That Time I Was Lady Jaye

For the past few months, I’ve been reading articles, reading blog posts, seeing images, having some conversations, and reading some status updates from friends and family – mostly all on “the Facebook,” mind you – regarding what really defines masculinity and how the whole feminism movement is “ruining” whatever it is people are finding it ruin. I can see what all the hooplah is about though: men are suddenly getting pulled out of their comfort zones – being confronted with the sudden realization that “what makes a man” can be based on societal expectations. Uh oh, SpaghettiOs.

While I think we could talk for eons about the whole subject, I felt like sharing something that I hope would bring up a discussion of how the world can be full of expectations when it comes to defining roles and how it is really isn’t a norm.

Get this awesome patch here.
One of the things I saw on Social Media. Get this awesome patch here.

Once upon a time – and this may be hard to believe – but I was younger than I am now. It was the early nineties and I was busy watching cartoons with my closest friend and brother. Cartoons such as X-Men, Transformers, Denver the Last Dinosaur, and so on. When we weren’t doing that, we’d play games on our Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Bros. 2, Guerilla War, Clash at Demonhead, Blades of Steel, BurgerTime, and many more.

Sometimes we’d find ways to incorporate the video games into our imaginative world of pretend play. We’d re-enact games like Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge by playing the game, then running around as an X-Man character. This also worked when we played road hockey after playing Blades of Steel. “Get the pass,” we’d say. Although we probably heard it as “Hit the Pads” or “Make the Pass” as the language in the game was a pretty garbled mess.

We’d also all watch the G.I. Joe animated series. We had a lot of fun with our action figures and on the odd occasion, we’d pretend we were G.I. Joes. We’d play the NES game, Captain Skyhawk and pretend we were on a mission to do whatever it was the Joe’s had to do. Fight Cobra? Defeat aliens? I don’t know. Why we just didn’t play the G.I. Joe game for NES still boggles my mind to this day.

However, when we played G.I. Joe, we picked who we’d pretend to be. My friend always chose Duke. My brother was either Snake Eyes or Roadblock. Me? I was always the bad-ass javelin-throwing Joe, Lady Jaye. We’d spend hours in front of the television and hanging out with one another as we defeated whomever it was we had to defeat in the video game – then we’d take the fight outside and pretend to fight Cobra as well. We were kids – it was fun!

Lady Jay? More like, Lady SLAY!
Lady Jay? More like, Lady SLAY!

Looking back at it now, no one ever told me it was “weird” to pretend to be Lady Jaye. All of us just picked a Joe we liked and was that person for the few hours when we pretended to be G.I. Joe’s. My parents never said anything to me about it. Talk about progressive parents. It probably made as much sense to them as seeing us young Canadian boys pretending to be Real American Heroes.

To me, Lady Jaye was and is still just another one of the Joe’s.

Later in my life, I picked up the G.I. Joe cartoon series on DVD and ploughed through it all. Reflecting on my childhood, you know what? Lady Jaye really was a bad-ass. The writers on the show did an excellent job not making sexist or misogynistic characters. And even if they did for an episode, the female Joe’s proved them otherwise.

Lady Jaye, Scarlett, Cover Girl, The Baroness, Dreadnok Zarana, Jinx – all of them kicked some serious butt. They were written as equals and no one ever said otherwise in the cartoon show.

Scarlett wrecks Dreadnok Torch
That time Scarlett didn’t give a damn what Torch thought

I even remember an episode dedicated to just showing how awesome the women Joe’s were. Spell of the Siren featured Lady Jaye, Scarlett, and Cover Girl as they had to rescue every male-Joe who was brainwashed by The Baroness. I can’t think of any other show that I grew up with that did anything similar to that outside of the X-Men animated series with Rogue and Storm. Even both cartoon shows managed to pass the Bechdel test!

It’s interesting to go back and see why I wanted to be Lady Jaye: she’s simply an incredible character! As a young boy, I never saw her as anything else but someone to look up to. As an adult, I still see the same thing.

Admittedly, I’m speaking solely about the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero TV series. While even the early Marvel comics have shown her in a positive light, a simple Google search can show you what she’s currently like in the mainstream – especially since the second live-action G.I. Joe movie.

Scarlett, Cover Girl, and Lady Jaye from "Spell of the Siren"
Scarlett, Cover Girl, and Lady Jaye from “Spell of the Siren”

While I’ve tackled some other obvious issues regarding the way women are portrayed in comic books and in cartoons, I have to say that I’m completely surprised and impressed how these Joes were written and portrayed.

What my parents thought of me wasn’t based on them telling me how to live. It wasn’t them imprinting their expectations on me. They were letting me be me. And if you ask me, I think I turned out just fine.

But to my main point: Lady Jaye didn’t fill the traditional role of a woman or a man. She was her own person. When one thinks of G.I. Joe, few people would think women would be included in that group – let alone being able to name one of them. They’re JOES after all. You’d expect no women, right? But that’s the thing about societal expectations: what you think you know is not always what’s right. And while some of you may be thinking, “She was seen as one of the Joe’s because she was written like a man,” try re-reading what I wrote above and think about why you’re wrong.

I know I’m just barely scratching the surface with this topic, so for any comments, questions, concerns: sound off below!

Comic Book Video Games: A Brief Run Through

I’ve been playing a LOT of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for my Xbox 360 as of late. Yes, it’s the game based off of the Edward Norton movie, however, it’s actually pretty good.

To elaborate on what the game is like, imagine you’re playing Grand Theft Auto 3, but you’re the Hulk.

Incredible Hulk: Ulimate Destruction

I’m not kidding! (And take THAT, Bi-Beast!) The Hulk game features the actual landscape of Manhattan – landmarks and all – for you to destroy. It’s a vast improvement on other superhero video games, and I’m always drawn back to it because it’s open-ended, mindless destruction, yet constant fun. It’s sort of mind-boggling how well the game is crafted despite it being based off of a movie, as usually movie-based games are garbage. It’s far-superior to Eric Bana’s movie-based game, simply called Hulk, and of course, it is much more dimensional than the original Sega Genesis game. And no, not just more “third-dimensional.”

But I do believe that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best superhero video game ever created. (Awaits the Billy Madison references). It captures everything which is Batman in a brilliant and exciting game. There’s no doubt about it, Arkham Asylum nails the board on the head when it comes to make a great game. Although it does not have much replayability, it triumphs in excellent gamepaly. It did such a great job in fact, that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was trying to imitate the scope of the game.

Now that I have myself thinking. . .

Spider-Man Game Boy

Let’s go back to when these games really started to rise. I obviously cannot talk about EVERY game, but I’ll try to hit the main ones on the head. Most importantly, ones I’ve played.

The earliest superhero game I can recall playing was The Amazing Spider-Man on my Gameboy, back in the 90’s. Look at those sweet graphics. You can almost tell it’s Spider-Man from them! All I can remember was always being out of web-fluid. Man, being Spider-Man IS hard. With no power came tons of responsibility to beat this game.

Silver Surfer Nintendo

But the game was not as hard as the Silver Surfer. This game would have me screaming at the television, while throwing my Nintendo controller away, freezing my console and possibly wrecking a vase or three. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now the notoriously difficult struggle this game was to everybody who played it. If you made it past the first stage on any level, you’ve gone further than I have. I mean, look at Mephisto’s face there. He’s scary as heck, and he wants me to get through his level without touching anything? You ask the impossible, sir.

X-Men Spider-Man Arcade's Revenge

Does anyone else remember The Tick? He was fun! He was a breath of fresh air after the mind-numbing game play of Silver Surfer. In fact, him and Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge were a blast! A large variety of characters to chose from: Spider-Man, Cyclops, Storm, Gambit, and Wolverine – each with their own levels. Oddly, Cyclops had his X-Factor costume in-game, but I’d just be looking like a real nerd if I’m reaching for continuity in a Nintendo game. I still remember seeing the commercials for this game back on my VHS copy of the X-Men pilot episode “Pryde of the X-Men.”

That’s right. I own it – Australian Wolverine and all.

Incredible Hulk Sega Genesis

Lucky for me, after X-Men another great game came out: The Incredible Hulk for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I remember paying $50 back in the day for this game at a local independent video game retailer. Yeah! Those existed too! You started off as Bruce Banner and had to get beaten up to turn into the Hulk. And man, it was a blast! Villains like Rhino, Abomination and Tyrannus were such thrills to fight – but challenges too. I always had a hard time beating Tyrannus – who was the second-last boss, next to the Leader.

Spider-Man Maximum Carnage

Since Marvel was kicking so much butt in the video game business, why not release something else crazy? Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage was probably one of the most exciting video games to be released in that day. With a large roster of villains, an over-abundance of cameos, plus playing as Venom – this game was a child’s dream! Cloak and Dagger! Hooray! Too bad that the game was SO FRIGGEN’ HARD! I was always to happy to play it, but once you get into that second stage, climbing the building, it was all over. I hate you, Shriek!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Fortunately at this time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade fell into my lap. Suddenly everything became brighter. I don’t think I need to say much about this game. It was, and still is the best TMNT game in existence. It surpassed the first game immensely, while made us laugh at how repetitive the third game was. This is what defined side-scrollers to me at such a young age. This game was, and still is, relentless fun. Unfortunately, the fun of side-scrollers were about to fall into the gutters again, when I played X-Men for the Sega Genesis. I just couldn’t win, could I? Faulty game play, plus ridiculously difficult levels made for a frustrating series of questions like, “Why did they make this game?” or “Why did we rent this again?” Ah, as kids, we didn’t know what we were doing.

X-Men 2 Clone Wars

Well X-Men learned from its mistake, as X-Men 2: The Clone Wars came out with not only a great game, but had such an effective first-level song that I still play on it my bass guitar every-so-often. I can still remember teleporting with Nightcrawler becoming tremendously more fluid than that of its parent game while the controls also smartened up. Beast was fun to play as, while Psylocke also made a great player. No one ever plays as Psylocke. I did! She rules. Result!

Batman and Robin Sega Genesis

Speaking of results, The Adventures of Batman & Robin was another great game. Based from the animated series, this DC game triumphed where Batman Returns failed, and Batman Forever was going to fail. Not to mention, it just looked really sharp and clean in comparison to Batman Returns.

With the release of the PlayStation, the world was lucky to retrieve my favourite Spider-Man game to-date, aptly called, Spider-Man. With the original voice actors from the ’90s cartoon series for Spider-Man, Doc Ock, and Black Cat, this game was a sure-fire hit for me. Bonus marks were awarded to this game with incredible alternate costume selections, including Captain Universe, plus a great alternative gameplay: What If? mode. I can remember countless hours of my life going into this game as it was probably one of my favourite releases for the PSX. The game was released on the Nintendo 64, however the What If? mode was removed for it. Lamesauce. The sequel wasn’t too bad either. Y’know, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro?

Spider-Man PlayStation

Speaking of lame, remember Superman for Nintendo 64? It was probably one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Nothing says “Superman” like literally flying through hoops for points. Aquaman GameCube Not to mention, the graphics were beyond sub-par for a game of its caliber. There was really no excuse for this mess. And to continue this mess from DC, none were as atrocious as Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis for the Nintendo Gamecube. What’s that? You didn’t hear of it? Neither did the rest of the world. Lucky them.

Much like the first X-Men game which improved with a sequel was the X-Men Legends series with X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. The first game was a bit of a flop with graphical issues and camera angles ultimately ruining the gameplay, but the sequel was mind-blowing fun. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of ApocalypseOnline multiplayer, mixed with a great roster of characters, Marvel and Activision went all-out with an incredible game and tons of nerdy tidbits for X-Men fans from all over.

Shortly after Legends 2 release, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction cames out, and still, I’m having a blast rampaging throughout Manhattan. Whatta rush!

But no! Another Marvel mutiplayer-based game comes out, and pummels away with another great sequel: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2. The first game featured a unique storyline about Dr. Doom taking over the world, and also features over 140 Marvel characters throughout the entire game. A well-paced, well-rendered game with monumental cut scenes left my jaw dropped to the floor. Its sequel featured stories from Marvel’s Secret War and Civil War storylines and added in quite a hefty amount of Marvel’s B-listers, showcasing how vast the Marvel Universe is. Although the story was not nearly as exciting as the first game, action and excitement lurked every corner. Not to mention the game made me feel terrible after I beat up Patriot for the first time. The second time – not so much.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Following Marvel’s run of great games, DC fought back hard and rocked the boat with Lego Batman: The Videogame. If anyone has played any of the Lego-based games thus far, you know how much fun they are. Simply put, the Lego games bring out the child in all of us, while Lego Batman brought out the fanboy. Mixed characters from all over the Batman universe appeared and made for excellent gameplay.

Batman Arkham Asylum

And with DC’s Batman, up next could only be the greatest superhero game in existence: Batman: Arkham Asylum. ‘Nuff said.

With Batman: Arkham City coming out shortly, plus Marvel’s new games, Thor, X-Men Destiny and Spider-Man: Edge of Time coming out, we’ll be riddled with plenty more superhero games and more memories to be made. P.S. Edge of Time is written by X-Factor’s Peter David. I’m really excited for that!

And don’t worry that I hadn’t mentioned EVERY single game out there. I’m purposely forgetting games like X-Men: Mutant Academy, Marvel: Rise of the Imperfects, Marvel vs. Capcom series (as it’s not 100% comic hero), Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Spider-Man: The Movie, Fantastic Four, X-Men Origins, X-Men: Arcade (“Welcome to die!”), Astro Boy, Iron Man: The Movie, plus various X-Men and Spider-Man Game Gear games, etc., solely because they’re forgettable.

Since I can, I suppose my top-five favourite superhero games are as followed:

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
2. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
3. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
4. Spider-Man (PSX)
5. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse

What are yours? Did I miss anything really crucial that I should have covered? Am I entirely wrong with some of my discussions? Do I just really suck at The Silver Surfer? Fire some messages below!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’.

Oh. And The Fantastic Four. PC. 1985. Don’t you forget it.

Fantastic Four PC