Monthly Archives: February 2009

Save-It Saturday: Shuma-Gorath.


shumashuma shumashuma

Shuma-Gorath has commanded my attention since he first appeared in the Capcom video game called Marvel Super Heroes in 1995. He has a large, single eye and huge, annoying tentacles. His abstract essence embodies the purity of desire, free from the detailed annoyance of politics and petty squabble. In the video game, his special move is called “Chaos Dimension,” and when he beats a hero into a pathetic pulp, he taunts the vanquished in a funky voice, calling him or her a “waste of flesh.” When I am looking for a crazy character to become visually enamored with, it doesn’t get any better than that—unless, of course, it includes a fishbowl for a head.

Today we are featuring Jim Nelson’s Shuma-Gorath in the inaugural sailing of the Save It Saturday ship. I will be transplanting one of my old Metagame articles over here as an archive each week while I watch Wacky Races and Banana Splits on Boomerang Channel.

Eventually the links won’t work and the images will not appear, but at least we will have the text for posterity. Enjoy.

Risk Vs. Reward: Aesthetic Obsessions

Rian Fike
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“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.”


When we first lay eyes upon a brand new set of Vs. System cards, we automatically begin to connect with it through the artwork it contains. We are visual creatures; the organs we use for sight have gained a commanding influence over our entire being. Even when we try to deny their power, we are still tight on the leash.

Since the eyes have it, the soul is guided and formed by whatever personal optical preferences have developed within the individual. You like what you like, and I like what I like—it makes us who we are. As an art teacher, I could spend this entire article explaining in intricate detail the reasons for the success of certain images . . . but you will still like what you like. Certain colors, characters, and compositions will always command your aesthetic allegiance. Some pictures just grab you and never let go.

My life is dedicated to the visual arts. I am aesthetically obsessed. Four objects of my deepest devotion showed up last Saturday at our local Marvel Team-Up Sneak Preview tournament. My eyes are still burning.

I really like Thanos, Shuma-Gorath, Mysterio, and Linda Blair. Let’s take them in that order. Thanos embodies the deepest contrasts in the human experience. His palette is made of complimentary colors, which are actually opposites. Purple is the antithesis of yellow, and Thanos is the most hateful lover of all time. His heart is undyingly loyal to Death. He courts her with an obsession that is unmatched in all of romantic fiction, and he looks really cool while he does it.

Thanos is also a collector. His stash of Infinity Gems is now complete, thanks to the Marvel Team-Up set. Ego Gem is here, and the game may never be the same. The ability to draw extra cards in order to feed whatever risky strategy your aesthetics demand has never been this sparkly. Our new 0-cost jewel of an equipment card looks like fabulous fertilizer for fanciful freaks around the globe. It’s a beautiful thing.

Shuma-Gorath has commanded my attention since he first appeared in the Capcom video game called Marvel Super Heroes in 1995. He has a large, single eye and huge, annoying tentacles. His abstract essence embodies the purity of desire, free from the detailed annoyance of politics and petty squabble. In the video game, his special move is called “Chaos Dimension,” and when he beats a hero into a pathetic pulp, he taunts the vanquished in a funky voice, calling him or her a “waste of flesh.” When I am looking for a crazy character to become visually enamored with, it doesn’t get any better than that—unless, of course, it includes a fishbowl for a head.

How do I love Mysterio? Let me count the ways. Pink and green is my favorite two-color combo of all time. He has a cape, an awesome set of wrist sculptures, and lots of smoke. Best of all, he has a big, round glass globe to cover his visage. That is too cool. I think it’s the sense of abstract art coming to life that sucks me in, but it also makes his facial features pretty easy to draw.

Mysterio is always creating elaborate performance pieces to confound his enemies. When Francis Klum took over the fishbowl mantle as the third incarnation, his work was more impressive than ever. Peter Parker was employed as a teacher at Midtown High School when Mysterio’s latest evil illusions transformed the whole building into the most intense and realistic haunted house—right in the middle of the school day!

I didn’t get to play with Francis Klum ◊ Mysterio in my Sneak Preview deck, and no one played him against me all day. The fun was fully fleshed in spite of that, especially since I had a tiny touchstone to one of the most attractive public figures I have ever seen.

Linda Blair was possessed in The Exorcist, and she scared us all silly in the process. Then she came back all grown up in Exorcist 2: The Heretic. She has owned my soul ever since. My choice for Most Beautiful Actress in Film History now has a very tenuous connection to Vs. System thanks to Frank Drake. The Nightstalker is also devoted to our demonic diva—after all, he named his gun after her.

Frank Drake is more than just a great painting. His power is strong, non-team-stamped stuff if you can drop him on turn 1. I packed his firepower in my 30-card gallery for the Sneak Preview, but I never did draw him in time.

When the clock struck twelve to start the tournament, I busted my five packs and instantly turned into a Sleepwalker. I received two copies of the fancy flipper, and one of them was foil. I also had a risky finisher; Elektra, Leader of the Hand was ready to laugh maniacally if she ever got to fall into a truly hilarious fit of somnambulating beats. The meat of my deck was diabolical. I adore the Underworld, especially since I pulled myself into Death’s Embrace. It was a Strange Love indeed.

The first round was a treat that I had been anticipating for a long while. Gerren Clarke is one of my favorite local players, mostly because of a sick little Constructed deck that he has tuned to perfection. Let me tease you with the basics:

4 Longshot, Rebel Freedom Fighter

12 GCPD Officer

12 Shadow Creatures

4 Kiman

1 Starro the Conqueror

1 Anti-Monitor

4 Qward

Gerren told me about his JSA experiments with the deck, adding Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Allied Against the Dark, and The Rock of Eternity to make the police brutality more vicious than ever. I will never get tired of talking about strategies like that.

Eventually we had to play the match. Gerren jumped out to an early advantage, hitting his full curve from 1 to 5. I was catching up slowly, with Luke Cage, Neighborhood Watch becoming Underworld-friendly, followed by N’astirh with a Teleportation Ring. That paved the way for a furious Hellstorm of recurring plot twists and a mad Mephisto, Mephistopheles. Gerren missed his turn 6 recruit completely, and Elektra mopped up with initiative on turn 7 even though she didn’t get to go sleepwalking.

In the second round, I sat down against another local player, this time the central hub of our Miami Hobby League community. Dennison Fonseca makes sure we order the kits and keep the home fires burning. Now that we have the City Championships looming on the horizon, the house is going up in smoke. In case you haven’t heard, one Vs. System player will soon be immortalized on an official superhero trading card. Personally, that is the best reward I can imagine. Life is about to imitate art, and vice versa.

The match came down to one tiny endurance point, as Dennison swung his Spider-Man, The Amazing Bag-Man for just barely enough on turn 6. We were so excited by the upcoming City Championship that we hardly noticed who had won. Hobby League will never be the same, no matter what our records were at the Sneak Preview.

With one loss, I moved on to the next round against one of my Draft Party buddies. Mike Lovett is getting better and better at this game, and he displayed his skills on this day. I got frisky with Dweller-in-Darkness and Captain America, Heroic Paragon, trying desperately to stave off the final attack from Spider-Man, Stark’s Protege. Alas, it was not enough. At least we had Pro Circuit Indianapolis 2007 practice plans to make when it was over.

The final match of the day was against the classiest man in town. Rob Escalante is the kind of player that you would like your son to grow up to be. I will never forget watching him remind his unaware opponent that the defender recovers after a Validus stun. (This was with a PCQ Top 8 on the line!) Rob would rather lose with honor than win in a suspect manner. We should all strive to have his integrity.

Rob is also a mainstay of our Hobby League, and we spent time dreaming of City Championships and the opportunity to get one of our faces on a card. Then the match began and he had to underdrop on every turn after 2. We laughed for ten minutes as he was forced to turn his Beast, New Defender into a real beast when it was Banished to the Abyss while wearing a Teleportation Ring. A 2-drop with 1 ATK / 9 DEF is nothing to sneeze at, but it sure will make you chuckle. For some reason his deck just wouldn’t wake up, and my Sleepwalker trick was finally able to take flight. Elektra, Leader of the Hand soaked up a whole lotta love, and then flipped the script for the win.

My eyes have seen the glory of Marvel Team-Up, and it has made a definite impression. I’m sure you also have some new paintings that you can’t stop thinking about. Visual pleasure is increased, and our lives are that much better for it. Just think how intense the fixation will get when the City Championships crown one of our own in the halls of trading card game history. The optical endearment may last forever.

Rian Fike is also known as stubarnes and he only has eyes for you. Send a rundown of your favorite paintings to If you include a full decklist, he will research the myths that go along with it and publish your personal aesthetic obsession in a future article.

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Filed under Comic Books, Greatest Hits, Magick, Save It Saturday, Vs. System

Age of Apocalypse Preview: Second Wave.


(Original art Rogue sketch cards by jessasketch.)

Vs. System is getting a second wind, and today I have the honor of previewing its new fan-created Second Wave. The card is pretty amazing. Not only does it bring some of the most pure power ever for the one-cost army freaks among us, it features our darling Rogue.


Yes, my War Paint just got its wish. All those Infernal Minions wallowing in the graveyard are dancing wildly in response. While I go tell Tattooed Man about our good fortune, you can head over to and upgrade your favorite flavors with the new Age of Apocalypse raid deck.

It will put the wind back in your sails.



Filed under Marvel Masterpieces, Vs. System

Vs. System Allows Magnificent Wins.


avalancheriders1  wild

Vs. System is so deep.

There are layers and layers of engaging ways to play. Since each comic book myth has been explored so thoroughly, a simple trading card game can expand to encompass an entire container in the psi-bank of human culture. Since the game mechanics of Vs. System are so brilliantly designed and meticulously executed, the game demands massive brainpower and challenging mental exercise. Since the myths and mechanics combine to foam out a monster from the cardboard laboratory that would have never arisen without this testament to human creativity and culture, hybrid heavens of all shapes and sizes dance deliriously downward onto the Earth plane by filling each Vs. System fanatic with memories and dreams of their favorite way to win.

What’s yours?

(Click this link to participate in our poll – or just grin, knowing that such triumphs are possible.)

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Filed under Rambles, Vs. System

Age of Apocalypse Preview: Unus and The Infinites.


I have a love/hate relationship with Unus, the Untouchable. Back in 2004, I had the privilege of being a member of Team Realmworx. We entered Pro Circuit Los Angeles with two favored decks, and I was not up to the brain drain of Teen Titans. That left me with The New Brotherhood.

It allowed me to play Unus. Ryan Jones, our teammate, christened the card “Unus the Humiliator”. If you could beat someone with such a pathetic character, your opponent would be shamed beyond recognition. I won a feature match against Chris Price with it.

The TNB deck did not take me very far beyond that, but Ryan Jones won our team the rings. $40,000 in one big check and the rest is history.


Four years later and Vs. System has entered an alternate timeline into the future. Unus is coming along with an updgrade. Thanks to the wicked wiles of the Illuminatish card creators at, we are blessed with a bouncing baby raid deck for the Age of Apocalypse and our lovable laughingstock has gone large.


In the beginning, there was a major switch. Professor X’s son Legion traveled back in time to kill Magneto and prevent the bad things that his Brotherhood would eventually do. Xavier chased the time trail and jumped in front of the bullet. Legion unwittingly killed his father, retroactively erasing himself from existence. Seeing the sacrifice that the professor offered, Magneto vowed to fight for good instead of evil. Even the mutant-hating shiny purple Sentinels had a change of heart. The Age of Apocalypse was born.

The year was 1995, and the Marvel Comics mutant superstars were expanding their stage. Parallel alignment of loyalty flipped the script; villains of all kinds were now forming allegiances of honor and righteousness. The other side of this redeeming alchemy also allowed Apocalypse to murder millions of humans in order for our heroes to show us how to triumph over the terrible. It was a drastic metaphor. Apocalypse set up “culling” programs—imprisoning and breeding people for the purpose of extracting their genetic material and creating an unbeatable army of Infinites—in order to maintain his tyranny forever. Some of my favorite characters entered the fray as the eternal battle was engaged in a new incarnation.

Yes, Unus was involved. Since this was an alternate timeline, his embarrassing death had not occurred. Indeed, Rogue was given command of her own team. The Astonishing X-Men miniseries was the time to shine for our beloved redhead. Undoubtedly, the appearance of a swarming force of Army characters made me smile that weenie smile. It was a story after my own heart.


Now I have a few new cards after my own heart. I can’t wait to print them out and transport my kitchen table into the Age of Apocalypse. Unus, all is forgiven. All the way to infinity.


Filed under Comic Books, Vs. System

Weekly Wonder Word: Center.


(Center of Hope by Sweet Pandemonium.)

The best part of teaching every day? Giving advice to growing minds that I need to follow myself.

When life gets sloppy and scary, remember your center. Things spin slower in there.

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Filed under Rambles

Two-tone Tuesday.





I have showcased original art from the sketch cards randomly inserted in Upper Deck’s Marvel Masterpieces many times before, but today we start a new tradition.

Tw0-tone Tuesdays are here.

Our first artist is Otis Frampton, with his very distinct style.

Those make me grin from ear to ear, but obviously Two-tone Tuesday’s can’t be a solo act. Therefore, I will tickle you into a two-tone tizzy by signing off with some similarly simple pallette action from Pat Carlucci.

If you dig this stuff and can’t get enough just like me, head on over to and search for Marvel Masterpieces and see. You’ll be glad you did.


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Filed under Comic Books, Marvel Masterpieces, The Interwebs Rock!

Kate Winslet: Academy Award Winner.


She should have won for Titanic. She could have won for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sense and Sensibility. She did win for The Reader.

Our favorite girl finally has her little golden man, and we could not be happier.

Here is a photograph of the luck ritual circle of handmade party masks greeting the guests as they arrived at our house for the celebration…


Kate Winslet is the 81st Academy Award Winner as Best Actress. Party on!


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Time Magazine Calls It: Kate Winslet Will Win Her Oscar.



During the red carpet interview on E! Channel before the ceremony, Kate Winslet was shown the new Time magazine cover announcing her as “Best Actress”. I don’t know how they knew the result prior to the announcement, but it is the result we wanted so badly.

I can’t wait until they make it official.

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A Little Bit of Watchmen while you wait.



Those are some keen Watchmen teaserkids from for your antsy pleasure. Yes, we are less than two weeks away from the big screen debut of Walter Kovacks. It’s good, it’s really good, but that’s all you are getting out of me until March 6th.

Stay hungry, but don’t expect the squid.


Filed under Uncategorized

24 Hours Until Oscar: Kate. Must. Win.




Okay everybody, it is almost here. Kate Winslet’s Academy Award is within reach and we must do everything we can to finally get it into her hands. Cross your fingers, light a candle, sacrifice a goat. Do whatever you can to help it happen. We can do this.

Kate. Must. Win.

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Filed under Magick

Fantastic Friday: Skulljammer.


Can you imagine pulling one of those original drawings from a pack of cards?

Marvel Masterpieces Rules. Especially in the hands of Skulljammer.

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Filed under Marvel Masterpieces

Full Disclosure: Quinjet MEQ-022


Every man wants to drive the best vehicle in the world. If you are lucky enough to be an Avenger or a Vs. System fanatic, your desires will be fulfilled.




That is the original Vs. System Quinjet. It did not see much play, but when I was surfing around to research this preview above all previews, thanks to Adam “Flashback81” Kirkby, I realized that it is already immortal.

On the gamefaqs forums, I found a treasure. See, the Marvel Trading Card video game includes Vs. System puzzles. Much like my Barn Door Challenges and Flashback81’s brain teasers back in the glory days, you must use your wits to solve some of the most entertaining dilemmas using our beloved cards. This one actually demands the searching and usage of Quinjet:




1) Recruit APE X, place front row, choose QUINJET.
2) Recruit NATASHA ROMANOFF, say YES to putting another card in resource row and place ANY CARD except LEGENDARY BATTLES or QUINJET, place NATASHA in any row.
3) Recruit THERMITE, say YES to putting another card in resource row and place whichever card you have left besides LEGENDARY BATTLES or QUINJET, place THERMITE in either row.
5) Equip QUINJET to any of your attackers.

Pass until COMBAT PHASE.

1) Team attack MR. FANTASTIC with APE X, NATASHA ROMANOFF, and THERMITE don’t finish out attack chain stop passing when your attackers exhaust.
2) Play LEGENDARY BATTLES and advance attack chain.
3) Trigger effects in any order, select INVISIBLE WOMAN, say YES to stunning character.

Brilliant, magnificent fun. That, however, is not the reason you are here. Is it? No, you want to see one of the lost MEQ prize cards. Your wish is my command.


Wow. What a powerhouse. The best vehicle ever printed. The most brain-bursting possiblities that Vs. System has ever seen. Each attack, on both sides of the board, will never be the same. I can move any number of dudes? And give them flight and reinforcement to boot? Can you say “Coast City”? Yes please.

Quinjet, Mighty Machine, you remind me so much of Rocket Racer. And that, of course, reminds me of…


…  the single sickest deck in Vs. System history.

Click that link and fly with me back to the Random Punks Greatest Hits. Imagine the infinite possibile destinations that we can visit in our new Quinjet. Then take a deep breath and hit the comment section so we can groove on our new ride. It’s a great day to be alive, especially for us Vs. System fanatics.

(And tomorrow gets even better with another exclusive Lost MEQ preview on the Orange Soda Man’s blog. Check it check it out!)


Filed under Comic Books, Video Games, Vs. System