Sunday, May 8, 2016

Geekdom Madness 2016 - The Real Game: We All Wear Masks/Sabotage

We got a slew of troublemakers this week.

Let's reacquaint ourselves with the combatants:

MATCH 1: We All Wear Masks


The Green Goblin was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for Amazing Spider-Man #14 in July of 1964. Lee's original idea for the character was of a mythological demon set loose by a film crew, but Ditko felt he would be better as a human villain and changed it at the last second without Lee's input.

The Goblin's identity was not revealed in his debut issue, and as he proved popular enough to become a recurring villain, much was made about his secret identity and the mystery surrounding it. Lee and Ditko disagreed over the endgame, however - Lee wanted the Goblin to be someone Peter Parker/Spider-Man knew personally, while Ditko wanted it to be an unknown civilian (though Ditko later revealed he had been considering "jolly" J. Jonah Jameson, Peter's newspaper editor and avowed Spider-Man hater, as the Goblin's eventual identity).

By the time Ditko left the series in issue #38, Stan Lee wanted the mystery to finally be over. In the very next issue, he and new artist John Romita Sr. set about to reveal the true identity of the Green Goblin as: Norman Osborn, shady industrialist and father of Peter Parker's new college pseudo-rival (and later best friend) Harry Osborn. Norman had been created by Ditko just two issues prior in order to be set up as a red herring in the Goblin mystery, but Lee was adamant that Norman should be the Goblin.

As the characters merged, it became very clear just how much of a lasting threat Norman/Goblin really was, and just to what states of depravity he could sink. It all came to a head in Issues 121 and 122 in 1973 when he kidnapped Parker's then love-interest Gwen Stacy and set in motion the events that would lead to her death - the first of such a character in comics since the invention of the comics code. It would also see his own famous "death", being impaled on his own glider in the aftermath of Stacy's demise.

While many characters since would take up the mantle of the Goblin - most notably Harry Osborn himself and fashion designer Roderick Kingsly as the palette-swapped Hobgoblin - Norman's legacy endured, and he was eventually brought back in the mid 1990's in order to satisfactorily wrap up the ill-received "Clone Saga" storyline. His famous "death" was revealed to have been circumvented by his Goblin formula's healing factor, and he had been hiding in Europe in the interum - building up a power base and pulling strings from afar. Both of his identities have been at the center of the Marvel universe ever since.

As arguably the top corner in Spider-Man's trifecta of arch-nemeses (the others being Doctor Octopus and, in more recent times, Venom), the Green Goblin will eventually appear in any and all Spider-Man media, though Norman himself only begins to appear in more recent work. Norman's Green Goblin has been played in various media by (in no particular order): Len Carlson, Dennis Marks, Neil Ross, Alan Rachins, Steve Blum, Steven Weber, Willem Dafoe, Chris Cooper, Peter Lurie, Roger L. Jackson, Jim Cummings, Armin Shimerman, Yuri Lowenthal, Tom Kenny, Nolan North, and John DiMaggio.


Rorschach/Walter Kovacs was created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons for the 1986/1987 comic miniseries "Watchmen". DC Comics had just the year prior received the license to use classic Charlton Comics characters, and Alan Moore submitted his unsolicited proposal to write a murder mystery based around them. DC liked the plot, but didn't want the characters they just paid for to be irreparably damaged by Moore's dark storyline so they accepted on the caveat that Moore transform the characters into original ones.

Rorschach is an embellished analogue of Steve Ditko's The Question (himself a comics code-friendly adaptation of another Ditko character named Mr. A). Moore set out to create the "quintessential Ditko character", with an odd mask and an odd real name with a K in it. Ditko was an avowed disciple of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and while Moore stats that he respects Ditko's differing beliefs, carrying the right-wing philosophies through to their conclusion on top of a Batman-esque vengeance-filled vigilante resulted in what Moore could only describe as "a nutcase" (Ditko himself said of Rorschach when he saw the comic: "[He's] like Mr. A, only Rorschach is insane."). Rorschach's writing and peculiar speech were inspired by the Son of Sam letters and obscure 50's comics character Herbie the Fat Fury respectively.

Watchman would be hailed for years to come as a revolutionary deconstruction of superhero comics and the trade paperback collection of the series became one of the best-reviewed and best-selling graphic novels of all time, with Rorschach being one of its most recognizable characters. Watchmen being dear to Moore's heart and Moore's distaste with less-than-stellar adaptations of his other works has lead to adaptations in other media being nonexistent until director Zach Snyder made as faithful a film adaptation as possible in 2009 (though the reception among fans was still mixed). In this adaptation, Rorschach/Kovacs is played by Jackie Earle Haley, who would reprise the role in the companion video game "Watchmen: The End is Nigh." Zach Snyder's son Eli played Young Walter in flashbacks.


MATCH 2: Sabotage


The Roadrunner (as well as his longtime nemesis Wile E. Coyote) was created by Chuck Jones and Micheal Maltese in 1948 and first appeared in the 1949 short "Fast and Furry-ous".

The cartoon was originally meant to be a scathing parody of "cat-and-mouse" chase cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. Ironically, the resulting series would become a staple of the genre and Jones would decades be hired to create a series of Tom and Jerry shorts.

The Roadrunner exemplified the unattainable, being able to break laws of gravity and physics that Wile E. could not. Interestingly, Roadrunner could perform no aggressive action outside of timely calls of his trademark "Beep Beep!", in order to make it clear that Wile E.'s woes were strictly brought on by himself.

Aforementioned trademark "Beep Beep!" was the voice of background artist Paul Julian, who was recorded imitating car horns by editor Treg Brown one afternoon. Brown liked the sound enough that he would eventually use it in the Roadrunner shorts, and as the Roadrunner never makes any other noise (aside from a cork-popping sound when sticking his tongue out rapidly) it is still in use to this day.


Gremlins were created by Chris Columbus for the 1984 film "Gremlins." His inspiration came from his loft, when at night "what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy". He combined this feeling with the World War II Gremlin myth about planes breaking down because of little monsters (previously explored in various media such as Roald Dahl's book "The Gremlins," the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Falling Hare", and the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"), and wrote the original screenplay to shop around. He eventually caught the attention of Steven Spielberg. Spielberg loved the idea and decided to produce the film, tapping Joe Dante to direct because of Dante's work on horror-comedy "The Howling."

The iconic design was created by special effects artist Chris Walas, and was later updated by Rick Baker for the 1990 sequel "The New Batch." While many of Baker's puppets exist in museums, it was Walas' original molds used to make puppets for the creature's first appearance since - in a commercial for a British business company.

The original film was a smash hit, inspiring not only a slew of copycats such as "Critters" and "Ghoulies" but also, along with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", the MPAA's PG-13 rating. The second had modest success. A third has been in development hell ever since (some report Dante not wanting to give into studio pressure for CG Gremlins, though this may just be rumor spread by the Anti-CG crowd).

Frank Welker voiced the head Gremlins Stripe in the first film and Mohawk in the second, while Tony Randall voiced the "Brain" Gremlin in the second film. Other random Gremlins across both films were voiced by Micheal Winslow, Peter Cullen, Bob Bergen, Fred Newman, Mark Dodson, Bob Holt, Micheal Sheehan, Kirk Thatcher, Joe Dante, and Nancy McConner.


Final Verdict
I have a clear favorite for Match 1, but I'm torn about Match 2. In hindsight I probably should have given a shout out to Steve Ditko in Match 1's title - but it fits so well as it is. It's all up to you guys.

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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