Toy Commercial Tuesday: Super Mario Bros. THE MOVIE!

Even as a kid, I knew there was something off with 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie. I don’t remember being super excited about it coming out — not like I was for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few years earlier — but I do remember being confused by the tiny headed lizard dudes and, well, everything else.

These days, I’m happy the movie exists because it gave us Ertl action figures based on Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper AND Fisher Stevens. What other movie can say that? More importantly, what accent is this kid trying to do?

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Book Report: Ready Player One By Ernest Cline

You wouldn’t know it to look at the blog here, but I’ve been reading a LOT lately. I’m working on a few posts that will cover my experiences reading Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter books while I also watched the series Hannibal and then the films, but they’re not ready yet. However, after finishing the book Hannibal, I found myself not wanting to get into Hannibal Rising, but still needed something to read. A buddy had just recommended Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One from 2011 and I figured why not? I really enjoyed the book, but a few things stuck with me in different ways. Continue reading Book Report: Ready Player One By Ernest Cline

Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

bride-of-frankensteinAs I mentioned yesterday, I got to an early start when it came to watching horror movies this fall. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about! First, if you haven’t already, check out a pair of lists I wrote for CBR. One’s about movies and shows to follow Stranger Things up with while the other focused on the best classic horror movies to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

Trade Pile: Tokyo Ghost, Sonic/Mega Man & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Tokyo Ghost Vol 1So many trades, so little time so let’s jump right in! A friend of mine suggested I check out Tokyo Ghost, which didn’t take too much pushing because I love Sean Murphy’s artwork in books like The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian and I’ve always thought that Rick Remender’s stories work better in worlds that he fully creates and that’s exactly what you get with Ghost. Continue reading Trade Pile: Tokyo Ghost, Sonic/Mega Man & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Where Are All The Mushrooms?! – Revisiting Super Mario Bros. 2

super mario bros 2 start screen

When I think of the late 80s, I think of Nintendo. The home video game system was everywhere and I even have distinct memories of unwrapping mine on Christmas sometime toward the end of the decade while my aunt, uncle and cousins were visiting. The star of the show, of course, was Mario thanks in part to his inclusion in every system they sold. But, the oddly named plumber continued past those early roots to amass one of the greatest game franchises of all time, not bad for a guy who first appeared in Donkey Kong.

super mario bros 2 game boxSince I’m focusing on 1988 this week, it seemed only natural to look at that year’s second entry in the Mario Bros. series. While I remember waiting in line to buy Mario 3 at Toys R Us when it came out, I don’t actually recall how I came into owning this one. I do remember playing the heck out of it and enjoying it even though it seemed so different than the previous entry (thanks to the fact that it started out as a completely different game). While the other one had Goombas and Fire Flowers, this one had radishes, Birdos and mysterious night-bringing bottles of potion.

Everyone had their preferred character for different reasons. Mario was a solid all-around player, Luigi could jump the highest, Toad could dig the fastest and the Princess could hover-jump. I always played as the Princess. That ability to just coast over enemies and danger was my bag, though it can easily get you into trouble when dealing with flying enemies.

This past Christmas, my folks got me a Hyperkin Retron 3, that’s a system that plays old NES, Sega and Super Nintendo cartridges on modern TVs. Sure, I’ve got the NES and Sega hanging out in the garage, but one system that works all the time easily trumps those finicky relics of days gone by. So, with this week’s theme in mind, I dug out Mario 2 and gave it a few run-throughs on the Retron to see how my skills stacked up.

super-mario-bros-2-04The first play-through, I used Princess all the way and eventually got to the sixth level before biting it big time. Thanks to memories I was able to dust off, I even remembered where the warp pipes/pots were in a few different levels, though my ability to recall where the life-increasing mushrooms were failed me more often         fcbthan not. 6-1 was a real killer in every sense of the word with the Cobrats shooting me in the face, the Pokeys cactusing me and the Panser’s relentless fireballs.

The second time around I decided to play through as far as I could without warping which wound up not exactly being the case as I stumbled upon a tube to World 5 by accident. I didn’t feel too bad about that given the fact that I was dying at an alarming rate. I realized while playing that this game is a lot more about timing than the others. Since you can’t run somewhat safely behind a group of bouncing fireballs that’ll take out your enemies, you’ve got to time all of those jumps just right to avoid the Shy Guys, Snifits and Tweeters (oh my). The same goes for grabbing Birdo’s eggs (which I still rock at) and throwing Mouser’s own bombs back at him (which I don’t). Not having that timing down is what really got me into trouble. As a kid, I was an expert, but a lot of water has passed under that bridge in the meantime.

super mario 2 retronI was also reminded of how damn frustrating games were back then and how they’re probably even more so today. I’m so used to re-spawning right where I was or being able to save and come back, that I’d almost forgotten about the days of leaving a game paused all Saturday so you could get back to it that night or the crushing defeat of losing that last life on the final board before beating the game. I didn’t even realize I was just one world away from the end when I died on 6-1, but even if I was playing better than I was, it would take me the same amount of time to get to that place with hopefully a few less deaths along the way to give it a shot. However, it was that constant replaying of these levels and games that ingrained them so deeply in our memories. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I dropped that vial of red stuff near the tube on 1-3 and skipped around to World 4. I have no idea where I even learned that trick (I wasn’t much of a trial and error gamer as a kid, so I’m guessing it was from a friend with a subscription to Nintendo Power) but it’s still lodged in my brain somewhere.

I intend to use that knowledge, plus these amazing MarioUniverse.com maps of the levels if need be, to beat this game in the relatively near future. I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually defeated this game, so if I have to look outside of my own realm of knowledge (in other words, cheat) then I’ll do that.

Kickin’ It Old School: 1988

kickin it old school logoWhen I first started blogging back in 2008, it was for the now-defunct Wizard website. Up to that point I wasn’t particularly interested in the format, but seeing some of the other staffers get into it made me think about what I could offer (if anything). I remember heading down to New York Comic Con with a bunch of the writers and editors and asked then-web guru Jim Gibbons about starting my own and he stopped me dead in my tracks with a simple question: what would it be about? I told him I’d think about it and before long I had my angle: Kicking It Old School, a series of posts about older comics, movies, TV shows and the like and why they’re still great. It’s a pretty common type of blog on the ol’ Internets, but Wizard wasn’t doing one at the time so I got the thumb’s up and started at it. When I realized the end was coming for me at the company — and wanted to break out and do my own thing blogging-wise — I copied all those old posts and they can now be read under the KIOS category here on UM.

In a lot of ways, I’ve continued that theme over the years with UM, but I figured it would be fun to jump back into those waters for a full week here on the site by focusing every post this week on media that came out in a particular year. This time around it’s 1988 and I’ve got a lot of fun posts planned that fall into the usual headings of Ad It Up, Toy Commercial Tuesday, Trade Post, Halloween Scene, Friday Fisticuffs and maybe a few others.

Here’s a little photo hodge podge of images to give you an idea of what’s to come!

Why go to all this trouble? First off, I love a good theme. Second, I find that something like this helps focus me when it comes to reading and watching. It’s also fun to start with one particular piece (in this case the first volume of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow ongoing) and then figure out what else I can write about from that same year. It’s also interesting seeing different themes that cross over from comics to movies to music in a particular year. I won’t be doing this all the time, but I hope you guys enjoy the week of posts which begins later today with the return of Ad It Up and one of the greatest comics of all time, which just so happens to have been released in ’88.