Aliens: Newt’s Tale – Throwback Review

‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting. 


Aliens: Newt’s Tale 
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Published 1992

Writer: Mike Richardson
Penciler: Jim Somerville
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Gregory Wright

This was one of 39 different mini-series and one-shots based upon the Alien/Aliens movie franchise that was handled so well by the folks at Dark Horse Comics. For over 30 years, Dark Horse was pretty much the sole publisher of Aliens comics, starting with the comic Aliens: Outbreak (originally titled simply Aliens) in July 1988. ‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting. 

This two-issue story was based on writer/director James Cameron’s original screenplay and has all of the atmosphere, horror, and tons of action we found in the Aliens film. That’s no mean feat, transferring films well to comics. It is everything you want in a two-book mini-series, it’s so deeply true to the original Aliens film that any fan of the film would be hard-pressed to not be engrossed and invested in it. 

Just a little side note if you haven’t already read “Alien the illustrated story” by Goodwin and Simonson published by Titan Books that would be the perfect aperitif. The Dark Horse original three series sit well in chronological order with this offering, (Book 1, Book 2, and Earth War). They form a much better sequel to Aliens than Alien 3 since they involve a great Newt and Hicks dynamic and if you haven’t read them you might want to check them out too. Thank me later!

While this novel is recognizably true to the film this encounter is told from Newt’s perspective and includes more back story and the much-needed new material to really get this fan’s juices flowing. The plot development centers around the Xenomorph infestation at Hadley’s Hope. The overrun prospectors can only find hope in the wait for Ripley and the Colonial Marines to arrive.

The transition into the marine’s arrival transported me to the tender moment when Ripley finds Newt in the film and the action moves along well from there to an exciting can’t wait for book 2 nail-biting conclusion. The Xenomorph art is original yet familiar. These creatures aren’t posed, traced, frozen, or toy-like. These are original and appear sparingly and menacingly in an impactful way that adds terror and horror in equal measure. I find the character drawings charming. There is color and shadow mixed well with the expressions that follow the tension and action. Not one part of the team let this comic down. The only criticism I’d have is I wish this iteration of Ripley was drawn a little closer to other, slightly sexier, iterations or her at the time.


Verdict

A must-read for any Aliens fan.



Fantastic Four #280 – (1985) – Throwback Review

Byrne’s art is clean and graceful as ever. His She-Hulk is a particular highlight and her journey through the hellish burning city is a real stand-out.

Fantastic Four #280

Written and Drawn by John Byrne
Released – July 1985    

Published by Marvel Comics

The Fantastic Four is surrounded by an angry mob, with flaming torches and fists raised, crucified against giant stone letters spelling the word HATE while New York City burns in the background. It’s a dark and powerful image by writer and artist John Byrne and inker Jerry Ordway and makes a great cover for Fantastic Four #280. I definitely want to read on.

The story begins with the FF standing outside a giant hole in the ground, all that remains of the Baxter Building, their home, and base of operations, which has been plucked out of the ground and fired off into space and ultimately blown up. This all happened the last issue and necessitates a quick recap for anyone like me who missed it.

Exposition in older comics is always a pleasure to read. It’s clunky and unnatural and usually between characters who already know what happened but I love it all the same. Byrne being an excellent writer actually does it really well in this issue. It’s all done in a quick three panels on the second page as Reed Richards explains all to a disbelieving police officer.

Perhaps I should insert some exposition of my own. This issue comes somewhere in the middle of John Byrne’s revitalizing run at a time when She-Hulk has replaced The Thing as the team’s wise-cracking muscle.

Obviously, a building disappearing and leaving a gap in the skyline is going to draw a crowd and it’s here where the story’s dark mood begins to manifest itself. It starts with one old man, a tenant of the Baxter Building angrily berating the “Fancy-pants super-hero” for letting his snack shop be destroyed which he’s run for twenty-two years and carried a lifetime’s worth of memories.  Reed Richards tries to placate him but it’s clear nothing he can say can help and it’s the first indication of how powerless super-heroes can sometimes be.

Instead, a police officer takes charge, pulling the man away and slamming him against the wall. The old man is revealed to be a Jewish-German immigrant and comparison to Nazi Germany and stormtrooper tactics are soon made explicit. Byrne is not pulling any punches and isn’t interested in his point being misunderstood.

Things escalate quickly when the She-hulk tries to intervene. The police and then the watching crowd turn on the Heroes. She-hulk is arrested and the mob surrounds the others throwing bricks and brandishing clubs. Unwilling to use their powers against ordinary people the FF are forced to split up and retreat only to find that the epidemic of hate and anger has spread to the whole city.

It’s a strong opening act reminiscent of Byrne’s award-winning work with Chris Claremont on the Uncanny X-Men who as mutant outsiders are continually hated and feared by the world. Except the Fantastic Four aren’t outsiders. They are the mainstream, Marvel comics most famous and loved superhero team. If the world can turn against them in a flash, it can turn on anyone and the impact is all more powerful because of it.

The rest of the issue follows a more conventional line as the real Villains make their move but the themes of powerlessness continue. Mr Fantastic struggles against the power of propaganda and She-Hulk finds that no matter hard she hits she can’t defeat a villain whose powers are intangible hatred and fear.

Byrne’s art is clean and graceful as ever. His She-Hulk is a particular highlight and her journey through the hellish burning city is a real stand-out.


Verdict

A very grounded issue of the Fantastic Four with a serious point to make with an excellent opening act and a brilliant cover. As a casual fan, I’d definitely be interested in reading more from Byrne’s 80’s run.


Reviewed by Ross Kelly



Web of Spider-Man #97 (1993) – Throwback Review

This book features some good, old school, 90’s fun. When everything was going great for the most part, when Spidey was married, Venom and carnage were the coolest guys around and clones weren’t on anybodies mind.

Web of Spider-man (1993) #97 (Retrospective)

Published in 1993 by Marvel Comics
Written by: Terry Kavanagh

Artwork by: Alex Saviux, Derek Yaniger


Welcome to this corner of the Spider-verse, to a time long, long ago. 1993. Horses were still being ridden and the world enjoyed blissful ignorance to the horror show that would be…Coldplay. Also, this issue of Web of Spider-man was released!

Web of Spider-man was the sister in-law to the Amazing Spider-man (the sister series being the spectacular Spider-man). It began in 1985 and for a while there, it was the more artsy Spider-title, featuring incredible ,then upcoming artists like Arthur Adams, Marc Silvestri and Mike Mignola. This was all well and good until issue 35 when artist Alex Saviuk jumped on board. Don’t get me wrong, his art is good and in later issues (around issue 100 and after) even great but his seven year stint on the book made it feel like the lesser Spider-man book on stands. His house style would have been no doubt perfectly adequate in other time period but then the 90’s rolled around. Artists like Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and Mark Bagely were making waves with their electrifying pencils And even Spectacular Spider-man had legendary marvel artist Sal Buscema on the title leaving Web of Spider-man the weakest series. That’s not to say “Web of” was bad though, the issues before the one being reviewed here were part of the awesome Spirits of Venom storyline which crossed over with the spirits of vengeance book. And a few issues later, the 14 part epic maximum carnage was told in part in the pages of Web of. So with all that context out of the way, let’s get into this issue.


First of all, this issue marks a first appearance, being that of Nightwatch who appears in a weird scene where he introduces himself to some dudes on a beach.
The story is mainly centered around blood rose, the new moniker of…the rose. The issue starts with him taking down some gangsters in a particularly gruesome fashion for a Spider-man book. We then cut to Peter at the doorstep with Betty Brant who has dinner with the Parkers (which, at the time, included Peter’s ‘parents’). Just as a quick side note, this a time where Peter and Mary Jane were married which was the best part of Spider-man comics for about twenty fricking years and they ripped it away from us. WHY MARVEL, WHYYY!!! Sorry about that, just have some issues with Joe Quesada’s at a certain comic book publishers.


Once dinner is finished, Peter is being yelled at by Robbie Robertson when a huge explosion is hears from Fisk towers, Pete suits up and gets caught up in a bloody rampage that blood rose is making. Gunning down men left and right and throwing them out of windows until Spidey intervenes. Rose makes a getaway, or so we think until he shows up behind Spider-man with a hostage! Spidey it’s the hostage in the face with impact webbing (which was pretty funny), making him land on the webbed net outside the tower. Rose shoots at our hero until Spidey can get a couple of punches in when the tower quickly begins exploding and collapsing upon the pair. Outside, bystanders are evacuated as Spider-man breaks through the rubble. Stumbling upon Robbie and also, on a cliffhanger note, the Blood Rose!



This book features some good, old school, 90’s fun. When everything was going great for the most part, when Spidey was married, Venom and Carnage were the coolest guys around and clones weren’t on anybodies mind. The book was by no means bad, but just a little predictable, which is fine. If you have me a trade with 20 issues of Web of I’m sure I’d enjoy it, but then again it wouldn’t rock my world.

Epic Retro mega mono rating: 6/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst

Pokemania At The Movies: A Look At The Merchandise and Promotion Of The Early Pokemon Films

In the late 1990s the Pokemon franchise was taking the world by storm, a storm which grew even bigger upon the release of Pokemon: The First Movie and the subsequent Pokemon movies that followed…

In the late 1990s the Pokemon franchise was taking the world by storm, a storm which grew even bigger upon the release of Pokemon: The First Movie and the subsequent Pokemon movies that followed. Currently there are a staggering 23 animated Pokemon movies and 1 live action movie (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu) in existence, but for this article I will be taking a look back at the first 3 Pokemon movies and some of the merchandise/promotions that surrounded them. As a UK-based Pokemon collector a lot of the promotions I will be discussing here will be either UK-based, or were released in the UK alongside other parts of the world, however I do hope to include lesser known merchandise and information that will hopefully allow everyone reading to take a little trip down memory lane with Ash, Pikachu and the rest of the gang!

Pokemon The First Movie and Pokemon 2000 Burger King Toys:

The Pokemon franchise has teamed up with a multitude of different food and drinks brands/outlets over the years, particularly in the early days of promoting their movies. Burger King included an array of Pokemon merchandise with their kid’s meals when promoting the first and second movies, including beanie toys, light-up figures and action power cards amongst others.

These campaigns weren’t without controversy however, as during the promotional campaign for the first movie two infant children died due to getting part of the plastic Pokeball (in which the promotional items were encased) caught over their mouths and noses which led to them suffocating. This resulted in the toys being recalled and has since led to similar Pokeball toys (such as the ones that were included in Hasbro’s 1999 and 2000 action figure lines) having air holes implemented into the design of the toys.

Despite these issues, the Burger King toys remain popular on the Pokemon collectors market, as do other promotional items associated with the campaigns, such as the cardboard Burger King crowns and kid’s meal boxes from the Pokemon 2000 promotions which included branding featuring Ash, Pikachu and Lugia.

Pokemon Movie Soundtracks and Promotional Singles:

The first 3 Pokemon movies all received releases of their respective soundtracks onto CD (and audio cassette, in the case of the first and second movie). The scores to the movies were also separately released, however mainstream marketing tended to lean more towards promoting the soundtrack CDs, which featured contemporary pop artists and songs rather than the thematic instrumentals from the films’ scores.

The soundtrack for Pokemon: The First Movie was released in November 1999 by Atlantic Records and the tracklisting for the record serves as a sort of snapshot of late 90’s bubblegum pop, featuring artists such as *NSYNC, Britney Spears and Aaron Carter. Pokemon 2000’s soundtrack was similarly centred around songs from contemporary pop artists, featuring the likes of Westlife and Dream Street, however it did also include Pokemon-themed songs written by artists for the movie, such as Weird Al Yankovic’s “Polkamon”.

Pokemon 3’s soundtrack continued this theme with the majority of the soundtrack being orientated around the characters within the franchise, which is unsurprising considering many of the songs included could be found on other Pokemon soundtrack media, such as the Totally Pokemon CD. In the UK however, Pokemon 3 was promoted in the contemporary music realm with the single “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”, released by the band 5.0 Grind featuring Pokemon Allstars.

The single was available to purchase from UK music retailers upon its release, and a promotional CD-ROM sampler was also included with the Daily Express newspaper. 5.0 Grind performed the single on Nickelodeon UK (despite the fact Pokemon wasn’t aired on Nickelodeon at that time) and the single reached number #57 in the charts. The artwork for the copies of the single released into UK music stores featured Pikachu alongside Mewtwo, despite Mewtwo having nothing to do with the third Pokemon movie. This inclusion could be due to hearsay that Mewtwo was going to appear in Pokemon 3, which later proved to be misconstrued as Mewtwo actually re-appeared in Mewtwo Returns, a straight to VHS/DVD feature-length special which was also released in 2001. 

In a similar vein to the contemporary songs associated with the previous movies, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” is very much of its era, encapsulating the rap-metal/skate rock trends of the early 00’s (albeit watered down for a younger audience and occasionally featuring Ash Ketchum giving shout-outs to his various Pokemon). Personally, as cheesy as the track is I do find it to be quite catchy and I must give kudos to the band for the conviction they showed during their Nickelodeon performance, as I imagine it must be quite hard to simultaneously rock out in front of a crowd of small children and keep a straight face, particularly in the section of the song when a sample of Jigglypuff singing its lullaby plays over the top of the track.

Retail and Newspaper Promotions:

As well as the free Daily Express “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” CD-ROM, a number of other newspaper and retail outlets also ran Pokemon movie promotions during both the cinematic and VHS/DVD releases of the films. The Daily Mail gave away a free promotional VHS tape that gave fans a sneak peek at Pokemon: The First Movie and included other details about the franchise, such as interviews with staff from 4Kids Entertainment which provided a view into how the original Japanese version of the movie was adapted for western audiences.

Woolworths and Warner Brothers stores in the UK also ran Pokemon movie promos during the release cycle of the first movie, offering exclusive promo cards and money off vouchers upon the VHS release of the film. Pokemon promotions from this period also found their way onto snack foods, with Odeon Cinemas in the UK running a competition featured on their popcorn boxes in which fans could win a Nintendo 64 console and a copy of Pokemon Stadium. 

Trading Cards:

Well I couldn’t really write a blog about the promotion of the early Pokemon Movies and not include the cards which were given to ticket holders and packaged with home media releases of the movies could I? Probably the most well known of these cards are the 4 Wizards Of The Coast Black Star promo cards which were available alongside the first movie’s cinematic release, featuring Mewtwo, Pikachu (still sporting his Ken Sugimori-illustrated roundness, which I personally feel is how Pikachu should look and would very much like to see the return of Chubbychu), Dragonite and rather randomly, Electabuzz. Following the extreme renewal of interest in vintage Pokemon TCG cards in recent years, the value of these cards continues to grow (particularly as a complete set) so if you have any in your collection be sure to take good care of them!

A new version of the Mewtwo card was also included alongside VHS copies of the first movie upon its home media release. Promotional TCG cards were also available during the theatrical release of Pokemon 2000/The Power Of One, with Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno being featured. An Ancient Mew card based on the one owned by the film’s antagonist, Lawrence III, was also released, however it was only available along with the purchase of a movie ticket during the first week of the film’s release, as after this fans would only be able to receive a card featuring one of the legendary birds. In a similar fashion to the second Mewtwo card that was released with VHS copies of the first movie, a new Pikachu card was included alongside home media copies of Pokemon 2000.

Later in the course of the early Pokemon movies, in 2001 a promo card featuring Entei was available for ticket holders upon the release of Pokemon 3: Spell Of The Unown, with another promo card featuring one of the Unown being included with VHS and DVD releases of the movie.

As well as the Wizards Of The Coast-produced TCG cards, Topps Trading Cards also produced a line of trading cards featuring images of scenes from Pokemon: The First Movie, Pikachu’s Vacation and Pokemon 2000. As well as the regular Topps movie cards, rare silver foil and rainbow foil versions of cards were also randomly inserted into some packs, mirroring the ever-popular shiny hunting that helped make the TCG cards so popular.

Some of the Topps cards from the Pikachu’s Vacation animated short are notable for having some errors when it came to the names of new Pokemon, with Snubull being incorrectly named “Buru” (which may have been a mis-translation of Snubull’s Japanese name, Bulu) and Marill being named as “Pikablu”, which is perhaps an indirect reference to the rumours of a new version of Pikachu named “Pikablu” that cropped up when Marill’s design was first seen by fans. These errors were probably due to the fact that the Gold and Silver games had not yet been released in the west and that the english-language names of several new Pokemon were still being revised, as the Topps cards themselves were put into production before the western versions of Pikachu’s Vacation and the First Movie had been completed and non-Japanese audiences were yet to be familiarised with the 100 new Pokemon that would be introduced in the Johto region-based games and anime.

Other Pokemon Movie Toys:

As well as the Burger King toys, numerous other Pokemon movie toys were released. Hasbro released several different packs of Pokemon figures showcasing characters that were featured in the first 2 Pokemon movies. These packs were similar to the battle figures that were also released by Hasbro, featuring the same card battle discs that came with each character.

Hasbro also released an electronic Lugia toy following the release of Pokemon 2000, which made sounds based off the ones Lugia makes in the movie. This was quite a large toy and it was possible to fit the Ash Ketchum figure from Hasbro’s 2000 Deluxe Trainer figure line on Lugia’s back and recreate scenes from the film.

As the Pokemon world featured a vast array of characters and locations, it was an ideal choice to be transformed into Polly Pocket-esque playsets, which were popular within a variety of franchises in the 1990s. Several playsets inspired by the Indigo League and Orange Islands anime series were released by Tomy under the Pokemon House brand (known in Japan as Pokemon Mate) and when it came to the early Pokemon movies they didn’t hesitate to create playsets for them either. Pokemon 2000 had the most of these playsets produced, with the Fire, Lightning and Ice Islands from the film all receiving individual playsets along with the shrine at Shamouti Island which included Lugia keeping a watchful eye over the shrine.

Pokemon 3 seems to have had much less merchandise produced for it in comparison to the first two Pokemon movies, which is a shame as I personally consider the animation and story in this film to be fantastic and I think it deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. A Pokemon House playset inspired by the third movie was produced, however it is incredibly rare to come across. The playset was a deluxe model, featuring the Hale family home in the crystallised Greenfield which Ash and Co. had to rescue Ash’s mother from in the movie.

Books and Comics:

As is common with many movies from franchises aimed at children, the Pokemon films were also adapted into novels. Mewtwo Strikes Back: Pokemon The First Movie was written by Tracey West (who also adapted the Indigo League, Orange Islands and Johto Journeys anime series into children’s books) and published in 2000 following the western release of the movie. The book proved to be a favourite at Scholastic book fairs, which is where I purchased a copy from myself as a child when a book fair was held at my primary school. As I recall, a lot of other kids also bought the book and I’m sure our teacher was thrilled when we all handed in our weekly book reports exclaiming that Ash’s “death” during Mew and Mewtwo’s stand-off was the world of fiction’s biggest tragedy since Of Mice and Men’s Lennie last told George about “tending the rabbits”…

The animated shorts that played before the cinematic releases and VHS copies of the first 3 Pokemon movies (Pikachu’s Vacation, Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure and Pikachu And Pichu) were also adapted into Tracey West-penned novels as were Pokemon 2000 Pokemon 3, however much like in other areas of merchandising, the novelisation of the third movie was (and still is) seldom seen in comparison to its two predecessors. The First Movie was also released as a five-part comic series by Viz Media in 2000. This comic was a re-release of a 1998 graphic novel version of the movie which had been originally published by Japanese media publishers Shogakukan Inc as a singular title. The first four issues of the comic collected the story from the main film, while the fifth issue presented the story from Pikachu’s Vacation.

Much like the first movie, the comic adaptation of Pokemon 2000 had originally been released in Japan as a singular graphic novel and was presented to western audiences in five monthly comic releases, with the initial four comics containing the second movie story and the fifth comic showcasing the story from the Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure short. The Pikachu’s Vacation and Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure comics were later collected into the All That Pikachu! graphic novel, which was released by Viz Media in 2006.

Unfortunately Pokemon 3 did not receive a graphic novel or comic book release, which I think is quite a shame as I personally find it to be the most visually enticing of the early Pokemon movies and feel that it would look excellent in a panel by panel format. In recent years the comic book adaptations from the movies (particularly the first movie) have become favourites for fans to get signed by the voice actors from the Pokemon anime and signed collections of these comics can be found quite readily, which could make for a very cool addition to any collector’s arsenal of Pokemon movie merchandise (provided you have a spare £150-£300 available).

As a Pokemon fan and collector, one of my favourite things about the early movies and all the merchandise surrounding them was how they perfectly encapsulated the buzz that accompanied the release of each film, as there was nothing more exciting as a Pokemon-loving kid in the late 90’s/early 00’s than discovering the latest legendary Pokemon and new places that came along with each movie. Personally I think it would be amazing if a new animated Pokemon movie were to receive as wide a cinematic release as the early films did, or perhaps if one of the first three movies were remastered and re-released into the cinemas (maybe even in conjunction with an upcoming event or milestone, 30th anniversary I’m looking at you) as I would love for Pokemon fans old and new to have the opportunity to relive the magic of Pokemania at the movies all over again.

Written by Emily Carney

Sources and Further Reading:

Pokemon The First Movie: Free Daily Mail Promotional Video –

Hypebeast – Pokemon The First Movie Promo Toys + Cards –

https://hypebeast.com/2016/10/pokemon-the-first-movie-release-promo-toys

Burger King Pokemon The First Movie Promo Toys –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/1999_Burger_King_promotional_Pok%C3%A9mon_toys

Pokemon The First Movie Woolworths Promo Postcard –

https://picclick.co.uk/Pokemon-The-First-Movie-Woolworths-Promo-Postcard-233954948134.html

Pokemon 2000 Burger King Promo Toys –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/2000_Burger_King_promotional_Pok%C3%A9mon_toys

Pokemon Wizards Of The Coast Cards –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Wizards_Black_Star_Promos_(TCG)

5.0 Grind – Gotta Catch ‘Em All Pokemon 3 Promo Single Nickelodeon UK Performance –

Pokemon 2000 TV Spot #1 –

Worcester News – 5.0 Grind: Gotta Catch ‘Em All Review –

https://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/7730479.gotta-catch-em-all-50-grind-featuring-pokemon-allstars/

Pokemon Go Event: Pokemon The First Movie Screening –

Plague Von Karma’s Pokemon Prototype Research Blog – 5.0 Grind’s “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” Daily Express Interview Promo Disk –

https://plaguevonkarmabeta.weebly.com/blog/50grinds-gotta-catch-em-all-daily-express-interview-promo-disk

Ancient Mew (The Power Of One Promo Card) –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Ancient_Mew_(The_Power_of_One_promo)

Pokemon In The United Kingdom –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_in_the_United_Kingdom

Horatiolikestoys – Pokemon Hasbro Electronic Lugia Figure –

The Case For… The Green Lantern Movie

Sometimes even the smallest positive element can make a piece of entertainment worthy of my time and consideration.  I believe that once you engage with the creative process a little for yourself, you gain a much deeper appreciation for the work and creations of others.  So with that mindset, I settled in for my second viewing of the Green Lantern movie…


Article By Andy Flood 11/8/21

The Case for… the Green Lantern Movie


No! Wait!  Don’t leave, just… hear me out.  Put down the weapon… there we go. Now…

Released in 2011 to a distinct lack of praise or indeed, audience appreciation, the Green Lantern movie has long been the superhero film that no-one talks about unless it’s in jest.  Certainly, I remember not being overly fond of it on my initial viewing around the time of its home release (I borrowed it, don’t worry).

Following a family visit to one of our local Wow Comix to meet the very cool and kind staff (while also browsing the long boxes), my wife and I decided to revisit the film and watch with our sons.  This decision came on the back of some in-store banter at the expense of the film alongside my being assigned the new run of Green Lantern for review.  It seemed like as bad a time as any to watch it again and give it another chance.

Now for some, this film is a nameless horror, its number lying between 5 and 7, and so on.  For my part, I remember it being quite flawed but also quite fun.  We had access to the blu-ray release (we were keeping it for a friend, honest) and so were able to watch the extended version of the film, which expands on the central relationships in the film.  This helps.  A little.

I have found that when watching films with my sons, I often end up viewing them through a different lens; one concerned less with artistic merit or cinematic truth and more with fun and spectacle.  Thought of another way, I’m more forgiving of a film’s flaws if my family are enjoying it.  They have fun, I have fun.

That said, I’ve always been predisposed to finding the good in almost anything and I nearly always find something cool about whichever book, comic, game or film I’m engaged with.  Sometimes even the smallest positive element can make a piece of entertainment worthy of my time and consideration.  I believe that once you engage with the creative process a little for yourself, you gain a much deeper appreciation for the work and creations of others.  So with that mindset, I settled in for my second viewing of the Green Lantern movie.

Even in the earliest frames of the film, it’s apparent that efforts were made to adopt some of the framing techniques used in comics in the making of this film.  While there is some cross-pollination (now more so than ever) between ‘cinema’ and comics in the way images are presented, there are certain angles and ‘shots’ which are identifiably comic-like and I was happy to see some of these used here.

The opening expositional speech (delivered by Geoffrey Rush as the alien Green Lantern Tomar-Re) is similarly reminiscent of the sort of ‘catch up’ narrative you might see in comics from time to time, particularly those from silver and bronze eras.  We’re introduced to the idea of the Lanterns as a sort of intergalactic police force (this being in line with the comics) and are soon introduced to a problem from their past.

Following scenes of galactic intrigue and peril, we’re brought back to Earth and are introduced to Hal Jordan as a child and witness the formative tragedy of his losing his test pilot father to an accident.  We then go on to see Hal as an adult and his antics as he follows in his father’s footsteps.

As events build towards Hal being chosen as the next Green Lantern, the film tries to tap in to one of the factors which make the Green Lantern comics so appealing.  Consider the idea that almost anyone could be chosen by this cosmic ring, powered by the force of will, to be a superhero.

You don’t have to be Kryptonian, obscenely wealthy/disturbed, super powered or even a particularly ‘together’ person.  You just have to be fearless, or able to face fear, or strong willed; however you choose to interpret the criteria.  The point is, ‘it could be you!’.

Ryan Reynolds (GL) and Blake Lively (Carol)

This is pretty powerful when it comes to the imagination of a child or indeed anyone with some imagination and perhaps a desire to be something else, something more.  Green Lantern comics appealed to this idea and made their hero relatable.  The movie actually goes some way to doing a good job with this idea too, particularly seeing as Hal is essentially quite reluctant to engage with his calling and even ‘quits’ the position at one point.

The look of the film is a lot better than all the comments berating the CG would have you believe, and the depiction of the Green Lanterns’ powers and their central world of Oa is good enough to have some fun with, particularly if you disengage your critical brain.  With any high concept CG, it’s always easy to point at the flaws and scoff.  But if you choose to buy into it a little more, you start to worry a little less about the way the ‘manifestations’ appear.  It was always going to be a tall order to film the Green Lanterns’ powers.  I feel like they did okay. 

Of special note was the scene where he manifests a Hot Wheels track to save a crowd from a crashing helicopter.  It’s totally bonkers and requires heavy suspension of disbelief, but when two little voices cry, “No way!  Look!  It’s Hot Wheels!” it’s all good.

Similarly, the space-bound, multitude of alien life, science fiction type scenes are all quite good visually and undeserving of the panning they received.  The weird and wonderful space scenes were always some of my favourite aspects of the comics back in the ‘80s, so it was nice to see them represented here.

The Green Lantern (Hal) does look pretty much like the comic book version, despite the much derided CG costume.  This was always a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ type decision for the makers; no matter how the costume is filmed, there’s always a chance that it doesn’t come off right.  And similarly, no matter who you cast, you can’t please all the folk all of the time.

Something that did come off right was the presentation of Sinestro (even if we don’t really get to see him become a villain per se).  Mark Strong does a great job with his performance and it’s a shame that the intended sequel never came to pass, as he would have made a really good comic book bad guy.  Instead, the decision was made to focus on Hal’s childhood friend who, tormented by a disapproving father and being on the loosing side of a love triangle of sorts, proves an easy convert for the power of fear when a fragment of Parallax (the Green Lanterns’ nemesis in this film) enters his body.  It makes for a weak antagonist and Earthbound action which left me wishing we could have been in outer space more.


This is one of those films that disappointed fans and is quite easy to poke fun at.  It has pacing issues, bears the indelible mark of ‘studio interference’, feels like it was written by committee, has a poor choice of bad guy, doesn’t do enough good things with its arguably strong cast… the list goes on.  In spite of all that, my eldest son (he’s 10) enjoyed it.  And, because of that, and independently from that, I enjoyed it.  I was entertained.  And isn’t that what we’re here for?


Article by Andy Flood 11/8/21

Throwback Review – The Uncanny X-Men #146 – June 1981

The Uncanny X-Men #146 came just a few short months after not one but two of the most iconic, revered, and well-regarded X-Men stories of all time…


THE UNCANNY X-MEN #146

Reviewed by Nathan Harrison


Written by: Chris Claremont
Art: Dave Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein
Released: June 1981
Publisher: Marvel Comics



The thing about winning streaks is that inevitably, inexorably, undeniably they must, at some point come to an end.

The Uncanny X-Men #146 came just a few short months after not one but two of the most iconic, revered, and well-regarded X-Men stories of all time – The Dark Phoenix Saga (so good they filmed it twice – badly) and Days of Future Past.
Even those with the most passing knowledge of Marvel’s mutant heroes will likely have heard of these essential parts of comic book history and they, of course, form small parts of a record-breaking and essential 17 year run on X-Men by the incredible Chris Claremont. However, even the best in the business have their off days…

This issue comes slap bang in the middle of a 3 issue tale, which sees the X-Men rescuing their foe, Arcade, from the clutches of Fantastic Four big bad, Doctor Doom. An exciting premise on paper…until you remember that Arcade is involved. While his elaborate escape room antics could be seen as a precursor to horror legend Jigsaw, Arcade appears as something more akin to a Chucky doll stuffed into a white suit and polka-dot bow tie, a look which must have seemed dated even in 1981.

Even fairly recent appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man have failed to update him in a convincing way. He’s the sort of lame, ridiculous villain that the comics try to take seriously but who’s crying out for the kind of treatment DC have recently given to Polka Dot Man in the latest Suicide Squad movie – main adversary for Deadpool’s first MCU appearance anyone?

That said, while the majority of the traps that Arcade and Doom set for Banshee, Havok, Iceman and Polaris (as well as some of the more popularly known X-Men who feature briefly) are on the silly side, there are some mind-bending and borderline scary panels – one featuring a merry-go-round with living vampiric horses stands out, as well as the twisty checkerboard hell that Wolverine finds himself in. David Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein do a solid job of conveying the terror – when the trap itself is actually in any way terrifying. Less impactful are Havok’s trip on what appears to be Space Mountain and the whole team sliding down the pipes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Special mention must be given to a panel from one of the final pages, which sees Havok…well…just take a look at that pose. Naughty boy!

Well hello

VERDICT

Claremont certainly can’t be blamed for going for a lighter story after the earth-shattering and emotional events of what came before, but this one sadly misses the mark. What should be a fun romp turns out to be a bit of a slog, with only a few moments of levity and the occasional nightmarish panel (you decide which category that Havok one falls under!) to break up the tedium. However, that’s not to take anything away from a legendary run which will undoubtedly feature on every comic fan’s must-read list until the heat death of the universe.


Review by Nathan Harrison 5/8/21


Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master…

Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990
Review by Bryan Lomax

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Jim Aparo

Inks:
Mike DeCarlo
Published by DC Comics March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master. The Demon works his way through a hit list of 10 people, much the same way as the KGBeast attempted to do in Gotham, only this time the hunting ground is his home turf in Russia. Can Batman accomplish what he once did in a city he is unfamiliar with?

‘Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast’, written by Jim Starlin in the late 80’s, is one of the seminal works of that decade. Marv Wolfman, no slouch when it comes to writing Batman, is given the task, two years later, of writing a direct sequel to that story. ‘When the Earth Dies! Chapter One: Red Square, Bloody Square’ is a pretty good starting point for it.


Wolfman bookends his story with two sequences. The opener sees Batman catching a villain in Gotham, his home turf, precisely because he knows every street, every alleyway, every sewer tunnel. The closing scene plays out similarly, only this time the villain escapes, precisely because Batman doesn’t know the layout of the city he’s in. In Moscow, the streets, alleyways and sewers belong to The Demon.

Batman #445

I love when stories are bookended. It’s a great device that writers can use to show us a change has happened, whether it be in a character’s personal growth, or in their circumstances. Here we see that Batman is Gotham. Gotham is as much a part of him as the air in his lungs. Without it, he cannot breathe, he cannot function as well as he once did. It gives his nemesis the edge.

That nemesis in question is probably the weakest element of the story, as The Demon is essentially just The Beast, only with a slightly different costume. I would rather they had just brought back The Beast himself. It would be much more fun to see a rematch with the iconic villain, where Batman no longer has the upper hand, instead of giving us a carbon copy in his place.

I always have a sense of nostalgia for Jim Aparo’s artwork. He’s not my favourite, but seeing his work always takes me back to my childhood, when I started reading comic books. It’s very much a golden era for me personally. But it’s great that both Aparo and inker, Mike DeCarlo, both return here, as it was the two of them that brought the ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ storyline to life.


It must be said that this particular story is very dated as it assumes quite heavily on the audience’s knowledge of Russian politics of the time. And seeing Bruce just randomly bumping into Vicki Vale whilst dining out in Moscow is very quaint. Also, it seems to me that, if The Demon spent as much time doing stuff as he does gasbagging about a better Russia, he might actually stand a chance of achieving his goal. Some of his dialogue is stilted to say the least.

Batman #445


Verdict:

A great nostalgia trip for anyone who read comics as a child of the 80’s, but reading Jim Starlin’s ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ before this is strongly recommended.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 24/07/21


Vintage Pokemon Trainer Action Figures: Collecting & Restoration

Here we’ll be taking a look at a handful of the earlier Pokemon trainer action figures that were released during the first three generations of Pokemon, along with a few tips on restoring older action figures and keeping them in tip top condition.


Article by Emily Carney


As well as the mountain of action figures based on our favourite creatures from the world of Pokemon, over the years there have also been numerous toys inspired by the human characters from the franchise. Here we’ll be taking a look at a handful of the earlier Pokemon trainer action figures that were released during the first three generations of Pokemon, along with a few tips on restoring older action figures and keeping them in tip top condition.


Tomy 5” Trainer Figures

Cue 90’s intro music…

One of the most popular runs of Pokemon trainer figures was this range  which was manufactured and released by Tomy in 1998. Featuring key characters from the first series of the Pokemon anime (Ash, Brock and Misty along with Jessie and James from Team Rocket), these figures bore a striking resemblance to their anime counterparts and proved to be very popular among fans. Initially just Ash, Misty, Jessie and James were released with no sign of a Brock action figure, possibly due to his temporary absence early on in the anime and subsequently being replaced with Tracey Sketchit, as the creators of the Pokemon anime were worried about Brock being perceived negatively as an asian stereotype upon the anime’s release in the west. This however, proved to not be the case and Brock was immensely popular with western Pokemon fans, which led to his reinstatement as a main series character following the culmination of the Orange Islands series.

The Ash and Misty figures were initially released with Pikachu and Starmie respectively, however during the second release of figures Ash was packaged with Squirtle (who oddly, featured its original dark blue colouring as seen in Ken Sugimori’s illustrations in the Pokemon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow game manual as opposed to the light blue redesign given to Squirtle in the anime) and Misty was packaged with Jigglypuff. Team Rocket also featured different Pokemon in the second release, as Jessie had originally been packaged with Ekans and James with Koffing, but in the second release Jessie was packaged with Meowth and James, rather oddly considering it was Jessie’s Pokemon and not his, was packaged with Arbok. Eventually Brock did receive his own figure and was partnered with his Vulpix, along with the plastic Pokeball and small card disc displaying the featured Pokemon that was included with all the other western-released Tomy trainer figures.

Pocket Monsters

Interestingly, Japanese releases of these figures did not feature additional Pokemon figures or other parts other than a base to stand the figures on for display and the trainer figures were released in sets of two, with Ash and Misty (or as they are known in Japan, Satoshi and Kasumi), were released together, along with Jessie and James (Musashi and Kojiro) and Brock and Nurse Joy (Tekashi and Joy) being paired up. Fans of the anime can probably note that Brock would have been ecstatic with his box partner.

There has been a great deal of interest in this range of figures over the past few years, especially if still boxed and in good condition. The value of them continues to increase dramatically (I recently spotted an unopened Ash and Squirtle Tomy figure set on ebay for £500!), so if you are interested in collecting these figures I would definitely recommend trying to hunt down a bargain sooner than later as they do make great additions to any collection both boxed and unboxed, plus if you are lucky enough to get a box figure signed by the specific character’s original voice actor you could be looking at adding a serious investment piece to your collection.


Hasbro Deluxe Trainer Figures

Whilst technically being a continuation of the Tomy 5” Trainer Line (despite Hasbro taking over the production license), the Deluxe Trainer Figures released in 2000 introduced new features to the Trainer figure series.

Following his return to anime for the Johto Journeys series, Brock’s figure was released at the same time as Ash and Misty, with each of them being packaged with their own plastic backpack which could be attached and detached and a Pokeball similar to those included with the earlier Tomy trainer figure line (however the two halves of these Pokeballs were attached on a hinge, a slight change to the two separate pieces which made up the Tomy-released Pokeballs). Each figure was also paired up with one of the specific trainer’s Pokemon from the anime, with Ash being partnered with Pikachu, Brock being partnered with Zubat and Misty being partnered with Horsea

Backpacks included!

Unlike the previous Tomy range, the Hasbro line did not include Jessie and James, although they did include the additional feature of being articulated, which made them much more poseable and fun to reenact battles with. In a similar fashion to the Tomy figures, the Hasbro Deluxe Figures are becoming more and more sought after (though the prices haven’t quite reached the heights of the Tomy line yet), I recently managed to find the full trio together at a bargain price (not boxed or with their Pokemon/Pokeballs but they did included their backpacks) and they look excellent on display, so I would very much recommend keeping an eye out for the Deluxe Figures if you’re looking to add some early-series anime collectibles to your collection.


Tomy CGTSJ 3” (Approx) Figures

Officer Jenny, Professor Oak and Gary Oak too!

As well as the larger trainer figures, in 1998 Tomy also released a range of smaller human character figures. This range was the first to include characters such as Officer Jenny, Professor Oak and Gary Oak and featured the characters sculpted in various poses on a small grey stand. This line of figures was notable for possibly having the least amount of quality control when it came to the moulds used and the paintwork, as some of the character’s limbs ended to be rather oversized and had some unusual additions (note Officer Jenny’s rather long left arm and Brock inexplicably holding what appears to be a chicken drumstick in the photo above).

The Tomy CGTSJ figures are still readily available to purchase from a number of vintage Pokemon retailers online, however certain characters (particularly Professor Oak and Officer Jenny) are becoming increasingly rare.


Ash & Cyndaquil and Ash, Pikachu, Wartortle & Jigglypuff THINKChip Sets

THINKChip Ash

In 2001 Hasbro returned to creating Pokemon trainer figures with the THINKChip Ash figure, which was released in two different sets: one featuring the Ash figure and Cyndaquil, and another featuring Ash, Pikachu, Wartortle and Jigglypuff, the later being released as part of the Pokemon Trainer’s Choice range which bridged the gap between Pokemon Generation II and III.

Using the THINKChip Ash’s Talking Pokedex (which I covered in my previous blog, The Changing Face Of The Pokedex), the Ash figure and the Pokemon included in the sets were able to interact with the Pokedex using the THINKChip cards for each Pokemon that also came with each set. The THINKChip Ash figure was noticeably larger than other human character Pokemon toys and is currently the largest official trainer action figure to be released, measuring approximately 11.5 inches. The design of the figure is also noticeably similar to the Deluxe Trainer Ash figure that Hasbro released in 2000, albeit without the detachable backpack.

Do you have one in the attic?

In terms of collectibility, the THINKChip Ash figures are scarcely seen outside of the USA and are becoming increasingly hard to find boxed and unopened, particularly the earlier Cyndaquil set. Loose THINKChip Ash figures without any additional Pokemon figures or THINKChip card accessories can occasionally be found in bundles of Pokemon toys or on their own online, however prices and conditions of the figures available can vary greatly.

In terms of collectibility, the THINKChip Ash figures are scarcely seen outside of the USA and are becoming increasingly hard to find boxed and unopened, particularly the earlier Cyndaquil set. Loose THINKChip Ash figures without any additional Pokemon figures or THINKChip card accessories can occasionally be found in bundles of Pokemon toys or on their own online, however prices and conditions of the figures available can vary greatly.


Medicom Ash with Pikachu Set

The Ash With Pikachu set was released in 2006 by Medicom and was unusual for a Pokemon trainer figure in that it was a much more doll-like toy than others previously released, measuring 8 inches in height, being fully articulated and including fabric clothes and accessories as well as interchangeable hands.

Medicom Ash with Pikachu

Even in terms of packaging it was far different to other Pokemon toys, with its box being closer to those used by brands such as Sideshow as it featured a velcro-sealable card door with a comic-style illustrations of Ash and Pikachu on the exterior and interior of the box, along with a clear plastic window in which the Ash and Pikachu figures (plus all their accessories) could be viewed.

The Ash With Pikachu set was released in 2006 by Medicom and was unusual for a Pokemon trainer figure in that it was a much more doll-like toy than others previously released, measuring 8 inches in height, being fully articulated and including fabric clothes and accessories as well as interchangeable hands. Even in terms of packaging it was far different to other Pokemon toys, with its box being closer to those used by brands such as Sideshow as it featured a velcro-sealable card door with a comic-style illustrations of Ash and Pikachu on the exterior and interior of the box, along with a clear plastic window in which the Ash and Pikachu figures (plus all their accessories) could be viewed.

The Medicom Ash figure shows off Ash’s new outfit from the Hoenn-based Pokemon: Advanced series, which saw him swap his traditional outfit for a new hooded shirt, new jeans, black gloves, blue trainers and a brand new hat. This was the first time in the anime that Ash would permanently change his outfit, however in the following years he has had numerous different clothing and design changes.

In terms of rarity the Medicom Ash With Pikachu figure set is rather scarce, with the figure being limited to a release of just 1500. They are also rarely seen for sale outside of Japan and are extremely expensive,  with the few sets currently available online being priced as high as £550.


Tomy Pokemon Mate Mini Figures

So cute!

Back to Tomy, one of the most prolific Pokemon trainer/human character lines has to be the Tomy Pokemon Mate Mini Figure range which first began in 1997. As part of the Pokemon Mate Collection (which was released to the western market under the name “Pokemon House” and also included stationary, model kits and playsets, amongst other Pokemon products) the mini figures featured a variety of characters, including Ash, Misty, Brock, Tracey, Jessie, James, Professor Oak, Officer Jenny, Nurse Joy and Gary Oak. Additional Pokemon anime-themed products were also released alongside the mini figures, such as Team Rocket’s Meowth-shaped hot air balloon and Magikarp submarine.

The figures were designed in a “Chibi”-esque style and despite their small stature, emulated the anime characters they were based on very well. These figures were distributed to some stores in the west during the late 1990’s, including some here in the UK, however the numbers that were distributed over here were far less than those of other Pokemon toys. Some of the early Ash and Misty figures can be found at relatively affordable prices ( I recently saw an Ash + Misty mini figure bundle on eBay for £30, which when compared with some of the prices of other figures in this blog, seems like pocket money), however some of the lesser-seen characters such as Professor Oak, Officer Jenny and particularly Nurse Joy are becoming extremely rare, so if you are interested in collecting this line (and I must admit, they are very cute) I would certainly recommend snapping up any you come across sooner rather than later.


Pokemon Figure Restoration Tips:

Before…

If you have Pokemon toys (or any action figures really) that are looking a little worse for wear, don’t worry! With a little work you can get them looking nice and fresh, so here’s a few hints and tips on sprucing up your Pokemon figures. I recently started getting into customising and restoring various toys and one of my first restoration projects was this vintage James from Team Rocket Tomy figure –

Before I started re-painting I lightly sanded the entire figure with a light grade sandpaper, for the harder to reach nooks and crannies i wrapped the sandpaper around the end of a thin paint brush as this allowed me to get to the harder to reach areas and sand them, which ensured that the paint could be applied evenly. I then used Crawford and Black acrylic paints to re-paint his hair and clothing and Citadel model paints to re-paint his face. I used a selection of still frames from the original Indigo league anime as a reference to ensure that the colours were mixed accordingly to how the character appeared in the anime. Some of the areas with heavier blemishes (such as his hair and hands) required a few extra coats to cover up completely but all in all the paint job was relatively simple. After the paint had dried I used a matte spray varnish to seal everything and give the figure a nice clean finish as seen below –

…After

I found the process of restoring this figure to be immensely satisfying and would definitely recommend any fellow figure collectors who feel like getting creative to have a go at giving their older toys a new lease of life. If you are considering restoring your figures, ensure you have a good clear space to work in where you won’t have to worry about making too much of a mess and if it is your first time painting action figures, perhaps try practicing on a few cheaper toys before repainting anything that is more valuable. In terms of getting the right colours, always use a good reference image and focus on mixing colours to get the correct tone, rather than trying to find the closest match to a specific colour when buying paints as this is a generally more reliable way of getting your figures to look as close as possible to character designs your are trying to replicate. Like any hobby though the most important part of figure restoration is to enjoy it and have fun, so don’t get too frustrated if your figures don’t look perfect immediately. Practice makes perfect at the end of the day so just hang in there and before you know it you’ll have a whole array of great looking figures!


Written by Emily Carney, 2021


Sources/Further Reading:

Pokemon/Deluxe Trainer Bulbapedia page – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Deluxe_Trainers

THINKChip Interactive System Bulbapedia Page –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/THINKChip_Interactive_System

PilotTails – Medicom RAH Ash Ketchum and Pikachu From Pokemon –

Kewpie83 – Collection Close Up: Think Chip Trainer’s Choice Ash Ketchum – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFUHMhjdMyo

Pokemon Mate Human Figurines Bulbapedia Page –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_mate#Human_figurines

Dino-mite 80’s Toys – How To Clean And Restore Vintage Toys – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce7vkFLcuQk

Dr Toys – How to repaint an old thrift store toy –

My First Pokemon Game: Pokemon Crystal – A Retrospective

I have since enjoyed several other titles in the main series of Pokemon games, although none of them have quite topped Pokemon Crystal…


My First Pokemon Game: Pokemon Crystal – A Retrospective

Article by Emily Carney


The year is 2001. The month is November. Pokemon Gold and Silver had been released earlier that year here in the UK back in April and had been instant hits, providing Pokemon fans across the country with a brand new region to explore and a plethora of new Pokemon to catch. But I personally was yet to embark on a Pokemon journey of my own, as despite being a huge Pokemon fan since 1999 (the year I started primary school) and being obsessed with the anime, films, toys and trading cards, I had yet to actually experience from a first-hand perspective the medium which had kick-started the whole franchise back in 1996, the Pokemon video games. However all that was to change that winter, when I ecstatically received a yellow Pikachu & Pichu Gameboy colour and a copy of Pokemon Crystal.



Despite having played briefly on Gameboys owned by family members and friends, my only proper experience of video games at this point was the first Sony Playstation, which I have great memories of and still enjoy playing games such as Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider and Tekken to this day. Upon receiving the Gameboy and Pokemon Crystal however, I was extremely happy that I could now take my game anywhere with me, and could finally join in on trading and battling Pokemon with my friends.

One of the most vivid memories I have before actually playing the game was looking through the Pokemon Crystal booklet that came with the game and seeing how beautiful Ken Sugimori’s watercolor illustrations were (though unfortunately it appears to be very hard to find any pictures of the inner instruction manual pages). Even today Sugimori’s Pokemon artwork are some of my favorite pieces of art ever and I would love to see the franchise return to this style at some point, even just as a homage as I think the charm of these illustrations far surpasses the digital artwork that is commonplace in most forms of official Pokemon-related media today.

Those sneakers though…

Pokemon Crystal is notable for being the first Pokemon game to give the player a choice between playing as a boy or a girl and as being both a first-time Pokemon player and a 7 year-old girl at the time, I was happy about this, although while I was growing up Pokemon as a franchise always seemed to be enjoyed equally by both boys and girls regardless of the gender of the protagonist we were watching or playing as, so while I was pleased to have the choice to play as a girl I do think even if I hadn’t had this choice I would have still had a great time playing the game.

The design of the female protagonist (known as Kris, although as with all main series Pokemon games the player is able to input their own name) is excellent in my opinion and is one of my favourite trainer designs in the series, as it strikes just the right balance between the classic 90’s aesthetic of the early games and anime alongside the sporty, adventurous look that would be applied to other protagonists in future Pokemon games.

Beginning to play the game itself was a fantastic experience. As this was late 2001/early 2002, here in the UK we had just become acquainted with the second generation of Pokemon and although Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal have had some criticism from fans who find the inclusion of new Pokemon to be rather lacking until the later stages of the games, as a first-time player I was just excited to be able to catch any of the Pokemon I’d hurried home from school to see in the anime. My first starter Pokemon was a Totodile I nicknamed “Snappy” and he stayed with me throughout the majority of my journey, evolving from Totodile to Croconaw and finally to Feraligatr, though I did eventually trade him (which I must admit I still feel quite guilty about) for a friend’s Venusaur, a Venasaur which for some reason was rather confusingly nicknamed “Zapdos”. Snappy, if you’re out there on a game cartridge at the bottom of someone’s drawer or cupboard somewhere, please know I still think about you and thank you for being my first Pokemon.

‘ Snappy’

Maybe it’s a combination of a great game and a child’s imagination but I still vividly remember travelling through the different areas of the Johto region for the first time as if they were real-life locations that I’d travelled to. I think part of this is down to the wonderful soundtrack of the second generation games, which vary from the whimsical to the atmospheric and everything in between.

I still listen to the tunes from the soundtrack often today (particularly the themes from Ecruteak City and Cianwood City, which I would definitely consider to be my favorites) and it really is a testament to the talent of composer Junichi Masuda that he could capture the personalities of these individual locations and take listeners back to these places years later with these melodies.

Many players have praised the Pokemon main series games in recent years for its emphasis on literacy and reading being key to fully enjoying the games, and this is something I would very much agree with. Though the story wasn’t as complex as that of future Pokemon games, I still found it to be engaging and was very enthused to defeat Team Rocket and beat the Elite Four. One of my favorite aspects of the game however (and indeed one of my favorite aspects of the Pokemon franchise in general) was how much it encouraged playing with others, whether that involved battles and trades via the Gameboy Link Cable or working together to try and get past a particularly difficult part of the game.

 At my primary school we had a period during the last half an hour of school on a Friday afternoon called “Golden Time”, where we were allowed to bring in toys and games or do fun activities and this was when my friends and myself would bring in our Gameboys and play the  Pokemon games together or trade our Pokemon cards. I remember those Friday afternoons very fondly, I particularly recall being both baffled and enthralled when a friend showed me how to do the Generation II cloning glitch (which involved placing a Pokemon in a box in the PC and then changing box/turning off the console at the right moment while the data was saving in order to duplicate the Pokemon placed in the box, but as there is the possibility of this glitch corrupting save data I probably wouldn’t recommend it nowadays), though instead of using the glitch for something useful like duplicating Masterballs I instead just made copy upon copy of my favourite Pokemon, and ended up with about 6 charizards and 12 Umbreons, amongst others.

Another of my favourite aspects of the second generation games is the ability to travel to Kanto after defeating the Elite Four and take on the gym leaders from the original Red/Blue/Green/Yellow games.

Who wouldn’t want twelve Umbreons?!

Although some players have criticized the post game content for not being as engaging as the initial journey, I genuinely felt like I’d stumbled across some amazing secret when I first realized I could go to Pallet Town and all the other Kanto locations, as this was my first time experiencing this part of the Pokemon world in-game and I personally thought that being given the opportunity to explore Lavender Town, Viridian Forest, Mt Moon and all the areas I’d seen in the Indigo League anime was quite a treat. After exploring Kanto, the culmination of the journey in battling Red at Mt Silver was an excellent way to draw the game to a close and I must admit it took a lot of perseverance (and several of my cloned Charizards) to beat him, but I felt immensely accomplished after doing so.

Red looking edgy

Overall, I really don’t think I could have asked for a better introduction to the in-game Pokemon world, and I have since enjoyed several other titles in the main series of Pokemon games, although none of them have quite topped Pokemon Crystal for me. Unfortunately I did lose my original copy (though did manage to recover my old Pikachu/Pichu edition Gameboy last year, which I was ecstatic about) but I would very much like to acquire another copy at some point in the future (although this may end up being quite an investment as boxed complete copies of the game are currently going for around £200 to £400, with some being priced even higher) and experience the fun and adventure of Pokemon Crystal all over again.


Written by Emily Carney, 2021


Sources and Further Reading:

Pokemon Crystal Wiki – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Crystal#:~:text=It%20was%20released%20in%20Japan%20on%20December%2014%2C%202000%2C%20North,Europe%20on%20November%202%2C%202001.

Pokemon Crystal Bulbapedia –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Crystal_Version

Serebi.Net – Pokemon Crystal – https://www.serebii.net/crystal/

Pokemon.Fandom – Pokemon Crystal – https://pokemon.fandom.com/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Crystal_Version

Gameboy Colour Special Editions – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Game_Boy_Color

Poke-Revisit II: https://medium.com/the-new-bark-codex/pok%C3%A9-revisit-ii-pok%C3%A9mon-crystal-8ed5b3d498b7

Candy Evie- All Version Differences In Pokemon Gold, Silver & Crystal:

Syy – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pokemon Crystal – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVLQZkif2Mw