SOV Flashbacks Classics – SNIX Series

Welcome back to Rotten Ink! For this update in our countdown to Halloween 2020, I decided to do something a little different and not cover a comic series or even a horror host. Instead, I’ll be covering a shot-on-video horror movie series from the 90’s that was made by James Rolfe, who is better known as The Angry Video Game Nerd!

This series was something James made with friends that ended up growing into something that is very slowly gaining its own cult following and could also be sparking a new generation of indie filmmakers into wanting to make their own films.

James Rolfe started out much like myself as he was a fan of classic old monster movies and enjoyed very much being creative and would do projects with friends or even solo to get it done. When I was a kid, I made my own comic books like Benny The Squirrel, Robo-Raccoon and Miss Freedom, to name a few. At the same time, armed with my tape recorder, I would do my own radio music and dramas as well as comedy skits, mostly about paranormal themes. But one of my biggest outlets for my creative mind was writing short stories, as I would spend so much of my time putting pen to paper and creating characters and the worlds they lived in.

And when I discovered movie making back in 1998, I was hooked on the creative outlet as the films “Teen Suicide” and a short time later “Suicide 2” and “Twisted Batman” were projects my family, friends and I created together and would lead to me making “Werewolf Of Ohio” and “Werewolf Of Ohio 2: 10 Years Before” that would spawn “The Wolf Hunter”, “One Second Too Late”, “Nightmare” and so on over the years! When thinking about Halloween time, I think of backyard shot horror movies that I grew up watching on TV and VHS, like “Trail Of The Werewolf” and “Frankenstein Stalks,” and that’s why I think it’s the perfect time of the year for me to cover the Snix film series and take the Snix Pack Challenge!

For each film, I will write about the plot, my thoughts on the film and will in the end give it a report card grade on the classic A-F scale. Now keep in mind, it would not be fair to grade SOV films like you would a big budget Hollywood Movie or even a bigger budget indie feature, that’s why ,much like I do for fan films, I will be grading these on their own scale — a scale of true to life backyard cinema, the true shot on video warriors of the camcorder days. I chose to start my SOV film reviews and topics with the SNIX films because to me it’s clear that James Rolfe had and has a love for making these movies like filmmakers Chris Seaver, Henrique Couto, Matt Hoffman and Dustin Austen, all of whom in my opinion are the godfathers of backyard films for my generation. So if you are ready, let’s see what this James Rolfe horror comedy short series has in store for us this Halloween season.

SNIX
Starring – James Rolfe & Philip Smith     Directed by James Rolfe
1993     Not Rated     12min     Cinemassacre       DVD-R     Letterbox

Movie: SNIX was killed 3,000 years ago. The evil ghosts he controls are held behind a door, and a young girl sets the spirits free by accident! Two friends Jim and Philip are in the house, and the evil ghosts are targeting Philip as they want him to put on the mask of SNIX so he can live again. The ghosts torment him all around the house to put the mask on…and he does! SNIX has now taken over Philip, and armed with a sword, he starts to stalk Jim all around the house! Jim is able to get the sword and comes up with a plan to take off the mask and try to save Philip, but he must take on the Ghosts who want to protect SNIX. After beating a ghost, he gets a delivery of a special box that takes away all the ghosts by using fear on them. Jim then comes face to mask with SNIX, and he uses the box once more that frees a creepy old man who brings down SNIX. The mask is burned to keep try and stop him once and for all. In the end, Jim cannot help himself and looks in the box himself and passes out from fright.

Thoughts: The first film in the SNIX series is a little rough to get through as it was clearly made by James when he was around 12 years old, and he cast himself and his friend in the lead roles and neither at the time were skilled actors. But to be fair, that cheesy acting is part of the charm of shot-on-video backyard films. The plot is simple: a young girl unleashes ghosts in a house by opening a closet door. The ghosts use their haunting powers along with the mask of SNIX to get one of the two young boys in the house to wear it, and when he does, he becomes SNIX and it’s up to the other to stop the evil again. SNIX spends most of the film as just the mask and demanding to be put on. Once he becomes whole again, he is defeated by the creepy old man (that is really just art pages from a kid’s book done with voice over) pretty quickly and his cursed masked is burnt up. SNIX is not a major threat nor are his ghost minions that are running wild through the house. Jim is our hero and armed with a sword and a magical box that just so happened to be delivered as he runs around his house kicking supernatural butt! Some of the fun parts of this film are when you can clearly see parents in the background and they are just going about their normal day as James and his friends are running around with a plastic sword and a mask made from construction paper. The film is bloodless, as to be expected from a film made by a 12 year old with a zero dollar budget, and of course the plot is not great but shows lots of creativity from James as the essential elements of a spooky story are there. Like everyone’s early films, it just sometimes gets jumbled. This is a good start for the series as it’s clear that it will only go up from here. One other thing about this first film is that it goes from Letterbox to Full Frame from scene to scene!

Grade: C-

SNIX: The Return
Starring – James Rolfe & Brian Genk     Directed by James Rolfe
1996     Not Rated     21min     Cinemassacre       DVD-R     Full Frame

Movie: Three years later, Jim is at his house telling his friend about the mask of SNIX and how Philip put the mask on and was brought down by the old man’s box of fear. SNIX’s mask has returned and is now trying to get Jim to put it on as he wants to be reborn again! Jim tries his best to get his friend to see the mask, but every time the friend looks, it disappears. When Jim is finally able to pick it up, he makes the mistake of putting it on and goes after his friend who tries to fight for his life….but the mask jumps to the friend as he wants his revenge on Jim for defeating him three years ago and chases him around the neighborhood. Jim uses a small stick to beat down SNIX and escapes, but once inside his locked basement the ghosts show back up as does the creepy old man who informs him that he cannot defeat SNIX alone and that they are related and together they can bring down SNIX with the Box of Fear and luck. He once more captures the ghosts and uses the sword on the mask and removes it from his friend, throwing the mask out the window. Then they bury it for good measure, this time hoping SNIX will stay dead.

Thoughts: The second film in the SNIX series plays up the comedy and has the mask playing mind games against Jim before taking over his new friend and trying to kill Jim. This time around, Jim is a little older and a tad wiser, and armed with his Box Of Fear, he once more captures the ghosts and uses the sword to bring down the evil of SNIX. Jim is a hero much like Ash from the Evil Dead series as he doesn’t want to be the hero of the day and thus far seems to fall backwards into defeating the evil mask and his ghost minions. Jim also seems at to be bad luck for anyone that he is friends with as two times now his friends get possessed by SNIX and they are lost to evil. They also add a new plot twist as The Old Man with the Box of Fear is related to Jim and in fact is the one who claims to have brought the evil SNIX down those thousands of years ago. SNIX in this one is just the mask for large parts of the movie demanding to be put on and then jumps from Jim to his friend with the goal being to kill Jim! In the host body, SNIX wanders around and tries his best to frighten and scare Jim at every turn. The ghosts are around, but as fast as they show up, they disappear as that weird old man and his box return to help. This sequel does have some blood in it as Jim is cut by his friend with a knife to the arm, showing that the budget must have been a tiny bit higher than zero. It’s also clear that this film is half spoof and half remake of the original film, and from what James has said, he even used the original paper mask for this one. SNIX: The Return is a fun silly watch and even though the picture quality on the DVD-R I have is not great, it was still fun to see how James was growing as a filmmaker and how the legend of SNIX was growing. And keep in mind James made this film when he was only 15 years old, so I have to give him props for pulling it off as it’s hard to make a solid horror comedy.

Grade: C-

SNIX: Again
Starring – James Rolfe & Brian Genk     Directed by James Rolfe
1997     Not Rated     22min     Cinemassacre       DVD-R     Full Frame

Movie: In 1693, SNIX was a powerful warlock who stole souls and was defeated by a master swordsman who left his body on an island to rot. But SNIX went after the swordsman and caused him to commit suicide in order to save his own soul. That swordsman was Xins, the Old Man with the box of fear, and he is also a spirit that is always in a fight with the evil of SNIX. Jim now understands the true nature of SNIX and the goodness of Xins, and now three months after he buried the mask, he and his friend go back and dig up the SNIX mask and take it back to Jim’s home. Once more the mask tries to force its way onto Jim’s head but fails as Jim places it into his fireplace and before he sets it ablaze, a creep headless body appears and saves it, knocking Jim out in the process. Jim calls his friend over and when he arrives, he is chased around the house by SNIX who is holding a plunger as a weapon. The young man fights for his life against the possessed Jim who was forced to wear the SNIX mask. In the end, the young man leads SNIX into the woods and is able to help Jim get the mask off, and this time around they flush the mask down the toilet….ending his rampage for now.

Thoughts: The third film in the shot-on-video cult classic series brings the true history of SNIX to light and highlights that three thousand years ago he was indeed a true force of evil and something to be truly feared and then goes into the fact that SNIX is back again only three months after we last saw him! This time around Jim understands the true evil nature of SNIX and is coming to grips that the Creepy Old Man named Xins, the keeper of the Box Of Fear, is one of his past relatives, but he still makes a dumb move when he digs up the mask with the idea to burn it again, only to find himself possessed by it and on a rampage to get his friend! The friend is the true hero of this story as he out smarts the possessed Jim and is able to get the mask off him, and together they flush the sucker. SNIX is now shown to also have a headless body wandering around who for some reason has a sock for a hand. It makes you wonder what will happen when, in a future sequel, the two will come back together. This sequel is clearly scripted, as James has stated. and this helps give the film a little structure and takes away some of the more odd moments the other films had. The downside to this sequel is that Jim’s motivation does not make sense at times, and while I can forgive it, I still have to point it out, as this is something that so many shot-on-video film heroes do…mine included. The film is bloodless and once more plays up some humor, much of which has a Scooby-Doo feel to it. This film has a cool animated opening, and I really do like that they dive deep into SNIX’s back story as up to this point it was kind of lost in the shuffle of the series as he had no real backstory. When this one was made, James was 16 years old showing that being creative really was in his blood. While not an amazing SOV film, it is a quick fun entertaining one that adds a little more legacy to SNIX and his cult character status.

Grade: C+

The Rotten Corpse Of SNIX
Starring – James Rolfe & Brian Genk     Directed by James Rolfe
1998     Not Rated     21min     Cinemassacre       DVD-R     Full Frame

Movie: Three days after being flushed down the toilet, SNIXS returns. His headless corpse is still wandering around preparing for something big and that’s to bring the mask back. Now SNIX is whole and looking for revenge! Jim is once again on the run as SNIX goes after his friend with murder on his mind. Jim goes to the Temple of Xins and chats with Xins and learns that the Box Of Fear has been stolen and that Jim is the chosen one to kill SNIX and is given a special sword to do so. All the while, SNIX chases Jim’s friend all around town and before he can kill him, Jim shows up with his new sword and has an epic sword fight with SNIX that leaves the warlock decapitated and his rotten body thrown from a window. Jim takes the mask, and this time places it on train tracks where its run over!

Thoughts: The fourth film is the SNIX series is lots of fun and has the evil warlock monster SNIX becoming whole and targeting Jim and his pal who have defeated him movie after movie! In this film Jim finally gets that he is in fact the only person that can bring SNIX dow, and he now has no fear of the evil warlock and uses his gifted sword to bring the monster down. That’s the one thing about the Jim character at this point, he really has grown from being a scared kid to a sword-swinging hero who is more annoyed that the evil mask keeps returning. His friend in this movie also gets a name, Brian, and this time around he is a major target of SNIX who seems to get enjoyment chasing him all around town with the goal being to catch him and choke the life out of him! Xins himself makes an appearance in the film and is no longer just pictures from a book, but is a costume that glows, and he sadly loses his Box Of Fear (that is used to bring the mask back from the toilet) and passes down his very own sword to Jim that was used to kill SNIX some three thousand years ago. I like the outfit for Xins way more than the pictures as the character now comes off more ghostly. Our ever-returning villain SNIX becomes whole in this film and is filled with mischief and rage as he once more targets Jim and Brian. This time around he even uses a sword with the goal to chop up Jim. But as always, he is defeated, and this time around his mask is run over by a train that shreds it into pieces. I like SNIX’s look in this film as he has a real video game island bad guy look to him. The film has a little blood that is used in the sword fight between Jim and SNIX, and James Rolfe said that at the time this was the longest film for him to make as it took 10 months due to actor schedules. The Rotten Corpse Of SNIX is a great cheesy shot-on-video film that really does capture the fun nature of backyard filmmaking and is one that I think fans of this micro genre of horror should check out. It’s the best in the series this far. I should note that James was 17 when he made this entry in the long running series.

Grade: B+

The Possessed Mask Of SNIX
Starring – James Rolfe      Directed by James Rolfe
1998     Not Rated     13min     Cinemassacre       DVD-R     Full Frame 

Movie: Only three hours after destroying the SNIX mask again, Jim returns home to find the mask of SNIX in his fridge wanting to be put on! He tapes the fridge shut, but the mask once more follows him around the house asking to be put on as Jim is quickly losing his cool and is getting mad as he wants to be done with this evil curse once and for all. The SNIX Mask tricks his way on to his head for a moment, but a quick fall from a chair knocks it loose and Jim this time throws it outside and looks at the mask via the basement window, that is until the mask returns inside again only to be washed in the washing machine. Xins appears and tells Jim that he needs to really stop SNIX once and for all and that the Box Of Fear is still in Jim’s bathroom. He warns him the scariest thing in the world is still in the box. Jim then comes face to mask with the mask of SNIX, and this time after a quick chase and lots of beating the heck out of the mask, Jim thinks he ends the terror burning him up in the fireplace. But as the mask burns, SNIX warns him that he does not need the mask; all he really needs is something to possess!

Thoughts: We are five movies into the SNIX series, and this time around it’s just a showdown between Jim and the mask of SNIX who really wants to be put on and restart his reign of stealing souls. But it’s clear by this fifth film that Jim has really had enough of SNIX and wants to figure out how to stop its curse once and for all, and does what he can to ignore the mask while thinking about what he can do to kill it or at least get it to leave him alone. The ghost of Xins is hanging out in Jim’s basement. He also seems like he wants the curse of SNIX to end and tells Jim that he is the key to stop him. I like how they say all the ghosts are taken care of as they got flushed down the toilet to get the mask back and then Xins captured them all again. One odd thing is they call The Box Of Fear the Box Of Horror in this sequel. The Mask of SNIX also comes off like he just wants to be such a pain in the ass to Jim and is taking pleasure annoying him throughout his life. I also think that when he is set on fire, he knows that this will not end him, and in fact I think this allows his evil spirit to travel beyond just the mask…just a vibe I was getting. The pacing of this film is super fast and is clearly just a sequel that is used to help build up to the final film in the series. This one has zero blood and showcases what James at age 17 could pull off just by himself with some assistance from his family. While not as good as the previous film in the series, this one is a good chapter to build up the world of SNIX and shows that he is angry and wants his revenge on Xins’ bloodline and the world.

Grade: B-

The Banishing Of Evil Spirit Of SNIX
Starring – James Rolfe & Brian Genk          Directed by James Rolfe
1998     Not Rated     14min     Cinemassacre       DVD-R     Widescreen

Movie: Only three minutes after being set on fire, SNIX is back again and Jim makes a quick phone call to Brian to get over to his house. He calls his pal Joe as well to come over to help bring down SNIX…you see Jim is calling in all his pals to help in this fight! But sadly as his friends rush to get to him, the evil spirit of SNIX starts to possess Jim who now becomes the one and only SNIX! Joe is being targeted as SNIX’s next victim as Brian runs home swearing to never visit Jim again.. With the voice of Xins guiding him, Joe gets the Box of Fear and uses it against the evil warlock to knock him away and then beats the possessed Jim with a gold club till he is out cold. As Joe sits on the couch tired from the battle, the spirit of SNIX enters the TV and threatens the world that he cannot be stopped! While SNIX is in the TV, the spirit of Xins appears and uses all his energy to take him and SNIX to the spirit world, ending the evil Warlock’s reign of terror. Jim wakes up, and he and Joe look into the Box Of Fear and find it to be empty as whatever terrible thing that was inside was flushed down the toilet by the body of SNIX when he used the ghosts inside the box to get the mask. In the end Jim walks down the road knowing that he and his friends stopped the evil right there in New Jersey and that the rest of the world will never know about the horrors that could have been unleashed on them all.

Thoughts: The sixth and final film in the SNIX series is a clear love letter to the character that James created when he was only 12 years old and was a way to tie all the movies together as well as finally bring it all to an end. This time around SNIX enters the body of Jim and turns him into SNIX himself. He wants to kill Joe who is a friend of Jim’s and sadly was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as always, the power of good brings down evil as Xins’ ghost comes to the aid of the young men and rids the world of SNIX once and for all. In this movie Jim knows that SNIX will return in three minutes and does what he thinks is right and that’s bring in his friends to help, and then for most of the movie he himself becomes the snarling evil SNIX! That’s right, think Ash from Evil Dead II when he is possessed and that’s what happens to Jim until he is beaten down with a golf club and has his soul saved by Xins. Throughout this series Jim has faced the evil of SNIX six times and has been a hero and a victim as well has grown into the savior the world didn’t even know it needed. Philip, Brian and Joe are the friends who sadly get caught up in all this madness just because they are friends with Jim and each has changed in some ways with Philip getting the worst of it as once he is possessed, he disappears never to be seen again! Brian has battled, been chased and almost killed by SNIX, and by the end of the series it’s made clear that I think he is done hanging out with Jim ever again. And Joe is just a poor young man who got sucked into the madness after he saw Jim throw the body of SNIX out the window in the fourth movie, and he has to become a hero himself. The ghost of Xins is the story’s real main hero as over three thousand years ago he took SNIX for the first time, and in this final film he is the one that takes him away again. I have to stress I like the glow in the dark/black light costume better then the art from the book version of Xins. SNIX goes from just a haunted mask to possessing people to even finding his old rotten body and wanting to come back to rule the land so badly. The only thing in his way is kids that ruin his plans, resurrection after resurrection! And while he is a soul eating, master of ghosts, he still is a very playful and goofy villain who talks like a cartoon bad guy and even does weird little dances. When he takes his mask off, I love the fact he looks like a stranger version of B-Actor Tor Johnson, fun stuff. While the final film in the SNIX series is not prefect, it still was a great fitting ending to a film series that meant something to James and his friends when they made it.

Grade: B

The SNIX film series is a great look at the beginning days of James Rolfe and his Cinemassacre Productions and is a great tool for inspiring filmmakers to watch as each film shows how James grew as a filmmaker, from his camera angels to his scripts. And now he is one of the best YouTube celebrities going. It’s also a great time capsule of the golden days of home camcorders as well as New Jersey from the eyes of young kids during the 90’s. Plus each of these movies have vintage intros to them done by James that give you a little more insight to each film and the motivation of its creation. I love hearing how he used two VCR’s to edit the films as that was the same way my brother edited his first film, Twisted Batman. Plus hearing that he also used in-camera cuts to edit parts of the film reminds me of some of my early days making backyard films. As of this update, it’s been about 22 years since the final SNIX movie was made, and while I am sure James and his crew will never make another, I for one would love to see him make one last film in the series and use all the knowledge and resources he has now to make one last epic SNIX flick…I mean come on, James could play Jim again and imagine roles for Mike Matei, Justin Silverman, Kieran and Tony from Hack The Movies as they all run away from the evil SNIX…just saying, you know you all would watch it. Honestly, it would also be lots of fun to do a SNIX comic book mini series at Blood Scream Comics as the character should live on and entertain the masses again. Over all while the SNIX films are not prefect, I will say that they are entertaining and show that all creative minds started somewhere.

I hope you enjoyed this update about this shot-on-video movie series as I had lots of fun working on it. I have been thinking about covering more movies here on Rotten Ink, and I am looking at covering films from the following genres: martial arts, sword and sandal, fantasy, westerns, indie horror, Mexican horror as well as, of course, more shot-on-video. And don’t forget, I will still be also looking at fan-made horror films. Plus, I will also be taking a look at talk shows that I grew up watching when I was a kid as seen on my Talk Back update that was about Morton Downey Jr. talking about slasher films that will be joining the ranks of Made For TV Movies and Specials! And I will always have a place for horror hosts as they are some of my most favorite updates to write for my blog. And do not get worried as comic book reviews are still my bread and butter, and they are and will always be the main focus of Rotten Ink as they are what sparked the blog and have kept me writing this long!

So as you can see, lots of great write-ups are coming your way in the next few years, and I truly hope you enjoy reading these updates as much as I enjoy writing them. For our next update, we are walking away from the world of SOV Films and will be heading to The Colony, a nice resort in the middle of the woods and tonight it’s supposed to be a full moon….so you know that the werewolves will be Howling! That’s right, we will be taking a look at the 1981 film The Howling and the Space Goat comic mini series based around it. So until next time, read an indie comic or three, watch a shot-on-video flick or two and as always, support your local Horror Host. See you next update for some quality time with Marsha Quist.

A Very Merry NES Challenge Christmas Eve: Dragon’s Lair

Merry Christmas Eve to all you readers and friends, and this year has been a weird and wild ride for me as lots of great things have happened, from moving into a new home to making amazing comics with my friends at Sparkle Comics and even getting to travel to Evans City Cemetery twice this year! But sadly this year has also been a rough one for fans of horror as we lost many of our icons like George A. Romero, Tobe Hooper, Martin Landau, Michael Parks, Bill Paxton, Umberto Lenzi and Lon Madnight and each loss was very sad. Not to mention the world of entertainment lost many other names like Tom Petty, Bernie Wrightson, Adam West, Jerry Lewis, Chuck Berry, Ivan Koloff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, George Steele and Basil Gogos to name a few. So make sure this holiday season to cherish your family, friends, co-workers and celebrities and anyone who offers something to your life. So let’s get back to the joy of the holiday and our topic at hand: Dragon’s Lair in the world of video games, cartoons and comics, and yes, I will even have an NES Challenge and try my best to try and beat the game! So grab your armor and helmet as we are about to go on a winter wonderland adventure with Dirk The Daring!

The hero of the world of Dragon’s Lair is the one and only Dirk The Daring, a high ranking knight for the kingdom who is selected to save the Princess Daphne from all the evil that keeps trying to kidnap her and do her harm. Dirk is well respected by the Kingdom as he is very loyal and brave and later even becomes the husband of Daphne, making him an heir to the throne! Dirk was trained at a young age to be a brave knight as he was in the Squire Scouts and even earned top badges during this time. When ready for battle Dirk gears up with his iconic armor that includes his orange over shirt and uses his sword as well as his fists, feet and head in order to fight off his enemies. I should also note that Dirk The Daring was only chosen to save the Princess after all the other knights in the Kingdom failed and were killed on this quest! So to sum up Dirk The Daring it would be this, he is a brave, loyal and smart knight who is willing to risk his life to save the Princess from a dragon and wizard and for this selfless action even finds himself the heir to the crown! Dirk The Daring is a very simple character who embodies the classic knight of old lore and is one iconic and yet sometime forgotten classic video game character.

In 1983, arcades were all the rage as machines were all over the place from pizza parlors to grocery stores.  These machines gobbled up many of players’ quarters as games like Pac-Man Jr., Donkey Kong 3 and Mario Bros. had eager gamers waiting in long lines to get a chance to try to get the top score on the machine! And during this early day of arcade machine domination, cartoonist Don Bluth and writer Rick Dyer created an interactive animated laserdisc game that as well took the arcade world by storm and even sparked sequels and many homeports of the game! The arcade game was such a hit that it, along side Pong and Pac-Man, are the only three arcade machines stored at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.! The game has been ported and remade for many home systems like Sega CD, Xbox, Playstation 2, CD-I, Nintendo DS and so many others including cell phones! In 1990, the game was released by Imagesoft, who made the game more of a side scrolling adventure game and took away the animated character of Dirk The Daring and made him into a 8-Bit hero of the home console generation as the game followed the same plot of the arcade game and turned up the difficulty to deliver a true challenging game. But with this change and the difficulty level came frustration as Dirk can be killed with one hit and almost everything can kill him including closed doors. This made gamers and critics go crazy, and the game was not well received and is considered as one of the worst games for the NES. So now that we have a brief history of this game and we learned about its over all poor reception from gamers, I can’t wait to spend a day trying to beat it on the NES!

Really quick I also need to briefly talk about the episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd where he took on Dragon’s Lair for the Nintendo Entertainment System! Back in 2007 for episode 37, The Nerd took a funny and frustrating look at Dragon’s Lair and went crazy trying his best to beat the game for the NES and found out that the game is brutal and unforgiving and nothing at all like the arcade game it was based on. Try after try he ended up losing his character’s lives and losing his cool in the process! This is a very funny episode that has the nerd drinking to try and deal with the brutal nature of the game and ends with him bumping into a close door and dying just like the character of Dirk in the video game. If you like crude and funny humor videos on YouTube, give this one a watch as it’s a good one.

In 1984, a cartoon of Dragon’s Lair was released by Rudy-Spears Productions for ABC and was part of the sadly long gone Saturday Morning Cartoons. The toon followed Dirk The Daring as he once more did his best to save and protect the lovely Princess Daphne from evil such as Singe The Dragon and Phantom Knight and at the end of each episode we are left with a cliffhanger leaving the viewer wondering how Dirk is to escape his approaching doom. The cartoon was short lived and only lasted 13 episodes and would later be replayed in reruns on USA Cartoon Express and Boomerang where it found a new audience. Voice actor Bob Sarlatte voiced Dirk The Daring while Ellen Gerstell lent her pipes to Princess Daphne. While this cartoon was not super popular and never made a huge impact in the world of toons, it was released on DVD thanks to Warner Brothers and now fans can relive it or even discover it for the first time. I remember barely it and know that I have seen episodes on USA Network but sadly don’t remember much about it besides I liked it.

Before I get into the NES Challenge part of this update, I want to also talk very briefly about some of the cool merchandise that has been made based on Dragon’s Lair that included coloring books, picture books, DVDs, comics, video games, stickers, plastic toys, trading cards, lunchbox and even very cool action figures! So what I am trying to say is that if you’re a fan, you can get yourself some cool items or heck maybe even ask Santa for some next Christmas! I think the action figures are pretty dang cool and are something that I feel I must track down.

So I decided to take my NES Challenge of Dragon’s Lair on November 8, 2017 as Juliet had to work all day and I was itching to try and tackle this legendary hard game! So starting at 9pm I hooked up the old RES (Retro-Bit Entertainment System) and grabbed my NES Controller and was ready for the show down of a lifetime! I poured a large glass of water, grabbed my iced coffee and opened a small bag of chips and cleared my head of other projects I was working on and knew that I had to take control of Dirk The Daring, as he needed to save Princess Daphne…so here is what happened in my showdown: upon starting the game up I noticed that the good old RES is starting to have some issues and that the controller has having major issues as it acted like it was not plugged in, and after working on it, I finally got it to work and my first impression was wow this game sucks as the controls seem delayed and this causes you to be open to the attack of the sea monster that is the first baddy you encounter! Plus while bats only drain your energy such things as rocks, doors, fire and most other bad guys can kill you in one hit! After playing for a few moments and lots of frustration, I was able to get into the castle and then that’s when the major frustration kicked in as the slow sloppy controls, one hit kills and random pop up enemies all kept causing Dirk to die and me to start the quest all over! No matter how much I tried, I was stuck in that damn dungeon and was driven to anger on just how terrible this game I was playing really was! After several hours of playing I really built up a strong dislike for the game and quickly forfeited to its suckiness, and I am not ashamed to say I did not beat Dragon’s Lair for the NES as its terrible controls made it a waste of time in trying to play as it seemed like it was fighting you not to advance. Below are some pics of me playing this game….man it was so bad!

So that NES Challenge was a waste as I found myself really disliking the game play and the delay really annoyed me to the point I just needed to walk away. But we are now at the point of the update where we will be taking a look at the comics based on Dragon’s Lair, and we will start with the Cross Gen series and work our way into the Arcana release. So as we sit here waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney, the snow man in the front yard would like for me to remind you that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story! So grab some hot chocolate or even some eggnog and let’s take an epic Christmas Eve journey with Dirk The Daring! I also want to thank Lone Star Comics, Ebay and Amazon for having these comics in stock so that I could do this update.

Dragon’s Lair # 1  ***
Released in 2003     Cover Price $2.95     Cross Gen     # 1 of 3

The evil dragon Singe has his sights on revenge when it comes to Dirk The Daring, and this revenge has also sparked pure hatred and bloodlust of wanting to see our hero dead for all of the dragons he has killed in the past! Princess Daphne has been asked to run the Kingdom while the King is away, and as she and Dirk are on their way there, they are attacked by Singe and his smaller sidekicks.  Soon Dirk and Daphne find out that this dragon is super powerful as he defeats Dirk and takes Princess Daphne prisoner. After waking up from his defeat, Dirk The Daring heads to the Kingdom and finds a group of heroes that want to help on his quest to get the Princess back that are Leraene, the female Captain of the Royal Guard, and Drake, a young wizard’s apprentice who uses what little knowledge he has to look into the flame and sees lots of enemies and the dark castle that Singe is hiding the Princess in. Dirk tells his friends they must stay and guard the kingdom, and he finds that Daphne is being held in a magical bubble that in two days will warp her mind and cause her to be Singe’s slave and that the only way to kill Singe is by using a magical sword called the DragonFang that is as well in the castle. Dirk has the info he needs and gears up and heads out to save the day as our first issue ends.

The is a very fun and slow burn fantasy adventure comic that does its best to bring the video game characters and universe to the comic book world, and in my opinion they do a pretty good job of doing so. The plot is simple, that the granddaddy of all dragons Singe is mad at Dirk The Daring for killing many of his kind and wants revenge and sets out his plan that includes kidnapping the princess and taking her to a place that will be filled with lots of dangers all with the hopes of ending the life of Dirk! Our hero is Dirk The Daring, a noble and strong knight who does not back down in the face of danger and will do whatever he can to protect The Princess who he respects and loves. Dirk also kind of has an ego but not to the point that he is narcissistic or cruel to characters around him he just is very confident and don’t have time for those who drag their feet around him. Daphne, while a princess, is also very much a skilled fighter, and while she was kidnapped during this issue, she at least tried her best to fight back even biting the dragon, so clearly she is not your typical weak princess kind of character. Singe is a massive dragon who is not only powerful and filled with fire breathing rage but also is super smart and has hatched a plan to get revenge. I really cant wait to see what Singe has in store for our heroes. Drake is a goofball but his limited magical knowledge could come in handy, and Leraene is skilled and a great warrior to be at Dirk’s side in this rescue quest. I also am looking forward to seeing what they will offer in the upcoming issues. While the action of this comic is at the start and the rest is building up the story, I found this first issue to be a solid read and showed that CrossGen understood the folklore and character history of Dragon’s Lair. The cover is eye catching, and I am sure not only brought in fans of the video game but also adventure comic fans. The comic’s interior art was done by Fabio Laguna, and is top notch classic animated looking art showing they hired all the right people to make this comic book work! Over all I am looking forward to reading issue two, and can’pt wait to see what Dirk The Daring and his friends are planning on this rescue mission.

Dragon’s Lair # 2  ***
Released in 2003     Cover Price $2.95     Cross Gen      # 2 of 3

Dirk The Daring enters a creepy swamp, and after finding a Hydra Snake, he finds himself in quicksand and must hope that his trusty horse saves him in time. Meanwhile Singe thanks that Dirk died from their first battle and Princess Daphne soon finds out that the Dragon has many human brides that were once princess as well and that soon she will loose her free will and become one of his brides as well! As Dirk is saved by his lucky horse who is named Bertram ,and they find themselves at a dark castle that belongs to the Lizard King who is helping Singe and wants to do his best to kill our hero! As Bertram leads the alligator henchmen away from the castle Dirk and Lizard King have a fight that leads the evil Lizard King falling out of a window and into the mouths of his hungry alligators who eat him alive, as Dirk The Daring and Bertram head toward the dark castle of Singe.

In this second issue, Dirk The Daring fights the Lizard King (no, not Jim Morrison of the band The Doors!) as well as all the creepy crawlers of the swampland and gets one step closer to rescuing his true love. Dirk The Daring is focused on his quest at hand, and once more proves he is not scared to risk his own life in order to save his Princess. I also really like that Dirk on his quest is really leaning on his trusty horse Bertram for backup and boy does this horse help pull his fat out of the fire a couple of times. Dirk is a great hero in comics just like he is in video games, and in this issue he acts like a true knight! Singe is once more shows that he is cold blooded as he enjoys the fact that he has enslaved many of Princesses and that he killed Dirk The Daring or so he thinks. The Lizard King is a loud mouth little reptile man who tries his best to end the quest of Dirk but is out classed when it comes to battle and finds himself dinner for his very own pet gators! I really like the dingy swamp atmosphere in this issue as it adds a feeling of dread to the quest and is filled with snakes, spiders and killer lizards showing that many sinister things are going to stand in the way of Dirk’s rescue mission. While the first issue was part action and part story drama, this second issue goes for mostly action and only a small part drama making for a quick and fun read. The cover is pretty cool and once more eye catching for fans of the game and adventure comics. The interior art is once more done by the talented Fabio Laguna and is great stuff. This second issue is just as entertaining as the first, and I can’t wait to see what the third and final issue has in store for Dirk The Daring and us the readers.

Dragon’s Lair # 3  **1/2
Released in 2003     Cover Price $2.95     Cross Gen     # 3 of 3

Princess Daphne finds herself stuck in the bubble, and none of the other Princess will help her escape as the mind washing of free will is creeping even closer, and Singe himself has the only key to open the bubble around his neck! Meanwhile Dirk The Daring and Bertram have entered a graveyard and soon find that they are being surrounded by zombies and skeletons that want both man and horse dead as they are craving death and souls! Dirk and his trusty horse fight the horde of the undead and even trick a massive skeleton into destroying himself! After they escape the graveyard they make their way even closer to the castle of Singe.

This issue is lots of fun but also slips a little as I found it to be a little lackluster on the adventure part, and Dirk fighting the undead seemed like it was just him running through them and them exploding into piles of bones…and I never felt he was in danger in this issue like I did in the past two. But while this issue is not as solid as the past two, I still want to stress that it is a very good issue even with this slight flaw. The issue’s thin plot has Dirk The Daring charging through a graveyard filled with the reanimated dead while Princess Daphne tries to figure out how to escape the magical ball she is trapped in as it’s trying to drain her of her own will and mind. Dirk and Bertram in this issue are once more working as a team and do well for themselves in this battle, and Dirk’s sword cuts down their enemies, as does the mighty back kick of Bertram.  They make a great comic duo and are top notch heroes for sure. Princess Daphne, even while captured, proves that she herself is also a warrior as she is not giving up and tries all she can to escape the odds that are clearly against her. It’s a shame that CrossGen lost the rights of Dragon’s Lair comics, and this was the final issue in their series as it leaves the story unfinished and Daphne still in that dang bubble! Singe is a sinister and sleazy dragon as he eats people, bosses princesses and makes them dress sexy and seems to get joy in causing death and destruction. The Undead, while they swarm in masses, they just were outmatched by Dirk, and they mostly just fell apart after one hit making them no major threat. I think what works for me about this series this far is the fact they did a fantastic job of blending the Dragon’s Lair video game and the cartoon together to make a fun and entertaining comic series that brings all the elements that made Dragon’s Lair special together. The cover on this third issue is okay and in my opinion is a little generic, but still also somewhat eye catching and the interior art is once more done by Fabio Laguna and is top notch stuff as he captures the mood and spirit of the characters. I think the downside to this comic series is that CrossGen dropped the ball when they did not finish the story arch as three issues are missing to make this series complete. But lucky for readers, in 2006 independent comic company Arcana decided to finish this series and allow readers to see how the adventure quest ended. I feel its my duty to track those down to give you all a true look at Dragon’s Lair so let’s see what is next of Dirk thanks to Arcana! And not to confuse any of your readers I will number them as if they are part of the CrossGen set, but keep in mind while it will say its issue 4 for Arcana it’s only issue # 2!

Dragon’s Lair # 4  **1/2
Released in 2006     Cover Price $3.95       Arcana     # 2 of 4

Dirk The Daring and Bertram find themselves at a flowing river of lava and must split up in order to get across. Dirk dashes across on boulders and finds that he is not alone as Mud Men appear and attack! Dirk decides instead of fighting them and wasting what little time he has left to save the Princess, he dives below into a river that ends up leading him to the castle of Singe. Meanwhile inside the castle Princess Daphne tries to trick Singe and his slave women into believing that she is indeed wanting to be a part of his harem but soon finds the dragon king is smart and knows she is playing games in order to escape. Dirk meanwhile has entered the castle and finds all types of ghouls and baddies waiting for him that includes small purple ones that are multiplying! Dirk outsmarts them but soon finds himself behind a door that leads to a fire pit and attacking purple enemies behind it!

Dirk furthers his quest as he makes it past the Mud Men, out runs tiny purple knife swinging goblins and makes it to the castle of Singe! While this is a great adventure and continues the quest, I did once more feel that none of the baddies he faces are any threats to stopping him! Dirk The Daring as always is super brave and shows that he is also smart as when time or the odds are against him, he knows just they way to get away safe. Bertram is barely in this issue as he breaks away from Dirk in the lava river and disappears.  I hope they don’t write him out of the series and that he comes back in the next issue. Drake and Leraene also make a small cameo as they can see what the Princess is doing and mostly chat about her sexy outfit…weird. Princess Daphne however is still not giving up the fight and wants to murder Singe with her own bare hands if she can escape the bubble! Singe is getting cocky as he thinks Dirk is dead and that the Princess will soon be mind wiped and his slave forever. The Mud Men and Purple Goblin guys are cool but are easily tricked and are left in the dust for the most part. I do like the idea of Mud People and for some reason it made me think of the Muck Men in the 1980’s horror film Spookies. The cover for this issue is pretty fantastic, and the interior art is once more done by Fabio Laguna and is topnotch stuff. So over all it was great to see the next issue in this series after Cross Gen dropped the ball withnot finishing it. So let’s see what the next issue has in store.

Dragon’s Lair # 5  ***
Released in 2006     Cover Price $3.95       Arcana      # 3 of 4

Dirk The Daring is stuck on a small ledge above a fire pit with the creepy little purple goblins behind him and climbs his way out and dodges a horde of bats before entering a chamber where a beautiful dark haired woman is asking Dirk for his help. The woman is brainwashing Dirk that she is the true one she needs to help and while seducing him, he notices that she is not a hottie but a green skinned witch! Meanwhile Princess Daphne’s will is starting to break as she is down and almost given up as Singe tries to tell her he is not the bad guy that Dirk is as he has killed many of his dragon children and he is doing this for revenge…and that he is evil! Dirk meanwhile fights off the trance, and the witch calls in the Black Knight, an armored killing machine, who throws Dirk around and just as he is about to choke our hero to death the Black Knight gets his arms cut off by a gasping Dirk who then also kicks his armless foe out of a window. The Witch is now very mad and tries to use a spell to turn Dirk into a statue, but our hero is too smart for her and her spell bounces off a mirror and freezes her. As Dirk leaves her room he falls through a trap door!

This fifth issue is really good, and my only major complaint is that for some reason Dirk The Daring spews one-liners like Ash from the Evil Dead movie series, and it’s just not fitting for Dirk. The plot of this one is very simple Dirk is now in the castle where his true love is being held captive while she is being tormented by the evil dragon. Dirk in this issue gets seduced, wises up and hacks up a knight who is trying to kill him…so as you can see Dirk is a man on a mission and will not back down from his quest at hand. Singe is an evil dragon that really does get joy is torturing his captive prisoner and who clearly likes being powerful and in charge. I also like how Singe at first makes it that you feel bad for him as he talks about the reason he is doing this is cause Dirk killed so many of his children and he felt he needed to get revenge for them, and then says plus he is just evil and enjoys all the bad he does. Poor Princess Daphne is starting to loose her strong will as it appears she is stuck with no hope of being rescued before the next full moon and her mind is turned to mush and she becomes another bride of Singe. The Witch is sinister and uses the appearance of a very hot woman to lure Dirk in and when he finds out she is not what she appears she wants him dead and is indeed a threat! The Black Knight as well is very much a threat as he only has one thing on his dark mind and that’s to kill Dirk and even when his arms are chopped off and is kicked out of a castle window he still is silent and its clear he would still fight Dirk until his very last breath! The plus for this issue for sure is the fact The Witch and Black Knight appear as if they could in fact kill Dirk and both at least put up a major fight. The cover is super cool and I am sure caught many eyes of comic readers and the interior once more is done by the talented Fabio Laguna and man its really sad that we only have one more issue to go in this series so lets see how this quest ends.

Dragon’s Lair # 6  ***
Released in 2006     Cover Price $3.95       Arcana      # 4 of 4

Dirk The Daring falls hard to the ground after stepping onto a trapdoor and shakes off the effects and finds himself at the gold treasure room of Singe who is fast asleep.  As he makes his way to Princess Daphne, it’s clear the bubble is starting to make her dumber and when all the other slave women freak out over seeing a real man, a screaming match breaks out and this awakens Singe who is ready for battle. Dirk tries all he can to defeat the dragon from his trusty sword, an ax and even a spear and nothing seems to slow Singe down, but this is all a plan as Dirk tricks Singe into melting the stone that traps the DragonFang sword, and he uses this blade to slay Singe and is just in time to get the key from around the dragon’s neck and free Princess Daphne from the bubble, and by shattering the bubble, this also frees the minds of all the other slave women and once more Dirk The Daring is the hero!

This final issue is fast paced and has a good and fantasy final battle between Dirk and Singe that leads to an ending fitting even for the game, as almost the whole issue is the final battle and it ends with a sword to the heart of the dragon. Dirk The Daring shows why he is considered the top knight of the kingdom as he uses both skill and smarts to slay the dragon and free the Princess. That’s one thing about Dirk throughout these six issues he stays as noble and heroic making him a true hero and icon of video games and comic books. While he can also be goofy and stumble around, it was the one-liners in issue five that was the only thing I didn’t like about the comic version of this character. Princess Daphne in this issue is becoming dumb and her will is almost broken, but once save she is the kick butt woman she needs to be and becomes a great character that can also defend herself. Princess Daphne is a great character and while her captive outfit might border on porn star look, she still is a very strong female character who does not play the victim even when she is in trouble. Bertram is a loyal horse who in his own right is a hero as he saves Dirk’s life many times in this comic and is also very brave, the down side is when Arcana took over doing the comic series this horse takes a back seat and only appears at the start of issue 4 (2) and does not show back up to the very end of issue 6 (4) making him a minor player when he should have been major. Leraene and Drake are very much background hero characters and in fact add nothing really cool to the story and could have been cut out and it would have not mattered to the story. Singe is a great bad guy as he is not only a massive dragon but he is also sleazy and dangerous who enjoys all aspects of being evil! I also like the fact he is ready to fight and kill any hero who dares cross his mean spirited path. The other baddies in this comic series are just speed bumps in Dirks quest with The Black Knight being my second favorite villain in this series being Singe. I must say I do think that the creative team behind these comics really did a great job of capturing the fun and epic feel of the Don Bluth’s video game. The cover for this final issue is pretty great and show cases Dirk with Singes image in his sword. The Interior art is once more done by Fabio Laguna and is good stuff as even some of his rushed looking panels are still amazing! I also like how in this issue a panel has golden statues of Orko from Masters Of The Universe as well as one of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker! I also really like the fact that this comic series when dropped by the original publisher was able to be finished three years later thanks to a Publisher who picked up the slack and allowed fans to get the full story. If you’re a fan of the video game and or the cartoon this comic series is for you! Below is some artwork form this fun adventure series.

So as you can see, while the NES game based on Dragon’s Lair is a stinker, the comic series was not. Growing up I never had a full connection to these characters but always did at least find them cool, and I really wished I had read these comics when released in 2003/2006 as I think I would have even enjoyed them back then. But I just finished my last glass of eggnog, and I think I can hear reindeer hooves on the roof so I think we should get some slumber so Santa can do his work. Our next update will be my Best Of Cinema of 2017, and man ,I am looking forward to you readers checking it out. So have a wonderful Christmas, and I will see you all next year!