Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just got sorted.

So, you may or may not have heard about Harry Potter, a series of books where children go to school to study magic. It may or may not have something to do with Satan, that's a bit unclear. Either way, the series has gained some cult following, (in addition to the wild mainstream popularity it has enjoyed) so if you haven't heard of it (ie have been living in a cave, on Mars, for the past 13 years, with your eyes shut, and your fingers in your ears) then it may be worth your time checking out.

Anyways, before kids can learn about magic, they have to be sorted into one of the following houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin. It's done by the very scientific process of putting a magical talking hat on their head. The hat then reads their mind and tells them what house they belong in. Gryffindors are the bravest, Ravenclaws are the most intelligent, Hufflepuffs are the hardest-working, and Slytherins are the most evil. Oh, excuse me, Slytherins are the most ambitious. Which explains why nearly every Slytherin character is portrayed as evil, right?

Well, the Sorting Hat is now available for use by Muggles, (non-magic people) via the internet. I just took the test to see which house I belong in. Here it is:

The sorting hat says that I belong in Ravenclaw!

Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose intelligence is surest."

Ravenclaw students tend to be clever, witty, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
Notable residents include Cho Chang and Padma Patil (objects of Harry and Ron's affections), and Luna Lovegood (daughter of The Quibbler magazine's editor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter Quiz ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Well, that's it for today. And if you want to take the Sorting Hat quiz for yourself, or know someone who might, check it out at

See ya.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Deadliest Warrior: Samurai!

So, why are Samurai so awesome? Because they’re Samurai, duh! But in all seriousness, everybody’s familiar with these guys, the elite warrior class of feudal Japan, who followed the warrior code of Bushido, and practiced the kicking of asses and the taking of names.

But apart from being awesome in battle, Bushido placed an emphasis on loyalty, and self-sacrifice. The seven virtues of Bushido are Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor, and Loyalty. To be called Samurai, a warrior had to practice these in his daily life. Honor was so important to a Samurai that they had a tradition of ritual suicide, practiced by defeated warriors to regain any honor they may have lost.

The act of suicide, called seppuku, involved the Samurai cutting open his own abdomen in a very dramatic (not to mention painful) fashion. Death was dealt to opponents by cutting off their head, or some other blow that would be quick and efficient. They weren’t big into making people suffer, excepting themselves, apparently.

So, on Deadliest Warrior, Tetsuro Shigematsu, a descendant of Samurai, and Brett Chan, a master of Samurai weapons showed us what Samurai weapons could do. The weapons tested were the Katana, the Naginata, the Yumi bow, and the Kanabo.

The Katana is perhaps to most idolized and idealized of swords. And for good reason: It’s awesome! Over two feet long and made of glittering steel, it’s basically a giant razor blade. It’s made with a technique of folding the steel over and over again so it becomes extra strong. Some blades don’t even need to be sharpened, so I’ve heard. But you definitely want to keep them clean, since human blood corrodes steel. One way swords were tested was on human bodies. They were graded by how many people, usually criminals, they could slash through with one stroke. On the show, they tested a blade against some dead pigs. It cut clean through two of them, and partway through a third.

Other swords the Samurai used were the wakizashi, the tanto, and the odachi. The wakizashi was about half the length of the katana, and the Samurai would draw it in situations when the Katana’s length was a hindrance. It was also the sword he would use to commit seppuku. Miyamoto Musashi was famous for using both swords at once. In battle, not to kill himself.

The tanto was basically a knife, but it had the same basic shape as other Samurai swords. At the other end was the odachi, which literally meant “great big sword.” Appropriate as it actually was a great big sword. An odachi was typically five feet or longer. It was often used for ceremonial purposes, and rare was the warrior who could handle such a long blade. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to start something with the guy who could.

The Naginata combined the slashing power of a Katana with the safety of a lance’s distance. It was a spear with a short curved blade, and it was the second most popular weapon of a Samurai. Similar weapons were also used by Buddhist monks in Japan. A guy by the name of Saito Musashibo Benkei used a Naginata to hold off a bunch of guys bent on killing him and his master Minomoto no Yoshitsune. The master had gone to commit seppuku and requested that Saito hold the door while he killed himself, and hold it he did. The guys trying to kill him finally just shot him with a bunch of arrows, but even that didn’t seem to bother him as he just stood there. Somebody finally got the courage to go up to him, and they realized that he’d freaking died while still standing!

Another weapon tested was the Yumi, although at one point in their history, the Samurai abandoned the bow entirely, considering it an ashigeru, or "common" weapon. But it was probably featured on the show to give the Samurai some kind of projectile weapon. A Yumi has the same basic shape as any other bow, but the handgrip is further down on the stave. Shigematsu demonstrated it’s accuracy by shooting out the eyes of a dummy at twenty-five feet. He also shot targets at forty-five feet, calling his shots and making his mark each time.

The final weapon featured on the show was the Kanabo, a weapon that has near-mythical status in Japan. Very few warriors wielded it due to its cumbersome weight, but it was often featured in pictures of Oni demons. In case you didn’t know, Oni in Japan were kind of like ogres are to Westerners; really, really big. The Kanabo was a wooden club with metal studs covering most of the shaft. In the tests, it busted a Viking shield, and shattered the femur of a cow. Imagine what that kind of power would do to your head.

Samurai were also famous for their distinctive armor. Made of leather and metal, it was designed to deflect blows, rather than block them. A very effective design, since if a blow was strong enough to break your armor, it would be better to have it slide off of you instead of standing there and taking it.

So, all told, I’m not upset that the Samurai won, even though I was rooting for the Viking. I mean, if being a Samurai can make Tom Cruise look awesome, who am I to argue with their awesomeness?

Deadliest Warrior: Viking!

Everybody knows Vikings as the bearded guys who talk funny, wear horned helmets, and sing really loudly in Wagnerian operas. What you might not have known, is that they also kicked a lot of ass. They were intrepid explorers, setting out in their longboats, discovering new lands, (including a strange, America-shaped continent hundreds of years before Columbus) and raping and pillaging almost everyone they encountered.

When they weren’t raping and pillaging, they could be found in almost every Scandinavian country. Some of my ancestors were Swedish Vikings. Some Vikings can be found in Minnesota today, but that’s a subject for another time.

Part of their ferocious behavior can be explained by their religious beliefs. In Old Norse mythology, it was believed that in order to go to Valhalla, you had to die in battle. If you didn’t, you went to Hel, which was not the same as H-E-L-L, but it wasn’t much fun. In Valhalla, warriors became spirits called einherjar, and battled each other all day. This was done so that they would be ready for Ragnorok, the final battle. Then, when all the battles were done for the day, the warriors would retire to Odin’s mead hall, where they ate and drank their fill.

Mead was served to them by the Valkyries, beautiful and dangerous warrior women. When they weren’t keeping deceased Vikings entertained, the Valkyries would fly above battlefield, invisible to the eye. They decided who would live, and who would die. One way of honoring the Valkyries was to take a slain opponent, split his ribcage open, and spread it out like a gory pair of wings.

A special class of Viking warrior was the berserker. Going into battle with nothing but a bearskin coat to protect them, the berserkers fought without fear, and without mercy. It was believed that to “go berserk” was to be possessed of a kind of courage that made the warrior invincible. Some berserkers gave themselves so fully to this battle-fury that they even turned on their comrades if they got in their way. Whether the berserkers actually had some supernatural power, or if they were just high on magic mushrooms, is up for debate, but either way, they were not to be trifled with.

So it’s no surprise these guys would wind up on Deadliest Warrior. The Viking experts were Casey Hendershot, a Viking weapons instructor, and Matt Nelson, a Viking combat expert, and descendant of Danish Vikings. You’re in good company sir!

The weapons tested were the Great Axe, the Long Sword, the spear, and the shield. These are pretty common weapons in most ancient cultures, so they don’t much description, but the thing that characterized Viking weapons is an emphasis on sheer power. Mostly, these were weapons that would kill in one blow.

While Vikings did use the bow and arrow, the only distance weapon in this simulation was the spear. Used in melee combat, or thrown, Vikings would often hurl two at once. The shield was a typical round wooden shield with metal studs. In addition to protection, it could be used to bash an enemy’s head in.

Another trick they’d use in battle was to block an enemy’s attack with their long sword, and then quickly draw their dagger and stab them with it. This was usually employed when taking an enemy ship, overwhelming the crew before they could set up a defense.

They also wore thick animal hides, to protect and against the cold, and chain mail, to protect against stabbing. In fact, their chain mail defeated one of the most awesome weapons of all time: the Katana! That’s right, the sword Uma Thurman used to kill a buttload of bad guys in Kill Bill, Vol. One, couldn’t cut through Viking armor.

Another Viking subject worth addressing is music. Specifically, the music style, Viking Metal. That's right, there's Death Metal, Speed Metal, Black Metal, now there's Viking Metal. For a song that totally kicks your ass, check out Into the Battle, by Ensiferum. It's crazy.

So, even though the Viking lost on the show, we at least got to see why you wouldn’t want to mess with these guys. Unless of course, you wanted to be killed. In that case, see in Valhalla!

Deadliest Warrior: Apache!

The Apache are a linguistic group of Native Americans from the American southwest. There are many different groups, but they have many cultural similarities. But I’m not here to talk about their culture. I’m here to tell you why they were on Deadliest Warrior.

It is not known for certain where they got their name, but it could be from a Yavapai word meaning “enemy.” Just knowing their name gives you an idea of their legendary ferocity. Probably the best-known Apache warrior was Geronimo, who, like others before him, waged guerilla warfare to drive white people and Mexicans off his land. Even though the other guys had all the guns, the Apache had other ways to fight.

One common technique was that of a predator silently stalking his prey. Groups of warriors would coordinate their efforts and surround their enemies, some infiltrating the camp, others holding their bows at the ready. By the time an enemy knew they were being attacked, it was usually too late, falling to a deadly assault by arrow and knife.

Adding to their frightening reputation was the practice of scalping defeated enemies, sometimes while they were still alive, (ouch) although, to be fair, they weren’t the only Native American people to practice it, and white people also used it as terror technique against them. The Apache also wore face paint, often using a black and white pattern that mimicked the face of a raccoon. They used other patterns, too, but they all served to make them look scary to whoever was on the ouch-end of their blades.

So, what weapons did the Apache use? Well, the ones tested on Deadliest Warrior were the tomahawk, the knife, the war club, and the bow and arrows. They also used spears, and bucklers made from hide, but these weren’t featured on the show. The experts brought in to test the weapons were Alan Tofoya, a world champion knife fighter, and Snake Blocker, a U.S. Army Combat Instructor, both Apache by descent.

Snake demonstrated two types of tomahawk, one made of stone, and another made from a horse’s jawbone. Both of them can give you a head injury that you’d need more than a band-aid to recover from. After European people began trading with the Apache, steel tomahawks would have been added to their arsenal, but these were not put into play on the show.

The stone knife was up next, and Snake was able to throw three knives at three different targets in as many seconds. In response to critique that if you throw your knife, you wouldn’t have anything to defend yourself with if you missed, Snake pointed out that an Apache warrior wouldn’t have just one knife. He’d have as many as he could possibly carry. Well put, sir!

The bow and arrow was tested against the gladiator’s sling. The bow got the edge for accuracy, speed, and range. Tafoya used it to put so many arrows into a gel torso that it looked like a porcupine. Another fact worth noting was the Apache used more than one type of arrowhead, much like bow-hunting aficionados do today. When asked what his favorite arrowhead was, Tafoya responded, “The one that pierces your heart.” (cue nervous laughter)

The war club was the only weapon that failed in the tests. It could crush a skull, but it couldn’t put a dent in a gladiator’s helmet. Snake hit the thing like ten times, but all he managed to do was break the head off the club. The air of embarrassment around him was palpable, even through the TV screen.

So, even though the gladiator’s weapons were more impressive for shear killing power, the Apache won due to versatility, and probably the fact that they would have been used to fighting people with bigger toys than them. So, Apache, my hat goes off to you. Unless of course, you’re thinking of scalping me. LOL

Monday, January 4, 2010

Deadliest Warrior: Gladiator!

So, now that we know who fought on season one, let’s talk about the warriors themselves, their methods, their weapons, and why they were chosen for the show. Let’s start with the Roman gladiator, and his female counterpart, the gladiatrix.

First of all, the experts representing the gladiator on the show were Ancient Weapons Specialist Chris Torres, Gladiator Combat Instructor Steven Dietrich, and modern-day gladiator, Former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell.

Chris and Steven chose the weapons to be tested, and Chuck wielded a few of them. All the while they spoke of manly things and congratulated themselves for being so manly. Much like real gladiators. The weapons chosen were the Cestus, Sica, Trident and Net combo, Roman Scissor, and the Sling. The gladiator in the fight reenactment was seen with a round shield as well, but none was used in the tests.

Now, if you’re thinking that’s an awful lot of stuff for one guy to carry in a fight, you’re right. The gladiator on the show was a composite of several different gladiators. A real gladiator wouldn’t have all of those weapons on him at once. In fact, real gladiators were divided into classes, each specializing in a certain fighting style.

Gladiators were slaves or criminals condemned to death, but some were paid volunteers. Either way, the Romans wanted to make sure the fight would be entertaining, so they trained these men (and women) in different disciplines and equipped them with different weapons and armor. The gladiator took the oath “to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, to die by the sword.” Let me tell you, against weapons like these, that’s an oath easily fulfilled.

A basic class was the murmillo. The name comes from the mormylos or fish-shaped crest on the helmet. The murmillo carried a gladius, or short sword, and a tall rectangular shield known as a scutum. He had protection on his head, arms, and legs, but if he wanted to avoid a stabbing death, he had to use the shield.

The murmillo was often paired with the thraex, who carried a smaller round shield, and the sica, a curved sword that had the cutting edge on the inside of the curve. Some were double-edged, but the main purpose of the weapon was to curve around the edge of the other guy’s shield and put a hole in his body. One could also use the sica to stab upward through the chin and kill in one hit.

The trident and weighted net were wielded by the retiarius. He wore little or no armor, so his main defensive tactic was to use the net to entangle his opponent, and then stab him from the safety of the trident’s distance. He also had a knife to finish off his opponent, since it was traditional for a gladiator to die from a slash to the throat. He was often paired with a secutor, who was equipped similarly to the murmillo, but wore a different helmet to better protect his face from the trident. And let’s face it, you don’t want to get stabbed in the face with a three-pronged spear.

Some gladiators weren’t given a weapon other than the cestus, the ancient world’s equivalent to the brass knuckle. It was a weighted leather glove that head metal plates, spikes, and studs attached to it. It effectively triples a boxer’s punching power. Chuck Liddell tested the weapon on a side of beef and managed to break the cow’s ribs.

Chuck also tested the scissor, used historically by gladiators of the same name. Not much is known about this type, other than their weapon, but oh, what a weapon! The scissor consists of a metal tube that encases the entire forearm, and a grip inside the tube. The dangerous part of the weapon is a crescent-shaped blade resembling an open pair of scissors. The idea of this weapon was to thrust it straight at a person and split them in half. Think I’m exaggerating? Chuck did the very same thing to a cow.

Another weapon tested was the sling, which as near as I can tell wasn’t used much by actual gladiators, but the show’s creators probably wanted to give the gladiator a distance weapon to compensate for his opponent’s bow. The sling was a simple leather strap that was used to propel a stone at killing velocity. The most famous use of a sling in warfare, of course, was the battle of David and Goliath. On the show it was depicted as being used by escaped gladiators, fighting their way to freedom.

Another couple of gladiators worth mentioning were the hoplomochus and the dimachaerus. The hoplomochus was outfitted much like a Greek soldier or hoplite, with a round shield, a spear, and a short sword. The dimachaerus was the guy who went totally agro with a sword in each hand.

And while they weren’t mentioned on the show, gladiatrices or female gladiators were known to fight in the games. The longest historical reference to them was a scathing passage by Roman poet Juvenal. You can find it anywhere on the internet that references gladiatrices. He obviously doesn’t like women assuming any kind of masculine role, but I’ll bet he never said it to any of them, since there aren’t any historical accounts of Juvenal dying with a sword in his crotch.

Evidence suggests that gladiatrices were armed and armored the same way as their male counterparts, down to the bare chests. And I’ll bet Juvenal enjoyed that, whatever he might claim. Unfortunately, there’s not much else known about them, but if they’re anything like fantasy depictions of woman warriors, they are not to be trifled with. Probably the reason there's little documentation of them is because this was a male-dominated sport, and the Romans considered them an entertaining addition. Still, the fact that they were allowed to fight at all places them in a certain esteem in Roman society.

So now you know a little more about one of history’s most famous blood sports, so there’s not much mystery as to why they would put a gladiator on the show. As far as being historically accurate, who cares? It was an awesome fight. Next up, his opponent, the Apache!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deadliest Warrior

Hey everybody, I’m back! At least until classes start up again. Okay, so I haven’t talked about all the lame cartoon shows I grew up with, but I’ll pick that up again another time. Right now I would like to talk about a new-ish series on Spike called Deadliest Warrior.

Deadliest Warrior is an awesome show about history’s most deadly fighters killing each other to death. What’s not to love? Okay, so the battles are all fought on Slitherine Studios’s computer battle simulater, so no one actually dies.

These three guys gather experts on warriors and weapons and perform tests on dummies, dead pigs, sides of beef, and ballistics gel torsos to see what the weapons would do to people. Geoff Desmoulin designs the tests and operates the high speed camera. Dr. Armand Dorian examines the wounds on the weapon targets and tells everyone just how dead they would be if they were a real person. Meanwhile, the other experts trash-talk each other and congratulate themselves on their manliness. Finally, Max Geiger programs the battle data into the magic computer and we see who wins. And just to be sure the winner isn’t by a fluke, he does this one thousand times. After that, a couple of actors fight it out to show us what the fight might look like.

So thus far, they’ve made nine episodes, and a second season of thirteen eps has been confirmed for spring 2010. Here’s the rundown of who’s the deadliest.

1.) Apache Brave vs. Roman Gladiator

The Apache kills the gladiator, being quicker than his opponent. While the gladiator had armor to protect him, he wasn’t armored in the right places.

2.) Viking vs. Samurai

Well, if my ancestor had to lose out to someone, I’m glad it was the samurai, ‘cause samurai are awesome.

3.) Spartan Hoplite vs. Ninja


4.) Pirate vs. Knight

I didn’t really buy the results here. I mean, yeah, the pirate had guns, but the tests showed that the bullets wouldn’t penetrate a knight’s armor. I guess if they hit a spot where the knight wasn’t wearing armor—oh wait—he’s armored on every inch of his body!

5.) Yakuza vs. Sicilian Mafia

Modern warriors in a five-on-five gunfight! And somewhere, a Yakuza boss is being delivered a gi full of dead fish.

6.) Green Berets vs. Spetsnaz

I’m sorry to say, the Ruski’s beat our boys, but it was a fight almost too close to call. So I wouldn’t count America’s special forces out just yet.

7.) Shaolin Monk vs. Maori Warrior

So it turns out, being beefcake is not enough to overcome someone who has rocking-awesome KUNG FU!

8.) William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu

Everybody remembers Braveheart, and a few people probably heard of that movie Steven Spielberg made. Well, Wallace won, despite Shaka being insane enough to put poison in his mouth and spit it in his enemy’s eyes.

9). IRA vs. Taliban

Erin geo do! The real fighting Irish taught the Taliban a lesson they’ll never forget. Because they’re dead. And dead people can’t forget things. Besides, you didn’t really think they’d let the Taliban win on an American show, did you? If only this country’s leaders would follow that example…

Now, some people on the internet get pissed over the results because they are a bigger expert on ninjas than the experts who came on the show, and they know that a ninja would win. But these people are missing the fun part of the show. It’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about how much ass gets kicked! The real fun of the show is watching them destroy stuff in the tests. And hearing the experts dunk on each other.

Not only that, but their criticisms have no basis in reality. For instance, if you check out youtube, you’ll find people who dissect the fight at the end, coming up with a blow-by-blow account of how their guy should have won. But they obviously weren’t paying attention! The result of the fight is determined before the stuntmen even get into costume. And it’s determined by pure statistics. The computer just calculates the results based on points awarded to each weapon and probably some other variables. But the fight we see is not created blow-by-blow on the computer. That part is just the actors showing how awesome the warriors are.

And as for the statistics, just because the Spartan won overall, doesn’t mean he would win every time. The final score on that episode was 653-347. That’s three-hundred and forty-seven dead virtual Spartans who can attest to the fact that ninjas are hardcore. So quit with the sour grapes “scottbaioisdead!” And if you say you’ve made a better video, at least have the decency to choreograph an actual fight so those of us who took the time to sit through an ungodly amount of buffering aren’t disappointed when they realize the entire video is just a whiny rant by a fifteen-year-old!

So, from the looks of things, season two is going to feature the same warriors matched up differently. I hope that’s not all they do. What I want to see is a few new guys matched up, because, let’s face it, if they only show the same bunch of guys each season, the show will get stale and boring. Not to mention, they’ve already tested the weapons each guy will be using, so if they don’t introduce new weapons, their just going to be running the same tests every time.
Although they could answer the question of Pirate vs. Ninja.

But the show has been awesome before, so I have faith that it will continue to be awesome.

Or else…

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lame is Good. Another group of Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With.

Dungeons and Dragons. A role-playing game (that’s RPG for non-gamers) created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. You’ve probably heard of it, whether you’re a fan of the game, or if you believe it teaches kids how to worship Satan. But did you know that there was animated series about it? It debuted it 1984, and ran for three seasons, eventually pulled due to low ratings, rather than the controversy surrounding the game as many people believed.

The series is so straightforward that they don’t even bother with an origin episode; they tell the entire story in the opening theme song. Six kids (ranging 8 to 15 years old) get on board a Dungeons and Dragons themed amusement park ride, and are magically transported to the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons. They meet a baby unicorn that’s being menaced by a five-headed dragon called Tiamat. A white-haired balding midget wearing a red robe appears and bestows the children with magical weapons, which they use to fend off Tiamat. They attempt to escape, only to have their path blocked by an evil-looking guy who obviously means them harm. But before he can blast them into atoms, Tiamat comes back, the two lock horns for a moment, and Tiamat chases the bad guy away. The kids wonder who that guy was, and the midget tells them that it was Venger, an evil sorcerer. The midget introduces himself as Dungeon Master and tells them they are in the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons. (although they, and viewers, had probably figured that out already)

So, who are these kids, and why am I including their show in my lame list?

Name: Hank
Class: Ranger
Weapon of Choice: A magic bow that shoots energy arrows, so he never has to load it.
Function: Leader
Lame Factor: Low. His biggest flaw is that he has few flaws. He’s confident and ready to take charge in dangerous situations. He’s also a blonde pretty boy. I imagine him dressing like Fred on Scooby Doo in our world.
Voiced by: Willie Aames. You know, Buddy Lembeck on Charles in Charge.

Name: Bobby
Class: Barbarian
Weapon of Choice: A big club that smashes anything he swings it against.
Function: The Kid
Lame Factor: Mid-Low. It’s more to do with the way the others treat him than any way he behaves. As befitting a barbarian, Bobby is ready for battle from the get-go. He likes to rush in, heedless of danger. And the others do their best to stop him, because he’s the youngest, and little kids simply musn’t be allowed to fight, even though he has the best weapon, and totally saved all their asses in episode 8. Although he does have a pet unicorn, which probably detracts from his coolness, seeing as a unicorn is traditionally a girls’ pet.
Voiced by: Ted Field III. Who seems to have never acted again, as he doesn’t have an entry on Wikipedia. Check IMDB if you actually care.

Name: Presto AKA Albert (which actually sounds a lot less dorky by comparison)
Class: Magician
Weapon of Choice: A wand right? Or maybe a cool staff that shoots lightning bolts? Nope. A green wizard’s hat, out of which he can pull nearly anything, but he hardly ever conjures anything he wants.
Function: Remember Neville Longbottom, of Harry Potter fame? Nuff said.
Lame Factor: High. Did you not notice I compared him to Neville Longbottom? Presto’s spells almost never work the way he intends them, often backfiring dangerously. For instance, instead of squashing the giant carnivorous fly into oblivion, he conjures a second giant carnivorous fly.
Voiced by: Adam Rich. Also known for playing Nicholas Bradford on Eight is Enough, and co-starred with Willie Aames on that same series. He also faked his own death for a spoof article in Might magazine.

Name: Shelia
Class: Thief
Weapon of Choice: Invisibility Cloak.
Function: Coolest character on the show.
Lame Factor: Almost Non-Existent. The only thing might be the company she keeps. In addition to being one of the cleverest of the group, she’s also a friend to all living things. I mean, she got Venger’s sister to turn to the good side. She’s always looking out for the others, especially her little brother, Bobby. She’s daring enough she only fights with her invisibility cloak to protect her. Not invulnerability, invisibility, as in, “my-friend-shooting-lethal-energy-bolts-and-my-little-brother-whose-club-could-break-every-bone-in-my-body-into-a-hundred-pieces-won’t-be-able-to-see-me-if-I-accidentally-get-in-their-way” invisible. And she’s the only character we’ve seen pick up a sword for any length of time. Hell yes.
Voiced by: Katie Leigh, probably known best (to me, anyway) for voicing Connie Kendall on Adventures in Odyssey. I guess D&D didn’t cause her to do a Regan impression. She was also the only member of the cast to return for the radio style presentation of the lost episode, Requiem, produced for the DVD boxed set of D&D.

Name: Eric
Class: Cavalier
Weapon of Choice: A shield that can create force-fields around a small group.
Function: Bitching and moaning.
Lame Factor: High. You’d think a guy whose shield can protect him from anything would be a little braver, but no, Eric usually takes the approach of hiding, or trying to appease a scary monster that’s intent on ripping flesh from bone. Can’t risk harming his pretty face, even Hank is clearly the best looking of the male cast. And when the group isn’t fighting, Eric is complaining. If they get to sleep in real beds instead of on the ground, Eric is griping about their quality, or insulting their host when he thinks the man isn’t listening. I mean, he does have his moments, like rushing in (eventually) to defend someone with his shield, or getting embarrassed when the others realize he really does care about someone other than himself, but overall, Eric is the kind of person one could have conversations with. The kinds of conversations that end in gunshots.
Voiced by: Don Most. Best known for playing Ralph Malph, from Happy Days. I guess Eric don’t “still got it.”

Name: Diana
Class: Acrobat
Weapon of Choice: An magical baton that adjusts its length according to its user’s will. Palm-sized for convenient storage, or nine feet for pole-vaulting.
Function: Token black character.
Lame Factor: Mid-low. Like Hank, she lacks any obvious flaws, but she doesn’t show any obvious strengths, apart from the ones that make Hank a good leader. However, she is a better athlete, and she’s usually the one to rebuff Eric when he’s sniping at someone. If you’re trying to picture that, just remember, this was a long time before, “Oh no, he did-ent!” and the head thing.
Voiced by: Tonya Gail Smith. Check IMDB for her other roles.

Name: Uni
Class: Cute Little Goat-Thing
Function: Cute Little Goat-Thing
Lame Factor: Mid-Level, at least. I mean, to take the majestic animal of legend, and turn it into a cutesy little useless creature that speaks with a lot of heavy bleating? So wrong. And aren’t unicorns supposed to have powerful magic? Yet she’s always finding herself in some peril or another.
Voiced by: Frank Welker. This guy was basically born to voice act. He did the voices for eight of the fourteen original Decepticons on Transformers, including Megatron. That should tell you something right there. And they cast him as the Cute Little Goat-Thing.

Name: Dungeon Master
Class: Dungeon Masters don’t have classes, everyone knows that.
Function: Mysterious Old Guy
Lame Factor: Mid-Level. Only ever speaks in riddles, when he could really just tell the kids what they need to do to get home. And despite possessing powerful magic, he’s rarely seen to use it. My guess is he taught Albus Dumbledore how to be a wizard. Then again, if he ever gave a straight answer to a question, there wouldn’t be a show. Way to go, Dungeon Master!
Voiced by: Sidney Miller

So that’s the cast of heroes, now here are the two main villains.

Name: Venger
Class: Half-Fiend Sorcerer
Function: Primary antagonist. Always tries to steal the children’s weapons for purposes which are not elaborated upon.
Lame Factor: High. Seriously, this guy tries way too hard to be scary. He’s got this all red and black thing going, and his face is like a vampire, all pasty and fangey, and he’s got a horn on the side of his head, like the Devil, or something. He can’t decide who is scarier, so he’s trying to incorporate everyone into his look, or something.

VENGER: “Fear me! (silence) No, seriously FEAR ME!”

He also has a disagreeable habit of not dying when he’s killed. Despite this, he’s always ready to hose himself if Tiamat ever shows up, despite also commanding whole armies of orcs, lizardmen, and frog-things and the powers of darkness besides.
Voiced by: Peter Cullen. Guy who voiced Optimus Prime in Transformers. (the show, and the blockbuster fims) All right, I guess Venger is not that lame.

Name: Tiamat
Class: Five-headed dragons don’t need classes.
Weapons of Choice: Well, she has claws, and impenetrable scales, and a wicked huge tail, and five sets of jaws. Not to mention, her five heads breathe five different breath weapons. Her main head breathes fire, her blue head shoots a bolt of lightning, her white head breathes ice, her green head breathes toxic gas, and her black head spits corrosive acid. And she can fly, despite being way too heavy and non-aerodynamic. But apart from that, she doesn’t have much going for her.
Function: Killing you to death if you happen to run into her.
Lame Factor: None. Unlike Venger, Tiamat is actually scary. We’re talkin’ serious nightmare fuel here. And this is supposed to be a kids’ show.
Voiced by: Frank Welker, once again. They probably gave him this role to make up for casting him as the Cute Little Goat-Thing. (by the way, how many times have I used that phrase?)

Why the show is cool: Hey, this is a show about kids adventuring in a magical world. Children raised on The Wizard of Oz, and The Chronicles of Narnia eat this stuff up. I know I did. Still do. Which is probably why I still live with my parents.

But you’d better be wearing some +20 armor if you’re going to make something of that. Feelin’ lucky, punk?