[Note: Given the topic of this list, please use comments here as your spoiler thread to discuss Doctor Who's season finale. For other weekend shows, including the season finales of Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, there'll be a thread in two hours for that - LYT]
Back in April, I offered some ways that Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat would annoy me yet somehow make it all OK in Series 7 with his timey-wimey, TMI-revealing, monster-rehashing ways. Now that series finale "The Name of the Doctor" has aired, let's see how well he did. (SPOILERS! But mostly after the jump)
9. The Unexpected Annoyance
After "The Bells of Saint John," the series' second half felt hugely uneven and largely unsatisfying, though it was saved by the always delightful chemistry between the Doctor (Matt Smith) and companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), not to mention the return of the Victorian-era Paternoster Gang, a.k.a. Silurian detective Madame Vastra and her human wife Jenny Flint (Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart, pictured) plus their Sontaran valet Strax (Dan Starkey). The episodes were also larded with fun references to the entire history of the show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
So one way I didn't predict the Moff would bug me was by coming up with a pretty dazzling finale that made me not really want to think too much about anything but what's about to happen next. (That is, six months from now, when the anniversary special airs on November 23.)
That's not to say he didn't leave us with some big new questions (not to mention one big shock) ... which is pretty freakin' irritating, considering he's left some big old questions still unanswered.More >>
To celebrate the release of The Great Gatsby, Slate posted this cute little Gatsby video game. While their game is tongue in cheek, classic literature is a surprisingly common source of inspiration for developers. Some of the literary games that have been produced over the years are classics in their own right, while others are... well, they tried. Check out one of the following the next time you want to add a touch of sophistication to your gaming session.
7. The Great Gatsby
Slate actually wasn't the first to make a game based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel. In addition to the incredibly dull Classic Adventures: The Great Gatsby, which features all the raw thrills of poking around for hidden objects and practicing your typing, there's also a brilliant, NES-inspired platformer that's free to play online.
Players control Nick Carraway as he looks for Gatsby and tosses his hat to take out every waiter, partygoer and flapper in his way. It's a clever game with a catchy soundtrack, charming 8-bit graphics and hilarious references to the novel that have been adjusted for the strange world of video games.
The developer claims it's an obscure unreleased localization of a Japanese game, and while The Atlantic debunked that, the developer made some great NES style manual pages to support his lie, so let's pretend to believe. Keep it in mind the next time you're bored - it's a good way to kill 15 minutes even if you aren't a fan of the novel.More >>
Published as mini-series, one-shots, and sometimes annuals, they were clearly stamped with the Elseworlds logo so as not to cause confusion with the in-continuity titles. And because they're self-contained, each story told under this branding can have complete arcs and radically alter - or permanently kill - popular characters.The first Elseworlds title is arguably 1989's Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, although it was printed without the distictive logo. It clicked with fans looking for new takes on old favorites and launched numerous stories across DC's Multiverse, but this cottage industry slowly ground to a halt & became moot around the time 2005's Infinite Crisis decided that twenty years of relatively sensible continuity was long enough. Various Elseworlds characters were last seen being forced to battle each other in Countdown: Arena, which missed the point of not mixing the Multiverse.
Now that the imprint is kaput, it's a perfect time to catch up on all of them. But if you're a normal nerd with limited funding and shelf space, which Elseworlds can't your libaray afford to miss out on? The best not only tell engaging standalone yarns, but they also give new insights into their stars. Having gorgeous art doesn't hurt either.
Only works originally published under the Elseworlds banner count here, so please don't complain about the lack of The Dark Knight Returns and "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" in the comments. Although the New 52 hogs all the limelight, elements from Elseworlds appear in Injustice: Gods Among Us (a shoe-in for the "Most Overwrought Video Game Title of the Year" award) and the Infinite Crisis online multiplayer, proving that even altverse IP gets recycled. While modern DC Comics compulsively retcons and reboots itself, let's take a nostalgic look at some outstanding comics that were intentionally out of continuity.
10) Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham
It is known that nerds love Batman and the works of H.P. Lovecraft above all things. Mike Mignola had the brilliant idea to mash them up into the peanut butter and jelly of comics. The result feels surprisingly organic; if any superhero could stand to be more macabre, it'd be Batman, and his gothic reinterpretations of Killer Croc, Green Arrow, Two-Face, and Oracle are particularly inspired. Twenty years after his parents were viciously stabbed to death by a madman, a nightmare-haunted Batman returns to Gotham City to prevent the necromancer Ra's al Ghul from summoning one of the tentacle-tastic Elder Gods. (It's got plenty of nods to Lovecraft stories, although Arkham Asylum is strangely absent.)
The only downside, which is unfortunately common in Elseworlds tales, is that the conclusion is too abrupt. Oddly, DC never reprinted this mini-series in a single collection causing the already pricey issues to skyrocket on the secondary market. Their stubborn refusal to make a surefire profit on a Batman book is a sure sign they've been infected with the madness of the Great Old Ones!
For nearly as long as Star Trek has existed, so have comics based upon the final frontier's favorite franchise. The first ones were released by Gold Key in 1967-- one year after the series debuted - and they continue to this day through IDW's various Trek-inspired releases. Regardless of what you think about the actual quality of these things, it's difficult to ignore the fact that they helped keep Trek alive during those lean years after the show's original cancellation and before its cinematic revival in 1979. It's also hard to be overly critical about the Gold Key and Marvel runs because they possess a charm and innocence that elevates them above most published tie-ins. The subsequent comics (which explored not only the original series but The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, as well as Early Voyages and Starfleet Academy-branded titles) nobly attempted to further expand the scope of Gene Roddenberry's original vision on the printed page. Although the results were mixed many of these are bona-fide classics.
In one form or another, Star Trek comics have been available for nearly 46 years. So with Star Trek Into Darkness hitting theaters this week, it seemed like a perfect time to celebrate them in typical Topless Robot fashion by mocking their often melodramatic covers. That said, today's Daily List presents 15 comics handpicked from the various Trek runs whose covers are a juggling act of insanity, awesomeness and silliness. Set phasers on, well, snark I guess. Here we (boldy) go.
15) Worst. Alien. Ever.
What do you get if you cross a house fly, a stereotypical punk rocker and a Gorn? I have no clue, but it must be better than this lame insectoid alien who appears to be getting off to some intergalactic tentacle porn.
Feeling as though it were only yesterday when we were bombarded with a slew of #0 issues commemorating its first year, DC Comics' New 52 initiative is steadily approaching the end of its second, with the publisher more than likely to announce some celebratory marketing gimmick in the months to come. But in the scant year and a half since DC took gasoline and matches to its decades-long web of continuity, we've been witnessing a steady pattern of cancellation announcements in almost the same breath that these new titles are announced. There are numerous factors that contribute to titles such as O.M.A.C. and Mister Terrific walking the green mile from the back issue rack to the dumpster, yet the obvious one is the fact that not every character is iconic or profitable enough to merit an ongoing... not like that's stopped DC, or anything. As long as titles are canceled, they'll keep releasing comics featuring D-listers to plug up the gaping wounds left behind in their monthly release schedule - and these are the 12 properties we pray they do not do any such thing with.
At this point in time we know next to nothing about the character Goldrush, who appeared not too long ago in both Justice League #16 and #19. The only things we've learned are that she has powers supposedly like the X-Men's Colossus, operates out of Texas, wants the Flash for her hubby and is a recent divorcee. These are all odd qualities, yes, but her coming out of the blue without fanfare or a proper introduction is even stranger, if not suggesting that DC may be planning on doing something bigger with the superheroine. While it's always nice to have more strong female heroes in the DC Universe, Goldrush has the word "generic" stamped all over her. From her flat name to, likewise, her powers, there's no possible way she could hold up a monthly ongoing. It's harsh, but DC can do without yet another lukewarm Justice League spin-off series that will perform every bit as well as Vibe or Katana.
Ahh, board games. These playtime diversions gave families hours of fun back in a simpler age before new-fangled technological doodads came along and shifted the focus from a shared gaming experience to an individualized one. While current offerings like Apples to Apples and The Settlers of Catan are excellent and have dedicated fanbases of their own, the argument can easily be made that the golden age of board games as a communal pastime has passed. Bummer.
Most board game these days are just variations of pre-existing games with the image of a popular character slapped onto them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a nice game of Spider-Man Monopoly or Don't Wake Hulk as much as the next guy. But sometimes these tie-in products just seem crass and wrongheaded. (Spider-Man Yahtzee, anyone?) It wasn't always this way. Which brings us to today's Daily List. Here we have ten terrific - and original - games based on popular superheroes. Some of these are weird/wonderful, while others are just a fitting tribute to their source material. However, they all possess a certain charm that will give you the warm fuzzies...or send you racing to eBay.
A quick word before we begin: Today's list would not be possible without the assistance of the Board Game Geek and Ken Eriksen's Comic Book Collection websites. These are the definitive online resource for collectible games, and most of the pictures herein come from their in-depth archives. That said, let's roll to see who goes first and get this list started already...
10) The Incredible Hulk: Smash
Despite a fine performance from Edward Norton, The Incredible Hulk remains the red-headed stepchild of the Marvel cinematic universe. (Hey, at least it didn't have Hulk Dogs). Perhaps the best thing to come from the film's release is this 3-D board game. To be clear, there have been several games based on the character over the years -- including one from Ideal that featured a motorized Hulk playing piece which appeared to be stricken with scoliosis.
This one is the best, though, because it gave players the opportunity to smash the crap out of Play-Doh cars and planes with a ridiculous Hulk fist! Even though the core concept was borrowed from previous board games based on Godzilla and, um, Hawaiian Punch, there is something oddly cathartic about playing The Incredible Hulk: Smash. So much so that you have to wonder if Norton ever played this after he learned of the public's fondness for Mark Ruffalo's Hulk.More >>
Often, the most rewarding and complicated relationships are the ones that we have with our parents, especially our mothers. They're (one hopes) the first role models, heroes of our lives whose main superpower is dealing with our crazy antics as we gradually grow up into competent adults. Mothers already have a tough job ahead of them just by taking care of their children, but that's nothing compared to some of the mothers in comics. Villains and heroes both have the reproductive parts to be moms, and that in some ways is the coolest and most terrifying thing to read. In honor of Mother's Day, best known to our moms as the most important time of the year next to their birthdays, it's time to run down the list of the best and worst mothers that comics have to offer.
The Best Moms
5. Shizune Arima (Kare Kano)
In the Japanese comic Kare Kano, the Arima clan have dealt with their fair share of scandal and shame within their house. Shizune's husband Soji wanted to separate himself from his family, but one day they found themselves brought in when they adopted his youngest brother's son Soichiro. Due to the shame that Soichiro's father was upon their household, his relatives treated him with the same sort of animosity throughout the years. Shizune didn't let that affect their happy little family as she gave Soichiro the affection that he desperately longed for from his biological mother. He turned into the epitome of a well-rounded, intelligent young man that any mother would be proud to call their son. Then again any mother would be absolutely beaming with joy if her son was so smart that he was at the top of his class. (Though we hope she wouldn't disown him if he weren't.)More >>
Mainstream comics have always chased fads in popular culture, from music to fashion to just about everything else in between, always seeking to find a way to stay relevant in a world where something is cool one minute and yesterday's news the next. Here are ten example of times when the big comic companies shamelessly pursued fads in the mainstream of the moment, only to have the characters outlive the fads, sometimes by decades.
10. Luke Cage
In the early seventies, the Blaxploitation boom had begun in American cinema in earnest, starting with movies like Shaft, Superfly, Coffy and countless others. Although these movies were all intended for an urban African-American audience, the truth is they found a very large following with just about everyone else too. Marvel Comics, never ones to pass on any pop-culture fad, wanted in on a little of that Blaxploitation action, and in 1972 they unleashed Luke Cage, Hero for Hire on the comic buying audience.
In that first issue, a young "jive talkin' man named Carl Lucas is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, and in exchange for parole, he undergoes an experimental procedure, supposedly meant to cure diseases or something. Instead, it inadvertently gave him steel-hard skin and enhanced muscles. After escaping prison, he forged the identity of "Luke Cage," becoming a super-powered private detective, whoopin' all kinds of bad guy ass up in the hood. A bona fide super hero now, Cage's costume was a yellow blouse, blue tights, and a silver tiara. Somehow, I couldn't see Richard Roundtree working that look. In fact, I can't think of a heterosexual black man outside of maybe Prince who would even dare to make the attempt.
The book was filled with cliches, especially all the "jive talk" and catchphrases that Cage would spout out, most famously "Sweet Christmas!" (in case there was any doubt, Luke Cage was totally created by white people.) Eventually, Luke Cage would take on a proper super hero name (Power Man) and team up with another character created to cash in on a seventies trend, the martial artist Iron Fist. The Blaxploitation craze died out with the end of the seventies, but Luke Cage continued on, partnered with Iron Fist, until 1986. From that time on, he appeared sporadically in the Marvel Universe and inspired the stage surname of a certain insane actor named Nicolas, although in the last few years Luke has risen to prominence again in the pages of Avengers. The yellow blouse and tiara are long gone though, which if ya ask me, is a damn shame.
Poe Ghostal here. As many noted in the comments on my last list, The Ten Most Controversial Action Figures of the Modern Era, there were a number of toys that didn't make the cut. This was mostly due to my criteria of only including toys that someone had written a professional article about regarding some sort of "controversy."
The rules are a bit looser this time around; I'm including toys that perhaps didn't merit much attention in the press, but collectors were certainly aware of them. I'm also expanding beyond action figures into toys of all types.
Of course, I could easily fill a dozen of these lists if I just went through every item on Reverend Rose's "Warped Toys" lists from the 1990s and early 2000s. But few of those toys merited much attention aside from those lists, so let's focus on the stuff people (or at least collectors) were actually talking about.
10.) "Party" Angela
At this point, Party Angela deserves some sort of Lifetime Achievement Award for appearances on toy-related Topless Robot lists.
Geeks have always been attentive whenever a female action figure is made with an accidental variant in which the factory forgets to paint the crotch area and leaves it flesh-colored. While there are plenty of actual figures of porn stars with sculpted genitalia, it's these variants of mainstream figures that catch collectors' notice.
The first and still most famous example is "Party" Angela, who has appeared on Topless Robot lists twice before. Spawn's angelic adversary was released in 1995, back when the adult action figure market was exploding and the slightest factory variation would send a figure's price skyrocketing.
A few years later, a Stephanie McMahon figure from JAKKS' WWE line had the same sort of wardrobe malfunction, which was a bit creepier in that the figure was based on a real person (well - 99% real, 1% silicone).
Mysterious and horrible deaths were a cornerstone of Fringe since the show's very first episode, when a biological toxin crystallized the bodies of an entire planeload of people -- and we were introduced to Fringe Division, a government task force that investigates strange phenomena, including the existence of a parallel universe much like our own ... and yet very much not.
With the release today of the Fringe complete series box set on DVD and Blu-ray (as well as the box sets for the final season), you can relive five seasons' worth of icky weirdness as FBI agents Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), mad "fringe scientist" Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son/handler Peter (Joshua Jackson), along with Fringe boss Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and other allies, deal with such gruesome demises as people suddenly dissolving into ash, getting consumed by flesh-eating skelter beetles, or becoming horrific mutants after a bad guy merges a building on This Side with one from the Other Side using technology created by Walter and his former lab partner-in-crime, William Bell (Leonard Nimoy).
But along with the stomach-churning deaths of unfortunate unknowns, show creators J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci gave us deaths that were gut-wrenching in a whole different way, sprinkled with some truly well-deserved demises. Pretty much every major and supporting character on Fringe eventually met their ends ... and even though a lot of them came back, thanks to an ever-shifting mythology and timey-wimey plot shenanigans rivaled only by Doctor Who, these are the deaths that made the biggest impact. (WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE WHOLE SERIES.)
10. Olivia Can Kill You With Her Brain, Part 1
Thanks to series of experiments Walter and William Bell did on Olivia as a child, involving a drug called Cortexiphan, her brain can do remarkable things. She can cross between the parallel universes without any special equipment, start fires and control electricity, and move objects -- and even people -- with her mind.
Olivia's abilities have come in handy many times, but rarely more gratifyingly than at the end of Season 5, when the Fringe team finds itself in the year 2036 battling the Observers, a group of bald, suit-wearing, mind-reading time travelers from Earth's distant future, who have taken over the world. With help from a friendly Observer named September (Michael Cerveris), Walter develops a plan to defeat the invaders, and Olivia and Peter's adult daughter, Etta (Georgina Haig), works beside them in the fight.
But Observer leader Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa) is viciously determined to hang onto his prize -- and at the final hour, it looks like he's going to keep it. His troops have the resistance pinned down, he's nabbed the strange Observer child who is the key to Walter's plan and he makes short work of our heroes when they attack him.
"You never know when to give up," Windmark sneers at Etta earlier in the season. Unfortunately for him, neither does her telekinetic mother. Rarely has evil been so satisfyingly crushed.More >>