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Mega Man doesn’t miss leg day

Capcom/NintendoWhile digging through some of my old artwork (and trying not to get too depressed about it), I recalled that a lot of my character and mechanical design ideas in the late 1990s and early 2000s were strongly influenced by one source considerably more than others: Mega Man.

You already know it’s my favorite video game franchise, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. When creating my various artworks, I was pulling inspiration from the Mega Man X series the most, with a little bit of classic series flavor here and there.

In particular, the oversized lower legs/boots found on Mega Man and other characters within the games appealed to me. That design always gave me a sense of a rock-solid (no pun intended) foundation and stability, not to mention power. The same usually applied to their gauntlets and arm cannons. It’s important to note that the big-limbed look increased as the games went on — X and friends often had boots larger than their torsos and heads combined! — and only recently has it been scaled back to more “classic” proportions (as seen in the Super Smash Bros. Mega Man art above). Thus, this style often appeared in my work as an homage to the Blue Bomber, often deliberately, but sometimes from the depths of my subconscious.

So what did I do with this inspiration? Well, prepare for a bunch of my terrible artwork. Apologies in advance.

During my sophomore year of college, I switched my major to graphic design and began drawing all sorts of random crap as a matter of course. First up is some random robot/armor, and it looks like it could’ve been cannon fodder in a Mega Man X game.

Defragmentor precursor

Shortly thereafter, I was dreaming up the idea of a comic book called Decon Squad. While the final character designs were slim and streamlined, one of the earliest pieces of concept art looked like this.

Decon Squad concept

Heavy boots with knee guards? Those were straight out of the X series, too. That messy haircut, not so much. That was just thrown in place because I couldn’t draw eyes or faces for shit.

Moving on, here’s an inked sketch from Resurgence, my senior project in college.

Giant robot vs Asyla

That giant robot was patterned after Magnet Man from Mega Man 3, one of my favorite bosses from that game. In case the homage wasn’t clear enough, the Resurgence folder containing all of the project files on my old Power Mac G3 even had a Magnet Man sprite as its custom icon. Over fifteen years, three hardware revisions, and at least eleven operating system upgrades later…it’s still there.

Later on, Mega Man’s influence crept into my work without my even realizing it. For example, there’s this random winged robot thing I sketched one day in 2002.

Winged mecha

I was just drawing for the sake of drawing, with no specific homages to Mega Man this time. The influence wasn’t conscious then, but it seems pretty clear now.

When I was working on the early stages of Breakfast at Timpani’s, the initial look of the Defragmentor character combined large boots and gauntlets with super-thin upper arms and legs, plus a Magnet Man-style torso. (Smaller feet, though!)

Silver Age Defragmentor

Successive designs for the character kept this theme going, though the final version eventually removed them in favor of a design more influenced by the Stikfas action figure line. However, I rebranded the old designs as Defragmentor’s “Silver Age” incarnation. I then drew a “Golden Age” Defragmentor many years after the demise of the comic strip, and…you guessed it…the big gauntlets were back.

Golden Age Defragmentor

Okay, so this post just ended up being an image dump until I ran out of steam. Welcome to my life. The point is, Mega Man was a big deal in my life in more ways than one, and the series’ influence on my artwork cannot be understated. I’ve wisely given up drawing, and Capcom has unwisely given up on making Mega Man games, but the history’s still there, at least.

Time in a state of Flux

Here’s a scary relic from the past: the first issue of Flux magazine from 1994. I remember seeing this on the racks at my local gaming shop back then, and given that the cover alone featured tons of the stuff I loved, it was an immediate impulse buy. I no longer have my original copy as I lost it a few years later, but I recently bought one on eBay…hence this post!

Flipping through pages I hadn’t laid eyes upon in nearly two decades sure brought back memories. The random artwork and cartoons, the blurry video game screenshots as was par for the course in print media back then, the dumb pranks and jokes, the fake ID from “Weehawken Community College” (yep, I made one)…such classic stuff. I read that issue countless times over the summer of ’94, only skipping over a scant few sections I just wasn’t interested in, such as the interviews with Stone Temple Pilots — this was post-Core, and I wasn’t keen on their later recordings — and the Beastie Boys. I was never a fan of those guys. Eat me.

Speaking of music, the alternative rock revolution was in full swing, but lo and behold, Flux had a hell of a lot of heavy metal coverage within its pages. There were interviews with Glenn Danzig, Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth, and Rob Zombie (this was back when White Zombie still existed!). There was even a review of Machine Head’s debut album Burn My Eyes, which was one of my personal soundtracks in 1994. (In fact, Flux‘s piece on the band was one of the reasons I bought it!) Print media coverage of metal was hard to find back then, so this was a welcome surprise. Not only that, the interview with Zombie focused on his vastly underrated artwork, which was incredibly cool.

Then there was the video games. Right up front was the impending home console release of Mortal Kombat II, and you know how I felt about that. Most of the gaming talk therein focused on the Sega Genesis and Super NES, but there was arcade coverage too, like Suzuka 8 Hours. Despite my never being a racing fan, I remember that game being fun to play in the arcades as you had to sit on a motorcycle replica. A listing of countless video game tips felt like padding even in ’94, but it was still a solid amount of material for a mag not completely devoted to the medium. I stumbled across an old cheesy favorite: an article where the Flux folk had athletes play video games similar to their professions, and more often than not, they sucked at the digital versions.

The video game coverage tied into a bunch of Star Wars articles, as by this point in time, quite a few awesome games from that universe were out in full force. Plus, word of the prequels was already making the rounds (though people thought the first film would hit in 1997, rather than 1999). If only we knew back then what a disappointment were were in for. But to my younger self, that didn’t matter; this was right around the time I was getting back into Star Wars via Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and the TIE Fighter PC game, so I was happy as a pig in shit for any new franchise news.

Last but not least, there was the mag’s spread of comic book stuff, which featured plenty of humor. This was when every publisher under the sun was throwing stuff against the wall to see what would stick, but Flux didn’t seem to play favorites. It loved and trashed big and small names alike with impunity. They ripped on silly superhero costumes, glorfied hot superheroines, grumbled about dumb plots, talked shop with Rob Liefeld, and had a cool preview of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time that I was most excited about. Comic book snobs will undoubtedly scoff at those last two in particular, but I never had a problem with either of ‘em. (Goddamned nerds.)

While I loved the subjects therein, Flux also heavily represents everything you hate about the 1990s, especially when it came to graphic design. Many of the pages are actually painful to look at; your eyes will strain to make sense of the jagged graphics, colors, and fonts. Even when such artwork was in its heyday, I found it a little annoying and distracting, but that wasn’t the point of the mag. Sure, Flux was all “extreme” and “in your face” and whatever other ’90s buzzwords you want to apply, but it was the content that I enjoyed. The presentation was just window dressing, really.

Having said that, some of the articles within don’t exactly stand the test of time. It’s clear in retrospect that they were really pandering to the teenaged male audience, and some of the writings in there are just plain dumb to read as an adult. Still, considering that I was the target market when I originally read the mag, I really can’t fault it too much. I loved Flux, and scoring that old copy made me love it all over again. The mag only ended up running a paltry seven issues, but I might just have to add the rest to my collection as well.

Anthropomorphic bladders

Okay, what the fuck? Behold, a drug commercial featuring a cartoon bladder:

Yes, the very organ in your body designed to hold liquid waste before you violently expel it out your crotchular orifice is now a whimisical animated character. I saw this commercial by accident while picking up breakfast at a local restaurant a few weeks back, and honestly thought I was hallucinating because I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet. But no, before a showing of Interstellar at my local theater, the ad popped up again before the previews began.

I understand that frequent urination is a medical problem, and that drugs to treat it are fair game for advertising. But why not just show someone running to the bathroom a lot, like other ads have? It’s pretty easy to get the message across that way. We don’t need this creepy goddamned visual aid. Worse yet, what the hell kind of horrible alternate universe does this poor woman live in, where no one else is disturbed beyond compare by a sentient cartoon urinary organ?! Even the woman’s doctor seems okay with it!

As if a living bladder dragging someone around isn’t horrifying and disgusting enough…it gets so much worse.

The advertisers have partnered with a smartphone app called “RunPee.” Based on the website of the same name, it’s designed to let you know at which point during a movie it’s best to take a piss break. This is supremely annoying for many reasons. First off, it’s rather insulting to the filmmakers that an app exists to literally point out sections of your movie that are apparently so boring that people should go to the bathroom instead.

Second, and this is the big one…this app encourages checking your goddamned phone during the movie. Sure, there’s a timer function on it so you can set it to vibrate whenever you should go drain the lizard, but how many people are actually going to do that? No, they’re going to sit and fuck with Facebook and the like while the glare from their screens annoys other patrons.

I can’t stress enough how much cellphone use in theaters bothers me. (Most public use of cellphones bugs the shit out of me, to be honest.) Now that companies — and soon theater chains — are actually promoting use of your phone during the film? Fuck that. This sort of behavior will absolutely guarantee that I’d never set foot in a theater again. It’s bad enough that ticket prices are ridiculous, and that movie theater crowds suck in general, constantly talking and otherwise being rude…but cellphones are the irritating frosting on the shit cake.

If you need to piss at the theater, just do it before or after the flick. Try not to load up on sodas and whatnot during the movie, as we’re all happier without your distractions, not to mention creepy cartoon bladders on the big screen.

Oddball childhood fears

Let’s celebrate Halloween the old-fashioned way: with a healthy dose of fear!

It’s no secret that I watch plenty of horror flicks during the Halloween season. While specifically setting aside time to view them on a routine basis during the fall is a somewhat recent tradition — only over the past ten to fifteen years or so — it’s not without precedent. I’d watch scary movies with groups of friends during high school and college (often in the background of Halloween parties), and when I was a younger kid, I’d try to find some on television late at night or when I was over a friend’s house, even though I forbidden from doing so by my parents. I certainly don’t blame them; when I was a child, I was naturally much more fearful of the world around me, and bits of movies and other stuff could frighten me. The last thing my folks wanted was to wake up to me screaming from a nightmare at three in the morning! Of course, that’s exactly what happened on those occasions I did not listen to reason. And thus, in the spirit of the season, here’s a few frightening things from my childhood that stick out in my mind the most.

  • Gremlins. Everyone loves this movie. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the little monsters themselves that scared me the most. Sure, they were nasty-looking and everything…but what really scared the shit out of me was Stripe’s grisly death scene. As if the slow melt into a rotting corpse wasn’t enough, his skeleton popping out of the fountain nearly gave me a heart attack. I couldn’t watch the movie at all for many years after that, but fortunately, I got over it by the time the sequel rolled around. When I saw Gremlins 2: The New Batch, I laughed my ass off.
  • Aliens. I saw this film before seeing the original Alien, as was common amongst my age group. As with the first film, the titular creatures are truly scary, and have cemented their place amongst the horror elite despite the science fiction setting. Before I’d even seen the movie, I knew what they looked like from magazines and such. But here’s where it gets weird: when I actually sat down to watch the movie with my old man shortly after it came out on home video, I got scared before any of the xenomorphs even appeared onscreen. This was definitely a case where my imagination grabbed the football and took off down the field. When I eventually watched the film in its entirety, it wasn’t nearly as scary, and rapidly became one of my favorite flicks…which it remains to this day.
  • Cows. Yeah, you read that right. I was apparently afraid of cows. I say “apparently” because I honestly don’t remember it; this was when I was a toddler, to hear my father tell it. (And he loves telling this story, many decades later. In fact, he still loves picking on me about Aliens and Gremlins, too!) However this irrational bovine fear started, my old man certainly put the cap on it: he hid behind a door in the dining room, and had my mother convince me there was a cow in there. I didn’t believe her, but curiosity got the better of me, and I timidly entered the room. I couldn’t see my dad, but he made a loud “MOO” noise that reportedly made me jump out of my own skin and flee. What the fuck?! Anyway, I don’t recall any of this, like I said. And I guess it’s all irrelevant anyway, because cows and their various products are delicious. I want a burger.

What monsters from the past scared you? Better fess up quick; they’re standing right behind you.

Science fiction literacy and idiocy

I’ve to come the realization lately that I can’t understand old science fiction novels. It’s not like I’m reading foreign translations, but for all the sense they’re making to my brain, they might as well be.

I grew up on classic science fiction, as my father read piles of the stuff in college, and saved all of his books in an old cardboard box…which I subsequently raided as a kid. Those were my escapes back then, as I didn’t have many friends nor was I allowed to have any video games and such. Anyway, I read through the pantheon of the greats: Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle…that list could go on and on all day. You get the idea.

Once in a while, I’ll nab a classic slab of literary scifi that I missed from the library. I’m not going to name specific titles; I already feel like enough of a moron without you people snickering at me for not understanding 200-page novels written in the 1960s. The point is that I’ll read some of this stuff, and I’ll feel completely lost. They’re not poorly written by any stretch; in fact, many authors’ command of literary devices is astonishing, resulting in rich worldbuilding and characterization.

Which, sadly, is apparently too much for my brain to handle. I don’t get it; I didn’t have a problem in the past. The only explanation I can think of is that maybe it’s because a lot of modern science fiction that I enjoy is written more like a dramatic television show or big-budget action movie. (Given how idiotic most blockbusters are nowadays, I’m probably not helping my case.)

Or, maybe I’m just growing dumber with age. (Don’t you dare patronize me.) All of the junk I’ve crammed into my mind over the years is probably overflowing, anyway, and stuff’s bound to slough off. I wish I could ditch the bad stuff rather than things I enjoy or other useful skills, though.