Commissioner’s List: Drafting Mortal Kombat downloadable characters
by Phil Rockwell, Pop Culture Draft Night host
With the exception of Super Mario Bros, no video game franchise has had more staying power in your commissioner’s life than Mortal Kombat, and as MK has found its footing in the high-def era, it’s a more satisfying gaming experience than it has ever been. One of the most delightful adoptions developer NetherRealm has made since it’s hardcore “reboot” several games ago (titled simply, Mortal Kombat) has been its eagerness to reach beyond the limits of its “kanon” and pluck fighters from other movie and game universes. Kombat and its DC Universe sibling Injustice have featured downloadable content (DLC) fighters ranging from Freddy Krueger and the Predator to Hellboy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. On June 23, the first DLC fighter for Mortal Kombat 11, Shang Tsung, dropped with five more fighters still to come in the first wave of characters. Two of those fighters remain a mystery, so it seemed like an appropriate time to put together a list of the Pop Culture Draft Commissioner’s first round picks for MK11 DLC characters.
Note: Some characters who would be eligible for this list - including Ash Williams from The Evil Dead (Yes, please!) and, as of E3, Nick Sax from Happy! (WTF? YES!) - have been the subject of potential leaks and teases and were not included for that reason.
Pennywise the Clown
No other horror icon is more plug-and-play ready for the modern Mortal Kombat than the most recent incarnation of Pennywise the Clown. Bill Skarsgard’s ratty, drooling, buck-toothed horror put Tim Curry in the rearview (quite a feat) with a twisted, menacing performance full of nightmare fuel. As a Mortal Kombat fighter, Pennywise’s long limbs and morphing physique can be MK’s perverted answer to Street Fighter’s Dhalsim. Throw in red balloon projectiles and his phalanx of teeth, and you’ve got a nice well-rounded fighter to follow in MK’s tradition of horror icon DLC.
Fatality: Since I don’t have to worry about making this happen, it would be fun if part of Pennywise’s fatality involved morphing into each fighter’s biggest fear. Fire for Sub-Zero. Gingivitis for Baraka. A person who has never heard of Johnny Cage for Johnny Cage. The fighter then becomes frightened, starts to run away, but is stopped short by a lone red balloon floating in front of them. The balloon then pops, inflicting nearly any type of bodily harm one could think of.
Geralt of Rivia
By all accounts, Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher may be the most dynamic badass in the history of video games. Handy with a sword or two (or none) and packing a small but versatile suite of magic spells, he can stand toe-to-toe with any digital hero, past or present. Not to mention his striking look … the pale skin, the white hair, the cat eyes. I don’t cosplay, but if I did cosplay, I’d cosplay as fat Geralt.
For the purposes of this discussion, Geralt would be a perfect addition to the Mortal Kombat roster. And certainly a more befitting guest player than he was in his neutered appearance in another fighting game, Soul Calibur. A great down-and-dirty fighter who can bring in some Axii or Igni spells to shake things up, the only downside to Geralt’s inclusion in Mortal Kombat may just be his dominance.
Fatality: After depriving his foe of their upper extremities with the appropriate sword (D’vorah gets the silver), Geralt whistles for his trusty steed, Roach. After excitedly dashing onto the scene, Roach back-kicks his victim’s head high into the air. Geralt catches the head as it lands and then mounts it to Roach’s saddle, as he is wont to do with his monster hunting trophies.
On the one-in-a-never chance that Disney/Marvel would let one of its protected properties loose into the ultraviolent universe of Mortal Kombat, there’s only one character that belongs in the mix with the Sub-Zeros and the Sonya Blades. No stranger to all manner of disease, dismemberment, and decapitation, Wade “Deadpool” Wilson was born to play both sides in the battle between Earthrealm and the Netherrealm. A master of swordplay and gunplay, his battle bonafides are without reproach, but his sardonic humor and fourth-wall breaking commentary would bring a nice knowing wink to the increasingly cheeky fighting franchise.
Fatality: Deadpool twirls his pair of katanas back and forth, as he did when trying to deflect a hail of bullets from Cable. Satisfied with his slicing, he puts away his swords and turns to the audience.
“Wait for it.”
After a beat, his foe’s earlobe falls off.
Bemused at his lack of chopping success, ‘Pool pulls out his dual pistols and starts firing, poking out tiny, isolated pieces from the fighter’s torso until the figure falls to the ground in a heap of meat.
“JENGA!” Deadpool exclaims.
When digging through the annals of pro wrestling history for potential MK fighters, the first instinct is to take one of the Brothers of Destruction: Undertaker or Kane. The two certainly have their origins in the occult and the supernatural which would fit nicely in the Mortal Kombat mold. But I’m taking a slight turn for a character that’s weird enough for MK, but doesn’t bring redundant powers to the game (lightning and fire). So if I’m passing paranormal personas, I’m at least going to stay with a horror film aesthetic and pick Mick Foley’s Mankind. With his pseudo-Leatherface mask and ability to absorb untold amounts of punishment, Mankind could serve as a wonderfully goofy brute in the MK pantheon. And depending on what era Mankind we deal with, it’s conceivable that Mankind could find pleasure in the disparate broken bones and beheadings that any MK fighter is signed up to endure. Plus, bringing Foley onboard opens up the possibility of his other alter-egos like Dude Love and Cactus Jack entering the bloody fray.
Fatality: Mankind starts by picking up a microphone and proclaiming how good it is “to be back, right here, in the NetherRealm.” He then reaches into his waistband and pulls out Mr. Socko. With Socko in place, Mankind deploys the Mandible Claw - stuffing his Socko-sheathed hand into his opponent’s mouth. A green mist rises from Socko and the victim’s face begins to bubble and melt. Mankind then gives a few sharp tugs and their jaw comes loose in Mankind’s hand.
How can I possibly make a Mortal Kombat fighter out of a two-dimensional, children’s book illustration?
Thanks for writing E.B.
I think the best way to bring my next proposal to life would be to stay true, quite literally, to its origins. The Babadook came from paper, so keep him that way; make him appear like a cut out from a pop-up book. Have him operate on a single plane, may be occasionally showing a corner bend down from time to time, showing that his back is blank paper. Have his attacks follow suit with jerky cut-out animations and rustling paper sound effects. Since The Babadook was barely seen in the film, the possibilities for incorporating this monster are almost limitless from a design perspective.
Fatality: We zoom back to reveal the opponent standing in a giant book. The book suddenly slams shut, with fountains of viscera erupting from between the pages one, two, three times. As what’s left of the fighter is standing there, The Babadook shoot up from the inner spine and slices the player’s remains into ribbons with his claws.
Fighters in Mortal Kombat always seem ready to throw down. So, how about a fighter who is not only pissed about being there, but can also find all sorts of colorful and inventive ways of expressing that displeasure. And nobody does vulgar grump better than Game of Thrones’ Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. Foul of mouth and strong of sword, Sir Grumbles can bring all that brawling expertise we saw in Cleganebowl and unleash it on the poor, technically proficient MK fighters. Come for the dismissive intros - “What the f*** are you supposed to be?” - and stay for the dismissive victories - “P*** off you f***** t***.”
Fatality: The Hound spouts a string of vulgarities as his opponent wobbles on his feet. We cut to a close up of the fighter and out of the dark behind him comes…
ARYA STARK! (You know the shot I’m talking about)
She soars through the air and plants her dagger deep in the victim’s forehead. We then follow Arya to the side as she stands with her hands clasped behind her back and that signature Arya smirk on her face (you know the one I’m talking about). Off screen we hear The Hound scream and the whoosh and squelch of a sword cleaving its target as a wave of blood splashes across Arya’s unblinking face.
If you’re going to make a fighting game, why would you not pull from the franchise that has the best fight scenes of the past decade. Sure, he was already announced as playing a significant role in CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, but that doesn’t mean Keanu Reeves’ John Wick should be left out of the Mortal Kombat mix. In addition to his own hand-to-hand skills, he’s proficient with knives, guns, and can always whistle a pit bull into the fight to tip the scales.
Fatality: There are no rules to this multiverse we’ve created, so let’s go completely bananas. Wick softens up his opponent with bullets to all of their most vulnerable joints. Then a sound like a rocket builds and a figure dressed all-in-black lands between Wick and his rival.
He turns around.
Neo Supermans into his victim’s abdomen, and after a moment of writing in pain, the fighter explodes. Their begins to roll away before there’s a flash and a phone booth crushes the head to paste.
The phone booth opens and George Carlin’s Rufus steps out. He looks back and forth between Neo and Wick. He nods and steps back into the phone booth.
“Wrong number.” he says.
The phone booth flashes away again as our two heroes look on.
“Whoa.” Neo says.
Though not exactly in the target demographic, I’d love to see Mortal Kombat take a swing at Goosebumps’ Slappy the Dummy. The idea of a lightweight puppet flying around the arena gives me the giggles. Sam Neil’s Dr. William Weir is in bad shape by the end of Event Horizon, but that aesthetic would fit nicely into MK. Plus, the Horizon has been to hell and back so imagine the horror Weir could bring into play. And finally, I have fallen in love with the idea of critic/host Joe Bob Briggs bringing his B-movie brethren with him to the fight, if only so I can see Belial from Basket Case turned into a projectile.
Mortal Kombat already recruited Jason Voorhees, so I’m not sure how bringing Michael Myers into the game would achieve anything fresh or interesting. And while he’s still one of the most memorably designed horror icons, a recent Hellraiser rewatch reminded me that Pinhead and his Cenobite army are a remarkably passive bunch. And finally, the most likely crossover from the Injustice franchise would be The Joker, but unless they’re going to bring us a suite of Jokers from TV and film - from Romero to Phoenix - and a chance to see all manner of bodily injury inflicted on Leto’s Joker, I’ll pass.
Peerless. Genius. Trendsetter. These are words Phil Rockwell has in his vocabulary. A film school graduate now working in a casino, Phil is a film, tv, and video game junkie who cries when he sees anything that reminds him of his daughter.