Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Riddance, 2009

The ironic thing is that, for the first time in years, I had a plan. Granted, it wasn't a detailed plan. But it was still a plan, and that was a damn sight better than I'd managed to muster since the early days of 2006. As 2009 began, I was more than a little frightened, but excited to see where the plan would ultimately take me.

And then everything fell apart before January had even ended.

I've gone through a lot of conflicted emotions this year, and there have been moments that don't make me particularly proud in retrospect. There are certain things I still think about every day. But perhaps by necessity, I've disconnected myself emotionally from them. I can still remember how they felt, but I don't feel them anymore. I try not to consider where exactly that puts me.

I've been down a dozen roads this past year, trying to do more than just remember. None of them have led me very far before they ran out. I'd like to think just trying will make a difference.

Of course, it hasn't helped that just about everything else in my life decided that 2009 would be a great time to break. That includes my own body, as it turns out. I've dealt with a bad roof, bad plumbing, car trouble, and I nearly seriously injured myself in a freak accident. I've accumulated numerous pains and managed to put on even more weight. I'm sure I've left out a bunch of fun business, too.

Oh, and then my older sister died unexpectedly in September.

I'm still not sure how I struggled through these last 12 months. I'm sure a large amount of credit for that goes to my friends. Though some of those relationships grew distant during 2009, I am pretty sure my friends made it a lot easier to make it. This probably doesn't sound like a major revelation, but for someone who has felt isolated most of his life, it was reassuring to know I didn't always have to be alone.

Creatively, I've achieved some triumphs. I finished what I think is one of the better stories I've ever written, which is all the more remarkable considering the turmoil I was in while working on it. There was also this blog. Originally created as something of an afterthought in January, it has evolved into one of the purest expressions of my unique worldview that I've ever crafted. I derived considerable satisfaction shaping it during 2009, and plan to continue making it something special for me in the coming year.

I have a lot I need to do in 2010. I need to finally bring closure to a project that has dragged on much longer than it was originally envisioned. I need to shape up and stop letting myself fall further into decline. I need to at least begin the task of finding myself again, and where I go from here - in all its many permutations. It's a tall order.

Right now, as the minutes tick away, what I need most is to put 2009 in my rearview mirror. I'm tired of rehashing my many misfortunes, tired of mourning my losses, tired of wondering why, tired of whining, tired of crying, and tired of being so damn tired all the time. I deserve better than I've gotten, and at least some (if not most) of the fault is my own. It's time for my life to turn around, and a new year sounds as good a place as any for that to begin.

It's not hopeless. I've seen glimmers of what could be. Maybe they will end up becoming more fully-realized in the days to come. But right now, they are just hints of what could be.

Good-bye, 2009. You weren't the worst year of my life, but you tested me. Now let's see what 2010 has to offer.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Covered by Elvis?

As you might recall, three weeks ago I wrote about the lack of Elvis Presley in the so-called "Classic Rock" format. This entry generated a bit more discussion than usual, and that didn't really surprise me. I mean, love him or hate him, Elvis is a kind of inescapable figure in our culture, no? That's part of why we've come back to "The King" today.

You see, my musings on Presley's place in the current radio firmament did not spring out of a void; rather, it was an outgrowth of another, more whimsical question that has dogged me for years. Elvis Presley's death was, shall we say, somewhat untimely. The man was only 42 when he died. Let's say that Elvis had lived to a ripe old age - a minimum of another 20 years. There is no telling what he could have done musically in that time.

If you were paying attention to the title, you see where I'm heading. I have often wished that Elvis could have lived to record cover versions of certain pop songs that probably never occurred to him while he was alive. As the inimitable Damon Foster pointed out to me on Facebook, you can get an idea what this might have been like from certain Elvis impersonators. He cited The King ("Smells like Teen Spirit", "Whole Lotta' Rosie", "Somethin' Else") and the Las Vegas act Metal Elvis ("Burning Love" mixed with "Paranoid"). I also remember a band called Dread Zeppelin, which was fronted by an Elvis soundalike singing reggae versions of Led Zeppelin songs.

Those are all cool, but I can't help but wonder what it would have been like for the real Elvis to put his stamp on songs we don't identify with him. The two that have always haunted me are the Doors' "Light My Fire" and Billy Idol's "White Wedding". Really, you could pick any Doors or Billy Idol original, but those two in particular capture my imagination when I think of Elvis covering them.

So today's post asks a question, which is this : If Elvis had lived, what song(s) do you wish he would have recorded? When I posted this on Facebook, Danny Tokarz admitted that he would have loved to hear the King cover the Misfits' "Vampira", and my younger sister Amy Elam admitted to a fondness for Presley taking a crack at Nelly's "Hot In Here". Now, gentle reader, it is time for YOU to chime in, and let your voice be heard on this vital question for our civilization.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Incredible Melting Man



(link)


I have never seen THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Actually, I should amend that to say that I have no real desire to see THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. It doesn't sound like it's my sort of thing, and it's also supposedly not very good. Yeah, yeah, some wiseacre out there is thinking that it being not very good should make it exactly my sort of thing. Hush.

On the other hand, I saw this TV spot a lot when the movie was new. It traumatized me as a child. Gimme a break, I was only 5! It is one heck of an awesome ad. The editing is first-rate, and Adolph Caesar's voiceover work is as remarkable as always. This spot almost makes me want to see a movie like THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN!

Monday, December 28, 2009

ROJ Will Return In 2010

Honest.

I can't call 2009 a wasted year in terms of my long-suffering website www.returnofjetman.com, but it wasn't everything it could have been. A new episode premiered in March, there have been a couple of new sets of Production Notes, and there were several new art pieces by my amazing contributors. Oh yeah, I would have totally taken that at this time last year. But...I wanted more. There could've been more. Unfortunately, every time I got into a groove, I promptly got out of it. Very unsatisfying.

As I felt compelled to announce on the site itself nearly four (!) years ago, I didn't start this to not see it through to a finish. There is an ending, and I'm currently staring it right in the eye. Given that 2010 will be the 15th anniversary of the creation of ROJ, I have a little extra incentive to get on the stick and do this thing.

There are elements of the 7th episode already completed. With determination and perhaps a little luck, we'll have seen the finished product by this time next year. The site itself will probably always be a work-in-progress, but it's way past time for the narrative to reach a conclusion.

Thanks to all the people who have lent their talents to building ROJ, and of course, the readers who enjoy it. As I work on my little corner of the Internet, might I suggest supporting the real thing if you haven't already?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Fake" Korean "Anime" DVDs

That's more quotes than usual in a title. I feel vaguely like a 1980s Jack Kirby character. (inside joke for you comic fans)

Not too many years ago, a small budget DVD company named Digiview put out a number of titles that, at first blush, looked for all the world like Japanese animation. But they weren't. Instead, they turned out to be KOREAN animation, and not especially good examples. Dubbed into English and licensed by the fine folks at IFD Films, they are amazingly awful. And yet, I cannot find it in my heart to hate them. They cross the line from being bad to a realm where it is one of life's sweet mysteries how they even exist.

I think Digiview is gone now, but I am quite possibly mistaken about this. IFD is still out there, as you can see here and here if you must. And I never managed to get quite all of those DVDs. But I do have a lot of them, and all they're doing is sitting in a box. I could give them away, but that would just be mean to someone. No no, I think I'll try to take a look at a few of them next year, and post the unholy results for all to see.

Be afraid.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Words To Live By

Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.


--Steve Martin, Pure Drivel

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Beatings!

Beware! Santa!

Saaaaay, why aren't you in bed? Don't you know what will happen if Santa catches you spying on him? I think the above picture by Keith Giffen & Bob Oksner (from an Ambush Bug book, © DC Comics) should convince you that getting on Kris Kringle's bad side isn't the best of ideas.

...Eek, what am I still doing up????

Merry Christmas, and a Happy Holiday to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Entry With No Name

So I was sitting around trying to come up with a suitable blog entry, and decided that my best bet would be to compose something completely incomprehensible to those of you who read my feeds. This will only make sense in the original context of my blog, which is "Christopher Elam's OWARI" and located right here - if that isn't where you are in the first place.

It can be confusing writing to multiple audiences, friends.

I'm on a bit of a posting sabbatical at the moment, as I've been working on some other things instead of the blog. Occasionally, that has included my fairly new Twitter. I've been using it as something of a proving ground for some material, and also random observations that don't merit an entry devoted entirely to them. I may, however, gather some of my favorites into a post soon.

I quietly changed the look of my sidebar not very long ago, too. The Blog Links are now ordered by most recent post, and include the title of the most recent entry. Neat little gadget there, Blogger! New additions are the blogs of Roy Ware and Frank Kurtz, two talented gentlemen who both played an unknowing role in the original launch of OWARI all those years ago. Also worth noting is that my friend Sara has been blogging more actively lately. She's recently added ads to her blog, so she urges you to spend money if you visit it!

That's really all I've got right now, except to remind you that ALL of those links in the sidebar are worth your time. That's why they're there! I'll try to return before Christmas, but I'm not making any promises either.

Friday, December 11, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

  • 45 RPM records
  • Akihiko Hirata
  • Annette Haven
  • "Baker Street"
  • Big Bang Comics
  • billiards
  • Bugs Bunny
  • comic books
  • Dick Dillin
  • dogs playing poker
  • Ghostbusters
  • gummi candy
  • Hong Kong dubbing
  • Japanese Sci-Fi
  • Katakana
  • Mark Jackson, Diamond G-Man
  • Mid-South Wrestling
  • Orange Crush
  • "purple monkey telescope"
  • Tokyo Tower

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Idea Ahead Of Its Time

Tangentially, I've often fantasized about gathering a big bunch of animation fans of all kinds, ponying up a small amount of money each, and beginning a cable TV channel which would show nothing but cartoons, from sign-on-to-sign-off -- in their entirety, black and white if they were made that way, theatrical and television, from every studio and every country, the pure entertainment to the experimental. There's certainly plenty of material available, and who knows how successful it could be; as a unique cable service among the myriad carbon-copy movie channels, it could very well end up beamed all over the country.[...]I'm sure the day will come when someone else will come up with the idea, and will become fabulously rich doing it...


--Mike Tiefenbacher
The Comic Reader #190 (May-June 1981)

So close, Mike, and yet oh so far.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong, Can They?

The most important thing for you to understand is that I'm not a huge Elvis Presley fan. I respect what he accomplished. I think he was great at what he did. He recorded some songs I enjoy. But I would never identify myself as an Elvis "fan" the way I'm a fan of bands like Devo or Blue Oyster Cult.

Having SAID that...

A lot has been written about the imperfections of the current radio scene. To me, nothing speaks more to the uselessness of today's radio "formats" than the lack of Elvis Presley in what is labeled as "Classic Rock". Elvis has been called "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" longer than I've been alive. Yet, I've never, ever heard his music on a Classic Rock station. I suppose you COULD argue that Presley's truly iconic songs pre-date what is considered the "Classic Rock Era".

First, the "Classic Rock Era" is something invented by programmers, not a genuine movement. Any umbrella classification that covers the Moody Blues and Motley Crue equally, and counts them as part of the same thing is not something I can take even remotely seriously. Second, even if you consider Classic Rock a function of a certain period of time, Elvis still had plenty of fine songs during it. "Burning Love", anyone? "In The Ghetto"? "Kentucky Rain"? "Way Down"?

Some would charge that none of Presley's songs fit the Classic Rock mold. Maybe that's why they are omitted, but I still find it appalling. Classic Rock as it is currently defined encompasses heavy metal, psychedelic, glam, progressive, Southern rock, and dozens of quirky songs and genres. There is apparently plenty of room for all of this in Classic Rock.

But there's no place in Classic Rock for Elvis Presley.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Signs Of Intelligent Life

One day at work, one of our TV's wouldn't come on. I was checking to see why and discovered that someone had plugged a power strip into itself.

That really speaks volumes, no?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

DC Comics Classics Library : Flash of Two Worlds

I bought DC Comics Classics Library : Flash of Two Worlds as something of an experiment. The results were mixed.

I didn't really need this book, nor did I especially want it. It is a collection of the Silver Age team-ups of the Flashes of Earth-One and Earth-Two, which is ordinarily exactly the sort of thing that I am all aboard for. The one hitch is that all these stories had previously been reprinted in two softcover volumes of Crisis on Multiple Earths : The Team-Ups. Both of those books are relatively recent and still in print. They also offer additional team-ups stories besides the Flash tales, for a combined price that is LESS than this book.

There's also the matter of the solicitation copy. You can see it on DC's page for this title. Unless you are really into this sort of thing (like me!), you probably won't notice the problem. One of the team-up stories of the two Flashes is not included in the list of issues reprinted. It is a sort of borderline story, but I just couldn't believe it when I saw its omission. It is bad enough to publish a book that is both redundant and a bad deal, but compound that with making it incomplete, and I was flabbergasted.

Well, despite my reservations about this collection, I elected to purchase it. I like these stories, and I am eager to see DC put out more collections of these sort of comics. I chose to "take one for the team", and figured I could see what all the fuss is about regarding the DCCL books in the bargain. This was, I should hasten to add, prior to the Perez JLA book discussed on this very blog not long ago.

I turned out to be pleasantly surprised when I tore off the shrinkwrap. The solicitation was wrong. This is turning out to be rather common with DC's solicitations lately. The book is actually 160 pages, not 144. The story from #170 (the missing issue in question) was included after all. That means that the book includes all six Infantino-drawn Flash/Flash stories of the Silver Age. Nice save, DC.

UNFORTUNATELY, DC still made a goof with this book that I didn't notice until I sat down to read it closely. Several pages from The Flash #129's story have suffered art loss on the left margins. Some are just barely noticeable, while others lop off portions of the word balloons. This story is reproduced without this defect in the earlier Crisis book, so I am at a loss as to what happened here. It's not like this book is so thick that the art needed to be shifted to accommodate the spine.

Anyway, there is a one page introduction by Geoff Johns, and two pages of creator bios. All covers are included. The splash page for The Flash #137 has the original captions, rather than the altered ones that ran in the Crisis book. The reproduction looks fine as near as I can tell (other than the glaring error mentioned one paragraph ago), and I assume the paper stock is the same that they've been using in other Classics.

I think it was too soon to be publishing this book, with both Crisis books still in print. However, DC fixed the problems that I had with it from its original solicitation, and except for the art loss on one story, I think it's a well-packaged collection. If you don't already own these stories, or would simply like to upgrade them to a hardcover, I can mildly recommend this book. Just be aware of what you are getting into, and the fact that it's forty dollars for less than 200 pages.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kaiju Kinema

I've been on the Internet almost nine years now, and during that time, I've launched a lot of different projects. Some have achieved varying levels of success, and others slipped quietly into obscurity. "Kaiju Kinema" was probably one of the most obscure of the latter bunch.

Back in the mid- to late 1990s, I worked with Ronnie Burton to translate the credits to dozens of Japanese monster and sci-fi movies. This joint research ultimately culminated in THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE, my only self-publishing venture apart from the regular OWARI numbering. THE KAIJU DETECTIVE is a topic for another day (and likely will be sometime next year), but that work planted the seeds for what I envisioned with "Kaiju Kinema".

I have 5 MB of free webspace from my ISP. When I set up the original "official OWARI site", I was trying to figure out what it should have. The Japanese film research seemed a natural, since it had been such a big part of my publishing efforts. The website would finally provide a low cost venue for information that just wasn't out there in English. It was a great way to make the OWARI site stand out.

The problem was that I had grown tired of pursuing the research on a regular basis. I had immersed myself in it for awhile, and I think I lost the enthusiasm that Ronnie had for it. Still, I forged ahead, determined to try to give my web presence some form of identity. I also developed a new name for this version of the project.

"The Kaiju Detective" is and was a perfectly fine name, but it was a name that I attached to the project because it was a nickname coined for Ronnie by G-Fan editor/publisher J.D. Lees. Though Ronnie would be duly credited for his massive contributions, he wouldn't be directly involved. I didn't feel right using what I considered "his" name, so I dreamed up a new one. "Kaiju Kinema" was the result.

To this day, I think "Kaiju Kinema" is an incredibly strong name. It works as creative spelling even if you aren't aware of Kinema Junpo magazine. In fact, if I'd thought of it in 1995, I daresay that my fanzine would have been named "Kaiju Kinema". Of course, I would've been screwed when the focus shifted away from primarily Japanese stuff. I'm just saying is all.

I added a Kaiju Kinema section to my website and even made it as far as uploading credit lists for one or two films. Then, it all stalled. I had a lot of things competing for my attention, and Kaiju Kinema never felt like a high priority. I eventually junked the whole thing. I've made a couple of attempts to revive it since then, but nothing that amounted to much.

It's sort of weird that I've so completely lost my passion for what was once the chief vehicle for my fannish pursuits. The immediacy of the whole thing has been diminished significantly as the years have passed, now that many of the Japanese cuts of these films are widely available on DVD in the West. Those DVDs will often include comprehensive translations of the credits. Our "guide" isn't as exotic as it once was.

I won't deny that it was fun times though. You get your kicks where you can find them.

If you're interested in a database far larger than I could have ever managed, there is just such a Japanese site. It might take you some time to translate things, but trust me, that can be part of the fun. It is the truly wonderfully named Gojira-Tokusatsu SIGHT (sic).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The 2007 Legion of Heroes Reunion

The 2007 Legion of Heroes Reunion

The 2007 Legion of Heroes Reunion
by Chris Elam

(DISCLAIMER : The following story is non-canonical, and probably ghost-written by the spirit of Bob Haney!)

Dateline : MAJOR CITY - In light of the recent interest in their past exploits, former Legion of Heroes leader Ferro Man called up his old arch-nemesis the Black Terror and proposed a joint reunion of the Legion of Heroes and the Legion of Villains. It didn't take long for the Black Terror to warm to the idea, and the wheels were quickly set in motion.

"The time just seemed right," Ferro Man explained. "There've been a few hints of revival before, but this is the most attention the Legion has gotten in over 20 years! I mean, obviously we're not going to be headlining our own title or anything, but this way we can satisfy the new fans while giving back to everybody who made the old days so much fun. Sort of like Duran Duran's reunion tours, except good."

The Black Terror agreed. "Speaking just for the villains, we thought it'd be a blast!" he enthused. "We had so much fun back then - rampages, sinister laughing, just being all around bad eggs. Of course, we were baked half of the time - using the Conqueror's helmet for a bong, it was hard not to be! We'd have a big blowout and then go out and ambush the Legion of Heroes when it was done. You can't buy good times like those!"

The reunion was designed to be an all-inclusive affair, which presented a problem for the Legion of Villains alumni. Their membership had been so loosely-defined that no one was quite sure who actually belonged to the group. For example, had the giant alternately known as Klaytron and Slaytron ever really been a member? Bird Man was charged with delivering invitations to all of the former baddies he could find. "It was hell!" he exclaimed. "How do you go about finding other-dimensional entities like the Claw and the Evil Eye? They aren't exactly in the phone book! D10 was moonlighting as the take-out screen at the Jack-In-The-Box around the corner from my house, but not everyone was so easy to find. And Zero Wolf! Hoo boy, we weren't even sure if they were going to let him in the hotel for the get-together. Fortunately, Blue Square and Sting Bee convinced the staff that he was house-broken."

Though the heroes had been a shade better organized than their foes, they felt it only right to invite some of their trusted allies as well. Among their honored guests were the Exploding Man and the alien hero Aeyear, both of whom had distinguished themselves in assisting the Legion. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire evening came with the arrival of Reddy, Red Circle's one-time boy sidekick.

"Reddy was reluctant to attend," Elastic Man said. "After all, the act had broken up years ago. I finally talked him into it, and BOY, you could just see the grin on the Circle's face even through his mask when the little guy walked through the door. In no time at all, they were yukking it up and trading noogies and wedgies. I'm smelling a comeback for those two if they stay in touch."

There was a bit of a ruckus later in the evening due to the antics of a few members of the Secret Society. Their inclusion in the festivities had rankled some Legion members in the first place. "Man, those guys!" Mr. Tough fumed. "We cross universes ONE TIME to save their bacon, and they're forever pestering us for team-ups afterward. What are we, a superhero group or a charity?"

"Oh, don't mind Toughy," Muscle Man dismissed. "He's just bitter because he's a second-stringer himself. Most of the Society guys are swell. Bat Eater and I were roommates in college, for crying out loud, and you'd never meet a nicer guy. Plus, and most people forget this, I was part of the first version of the team with Avenging X and Aeyear before it broke up. X and I joined the Legion shortly afterward, but the Society has a special place in my heart."

"Yeah, my brother Black X formed the second Society and moved it to a parallel Earth," Avenging X explained. "Unfortunately, most of the guys he got to sign up were the, er, misfits of the old gang. Look, Conehead and I were in the same fraternity - GO DELTAS! - and I love him to death, but the guy's just odd."

As it turned out, the same could be said of many of Conehead's teammates. Whether it was Octopus Man boring Black Knight with tales of his new gig as a goalie in a professional soccer league or Redman annoying Neutro so badly that he threatened to write himself out of continuity, some of the Society members contributed to the least memorable portions of the proceedings. Finally, it all came to a head as the hired band plodded through an uninspired rendition of "Baker Street".

"It was that shape-shifter guy whose name nobody remembers," commented Force Field. "He's already obnoxious, and adding in roaringly drunk just makes for an unbeatable combo. He ended up passing out in the middle of the refreshment table and that just ENRAGED the Viking. It took both Unknown Man and Sherman Tank to hold that Nordic nut back. Car Man loaded the chameleonic jerk into his trunk and drove him home. Good riddance."

For his part, the Viking only had this to say : "FORSOOTH, THERE IS NOTHING THE VIKING ENJOYS MORE THAN CHEESE DOODLES, AND THOU ART SPILLING THEM ON THE FLOOR??!!?? I SAY THEE NAY!!!!!!"

There was another brief hiccup in the evening, and that was when an uninvited hero crashed the proceedings. "My creepy ex-boyfriend Brickman," groaned Amazing Girl. "I told him we were over after he deserted me while we were fighting the Purple People Eater. But does he listen? NO!"

"But it's OK," she smiled. "Muscle Woman, ahem, ejected him in such a way that even his magic bricks couldn't help. Now I just need to wipe my phone number and e-mail address from his memory."

Despite these minor (and perhaps inevitable) potholes, most of the attendees declared the evening a success. "Yeah, definitely very memorable," said Ferro Man, who was wearing an extremely tiny party hat. "We need to see about doing something like this again, or maybe even staging an inter-team battle."

"I'm game!" a clearly toasted Black Terror announced as he turned and punched the hero in the jaw. This touched off a fierce post-reunion hero/villain skirmish that wrecked the hotel and was agreed by all to be the highlight of the evening. After it was over, Ferro Man and Black Terror shook hands and embraced, laughing the whole time.

It was just like the old days.

---

KEY

As you might recall, I did some giftart for my friend Sara in 2007. I posted that pic on my blog back in May. As I mentioned there, I had been intending to do a big picture like that all along, but my original idea had been to do a Legion of Heroes "reunion". I was so pleased with the outcome of Sara's picture that I decided I would do that reunion picture. And of course, things snowballed from there.

My original intention was to only depict the Legion members and perhaps a few of their villains. But I found myself adding more and more characters - the Secret Society guys, to name seven - until I wound up with 36. THIRTY-SIX! Clearly, I am mad.

As if to prove my absolute insanity, I subsequently posted a series of 24 inked pictures that depicted the 30 characters that hadn't already gotten the updated treatment on dA. I probably won't post every single one of those here, but I may provide links so interested parties can check them out. 2007 was a very fertile period in terms of generating artwork of my stable of characters.

Your key to the cast of characters :

1. Blue Square
2. The Claw
3. Sting Bee
4. Conehead
5. Brickman
6. The Evil Eye
7. The Purple People Eater
8. Klaytron/Slaytron
9. The Black Terror
10. Octopus Man
11. "that shape-shifter guy whose name nobody remembers" (Chameleon? "Carm"?)
12. Bat Eater
13. Ferro Man
14. The Avenging X
15. Unknown Man
16. Bird Man
17. The Exploding Man
18. Elastic Man
19. Reddy
20. Red Circle
21. Black Knight
22. Muscle Man
23. Muscle Woman
24. Amazing Girl
25. Car Man
26. Redman
27. Black X
28. Zero Wolf
29. Force Field
30. The Conqueror
31. The Viking
32. Sherman Tank
33. D10
34. Aeyear
35. Mr. Tough
36. Neutro

Thanks to everyone who has supported the Legion and their friends over the years. And thank you to all the readers of OWARI. There's more to come, so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Have you ever seen the (b)rain?

Are you familiar with Parade magazine? You're forgiven if it has eluded your attention, since it is "old media" at its oldest. It is a magazine that is inserted free in the Sunday edition of many newspapers. Since I still like my papers, I usually give it a glance in the morning.

One of the enduring features of Parade is the "Personality Parade" column, which showcases reader questions about celebrities. My late father particularly loved this one, as it sometimes features some head-scratchers. His favorite was the incensed reader who asked how a comedian could get away with referring to Ronald Reagan as a "known heterosexual", since that was such a scandalous falsehood.

I find myself wondering sometimes if the readers who write to this column are even real. I mean, they can't be, right? Take this sample question from last Sunday's edition :

"I love Creedence Clearwater Revival co-founder John Fogerty. How come there's no musical a la Mamma Mia! of his work?"


The best part about that question? The "answer" is a total non-sequiter that has nothing to do with the original question.

I can't wait to see what wonders tomorrow's edition holds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Secrets From Old Letter Columns

I found this in a copy of Super Friends #5 (June 1977).

A letter from Colleen Doran

Don't know who Colleen Doran is? Well, check this out, yo.

This letter was previously discussed in a blog entry at Gorilla Daze, but that was something I didn't know when I scanned it. The interesting thing is that, according to Doran herself, she was born July 24, 1968 (though some sources erroneously list it as 1963). This particular comic went on sale March 21, 1977, which means her letter was likely written sometime in 1976. When she was 8.

Go back and read it again. Not bad for an 8 year old, huh?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Battlehawk



(Those of you on Facebook can see the video link here. Totally worth it.)

BATTLEHAWK is one of those rare 1970s live-action shows from Go Nagai, Ken Ishikawa, and the rest of the fine folks at Dynamic Planning. I can see some of the Nagai trademarks in this opening & closing, but it just as much resembles a bunch of other shows from that same era. The sentai thing is obvious because GORANGER is the most famous of the lot, and that yellow guy sure reminds me of Kiranger. Yet I can see traces of shows like AKUMAIZER 3 in there, too. Heck, they even appear to have filmed part of the closing on the exact same stretch of highway used in the opening on NINJA CAPTOR!

With sentai having become so pervasive in Japanese superherodom (and don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan), it's easy to forget that neither those shows, nor Toei itself, had a lock on the "team" concept. Shows like TRIPLE FIGHTER, MEGALOMAN, BANKID, and yes, BATTLEHAWK might not be as well-remembered today, but they paved the way for the flashier series that were yet to come, and did it in a very entertaining way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Girls of the World

One of my favorite artists and people is the young lady who goes by the nom de Internet Kabuki Katze. I've been privileged to watch her grow both as a person and an artist for over 5 years. It's been quite the amazing sight to see.

Now, Kabuki has entered another new phase in her budding art career. She has self-published her very first art book! It's called "Girls of the World", and it's a children's alphabet book with a difference. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the craftsmanship the delightful Ms. Katze brings to the table.

You can order "Girls of the World" by clicking this link. A PDF preview can be had here.

I love this book. And I can prove it!

Congratulations, Kabuki! Onward and upward with the arts!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Most Wanted Reprints : The Immortal Doctor Fate

The solo stories starring the mystic Justice Society member Dr. Fate are among the best-kept secrets of 1970s & early 1980s comics. That is genuinely too bad, as it is a fantastic little mini-run. They were reprinted in a 3 issue mini-series in the mid-80s, but since then, only The Art of Walt Simonson trade has collected any of them. And with that book being 20 years old (egads!), I don't think we can refer to it as "recent".

As you might gather, Simonson did the art on one of these stories. It originally ran in First Issue Special #9, and it reads suspiciously like a backdoor attempt at creating an "Earth-One" Dr. Fate. Since that never happened, the innovations in the character were incorporated into the Earth-Two version. This is no small thing, as many of the distinguishing characteristics of the post-Golden Age incarnation of Dr. Fate were born in that story, written by Marty Pasko. I first read it in a DC digest a couple of years after its first publication and it blew me away.

Several years later, Dr. Fate earned an 8 page back-up slot in The Flash. Pasko returned, along with Steve Gerber for some installments, but there was a new artist named Keith Giffen. Giffen had previously drawn Fate in a few issues of All-Star Comics, but his work on this strip is much different. I love the JSA stories, but these are downright cosmic. Giffen was in his lush, Kirby-ish phase that briefly made him a fan-favorite during this run, and it makes for some exceptionally memorable imagery.

The deluxe mini-series also included a short origin story for Dr. Fate by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton that was done for one of the DC Special Series one-shots. It is, as far as I know, the only 1970s-era JSA-related story by that team not currently in print.

I'd really love to see a new trade paperback of these stories. There's a Golden Age Dr. Fate story in the mini-series that would likely be omitted, as it was recently reprinted in an Archive along with the rest of Fate's 1940s stories. That leaves the Bronze Age stuff, and it doesn't add up to a whole lot of pages. There was a time when I might have thought this a hindrance, but I think it actually increases the odds of this book happening now.

Besides the stories, I'd like to see the relevant covers reprinted in color. That's the ones for the mini-series and a couple from the original comics. There's also a great house ad for the backup, and the Walt Simonson book has a couple of interesting bits and pieces that would be a welcome addition. It even has a written piece by Simonson that I'd love to see in a collection of the stories.

This would be a book of less than 200 pages, and it involves creators who are well-known and still active in the field. If necessary, it could be branded with the "JSA Presents" label that has been used for things like Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and stories of the original Green Lantern. So how about it, DC? Can we find a market for this book, and bring these great stories back into print?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thinking Too Much About THE H-MAN

I'm pretty sure I've seen the Japanese monster movie THE H-MAN at least a dozen times, especially if you count both the English-dubbed and Japanese language versions. It's one of my favorites of the non-giant variety. In some ways, I think that's a little unusual. After all, the film is a lot bleaker than is my regular taste for Asian SF. Credit my love of this tale of gangsters and rampaging goo men to my having seen it at a key time in the development of my obsession with Japanese fantasy.

THE H-MAN was recently released with MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE by Sony in a 3 DVD collection labeled "Icons of Sci-Fi : The Toho Collection". All three films are presented in both their original Japanese and English-dubbed versions. They all look gorgeous, and it's quite instructive to compare the two divergent interpretations of the same story. One aspect of THE H-MAN in particular stood out to me.

The heroine of THE H-MAN is Chitako Arai (Yumi Shirakawa), a nightclub singer. One subtle difference is her relationship to her mostly absent fella Misaki (Hisaya Ito). In the Japanese version, she is characterized as his "girlfriend", while the U.S. dialogue describes her as his "wife". One imagines this was to avoid scandalizing certain segments of 1950s America, given that they lived together. Gotta love it.

Now, there is something that is the SAME in both cuts, but this only leads me to more questions. You see, after hearing Chitako's two songs in THE H-MAN for years and years, I naturally had assumed they were done specifically for the English dub. They were completely in English, and that only made sense.

Except it's wrong. The songs are identical in both versions. Shirakawa is clearly lip-syncing, but I really didn't imagine she sang them in the first place. This does raise a question or two in my mind. Is Chitako also lip-syncing in the context of the film's story, or does she somehow have the ability to sing two different numbers in pitch perfect English in 1950s-era Japan? I'm not insinuating that such a thing is impossible, but it makes you wonder.

Part of the reason I wonder is the apparent fact that Chitako makes at least as much dough, if not more, than Misaki, despite his being involved in shady dealings. She also says that how much she makes "depends". If she is that good a singer, well, I can see why she is so well-paid. But if she's just lip-syncing? How in the world does she make so much money?

Let's see : Exceptionally pretty girl. Lives with a criminal boyfriend. Works at a nightclub. Makes large sums of money, but it "depends". May not have singing talent, despite working as a singer. Following that line of reasoning, it's not hard to determine how Chitako might make so much money. Or why the police are so suspicious of her at every turn.

I don't have any insight into the script or the thought process of the filmmakers, so this is all purely conjecture on my part. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'll confess it never even occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago. So it's not as if I have a completely filthy mind.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Lonely Ant

When I am bored or trying to sleep, sometimes I like to imagine ants.

Not real ants, I should hasten to add. I get enough of those in real life from country living. No, these imaginary ants are anthropomorphic ants. They live in anthills that approximate cities. Their lives have a lot more in common with humans than ants. But, they're still ants.

More specifically, my ant scenario usually focuses on one ant in particular. He doesn't have a name; he's an Everyant (I hope I just coined that term). Sometimes, he is stationed all alone at an outpost on the far perimeter of my ant civilization. More often, he runs a small little shop/bar in a largely-abandoned anthill city. The common denominator in both is that my ant surrogate is almost totally isolated from his fellow ants.

If you've ever seen an anthill, you realize how strange an idea this is. Those places are teeming with ants. And yet, I've somehow developed this plot thread of a lonely ant. It allows me to relax my overactive imagination, and either get some sleep or move on from a topic that has been preoccupying me.

I can't remember when this all started. I have a dim memory of once owning a religious comic book that featured anthropomorphic blue ants and orange ants fighting a war. I think that may have been the beginning. However, I don't even know if I own that book anymore. If I do, it is buried in a forgotten box.

Yeah, this is pretty weird, I know. I don't know why it holds some fascination to my half-awake mind, but it does.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Favicon Is Go!

Over here, I've added a favicon at long last. It was created with the help of this webtool, so all credit to it.

I've also made the unsettling discovery that certain (what I thought were) basic functions of the site...uh, they don't display properly in Firefox. At least not right now. Hmmm.

Anyway, that's more my problem than yours. Enjoy the site!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Touch Of The Younger Kind

The other day, I was musing on my new Twitter account that Doug Fieger managed to get a hit song out of something that might have sent him to the slammer.

Oh, didn't you know that the "Sharona" of which he sang in that famous song by the Knack was only 16 when the song was written? True. She's on the cover of the 45, if you need a visual aid.

Also, to add to the fun, there's this - www.mysharona.com.

Awesome.

Friday, November 6, 2009

DC Comics Classics Library: The Justice League of America by George Perez Vol. 1

DC Comics Classics Library: The Justice League of America by George Perez Vol. 1 is quite a mouthful as far as book names go. I had my doubts about picking it up because of its perceived steep price tag for a 176 page count. While I still have plenty of reservations about it, I've mellowed considerably now that I've got the book in my hands and done a little research on some things.

To backtrack a bit, fan-favorite artist George Perez got the assignment to draw Justice League of America in 1980 under less-than-ideal circumstances. Longtime JLA artist Dick Dillin passed away unexpectedly, and Perez suddenly found himself pencilling his dream book. His tenure didn't end up being especially lengthy or continuous, but it is fondly remembered to this day.

There has been talk of collecting Perez's JLA work for something like a decade, but there turned out to be a snag. The film for many issues of the title from that period (and other DC books from that timeframe as well) was discovered to be missing. That was how it stood for years, until the recent release of this hardcover. It's the first of two volumes, and the second volume will finish Perez's run sometime in 2010.

This first volume covers six issues of JLA, and they're pretty good ones. We start in-progress with a JLA/JSA/New Gods team-up (more on this further down), and follow with a return of the Shaggy Man. And really, who doesn't love the Shaggy Man? (Don't answer that.) Perez was off the book for 5 issues, then came roaring back to draw a two-parter exploring the character of Red Tornado. We wrap up the story portion of the festivities with a tale about Tarot cards coming to life. Reproductions of Perez's JLA postcards are included as a bonus. But the page on DC's site is wrong - no Secret Society of Super-Villains. That's in the next volume!

In certain circles where I travel, there has a lot of bellyaching about this book. I'll fess up now that I did some of it. That was mostly about the price point, which is the slightly ridiculous $39.95. A lot of voices argued that DC could have just put the contents of both volumes together and charged a more reasonable price. This is logically sound thinking. However, I did some scrounging and discovered that this "logically sound thinking" might be totally wrong.

As I mentioned, the film for these issues was lost. That meant that they had to be reconstructed from the old comics. And we're talking about a very detailed artist here in George Perez, so I would imagine it would be painstaking and time-consuming work. That's the likely reason it has taken freaking forever for these books to get reprinted.

Thing is, that sort of thing costs more money than just pulling out film and reprinting from that. I'd guess it's budgetary concerns that have kept these collections from happening for so long. And when that becomes an issue, you have to look at the big picture.

First, let's crunch some numbers. (Sorry!) What follows are the issues of Justice League of America with contributions by George Perez. I've included page counts for the stories, and you can count each cover as another page in a retrospective collection. Mercifully for all of us, I'm omitting links to each issue. You can look them up on your own if you're feeling ambitious.

#184 - 25 pp + cover
#185 - 25 pp
#186 - 25 pp + cover
#192 - 25 pp + cover
#193 - 25 pp + cover
#194 - 25 pp + cover


#195 - 25 pp + cover + 2 page pinup
#196 - 27 pp + cover
#197 - 27 pp + cover
#199 - cover
#200 - 72pp + wraparound cover (2 pp)
#201 - cover
#202 - cover
#203 - cover
#204 - cover
#205 - cover
#207 - cover
#208 - cover
#209 - cover
#212 - cover
#213 - cover
#214 - cover
#215 - cover
#217 - cover
#219 - cover
#220 - cover

A couple of notes before we continue. As you might notice, those page counts are pretty high for a standard superhero comic. This was during that brief period of time in the early 1980s when DC cut their ad pages way down. As you've probably guessed, it didn't last. #200 was a special anniversary issue, and includes contributions by many artists besides Perez. Some have suggested that the story might be broken up, with only Perez's pages being included in the collection despite it leaving the story with much less impact. Given that the page count for Volume 2 is slated to be 192 pages, I think we can safely say those suggestions are silly.

OK, math time. If we add up those totals, we get (bring out the calculators!) 329 pages of content. That's BEFORE you factor in things like title pages, introduction, contents page, bios, etc. - to say nothing of those postcards reproduced in Volume 1. Now, we'll tax our brains. What was the price point for 300+ page Archives when the base price was $49.95?

Oh yeah, this.

Given that the Archives are now at the higher price point of $59.95, it's not unreasonable to assume that such a book published today (especially if it required reconstruction, as this material did) might have a SRP of $85. What does Volume 1 of this series cost? $39.95. What is Volume 2's probable price tag? $39.95.

Total for both books, at SRP? $79.90

I'm no happier with the price than I was before, but it's not out of line with the previous pricing scale. They just split it into two books because people are naturally resistant to higher price tags. If the film was readily available, it might have been a different story, and the prices would have been lower. But then, we would have had these books almost a decade ago, too.

Speaking of the reconstruction, there was also some griping about that. Well, I initially had some quibbles about the Tarot story, but after consulting my copies of the issues reprinted (I have most of them), I think the restoration is about as well-done as possible. Part of this is due to the difference in inking styles between Frank McLaughlin and John Beatty. McLaughlin's inks restore better because they are heavier. As near as I can tell, the fuzziness is in the original comics, and when you are having to work from THEM (rather than original artwork or film), you're kind of a slave to what got printed on the page originally. That 1980-81 era wasn't exactly a golden age for printing. Dale Crain was involved in this book's restoration, and he is a notable name in the classic reprint field.

One another bone contention that cropped up still puzzles me. A number of people were very upset that #183, the first part of the JLA/JSA/New Gods crossover, was not included. That issue was, obviously, Dick Dillin's last. I guess I can understand people wanting a complete story, but Perez's name is in the title of the book and all. I am as big a Dillin fan as they come, and I really didn't think it belonged in this collection. I still don't. Besides, #184 recaps the important points from it on the splash page.

The part that puzzled me is that I cannot recall a single person complaining that Marvel's collections of Frank Miller's Daredevil work only go back as far as Daredevil #158, the first issue that he drew. It was the last chapter of a multi-part story. Where is the outrage over that? I've since been told that there were complaints over the omission of Daredevil #162, a fill-in issue by Steve Ditko, and I just shake my head.

Anyway, all this talk made me yearn for Crisis On Multiple Earths Vol. 5 to come out that much quicker, so everyone can finally read that blasted JLA #183 if they so desire. It's a good issue and all, but the Perez book is not missing anything vital without it.

I personally think this book is wonderful. I'm looking forward to Voume 2 when it comes out next year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sarapuu's Firegirl Birthday Surprise

Sarapuu's Firegirl Birthday Surprise

On my birthday, my talented friend Sara surprised me with a brand-new pic of my character Firegirl. Since Sara has adopted Firegirl to the point that I consider her the character's godmother, I felt it only appropriate to pay her back.

I tried to do some different things here. For one, Firegirl is drawn in my usual style, but the Sara figure is my attempt to emulate her cartoon version of herself. I didn't even come close to succeeding, but I still kind of like what I did. Hopefully, I can incorporate it into my regular work.

If the coloring looks different, that's because it was done by hand in crayon. I was inspired by Sara's pic to take this approach to see how it looked. The scan sort of takes the shine out of it, but I think it is rather neat with my style. I may try it again in the future.

Happy birthday, Sara!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Octaman

Thanks to the marvels of digital television, I now have access to the ThisTV network. It is a wondrous thing, worthy of its own entry. But today, we're going to discuss the film they showed in prime time on November 1, 2009. Because it was OCTAMAN.

OCTAMAN is a slightly obscure 1971 movie that features, yes, a rampaging octopus man. If it's notable, that's because 1) it was written & directed by one of the scribes of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 2) Rick Baker helped create the Octaman suit, 3) star Pier Angeli died of a drug overdose during filming and 4) it is really terrible.

Trust me, I've seen terrible movies. OCTAMAN is one of them. From the comical "Look at that!" pointing at stock footage (cliched even then!) to the languid pacing to the slapdash look to the editing and/or directing, OCTAMAN doesn't ever pose as a good movie. But I've got to say, I wasn't expecting it to be one. It doesn't disappoint if you're looking for schlock.

Pier Angeli's untimely demise during the shooting may have contributed to some of the choppiness that plagues it. I'm not going to play armchair psychologist about her state of mind, but I can't remember seeing a leading lady looking more haggard and unenthusiastic than she does in this movie. I can't say I blame her in that regard, but I'm stunned to read that she was only 39 at the time. She looked older. Maybe that is a bit telling in and of itself.

I admire OCTAMAN for delivering on its premise in spades. Most movies hide the monster for a good portion of the running time. Not OCTAMAN. You came to see an octopus man, and you certainly are going to see him. He's all over the screen! Pity he's not particularly terrifying.

OCTAMAN - fun, undemanding way to kill some time. Just please, don't expect it to be any good.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dr. Madblood

I never had my own local horror host growing up. This isn't exactly a big market, and I'm just out of reach of the areas that did have their own hosts. I knew they existed, and even got to see a few here and there. The closest I ever managed to latching onto someone as "my" host was on my visits to Ohio. That was where I encountered Channel 43's Superhost. But I only saw him a couple of times a year at best, so even that doesn't quite count.

I owe Prattle-master Lewis Smith more debts that I can ever fully recount, and one of the lesser ones was his turning me on to the horror host called Dr. Madblood. Dr. Madblood was born in Virginia, and yet, I've become so taken with what I've seen of his program that I've adopted him as my personal horror host of choice.

Dr. Madblood's outfit isn't especially outrageous, and he doesn't have the...er...attributes that made stars out of Vampira and Elvira. No, what made his hosting segments so memorable was the genuine wit on display. There was a certain level of ambition and creativity in what was realistically a penny ante show. I'm kind of amazed the things they tried to do sometimes with no money at all. Plus, there was an impressive cast of supporting players backing up Doc.

I've seen 5 episodes of DR. MADBLOOD'S MOVIE (theme music is Sugarloaf's "Green-Eyed Lady!) and I liked all of them. Particular standouts were a parody of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and the 1990 15th Anniversary shindig. And heck, you can't beat a show that incorporates a wrestling storyline and satirizes actual working wrestlers in the local regional promotion. I never thought I'd see a parody of Blackjack Mulligan away from the squared circle.

Regular TV gigs for horror hosts are scarce these days, but Dr. Madblood keeps the flame alive at his website http://www.madblood.net/. If I've piqued your interest, one click will introduce you to a treasure trove of knowledge about Pungo's most famous resident.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Update Time, My Friends

Yep. I'm throwing in the towel right now as far as putting together any more content for my site. Oh, there'll be more, no worries there. I just need to do a little regrouping, especially since some of my backups weren't quite as up-to-date as I'd thought. Oooops.

So, if you go to the far-famed Return of Jetman website, you will find a brand-new set of Notes for Episode 12 from back in 2003. More than a bit belated, but hopefully worth reading.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ghastly Grooves

One of my favorite stores is Big Lots, but probably for all the wrong reasons. I like to call it "The Store That Sells The Things Nobody Wants". That's not entirely fair, of course, but it's probably a lot more accurate than its upper management would like to admit. Closeout stores are ALWAYS the shopping equivalent of visiting the Island of Misfit Toys, and that's why I like them. Plus, you can often find cool stuff that fell through the cracks. I own a lot of music thanks to the Big Lots chain.

A fine example of a Big Lots gift that keeps on giving is the CD GHASTLY GROOVES. Clicking that Amazon link (which does not profit your humble blogger, by the way) will immediately reveal one of the things I love about this compilation. Yes, friends, it is a latter-day K-Tel album! Ye Gods, I love me some K-Tel. Seeing that stylized "K" logo is almost enough to make the sale right there.

But there's more. This may be one of the best collections of "Halloween" music ever assembled. It obviously can't be THE greatest, since it lacks both "Monster Mash" (is that legal?) and Zacherle's "Dinner with Drac" (often forgotten, but a favorite). But how many other Halloween CDs include both Donovan and Santana? Or a track from my boys BOC? Or the nigh-forgotten Redbone?

I'm genuinely impressed with the thought put into this album. For the traditionalists, you have things like "Haunted House" and "The Blob". For those looking for big songs, you have "Ghostbusters", "Spooky", and "Frankenstein" (which qualfies solely due to its name, but it rules so no one cares). You even get quality cult acts like Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the Ventures, and Roky Erikson.

Find it. Get it. It will make your Halloween party that much cooler. I promise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Two Titans Team-Up

If you're a comic book fan, you might have heard that George Tuska passed away last week at the age of 93. He had a long career in the industry, and drew a ton of comics. I really liked his work.

For a time in the late 1970s, Tuska drew World's Finest Comics as scripted by Bob Haney. I've made no secret of my affection for Haney's writing over the years, so I get a kick out of revisiting these old comics. One in particular caught my eye, and that was issue #251 (June-July 1978). I've been meaning to post these panels for ages, and paying tribute to Mr. Haney and Mr. Tuska simultaneously with them feels right. And the fact that the inking is by Vince Colletta actually sort of adds to that.

I should mention that there's a chance this dialogue was rewritten by someone. But I don't think so, and really, I hope not.

Et tu, Batman?

Et tu, Batman?



Oh snap!

Oh snap!



Thanks for the memories, Bob and George.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I am a big fan of this guy

I was watching the movie BRUCE THE SUPER HERO (which deserves an entry all its own, seriously) one night, and I noticed this.

Screenplay : Poon Fan

Ironically, I go by this name sometimes, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Find China

I have never been to China Grove, Texas, but I wouldn't mind being able to claim that I have. My worry is that it either has changed a lot since the heyday of the Doobie Brothers, or that they took some artistic license in their famous tune. If I do visit China Grove, I want the sheriff and his buddies to be singing a samurai song.

I have, however, been to China, Texas. It is not down around San Antonio, but rather outside of Beaumont. Not a bad little hamlet by any means, but they weren't really looking to the East there. At least not as far as I could tell.

Interestingly enough, if you're traveling U.S. 90 westbound out of Beaumont, you will see a road sign that reads "China 9, Liberty 37". No one but me seems to think this is cool.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tales of Michael Ellis & Ted P. Skimmer

The magical world of comic books is filled with innumerable mysteries, both major and minor. Over the last few weeks, I've played a bit part in solving two of the minor ones. This is that story.

I am currently working on putting together a lengthy run of the original Justice League of America series. To complement this, I've also completed the 8 issue Index series put together by Murray Ward for ICG/Eclipse back in the 1980s. Thanks to the virtues of good timing, it covers the entire original run of the book, complete with tryouts and special issues. Since I'm not worried about the relaunched Justice League book that began in 1987, this is perfect for my needs.

During my perusal of the index issues, I noticed that Justice League of America #255 had a bit of an oddball credit. The plot was from Gerry Conway (his last involvement with the comic he wrote for more issues than anyone else), but the scripter was one "Michael Ellis". The text indicated that this was a pseudonym, but did not identify the writer in question. Considering that the issue was still relatively recent at the time of publication, I wasn't surprised by this. I figured the Internet would clue me in immediately.

As it turned out, I was wrong. All my search initially yielded was more questions about who "Michael Ellis" really was. That is, until I found the Amazon blog of J. M. DeMatteis. In the comments section of an entry about his new work The Life and Times of Savior 28, he makes this statement :

...and that's why I decided to use the "Michael Ellis" pen name [for Captain America #300]. (The name, by the way, comes from a Monty Python sketch and was suggested by Mark Gruenwald.)


Well. That certainly put a different spin on things. It was especially interesting because the only credits for a "Michael Ellis" on the GCD were that issue of Captain America and the JLA book. Plus, DeMatteis took over as full writer for the League with #256 and shepherded the book through its finale (setting up his far more memorable run on the relaunch with Keith Giffen).

I put the knowledge I had gained up on the GCD mailing list, and fellow member Allen Ross took the initiative to ask Mr. DeMatteis directly on his blog. You can read that exchange on this entry. As you will see, Mr. DeMatteis confirms that he was "Michael Ellis" in both instances. That knowledge has since been added to the GCD's entry on the comic.

I was pretty proud that I had helped unearth this little bit of secret knowledge. Little did I suspect I was about to do it again!

A few days later, I was reading some of my new JLA comics, and noticed a letter from a "Ted P. Skimmer". This rang a bell for me, and I was reminded that Ted later was putting together the lettercolumns for the JLA book and other DC titles. However, unlike others in that position, he hadn't really gone on to do a lot besides lettercols. Tamsyn O'Flynn had put together a decent number of writing credits after breaking in doing lettercolumns; Ted only had (as far as I could find) ONE. Whatever happened to Ted P. Skimmer?

As I again fired up the Google Search, there was something nagging at the back of my memory that I couldn't put my finger on. Then I found an answer, but it wasn't quite what I'd expected...

Bob Rozakis worked for DC Comics in a variety of capacities for a number of years. More recently, he masterminded a series called "Secret History of All-American Comics" that appeared in Alter Ego and Back Issue magazines. It proposed an interesting "alternate reality" wherein, among other things, Flash and Green Lantern became the iconic multi-media stars, rather than Superman and Batman. This fun little exercise in "What If?" led me to this particular entry on Mr. Rozakis' blog during my search for Ted.

Why? The entry jogged my memory of where I had seen Ted's name before my lettercolumn nostalgia : many installments of the "Secret History" were built around interviews with AA Comics staffer Ted P. Skimmer! At the time, I just brushed it off as my comics-filled mind playing tricks on me. Now I had seen for myself that the names were identical. What's more, something about Bob's wording turned on the proverbial light bulb over my head. In fact, it was just one word that explained so much.

Fictional.

The Ted in the "Secret History" segments was obviously fictional. But if Ted P. Skimmer had also been a real person working for DC, Bob wouldn't have gone to such lengths to concoct details for a fake Ted. There would surely have been an acknowledgment of the REAL Ted P. Skimmer somewhere. Unless...unless there was NO SUCH PERSON as "Ted P. Skimmer" at all!

You can read the rest in the comments section of that entry and in Bob's follow-up to my question, "Ted P. Skimmer and Me". As it turns out, Bob Rozakis himself had been the "real" Ted P. Skimmer in those old comics, and had dusted off the old pseudonym for the "Secret History". And apparently, I'm the first person that put two and two together about the truth. Wild.

(There's also this amusing footnote.)

Neither of these are earth-shaking revelations, but I feel really good knowing that I've added a small bit of knowledge to comic book history.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Head East

As I've mentioned before, the history of pop music is not entirely written in the Top 40 Singles chart. A good example of this would be the band Head East. They were entirely absent from the Top 40, despite the fact that their song "Never Been Any Reason" has become a staple of classic rock/oldies stations. This in itself is slightly ironic, in that it reached the lowest position of any of their charting singles.

(To save you the trouble, it peaked at #68. "Love Me Tonight", its follow-up, peaked at #54. The forgotten except by hardcore fans "Since You Been Gone" beat them both out by getting as high as #46!)

"Never Been Any Reason" is a fascinating song. The lyrics are intelligible, but unforgettably odd. So odd, in fact, that I once used them as fodder for a cut & paste comic strip. It is also remarkably synth-happy for a song from 1975 that isn't considered "progressive" rock. Or disco, for that matter.

Head East's major label debut album FLAT AS A PANCAKE was still in print the last I checked, and it's loaded with interesting, catchy songs. It's not enough to make you wonder why Head East didn't become a Major Big Deal, but it's entertaining. There's also a "20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection/Best of" compilation which samples the best of that album and their later releases from A&M Records. I own them both, so I guess that makes me something like an expert on the band in these parts.

The real experts out there are behind the official Head East website. Yes Virginia, there really is such a thing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Moon Mask Rider

While researching this movie, I have come across a number of instances of it being compared to THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER. Although it has been almost 30 years (oh God, really?) since I saw the American movie in a theater, that sounds like an apt comparison to me. Both were released in 1981. Both updated classic heroes. And both were box office disappointments with top-lining "stars" that faded into obscurity shortly afterward.

THE MOON MASK RIDER is the English-dubbed version of ๆœˆๅ…‰ไปฎ้ข (Gekko Kamen; "Moonlight Mask") from Nippon Herald. Thank goodness the copy I have is in English (from Greece, if you can believe it), because this movie would have been a total snoozefest otherwise. It's not difficult to understand its rejection by Japanese audiences. I think it would have been a hard sell even if the main hero had been brand-new. As an ostensible revamp of a beloved cultural icon, it falls even flatter. There are none of the familiar GEKKO KAMEN characters at all, and the considerable charm of 1950s-style Japanese heroes is only evident in brief flashes.

(Aside : Why is it called THE MOON MASK RIDER? Well, the hero definitely tools around on a motorcycle, so there's that. Most likely, it was Nippon Herald attempting to piggyback on the success of KAMEN RIDER. Were the Riders big enough outside of Japan in the 1980s for this to work? Seems like someone thought so.)

There are some narrative choices that I question in this film that drag it down. The "mystery" of the Moon Mask Rider's identity is not a bad idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired. I mean, if it's not going to be an ACTUAL mystery, why be coy about it? Mixing tongue-in-cheek elements in the same cinematic stew with a religious cult storyline inspired by Jonestown also feels like two diametrically-opposed ideas colliding violently. It leaves me unsure how I'm supposed to view the action. Is it serious? Is it funny? The movie itself doesn't even seem to know.

But by far the most maddening aspect of this movie is that it wastes the talents of Etsuko Shiomi. That's not unusual, to be fair, but this flick could have desperately used her skills to spice things up. As it stands, she does get to show off some of her abilities, but the movie is way more concerned with the "drama" of her character. IF things had played out differently, I might've been OK with this. The results are just a big ol' cheat.

There are some funny bits here and there in this movie, and Gekko Kamen/Moon Mask Rider cuts an exciting figure when he gets to be on-camera. And yes, any picture with Etsuko Shiomi will have some value. It's just that I really wanted to like this movie. I can't say I hate it, but it isn't something I'm going to have the urge to revisit anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So Long, And Thanks For All The Sushi

So, one night a couple of years ago, my pal Lewis showed me something. No, not that, you gutterminds. He showed me this catalog page and told me to pay special attention to no. 25. My reaction was, "Wait, that's...What?"

It's Machine Dolphin, from the mid-1980s superhero series MACHINEMAN, complete with a Machineman action figure. All these years, I had no idea that such a toy had managed to make it to our shores. I mean, why MACHINEMAN of all things?

MACHINEMAN, if you don't know (and why should you?) bears no relation to either the Ideal toy or the Jack Kirby-created Marvel character. It's one of many series created by Shotaro Ishinomori. It's not, however, one that made his legend. MACHINEMAN is pretty lightly regarded by those that even know about it. I can't disagree. From what I've watched, MACHINEMAN is just OK at best. I've seen episodes dubbed in Portuguese from Brazil, and my one-time Brazilian penpal was aghast when I wanted MACHINEMAN rather than some more memorable show.

The show does have a cool intro though.



(If you're reading the Facebook feed, you can watch it here.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

30 Days In The Hole

If you're a compulsive follower of OWARI (entertaining dozens since 1995), you might have noticed that there was no September update to www.returnofjetman.com last month. This was despite my heavy implication that there would be just such an update. Well, much to my consternation, time has been my worst enemy in putting together material for the site.

I should point out that I have made some progress on the ROJ front. However, that was before the computer issues which meant I needed to be focused elsewhere. Now, none of my work was lost, but a lot of potential time to do MORE work was. This was coupled with several real life concerns (including one in particular that is as unlikely as it is promising) that diverted my attention. The end result is that what was projected as a lock for September will now be either October or November, depending on how a few things break down.

This entry isn't just about explaining/excusing the habitual tardiness that has been a hallmark of ROJ since the dark days post-Hurricane Rita. Nope, I've got a little preview of some of the notes for ROJ Episode 12 - "Know Your Enemy". This is, in my humble opinion, one of the better stories I've concocted for this whole enterprise. If you haven't read it, might I suggest following that link now before you continue?


SMALL PREVIEW BEGINS

RETURN OF JETMAN

"Know Your Enemy"
(Episode 12)
Production Notes
by Christopher Elam
© 2009 Christopher Elam

 

Episode 12 - "Know Your Enemy" wrapped principal writing on May 6, 2003. The title (probably the best of the ROJ series) has a double-meaning which should be obvious after reading the episode. The operative phrase is "Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself," but going with that as the full title would have tipped my hand fairly early.

I'm quite happy with the way this episode turned out, though it was not universally beloved. It does sort of backpedal a little from the rather insane cliffhanger of the previous episode, but that was something I knew would happen ahead of time. I just felt all the elements managed to tie together in a completely satisfying way.

[...]

The revelation that Gai (and Kei!) knew about Ken's duplicity in Episode 7 adds to the almost unbearable level of tension among the remaining Jetmen. It takes Reiko's outburst and confession of her true feelings for Gohan to cool Ken and Kei's tempers - at least temporarily.

"I mean, what's a traitor, after all?"/"A traitor is a dirty motherfu..." - This exchange is based on a similar one in the martial arts films THOUSAND MILE ESCORT. And yes, its English dubbing defines "traitor" in just such colorful terms.

SMALL PREVIEW ENDS

Hopefully, this will entice some of you who haven't sampled the series to give it a shot. If not, you can't blame me for trying!

Oh, and since I've been asked by some of the few hardy souls who read ROJ - yes, I have every intention of finishing the current "New Return of Jetman" storyline. I haven't talked much about it since April, but it is never far from my mind. Although in retrospect it might have been a mistake to launch this series (possibly more on that someday), I am very determined to finish what I've started. Besides, I think NROJ (as I like to call it, even though it makes me think of NRBQ) contains some of my strongest and most interesting fiction writing. It may have some of my weakest fiction too, but we won't talk about that! (Shhh!) I feel like I have made a few sacrifices in my quest to get that darn thing wrapped up, and suffered a few personal losses that might not owe directly to the project but which are connected to it in my head nonetheless. The least I can do is actually finish the silliness, whether with a bang or a whimper.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Timely Reviews

Well, they're actually not timely at all, considering all these comics have been out for awhile. However, if you'll recall this post, today we'll be doing a follow-up. Referring back to the earlier entry to refresh your memory might be an excellent idea.

Looking back, I didn't review individual issues in the first entry on these books. Perhaps this is a good thing. Instead of trying to think of something to say about each comic, I'll just tell you that Young Allies Comics #1 and All Winners Comics #1 run neck and neck as my favorites of all 11 comics in this series. I'm a sucker for the Invaders, so the All-Winners Squad naturally comes along for that ride. It didn't hurt that the story made me smile in all the right places. But then, I think Karl Kesel is highly underrated. As for the Young Allies, such a smart revamp of the kid gang can't be ignored, especially when it made me cry. Yes, seriously. It also had one of my favorite art jobs on these titles, outdistancing All-Winners by a mile and giving the Sub-Mariner book a run for its money.

In a change from the schedule as outlined in June, Mystic Comics #1 was delayed until September 2. That meant that its release coincided with the last of these specials, which was indeed Daring Mystery Comics #1. That comic, which ties into the long-delayed mini-series The Twelve deserves special kudos for making me care a LOT about a character like the Phantom Detective. What a pleasant surprise, and a nice capper to this run of titles.

With one exception, none of these books did anything at my local shop. I have a feeling this might have been commonplace, but I'll be quite happy to be proven wrong. The only anomaly was USA Comics #1, which sold out the same day despite being ordered at identical levels as the rest of the later books. Was this because of the MAX Destroyer series that was running at the same time?

Anyway, two sort of related books bear mentioning here, too : Marvel Comics #1 (the very first Marvel comic from 1939 rendered with modern computer coloring - surprisingly effective!) and Marvel Mystery Handbook : 70th Anniversary Special #1 (profiles of characters from Marvel's first year - haven't seen this yet). Neither is part of the "official" series of one-shots, but they are spiritual cousins so I thought they deserved a nod.

If you missed these books, or don't like having individual books lying around, Marvel has an oversized hardcover collection of all of them due in January. It's to be called "Timely 70th Anniversary Collection", though I'll be darned if I can find its page on Marvel's website. It is scheduled to have a SRP of $39.99, so if that sounds too rich for your blood, I'd recommend waiting on the inevitable standard-sized trade edition.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Black X

Black X

Black X (also known as "Dark X") is the latest member of my fabled Secret Society to get the full-color portrait treatment. As for the rest of them, well, we'll see.

Now, Black X is one of my better-looking hero designs. His name is pretty boss, too. There was a strip from Quality Comics in the 1940s called "Black X" (created by Will Eisner!), but I knew nothing of that when I created my hero.

I think Black X got consigned to my parallel Earth Secret Society because I had a "Black" character in my Legion (Black Knight) and an "X" character, too (Avenging X). Still, that didn't stop him from looking way cool. Check out the number he's doing on that crook! I don't know if I'd give him a gun that shoots out X's now, but I JUST MIGHT.

Like Bat Eater, Black X was a challenge because of his color scheme. I decided giving him a grey jumpsuit would be fine, particularly since it could emulate the graphite look he had for most of his life. I ended up redoing my inks digitally in addition to doing some corrections on the picture. Plus, the pose was a bit of a happy accident.

I'm quite pleased with the way this one turned out, and I think it makes a worthy companion to the Conehead and Bat Eater pictures. I hope you folks like it, too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Makin' Bacon

Once at work, I found a bank envelope that had two strips of bacon in it.

I think I'd like to do my banking that way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Muzika Memoria

Over the last few months, one of my weekend rituals has been catching Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's on local radio station 92.9. It is a fascinating look back at a past where Pink Floyd's "Money" and Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" could co-exist on the same countdown. If you can find it, it is worth a listen just for the insane novelty value.

The whole concept of a "Billboard Top 40" seems kind of arbitrary to me. Why the Top 40, I wonder? Because it made for a suitable length for a radio show? The full chart is the Top 100 songs, so choosing the forty biggest ones feels a little random. Why not the Top 25? Or the Top 50? Someone out there knows the answer to this. Bank on it.

All of these chart flashbacks are terribly interesting, but it's important to remember that the Top 40 is not the only measure of success when it comes to the music business. As you may recall, I did an entry on this subject back in January. One of the points I mentioned was that Black Sabbath had exactly ZERO songs on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. David Dundas, on the other hand, had a chart hit entitled "Jeans On". Does that make David Dundas more significant in the history of music than Black Sabbath? Of course not. Songs like "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" are iconic, while you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who remembers "Jeans On" or David Dundas in America.

The charts are funny that way. While they do provide a snapshot of what were popular singles, that doesn't always tell the whole story. If we relied strictly on chart performance, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead would be considered one-hit wonders, while Andrea True Connection would not be (she charted twice). Yet, I'd wager far more people have heard non-Top 40 songs "Hey Joe" and "Truckin'" (to name two examples) than True's "NY, You Got Me Dancing". Don't get me wrong; I love "More, More, More" in all its suggestive disco-fied stupid glory. But who's the one-hit wonder here, despite what Billboard says?

There's no great lesson in these meditations, except to repeat that perhaps what is popular in the here and now is not necessarily what will be enduring and timeless. Though both bands rose to fame at about the same time, I don't think there is any question that the Ramones have become far more legendary than Pablo Cruise, despite Cruise's 5 Top 40 singles to the Ramones' none. And I groove out to "Love Will Find A Way", so don't even think of calling me biased.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider

It hardly seems possible today, but there was a time not that long ago when I knew precious little about either Ultraman or Kamen Rider. I had heard about them, read about them, and seen a few pictures from the various series. I had even managed to glimpse some tantalizing video clips here and there. And yet, I'd somehow missed seeing the big picture. They were both mysteries - the kind that were so commonplace back in those days before the World Wide Web was everywhere.

The beginning of all that changing was when someone (Andre DuBois, I believe?) reviewed the video we're discussing today in an issue of Kaiju Review (#6, I believe?). I think I learned more about both Ultraman and Kamen Rider in that single review than I had anywhere else. It made me hungry to learn more about both franchises. The simplest solution was to track down my own copy of ULTRAMAN VS. KAMEN RIDER.

I wasn't disappointed. Even today, over 15 years later, this video is an excellent sampler of what the two biggest Japanese superhero properties were all about up to that point. It might seem a little quaint to those people who regard ULTRAMAN TIGA and KAMEN RIDER KUUGA as "old stuff", but it's dynamic and powerful and gives a good overview of just about everything.

I won't bore you with listing the individual sections of the video. Suffice to say that each one rocks, hard style, and gives you a peek into the world of every Ultra and Rider up to that moment in time. Yep, even poor unloved Shin Kamen Rider and Ultraman Great get their turns! The latest production when the video was created was KAMEN RIDER ZO, so neither KAMEN RIDER J nor ULTRAMAN POWERED (the U.S.-filmed ULTRAMAN : THE ULTIMATE HERO) got their turn in the sun. Although, speaking of Rider J, this video supposedly influenced him.

In a move that rivals the original Superman/Spider-Man meeting as an unlikely hero team-up, Ultraman and Kamen Rider get to fight TOGETHER in a short film near the end. It's not exactly plot heavy (to put it mildly), but the coolness factor is off the scale. It's the original versions of Ultraman and Kamen Rider (Ichigo for the latter, if you're in the know), united for the first and probably only time. I won't give away the climactic surprise, but you might be able to piece it together from the clue above, if you don't know it already. Oh, and watch for the highly amusing scrambling of the two characters during the closing credits. Somehow, Ultraman astride a motorcycle and Kamen Rider doing the Spaceium Beam pose never fails to bring a smile to my face.

As far as reality goes, the special also features the much-beloved pair of Koji Moritsugu (ULTRASEVEN) and Hiroshi Miyauchi (KAMEN RIDER V3) in interview segments with directors from their respective series. But the most amazing segment is the discussion between Noboru Tsuburaya and Shotaro Ishinomori. When these two express their mutual admiration and shake hands, it's perhaps even more impressive than the team-up between the two fictional heroes. It's a moment that seems even more important today than it did at the time, and one which can never be duplicated now that both gentlemen have passed away.

ULTRAMAN VS. KAMEN RIDER came out through Bandai/Emotion Video back in the day, and because of how much things have changed since 1993, I am doubtful we'll be seeing it on legal disc anytime soon. But nothing can erase the memories it created, for it's probably one of the biggest reasons I've been following Japanese superheroes ever since.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oh, If Only This Were True...

Amazing World of DC Comics #13 (October 1976) is billed as the "Incredible Unpredictable Issue". In practice, this means that the 13th issue of DC's in-house fanzine has some contents that would be right at home for April Fool's Day. Except, you know, in October. Hmmm...

Anyway, one of the features in this issues is "Short Circuits" by Michael Uslan. This is a parody of DC's coming attractions column dubbed "Direct Currents". Unfortunately, most of the humor in "Short Circuits" does not rise above the level of feeble. Sorry, Mr. Uslan, you've done a lot of great things in your career, but this isn't one of them.

However, I don't bring this up to kick Michael Uslan, but rather to spotlight the one bit I genuinely liked. And that bit is this :

Starting with the September issue [of The Brave And The Bold], Batman will team up with all the wonderful characters of Looney Tunes. Bob Haney reports that in his blockbuster "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow", Batman and Sgt. Rock team up with Pepe LaPew to track down Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam to Argentina, where they discover the two are really Hitler and Martin Borman in disguise.


I will pay whatever it takes to build a time machine to make this story happen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Onda

I added the "life" tag to this blog the other day, but I really didn't dream I'd be writing this entry...

When I was little, I used to call my older sister Rhonda, "Onda". She thought that was really cute. But then, I was her little brother, and almost everything I did was adorable to her.

Rhonda was my half-sister, and sixteen years my senior. She had moved out by the time I became aware of my surroundings. I really didn't see her that much as I was growing up, and honestly, didn't see her that much afterward either. It was hard to think of her as my sister in the way that Amy, my younger sister, is my sister. It was different. But I still loved her all the same.

I learned this morning that Rhonda had become very sick, but for reasons of her own, she hadn't wanted us to know (she lived in Texas). Her boyfriend called to tell us that she had gone into a coma. This evening, I learned that she was gone. In 24 hours, I've gone from not knowing anything about her illness to having to say goodbye. It's hard.

I love you, Onda. I wish I could hug you and tell you that one more time.

Chris & Rhonda Elam, December 1973

Christopher & Rhonda Elam, December 1973

Saturday, September 12, 2009

100

When I decided to apply myself to this little enterprise in January, I thought, "If I get 100 entries up this year, that will be good." Well, here we are in September, and despite a few setbacks along the way, I've already made it to that magical number of 100. Not bad.

My most recent setback was that my computer contracted a rather nasty virus, and I had to have the hard drive replaced. That meant starting essentially from scratch, and the process is still an ongoing one. I've chosen to look at this more as an opportunity than an inconvenience. I didn't lose any of my vital work, which was the most important thing. Some programs might not be replaceable for the moment, but that's a small sacrifice. I needed a sense of renewal, and a chance to either leave behind or discard some stuff that was no longer working for me. Maybe this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

There may be some adjustments to this blog's contents in the coming weeks. My growing dissatisfaction with LiveJournal is causing me to rethink my approach to my writing. The old ways were fine, but I am feeling it might be time for a shake-up. There may be more personal, real life content included here, as I ease away from the daily posting ritual I practiced on the journal for years. I'm not sure just yet how I'll handle that. Time will tell, I guess.

For me, the most exciting part of this blog reaching 100 entries is the volume of stuff that I want to discuss that I haven't yet. I don't think I've even mentioned Hiroshi Miyauchi until just now. I haven't gushed over my favorite Batman story of all time. There's been no dialogue about how I can like musical acts as diverse as Blue Oyster Cult, Devo, and Waylon Jennings. There's so much in my big ol' wonderful world that I suspect I will not be lacking in craziness to share for a long, long time.

I hope you'll continue to follow along on my mad journey, wherever it leads.