Wednesday, April 13, 2011

OWARI #3 (November 1996)


I think in some ways, I have been procrastinating in putting together this entry. While OWARI #3 is on the one hand one of the highlights of my fanzine days, it is on the other hand the issue I most associate with a bad time in my life. It also contains the single most embarrassing misstep I ever made as an editor. So there are definitely mixed emotions in reviewing this particular issue.

First though, let's look at that cover! It was pure chance that I discovered a load of FANTASTIC stills from WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY?, and this particular one was probably the most memorable. A kiss-covered Tatsuya Mihashi surrounded by the trio of Akiko Wakabayashi, Kumi Mizuno, and Mie Hama in skimpy outfits proved to be one of the most enduring images of what I came to refer to as "Volume 1" of OWARI. I added the disembodied Woody Allen head and the word balloon speaking the movie's logo to clarify the subject matter. And finally, for the first and only time on a regular issue of the fanzine, there's the large-size version of the OWARI logo designed by Rob Perchaluk. I loved the way it incorporated the issue number directly into the design, and had I continued in this format, it would have seen more use.

My editorial touches on the limited content of the previous issue, and explains that #3 contains my attempt to pack more stuff into the fanzine. Well, I succeeded, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing either. There's also a hint at the truth of my real life situation, but I brush it all off with what is either misplaced optimism or a bald-faced lie. I can't even tell you at this late date, but I still had a long way to go in getting straightened out when OWARI #3 was put together.

Before we go further, let's discuss how I crammed so much material into a mere 20 single-sided pages. I was still working on a typewriter, but I shrank down each page until I could fit as many as FOUR on a single page. In theory, this is great. In practice, it is lousy. The type is far too small, and it makes the whole thing look cluttered. It also meant that this issue was effectively four times as much work as #1 and #2.

The issue leads off with my promised coverage of WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY?, the Woody Allen comedy dub/edit of a Japanese spy movie. For years, I have considered this one of the single worst articles I penned during the heyday of my 'zine writing. Re-reading it for this retrospective, it's...well, it's not nearly as bad as I remembered. It could certainly use some work, but there are good points sprinkled throughout it. Probably, my disappointment stemmed from the fact that I couldn't be as funny as I'd hoped in discussing the movie. Such a notion is kind of silly when you think about it, because that would mean I was trying to compete with professional comedy people.

Ah, but next comes a cast listing, and this is a sign of my peculiar tastes at the time. It is ENTIRELY TOO LONG and goes into way more detail than probably anyone cared. And yet, it still doesn't list everyone. I don't really regret putting it together, but there must have been a more palatable way to present this info.

Tucked away at the bottom of the cast listing, almost as an afterthought, is the startling revelation that there were two separate versions of TIGER LILY. Well, as it turned out, there wound up being THREE (the two alternate dubs, and one that combines elements of both of them). I'm still not sure I've fully put together why this happened or which came first. That seems like the subject of a future blog post someday.

Lewis Smith returned with more toy reviews. Did I ask him to do another batch of these, or was this something he concocted on his own? No clue, but I was glad to give him the space to offer his opinions. This page is also filled out with a "portrait" of him (as a fighting game character) by his friend Arvelle Whittaker.

"The Kaiju Detective" by Ronnie Burton makes its debut with a piece on FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. Ronnie and I had been working together on translating Japanese names a lot, and I invited him to share his research and his thoughts on various movies of his choosing. I really like his Frankenstein article, and I'm quite proud of the layout and captions I created for it. Too bad my source material didn't reproduce more cleanly, but it was still leaps and bounds better than in the previous issue.

Oh yes, that. I didn't mention it in the editorial, but I had discovered the settings on photocopiers and found a way to get the most out of my photos. The Frankenstein pics were still sort of fuzzy, but the Tiger Lily and Japanese superhero pics elsewhere in the 'zine looked remarkably good. I was learning, and it made OWARI look slightly better.

What on Earth prompted me to write "You Might Be A Japanese Superhero If..."? I don't know, but it still stands as one of my favorite humor pieces and one of my favorite things in the pages of OWARI. You should go read that 2009 update.

Now we come to the second installment of Lewis Smith's Return of Jetman. This includes the introduction of Green Wyvern, a character who would play a pivotal role in that saga as the years progressed. You can read the current version on Episode 2 penned by me here, and see the artwork Lewis did for the story in 1996 right here.

If you thought I was joking about expanding the contents, let me tell you that we're still not through with this issue! Filling out the final page of ROJ is another selection of "O-Factoids" and a short piece on the cast of INFRA-MAN (notice a trend here?) that I labeled an "O-Factoid Deluxe". This Infra-Man mini-article tied into a review I had submitted to KAIJU REVIEW, and I used that opportunity to plug Dan Reed's fanzine again. Just in case you thought there might be hurt feelings over the Power Rangers movie review, this should point up that there really weren't.

Speaking of the Power Rangers, Lewis' Power Rangers drinking game was definitely something he created strictly for himself before I asked if I could use it in OWARI. I do like the illustrations I chose for it, and this was that rare case when the limits of using photocopies worked to my benefit. There is also something quaintly amusing to see phrases like "The Green Ranger is in the Ultrazord cockpit with everyone else" and "The Mega-Dragonzord kills the monster" and realize you simultaneously remember and don't remember what in the devil that means.

The Toho Monster and Sci-Fi Filmography was a bit of business I worked up for myself, and it was an attempt to get ALL the Toho movies of that nature into one chronological list. Of course, I bent over backwards with exceptions to both add to and subtract from said list, so I am not sure how much overall value it has to anyone other than me. Oh well, I did find a way to throw the Toho globe at the top, and that took some ingenuity as I recall.

The heavy sigh you just heard is because we've reached the Susumu Yoshikawa interview. Don't get me wrong - this talk with the Toei producer is great! It's also from ANIME FX magazine, and I didn't realize that. It was sent to me from off the internet, and I just ran it with a few editorial notes added. Yeah, I clearly put no thought into this whatsoever. In my meager defense, I was still very naive about how the web operated. Still, that's not an excuse, and I should have known better. If #3 had gotten wider distribution (more on this soon), this could have been a serious problem. As it stands, it's just a rather humiliating footnote to what is actually a relatively decent issue (except for the legibility concerns).

Jerry Cornell reviews GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992) and Marc Dunworth provides artwork of Rodan vs. Mothra on the next page. This is an example of me throwing together two unsolicited submissions to fill out the issue. That's not a knock on what either Jerry or Marc did; quite the contrary, I wouldn't have run their work if I hadn't liked it. It just doesn't quite fit into the overall theme I had hit on for OWARI, and thus, this page stands out to me. Jerry Cornell would go on to put together his own series of fanzines under a couple of different names, and he would do this exact sort of thing with more enthusiasm than I managed. More power to him, sez I!

The pin-up of Power Ranger Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson) as Santa's helper by Lewis was another thing he did because he thought it was hilarious. I did too, and I loved how it came out. I chose to run it as a result, and maybe to tweak the people who had questioned his cover for #1.

Finally, we reach the last page, which I dubbed "Closing Credits & Other Trivia". This is a potpourri of jokes, plugs, corrections, and a coming attractions blurb. The most monumental revelation is the debut of OWARI's erstwhile mascot and devil-may-care bon vivant EL BEARDO. Who is EL BEARDO? LEARN OF HIM! Possibly the biggest surprise of my decade of self-publishing is the way almost every single person who read OWARI #3 commented on EL BEARDO with delight.

Which wasn't many people, as it turned out. There were only 20 copies of this issue printed, and I somehow don't think this one got bootlegged like #1. I cannot name every single person who received a copy of OWARI #3 at this late date, but I bet I can come pretty close. When I wrote out the History of ROJ, I characterized the promotion and distribution of this issue as "a disaster."

What happened? Well, I just couldn't afford sinking a lot of money into OWARI at this point, so that was a roadblock. There was also the fact that I was unhappy with both my life and my fandom at the same time. This meant that OWARI #3, a bit of a landmark in introducing both Green Wyvern and EL BEARDO, sank even further into obscurity. I bet there are many folks who never even knew it was published.

As you can see, OWARI #3 had its share of problems, but I still think it accomplished most of what it set out to do. The biggest impediment was that I couldn't get it to people, but I felt this was something I could correct in time. I had every intention of soldiering on despite the setbacks.

However, this would ultimately prove to be the end of OWARI - at least, as it had been. That's a tale for the next time we pick up our review of my crazy fanzine years. We'll take a look back at 1997-1998, and the "lost" issue of OWARI.

Meanwhile, I'd like to conclude this piece by mentioning that it's going up on April 13th. This also happens to be my mother's birthday, so please, let's all wish a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mother!

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