The Thirteen Greatest Fictional Snails

Friday, May 24, 2013 at 6:00 am


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The Dutch equivalent of "like molasses in January" is "als een slak op een teerton," or "like a snail on a tar-barrel." In As You Like It Shakespeare describes "...the whining schoolboy...Creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school." And of course, with the advent of email the conventional posting of letters became known as "snail mail."

All of which is to say that snails are slow, both proverbially and in fact. Thus the little creatures just aren't a natural fit with the hyperactive, quick-cut, short-attention-span idiom of contemporary pop culture.

Yet it's shaping up to be a higher-profile-than-average year for gastropods. The animated fantasy Epic, opening this weekend, features a comic-relief snail and a slug. And slated for July is Turbo, another animated feature, this one about a snail with racing ambitions. Then there's this distressing development.

Here are 13 other notable snails:

13. The Doorkeeper Snail in Pinocchio

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"Snails are never in a hurry," says this domestic of the Blue Fairy in Collodi's classic children's novel. She makes an exception in Pinocchio's case: it only takes her nine hours, while he waits outside in the rain and cold, to come down four flights and let him into the house. When he asks for something to eat, it's only a few more hours before she returns with a tray for him.

Apparently she was too slow to make it into Disney's 1940 film version; however there's a charming statue of her in The Pinocchio Park (Parco di Pinocchio), a tourist attraction in Tuscany.


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Five Characters We Want To See In Star Wars: Rebels (and Five We DON'T)

Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 6:00 am

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This week, Lucasfilm and Disney announced what many fans had been suspecting for some time; after pulling the plug on Star Wars: The Clone Wars earlier this year, Disney has greenlit a new animated series called Star Wars Rebels to air on Disney XD in fall 2014. In fact, the series has already begun production, and will be debuting preview footage at Star Wars Celebration in Europe this summer.Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class) will serve as an executive producer on the new series, and is writing the pilot.

Dave Filoni, who was the supervising director and lead creative force on Star Wars: The Clone Wars will also serve a executive producer, along with Greg Weisman, producer of fanboy favorite animated series like Young Justice,The Spectacular Spider-Man and Gargoyles. This animation dream team are setting the show during the "Dark Times" between Episode III and IV, and will be using the concept art from Ralph McQuarrie for the classic trilogy as a jumping off point for designing the look of the show. So far, all of this news takes a lot of the sting away from losing Clone Wars so abruptly.

Regardless of what one thinks of the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars animated series ended up being the best Star Wars anything since the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Series producer David Filoni took the lemons of the prequels and gave fans sweet lemonade in exchange, with over one hundred episodes showcasing the best CG action animation on television. Within months of Disney buying Lucasfilm, they cancelled Clone Wars, probably not wanting a Disney owned property on the Time-Warner owned Cartoon Network. Several episodes were already produced for a sixth season, but it seems that Disney was more interested in launching an all-new Star Wars series for their Disney XD channel than playing out one last season of an older show.

The fact that Rebels follows up Clone Wars chronologically means that this new show can be a sequel series in most respects,addressing the dangling plot points left hanging by the abrupt end of the Clone Wars this year, while still being its own show. Star Wars: Rebels can give fans a show set in the beloved timeline of the original movies (or at least closer to it) and please younger fans, for whom the animated series is the only Star Wars they know. And to start things off on a positive note, here are the five characters I most want to see return on Star Wars: Rebels when it makes its debut next year.

5. Darth Maul

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When last seen in the final season of Clone Wars, a resurrected Darth Maul was waging his own war on the galaxy as its newest crime lord, along with his brother Savage Oppress. (Yeah, Savage Oppress was a stupid name, but he was actually a cool character.) Of course, Darth Sidious didn't quite like his former apprentice mucking up his plans for the galaxy, and had already replaced him with Dooku, so in a rather awesome fight sequence, Sidious killed Maul's brother and subjected Maul to the old lightning torture routine. We are led to believe this would be the inglorious ending for Maul, but in a surprise twist, Palpatine decided to leave Maul alive for his own, as yet unknown purposes. I can only expect that Filoni had plans for Darth Maul in season six of Clone Wars, as Maul was obviously nowhere to be found in Revenge of the Sith, much less the original trilogy.

So, what if the Emperor's secret plan for Darth Maul was to use him to help the Empire hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi? And what if this puts him into conflict with Palpatine's official Sith apprentice, Darth Vader? The prospect of Darth Maul and Darth Vader, scouring the galaxy for hidden Jedi Knights, then eventually coming into conflict with each other, has to be too good of a prospect for Dave Filoni and the production crew to pass up. It's Star Wars fanboy porn, and it would address one of the biggest loose plot threads left over from the end of the last series.

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The Five Best/Worst Things About Microsoft's Xbox One (So Far)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 6:00 am

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In Redmond, WA, yesterday, Microsoft held their big press event to unveil their new console, officially named Xbox One. Overall the specs are pretty similar to the PS4: 8 gigs of RAM, cloud storage, no backwards compatibility, 4K output for movies (games unconfirmed), built-in motion tech, DVR ready, blah blah blah. Unlike the Sony conference, which ran long at two hours, Microsoft's was barely one, and to say they left us wanting is an understatement - their boldest move was actually showing the console. (Sony has only teased their plastic box in a recent commercial.) During those 60 minutes, most of the time was spent talking about the All-In-Oneness (oh, I get it now) of this miracle device they hope will be the main hub of your living room.

Games? Sure, the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, some sports titles and maybe one more. That was it.

So here's what I dug and what I found disappointing:

BEST:

5. It's Official: Original Programming is the Future of Everything.

We can probably look to Netflix as the one getting the ball rolling on this, but the future for streaming services is killer brand-name programming. (Can't wait for Arrested Development this weekend!) So Halo as a live-action series was a no-brainer, but having Steven Spielberg oversee its development is a nice surprise. Yes, the last show he produced was the floundering Smash on NBC, but a sci-fi setting is way more in his wheelhouse.

Plus, the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn web series that launched alongside Halo 4 was solid. I'm making assumptions here, but I would think the key is to use the live-action storylines as a way of expanding on the insanely huge online community of wannabe Spartans and Covenants, which probably means the Master Chief (or at least the version we're used to) will only show up sparingly. If you're a fan of Halo and buy the Xbox One, why wouldn't you watch this?

Added bonus: MSN is looking to revive Heroes for Xbox Live. Would the main cast come back? I'm betting not, since the cheerleader stars in Nashville and another is Spock nowadays.

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The Ten Heroes Most Unworthy Of Justice League Status (Who Joined Anyway)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

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The Justice League of America- The most elite super hero team of them all, if only for being home to arguably three of the six biggest super hero icons in the form of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. (and if you're wondering who the other three biggest icons are, that's easy; it's Spider-Man, the Hulk and now Iron Man. And that's just because even your grandma knows who they are. It's that simple.) Debuting in 1960, the instant success of the JLA led to the Silver Age of comics in earnest, which eventually led to the Fantastic Four and the birth of the Marvel Universe as well.

And for the first twenty three years or so of their existence, the League was the hardest club to get into, like one of those nightclubs in Vegas where everyone looks douchey, but everyone wants to get into anyway, just because they think it makes them look cool to be there, and they can then tell everyone they got in. Unlike their Marvel counterpart team the Avengers, the League rarely let new members in, and if you actually ever left the team, they even made you re-apply (ask Wonder Woman: after she quit they made her take trials to come back. And she's freakin' Wonder Woman.) In their first twenty-three years, the original founding seven-member team expanded to nine new members only. Almost all new additions to the team were characters that had been around awhile and had earned some kind of status. Arguably only the Red Tornado was a flat-out nobody when he joined, and he was kind of created to be an android mascot for the team in a way.

This all changed in 1984, when the original Leaguers retired, and let an assortment of all new lame-o characters join the ranks as their replacements. No one had heard of Gypsy, Vibe, Steel and Vixen before, and no one really wanted any of them as members of the once prestigious JLA. (Only Vixen really had a significant hero career afterwards, kind of like Gina Gershon after Showgirls.) Those new characters would be shuffled off pretty damn quickly, but the precedent had been set, and the JLA had opened the doors to their once exclusive team. The proverbial floodgates had been opened, and over the next two decades, the League would welcome fifty-seven new members, many of whom simply did not deserve to be on the team still labeled as the "World's Greatest Super Heroes" on the cover.The following are perhaps the characters most unworthy of ever being members of comicdom's premiere super team.

Oh, and before anyone just assumes Vibe is #1...he's not even on the list. It's sometimes just too easy to pick on Vibe.

10. The Silver Sorceress & Blue Jay

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Originally created as analogues of Avengers Scarlet Witch and Hank Pym over at Marvel, these two characters first appeared in an issue of Justice League of America way back in 1971. Marvel had just the year before introduced the Squadron Supreme, which were thinly veiled alternate Earth versions of DC's Justice League heroes. Wanting to show that two could play at that game, in 1971, DC themselves introduced three characters who were alternate versions of members of the Avengers: Silver Sorceress, who strangely seemed to wear brown and gold and not a shred of silver(at least Scarlet Witch wore scarlet); Blue Jay (a combo of the shrinking Ant Man and Hawkman); and Wandjina, an aboriginal God who was essentially a pastiche of Thor. In their first appearance, they were manipulated into fighting the JLA, who they were tricked into thinking were villains after their alternate Earth was destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

These three characters didn't appear again for fifteen years, until they showed up in the third issue of the Keith Giffen's revamped Justice League series, seeking to destroy all nuclear weapons and save our Earth from the fate that destroyed theirs. Wandjina soon died, but Sorceress and Blue Jay joined the League since they have nowhere left to go really, their Earth being nuked and all.

Sadly, these characters never really grew beyond just being poor man's copies of more popular Marvel characters, and Silver Sorceress was killed off a few years after her return in one of those annual Justice League crossover events, since those things always needed someone to fill the role of cannon fodder/sacrificial lamb. Usually the characters no one cares about are the ones that are the first to go (see: Vibe.) Or just maybe no one was threatened by her helmet that looked like little floppy bunny rabbit ears.

Blue Jay more or less went into limbo soon after, where he stayed for another fifteen or so years, before making one last appearance in James Robinson's Justice League of America title, just prior to the New 52 relaunch. Blue Jay decided at the end of that story to fly off into the Multiverse, searching for a world that might appreciate him more than the main DCU Earth did. Good idea Blue, nobody really cared about you around those parts anyway.

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Shouldn't she be called the gold and brown Sorceress? And girl...them floppy bunny ears aren't working for ya.

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Nine Things From Doctor Who Series 7 (Part Two) That We Still Need to Talk About

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 6:00 am

[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]

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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

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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.

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7 Great Works of Classic Literature Turned into Video Games

Friday, May 17, 2013 at 6:00 am

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.

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The 10 Best Elseworlds Stories

Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 6:00 am
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DC Comics used to be chock full of experimental "Imaginary Stories" that took place outside of mainstream continuity - not that they were that concerned about things making sense. Imaginary Stories had been kiboshed once DC tightened its hardly-buckled continuity belt in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but that didn't stop its creators from dreaming up scenarios that couldn't fit within the streamlined status quo. The solution was to launch the Elseworlds imprint as a means of telling independent alternate reality tales which either re-imagined established characters in new contexts or showed the effect that changing key events would have on the DC universe.

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

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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!


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15 Awesomely Silly Star Trek Comic Book Covers

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

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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.

(Thanks to mycomicshop.com for being the source of many of these.)

15) Worst. Alien. Ever.

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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.


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12 DC Comics Properties That Shouldn't Get New 52 Ongoings

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 6:00 am

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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.

1) Goldrush

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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.


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The 10 Best Superhero Board Games

Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:00 am

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

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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.

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