Doug Knoth 7 of the Best

Doug Knoth’s 7 of the Best

Battle Royale
This was an amazing book which led to an amazing manga which led to an amazing movie. In the Dystopian future of Japan, riddled with all sorts of political problems, a class of High schoolers are selected yearly to battle to the death. Sounds familiar right?  Btw this was around long before The Hunger Games decided to steal the idea. What is appealing about it? If you can imagine yourself at that age, where you could (and most likely will die within a few hours,) what do you want to get most out of life? And who are you willing to kill to get it? It’s easily one of the best story concepts I have ever come across.

Land of the Lost
Sid and Marty Kroft were onto something bigger than they could ever have imagined. Rick Marshall, his son Will and daughter Holly fall through an interdimensional doorway and are transported to a world where Dinosaurs still exist, along with Primitive humanoids, a deadly race of reptilian warriors, time travel and aliens. Campy? Sure. It’s Kroft. The Will Ferrel movie based in the same universe is another prime example of Hollywood continually making the best parts of my childhood into a cheap fart joke.  There is enough lore here to reboot this into an amazing sci fi epic. If I could figure out how to get the rights, I’d do it in a heartbeat. ALSO do not watch season 3, the whole thing pretty much sucks except that Richard Kiel is in it.

Three unrelated cartoons from Japan united under one banner. Robotech was first on at 6am on Sundays (anything was better than more church-themed kids shows) and I was engulfed from my first viewing. Basically an alien spacecraft crashes on Earth in the middle of a global war. It unites humanity because unbeknownst to the general population, we now know there are giant humanoids bent on galactic destruction headed our way. Using the alien tech “robotechnology “ is created with lots of mechs, and transforming planes designed to double as combat suits for hand-to-hand fighting. How can you go wrong? What draws me to this (and I still watch the Macross saga almost yearly) is the realism. Love triangles, characters that are violently killed, and real life-or-death scenarios beat GI Joe lasers and parachutes from every plane that goes down any day. The other two installments are amazing as well. “A New Generation” deals with the child of Max Sterling growing up (and is, in my opinion, the weakest of the three.) When the third installment rolls around however, the INVID invasion begins. In “The Southern Cross” we have seen the Earth rise and fall through Robotechnology, and this is the end result. It’s pure brilliance how they manage to thread together three unrelated stories from Japan to sell toys, and manage to make a fantastic trilogy.

Blade Runner
Life on earth in the future, where corporate greed and super sciences unite to bring one hell of a story to life. Based on Philip K Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” Ridley Scott arguably crafts it into a world of his own. Life is essentially destroyed and cloning everything from snakes to humans has its price. Deckard, a bounty hunter who hunts “Replicants” (cloned humans that are more android than human) that seek to live as independent beings rather than for the slavery for which they were created. With 5 cuts of the film, there have always been plenty of debates over the morality of mortality, who is actually an android, and how do you quantify one’s existence? A very important piece of sci-fi history.

Tripods Trilogy, by John Christopher
I discovered these books at a young age, as they were adapted into comic form for “Boy’s Life “magazine when I was a Cub Scout. A very cool story taking place in the future, where humans are enslaved and used to serve their alien masters. The main protagonists are all young boys who fake the effect of the mind control to topple their alien masters and restore humanity. There are three books in the series: “The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire.” A great young reader’s story that introduced me to a sci-fi realm on Earth rather than in space. The short comic form of it (and the impatience of waiting month-to-month for a few panels) forced me to seek out the books; something I’d never done before.

Where to begin with this one? 2000AD is a science fiction magazine that has been around in the UK since the 1970’s. It is easily likened to the United States own “Heavy Metal.” Although the concept is similar, the content is drastically different. I used to work in a comic book store, where the owner picked up a huge collection of 2000AD cheap, and I was asked to board-and-bag them. The covers were amazing, and they were in newspaper format. Eventually it became a magazine format. It contained an assortment of sci-fi tales which stood alone, reminiscent of old pulp stories, or the early horror comics. But there were eventually long-standing serialized stories that were amazing. I put together small runs, and read stories featuring one of my all-time favorites: Judge Dredd, essentially an apocalyptic tale that happens after a nuclear war. The inhabitable parts of the United States become “Mega Cities” that are home to the entire population of the United Stated. Buildings and roadways are built hundreds of stories higher, and people are overcrowded. The police force are overwhelmed and underpowered, so they grant each officer the power of judge, jury and executioner. So many great stories, even one tale could fill a few paragraphs. Another fantastic story was that of Rogue Trooper. A futuristic military story of galactic warfare. Where soldier’s experiences could be downloaded and put into other clone bodies, weaponry and armor. So a single soldier could carry an entire platoon with him, put them in his arsenal, talk to them and use their experience. Later tales include Johnny Alpha, and Slaine the Barbarian. Some of the best and most original writing is here, combined with dynamic art. I still love those stories and revisit them often.

Dark City
This movie takes a noir setting of old school gumshoes, and combines it with a horrific tale of aliens trying to unlock the secret of the human soul. A man wakes up in a bathtub with no memory of who he is, and we learn everything as he does. We also have a brilliant performance by Kiefer Sutherland as the human scientist who does their bidding. It weaves itself into a web of mystery and discovery that in my opinion has yet to meet it’s equal. The aliens begin swapping the elements of their captive’s personas, and morph the city nightly to observe the human condition. In the process, they force the evolution of one man to reject their subservience, and adopt their powers of molecular manipulation. No matter how many times I watch this movie, I never tire of it. Better than The Matrix, this movie is a complete mind twister.

Thundarr the Barbarian
A giant comet crosses the path between the earth and the moon cracking it in half and essentially causing the apocalypse. The world is reborn into chaos with new races such as the Mok, giant humanoid super strong creatures with bad tempers. We follow Thundarr (sporting his magic sun sword,) princess Ariel (a talented sorceress,) and Ookla the Mok (his horse beast is bad ass.) Much of the character design was created with Jack “King” Kirby. They travel the world on horseback, fighting evil in a world that has incorporated both science and sorcery. A truly unique show with great art, and unforgettable characters! Saturday mornings in the 80’s should have filled in the gaps with more cartoons like this. Looney Tunes and Smurfs got an hour, and then Disney basically took over Saturday mornings. We were left with more crap than creativity. While cartoons like “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Thundarr” did inspire cool successors like “Galtar” and “The Pirates of Dark Water,” the adventure cartoons of yesteryear eventually dried up. A planned Thundarr toy line went kaput when Mego closed its doors, and we didn’t get another offering of merch until a few years ago. This would make a great live action movie!

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