Sunday, May 1, 2016

Geekdom Madness 2016 - The Real Game: Return of Wizard's Duel/Theory or Practice

Welcome to Geekdom Madness 2016: The Real Game. Our first matches: Slimy Mudholes and Booksmarts vs Streetsmarts.

Let's reacquaint ourselves with the combatants:

MATCH 1: Return of Wizard's Duel


Yoda was created by George Lucas for the 1980 film "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back." While Lucas had his friend and mentor Irvin Kershner direct the film after directing the first film stressed him almost to the point of overload, he still oversaw and had final approval over each step of production.

After killing off Obi-Wan Kenobi in New Hope at Alec Guiness' suggestion, Lucas had a problem with his second half that he had nobody to finish Luke Skywalker's Jedi training. Lucas quickly created the character of Yoda to fill that void, and imbued him with all manner of "wise old martial arts master" tropes. Yoda started off life as an averaged-sized or even huge alien being before the design team started to move into a small, elf/gnome/goblin direction, playing on our expectations on one of the most powerful beings in the universe.

Like many of his alien creations before and since, Lucas wanted the audience to feel like Yoda was a character more than a special effect. To that end, Yoda was realized as a (for its time) realistic puppet designed by Stuart Freeborn and performed by veteran Muppeteer Frank Oz, who also gave the character a voice not dissimilar from his Grover from Sesamie Street. Yoda quickly became a fan-favorite and one of the most recognizable characters in the Star Wars franchise. Oz would continue to puppeteer Freeborn's puppet in 1983's Return of the Jedi, and a redesigned "younger" puppet built by Nick Dudman in 1999's The Phantom Menace. For Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith (2002 and 2005, respectively), head of animation Rob Coleman designed a Computer Generated Yoda that better captured the likeness and feel of the original Freeborn puppet while allowing better range of movement and the ability to participate in swordplay.

Frank Oz would also continue to voice the character's memorable raspy, backwards speech for the remainder of the franchise's live-action films (including what sounded like archived footage in Disney's/J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens), as well as a few cameos in Disney's Rebels. For most other official appearances of the character, including both iterations of the Clone Wars TV series and the pilot film for the second, Yoda is voiced by Tom Kane.


Professor Severus Snape was created by by Joanne "J.K." Rowling for her 1997 novel "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." Snape was set up to appear as the book's main antagonist until the final chapter revealed him as a red herring. He continued as a foil for the remainder of the series, with readers always questioning his true loyalty until the very end of the final installment. These enigmatic and seemingly disparate moments of heroism and villainy have lead to the character's overwhelming popularity in the fanbase.

Snape's default nasty disposition and mastery of potions was inspired by an "unpleasant chemistry teacher" Rowling had in secondary school, though he quickly grew far more complex and layered as Rowling developed her notes and outlines for the series to come. His first name means "stern" in Latin, and is the root of the English word "severe". It was a Roman cognomen, common to members of the Severan dynasty of Emperors, including one notorious for his harsh persecution of the early Christians. Rowling has said that she took the surname Snape from an English village in Suffolk. There is also a village called "Snape" in Yorkshire, which was rebuilt by the emperor, Septimus Severus. Snape is also an English verb meaning "to be hard upon, rebuke, snub", derived from the Old Norse "sneypa", "to outrage, dishonour, disgrace". Interestingly J.K. Rowling used to live in Clapham Junction at the time of her starting to write the first book. Opposite Clapham Junction station is a road named Severus Road, though it is unknown if this is simply a coincidence.

In all official appearances, adult Severus Snape was portrayed by the late, great Alan Rickman. Rickman was Rowling's first choice for the role, though he was far older than the character's stated age and the studio had initially offered it to Tim Roth (who turned it down for Tim Burton's re-imagining of Planet of the Apes). In her initial meetings with the cast, she told Rickman what only she knew at the time - Snape's true allegiance and motivation. As a result, Rickman imbued this knowledge into every moment, sometimes to the confusion of his directors, making his one of the best and most memorable in the films.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fifth-Year Snape was played by Alec Hopkins during "Snape's Worst Memory." In the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, memories of primary-school-aged Snape were played by Benedict Clarke.


MATCH 2: Theory or Practice


Michelangelo was created along with his fellow Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Starting life as a sketch mocking the darker atmosphere in comics at the time (particularly Frank Miller's run on "Daredevil"), Eastman and Laird used their tax refund to publish a single comic. The series soon became a modest underground success until 1987, when Eastman and Laird were approached by Playmates Toys with merchandising options. The action figures were molded, a more child-friendly cartoon was produced by Fred Wolf, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because a worldwide phenomenon.

In the first issue of the comic, all the turtles except for Raphael were fairly interchangeable (even having the same color bandanas). Starting with the second issue, personality traits began to slowly emerge, and Michelangelo was depicted with a fun-loving and carefree streak to clash with Raphael's sullenness, and other recognizable aspects of his personality were fleshed out in an ensuing one-shot. Finally, it was the 1987 cartoon and 1990 film that cemented Mikey with his trademark exaggerated surfer-speak.

In the 1987 cartoon, Michelangelo is voiced by Townsend Coleman. He has been since voice in various animated appearances by Wayne Grayson, Johnny Castro, Mikey Kelley, and Greg Scipes.

Live-Action appearances usually have a different voice than the person in the costume. In the 1990s film series, Michelangelo is performed by Michelan Sisti in the first two and David Fraser in the third, while he is voiced by Robbie Rist in all three.  In the late-1990s television show "The Next Mutation," Michelangelo is performed by Jarred Blancard and voiced by Kirby Morrow. Finally, in the 2014 motion picture, Michelangelo was played by Noel Fisher in both body and voice using motion capture.


Edward Nygma/The Riddler was created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang in the October 1948 issue of Detective Comics as a gimmick villain obsessed with puzzles and leaving clues to his next crime.

While only appearing in two stories prior to the silver age, it was Frank Gorshen's funny yet menacing portrayal in the 1960's Adam West Batman series that cemented The Riddler as part of the A-List in Batman's rogues gallery. In that series, Gorshen's Riddler arguably surpassed even the Joker as Batman's chief nemesis, and was even shown intimidating the clown prince in the 1966 Batman movie based on the series. It was this popularity that led to the Riddler appearing iconically in other media, as well as with far more frequency in the comics themselves - eventually fleshing out his narcissism, obsessive-compulsiveness, and other traits that are considered the backbone of the character.

Some writers, most notably Bruce Timm and Paul Dini of "Batman: The Animated Series" fame, have stated that Riddler is difficult to write well, as despite his fatal flaws he really is the smartest guy in any room.

The Riddler has also been portrayed in various media by (in no particular order): Corey Micheal Smith, Ted Knight, Micheal Bell, Robert Englund, John Micheal Higgins, Dave Franco, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Brent Spiner, John Glover, Jim Carrey, Bruce Timm, Rob Paulson, Matthew Grey Gubler, Shannon McCormick, Jason Spisak, Tom Kenny, Roger Craig Smith, and Wally Wingert.


Final Verdict
Will the sympathy vote for the late Rickman surpass the rabid Star Wars mania that myself and most of my readers have? Will the voters find Michelaneglo's laid-back "Party Dude" style more endearing or annoying than Riddler's smug brainteasers? We'll find out at the end of the week.

As always, make sure you're viewing the WEB version of the site and vote in the polls (remember, there are two now) on the right-hand side of the screen. Polls close Friday at 5:00 p.m., and results posted on Saturday. Feel free to discuss your picks in the comments below.

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