Tuesday, October 26, 2010

31 favorite monsters: Thought Eater

The original Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual was practically my monster-design bible as a child, opening me up to just how surreal and preposterous a monster could be. A prime example would be the original Thought Eater here, an invisible creature that exists on the ethereal plane and parasitically drains mental energy. It's a terrifying concept, made highly original and fun by the fact that it actually resembled a small, hairless, emaciated platypus. The contrast between ridiculous, pitiful appearance and disturbing, dangerous feeding habits was a big inspiration to my developing imagination, and I still think this original illustration is a positively flawless design...I love the gaping, toothed beak and moronic stare. Does this remind us of anything else? Some other psychic duck-billed monster, maybe?

Sadly, Dungeons and Dragons has succumbed over the years to that widespread mental disease where anything really whimsical and bizarre is slowly retooled according to what the average person is expected to find "cool." The second time the Thought Eater was published in official game materials, it was given this slightly less amusing skeletal design. At least it's still a platypus though, right? SIGH...

Meet the most recent incarnation of the Thought Eater, completely robbed of everything that made the concept creative and cool. Where do people get the idea that every monster needs a fearsome, deadly appearance to be taken seriously? Where is the imagination and fun? They had pure gold and they neutered it. They had an ugly flying invisible platypus that ate thoughts and they replaced it with a spooky griffin. Wizards of the Coast, you have dumb taste and your game is dumb now forever. Dumb and ruined. RUINED FOREVER.

31 favorite monsters: Wol Cabasshite

I've talked about two of my favorite Star Wars aliens here, and how the denizens of Jabba's palace had a place in my childhood far bigger than the rest of the Star Wars universe. Of course, there are plenty more of them that I find fascinating, and another one topping the list is also one of the most obscure.

This curled, slug-like creature appears only in the background of Jabba's throne room, a small hand puppet on the wall of the set. Of course, Star Wars fandom leaves no stone unnamed, and this odd little prop has been given an absurdly detailed background by the "expanded universe" (the sum of all comics, novels, games, toys and everything else created outside the official films).

Perhaps even more absurdly, Cabasshite or "Ghoel" has gotten an action figure made of him twice - a little rubber one with a suction cup from the main Star Wars toy line and a larger, highly detailed figure with a powerful magnet and a bendable tongue. Naturally, I own them both.

31 favorite monsters: Raremon

While this is one of the creatures I've written about before, I can't resist repeating some of my favorites here. I do love my rotting, shambling heap-like monsters, and Raremon has possibly my favorite design of any rotting, shambling heap. Its comically vacant stare, lidless eyeballs and protruding teeth all contribute to a special horrendousness duplicated matched by very few other monsters, let alone other Digimon.

The original Digimon virtual pets each had many possible forms for your little critter to take, including a misfit "failure" or "garbage" form when you failed to clean up your monster's virtual feces. Raremon was the failure of Digimon version V, and originally depicted by a sprite with uncanny resemblance to Hedorah. In fact, when Raremon first appeared in the Digimon anime, it emerged from a harbor and attacked a nightclub in direct homage to a scene from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. According to the official lore, Raremon is a botched attempt by an organic Digimon to evolve into a machine Digimon, and its malfunctioning cybernetics are all that hold its mindless, rotting body together. Best of all, it attacks by throwing up!

The only downside to Raremon is that, like so many other Digimon, it doesn't evolve from or evolve into anything quite like it, but its family tree is far from bleak; it can evolve from the vaguely Rat-Fink like Chuumon according to the card game, and in one of the video games, it can evolve into the cool-looking Datamon, a computer virus Digimon. Datamon, in turn has been known to evolve into my second favorite Digimon, Parasimon, which is a parasitic eyeball bug tentacle monster. That's is most of my favorite things right there.

Sadly, I've seen a plastic figure of Raremon only once in my life, and its head was broken off. This sighting was made back when Digimon first came out in the 90's, too, so a simple little plastic heap-monster has eluded me for at least thirteen years. Doesn't anybody out there have one hanging around? I could draw you a piture for it!