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.


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.


Xenorama said...

I think it would be a bigger "hit" today, since there is now 15 years of Power Rangers nostalgia.

it was a really good zine, fun to read and full of interesting facts.

C. Elam said...

It's certainly possible - the Power Rangers contingent was not nearly so vocal in 1996.

Thank you, I certainly tried!

Luke said...

Christopher, I found your blog while doing a Google search for the Kaiju Review, which I also used to read back in the day. So imagine my surprise to see you talking about your review of MMPR: The Movie which Dan decided not to publish -- because my review of MMPR: The Movie was the one he published! It was the only time I ever had any of my submissions published in the Review, despite several submissions which never seemed to make it. I remember Dan sending a letter along which said that he chose my review over another which as "not as concise," so I think you may be on the money regarding length.

Those were the heady, Pre-Internet days for me, where the KR was the only source of Godzilla news I had. I remember waiting and waiting for each issue and then poring and poring over it again and again. I still have all of the issues I got (finding them was the impetus for my Google search), and am going to have to flip through them again.

Here's to strange coincidences from one MMPR fan to another!

C. Elam said...

Hey there! I saw someone had been looking for Kaiju Review, so welcome!

Ha, so you are/were...I think it was "Stag Beetle?" That's pretty awesome. I didn't go back and look through my KR issues for this, but I'm happy that my being overly-wordy gave you the opportunity to get published in the fanzine. I actually think that's pretty neat.

I loved Kaiju Review too. It wasn't my first Japanese sci-fi fanzine, but it was my favorite. Glad you took the time to comment! I'd seen your comic book blogs before, but never made the connection that you were the same person!