|Like that old homosexual millionaire in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he wants Daphne to powder him up and spank him.|
Scooby-Doo mysteries aren't all that difficult to figure out, so I correctly guessed that Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated villain Crybaby Clown (Mark Hamill, as demented-sounding as always) was really movie star Baylor Hotner (Matt Lanter), who disguised himself in Norbit-style prosthetics as research for a role he coveted. But these mysteries usually aren't ambitiously serialized or stretched out for a few episodes, which sets Mystery Incorporated apart from previous incarnations of Scooby.
As Chris Sims notes at ComicsAlliance, Mystery Incorporated has taken a previously bland character like Fred--who's still voiced by Frank Welker--and used his blandness to reimagine him as an unexpectedly tragic figure (but not so tragic that he has an addiction to smack or picks up hitchhikers in the Mystery Machine and takes them to motels to torture them in order to feel alive).
"Fred is given a love of traps that comes off as about as one-note as Shaggy being hungry all the time. It's built for gags, giving him a funny obsession that [sic] so that he can be cheerily oblivious to Daphne's professions of love," writes Sims. "But as the show goes on, and it's revealed piece by piece that Fred's father has told him that his mother abandoned their family, his obsession with keeping things from getting away from him takes on a whole new light. It shifts from something that's pure comedy to a joke with an undercurrent of genuine sadness that grows ever larger as the truth about his life starts to come out."
a blogger over at Wired considers it "the true inheritor of the Buffy crown") or Genndy Tartakovsky's Sym-Bionic Titan, they really don't know what to do with it. The bizarre treatment of Mystery Incorporated as an afterthought is either because they have no clue how to market it or because they were probably soured by contract disputes with the show's producers, which delayed the second season. I'm not an industry insider, so I don't really know why Mystery Incorporated lapsed into Burnoff Theater.
|Hot Dog Water and Velma|
Also, Fred is getting to know his long-lost birth parents, "trap-making mystery solvers" Brad Chiles (Tim Matheson) and Judy Reeves (Tia Carrere), whose names are straight out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and whose non-verbal female puppy Nova is Scooby's first non-food-related object of affection. Brad and Judy are also former Mystery Incorporated members like Mr. E and local DJ Cassidy Williams (Vivica A. Fox). The fact that the couple is secretly in cahoots with Mr. E and the evil parrot Professor Pericles (Udo Kier), Scooby's predecessor as the team mascot--and their lack of remorse for sketchy past activities Cassidy still feels guilty about having been complicit in--are both bound to crush Fred's morale and leave him in a worse state than he was at the end of last season.
This rising conspiracy against the teens illuminates what Sims notes is a major theme of this show: "Adults are either outright liars or complicit in some kind of deception." And when these adults aren't just the costumed perps who are unmasked and busted by the team at the end of every episode and are figures whom Fred and his friends have placed their trust in--like Mr. E, Cassidy and now, Fred's real parents--it brings some genuine drama to the franchise's premise of teens who defy their fears to find the truth.
It's a cynical view of the world that Mystery Incorporated is amazingly unafraid to embrace, but to keep the show from being a total downer, the writers offset the ominousness of the rising conspiracy with humorous standalone storylines like a hilarious spoof of Andy Warhol--here, he's called Randy Warsaw (Billy West)--and his history as a control freak. In the funniest second-season episode so far, "Art of Darkness!," a perp with a grudge against Warsaw seizes control of his metal sculptures and uses them to attack and engulf models and singers Warsaw has molded into art-scene superstars, so Warsaw ends up replacing his missing emo art-rock star Eeko (Grey DeLisle) with Scooby. Warsaw sticks an Edgar Winter wig on the Great Dane and renames him Freako.
"That voice," purrs Warsaw when he first hears Scooby speak. "It's anti-art. Anti-music. It's--it's anti-words."
The sight of Scooby singing a droning, Velvet Underground & Nico-style tune is one of many reasons why--rut-roh--I'll miss Mystery Incorporated when Cartoon Network inevitably cancels it after this season is over.
|(Photo source: David Willis)|
Cartoon Network's Ben 10 superhero franchise for preteen viewers isn't my cup of tea, but I wanted to catch the first part of "The More Things Change," Ben 10: Omniverse's two-part series premiere (the conclusion will air together with part 1 when the series officially premieres on September 22), because it's one of the last things credited to the late Dwayne McDuffie, whom I got to briefly meet a couple of years before his death. McDuffie, a Ben 10 veteran whose '90s Milestone comics I enjoyed as a teen, received a "story by" credit with his wife and writing partner Charlotte Fullerton for "The More Things Change."
I'm not familiar with the Ben 10 cartoons. My only exposure to the franchise has been the last half-hour of Ben 10: Alien Swarm, one of Cartoon Network's live-action Ben 10 TV-movies. Alien Swarm featured Barry Corbin in a terrible hairpiece as Ben Tennyson's grandfather Max, a retired member of the intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Plumbers (fortunately, this group of Plumbers isn't afflliated with a right-wing dickweed who calls himself Joe). On Omniverse, Grandpa Max (Paul Eiding) has summoned a young alien Plumber named Rook Blanko (Bumper Robinson) to help out his grandson (Yuri Lowenthal), who's been bragging about not needing a partner to help him fight alien threats ever since his previous Plumber sidekicks, cousin Gwen (Ashley Johnson) and her boyfriend Kevin Levin (Greg Cipes), left for college.
Of course, Ben won't admit it, but he needs all the help he can get because even though he's become a capable hero like his grandpa due to the Omnitrix, the gadget on his wrist that allows him to temporarily assume the forms of powerful alien warriors, he doesn't have much control over the device. It doesn't give Ben the ability to choose which alien he wants to be, so he has to constantly improvise with whatever form the Omnitrix converts him into. It's like having Clive Anderson on your wrist, except instead of him telling you to act out a visit to the dry cleaner as a cowboy who speaks in questions only, he's turned you into a shape-shifting alien with a body made out of Lego blocks, and he doesn't speak and proceed to badger you with insults about your silly American ways or your short stature.
This wrinkle in the Omnitrix is a nice way of depowering Ben a la The Greatest American Hero because without the glitch, Ben's a boring and way-too-powerful superhero who does everything right. It's more interesting to have Ben figure out how to use new powers like the aforementioned Lego body (this persona, known as Bloxx, is a visual highlight, especially for any viewer like myself who grew up playing around with Legos) than to have him be familiar with his different personas and slip into them with ease.
I keep complaining about how frequently self-satisfied Spider-Man is on Ultimate Spider-Man, but at least he's a scientific genius, and his brains have saved his ass and his teammates' asses several times on the show, including during this week's "Snow Day" episode from writers Rich Fogel and Man of Action. Spidey's actually not the most obnoxious member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. trainee team. That would be egotistical dumbass Sam Alexander (Logan Miller), a member of the Nova Corps and Spidey's alpha male rival (blame executive producer Jeph Loeb for Sam, a Loeb creation who first appeared in comics form just last year).
Does Nova have any redeeming qualities like Spidey's scientific acumen? Not really--other than his energy blasts, which Spidey the science geek determines are the best way to defeat this week's villain Sandman (Dee Bradley Baker). Buckethead's not even a likable dunce like Texas over on Motorcity. (He has an irrational fear of bunnies that would be more amusing if it weren't copped from Anya from Buffy.) Sam's a smarmy, Slater from Saved by the Bell-esque dick whom Spidey and the other teammates are too kind and accommodating to. Spidey ought to leave a piece of Parker poop in Nova's helmet as prankish payback for actions like the mistake made by N to the Izz-O, V to the Izz-A in "Snow Day."
When Spidey, Nova, White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love), Power Man (Ogie Banks) and Iron Fist (Greg Cipes) are forced to report to Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) for a training session on a snow day, the teens decide to ditch Coulson's session outside in the rough winter weather. They pack their swimsuits and fly off to a tropical island that Sam chose from the S.H.I.E.L.D. database because he thought the database description of the island as "Classified" meant that it's a classy island.
How's it possible that this fool's both a Nova Corps patrolman and a S.H.I.E.L.D. member?
Ultimate Spider-Man excels at animating battles between the team and shape-shifting villains like Sandman. Now if only the show would give these baddies as much personality as they've given to annoying little Chibi Spidey.
Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward doesn't care if you find his show too weird and off-putting or too fond of genres that the youngest viewers aren't familiar with, like the noir genre. That's because like other creators of the best animated shows or films, he's not making Adventure Time just for those kids. If any of them don't get a kick out of "BMO Noire," then somewhere, someone who digs The Big Sleep and Kiss Me Deadly will.
|(Photo source: The Adventure Time Wiki)|
It's a detective story in which the gumshoe is basically talking to himself the whole time. Completely nutso? Hell yeah. It's also inspired. It feels like the 2007 Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai masterpiece Mad Detective, but without the high body count, the self-mutilation or the severed ears.
written by storyboarder Rebecca Sugar, and amusingly remixed it so that it contains a muted filter a la Drake producer Noah "40" Shebib.
While Adventure Time tackles the noir genre, Regular Show channels war movies (and at one point, the psychedelic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory boat ride sequence) in "Prankless." A collapsing-mattress prank by avid prankster Muscle Man that's meant for Mordecai goes awry and injures elderly man-child Pops (Sam Marin), the park owner's son with a lollipop for a head. Muscle Man feels so much remorse that he renounces practical jokes for good.
The green-skinned groundskeeper's retirement from pranks means trouble for Mordecai and Rigby's nameless park. As park manager Benson (also Marin) points out, without Mitch, the park becomes vulnerable to pranks masterminded by the rival park and its ruthless manager Gene (Kurtwood Smith). The Archie Bunker hat-wearing East Pines park manager is a walking and talking snack chip vending machine, while Benson is a walking and talking gumball machine.
Like I've said before, what sort of drugs are these Regular Show staff writers on?
Anyway, East Pines attacks Mordecai and Rigby's park with barrages of water balloons, whoopee cushions and tomatoes and sends planes to drop cherry pies on them. Expired bologna is the weapon of choice for Skips, the Mark Hamill-voiced white Yeti who talks like a cross between Harvey Fierstein and a Jersey plumber, while Mordecai and Rigby opt for Saran Wrapping the East Pines toilet seats. But they're unable to defeat Gene and his troops without Mitch the ultimate prankster by their side.
|(Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|