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Webs and Croutons

David versus Goliath. Achilles versus Hector. King Arthur versus Mordred. Hulk Hogan versus the Ultimate Warrior. These were truly clashes between titans. Fights between two, mighty combatants that have gone down in history. This is not one of those fights. So sit on back, relax, and pop the popcorn, because your Friendly Neighborhood Symbifan is about to take you back to a comic epic of yesteryear! Witness the majesty that is Marvel Comics’ “The Ren & Stimpy Show” #6!

Our story begins as 90’s cartoon characters, Ren and Stimpy, sit down at their kitchen table to enjoy their favorite breakfast, Powdered Toast. But what’s this? The can is empty. No reason to panic though. Stimpy dons a peculiar-looking headset and calls out over a large microphone for the assistance of none other than Powdered Toast Man! He’ll fix this problem in no time. Suddenly, the kitchen curtains blow with a mighty gust of wind and Ren and Stimpy await the awesome entrance of their hero! But strangely enough, Spider-Man has appeared instead! (What’s this? Why Spider-Man? Does Disney know about this unannounced cameo appearance? In a comic book that spotlights Nickelodeon animated stars no less? Gasp! Better watch out or this intellectual property will be acquired next!)

Obviously confused by this strange turn of events, the duo question the wall-crawler as to the whereabouts of their breakfast champion. Spidey nonchalantly answers that Powdered Toast Man is simply under the influence of an evil villain and that he’s just subbing until all is righted. To prove that he’s just as useful as his predecessor, Spider-Man fires his web-shooters at Ren and Stimpy’s empty plates, creating toast-shaped webbing masses! Suddenly, Spidey receives an alert from the spare pair of Powdered Toast Man’s shorts he’s currently wearing under his own costume! (Why’s Spider-Man wearing P.T.M.’s undies? Was this a prerequisite for being his stand-in? Is this a common superhero practice? Where’s the Comics Code Authority when you need it? Color me offended!) After Spider-Man makes a hasty exit, the two try their “web toast”……and actually enjoy it!

Meanwhile, not far from this scene, Powdered Toast Man is wreaking havoc upon the city at the command of his arch-nemesis, Dr. Dough-Naught! Spider-Man arrives on the scene and looks on in horror as the destruction to his beloved metropolis mounts! Spidey surveys the situation, trying to come up with a plan that might succeed against the mind- controlled Breakfast Avenger! Swinging down, straight into P.T.M.’s path, the wall-crawler tries first to talk some sense to the other superhero. Perhaps he can get him to break the villain’s hold on his own. No such luck! Dough-Naught increases the power to his control device, forcing Powdered Toast Man to attack! (Here we go, folks! It’s time the fight of the century! That’s right. It’s Darth Vader alone against the Klingon Empire! What? It’s Spider-Man, and he’s fighting who now?)

P.T.M. wastes no time! He unleashes a barrage of high-speed croutons from his armpit, stunning the web-slinger! Spidey quicklly recovers and responds with a powerful left hook to the other hero’s toast-shaped face! Seemingly unaffected, Powdered Toast Man fires an onslaught of raisins from his mouth! The bullet-like projectiles are halted however by Spider-Man’s webbing! Still under the villain’s evil control, P.T.M. blasts razor-sharp, stale toast slices at the wall-crawler! Spidey uses his spider-sense to dodge every one of the deadly weapons, advancing on his friend-turned-enemy! When he’s close enough, Spider-Man hits Powdered Toast Man with all of his strength! While stunned, he then follows this attack with a powerful blow to the other hero’s stomach! The Breakfast Avenger falls at last! (You should all know that this is by far the strangest thing I have ever written!)

But what’s this? Powedered Toast Man isn’t finished yet! No, he has one more trick up his crusty sleeve! Using a finger to block one of his nostrils, he blows with all of his might, unleashing a devastating attack at an unprepared Spider-Man! He has unloaded a mucus-like fluid that has completely encased Spidey. As this sticky dough begins to quickly dry, it hardens like stone! Spidey finds that movement has become quite impossible! Has evil truly won the day? Will Powdered Toast Man forever be a servant to the evil Dr. Dough-Naught? (Will Symbifan finish writing a single article without chain-smoking an entire pack of cheap cigarettes?)

Never! Mustering up all of his inner strength, Spider-Man shatters his rock-hard prison, freeing himself completely! That’s when Spidey spies the source of his salvation, a large milk truck! Before his opponent knows what’s going on, the wall-crawler grabs the hose from the back of the vehicle and turns it on, saturating P.T.M. in gallons of milk! This attack not only defeats the Breakfast Avenger, but frees him of the supervillain’s mind control! Powdered Toast Man collapses, too weakened to even stand. But before Spider-Man can even utter a word, his spider-sense tingles! Confused as to the source of the danger, Spidey never sees the lead pipe as it comes crashing down on the back of his skull! (I would like take this moment to say that lactose intolerance is no joke. And neither are the loud and deadly farts that are a side effect of this very serious condition. That is all.)

Again and again the pipe comes down on Spider-Man’s already severely wounded body, wielded by an enraged Dr. Dough-Naught! Powdered Toast Man reaches towards his friend and ally but is too weakened to be of any use! Suddenly, P.T.M. remembers the spare can of powdered toast that he carries in his trunks in case of emergencies! He quickly seizes it, pops it open, and devours the contents! Powdered Toast Man is now at full strength once again! (Hey, it has to be tastier than spinach! Popeye cartoons speak filthy lies!) The hero leaps through the air, straight at Dough-Naught, and connects with one mighty punch! The villain is then thrown into the air where a wounded Spider-Man encases the villain in webbing! He then comes plummeting to the street below, unconscious and defeated!

Now that the danger has passed and the villain lies beaten, Ren and Stimpy run out to meet the two superheroes. They exclaim how the two of them should really make their partnership more permanent as they just worked so well together. Spider-Man replies that a superhero of Powdered Toast Man’s caliber just isn’t in the same league as a seasoned veteran like himself. This causes the Breakfast Avenger to lash out verbally to defend himself. Soon, an argument escalates about just who would actually win between the two of them in a fair fight. Powdered Toast Man then sucker punches Spidey through a nearby brick wall.

Nuff said!

Dedicated to the fans of the Unspoken Decade. Without you, there would be no Symbifan. It’s as simple as that. Until next time, peace out!

The Armageddon Agenda (part 2)

I just suffered a severe fall! I was returning from throwing out the garbage, on the way to check on my laundry, when it happened. Having just stepped out upon the wet concrete outside, my flipflops (Yeah. I wear flipflops. I was in a rush! Oh yeah? Come say that to my face!) were damp. So when I came inside and walked through the entryway of my apartment complex, I slipped. This slip caused me to almost do the splits and barely catch myself with my right arm. Now, to you youngins, this would be a minor annoyance. But I’m 43 and any slight injury or even a sudden jolt to my body is devastating. I almost died! What’s that? I’m overreacting? How dare you! Why, I’m so upset now that I’m tempted to just not share my musings on the next part of my look back at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Mighty Mutanimals crossover! Wait! Come back! I’ll write! I’ll write! (What else am I gonna do now that I’m broken anyway? Sob…..)

The heroes look forward in awe and disbelief as three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse step from the burning ruin that was once a lush and beautiful rainforest! The question is finally asked, what do these monsters want? Their reply is simple, they want war! Plain and simple. Just then and without warning, War himself uses his rocky and spike-covered hide, to fire sharp projectiles at the amassed heroes! They spring to action, dodging the spikes but with great effort and much skill! After the barrage ends, Mondo gives voice to the question everyone is thinking, if these three beings truly are the Four Horsemen, where is their fourth member? That’s when Death steps from the shadows and announces himself! (Way to go, Mondo! Like things weren’t bad enough! Now they have to deal with death personified too! Hey, when he gives that “kiss of death”, do you think it’s a french kiss? Huh? I’m not sick and demented! Okay, so I need stronger meds. Sue me.)

Death orders the other Horsemen to attack! Immediately the creatures comply, but the heroes are way too skilled at working with one another. Using teamwork, they dodge and counterattack with ease. But the Grim Reaper is not amused. Instantly seeing his folly, he raises his mighty scythe! He then brings it back down, slicing through reality itself in order to seperate the heroes! They awaken, bewildered, in three seperate locations! Meanwhile, Null enters his secret domain, the unconscious and bound Azrael thrown over his shoulder. He drops her on the ground next to two other captives, Jagwar’s missing mother, Juntarra, and a man dressed in a cowboy hat and trenchcoat. He goes by the name of Kid Terra. Terra demands that Null let the women go and keep him as his prisoner alone. He once betrayed the monstrous madman after all and the women are innocent. Null takes a big puff of his cigar and grins. He replies that he’ll settle up with Terra soon enough. As for the women? They are to be his harem! (A harem?! Archie Comics be gettin’ scandalous in it’s old age!) He then leaves, locking the door behind him. Kid Terra mutters that he won’t let this happen, not if he can help it.

Before the “games” can get underway, Death reveals a large chest behind him. He opens it and removes three familiar-looking marionettes. They are replicas of the other three Horsemen! He comments with a maniacal laugh how he just loves playing with his toys. Elsewhere, Michelangelo, Dreadmon, Leatherhead, and Ninjara find themselves standing in the middle of a large cornfield. They comment how sickly the corn around them looks. The whole field seems to be in serious need of water. With little else to do but play along, the quartet begin walking through the dying field. As they trudge on, they all quickly become aware that they are growing more than a little hungry. Hunger quickly escalates to starvation as their bodies begin to shrivel before their very eyes! Suddenly they break through to open land. They spy a long, winding line of human beings, waiting a small distance from large trucks with the word “FOOD” printed on their sides! The heroes take their places and wait patiently as armed soldiers hand out canned food to the starving masses. (I’m going on a hunger strike until these brave souls get food! Well, at least I will when I’m done with this bag of Cheetos. Yeah!)

Mondo, Raphael, Donatello, and Jagwar look to their strange clothing. They are dressed in labcoats, complete with gloves and masks! As they try to ascertain just what’s going on, they suddenly spy the walls of cages lining the walls around them. Monkey hands extend from between the small bars and the noises of primates are heard throughout the room! Is this a testing lab, they wonder? Enraged, they ponder if they should perhaps free these poor animals. (No! Haven’t these fools ever seen “Planet of the Apes”?! This is how it all begins! Sob…..the Statue of Liberty…..sob……Charlton Heston!) That’s when a previously unseen doctor then remarks, back still turned, what if they were to let thes creatures go and they were to infect the human race with a new kind of deadly plague? After all, the heroes have no way of knowing exactly what has been tested on these particular lab animals. The “doctor” then turns, revealing his face. He is the Horseman, Pestilence!

Last is the group of Wingnut, Screwloose, Splinter, Man-Ray, and Leonardo. These particular warriors find themselves dodging left and right as gunfire sounds and bombs explode around them! They are dressed in military fatigues and run for their very lives as they spy a nearby foxhole in the battlefield. Sprinting, they dive in, hoping that they haven’t doomed themselves to be surrounded by an armed enemy force! Instead, they come face to face with an angry-looking man bellowing orders. His very demeanor gives off the feel of experience and leadership. He demands that they all get back to the battle. The incoming airstrike is to be their cover as they make their way to a nearby barn. It’s within that building that he suspects enemy weapons are being held! Deciding to play along for now, the heroes comply. They rush to the barn amidst more bomb drops and kick in the door to an obvious trap. But what they’re greeted with shocks them nevertheless. A nuclear missile points upwards, armed! And standing next to it, the Horseman, War! (“War, huh! Good God, y’all! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again!” Sing along, Unspokenites!)

We now return to the line outside of the food trucks. Having waited for what seems like forever, the now very frail heroes approch the front of the line. But instead of receiving sustenance, they’re instead met with nothing. All of the food is now gone! Back at the testing lab, the next group attempt to strike at Pestilence, but the attacks are of no use as he is not a solid being! Instead, he is seemingly composed of pure, airborne diseases and liquid filth! Donatello strikes and finds himself covered in a sickly fluid after passing straight through his foe! He quickly wipes the fluid off as the others attack! (Yeah. Because everybody knows that a simple wipe-down with paper towels can save one from contracting the bubonic plague!) Pestilence makes his body more solid to fight back! While the Horseman is occupied, Jagwar takes advantage and frees all of the monkeys! The simians strike as one at Pestilence, tearing his now somewhat solid form to shreds!

Back at the food trucks, the heroes exclaim in outrage when they spy that one of the exiting vehicles is actually full of cans of food!The back doors to this particular truck then come free and a single can drops and rolls to the starving fighters’ feet! Mad with hunger, they leap at each other, ready to kill for this single, canned morsel of sustenance! Before any damage can be done however, they all come to their senses. It’s then that they spy the can at a small distance. It sits straight up, opens, and the form of Famine twists, turns, and enlarges as he pulls himself free of his miniature hiding place! He attacks without warning! The battle lasts no time at all. Famine is victorious! He drags the heroes’ still forms away! (Dude hid inside of a can?! That’s like me chillin’ inside of a cheerio! Anorexia is wrong, Famine. Even if you are a biblical beastie.)

Our attention is now turned back to the next group as they storm the strange barn, amidst an active warzone! The heroes waste little time in attacking War! He must not be allowed to launch this missile! Feeling little fear and utilizing all of their talents and skill, accomplishes little but amuse the tough-skinned Horseman! That’s when the creature remarks that he won’t have to defeat them, they will defeat themselves. This cryptic sentence is soon understood as the air strike arrives overhead and bombs the barn! The missile immediately explodes! A nuclear shockwave rocks the area and a mushroom cloud rises into the atmosphere! War drags the bodies of the heroes away from it all, the obvious victor! (Cheater! Who brings a nuke to a fistfight? Wussies, that’s who!)

Finally, back at the lab, it appears as though good has triumphed over evil in this particular case. Pestilence is no more. But as these warriors consider leaving, the monkeys’ eyes suddenly change to the darkest crimson! They attack the heroes mercilessly! The heroic ones try to fight back, but the creatures begin to secrete a toxic fluid, nearly drowning them in its foul toxicity! (You know you have a fun job when you an add words like “secrete” to a paragraph!) The heroes drop just as Pestilence reforms his body from the sickly fluid. And then, just like the other monsters, he drags the heroes unconscious bodies away. Score yet another win for the Four Horsemen!

Far from all of this, Death pulls the strings of his marionettes, laughing. At his skeletal feet lie broken toys, resembling the fallen Ninja Turtles and Mighty Mutanimals! Has evil truly won? (Nudist! The Reaper’s a nudist! I have proof! Damn. Eat a burger once in awhile, will ya? It’s embarrassing how boney you are.)

To be concluded…..

This article is dedicated to my love, my life, my everything, Renee. This November 27th. marks fifteen wonderful years together. I’d never take back a single day with you. I love you with all of my heart and soul. Thank you for the gift of true happiness.

The Armageddon Agenda (part 1)

What immediately comes to mind when you think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Is it brightly colored masks? The word: “Cowabunga”? Pizza? Vanilla Ice? (Don’t lie. It’s Vanilla Ice, isn’t it?) Well, I’m almost positive that it isn’t their titanic clash with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Think I’m lying about that last one? Has your friendly, neighborhood Symbifan ever lied to you before? I guess seeing is believing. Prepare thyselves, Unspokenites! It’s about to get Biblical up in here…..

Our story unfolds as the Turtles, Splinter, and Ninjara enter the Earth’s atmosphere, returning home from yet another interstellar adventure. They sit within the moist, dark confines of Cudley the Cowlick’s large, bovine mouth. (A humongous, detached cow head that carries beings inside his mouth in order to transport them to the furthest reaches of space! My question is, who was smokin’ what when this character was imagined?) While on Earth, the Mutanimals lie defeated, victims of heavy lazer gunfire, fired from mechanized skeleton weaponry! Only Leatherhead and the changeling, Azazel, still stand to defend the others’ fallen forms! Leatherhead fires blast after blast from his own lazer rifle until the weapon runs out of ammo! Never one to surrender or flee from a fight, the aligator-man begins to fight with his bare hands! Azazel joins him but the two soon find themselves outnumbered! Leatherhead orders Azazel to transform and take flight to get help. Reluctantly, she shapeshifts into a bird and takes to the skies. Leatherhead then falls.

Atop a nearby hilltop, a well-dressed, bald man with small horns takes a long puff on his cigar. Laughing, he approaches the defeated Mutanimals. The robotic skeletons give him a wide berth. He is known only as Null, and he is the personification of all that is evil. (Well, maybe he’d lighten up if he had a baby kitten. Do these hero types ever stop to consider something as simple as that? Like, maybe the Joker wouldn’t be quite so demented if he had a cute puppy to take care of.) Null orders his skeletal warriors to take the unconscious Mutanimals into custody. This is interrupted, however, by the timely appearance of the Ninja Turtles! Raphael orders Null to freeze right where he is and to release his friends. This demand is met with Null pulling a lazer rifle of his own and opening fire! His minions follow suit without delay! The Turtles waste no time in throwing themselves into close combat against their enemy! The fight has truly begun now!

The combined attack of the Turtles, Splinter, and Ninjara does cut down the number of robotic skeletons, but they still run the risk of being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. A blast from Null is deflected by Leonardo’s blades. This stray shot wings one of the fallen Mutanimals, Man-Ray! Man-Ray springs to life and uses his muscular, aquatic body to help in the fight! His aid helps but not enough! But just as the battle seems lost, a barrage of lazer fire hits the skeletal warriors from the high ground! The enemy falls at last! The heroes look up to discover that the other Mutanimals are in fact their saviors! (Today’s lesson, kiddies? Never bring ninja weapons to a lazer gun fight! I now return you to your regularly scheduled article, already in progress.) But before the heroes can celebrate their victory, they see that not only is Null gone, but so is Azazel!

Null enters a secret door in the rocky terrain, far from the fighting, a beaten and unconscious Azazel thrown over his shoulder. Closing the door behind him, he enters the darkness of the cave. Null makes his way easily through the darkness until he comes face to face with a grinning skull, illuminated by torchlight. It appears that this skull is attached to a full, bone body and covered by a dark, hooded cloak. In its skeletal hands, it grips a long scythe! It is in fact Death himself! The Reaper asks Null for a report. The horned man replies that the heroes were too much for his army and that it’s up to Death and the others now. Three more sets of eyes appear in the darkness behind the Grim Reaper. The beings are ready. In fact, they seem almost excited to reveal themselves. (There you have it. Null went all out for recruiting frightening allies in this one! Are even the combined forces of the Ninja Turtles and Mighty Mutanimals enough to stop these villains? They’ll be fine. After all, the Turtles “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. Ha! I totally worked in a song title!)

It’s about this time that the two heroic groups discover that Cudley and Azazel are missing. Leonardo asks Man-Ray just what the situation here was. He replies that he and the other Mutanimals were searching for Jagwar’s missing human mother, Juntarra, when they discovered she was being held by a creature resembling the Grim Reaper. They located his stronghold, but were attacked by an army of skeleton robots when they approached. Jagwar adds that Azazel also told them that this barren land they stand upon was a tropical rainforest before this Reaper set up operations here! (Yeah. Let’s worry about the rainforests when you’re human mother is being held captive by Death himself! What’s that? How did a human woman give birth to a humanoid jaguar? Umm. Moving on…..) Just then, Ninjara picks up the scent of smoke. The group turns to see a nearby forest in flames! They rush to investigate.

Shock would be an understatement for what the heroes feel when they witness what’s causing the mayhem. An entire village of people is setting the forests ablaze by the use of torches. But the most shocking part is that the people are zombies! The slow-moving undead stand no chance against the combined might of the Ninja Turtles and Mighty Mutanimals! They dispatch the zombified villagers quickly. (I’m not kidding here at all. They didn’t even see if these poor people could maybe be healed! They just slashed them to pieces! Talk about bloodthirsty! The most appalling part to me is that they didn’t really show the gore in the comic. You just have to use your imagination. What? So I love slasher flicks. Sue me.) But before they can take a breath, they notice three figures approaching them through the inferno. Three of the Four Horsemen have arrived!

To be continued.

This article is dedicated to my brother, Eric James Miller. Though he never got into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as much as I did, it was our love for all things supernatural that bonded us for life. And what could be more supernatural than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I ask you? (Plus, he’s tolerated me spouting off Ninja Turtle trivia long enough to at least deserve an article dedicated to him.) Love ya, bro!