Friday, December 31, 2010

The 2010 Post-Game Show

Here we are, in the waning hours of the year 2010. That means it's time to review the year that was.

On a strictly personal level, my main goal was to get myself righted to where I didn't feel like my life was perpetually collapsing around me. Happily, I think we succeeded there. I didn't really get as far as I would've liked, but I'll take stability right now if that's the best I can manage. The rest will come in time.

On the creative/blogging front, this year proved exceptionally fruitful. We've discussed the wrap-up of "Return of Jetman" already, and you can read a little bit more in a few hours over on the site itself. But that wasn't even all - not by a longshot. Though oddly, it was a random convergence of circumstances that lead me to the best stuff.

My "big plan" for OWARI at the beginning of the year was to make at least 155 posts and reach a cumulative total of 300. I hit that goal so early that I set the bar higher and decided to try to make 205 for 350. And then, I made it there and just figured I'd see how far I could I ride the train until the year ran out.

A big reason I was so prolific this year was the whole "Captain Satellite" thing. I had always enjoyed the profiles I had written for those characters when I posted them on deviantArt in 2007, so I thought they would make good material for the blog. I deliberately saved them up until 2010 and then intended to roll them out sporadically throughout the year. I knew they'd need some editing, but I had no grand plans.

Well, those characters recaptured not only MY imagination, but apparently those of the people who follow my work, too. When people asked if I intended to do anything else with them, I told them at first that I didn't have any plans. That was true, at least at first. But I started to get ideas. As I rewrote my old profile text, I began to create new characters, too. I drew new pictures. I wrote stories. I commissioned artwork. Now, something that was barely even discussed last year is a big part of this blog, and a big part of where I hope to go creatively in 2011. Very cool.

Now, interestingly, none of this might have happened if not for the single most important entry on this blog this year. That would be this one. Why do I single this particular unassuming entry out from among the 200+ posted during 2010? Well, there is a story behind it that I hadn't really explained.

The year 2010 began, logically enough, as a continuation of what I had been doing in 2009. However, by the end of February, I was feeling burned out with the whole thing. I could still put together a decent enough piece of work now and then, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to convince myself that I SHOULD do it. Faced with a diminished excitement over writing, I took the radical step of putting myself on hiatus.

Understand that the point of that entry was not for you, gentle reader. Oh, it served its purpose for you, but that entry was posted for me. It wasn't a big "Woe!" post or a cry for attention or anything of that nature. As I told some people, if I just wanted to take a break, I'd take one and leave it that. I abruptly dropped out of sight here for about two weeks in 2009 and the world didn't end. And candidly, I don't think a lot of people will fret TOO much about an absence of fresh content here.

No, that post was for me. It was my reminder that I had told everyone I was coming back here. It was designed to shame me into returning to this blog, because I have no intention on ending it with "More to come!" and then never delivering. I had to pick up the baton because I had promised that I would.

A funny thing happened during that self-imposed exile. As I took some time off and devoted myself to just seeing what that would do to my work, the spark came back. If anything, I was ANXIOUS to get back into the saddle and share my damaged thoughts with all of you. And when I got back into gear, I almost couldn't stop myself from posting. The difference has been astounding, and the productivity has continued almost unabated through the remainder of the year.

So, let me bid a fond farewell to the year 2010. It was filled with its share of triumphs and pain, but somehow, the good seems to outweigh the bad in my memory. That's always a positive sign. Now, let's see what 2011 holds for us all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wichita Lineman

Bob Dylan has been famously quoted as saying, "The point is not understanding what I write, but feeling it." Well, I'm no songwriter, but I carry that quote with me whenever I'm trying to write something. I have been known to obsess over the little details, and have worked hard to make sure everything is just so in my writing. But, in the end, all of that is worthless if I can't properly convey the emotion of a piece. If I can make an impact on a reader, he/she is much more likely to forgive any technical shortcomings in my work.

I use that quote and my own experience to introduce the song "Wichita Lineman" because I am in awe every time I listen to it. If you break that song down, there are less than 20 lines in it. And yet, songwriter Jimmy Webb paints such an evocative picture in that economy of words. Yes, obviously the delivery and the music work in concert with the lyrics to fill in the details. However, there's never a doubt that they are there to better tell the story of the song.

What is the story? Well, on the surface, it's the titular character telling us about himself. But then it's gradually revealed that he's telling the story to someone else - the unnamed second character in his story. By the end, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that it's a love song - especially with the lines that essentially serve as the song's coda. They are almost heartbreaking in their simplicity. I think that simplicity is their strength. You don't just understand them; you feel them.

There are a number of versions of "Wichita Lineman" out there, but I think my favorite is the one linked below. It is performed by Glen Campbell, the man who made the song famous. Accompanying him are Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo, and Eric Kretz of the band Stone Temple Pilots, and producer Brendan O'Brien. I find the rawness in this "jam" version to be especially haunting.



"Wichita Lineman"

Jimmy Webb has composed a number of famous songs, including others brought to life by Glen Campbell. Fortunately, I don't have to pick a favorite, but "Wichita Lineman" would be a strong contender.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From Major City to El Oceano

There are two routes you can take when penning fiction in an urban environment. You can either fictionalize a real city, or you can just make up your own out of whole cloth. They both have their own merits. Using a real city gives the reader a sense of familiarity, but you also have people that will not appreciate your diverging from reality or just plain getting stuff wrong (and you will). On the other hand, a fictional city gives you a lot more flexibility, but also can serve to diminish the connection to the real world.

From my frame of reference, it's the DC/Marvel thing. At DC, Superman is in Metropolis and Batman is in Gotham City, and these two burgs can co-exist despite both being analogous to New York. Hey, they can even somehow co-exist WITH New York, which is where even I have trouble rationalizing the matter. Meanwhile, over at Marvel, the main stomping ground for their superheroes was established fairly early as being New York City. Of course, things like Avengers Mansion don't exist in the authentic Big Apple (sadly). In practice, Marvel's New York is only a smidgen more connected to reality than the homes of the Daily Planet and stately Wayne Manor.

I made a decision in the process of defining my personal superhero universe (the "Owariverse", if you will) that I was unconcerned with having any meaningful connection to reality. I wanted a world where I had the latitude to do what I wanted, without having to concern myself with pesky "facts" if they didn't serve my storytelling purpose. I mean, you've seen the sort of characters that I'm using. So I decided that a fictional city was the way to go for me.

I've been using the name "Major City" so long and with such a straight face that I think I have ALMOST been successful in disguising the fact that it began life as a joke. Think about it - the terminology "a major city" has been used forever and a day when the creators want to be vague and generic. I just converted that generic label into a proper name and arrived at Major City. Be thankful I didn't go for "Big City"; Lord knows I am.

As time has passed, I've tried to ground Major City in its own (admittedly far-fetched) version of reality. I even dreamt up a justification for the name by concocting the Major family and positing that the city had been founded by their ancestor Calvin Major. I've filled in the spaces around Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson by establishing such diverse elements as MTI, Lightning Cars, The Major City Courier, the Mando Building (one of my all-time favorite obscure in-jokes), Mayor Rudy Boemer, and the DeKalb Television Network. Oh wait, I haven't actually established the latter two just yet. Don't worry; we'll get to it.

Obviously, in my world, Major City takes the place of New York. But what about the rest of the country? While I had made the decision that the rest of the world was sufficiently "exotic" for my goals (and I'd probably louse up trying to alter such locales anyway), the rest of the United States was still in play. I kind of wanted at least one other fictional city to serve as contrast to Major City. And if Major City was Fake!New York, the logical choice was to create a Fake!Los Angeles.

My first instinct in creating a California city was to make it a west coast Major City, and give it a Spanish version of the name. This led me to Ciudad Importante via Babelfish, and...wow, yeah, I couldn't do it. I tried other options that meant approximately the same thing like Ciudad Grande, but there was just something missing. I wanted a name that rolled off the tongue easily whether you were a Spanish speaker or not, and the word "ciudad" seemed a mite too difficult for a pseudo-comic book name.

I abandoned the search for a western Major City and turned instead to deconstructing the name "Los Angeles". You know, when you think about it, it's kind of strange for a city to be named "The Angels". However, due to the shortening of its original lengthy name, Los Angeles now has a name that seems unlikely when translated. I could work with this.

After a lot of thought, and more than a few attempts, I settled on "El Oceano" as the name of my L.A. counterpart. In Spanish, El Océano obviously means "The Ocean". And really, is that any more absurd than a city named "The Angels"? Plus, it gave me the opportunity for a fun musical reference when I announced in a "Twitter exclusive" that El Oceano had been founded by Spaniards Roberto Planta & Jaime Página. Now really, how did I come up with that?

I'm still in the process of figuring out how I want my world to operate. Are the other cities "replaced", or are Major City and El Oceano the only stand-ins? It seems strange to me that New York might not exist, but (for example) Baltimore would. I don't know how I'll handle it. But it's fun to bat these things around, especially when they open up even more story possibilities for consideration.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ROJ - Mission Accomplished

Since I mentioned "Return of Jetman" yesterday, it seems only fitting to revisit this entry now that a year has passed. Having re-read it myself a few minutes ago, I'd just like to say "Yipee!"

2010 was the year that I finally finished the second series that began in 2005. This was also the year that I transferred the entire site to a new blog set-up, and added text pieces to pages that have lacked them since the site launched back in 2002. It was quite the eventful year for that humble little fanfic.

Despite accomplishing a lot, there is still work I need to do with ROJ. However, I haven't been sweating it. It will come in time, and I strongly suspect that time will be next year.

I'll be going into a little more depth regarding my ROJ plans on the site on Friday. If you're interested, you can check out all the big fun at www.returnofjetman.com! In the meantime, let me bask some more in the glow of finishing that story.

Monday, December 27, 2010

OWARI #2 (May 1996)


When we discussed OWARI #1 back in September, my longtime collaborator Lewis Smith opined that OWARI #2 felt like the "first" OWARI issue to him. Why? He said it was because things started going in a direction in which only the people involved could take them. I had honestly never thought of it in that way, but I must admit, he's onto something.

OWARI #2 was something I had always planned on doing, but it was not a foregone conclusion that it would happen quickly, or that it would take shape the way that it did. However, certain things happened that accelerated its production, and I trotted out my second issue in relatively short order. It is dated May 1996, and I tried to apply the lessons of my first issue to improve my product. The results turned out to be mixed.

We'll begin with the cover, which I remind you is represented here in its layout form. That's why there are no staples and the image looks much sharper than in actual copies of OWARI #2. I've also done some digital correction in a few places, but that's mostly to smooth out some of the rougher edges that are apparent in this raw state.

The first thing you will notice is the brand-new OWARI logo, which I still use to this day. I had already decided to ditch the logo seen on #1, but my replacement for it wasn't appreciably better. You see, I had resolved to retain the hiragana portion of that first logo, and just render "OWARI" in type beneath it - if I included it at all! Happily, Rob Perchaluk surprised me with the gift of a new logo sheet. I have mostly lost touch with Rob over the years, but I've always tried to credit him for his generosity. My only true regret is that I've rarely had the opportunity to use the "big" version in all its splendor. But you'll be seeing it eventually.

The rest of the cover is largely self-explanatory. I elected to go with a photo cover of MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE, which reflected my main article in the issue (more on this soon). I've since discovered that my source for this image was apparently "flopped", as all of the posters I've seen have the Rangers on the opposite sides. I'll be honest and confess that I did not notice this at all for years. I slapped the movie's logo on the bottom, just in case anyone was confused. The "#2" and its accompanying circle were also part of Rob's wonderful design work. Oh, and look carefully at the lower righthand corner. Yes, I totally numbered the cover as Page 1!

Sometimes, I don't give the 23-year old Chris enough credit for his foresight. Tucked away in a largely unremarkable editorial is this prophecy of the future of OWARI:
However, I have lots of other interests, so OWARI will likely include things not pertaining to [the Japanese sci-fi] genre. [...] Basically, OWARI is about whatever I want it to be about.
I don't even remember writing this, but it turned out to be the only way OWARI survived at all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The feature article of this issue is "A Final Look at MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE or The Last Temptation of Chris". This is an extensive review of the MMPR film from the previous year, and it is probably one of the longest pieces I ever wrote during my fanzine days. It is also more or less my farewell to Power Rangers fandom, though I would do a couple of things pertaining to it in the future. There are a lot of jokes and insights in this article that I still like a lot, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of it is its origin, and how it served as the catalyst for OWARI #2 happening so quickly.

My first "break" when it came to this writing thing was when Dan Reed accepted my work for publication in his fanzine Kaiju Review in 1994. I wrote several features for Kaiju Review, and after seeing the Power Rangers film, wrote up a review of it that I sent to Mr. Reed. However, unlike my prior submissions, he chose not to print that piece.

At this late date, my memory is that the review was rejected due to length. I can certainly understand if that was the case. Using that review as it was would have meant devoting more pages to the Rangers than much of the audience would have wanted, and it's entirely possible that editing it down seemed like too much effort for such a piece.

I was, however, undeterred, and decided to repurpose that review (with Mr. Reed's encouragement) into an article for OWARI. But I didn't just print the original, oh no; I opted instead to redo the whole thing from the ground up and EXPAND upon what had already been a sizable number of words to spend on a Power Rangers movie. This sort of thing has always been a hallmark of mine, but I like to think I've gotten smarter in my approach to it.

I rounded out the MMPR coverage with a not-quite exhaustive but very much exhausting credit page for the film. I guess I did this for my own benefit, since no one much cared. Not even I had the patience to transcribe the entire credits, but I did notice a pair of fun trivia notes from them. One was that R.J. Kizer, the director of the American scenes for GODZILLA 1985, served as ADR supervisor for Power Rangers film. The other was even more esoteric, if you can believe it: Robert Simper, who was one of the actors in the Ultraman suit for ULTRAMAN: TOWARDS THE FUTURE (aka ULTRAMAN GREAT), appeared in a small role. How do you like that?

The next feature was the first installment of Lewis Smith's "Return of Jetman" series. We discussed the behind-the-scenes making of THAT little adventure last year, so I'll let you scour the archives if you can't remember the tale. The frontpiece that led off the story can be seen on this page, and the current version of that first story can be read here.

The conclusion of ROJ only took up about a third of a page, so I used the rest to print a stunning portrait of Gigan by Jerry Lange. I am not sure if he is the same artist as this Gerald Lange, but I was thrilled that he offered me the chance to print his work in my cheap fanzine. If that is the same person, he's come a long way since then...and he was already quite good.

I closed out the main portion of the 'zine with an article on GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH, or whatever the hell that movie is called. It was a bit irreverent, with a couple of bits I should think about resurrecting one of these days. I also chose to accompany it with a cartoon I drew during WHEEL OF FORTUNE (I have no idea why I remember that part). This was the first time I unleashed the Elam masterworks on the world, but it would by no means be the last.

Gojira Shizu by ~celamowari on deviantART

That was pretty much it. Oh, there were a few unrelated "O-Factoids" filling out the last page of the MMPR movie review. There was the final page that included acknowledgments and a teaser promising the next issue would include a feature on WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY?, a movie I desperately felt needed to be linked to Japanese sci-fi fandom. There was even the doctored photo that had debuted on the OWARI flier, which was produced between issues #1 and #2 and was pretty awesome except for that part where I neglected to include a contact address on it. But really, that was OWARI #2. And that was the problem.

Of course, OWARI had plenty of problems. I was still cranking it out on a typewriter and pasting it up by hand (in the case of the ROJ story, pasting edits onto the only version of that draft in existence!). I was still printing it single-sided, too. I hadn't figured out the way to maximize my photo material for publication yet, leading to much muddier reproduction of the illustrations for the MMPR and GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH articles. OK, OK, they looked downright awful. I knew all of that. Then it was pointed out to me that, despite going to 20 pages, I covered less stuff than I had in 14 pages in my first issue. And a big portion of this issue was devoted to the intensely polarizing (and widely-disliked in the Godzilla community) Power Rangers franchise.

Oops.

But it was too late to turn back, and really, I don't think I would have done so anyway. OWARI #2 was what it was, and I considered it a victory that I managed to publish it even though my personal life was going to hell in a handbasket at the time. Unfortunately, I didn't get to share that victory with nearly as many people.

Was it the Power Rangers? Was it the fact that I raised the price (out of pure necessity) to $2.00 for #2? Was it disappointment with OWARI #1? Was it my admittedly shaky layout skills (which went into both good and bad directions in #2)? Was it something else? I don't know, but demand for the second issue was much smaller. Based on orders for #1, I "conservatively" printed up 50 copies of OWARI #2. That was in 1996; today, in 2010, I still have a copy sitting next to me. Several other copies went to folks reading this blog. I even burned one out of sheer frustration several years ago. It was clear I hadn't built much of an audience, no matter how many people had gotten their hands on OWARI #1.

It was time to go back to the drawing board. Still, I had published OWARI #2, and that was better than a lot of people probably had anticipated.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Little Bit Extra Via Witless Prattle

Hey there folks! As you might remember, I linked to "The Whole Damn Thing: THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (1983)" by my buddy Kazekage back in the early days of this month, shortly after I had contributed a guest write-up for one of the entries. Well, Kaze has finished this massive undertaking, and I came along to help him out.

If you'd like to see some bonus content from me (which includes the sort of bad words I usually avoid on OWARI), I contributed to the entries for #10, #12, and #15, in addition to the one for #4 discussed earlier. Of course, I commented on EVERY entry, so you'll be seeing plenty of me if you click over and check it out. And believe me, it's worth it!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Morty and Danny

As you might recall from my incessant yapping about my superhero cast, Blue Behemoth and Drone Man are college buddies that embarked on the hero thing at about the same time. When I commissioned Kabuki Katze to create Blue Behemoth's Bulletin Board for me a few months ago, one of the elements I asked her to incorporate was an ID badge for BB's former human identity, Mortimer Kane.


In case you are wondering, the ID is damaged due to the accident that changed little Mortimer into the boisterous Blue Behemoth.

Well sir, I loved the way Kabu captured the unabashed dorkiness I had attributed to Morty. This got me thinking that it would be fun to use the same template for his pal Danny Graham. Recently, I commissioned just such a thing.


Like it? You can comment here, or tell Kabuki yourself right here!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Find This Inexplicably Hilarious

From the entry on THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW (page 808) in The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946-Present (Fourth Edition) by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (1988):

Short, bizarre animated segments aired between the live-action sketches; after a few months these began to focus on a rather strange family.

The part that makes me laugh? They couldn't be bothered to actually mention the name of that "rather strange family". It's not like that's going to be important, right?

(I kid, but this book is pretty amazing. I have no idea if there is a version of it still in print, given the changes in the TV landscape over the years.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lordwormm Strikes Twice

"Lordwormm" is a guy that always surprises you. Just when you think he can't break out any more fab fanart of your characters, he does it TWICE!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Wild Thing Kind Of Night

Back in high school, I spent a couple of years as the video cameraman for our basketball team. It was an interesting experience, and I went to a lot of games all over the place. That meant a lot of time riding the bus. One night, everyone on the bus shared a slightly surreal radio moment.

I don't exactly remember when this was, but you can narrow it down to late '88/early '89 or late '89/early '90. We were returning from a game one night, and it was cold and dark already. As we drove through Lake Charles, the late night D.J. on radio station Bayou 104 made a rather strange proclamation.

I should pause here and tell you that KBIU, Bayou 104, was the rock station in my area in the 1980s. If you wanted contemporary rock, it was where you turned to on the dial. KBIU still technically exists, but it has since changed formats multiple times and does not resemble the station of my youth except that it is playing many of the same songs it did then. It's not even at the same number.

Anyway, as we are toodling along on the bus, the D.J. apparently loses his mind. He says that he is going to play Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" continuously until women in bikinis show up at the station. Don't forget, it's cold, dark, and late already when he issues this ultimatum. "Wild Thing" begins, and we all sort of laugh at this man's insane folly.

We stopped at Burger King to eat, and everyone unloaded and promptly forgot about "Wild Thing". Then, after at least a half hour of Whoppers and paper crowns (we WERE high school kids), we get back on the bus and learn that "WILD THING" IS STILL PLAYING ON THE RADIO.

If you have forgotten, this is "Wild Thing":

Monday, December 13, 2010

My World : The Psychedelic Man


Dr. Clive Frye was considered a maverick among his fellow scientists at an obscure west coast facility. He had become obsessed with the wild idea of tapping into alien dimensions in the search for alternative fuel sources. The other researchers warned Frye of the dangers of tampering in areas he didn't fully comprehend, but he refused to be deterred.

It all went horribly wrong one day, and Dr. Clive Frye paid a terrible price for his hubris. What precisely happened - what Dr. Frye saw and experienced - remains unknown to this day. The result, however, was that "Clive Frye" effectively ceased to exist. In his place was a being that called itself "The Psychedelic Man."

The Psychedelic Man is not human, but rather a type of organic color. His "body" is actually a largely translucent shell that contains his true form - a kaleidoscope of swirling and changing colors. He can alter his physical form according to his whims, and has displayed the ability to stretch and even split off body parts.

Clive Frye's mind was twisted by the process that transmuted him into the Psychedelic Man, and his chief goal now is destruction. He has clashed with the duo of Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson, and with the Invincible Alliance. Though defeated and seemingly destroyed on more than one occasion, the Psychedelic Man always returns.


You might recall that the Psychedelic Man was the spark that ignited my creation of several new cast members for the Captain Satellite world. The problem was the original picture, although pretty much how I envisioned it in the dream that birthed him, wasn't especially effective. There was something about the execution that I felt was lacking, and so I decided to rethink my approach to the character.

The breakthrough came when I elected to try to make my own "psychedelic" background in PhotoShop, rather than mixing crayons for his palette (limiting) or using pre-existing imagery. I spent awhile just drawing in different colors on a transparent background and testing effects. When I was satisfied with what I had, I rendered most of the character's body transparent and laid him over the background. Voila!

The Psychedelic Man owes his existence to the fact that I have always been fascinated with psychedelic music and imagery. Heck, I even like the word, and used it as part of the title of one of my fake comic books back in high school. So it wasn't really a surprise that this character surfaced in that fateful dream.

In fleshing him out, the Psychedelic Man got a human identity named for actors Colin Clive and Dwight Frye, in honor of the characters they portrayed in the 1931 Universal films FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, respectively. The Psychedelic Man himself has liberal doses of such pre-existing characters as Chemo (Metal Men foe), the Infinity Man (Legion of Super-Heroes foe), Metamorpho, and the M.F. Enterprises version of Captain Marvel.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Great Godzilla Hoax

Over the last couple of months, I have learned of the existence of "movies" with titles like ATTACK OF THE GALACTIC MONSTERS and MONSTER KING GODZILLA. There is always some vague tale describing the supposed origins of these cut & paste jobs mixing Godzilla stuff with lesser-known Toho spfx movies. And, in fairness, these films look to be enjoyable for what they are.

The problem is that they aren't real.

These are almost certainly fan edits. Though I won't pretend to understand exactly why they were created, I don't object to their existence. Heck, they can be fun in their own right. Where I do have a problem is when they are presented as authentic movies. This is where I draw a line in the sand. It's OK to make up a story to go with your project, but DO NOT pass it off as "fact". That's completely irresponsible, and does a disservice to both the Japanese monster fandom and film history in general.

Why so adamant? A lot of people (including me!) have spent a lot of time trying to piece together an accurate portrait of the Japanese science-fiction film's history. The last thing we need is to start muddying the waters with spurious yarns tied to something put together by a fan with a computer and some software. It's bad enough already that we're relying on the wildly uneven IMDB for data. I could probably demonstrate two dozen errors related to Japanese productions on that site without really trying. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if someone has tried to slip these two productions onto it at some point.

As I mentioned in the comments over at Xenorama, I once toyed with the notion of writing a hoax film review of the abandoned Toho/Hammer co-production NESSIE. If I had, or do, you can be darn sure it will be an obvious work of fiction. Even then, you just know some people will think it's "real".

On a lighter note, I am most offended that the creator of ATTACK OF THE GALACTIC MONSTERS chose to ignore the title STARGODZILLA for this Frankenstein-like patchwork. I mean, the title is RIGHT THERE for you to apply to your fake movie!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Few Fire-Based Golden Age Heroes

I was doing a little research earlier for a project of mine, and I thought it would be fun to include a few links to characters that fit the title description.

I'm not exactly sure why I have an affinity for vintage fire characters, but I do. Even among their 1930s and 40s brethren, they stand out to me and I go, "Yeah!" It's a dynamic visual, that's for sure.

The most famous fire hero is probably the Human Torch. However, he wasn't even the first. That MAY (and I stress may because I am no historian on such matters) have been the Flame. Man, I love his look.

Other worth mentioning are Pyroman (not actually flame-based!) and Wildfire. All of these guys have found their way into my work, as have the first couple of incarnations of Firebrand. But if you've been paying attention, you can probably tell.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

My World : Rex Coronado


Rex Coronado is the executive director of C.H.I.E.F. (Command Headquarters International Espionage Force). The son of Mexican immigrants, he is deeply proud of the United States, and will fight to defend it with his last breath. He wears sunglasses at all times to disguise the fact that he has a glass right eye. Rex is cantankerous seemingly beyond reason, but has been known to display a sharp sense of humor when least expected. Never one to be underestimated, he will do whatever it takes to accomplish his mission.


Creating this individual profile for Rex Coronado almost feels like cheating. The text is lifted verbatim from his entry in my "Non-Supers Profiles", and one of the points of that piece was that I wouldn't be drawing those guys.

Well, that was the plan. But Rex here has evolved into something a little bit more than just a non-super supporting character. As he kept turning up in other profiles, it only seemed fair to give him his own dedicated entry. So here we are.

An interesting thing happened in the creation of this picture. What you see is my first pass at Rex. I kept trying to improve on it, but ultimately decided that there was too much about this version that I liked. I hadn't intended Rex to be either bald or have such odd proportions, but found myself going along with it the more I looked at him. I mean, nothing is written in stone that a secret agent's suit can't be ill-fitting.

Truthfully, Rex is still kinda boring visually in my style. The shades help, as does the tie, but really - I'm not entirely suited to make "normal" looking people look dynamic. Still, this will do until someone else can take a crack at him someday.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson by Kabuki Katze (2007)


Sara wasn't the only one who did surprise artwork of my characters in 2007. The date on the above image sent to me by Kabuki Katze is May 22, 2007. I have no recollection of her reasoning as to why she set pencil to paper to draw Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson. But boy, am I glad she did!

I have a number of "work in progress" sketches like this from Kabuki kicking around in my folders, but I usually don't post them. I have to make an exception here, because this is as far as this particular piece ever got. Despite the fact that she included a color guide, Kabuki never did anything else with this one. Why? My memory is fuzzy, but I believe she expressed a dissatisfaction with the proportions of the characters? Perhaps she will pop in here and explain. That is, assuming she hasn't hunted me down like a dirty dog for posting it in the first place. See, there was a reason I sought permission prior to launching this nostalgic series! Muhahahaha!

Kidding aside, I loved this picture. It didn't hurt that it was one I got to see live and in person in her sketchbook. The memory of it was so indelible that it led me to commission Kabuki to do the Cap/Shelly pic you previously saw here and here. So in a sense, it is only appropriate to close out the 2010 portion of our review of vintage Cap art with this sketch, since it is in many ways the genesis of all the Kabuki Katze commissions you have seen here at OWARI during the calendar year. Hats off to ya, Kabu! (And I'll be sure to spotlight more of your recent work before we hit 2011!)

But don't think for a moment this is the last bit of pre-2010 artwork I have up my sleeve. There will be more in the coming year. Watch for it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Elders Of The Universe

If you read my brother in battle Kazekage's Witless Prattle (and if not, why not?), you know that he has been going through the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe one issue at a time for our perverse amusement. This is doubly amusing for me, since I'm the guy who sent him a full 15 issue run of the thing not long ago. You can read those entries under the "Marvel Handbook" tag right here if you are so inclined. Trust me, it's fun.

Oh, perhaps I should mention that I have guest-written one of these summaries. That would be this one:

ELDERS OF THE UNIVERSE--While these write-ups have done an excellent job of beating these guys with a lead pipe in their individual entries, I just want to point out how impressed I am that SOMEONE decided to gather together a bunch of second-rate characters and make them into a "race" hinged on the high concept that they are eccentric old men...FROM SPACE. What I'm trying to say is that we were this close to seeing Howard Hughes as a cosmic villain dubbed "The Hider".


The more I think about it, the more fascinated I am that the Elders of the Universe exist as a collective at all. I am pretty sure that was not the original intent for the earliest characters grouped under that label. Heck, I haven't really been able to figure out who declared them "the Elders of the Universe" at all! But yes, the high concept is that 1) they are very old and 2) they bring new meaning to the word "obsession" in a way that even the band Animotion couldn't have imagined.

Think I'm kidding? We'll take a look at each individual Elder covered in that Handbook entry. I'm waving off discussing any further members, since eventually it got to the point that they were making up characters just to BE Elders. That sort of diminishes the value of them as a bizarre mishmash of random super codgers.

COLLECTOR - Whereas he started out small, with coins, stamps and the odd superhero team, his mania has reached the point where he now "collects" empty milk jugs and newspaper clippings of celebrity birthday lists.

GRANDMASTER - He's the guy who shows up and always wants to play dominoes, bridge, or (*shudder*) cribbage. Feared throughout the Space VFW.

GARDNER - The one who just wants to tend to his plants, so leave him alone already. Why isn't his weapon a space hose? And you kids, get off his lawn!

POSSESSOR - This clown didn't even rate an individual entry, which is a worse showing than the Gardner. This leads me to the conclusion that even the other Elders try to avoid him. He probably only "possesses" the center of the road as he creeps along at a leisurely 15 miles per hour.

CONTEMPLATOR - He's the one in the group who is always trying to "figure it out", through whatever belief system he discovered in the AARP (Alien Association of Retired Persons) bulletin. Either that, or as Lewis sagely pointed out, the one in adult diapers.

CHAMPION - The workout freak, who insists you're never too old to be in great shape. He'd be even more annoying if everyone wasn't positive he was compensating for something. They just don't want to know what it is, but the empty Viagra bottle the Gardner found in his tulips is probably a clue.

That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about the Elders of the Universe.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Funky Worm

The Ohio Players are primarily revered today for their pair of #1 pop hits, "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster". That is how it should be, because absurd urban legends aside, they are two amazingly catchy funk songs. What is sometimes lost in the shuffle, however, is that the Ohio Players charted EIGHT songs in the pop Top 40, and 21 additional songs on either the Pop or R&B Top 100s. You can't really call them a band that got lucky once or twice. They did it consistently for 20 years.

In 2010, I finally got to hear the song "Funky Worm", which was the first Top 40 pop hit for the Players. It is absolutely delightful. Part novelty record, part funk instrumental, it manages to make you laugh while instilling in your brain a killer groove that just won't quit. I am in no way surprised that it has been sampled extensively in more recent years.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Watch Atomic Rulers Of The World Here!

Are you one of those poor souls who has never had the pleasure of enjoying a Starman film? Starman, if you are unaware, is considered the first true live-action Japanese superhero. (We won't deal with Ogon Batto right now!) The character, originally named "Supergiants", appeared in a series of featurettes that were edited together into four feature films sold directly to television in the United States.

The Starman films are not only massively entertaining, but COMPLETELY INSANE. But this entry isn't about educating you about Starman. Rather, it exists to tell you that now you can fill the void in your life if you have never experienced Starman. As it happens, I recently discovered that ATOMIC RULERS (the first Starman film) is on Youtube in its entirety under its longer title ATOMIC RULERS OF THE WORLD. Not broken up into chapters, but the whole thing in one easy video. It's a golden opportunity to see if you would like Starman! And really, why wouldn't you?

A few things you should know before you watch this:

1)I have not watched this video in full, because I already own the movie on DVD. I have already noted that the opening titles and credits have been deleted, so there could be other issues.

2)This copy is obviously sourced from Sinister Cinema's print, and I do not know if it was done with permission or not. At least I am providing Sinister with a link, which is more than the uploader did.

3)You may have to watch at least one terrible commercial.

Remember this is free, folks. Just sayin'.

So, without further ado, here it is, ATOMIC RULERS OF THE WORLD!



ATOMIC RULERS OF THE WORLD


The Starman films are all on DVD, but I can't guarantee their continued availability. Better snatch 'em up while you have the chance!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

XOXO, Roxy

It is the first day of December, and that means there is a chill in the air in many areas. So let's take a page from our friends in the Southern Hemisphere and look at something that will make us forget those frigid temperatures.


Yep, that's Roxanne Prize, aka Firegirl, as she was seen on Blue Behemoth's Bulletin Board. I've had this larger version of that snapshot for awhile, just waiting for the right moment to post it.

Art by the super-duper Kabuki Katze!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Peeking Into Firegirl's Diary

Yesterday's scheduled profile of Doppelgirl reminded me that I have never written a "behind the scenes" for "Firegirl's Internet Diary". I think we should do that today.

My original idea was to put together a story starring Firegirl built around the conceit that it was a diary entry. Then I remembered what century it was and decided that a blog entry might be better. Ironically enough, despite its presentation as a blog entry, the story was originally written in longhand in a notebook and then transcribed. This was once my preferred method, but I have drifted away from it over the last few years. It was interesting to revisit it, but I don't think I need to make a habit out of it.

Firegirl is a character whose personality has developed gradually over the years, at least partially through the fan work of her by a handful of folks who really took to her. So it was fun to try to more fully explore the many facets of who she is. I came away from this story with a much clearer vision of who Firegirl "is", so I consider that a plus.

There is also a lot of world building in this story. Let's look at some of the details that pop up!
  • One aspect that I tried to better define in this story is the Invincible Alliance itself. I worked out some of their character interplay, albeit largely off-stage and inferred. I also introduced their super technology, like the Air Cars and transporter tubes for passage between their many embassies.
  • The reference to the "Volcano Monsters" hints at the case where Firegirl gained her powers and was able to ditch the Pyro Pistol that had been with her since I conceived her. Everyone had always missed it, so I just went ahead and made it official!
  • I wanted to figure out exactly what Roxanne and Shelly's relationship might be, considering how pivotal both of them are in the big picture of this universe. I like to think it makes a degree of sense, given the place both of them hold in Paul (Captain Satellite) Mann's life.
  • I am reasonably certain that this story marked the debut of both "El Oceano" (a major west coast city) and The Major City Courier (Major City's number one newspaper). The latter was created for possible inclusion in another project, but that didn't happen.
  • The name "Alex Royce" is my tribute to "Alec Rois", the secret identity of the old Captain Atom villain the Ghost. The Ghost was one of my prime inspirations in the creation of the Phantom Rogue.
  • Calvin Major is a member of the Major family that has been subtly popping up here and there as the "first family" of Major City. Given the implicit antiquity of his works, it's possible Calvin Major is the one who actually FOUNDED Major City.
  • In case you were wondering, yes, I totally dropped a reference into this story to the picture seen both here and here. You thought I wouldn't?
  • You can read more about Spookette's genesis in the Doppelgirl entry linked above. One consequence of her inclusion is that it allowed me to delve a little bit into Firegirl's personality in ways that might have been unexpected for some people.
  • I kind of want my own Spookcopter. I love the name, and I love the very idea.
  • Firegirl's ability to use her powers to make herself lighter than air is something I vaguely recall being offered once as an explanation for how fire heroes could fly. It doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it even a little, but there's a lot about superhero stories than don't make sense if you apply critical thinking.

I haven't had as many opportunities to pen Firegirl's adventures since this summer, but that just gives me a goal for 2011!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My World : Doppelgirl


Doppelgirl is the codename used by Judy Gourrier, a C.H.I.E.F. agent gone rogue. Or is she really a deep cover agent infiltrating the underworld through deception? If the latter is true, C.H.I.E.F. director Rex Coronado isn't talking.

Doppelgirl is an unparalleled disguise expert. She boasts that she can impersonate anyone, male or female, regardless of age. She is fluent in an array of languages, and an uncanny mimic. Though not a trained or disciplined fighter, she is lithe and athletic, and more than capable of giving an opponent a run for their money.

Doppelgirl first surfaced as part of the super-villain community under the alias of "Spookette". Working as an underling for the Phantom Rogue, she was captured by Firegirl during an ill-fated robbery . Turned over to the authorities, "Spookette" disappeared from her holding cell overnight. No explanation has ever been offered.

After that first encounter, Doppelgirl turned up using her familiar identity and outfit. More recently, she has been reported as calling herself "Madame Troika" and claiming allegiance to Third World. Is she truly affiliated with Third World? Or is this merely another ruse by a woman who has mastered the art?


Doppelgirl almost didn't make the cut. In spite of a dearth of female characters in the Captain Satellite milieu, she almost went into the reject pile. You can credit her salvation to the fact that I changed her uniform's colors and developed a better backstory for her. Oh, and it didn't hurt that she sort of already was in my continuity in the first place.

To backtrack, when I wrote "Firegirl's Internet Diary" in July, I included a character named "Spookette" as a tongue-in-cheek nod to my frequent collaborator Kabuki Katze. Back when I originally posted the Phantom Rogue on deviantArt in 2007, she had this to say:
"Hmm, I'm afraid I'm in love with him. He doesn't need a busty redhaired minion, does he?"
Kabuki forgot that comment after a couple of days. I didn't. So it was with a fiendish sense of delight that I did give the Phantom Rogue a "busty redhaired minion". That was Spookette.

I considered doing a picture featuring Spookette as she was described in the story, but somehow, I had a lot of trouble getting inspired to draw a derivative character. Spookette needed something to jazz her up a little. That was when I hit upon the idea of making Spookette one of a series of identities assumed by a character who could stand on her own.

If you are a scholar of comic book trivia, you might know about a character named Duela Dent. She is one of those fringe DC Comics folks who turn up when you least expect it. I sort of enjoyed her early appearances in Batman Family as "the Joker's Daughter" and other spurious offspring of Batman villains. In spite of her tangled history, the core concept of a character who impersonates OTHER characters resonated with me.

I spent so much time coming up with the name "Doppelgirl" (obviously derived from doppelgänger) that it was kind of embarrassing that I had so little to go with it afterward. I attributed Spookette to Doppelgirl, and also an equally derivative Madame Hydra-wannabe I'd considered dubbed "Madame Troika". There were a couple of other aspects thrown into the mix, too. The problem was, Doppelgirl had no real hook beyond assuming fake identities.

There was also the lesser problem of her uniform. I tried a couple of different things with it, including giving her slippers instead of boots. You can blame animator Darrell McNeil for planting that particular idea in my brain through an article in Alter Ego magazine. I also wanted to use pink, since it's a "girl" color that I've largely avoided. Well, that was all well and good, but soft colors combined with the design I'd committed myself to left me with an outfit seemingly more suitable for jogging than anything else. Not quite what I had in mind.

I remedied that problem eventually by changing the primary color to black, but a lighter shade than I've used in the past. The idea here is that Doppelgirl wears this tight spandex ensemble because it is easier to keep it on beneath whatever disguise she might be using. The shorter sleeves and pants enable her to conceal it better. I was also pretty happy with the more delicate line I used on this piece, and I'm glad I get the chance to showcase it properly.

That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't come up with some story possibilities for Doppelgirl that I actually liked. Ironically, that all started with the musical in-joke that led to her alter ego. And that only came about because I was trying to come up with a title for the earlier version, since I didn't want to commit the Doppelgirl name to a reject! It all worked out though, and I found my way with Doppelgirl at last by making her a rogue government agent. Or is she really a good guy after all? The ambiguity is what makes it interesting to me. It's not perfect, but it's a start.

Dedicated to Kabuki Katze, who inadvertently got the ball rolling and served as inspiration for Spookette!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Godzilla Collage (2000)

I spent part of Tuesday wrestling with my temperamental scanner, trying to get all the covers of my old fanzines scanned for my continuing discussion of OWARI's past on this blog. While sorting through those old memories, I discovered this little artifact in OWARI #9 (December 2000). I had forgotten it even existed.

My best recollection is that this was created purely as filler. However, I obviously put some thought into how it was laid out. Godzilla is clearly visible in every shot. I don't think that was just luck.

This was assembled from photocopies of material from my personal collection of Japanese books. I've cleaned it up a bit, to cover up some of the stuff that was hidden when IT was photocopied as part of the issue's contents. It's not as straight as I would've hoped, but what can you do a full decade down the line?

Anyway, since I can't post this on my art site, please enjoy it here. You can click the image to see it larger. And by the way, I also have an even larger scan handy. Waste not, want not.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Growing up in the 1970s, one of the comic books that fired my imagination and yet my eluded my grasp was Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. Believe you me, I saw those ads reproduced on Rob Kelly's Treasury Comics site, and I wanted that book. Heck, there was even TV coverage, which was unheard of in that decade. And yet, I never laid hands on the crossover that even today dwarfs the initial Superman/Spider-Man team-up that inspired it. It was big news, but I missed it.

Until now, that is. DC Comics has reached an agreement with Ali's people and, at long last, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali has been reprinted in hardcover. You can choose between the Deluxe Edition or a Facsimile Edition that reproduces the comic at its original tabloid-sized dimensions. Though the latter is definitely pricier, both editions have their virtues. I'd say pick the one that fits your needs.

Did the story live up to those long-held expectations? You know, it did. A lot of the books I grew up reading don't always hold up, but this was truly an epic. It has scope, it has character, and it has a few messages that we all would do well to still try to heed. Neither Superman nor Muhammad Ali overshadows their co-star, which is darn impressive when you think about it. Ali is portrayed as larger-than-life, but very human and real in my eyes. And Superman? Why, this is Superman the way he should be.

Neal Adams' art was beautiful then, and it's beautiful now. It may be his last true tour de force in comics. Thankfully, he has resisted the urge this time to tamper overly much with the original product. It looks faithful to his work of that period, and the coloring (while new) is not garishly overdone. Thank goodness for small favors.

Oh, and as an aside about Neal Adams, did anybody else notice that the character key includes a notation for Ms. Mystic? She is noted as being a DC Comics character, so I can only assume this key was the original from 1978. It didn't quite turn out that way for Ms. Mystic.

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali would have thrilled me when I was six, and it still hits the spot now that I am a bit older. Certainly, it did more to enhance Ali's reputation than did his meeting with Antonio Inoki. But that's another story...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

I don't have a whole lot to say about this song, which is one of the two signature tunes ("Free Bird" being the other) of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. I just wanted to point out that I'm slightly confounded by its continued widespread popularity.

It's not that it sucks or anything, though I would definitely jot it down on my list of overplayed songs along with the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" and Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll". It's just that it is so blamed topical that I can't believe the majority of today's audience even fully understands it. How many listeners know that the references to Neil Young are responses to two specific songs ("Southern Man" and "Alabama")? I am a bigger fan of Neil Young than I am Lynyrd Skynrd, and even I can't argue that "Sweet Home Alabama" is probably more famous than any of Young's compositions. I'm actually too scared to even contemplate how many contemporary listeners don't even know who Neil Young is.

And then there is the business about "the governor" and "Watergate". How much discussion does George Wallace get these days? How many people talk about the 1972 presidential election? How many people understand what Watergate even was, much less why the media feels compelled to attach "-gate" to each and every scandal they can? Sadly, I don't think I want to know the answers to these questions.

I think the biggest lesson we can learn from the continued popularity of "Sweet Home Alabama" in spite of its lyrics being meaningless to many people is that way too many people just don't pay attention to what a song says and means at all. That's unsurprising, but it isn't exactly reassuring.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Karma Bando


Meet Karma Bando, ace auto mechanic of Major City and co-creator of Captain Satellite's Rocket Racecar. Art by Kabuki Katze!

Karma Bando first appeared in the the Non-Supers Profiles. When I was putting that piece together, I realized it afforded me a good opportunity to discuss Captain Satellite's souped-up wheels. I just needed to find an excuse to bring it up. I happened to think about a friend and co-worker of mine who had at one time expressed interest in becoming an auto mechanic. That was when inspiration hit - I would create the mechanic for Cap's vehicle and base it on her!

I am so forthcoming about the origin of Karma from this young lady because I asked for her assistance in crafting my character into someone unique. She had input on several aspects, including the name. I like to think of her as the co-creator. So, thank you Destiny, for helping color in some of the details in my fantasy world!

More recently, I went to Kabuki with the intention of actually bringing Karma to life. Photos of her inspiration served as the basis, but we obviously took our own liberties. The blue hair was one, but it was one that had been discussed in Karma's creation. Oh, and we finally nailed down a name for Karma's garage - "Lightning Cars".

I'm pretty pleased with the final result as seen here and on Kabuki's page. I suspect you will immediately recognize the famous piece of advertising art that she paid homage to with it. It fits into the aesthetic of this world, that's for sure.

If I have my way, we'll be seeing more of Karma Bando in the future! Watch for her!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My World : The Neptoids


The Neptoids seen on Earth are actually part of an advance scout party sent by alien invaders intent on taking over our world. The Neptoids are not actually from the planet Neptune, but maintain a base there to better strike at Earth. The similar name, they insist, is purely a result of our poor Earthling comprehension of their language.

The Neptoids have run afoul of Captain Satellite and the other heroes of Earth on more than one occasion. During the first such encounter, Cap and Shelly Ericson realized they were in love while they were held captive aboard a Neptoid flying saucer. No word on the Neptoids' opinion of the relationship, but the adventure didn't work out for extraterrestrial interlopers that day.

The Neptoids are dogged in their determination to conquer our globe, or at least set the stage for such a conquest. To fail would mean returning home having accomplished nothing. That probably wouldn't go well.


The Neptoids are my ode to alien invaders from old pop culture, from comic books to B-movies. The gimmick of them sounding like they come from our solar system is something I got from the Thor baddies "the Stone Men from Saturn", who turned out to not really be from Saturn after all.

I tried to hit a bunch of timeless alien cliches, err, I mean trademarks, in designing the Neptoids. The ovoid head, the green skin, the pointy ears, the small body - all of them scream "alien invader" to me. I can't pinpoint one source for that backstory, as it is about as old as this concept.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystery Of The Mystery Wrist Launcher

If you do not already read Plaid Stallions and its sister site, Mego Museum, you should just go ahead and bookmark them now. Both of them are filled with nostalgia and humor, and I seriously make a point to check them often. In fact, if you are reading this blog on its homepage, you may notice the Plaid Stallions blog over there on the blogroll.

This particular entry is regarding something I noticed not very long ago, but am only just now pointing out to you guys. What can I say? I'm lame. But I think you'll overlook my inherent lameness when you get a load of this page from the 1975 Imperial Toys Catalog. Specifically, notice the "Mystery Wrist Launcher Set" in the lower righthand corner.

If you know anything about the world of Japanese superheroes, you are echoing the caption written by Brian Heiler: "What the hell is Kamen Rider doing here?" Your eyes do not deceive you - that is Kamen Rider V3 in all his glory adorning the package. Closer examination seems to further reveal that the "Mystery Wrist Launcher" is illustrated with a picture of V3 astride his motorcycle Hurricane. This in 1975, when the only way you MIGHT be aware of these characters in North America would be if you happened to be in the vicinity of one of the Japanese language stations that aired such programs. Those were, as you might imagine, few and far between.

So what gives? Beats me! I do know that Imperial had offices in Hong Kong, so perhaps this carried over from them without anyone in the main U.S. office being aware of the copyrighted character on it. I feel like the helmeted fellow hanging out with V3 is probably a clue of some kind, but despite his looking maddeningly familiar, I cannot place him. Does anyone know this dude? And don't count on the color scheme being helpful, either.

A much larger question is whether any of these survived intact, or even (dream a little dream!) mint in package. It's definitely historic, since this almost MUST be the first piece of American Rider merchandise extant. It just so happened that Imperial didn't know it! (Another shot of the toy is right here.)

If you can solve the mystery of the Mystery Wrist Launcher, please leave a comment!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Apache

While researching this entry, I discovered that someone has done a far more comprehensive job covering the song "Apache" than I ever possibly could. My reaction to this? Good! This frees me from having to rehash the history of this piece of music myself, and allows me to just appreciate it for its sheer durability. So I urge you to check out the "Soul Sides" discussion and download the sound files for your edification. The latter has a double urgency because the hosting service for them is being discontinued soon.

Back? Excellent! The only qualifier that I feel I ought to add to that post is that the Ventures aren't really a "surf band". They INFLUENCED surf music - that's undeniable. But they really prefigured the surf genre, and definitely transcended it with their body of work.

Now then, let's look at "Apache". I think it is a testament to the power of music that it has evolved and grown well beyond the original intentions of its composer. I mean, it's one of the building blocks of the rap genre, and there's no way anyone who pushed Jørgen Ingmann's version to near the top of the charts could have seen that development coming.

Let's watch some videos! And let's see how many of these videos are still online in a few weeks, too...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My World : C.H.I.E.F.

C.H.I.E.F. (Command Headquarters International Espionage Force) is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government which is primarily charged with investigating and, if necessary, addressing what are deemed "anomalous situations." They are responsible for handling reports of UFOs, monsters, supervillains, and other out-of-the-ordinary phenomenon. Due to Third World's reliance on unorthodox tactics and weapons, C.H.I.E.F. has also been charged with containment functions in opposition to that subversive organization.

C.H.I.E.F. was formed in 1946, under circumstances which are still classified. It has been acknowledged, however, that C.H.I.E.F. is the successor to a branch of the government referred to only as "Department 27". Department 27 was established at some undetermined point prior to the United States' entry into World War II. It is best known for the Ultimate American Project, which led to the creation of the first Ultimate American.

C.H.I.E.F. has offices in major population hubs across the United States, and maintains bureaus in many nations. C.H.I.E.F. cooperates with other U.S. government agencies, and with intelligence services abroad. In light of a dearth of similarly-equipped organizations specializing in paranormal occurrences, C.H.I.E.F. has been called into action on foreign soil on a number of occasions at the request of the country in question.

Though C.H.I.E.F. engages in numerous covert activities, its existence is well-documented to the public at large, and many of its more notable cases have been widely reported in the press. Though the agency's heyday was undoubtedly in the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s during the "spy hero" era, it still plays a vital role in both national and global security. C.H.I.E.F. works closely with the new breed of superhero that has emerged in recent years, and was responsible for the training of Ultimate American III (who acts in the role of "independent contractor" for the organization).

Rex Coronado is the current director of C.H.I.E.F., and is based at their central offices in Pongo, Virginia. He answers to the President of the United States and the top secret "Monarch-12" executive committee that oversees C.H.I.E.F.'s operations.


C.H.I.E.F. is the current incarnation of the super spy agency that has floating around my work for decades. It's been referenced in several character profiles, and in the Ultimate American Chronology, so I thought it would be fun to solidify some details about it. It draws inspiration from Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D., naturally, as well as the countless other acronym-crazy organizations that proliferated on the pop culture landscape like U.N.C.L.E. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. There's also some heavily altered stuff incorporated from real life research - or at least, things that did not originate in fiction.

This is the second version of this fact file. It contains new material and some slightly reworded text. Think of this as the "special edition" of C.H.I.E.F.'s profile, and a small reward for those of you who follow my work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

www.jlasatellite.com

Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I feel compelled to point my handful of readers to something far more amazing than anything I could accomplish on this blog. Recently, I was reminded of one such site which I have neglected to discuss.

Rob Kelly is a man with more blogs than he probably even remembers. The one we are discussing today is the JLA Satellite. This blog was only published from 2007-2008, because it had a limited goal in mind. However, that goal was to chronicle each issue of the original run of the Justice League of America comic! Yep, all 261 issues, the annuals, the try-outs - they're all there. It's an amazing resource, and a site I often find myself looking up when I have a question about the JLA.

It's a great site, filled with plenty of cool stuff on one of my favorite super teams. Plus, Rob's style is plenty ingratiating and fun.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sharp Cards!

Say, you guys still remember those Personal Sketch Cards that were done for me by Sean Moore, right?


This is famed super robot Mazinger Z. Obviously, this isn't my character, but when I saw this card, I had to have it. I figured it would go nicely with the latest batch of sketch cards he was doing of my characters.

What? Even more? Yes!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

UFO Daisenso: Tatakae! Red Tiger



NOTE: I am experimenting with embedding a video player from a Japanese site today. If you have trouble displaying the video, the link to it is right here.

UFO大戦争 戦え! レッドタイガー (UFO DAISENSO: TATAKAE! RED TIGER; "UFO War: Fight! Red Tiger") is one of those 1970s Japanese superhero shows that nobody talks about that much. Even its entry on the Japanese Wikipedia is pretty light. For instance, I sat down to write this entry, and until I looked at Wikipedia, I didn't even know exactly when in the decade it aired! By the way, it was 1978, if you don't feel like wading through the Japanese yourself.

RED TIGER is another one of those shows that certainly sounds interesting, but you wonder if you'll ever find the time to check it out more fully. When I finally dug up the above clip (and believe it, it took some work!), I admit that I was intrigued. It sure looks like it might be fun!

You will notice that Red Tiger is wearing a football helmet. I don't think there is any particular reason for this, but I could very well be wrong. American football was not unknown in Japan, but I highly doubt they had any particular affinity for it. From what I've seen, it's just something that they incorporate into designs from time to time to make it look different and perhaps a touch exotic. Kind of like our treatment of samurai paraphernalia in the West, when you think about it.

One thing I did learn from this brief clip is that Red Tiger is apparently one of the earliest heroes to have a distinct "power up" alternate form to complement his regular form. As far as I know, the first hero that actively changed forms during his series was Kamen Rider Stronger with his "Charge Up". This is after that series, but maybe even more distinctive than Stronger. After all, Red Tiger's entire suit changes in his power up form. An interesting precursor to what would be one of the trademarks of the more recent iterations of the Rider franchise.

Oh, and Jerry Ito appears in RED TIGER as "Dr. Yano". It sure looks to me as if this is a kindly scientist role. There is no way that can't be awesome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frankenstein Und Die Monster Aus Dem All


This title screen from the trailer for FRANKENSTEIN UND DIE MONSTER AUS DEM ALL ("Frankenstein And The Monster From Space"; a.k.a. the German title for DESTROY ALL MONSTERS) was the first screenshot I ever made. That was only a test, but it is sort of appropriate to include it with this entry. Why? Because David McRobie over at Xenorama posted both the American and German trailers for DESTROY ALL MONSTERS on Halloween Sunday. So now you can go see the classic American trailer and the German trailer that is the source of this screenshot!

As I pointed out in the comments over there, the German trailer is the Japanese trailer translated. It was probably originally dubbed into English for the international market by William Ross and company at the same time as the movie itself. David mentions that the monsters are even given on-screen names. This is a carryover from the Japanese trailer, except they are written out here in a comical "monster" font. I love it!

One thing I did not mention over at the Xeno-blog is how intrigued I am that the title logo for FRANKENSTEIN UND DIE MONSTER AUS DEM ALL is rendered almost exactly like the English title font supplied by Toho for the DESTROY ALL MONSTERS prints. That had to take some effort.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Firegirl and Company by Sara Duffield (2007)

On our last stroll down Captain Satellite memory lane, we took a look at fanart by my friend Sara that really started the ball rolling with those characters. Today, we shine the spotlight on subsequent pieces that helped shape some characterizations, and even led to some really neat things further along the way.


Here we see Firegirl as interpreted by Sara back in 2007, along with how she pictured her secret identity. This was doubly cool, because not only had there been precious little art of these characters by this point, but the thought of depicting alter egos had not even occurred to me. So Sara's vision of Roxanne Prize (was she even aware of that name at this time?) definitely served as a foundation for the later attempts at the character.

Sara also did similar pics for my childhood heroines Amazing Girl and Muscle Woman, though interestingly, not for Shelly Ericson. Perhaps because Shelly didn't have a secret identity? The one picture that likely had the most impact, however, was this one depicting Firegirl as a bit of a party girl.


Ignore the fact that the versions of Blue Behemoth and Drone Man you see in that picture are now apocryphal; Sara had very little info on them when she drew it. Instead, focus on the Firegirl you see there. I had literally never let my mind go in this direction before, but I had to admit, it had a lot of potential for making her a distinctive character. I really think this sketch played a big role in building Firegirl as she stands in 2010.

Sara did other drawings featuring my characters, including this delightful color picture named "Car Man's Wish". However, there was one additional piece from this period that looms large as a factor in how I wrote my female characters. I can't link you to it, because it was never uploaded to the Internet! Until now, that is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Marvel, You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

It has been noted by folks wiser than your humble blogger that Marvel has reached the point where they are releasing collected editions because they can, not because there is any great demand for them. I think I have run across a fine example of this phenomenon in their latest batch of solicitations.

Observe if you will Avengers: Citizen Kang on the Marvel site. This book caught my eye because I bought all four of the Annuals it reprints back in 1992. I enjoyed them for what they were, but haven't thought much about this "event" since then. Except now someone at Marvel thinks we need a collection of it.

Don't get me wrong here. I liked those Annuals, and I wouldn't be opposed to reading them again. It'd also be nice for all the creators involved to get royalties for that work. I'm assuming Marvel is paying royalties for these, right? It's just that there is no way on Earth I can justify buying this book.

I went to a well-known comic book retail site and checked the current base prices (not sale prices) of the four books reprinted in Avengers: Citizen Kang. This is what I found for them in Near Mint condition:

Captain America Annual #11 - $1.30

Thor Annual #17 - $1.10

Fantastic Four Annual #25 - $1.30

Avengers Annual #21 - $1.10

No, your eyes do not deceive you. The entire crossover can be had for $4.80. Granted, you would have to pay postage too, unless you made a large enough order to qualify for free shipping. Still, that's peanuts to own those comics in a day where one new comic costs almost that much.

How much is Avengers: Citizen Kang? $24.99. And it is entirely possible that it will not reprint all the extra stories and bonus features that are in the Annuals. But even if it does, that's twenty extra dollars for a reprint! Twenty dollars just for the privilege of saying you own a "book" instead of a pile of old comics.

I'm sorry, Marvel, but I'm just not going for it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

History, Revised : The Clinton Presidency

No one quite knew what to expect when George Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States on the newly-formed P-Funk ticket. In fact, his campaign promises mainly centered on two goals : 1) "tearing the roof off the sucker" and 2) "giving up the funk". However, during his two terms, Clinton is credited with truly turning the country into one nation under a groove.

Perhaps the most challenging times during the Clinton years were the attacks by America's enemies. Yes, it was very, very frightening when the forces of Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk launched an assault on the country's interests. However, Secretary of Defense Starchild, working with newly-appointed Surgeon General Dr. Funkenstein, "brought the noise" with the Pentagon's newest and deadliest weapon, the Bop Gun. As a related matter, the flashlight industry's stock prices went through the roof.

After overcoming what he termed the maggot brain of his political foes, Clinton achieved the much sought-after Mothership Connection that brought peace and harmony via Funkentelechy to all. Upon completing his second term, he retired to Florida with his dog Atomic and his staff of P-Funk All-Stars. They perform music as Parliament, Funkadelic, and whatever other names they want, baby.

Vice-President Bootsy Collins was asked for comment on this article, but protested that he and his Rubber Band were too busy conducting a search for the fabled monster Bootzilla.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My World : The Astro-Giants


From the far reaches of outer space, they come to planet Earth. They are...THE ASTRO-GIANTS!

The Astro-Giants are a race of phenomenally powerful cosmic beings who have, for reasons unknown, taken an interest in our world. They seem above the humanoid concepts of "good" and "evil", and carry out their masterplan without regard to either. The Astro-Giants have been known to prevent natural disasters, but were also responsible for threatening the existence of Thunder Man's parallel Earth. They do not tarry on our planet regardless of how their operations turn out, but whether this is simple preference or out of necessity is uncertain.

Captain Satellite and others have speculated that there is a connection between the Astro-Giants and the Mystery Spaceman. Though the faceless stranger clearly does not serve the cosmic colossi, the question remains whether these two separate enigmas from beyond our solar system are somehow intertwined.


I realize I'm stating the obvious here, but Jack Kirby was an amazing creative force. Why do I bring this up here? Keep reading!

I've wanted to include some "cosmic" characters in the Captain Satellite continuity for months, but had some trouble working out precisely what they should be. An early result of that process was the Mystery Spaceman, but he wasn't the original goal. I did manage to dream up a suitable name - the Astro-Giants - and included a few references to it in a handful of profiles that I was either writing or rewriting. But as far as who the Astro-Giants were, I was stymied.

I decided that my Astro-Giants would draw inspiration from a few sources. I looked to such Marvel characters as the Stranger, Galactus, and the Elders of the Universe, but there was one group in particular that struck a chord with me. That was the Celestials as featured in Jack Kirby's The Eternals. I'd always been taken with their designs and their air of mystery, and wanted to emulate that while still allowing the Astro-Giants the opportunity to develop into characters distinct from the Celestials.

I spent a month or two trying to design the Astro-Giants and working up a backstory for them. I won't go into details, but I expended a fair amount of effort crafting separate "looks" for each member of the race that I intended to include. I even gave them names that mixed mythology with foreign languages in an attempt to sound exotic. But at the end of the day, I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was all lacking the oomph I wanted.

The break-through came one morning while I was reading old Captain America stories from the 1960s. In one tale (pencilled by Jack Kirby, of course), Cap encountered this group of criminals that didn't even merit a special name to go with their colorful outfits. I don't think these guys have appeared since, which is unusual for a Marvel comic. Anyway, as I sat looking at these generic bad guys, I couldn't help but marvel (pun intended) at Kirby's ability to make even them look interesting.

That was where the lightbulb went off. I had been trying to create character designs riffing on Kirby, but let's face it, I'm no Jack Kirby. Then again, neither is anyone else. I studied these bad guys and began sketching. I didn't copy exactly, mostly because I don't have the kind of talent to pull that off. Instead, I tried to copy Kirby's use of shapes to make a visually appealing character.

The final result was the Astro-Giant look seen here. Figuring I shouldn't press my luck beyond one good design, I elected to make them distinct through color-coded armor. I'm sure they all have separate names and identities, but that will come out when/if a story featuring them happens. I'm just impressed I managed to generate even ONE design that looks passably Kirbyish!

If you are wondering, yes, that's the same drawing three times. Beyond the colors, I varied their heights in an attempt to create the illusion of perspective. I don't know how well that's pulled off, but I gave it the old college try.

Oh, and as a "P.S." for those of you who are fans of it, the opening of this profile is indeed a tribute to THE SPACE GIANTS TV series. It seemed appropriate, given the name.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monsters Play Dress-Up, Too

Happy Halloween, folks! In honor of my favorite holiday, I'm going to post a couple of pictures I did that depict classic monsters in unusual (for them!) get-ups!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Altered Egos: Roxanne Prize

Greetings, fellow traveler. Today we conclude (at least for now) the "Altered Egos" series crafted by Kabuki Katze with a character that has grown very near and dear to the hearts of Captain Satellite fans these last three years. I speak, as you may have gathered from the title of this entry, of Roxanne Prize. But you can call her Firegirl when she's on duty for the Invincible Alliance.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Horse Balls

As I am pretty sure I've mentioned, I live in a rural area. Though I grew up here, I am not exactly "of" here, if you get my drift. I am not really a country boy, but I'm not exactly a city boy, either. Basically, I am both, and therefore neither. Kind of funny how that goes, isn't it?

Living in these parts can be colorful sometimes. Whether it's passing a horse-drawn carriage on my way to work, or getting an eyeful of donkey-on-donkey action during my walk, there's usually something entertaining in this environment. And to me, the perfect store to epitomize the area is Nichols in DeQuincy.

I'll let you explore the Nichols website to get a better idea of what sort of thing this store carries. It is one of my favorite places to browse. I am not a hunter, but that's part of why I find it so fascinating. It is the kind of store that used to be prevalent, but is now a dying breed.

One of my favorite aspects of Nichols is their toy department. If I could, I would buy everything there. Why? Because it is loaded with the kind of stuff that you just don't see anymore, if you ever saw it in the first place. Want a bag of those solid plastic cowboys & Indians? Done! How about licensed Hannah Montana and Dora the Explorer fishing poles? Got 'em! Looking for action figures of rodeo cowboys and deer hunters? Yes, they have those, too!

They also have this:
"Hey kids! Want some Horse Balls?"