Monday, October 24, 2011

Get Signed Gadget Comics For Free at the NC Comicon

It's the Free Comic Book Day all over again! Well, not quite. But check the below picture to find out what, when and where:

And to quote Viper Comics themselves:
Want to get some free Viper Comics goodness? 
Want to get a signed copy of Viper Comics’ Inspector Gadget and Johnny Test books?
Make sure you swing by the NC Comic Con on November 5th and 6th. Editor-in-Chief and writer of some of Viper’s most recent smash hit comics, Dale Mettam, will be at the con signing and giving away some free Viper comics.

So, if you live in Morrisville, North Carolina or nearby - and if you want a free copy of Viper Comics' first Inspector Gadget issue, signed by writer Dale Mettam - you now know where to be on November 5th and/or 6th.

I find it interesting, by the way, that Dale Mettam is described as "Editor-in-Chief and writer of some of Viper’s most recent smash hit comics". Does this mean that Inspector Gadget and Johnny Test were both sales successes? That would be very pleasant news for the Gadget franchise.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Future of Inspector Gadget, under Cookie Jar (?)

forum thread on the site got me thinking about Inspector Gadget's potential future. The question discussed in the thread was, will we ever see Inspector Gadget (1983) on Blu-ray? Here's what forum member BluAtreyu (probably someone who worked on the Shout! factory DVD box set) had to say about the matter:

Speaking as someone with a VERY intimate knowledge of this series (I helped put DIC shows on DVD), I know that the masters of these shows are not in the best shape, and would need some heavy restoration to be anywhere near HD quality (we are talking some very heavy repainting, cleaning, sound mixing...).

Add that to the fact that the show has never sold well either as a single disc or box set, the demand is just not high enough to justify the money and time that would need to go into getting these "Blu-Ray ready." Also, INSPECTOR GADGET is now owned by Cookie Jar since DIC is no more, and Cookie Jar just doesn't have the same history and affection for the show that the folks at DIC had. At DIC, it was the Mickey Mouse of the company - at Cookie Jar it is just another title they got in a big bundle of old 80s show titles. 
I'm not saying it will never happen (I love the show and pushed it very hard while I was working on it), but I would SERIOUSLY not hold your breath. 

Sadly, I suspect BluAtreyu is right on this one... but only to an extent. It's true that Inspector Gadget was DiC Entertainment's flagship property, but at the same time, it's no less true that DiC did some awful things to the Gadget franchise during their last 10-15 years with it. The live-action movies, for instance: Sure, they made some quick bucks when released, but in the long run I think they may have damaged the franchise more than they've helped it. Simply because they were awful movies.

It is also true that the Cookie Jar Company (which took over Gadget and the rest of DiC in 2008) does not have that same history and affection for the show... but I think Cookie Jar overall seems like a pretty different animal than DiC. So far, they haven't done anything truly horrible to Gadget; at least nowhere near the awfulness of Disney's live-action movies and DiC's two direct-to-video films from the last decade. This may be partly because Cookie Jar doesn't need to do so much with Inspector Gadget. They are a larger company than DiC ever was, with other titles that are far more profitable and popular among younger generations than a Saturday Morning cartoon from the early 1980s. In that respect, what BluAtreyu says is right: Gadget is more or less one of the titles in "a big bundle of old 80s show titles". And in most countries, the U.S. included, the show still hasn't even made it to DVD in complete form. (France is one of the very few exceptions to this rule.) But that doesn't mean Cookie Jar has declared the franchise dead... it's just hit something of a low spot for the last decade or so.

For Inspector Gadget to get back into the public eye - and to even be considered for the full Blu-ray treatment - I think the franchice needs a serious boost in its popularity, a resurgence of some kind. I'm hoping that Viper's new comic book can help start such a resurgence... but that, I think, is dependent on the comic book improving significantly from its first issue (which had good intentions, but ultimately didn't live up to its potential). Too many times, I think, revivals of Inspector Gadget have failed simply because they haven't been good enough (Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever, anyone?). This has a devastating effect on the franchise as a whole. After all, there's no better way of ruining a popular character's reputation than by putting out a lot of junk with that character's name on it. Keep it up, and audiences eventually grow tired of the character. That's pretty much what DiC achieved when they put out two god-awful live-action movies and two horrendous direct-to-video animated films in rapid succession between 1999 and 2005. (Seriously, Inspector Gadget's Last Case was Gadget's worst moment EVER in animation!)

I do get the feeling that Cookie Jar, ever since they took over Inspector Gadget, has been trying to quietly turn that trend around. They've been trying to replace bad Inspector Gadget products with good ones, or at least better ones than what DiC gave us. Since they gained ownership of the franchise, we've gotten not only a very cool iPhone/iPad game that has actually become something of a hit among gamers... but also, of course, the first issue of a brand new comic book. Both the game and the comic book share a common factor: They are trying to go back to the roots of Inspector Gadget, to find the core that originally made him popular back in 1983. The M.A.D. Dash game even uses Shuki Levy's original theme song as its background music! After years of DiC's ill-conceived and unsuccessful attempts to tinker with the franchise, it's nice to see Cookie Jar apparently taking Inspector Gadget back to basics. If this approach works, and more people start liking the franchise again, then maybe -- just maybe -- we will someday see an HD version of the original series make it to Blu-ray. And even better... maybe a brand new cartoon series starring Inspector Gadget will be produced... and for once, this new series will be both good and successful among audiences. It can all happen. We just need something to start the snowball rolling.

Even if all of this were to happen, though, it's probably still some years down the road. But in the meantime, we can always dream...

Here's hoping that one day, the original show looks as good on Blu-ray as this original cel looks on my laptop! 

The Weird Kentucky Fried Chicken Promos

Found this vintage KFC Promo which I had never seen before, starring Gadget, Penny and Brain:

For a little while in the late 80s, the Inspector Gadget characters were licenced to promote the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand. Until now, I thought there was only one KFC commercial (below), but this one brings the total up to at least two. The other one (which I'll get to in a second) is from 1987, so I'm guessing the one above is from around that time, too.

As far as the quality of these commercials go, the animation and voice work is certainly not up to the TV show's standards. I'd say the above KFC commercial is the best one of the two. Gadget sounds kinda (but not quite) like Don Adams, and the animation isn't too bad. The last gag with Gadget pulling his head inside his body like a turtle doesn't make much sense... I doubt he'd be able to do that in the TV series... but, then again, those pirates and vikings attacking him make even LESS sense! I do prefer M.A.D agents.

Anyhow, let's take a look at that other KFC commercial while we're at it! This one, promoting collectable cups with pictures of the Gadget stars, actually feels very different from the first: The voice work is pretty weak, and the new animation of Gadget and M.A.D. Cat is downright terrible! Well, maybe "terrible" is too harsh a word... but this commercial certainly has some of the weirdest animation I've ever seen of Inspector Gadget! Why is Gadget's face bobbing up and down all the time? It feels like the animator figured that, "the more movement I put into this scene, the more lavish the animation will look!". Unfortunately, that works best when the movement itself is actually good. In the case of this commercial, Gadget's face animation just feels out of control. Also, it seems out of character that Gadget is the one to stop M.A.D. Cat in the end; that job should belong to Penny and Brain.

All in all, there's no doubt that whoever did these commercials had the budgets to do full animation. What they didn't have was a proper understanding of their characters.

UPDATE (June 4, 2012): I suddenly discovered that the original uploader of the first ad here has changed her/his video settings to "private". Because of this, I re-uploaded the ad to Youtube myself and changed the old embedding to my own, new upload. If you've been here before and had problems watching the first commercial, it should be working now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Condensed Review of Inspector Gadget's Comic Book, Issue 1

As regular readers of this blog knows, my in-depth comic book review of Gadget on the Orient Express is running extremely late. The thing is, I have read the book... but with my studies going full speed, I just haven't had the time (or the good conscience) to delve into writing a full review. And at the moment, I'm afraid I have no idea when I'll have the time, either. So to tide you over, I decided this morning to type a very short review where I try to sum up the most important pros and cons of the first issue...

There were things that I liked with the book and there were several things that I didn't like. The artwork was uneven, to say the least, and sometimes looked extremely rushed. I do hope José Cobá gets a much better grip on the Gadget characters with time. Also, I wish the story could have been much longer, ideally divided into two parts (the story in the book is exactly 45 pages long). The way it is now, it feels like the story ends just when the action is really getting started... I didn't feel satisfied at the end, like I would after one of the best TV episodes. And that's too bad, because Dale Mettam's script has a lot of details and touches which I really appreciate, and which really helps this book feel like the classic Inspector Gadget - in parts, at least.

The script's biggest weakness is probably that Penny has way too little to do. Penny is a very important character to the Inspector Gadget universe but for some reason she gets neglected in almost every revival I've seen. Penny is more or less the heart of Inspector Gadget. Her love for her uncle is what keeps Gadget alive (remember, she's the one who at times has to talk Brain into protecting him); and the fight between good and evil is not really a fight between Gadget and Dr. Claw, it's between Penny and Dr. Claw. Penny also represents the pure action parts of the TV show's story lines. While Brain is running around saving Gadget from M.A.D., Penny goes on high-brow adventures trying to uncover and stop the crime Dr. Claw is up to. She often gets into real perils, and most often has to be saved by Brain... but in the end, she's the one to defeat Dr. Claw. To sum up - I really, really want to see Penny get in on the action in the next issue. Because that's where she belongs.

Same with Dr. Claw, by the way. In the TV series, the awesome super-villain is at his best - and most dangerous - when he's personally flying around in his M.A.D. jet shooting missiles at Gadget and friends (or using those missiles/lasers to carry out M.A.D's crime). Now that's action!... and it's something I missed from this first issue. Let's have Dr. Claw back as a hands-on villain the next time around.

All in all, Viper Comics' Inspector Gadget does have potential... and I appreciate that they're trying to go back to the core of the 1983 series. But if this comic book is to succeed, I think both the writing and the art needs to be tightened and improved. The writing needs to give us more (longer/tighter stories, better balance between the characters), and the art needs to find its characters and generally be more solid/less rushed. Despite these weaknesses, I will encourage people to buy the book and check it out for themselves. Let's give it a chance and see if the following issues manage to improve on things!

El Inspector Gadget

Hey, this is pretty catchy... An extended, Spanish version of the Inspector Gadget theme, probably from some children's record back in the day. (According to the Spanish video title, it's a "complete original children's song".) Interestingly enough, the song feels like a mixture of the American theme (in orchestration and melody) and the French theme (in that it has lots of lyrics). And I have to say I like this mixture!