Tag Archives: 90s

Would you enter a dungeon to play a game devised by these two?

I hear that the new The Crystal Maze has been axed by Channel 4 after only three series. I must confess I stopped watching it about five episodes in, feeling it was not made for me. It doesn’t sound like it ever improved, and indeed the trajectory of viewing figures suggested it wasn’t made for lots of other people also. Going celebrity only for its final run was the final straw. It’s a frustrating misfire; the first episode back in 2017 drew one of the biggest audiences of the year for Channel 4 and the opportunity for something special was obviously there. Oh well! At least we still have the original series, and that was actually quite good.

With that mindset, you can understand why, on hearing of its termination, I produced this. Here’s a pixel art portrait of our mellifluous maître-d to the Crystal Maze, Richard O’Brien and his Mumsey (Sandra Caron) from days of yore. The style is loosely based on the RetroMania characters I worked on. Neither look particularly like their real-life counterpart – I’ve tried Richard several times in pixel and have yet to perfect his unique visage – but the “eclectic” outfits were fun to work on. I wouldn’t want to complete a sprite sheet of either, though!

On a completely unrelated note: did you know it’s once again possible to access the Classic Editor, free of blocks? Maybe it has always been there, I’m not sure, but I thought if anybody out there is still annoyed by them then you might want to know. In your admin, go to Posts and note the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top-right corner. Change to Classic View. You’ll then get the little ‘Add New’ button with the drop-down menu which allows you to select the Classic Editor. Hooray!

Not the usual fairground foray, as, besides some modest improvements, we have the exact same model as before. I just fancied turning Colorado back to Terminator, although not the Terminator paint job I remember from the Pleasure Beach. This being said, it still took a fair amount of time, probably not aided by my dodgy modelling skills. Then again, I’ve only been practising for about nine years…

At least it looks better than my original Terminator. We can certainly say that much.

It was this interesting little retrospective on the Super Loop on Top which gave me this Terminator itch once again. The series is well worth a look if, like me, you are nostalgic for the fairgrounds of days past. It’s nice to see it getting some recognition; I still think it’s an attractive beast and one of the coolest rides to witness in motion. Maybe when I win the lottery I’ll dig one up and get it back out on the circuit!

“I hate that hedgehog!”

Of course there’s a Robotnik Day. He just declared it one minute ago! I have to thank YouTube for this one. Not for the first time, its recommendation algorithm is responsible for this post. You see, amongst all the cute cat, husky and Timothy Dalton videos, an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog appeared. At the time it was seen as a bit crap and, let me assure you, it is rather – and that might explain why only one series was made. It may also explain the cult following online. Needless to say, I loved the show as a youngster, getting up at stupid o’clock on Saturdays to watch it and collecting several of the video tapes and watching them repeatedly. You can understand why I had to click that recommendation and watch. It’s mindless silliness.

Naturally, the chief villain, Dr. Robotnik, was my favourite character for he was responsible for most of the laughs. Voiced by Long John Baldry and flanked by his two haplessly hopeless henchmen in Scratch (robot chicken) and Grounder (robot… erm?), it was hard not to side with them against a Sonic so cocky and obnoxious you were relieved he never spoke in the Mega Drive games.

Other than Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – a surprisingly addictive puzzle game – this version of Robotnik never appeared in a video game, so I thought I’d have a go at converting him to pixel art. I did consider recreating some of the Mega Drive boss battles with him, but that didn’t turn out well, sadly. So, we just have some poses with some animation chucked in to make up for it. At the top, we have Robotnik’s frustration at Sonic foiling his latest scheme. Below was a bit of experimentation and perhaps a little tame for a super villain; maybe he’s waiting for his “metallic morons” to arrive.

How about a static pose for us to finish, ‘Botnik?

There we are. And once again I have to mention that his name is Robotnik and not “Eggman”. Thank you.

WWFbig-repoman6And now for something a little different – the same, but different. Wanting to wrest a bit more character out of a portrait, I began cutting up references in Photoshop, enlarging and warping certain bits and bobs to try and guide me. With that focus, I turned back to the stars of the wrestling ring, and Repo Man, aka Barry Darsow aka Demolition Smash. The epitome of early nineties WWF silliness, you couldn’t ask for a better guinea pig!

First spotted skulking around the ring in autumn 1991, Repo Man, replete with domino mask and long coat, would predominantly play out in a series of vignettes, in which he repossessed or outright stole items from members of the public. On one shocking occasion, he even stole the psychedelic hat of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, something I’m sure fans would never forget. His trusty tow rope came in handy not just for his occupation but for in-ring action, too, as he’d tie up his defeated foes and even repossess them. Such antics incurred the ire of big men like British Bulldog and Crush, who seemed to power over Repo Man with ease in their respective feuds. Repo very quickly became a jobber, but a hilarious one, and that’s all that matters.

Curiously, it was intended for the character to start doing good deeds and become a heroic role model, but when the plans were shelved, Darsow quit in 1993. Surely for the best, as the character just screams dastardly comic book villain, and it’s probably better remembered for being exclusively that.

This is the first piece I’ve completed in quite a while – it hasn’t been an especially productive start to the year. But this was fun and, as a process, felt fresh – maybe more on this vein to come. I just think perhaps the heads need to get bigger!

darrenhayes-3The term ‘earworm’ emerged in the late seventies and refers to music so memorable that it becomes something of a fixture. I’m sure we’ve all encountered them: the tunes and lyrics dancing in your mind and refusing to stop.

It’s good to talk, and so here’s a little about my latest episode. I was in the car recently when To The Moon & Back by Savage Garden played on the radio. I’m sure I haven’t heard this song since the late nineties, where I remember it being ubiquitous, and quite enjoying it; well, it seems determined to make up for lost time. I’ve given up trying to shake it!

Perhaps an indication of how serious an affliction this is, we have a portrait of lead singer Darren Hayes. A pretty quick one, I hasten to add. He looks a little sterner than I set out – sorry, Darren – perhaps he’s irked I haven’t been listening to him for twenty years – sorry, Darren. Of course, I opted for sunglasses to hide the features and emphasise the aural impact of our subject’s song… and if you’ll buy that, you’ll buy anything! It was a combination of wanting to include shades and not being in the mood for eyes.

This isn’t really a bad thing, of course. I’m so glad that such magnetic melodies exist. Darren has a great voice, one I’m finding both refreshing and headily nostalgic, and I’ll quite happily take this as defence against an impending deluge of Slade, John Lennon and the usual ‘festive’ suspects ad finitum. They’re the ones you need be wary of. No, I’ll stick with Savage Garden, thanks Noddy.

rhcpflea-2c“No matter what level you’re doing it on, playing music is an opportunity to give something to the world.”

While there have been several artists that have been with me since childhood, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers were one of the first that I discovered myself, with a hunger to learn more and track down new material – the eclectic mix of hard rock, funk and soul makes them a truly alternative act, and one with proven longevity. Being that first major stop in the pursuit of musical discovery, finding my way back to their material is always a tremendous nostalgia trip.

Though all are hard to ignore, it was always the bassist, Flea, that grabbed me the most. The origin of the nickname is clear to see, for he bounds around the stage – typically wearing next to nothing and/or doused in neon paint – with such enigmatic vigour, all while slapping the guitar and making it sing. He’s a skilled multi-instrumentalist, but his work on the bass is quite rightly acclaimed as some of the best ever. A proper rock star.

All of that surely explains the rather pedestrian portrait of our man dressed up in a snazzy shirt. I just found this particular reference quite cute, and wanted to focus on that. Perhaps I’d better do another, more animated attempt which can do justice to the showman…


Insert coin here! We’re off to the amusement arcades – well, kind of – and looking at some characters for 1991’s WWF WrestleFest – a game of sheer beauty, far better than anything a home console at the time could muster. I’m charmed every time by the aesthetics of this game; each character so perfectly elevated and toylike, the saturation mirroring the character of the WWF at the time. It’s as if you’re commanding action figures. The simple but frantically challenging gameplay doesn’t hurt its appeal, either. It’s both a regret and a mercy that I didn’t get to button mash on this for real, as I’m sure it’d have eaten all of my pocket money!

The game is still widely acclaimed and enjoyed even to this day. With that, I was inspired to have a go at making some sprites of competitors who didn’t make the cut for WrestleFest – perhaps they weren’t prominent enough in 1991, or they weren’t even a wrestler at the time. Some may (hopefully!) look familiar from last year’s series of portraits! Entirely faithful or not, these were a fun departure from what I’ve been doing of late, and it’s always fun to get under the skin of an old video game.

Of course, the next step is creating a map of sprites for each one so that some sort of animation is possible. That sounds quite a big job, and I’m not sure I’ve the motivation to do that just yet – maybe one day!

goldust-1There have been some interesting performers stepping through the ropes over the years, many of whom have cropped up in this series. Goldust has to be tangling with the best of them. Cryptic, twisted and spooky, every outing with Goldust promised something different.

In a mode that seems at odds with the eighties hangover that was the WWF of 1995, this Oscar-esque figure would take down foes not just inside the ring, but out of the ring also. Sneak attacks, secret messages and stalking were all textbook Goldust, but an apparent favourite was to mess with his opponent’s head via flirting. With their guard down, Goldust would pounce and, unleashing his enviable ring skills, seize victory.

Meddling with minds from the get-go, Goldust notched up victory after victory before coming unstuck (and undressed, for reasons I’m glad I can’t recall) against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania XII. Around this time, a smoking valet by the name of Marlena, she too dressed entirely in gold, had begun accompanying him to the ring. To complete the gimmick, she would not stand at ringside but sit in a specially commissioned director’s chair, smoking a golden cigar.

When the pair went their separate ways in late 1997, a new look was called for: enter The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust. Over this brief but colourful period, he would appear not in his trademark golden jumpsuits but in attire to mimic rival grapplers and various celebrities – we were gifted appearances from Chynadust, Hunterdust and MarilynMansondust, among many, many more. After a subsequent run under his real name of Dustin Rhodes, Goldust was revived in 1998.

Rhodes left the WWF in 1999 after a string of brisk and uninspiring storylines. All revolved around Goldust lusting after [wrestler]’s female valet, and him coming up short before moving on. It’s curious, with the WWF at the time really pushing the envelope as they were at that point, that Goldust, a character with perhaps the biggest scope for craziness in both deranged and comedic modes, wasn’t pushed and didn’t seem to much benefit. If there were any big plans for Goldust, as was continually rumoured, they simply didn’t materialise. It was almost as if he was lost in the mix, which seems a crazier prospect than anything the character ever did!

Goldust came and went several times throughout the 2000s, most notably for me providing comedy gold a-plenty as a tag team with Booker T in 2002-3. A decade later, he seems to have settled into the WWE full-time, still running with the gimmick and recently tagging with younger brother Cody Rhodes, who even adopted the name Stardust for the union.

Goldust is quite a ridiculous character. I understand the character was quite heavily ridiculed in its infancy, which in the context of the wrestling ring must take quite some doing. But I expect those critics are silenced somewhat by the sheer fact that, more than twenty years after his debut, Goldust is still going strong and continues to evolve. In fact, many of the comments I’ve read in research claim that Rhodes is putting on some of his strongest showings today, at nearing fifty years of age. It’s all testament to the man beneath the gold and his dedication to the performance, for there are generations of wrestling fans who will never forget the name, Goldust.

bigbossman-3Uh oh, looks as if we’re in for some hard times! Having dished out punishment as bodyguard Big Bubba in Jim Crockett Promotions and UWF, Ray Traylor morphed into law enforcer in 1988, appearing in the WWF as The Big Boss Man. At six-foot-six and nearly three hundred pounds, hopes weren’t high for those pitted against Boss Man – they became even less when, after the punishing offence, he’d  brandish his trusty nightstick, ball-and-chain and handcuffs. Police brutality indeed, and certainly a hard-hitting gimmick for a superstar of 1988 WWF to be given.

The Boss Man’s presence and rampant dominance meant that an encounter with Hulk Hogan was inevitable – Hulkamania was the target of all the monsters, bar none. Coupled with another huge man, Akeem, the pair became known as The Twin Towers and set their sights on the red and yellow icon. Hogan was teaming with Randy Savage at the time, and as a consequence The Boss Man was given several really entertaining matches with ‘The Macho Man’ over the World Title, besides some big cage matches with Hulk. Though The Twin Towers were materially unsuccessful, their meddling in the affairs of Hogan and Savage would lead to their disbanding and eventual face-off at WrestleMania V.

Continuing to brutalise the opposition throughout 1989, The Big Boss Man came to the attention of ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase, who rather liked the idea of owning a crooked cop. When Boss Man refused DiBiase’s handsome payments, he won over the crowd and became a fan favourite. Splitting from Akeem – and beating him at WrestleMania VI – he adopted a purer pursuit of justice, saving the beatings only for the WWF’s real evildoers. Like The Mountie, a crooked Canadian cop, whom he beat in the first ever (and only) Jailhouse Match at SummerSlam 1991, sending his toppled foe off to prison for the night.

Boss Man (sadly) spent much of 1992 battling Nailz, a deranged ex-convict who apparently arrived in the WWF specifically to get revenge on the law enforcer, subjecting him to beatings that were characteristic of his own villainous roots. The feud finally ended at November’s Survivor Series, with justice prevailing in a Nightstick Match.

He disappeared from WWF in early 1993, spending five years in WCW with a character that began as a near-identical retread of the Big Boss Man mould. One wonders how WCW managed to get away with that; was it because he was wearing a black shirt instead of blue? Hmm!

He’d be back in the Federation by late 1998, initially under a balaclava and mostly serving as a hired gun for the dominating ‘Corporation’ faction, headed by owner, Vince McMahon. His gimmick now able to get really brutal in line with the change in product, he gelled perfectly with the hardcore division, and he was a multiple-time Hardcore champion. This being said, he still mingled with the top stars, engaging in rivalries with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Big Show over the WWF title.

When the hardcore product started to fizzle out in the early 2000s, many of its associated performers did too, Boss Man being one of them. He had a last hurrah, again under the employ of McMahon against Stone Cold in 2002, but after that he retired to behind the scenes, working with up-and-coming talent. Sadly he would die of a heart attack just a couple of years later, at only forty-two.

Traylor knew how to play the crowd, particularly as a corrupt lawman, and even though some of his outings are looked back on less than fondly – being hanged by The Undertaker at WrestleMania XV… yes, really – one cannot fault Traylor’s commitment to the role and each of the wacky plots he was thrown into. I’ve no doubt that’s a big reason why he was continually rewarded with such strong billing. He certainly commands respect – and well, I suppose those that don’t give it him can expect hard times!

The Big Valbowski is, he says, a lot like the Rubik’s cube. The more you play with him, the harder he gets.

Hmm! I shall warn you now: that’s more or less the level of character we’re dealing with. The WWF has never been the most bashful of organisations, but never has it been so controversial as the days of Val Venis. Think ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude turned up to eleven and tailored to the nineties product. Naturally, he’s a porn star; his debut was hyped on this premise, supplementing a series of risqué vignettes before he’d eventually turn up in the crowd, bearing a sign that read “I have come”. The next week, he’d storm the ring with a skin-coloured SuperSoaker and blast everyone with a curious white fluid.

As an active wrestler, the lewdness would continue in much the same vein. He’d strut his way down to the ring in his towel, treating us to a gyration or two before grabbing a microphone and smothering the crowd with more innuendo than you can, well, shake a stick at:

“I came, I saw… and then I came again!”

“The Big Valbowski may not yet be the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, however, he is most definitely the biggest!”

“While Halley’s comet only comes once every seventy-six years, The Big Valbowski comes on command!”

At which point, of course, the crowd would go crazy for him. It was a shamelessly one-dimensional gimmick, at least in terms of what was done with it, but the reaction of the people proved his popularity beyond any doubt. It helped that he was also a solid performer, so once the ‘romance’ was out of the way, there was normally a decent contest to follow. He had several championship reigns, and really was a greatly entertaining ‘mid-card’ wrestler – his feud with Rikishi over the summer of 2000 was one of the highlights of the period, and I assure you, that’s nothing at all do with Val cutting his hair and donning white trunks.

For a gimmick that had run its course within a year or two – some would say much quicker! – it’s incredible to think how much the WWF got out of it. It became a bankable go-to character for Sean Morley. They tried a number of times to repackage him, some personas the very antithesis of Venis, but none were nearly so memorable nor successful. It was inevitable that the towel and cheap pops would be back before long.

The problem was, though, that the industry has changed almost beyond recognition by this point. The WWF of the nineties was all but gone, times had changed – the gimmick simply could not be allowed to play out as it did back then. This resulted in a rather watered down, restricted version of Val Venis which fared less well, even with his mic work and matches as strong as ever. But, on that, The Big Valbowski in his pomp shall ever remain a piece of that ‘Attitude Era’, a time when the WWF was crazy, brash, and, for its faults, totally unpredictable. A time when it was doing the business, probably better than even Venis himself could boast!