Trek News Dispatch, part 1 of 2

This week, I wanted to comment briefly on recent news items that affect various different Star Trek eras/universes.

Nichelle Nichols

Allow me to begin with the report on Nichelle Nichols’ health. Nichols, 85, has understandably had her share of health issues, and fans will remember that the much-beloved, original ‘Lt. Uhura’ suffered a mild stroke back in 2015. Fortunately, there was no resulting paralysis. However, it has since been reported that she has been suffering memory loss. (I don’t know if it’s thought to be related.)

Original reports came this past May, when her son, Kyle Johnson, petitioned the court to have conservators appointed to manage Nichols’ health and financial decisions. It seems that her memory issues had allowed “certain individuals [to] unduly exert[] themselves into Ms. Nichols’ life to her detriment.” In conservatorship documents recently obtained by TMZ, Nichols’ doctor, Meena Makhijani, said that the actress does indeed have “moderate progressive dementia.” More specifically, she has “major impairment of her short-term memory and moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place and immediate recall.” However, there does not appear to be impairment to her “long-term memory, orientation of her body, comprehension, verbal communication, concentration, recognition of familiar people, as well as ability to reason logically and plan actions.”

This is sad news, as it would be with anyone. But, we can pray that Nichols’ conservators get her the care she needs, and that her family, friends, assistants, etc., work patiently with her as she deals with this condition. And, of course, we fans will continue to love and appreciate the beautiful, classy, sci-fi and cultural icon.

On the movie front, Star Trek 4 in the Kelvin universe is in jeopardy. Even before Star Trek Beyond was released, the powers-that-be announced they had already started developing the next film. Based on an idea by J.J. Abrams, it would involve some way — presumably time-travel — of teaming James Kirk with his late father, George, played briefly by Chris Hemsworth in 2009’s Star Trek. Both actors were reportedly “on board” and had deals in place.

A few months ago, rumors of a Quentin Tarantino-led Trek movie had people wondering if those plans would delay or even replace Star Trek 4. But, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Rather, recent reports are that Star Trek 4 has hit a wall due to… money. Apparently, salaries for Hemsworth and Chris Pine (aka ‘James Kirk’) had not yet been finalized, and now “talks between the two actors and the companies making the new installment, Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media, have fallen apart, with both sides walking away from the table.”

Hemsworth and Pine

Pine and Hemsworth are big enough stars now that they can command big money. (E.g., Pine got $6 million for Star Trek Beyond.) I don’t begrudge them that. Also, according to reports, they are merely “asking the studios to stick to existing deals. Paramount, according to insiders, contends that Star Trek is not like a Marvel or Star Wars movie and is trying to hold the line on a budget.” So, Paramount was disappointed in the 3rd film’s profits. Fair point, but whose fault was that? Arguably not Pine’s, and certainly not Hemsworth’s.

Like many, I have been somewhat disappointed in the current Trek movies, so I wouldn’t be devastated if Star Trek 4 never happened. On the other hand, it would be a shame, especially since I think it’s at least partially fixable. (No, I don’t think they should recast either of the Kirks — especially the younger.) The more immediate option would be to give the actors more skin in the game, i.e., tying a certain bonus to the film’s profitability (as Pine did for Star Trek Into Darkness) or with a percentage of the take on the backend. The second thing would be to make the movie slightly less dependent on action and F/X and incorporate more of the tone and philosophical elements that the TOS and TNG-based films had. (Unfortunately, the one thing they can’t do is insert several years of the characters/actors working (and playing) together, which I think was a big factor in the success of (most of) those earlier movies.)

To be continued in a few days…

Advertisements

How to Improve Marvel’s Netflix Shows

“There’s always room for improvement.” — various people at various times

I was thinking about Marvel’s Netflix shows the other day and remembered an article about them that I’d seen a couple months ago. The author, Max Farrow, notes:

“[W]e can’t help but admit that 2017 was something of a stumbling block for the superheroes of Netflix. For all the grit and timeliness of The Punisher, several factors ensured that neither The Defenders or Iron Fist managed to inspire that much enthusiasm in fans. How can Marvel and Netflix get their mojo back, then? What can they do to get their superhero shows on track once more?”

He suggests five ways to do just that, so I figured we could look them over, and I’ll add a few reactions and comments of my own….

1) Stop Killing Villains

Farrow lauds the “fleshed out and highly memorable” main villains (especially as compared to some in the movies) and the “titanic talents” (e.g., Ali, Tennant, Weaver) that have portrayed them. But, he finds it somewhat odd and disappointing that at least twice a major villain has been offed part-way through the series.

“[T]his isn’t to say that show execs can’t, or shouldn’t, kill villains off full-stop. Unique and unpredictable storytelling is a fantastic quality in a series. But, having villain number three die midway through a season is precisely why Netflix shouldn’t opt for it again.”

I agree with him. These were strange moves that interrupted the flow of the respective stories. If they can attract such talent for these roles, why kill them off early? (Of course, it’s possible that they may only want to sign on for 5 or 6 episodes, and that would be a shame.)

2) Kick Ass, But More Efficiently

Farrow lays it out:

“The Marvel/Netflix shows may be gritty character studies, but we wouldn’t love them as much without their alleyway (or corridor) brawls. However, it’s been two years since Daredevil and Frank Castle dished out some quite frankly jaw-dropping beatdowns in Daredevil season 2. Aside from several notable moments in The Defenders, there’s been very little in the way of truly electrifying showdowns since. So, why are these kinds of moments becoming scarcer?”

As Farrow acknowledges, “action scenes are expensive and tricky to film.” But, no matter how “real-life” these shows are, they are still about characters with amazing superpowers and fighting skills. People who tune in expect to see these powers/skills used and, hopefully, not only executed well but in ways that seem authentic and make sense.

“From Daredevil’s radar-sense to Jessica Jones’ limited flight, honing on in [sic] these iconic abilities in fight scenes could really make the Marvel/Netflix shows stand out. Moreover, given enough resources and planning time, a great choreographer would be able to turn these prerequisite punch-ups into something truly special.”

Yes, indeed.

3) Planning Makes Perfect

Unlike the (mostly) “efficiently cohesive, detailed world” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Netflix shows, according to Farrow, seem to struggle with reminding us of their interconnectedness. In particular, he points to “The Defenders” and its slow ramp to get viewers up to speed on “picking up where each of the solo shows left off” and “a lot of work into maneuvering [the characters] into suitable positions for the story at hand.”

At first, I thought he was being a little hard on the writers/producers regarding efforts to a) show us what our heroes were currently up to and b) orchestrate their eventual “team-up” against their common foes. I mean, that’s a lot to juggle. Plus, more generally, the appearances of ‘Claire Temple’, ‘Karen Page’, and other supporting characters help to remind us of the shared city in the other series. But, after re-reading Farrow’s comments, I have to admit he makes some good observations.

“A bit more pre-planning would be hugely beneficial in this regard. Moreover, it would help any inter-show crossovers to feel more natural, such as in the rumored second season of The Defenders. Plus, it will allow for terrific new stories to be told, which change and shape the wider Marvel/Netflix world.

Sure, the shows all feel alike with their similarly grungy Manhattan, but it’s strange how inconsequentially huge events – such as Kingpin’s bombings – are rendered within the context of The Defenders.

It’s even stranger when we consider that all of the characters operate only a few blocks away from each other as well.”

I can’t help but agree with him there, too. This leads into the next gripe/suggestion…

4) Get To Grips With The Wider MCU

When “(Marvel’s) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuted on ABC back in 2013, it was essentially a spin-off that followed the “Battle of New York” seen in the first Avengers film. Agent Phil Coulson was the crossover player (with an appearance or two by Nick Fury), and there have continued to be references to stuff from the films sprinkled about in the TV series. Unfortunately, despite the hopes of the fans, connections between Netflix’s Marvel-based series and the MCU movies have been quite slim, with references even fewer and farther between.

“This hasn’t been hugely detrimental to these shows, though. Moreover, The Punisher barely features any inter-world connections and still manages to tell a rich and compelling story without relying on references. However, it is getting to the point where passing lip-service to iron suits isn’t going to cut it anymore.

At what point in the MCU timeline does Daredevil’s showdown with Fisk take place? A year after The Avengers? No one knows. Plus, the lack of Defenders references from the movies are conspicuous by their absence. Surely S.H.I.E.L.D. would have a use for someone like Matt Murdock?”

Farrow is fair to note the various challenges of things like logistics, varying development times, the “notoriously fractious relationship” between the movie and TV divisions, etc. Still, if the Netflix series are firmly set in the same world as the MCU, and I hope they are, then they really need to make a better effort to make that clear. It would only make sense, and it would further please the fans who value such continuity.

5) Shorten The Series

Farrow contends that the thirteen-episode structure of each season of the Netflix shows — except for the “The Defenders” mini-series, of course — is just a tad too long. I’ll let him explain…

“Regardless of what theme each show is exploring, at their hearts they’re superhero stories, right down to their adrenaline-fuelled needs. That isn’t to say they can’t be deep or cerebral (these shows have frequently proved that it’s possible), but they do need that burgeoning, dramatic tension to keep them chugging along.

Unfortunately, because of their structure, the Marvel/Netflix shows can’t sustain this drive for the time that they’re required to. Even the best of these series are forced to tread water for some period of time, be it the opening episodes of The Punisher or those where Kilgrave’s imprisoned in Jessica Jones. When this happens, the bloat sets in and the show grinds to a halt.

Again, it’s not that we don’t love spending time with characters like Jessica Jones. But if the show around them suffers for it, then something’s got to give. And that something is the series’ length.”

My instinct is to deny it. I mean, I love my superheroes (regardless of how much I complain), so the more episodes the better. Right? But, after briefly reflecting, I have to admit that Farrow is probably right, and I’ve even had similar thoughts. Most (each?) of the Netflix shows could probably have been improved by tightening up the writing/pacing, thereby cutting each season down to 10(?) to 12 episodes each.

I’m tempted to add a point or two of my own, but you all already know my gripes and preferences from the reviews I’ve done on these series. (See ‘Review Posts’ link at top of page.)

So, what do you think? Is Farrow unfair or otherwise “off” in his assessments? Am I an “unfaithful” fan for generally agreeing with him? Is ‘Kilgrave’ overrated, ‘cuz Tennant makes Whovian fangirls swoon? Should I stop asking questions? Just wonderin’…

Y or Y Not

“Nnnooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!” — me

It seems that an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s popular, critically-acclaimed, dystopian comic book series, Y: The Last Man (DC/Vertigo), has been in development at FX for some time, and I had no idea. How could that happen?!

Originally (2007), New Line bought the rights and had names like David Goyer and D.J. Caruso attached. Caruso wanted to do a three-film saga (which might’ve worked, imho), but he left the project when New Line insisted on a single film. (Bad idea!) They tried again with another group of names, but that fell through when the rights eventually reverted back to Vaughan in 2014, who didn’t like the direction they were taking. When the FX deal was announced in 2015, they had lined up Color Force’s Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson to co-adapt/write with Vaughan. (Vaughan had previously worked on “Lost” and “Under the Dome”.)

“All of the men are dead. But one. Y traverses a world of women — exploring gender, race, class and survival.” — FX’s formal description for the series

Now, they’ve got a showrunner (Michael Green), a newly-signed co-showrunner (Aida Mashaka Croal), a director (Melina Matsoukas), and a fresh, new pilot order. Green, Croal, Matsoukas, Jacobson, Simpson, and Vaughan will all be executive producers.

I quite enjoyed the Y: The Last Man comic series, lo, those many years ago. The premise was intriguing, the title character (semi-pro escape artist Yorick Brown) was a lovable goof, and his little, rascally Capuchin buddy (Ampersand) was cute & funny, too. (Note: It is for “mature audiences”, so a few scenes/elements were a bit uncomfortable for me.) It also had decent storylines and supporting characters, and Pia Guerra’s art was terrific — a perfect fit. Terrific, creative cover art, too. So, when I started to read about this live-action version being made for the small screen, my first thought was an enthusiastic, “Cool!”. But, then I remembered “Runaways”….

“Runaways”, if you don’t remember, is another comic series Vaughan created and wrote a few years ago (but for Marvel). It was recently adapted for the small screen and aired on Hulu. I’m just about finished watching the 10-episode run, but I practically have to force myself. If it was an original series, it would be fine. But, I know the source material (having recently re-read the original 18-issue story arc), and the TV series is such a disappointment. I can understand a few minor tweaks, but there are so many alterations to characters — 2 or 3 missing, others new; others with different ages, physical appearances, “origins”, and/or personality changes –, and the plot is barely recognizable beyond the most basic elements. I keep asking myself how Vaughan could let his creation be so… mangled. But, then I came across this statement:

“These changes are fully supported by Vaughan, who serves as a consultant on the TV series…. [Also,]

‘It was important to me that we do something where people can’t go online and read how this ends or what’s going to happen next.'”

I can certainly understand that concern, but I think they went way too far with the changes on “Runaways”. With that in mind, I kept reading about the “Y: The Last Man” adaptation. Unfortunately, it only got worse, based on Vaughan’s Nov. 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“I wanted to find someone who loved the source material, but didn’t feel so indebted to it that they would be afraid to change it. When [Michael Green] first pitched his take on it to Nina Jacobson, our producer, and me a long time ago, he came in saying he wanted to do something about toxic masculinity. It felt very relevant, and unfortunately I think it’s only become more relevant with each passing day. His take on it was really brave and very different, but exciting as well. I really admire how audacious he’s been with his translation.”

Michael Green at Comic Con

Groan! And, of course (<eyeroll>), it’s Trump’s fault, as Green explained to THR last July:

“It would have been a very different show, and very different development process, had the election not been as horrifying as it was. I had to put the script down for a couple months and really reassess it tonally, because it became a different creature, it became violent protest. It couldn’t not be political, and I had to embrace it, and I had to find my way in, and I had to find a way to channel my own dismay, disappointment and rage into it, while still keeping it what it is. For a minute there I almost walked away.”

“It couldn’t not be political….” Criminy dutch! What a way to ruin a cool idea by feeding into this hysterical, politically-correct, “toxic masculinity” crap! (Can you tell I’m a bit worked up over this?) Fans like me don’t want Green’s “dismay, disappointment and rage” over a political election. We don’t want “very different” and “audacious”, either. We want to see the source material realized with its original tone. That’s what we loved on the page; that’s what we want on the screen. But, Leftist Hollywood rarely gets that, or cares.

At least there was one thing I can get behind regarding Green’s take on it, and it’s something I think my fellow “Babylon 5” fans can appreciate, too….

“‘Whether it is 60, 70 or 80 episodes, I’m gonna pick a number, and I’m gonna stick to it. And I’m gonna write to it. There’s so many brilliant things in that comic, the two biggest are the premise, and the ending.’ He believes Vaughan’s writing ‘toward an ending that he knew’ made the series more ‘meaningful.’ He calls the set length of the series a ‘pact’ with the audience, adding, ‘It will help them to know that we’re ticking down.'”

Obviously, you can do a “last man on Earth” story without resorting to making it a feminist screed. It has been done before. There may even have been a few anti-male jabs in the comic series, but it wasn’t enough to ruin it for me, especially if they were for light comedic effect. So, this “violent protest” of Green’s — with FX’s and Vaughan’s apparent support — has me worried and quite irked, to say the least. I may watch the pilot out of curiosity, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach it for long, if that’s the tone and direction Green’s gonna twist Y into. Sheesh!

A New Era for Valiant Entertainment

Valiant Comics were cool.

Solar, Man of the Atom. X-O Manowar. Bloodshot. Harbinger. Rai. Shadowman. Eternal Warrior. Archer & Armstrong. Etc. Lots of great art and great stories, all in a cohesive universe! They even had a different look and “feel” that set them apart from other comic universes.

“The mainstream titles were becoming overwhelmingly art-driven. We wanted to offer the public something that had been lost, namely well-written, character-driven stories.” — Bob Layton, writer/artist and former Senior V.P. of the original Valiant

Solar #3 (1991)

I remember when Jim Shooter and Steve Massarsky launched the new company in the early 1990s, following a failed attempt to buy Marvel Entertainment. (Well, technically, Voyager Communications was founded in 1989, but the first books under the Valiant Comics imprint came out in 1991.) They began by licensing a couple older characters — Solar, Man of the Atom, and Magnus, Robot Fighter — that were originally published by Gold Key Comics in the 1960s. I never really got into Magnus much, but I loved the god-like Doctor Solar. And the artwork by Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton? Awesome!

The company attracted some talented creators, both new and veteran, and the stable of characters and titles grew. Diamond Comics Distributors named it Publisher of the Year in 1993 and, at some point, Valiant became the third largest comic book company in the world. Shooter was forced out in 1992 and Acclaim Entertainment bought the company in 1994. Of course, Acclaim cancelled a few titles in 1996. Acclaim went bankrupt in 2004, and that’s about when I lost track.

I heard about the new Valiant Entertainment which started up in 2005, but I didn’t realize that it was formed by two mega-fans who bought the old company’s assets. (However, the licensed characters Solar, Magnus, and Turok were not part of the deal.) Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari weren’t even out of college when they put together the winning bid. (Actually, they came in 2nd, but the winner pulled out shortly afterward.) They built up a senior advisory board consisting of several former Marvel people and chaired by former Marvel CEO Peter Cuneo. They enticed Marvel’s Warren Simons to join as Executive Editor and eventually put together a stable of enthusiastic and award-winning creative talent, publishing their first comics — reboots of four of the original characters — in “The Summer of Valiant” in 2012.

“It was abundantly clear to me that these guys had a tremendous love for both the medium and Valiant’s characters. They wanted to build the company with a commitment to compelling stories above all else. As an editor who strives to put out great comics on a monthly basis, this was music to my ears.” — Warren Simons

Of course, remember that I said that Valiant Comics were cool? That’s because I haven’t read any from the last few years, so I can’t judge them from personal experience to say if they still are cool. (I am aware that Quantum & Woody, unfortunately, has become politically-charged, insulting to certain groups, with disappointing art and humor. I don’t know about the other titles.) However, they must be doing something right. The new Valiant proceeded to win Publisher of the Year, set sales records, and was the most nominated publisher in comics at the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Harvey Awards.

When Valiant re-launched in 2012, it was also announced that big-screen films were in development for the Bloodshot and Harbinger properties, with names like director Brett Ratner and producer Neal Moritz attached. Other film projects were announced in the ensuing months. Then, in March 2015, Valiant Entertainment got “an undisclosed nine-figure investment from Chinese entertainment company DMG, the co-producers and co-financiers of Iron Man 3.” The money was earmarked for TV and film development, “which one assumes includes the currently-in-development Shadowman, Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong.”

“[T]aking a stake in the last independent massive comic universe is a strategic investment for DMG that will produce movies and TV that are both appealing and relevant to a global audience.” — Dan Mintz, CEO of DMG

Bloodshot #2 (2012)

As per comicbook.com’s Russ Burlingame,

“The deal likely means that DMG will co-finance all of the projects and assist with international distribution and exhibition[, including in the huge Chinese market]. DMG and Valiant will also be pursuing Chinese licensing for Valiant properties beyond film in publishing, animation and theme parks, as well as toys and apparel.”

That was three years ago. Now, we come to the latest bit of major news on the Valiant front….

In January of this year, DMG Entertainment went from owning 57% of Valiant Entertainment to owning it all, thereby providing Mintz’s “filmmaker-run studio with a treasure trove of world-class intellectual properties and establish[ing] DMG as one of the most valuable and innovative media companies in Hollywood…. The Valiant acquisition is the latest in a string of high-profile strategic moves from Mintz and DMG, the global entertainment powerhouse valued at more than $6 billion. In addition, the company has continued to expand its purview with new initiatives in intellectual property, virtual reality, e-sports and live attractions based on top-tier global franchises, including Hasbro’s “Transformers.””

“Our priority is to build upon Valiant’s vast universe of characters from a filmmaker’s perspective. I’m excited to immerse Valiant’s fans well beyond the stories we tell cinematically — from publishing to gaming to theme parks and beyond.” — Dan Mintz

According to the Wikipedia summary of the deal, Valiant CEO/CCO Dinesh Shamdasani, COO/CFO Gavin Cuneo, and Chairman Peter Cuneo will transition out of the company, though the first two will continue to serve as consultants. No word, yet, on new management, but presumably Mintz will serve in at least a couple of the top spots. Valiant’s publishing team, however, will remain in place, including Publisher Fred Pierce and Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons.

I have no idea what kind of a reputation Mintz/DMG have as filmmakers or businesspersons. (Iron Man 3 and Looper were good and fairly successful, but not great.) I have to say, though, that this sounds like a fantastic development for the Valiant properties to get the stable financial and creative backing they need to proceed with the TV and film productions — probably more. Mintz sure sounds enthusiastic, and I hope he is as driven to make quality, story-driven productions with these characters as everyone from Shooter & Layton to  Shamdasani et al. have been. I hope-n-pray that the film/TV adaptations stay faithful to the comic sources, so that longtime fans can enjoy the original characters they… we… grew to love. And, of course, it would be nice if the comics themselves continue to be well-written and entertaining (and hopefully not objectionable) for all.

Pokemon Battle Tree Strategy

It’s Pokemon stuff, so it must be an Evan Minton guest-post. What more do you need to know? Read, gamers, read!


Pokemon Battle Tree Strategy

by Evan Minton

Ever since Pokemon Crystal, the Pokemon mainstream games have always had a battle facility that you could take on after getting all the gym badges and becoming Pokemon League Champion. Crystal had the Battle Tower, Emerald had the Battle Frontier, Platinum also had a Battle Frontier, Black/White had the Battle Subway, Black2/White2 had the Pokemon World Championships, and X/Y had The Battle Maison. Each of these facilities is designed to be extremely difficult and require you to play competitively (i.e., breed for perfect IVs, EV train, and focus heavily on strategies). Casual Players have no chance of succeeding in these facilities.

In Sun and Moon and in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, the facility is called The Battle Tree. My goal in The Battle Maison was to get 50 wins in the four battle formats available, Super Singles, Super Doubles, Super Triples, and Super Rotations. My goal was to beat 49 trainers and defeat each of the Chatelaine sisters. My Goal in the Battle Tree was to get 50 wins in the 3 formats available; Super Singles, Super Doubles, and Super Multis. Doing this would introduce a special stamp on my Trainer Passport for beating that portion of The Battle Tree. Unfortunately, I haven’t succeeded yet. That said, I have come closer than I ever have before. I got 39 straight wins in The Battle Tree in Pokemon Sun using a specific team that others have used and have gotten all the way to 50 with. I believe that this team is probably my best chance and your best chance of getting 50 wins in the Battle Tree’s Super Singles format.

The Pokemon

First things first. In order to get 50 wins in The Battle Tree, you’re going to need the best team possible. Now, this isn’t to say that this is the only team you can use. After all, if you scower YouTube Battle Tree videos, others have had immense success with teams different from this one. However, this is the team that I have found works best for me, and it’s the one that got me the closest to my goals. Why didn’t I go all the way to 50, then, you might ask? I’ll get to that in a minute.

Mega Salamence is the first Pokemon you’ll want to get. This guy is a massively powerful sweeper. You’ll want your Salamence to have a Jolly Nature because that’s the nature that boosts the Speed stat, and you want your Salamence to be as fast as possible. My Salamence outspeeds the majority of Pokemon in the Battle Tree. As I’ll say below, there are some Pokemon that outspeed Mega Salamence such as Mega Gengar and Mega Alakazam, but 9 out of 10 times, you’ll be going first. So, for maximum speed, make sure the Salamence you breed or Pokegen is a Jolly Nature and has 252 Speed EVs. Mega Salamence is a physical attacker, so you’ll want to EV train it to 252 speed EVs. When it mega evolves, its ability is Aerilate, which changes all Normal type moves into flying type moves. Double Edge hits super hard because it has a base power of 120, plus it gets a STAB boost. As iStarlyTV put it, it’s equivalent to Brave Bird. The downside is that Mega Salamence takes a lot of recoil damage, so you can only use this move two to three times before Mega Salamence faints. Of course, that’s not TOO bad as this move hits so hard that you’ll be getting one hit KOs most of the time. Usually by the second Double Edge, my opponent has been down to their last Pokemon.

Earthquake is on this moveset because it’s really powerful, and it can deal with Pokemon that resist Double Edge. Flamethrower is important for this set because there are Pokemon that you’ll encounter in The Battle Tree such as Skarmory and Bronzong who (1) resist damage from Double Edge and (2) take no damage at all from Earthquake. Flamethrower will do super effective damage on those Pokemon and you’ll be able to take them out. Of course, you’re free to replace it with Fire Fang or any other damaging Fire Type move. The important thing is that you have a fire type move in the slot that can deal with those pesky Skarmory and Bronzongs.

Dragon Claw and Flamethrower are backup moves used when you encounter dragons and floating/flying Steel types, but the primary and most important moves on this set are Double Edge and Earthquake.

Now, some have put Dragon Dance and Return in this slot, which is pretty good too. Return is a pretty strong move in general if your Pokemon has maximum friendship with you, and given the Aerilate ability, you get a STAB boost, but unfortunately, if you don’t run Dragon Dance, Return won’t do as much damage as Double Edge. I prefer not to set up if I can avoid it, as you give your opponent a free turn to hit you and do only The Lord knows what.

You can lead with this Pokemon if you want to, however, I have found that Kartana (who I’ll introduce in a moment) isn’t a very good Pokemon to switch into because you could get hit by a special attack that it can’t handle, so I have typically found it more beneficial to have Makani as my backup sweeper.

Kartana is an Ultra Beast that you can catch in the postgame of Pokemon Sun. You’ll need a Jolly Nature, and maximize its Attack and Speed EVs. Make sure it has 31 IVs in the Attack, Speed, and Defense stats. Pokemon Sun is programmed to ensure that at least 3 of the Ultra Beasts’ stats are up to 31. These are the ones that count. So you’ll need to soft-reset your game until you get one with this nature and EVs. If you don’t get the right IVs, you can level it up to 100 and Hyper Train those stats at Hau’oli City’s mall, however, grinding to level 100 takes a LOOOOONG time. You’d be better off simply soft-resetting.

This Pokemon sweeps so well because of 4 things. First of all, it has a high base attack stat anyway, and secondly, you’ve EV trained it. Thirdly, it has the hold item: Life Orb. Life Orb boosts the attack power of a Pokemon but takes a tiny bit of its HP each turn. Finally, every time Kartana knocks an opponent out, it’s ability Beast Boost activates and raises its attack stat. So if you take an opponent out, Beast Boost activates and that makes it all the more likely that you’ll be able to one-shot the next Pokemon to come out. Take out that Pokemon, and the third Pokemon is going to take EVEN MORE damage!

Leaf Blade gets the STAB boost since Kartana is a grass type. So with everything I mentioned above, you can do some major damage with this guy. Think of this: A STAB boosted, Life Orb boosted, 2X Beast Boosted Leaf Blade! MAJOR DAMAGE! And if the Pokemon is weak to grass type moves, it does even more damage.

Sacred Sword is good for taking out Steel, Rock, and Normal type Pokemon.

Smart Strike is a move that never misses. You will find that some Pokemon will spam evasion moves like Double Team and Minimize. If this happens, you can just spam Smart Strike. No matter how high the evasiveness of your opponent’s Pokemon is, Smart Strike will always hit.

Night Slash is on here because it rounds out the coverage very well. Also, this move has a high critical hit ratio. This means you can do major damage, especially if you’ve gotten a couple of Beast Boosts up.

Toxapex is your defensive wall. Baneful Bunker is Toxapex’s exclusive move. It does the same thing as protect, except that if the opponent physically strikes Toxapex while it’s using it, they’ll get poisoned, so it’s a nice added effect.

Toxic is extremely important because Toxapex isn’t very strong. It’s extremely bulky though. That’s its strength; it’s a defensive wall. The purpose of having this Pokemon on your team is to have one that can take hits insanely well. The strategy is to use Toxic, and then use Baneful Bunker and Recover every other turn. Toxic’s damage increases with each and every turn. Using Baneful Bunker every other turn, you can keep your opponent from doing any damage to you, and any damage that they DO inflict, you can get rid of with Recover.

Recover helps stall out the effects of Toxic for even longer.

Toxic won’t work on Poison type Pokemon like Tentacruel, however. In that case, you’ll want to burn it with Scald. The BURN status will chip a little bit of the opponent’s HP away every turn. The damage won’t increase with every turn unlike Toxic, though. This is what I call Burn stalling. Additionally, the Burn status cuts the Attack power in half, meaning that Toxapex will take even less damage provided that the opponent relies on that stat.

Know Your Enemy

I think the reason I couldn’t get all the way to 50 is that I was focusing solely on MY Pokemon and whether we were at a type disadvantage. Having the right Pokemon is only part of the equation, however. You also need to focus heavily on your opponent’s Pokemon and what strategies they intend on using.

Austin John, on his YouTube Video about The Battle Tree, said that the Battle Tree trainers have specific and set strategies that they intend on using. Unlike real human beings, they won’t be anticipating your every move. For example, if one is running a Gengar with Hypnosis and Dream Eater, the chances are that the strategy this Trainer is going to use is (1) put your Pokemon to sleep with Hypnosis, and (2) spam Dream Eater for damage. John said that he saw a video where the Pokemon had the Insomnia ability (an ability that prevents the Pokemon from being put to sleep), and yet the opponent kept using Hypnosis over and over and over, even though it clearly wasn’t going to work. So if you can analyze The Battle Tree’s trainers, their Pokemon, and the strategies they’re likely to use, your chances of beating them will be higher.

How can you do this? Hackers have data mined the Pokemon Sun and Moon and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon games and made an online database that shows you all of the trainers you will encounter, what Pokemon they will be using, what items those Pokemon will be holding, and what attacks they will have in their movesets. When you run into, say, “Backpacker Julia” or whoever, just lookup that Trainer’s name in the moveset and their team will be exposed to you. The strategies themselves aren’t listed in the database, you’ll have to use your own discernment for that. What I mean by that is that, if you see that the trainer has an Alolan Muk and this Muk has Minimize, Rest, and Snarl in its movepool, then you can infer that this Muk is very likely meant to be a defensive wall. It’s meant to use Minimize a bunch of times to keep any of your attacks from hitting, and Rest in order to undo any damage you DO happen to inflict on it. Just knowing what moves your opponent’s Pokemon has can give you some idea of how they plan on using them.

Analyze the Pokemon and their movesets, get familiar with the strategies, and battle accordingly. Serebii.net has the database for UltraSun and UltraMoon’s Battle Tree trainers here: https://www.serebii.net/ultrasunultramoon/battletree.shtml

Biggest Threats To This Team

Weaviles with Taunt

You cannot Toxic Stall a Weavile that knows Taunt. For one thing, Weavile is faster than Toxapex and will always move first. Weaviles that know Taunt will use Taunt most likely on the first turn. Why is this bad? Because Taunt prevents a Pokemon from using any moves that don’t deal out damage. This means you can only use Scald, nothing else. You can’t use Toxic. You can’t use Baneful Bunker. You can’t use Recover. You can only use Scald. This wouldn’t be too bad if Toxapex’s Special Attack wasn’t so insanely low. Scald isn’t a sucky move when you run it on Pokemon like Araquanid or Pelliper, who have decent Special Attack stats. But with Toxapex, it does puny damage. This means you’ll only be chipping away at Weavile’s HP slowly, and if Weavile has any HP recovering items like Leftovers, you’re pretty much done for. You’re done for if Toxapex is your last Pokemon, but you might be able to beat it with Mega Salamence or Kartana. Unfortunately, Mega Salamence is 4X weak to ice type moves and faints to them nearly every time, so switching into it could be very risky. If you can get Kartana onto the field and have it use a super effective Sacred Sword once or twice, that would be better.

Milotics With Rest

Some of the Battle Tree trainers (particularly Cynthia) have Milotics. Milotics are a big threat to this team because Mega Salamence is 4 times weak to ice type moves, and most Milotics know either Blizzard or Ice Beam. Secondly, Cynthia’s Milotic in particular could have Rest in its moveset or Recover. If it’s got Recover, that’s better than Rest. Why? Because if Milotic has Recover in its moveset, you can switch into Toxapex and Toxic Stall it. It’ll take longer than most Toxic Stall battles because Recover will recover a good bit of Milotic’s HP, but you’ll get there eventually. However, if it has Rest, you can’t Toxic Stall it. Rest not only restores lost HP, but it also gets rid of the Poison status. Meaning that you’ll have to use Toxic and poison it again. Unfortunately, as soon as Milotic’s HP is down, it’ll use Rest, get rid of the Toxic, and you’ll be back to square one. Additionally, since Toxic’s gradual damage increases every turn, when the Poison status is cured, if you manage to Toxic it again, it’ll take off a very tiny amount of HP. Your best bet is to Leaf Blade Milotic with Kartana, but your best bet is to just wait for your current Pokemon to faint before switching into Kartana. Kartana has a VERY low Special Defense stat, and therefore any special attacking moves (e.g., Hydro Pump, Blizzard, Ice Beam) will likely take it out in one hit. Kartana can outspeed Milotic, so it will move first, but you don’t want to give Milotic the chance to attack at all. You want Kartana on the field, and you want to hopefully land a one hit KO Leaf Blade.

Mega Gengar

This team has served me well. When I played through Super Singles on Pokemon Sun version, I got a 39 win streak. Unfortunately, it ended when I faced Plumeria on Battle Number 40. Plumeria’s first Pokemon was Gengar, whom she Mega Evolved on the first turn. Mega Gengar’s Sludge Bomb did a lot of damage to my Mega Salamence and Kartana. What’s worse is that each turn, Plumeria’s Mega Gengar would always attack first because it had a higher speed stat then my entire team! If I recall, the Pokemon Battle Tree’s database (see below) said that her Mega Gengar’s speed stat was 200! Now, Toxapex could have handled Mega Gengar, I think. I had just switched out Toxapex for Tapu Fini (BIG mistake!). Toxapex, being a poison type herself, could have resisted Sludge Bomb and any other poison type moves thrown at it. Additionally, since it was designed to be a defensive wall, it wouldn’t have taken much damage from physical or special attacks anyway, and any damage it did take could have been recovered with both Leftovers and the move Recover. Given that Gengar is a Ghost/Poison type Pokemon, it cannot be poisoned. You cannot poison a poison type Pokemon. That said, I could have Burn Stalled it. I could have burned it with Scald, then spammed Baneful Bunker and Recover until Mega Gengar finally fainted.

However, while Toxapex could have triumphed over Plumeria’s Mega Gengar, other Gengars that you’ll encounter in The Battle Tree won’t be the same way. Many Gengars run a Hypnosis/Dream Eater combo strategy. Dream Eater is a psychic type move and is super effective on poison types like Toxapex. If you face these types of Gengars, then you’ll want to take them out quickly with a super effective Life Orb boosted Night Slash from Kartana. Don’t count on a super effective Earthquake from Mega Salamence as Gengar’s ability is Levitate which makes all Ground type moves useless against it. However, you can still Double Edge/Return it, given that Mega Salamence’s Aerilate ability turns Normal type moves into flying type moves.

Conclusion

I hope you use this team and succeed in Super Singles. Others have and have gotten 50 wins. Hopefully you and I will, too.

Well, all I can say is that I’ve been Super Single waaay too long….

Time Lord Santa?

Our friend and fellow-blogger Evan came to me this week with another fan theory he was eager to share, and it has nothing to do with Pokemon! (I know, right?!) In fact, it’s connected to Doctor Who, of all things. It was quite fortunate, too, ‘cuz unforeseen circumstances ate up lots of time (is that a pun?) that I had counted on to work on a fan-casting post. Normally, I would have saved Evan’s guest-post for closer to Christmas (for obvious reasons), but I’m happy to present it this week instead.

“Is Santa Claus a Time Lord?: A Doctor Who Fan Theory”

by Evan Minton

Santa Claus made an appearance in Season 8’s Christmas Special (of the modern series) called “Last Christmas” to aid The Doctor, Clara, and a group of supposed scientists defeat a group of face-hugging, dream-inducing alien creatures. The Doctor theorized that he was a production of their subconscious minds trying to free them from the dream-induced state that was killing them (since the whole North Pole base they were in was a product of the collective dreams of the “scientists”). But what if The Doctor’s hypothesis was wrong? What if Santa is real (in The Doctor Who universe) and he was actually helping out. The end of the episode certainly seemed to subtly imply that Santa was more than a figment of their imagination when the final scene showed a tangerine in Clara’s window. [Ed.: I’m assuming that a tangerine has some significance to the plot, ‘cuz I’ve never heard of a magical “Christmas tangerine”.]

But if Santa actually exists in the Whoniverse, then how do we explain puzzling aspects of his job? How does he get all the toys traveled to all of the children all over the world in a single night? How does he even have enough toys to give to millions of children in that tiny little sleigh of his? Moreover, how has Santa endured through centuries? All of these questions can be answered if the following hypothesis is true: Santa Claus is a Time Lord.

The Sleigh Is A T.A.R.D.I.S

T.A.R.D.I.Ses are well known for being “bigger on the inside than they are on the outside”. Santa could own a special T.A.R.D.I.S large enough to house enough toys to satisfy the world’s children. It could be as big as 100,000 warehouses, but only on the inside, of course. On the outside, it looks like your average run-of-the-mill sleigh. Santa’s T.A.R.D.I.S has maintained the appearance of a sleigh for centuries? Why? Probably for the same reason The Doctor’s T.A.R.D.I.S looks like a 1960s police box wherever and whenever he goes: the disguise mechanism is busted.

Santa’s sleigh being a T.A.R.D.I.S would not only explain how he can deliver so many toys, but also how he can get them all to their designated houses in one night. Santa can simply teleport to different locations in space, but have the T.A.R.D.I.S set to the exact same moment in time. This would give the appearance of every house in the world having a sleigh on the roof simultaneously. If Santa is a Time Lord and the sleigh is his T.A.R.D.I.S, then he can deliver all of the toys not only in a single night, but in a single moment! That’s the beauty of a space ship also doubling as a time machine.

He’s Lived For So Long Because He Keeps Regenerating

The reason Santa’s endured through the centuries is that he just keeps regenerating. Whenever his body gives out, he regenerates, just as Doctor Number 1 regenerated when he got too old. Unlike The Doctor, who mostly regenerates because he gets fatally injured (e.g., a Cyberman’s laser beam to the chest), Santa is rarely in harm’s way, so whenever he regenerates, it’s simply due to old age. This would also explain why Santa has been depicted as both a white man and a black man. Time Lords can change age, race, and even gender upon regenerations. So some of Santa’s regenerations being white and others being black is unsurprising, and it also explains why those who may have seen him have depicted him as such.

Why Does He Do What He Does?

One must wonder why Santa does what he does. If he’s a Time Lord, why doesn’t he simply explore space and time rather than confine himself to one planet and use his T.A.R.D.I.S for nothing more than to give away toys for free? Simply because he has a heart of gold. He uses his alien resources to bring joy to millions just as The Doctor uses his to save the cosmos from evil, chaos, and destruction.

Conclusion

What do you think of this fan theory of mine? Do you think it holds up?

After reading Evan’s theory, I sent him the following:

“Question: In this scenario, other than programming the T.A.R.D.I.S, is Santa personally involved in the delivery of gifts (i.e., going down chimneys, placing gifts in stockings and under trees, eating cookies)? (That would seem exhausting and monotonous, though that is a critique of the myth, not of your theory.) Or, once over each house, extremely fine-tuned teleportation coordinates can be calculated and then the gifts are “beamed” into their rightful places?”

His response:

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. I suppose if Santa is a Time Lord, he could have gotten some alien tech that would have allowed him to beam the presents into the house. This could also account for why so few children have ever successfully seen him, despite trying to.”

Works for me. Feel free to posit your own speculations in the comments below….

Of course, I realize that Evan isn’t the first person to think along these lines. And, as I understand it, the idea of Santa operating in the Whoniverse has been explored in comic and short-story form, too, though I think he is still assumed to be human. Regardless, I think this is a fun fan theory!

One o’ these days, I may have to check out this Doctor fella. Wait, he isn’t a “fella” in his latest regeneration, right? Sheesh!

New Tales of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

“Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can’t wait to continue with this new series of films.” — Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman

Let’s review… We have Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII) coming out in a few weeks, Solo: A Star Wars Story (anthology film) due next May, the untitled Episode IX scheduled for Dec. 2019, and a third Star Wars anthology film (probably about Obi-Wan Kenobi) expected in 2020. Very cool!

These films will conclude the saga of and surrounding the Skywalker family along with the originally semi-planned trio of standalones to fill in some details about friends and previously-mentioned events. But, then what? Well, fortunately, Disney (who bought LucasFilm and the SW franchise in 2012) is on record as wanting and planning more Star Wars goodness. Back in January 2016, CEO Bob Iger told the BBC,

“There are five Star Wars films — four more with Episode VII: The Force Awakens — that are in varying stages of development and production. There will be more after that, I don’t know how many, I don’t know how often.”

Then, in September 2016 The Wrap reported the following remarks from Iger at an investors’ conference:

“I had a meeting yesterday with Kathy Kennedy and we mapped out — well, we reviewed — the ‘Star Wars’ plans that we have ’til 2020. We have movies in development for ‘Star Wars’ ’til then, and we started talking about what we’re going to do in 2021 and beyond. So, she’s not just making a ‘Star Wars’ movie, she’s making a ‘Star Wars’ universe, of sorts.”

Beyond Rogue One, it wasn’t clear what the anthology films would be about, until the Han Solo prequel story was confirmed. Now, of course, it has filmed, is currently in post-production, and has an official release date. There have long been suggestions and rumors about the standalone(s) to follow — I wrote some possibilities in “Ideas for Star Wars Anthology Series Films” — with focuses on Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Boba Fett being the most popular. Kenobi seems to have risen to the top, since The Hollywood Reporter reported this past August that Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry was being courted to take the helm of “a Star Wars standalone movie centering on Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

Fett and Yoda fans should not lose hope, though, as THR also said:

“The Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone is one of several projects being developed by Lucasfilm and Disney that fall outside the trilogies telling the saga of the Skywalker family. A Han Solo movie is now in the final stages of shooting under new director Ron Howard and Lucasfilm is also looking at movies featuring Yoda and bounty hunter Boba Fett, among others.”

The latest news, however, has nothing to do with the anthology series. Rather, it seems that Lucasfilm and Disney are so pleased with director Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi that they have handed him the reins to create (in collaboration with producer Ram Bergman) a new Star Wars trilogy with all-new characters and locales “from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”

“We all loved working with Rian on The Last Jedi. He’s a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.” — Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm

Sounds quite intriguing to me. Vague, but intriguing. This may be just what the franchise needs to kick-start the post-Skywalker era. But, not everyone is so sure this is a smart move. In fact, Bobby Houston at CBM has a bad feeling about this….

Houston’s primary concern is of oversaturation:

“Star Wars is not an annual franchise. Star Wars is not the MCU. Star Wars is important. Star Wars has cultural heft and meaning. The last thing the series needs is a ‘cinematic universe’ style of approach because as we’ve seen it doesn’t always work out. Perhaps after episode 9 it would be best to let the franchise breathe and rest for a bit.”

Houston isn’t averse to new Star Wars films eventually coming out and recognizes the abundance of material and that a new trilogy “could go in almost any direction”. (He also said it would be “unhindered by the franchise’s canon and extensive lore”, which I disagreed with, since I thought he meant that Disney/Lucasfilm would not care if new films contradicted established canon/lore. But, upon re-reading it several times, I think he was restating that the huge amount of established canon/lore would allow for a plethora of possible plots and settings. This makes more sense in context.) But, he’s afraid that immediately launching into another trilogy so soon after this latest batch of trilogy + anthology films will diminish the franchise’s appeal. As a fan, though, he says,

“I hope I’m wrong, I hope Rian Johnson knocks it out of the park with this new trilogy and that years from now people continue to lose their minds and go crazy for Star Wars because that’s really special.”

He may have a point. So, maybe after the Kenobi anthology film wraps up, there should be a break of at least 5 years before launching the new trilogy, and then maybe go back to 3 years between films? As the old adage goes, “Always leave ’em wanting more.”

P.S. Oh yeah, there’s also that live-action Star Wars TV series to look forward to, which has reportedly been in the works since at least early 2015 (though George Lucas had ideas for one way before that)….

Did Digimon Plagiarize Pokemon?

I knew I would be traveling this week, so I asked my friend Evan (of the “Cerebral Faith” blog) if he had any ideas for another guest post. As it turned out, he had indeed been mulling over something, and he dashed off a new anime-related piece for me — or, really, for you — lickety-split. Enjoy!


Did Digimon Plagiarize Pokemon?

by Evan Minton

“Digimon is just trying to cash in on Pokemon’s success”, “Digimon is just a poor man’s Pokemon”, “Digimon is just a Pokemon copy”. I’m sure you’ve heard these statements and others like them before. It is commonly thought that Digimon is just a copy of Pokemon. This is what many Pokemon fans say about the franchise. However, Digimon fans make the opposite charge; i.e., that Pokemon is a copy of Digimon. As a big fan of both franchises, I have an excellent vantage point from which to judge the validity of these charges of plagiarism, and I can tell you with certainty that neither franchise copied the other.

Why Do People Think One Copied The Other?

First of all, let’s get the question of why people think any copying is involved out of the way. There are, no doubt, similarities between the two franchises that do stick out.

1: They both have “Mon” at the end of their names.
2: The “Mon” in both cases stands for “Monsters”.
3: The Monsters fight each other and evolve to get stronger.

From looking at these similarities, it’s understandable why some would think one copied from the other one.

The Differences Outnumber The Similarities

However, the three things listed above comprise an exhaustive list of the things Pokemon and Digimon have in common. The differences far outnumber the things they have in common.

Pokemon – live alongside humans in the same world.
Digimon – live in a world by themselves and only interact with humans when humans go to the Digimon’s world or when Digimon come into the human world.

Pokemon – are the animals of the Pokemon world. There are no other animal species in the Pokemon world. The Pokemon themselves are the animals. This is why farmers get “Moo-Moo Milk” from Miltanks instead of cows, why Officer Jenny uses Growlithes and Herdiers instead of regular dogs, and why it is stated by Professor Oak at the beginning of the first two games that “Some people keep Pokemon as pets…” Now, in the first season of the animated television series, you do see some real-life animals making appearances (e.g., fish), but this is due to the fact that it was originally intended for Pokemon and Animals to exist side-by-side, but that was quickly rejected and retconned out of the series.
Digimon – They don’t act as the animals of the world. In the human world, real-life animals exist (e.g., Tai’s pet cat), and they have Digimon counterparts in the Digital World (e.g., Gatomon).

Pokemon – Either say their names (the anime) or make various noises/cries (the games). There are a few exceptions, such as Team Rocket’s Meowth in the Pokemon anime, but this is not the norm.
Digimon – Speak human languages.

Pokemon – Are generally amoral creatures, like real-life animals. If they commit crimes, it is only because their trainers commanded them to. This only applies to the games’ canon, though. In the anime, there have been some Pokemon (like Team Rocket’s Meowth) that have a moral compass and choose between good and evil.
Digimon – Can be good or evil, regardless of canon. In fact, some Digimon are inherently evil (like Devimon) and others are inherently good (like Angemon). Others can evolve into evil Digimon via “Dark Digivolution”. For example, a Greymon can become SkullGreymon, and an Angewomon can become Ophanimon Falldown Mode, which is basically a rogue Ophanimon with a Light Yagami mentality. Still others can choose between good and evil of their own free will.

Pokemon – When they die, they die. There are places in the games and anime where trainers buried their deceased Pokemon (e.g., Lavender Tower in Lavender Town in the Kanto region).
Digimon – With the exception of the Digimon Tamers’ universe, when a Digimon is killed, they revert back to Digi-Eggs and are essentially reincarnated.

Pokemon – Pokemon Trainers are given a “Starter Pokemon” and catch other Pokemon by battling them and detaining them in capsule spheres called Poke Balls. In fact, one of the goals of each installment of games is to “Catch Em All”, because catching Pokemon adds their data to the Pokedex (an encyclopedia-like apparatus), and the goal is to have data on each Pokemon currently in existence.
Digimon – People who have Digimon are either called Digidestined or Digimon Tamers. In the former case, because the sovereign ruler of the Digital World drafted them, because the Digital World was in danger. There is no goal for the human protagonists of either the Digimon games or the anime to obtain every Digimon in existence. In fact, in most cases, the human characters rarely have more than one Digimon. There are exceptions, such as Willis in Digimon: The Movie, and the player characters in some of the Digimon World games.

Pokemon – When they evolve, they cannot go back. The only exception is Mega Evolution, which was introduced in the X and Y games released in 2013.
Digimon – The Digimon belonging to the Digidestined can Digivolve on command with the use of a Digivice, and they can go back to their Rookie form after the battle is over. This applies only to the anime, though. With the original virtual pet series, Digivolution was permanent.

Pokemon – Their names are usually a combination of actual words. For example, Venusaur is a combination of Venus (probably referring to the Venus Fly Trap) and the second half of the word “Dinosaur”, because Venusaur looks like something from prehistoric times. Charizard is a combination of “Charcoal” or “Charred” and “Lizard”. This makes sense as Charizard is a fire breathing reptile.
Digimon – usually is a real word with “Mon” attached to end, like Terriermon or Agumon. “Agu” is the Japanese onomatopoeia for biting. Every Digimon has “Mon” at the end of its name, but no Pokemon does.

As you can see, there are many more differences between the two than similarities.

Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

Digimon was actually invented to be the “boy version” of Tamagotchi. Bandai made both Digimon and Tamagotchi, both started out as a virtual pet franchise, but Digimon evolved (pun intended) into a much bigger franchise than mere virtual pets. They noticed that most of the consumers of Tamagotchi pets were little girls, and they wanted to make a virtual pet series that appealed to little boys to make up the difference. Digimon was that virtual pet series. Digimon were primarily targeted at males, so they made one of the first Digimon a fire-breathing dinosaur (Agumon) because what little boy doesn’t think a fire-breathing dinosaur is cool. And they made it to where one boy’s Digimon could spar with another boy’s Digimon by linking the devices together, something Tamagotchi pets didn’t do. So, you could say that Digimon was trying to cash in on Tamagotchi’s success, but not Pokemon’s. And it wasn’t technically plagiarism, since Digimon and Tamagotchi have the same creators (i.e., Akihiro Yokoi, Aki Maita, and Takeichi Hongo).

Conclusion

Digimon wasn’t created to “cash in on Pokemon’s success”. It was actually created to make up for Tamagotchi’s lack of appeal to boys. There are obvious similarities between Pokemon and Digimon, which explain why charges of plagiarism exist, but the differences between the two make charges of plagiarism untenable. If the makers of Pokemon ever took the makers of Digimon to court — I don’t know if they ever did, but if they did –, they obviously lost, as Digimon still exists, and they probably lost because of the reasons I’ve given in this article.

Makes sense to me!

On a Nightwing and a Prayer

“[W]e need to find the perfect person. We need to get the script right. We need this movie to blow your mind.” — Chris McKay, director

I’ve mentioned the upcoming Nightwing movie before, and you may have heard or read other stuff. I’m excited about it, ‘cuz Nightwing/Dick Grayson has become one of my favorite DC heroes. Up until recently, all we knew was that:

1) Warner Brothers announced back in February that it was ramping up development on a live-action, Nightwing solo film based on the DC Comics character;
2) it was planned for release in the next few years (recently set for 2/1/2019, though that is likely tentative); and
3) The LEGO Batman Movie director Chris McKay has been given the helm, with a script from Bill Dubuque (The Accountant).

I just wanted to comment on a few of the latest newsbits….

Those newsbits come mostly from McKay himself, who has been sending out tweets and doing interviews over the past few months. Regarding what attracted him to the project,

“I’m a big comic book fan, and being able to do the story of Nightwing, to do a Dick Grayson story, which is a character that every single person in the world knows, but has never really had a lot of screentime…. I’m a big fan of underdog stories, and he is one of the biggest underdog stories in comics. And he’s a character that I grew up with. I like the arc.”

He continues…

“Robin was there as a window character for little kids like me to understand Batman’s world and see into Batman’s world. There’s no other character in comics that went through this real-time transition.”

Comic writer Tim Seeley thinks that a plot based on or “very similar to” the 6-issue story arc he recently wrote for the character is the way to go. I haven’t read it, but the synopsis I saw does sound interesting. On the other hand, it sounds like the impact of the events depend on Nightwing’s relationships with other heroes, and there really isn’t time to sufficiently establish those relationships on-screen, imo. In other words, there’s too much ‘history’ for it to really work. I’m not saying there can’t be references to known DC people and things, and I truly hope there are. We fans expect and deserve them. But this really needs to work as a standalone feature.

While no plot details have been revealed as yet, we do know that Grayson’s comic-based past will be acknowledged. As per McKay, “Yes. In some form. There will be lots of nods. Lots of nods.” This comment spurred plenty of speculation about what might be referenced in those nods. His youth working as a circus acrobat with his parents and their subsequent deaths? His years working as Batman’s original sidekick ‘Robin’? His time spent with the (Teen) Titans? Past (or current?) relationships with Starfire and/or Oracle? His day job as a cop in Bludhaven? There’s a ton of material to mine there, but we just don’t know what McKay and Dubuque have in mind.

From the beginning, McKay has stressed the intense physicality of the Grayson/Nightwing role and that the actor will need to be fully committed. “Every day. It is going to be gruelling from a martial arts, gymnastics and stunt perspective.” Isn’t there CGI for that stuff? According to McKay, not so much in this film.

“It’s gonna be a [frick]ing badass action movie with a lot of heart and emotion. It’s gonna be a crazy, fun ride. Whoever gets cast as Nightwing, and any of the other actors around, are gonna go through a [frick]ing boot camp experience because it’s gonna be a lot. I’m not gonna do a lot of CG. It’s gonna be all real $#!t. It’s gonna be real stuntwork, and they’re gonna need to do all of the stuff on camera and do it credibly. For the cast and the crew, it’s gonna be a visceral experience, and for the audience. It’s not gonna be like a lot of these movies where there’s a lot of CG and flying and things like that. Everything he does is gonna have to be real. His superpower is being really [frick]ing good, as a human being, at fighting and gymnastics and $#!t like that, so you’re gonna see that on screen. It’s gonna be fun!”

Sounds awesome!

Naturally, there have been a lot of actors’ names thrown around the fan-boards (e.g., Finn Wittrock). But, no one’s been cast, yet, and as per FlickeringMyth’s Jordan James, “according to Chris McKay himself, we shouldn’t necessarily count on Nightwing being played by a well-known actor.” (See also opening quote.) I think this is a great move, one that more superhero movies (and sci-fi/fantasy in general) should consider. In fact, a few years ago I came up with a few potential candidates….

McKay’s exuberance for the project is practically palpable, and he’s already predicting (sort of) an award win in at least one area:

“This movie is going to win a stunt Academy Award. They’re going to make a stunt Academy Award for this movie. I guarantee it. It’s going to be insane.”

I certainly appreciate his enthusiasm and drive to make a spectacular movie. As always, I just hope he does right by the character(s) and the source material, while balancing amazing action with well-developed characters and believable dialogue. It certainly has blockbuster potential, and I’d like to see it realized. “A [frick]ing badass action movie with a lot of heart and emotion,” indeed.

Should Marvel Make a Hulk Movie with Ruffalo?

“Hulk not think. HULK SMASH!” — Hulk

Several weeks ago, Michael Hollan at CBR.com wrote a piece titled “Hulked Out: 15 Reasons Marvel Should Not Make A Hulk Movie”. His analysis was interesting, but I took issue with some of his reasoning. I decided to jot down my thoughts on each point, which I share below. Just providing the “titles” for each of Hollan’s reasons, however, wouldn’t adequately explain them, and I didn’t want to reproduce his entire article. So, you should probably open up his article in another tab or window and toggle back and forth. You could even split-screen, sorta like having a split personality….

Ruffalo as Banner

15) Interesting point, but I don’t think it flies. For one, the character’s (characters’?) inspiration, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, did fine back in the day, both as a book and on-screen, as have other properties with a split-personality character. Second, while not all Hulk comics are equally well-done, many do manage this balance well. It’s just a matter of the having the right story.

14) Just because some of his best fights so far have arguably been those against other heroes (and Loki), that doesn’t mean it must be the case. (The one against Abomination wasn’t bad, btw.) For goodness sake, as soon as someone writes/films a great fight scene against an interesting villain (or villainous army, like the Chitauri in Avengers), this “reason” goes away.

13) This is somewhat valid. Hulk doesn’t have a Kryptonite equivalent. But, there are other ways to out-think or otherwise counter him. Also, it might be cool to have him somewhat reduced in strength for at least part of a solo film, then come back to “normal” (or, maybe, “Hulk-average”?) at the end.

12) The so-called “prequel-itis” is indeed the curse of having such a tightly-linked cinematic universe, especially with guest-stars and crossovers. But, the “lack of true tension” brought up by Hollan is not insurmountable, especially if there are other beloved characters in danger that are more likely than our hero to be injured or killed.

11) Let’s just say that I would not be averse to a Hulk film with either the Joe Fixit persona or the “intellectual scientist” persona. Eventually. But not for the first (or second?) solo film, and (at this rate) probably not with Ruffalo.

10) Fair point, but it seems like a cop-out as an excuse for not having a solo film. Other characters’ films should stand on their own without guest stars.

9) I think there is a concern re the amount of time already “lost” for getting a Ruffalo-Hulk solo film out, but this ain’t it. Sure, Marvel is introducing many other great, popular characters on-screen, but that’s no reason to think that it’s too late for the Hulk, one of Marvel’s most popular and foundational characters, to share in the fun.

8) The reasons the romance with Black Widow didn’t work were a) afaik, there was no basis for it in the source material; b) there was no build-up in Age of Ultron or preceding movies; and, c) there was an abrupt end to it after that awkward scene at Clint’s house. In other words, it came out of nowhere, seemed an odd pairing from the get-go, and suddenly fizzled. This poorly executed attempt should not be taken to indicate that the tragic elements of Hulk’s story won’t work on-screen. They are integral to the character and just need to be handled more… deftly. (And I don’t mean there should be another romance.) Also, I like the comedy, but that should not be an emphasis for a Hulk solo movie.

7) I acknowledge that there would be difficulties trying to circle back to plot threads from the Norton film. Sort of a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t situation, assuming the fans care as much as Hollan seems to think. But, destined to fail? Really?

Ruffalo-based Hulk

6) Completely agree. Well,… mostly.

5) “Marvel has to balance the new characters with their popular, established franchises. Unfortunately, Hulk falls into the middle.” Agreed. This does present a problem.

4) The contract issue could indeed be a major hurdle — again, assuming we’re focused on having Ruffalo be the star, which seems to be the way most people are thinking, given his popularity.

3) Funny, but disconnectedness from the rest of the Avengers-verse wasn’t the main complaint I heard/read re Thor: Dark World. Still, it is something to take into consideration. But, I think a good writer should be able to handle it.

2) Both previous Hulk solo outings did indeed involve being on the run and fighting the military, and it’s a shame that neither one did very well at the box office, which apparently tarnishes the idea of having that in another Hulk solo adventure. But, then, that really is a core part of the character’s saga. The comic Hulk spends most of his time trying to get away from “puny men”, and Banner tries to fly under the radar whenever possible. So, even if the military isn’t a major part of the story, his being a bit of a drifter would still make sense for a solo film.

1) Aaaaaand “political correctness” rears its ugly head…. Personally, I think most of the diversity-based complaints are stupid. But, there they are, and Marvel has to deal with them — hopefully in a way that is both empathetic and doesn’t surrender source-material background needlessly. (I also think 8′ tall green goliaths are in a clear minority on Earth, so there ya go!)

Besides, what’s wrong with straight white guys named “Chris”? I am one, after all! 🙂

With as much pushback as I’ve given, you might think I’d be in favor of a Hulk solo movie starring Ruffalo. You would, however, be mistaken. If they can squeeze one in by 2020, then fine. But, I think Marvel’s best bet is to finish up Ruffalo’s stint as Banner after the Infinity War sequel (currently scheduled for a May 2019 release), when Ruffalo will be in his early 50s. After a few years, bring in a new, 30-something actor and do a string of Hulk solo films with few (if any) Avengers cameos. In fact, I have a few ideas for who the new Banner could be and what these films might be about, which I will share… sometime… later.