Thursday, February 18, 2016


Hold on there ... the Incredible Hulk is only thirty? That guy looks wrecked.

Your Humble Editor has never been much for video games. They represent a general blindspot in my upbringing, and the fact is that I couldn't tell the difference between your average Battletoad and your Aerosmith:Revolution X. My only experience with video games comes in the form of happy memories of urging Pac-Man to speed along on his lightcycle to save Zelda from Donkey Kong while knocking hamburger toppings down a ladder in my favorite game, Robotron 2084. Happy days.

Uh-oh, this is gonna have to be reported to HR.
With that in mind, then, it's only by reputation that I'm aware of Defenders of Dynatron City as a video game. I am aware that it was a Lucasfilm product, and that it was apparently met with great disappointment by an enthusiastic coterie of the burgeoning gaming community, owing to what I am reliably informed was "balls-crap-dingus-shitheap controls."

Defenders of Dynatron City, however, is resonant in my mind in its comic book incarnation, released over six issues by Marvel Comics between February and July of 1992. It's primary selling point was scripting by Steve Purcell, a LucasArts regular who also boasted having created Sam & Max:Freelance Police, arguably the most absurdly funny comic book the medium had produced in at least two decades, if not ever. I'm a fan.

Unfortunately, what is such a boon when working with other creators was a bane when involving Purcell, whose wit blossoms when left to his own devices. Pairing Purcell with both a co-plotter (although that credit might have merely been a courtesy for the game's creator) and an editor watered down much of the impact of his premises and jokes. There's also the possibility that the often-surrealist, manic and frequently alarming banter which worked so well between two characters in Sam&Max or Purcell's excellent Gumby Winter Special is watered down when spread evenly over six characters instead of two ... even if one of the six is a speechless dog.
This joke feels very edited.

The adventures take place in the eponymous Dynatron City, an atomic-powered metropolis whose citizens prefer as their beverage of choice Proto Cola -- a radioactive drink which causes extreme mutations when imbibed or even spilled on inanimate objects. Yeah, but we have Coke Zero.

The Defenders were comprised of happily self-decapitating hero Jet Headstrong, the object of his affection and sort-of deadly land-lubbing industrial mermaid Buzzsaw Girl, a mutated toolbox called Toolbox, a mutated monkey called Monkey Kid, the faithful Radium Dog and Ms.Megawatt (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg in the television adaptation, as if Theodore Rex wasn't enough of a prestige role for her).

Opposing the Defenders was the huge-headed menace of Dr.Mayhem and Mayhem's robotic assistant -- and pure, undistilled Purcell joke, unless I miss my guess -- Atom Ed, the floating head.

The series didn't have much to do, with only six issues in the run supported by an unreleased tv special and a universally panned game. I don't pretend to know the intricacies of Disney's constant, voracious acquisition of entertainment properties, but I believe these now reside in the Mouse's gloved hands and could, therefore, be suitable fodder for a revival.

You could certainly make a better game now, I assume (I only play Minesweeper), and the superhero craze doesn't seem to be dying down in any short order, so the possibilities for the characters appearing across multiple media seems likely. It would be nice to see it given a greater chance, although all of this speculation is predicated on bringing Purcell back to work his highly amusing magic. As for the game platform, do people still use Colecovision? I'm up for that.

1 comment:

rocketdave said...

The animated special wasn't exactly unreleased- I watched it when it aired one Saturday morning back in 1992. Being so long ago, I don't remember it super well (even though I'm aware that it's on YouTube and I could rewatch it any time I wanted). What I do remember is that the advertising had led me to assume that it was a new series and I was somewhat bummed to realize that it was just a pilot that the network was burning off and that no other episodes were forthcoming. I enjoyed the cartoon. I liked the sunny, retro futuristic setting, but also the way that 50s style optimism was cheerfully subverted by having all this supposedly marvelous atomic energy causing wild mutations amongst the strangely unconcerned population. At the time, I had no way of knowing that there was also a video game and a comic book; I only discovered that much later after stumbling upon a copy of the comic in a used bookstore.

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