Guests from Another Game

You might well know by now about my mixed feelings on crossovers, how I love the idea but think they bring their own headaches, particularly when it comes to continuity. What’s kind of strange is that crossovers in the Mario franchise are often in sports games. Link and Samus Aran do make cameo appearances in Super Mario RPG, but they’re not relevant to the story.

Fox McCloud, Link, Captain Olimar, and Samus were all originally supposed to appear in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, but they weren’t in the final version. For the most part, though, while there are certainly references to other series, particularly Nintendo ones, the characters don’t really mix. When Link does reappear in a Mario game (although it’s probably not the same Link), it’s not to team up to stop a threat to both worlds, but to race go-karts in Mario Kart 8.

And we do know that the kart races, as well as other sports games, are considered canonical by the main Mario series.

Characters from Animal Crossing and Splatoon also appear in versions of MK8 as downloadable racers. In the episode of Toys That Made Us about Hello Kitty, there was an official statement that most of the Sanrio characters don’t know each other (with obvious exceptions for the ones created to be related in some way), but will sometimes attend parties together.

I guess it’s much the same way with Mario, although not in the actual Mario Party games. I’d already been rather incredulous at baby versions of the characters showing up to race.

I mean, we know time travel exists in the Mario world due to Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, but why risk breaking the space-time continuum for a game of tennis?

The inter-series crossover elements add another complication. Or maybe not, if there are accessible warp zones between different video game worlds. I guess I’m still somewhat stuck on the Captain N universe, even though that show doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways.

Then again, Wario gets to Bomberman’s world through an interdimensional portal.

I don’t know much at all about Splatoon, but from what I’ve read, it takes place on Earth about 12,000 years after humans have died out from rising sea levels, and cephalopods have evolved into humanoid forms. So the Inklings aren’t just from a different world, but from the future? And Animal Crossing references both places from various video game series and real-world locations, making where it actually takes place rather vague.

The Mario Kart Arcade games, developed by Namco, include Pac-Man characters and locations.

I guess I just wonder why, if these crossovers characters show up from time to time, why don’t they ever do any actual adventuring together? I would suspect part of why crossovers tend to happen in games with lower stakes is that someone can just show up without having to get into their back story or how their worlds fit together.

A different kind of crossover is between fantastic worlds like Mario’s and our own Earth. I guess we don’t know for sure when the Mario games take place, and how they interact with the so-called Real World. Well, media not officially made by Nintendo, including the cartoons, comics, and educational games, depict Mario and Luigi as residents of Brooklyn in the late twentieth century. Still, the franchise seems to be getting away from that, or at least not referencing it. But then, there’s also Punch-Out!! containing real-world places, and more recently Mario Kart Tour holding kart races in actual cities (so far, New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, and Vancouver).

NES Open Tournament Golf has Mario characters playing golf in real countries. The Japan-only Mobile Golf for the Game Boy Color came up not long ago on the Marioverse Discord server, and it has characters from real countries traveling to the Mushroom Kingdom to take on Mario, who’s apparently known as the world’s greatest golfer. I have to say it kind of stretches my suspension of disbelief. It’s one thing to have characters transport from one world to another, but different when this makes a major impact on our world. You know, like Bowser trying to destroy Venice, or kidnapping the President of the United States.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is even more complicated. They get these two former rivals together, and it’s not in either of their worlds, except in the Dream Events? What countries are they even representing?

And of course there’s Super Smash Bros., which isn’t totally consistent with any of the represented game series, but does present some interactions between the characters. I believe the series’ catch-all excuse is that its characters are all toys.

Mario Hoops 3-on-3 and Mario Sports Mix are games developed by Square Enix in which they thought Mario characters would work, so they ended up being crossovers between Mario and Final Fantasy. There were already some FF references in SMRPG, including Culex having four elemental crystals and a name likely based on that of Golbez from FF4, but they were more direct in the sports games.

That said, they didn’t use individual characters, but rather character types: a ninja, black and white mages, a Cactuar, and a Moogle.

Malboros, a sort of killer plant with tentacles, also show up in Hoops.

They have breath that causes various harmful status effects, so their name is likely a reference to Marlboro cigarettes, although it could also come from Japanese onomatopoeia for an upset stomach.

They first appeared in FF2, but they are somewhat similar to the Ochus in the first games, which are based on otyughs from Dungeons & Dragons.

Mix adds Dragon Quest Slimes as playable characters, and Behemoths as bosses.

I wonder if they’re from the same world as Culex. Fortune Street, which I actually own but haven’t yet had a chance to play, is a Monopoly-like game that includes both Mario and Dragon Quest characters competing over property.

Other games in the series also include FF characters. Both the FF and DQ series take place on a few different but seemingly related worlds, so these crossovers might be even more complicated than just two worlds interacting. It’s probably not possible to combine all of these fictional universes into something coherent, but it’s interesting to think about.

Posted in Animal Crossing, Captain N: The Game Master, Cartoons, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Games, Magic, Mario, Metroid, Monsters, Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Toys, Video Games, Zelda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going Blotto

I’m continuing with the Disney Masters series as available on Comixology, and I don’t have too much to say about the third and fourth volumes. Some good stories, but it’s more fun to write about the really crazy ones, and there were some in Volumes 4 and 5.

Mickey Mouse: The Phantom Blot’s Double Mystery, by Romano Scarpa – The main story here has the Phantom Blot, who’s known for his convoluted schemes, trying to frame Mickey. I get the impression that Scarpa is also known for convoluted plots, but he didn’t write this one; that was Guido Martina. The tale involves hypnotism, various stolen items, a night in a spooky castle, and invisibility. While there are explanations for much of what the Blot does, it still seems somewhat random in many respects, with a lot of false leads. And it isn’t Mickey’s sleuthing but Eega Beeva’s supernatural powers that are the key to cracking the case. The Mad Hatter makes a cameo appearance, as mad as ever, and here he has the name Thomas Topper.

One amusing page has Goofy whittling while waiting in Police Chief O’Hara’s office for a message from the Blot, and the room increasingly fills with wood shavings.

Another story, “The Eternal Flame of Kalhoa,” teams Mickey with two well-meaning but bumbling sailors, who have stumbled across an island with an eternal flame that the Mouse had read about in a book of legends. There’s a lot of slapstick with the sailors, including their trying to signal with semaphore flags while driving a car. The story gets going when the three of them set sail for the island, with a sea captain who’s heard their story following them, but having to help them out of all kinds of trouble along the way due to their general incompetence.

Uncle Scrooge: King of the Golden River, by Giovan Battista Carpi – Another Italian artist draws these stories, with Martina as the writer on two of them. The title story, not to be confused with the Carl Barks comic with a similar name, begins with Huey, Dewey, and Louie trying to build their own satellite, but instead accidentally freeing Donald’s ancestor Dondorado, who was imprisoned as punishment for his greed and selfishness. Kind of strange that they’d introduce such a character when Barks had already used the actual El Dorado, but whatever. Donald, Scrooge, and the nephews travel to South America to find Dondorado’s lost treasure, which can only be uncovered through acts of selflessness. The general theme is that Donald and Scrooge only want the treasure for themselves, while the nephews’ desire to share it makes them successful in finding it, and this is reinforced over and over again, to the point of making the adults thoroughly unlikeable. And it’s not like they learn anything, either.

What’s strange is how many elements are basically extraneous to the plot. It gets off to a few false starts, first appearing to have something to do with space travel, then with Donald entering a contest to win a vacation. Donald gets anti-gravity pills from Gyro Gearloose early on, but they don’t come into play until much later, for an escape and then for a gag. It really seems like they would have been more significant to the plot. And the story goes on after the Ducks get back home, but with no further plot developments of any significance. Another comic stars Mickey and Goofy’s identical ancestors, Mickey the Kid and Six-Shot Goofy, on the trail of bandits in the Old West.

Scrooge makes a brief appearance in this tale as well, tying in with his time in the West before he’d made his fortune. The final story, “Me, Myself–and Why?”, is a strange one, with Scrooge claiming he’s three different people so he’ll be in a lower tax bracket, which works, but then he thinks he actually is all three and starts losing business to himself. Does this make any sense? Not particularly, but it’s kind of funny how lazy Scrooge’s alternate personalities are. The writer on this one is Rodolfo Cimino.

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I Put a Spell on You

We’ve started watching movies and television that relate to Halloween or horror, so here are two of those films:

Hocus Pocus – Beth had already seen this, but that was twenty-seven years ago when it was new. She said she liked it better the second time. I hadn’t seen it at all, and I wanted to, as people tend to reference it a lot. As a comedic kids’ movie that touches on horror themes, the villains are way too silly and dimwitted to be scary, but they still pose a serious enough threat to keep the stakes high. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker star as the Sanderson Sisters, a trio of witches in seventeenth-century Salem who are trying to suck the life force out of children to make themselves younger. They’re executed, but a prophecy says they’ll return when a virgin lights a particular candle, which happens 300 years later when a teenage boy is trying to impress a girl. The movie is set in 1993, with the back story happening in 1693. I looked it up, and the last of the Salem witch hangings was in 1692. Also, Halloween was on a Sunday in 1993, and there’s a scene set in the school on that day. There were a lot of delays in the production of the movie, so even if they originally wanted to go for accuracy with dates, they presumably went on to decide it didn’t matter. Which it really doesn’t, but I like to check on trivia like that. For that matter, how would Winifred Sanderson know a song from 1956 when she was dead for 300 years? Anyway, the boy, Max Dennison, has to thwart the witches through trickery, along with his little sister (played by Thora Birch), the girl he has a crush on, and a seventeenth-century boy who was cursed by the sisters to become an immortal black cat. Not surprisingly, no one else in town believes them. There are some really strange scenes in the mix, including two stoner bullies stealing Max’s shoes, a bus driver who hits on the witches, and the sisters mistaking Garry Marshall in a devil costume for the actual Satan. His sister Penny plays his wife in this bit, which must have been weird. It kind of lacked direction overall, but the female leads’ performances were amusing, and the costumes they were were pretty iconic. I’ve seen people cosplay as the trio several times. I did find it kind of sad that the cat died at the end; it was what he wanted after having to live for so long, but Birch never got to keep him as a pet as she planned to.

The House of the Devil – Another one Beth had seen but I hadn’t, it was inspired by the Satanic panic of the 1980s, and made a point of looking like an 80s film. The only actors from it I really knew were Dee Wallace, who has a small role at the beginning; and Greta Gerwig, whom I only knew as a director. My first thought on seeing her was that she looked kind of like Liz Phair. The lead actress, Jocelin Donahue, reminded me of Ellen Page; and another actor resembled Al from Home Improvement. But anyway, Donahue’s character Samantha, a college student who needs money for a place she wants to rent, takes what was advertised as a babysitting job. The guy who advertised the job tells her that it’s actually making sure there aren’t any emergencies with his mother-in-law, and is very cagey in general. Samantha takes the gig anyway, and is able to entertain herself for a while listening to her Walkman and shooting pool, but eventually comes to find suggestions that something sinister might be going on. The build-up is slow, but eventually she’s drugged and forced into a Satanic ritual during a lunar eclipse. She shoots herself in the head so she can’t be used by the creepy family, but the ending indicates that she survives and was impregnated with a devil baby. I thought it was pretty effective, even if it was hardly a surprise that the creepy, dishonest couple would turn out to be evil. I’m not sure why the son immediately shot Samantha’s friend, when it seems like the family could have done the same ritual on her to hedge their bets. I guess she was just less vulnerable at the time.

I guess one thing these two films shared, despite their vastly different tones, was that they played on mass hysteria, and presented scenarios in which there really were witches in Salem and Satanists preying on children. I suppose a lot of movies do that, but I like to draw connections between things I watch around the same time.

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Halloween, History, Holidays, Humor, Magic, Music, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moon Has His Eyes on You

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes, by Roshani Chokshi – The series based on Hindu mythology continues with this volume, where the reincarnated Pandavas seek out the magical tree Kalpavriksha with the help of a proud naga prince. Over the course of the adventure, they encounter the architect god Vishwakarma, an asura with a separated head and body, the bird god Garuda, birds who feed on secrets, a lunar deity who’s married to twenty-seven constellations, and the manifestation of the planet Saturn. And it seems like everyone who’s not out to kill them wants to submit them to a deadly challenge. Aru also learns more about her father, the Sleeper, and develops some amount of sympathy for him. As with the earlier books in the series, and most of the Rick Riordan Presents titles, the writing is full of enjoyable dialogue and pop culture references. There’s a real family dynamic to the Pandavas, as they quarrel a lot but pull together when they need to. I recommend reading the glossary at the end, as it not only reviews the characters, but gives some additional details in an amusing fashion.

I often use books that incorporate traditional mythology as jumping-off points to learn more about these figures, and in this case I was particularly interested in the moon god Chandra.  He was the son of Atri and Anasuya, and is said to have been born in the Ocean of Milk with a naturally shiny body. Being rather lustful, he tried kidnapping another god’s wife, Tara (presumably not related to the Roman earth goddess), her husband being the planet Jupiter, or Brihaspati.

This led to a war, which was only ended when Brahma himself showed up to admonish Chandra. Paris of Troy really should have studied this before he came up with basically the same idea. Tara did have a son with Chandra, Budha, who became the planet Mercury. Who knew celestial bodies led such interesting lives?

Chandra then married the twenty-seven daughters of Daksha, the Nakshatras, each one associated with one of the houses through which the Moon passes, and hence with certain stars. I’ve seen some indications that Daksha was Chandra’s grandfather, but gods tend to have a shallow gene pool. Since the Hindu gods are often seen as aspects of more powerful cosmic forces, it probably shouldn’t be taken too literally anyway. He promised to treat all of them equally, but very clearly favored Rohini, or Aldebaran.

When Daksha found out, he cursed Chandra to lose his luminosity, but Shiva partially restored it, which is why the Moon has phases. According to another story, the phases are due to the time when Chandra laughed at Ganesh when he fell off his mouse steed after a party, causing him to throw up. The elephant-headed god threw one of his tusks at the lunar deity, resulting in a crater as well as lunar phases.

Yet another Hindu explanation for the changing appearance of the Moon is that the gods drink from it, and it takes a while to refill. Hence, Soma, which basically means “juice” but often specifically refers to an intoxicating drink made from a plant, is another name for the god Chandra. In some interpretations, soma is the elixir of life, which ties in with how, in Chinese mythology, Chang’e accidentally ate a pill of immortality before relocating to the Moon. And both mythologies associate the Moon with rabbits. Depictions of Chandra commonly show him as riding a chariot pulled by horses or antelopes, and holding a club and a lotus.

Posted in Animals, Authors, Book Reviews, Chinese, Hinduism, Humor, Mythology, Relationships, Religion, Rick Riordan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mega Mega, Right Back, Messages!

In my ongoing quest to watch old video game cartoons, I found the entire series of the Ruby-Spears Mega Man show. This ran from 1994 through 1996, when I was in high school, and I remember watching it with my brother on Sunday mornings (usually not a sign that the network thinks something will be a hit). What I mostly remembered was Mega Man saying, “Now I’ve got your power!”, which he does do, but not as often as I’d thought. I guess that’s usually the case, except that I’m pretty sure Link really does say “Excuse me, Princess!” in every DiC Zelda cartoon, often multiple times. Mega Man copying the other robots’ powers without defeating them is a switch from the games, but perhaps a necessary one if they wanted the Robot Masters to be recurring characters. Then again, they are sometimes reduced to scraps and rebuilt by Dr. Wily.

The only previous animated appearance of Mega Man was on Captain N, where they made some terrible decisions regarding his appearance and voice. It seems like they purposely tried to avoid that here, although maybe they went too far in the other direction by making most of the main characters tall and thin.

There’s no accounting for animation styles, I suppose. And they must not have been THAT eager to get away from Captain N if they used several of the same writers and voice actors. Ian James Corlett, who voiced Dr. Wily in CN, was Mega Man here.Many, although not all, of the Robot Masters from the first five games show up, and they do have somewhat distinctive personalities and voices. Guts Man and Cut Man (at least they got his name right this time) appear in every episode, with the former voiced by Garry Chalk in pretty much the same voice he used for King Hippo, and the latter sounding like Peter Lorre. While Proto Man was somewhat ambiguous in his loyalties in his first few appearances, here he’s always a bad guy, utterly obsessed with fighting his brother to prove he’s superior. He’s Wily’s main assistant, but he’s not afraid to sass the doctor at times.

I found his cocky attitude and voice kind of irritating. Roll is Mega Man’s tag-along little sister who, to her credit, has some pretty cool cleaning-related gadgets; she’s just not that great at controlling them.

Isn’t this really Dr. Light’s fault, though? Seems like he could have just as easily reprogrammed her to be a fighter as Rock, but I guess he wants to keep her as his maid. Also not explained is why Light made Rush clumsy and made him talk in Scooby-Doo-style dog-accented broken English. Eddie, the robot introduced in Mega Man 4 as Flip Top, has the same role of carrying power-ups. Never appearing are Dr. Cossack, who canonically built some of the robots Wily uses in the show, or Beat who first showed up in MM5. Mega Man’s friends are always calling him “Mega,” which gets annoying. Isn’t his name still technically Rock? The bad guys tend to call him “the blue dweeb,” which as far as cartoon insults go is pretty weak. It’s not even alliterative or a pun! There’s also a super-repetitive theme song, kind of like the one for Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers but without the searing guitar.

As you’d probably expect, the plots tend to be formulaic, with Wily using the same schemes other cartoon mad scientists have used before him. There are a few oddities in the mix, though. One has the Robot Masters disguise themselves as a rock band in order to hypnotize people. Wily finds a genie at one point, and awakens an ancient civilization of lion-men at another time. There’s a Jurassic Park parody, appropriate for the time (there was also one in the Kirby anime some years later), that also involves Wily making robots act like cavemen.

One episode had Dr. Light founding a university for robots, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Couldn’t he just program them with new knowledge? And yes, I know robots in Futurama go to college, but that’s a cartoon with a different tone. Mega Man ending up in a future where Wily has taken over the city isn’t an entirely original idea, but I think it worked pretty well. The first episode doesn’t have anything particularly strange about it, but I do wonder why it has a flashback to Mega Man’s origins instead of just the whole thing being an origin story. Probably the most interesting episode in terms of series lore is “Mega X,” a crossover with the Mega Man X series where the Mavericks Vile and Spark Mandrill go back in time to steal energy rods from Dr. Light, and Mega Man X follows them.

I did think it rather weird (and I even remember my brother commenting on this years ago) that X seems more mechanical in personality than Mega Man, even though his whole thing is that he was the first robot built with total free will. This was the next-to-last episode, and the last ended up being just another Wily plot. A third season was planned, but the show was canceled before they made it. I wonder if it would have incorporated other elements from the Mega Man or X series, or just kept on with the same characters.

Posted in Captain N: The Game Master, Cartoons, Futurama, Mega Man, Music, Names, Technology, Television, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello, Chloe, What Do You Knowy?

ChloeSPOILERS! I put this on the Netflix queue years ago, and I’m not sure I remember why. I think it was mostly just that I was interested in Amanda Seyfried, and someone told me this was a good movie with her in it. Julianne Moore plays a gynecologist who’s afraid her flirtatious music professor husband, played by Liam Neeson, is cheating on her. When she runs into Chloe, a prostitute played by Seyfried, in a restaurant bathroom, she hires her to test her husband’s fidelity. Chloe goes on to tell elaborate stories of her sexual experiences with Neeson, and for some reason this makes Moore feel closer to both him and to Chloe, and the two women have sex. Eventually, Moore realizes that Chloe made up the stuff about her husband, and has developed feelings for her. When Moore turns her down, she goes kind of nuts, seducing and sleeping with her son, and then kills herself. I guess if it were just a story about a hooker getting a couple to reconcile, it wouldn’t be a thriller, but I kind of feel Chloe being a crazy stalker didn’t really work, when she seemed in control for most of the movie. Beth suggested that the film was kind of against women, as one of the main female characters was so paranoid as to launch a sting operation on her own husband, and the other a sex worker who turned out to have mental issues. Maybe I wouldn’t have even thought of that if I’d seen the movie when it was new; I’ve seen a lot of stuff online recently about how poorly sex workers are treated. I understand it was based on an earlier French film, so maybe that’s to blame. A weird bit of trivia is that Neeson played Jean Valjean and Seyfried Cosette, but in two different Les Miserables movies.

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Man or Monster?

I’ve read Volume 4 of the Dragon Quest Monsters+ manga, which continues with the story of Marumo, Loran, and Pazuzu. Loran, the Prince of Lorasia and hero of Dragon Quest II, left home when the seeds of hate and fear that led to the rise of Malroth in the first place caused people to turn against him. Now, he’s back in Rendarak and once again fighting Pazuzu, who was revived through evil synthesis and absorbed the power of Malroth. The cold-hearted sage and former Monster Master Marumo is also living in Rendarak (I think?), and keeping the place frozen. I like how she calls Pazuzu “Mr. Monkey,” like she has no respect for him despite his power.

Kleo’s only monster companion at this point is the Mottle King Slime Mooki, as the Slime Slib and the Drake Slime Dram were killed in battle. They’re now in a place between life and death, where they are being taught by a Guardian of the Spirit World, a Healslime who became a human. There’s an odd bit where the Guardians claim that the human form is the apex of evolution, which every monster instinctively seeks to achieve, and that the most powerful monsters resemble humans.

Even though it’s fantasy, I can’t help but get a little annoyed at the idea that evolution operates toward an ultimate goal, since that’s a misunderstanding that Creationists use to discredit scientific evolution. But then, this is a world (really multiple worlds) where we know that gods exist. The idea of humans turning into monsters and vice versa is one that appears throughout the DQ series, but DQ4 is the first one to make evolution a plot point. When the alchemist Mahabala inadvertently rediscovers the Secret of Evolution, his apprentice Balzack, the Marquis de Leon, and Psaro all end up using it to take on more powerful monstrous forms.

Seems kind of strange if humans are more powerful than monsters, or the height of evolution. There’s also the character of Healie, a Healslime who hangs around humans in hopes of becoming one.

He eventually does, although we never find out how. In DQ5, Precaria, a town in the underworld of Nadiria, is inhabited by monsters who have become human with help from Madalena, the hero’s mother. It’s presented as a moral and spiritual change that leads to a physical one. Grandmaster Nimzo, the main villain, was originally a human who turned into a monster, then used the Secret of Evolution to obtain a more powerful form.

He and other Demon Lords, like the Dragonlord and Orgodemir, can take human or humanoid shape, but it’s suggested that the more demonic form is their true one. And dragons in particular taking human form isn’t all that uncommon in the series.

The manga actually states that no one is sure whether Hargon was a human or a monster.

Humans do manage to kill all these demons, at least temporarily, but usually only with the aid of magic. And there are certainly monsters in the games who look mostly human but aren’t that powerful. It’s not always that easy to draw the line, which I guess is why the first case we see of a monster becoming human is one whose original form is more like a jellyfish. Really, monsters in the series are such a strange assortment that I’m not sure we can generalize that much about them. Some are purposely malicious, some just wild, and some get along just fine with humans.

Posted in Book Reviews, Comics, Dragon Quest, Evolution, Magic, Monsters, Science, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Map Attack

On the map of the countries surrounding Oz from the Tik-Tok of Oz endpapers, L. Frank Baum included places from his non-Oz fantasies, including the as-yet-unpublished King Rinkitink that would become Rinkitink in Oz two years later. Most of these had already been crossed over with Oz in The Road to Oz. There are, however, a few oddities with what had been established in the books. The most difficult to reconcile involves John Dough and the Cherub. It’s clear that all of the adventures in this book after John takes his rocket trip out of the United States occur on islands: the Isle of Phreex, “a small, rocky islet” where the Palace of Romance is located, the island where the Mifkets dwell, the new home of Jacquelin and her parents, the home of the retired pirates and bandits, and Hilo or Lohi where John becomes king.

On the map, only Phreex is shown as an island, and it’s on the other side of the Ozian landmass from Hiland and Loland, which are part of the mainland. Another location on the map is labeled “Mifkets,” but again is not an island, and is around where Scarecrow suggests the unmapped Mo is located. Of course, the Mifkets could live in more than one place, and the map placing them next to the Scoodlers’ territory is likely why John R. Neill mixed up the two peoples in Scalawagons.

Still, is the implication that John and Chick somehow flew AROUND the Ozian landmass, not noticing that there was more land rather close by? As indicated here, Ruth Plumly Thompson labeled her copy of the map with both Phreex and the Castle/Palace of Romance in Hiland, but also the Fairy Beavers and a Castle Isle, perhaps also the Palace of Romance, near the Mifkets’ territory.

And since Phreex was already on the map, she seems to have been hedging her bets with the double placements. She also included Mo across the desert from Jinxland as indicated in Scarecrow, although she made it quite small in order to fit it in.

When James E. Haff and Dick Martin made their maps for the International Wizard of Oz Club, they made Hilo/Lohi into an island and placed all the other islands from John Dough nearby. This contradicts the reference in Rinkitink to Phreex being near Pingaree, but it’s not like that affects the plot of either book. Still, I’d sort of like to come up with a way to make both locations work. I’ve been considering linking Impossipillio, an island mentioned as being near Pingaree in Speedy, with the Phreex on the map, but there’s really no reason to do so other than that we know practically nothing about the place. Thompson indicates in Pirates that the Octagon Isle is eight miles from Pingaree. The fact that the Octagonese don’t think King Ato has done anything worthwhile or exciting during his reign suggests that, while Regos and Coregos invaded Pingaree, it’s likely they left the nearby island alone. Admittedly, we don’t know this for sure. I assume Regos and Coregos are left off the original map because they’re some way to the north of Pingaree and hence not within its scope, although Thompson tried to squeeze them into the small bit of Nonestic Ocean along with some of her own creations.

Another interesting thing about John Dough is that Jack Snow lifted a fair amount of the plot for his Shaggy Man from Baum’s book. The heroes take a flying vehicle from an island, visit a place called the Valley of Romance that seems friendly but has a sinister side, and encounter a tribe of Fairy Beavers. There’s also Hightown, which might well be named after Hiland but doesn’t have much else in common with it. For the most part, these are clearly different locations and plot points from the John Dough ones despite being similar. The Fairy Beavers might or might not be an exception. I had considered a story where the Beavers relocate to Ev, perhaps because the Mifkets finally managed to infiltrate their underground territory, but Adam Nicolai’s story “Ruprecht the Castaway King” suggests that there are two different tribes with different kings.

There are a few odd placements on the map that aren’t related to John Dough. The location of Ev is a bit confusing, being to the east of Oz and across the desert from the Munchkin Country in Ozma, then Road says it’s “just across the Deadly Desert to the North of Oz,” and Emerald City that it’s to the south but that the Winkie Country is the part of Oz closest to the Nome Kingdom. The Tik-Tok map places both Ev and the Nome Kingdom across from the Winkie Country, with Ev more to the north. and the plot of that and later books tend to go along with that. It also varies as to whether the Nome Kingdom is directly underneath Ev or adjacent to it. As I’ve said before, I tend to go along with Haff and Martin’s idea that it’s sort of in the middle of Ev, and that the land on the surface above it is mostly a rocky wasteland, as suggested in several books. Later authors go along with this, with both Thompson and Neill having characters cross the desert from Ev or the Nome Kingdom to the Winkie Country, or vice versa, in Kabumpo, Grampa, Gnome King, Pirates, Purple Prince, and Lucky Bucky. I’ve seen suggestions that either Ev or the Nomes could have territory on multiple sides of Oz, which would presumably require a massive overhaul of the map. Another oddity is that there’s no indication that the underground lands visited in Dorothy and the Wizard ARE underground, instead making it look like the Vegetable Kingdom borders on Boboland. This is also the first clear suggestion that these places are close to Oz, since the story had Dorothy and the Wizard falling into the Vegetable Kingdom from California and being magically transported to Oz without finding out what place they were underneath. Finally (at least for now), the sand boat is shown as arriving in the Quadling Country, but in Road, Dorothy says she and her companions are in the Winkie Country immediately after falling off the boat. The Oz Club map follows the text in this respect, but this has the perhaps unfortunate result that none of the four corners of the Land of Oz are in the Quadling Country.

Posted in Dick Martin, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Maps, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hell No, We Won’t Go!

Picture by Brandon Geurts
I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I can see the appeal of it, because I’m kind of afraid of no longer existing. I think it’s what’s going to happen, and I won’t care afterwards, but it bothers me on a visceral level. I recently did a Twitter poll on whether a bad afterlife or cessation of existence would be worse, and by far more people chose the former. But I’ve heard of several concepts for the world of the dead where it’s not really a reward or punishment, just incredibly dull and boring: the Jewish Sheol, the Greek Plains of Asphodel, the Norse Hel.

Was that supposed to be better than just no longer existing at all? And some concepts have people more or less going on with their day-to-day lives after death, only in a supernatural realm. The afterlife bringing eternal reward or punishment seems to be a later idea, but is very prominent in both modern religion and popular culture.

Jesus spoke of Hell as a place of constantly burning fire, going along with the rabbinical idea of Gehenna, named after a valley near Jerusalem associated with human sacrifice that is thought to have later become a garbage dump, and metaphorically where the dead are punished for their sins. Whether people are tormented in Hell forever or just until they die is somewhat ambiguous, though. The image of Hell that developed, thanks largely to Dante’s guided tour, takes a lot from the Greek Tartarus, which itself was thought of as a pit of monsters before it became a place of punishment for dead humans.

Most of these torments, or at least the famous ones, are more psychological than physical in nature, although there’s often still a physical component. Tantalus, for instance, wouldn’t have been so distraught at being denied food or drink if he no longer felt hunger or thirst.

Certainly, the association of Hell with fire and brimstone implies souls can still feel pain and discomfort, but I guess it could just be there as decoration. Regardless of how physical or literal it is, however, it’s always seen as really bad. Along those lines, I was thinking of stories about people being banned from Hell, usually by some personal slight toward Satan. At least, there’s the Stingy Jack legend, and a few others are mentioned here.

One of the most prominent appears to be the comic character Lobo, who caused so much chaos in both places to be barred from them.

I remember learning that Peer Gynt was banned from both, but he was going to be melted down into a button, which fits more with cessation of existence.

Of course, Satan having veto power doesn’t really fit with the depictions given by Dante or John Milton, but folklore tends to take these things a lot less seriously. An article I just read credits Charles Gounod’s 1859 opera version of Faust for a goofier image of the Devil, but I’m pretty sure stories of everyday people being able to trick Satan without a whole lot of trouble, as Stingy Jack does, predate that.

Would there be any reason why being in Hell would be preferable to either wandering forever or just no longer existing? Is it because you’d still have a home and a purpose, even though that purpose is being tortured? Because you can still think back on good times in life? Or would that just make it worse?

Posted in Christianity, Comics, Fairy Tales, Greek Mythology, Humor, Judaism, Mythology, Norse, Philosophy, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tennesseein’ Is Tennebelievin’

Nashville – I think the only Robert Altman movie I’d previously seen was Popeye. This is pretty different from that, but they’re both kind of slow. It has a lot of characters with their own subplots, which were often difficult for me to keep track of. Sometimes I feel my attention span has deteriorated in recent years, but maybe I’ve always been that way. I think part of it is that there isn’t a whole lot of intersection between stories, yet it’s presented as a whole, not a series of vignettes or anything. I was interested in several of them, but they didn’t go much of anywhere. It didn’t really gel. Maybe that was on purpose, though. From what I’ve heard, Altman tended to go for realism over traditional storytelling. And it’s not like it was not a badly made film. The acting was quite good, and the soundtrack is excellent. Several of the actors wrote and performed their own songs. Ronnie Blakley, who plays singer Barbara Jean, was a musician and songwriter before starting acting, so I guess it wasn’t a huge challenge to write stuff for the film. Actual Nashville session musicians played on the songs, which helped give them even more of an air of authenticity. Mind you, I knew Blakley as Nancy’s alcoholic mother in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The character had survived a fire shortly before the beginning of the story, but as far as I know it wasn’t part of her burning a child murderer to death. It’s weird how, when I don’t have a lot to say about a movie, my reviews often tend toward connecting vastly different roles the same actors played elsewhere. Lily Tomlin, who was on Sesame Street, sang a bit of “Sing,” which originated on the show. When I looked it up, she did the song with the lyrics in Sign Language for two deaf children on a 1976 episode, and that’s exactly what she did in the movie. I wonder which one was filmed first. Someone obviously had fun coming up with character names, as they include Karen Black playing Connie White, Thomas Hal Phillips (whose real-life brother ran for Governor of Mississippi) as the voice of independent presidential candidate Hal Phillip Walker, and Merle Kilgore as club owner Trout. Finally, can you imagine a movie being made now with Jeff Goldblum in it where he didn’t talk?

Well before I’d heard any of the actual performances of the songs in the film, I’d heard Carolyn Mark’s soundtrack tribute album that she did with her musician friends in 2002. According to the blurb on the sleeve, she was kind of bored and irritated by the movie when she first saw it, but ended up watching it a whole bunch of times and ended up liking it in what sounds like sort of a Rocky Horror kind of way, where she embraced the cheesiness and yelled out her favorite lines and such. The album includes renditions of the songs from, among others, Carolyn herself, Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, and Carl Newman of the New Pornographers (the latter being the only one who performed as the opposite sex, doing Karen Black’s “Memphis”). And I guess not really getting the movie on first viewing isn’t that uncommon. That said, I doubt I’d go out of my way to watch it again.

Posted in Albums, Carolyn Mark, Kelly Hogan, Music, Neko Case, New Pornographers, Sesame Street, Television, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment