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Feature: Could Hydro Appear in the Next Mortal Kombat?

08/16/2014 :: Posted at 02:35 AM by Mick-Lucifer
MKO spotlights Hydro and investigates a long time fan query! (feat. John Tobias)

In June, the first trailer for Mortal Kombat X left us with an inquisitive tagline: Who's next? Fans hardly needed prompting to ask. After more than twenty years as a franchise - Mortal Kombat's ever-increasing cast of characters has made this a prevalent question ahead of any new installment!

The aggressive turnover of ideas, designs and playable characters has made Mortal Kombat a unique series to follow. Fans typically hold on to favourites with zealous fervour, but are just as inclined to seek untapped obscurities to keep the final cut fresh.

Thanks to the breadth of Mortal Kombat's reach as a pop culture icon - obscurity comes in many shapes and forms! There's the tradition of in-game easter eggs, hoaxes & rumors, and forgotten cult favourites from side-projects, like Tremor (Special Forces). Then there's the entire world of cross-media licensed adaptations - which brings us to today's feature question!

Many fans within the MKOmmunity have asked and speculated: Could Hydro appear in the next Mortal Kombat? The simple, odds-on answer is: No. The reason: A bit more complicated... Read on for the full story:


Project Hydro: Live-action webseries Legacy introduced cyborg fighter "LK-1V1".

If you know who Hydro is, it's a bit easier to write the character off your wishlist. The final episode of Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season 1 introduced Hydro to an audience of millions in 2011 -- but his true origins date back to 1994!

The character featured in Legacy was a grey toned Lin Kuei test cyborg designated Project Hydro [pictured above] -- or "LK-1V1", in keeping with MK3 reference codes [ie; Sektor, Cyrax & Smoke]. We might speculate director Kevin Tancharoen's YouTube leanings sourced the cyborg from popular fan-fiction of bootleg MUGEN game videos, but both examples ultimately -- knowingly, or not -- reference the same source.

Just like the other cyber-assassins featured in games and film: Hydro began life as a flesh-and-bone Lin Kuei warrior. In fact, he was never a cyborg at all.

His first appearance came in Mortal Kombat: Blood & Thunder -- a six-issue mini-series published by Malibu Comics.

These comics were part of a licensing phenomenon that came with the escalating success of Mortal Kombat II in 1993. Blood & Thunder was the source from which many mini-series and one-shots exploded, anchoring the books in a deviant retelling of the basic tournament plot. Opening acts were referential to the point of sometimes mirroring an official collectible comic issued by mail order, but Blood & Thunder quickly deviates with the embellishment of added original creations, and new story elements.

Fighters like Hydro, Lieutenant Lance, Grum, Sing & Sang, and others were created to help flesh out the tournament beyond early nineties game hardware. To ascertain whether or not anyone at Midway was involved in their creation, we asked the man behind the most famous Mortal Kombat characters: John Tobias.

The series co-creator and original creative lead told Mortal Kombat Online: "The only involvement I had with the Malibu comics was approval as a licensor, and only occasionally suggestions on story direction. We treated the comics as separate from the game's story canon to avoid conflicts, or complications with the direction we were taking the games. I would have liked to have been more involved, but was too busy focusing on the games."

Writer Charles Marshall and penciler Patrick Rolo divided chores on Blood & Thunder, making them the presumed creators of these original characters. In conjunction with license agreements, the comic creators were likely operating under a work-for-hire contract. This means they may have been entitled to residual royalties [a rumoured 5%], but trademark ownership likely remained with Malibu Comics, subject to stipulations of trademarks owned by Midway Entertainment.

Any rights established under Midway would have transferred to Warner Brothers with the 2009 approval of their purchase of the bankrupt company. In an ironic twist, however, Malibu Comics themselves were subject to purchase by Marvel Comics at the end of 1994. [Marvel is presently owned by famed WB rival: Disney Corporation.]

The division of royalties and rights pretty much ends the discussion about Malibu created characters. Not only is it much less cost effective than creating in-house properties through already contracted employees, but the majority of Malibu characters simply aren't good enough to warrant the effort. In the case of Hydro, he's a soggy second to fan-favourite water wielder: Rain. A character who lived and died as an expendable, half-melted Sub-Zero with sleeves, who only made it to Blood & Thunder #4 before being killed by Scorpion. [Toasty!]

For the sake of following the story to its conclusion, we asked long suffering Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort about the status of Malibu Comics properties. He responded: "There is a legal situation that prevents us from doing anything with any of the Malibu characters or properties—but because of non-disclosure agreements, I cannot tell you anything beyond that about it. So, long story short, nothing’s going on with those characters."


Finish Him: Scorpion wins. Fatality!

Wait just a second! If ownership and looming litigation makes it so difficult -- why the heck did Hydro appear in Mortal Kombat: Legacy?!

Without speaking to the merit of Kevin Tancharoen's creative decisions, we would conclude two simple caveats. 1) Although the name and concept is similar; "Project Hydro" bares no resemblance to the character that appears in Malibu Comics. He exhibits none of the abilities of the comics character, nor does he share any design similarities. 2) The appearance is probably well beneath anybody's radar or will to care.

Though possibly spirit crushing, we hope this feature investigation is at least informative and helpful. Fortunately, Mortal Kombat X still promises plenty of original and returning characters for 2015! This week's Gamescom gave us Kano -- the latest reveal with a new design and fighting Variations that are making him a fan-favourite!

Learn more about the history and importance of comics to Mortal Kombat in our previous feature. Register to post questions and discuss articles on the forums! You can also interact with us by following Mortal Kombat Online @MK_Online or via FacebooK.

    
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