Nothing More Than Feelings

I’ve been playing Super Princess Peach recently. I’d heard it was easy, but as much as I love video games, I’m not that great at them. It is generally forgiving compared to traditional Mario games. You have a life bar instead of only getting one or two hits, the game auto-saves after each level, and there’s no life system. That said, I still haven’t been able to get past World 7-2, particularly the part that auto-scrolls upward. That’s still pretty far into it, though, right? The general idea is a pretty obvious one, having the Princess rescue Mario instead. Of course, she was already playable in Super Mario Bros. 2, but that wasn’t a total reversal. I’ve heard complaints that Peach’s power being based on emotions is too stereotypically girly, like her powers are based on having her period or something. In fairness, though, she’s actually one of the few characters who’s able to use her emotions to her advantage rather than being overcome by them. The story has it that Bowser has found something called the Vibe Scepter on Vibe Island, and by simply waving it around, a Goomba makes everyone in Peach’s castle randomly and uncontrollably emotional, which is what allows the villain’s henchmen to capture Mario, Luigi, and Toad.

Throughout the game, many of the enemies are stuck in a certain mood, presumably without any choice in the matter. The bosses, however, do use them to their advantage. Peach has access to four Vibes, each of which has a power that can help her out: Joy makes her float upwards in a whirlwind, Gloom produces a flood of tears, Rage burns things, and Calm lets you gradually regain health.

In addition to this and the usual 2-D platforming that involves a lot of jumping on or over things, the Princess is accompanied by a talking parasol she receives from Toadsworth, who got it from a wandering merchant. Cut scenes throughout the game reveal that Perry was a person who was transformed into a parasol by an evil magician. Peach can use Perry to hit or lift enemies, and additional abilities you can purchase at a Toad-staffed shop also let the umbrella float, ground pound, and charge up and fire a shot.

Vibe Island includes a lot of the familiar Mario settings: grasslands, forest, haunted house, fire, water, ice, and sky. There’s a mood-related twist to the names, however, including the Ladida Plains, Fury Volcano, and Giddy Sky.

Each world normally contains six levels, although I understand you can unlock new ones by beating the game. The sixth has the boss, including both some familiar faces (Petey Piranha, King Boo, Gooper Blooper) and a few new ones like an owl and an ice-breathing fairy dragon. The pattern to boss fights is that each one has five hit points, and after losing three they go into a more challenging mode where they use a Vibe to their advantage. There isn’t much said about the location of Vibe Island other than the typical “near the Mushroom Kingdom,” but suspect it might be near the Beanbean Kingdom, since that’s largely emotion-themed as well. One weird thing I’ve heard about this game is that the ending scene seems to suggest the Vibe Scepter is a vibrator. I’m going to guess that’s not really the intention, but look!

I guess we still don’t know what Toadstool’s ??? (Peach’s XXX in Japanese) actually is.

I’ve also played a little of Bowser’s Inside Story recently. While a very creative and generally fun game, I find myself getting stuck fairly often, especially when having to get timing just right in a boss battle. I put the game aside after being unable to defeat the Stone Blooper, which can only be harmed through Bowser’s counterattacks. Then I got to the Wiggler farmer, and while the principle of that fight is pretty simple, there’s a lot coming at you. But I eventually beat him; and now I’m at the Durmite, a bug inside King Koopa’s body who not only has erratic attacks that are difficult to dodge, but also can call reinforcements and heal herself.

I’ve also taken to watching playthroughs of games I haven’t played, which I’m sure some people find lame, but how else am I going to learn how they expand the universe when I don’t currently have access to the actual games? The first Wario Land (which is also Super Mario Land 3) has Wario visit a place called Kitchen Island, where most things are based around food and cooking.

This is a direction the Mario games go in fairly often. Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U have a lot of food-based areas, and there’s the Luncheon Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. Anyway, the game ends with Syrup Castle being destroyed, yet it seems to be back in the sequel.

And there, it’s near a town, something we don’t see on Kitchen Island in the first game.

Wario’s own castle is on a heavily forested island that we could perhaps call Wario Land, although I doubt that’s its official name.

Wario also has a castle in Wario’s Woods, but Toad blows it up at the end. I don’t know much about the WarioWare series, but they have Wario living in a place called Diamond City, and not in a castle.

I just learned that the beginning of Wario Ware: Gold shows the city in a place that resembles the Mushroom Kingdom’s continent.

I’ve seen it suggested that it could be in Jewelry Land, although that’s just based on the names. Diamond City has an eclectic mix of inhabitants, but I don’t believe it has any characters or types of beings from the other Mario or Wario series aside from Wario himself. If he still has the castle, I’d be tempted to place it close to Diamond City in order to minimize his commute. I placed Kitchen Island to the northeast of Toad City to go along with the placement of Sherbet Land on the Super Bell Subway map from Mario Kart 8, although I know some people prefer the idea that it’s a different Sherbet Land. I’ve been trying to include some of these locations on my ongoing map of the Mushroom Kingdom area, but it’s difficult to read as I’ve been cramming a lot in. I guess I can always go back and clean it up later, and maybe use a key so I can replace some of the more cumbersome text. I zoom in and out a lot in order to place smaller features, but I can’t get the text any smaller than eight points in Paint 3D. (I don’t use the 3D part, but that’s what my computer has.)

Posted in Food, Gender, Magic, Maps, Mario, Monsters, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Would Baum Do?

The Autumn 2019 Baum Bugle has an old article by the late Fred Meyer, which I think I’d seen some version of before, postulating on what L. Frank Baum might have written if he’d lived longer. Obviously we can never really know. The first Oz book written by Ruth Plumly Thompson was introduced by the publishers as having been based on notes by Baum, but it wasn’t and it doesn’t read like Baum anyway. There was apparently a letter to a young reader suggesting he might write about Polychrome next, which would have been interesting. While Polychrome appears from time to time in books by later authors, none of the official books give her a starring role. Meyer mentions the fragment called simply “An Oz Book” that’s attributed to Baum, which was the basis for a round robin Oziana story in which I participated. March Laumer had also done something with it some time earlier. The fragment focuses on the lake near the Emerald City, which appears on the endpaper map from Tik-Tok of Oz and is mentioned in The Lost Princess of Oz, but not described in detail. It would eventually be further explored by John R. Neill, who named it Lake Quad. The map included places Baum hadn’t yet written about, but might have later planned to, and in most cases did.

How much he’d worked out about them, though, we don’t know. While the place labeled “Magic Waterfall” appears in Scarecrow, it’s called the Great Waterfall in the text and there’s no indication of its being magical. The Yip Country from Lost Princess is on the map, but other places introduced in that book are not. The Forest of Gugu from Magic is there but not labeled. And while the northwestern part of the Gillikin Country is labeled “Skeezers,” the island in a lake where these people are later established as living is not shown. Baum clearly worked with the map in mind when writing the later books, however; and Dorothy even mentions its mysterious reference to the Skeezers early in Glinda.

As for the other map of the countries surrounding Oz, some of them are from Baum’s non-Oz fantasies, but the only one he never used at all is the Kingdom of Dreams. So the maps aren’t really that much help in guessing what ideas Baum might have been planning. Several of the ideas he did use were apparently suggested by fans. Would he have gone back to tie up loose ends? He did in Tin Woodman at a reader’s request, but the other later books don’t do that. One theme that does recur in these tales is the characters visiting outlying communities within Oz and often solving problems there. This was something other authors continued, although I have to wonder if Baum would have put in quite so many new places. He does write in Magic, “Indeed, I’m sure it will not be long before all parts of the fairyland of Oz are explored and their peoples made acquainted with their Ruler.” There’s also the question as to whether Baum would have tied in any of his other non-Oz works, or do more with the ones he’d already made part of the same world. Lost Princess, Tin Woodman, and Glinda all take place entirely within Oz; but Magic does include a brief visit to some outside fairylands. Rinkitink was originally written as a separate book, but he tied it into Oz. Was there anything else he might have done that with? Perhaps not, as he stuck with original plots after that one, and I don’t know of any other completed or almost completed novel-length fantasy manuscripts he’d written. I read somewhere that he wanted to reissue Policeman Bluejay with the subtitle “An Oz Book,” but that was presumably just for marketing reasons, as it’s actually tied in with the Twinkle Tales, stories where the magic generally happens in our own world or in dreams. It also looks like he might have been leading up to more appearances by the Frogman and the Tin Soldier, characters the other Famous Forty writers largely ignored. But ultimately, we’ll never know, and I do like what other writers have done with Oz, even if it isn’t necessarily what Baum would have done.

Posted in Characters, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Maps, March Laumer, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


I was never that interested in Cats when I was younger, but I probably would have liked at least the T.S. Eliot poems if I’d been familiar with them. Beth and I went to see the show on Broadway about two years ago, and we saw the movie the weekend before last. And tonight, we watched her video tape from 1998 (we do have a working VCR, but we don’t usually keep it hooked up). She challenged me to compare and contrast the three versions, hence the title. I know it’s popular to hate the show, but I liked it. It’s good music with good lyrics, and it’s about cats. It’s basically an avant-garde piece, just one that’s also pretty campy. The video was of a stage production, although it didn’t include the cats going out into the audience, at least not on-camera. There’s a long dance sequence after Old Deuteronomy is introduced, and I can’t remember if it was quite as long when we saw it live. I know they moved “The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles,” while neither version includes “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” so I’ve never seen that in its original context. Traditionally, it comes after “Gus, the Theatre Cat,” with Gus thinking back to when he played Growltiger on stage. In the live show, they instead had Gus play the Rumpus Cat in “Pekes.” On the video, the Rumpus Cat wore a costume like a comic book superhero.

“Growltiger” might have fallen out of favor because of the racism, although “Pekes” does say “heathen Chinese” a few times. There must have been a fad for Pekinese dogs in England when Eliot wrote these poems, because they’re mentioned in several of them. Apparently both Growltiger and Macavity like to torture them. I’ve heard it’s not uncommon in stage productions for actors to play more than one role, and there were a few cases of that happening on the video, although Bustopher Jones was a separate actor while Wikipedia mentions that he’s often the same as Gus/Growltiger. Mr. Mistoffelees had a light-up tuxedo in both versions, but with LED technology, the lights were different colors in the more recent production. Grizabella gets into a flying vehicle at the end instead of just being pulled up by wires, though. The actress who played the character in the video version, Elaine Paige, was the one who originated the role in London. She’s presumably no relation to Ken Page (since they’re spelled differently), who played Old Deuteronomy, and was also the voice of Oogie Boogie in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’ve noticed that the choreography occasionally adds a bit of personality to a cat beyond what’s in the poem. The Rum Tum Tugger’s poem (and hence song) is about how he’s contrary, but he’s shown to be a ladies’ man in the show. I know they leave out a significant chunk of “The Ad-dressing of Cats,” the last song in the show and in the collection of poems. Maybe it was too much from a human perspective, but I know Beth likes to reference “Oopsa Cat.”

As for the movie, the CGI-enhanced cat costumes did look uncomfortably weird for a little while, but I got used to them. That said, I think a big-budget film based on a musical people love to hate was a bad risk. Critics complain that there’s next to no plot, when there was never really supposed to be. Actually, the plot is one of the odder parts of this adaptation, because for some reason they added in expository dialogue where we really didn’t need any, as well as a few subplots that didn’t go much of anywhere. Victoria is here changed from a chorus member to the main viewpoint character, abandoned and left out on the streets of London, where she’s taken in by the Jellicle Tribe. That part is fine, but I’m not sure why they decided they needed her to have a light romance with Mr. Mistoffelees, or why he was made to lack self-confidence, other than that they’re common and easy story elements. The same goes for the cats captured by Macavity using their individual skills to take out Growltiger, who here is reduced from the main character in a story-within-a-story to a henchman of Macavity’s. I guess it’s cool that they managed to incorporate him at all. The movie also cut out the other mini-story, “The Pekes and the Pollicles.” They threw in another song, co-written by Taylor Swift but not sung by her in the film itself, presumably included for Oscar consideration. It wasn’t bad, but it really didn’t fit, and the lyrics were pretty obviously not Eliot. And they withdrew it for Oscar consideration anyway, so it ended up being rather pointless. There’s a fair amount of slapstick added in, and I doubt anyone ever saw Cats and decided the main thing it was missing was the cats taking pratfalls, but whatever. I’m also not entirely sure why Macavity is so anxious to be reborn, since he has to die first, but he seems to think he can game the system. And maybe he figures a criminal mastermind is going to die sooner rather than later anyway. Since I mentioned the differing stage effects for Grizabella’s ascension, I’ll say that I liked the film’s take on it, a chandelier that turns into a hot air balloon.

Posted in Animals, Humor, Live Shows, Music, Poetry, Video, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Dust-Up

The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman – The second in the Book of Dust series, the prequel/sequels to His Dark Materials, it takes place some time after Lyra has saved the universe, and she’s now a twenty-year-old attending classes at Oxford. It’s been years since I read the original trilogy, but these books seem to have a smaller scope but a whole lot more words. It’s well-written enough, but not all that much happens except in a few scenes, so it’s kind of disappointing when they end. It also seems like Pullman is changing the rules for his fictional world, or at least bringing in new ones when it suits him. This is a place where every human has a daemon, a soul in animal form that accompanies them everywhere. There are ways to separate the two, but they’re very painful and traumatic. Here, daemons can apparently just wander off if they’re bored or angry, and while the separated people definitely stand out in a crowd, they don’t seem to be experiencing the same sort of discomfort. Lyra’s daemon Pantalaimon isn’t getting along with her, especially when she starts becoming enamored of popular authors who propose ideas like the non-existence of magic and daemons. The one book, The Hyperchorasmians, is a parody of Ayn Rand, right down to its popularity with college students. Pan insists she’s lost her imagination, and he has to go off and look for it. Of course, daemons are a fact of life in this world, so denying them is more like believing in a flat Earth than in espousing atheism or rigid self-interest in our own world. Of course, Pullman is famously an atheist himself, so is he saying he’s not one of those BORING atheists? Actually, from what I’ve seen online, it isn’t a criticism of rationalism but of thinking there’s one right answer for everybody. Honestly, Lyra seems rather unfazed by her earlier adventures, and I know it’s been several years and life goes on, but she rarely talks about them and seems willing to accept the nonexistence of supernatural phenomena she has herself witnessed. And while I know most people wouldn’t believe her, you’d think she’d have a little more reaction to people talking about God when she literally helped to kill Him. Come to think of it, considering Pullman’s simultaneous fascination and revulsion toward C.S. Lewis, maybe it’s an intentional reference to Susan in the Chronicles of Narnia. The plot also involves roses that can be used to see Dust (a form of dark matter that plays a major role in these books), and Marisa Coulter’s less interesting brother becoming head of the Magisterium through trickery and assassination. The title is used to refer to fairies and the like, but even though they’d totally fit into a world with witches and pets who are also souls, we learn very little about them here.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Rick Riordan – The first book in another series from Rick Riordan Presents deals with African-American mythology, a mix of African deities with characters from folklore. So we get Nyame, the sky god from Ghana, and the trickster spider god Anansi, as well as John Henry, Brer Rabbit, High John (an African prince who was sold into slavery in America and escaped with magical assistance), and Gum Baby from one of the Anansi stories. Tristan Strong himself is a boy from a family of boxers who’s lost his first match, and has a penchant for storytelling. He accidentally enters a mythical world and has to help its gods stop villains symbolizing slavery: Uncle Cotton, the living chains known as fetterlings, and a ship called the Maafa (the name means “great disaster” in Swahili and refers to all the wrongs done to Africans by white people). While I was sort of familiar with some of the mythical characters, there were quite a few new ones I’ll have to research further.

Posted in African, Authors, Book Reviews, C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Philosophy, Politics, Relationships, Religion, Rick Riordan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Believe It or Not, I’m Walking on Sky

The Rise of SkywalkerSPOILERS! Pretty significant ones, but I’m sure most people who care have already seen it. I finally went to see this, and I did enjoy it, but I also thought it had some significant flaws. I guess I’d say the weaknesses were mostly in the plot. It’s no secret that the recent Star Wars films rely heavily on nostalgia, and it mostly works. I loved seeing Lando Calrissian again, and seeing glimpses of Ewoks and Jawas.

There’s even a moment where Chewbacca gets a medal, something people complained about with the ending of the very first film. There were some amusing parts with C-3PO. And Carrie Fisher’s part didn’t seem as tacked on as I feared it would, being as I’m sure they intended to do more with Leia if the actress hadn’t died. But it can go a little too far when the plots are also recycled. I felt that there was a bit too much of it in The Force Awakens, while The Last Jedi tried to do something different while remaining familiar. Maybe because J.J. Abrams is back directing, this kind of has the same problem with repetition. I guess it’s mostly just one plot element, but it’s a major one. Emperor Palpatine is back as the main villain, and it’s not like they save it for a surprise some way through the movie. He’s mentioned in the opening crawl, and the story starts with Kylo Ren finding out Palpatine is still alive and tracking him down to kill him, only to end up joining forces with him instead. As if it wasn’t enough that the First Order was essentially a rip-off of the Empire, now it just IS the Empire. I’m not saying there’s any reason why someone couldn’t come back from the dead in this franchise, especially someone with a bunch of evil powers, just that it’s rather lazy. I also think it ignored some of the more pressing questions I had with the previous two films, while explaining things that didn’t even need explanations. We still don’t know where the First Order came from; even if Palpatine was behind the whole thing, they still needed to rise to power somehow. And how much control do they have? It sometimes sounds like they control the whole galaxy, and other times that they’re still consolidating power. Did the First Order conquer the Republic, which is why they became the Resistance? And dying somehow granted the Emperor power to make millions of Star Destroyers that can blow up planets, when during his original lifetime a single Death Star was a huge deal? I would have liked to have seen more of the Sith planet, as I would have thought it was an opportunity for some creepy scenery. I don’t know of any real reason for Rey to be Palpatine’s granddaughter, although I guess it has been established that Force sensitivity is at least partially genetic, so that makes sense. But I don’t think morality is genetic even in this galaxy. To be fair, it’s definitely established that her real family is the people she cares about, not the genocidal dictator who happens to share DNA with her; but I’m not sure why it’s even a big deal in the first place so much as just an interesting bit of trivia. And why would there be a special bond between the grandchildren of Palpatine and Darth Vader. Yeah, they were master and apprentice, but it’s not like they liked each other, at least not after the events of Revenge of the Sith. And while I appreciate a good redemption story (with the caveat that it doesn’t excuse the bad things they did), I didn’t find Kylo’s reformation all that convincing. For that matter, he’s a terrible public relations guy for the Dark Side. What possible reason would Rey have to want to be mopey like him? I feel like I’m making it sound like I hated the movie, and I didn’t. It was pretty exciting and had sad and uplifting moments. I suppose I just feel like it created more loose ends than it tied up. Of course, this isn’t intended to be the last Star Wars film, just the end of the Skywalker saga, but still.

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I’ve been posting a lot of these episode reviews recently, but I’ve at least tried to break them up somewhat so this blog isn’t All Super Show All the Time. I was wondering before why the order of the episodes on the DVDs is different from the original broadcast order, but apparently they’re mostly arranged in production order. That is, except for a few that don’t include the live-action bits, presented as Special Bonus Cartoons despite the fact that you actually get less. Here we go!

Koopenstein – Mario and company have arrived in the Swiss Cheese Alps, mountains that are full of holes. Maybe they’re near the Wooded Kingdom, since it’s kind of Alpine. Or the Luncheon Kingdom, due to the food theme. There’s also a Cheese Land, presumably in the Mushroom Kingdom. I believe the original Frankenstein actually DID take place in Switzerland, despite the fact that the story has come to be associated with Transylvania. A mad scientist has shown up there, and Mario figures he must be Koopa, because he calls himself Dr. Koopenstein. I think Mario is finally starting to understand the pattern here. In a village there, a mayor who has the same voice as Mayor Fettuccine from “The Pied Koopa,” presents them with the key to the city even though they haven’t done anything yet. They go to Koopenstein’s castle, where Toad climbs up the wall so he can let the others in, despite there not being any visible places for his hands to grasp. He’s chased by some Shy Guys on the way up, and they’re able to walk up the walls, leading Toad to figure they must have Velcro on their feet. Meanwhile, Mouser and some other Shy Guys capture the other three and bring them to the doctor, who’s wearing glasses and has a lab coat over his shell.

He needs a brain for the Monster Robot Troopa he’s built, and figures he can use Mario and Luigi’s combined, since they’re not very bright individually. Yeah, takes one to know one, Koopa. Toad jumps through a skylight and interrupts the proceedings, leading Koopa to fall into the brain device and turn into the Koopenstein Monster, meaning that this makes the monster and the scientist the same guy. He grabs the Princess and runs outside with her, and at this point it looks like the lab door opens to ground, even though Toad had to climb a whole lot to reach the skylight. Besides, wouldn’t the lab be at the top of the tower to better attract lightning? Well, anyway, Mario, Luigi, and Toad return to town to fight the monster, but they’re unable to do anything but make him madder, even when he gets a bomb in his face. We also see that the cows in this area have holes like the mountains.

So instead they go to the castle to activate the Robot Troopa, which apparently works just fine with no brain. I guess Koopa wanted it to be autonomous instead of having to use the remote control. Anyway, during a fight between the two monsters, the robot steps on the remote, causing both of them to get shocked and fall into a river, along with Mouser. Back in the village, Mario is rewarded with a Swiss cheese pizza that doesn’t appear to be cooked, says he wants the key to the pizza parlor to teach them how to do it right, and the episode fades into a key shape for some reason. Yes, Mario mentioned a key, but it’s not like that’s central to the episode or anything.

Baby Mario Love – This is one of the live-action segments that isn’t included on the DVD set, perhaps because it includes a significant amount of a copyrighted song. And no, it has nothing to do with Mario being a baby, despite what the title might suggest.

Susanna Ross, a public domain version of Diana Ross, shows up at the plumbing shop. I’m not sure why they sometimes have actors playing real celebrities and sometimes knockoffs of celebrities, but there you go. Susanna’s backup singers’ flight was delayed, so her plan is to go to some random guys in Brooklyn and make them dress up in drag and learn the routine. It makes no sense, but Mario and Luigi take to it quite readily, although they end up fighting while on stage. The song they perform is “Baby Love,” hence the name of the segment.

On Her Majesty’s Sewer Service – It’s a James Bond parody, and I have to admit I’ve only ever seen one Bond film, Goldfinger. Most of my knowledge of the franchise comes from other parodies. This is the only Super Show cartoon without Toad in it, and I’m not sure why. Anyway, it takes place in Spy Land, where Koopfinger has used a magic ring to turn Agent James Blonde to stone. Blonde is another character who doesn’t really look like anyone else on the show, the impression I get being that they tried to make him tough and handsome, but failed entirely.

The Princess takes Mario and Luigi to the underground Super Spy Headquarters. If they really wanted to keep it secret, you’d think they wouldn’t put it in a place called Spy Land, but that’s the way things go on this show. The implication seems to be that the spy network works for the Princess and the Mushroom Kingdom. The Marios are introduced to Agent N, leading to some fairly obvious letter jokes, then he shows them some spy equipment disguised as plumbing tools. These include an atomic screwdriver and a laser drill, the latter of which seems like it would be really useful but is never used. The reptile goes out with his Koopa Pack, who for some reason are super-muscular in this one, to pull a caper. Mouser also is drawn to look like Odd Job, with the bowler hat and all. The plan is to rob Fort Hard Knox, which looks like a giant piggy bank. From what I’ve seen, the original Ian Fleming novel of Goldfinger did have the titular character trying to steal from Fort Knox, while the movie changed it to have him irradiate it instead. Still, just robbing a place seems a bit minor for a play on a series with a lot of international terrorism, although it IS a lot of money. At one point in the episode, Koopa has a Porcupo on his lap, so I guess he’s Blofeld as well as Goldfinger. The security at the fort consists of…one door, which Koopfinger blows up with a bomb, although for some reason he says it’s a magic potion. The gang takes all the money in his limousine, but Mario and Luigi are hot on their tails in a Spymobile that looks like a plumbing van. The Marios use plungers and a shower head to get rid of the troops Koopfinger sends after them, at least until he calls a giant Birdo to pick up their van and take it to his hideout. Then there’s a Wheel of Fortune parody, because this show can never stick with a spoof for that long. The hostess is named Vampa White, who as well as the obvious reference is probably a nod to the Bond girls with sex-related puns in their names, without actually playing that straight. Vampa spins a wheel with various means of death written on it, or at least that’s what’s supposed to be there, but shots of it just show random letters except when it’s zoomed in on something. Well, okay, I guess “ax” might be authentic. Anyway, the Marios are sentenced to the Tunnel of Doom, which seems empty until the plumbers see a single Goomba approaching them, their reaction being to run away. They also run on top of some Piranha Plants, which wasn’t something you could do at that point, although I believe you can stomp them in Super Mario 64. As a Spark approaches, instead of just jumping on the Goomba, Mario uses a hose nozzle and mini-plunger to get the two of them back into the hideout. There, they fight the Koopa Pack, even though they were just running in terror from a much weaker enemy. In fact, they make no headway against the villains at all, until Mouser has such bad aim with his hat that he takes out both Triclyde and the Troopa. Vampa is still there, and she actually participates by blowing a kiss that turns into a fireball, but Mario knocks it away with the atomic screwdriver and it hits both Mouser and the whole Wheel of Misfortune setup. Koopa gets away with his potion trick again. Every notice how he never takes the others with him, but they’re still often wherever he happens to be in later episodes? Blonde has come back to life as well, although it’s never explained how. The episode ends with Mario being blown up by a spaghetti bomb when he tries to eat it, but it doesn’t do any lasting damage.

9001: A Mario Odyssey – This is another one that isn’t on the DVDs, and here there doesn’t appear to be a copyright-related reason for it. I think I might have seen something about the master tapes being lost, or maybe the parody contained some stuff that was too close to the original. It’s too bad that it’s not included, and a relief that nobody has taken the segment down from YouTube (yet, anyway), because it’s bizarre even for this show. Mario and Luigi are getting a new computer, the HAL-9001, which is being installed by Albert Einstein. Well, the actor is doing an Einstein impression, he’s known for a one-man show about Einstein, and they CALL him Einstein. Of course, the actual Einstein is: 1) dead, and 2) probably not that experienced at hooking up computers, so who knows? Regardless, I’m not sure how he fits into a 2001 spoof. The computer makes pizzas automatically (out of what, we don’t know) with whatever toppings they specify. They start out ordering fairly standard toppings, then switch to stranger ones like a pizza covered in hamburgers. HAL then goes haywire and starts making pies with non-edible toppings, like golf pencils and nurse’s shoes. There was also a line about nurse’s shoes in the first segment with Magic Johnson, so is this an inside joke among the staff? I don’t know, but I can’t say I get it. HAL tries to use its red dot to hypnotize the brothers into eating the gross pizzas, but Einstein shows up just in time because he never gave them the bill (do they have to pay for each pizza individually, or is it a subscription service?) and disconnects the malfunctioning machine. As it’s shutting down, it sings a version of “Daisy Bell” with the lyrics changed to be about toothbrushes. The voice of HAL is provided by Philip L. Clarke, who is credited with “additional voices” in some Disney animated films from the late eighties and early nineties.

Mario and Joliet – The Romeo character in this loose Shakespeare spoof is actually named Romano, so I’m not sure why Mario has to be in the title. It begins and ends with what look like posters for a play, and the Plumber’s Log number is 1601. What’s weird is that this isn’t the year when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, but rather when he wrote Hamlet. The Mario team has been summoned to the Land of Romance by Joliet, who is a friend of the Princess.

How can Joliet eat with such a skinny neck?
She and Romano were going to marry until King Koopa somehow caused their fathers to start a feud with each other, which includes their hiring Snifits and Albatosses to fight on their behalf. The Princess orders the marriage to take place despite the dads’ objections, so apparently the Land of Romance is within her dominions. It’s just based on word association, but with the lack of any other evidence, I suggest it’s the part of the Super Mario RPG map that includes Marrymore and Rose Town. Koopa, who has been making a lot of money from the feud, consults his magic mirror with a reflection that talks back, because we’re apparently putting a bit of Snow White into Shakespeare. He takes the mirror’s advice to have an Albatoss capture Joliet and bring her to his castle. This causes the fathers to blame each other, but the Mario gang knows Koopa must be behind it, so they go with Romano to the castle to rescue Joliet. They get across the moat on logs, but then are caught in a net. Toad yells out, “It’s a net!”, to which Luigi says, “Annette Funicello? Where?” Showing your age there, Luigi. The Hard Times podcasters thought the “It’s a net!” line was pretty funny in and of itself. Koopa throws the would-be rescuers in the cell with Joliet, leaving a bodybuilding Super Troopa named Grunt to guard it. We get a few plays on famous lines from Romeo and Juliet, but for the most part the whole thing is now centered around escaping, with no other Shakespeare in sight. At first, Toad and the Princess trick Grunt into lifting three dumbbells, which causes the floor to collapse under him. Strange how so many of Toad’s plans seems to be based on him realizing how flimsy something is. It doesn’t do any good, though, because Grunt had the key. Fortunately, in a strange coincidence, it turns out Joliet’s wedding bouquet is made of Fire Flowers. That leads back to the question of who can use power-ups, since Joliet certainly doesn’t get any super powers from touching them. Mario does, however, and he blasts the door down and fights some Troopas on their stairs, who use their shells as shields. While I don’t know of any indication that Koopa shells are fireproof, it does show them as removable before this is confirmed in-game in Super Mario World. An actual turtle’s shell is part of its skeleton. The others build a cart out of the door and two dumbbells, despite all but one of the weights fell down with Grunt. Well, maybe there was another one lying around somewhere. Somehow this works and gets everyone out of the castle, and Romano and Joliet are married in the same chapel we saw earlier.

The background of this place is much more ornate than anything else on this show, resembling a painting. And it apparently includes some cardboard cutouts that fall over when hit; I don’t know what’s up that. The fathers get into an argument about where the couple is going to live, and this leads to a food fight. If my supposition about the location of the Kingdom of Romance is correct, I guess the Snifits who were working for them went to live with Booster.

Fake Bro – A guy calling himself Pietro shows up at the apartment and claims to be Mario and Luigi’s long-lost older brother. There isn’t a whole lot of suspense, as the title makes clear he’s a fraud, but he does know some obscure facts about the Marios. He tries to convince them to sell the business to spend more time together, only to be fooled when Luigi gets a call and claims it’s the IRS demanding $900,000 in back taxes. He later reveals it was actually the pizza parlor, so they must have been really confused at Luigi’s responses. Pietro comes clean and says that he got all his information from the Who’s Who of Plumbing. So apparently this is a book that tells the mothers’ maiden names, childhood toys, and locations of birthmarks for notable plumbers? Seems far-fetched, but I guess it’s too early for him to have been phishing them. At least according to this, by the way, Mama Mario’s maiden name is Rigassi.

Too Hot to Handle – The Mario crew is visiting the volcanic island of Waki-Waki, part of a place called Lavaland, because the Fire God promised to help them fight Koopa. The island is supposed to resemble Hawaii, but for some reason the Toad inhabitants, the Aloha People, sound like California surfer dudes.

They’re also pretty dimwitted, immediately rushing to obey an order supposedly from the Fire God saying to throw the Princess in the volcano. Mario immediately identifies the voice as that of Koopa, who has the real Fire God trapped in a glass bottle.

But then, even when he’s later freed, the Fire God has no lines, so we don’t know how dumb the natives have to be to not recognize the difference. Capturing a god sounds pretty impressive, but I don’t think we ever learn what his powers are. The people drop Mario, Luigi, and Toad into a pit, but they quickly escape by climbing on each other’s shoulders and jumping so Mario can reach the edge. They then ride an Ostro up the volcano and throw pineapples at Shy Guys. Two Toads named Scooter and Bingo throw the Princess into the volcano, where she’s immediately caught by a Shy Guy. It looks like there’s a large possibility of error with that plan. Koopa tells Fryguy, who appropriately enough is his main assistant this time, to turn on a lava machine, and Mario, Luigi, and Toad run for their lives, but soon find a secret passage in a statue of the Fire God to a lower part of the volcano. He and Luigi sabotage the machine, which Koopa was planning to use to destroy the island and escape with the Princess on an inflatable raft that’s somehow fireproof.

Mario and Luigi sabotage the machine and trip Koopa with a life preserver, causing him to drop the Princess. A lot of this episode (and really, many of these episodes) relies on people and objects just happening to fall in the right direction. The heroes make a getaway on the raft, while Koopa escapes through a mask gate. For some reason, Fryguy is running away from the magma, despite being made of fire. Despite the fact that a bunch of magma already erupted all over the island and the Aloha People tried to kill the Princess, apparently all is now well, with a spaghetti luau where the Fire God is cooking the pasta over a captured Fryguy. And I guess they don’t ask the Fire God to help them, just like they don’t ask any other person they’ve set out to find after the immediate danger is over. I suspect Waki-Waki is in the vicinity of Isle Delfino and the Sunshine Isles. There was also a story involving a volcanic tropical island in the Nintendo Comics System, “Beauty and the Beach,” only the plot in that one is that Koopa, calling himself Ka-Hoopa, convinces the surfing Toad inhabitants to throw bombs into the local volcano to make it hot enough to erupt and turn all the Toads into Fryguys. (The cartoon only ever had the one Fryguy, from what I can remember, but there were several in the comics.)

Mario (Luigi isn’t in this particular story) uses bamboo plumbing to cool down the volcano, saving the day. It’s a plot with some significant similarities, but I’d say it’s more creative.

Time Out Luigi – Luigi is playing Duck Hunt (wonder if it comes on the same cartridge as SMB in-universe) when a mysterious saleswoman named Angelica appears, played by Nedra Volz, the actress who was Adelaide on Diff’rent Strokes. She tries to sell the Mario Brothers a crystal ball and a picture like the one Dorian Gray had, but when they refuse, she sells Luigi a watch for four dollars. It ends up making him do everything backwards, including saying the words in his sentences in reverse order. So Mario sells the watch back to Angelica for ten dollars.

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The Ascent of Men

The Greek Myths, by Robert Graves – The library system only had one copy of this, so it took me a few checkouts to finish it, but I finally did. It’s an interesting and pretty thorough retelling of Greek mythology, often praised for its writing style but criticized for its questionable scholarship. Graves takes each myth, often giving several versions of it, then gives his own explanation as to its origins. One theme throughout the book is that of the ancient matriarchy gradually being overtaken by men. It’s something I’ve come across at other times; I know Matilda Joslyn Gage was a supporter of the idea, although I think her proposed woman rulers were more beneficent. Essentially, Greece was ruled by priestess-queens, and they’d enter into sacred marriages with men, who would serve as king but would be sacrificed after a set period of time. Later kings found ways to rule for more time, and to pass down the kingship to their own sons. I’m not really sure what the evidence for this is, and it kind of sounds like anti-feminist rhetoric disguised as support of matriarchy. The women were fully in charge, but they also killed a lot of men for no apparent reason? There are myths that tell of male gods overthrowing older goddesses, often Earth Mother types, giving some suggestion of conquest by the patriarchy; but I guess I doubt it was as neat as Graves and his ilk make out. Graves tends to interpret myths as symbolic of this struggle, and often suggests that the stories we have now are often based on misinterpretations of older pictures. Again, that probably happened sometimes, just not necessarily to the extent that incredibly diverse Greek myths all originally referred to the same exact themes. So it’s weird, but still worth reading. The edition I read included an introduction by Rick Riordan and comics-style cover art by Ross Macdonald.

A Difficulty with Dwarves, by Craig Shaw Gardner – This humorous fantasy novel is actually the fourth in a series, so I think I’m going to go back and read the earlier ones if I can. But anyway, it’s pretty entertaining, nothing uproarious but definitely funny. Wuntvor, apprentice to the great wizard Ebenezum, is tasked with journeying to the Eastern Kingdoms to seek a cure for the curse that makes the wizards of Vushta allergic to magic. Unfortunately, he’s distracted along the way by his old allies, including a song-and-dance team of a dragon and a damsel, a cheerful shoe-making brownie, and an amorous unicorn. He’s also forced to temporarily join forces with his old nemesis, the poetic demon Guxx Unfufadoo; and is frequently bothered by a committee of demons from the Netherhells. It’s pretty chaotic overall. The dwarves, while they’re there, are really just a quick gag, and probably only in the title to maintain alliteration.

Dragon Quest Monsters+, Volume 2, by Mine Yoshizaki – This part of the ongoing story addresses something I’d wondered about the DQM games, which is how you can breed or synthesize versions of boss monsters from the main series to join your team, even though they were always presented as individuals rather than just types. Here, we see that the Dragonlord who appeared in the previous volume is the result of a synthesis and not the same as the real Dragonlord, who in fact eventually kills his near-duplicate. The land in which Kleo finds himself with Slib and Junior is Alefgard from DQ1, or at least a copy of it, and he they have a run-in with the hero of that game. That character, by the way, just called “Hero” as if that’s his name. It turns out that Terry had gone rogue, having learned a new monster synthesis technique from Mortamor, and is trying to create the ultimate monster. We also see the result of breeding between Junior and the She-Slime Lime.

How the Wizard Came to Oz, by Donald Abbott – I’ve read the original book of this title, as well as the Oziana story that came before that. This one is a graphic novel adaptation, collecting the strips that were previously available online. What’s immediately apparent is that Abbott, who imitated W.W. Denslow in the books he illustrated for Books of Wonder, is using a totally different artistic style here. The story is largely the same, but fills in extra details and leaves out a few other things. The Wicked Witches of the West and East summon various monsters to try to kill Oscar Diggs or drive him out of Oz, but he manages to overcome all of them with circus tricks and some real magic he receives from Glinda, who is largely working behind the scenes. There’s a bit of an origin for the Cowardly Lion, and an appearance by an animated scarecrow who presumably isn’t the same as the famous one. Trying to think of how well it gels with other apocryphal tales of this time period, it occurs to me that David Hulan’s “The Gauds of Oz” has the WWW getting the Golden Cap from the jeweler who made it, while here she steals it from where Quelala had it hidden; but there might be a way to make both true. Also, there are some contradictions with Hugh Pendexter’s earlier “Oz and the Three Witches,” although my thought is that this details a time in between when Oscar was driven out of the Winkie Country and when he started building the Emerald City, or perhaps concurrently with it, so sometime between pages 54 and 65 of the graphic novel. Finally, Jared Davis’ “The Way of a Lion” suggests that the Cowardly Lion’s father was done in by Kalidahs (EDIT: actually the giant spider, although Kalidahs do appear in the story) instead of the WWW, but the death doesn’t actually happen on the page. Abbott is currently working on an ongoing sequel comic, telling the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from a different perspective.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Characters, Comics, Dragon Quest, Feminism, Gender, Greek Mythology, History, Hugh Pendexter, Humor, Jared Davis, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors, Rick Riordan, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment