Posts Tagged ‘Speedy’

The Secrets of Wreck-It Ralph – Part 1: Easter Eggs

2013/11/08

Before Wreck-It Ralph premiered in theaters a little over one year ago this month, a couple of online articles – including one featured on GamesRadar – stated that the creative team was toying with the idea of including a trivia track pointing out all of the video game references in the movie when it was released on home video…something that was incentive enough for  me to preorder my copy of the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of the movie. So you can imagine how I disappointed I was to discover that the Blu-Ray special features only included a director’s commentary on deleted scenes from an extremely early version of the movie – which bears only a superficial resemblance to the finished product – and The Gamer’s Guide to Wreck-It Ralph, ten minutes’ worth of short segments narrated by Chris Hardwick that, while entertaining and informative, were the merest shadow of what a genuine trivia track could (and should) have been.

Well, if none exists, then make your own! So, in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the movie’s release, I’ve decided to write a two-part series filled with trivia about Wreck-It Ralph that other fans and I have stumbled upon after watching the movie way more times than can possibly be considered healthy for normal human beings. Please note that at least some of these easter eggs, especially the text-related ones, will require both a Blu-Ray version of the movie as well as a high definition, large screen television to be visible (and even then just barely).

1. Lies the Trailer Told Me

Movie trailers have become rather infamous for including footage that is taken out of context, misleading, or doesn’t even appear in the film itself. And Wreck-It Ralph is no exception. A hefty chuck of the dialogue and sequences in the original trailer seems to have been created just for it, including an external shot of Litwak’s Family Fun Center sign at around dusk…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-litwaksarcade001
…an armorless Wreck-It Ralph hiding behind a rock in Hero’s Duty (“Everything changes now!”)…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-everythingchangesnow001
…an unnamed soldier yelling at Ralph (“Get out of this game, buddy!”)…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-getoutofthisgamebuddy001
…and Ralph awkwardly riding Sgt. Calhoun’s cruiser to Diet Cola Mountain while being chased by Cy-Bugs (stills of which, in the following collage, have been slotted between the existing scenes from the movie to where they would’ve chronologically fit in).

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-ralphridingcruiser001
Then there’re some scenes that were altered for aesthetic reasons, such as Sgt. Calhoun being helmetless while speaking to the unnamed female gamer Moppet Girl, presumably so that viewers could get an unobstructed view of her face.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-calhounmoppetgirl001
What’s more surprising, though, is that many of the shots from the trailer which, at first glance, appear to have made it into the final movie unaltered actually aren’t. These differences range  from subtle, such as characters or background elements being added, removed, or positioned slightly differently…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-scenerydifferences001
…to more profound, such as certain scenes having been completely revised or rewritten. Some examples of the latter include the one where Ralph disembarks from the train upon his initial arrivial in Hero’s Duty

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-herosdutytraindescent001
…his frantic attempts to flee from the attacking Cy-Bugs and subsequent interaction with Moppet Girl through the First Person Shooter Robot (notice how the trailer features an in-game display name identifying Ralph as “Private Markowski: Explosive Specialist, Heavy Weapons Training”)…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-ralphmoppetgirl001
…his reaction to the Cy-Bug-destroying beacon (I think that the trailer’s version of this scene is more impressive than the one in the film, to be honest)…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-cybugbeacon001
Fix-It Felix Jr.‘s interaction with Calhoun and the explanation of why he came to Hero’s Duty (note that the background is also completely different in the trailer, with hexagons being the dominant shapes rather than triangles)…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-fixitfelixsgtcalhoun001
…the escape pod launch sequence (to say nothing of the completely redesigned launch bay area)…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-escapepodlaunch001
…and Ralph looking over a very different incarnation of Sugar Rush from the top of the cliff the shuttle crashed into (as opposed to surveying it from atop the branch of a nearby candy tree).

thesecretsofwreckitralph-traileronly-sugarrushdifferences001
2. High Score Symbolism

If you’ve seen The Gamer’s Guide to Wreck-It Ralph, you probably know that the high score seen on the Fix-It Felix Jr. game cabinet – 120501 – is a reference to Walt Disney’s birthday:  December 5, 1901. So it should come as no surprise that the high score seen on the home video release’s menu screens – 110212 – is also significant: it’s the date of the movie’s release in theaters: November 2, 2012.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-dvdmenuscreen001
3. Déjà Vu

If Fix-It Felix Jr. seems strangely familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that: the game is a pastiche of Donkey Kong, with Wreck-It Ralph and Fix-It Felix Jr. being the direct counterparts of the eponymous gorilla and Mario/Jumpman, respectively, the hero being a handyman of some sort – a carpenter/contractor as opposed to a carpenter/plunber – and using a hammer, and the idea of the villain climbing a building being just a few of the common elements shared by both games. These parallels even extend to the game cabinet designs and artwork themselves, as can be clearly seen in the following image:

Virtual Arcade: Level Two by Lunar Archivist

Virtual Arcade: Level Two by Lunar Archivist

4. Reaching Across Worlds

Never underestimate the resilience of Penny Forrester and George! The lipstick-stained contract from Paperman and one of the “Lost Dog” posters from Bolt are seen pinned to the bulletin board at the Bad-Anon meeting.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-badanonbulletinboard001
5. The Writing on the Wall

While Chris Hardwick pointed out a handful of these in The Gamer’s Guide to Wreck-It Ralph, here’re explanations for all the non-gamers out there of the remaining video game graffiti in-jokes and pop culture references seen scrawled on the walls of Game Central Station.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-gamecentralstationgraffiti001
Aerith Lives: A reference to the character Aerith Gainsborough and her heartbreaking death scene in Final Fantasy VII.

All Your Base Are Belong to Us!: The infamously mangled English translation of a line from the opening cutscene of the side-scrolling shooter Zero Wing.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-gamecentralstationgraffiti002
EZ Living: A reference to Extreme EZ Livin’ 2, a fictional game from an early version of the script that ended up being excised from the final film.

Free Pauline: A nod to Pauline, the damsel-in-distress whom Mario needed to rescue in the original Donkey Kong.

K.C. and Turbo: References to Turbo and his alter ego King Candy, respectively.

l33t and pwned: The leetspeek words for “elite” and “owned”, respectively. Humorously enough, these words appear prominently alongside of “K.C.” and “Turbo” in the above screenshots and could thus be interpreted as “K.C. l33t” and “Turbo Pwned”, hinting at upcoming events and later revelations in the movie.

Leerooooy and Jenkins: References to Leeroy Jenkins, a player character whose recklessness ends up ruining the carefully laid-out attack plans of his fellow World of Warcraft team members and getting them all killed.

No Campers: A reference to the video game tactic of “camping”, where a player remains in a stationary spot on the map that offers some kind of inherent strategic or tactical advantage.

Sheng Long Was Here: A reference to one of Ryu’s victory quotes from Street Fighter II – “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance!” – where “Sheng Long” is a (partial) translation of the Japanese term for “Dragon Punch” (“Shouryuken”) into Chinese. The ambiguous nature of this translation led to the widespread misconception that Sheng Long was the name of a person rather than a special move, a fact that video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly took advantage of in order to stage an elaborate (and infamous) April Fool’s Joke in 1992.

6. Shameless Plugging

In Game Central Station, the plug sockets all bear the stamp “MOORE U.S.A.” , a reference to Rich Moore, the director and one of the three writers of the film.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-mooreusa001
And while we’re at it, Private Markowski is named in honor of Steven Markowski, one of the story artists who was credited as the “story watchdog” for the movie.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-stevenmarkowski001

7. The Portraits at Tapper’s

Like the Great Wall of Hollywood at the Brown Derby or the famed New York restaurant Sardi’s, one of the walls at Tapper’s has framed caricatures of many of its most famous customers lining it. There are 38 in all, of which 35 can be positively identified based on screenshots and additional information provided by artist Bobby Pontillas, who drew them together with John Musker. Here’s a quick rundown:

thesecretsofwreckitralph-tapperscaricatures001
Left side of door (top to bottom):
1. Neff from Altered Beast
2. The unnamed frog from Frogger

Right side of door (top to bottom):
3. Fix-It Felix Jr. from Fix-It Felix Jr.
4. Zangief from Street Fighter II

Hallway (top row):
5. The unnamed Roman centurion protagonist from Altered Beast
6. Mr. Egg from Burger Time
7. Unknown; not clearly visible
8. Sagat from Street Fighter II
9. Unknown; not clearly visible
10. Mr. Hot Dog from Burger Time
11. Sorceress (blue-skinned woman from the Bad-Anon meeting)
12. Miles “Tails” Prower from Sonic Championship
13. Ryu from Street Fighter II
14. Ken Masters from Street Fighter II
15. Slick and Sam from Q*bert
16. Chun Li from Street Fighter II
17. Sonic the Hedgehog from Sonic Championship
18. Peter Pepper from Burger Time
19. Saitine (devil-like character from the Bad-Anon meeting)
20. Coily from Q*bert
21. E. Honda from Street Fighter II

Hallway (bottom row):
22. Gilius Thunderhead from Golden Axe
23. Unknown; not clearly visible
24. Mr. Pickle from Burger Time
25. Blanka from Street Fighter II
26. Balrog from Street Fighter II
27. Gene from Fix-It Felix Jr.
28. Guile from Street Fighter II
29. Ugg from Q*bert
30. Thomas Rogan from The House of the Dead
31. M. Bison from Street Fighter II
32. Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik from Sonic Championship
33. A space invader from Space Invaders
34. Rich Moore, the director of Wreck-It Ralph
35. Q*bert from Q*bert
36. Cyril (the zombie) from The House of the Dead
37. Joe Musashi from Shinobi
38. Dhalsim from Street Fighter II

As a special bonus, here’s a collage of all 27 caricatures that have been released to the public.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-caricaturecollage001
The observant will notice that one not mentioned previously – specifically that of 1011001, the yellow robot with the buzzsaw for hand seen at the Bad-Anon meeting – is among them. While it’s supposedly among the ones present at Tapper’s, I’ve yet to find a clear enough shot from the film that I can use to verify this, so it stays off the official list…for now.

8. Now at Litwak’s Arcade on Route 83

While the exact locatiion of Litwak’s Family Fun Center is never explicitly mentioned in the movie, the fake commercials advertising the arrivals of Wreck-It Ralph, Sugar Rush Speedway, and Hero’s Duty at the arcade all mention that it is located on U.S. Route 83. (For those who’re wondering, the verisimilitude of all this ends here, as the maps do not appear to correspond with any real world location along that extremely lengthy stretch of road).

thesecretsofwreckitralph-herosdutylitwaksarcademap001
This narrows it down to one of six possible states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas. The only outdoor shot we ever see of the building…

thesecretsofwreckitralph-litwaksfamilyfuncenterexternalshot001
…strongly suggests that it’s located in central or southern Texas, as those’re the only area with climates warm enough to support the growth of the giant palm trees seen on the left. The section of elevated highway on the right that runs perpendicular to Route 83 is apparently an interstate highway, which would make it I-10, I-20, I-35, or I-40.

9. The Tough Love Approach

After Ralph steals and dons Markowski’s suit of armor, aside from the binary version of tic-tac-toe being played in the upper right corner, the most noteworthy thing on the helmet’s HUD is a text exchange between one Private Marco and Sergeant Calhoun. These instant messages – which are visible on the center left hand side – hammer home the point that she’s a major hardass (as if that wasn’t abundantly clear already).

YOU HAVE 390,499 UNREAD MESSAGES
SGT. CALHOUN: Report in, Squad! Any of you ladybugs seen Markowski?
PVT. MARCO: Golly, I haven’t seen him since 03:00 hours, Sarge.
SGT. CALHOUN: What was he doing? Practicing the ballet?
PVT. MARCO: He was freaking out, Sarge. Kept going on about the bugs…
PVT. MARCO:  I don’t know if he’s Corps material, Ma’am.
SGT. CALHOUN: Corps material or not, if he doesn’t get his bright, shiny boots
SGT. CALHOUN: back to start pose by quarter drop, I’ll have him transferred to
SGT. CALHOUN: Undead Apocalypse slathered in meat tenderizer.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-marcocalhounexchange001
10. Processing Code

While it’s extremely difficult to make out, what follows is a rough approximation of all the text displayed on the screen of the First-Person Shooter robot from Hero’s Duty:

thesecretsofwreckitralph-fpsrobotdisplay001
*****
_loadingParameters{}

_difficulty=[easy]
_availableRounds{}=[15]
_totalHP=[30]
_bugArmor=[75%]

_maddox=loaded
_marco=loaded
_calhoun=loaded
_ship=loaded
_tower=…

_tower=loaded
****Quarter Alert****
_quarters_inserted=[5]
_quarters_inserted=[6]
_quarters_inserted=[7]
_quarters_inserted=[8]
_initiatePlaySequence{}

_connecting
video feed…

_connected.

_game_start
5 4 3 2 1 0
_offline…

Player Linkup 01 v.12.11.02
Distributed by TobiKomi Co 2012

Hero’s Duty

11. Common Origins

Several of the fictional arcade games in the movie – most notably Fix-It Felix Jr., Sugar Rush Speedway, and Hero’s Duty but also Target Bravo: One Shot, One Kill and Finish Line – were all created by the equally fictional TobiKomi Corporation.

12. Not Just Rose-Colored Glasses

While Felix’s love-at-first-sight reaction towards Calhoun is played for laughs, what makes it doubly amusing is that, upon closer inspection, everything that he says is technically accurate. Her skin texture, which has minor blemishes and even some faint freckles, really is higher definition than his. She even has detailed eyelashes and veins around the edges of her eyeballs!

thesecretsofwreckitralph-highdefinitioncalhoun001
13. User-Unfriendly

When the escape pod from Hero’s Duty experiences engine trouble after entering Suger Rush Speedway, one utterly pointless status message and one completely inappropriate suggestion appear on the shuttle’s navigation screen.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-escapepoderrormessage001
! ENGINE FAILURE !
something has gone terribly wrong

The rest of the message appears to be a random jumble of lower case letters.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-escapepodinappropriatesuggestion001
COLLISION IMMINENT
[] Do a barrel roll!

The remaining items on the list are completely illegible, though what little is visible of the third one on the list – no more than the first three or four words – suggests that it may read, “Please return the tray table to its upright position.” This is far from certain, though.

14. The Good Samaritan and the Ladies’ Man

During the panning shot of Game Central Station which takes place while Calhoun is making her speech about the nature of Cy-Bugs, Peter Pepper is seen offering a pie to Q*bert and his homeless compatriots Ugg, Coily, and Slick. Surge Protector, on the other hand, is seen flirting with – and checking out! – Chun Li and the two unnamed princesses in the very same scene.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-goodsamaritanandladiesman001
15. Candy Car Flavors

According the Kart Bakery’s oven settings, there are five classes of race cars in Sugar Rush Speedway: roadster, coupe, dragster, muscle, and stock.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-candycarclasses001
16. Product Placement

The Kart Bakery’s security guard, Beard Papa, is actually the mascot of a Japanese-owned international confectionary chain store of the same name specializing in cream puffs (a fact that his mumbling “Mmm…cream puffs!” in his sleep is alluding to).

thesecretsofwreckitralph-nutritionfactsbeardpapa001
Note that one of the posters on the booth wall is actually an oversized nutrition label. I suspect that the other posters are something in a similar vein – such as food color or pH charts, baking instructions, etc. – but the writing and images are too small to positively identify anything else.

17. Police Officer’s Motto

Doughnut cops Wynchell and Duncan have badges which read, “To Heat and Serve“.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-toheatandserve001
18. The Turbo Seal of Approval

While I’ve pointed this fact out on this blog once before, it bears repeating that, following the big reveal about King Candy’s true identity of Turbo, for one single frame while he’s glitching back and forth betwen his two identities, he breaks the fourth wall by looking directly at the viewer and giving them a “two thumbs up” sign.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-turmbothumbsup001
19. Switching Rides

I’m not sure how many people noticed this (or how obvious this even is), but, when Vanellope Von Schweetz rescues Ralph during the movie’s climax, she’s seen driving Crumbelina Di Caramello’s race car rather than her own.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-vanellopecrumbelinacar001
For those who’ve only just now become aware of this and are wondering why this is, well it’s due to the fact that her own car was rendered undrivable when,  after being thrown in the air by a Cy-Bug geyser erupting beneath her, it crashed and lost its front right wheel on impact.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-vanellopebrokenwheel001
This, of courses, raises the question of just how she managed to locate Crumbelina’s car amidst all the chaos and destruction. Turns out that she didnt have to glitch all that far to reach it: Crumbelina was seen driving right up to the rainbow bridge leading to the game’s exit while she and the rest of Sugar Rush Speedway’s inhabitants were fleeing from the Cy-Bugs and probably passed Ralph and Vanellope, whose was riding on his shoulder, on the way there.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-crumbelinapullsup001
20. Colleagues to Brothers

This is something that I can’t claim credit for noticing, but it’s pretty neat in its subtlety, so props to whoever it was that originally picked up on it.

While they spend most of the movie apart from each other, it’s interesting to note that Felix seems to sense a growing kinship with Ralph at a subconscious level, something which becomes clear when you take a closer look at the way the former refers to the latter and how it evolves over the course of the movie to suggest an increasing level of affection and intimacy.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-colleaguestobrothers001
21. The 30-Year Grudge

If you ever wondered what the source of Gene’s animosity towards Ralph was, it probably has something to with the fact that he’s the guy who not only has his apartment broken into and trashed at the beginning of each level, but also ends up being manhandled and hurled across the screen to god-knows-where all the time.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-geneislifesbitch001
The fact that the new status quo established at the end of the movie adds being blown up by living dynamite during the Bonus Level to his list of responsibilities probably won’t do much to improve his sunny disposition.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-genelivingdynamite001
22. The Bonus Stage is Acceptance

And, to top it off, here’s another subtle but cute little detail: while Ralph’s job may not have changed, his different outlook on life is clearly reflected in his sprite’s design: he’s gone from sporting a toothy scowl to an equally toothy grin.

thesecretsofwreckitralph-turnthatfrownupsidedown001
And that’s it for Part 1 of this series! Check back soon for Part 2, where we’ll be going over some of the continuity errors and inconsistencies that pop up throughout the movie!

Advertisements

The Litwak’s Family Fun Center Gang

2012/09/18

NOTE: This blog post was originally published on September 18, 2012, but has been revised twice since its original publication and will be stickied from October 28 to November 4, 2012 in anticipation of the movie’s release.

With the release of Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph – which is shaping up to become the video game equivalent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit – a little over seven weeks away, I thought it might be fun to add to the already rampant online speculation by not only summarizing what my fellow nostalgia gamers have managed to piece together thus far but also trying to figure out what other games are present in Litwak’s Family Fun Center myself (and thus also which other characters could potentially make cameo appearances) from existing publicity stills and footage from all of the trailers that’ve been released.

Before we start, I’d like to clarify that I’m only sticking to 100% verifiable information and purposely omitting lawyer-friendly cameos such as the ones made by the Kano and Smoke lookalikes. I’m also going to be working under the assumption that all the cabinets present house exactly one game each (as opposed to multi-game arcade machines such as Nintendo’s PlayChoice-10, for example).

So, let’s get down to business! Based on the following external shot of Game Central Station – the “transportation hub for travelling from game to game within the arcade”…

I’m surprised this arcade hasn’t burned to the ground yet.

…there are twenty-three arcade cabinets present in the establishment. Of those twenty-three, three are the fictional games exclusive to this movie and homes to the four main characters: Fix-It Felix Jr. (Fix-It Felix Jr. and Wreck-it Ralph), Sugar Rush Speedway (Vanellope Von Schweetz), and Hero’s Duty (Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun). So what are the other twenty games? Well, if you do the math, all of them have been accounted for either directly or indirectly, believe it or not…

1. Confirmed Titles

The following video games have either been explicitly named or enough of their distinctive screens and logos are visible to identify them beyond a reasonable doubt:


Pac-Man
[1] and Space Invaders [2]…


Frogger [3] and Virtua Cop [4]…


Dig Dug [5]…


Tapper [6]…


Finish Line [7] (a fictional game) and Tron [8]…


Burger Time [9]


Dance Dance Revolution X2 [10] and Street Fighter II [11]…


Time Hunter 4 [12] (another fictional title)…


The House of the Dead [13]…


…and Sonic Championship (a.k.a. Sonic the Fighters) [14].

2. Educated Guesses

While the following titles aren’t confirmed to be present, there’s a reasonable amount of circumstantial evidence to support the idea in each case (mostly in the form of cameos by their characters).


Talk about blink and you’ll miss it! Even though we’ve already firmly established the presence of Pac-Man – the orange ghost Clyde even has a supporting role in the movie! – this shot of Game Central Station not only features appearances by his compatriots Pinky, Inky, and Blinky, but also by one of the flying ostrich-riding knights from Joust [15], the nameless paperboy from Paperboy [16] (who is seen crashing his bicycle behind Ralph at one point), and the paddles and ball from Pong [17].


While the plight of the down-on-their-luck refugees from Q*bert – specifically Ugg, Slick, Coily, Wrong-Way, and the eponymous character himself – is certainly heartbreaking, the fact that their machine is unplugged means that it doesn’t count towards our total (unfortunately). On the other hand, we can add another fictional game to our list, as we see a yellow Tyrannosaurus Rex standing in the entrance to a game called Dino Havoc [18]. Also note that, to the far right, we see Chun Li walking alongside of Zangief.

And finally, at Ralph’s Bad-Anon meeting, we see, of all people, Neff, the main antagonist of Altered Beast [19] in his anthropomorphic purple rhinoceros form. And, of course, the generic, dual hatchet-wielding zombie Cyril from The House of the Dead on the far right.

3. Complications, Curiosities, and Uncertainties

Be warned: major spoilers ahead.

In the previous two sections, I purposely avoided using information from the opening sequence of the international trailer to support any of my guesswork unless there was additional evidence to corroborate it. And this was done for a very good reason: though not explicitly called attention to, the difference in appearance of establishment owner Mr. Litwak at the beginning and end of it…


…coupled with the rapidly moving people and shifting arcade cabinets indicate that this is supposed to be a time lapse sequence covering the last thirty years of the Litwak Family Fun Center’s existence since Fix-It Felix Jr. premiered there in 1982. While we see several games, both real and fictional, as the camera pans out, there’s no direct evidence either supporting or disproving the idea that they’re still around in 2012 with the sole exceptions of The House of the Dead and Sonic Championship – as Cyril, Sonic, and Dr. Robotnik’s cameos in the movie’s present will attest to – plus one other title that I’ll be naming at the very end of this section.

What makes this montage particularly interesting is that, even though many of them only appear on screen for one or two frames, the names of some of the titles have been blurred out by censor bars, even though their distinctive logos make it blatantly obvious which ones they’re supposed to be. In some cases, the reasons are likely due to copyrights or trademarks issues, where permission had either never been acquired or not yet been granted at the time this montage was assembled. In other cases, legally acceptable parodies were created as placeholders. And then there’re some head-scratchingly baffling examples, such as Space Invaders being one of the games whose names was censored out in the international trailer even though it appeared uncensored in trailers released several months earlier and even in other trailers which have (parts of) the same time-lapse sequence incorporated into it. Go figure.

One extremely plot-relevant detail worth mentioning at this point comes in the form of a fictional overhead arcade racing game, which we catch a brief glimpse of at the very beginning of the sequence, sitting right next to the Fix-It Felix Jr. cabinet.


In two of the trailers and previews that’ve been released so far, M. Bison, Fix-It Felix Jr., and Q*bert all refer to Ralph’s actions of  breaking typecasting and game hopping as “going turbo”. Given the onetime existence of a game called Turbotime in this particular arcade, we can draw a pretty reasonable conclusion about what this otherwise puzzling statement means: at some point in the past, the main character from this game, whose name was presumably Turbo, decided to do the exact same thing and ended up getting his machine unplugged and both it and himself removed from the establishment…which explains why all of Ralph’s associates are getting so jittery and nervous when he begins displaying subversive behavior.

And while we’re on the subject, two more brief plot points that aren’t immediately apparent: not only is the unassuming-looking King Candy likely a secondary villain – or at least a misguided antagonist – based on his biography on Disney’s official site for the movie, but the primary menace in the movie come in the form of the Cy-Bugs from Hero’s Duty, something that Entertainment Weekly hinted at way back in February. In the international trailer, Ralph is seen accidentally stepping on a cute baby Cy-Bug…


…who proceeds to viciously attack him…


…and, after he accidentally triggers an escape pod…


… both he and it are accidentally ejected into Game Central Station. The rest you can probably guess: the Cy-Bug escapes, and, without Sergeant Calhoun and her soldiers to contain it, is now free to multiply, infiltrate, and infect the other games in the arcade. Well, at least until the end of the movie, where I’m betting that we’re going to see a mind-blowingly awesome, multi-world, crossover battle sequence where video game heroes and villains alike are forced to team up in order to contain the infestation and Ralph ends up learning the true meaning of being a hero by (seemingly) sacrificing his life to destroy them. And, lest you think that death is meaningless in this movie given Fix-It Felix Jr.’s played-for-laughs resurrection in one trailer, I’d like to emphasize the fact that, as Sonic the Hedgehog points out in his public service message announcement, the rule is that characters are only able to respawn indefinitely within their own game worlds. If they’re killed outside of it, their deaths will be permanent. Yeah, this is a Disney movie and I’m pretty sure nothing too terrible’s going to happen, but still…

But we’ve wandered way too far off-topic already. Let’s get this train back on track by taking a closer look at the remaining titles (which you’ll need judicious use of frame-by-frame replaying in order to independently verify):


Asteroids and Battlezone


Food Fight, the original Street Fighter (although it mistakenly displays graphics from Street Fighter II, specifically of Ryu fighting Dhalsim in his stage in India), and Centipede


Agent X and Dragon’s Lair


the Atari version of Star Wars from 1983 and Fatal Assault (a fictional game)…


District 51 (which appears to be a pastiche of Atari’s Area 51 and the movie District 9), a Star Wars game with no known real-world equivalent, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


…and Hoop Jamz: All-Star Edition by Halfway (an obvious reference to Midway’s NBA Jam: Tournament Edition).

In the closing shot of the montage from the present day, you’ll see that one machine from the opening is still present, having only swapped positions with Street Fighter II in the intervening years:


Yes, that’s right, Dragon’s Lair [20] has apparently been a mainstay in this particular arcade for three decades, which may just be the most ridiculous premise that this movie is asking us to accept considering that the laserdiscs players which shipped with this game were notoriously prone to failure and the earliest cabinets had a life expectancy of between as little as 650 hours (less than one month) and as much as 50000 hours (a little over five and a half years).

4. Cameos

And finally, here’s a list of established characters from the movie whom I haven’t previously mentioned or posted pictures of yet:


Dr. Ivo Robotnik, M. Bison, and Clyde


Bowser and Zangief


…the unnamed bartender from Tapper


Dig Dug and the nameless frog from Frogger

Ryu and Ken


Cammy…

Yuni Verse


…a Fygar and a Pooka


Peter Pepper


…and the one and only Sonic the Hedgehog.

5. Summary

So, in conclusion, here’s an alphabetical list of the twenty-three arcade game cabinets known to be present at Litwak’s Family Fun Center:

  1. Altered Beast (real)
  2. Burger Time (real)
  3. Dance Dance Revolution X2 (real)
  4. Dig Dug (real)
  5. Dino Havoc (fictional)
  6. Dragon’s Lair (real)
  7. Finish Line (fictional)
  8. Fix-It Felix Jr. (fictional)
  9. Frogger (real)
  10. Hero’s Duty (fictional)
  11. The House of the Dead (real)
  12. Joust (real)
  13. Pac-Man (real)
  14. Paperboy (real)
  15. Pong (real)
  16. Sonic Championship (alias Sonic the Fighters) (real)
  17. Space Invaders (real)
  18. Sugar Rush Speedway (fictional)
  19. Street Fighter II (real)
  20. Tapper (real)
  21. Time Hunter 4 (fictional)
  22. Tron (real)
  23. Virtua Cop (real)

How many did you spot? 🙂

Oh, and this goes without saying, but if anyone reading this happens to find anything that I missed, let me know. 😀

UPDATE (2012.09.25.): New information from the release of the “Game Changer” television spot yesterday was added.

In the original version of the article, I stated that the fact that we see Chun Li in her classic outfit combined with the presence of Cammy (also in her original costume) suggested that Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, or Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition was one of the games at Litwak’s Family Fun Center. The new commercial has since proven me “wrong”, as the pictures of the establishment floor, the arcade cabinet, and the screen itself – specifically the sunset version of Ryu‘s dojo rooftop stage – all point it being a regular Street Fighter II machine.

Just to be clear, my placement of the word “wrong” in quotation marks isn’t due to sour grapes but because the movie’s creators have apparently made a continuity error. The three games that I mentioned are the only instances where Cammy and Chun Li appear in the same game together wearing those particular clothes. Cammy wasn’t even in the original Street Fighter II. She first appeared in 1993 – two years after the release of the original game – in Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers.

Still, as someone on a message board thread pointed out, considering that the entire movie requires us to buy into the premise that there’s still a profitable video game arcade being operated in North America in 2012, I think that I can live with this mistake. 🙂

UPDATE (2012.10.28.): The original article has been heavily revised with new information from the various trailers and previews released during the past month as well as plot speculation and spoilers.

Deconstructing “Red Hood and the Outlaws” – Part 3: Roy Harper

2011/11/01

In the long overdue final installment of this three-part series, we’ll be focusing our attention on the third and final member of our merry band of Outlaws: Roy Harper, best known as Green Arrow’s former sidekick Speedy, though he’s also gone by the codenames of Arsenal and Red Arrow in the past.

Behold the book that set female empowerment (and continuity) back more than 30 years.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to regale everyone with an exhaustive biography on the guy, there’re several major obstacles when it comes to doing that:

1. In one form or another, Roy Harper has been around longer than Starfire (31 years) and Jason Todd (28 years) combined, having debuted in the pages of More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941) 70 years ago this month. Tracking down and skimming through that many back issues is more time and effort than I care to invest in writing an article about a comic book I don’t particularly like.

2. During those seven decades, he’s been given no less than four mutually exclusive origin stories. While the most basic elements of his background – that he was an orphaned child raised and taught how to use a bow and arrow by a Native American guardian – are the same across the board, they often differ wildly from one another when it comes to all other details. For those of you keeping score at home, here’s a handy little reference table with examples:


Given that at least three reality-altering crises have taken place since the most recent of these origins saw print, even I have no idea what’s considered canonical anymore. The fact that numerous inconsistencies have been introduced by dozens of writers over the years and that DC Comics’ current regime has proven incapable of penetrating the morass of their own continuity – even after Flashpoint – doesn’t really help matters any.

Since things’re such a mess and there’s so much mess to wade through, I’ll be concentrating on information that would be most relevant to new readers of Red Hood and the Outlaws: his origin, his relationships with Jason Todd and Starfire, his association with the Teen Titans, and how the key aspects of his life that have been retconned out by the relaunch have affected the overall integrity and current portrayal of his character.

Roy William Harper, Jr. (Speedy I/Arsenal/Red Arrow)

The orphaned son of a forest ranger, Roy Harper, Jr. was raised in the traditional style of the Navajo people by Raymond “Brave Bow” Begay – the medicine man of the Tachini clan whose life Roy Harper, Sr. had saved from the forest fire that ultimately claimed his own – from the age of two onwards.

I’d say that’s a pretty definite check mark in the “no” column right there.

Now, as you’ve probably guessed from someone who’s not only called “Brave Bow” but also gave his adopted white son the tribal name of “Lost Arrow”, the man was an archery nut and found a willing and remarkably proficient student in Roy, whose lack of any real close friends on the Arizonian Indian reservation he called home left him with plenty of spare time for brushing up on his skills.

I believe we’ve just found the Native American equivalent of Mr. Miyagi.

Though he wouldn’t discover it for many years, Roy’s uncanny aim was not limited to bows and arrows but also extended to both firearms as well as handheld and even makeshift weapons (making him like a non-lethal version of Marvel Comics’ Bullseye). He would eventually become a master of Moo Gi Gong, a combat style of the Korean martial art Hwa Rang Do which emphasizes both the offensive and defensive applications of a wide variety of traditional weaponry, thus allowing practitioners to use almost any handheld object as an improvised weapon.

When Roy was thirteen years old, Brave Bow – who was secretly dying of liver cancer – made arrangements for him to be taken in by wealthy businessman and industrialist Oliver Queen, who had previously visited the reservation to serve as a judge in their annual archery contest as his alter-ego Green Arrow, a superhero whom his adopted son idolized.

“Roy Harper” is Navajo for “Dan DiDio and Eddie Berganza’s Butt Monkey”.

Eventually, Roy took on the costumed identity of his mentor’s kid sidekick Speedy and became a founding member of the original Teen Titans alongside Robin (Dick Grayson), Kid Flash (Wally West), Aqualad (Garth), and Wonder Girl (Donna Troy).

“Well, I guess I could hang out with you guys if I have nothing better to do…”

Though initially a reservist, he became a permanent member when Aqualad took an extended leave of absence. And one of his first actions was to demonstrate just how much Green Arrow’s skills as a ladies’ man had rubbed off on him by arranging a date with the group’s sole female member, thereby cockblocking the other two guys on his team right off the bat.

They don’t call him “Speedy” for nothing, apparently.

While he seemed to have the world at his fingertips, privately, Roy was growing increasingly depressed over the direction his life was taking, his seeming lack of control over it, and the loneliness and abandonment issues that came with having had few actual friends growing up, being an outcast, never quite fitting in, and losing two fathers – one biological, one adoptive – before he was even old enough to drive. Stuck on an endless merry-go-round of school, Teen Titans meetings, superhero work, and not much else, the emo pot finally boiled over when Oliver Queen was stripped of his reputation, fortune, and control over Queen Industries through the evil machinations of corrupt financier John Deleon.  The experience radicalized Green Arrow almost overnight, transforming him into an anti-establishment hippie with a bow and arrow and resulting in his spending more time with Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), his new girlfriend Black Canary (Dinah Lance), and even a Guardian of the Universe in human form that his own adoptive son.

But while the new man of the people was out discovering America and trying to save the world, he was completely ignoring problems closer to home, where a combination of the forced lifestyle change and losing his latest father figure drove the despondent Roy to begin experimenting with drugs in order to ease his pain, with him and his buddy Corey – who would later die of an overdose – developing a special taste for heroin. But Green Arrow was so preoccupied with his new role as a socially conscious activist and repeatedly tearing Green Lantern a new one for supposedly being a naive, clueless, authoritarian stooge that he was completely oblivious to all of this until the two of them set out to bust some local drug traffickers…and even then he only discovered the truth completely by accident.

Roy Harper putting the “speed” in “Speedy”.

Green Arrow, bleeding heart liberal that he is, was immediately sympathetic to Roy’s plight and assumed his share of the responsibility for what happened.

Christ, what a jackass.

Roy was later discovered lying in an alleyway by Green Lantern. Determined to beat his heroin addiction on his own, he declined an offer to be taken to a hospital, so the latter deposited him on Dinah Lance’s doorstep instead. Having provided Green Lantern with all the information his reconnaissance work had yielded thus far while the two of them were en route, he then spent the rest of the night going cold turkey with only his adoptive father’s girlfriend for company.

The night’s also filled with a lot of clichéd writing, apparently.

Several days later, Roy, now well enough to function again, was reunited with Oliver Queen and took the opportunity to thank him for his love and heartfelt support during these trying times.

I think that all comic book fans have wanted to do this to Oliver Queen at one time or another.

This incident marked a turning point in their relationship. Even though the two of them would reconcile, more or less, years later, their time as a crimefighting team had come to an unceremonious end and Roy decided to strike out on his own. When the Teen Titans temporarily disbanded in order to focus on their individual careers, his relationship with Wonder Girl dissolved as well, and he seemingly retired from crimefighting for a while to pursue a career in music.

Great Frog? Good grief!

Though he reunited with both the Teen Titans – and Wonder Girl! – when the group reformed, this second incarnation of the team proved to be extremely short-lived and they all went their own separate ways again soon after, and for much the same reason as they had the first time around.

The end of an era: take two.

Now flying solo again, Speedy decided to put his negative experiences to good use and began working closely with detox centers as a counselor and eventually the Drug Enforcement Agency. In fact, the contacts he made within the federal government while working for the DEA eventually lead to a career with the Central Bureau of Intelligence or CBI, better known as Checkmate.

You know, I’m going to stop right there for a moment. Time for a quick aside.

There’re a number of people out there who’ve complained that Starfire is widely known for being little more than “Dick Grayson’s ex-girlfriend”. Well, ever since Roy Harper was outed as a junkie, he pretty much became “that former kid sidekick with the drug problem”.

And, given what happens with the dead cat later on, I’m confident that you’re capable of taking everything on that extensive list AT THE SAME DAMN TIME.

Hell, he was trotted out no less than three times during Marv Wolfman‘s run in the 1980s in “very special issues” related to substance abuse and never managed to live it down (or stop poking fun at himself for it).

Apparently, messing with the white man is an ancient Navajo tradition.

Okay, enough with the distractions. Back to the show.

Roy Harper first met Starfire when, as Speedy, he was nearly killed during an attempt to shut down a drug smuggling and distribution ring. Rescued by Aqualad, he enlisted the aid of the then-latest incarnation of the Teen Titans in order to help him complete his assignment.

Valiant? Yes. Good? Yes. Respectful of relationship boundaries? Not so much.

Even though he was a founding member of the original, Roy Harper only hooked up with the third version of the team perhaps a half dozen times before he was eventually forced to take control of it. And, even then, these team-ups were sporadic, so he never really spent an inordinate amount of downtime with Starfire while she was a regular despite having (very, very briefly) moved into Titans Tower at one point. Therefore, he never had much of an opportunity to get to know her that well (at least at that point in time).

It was during one of the aforementioned gaps between adventures with the team that Roy, now a full-fledged member of the CBI, was sent on an undercover assignment to Japan by its drug trafficking division. His mission: track down the middlewoman in a narcotics smuggling ring named Jade Nguyen – better known as Cheshire, one of the world’s deadliest assassins and a recurring adversary of the Teen Titans – under the pretense of purchasing cocaine, gain her trust, gather as much intelligence on the operation as possible, and then deliver her into the waiting hands of the proper authorities. Sounds simple, right? But, as luck would have it, a funny thing happened along the way…

You mean that lame pick-up line actually WORKED with her?

Yeah, you guessed it: Roy Harper fell for his mark. Hard. Even more surprising? Turns out the feeling was mutual. Looks like opposites really do attract. And despite both of them being there on business, love and hormones being what they are led them to add a little pleasure to the mix.

It seems that bad girls really are better in the sack. Or at least more fertile.

As boneheaded a move as this was, Roy still retained clarity of mind to realize that remaining with Cheshire was a disaster waiting to happen, as their being on opposite sides of the law meant that they’d inevitably end up at each others’ throats one day. Unfortunately, the fact that he was genuinely in love with her meant that he no longer had the heart to turn her in. So, he did what any mature, responsible guy in his position would do: he bailed on her suddenly and without warning, presented his superiors with the intel he’d gathered but lied to them by claiming her trail had gone cold, and did his best to put this latest messed-up chapter of his life behind him.

To say that Cheshire wasn’t thrilled by this turn of events would be putting things mildly. When she later discovered exactly who Roy Harper was – both in and out of costume – her heartbreak curdled into resentment and then hatred, an emotional deterioration largely motivated by the fact that he’d accidentally left her a little something to remember him by. The kind of something that gestates for nine months. So, when the two of them were eventually reunited more than a year later after the Church of Blood sent her to Zermatt, Switzerland to disrupt a secret U.S./Russian arms control meeting by staging a fake assassination attempt – one that the Teen Titans were sent by the C.I.A. to covertly foil and coincidentally marked the first time that Roy Harper and Jason Todd, still Robin at the time, ever worked together – she dropped quite the bombshell on him.

Because just serving a man with paternity papers seems SO impersonal.

Unfortunately, the mission ended up being a complete disaster for everyone who wasn’t a bad guy, as the C.I.A., Teen Titans, and King Faraday (the F.B.I. agent who recruited them) were discredited for violating the conditions of the peace talks via their unauthorized presence and international tensions increased as a result. Even though Roy managed to track Cheshire to Hong Kong after the fact and convinced her to let him see his infant daughter for the first time…

Yes, Lian Harper started out looking very caucasian and red-haired.

…even that silver lining was on a very dark cloud. Since she felt foolish for having opened her heart to him in the first place, he had come to embody a weakness in herself whose existence she couldn’t stomach. His visit, however brief, had reopened too many wounds, so she opted to completely cut him out of their daughter’s life in order to punish him and disappeared. Then, as if to add insult to injury, Roy was fired from his job with the C.B.I. within a year, possibly as a result of the fallout from his disastrous encounters with his bad girl romantic interest. While he eventually managed to recover Lian with the help of information from his remaining contacts with the organization, it took getting Nightwing to help him under the pretense of preventing Cheshire from assassinating several ambassadors involved in signing a U.S./Russian peace treaty (this time for real), getting beaten up and captured by her elderly adoptive father Wen Chen Cheng, and getting beaten up and nearly fatally poisoned by her in order to make it happen.

Well, it won’t be a problem for another two decades or so, anyway.

While he supported himself and his daughter working as a private detective out of Los Angeles for a while, Roy was eventually reinducted into Checkmate and sent undercover to stop Cheshire from blackmailing the world with stolen Russian nuclear warheads. While he and Deathstroke the Terminator – secretly working for the CIA at the time – ultimately succeeded, they were unable to prevent her from destroying the capital of the Middle Eastern country of Qurac. Placed on probation as a result of this latest incdent, he was sent on official business as a federal agent to warn Nightwing’s about a major upcoming threat to the Titans unlike any they’d faced before: the U.S. government.

Censoring a word bubble with another word bubble? How Escher-esque.

Unfortunately, when Nightwing proved unreceptive and an attack on longtime Titans critic, Councilwoman Liz Alderman, by a mysterious assailant (who turned out to be an evil version of Raven) boosted public scrutiny of the team to unheard of levels, Roy, now going by the codename of Arsenal

The first in a long line of increasingly worse-looking Arsenal costumes.

…was forced to assume command of the Titans by his superior, Sarge Steel, in order to establish a link between the team and Checkmate, thereby reducing the risk of the United States Attorney General prosecuting first them and subsequently other non-sanctioned superhero groups. Though Arsenal fought long and hard (and succeeded) in maintaining the Titans’ independence, the ever-increasing number of ties to the federal government led to a mass exodus of members, including Starfire. Eventually, when it became apparent to Arsenal that the remaining members were not really coming together as a family and putting a half-assed effort into their superheroics, he decided to sacrifice his own public image by purposely trashing the team’s reputation in a newspaper interview in the hopes that it would get them all fired. His plan succeeded, the government pulled the plug on the Titans, and everyone walked away with their self-respect intact except for him. He later severed his ties with the CBI and Sarge Steel completely after the latter deliberately engaged in misdirection to get him to retrieve a former druglord for a show trial, a mission that resulted in his getting shot up full of heroin for the first time since he beat his addiction and nearly getting killed several times over.

After the surviving members of every incarnation of the Teen Titans teamed up with the Justice League of America and several of their associates in order to prevent the planet Cyberion from transforming Earth’s moon into the new homeworld of the Technis, a cyber-alien collective, the founding members of the first and third incarnations of the team, sans Raven, decided to reform the Titans. While this marked the first time that Arsenal and Starfire spent any significant amount of time together on the same team, her membership proved fleeting as circumstances soon forced her to return to her role as Princess of Tameran, her royal duties taking her away from Earth indefinitely.

While his precarious financial situation was finally at an end now that he and Lian could live at the new Titans Tower, Arsenal’s lovelife went through the wringer as Cheshire ended up getting captured, hospitalized, put on trial, and imprisoned for nuking Qurac. Moreover his refusal to aid in her escape combined with his finally coming to terns with who and what she was sounded the death knell of their twisted relationship.

But things really came crashing down when both his close friend (and ex-girlfriend) Donna Troy – now known as Troia and with whom Arsenal had briefly rekindled a romantic relationship – as well as former Titans West member Omen, a.k.a. Lilith Clay(-Jupiter), were killed by a rogue Superman robot that the mysterious 41st century time-travelling android later dubbed Indigo had activated in order to help repair the damage that temporal displacement had inflicted upon her systems. Their deaths proved to be the last straw for Nightwing, who formally disbanded the Titans after their friends’ funerals.

Not one to remain on the sidelines, Arsenal began actively scouting for members for a new team a scant two months later and persuaded Nightwing to join by stating the major difference between this group and their old one: instead of leading a bunch of close-knit friends who were like family into battle and potentially getting them killed, they’d now be leading a bunch of mostly casual acquaintances and complete strangers – including the amnesiac Indigo – into battle and potentially getting them killed. Thus was born the third incarnation of the Outsiders, a version dedicated to hunting down criminals and working outside of the system.

Almost from the start, the team proved to be a disaster magnet for everyone involved. Between discovering that Optitron, the benevolent media conglomerate financing their operations, was a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises (which pissed off Nightwing), the “Batman” secretly providing them with intel was none other than a disguised Deathstroke the Terminator using the Outsiders as his personal squad of superpowered gofers (which made ex-intelligence agent Arsenal look like an idiot), and Indigo turning out to be a shell program for Brainiac 8 (which was bad for both the Outsiders as well as the fourth incarnation of the Teen Titans as she, Brainiac, Lex Luthor, and a brainwashed Superboy attempted to kill them all off), things got progressively worse. Even Starfire, who was recruited to the team after Jade wrested control of it away from the apathetic Nightwing, got the short end of the stick as her tenure was cut short by Infinite Crisis, which ended up stranding her in deep space with Animal Man and Adam Strange for the better part of a year.

Aside from being Deathstroke’s dupe and later nearly getting killed by him in hand-to-hand combat, Arsenal also suffered numerous other indignities during his time with the Outsiders, such as being shot in the chest five times at point blank range and having his daughter kidnapped in retaliation for their working with America’s Most Wanted to bust a child slavery ring that Grace Choi, his teammate and friend with benefits, had once fallen victim to in her youth.

No, seriously. John Walsh totally hung out with them.

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same…

The straw that broke that camel’s back for Arsenal, who had grown increasingly uncomfortable with their cloak-and-dagger operations, came when a botched attempt to break Black Lightning – framed for killing the murderer of his niece, Joanna Pierce, by Deathstroke (who else?) – out of prison when it was discovered that his life was in danger ended with the deaths of forty-four inmates and prisoners. He subsequently quit the team, but not before using a live television interview to personally distance himself from the team’s catastrophic last mission and lending credence to the notion that the Outsiders had been killed while fleeing the scene, thereby facilitating the team’s attempt to go underground.

By sheer coincidence, Arsenal happened to be in the neighborhood when Black Canary and Green Lantern needed help recovering Red Tornado‘s android body from Professor Ivo and Solomon Grundy. But he was dumbstruck when they later returned to offer him membership in the newly-reformed Justice League of America.

Could somebody smack him before Brad Meltzer’s storytelling on this title gets even more decompressed?

After accepting the invitation, Roy Harper not only adopted a new costume and name…

It takes a manly man to cry through a facemask.

…but also found a new romance with Kendra Saunders, the then-current Hawkgirl and reincarnation of the original, who, like him, had a child of her own (albeit one she’d given up for adoption some time ago). In a nice (but unintentional) display of mentor/sidekick parallelism, this coupling offered a continuation of the arrow/bird romantic legacy.

Oh for god’s sake…now he using COSTUME DESIGNS and BREAKFAST CEREALS as icebreakers when flirting with chicks? Err…Hawks? Oh, whatever.

For a while, Red Arrow was riding high and even ended up pulling double duty for a while on both the Justice League as well as the latest incarnations of the Titans – the latter having apparently become a viable concept again after Donna Troy unexpectedly came back from the dead – and offered him yet another opportunity to work with Starfire. Unfortunately, these good times were not to last, and a series of circumstances both within as well as beyond his control would soon cause his life to unravel at the seams.

The first shoe dropped when his increasingly volatile relationship with Hawkgirl self-destructed. Given the three millennia of romantic history he had to compete with when it came to Hawkman (even if Kendra didn’t remember any of it), the fact that he ended up being little more than a romantic footnote in her reincarnation-driven existence was almost a foregone conclusion. What was surprising, though, was that he genuinely had feelings for her and was so crushed by her loss that he ended up quitting the team over it (at least for a short while). It was only when he returned to active duty that the tragedy and drama trains went into overdrive and completely jumped the tracks. What’s more, in a morbid display of symmetry, while his membership with this incarnation of the Justice League was largely due to his being in the right place at the right time, it was his being in the wrong place at the wrong time that finally brought his tenure with it to an end.

While saying goodnight to Lian via a computer terminal, Red Arrow was ambushed by the supervillain Prometheus – who had impersonated Shazam in order to gain access to the JLA satellite – and disarmed following a vicious fight. Literally.

“It’s just a flesh wound!”

Viciously maimed, Red Arrow soon lost consciousness due to massive blood loss but was found by his teammates and rushed to a hospital in time to save his life, unfortunately. And I say “unfortunately” because, given the hell that Dan DiDio, Eddie Berganza, James Robinson, J.T. Krul, and Eric Wallace were about to collectively put him through, his death would’ve been a mercy killing at this point.

See, while Roy Harper was comatose, Prometheus set his plan of revenge against the Justice League into motion by activating devices that he and his villainous cohorts had previously planted in the home cities of its various members. Though originally intended to be teleporters, due to the uneasy marriage of the myriad technologies used to create them, they ended up functioning more like doomsday machines instead and began tearing their respective targets apart, with Green Arrow’s home of Star City being the first on the chopping block. While Roy’s successor as Speedy, Mia Dearden, managed to track down the Electrocutioner, Prometheus’ triggerman on her home turf, she was forced to abandon her babysitting duties and leave Lian Harper unattended at Oliver Queen’s mansion in order to do so. Unfortunately, not only did he end up slipping through her fingers when the buildings they were standing on collapsed out from under them, but when she and the others finally made their way back to her charge, they discovered, to their combined horror, that there was no house left to return to.

Shame on you, DC, shame on you. Black Canary facepalms for us all.

In order to prevent any further loss of human life, the Justice League grudgingly agreed to grant Prometheus – whom they’d since captured – his freedom in exchange for the codes needed to shut down the devices. The supervillain’s victory proved to be extremely short-lived, however, as Green Arrow secretly managed to track him down and summarily executed him for his crimes. He subsequently enlisted Speedy’s help in capturing the Electrocutioner, fully intending to send the latter to join his former employer in the afterlife. When the time came, however, his conscience, having finally kicked in following a confrontation with his biological son Connor Hawke, the second Green Arrow, earlier that day caused him to relent before he either claimed another life or allowed Speedy to take her first. Green Arrow then surrendered himself to the authorities and both he and his would-be supervillain victim were taken into custody.

But back to the focus of our article.

After waking up from his coma to discover his arm gone and Lian dead, Roy completely lost his shit and began his slow descent into madness and extreme character derailment. First, for reasons that were never actually explained, he started having vivid hallucinations in which his old, dead, smack-shooting buddy Corey kept tempting him to fall off the wagon. Then, he started popping painkillers like Flintstones vitamins due to the flesh-eating nanomite infection – an unexpected souvenir from his battle with Prometheus – constantly aggravating the stump of his right arm and preventing it from healing properly. While Cyborg later presented him with a temporary cybernetic replacement until a more permanent solution could be found, working around the existing nerve damage ended up causing Roy additional pain and discomfort. This, combined with the stopgap nature of the prosthetic, seriously impeded his ability to use his archery skills effectively.

With his life now completely in shambles, Roy began to burn through the massive forced withdrawal from the sympathy bank at an unprecedented rate by systematically lashing out at his friends and family, the highlights of which include insulting Black Canary’s infertility and priorities…

Does the name “Sin” mean anything to you?

…Green Arrow’s murder of Prometheus and poor track record as a parent…

You know, even though he’s speaking from anger, all of that is spot on.

…Speedy’s lousy babysitting skills and annoying respect for human life…

“You can be damn sure I’m not paying you your sitter’s fee for that night!”

…and Donna Troy’s sex life with Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and her alleged lack of devotion as a wife or a mother.

“WHORES…IN…SPAAACE!”

I’d like to note, for the record, that the inherent hypocrisy of that last rant is pretty mind-numbing, as Donna’s son was left in the care of her ex-husband when they divorced while Lian was raised by a series of nannies and babysitters while Roy was out playing superhero. Looks like Oliver Queen’s self-righteousness is getting contagious.

Having lost his daughter, his friends, his family, his arm, his aim with a bow and arrow, and quite possibly his mind, Roy’s broodfest/self-pity party was interrupted by his baby mama Cheshire, who decided to make a housecall.

Get in line, Cheshire. DC’s not done with him yet.

And when the two grieving parents’ attempt to kill each other turned into demented-yet-kinky foreplay for a serious bout of condolence nookie that both desperately needed at this point, she discovered just how right her earlier statement was.

They should’ve called this crappy miniseries “Justice League: The Failure to Rise of Arsenal”.

After suiting up and taking out his sexual frustration on any looters and criminals in Star City unfortunate enough to cross his path, Arsenal stumbled upon a pusher and decided, after some prodding from “Corey”, that he’s found a better way of dealing with his pain.

According to my drug slang list, “China Cat” is 90% pure heroin (which is a lethal dose, even for someone with Arsenal’s constitution).

And not only did he take it all, I’m pretty sure that he took it all too, because that’s the only way I can rationalize his getting so stratospherically high that he hallucinated a group of fellow addicts as an army of Prometheuses (Promethei?) and the dead cat he found in the alley as a suddenly-alive-again Lian that needed protection from all of them.

“Put down the dead cat and nobody gets hurt.”

It’s worth noting at this point that the inherent comedic value of this scene – which has been mercilessly mocked by everyone who’s laid eyes upon it – can be cranked up to eleven if you imagine that Arsenal beat up all those thugs with the corpse of the dearly departed feline. In fact, not only did quite a few people come to this mistaken conclusion all on their own, but Sterling Gates and Bernard Chang decided to lampshade it themselves in Supergirl #57 (December 2010), where a Bizarro version of Arsenal appears…wearing a quiver stuffed with dead cats.

This is so wrong and yet somehow so right.

Anyway, back to our trainwreck.

Dick Grayson, who assumed the mantle of Batman following Bruce Wayne‘s apparent demise in the pages of Final Crisis at this point, staged an intervention…

I’m sure he’ll remember that when he wakes up.

…and deposited Roy in Virgil House, a supervillain detox center in Star City. Guess the superhero detox center got shut down due to a lack of funding or something. After making sure that he was securely strapped to a metal table, he and Black Canary subsequently abandoned him there so that he could cool his heels and burn the remaining drugs out of system. The good news is that this wass the point where Roy stopped being haunted by visions of “Corey”. The bad news is that this was also the point where he started being haunted by visions of “Lian” instead. Succumbing to her taunting, he broke out of rehab, broke into the prison where the Electrocutioner was being held…

KI-KI-KI PA-PA-PA…

…and ended up gutting him like a trout in spite of Green Arrow’s best efforts to stop him.

Now completely off the deep end, he eliminated the final traces of his former life by torching his house with “Lian” still inside of it

Because killing Lian Harper once just wasn’t enough, dammit.

…and then went out hunting out for criminals with his new-and-unimproved attitude.

“Oh shit! It’s a crazy flying white dude!”

Christ, this is awful writing, DC Comics. Just fucking awful. But it’s going to get worse before it gets…well…even worse than that.

Anyway, when word about Arsenal’s new drugged-up vigilante lifestyle started making the rounds, he was contacted by Cheshire, of all people. Seems that Deathstroke, in the latest in his long line of dick moves, decided to hijack the Titans franchise by using it as the name for his villains-for-hire outfit in order to drag the reputations of his longtime adversaries through the mud. And when Cheshire was severely injured by him while completing the main objective of one of their missions, she recruited her ex-boyfriend into helping her kill Deathstroke using the tried and true female tactic of guilt-tripping.

“Please, honey. Don’t start with the killing tonight. I’ve got a headache.”

So, under the pretense of betraying Cheshire to her intended target…

Is that a giant crack pipe strapped to his back?

…Arsenal joined the team and muddled his way through his new supervillain career using the exact same tactic that frustrated readers and Roy Harper’s remaining fans were in order to cope with this garbage right about now: being completely stoned off one’s ass.

I couldn’t fight crime today, and I know why…because I got high…because I got high…because I got high…

While Cheshire and Arsenal’s attempt to get Deathstroke killed one way or another ultimately failed (though they admittedly came damn close when the made their move), both they and the rest of the Titans eventually discovered that everything about them – from the reasons they were recruited to the team in the first place to the seemingly random items and individuals they’d conveniently stumbled upon during the course of their missions – had all been part of a carefully orchestrated gambit by their leader: he’d used them to assemble the components and raw materials required for Dr. Sivana and Dr. Impossible to construct the Methuselah Device, a machine capable of restoring the dead or dying to full health and possibly even grant immortality. And, after using it to heal his terminally ill son Jericho, he decided to spread the wealth by extending a once-in-a-lifetime offer to his villainous associates:

Talk about making an offer you can’t refuse…

It’s at this point that Arsenal managed to sober up enough to grab the idiot ball and run with it at full speed.

…unless you’re a COMPLETE MORON, that is.

Just so we’re clear on this: on a team of supervillains and anti-heroes, all of whom have killed at least one person in cold blood during their careers and who have just spent several weeks or months engaging in morally questionable activities that have directly or indirectly resulted in even more deaths,  a fight breaks out concerning the ethical issues of raising the dead and human longevity of all goddamn things. Needless to say, the battle ended with the Methuselah Device destroyed and everyone walking away pissed off, depressed, and disillusioned. Just like the readers who wasted good money on this crap.

Behold the awkward silence that breaks the fourth wall.

Well, everyone except for Arsenal and Jericho, that is. The former somehow had an epiphany during all this and now wants to restore honor to the very Titans’ name that he was spitting at just a short while ago since he’s discovered that it still means something to him after all, while the latter wants to atone for all the horrible things done by his father to give him a second lease on life.

Call me crazy, but considering that Arsenal’s a wanted murderer and Jericho’s suddenly turned evil and laid death traps for his former teammates and allies no less than three times now, I don’t really think that they’re the most suitable candidates for the job…

The Continuity Verdict

If character derailment in Red Hood and the Outsiders were a spectrum, with Jason Todd towards one end and Starfire all the way on the other, then Roy Harper would probably be somewhere in the middle. Considering that the bulk of his history and character growth has been completely flushed down the toilet in the aftermath of Flashpoint, though, what we really needs to ask ourselves is if the current version of the character bears any resemblance to his previous self  and whether the decanonization of certain stories is sufficient to explain the more drastic alterations to his life and personality. The short answer, in my opinion, is a grudging “yes”.

As anyone who’s made it this far has probably guessed, the fact that Roy Harper has two normal arms now suggests that the events of the Justice League: Cry for Justice didn’t happen, something which Scott Lobdell has since confirmed. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, in that very same interview, he told us about another creative decision of his that’s been with considerably less fanfire, namely that Lian Harper no longer exists and never did in current continuity. He then proceeds to elaborate upon his rationale for this in a really awkward, rambling video, where he states:

“Roy doesn’t have a daughter partially because he’s much younger than he’s been portrayed in the past, he’s about 19 years old now and other than, you know, MTV which glorifies teen pregnancy a lot […]  I think the notion of Roy either leaving his daughter at home to fight crime or taking his daughter with him to fight crime – either way I just felt the character is better off not having a daughter. But I know people got very, very, very attached to her when she was around…  so I feel badly for them but I don’t feel badly for Roy. I think it was the right decision.” – Scott Lobdell

Well, you think wrong. Which, given the artistic license you took with Starfire, isn’t much of a surprise.

Ignoring, for a moment, the fact that he’s retconned away a cute supporting character that was universally liked and can’t seem to make up his mind about how old Roy Harper actually is – he has the character pegged at 19 years old in the above interviews (dated September 12 and September 17, 2011, respectively) but refers to him as a “relatively recently-sober 21-year old” in another one from October 6, 2011 – the fact of the matter is that, either way, the current version of Roy isn’t much older than his previous incarnation was when his daughter was born. She was conceived when he was 20, born when he was 21, and he finally gained custody of her a year later, on or around Lian’s first birthday.

Savor this cuteness, people, because it’s been retconned away forever. 😦

Given the ridiculous temporal compression that’s occurred as a result of Flashpoint and assuming, for the sake of argument, that Lian did exist in this new timeline, she wouldn’t be more than two or three years old, meaning Roy could’ve been anywhere from 15 to 18 years old when he fathered her with Cheshire. And the latter’s hardly a scandalous age to have children at. (Not that any of Lobdell’s other claims make much sense, anyway. For one, MTV doesn’t glorify teen pregnancy; the producers of Teen Mom and related shows exploit it for ratings. For another, Devin Grayson, Jae Faerber and Judd Winick effectively used Lian as a plot generator while writing their books. Plus, a cute little girl with a superhero raising her as a single father and a supervillainess mother is a totally unique concept in comics that’s rife with storytelling possibilities if you have little imagination. Ahem.)

But I’m going off on a tangent here. Lian Harper is officially no more. As much as that sucks, we have to accept it. (At least until I displace Scott Lobdell as the book’s writer, anyway.) So where exactly does her non-existence leave Roy? Well, given that, in a candid discussion with Donna Troy, he once confessed that the single event that changed him the most was fatherhood…

The bottom edge of this panel stopped just short of “DO NOT WANT” territory.

…I’d say that, with his daughter removed from the equation and her positive influence on his growth and development as a person and a fictional character likewise abolished, it’s not at all surprising that his maturity level has taken a steep nosedive. Not that he was ever the poster child for maturity to begin with. I mean, we’re talking about the man who once used a picture of his baby daughter to score with three chicks in a bar as part of a bet with Beast Boy, for god’s sake.

You know, I’m REALLY starting to think that Roy Harper has the superhuman ability to make women swoon over lame pick-up lines.

The real problem with all this is that Roy’s regressed from smooth operator to immature fratboy and is now more Austin Powers than James Bond. Naturally, some diehard fans aren’t exactly thrilled by his sudden change for the worse. And I can’t really blame them.

When it comes to Starfire, Roy’s seeming ignorance about her in Red Hood and the Outsiders is hard to explain. They’ve worked together on several occasions, and, assuming that even the smallest fraction of all Teen Titans stories are still canonical, he should know her reasonably well by now (or at least better than he seems to in the premiere issue).

Which brings us to yet another thing that several readers have their panties in a bunch about: the egregious violation of the bro code he committed by sleeping with Starfire, his best friend Nightwing’s ex-girlfriend. And how can you argue with that? That’s a pretty crummy thing to do, and Roy would never…

Hitting on your best friend’s girlfriend? Not cool, man. NOT COOL.

Okay, let’s not blow things out of proportion. He was just displaying a bit of camaraderie and Dick Grayson was seriously on edge at the time, so I really don’t think…

Bad touch! BAD TOUCH! Go stand in the corner!

So? There’s nothing wrong with a friendly goodbye kiss between teammates. I mean…

Well, at least he waited until Nightwing WASN’T around before he made his move this time.

Eh, you know what they say: once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times is…

Damn, woman. That’s just cold.

…really really skeevy. Goddammit, Roy Harper.

Okay, so maybe he can be a douchebag when it comes to women. He certainly has an established reputation as a womanizer and has romanced or engaged in casual sex with his female teammates before (Donna Troy while he was with the original Teen Titans, Grace Choi when he ran with the Outsiders, and Hawkgirl when he joined the Justice League of America), so this type of behavior isn’t exactly out of the question for him. Moreover, even though he and Dick are best (or at least extremely close) friends, their relationship can be somewhat dysfunctional at times. When the going’s good, they’re really tight buds. But when things go south…

Ouch. Talk about hitting below the belt.

…it can get pretty damn ugly between them.

But in spite of the occasional tensions that flare up between Roy and Dick and inevitably end in knock-down, drag-out fistfights, one key question remains: would he really have no qualms whatsoever about hanging out with Jason Todd, someone who’s caused so much trouble for (and even nearly killed) a childhood acquaintance and longtime teammate of his?

With best friends like these, who needs enemies?

Surprisingly enough, the answer, based on what we know about him, is yes.

See, one of the really strange things about Roy Harper is that – up until Justice League: Cry for Justice completely destroyed his life – he had an extremely laid-back, attitude most of the time. So laid back that he was practically horizontal. Not only did he often try to look for the best in even the most morally and ethically bankrupt individuals, but he seemed to have the ability to compartmentalize his feelings about someone based on whether or not they acted with malicious intent, if he was associating with them while in or out of costume, and whether his (or his daughter’s) immediate welfare were negatively affected by their actions or not (an admittedly somewhat self-centered philosophy that made him a less-than-ideal friend sometimes). It was only when someone deliberately did something that sent his private and superhero lives on a collision course that he would begin harboring grudges against them. Exactly why he developed this extremely liberal philosphy towards life and almost ridiculous capacity for forgiveness is anybody’s guess, though the best explanation seems to be that, since he himself was such a screw-up, he felt that he wasn’t really in any position to be judging others harshly.

Whatever the reason, the best way to illustrate his bizarre sense of ethics and loyalties would be by analzying his relationships with three individuals: Cheshire, Deathstroke the Terminator, and Chanda Madan, one of Lian Harper’s numerous nannies.

I won’t dwell on Cheshire too much since, based on the incredibly long and boring biography of his that you’ve all had to slog through just to get here, it’s clear that Roy’s relationship with her was infinitely more complicated and dysfunctional than his friendship with Dick Grayson.

Nothing’s funnier than genocide and medical insurance.

While this level of dedication to the mother of your child would be admirable under any other circumstances, given that Cheshire’s the second deadliest assassin in the DC Universe, attempted to kill the Teen Titans more than once, and had a pretty high body count even before she nuked the capital of Qurac and killed thousands (if not tens or hundreds of thousands) of people, it took far longer for him to come to the realization that she’d never change and finally shake off the romantic feelings he had for her than common sense and logic would normally allow. And even then, he still respected her visitation rights and took Lian to visit her mother in prison.

As for Deathstroke the Terminator, if there’s one thing he’s infamous for, it’s how close he came to killing the Teen Titans by planting Terra in their group as a mole while completing his deceased son’s contract with the H.I.V.E. And yet, as crazy as it sounds…

“He nearly killed all my friends and teammates. But he’s really a swell guy!”

…Roy didn’t hold any of that against him and actually seemed to think quite fondly of him, even though, by this point, the man had probably killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people while working as a mercenary-for-hire. In fact, it was only after Deathstroke dressed up as Batman, played him for a fool, threatened his daughter, and nearly killed him in hand-to-hand combat…

Yeesh, you’re already killing him. You don’t have to be a dick about it.

…that Roy even started taking things personally. Whether or not Deathstroke’s use of Chemo as a bioweapon to wipe Blüdhaven and its population of one hundred thousand off the map during Infinite Crisis increased the bad blood between them is anyone’s guess, especially since Roy seemed perfectly willing to give Cheshire a free pass for mass murder.

Finally, we come to Chanda Madan, a young woman of Quraci descent whose grandparents were killed when the country’s capital was wiped off the map. After learning exactly who Lian Harper’s mother was, she took advantage of the unrestricted access she had to Titans Tower as the young girl’s nanny to uncover Cheshire’s whereabouts, information that she subsequently passed on to Quraci terrorists so that they could avenge the deaths of their countrymen. Unfortunately, things quickly spiralled out of control in ways she neither anticipated nor wanted, and the entire fiasco ended with Cheshire nearly being killed twice, Lian narrowly avoiding being kidnapped, and Arsenal badly beaten and nursing a broken leg. But even after Nightwing outed her…

There’s being open-minded and then there’s having a cavity in your skull so large that something could fall out of it.

…Roy was still totally cool with it and wanted her to stay on as his daughter’s caregiver. The only reason Chanda no longer had her babysitting job after this all crap went down was because she quit of her own free will rather than risk putting her charge, whom she’d genuinely come to adore, in any more danger in the future.

In a nutshell, given Roy’s established patterns of thought and behavior, his being friends with Jason Todd is completely consistent with his character. In fact – vindictive babysitters with links to Middle Eastern terrorism aside – I’d even go so far as to say that Jason, who’s “only” murdered pushers and members of Black Mask’s criminal empire and doesn’t have a 10K+ body count under his belt, is the least objectionable person of dubious morality that he’s on friendly terms with. And that’s still pretty disturbing.

Still, the ultimate tragedy in all this is that Roy Harper, whose depiction for most of the last 24 years has been that of a quasi-mature, halfway responsible single superhero father with a supervillainess ex who’d grown beyond his original role and come into his own, has been reduced to a childless Green Arrow lite playing the role of the Red Hood’s partner. In essence, he’s the former kid sidekick who’s now the sidekick of another former kid sidekick. Which, if you think about it, is pretty pathetic.

You call this progress, DC Comics? Seriously?


%d bloggers like this: