previous article | | next article
Who could host the better parties, Mumm-Ra or Lion-O? Battle of the Castles!
Matt - 1/29/01

I've got some time to kill waiting for the Mortal Kombat movie to encode on my PC so I can grab pics from it, so we've got some time to do another article. While we're on that topic, a lot of you ask how I make those pics. Well, nowadays, unless they're pics I can lift from eBay or from some random Geocities site to help illustrate a point, getting those pics is a pretty long and drawn out process including first running the entire tape through my machine, ripping it into an avi. After that, there's software that allows you to grab pics. I won't go into too much detail with that, because there's much easier ways to do it. I'm just stubborn. You'd laugh if you saw the setup I have going - VCR connected to my webcam, connected to the computer, with five programs open to do the actual process. In other words, I'm not the best person to ask these types of questions. Even in terms of html, I'm a novice. And don't even bother asking about CGI and whatnot - we're not currently using it, its all manual. And I haven't the slightest clue how to go about setting it up. In short, this is a very basic site, so I'm sorry I can't help the people who've e-mailed looking for it. For aspiring or current webmasters, (aspiring webmaster? jesus) I would reccomend checking out Dynamic Drive, a neat little site that makes little extras a lot easier.

Now, I've got about 90 minutes to kill before I can give some visual aids for Goro, so let's use the time to answer probably the most burning question of the past decade: who had the cooler house, Lion-O or Mumm-Ra?

Sadly, its something I actually do debate sometimes. I'd say I'm fairly materialistic, so it transcends even to the cartoons I watch. I could never really accept Megatron's chances at beating the Autobots when his base was underwater. Prime had the Ark, Omega Supreme, and on the odd occassion when he remembers, a giant guy named Metroplex who could turn into an entire city. Megatron has some sorry ass base underwater. Then we got He-Man. They had Eternia, which I guess is pretty big, but you could never tell since we only saw that one brickstone backyard and the king's throne room. They also had Greyskull - which by now we all should know hosted many many secrets. On the flipside, all Skeletor had was a cliched Snake Mountain, which for all intents and purposes was a series of vertical caves with no luxuries and very little living space. Good didn't triumph over evil because it was supposed to, it triumphed because the good guys had better pads.

Today I want to examine the Thundercats and see if the same holds true. As you probably noticed, I'm not the world's biggest Thundercats fan. Its not that I don't like the show, I'm just not sure there's so much there to talk about. Give me He-Man, and I'll throw out 50,000 articles detailing every last nuance in Beast Man's demeanor that seem to pave the way for an inevitable face turn that sadly never shows up. Thundercats? I dunno. A few weeks back I had a mini-marathon of cartoon watchin', and the best I could come up with was a series of jokes about Cheetara's tits and Jaga's age. (click here) Don't worry though, in due time I definitely plan to expose the Berbils. Watching that episode definitely leaves an impression.

Anyway, back to the castles. First, we had the Cat's Lair. Man, that Panthro was something else. He was able to fashion a tank and a castle with virtually no available goods, by himself, in the duration of about twenty minutes. If Panthro was around today, he'd be that guy all the celebrities hire to get the job done right. Its a shame his cerebral architectual talents went to waste so he could use nunchucks, but somehow I doubt the creators and writers of the show really put enough stock in the guy to really give a shit about his profession.

Then, we had Mumm-Ra's Tomb. I guess they felt that mutant cats and robotic pandas were creative enough - no need to overdo it by thinking up clever names for the castles. In the cartoon, the Tomb seemed to be a pretty sparse affair - few statues, coffin, and that silly glowing well that told Mumm-Ra everything he needed to know except to avoid blatantly staring at himself in any available reflection, thus rendering him totally useless as a villain. You'd think over time Mumm-Ra would develop some sort of defense against seeing his reflection in Lion-o's sword, but that's another article entirely.

Since the cartoon didn't really give us the grand tours I'd need to make the proper call here, I've gotta turn to the only medium I've ever truly trusted: the toys. We only got a selective view on the cartoons - these guys knew they were in the spotlight, so they weren't gonna show us the disgusting bathrooms or self-depreciating exercise rooms there. No, if we wanted the full look, we had to go out and buy 'em ourselves.

I know there's a precedent of etiquette with who goes first between a man and a woman, but I'm not so sure anything's been set up between good and evil. So I tossed a coin, or at least I did so in my head, so we're gonna start with the Cat's Lair.

The Cat's Lair would make a great name for a jazz club. Unfortunately, this is the Thundercats home base where they're supposed to be saving the planet or something, so it doesn't really ring the same bell. On the plus side, true to form, it looks exactly like a giant concrete cat. So all tourism to Third Earth wouldn't be crying foul at false advertising - this truly was the Cat's Lair. I may have made a fatal calculation error in thinking the toys would give us some great look into how the TCats lived, since this thing was more of a giant set of closets than an actual castle. Unlike He-Man's castle, which opened to unveil many many secrets, this thing didn't really have an inside. Its basically a giant block of plastic that could hold a few figures if you positioned them poorly. Let's take a closer look.

Panthro's no idiot. He designed the thing, so he knows he deserves a spot in the commercial. Sadly, while the director isn't going to break a deal, he knows how to stick it to Panthro's pride by giving him the worst possible role - having him demonstrate the Lair's magic 'claw chamber'. Hmm. Not too sure what the point of that is, the only picture I'm getting is Panthro leaping out of the thing as Tygra walks by, yelling 'surprise!!!'

If that's the best defense the Lair has, the Thundercats are in for some real trouble. It might work once, but I'm pretty sure the bad guys would eventually learn to be highly suspect of the castle's claws. Fortunately, what this castle lacks in space, it makes up for in ultimate defense capabilities. In fact, the only thing the place is good for is warning the Cats about incoming enemies - let me demonstrate...

I'm telling you, Panthro in an absolute genius. Who else would dream up something like this? The guy stuck a giant flashlight in the cat's mouth - which also doubles as a laser! Yes, its up to you to decide whether or not the light beam is detecting the villains, or outright killing them. That's no joke - its clearly suggested by the commercial. In one shot, Vultureman gets spooked because the light beam gave away his location. In another, the light beam just makes him fall down and scream. I love toys that put the power in our hands.

As you can see, Mumm-Ra's attempt at a secret assault has been ruined by Panthro's flashlight, as all the villains stop dead in their tracks. Still, a flashlight is a flashlight, so they continue on their trek to kill the Thundercats. And while we're on that, here's a side rant...

What did these guys have against the Thundercats, anyway? The mutants followed them around for like a gazillion years - literally devoting their entire lives to hunting them down. For what? What could these Thundercats possibly have? They didn't even own clothes in the first episode - there's definitely no stock of feline jewels hiding in one of those cat claw closets. Don't give me that Sword of Omens bullshit. I don't care what that sword can do, it in no way could warrant 50 people gunning for it 24/7. I'm sorry, I need more of a just cause than that. They should have played an angle where Thundercats were considered palatable and downright tasty by the mutants. If they were just looking for a good eat, then it'd make sense. Ah, back to the Lair...

Mumm-Ra and Vultureman commit the biggest mistake of their lives - never attack the good guys' castle in the commercial for the good guys' castle. You're destined for failure.

Sure enough, Vultureman takes one step onto the platform, which immediately flips and knocks him down. On the cartoon, this would be a small setback, but here, it kills him. The joke's on Vultureman though, since he didn't realize that there's actually nothing inside that castle - its all a big hoax! Yes, the toy consisted of two claw closets and one larger closet which for some reason needed the special defense of a flipping drawbridge. And oh yeah, a giant cat head that shoots lights or lasers depending on your mood.

Amazingly enough, that's about all the Cat's Lair has to offer. It also came with some mutant attack vehicle, and the cat head spun 180 degrees, but as you could gather, the Thundercats lived a pretty pedestrian life. Let's see if the bad guys payed any more attention to their decor.

Mumm-Ra's Tomb Fortress looked more like a patio than an actual fortress. Actually, the title is completely negating, as a fortress would suggest some sort of defensive walls, or at least a neat lava moat. This fortress has neither, its basically a gaudy outhouse.

I can also take some personal salvage in the decision to make this article my personal time waster as Mortal Kombat encodes, since all this blanket research has finally solved one of my childhood's greatest mysteries. When I was a kid, (should we put that on a t-shirt yet?) every year I'd make a point to go to my elementary school's Christmas Fair, basically a fund raising event held in the gym where they sold lots of overpriced cookies and a whole slew of shoddily-produced ornaments made by embittered PTA members. The whole ordeal had two plusses for me as a child: number one, there was this booth that let you put your own slogan on a button. I was on this kick where I'd work the word 'goats' into every conversation - now I had a button to solidify the point. Secondly, there was this thing called the 'White Elephant' table - that's where everyone's donated junk got sold. Of course, even as a child my scavenging nature was apparent, and its here where I found those two statues on the sides of the Tomb for the stunning price of ten cents a piece. I remember it because I was entirely too proud of my purchase, bragging about it to anyone who wouldn't punch me for telling them. And until this exact moment, I hadn't realized the statues were from this playset. It kinda sucks that my only real personal stories about fate have to do with completing personal circles by writing articles about Thundercats toys, but we take what we can get I guess.

Now, the Tomb. By default, Mumm-Ra's pad was already a little cooler than the Cat's Lair, only because of who's hanging around inside it. Picture the mutants having poker games or getting stoned and watching Space Ghost with Mumm-Ra. No, I'm serious, do it. You'll need to, because that's about all the fun and intrigue you'll find here.

The boys at LJN, to their credit, did a pretty good job at making this look like a good playset, mainly by adding enough mist and rocks so that you couldn't see how shitty is was, but that's all in the past. At least the thing had a few things going for it...

First off, this is where Mumm-Ra went from bitchy little useless mummy to monstrous giant useless MUMM-MAY! This is where the magic happens. It wasn't cool because of that, though. The great thing about this feature was that you could really fuck with the intricities of Thundercats lore, making Mumm-Ra transform into Wily Kit at will. Trust me, with a little imagination, the stories you'd come up with killed anything the cartoon was shilling out. You could even incorporate other lines to make things more fun. Have Mumm-Ra transform into She-Ra, Lando, or a Snickers bar. Things like that. Christ, I just spent the last five minutes picturing a storyline featuring a Snickers bar leading the mutants into battle. Next time I have 90 minutes to spare, you'll get that article.

Since they couldn't have the heroes goes barging in on the bad guys for no reason, a very un-heroic thing to do, they had Mumm-Ra kidnap Cheetara. Yum. Nothing like a kid giving a little animism to the action figure with titties. I can't believe nobody ever set up a hidden camera in a child's bedroom to see what stories they come up with for their toys. I'd be blacklisted for life if someone did that to me. My toys had sex more often than a 17-year-old bleached Jerseygirl E-head. And it wasn't normal sex...I mean, I had turtles fucking aliens from Jabba's palace, April O'Neil making out with Boba Fett, it all transcended size, gender, and species. Yeah, so, back to the matter at hand, Mumm-Ra's got Cheetara.

Obviously, the Thundercats aren't going to let their one chance at scoring get away that easily, so they're after her! This is where the Tomb's special defense system comes into play. First, Panthro gets knocked down by positioning himself in such a way that if that statue could turn his head, he'd certainly get knocked on his ass. And wouldn't you know it - the statue can turn his head!

Meanwhile, on the flipside, Lion-O deals with the other statue, who one-ups his statue comrade by having moving arms. Foolishly, Lion-O's pride gets the better of him once again, as he chooses to do battle with the statue instead of, you know, just walking out of arms distance from it.

Now that we've taken a look at both, its time to decide who was in the better position. Good or evil. There's really no contest here, and it just goes back to what I was saying earlier. Good wins because good always has the cooler castle. The Cat's Lair definitely wouldn't be the greatest place to assemble a wedding or other some such party that'd require space for more than three people, but jeez, they really shafted Mumm-Ra with that Tomb. 'Two statues and a coffin do not make a fortress.' I'm pretty sure that's one from Lincoln. And it's today's moral. Remember it, and take it with you wherever you may go. Its an important lesson. Be virtuous, and you'll get a much cooler house.

And oh, well look at that. Mortal Kombat just finished encoding. Perfect timing.

- Matt
Temp E-mail:
Linkage: Hacker - Freak - DotComScoop