Archive for September, 2010

Gird your loins. AWESOME-tober-fest is coming.

Posted in Halloween, holiday with tags , , , on September 29, 2010 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Well, well, well. It’s that time of year. Friday is October 1st. You know what that means? Yes, it’s
AWESOME-tober-fest time. For those that don’t know, AWESOME-tober-fest is this blog’s month long celebration of Halloween. There will be at least 1 post every weekday until Halloween.

AWESOME-tober-fest has been going on since 2007.  You can check out all of my AWESOME-tober-fest articles by clicking the above banner. There’s lots of content, so have at it.

The last few years I’ve joined Shawn Robare, John Rozum and company for the Countdown to Halloween:


Countdown to Halloween is a collection of hundreds of blogs that have come together to celebrate Halloween. There are thousands of posts going on all through October, so it’s fun to go to Countdown and see what other people are doing.

Anyway, I started doing overall themes for AWESOME-tober-fest in 2008.  Last year I did Frankenstein as my overall theme.  This year, it’s werewolves.  Werewolves are my favorite monster so I’m extra excited to get to this year’s content.  Each week in October will have a subtheme.  On Friday, I’ll look at crazy werewolf movie posters.  Then the week of Oct 6, I’ll look at werewolves in comic books.  The week of Oct 11 will be werewolf novels.  Oct 18 will review werewolf TV shows and the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest will review a bunch of werewolf movies including the original Universal Studios films.  It should be a blast, so come check back here every day in October.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

The Flash TV Special comic book

Posted in comic books, pop culture, The Flash, TV shows with tags , , , on September 22, 2010 by Paxton

Monday was the 20th anniversary of the premiere of CBS’ The Flash TV series which lasted only one season in 1990. Today, I will take a look at the DC Comic The Flash TV Special #1 which was a promotional comic tie-in to the TV series.

The Flash TV Special #1

This comic was released towards the end of The Flash’s first season.  It was intended to pump up interest in the show during its hiatus.  It contained two brand new Flash stories set within the TV show universe as well as a behind the scenes section detailing how the TV show was made.

The first story in this special issue was written by the great John Byrne. Byrne wrote The X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past as well as the 1986 reboot of Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story is titled The Quick and the Dead and it has very dynamic art by Javier Saltares.

The Quick and the Dead Flash TV Special page 7

In the story, Central City is stalked by a “ghost” who is killing former STAR Labs scientists and Tina is next. The Flash must figure out how to defeat something that he can’t touch and is twice as strong as he is. It’s a pretty good story and something typical you’d see in Season 1 of the show. It literally could have been a script that Byrne either wrote for the show or just re-worked an existing, unused show’s script. And Javier’s artwork is great. You can tell he took his style from the TV show. The Flash suit is directly off the screen with the red boots and stylized cowl. However, for some reason, they didn’t draw Barry Allen to look like John Wesley Shipp. They made him the traditional blonde, like in the comics, but since this is based on the show, it’s weird to see.  Here are some panels of the oddly blonde Barry Allen.

Flash TV Special Barry Allen

See? Looks nothing like Shipp from the show.  Despite this, the story is light and fun and, like I said, totally feels like an episode of the TV series.

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The Flash ran onto TV screens 20 years ago today

Posted in comic books, nostalgia, The Flash, TV shows with tags , , , , , on September 20, 2010 by Paxton

The Flash 2 hour premiere

20 years ago today, on September 20, 1990, CBS aired the two hour series premiere of The Flash. The show originally ran on Thursday nights in a very competitive time slot, 8pm. The show starred John Wesley Shipp, best known as Dawson’s dad on Dawson’s Creek, as Barry Allen, police scientist turned super speedster. Also starring was Corbin Bernsen’s wife, Amanda Pays, as Tina McGee.

John Wesley Shipp as The Flash

This new super hero show was directly inspired by the 1989 Batman movie. The same guy that designed the Bat suit for Burton also developed Flash’s suit. Danny Elfman composed the opening music which sounds very similar to his orchestral Batman score. The stories were also similar to Burton’s Batman, at least for the first half of Season 1. Many of those plots involved gangsters, drug dealers and evil corporations, a staple of the first two Burton Batman movies.  Also, at the time, thanks to the speedster effects, this was the most expensive show on TV to produce.  It cost over $1 million an episode, which is why it was so easy for CBS to pull the plug after poor first season ratings.

I first heard about this show (pre-Internet Age, 1988 or 1989) on a trip to Six Flags Over Atlanta.  Warner Brothers/DC owns the park so they were showing a quick 5 minute trailer on monitors all over the park.  I was so excited because I had no idea they were even planning it and Flash is my favorite comic book character.  So I was completely stoked by the time September, 1990 rolled around.

The Flash would get a prime spot, like most hot new shows, in TV Guide’s Fall Preview. Here is The Flash’s entry in the 1990 Fall Preview issue (you can click it to make it bigger).

TV Guide 1990 Fall Preview The Flash in TV Guide

Other shows to appear in that issue? Beverly Hills 90210, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Law and Order and Cop Rock.  Maybe Shawn over at Branded in the 80s will do one of his TV Guide Fall Preview posts about this issue (hint, hint, Shawn).

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Were You An Activision Gamer? Part IV

Posted in 80s, Activision, Atari, pop culture, video games with tags , , , , on September 10, 2010 by Paxton

Cavalcade Arcade

Here it is, the final part of this look back at the Activision Master Gamer program from the early 80s. Did you miss the other parts of this article? Here they are: Part I, Part II, Part III.

Here is the final group of badges that I’m going to cover.

Medal of MeritCross of ExcellenceStar of HonorRobot Tank box
Activision Robot Tank Master Badges – With a totally badass name and very cool box art, Robot Tank is Activision’s version of Atari’s classic tank game Battlezone.  The Master Badges were awarded based on “enemy kills”.  The Medal of Merit on the left was given for 48 kills.  The Cross of Excellence was given for 60 kills.  The Star of Honor on the right was given for 72 kills.

Activision Decathlon Badges Decathlon box
Activision Decathlon Badges -Activision’s Decathlon had the trademark fast paced Activision gameplay and cool game mechanics that were later used in games like Track & Field.  For instance, you moved the joystick from right to left as fast as you can to run and used the red button to jump or throw.  You competed in 10 events including the 100 meter dash, hurdles, long jump and shot put.  If you scored 8,600 points you earned the bronze patch on the left.  If you scored 9,000 points you earned the silver patch and if you scored over 10,000 points you earned the gold badge on the right.

Chopper Commandos badge Chopper Command box
Activision Chopper Commandos Master Badge – Chopper Command was another favorite of mine. It played very similar to Atari’s port of Defender. Except instead of space and aliens, you flew a helicopter and defended trucks and soldiers from enemy planes and bombers. Despite its similarity to Defender, it was much, much harder. If you could score over 10,000 points you would be inducted into the Chopper Commandos.  And believe me, that is not an easy task.

River Raiders badge River Raid box
Activision River Raiders Master Badge –  River Raid was a classic game for the Atari.  I. LOVED. THIS. GAME.  You flew your F-14 fighter over the ominously named River of No Return and blew up enemy planes and tankers.  You have to watch out for your fuel levels as well as the sides of the river because they can both cause you to crash.  If you could score 15,000 or more points you could join the River Raiders.  Like Pitfall!, River Raid received an overlooked sequel called, not surprisingly, River Raid II.  However, there was no Master Badge offered for the sequel.

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Were you an Activision Master Gamer? Part III

Posted in 80s, Activision, Atari, pop culture, video games with tags , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by Paxton

Cavalcade Arcade

Here we are, Part III of this look back at the Activision Master Gamer program from the early 80s. Did you miss the first two parts of this article? Check out Part I here and Part II here.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at five more of the Activision Master Gamer badges.

Explorers Club badge Pitfall box
Activision Explorer’s Club Master Badge – This badge was for the ever popular game, Pitfall!  Everyone knows how Pitfall! is played, so in order to earn this badge you had to score 20,000 points.  Many people don’t realize that Pitfall received a sequel.  And it was also a part of the Activision Master Program.  The sequel is…

Cliffhangers badge Pitfall II box
Activision Cliff Hangers Master Badge – Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns.  This sequel upped the quality of the graphics, music and game play.  As Pitfall Harry, you roam a large collection of caverns collecting gold as you search for your niece, a diamond and a cat named Quickclaw.  You got unlimited lives, but when you were killed you were sent back to the last checkpoint you crossed (while losing points).  However, since this was released towards the end of the Atari’s dominance, it became lost in the shuffle.  If you could score 99,000 points in this game, you earned the Activision Cliff Hangers Badge.

Frostbite badge Frostbite box
Frostbite Bailey’s Arctic Architects Master Badge – For the game Frostbite. I never actually played this game, but I think it was one of Activision’s best sellers.  Frostbite plays very similar to Freeway or Frogger.  You play as Frostbite Bailey.  You jump across a frozen river changing ice blocks from white to blue.  With each color change, you add blocks to your igloo.  If you could score over 40,000 points, you could send away to become an Arctic Architect.

Crackpots badge Crackpots box
Activision Crackpots Master Badge – For the game Crackpots. As Potsy the gardener, you must protect your apartment building from mutant bugs by dropping flower pots on them. If too many bugs enter through the windows, you will lose. To achieve this badge you had to score at least 75,000 points.

Tennis badge Tennis box
Tennis Master Badge – For the game Tennis. I loved this game. It was hard, but a lot of fun.  If you could win a set against the computer (which is a lot tougher than you’d think) you were eligible to receive this badge.

So there are your next five.  Come back tomorrow and I’ll finish this these badges off with 5 or 6 more.

UPDATE – See Part IV of this article here

Were you an Activision Master Gamer? Part II

Posted in 80s, Activision, Atari, pop culture, video games with tags , , , , on September 8, 2010 by Paxton

Cavalcade Arcade

Yesterday I began my look at Activision’s Master Gamer Program.  I looked at the Activision newsletter and talked about the genesis of the Master Gamer badges.  I also showed you five of those Master Gamer Badges. Click on this link to go back and read Part I of this article if you missed it and see badges for the games Dragster, Barnstorming and Freeway.

Now, without further ado, here are five more of the Activision Master Gamer Badges.

You can click the images to make them bigger and thanks again to Atari Age for the game box scans.

Grand Prix badge Grand Prix box
Grand Prix Driving Team Master Badge – For the game Grand Prix. This was a typical racing game where you drove to be the first across the finish line while swerving in and out of other drivers and avoiding hazards like oil spills. This was one of the first games to start awarding these Master Gamer patches. If you ran your race in 1:00 for Game 1, 1:30 for Game 2 and 2:30 for Game 3, then you became a member of the Activision Grand Prix driving team.

Bucket Brigade badge Kaboom box
Activision Bucket Brigade Master Badge – For one of my favorite Atari 2600 games of all time, Kaboom!  In this game, you use the paddle controllers to control buckets on the bottom of the screen to catch bombs that are dropped by the bandit at the top of the screen.  It’s much harder than you think it is.  My grandmother gave me this game for Christmas one year and I’d never heard of it.  It quickly became one of my “go-to” games that I would play for hours.  To earn this badge you have to score at least 3,000 points.

Laser Blast badge
Laser Blast box
Commander in the Federation of Laser Blasters Master Badge – For the game Laser Blast.  This was a space shoot-em-up in the vein of Missile Command.  If you could score over 100,000 points, you earned this commander badge.  Additionally, the on screen display could only accommodate 6 numbers.  So if you scored over 999,999 points, your score would flip to all exclamation points.  If you could do this, there was an extra 1,000,000 point patch you could earn.

Activision Ski Team badge Skiing box
Activision Ski Team Master Badge – For the game Skiing, one of the few games featuring the winter sport of skiing for the Atari 2600.  This game offered several different downhill races you could do, all timed and the goal was to beat your times.  If you could beat the time of 28.2 seconds on the slalom, you would earn the Activision Ski Team badge.

Sub Club Badge Seaquest box
Activision Sub Club Master Badge – For the game Seaquest.  This game worked very similar to the Atari port of Defender. It was a shoot-em-up. You pilot a submarine shooting sharks and enemy subs while simultaneously saving friendly divers.  If you could score 50,000 points then you earned the Sub Club badge.

Those are your five badges for today.  I have five more badges for you tomorrow.  Stop back tomorrow to see what other Atari games are represented.

Were you an Activision Master Gamer?

Posted in 80s, Activision, Atari, pop culture, video games with tags , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by Paxton

Cavalcade Arcade

In the early ’80s, the Atari 2600 was king. Nearly every kid had one, and if they didn’t, they had a friend with one that they would spend every waking moment with.  The Atari 2600 was the center of most kids’ universes.  At least, it was to me and my friends.
I received my Atari 2600 one weekend when I was in about third grade. I was sick that weekend and my dad just up and decided to get us the Atari 2600 and a VCR. He is, to this day, my hero. Since the Atari 2600 wasn’t a powerhouse graphics machine, the games had to rely on being creative, thereby making game play addicting. There were many awesome, awesome games for the 2600 console and, like today, there were many different companies besides Atari making games for the console. One of the best, if not THE best, third party developer was Activision Games.

Activision logos

Activision was founded in 1979 by a former record executive and staffed by a bunch of former Atari programmers who broke off and started their own company. These developers were upset that Atari’s policy at the time included not giving credit to game developers in the game manuals.  Activision changed all that.  An entire page in Activision’s game manuals was devoted to the people who developed the games.

Being former Atari developers, the Activision team knew the best way to develop for the console’s hardware. How best to get that extra “umph” from the graphics and the best way to make games fun and addictive.  They also knew how to cater to their fanbase.  Activision started a newsletter for their users that previewed upcoming games, reviewed current releases and shared achievements and high scores from readers who would write in their personal bests.  The newsletter was called the Activision Fun Club News (later renamed Activisions).  Below is the Summer 1984 issue of the newsletter.

Activision fun club news

With all of these reader score submissions coming in, Activision realized that they could use this enthusiasm and build a demand for their games. So, Activision created the Master Gamer program.  The program would include a list of Activision games and what achievement you had to perform in order to earn the title of Master Gamer within that particular game.  The program started off small, with only a few of the Activision catalog games participating.  Here’s an info sheet from within the Activision newletter explaining the concept of the Master Gamer and how to achieve and then apply for the status.

Become an Activision Master Gamer

Activision even had patches (or, “badges”) made that they would send to gamers who proved that they achieved the status.  In this info sheet you can see the badges for the games Laser Blast, Freeway, Skiing, Stampede, Kaboom! and Dragster.

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