Welcome to Plight Issue 5, it's time for a history lesson.
This week I'm going to chat about some older material that you might not have watched or read. It's really pretty awesome stuff from when I was much, much younger - sorry Zombie, you didn't exist then - and if you give it a chance it might just make you laugh, smile or go wow. Or bleugh, but probably the former though. Nobody wants to bleugh.
With that in mind, let's go-go...
It is the 16th century. From all over Europe, great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. The men eager to seek their fortune, to find new adventures in new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries, to find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes.
They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado and the Mysterious Cities of Gold.
The first stop on todays Plight is with the French-Japanese 1982 series The Mysterious Cities of Gold. Set in 1532 it follows the story of Esteban and his friends Tao and Zia as the younglings search for Esteban and Zia's fathers. They're accompanied by the occasional comic relief in the form of mercenary bros Sancho and Pedro and more seriously Mendoza - a somewhat mysterious navigator who rescued Esteban as a child and who searches for the Cities of Gold.
It's actually a pretty cool premise which takes elements of adventure, history and science fiction and weaves them together to tell a pretty compelling story. Esteban has the strange ability to summon the Sun and is known by the people of Barcelona, Spain as the 'Child of the Sun'. He has a medallion in the shape of a crescent moon which actually fits together with Zia's medallion to form a complete circle which can then be used for unlocking the gates to the cities of gold... as well as other things too. What other things?
Well over the course of the original series they discover a ship called the Solaris, and a flying mechanical bird called The Golden Condor which is yep, made from gold. The medallion acts as an ignition key of sorts for these vehicles and allow the team to travel greater distances and it's pretty amazing. This is where Estebans ability to summon the Sun comes in handily as he's able to save the day by calling out those beautiful, deadly rays of ultraviolet light and bring the Condor to life because without the Sun they're just golden hunks of metal. Wait a second, there wasn't technology in 1532 so how the heck was there a mechanical bird?
Actually, in this version of reality there was. See you had the Incas, the Mayans and you had the Olmecs. The Olmecs were survivors of a great war which decimated the human race many centuries before (news to us) and since became something other than human. It's implied that the cause was nuclear fallout which means that the technology of humanity was once greater than what we have today. The Olmecs are after an artefact called the 'Great Legacy' which I won't get into too many spoilers about but let's say that cryogenics, and a danger to the world is involved.
And what's in that jar Tao?
There was a certain charm to this series when it first aired. It was one of the earliest serialised animated shows I remember watching. Every new episode started off with a summary of the previous weeks show so it was always pretty accessible to jump into. They even gave some historical summaries at the end of the show. Have a play of the intro below, adventure awaits and if you can find this show I suggest a few episodes will be a good use of your time.
Note: I list this as a cartoon rather than an anime because it was such a staple of British television and positioned as a regular cartoon on BBC 1 in the late 80's.
Let's investigate the crazy future now. One trip back, one trip forward to the Cursed Earth, the former United States of America and the Mega Cities.
The Dark Judges are not to be trifled with. This week I'm going to introduce you to Judge Dredd, specifically one of the Dark Judge stories and ask that you keep Sylvester Stallones abysmal interpretation of the source material locked away in a beryllium chamber where nobody shall ever speak of it again. Also disregard Karl Urbans version for now - it was pretty rad but this is a whole different Dredd.
First of all - Dredd is a street judge of Mega City One who has a robot called Walter that looks after his apartment ran by his Italian (lol) landlady Maria (I don't count the retcon).MC1 covers most of the eastern seaboard of the former United States of America, with MC2 taking up the western coast and Texas City in the middle. In between all of that is the nuclear wastelands known as the Cursed Earth which evolved from the war of 2070. It sure sounds like a really shitty place to live but it's really not all that bad. If you take Robocop to be a satirical look at life in the 1980s Dredd does the same, but for comics. The idea of a totalitarian state that controls everything for the populace if nothing new (hello North Korea) and it's the strict, but fair decisions made by the Judges of Mega City One that power the majority of stories. They have the power to be judge, jury and executioner but often they arrest 'crims' and send them off to isolation cubes (isocubes) for anything between 5-15 years. Crime does not pay in Mega City One, just look at this guy:
You can't even bargain with Dredd - although one day less is pretty generous all things considered. Judges have a Lawgiver (Gun with automatic ammo), and a Lawmaster (motorbike) in order to deliver swift justice. Lawgivers are attuned to the DNA of a Judge and whilst any lawman/woman can use any weapon any street punk who tries will find themselves in an explosive situation - sans a hand that is.
So the Dark Judges. What are they? Well they're from another dimension where the Judges decided that as crimes are committed by the living then the best way to get rid of all crime is to get rid of anything that is alive. Pretty insane logic but you can see how they came to that idea - freaking mentalists. The Dark Judges are led by Judge Death, and are Judge Fear, Judge Fire and Judge Mortis. The Joker - yes, that Joker - was also a Dark Judge when he helped free them from imprisonment and eventually decided that their insane mission to eradicate life was a little too holistic for his chaotic whims. The Dark Judges have also come fist to face with Batman, who teamed with Dredd (and fought him a few times before in both MC1 and Gotham most notably in Judgment on Gotham).
Judge Death is the main dude in this party of monsters. He's known for reaching into peoples chests with no resistance and squeezing their heart until death. If his body escapes he can simply take over another corpse and reanimate any number of times. The dude can't die - he's Judge Death! Judge Fear wears an armored helmet, when he opens the hinged faceplate and people stare at the visage underneath they're literally frightened to death - except Dredd of course. Judge Fire is like the Human Torch of the group. He can be put out pretty easily but can burn you just as quick. And Judge Mortis is the guy with a giant horses skull for a head, and can mortify anything he touches instantly. These guys destroyed their homeworld, literally killed every person on it and now they've come to Mega City One to do the same to this world. Sometimes they have no success and others they manage to kill hundreds of millions of people.
It's just nuts when these guys are about. Never a dull moment.
Yep, that's how Dredd rolls.
Necropolis is the story here by the way. Death and the Dark Ones teamed up with the Sisters of Death in order to take over Mega City One and turn it into a Necropolis. They took the Chief Judge who attempted suicide and turned him into their zombie pet. Roughly 10K civilians were killed daily by the Judges. All life was a crime and the punishment was death. During this time Dredd had left the city and taken the Long Walk into the Cursed Earth - which is what retiring Judges do. They head into the nuclear wasteland to continue to bring justice to the unjudged. You can't even really retire which is a bummer.
Running for an epic 26 episodes I can't really spoil much for you but the detail above has set the scene for the world of Dredd I hope and you can always get these collections pretty cheap on the Kindle store if you feel like diving in. Maybe try the Batman stories first if you're looking to ease in.
Those guys are evil, but bad guys can be redeemed sometimes. They just need the right hook.
Cyber City Oedo was released over 20 years ago and I remember getting them for my 14th birthday on VHS. They were also shown on Channel 4 here in the UK but as a three part OVA it really stood out as something I had to see again.
It takes place in the future of the Japanese city of Oedo where Cyber criminals are given the chance to reduce their prison sentences by completing high risk missions for the Cyber Police. Overseen by the section Chief Hasegawa the team are encumbered by Battle Royale like explosive collars around their neck, and the stories alternate in focus between Sengoku, Benten and Gogol.
Sengoku is a career criminal, a tough guy with a fast tongue and quick to action. He's usually seen with Varsus - the cyber police assistive robot who he curses at (not like Dredd or it would be worse than DROKK!) pretty often. The story here is a take on Die Hard in a way, with Sengoku trying to get into a tower which has been taken over by an advanced computer system. However there's more to it but... spoilers.
Gogol is an ex heavyweight boxer who's really awesome at computer hacking and a real tough guy to boot. I compare his action sequence to the end fight in Robocop 2. The effeminate Benten is a stylish, lithe dude who has an air of compassion that creeps through once in a while. His story is predominantly a love story, with a hint of Dracula thrown in which has some real standout moments that just creep up on you.
The show really shines as all three characters appear in all of the episodes and with it being such a short series it never overstays its welcome. The US/Japanese audio is considered to be inferior to the UK release which has a rock heavy theme that I've thrown in below with episode 1. It really fits with the cyber crime, heavy feel of the series and shamefully never transitioned to the release on DVD as the UK arm of Manga lost the rights to the show :(
I recommend finding a copy of this entire series either online, or on DVD. You can live without the UK music but it's a show that unfortunately went nowhere - SHAME ON YOU MADHOUSE. There was also an adventure game released on PC-Engine but I never played it. Have a watch of the show in the video below and we'll talk some,
And that's my Plight folks. I hope you've enjoyed it. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do but it's certainly an interesting mix of stuff that you might not have heard of.
As per Nipahs original post, anyone and everyone can do a Plight, so leave a comment with your preferred week and we'll see what comes up.