Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Video Game Tribute #5: Contra

Contra is by far the most aggravating, frustrating, irritating and infuriating game to ever be unleashed upon the world... it's also just about the greatest thing in human existence. Period. I can't imagine that any man who was old enough to appreciate the original NES in all it's glory could have played Contra and NOT loved it. It was every boy's video game fantasy... I say "video game" fantasy because every boy's regular fantasy during that time period was Jessica Rabbit. Hands down. It was fast paced, action-heavy, visually appealing and challenging. And I mean, CHALLENGING. One-hit deaths, difficult terrains, bullets coming from every angle, constant re-spawning enemies... and only three lives to get through 8 levels.

But wait... did I say... three lives? HA! Konami to the rescue. If you entered the infamous Konami Code at the title screen, you'd be granted (as if by the good Lord Himself) 99 lives... As much as I love the game, this code was necessary if you were ever going to beat the game... and odds are you'd go through about 90 of those lives before the game was over... but I ponder... what sort of scarring do you think this creates for a Nintendo character? And not just any Nintendo character... a war veteran Nintendo character. Talk about Post Traumatic Stress! I imagine this is most common amongst anyone who's had a near death experience in war... imagine actually dying, then coming back, then dying, then coming back... 99 times... each death more inventive than the first. Bullet wounds, falling off cliffs, lasers to the head, aggressive robots, giant alien hearts that throw face huggers at you... YOU try coming back normal from that. Heck, I was just playing a game and I was nearly traumatized by it. I can only imagine what the Contra guys would be saying if there were only room on their 8-bit faces for... a face. The words "Please kill me" come to mind...

Well, let's just be glad the Contra guys made it through the first game alright... though if the first one didn't mess them up in the head, the next 11 sequels were bound to have an effect.

Consider yourself a hero,
~ Mark

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Video Game Tribute #4: Duke Nukem

I think it's a title that just about everybody and their mom knows... Duke Nukem 3D. Now, why does everybody's mom know? Because the game caused huge amounts of controversy upon it's release and still gets talked about even today... so any mom that watches the news heard about it and, most likely, raided their kids' rooms to make sure its presence was non-existent. But let's face it, it was a pretty awesome game. Funny thing is, I never noticed the questionable material when it came out because the parental lock was on... Though instead of wondering why Duke Nukem randomly flashed money at empty stages and uttered "Shake it baby", I was busy trying to figure out where he was getting the money from... ah, to be young and naive again.

It's hard to imagine a new Duke Nukem game being all that shocking nowadays. I know they've been developing a new game for quite some time now, and every time you think it's about to be released, it gets canceled... I can't help but think this is because they have nothing left to make conservative moms mad about. I mean, with games like Grand Theft Auto, Postal and Manhunt, it's hard to do much of anything to raise eyebrows and spark that ol' controversy that made gaming as a teenager so rebelliously awesome... I think if anybody is going to bring Duke Nukem to the next level of offensive, they're going to have to make him incredibly conservative... like "Duke Nukem... Votes Republican!" Oh yeah, the way liberalism has taken over the country, even the slightest mention of being a Republican can get you crucified... which I find ironic for a number of reasons...

But despite all the controversy that surrounds our beloved Duke3D, it's still one of the best First Person Shooters to ever hit the market. Especially if you love the genre... which I do. Wolfenstein, Doom, Rise of the Triad, Quake, Unreal, Halo, and the list goes on... Duke Nukem has GOT to be in the top 3... Anybody? Bueller?

So anyway, here's hoping 3D Realms (or whoever owns the company now) continues this franchise soon... before I'm so old that I have to make sure MY kids don't own a copy...

Come get some,
~ Mark

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Video Game Tribute #3: Half-Life

One of the more well known games, Half-Life was one of the last "greats" to come out of the 90's. I remember playing it at my friend's house for the first time and just being awe-struck at what I was watching... plus the hero was a nerdy scientist... with glasses! How many heroes where glasses? Yeah, none. Mario may have been a fat plumber, but Gordon Freeman was an introverted "Rain Man"... with a radioactive battle suit... who fought aliens. Half-Life was the perfect balance of horror, sci-fi and action. Not so scary that it was humanly impossible to play without without breathing into a paper bag, and not too action packed that it lacked in tangible plot line. It was so nice...

Anybody who's familiar with the game (or video games in general) is well accustomed to one of the greatest weapons to ever come out of a First Person Shooter (after the infamous BFG, of course)... the crowbar. What could possibly make a introvert in a bio-suit fighting aliens even badder? If that introvert was bashing the heads of aliens in with a rusty, blood-soaked crowbar! Duke Nukem had foul language, Mario had mushrooms, Jedi's had lightsabers, and Gordon Freeman had his crowbar... which leads me to my drawing. In the nerd world there is one thing which is absolute: Lightsabers are awesome. After Half-Life, Star Wars freaks all around the world were trading in their trusty multicolored Toys 'R' Us play swords (an elegant weapon for a more civilized age) for a red crowbar. It was like a mass conversion of religion, I'm pretty sure many were executed for their new-found beliefs... very hard times. Anyway, this drawing is my tribute to that murderous beauty of a tool.

No regrets, Mr. Freeman?
~ Mark

Video Game Tribute #2: Rambo

When one ponders on the glory days of Nintendo, the classics come to mind: Mario, Metroid, Castlevania, Metal Gear, Legends of Zelda, etc... Few, however, make it a point to remember this gem in the NES archives... Rambo. I should probably point out the fact that I'm a Ramboholic... Really, I'm obsessed. However, in my younger days this game provided me with the only knowledge of the Legendary First Blood franchise, seeing as I was too young to actually see any of those movies... The only on-screen representation of Rambo was that clip at the end of "UHF" where Weird Al fantasizes about being John Rambo and blowing up the Channel 8 helicopter... and then proceeds to blow up the Eiffel Tower, The Roman Colosseum and Hollywood.

With the exception of First Blood, the Rambo series is one of the more violent series out there... the plots usually go something like this: Rambo wants to be left alone, somebody makes him go to war, Rambo kills people for 2 hours and then walks off into the sunset to sad music. You've gotta' love the irony in the NES game... Rambo basically gets dropped in the Jungle and fights nature with a knife.

The most elitist killing machine on the planet... and he's fighting snakes, bees and angry rising bubbles... like the entire wilderness decided Rambo must die and EVERY living thing proceeded to hunt him. Even the flamingos in the game are mean enough to kill an ex-Green Beret... and trust me, those snakes put up a fight, some of them even learned how to jump.

Because I was so young, I was completely unaware that there was anything off about the game, and I have to wonder if the people who made it figured anybody playing Rambo was probably too young to be watching those movies anyway... not that you expect blood and gore from an NES game... but really, Rambo? Fighting snakes? So yeah... my theory is that this video game was the precursor to "Snakes on a Plane"... I'm also aware that the video game didn't take place in Burma... but the catch phrase worked so well with the picture that I figured I could take some liberties with the franchise... Nintendo certainly did...

Murdock... I'm coming to get you,
~ Mark

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Video Game Tribute #1: Descent

So, I recently set up a brand new PC... Just in case I've turned off any Mac users, I'm presently writing this blog from my Mac Book Pro... and I love it. But let's be real, there's like, 4 games to choose from in the Mac store, and most of them are too family friendly to be worth while... Hence, my PC. I like to play games from time to time, problem is my computer was too outdated to play anything halfway decent... so now that I have my new PC, I've been crazy excited to start playin' some dern games! ... But ironically, I've had nothing but a burning desire to play all the old games that I grew up with and have come to love... well, if anything I can load my PC with a billion older games cause they take up like, 3 megs on the hard drive.

But I digress... My recent love for the classics which made me the major dork I am today have inspired me to start a series of tribute drawings to the games I've grown to love. I'll be starting this glorious tribute with one of my favorites (they're all my favorites, but you get the point)... Descent.

This was the very first game which I ever played online with a friend... Video games? Friends? I know, the two don't generally go together... this time they do. The plot of Descent took place in the future (obviously)... Basically, a mining colony which utilized robots to do most of the dirty work of blowing up rocks and digging got infected with a computer virus which took over the robots and made them psychotic killers. You (the player) were a space gun-for-hire and were sent in to destroy the robots and blow up the mines (not sure why it was necessary to blow up the mines, but it made for great cinematics) with your totally pimped out spaceship... which to this day has one of the coolest designs I've ever seen for a space craft. It rocked. You upgraded your ship as the game progressed, finding new lasers, missiles, shields, etc...

So why is the Descent ship blowing up a citizen on his or her PC? Well it should be obvious... it has a virus. Descent Man was hired to blow up infected machines... That's why you keep your web browsing G-rated, kids. Descent Man will KILL YOU.

Material Defender Out,
~ Mark

Friday, September 11, 2009

There Can Be Only One...

So if anyone here has followed Six AM Comics, then you may be aware of a comic I run called "Scholars". More specifically, there was one comic I made which dealt with the battle of the discount stores... i.e. Walmart, Target and Kmart... It was titled "Here's to the underdogs...". It was more of a tribute to Kmart and poked fun at how people consider Walmart to be the Axis of evil and Target to be the allies of democracy and all that is good... all the while ignoring the fact that Kmart is typically decimated on a regular basis under both of their tyrannical heels.

... although to be fair, Kmart did things to Ames that are so vile I can't even speak of them on this blog for fear of losing my already fragile salvation... I guess this is nothing more than righteous judgment on that poor company.

This image plays with that concept yet again. I trust you're all familiar with each company's mascots... and Highlander... not Highlander's mascot, just the movie... I'm fairly certain Highlander didn't have a mascot... though it did have 4 crappy sequels... and a tv series that I didn't watch... mainly because they killed Christopher Lambert's character at the end of it... and that's not right... he's Raiden.

You know, I was just thinking... it'd be kind of hard to cut off the Walmart mascot's head... seeing as he is a head... He's not even really a head... he's a face...

I know everything! I am everything!
~ Mark

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Bending Tree

So my good friend Daniel Griswold has been writing a series of poems about New England... sort of an artistic farewell he began working on before he moved to South Carolina for a Youth Ministry position... yes, he left me. Very sad indeed. For some reason saving young people's lives was more important than playing Wii with me... go figure. But anyway, he asked me to make some illustrations for his poems with the intentions of publishing them. DG is a very talented artist, so I'm still a little flattered that he asked me to illustrate these for him... once I get off cloud 9 I'll finish the rest of the drawings. In the meantime, here's the first illustration for a poem of his titled "The Bending Tree"...

If anybody has lived in New England, they're familiar with the concept of that one out-of-place, looks older than your grandfather (and equally as senile) tree which stands curiously proud in the corner of a landscape filled with symmetrical, flourishing and almost cult-like green, glorious trees by a broken down stone wall. I won't post the poem on here because that's Dan's property and I don't want someone stealing it or even thinking I, myself, wrote it. If you want to read it, than wait for the book... or contact Dan over at his blog.

The idea behind the illustration (aside from being about Dan's poem) is how if one were to speak to that old, decrepit tree it would say that it is proud to be where it is, and the way that it is. It's dying branches would become earth again and help to grow newer trees... the tree is happy that it is the way it is, not wanting anything more than to be. So the picture is meant to portray that pride in what others may perceive as one's flaws.

Bendy, bendy, bendy,
~ Mark

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

You have done well, Grasshopper

I made this whilst I was very bored this evening. I had drawn a picture in college of a grasshopper defeating a bunch of ninjas with an old man saying, "You have done well, Grasshopper"... a little tribute to the original Kung Fu series. I've been wanting to remake that picture for a while, this was the result of that need...

I couldn't sleep until I drew this... now that it's finished, I still don't really want to go to sleep... perhaps this drawing wasn't the source of my awakeness...

In any case, I think it's a fun little concept. I also made another version of this using the same images, just formatted differently to a different size and feel.

Now that I look at it... it resembles a Celtics Ad... Oh well, I think I'm safe, Grasshoppers and The Celtics only have the color green in common... if that's a problem, than Fidelity has a huge problem on their hands... and so does St Patrick's day... never really thought about suing a holiday... I can probably make some big bucks off that.

I'd like to call St. Patty to the Stand, Your Honor,
~ Mark


This is a logo design I did for my buddy Dan Gillepsie. Dan is a musical genius and he's been working on a project called "Tranisit 161". It's an electronic music project named after the transportation system he uses in NYC. Dan emailed me a few weeks ago and asked me to design a logo for him which was based off of a symbol he and his friend Ahmed used to use when they were in school called the "Tralse"... I think the concept is a common one for anybody who sucked at True/False questions, basically it's a "T" with a mark next to it which makes it look like it's an "F"... but it also looks like "T" with a random pencil mark which may or may not have been an accident... very tricky for a teacher and easily argued by a student.

The image on the right is a lovely example of this marvel in student testing. The idea behind using the "Tralse" for the logo came from Dan not wanting his music to be restricted to any one idea or concept, leaving the meaning behind it to the listener rather than the musician. I think there may have been some other reasons in there, but I was already thinking of ideas for the image by the time he started explaining it to me... I have a short attention span...

What I did with the "Tralse" logo was have it be a cluster of ideas. It starts as a tree which changes to a tentacle wrapping itself around a piano key which has other piano keys floating from it, the top piano key forms the shape of half a guitar with mushrooms forming the tuners at the end of it. The roots of the tree engulf and weave throughout an island and by the time you get to the bottom of the floating mass you notice the roots and dirt have formed some kind of a veiny levitating heart. The city behind the tree was created using audio level lights to help tie the image back to music... the city is the skyline of NYC... which goes back to the whole"Transit 161" title.

All in all, it came out pretty cool, it was nice to do something out of left field... which I haven't done in a while. This project was a lot of fun... Thank you Daniel and your 161st Transit.

Next stop,