for books.
What it does have is time travel, specifically in the second book. The character on whom Emelius Browne is based, Emelius Jones, is a necromancer’s apprentice in the seventeenth century who has just recently learned that none of his master’s magic is real. He visits the future with the children, and he and Miss Price fall in love. When he returns to his own time, he’s almost burned at the stake for practicing sorcery after surviving the Great Fire of London (I thought England hanged witches and burning was more of a continental thing, but whatever), but Miss Price uses her animation spell to save him, and the two of them settle down in that time. What’s kind of weird is that Emelius, after learning that magic didn’t work, doesn’t seem particularly surprised at seeing some that DOES work soon after that. But maybe after the time travel, he’s inclined to believe just about anything. Mr. Browne in the movie, who didn’t do any time traveling, has a reaction to actual magic that changes over time–at first he doesn’t believe it, then he wants to exploit it, and finally comes around to being able to do it himself. One of the more interesting exchanges in the book is when the children think it’s unfair that Miss Price is using magic to grow flowers for prizes, and she argues that other people can buy better soil, fertilizer, and such. Later on, however, she comes around to agreeing more with the kids. I can see both sides of it.

Posted in Book Reviews, Cartoons, History, Magic, Music, Revisiting Disney, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Unified Marioverse Theory

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one interested in mapping the Mushroom World and riveting together a sense of continuity for the Mario games. Like Oz, the games show a whimsical world where the creators weren’t all that concerned with continuity, but still dropped occasional hints here and there. At least there’s a fairly complete map of Oz. I’ve attempted my own map and featured a few others, but it was more recently that I came across Marhiin’s DeviantArt account, which has what might be the most detailed maps of the Mushroom Kingdom and World, as well as other theories about the place. The Marioverse sub-reddit includes quite a bit of discussion on these topics, and while I’ve generally managed to avoid Reddit, this particular topic is of interest to me. Here is Marhiin’s map of the entire Mushroom World.

And this one focuses on just the Mushroom Kingdom.

These are works in progress, and there are comments to the effect that he might end up moving the lands from Super Mario Bros. 3, which are currently to the south of the Mushroom Kingdom. I do wonder why the Waffle Kingdom and other locations Luigi visited off-screen in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door aren’t included, even though plenty of other Paper Mario places are.

Marhiin’s map crosses over with a few other video game franchises: Donkey Kong (that one is pretty non-controversial), Banjo-Kazooie, Animal Crossing, Starfy, and Zelda. The last is probably the most difficult to defend, although a video suggesting it was actually just released this month.

I guess my main objection is that the Mario games seem to take place within a fairly limited amount of time, while the Zelda timeline spans centuries (not to mention the branching timelines). In crossovers, Mario appears to have met with several different Links from different time periods. Or has he?

I guess it depends on how seriously you want to take cameos. Ocarina of Time includes visual references to Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, and Bowser.

Earlier games and other media had Mario and Link appear on-screen together, and he was generally modeled on his appearance in the first three Zelda games (because those are the only ones that existed), which took place long after Ocarina.

Link’s Awakening has Wart (AKA Mamu) show up, but maybe the rules are different from dream worlds.

And when Link appeared in Mario Kart 8, he looked as he does in Skyward Sword. So does this one confirmed interaction mean that the Mario series takes place around the time of Skyward Sword, and the references in Zelda games that occur later chronologically are images of the distant past? Or, since all Links look pretty similar, should the particular model in a crossover not really matter?

If Hyrule is a different but connected world, there could be some kind of relative time difference that would explain this. I guess Hyrule could be part of the same world and still have time run differently, but for some reason that’s more difficult for me to accept. Then again, we know that time travel is possible in the Mushroom World, and the baby versions of characters sometimes participate in events with their adult counterparts.

The Super Smash Bros. games might not even count as actual history for the franchises involved, and even if they do, Master Hand likely has no problem bringing together heroes from across time and space. Gulliver in Animal Crossing mentions having visited Toad Town, Isle Delfino, and Hyrule.

Then again, in Wild World and City Folk, he has a spaceship. New Leaf has him reference a lot of real-world places as well. And Blathers refers to dinosaurs as extinct, when we know they exist in Mario’s world. The link with Starfy, a series I know next to nothing about, is that Wario appears in one of the games (at least in the American version).

As I mentioned last week, however, he also appears in a Bomberman game, and he seems to live on a different planet. The Kirby series takes place primarily on the planet Popstar and the Metroid and Star Fox series on various planets, so they presumably can’t be part of the Mushroom World despite the occasional crossovers.

I don’t know much about Banjo-Kazooie, although for some reason I have positive feelings toward it despite never having played any of the games; I guess it’s that whimsy thing again. It’s been mentioned that the Brothers Bear in Donkey Kong Country 3 all have names beginning with B, and Banjo could easily be one of them.

Bazaar Bear mentions Link, and specifically a part of Link’s Awakening, which has the same hero as A Link to the Past.

And in Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo doesn’t seem to live that far away from Diddy.

DK Vine’s conception of the Donkey Kong world includes Banjo and some other Rare games with anthropomorphic animals, but NOT Mario. This doesn’t seem to be based on any particular dislike of Mario so much as an attempt to keep the page’s scope limited. And I just read a few days ago that Marhiin’s future maps won’t include Banjo-Kazooie references, so now I don’t know WHAT to believe.

Posted in Animal Crossing, Animals, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Maps, Mario, Metroid, Video Games, Zelda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the Punishment for Puns?

It’s well-known that L. Frank Baum was a notorious punster, and some of the authors who continued the Oz series were even worse in that respect. Puns are delivered in several different ways in the books, some being delivered intentionally the characters and others coming across as more or less built in. When Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow, he’s said to speak with a husky voice. Since the pun is delivered by the narrator, the characters apparently aren’t aware of it, but it still affects something. Later on, the Wizard of Oz gives the Scarecrow brains made of bran and pins and needles, the former of which made them “bran-new brains” and the latter made him sharp.

These appear to be intentional puns on the Wizard’s part, but the Scarecrow doesn’t get them and takes them at face value. An even more prominent intentional punster is the Wogglebug in The Marvelous Land of Oz, who makes puns so bad that Jack Pumpkinhead hides his permanent smile and the Tin Woodman essentially threatens him with his axe.

Several of the episodes in Emerald City contain constant floods of puns, the visit to Utensia being my personal favorite.

Neither the utensils nor Dorothy acknowledge their exchange as containing puns; she just thinks they use “dreadful language” and “must have had very little proper training.” Basically, they’re for the readers rather than the characters. As such, it appears that punning is more or less part of the way Oz works. Just as the Scarecrow couldn’t see until he had painted eyes, his voice pretty much had to relate to a pun of which no one in-universe was aware. A girl made from a crazy quilt was likely to be crazy, even if Ojo hadn’t badly mixed her brains.

The Woozy is honest and trustworthy because he’s square. Jo Files’ books have to be red in color in order to be properly read. Panta Loon gets a high opinion of himself when he’s over-inflated.

I mentioned in an earlier article how much magic in the series is pun-based, especially in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s books. Some of them were probably intentionally made that way, but I also think wordplay is a somewhat integral part of how things work in Oz and its surrounding nations. So maybe the Wogglebug is actually on to something.

Other occasions where puns and other wordplay frequently come up are in the names of characters and places. Among others, there’s a serving maid named Jellia Jamb, a king named Evoldo who does evil, a Princess Langwidere with a languid air, living baked goods with names like Pop Over and Johnny Cake, a cook named Tom Atto, Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo, and so on. The only case I can think of where a name is specified to actually be a joke is with Notta Bit More in Thompson’s Cowardly Lion, and he’s not a fairyland native. Most of the time no one really comments on them, even though plenty of characters also make puns on purpose. I guess it’s possible that the names are intentional, but not necessarily intentionally FUNNY. They’re just thematically appropriate, and theme naming is apparently quite typical in Oz. Some of these jokey or eerily canny names might also be nicknames, as for instance we know Tommy Kwikstep is. Not that that’s really a pun, but it means he did receive that name because he stepped quickly, and not because of any prediction on his parents’ part.

I was thinking not too long ago about nominative determinism, and maybe that really works in Oz. Can you imagine what would have happened if Tom Atto HADN’T gone into a line of work involving food?

Actually, maybe that’s the case with Mops, the Scarecrow’s cook in Royal Book. There’s no joke to his name as far as I can tell, but it sounds like his parents would have preferred if he’d gone into custodial work.

Posted in Characters, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Language, Magic, Magic Items, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Humor and Anti-Humor Collide

I found this post by Amy to be interesting, as I think we have similar senses of humor in many respects, and I’m somewhat fascinated by the concept of anti-humor. I’ve never come across the “No soap, radio!” joke in the wild, but it’s apparently well-known enough to be referenced on The Simpsons.

I have to say I’m also not so keen on the practical joke aspect, probably at least partially because I’m much more likely to be the butt of such jokes than someone on the inside. I won’t say pranks are never funny, but there can be something disturbing about them. It’s like an inside joke, but one where a whole lot of people are on the inside. Speaking of which, I occasionally come across people who make inside jokes purposely to exclude people, which seems unnecessary to me. That said, sometimes you can explain every detail of an inside joke and someone on the outside still won’t get it, because it’s really not the joke that’s funny but rather something associated with the memory. Still, there’s a difference between “you won’t get this” and “I won’t LET you get this.” On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of a joke that just makes no sense. I tend to like absurd humor, but I’ve never really been able to define what makes it work. Anyone can throw a bunch of miscellaneous words or concepts together, and they aren’t always going to be funny.

Sometimes a word just sounds funny, and it’s not entirely clear why. I watched the film The Aristocrats a few years ago, and that’s kind of a more adult version of the “no soap, radio” thing, more vulgar and less nonsensical, but still with the punchline that that doesn’t live up to the buildup. In the movie, a few people mentioned that the joke really isn’t funny with a different punchline (or at least a similar one; it’s apparently sometimes “Debonairs” or “Sophisticates”), however. So word choice is vital even when there’s no actual sense to the joke.

Looking at the Wikipedia page on anti-humor, it strikes me that several quite different things can qualify, and none of them are really the opposite of humor. One of the first jokes just about everyone learns is technically an anti-joke, the one about why the chicken crossed the road. The whole point is that you’re expecting something silly, and instead you get a straightforward answer. Of course, the joke is so familiar that it seems like people forget that. I’ve occasionally seen the setup used for a more traditionally jokey punchline, so what would that qualify as? Anti-anti-humor?

Also qualifying as anti-humor is the shaggy dog story, although even that has variations. There can be no punchline whatsoever, a nonsensical punchline, or a punchline that technically makes sense but doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the story. The story itself can be purposely boring, or it can be amusing enough on its own that you don’t really care that there’s no real point. I just learned that a ridiculous story that ends with a one-line pun is called a feghoot, after a literary creation of science fiction author Reginald Bretnor.

Anti-humor could also be something that’s funny because it’s not funny, or making a joke out of someone bungling a joke. One thing that comes to mind here is the running gag in Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad where Granny Weatherwax tries to tell the “alligator sandwich, and make it snappy” joke only to constantly get the wording wrong and not understand why no one finds it funny. Similarly, one of the recurring characteristics of Porkypine in Walt Kelly’s Pogo is that he’s unable to tell a joke. I’ve heard that you can’t really dissect humor, but many of these categories are based exactly on that, on taking a joke apart and seeing how it works, then putting it back together in an unusual way.

One thing I’ve noticed about how my sense of humor differs from that of many people is that I love puns, and it seems to be the norm to hate them, or at best write them off as only for kids. Maybe it’s partially because people who make puns (and I don’t exclude myself here) often give the sense that they’re really clever for having come up with them. I’ve always liked the Wogglebug‘s defense of the pun in The Marvelous Land of Oz: “[O]ur language contains many words having a double meaning; and that to pronounce a joke that allows both meanings of a certain word, proves the joker a person of culture and refinement, who has, moreover, a thorough command of the language.” Tip replies with, “I don’t believe that…anybody can make a pun,” and later remarks, “People with more or less education discovered those puns centuries ago.” L. Frank Baum used a lot of puns himself, and appears to have been well aware of the general reaction to them. I don’t think you have to be particularly smart to make a pun, but your mind does have to work in a certain way, and you need at least a fairly large vocabulary to make puns that haven’t been made numerous times in the past. I’m particularly fond of jokes based on absurdly literal interpretations of figurative speech, which my wife, for one, hates. I blame Lewis Carroll for this. Mari Ness’s review of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was identifiable as far as the wordplay in it being utterly hilarious to me, but just obnoxious to just about everyone else. Mind you, the book had better delivery than I did when I retold the jokes. I’ve heard that my hyper-literalism is common to people on the autistic spectrum, so maybe that’s why I was so taken by the Alice books in the first place. It’s hard to say. Even when I’m not trying to be funny, I tend to become fascinated with certain words in a way not everyone understands. I think it’s part of seeing the world from the outside, so to speak.

Posted in Authors, Cartoons, Characters, Comics, Discworld, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Language, Lewis Carroll, Oz, Oz Authors, Television, Terry Pratchett, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crones and Clones

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review post (well, not counting my look back on The Patchwork Girl of Oz, which I’d read a long time ago), and I have to say that I just haven’t been finishing books as quickly as usual as of late. I did complete a few fairly recently, though, so here are some thoughts:

Aunt Maria, by Diana Wynne Jones – When looking at a list of titles that Jones wrote, I sometimes forget which ones I’ve already read until I see plot descriptions. This is one I hadn’t read until a few months ago, and it’s apparently called Black Maria in other countries. It’s about a divorced mother and her children who go to stay with her helpless-seeming aunt-in-law, who turns out to actually be a witch who has a reign of terror over the small seaside community where she lives. There’s a fairly convoluted conspiracy that I had some trouble following, where the men and women are purposely kept separate through magic, and it’s difficult for the protagonists to tell who’s on the right side. It’s well-written and includes both transformations and time travel, as well as some likeable heroes (even the mom eventually plays a major role after she gets over her initial impressions of Aunt Maria), but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as many of Jones’s other books.

The Big Sheep, by Robert Kroese – Perhaps best described as a post-apocalyptic science fiction detective story, it takes place in a future Los Angeles where the police have decided to totally ignore one section of the city, where the crime lords have full sway. Detective Erasmus Keane and his assistant Blake Fowler, who narrates the story, are hired by a genetics lab to find a genetically engineered sheep that had been stolen. Soon after, they’re also approached by a television actress who fears somewhat is out to kill her. Keane and Fowler end up uncovering a plan by a media company to use genetic modification and cloning to create perfect celebrities, with some more sinister goals as well. It’s a well-plotted mystery, where certain minor things that the detectives learn about turn out to be important later on, yet the end solutions are so bizarre that it takes someone like Keane to put it all together.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe, by Ryan North and Erica HendersonI’ve been very entertained with what’s been done with this character as of late, and this graphic novel is no exception. If you’re wondering why Squirrel Girl would want to beat up the Marvel Universe, I’ll say that the plot involves an extremist clone.

I understand the title is also a play on a Punisher story, although I haven’t read that one. The story contains a lot of humorous references to other things Marvel, some of which I got and some I didn’t. I particularly thought it was clever how the Squirrel Girl duplicate took out practically every superhero and supervillain in the world through what could be described as the Mega Man method, using the weapons and abilities she took from defeated ones to conquer others in a constant progression.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill – This 2017 Newbery Award winner concerns a town that leaves out a baby every year as a sacrifice to a witch. It turns out that the local witch is actually a friendly sort who finds homes for the cast-out children, but the town elders prefer to rule by fear. The witch ends up adopting one of the children, raising her with the assistance of a poetry-obsessed swamp monster and a tiny dragon. Meanwhile, a young man named Altain who is training to be an elder even though his true love is carpentry gets it into his head to kill the witch. It’s a little slow-moving in the middle, switching back and forth a lot between characters, but is ultimately an entertaining tale of coming of age with some more serious political themes and quite a bit of whimsy.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Comics, Diana Wynne Jones, Humor, Magic, Monsters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Food

I recently received a comment on my post on the Roman goddess Anna Perenna asking whether I knew of any connection between her and the Hindu Annapurna. I have to say I don’t know of any, but the names are suspiciously similar. Annapurna is an aspect of Parvati who is particularly associated with food. In Sanskrit, anna means “food,” and purna means completeness. There’s a myth associated with Annapurna, which in the longer form I’ve found begins with Shiva and Parvati playing a game of dice.

Parvati wins Shiva’s trident, but when they play again, Shiva wins. His wife accuses him of cheating, but Vishnu shows up and informs them both that the whole game is an illusion under his control. Shiva expands this into the concept that all material things were illusory, which Parvati countered by disappearing from the world and taking all the food with her. This resulted in all nature suffering, and Shiva ended up appearing before her with his begging bowl and apologizing.

His conclusion was that food is necessary to sustain the body that houses the soul, and hence is necessary to achieve enlightenment. So does this mean the Hindu concept holds that gods have physical forms that require sustenance? It reminds me of how some of the same people who argue that the world is so beautiful and well-organized that there must have been a creator also insist their time there is only a brief experience in their eternal lives and look forward to its being destroyed eventually. Granted, these people tend to be Christians, not Hindus, but the question of whether the physical is actually real comes up in pretty much all belief systems. The compromise often seems to be that, even if the physical is only temporary, you should still do your best to sustain it and life a good life. Annapurna is generally depicted holding a vessel of porridge and a jeweled golden ladle.

Prayers are offered to her when cooking and consuming food. She is also the patron deity of Varanasi, formerly known as Kashi. I don’t know of any connection between this place and the Eastern European grain dish kasha, but Annapurna IS associated with grain, so who knows? As for the Roman goddess, she was connected to plenty and bounty, so maybe there’s something to the similar names. How much association did the Romans have with India back in Ovid’s time?

Posted in Dice, Etymology, Food, Games, Hinduism, Mythology, Names, Philosophy, Religion, Roman | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lode Runner, Lode Runner, Going Faster Miles an Hour

In this post, I intend to address some connections between video games, many of which I haven’t actually played. I do remember playing Lode Runner on the Apple II in my elementary school days, though. You run around mazes and collect gold, all the time avoiding guards.

You can’t jump, but you can use ladders and bars to get around, and dig holes in the ground. If the guards fall into the holes, you can run over top of their heads, which always amused me. The ground will later return, and the trapped guards will respawn elsewhere. Many releases of the game included a way to make your own levels, a pretty novel idea at the time.

Dude must be pretty bad-ass if he can just casually talk about this while on the run.
So why does our protagonist have to collect all this gold? Well, according to at least some versions of the manual, the evil Bungeling Empire imposed excessive taxes on fast food, and I guess you’re pulling a Robin Hood on them. Fast food taxes probably do predominantly impact the poor, after all.

I’m not sure why the Empire decided to store their tax money in brick rooms full of ladders.

The game was originally published by Broderbund in 1983, and they’d go on to use the Bungelings as villains in later games. The helicopter rescue game Choplifter has the player saving hostages held by the Empire.

And Raid on Bungeling Bay also involves fighting the Bungeling Empire in a helicopter, only this time you’re bombing their munitions factories.

This was the first game developed by Will Wright, who went on to make SimCity and The Sims, the latter a game on which I’ve spent a lot of time.

The factories in Raid develop new technology over time, and this sense of development would later factor heavily into Wright’s simulation games. In the Super NES version of SimCity, the advisor Dr. Wright is named after Will, although he doesn’t look much like him.

When I saw this character mentioned in Nintendo Power, I assumed it was supposed to be Dr. Light from the Mega Man series, who is called Dr. Wright in the manual for the first game. He’s Dr. Light in the second, but then Dr. Right (no W) in the third. Dr. Wily’s name is also sometimes spelled “Wiley,” and bizarrely “Willy.” Anyway, I’m apparently not the only one who was confused, as it’s a plot point in Captain SNES.

Dr. Wright (the SimCity guy) was referenced in later games. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has a Mr. Write who looks like him, and it even plays the SimCity music in his house.

And in Oracle of Seasons and The Minish Cap, there’s a scientist named Dr. Left who also looks the same.

Getting back to Lode Runner for a minute, it was ported to the Nintendo Famicom in Japan in 1984, and to the NES in North America in 1987. The company that did the port was Hudson Soft, who around the same time came out with a game called Bomberman. I haven’t played any Bomberman games, but there are apparently over one hundred of them, many of these Japan-only. The original mechanic was fairly simple, involving running around a maze and using bombs to blow up enemies and obstacles. Early versions of the game on home computers in Japan and Europe made the character a pretty generic guy in a hat.

The European name for the game was actually Eric and the Floaters, supposedly after the balloon-like enemies, but maybe also to promote the rock band the programmers were in on the side.

Anyway, for the NES port, Bomberman was redesigned as a cute little robot, a design Hudson had used before for their version of the imperial agents in Lode Runner.

The story for the NES version of Bomberman is that your character is a robot making bombs for the Bungeling Empire, who hears a rumor that he can become human if he reaches the surface of the planet. When you beat the game, it’s revealed that he’s the same as the Lode Runner hero, making the one game a prequel to the other.

I’ll bet the Runner wished he still had his bomb-making abilities during his gold-stealing adventure. This back story isn’t really used in any other Bomberman games, and the character apparently remains a robot. But then, remember that Captain N episode where Mega Man became human, then it was never mentioned again? Speaking of Mega Man, don’t confuse Bomberman with Bomb Man, even though they’re both robots who can produce bombs out of thin air.

Picture by Kyle
Bomberman ’94 establishes that the character’s homeworld is the planet Bomber in the Bomber Nebula, which makes me think the designers didn’t bother researching what a nebula actually is.

This game is also the first one that lets Bomberman ride on kangaroos, which is pretty cool.

You know who else rode on kangaroos? Wonder Woman.

And also Link.

There’s a game where Bomberman crosses over with Wario, who intends to plunder the planet Bomber for treasure.

And the character makes appearances in a few Club Nintendo comics, including one where he claims to be from Vienna.

And in their version of A Christmas Carol, Bomberman works in Wario’s bomb shop.

Posted in Animals, Captain N: The Game Master, Cartoons, Comics, Mario, Mega Man, Sims, Television, Video Games, Zelda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment