Archive for April, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse and You


If you have zero firsthand experience with a sudden outbreak of the undead, never fear! The wonderful people at Phenotrans, the pharmaceutical company behind the anti-zombie medication Zombrex, have been kind enough to provide us with this helpful Health and Safety poster so you’ll know exactly what to do when the time comes.

Dead Rising 2 is a copyright and trademark of Capcom Co., Ltd. and Blue Castle Games.

The Materia Girl


Many people have had a dream where they’re naked in public. But what happens when everyone else is naked too?

Yessir, those're some nice, soft, round, supple Materia right there.

This pleasant dream has been brought you by Ryan Kinnaird and PlayStation Magazine (PSM) #25 (September 1999).

Kombat Kollektable Kountdown – Part 4 of 4


With the imminent arrival of the ninth Mortal Kombat game today, I thought it only fitting to devote the final entry in this four part retrospective to the release of the original game on console and portable systems 18 years ago on September 13, 1993 – a date better known to those who were there as Mortal Monday – and the media circus that ensued.

To the current generation of gamers, the ESRB is a ubiquitous presence and massive fanfare surrounding the releases of major titles is a given. But, back then, there was no video game ratings system and the big two were caught in an endless struggle for dominance, with Nintendo enforcing draconian censorship rules on one side and Sega continuously pushing the envelope on the other. So when Acclaim launched a massive advertising campaign celebrating the upcoming release of their ports of Mortal Kombat– one of the bloodiest, most violent, and popular titles of the day – and journalists, concerned parents, senators, Captain Kangaroo, and anti-video game violence advocates jumped on the bandwagon…you can pretty much imagine the insanity that ensued.

Mortal Monday ended up being a pivotal moment in video game history, with the massive fallout from the media fiasco hastening the formation of the ESRB the following year. And many gamers reveled in the schadenfreude of having front row seats to the public breaking of Nintendo’s spirit when the technically-superior-yet-mercilessly-neutered Super NES “Competition Edition” of the game was crushed in the sales department by the Sega Genesis “Tournament Edition” one. Remember kids: “Morality may help you sleep well at night, but it sure as hell won’t line your pockets with cash.”

But enough with the history lesson…it’s time for today’s collectable! Or, more correctly said, collectables, as everyone who preordered a copy of the game all those years ago received a box of goodies in the form of the Mortal Kombat Kit. which, as you’ll soon learn, sounds more impressive than it actually is.

Each of these packages contained the following six items:

1. Temporary Tattoos of Goro, the Mortal Kombat Dragon Enblem, and the Mortal Kombat logo.

2. An orange Mortal Kombat Dragon Emblem Sticker.

3. A Mortal Kombat Sweepstakes Entry Form, which players could mail in for a chance to win free swag such as t-shirts, hats, and comic books, with the grand prize being a Mortal Kombat arcade machine.

4. A small Mortal Kombat Dragon Emblem Button.

5. Mortal Kombat Trading Cards
featuring Super NES screenshots of the characters performing special moves or Fatalities on one side, and black and white artwork by John Tobias with biographical information – both cribbed from the pages of the Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition Comic Book – on the other.

6. A reversible Mortal Kombat Poster. While the front was little more than promotional propaganda for Acclaim and Midway, the back – which carried the title “The Art of Kombat” – was a massive table containing biographies, strengths, weaknesses, strategies, combos, and a complete list of moves for the games’ characters for all four home versions of the game (Super NES, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Nintendo Game Boy).

You know, I say this with the full realization that I’m going to come off sounding like an old codger, but kids these days don’t know how good they have it. If you preordered the current version of the game, you could end up getting such delightful toys as an arcade stick controller, an artbook, exclusive downloadable content, bookends, or a collectable figurine depending on where, when, and how much money you invested. Compare and contrast this with what I got when I was their age, which is barely one step above what you’d get in a loot bag from a six-year-old’s birthday party by modern standards. πŸ˜›

Kombat Kollektable Kountdown – Part 3 of 4


If you were here for the last exciting installment of this four part series, chances are that you’ll remember this screen:

In case you're wondering, those prices would be the equivalent of $19.25 U.S., $7.73 U.S., and $4.64 U.S. in 2011 U.S. Dollars. Woo hoo, way to go, runaway inflation!

Since the Mortal Kombat II: Music from the Arcade Game Soundtrack has already been showcased, it’s time to shift our focus towards the other two items that were up for grabs, namely the comic books.

The Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Edition Comic Books were one-shots exclusively available by mail order from the Midway Manufacturing Company (at least initially; the first issue was later allegedly made available through regular retail outlets). The former had a wraparound cover featuring all of the major characters from the first game (minus Shang Tsung), while the latter’s front cover was a photographic composite version of the “lighting strike dragon logo” from the second game’s title screen. Both featured artwork by series co-creator John Tobias.

As the content of these one-shots is extensively covered in the Mortal Kombat (comics) entry on Wikipedia and complete scans of dubious legality have been made available for download online, I’ll forgo any detailed summaries here. What really makes them interesting, however, is the fact that they expanded upon events only mentioned in passing in the characters’ biographies and endings as well as in the attract mode’s plot summaries. The end result was an elaborate backstory that tied the histories and destinies of all the combatants together to form a complex whole, a level of complexity that its rival for arcade fighting game dominance at the time, Street Fighter II, couldn’t hope to match. (At the time, anyway. Capcom has greatly expanded upon the fictional universe of their flagship series over the course of numerous sequels and with the help of myriad official sourcebooks since those days, though retcons, revisions, and the piecemeal manner in which said backstory was revealed has made continuity rather complicated, to say the least.)

In the nearly twenty years since these comics were released, the first comic book has managed to retain its canonical status while the second one has more or less lost it. Not that the latter was on solid ground to begin with: it contained plot elements that were directly contradicted by Mortal Kombat II‘s biographies of Scorpion and Sub-Zero well before Johnny Cage‘s summary of the outcome of the first tournament and the events immediately following it were completely contradicted by the game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. It’s a shame, really, considering that the Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Edition Comic Book made some interesting contributions to the series’ mythology, such as featuring the only appearance of Goro‘s father King Gorbak, a rare depiction of Shao Kahn without his trademark horned skull helmet, and Sub-Zero mentioning the increased use of technology by the Lin Kuei, the last of which would become a major plot point in Mortal Kombat 3 when it came to the origins of the cyber ninjas Cyrax, Sektor, and Smoke.

Of course, all this may be a moot point considering that the ninth Mortal Kombat game is a reboot of the series, wherein the future version of Raiden’s dying act of contacting his past self creates a revised timeline where events unfolded differently from what we’re familiar with. As of this writing, no one’s sure exactly when the point of divergence occurs, so it’s still anybody’s guess as to how much of the original Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition Comic Book is still canonical. I guess we’lll find out in 48 hours, won’t we?

On a lighter note, the comic books contain a number of in-jokes in the form of references to Midway’s then-current staff:

  • Johnny Cage’s shares his real name, John Carlton, with a graphic artist who worked on NBA Jam, among other things.
  • Series creators Ed Boon and John Tobias and Mortal Kombat II background artist Tony Goskie appear on the set of the “Cage’s Cologne” commercial as the director, cameraman, and set designer, respectively. The latter even humorously laments about how the sudden appearance of Shang Tsung’s interdimensional portal is “wreckin’ his backgrounds”.
  • Series art director Steve Beran makes an extensive appearance as Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs‘ partner, a lieutenant in the United States Special Forces, who ends up being murdered by Mileena on Shang Tsung’s orders (and whose death prompted Jax to participate in the second tournament) . Based on the fact that all that was left of him was a pile of bones, we can safely assume that he fell victim to her infamous “Man Eater” Fatality.

By the way, for those of you who’re wondering, the John Tobias autograph on my copy of the Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Edition Comic Book is not a standard feature; it was sent to me as a special thank you due to the lengthy processing time for my order, as the following document attests to:

Because of your long wait, we are sending you one of the special autographed copies of (the) MK2 comic signed by John Tobias as his thank you for your patience. We really appreciate it.

That was a pretty nice gesture, don’t you think? πŸ™‚

Kombat Kollektable Kountdown – Part 2 of 4


If you happened to pass a Mortal Kombat II arcade cabinet in the mid-1990s while it was in attract mode – no easy feat considering how popular the game was at the time – chances are that you caught a glimpse of this screen:

Before the Internet, this was how e-advertising worked.

Though they’ve become more prevalent in the last two decades or so, video game soundtracks were pretty rare back then, especially ones that didn’t originate from Japan (or Asia in general). The Mortal Kombat II: Music from the Arcade Game Soundtrack was one of a handful that I remember being released in that era with this distinction next to DK Jamz: The Original Donkey Kong Country Soundtrack, and, even then, both of them were only available via mail order.

While this title is long out of print, given the ubiquitous nature of digital music on the Internet, those who’re interested in finding it know that it’s only a quick Google search and (torrent) download away. What’s less common are pictures of the inserts and the CD itself, so I’ve decided to address that imbalance by posting some images here:

Incidentally, if you happen to own this CD, I strongly suggest that you take good care of and keep a close eye on it. I only recently learned from a good friend of mine that it’s somewhat rare and routinely commands somewhere between four to eight times its original purchase price on eBay…

Kombat Kollektable Kountdown – Part 1 of 4


To celebrate both the upcoming release of the 9th(!) entry in the Mortal Kombat series of games on April 19, 2011 (April 21, 2011 in Europe) as well as the fact the franchise is being rebooted/retconned, I thought that it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane and take a look at what the fandom was like when it all began by showcasing some memorabilia from my personal collection.

In the April 1994 issue of Video Games: The Ultimate Gaming Magazine, there was an extremely interesting article called Mortal Kombat II: Behind the Scenes, which, true to its name, featured never-before-seen background information and photographs from the set of the second game, complete with profiles of the actors (and actress) who helped bring it to life. Aside from being truly fascinating stuff, one thing that caught my eye almost immediately was the following sidebar on the first page:

Postcards for entering contests? How delightfully quaint!

Now, I’ve never been a particularly lucky person when it comes to winning things, but I pretty much figured “What the hell?” and sent in a couple of postcards. When the month of May came and went with no indication of whether or not I’d won, I became resigned to my fate as a contest loser and pretty much forgot all about it. Imagine my surprise when, in late October or early November of that same year – a full six months after the drawing took place – I receive the following item out of the blue in the mail:

This is what pure awesome looked like in 1994.

While I didn’t get one of the special five issues featuring a Raiden sketch by Carlos Pesina – if I did, then said drawing is buried so deeply in the magazine that it continues to elude me after 17 years of searching – this was still a pretty darn cool thing to have. What it did come with, however, was a letter from the publisher with a rather unique request: they asked me if I could send in a photograph of myself holding my prize for publication in an upcoming issue. And so, a full year after the MK II Autograph Kontest drew to a close, the following sidebar appeared in the April 1995 issue of Video Games: The Ultimate Gaming Magazine:

Looks like the other six winners couldn't be bothered to send their pictures in. Ungrateful bastards.

So, which one of the four contest winners am I? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it…? πŸ˜‰

The Root of Hatred


After taking J. Jonah Jameson to court for libel and being asked on the stand about what the source of the publisher’s animosity towards him might be, Spider-Man comes up with a rather poignant and thoughtful response.

You know, the fact that J. Jonah Jameson had a Hitler-esque toothbrush mustache for years probably didn't win him any brownie points here.

Today’s lesson in racial tolerance courtesy of She-Hulk #4 (August 2004) by Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo, and Marcelo Sosa.

Misery Loves Company


Spider Jerusalem has seem pretty unique ideas about nostalgia and passing it forward.

Yeesh. Makes you wonder what he'd have done if it were a crappy bar...

Today’s example of schadenfreude courtesy of Transmetropolitan #1 (September 1997) by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, and Jerome K. Moore.

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