Inspirations

The Con City Universe is a world of absurd comedy that takes inspiration from a great variety of sources. Here we cover a number of the key inspirations for Con City. You'll quickly see that most of these are movies, which probably explains why Con City and Road To Con City read like they were meant to be movies. Who knows, maybe someday they will be. Until then, feel free to rent a DVD of the films listed here in order to put yourself in the mood to read the misadventures of the likes of Sergeant Jack Westwood, Joanna Bennett, and Mister Jake, the outlandish antiheroes of the Con City Universe.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

posted Sep 4, 2017, 9:04 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

`Don't Panic.' These are the words printed in large friendly letters on the front cover of the titular Guide in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Written by Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy started out as a radio play until he was persuaded to write a novel, and then a trilogy, and then what we know today as the `increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker trilogy' spanning five books. (Six of you count the one written by Eoin Colfer after Adams' passing.)

The first novel explores the idea of the Earth being in the way of an interstellar highway and being subject to demolition by an alien constructor fleet. As horrific as that might sound, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is in fact a comedy. Sure, the Earth gets blown up by Chapter 3, but it gets blown up because it's in the way of an interstellar bypass, and the demolition crew clearly points out that the citizens of Earth had no business to complain about the destruction of their planet as all plans had been public for fifty years and available for consultation just a few shy lightyears away, and anyone too lazy to bother going to the complaints office didn't deserve to have a planet anyway.

That, right there, is the kind of hilarious, absurd nonsense that permeates the entire novel. Largely told from the point of view of Earth's seemingly sole survivor Arthur Dent, who is just as baffled by everything that goes on around him as the reader, the novel takes us on a wild ride across the Galaxy with a plethora of assorted absurd characters, such as the blithering idiot President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who is introduced to the reader when he steals a prototype spaceship, or Marvin, the depressed robot, a.k.a. the `Paranoid Android,' who seems to be the butt of an endless string of vile jokes throughout the series.

The nonsense doesn't stop with the premise and the characters, either. The novel takes the idea that the towel is the most important thing you should take with you when you travel and turns it into a spectacular running gag. Then there's the number 42, which, if anything, you must have heard of as the ultimate answer to the ultimate question even if you've never read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. And of course there's the titular Guide itself, an e-book from before the rise of e-books filled with endless useful and useless trivia about the various places and people in the galaxy, which has the words `Don't panic!' written on the front for good reason. And the list could go on, but no list can do the novel justice. Best to just go read the book and enjoy the insanity: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is an endlessly amusing absurd comedy that deserves a place on every bookshelf.

The absurdity and cruel humor of the Hitchhiker's Guide novels served as fantastic inspiration for the world of Con City. Sure, there are no depressed robots or idiotic galactic presidents in Con City, but we have a cyborg on her way to split personality disorder, a moron who tries to fake a solar eclipse with a hot air balloon over a similarly fake volcano, a bullfighting promotion where the bull always wins, a space agency that wants to colonize the Sun, and an endless supply of idiots such as a would-be criminal who thinks it's a great idea to reveal the identity of your masked associate to the press in the name of marketing. And also, we have the Hitchhiker's Guide To Con City, which reveals that the rules of hitchhiking in Con County are so important that law prohibits them from ever being written down. Much of such nonsense would never have come to be had the Vogon constructor fleet not built that interstellar bypass through the third planet of a certain solar system.

Deadpool

posted Aug 7, 2017, 10:30 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

Of all the wacky superheroes that the Marvel Universe has given us over the years, Deadpool is easily one of the most unique. Brash and violent, batshit crazy, constantly tearing down the fourth wall with a jackhammer, the merc with a mouth has been entertaining us with his antiheroic, and sometimes outright villainous antics, since 1991. Before he became the final word in anti-superheroism, he used to be a mercenary called Wade Wilson (if his recollections of his origins are to be believed), and even in those days he spewed one liners like an 80s action movie star. Then he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he signed up for a secret program that gave him immense regenerative powers and thus saved his life; it also made him fuck ugly and drove him incurably insane, whether any of the voices in his head admit that or not.

Deadpool is a similarly dark and tragic character as the Punisher, but far crazier and much more humorous. While the dark humor in the Punisher stories usually involves over the top ways in which he dispatches criminals, Deadpool brings in humor in just about every form you can think of, from pop culture references to fourth wall breaking jokes to gruesome body humor involving mangling, maiming, or outright killing Deadpool himself before his regenerative powers bring him back to dish out more ass kicking, recite more one liners, and eat more chimichangas. He has run across the Punisher on a number of occasions, most notably in the two-part crossover comic in which the mob puts out a hit on the Punisher and Deadpool tries to cash in only for things to go colossally wrong.

Over the years he was featured in several video games, including his very own game by High Moon Studios in 2013, and in 2016 he at long last got his own movie, courtesy of the efforts of the great Ryan Reynolds (who is probably secretly Deadpool in disguise). And then there's the time he faced Dracula. No, seriously.

With such a violent and darkly humorous resume, Deadpool is a natural source of inspiration for the world of Con City. As batshit insane as Con City is, it's probably fair to say that the king of batshit insanity is the merc with a mouth, and the likes of Gabe London, the best/stupidest mercenary of Con City, owe a great deal to the king. All hail Deadpool, and may he grace us with more twisted humor for decades to come.



The Punisher

posted Jul 10, 2017, 2:48 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher, is a vigilante antihero from the Marvel Universe who, unlike the majority of comic book heroes, sends bad guys not to prison, but to the morgue, and that's assuming there's anything left of the bad guys in question to bury. He wears a signature white skull insignia painted on his chest that criminals fear like death itself. He made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man issue 129 in 1974, just three years after the release of the film Dirty Harry, and went on the become a massive success with readers. He has starred in numerous comic series of his own, appeared in video games including the fantastic 2005 third person shooter by Volition (i.e. the guys who made the Saints Row games), his tale was adapted to the big screen on three separate occasions, and he recently stole half the show in the second season of Netflix's Daredevil, and is now set to have his own show pretty soon. Oh, and there's this:


One might not expect such success from a not quite family friendly comic book character who doesn't even have any superpowers, but just like Dirty Harry, he struck a chord with the fans and we just can't get enough of him despite (or perhaps precisely because of) the extreme levels of violence he unleashes on the villains. The Punisher is an inherently tragic character, having lost his family in a mob hit and having concluded that the only way he could move on was by raining down lethal punishment on criminals everywhere, both for the sake of his own inner peace and to save others from suffering his fate.

Yet despite the dark and tragic nature of the character, over the years a good number of Punisher stories displayed a healthy amount of humor. Humor of the darkest form, of course, as found in, for example, the Garth Ennis comic series "Welcome Back Frank" and the aforementioned video game by Volition. Which is precisely why the character provides such natural inspiration for the Con City novels; a vigilante who feeds an angry mob boss to polar bears in a zoo and makes it come across as hilarious would be right at home in the batshit crazy world of Con City. Then again, it's probably good that the Punisher does not live in the world of Con City. There wouldn't be enough bad guys left alive in Con City to write stories about by now.

Not A Hero

posted May 15, 2017, 3:53 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

Not A Hero is a 2D sidescroller shoot 'em up game released in 2015, in which BunnyLord, a purple rabbit who thinks he's Frank Underwood, tries to become the Mayor of England (not a typo). His strategy for winning the electoral race relies on a roster of gun toting maniacs whom he hires to create `a violent today for a better tomorrow' (literal quote). It is up to the player to unload a limitless supply of bullets into BunnyLord's enemies and the, according to BunnyLord, `corrupt' cops who try to stop the would-be mayor.

The game is as much fun as its premise is ludicrous. The pixel art graphics make the game feel like a throwback to the old days, and the explicit cartoon violence makes it that much funnier. Playing it feels like walking the streets of Con City. The nonsensical schemes of BunnyLord would certainly fit right in with the daily insanity of life in Con City, and the range of problem solvers whom he hires (i.e. the playable characters) would feel right at home next to the likes of Mister Jake and Sergeant Westwood. The game even has a chainsmoker hitman in it (albeit he is not retired and does not live in a campervan).



And then there's Aunt Ruby, the old lady who runs the cafe where BunnyLord holds his post-mission briefings with his problem solvers. She joins you on one of the missions; she may make you think she needs to be protected, but you'll likely be surprised. She, too, fits into the game's madness, the same way as a schizophrenic cyborg fits into a Con City novel.

The game is available on e.g. gog.com if you want to give life in politics a go.

The Saints Row Games

posted Apr 17, 2017, 3:49 PM by Viktor Zólyomi   [ updated Apr 17, 2017, 3:51 PM ]

Saints Row. The video game series that started out as a GTA clone and then evolved into a simulation of what it's like to live in a batshit insane world populated by weirdos, psychopaths, trigger happy lunatics, power hungry sociopaths, and feisty nerds; a world where the constant mayhem, destruction, and explosions are the least of your worries. Sound familiar?

If you've never heard of the Saints Row series, this is the game franchise that, in its third installment, introduced a giant purple dildo that the player character could wield like a sword, and in its fourth made the player the President of the United States only to have them dethroned by an alien invasion from outer space and locked inside a simulation eerily similar to the Matrix (spiced with a little bit of Tron and a whole lot of crazy). This is also the game franchise that spoofed reality TV with Professor Genki, a pink cat with a penchant for destruction who ran a televised `murder funhouse' called Super Ethical Reality Climax, complete with play-by-play and color commentary. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.



If Crank is the movie that feels closest to something like a Con City movie, then the Saints Row games are easily the closest thing to a Con City video game. Well worth playing if you want a GTA clone that went off the rails and kept going. It's best to play the entire series from start to finish so you get a better understanding of the vast roster of fun and surprisingly complex characters. Just bear in mind that the first two games are a lot more serious in tone, and you may find yourself wondering where all the craziness is, but just be patient. As soon as you get to Saints Row III, you'll be wondering how the franchise went from street gang simulation to fighting a luchador in space.


The Terminator

posted Mar 13, 2017, 4:23 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

The concept of an unstoppable killing machine has been around in fiction for ages, yet one of its most iconic examples is just a few decades old. The terminator, the title character of the 1984 film The Terminator, is an intelligent robot hiding in human skin, programmed to infiltrate, seek, and destroy. Dread surrounds this cybernetic incarnation of death, and its victims know true horror as they try in vain to get away from the vise-like grip and high precision targeting skills of this fearsome movie monster.



Although Con City is far from being as dark and especially as serious in tone as The Terminator, Con City certainly took influence from this movie's iconic killing machine, in some cases figuratively, in others, a little more literally. An unstoppable killing machine is an excellent source of danger and suspense in black comedy crime fiction, after all, whether they're the hero, the villain, or somewhere in between. Hell, Con City's iconic hitman Mister Jake even steals one of the terminator's own methods for getting access to his target at a certain heavily fortified location, albeit Jake puts his own psychotic twist on it.

And that, perhaps, is the one thing for which all victims of the terminator should be thankful for. The terminator may have been cold, relentless, unstoppable, and indestructible... but at least it wasn't a psychopath.


Hooker With A Heart Of Gold

posted Feb 13, 2017, 4:01 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

The profound effect the action films of the 1980s had on the Con City novels is fairly apparent, yet, recent motion pictures have also greatly influenced the creation of this black comedy crime universe. A prime example is the 2010 mini series Hooker With A Heart Of Gold.

Independently produced and released as a five part web series, Hooker With A Heart Of Gold is essentially a two and a half hour love letter to the craziness of the 1980s. It tells the story of a doctor who invents an artificial heart made of pure gold that can reanimate the dead, and the hooker who winds up being the first recipient of the revolutionary discovery. And then of course there's the criminal underworld, the assorted unsavory figures of which make the lives our heroes very difficult in various ways.

The movie is cheesy, fun, features a fantastic soundtrack, and is full of memorable characters. Perhaps the one who stands out the most is Steele, a villain who belongs in the same league with the likes of Mister Joshua and Ned Trent. And despite the low budget, the film delivers authentic performances and even a couple of shootouts. The final showdown of the movie, even with the budget special effects, is a blast to watch.

Hooker With A Heart Of Gold is every bit as batshit crazy as a Con City novel, hence it's hardly a surprise that this film provided galores of inspiration for Con City. If you've never seen it, check it out at the website of independent film maker and 80s expert Brad Jones, also known as the Cinema Snob.

The Way Of The Gun

posted Jan 8, 2017, 6:14 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

If there's ever been an underrated classic among black comedy crime fiction movies it's The Way Of The Gun. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, this 2000 film follows antihero outlaws Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh on their quest to flip off the world and try to make fifteen million dollars by ransoming a surrogate mother who is about to give birth to the child of a shady businessman. While that premise could easily yield a grim, dark, and depressing story, The Way Of The Gun is a thoroughly entertaining flick with tons of dark humor. It's also one of those films that give you a perfect intro. The opening scene features Sarah Silverman unloading a tirade of profanity as a character credited as "Raving Bitch" and introduces Parker and Longbaugh and the crazy world they inhabit; if you love these first two and a half minutes, you will adore the entire film.



The world of Con City is heavily influenced by the world of The Way Of The Gun. Whether it's the black humor of the opening scene, the absurdity of the car chase scene which Jeffers and Obecks somehow sit through with a straight face, or the dark yet fun dynamic between Joe Sarno and his friend Abner, this flick provides fantastic characters and great moments between them that will stay with you for decades. Highly recommended if you like your crime films with a good dose of black humor.

Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico

posted Nov 27, 2016, 8:35 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

When the video game Grand Theft Auto was first released, it sparked considerable outrage due to it being a crime simulator. The controversy did nothing to hinder its rise into one of the most successful game franchises in the world, and over the years it has spawned numerous sequels, as well as created its own genre. One of the most unique of the so-called GTA clones out there is an almost light hearted piece called Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico.

Released in 2005, Total Overdose takes us into Mexico where the player steps into the shoes of an undercover police officer for one mission (after playing as his father in the prologue) which ends pretty badly, and forces him to recruit his irresponsible outlaw brother to fill in for him while he recovers from his injuries. From that point forward the player controls the brother, Ramiro Cruz, also known as El Gringo Loco, in an adrenaline fueled rampage of mayhem, vehicle theft, and slow motion headshots.

Playing Total Overdose feels like playing a Robert Rodriguez movie. The atmosphere screams Desperado and the variety of ways in which the player can kill the bad guys (or the not so bad guys, if it comes to that) is staggering. The arsenal of weapons at the player's disposal is incredible for a GTA clone, and is well presented by the game's ultra memorable opening cinematic, which displays our antihero walking into a compound run by the bad guys with his entire arsenal and proceeding to demonstrate his skills.



The aforementioned scene received an homage in the first Con City novel, yet the influence of Total Overdose on the Con City novels was far more profound than that. All the insane nonsense that goes on during the game makes it a natural inspiration for the world of Con City. If you've never played this masterpiece, it's well worth to check it out for example on gog.com.

Pulp Fiction

posted Oct 2, 2016, 8:21 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

1994 saw the release of Quentin Tarantino's undisputed masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. Building on his previous outing, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction presents a cinematic universe of black comedy crime fiction filled with larger than life characters ranging from philosophizing hitmen through stoic retired boxers and badass crime bosses to problem solving professionals and retired army officers who have a terrible history with a certain gold watch.



To say that Pulp Fiction served as a major inspiration to Con City would be an understatement. While the first Con City novel directly pays homage to an iconic scene from the movie, Pulp Fiction's influence extends to far greater lengths than that single scene. The world of Con City is a literary universe of black comedy crime fiction. True, it gets a lot more crazy than Pulp Fiction, but even Pulp Fiction had its fair share of batshit insane moments, such as the infamous metal potato speech (one of Christopher Walken's finest moments) and the scene in the car with Marvin. Just imagine if Pulp Fiction was a novel and had lot more crazy shit like that in there. That, in a nutshell, is what's at the heart of Con City.

And if you've never seen Pulp Fiction: what? What? How have you not seen this legendary masterpiece? Go watch it right now. It won an Oscar, you know.

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