Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Take 10: Marvel's Best Buddy Teams

By Ben Morse

Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas. This go around, the Cabal says goodbye one of its personal favorites, as CABLE & DEADPOOL #50 ends is five-plus year run this week, and to honor the oddball teaming of C&D, they've chosen to select their personal choices for Marvel's ten best buddy teams of all time. Keep reading on to learn what duos shined and where you can read more about them on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.

As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!

First Meeting:.GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975)
They're Kinda Like… Drinking buddies
Their Deal: Perhaps no two members of the second generation of X-Men seemed more different than the surly, violent Wolverine and the playful, religious Nightcrawler, but Logan and Kurt Wagner proved the old adage that opposites attract. As teammates, they've always had each other's backs, but as friends, they shared an even closer bond.
Why They Make The List: Wolverine quickly came to enjoy the company of the man he playfully referred to as "Elf," and Nightcrawler came to see Logan as a far deeper, more intelligent fellow than his gruff exterior would indicate. Each allowed the other to display more the reality beneath the surface their fellow X-Men perhaps weren't ready to see.

Titanic Team-Up: On a trip up to the Great White North of Canada, Wolverine and Nightcrawler pay a visit to Wolvie's old team, Alpha Flight, and wind up drawn into their pursuit of the wild Wendigo. Kurt ends up getting blindsided by the beast and taken out of the fight, leaving Logan to go claw-to-claw with the monster, but Nightcrawler teleports back into action just in time to turn the tide. (X-MEN v1 #139-140—1980)
Spotlight Comic: WOLVERINE v2 #6, Nightcrawler meets Logan in a mutant bar to try and help his friend sort his life out

First Meeting:.X-MEN v1 #129 (1980)
They're Kinda Like… Surrogate father and surrogate daughter
Their Deal: When young Kitty Pryde first joined the X-Men, she and the feral brawler Wolverine kept their distance from one another, but Logan gradually came to feel a paternal obligation to care for the teenager and keep her out of trouble. As Kitty grew older and became formidable in her own right, in large part thanks to Logan's training, she and Wolverine remained close and the loner began to trust and rely on his protégé as an equal.
Why They Make The List: Relationship between men and women that don't involve physical attraction often end up being the most interesting to follow when it comes to comics. Equally interesting as far as Wolverine and Kitty go has been how she caused him to break from his isolationist tendencies and reach out to become a friend and protector, giving Logan far more dimensions than simply being the scary guy with claws. For his part, Wolvie helped Kitty grow from wannabe into legit X-Man as well.
Titanic Team-Up: When Wolverine's evil former mentor Ogun

lures Kitty to Japan by capturing her father, the malicious martial artist manages to brainwash the young mutant into becoming his personal assassin. Wolverine frees Kitty from Ogun's mental reprogramming and the two X-Men overthrow their mutual tormentor, with Logan delivering the killing blow his young ally refuses to give. (KITTY PRYDE AND WOLVERINE #1-6—1984-1985)
Spotlight Comic: X-MEN v1 #141, in "Days of Future Past," possible future versions of Kitty and Wolverine fights to save mutantkind from the Sentinels

First Meeting:.IRON MAN v1 #118 (1979)
They're Kinda Like… Corporate colleagues
Their Deal: James Rhodes met Tony Stark only moments after the birth of Iron Man, a marine whose helicopter had been shot down right near where the billionaire had been captured by warlords and forced to construct his famous armor. Stark helped Rhodes repair his chopper and they escaped together, then upon returning to the U.S., the former marine became the industrialist's pilot and closest confidante. When Stark faced the demons of his alcoholism, Rhodes took over as Iron Man, and later he received his own armor, becoming War Machine.
Why They Make The List: Tony Stark may be the alpha male of the Marvel Universe, with his wealth, good looks and power, but he still needs a pal to catch him when he stumbles and smack him when he's being an ass. Before James Rhodes became the second Iron Man, no lead character in the history of comics trusted one of his supporting cast enough to turn over his very identity to him on a regular basis. Whether they're teaming or at odds, that trust and respect has always made Marvel's iron men an interesting pair.
Titanic Team-Up: After a period of estrangement, Tony and

Rhodey find themselves reunited under the worst of circumstances, captured by the Mandarin, their armors deactivated by the villain's anti-technology field. War Machine manages to escape with the help of Force Works member Century, and later returns with an army at his back to help Iron Man put the finishing touches on halting the Mandarin's dreams of conquest, repairing their friendship in the process.
Spotlight Comic: BLACK PANTHER #23, Iron Man teams with Rhodey's Sentinel Squad against the Black Panther and Storm at the height of Civil War hysteria

First Meeting:.NEW MUTANTS v1 #98 (1991)
They're Kinda Like… The odd couple
Their Deal: Deadpool first entered Cable's life as a mercenary hired to kill the mutant soldier, and the duo remained at odds for years, but recent circumstances forced Wade Wilson and Nathan Summers to become first allies and then the most unlikely of friends. Deadpool sincerely believed in Cable's plans to try and change the world for the better—even if he drove him nuts every step along the way—and while a rift grew between the two when they were on opposite sides of the Civil War, they eventually reunited.
Why They Make The List: There's certainly some depth to the strange friendship between Cable and Deadpool, but at the end of the day, they're just fun to watch. Wade's manic psychosis playing off Nate's bemused god complex proves good for a barrel of laughs any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Whether it's Nate paying Wade in secret to perform mercenary jobs for him to boost his buddy's self esteem or 'Pool's disturbing dreams involving Cable and sunscreen, these two will always put a smile on your face.
Titanic Team-Up: Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cable and Deadpool have one last hurrah before the former rides off into the sunset of

"Messiah CompleX," defending the ruins of Providence from a trio of Marauders. Cable saves his buddy from a beating by Sabretooth by blasting the feral mutant right off the island and then the odd couple teams one final time against Gambit and Sunfire before Deadpool bids his only true friend an emotional, if quirky, farewell. (CABLE & DEADPOOL #42—2007)
Spotlight Comic: CABLE & DEADPOOL #19, as Cable ages back to adulthood, Deadpool tries and play mentor to his buddy with entertainingly disturbing results

First Meeting:.CAPTAIN AMERICA v1 #117 (1969)
They're Kinda Like… War veterans
Their Deal: Sam "Snap" Wilson, a respected community leader who fell on hard times and became a mob racketeer, originally became the Falcon as an unwitting pawn of the Red Skull, who erased his criminal personality and steered him towards becoming Captain America's partner hoping to have a sleeper agent. However, even after Cap and Falcon learned of Wilson's true origins, both forged past what had come before and with Steve Rogers' help, Sam continued on as a proud and moral hero, in and out of costume.
Why They Make The List: At the time that Captain America took on Falcon as a partner, the idea of one of comics' most famous characters teaming with a black man may have seemed radical, but it quickly became evident that neither Steve Rogers nor Sam Wilson saw the other as simply a skin color. The Cap-Falcon relationship has always been less about race and more about two men who consider themselves to be equals. Sam Wilson remains one of the few characters not intimidated by the iconic Sentinel of Liberty, willing to call him out on his faults, making him one of Cap's most invaluable allies.
Titanic Team-Up: Facing the lethal marriage of advanced

technology with base human emotion, Cap and Falcon were tasked to find and dismantle the Madbomb, a sonic weapon able to drive any within its range insane and turn them violent created by Mason Harding for the Royalist Forces of America. The patriotic pals quelled a mad riot in Harlem before battling their way through hordes of psychotic civilians to disable the device. (CAPTAIN AMERICA v1 #193-200—
Spotlight Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA #177, Cap's retirement forces the Falcon to fight alone

First Meeting:.AVENGERS v1 #151 (1976)
They're Kinda Like… The class clowns
Their Deal: When Wonder Man emerged from being "dead" for years and became a probationary member of the Avengers, he immediately bonded with his teammate, Beast, who took it upon himself to reintroduce Simon Williams to the world after he had slept away years of his life. The two shared common interests like theater and literature, but perhaps more importantly, Beast provided Wonder Man with a guide to an unfamiliar landscape he could count on, and Simon Williams gave the bestial Hank McCoy a true friend who saw past his physical appearance to the man inside.
Why They Make The List: Among a team of billionaire playboys, peak human super soldiers and literal gods, Beast and Wonder Man found themselves the odd men out of the Avengers, a fun-loving furball with a vocabulary as big as his feet and a man who could move mountains with his muscles, but whose painful shyness proved his greatest vulnerability. Both were underdogs in the midst of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and when they got together you couldn't help but root for them to score the upset.

Titanic Team-Up: On vacation in Los Angeles, Beast and Wonder Man come under fire from Simon's old enemy Lotus Newmark. Fending off attacks from both the armored mercenaries Armed Response and the massive It the Living Colossus, the pair of former Avengers manage to expose Lotus's criminal empire and end her cover as a legitimate businesswoman. (AVENGERS TWO: WONDER MAN & BEAST #1-3—2000)
Spotlight Comic: WONDER MAN: MY FAIR SUPER HERO #2, Beast tries to help Wonder Man reform the lethal Ladykiller

First Meeting:.CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (1941)
They're Kinda Like… Big brother and little brother
Their Deal: When Steve Rogers became Captain America and got shipped overseas, the U.S. government assigned him a sidekick in the form of James "Buchanan" Barnes, but while Cap initially expressed concern about a young boy riding into battle with him, those fears quickly dissipated when he realized Bucky could hold his own in a fight like few others. Rogers thought he lost Bucky forever when he seemingly perished disarming a weapon launched by Baron Zemo, but many years later the prodigal son returned as the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed mercenary who Cap managed to snap out it. Today, with Rogers dead, Bucky has become the new Captain America.
Why They Make The List: It's great to have a hero, but living up to your idol's expectations can be a chore like none other. Likewise, it's nice to have somebody look up to you, but a lot of pressure to never falter in their eyes. Cap and Bucky both made each other better heroes because of their mutual respect and the responsibility each felt to his respective partner. For a long time we only knew bits and pieces of their relationship, but the last few years worth of stories in CAPTAIN AMERICA have opened up amazing hidden chapters and given the duo far more depth.
Titanic Team-Up: Barely freed from his programming as the Winter Soldier, Bucky

hops a plane to England in hopes of thwarting a terrorist plot by the Red Skull and Cap follows in hot pursuit. Without even planning to work in tandem, the veteran partners end up assisting one another in spite of themselves, beating back the new Master Man and putting a crimp in the Skull's plans. (CAPTAIN AMERICA v5 #18-21—2006)
Spotlight Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA 65TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, flashback to a classic World War II adventure starring Cap and Bucky

First Meeting:.FANTASTIC FOUR v1 #1 (1961)
They're Kinda Like… Brothers who fight—a lot
Their Deal: When Reed Richards took that fateful trip into outer space that gave birth to the Fantastic Four, along with his girlfriend Susan, he also brought along his best friend Ben Grimm, doomed to be the Thing, and her brother Johnny, the future Human Torch. As the FF became a family, the playful and often immature Torch did his best to lift the morose Thing out of his frequent doldrums, but often went too far with his pranks. Though they drive each other nuts, the Torch and Thing consider one another to be like brothers.
Why They Make The List: Many of us have that brother or sister who drives us nuts—and the rest of us may have found friends who fill that role—but who at the end of the day we still love because, hey, they're family. Ben and Johnny embody those two guys who will beat the crap out of each other for hours on end, but the minute somebody else takes a shot at one guy, he's got to contend with both. There's a refreshing realism in two heroes who don't get along perfectly, but at the

same time, couldn't be closer.
Titanic Team-Up: Ben comes to his burning bud's aid when Johnny finds himself over his hothead against the awesome Dragon Man. While the Fantastic Two manage to put the reptilian wrecker away, they end up practically destroying State University's campus in the process—no doubt Reed ended up footing the bill. (HUMAN TORCH #12—2004)
Spotlight Comics: FANTASTIC FOUR: FIRST FAMILY, the origin of Ben, Johnny and the rest of the FF is re-told

First Meeting:.AMAZING SPIDER-MAN v1 #1 (1963)
They're Kinda Like… High school rivals
Their Deal: Shortly after becoming Spider-Man, Peter Parker invaded the headquarters of the Fantastic Four, hoping to become a member, and while he didn't end up joining the team, he certainly made an impression, particularly on fellow teenager the Human Torch, Johnny Storm. Over the years, Spidey and the Torch grew from bitter rivals for publicity and respect to close friends, leaning on one another in times of crisis.
Why They Make The List: Perhaps no ongoing friendship in the Marvel Universe has produced more mirth over the years than the never-ending game of one-upmanship between Peter Parker and Johnny Storm. However, on a more emotional level, readers have gotten to grow over the years alongside these characters and their relationship, as they matured from insecure and jealous teenagers desperate for one another's approval to adults who can jab each other but still lend an ear when their buddy's going through hard times—and of course no matter how old they get, they'll still be webbing and burning each other's boxers.
Titanic Team-Up: With the Fantastic Four enduring rare bad publicity as a result of

Mr. Fantastic temporarily taking over Latveria, Johnny turns to his pal Spider-Man—no stranger to negative public sentiment—for advice. Their conversation gets interrupted by Hydro-Man, and after the heroes dispatch their foe, Spidey helps the Torch get back in the good graces of nearby onlookers, despite having enjoyed his brief time as the more popular of the two. (FANTASTIC FOUR #512-513—2004)
Spotlight Comics: SPIDER-MAN/HUMAN TORCH, five memorable meetings through the years between the Wallcrawler and his fiery friend

First Meeting:.LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN #48 (1977)
They're Kinda Like… Twin brothers from different mothers
Their Deal: Luke Cage—then Power Man—and Danny Rand—aka Iron Fist—first met when the nefarious Bushmaster blackmailed Cage into attacking Fist's lover Misty Knight and her friend Colleen Wing, and the quartet teamed to turn the tables on the villain. Luke and Danny decided to continue teaming as the Heroes For Hire, taking on jobs as super-powered bodyguards and private investigators. The organization would disband in the wake of Danny's seeming death, but after his return years later, Cage and Fist have remained close and continued to watch each other's backs, including currently as members of the New Avengers.
Why They Make The List: Initially, two characters with seemingly nothing in common got thrown together because neither could sustain an ongoing series on their own. As time went by, we came to see that the teaming of a jaded, street smart tough guy with a laid back, philosophical master of the martial arts produced both entertaining stories and genuine good feelings. Initially, the fun resulted from watching Luke and Danny struggle and often fail to relate to one another's worlds, but the more everlasting enjoyment has come from seeing two men who could not be more different on the outside form a remarkable bond and come to care for one another because on the inside of each lies a good man.
Titanic Team-Up: Cage joined Danny in pursuing his enemy, Master Khan, back to

K'un-Lun, the ancient mystic city where Iron Fist had been raised and trained, only for the duo to find the former paradise overrun by the malevolent plant creatures, the H'lythri. The Heroes For Hire rallied the remaining warriors of K'un-Lun to defeat their enemies and Iron Fist bested Khan, but at the price of severing the link between Earth and his adopted home. (POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #74-75—1981)
Spotlight Comic: NEW AVENGERS #27, the former Heroes For Hire reunite in the New Avengers

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The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of '80s Cartoons

transformerswtf.pngBy Todd Ciolek

The ‘80s were supposed to be a harmless time for toys and the cartoons that sold them. Whether shilling lines of action figures or promoting characters who would eventually be action figures, these shows were designed to eat up kids’ attention in 30-minute blocks while ham-handedly promoting good citizenship and hygiene. In spite of this, cartoons sometimes snuck in certain moments that were clearly designed to break impressionable minds and pervert the youth of America. In the interests of helping a generation get through long-stewing cartoon-related stress disorders, we’re confronting the worst things the ‘80s ever did to us.

10) Shipwreck’s Family Melts in G.I. Joe
Rule one of traumatizing kids through cartoons: abuse the most beloved character. And G.I. Joe’s most beloved character was Shipwreck, the likable naval wisecracker who was in no way based on Jack Nicholson. So the episode “There’s No Place Like Springfield” took Shipwreck and stuck him in a bizarre simulacrum of the future, in which he was living in a small town with his wife and a daughter he didn’t remember having.

Of course, the whole thing’s a plot by Cobra, and all of Shipwreck’s down-home friends and family are Synthoid androids. This is slowly revealed as people around Shipwreck start melting right before his eyes (see the eight-minute mark above), and his wife and daughter eventually try to shoot him inside a burning home, before Shipwreck’s pet parrot swoops in and melts them with a magic ray. Paranoia? Fake families? Perfect for the Cold War.

9) The Care Bears Raise the Dead in The Care Bears Movie II
The Care Bears were purportedly intended to promote Christian values, but they generally pushed the same lessons as filthy amoral heathen cartoon characters: believe in yourself, eat your vegetables, don’t litter, don’t cut in line, don’t be an asshole, and don’t sell your soul to demons. Yet there’s one moment where the sky-dwelling bears go into full-blown Jesus mode and raise the dead.

The second Care Bears movie pits the legions of bears and other toy-friendly animals against a malevolent shape-shifting creature named Dark Heart, who demands a picked-on girl’s soul in exchange for making her the best athlete in her summer camp. The girl, later realizing she’d been a moron, joins the Care Bears in confronting Dark Heart at the film’s end, and, in a strangely morbid turn for a cartoon inspired by American Greetings, catches a villain-propelled lightning bolt and, at about the two-minute mark in this clip, dies.

As the human-shaped Dark Heart cradles her lifeless form, the Care Bears devise a solution straight out of old Peter Pan plays: yelling that they care and asking all of the movie’s audience to join in. Of course, it works, thus teaching children that one can resurrect the deceased by sheer force of will. One can only imagine all the soon-to-be-disappointed kids left screaming at dead family pets or grandmothers’ caskets.

8) Turtle-Human Lust in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Over the course of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each of the turtles got his own love interest, and none of them, mercifully, ever included their most prominent human ally, April O’Neil. As we all saw it, they were all just friends. Our perspective didn’t change until later, thanks to the Internet and a lot of things we’d just as soon not discuss.

Yet there’s at least one scene that gives us viewers pause: in the episode “April Fool,” April leaves behind her yellow jumpsuit for once and dons formal wear. For some reason, she treks down into the sewers to show off her gown to Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo. At the 3:27 mark here, all of them are on the verge of howling like Tex Avery wolves, with even Splinter, the turtles’ sanguine rat-man mentor, ogling a woman not of his species. And then the turtles follow April out of the room, clogging the door in one writhing mass of undisguised reptile lust. Horrifying.

7) The Smurfs Sing Someone to Death in The Smurfs
On the list of threatening cartoon characters, the Smurfs land just above the Snorks and just below the Shirt Tales, who could probably still tear a grown man apart if they all attacked at once. But there’s another side to the Smurfs and their seemingly innocuous world of mushroom houses and single-trait characters. And it’s not just the "GNAP" virus.

In their first Christmas special, the Smurfs were called upon to save two lost children and their longtime nemesis Gargamel from a sorcerer who, as the show goes on, is clearly painted as an emissary from Hell. The Smurfs fight back the only way they can: by singing an interminable non-Christmas song with the refrain “Goodness makes the badness go away.” And the Satan-worshipping sorcerer screams and screams and screams until he disappears. Don’t fuck with Smurfs.

6) Seaspray Loves a Mermaid, Becomes a Mermaid and Hits on Bumblebee in Transformers
Never mind all of the gruesome mechanical death in the Transformers movie or the episode where Perceptor became a robot geisha on a planet of feudal Japanese aliens; the most screwed-up moment in Transformers cartoon history comes when the burbling-voiced Seaspray commits several crimes against nature.
Dispatched to break up a Decepticon mining operation on a distant civilized planet, Seaspray quickly strikes the fancy of Alana, one of the entirely humanoid natives. In a testament to just how little the writers of Transformers cared at this point in the show, it’s revealed that she and her people use a magic pool to change into mermaids.

Though the pool is shown to destroy robots, Seaspray jumps in and becomes an Aquaman look-a-like. Not only is it weird, it also demonstrates that Transformers have souls…which makes the full-scale robot slaughters in the movie all the more disturbing. Also disturbing: the episode’s opening moments, in which Seaspray has an oddly romantic oceanside conversation with a clearly uneasy Bumblebee.

5) My Little Pony and The Hosts of Hell in My Little Pony
Unlike every other cartoon based on a toy line, My Little Pony had no pre-designated villains, leaving the writers to constantly devise new ones to wreak havoc on the little pastel mini-horses. Some of these antagonists weren’t so threatening; think giant cartoon squids and overweight witches who wanted to flood the Pony Mansion or steal all the Pony Savings Bonds. The first ever Pony villain, however, was a demon overlord.

That’s what we assume, at least. Tirac, the angry horned centaur-thing who debuts at 3:45 in the above clip, certainly looks the part, and sounds it, too, with a raspy voice worthy of Frank Welker’s finest roles. This emissary of Satan sends out dragons and lizard-men to kidnap unsuspecting ponies. Then, in scenes far too creepy for a cartoon ostensibly aimed at 5-year-olds, he chains them up, laughs at their bleats for help, and turns them into monstrous dragons by unleashing the mutating nightmare of his dark magic upon them. Still, his image is shaken later on, when the ponies and their token human ally confront him and the snarling hell-creature is crushed inside…a rainbow. Pansy.

4) Nuclear Zombie Children in Spiral Zone
It’s easy to mistake Spiral Zone for another G.I. Joe retread—because, to some extent, it is. The show’s heroes a pack of conveniently international super-soldiers in hi-tech armor, would’ve fit right into a battle with Cobra. The show’s villains, however, played a little differently. By the show’s beginning, a crazed scientist had already conquered half the world by dropping an insidious bacteria from space, turning people into yellow-eyed zombies with red fungus sprouting from their faces, as we see right from the opening clip.

Between the burned-out city wastelands of infected “zones” and the hollow-eyed victims shuffling around them, Spiral Zone was the closest thing kids’ TV had to The Day After. Sure, the heroes had names like Dirk Courage and the villains, even with their creepy facial lesions, were stupid-looking, but there’s something bleak and unpleasant about Spiral Zone. Was it an allegory for nuclear war? The AIDS crisis? Probably not, but it’s disturbing that the question should arise around a toy commercial.

3) Jem Makes Love in Jem
Censors in the ‘80s were, we assume, fairly watchful people. They’re the reason every G.I. Joe plane had parachuting pilots, and why the word “die” was avoided like profanity. If we were to pick a cartoon adept at sneaking things past those censors, we wouldn’t have picked Jem, the extended pop-music war where the most objectionable thing was the way the title character’s soulless, computer-aided songs invariably triumphed the slightly less manufactured faux-punk anthems of her rivals, The Danzig-free Misfits.

Yet it’s one of those vapid little songs that slid innuendo past the network watchdogs. In the number “Who is he Kissing,” Jem/Jerrica openly wonders if her Ken-doll boytoy, Rio, is “making love to a fantasy.” Perhaps there were board meetings and studio debates over it, but in a cartoon climate where some stations refused to show interracial dating on Robotech, we find it strange that no PTA group got Jem’s song altered.

2) The Remorseless Eating Machine from The Inhumanoids
The Inhumanoids is the cartoon every maladjusted eight-year-old boy would’ve made if he’d had his own studio of overworked Japanese and Korean animators in 1987. There are some human scientist heroes in there someplace, but it’s all about the show’s hideous giant creatures who dwell deep inside the earth and do horrible, horrible things. In the show’s opening mini-series, for example, the scientists’ lone female member is turned into a drooling skeletal horror at the touch of the undead D. Compose, possibly because she didn’t have an action figure. (See it here.)

Even more unsettling is the Gagoyle, an armless, one-eyed monstrosity with a transparent stomach. After being hatched by the show’s human villains, the creature gruesomely devours all of its unhatched siblings and then waddles around devouring things, including the arm of D. Compose and two underworld guardian statues who, despite being stone, writhe and scream as the Gagoyle rips off their heads (shown at 4:35 in that clip up there). Then the show’s primary villain, Metlar, endears himself to children everywhere by killing the creature. He was a bit too late, though; the nightmare fuel had already leaked onto the beach of our happy childhoods.

1) Naked Thundercats
By the time the ‘80s hit, cartoons had gotten away with showing Donald Duck pants-less for decades, but Thundercats pushed the envelope a little more with its first episode, in which all of the title characters arrive on their new homeworld stark naked. Yes, even Cheetara. Granted, there were no nipples showing anywhere, and the show might’ve even passed the lack of clothing off as natural; after all, they’re animals, right?

Not really, no. Later in the episode (around the 5:30 mark in the glorious Spanish episode above), every Thundercat save Snarf puts on clothing, making it quite apparent that all of them were, in fact, completely naked just a few scenes ago. And so a generation lost a little shred of innocence. Some parents doubtless banned their children from watching Thundercats five minutes into the first episode, although, when you think about it, they were doing their kids a favor in the long run.

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10 TV Shows That Changed The World

Have you ever been watching television and thought, “Wow, this soap opera is so good it could cause the downfall of a corrupt communist regime,” or even, “I bet one day this show is going to send the first woman into space”? Well, maybe you’re not giving the boob tube enough credit. While others are busy blaming television for all of society’s downfalls, we think it’s time someone stood up for ye olde idiot box. After all, these 10 television shows didn’t just entertain, they helped convince the world to get with the program.

1. Dallas

The show that overthrew a dictator (Well, kind of.)
Dallas was one of the most popular TV shows in history—and nowhere was it more talked about than in Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist Romania. How did the soap opera get past Romanian censors? With help from Dallas leading man, J.R. Ewing, of course. Because J.R. was portrayed as a despicable oil baron, Ceausescu’s government presumably decided the show must be anti-capitalist. Whatever the reasoning, Dallas became a runaway hit when it arrived in Romania in 1979. A series about wealthy, beautiful people (evil or not) was an inspiration to Romania’s poor and dejected masses. Eventually, the government decided such Western television was a bad influence, and Dallas was taken off the air in 1981. But by then, it was too late. The fantasies of Western life lived on in the imaginations of Romanians, and in 1989, Ceausescu was overthrown during a public uprising. Not incidentally, the actor who played J.R., Larry Hagman, visited Romania some years later and was treated as a hero. In an interview following the experience, Hagman said, “People from Bucharest came up to me in the street with tears in their eyes saying, ‘J.R. saved our country.’ ”

2. General Electric Theater

The show that turned Ronald Reagan into a Republican.

In the early 1950s, film actor Ronald Reagan was at a low point in his career. So when Taft Schreiber, of the Music Corporation of America, got him a gig as the host of the anthology series General Electric Theater, Reagan jumped at the opportunity. For $125,000 a year and part-ownership of the program, he not only hosted the show, but also toured America as a “goodwill ambassador” for the electricity giant, giving speeches to plant employees and acting as its public spokesperson.

By the time General Electric Theater, was cancelled in 1962, Reagan was a new man. Turns out, all those years defending free enterprise for one of the nation’s biggest multinational companies had transformed Reagan into one of America’s leading conservative speakers. Although the actor had long been a Democrat, the Republican Schreiber convinced Reagan to change political parties. Four years later, the newly Republican Reagan was elected governor of California, and the rest is presidential history.

3. Out of This World

The show that gave birth to satellite TV.
On April 6, 1965, NASA launched one of the world’s first commercially sponsored satellites into space. Dubbed Early Bird (but later renamed Intelsat 1), the stationary satellite was backed by the newly formed International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (Intelsat), which comprised agencies from 17 countries. The goal: double the capacity of transatlantic satellite communications and make it possible to send live television signals across an ocean. Sounds great, but at the time, it was an enormous risk. Prior to Early Bird, space technology had been reserved for government projects, and there was no guarantee Americans were going to get excited about using satellites for their TV reception.

In order to win over TV viewers worldwide, Intelsat had to show off what Early Bird could do. Enter Out of This World. Just one month after the satellite’s launch, as many as 300 million viewers across nine countries were united by this television special. The program featured live scenes from across the globe, including footage of a heart operation in Houston, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in Philadelphia, Pope Paul VI making an address from the Vatican, a bullfight in Barcelona, and (perhaps most intriguingly) Russian sailors singing and dancing aboard the HMS Victory in England.

The plan worked. Out of This World made the average person excited about satellites. It was a huge win for big businesses interested in making high-tech advances. Two weeks after the special aired, the first color TV show was transmitted from England to America. Three years after that, the first live satellite coverage of the Olympics was sent from Mexico to Britain. And one year after that, satellites broadcast the first astronauts landing on the moon.

4. Cathy Come Home

The drama that transformed the welfare state.
Directed by Ken Loach (who later became one of Britain’s most respected filmmakers), the drama Cathy Come Home was a poignant episode of the BBC-1 anthology series The Wednesday Play. It told the tragic story of Cathy Ward, a young wife and mother who becomes the victim of Britain’s welfare state. Going from working-class struggle to dire poverty, Cathy’s journey begins when her husband loses his job following an accident and becomes unable to support the family. In a painful spiral toward destitution, Cathy suffers through various states of homelessness, separates from her husband, and eventually, has her children forcibly taken away from her by government council workers.

A truly horrifying story, its impact was compounded by the fact that Cathy Come Home was filmed in such a realistic style that some viewers thought it was a documentary. And although the Conservative Party government claimed the movie was “full of blunders,” Labour Party politician Anthony Greenwood said the show should be “compulsory viewing once a month for the next five years.” British audiences agreed, and Cathy Come Home was aired again shortly after. The ensuing public outrage helped bring major changes to British welfare law. Other nations followed suit, with similar reforms and charities.

5. Star Trek

The show that designed the future (of society).
Avid Spock fans might tell you that Star Trek is directly responsible for the invention of everything from cell phones to microwave ovens, but that’s slightly exaggerated. While engineers at companies ranging from Nokia to General Electric have admitted to being inspired by the show’s futuristic designs, most real life scientists and manufacturers don’t credit the show for their inventions.

Star Trek did, however, help shape the future in another, and arguably more significant, way. Defying all stereotypes, the heroic crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise was comprised of a mix of races—and among them were some high-ranking women. Here again, Star Trek became an inspiration—only this time, to minorities and women, rather than tech junkies. Lieutenant Uhura, played by African-American jazz singer Nichelle Nichols, showed audiences that black women could be senior officers and hold positions of power. In fact, when Nichols contemplated quitting the series during its first year, she was persuaded to keep the role by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, who said. “Don’t you realize how important your character is?” Years later, women ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, cited Lieutenant Uhura as a major inspiration in their careers. Nichols even spent time working for NASA on an astronaut-recruitment program—an initiative that roped in such people as Sally Ride and Guy Bluford, the first American woman and African-American man in space, respectively.

6. See It Now

The show that ended McCarthyism.

If you know your 1950s history (or if you saw the movie Good Night, and Good Luck), you know the impact crusading journalist Edward R. Murrow had on American politics. His vehicle for galvanizing change? The current affairs show, See It Now, which premiered in 1951.

Well known as a World War II radio correspondent, Murrow wasn’t a fan of television initially. He wanted to go beyond the talking-head discussions and newsreels that filled most nightly news shows at the time. So when he finally decided to move forward with See It Now, he did so on his own terms. The show’s debut episode featured television’s first live coast-to-coast transmission, which included a split-screen of the Brooklyn Bridge on one side and the Golden Gate on the other. Murrow also broke new ground by airing a day in the lives of Korean War soldiers. Of course, the show’s most influential role was in exposing Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist fear campaign and opening Americans’ eyes to the many lives and careers it was ruining. Thanks in part to fallout from Murrow’s broadcast on March 9, 1954, the U.S. Senate reprimanded McCarthy for abusing his power, and McCarthyism came to an abrupt end.

Murrow wasn’t afraid to take on rogue senators, and later, he proved he wasn’t scared to take on Big Tobacco, either. Two episodes of See It Now explored the link between cigarettes and cancer—a brave move, considering television depended heavily on tobacco sponsorships at the time. But perhaps Murrow had a personal interest in the story. A three-pack-a-day smoker who regularly appeared on camera with a cigarette in hand, Murrow died of lung cancer in 1965.

7. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

The show that swung an election.


The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was many things. It was the first network TV show to make fun of the Establishment, support America’s counterculture, and have enough nerve to put blacklisted singers (such as Joan Baez and Pete Seeger) back on the air. Ironically, however, the show’s major achievement might have been making Richard Nixon president.

As a gag, show star Pat Paulsen ran for office during the 1968 presidential election. “I’m consistently vague on the issues,” announced Paulsen on national television, “and I’m continuing to make promises that I’ll be unable to fulfill.” Regardless of his humorous motives, Paulsen seemed to have a “Ralph Nader Effect,” stealing 200,000 votes from the Democrats and helping to swing one of the closest elections in history. Thanks to Paulsen’s efforts, Nixon narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. “Hubert Humphrey told me I cost him the election,” recalled Paulsen, “and he wasn’t smiling when he said it.”

8. The Inventors

The show that stocked store shelves.

Turns out, ABC’s American Inventor was about 36 years late to the game. That’s right; in 1970, The Inventors was already becoming the American Idol for hyper-intelligent geeks south of the equator. In fact, the Australian program is responsible for popularizing several notable gizmos, including some you may have used (the self-wringing mop and the rotary brush), as well as at least one you hopefully haven’t (the colostomy bag). Contestants also introduced useful industrial wares, such as a solar energy tracker and the Super Sopper (a giant roller that soaks up water and has been used to save countless major sporting events from turning into mud fights).

The judges were primarily science and business know-it-alls who were almost as scary as Simon Cowell, but the panel was balanced out with housewife Diana Fisher, who would ask the important questions. (Her most common query: “Does it come in other colors?”) And while the contestants weren’t always as cute as Carrie Underwood, the show did create its own superstars. Perhaps the biggest winner was Ralph Sarich, whose many inventions included the orbital engine, a rotary-style internal combustion engine that seemed set to change the world with its powerful and unique fuel-injection system (pictured). By the time Sarich was named the show’s Inventor of the Year in 1972, he’d already signed a multimillion-dollar marketing deal with a major manufacturing company. The original orbital engine didn’t work out in the end (due to its high fuel consumption), but later versions hit paydirt, and Sarich even started his own engine-making company. In 1992, he sold his shares and invested heavily in real estate. He’s now one of Australia’s richest men.

9. Hour of Decision

The show that gave us Billy Graham.
Hour of Decision didn’t introduce American audiences to televangelism; it introduced them to the televangelist who would change America—Reverend Billy Graham.

Other evangelists had hosted TV shows in the 1950s, including Bishop James Pike, Norman Vincent Peale (of self-help-book fame), and Oral Roberts, but few were able to use the medium as effectively as the charismatic Reverend Graham. Based on his wildly successful radio program of the same name (which is still on the air), a typical TV episode of Hour of Decision featured religious music, a short sermon by Graham, and a prerecorded interview with a person of interest. Although the show lasted only three years, Graham made the leap to prime time a couple of years later with a series of live telecasts that allowed TV audiences to be a part of his Madison Square Garden crusades.

Graham’s telecasts were a huge hit, and the Reverend became a bona fide national celebrity. Year after year, he appeared in Gallup Polls as one of the “most admired Americans,” and by 1974, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was receiving some 50,000 viewer letters a week. Also, in a telling illustration of Graham’s influence over the American people, President Richard Nixon made certain he and Reverend Graham were regularly seen together. Nixon even spoke at one of Graham’s rallies in 1970. However, after Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal, Graham (who usually claimed to be apolitical) was conspicuously absent from White House dinner parties.

10. The Living Planet

The show that made us go green.

Sir David Attenborough is possibly Britain’s most influential and venerated environmentalist—all thanks to the power of television. A wildlife buff, Attenborough made a name for himself beginning in the 1950s as the host for the BBC show Zoo Quest. But in 1979, he hit it big with the acclaimed 13-part miniseries Life on Earth, in which he traveled the world studying the chronology of every type of plant and animal he could find. (All told, the film crew traveled some 1.5 million miles to 30 countries during a three-year period, and shot nearly 250 miles of footage.)

The tremendous success of Life on Earth led to its Emmy-winning 1984 sequel, The Living Planet, which focused on all the ways species adapt to their natural environment—and in the case of humans, plunder it. Each episode in this 12-part miniseries ended with a warning from Attenborough that the environment was in danger. “The natural world is not static, nor has it ever been,” Attenborough explained. “But man is now imposing such swift changes that organisms seldom have time to adapt to them … The continued existence of life now rests in our hands.”

Attenborough wasn’t the first person to make such warnings, but he was the first person people really listened to—not just in Britain, but around the world. The Living Planet aired in 100 countries, and audiences came to revere him so much that they took the caution to heart. The show became a major inspiration for the Green Movement. Not coincidentally, the program peaked in popularity during the late 1980s.

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Web Scout exclusive! Rick Astley, king of the 'Rickroll,' talks about his song's second coming


Astley talks about discovering the "Rickroll"

Astley in London last November. (Photo courtesy of TD Promotions)

On a frosty Canadian morning, a masked crusader tromps across a parking lot, over a snow bank and onto the sidewalk. He has a loudspeaker strapped ominously to his chest.

He halts, aiming the speaker toward the building across the street. “This is a song by some dead guy,” he says. And then, music booms forth:

“Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you.”

It’s an anti-Scientology protest, and across the street, a dozen or so warmly dressed young people begin to dance and sing along, waving their picket signs in rhythm to the familiar tune.

“It’s a bit spooky, innit?” said Rick Astley, the singer who made the song famous in 1987 and who is not dead. With considerable help, including assists from RCA Records, the webmaster of Astley’s U.K. fan site, and his manager at Sony BMG, I tracked down Astley at his home in London last weekend. He spoke for the first time about the phenomenon called Rickrolling, best described by example: You are reading your favorite Hollywood gossip blog and arrive at a link urging you to “Click here for exclusive video of Britney’s latest freakout!!” Click you do, but instead of Britney, it’s a dashing 21-year-old Briton that pops onto the screen. You, sir, have been Rickroll’d.

Over the last year or so, Astley has watched with puzzled amazement as “Never Gonna Give You Up” has been mocked, celebrated, remixed and reprised, its original music video viewed millions of times on YouTube, all by a generation that could barely swallow its Gerber carrots when the song first topped the pop charts.

“I think it’s just one of those odd things where something gets picked up and people run with it,” Astley said. “But that’s what brilliant about the Internet.”

Saying he thought "Anonymous" Rickrolling Scientology was "hilarious"

Search for Astley’s name on YouTube and you’ll find dozens of instances of the campy, infectious video, which features a heavily coiffed Astley bobbing and swaying behind oversized sunglasses. He’s flanked by two blond backup dancers (one of whom apparently didn’t have the footwork down), and a male bartender in short shorts who excels at spontaneous back flips.

Rickrolling is an example of an Internet “meme” (defined by Wikipedia as “any unit of cultural information ... that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another"). Its less sophisticated memetic forebear is the “duckroll,” where the roll-ee is misdirected to an image of a duck on wheels. And the Rickroll has sired many memelets, including the Fresh Prince roll, the rainroll (plopping you in front of a video of Tay Zonday’s "Chocolate Rain") and even the Reichroll, where Astley’s song is spliced with footage of Adolf Hitler for an unsettling sort of lip sync.

With all the online momentum it’s gathered, the Rickroll has now trundled its way into the real world, too. The spectacle of trench-coated pranksters blaring the song into unsuspecting crowds has become a symbol of harmless, geeky rebellion. As the blog noted last week, and the New York Times reported Tuesday, a recent basketball game at Eastern Washington University was interrupted by a dancing Astley imitator, and there’s now a small YouTube library of the anti-Scientology group “Anonymous” Rickrolling different church locations.

Why have people picked up on the song so much?

For his part, Astley was nothing if not modest about his new cultural role. “If this had happened around some kind of rock song, with a lyric that really meant something -- a Bruce Springsteen, "God bless America" ... or an anti-something kind of song, I could kind of understand that,” Astley said. “But for something as, and I don’t mean to belittle it, because I still think it’s a great pop song, but it’s a pop song; do you know what I mean? It doesn’t have any kind of weight behind it, as such. But maybe that’s the irony of it.”

Astley would never put the song down, mind you. It’s just that, as he says, “If I was a young kid now looking at that song, I’d have to say I’d think it was pretty naff, really.”

(Wikipedia on “naff”: British slang for “something which is seen to be particularly ‘cheesy’ or ‘tacky’ or in otherwise poor aesthetic taste.”) “For me it’s a good example of what some of the ’80s were about in that pop sort of music way. A bit like you could say Debbie Gibson was absolutely massive, but if you look back at it now ... do you know what I mean?”

Yes, I think we do. But even still, with all the renewed attention to his work and his — albeit 20-year-old — image, does Astley have any plans to cash in on Rickrolling, maybe with his own YouTube remix?

“I don’t really know whether I want to be doing that,” he said. “ I’m not being an ageist, but it’s almost a young person’s thing, that.”

“I think the artist themselves trying to remix it is almost a bit sad,” he said. “No, I’m too old for that.”
Astley, who will be touring the U.K. in May with a group of other ’80’s acts, including Bananarama, and Nick Heyward, Heaven 17, Paul Young and ABC, sums up his thoughts on his unexpected virtual fame with characteristic good humor:

“Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.”

Are you going to try to capitalize on the whole thing?

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Fans press Weinstein on 'Fanboys'



The geeks have been heard.

Faced with a grass-roots boycott of its films, bicoastal protests at screenings of its Friday opener "Superhero Movie" and a campaign calling its co-chairman "Darth Weinstein," the Weinstein Co. said Monday that it now plans to release two versions of "Fanboys." The company said it will release the two versions on DVD, and a company source later said that is exploring two theatrical versions.

"Fanboys," about four diehard "Star Wars" fans who break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in order to see "The Phantom Menace" on the eve of its release, wrapped production two years ago and has been stuck in limbo as a tug-of-war between Harvey Weinstein and the filmmakers waged over competing versions of the movie.

The latest announcement did nothing to satisfy the filmmakers, who accuse the company of only putting out the announcement in order to sidestep a meltdown at this weekend's boxoffice.

"This is more about avoiding picket lines at 'Superhero' than it was about making a decision about the release of our movie," said Kevin Mann, one of the producers.

Mann -- along with producer Matthew Perniciaro, director Kyle Newman and writer Ernie Cline, who originated the story -- worked on "Fanboys" in 2003 with Kevin Spacey's Trigger Street coming on board in 2005. The cast, including then up-and-comers Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen and Dan Fogler, all signed up for a script that one year made the Blacklist, the annual industry ranking of the top scripts in town. Footage began making the rounds at "Star Wars" festivals, while 40 minutes of "Fanboys' " rough cut was screened at Star Wars Celebration and Comic-Con, where it was enthusiastically received by a standing-room-only crowd last year.

The Weinstein Co. picked up the project in late 2005, and following production slated "Fanboys" for release Aug. 17, 2007. That got pushed back to a Jan. 18 release. Then it went off the grid altogether.

Insiders said the root of the problem was Weinstein's issue with the underlying story in "Fanboys." The cross-country adventure is put in motion because one of the characters is facing cancer. Late last year, the company decided it would do reshoots, hiring Judd Apatow's producing partner Shauna Robertson to oversee a $2 million reshoot of four scenes done by director Steve Brill ("Drillbit Taylor"). That, combined with re-editing, created a version that excised the cancer subplot.

"Harvey feels it's hard to market, especially with this cast," an insider said. "He wants to market to a more teen audience. The filmmakers wanted a dramedy along the vein of 'Stand by Me.' "

The Weinstein Co. this year began testing both versions. Unprompted by the filmmakers, "Star Wars" fans began uniting to oppose the noncancer version, led by the 501st, a "Star Wars" fan group named after a fictional battalion. The group created a Web site that provided updates on developments while also lampooning Harvey Weinstein by Photoshopping him in Darth Vader drag.

The test screenings yielded a minuscule win for the noncancer version -- one insider said the difference was only two test points -- but that only emboldened the geeks. And some of the producers remained unmoved.

"The original reason we wanted to get involved with this script was because it was a comedy with heart," Mann said. "In my opinion, when the cancer was taken out, the heart went with it."

The new announcement still leaves the movie up in the air. It still has no release date, only a promise that both versions will be available on DVD. Late Monday, a Weinstein source said, "We're making a very strong attempt to make both films available theatrically as well."

The 501st was unimpressed with the Weinstein Co.'s move.

"This is clearly a vain attempt by the Weinstein Co. to avert 'Star Wars' fans' impending boycott of all of their films," the group said. "It's not going to work, Darth Weinstein. There was never any doubt that you would release both versions of the movie on DVD, probably months apart, so as to leech as much money from 'Star Wars' fans as possible. Our boycott will continue until the Weinstein Co. announces that they are returning control of 'Fanboys' to the 'Star Wars' fans who made it, releasing the original version in theaters and doing away with their anti-fan version of the film altogether."

The company Monday acknowledged that it had received more than 300,000 e-mails, which factored in its decision.

"While the later version tested very well with audiences, the grass-roots support we have received for the first version simply cannot be ignored," a Weinstein spokesman said.

The filmmakers had a more measured response than the fans, hoping to be given a chance to work the film some more.

"If they want to excise the cancer or reshoot again, I'll cooperate," Trigger Street producer Dana Brunetti said. "One tested better than the other, so I see both sides to it.

"We're too close to the movie to be objective, but we know which we consider better," he added with a laugh. "I've always been content with the (original cut of) the movie."

Harvey Weinstein has a history of tangling with filmmakers over their films' edits, earning him the moniker "Harvey Scissorhands" in some circles, but he seems to have met his match with a legion of "Star Wars" fans.

The possibility of a theatrical release was encouraging to both Newman and Brunetti.

"It will be interesting to see what version comes out theatrically, if it does at all," Brunetti said. "We're hoping to meet somewhere in the middle between the two."

Gregg Goldstein reported from New York; Borys Kit reported from Los Angeles.

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Getting Tight with Tarantino!

Here is another ode to great film directors from Paul Proulx. This time, he features the work of Quentin Tarantino. Enjoy!

Check out his pieces on the Cohen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, as well; Also, both awesome.

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