Tuesday, March 31, 2009

5 Old Songs You Should Try

I get static from acquaintances sometimes because my music tastes tend to lean toward older stuff. In fact, I suspect some people might label my favorites "antediluvian", if only they knew what that word meant. But I feel like they're only cheating themselves. There are plenty of gems if they could only get over the fact that they pre-date their births.

I'm not down on current popular music as a rule, if only because that is an early warning sign that you are becoming an old codger. However, here is a list of 5 random songs over 25 years old that I would recommend to young whippersnappers, after I spray them with a hose and yell for them to get off my lawn.

"Gimme Shelter", The Rolling Stones - I'm not one of those people who buys into the Stones as "The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band Of All Time", though I'll admit they make a credible case for that label by sheer longevity. However, "Gimme Shelter" is an amazing, transcendent song, and it still excites me whenever it begins. And I'm not a Stones fan!

"My Cherie Amour", Stevie Wonder - Honestly, I could rattle off at least a dozen Stevie Wonder songs as timeless masterpieces, but I'll go with this one as it is a favorite of mine. Stevie Wonder is one of the true geniuses of music over the last 50 years, and he's still out there making music. Plus, he still has his dignity - a rare commodity in the music biz.

"Suffragette City", David Bowie - Like Stevie Wonder, the trick is only picking one for Bowie - a man so far ahead of his time that it was scary. This is my favorite song off the landmark album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, highlighted by some killer guitar work by Mick Ronson and memorable lyrics. Don't lean on me, man, 'cause you can't afford the ticket!

"Folsom Prison Blues", Johnny Cash - I think it is a testament to Cash's talent and influence that people who don't even care that much for country music consider themselves fans. And yes, I'd go with the live version from Folsom Prison itself, especially if it includes the opening with "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."

"One Way Or Another", Blondie - Blondie managed the nigh-impossible feat of bridging the genres of punk, disco, and new wave without betraying any of them. And that's not even mentioning the fact that they scored the first ever #1 song with a rap interlude! (Wait, I just did...) This is a hard-driving song that is creepy when you think about it. Except you'll be too busy singing along to really think about it.

Do you have any musty old favorites you'd recommend to "the kids"?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

AGE OF THE GODS by Guy Tucker

I should tell you that I haven't read this book since 1996, and that's not going to be changing anytime soon. So this isn't going to be a proper "review"; rather, it is a collection of the impressions the book left on me. And believe me, it left quite an impression.

I remember unkind words said about this volume by more than one person way back in the days when it was new. It was never an opinion I shared. My suspicion is that those folks either had their own agendas or they let their view of the author color their view of his work. It'd be hard to argue that Guy Tucker could be a polarizing figure in some quarters. That doesn't change the fact that AGE OF THE GODS is possibly one of the most important English language works on Japanese science-fiction.

Guy Tucker could write passionately and intelligently about the Japanese sci-fi genre, and he did so with an insight perhaps unusual for a Western fan. Did I agree with everything he wrote in the book? Not at all. I rarely did when it came to anyone's reviews of genre works, and I also remember feeling some of his conclusions were off-base. That doesn't mean I thought they were valueless, since sometimes, it can be educational to read a well-reasoned dissenting voice.

AGE OF THE GODS, however, had problems. It was a book in desperate need of a proper editor, and it didn't get that treatment. It meandered at times and suffered from passages that felt either phoned in or incomplete. There were the inevitable mistakes that crept into the work as well. The most glaring was the assertion in its pages that Hiroshi Miyauchi had committed suicide! Well, that wasn't the case - Miyauchi had in fact just been a regular in the series CHORIKI SENTAI OHRANGER, and is still hale and hearty to this day. The confusion arose from the arrangement of the credits in THE WAR IN SPACE (1977) and Tucker's lack of knowledge of the superhero genre. It was a simple case of mistaken identity, but it was very unfortunate considering the ultimate fate of Masaya Oki (the person Tucker had meant).

The flaws in AGE OF THE GODS do not detract from its overall importance as a truly seminal work on tokusatsu. That's why it is such a shame that it only exists as a small press book while lesser works were afforded far wider distribution. In his remembrance of Guy Tucker, August Ragone reports that Guy intended to revise AGE OF THE GODS. To me, that just compounds the tragedy of Tucker's untimely passing. I would dearly have loved to see him reshape that manuscript into a more solid and fully realized form, and deliver on the promise of the masterpiece that was on the verge of happening.

I have read that August Ragone is going to revise AGE OF THE GODS himself, in the hopes of interesting a publisher in bringing into back into print. I wish him the best for success. AGE OF THE GODS deserves better than to be consigned to obscurity.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Brief History of OWARI

OWARI was one of a number of fanzines centered around Japanese monster movies that sprang up in the 1990s. Its name (the Japanese word for "the end") was originally an inside joke and was the first clue that OWARI intended to take a less than sober look at its chosen fandom. OWARI lasted for three issues as "The Fanzine For People Entirely Too Interested In Japanese Sci-Fi." Though it had its moments, it was mostly a Grade Z operation.

OWARI #4 was published in 1999 and marked the beginning of a new era for the fanzine. OWARI transformed into a newsletter, but the contents grew more diverse as the fanzine itself shrank. Everything was fair game, and some odd articles appeared in the 'zine's pages. 1999-2000 was the high point for OWARI in terms of both quality and quantity.

OWARI is probably best remembered, if at all, for featuring the debut of the Return of Jetman fanfiction series (currently featured on its own site) and articles on the actors and actresses that appeared in Japanese science-fiction films. It also was ahead of its time in discussing the mythological background of the monster King Seesar, and in linking the comedy WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY? to the Japanese monster genre. OWARI gave considerable coverage to Big Bang Comics and other lesser-known aspects of comic book fandom. Finally, OWARI provided an outlet for several regular contributors - Lewis Smith, Ronnie Burton, and Tara DeVeau. There's also the matter of erstwhile mascot and devil-may-care bon vivant El Beardo, but we won't discuss him right now...

OWARI effectively ceased publication in 2002. A special 10th Anniversary final issue, complete with full color front and back covers, was released in 2005, but garnered little notice. Now, the spirit of OWARI continues with this blog. Who knows what the future holds?

OWARI checklist - Do you have every issue?
  • OWARI #1 (October/November 1995)
  • OWARI #2 (May 1996)
  • OWARI #3 (November 1996)
  • OWARI #4 (April 1999)
  • OWARI #5 (July 1999)
  • OWARI #6 (October 1999)
  • OWARI #7 (March 2000)
  • OWARI #8 (September 2000)
  • OWARI #9 (December 2000)
  • OWARI #10 (March 2001)
  • OWARI #11 (August 2002)
  • OWARI #12 (Oct.-Nov. 2005)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Open Letter Regarding ESPY

To Whom It May Concern :

Hi there. Perhaps you have noticed that there is money to be made with releases from Japan's Toho Company, Ltd. You don't even need Godzilla on the cover. Crazy, huh? Well, I'd like you to consider releasing one of Toho's more obscure efforts when the rights become available (they were previously with Classic Media, continuing from UPA, but they have relinquished them).

The movie is called ESPY and as you can see, it is already on DVD in Japan. See, already this isn't so much work. Toho themselves have already assembled a pretty good package. All you need is to add a few Western touches.

This movie stars Hiroshi Fujioka (well known across the world for things like KAMEN RIDER and SUBMERSION OF JAPAN), Kaoru Yumi, and Masao Kusakari. There are also roles for a variety of well-known faces in Japan. Best of all, the villain is played by Tomisaburo Wakayama. Yes, this is the same guy from the "Baby Cart" films. See? Instant crossover marketing!

What should be on the DVD? Well, the widescreen transfer from the Japanese DVD, obviously. It's probably the best this movie can possibly look. Subtitled, of course. The trailer would be great. I'd love to have the audio commentary ported over with subtitles. Oh, and a booklet would be nice. Nothing extensive, just a few pages.

Dubbing? Yes, please. The English track would be fabulous. It's very entertaining, and it was commissioned by Toho (done in Hong Kong!). Getting hold of it should be simple.

This movie was only issued once in the United States, by Paramount in the mid- 90s on a cheap EP VHS. The movie was full-screen only, and worse still, it was riddled with very poorly done edits. A movie that is actually 94 minutes ran only 87. So you see, you will certainly do better than that.

I own that shoddy VHS tape, as it is the only licensed release available in this country. I've also got a copy of the Japanese disc. But an American DVD would make me so very happy, because I love this movie beyond all common sense. I know it's not top shelf Toho, but I think it would be a good seller.

Thanks for listening.

Your friend,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Magical Mystery Mix

Some time ago, I had one of those brilliant ideas that I'll probably never carry out. What if there was a compilation of nothing but songs with "magic" in the title? Think about it. It would have tons of star power and be quite eclectic.

Here's my preliminary track list :

01)The Beatles - "Magical Mystery Tour"
02)America - "You Can Do Magic"
03)The Cars - "Magic"
04)Electric Light Orchestra - "Strange Magic"
05)Heart - "Magic Man"
06)The Lovin' Spoonful - "Do You Believe In Magic"
07)Olivia Newton-John - "Magic"
08)Peter, Paul, and Mary - "Puff The Magic Dragon"
09)Pilot - "Magic"
10)The Police - "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
11)Santana - "Gypsy Queen/Black Magic Woman"
12)Steppenwolf - "Magic Carpet Ride"
13)Triumph - "Magic Power"
14)The Who - "Magic Bus"
15)Focus - "Hocus Pocus"
16)Steve Miller Band - "Abracadabra"

Can you think of any more? All I need is reasonably well-known songs from reasonably well-known artists. Oh, and I'm not sure about "witches" for this exercise. I know of at least three off the top of my head that aren't novelty songs : Donovan's "Season Of The Witch", Redbone's "The Witch Queen Of New Orleans" and the Eagles "Witchy Woman". I'll take suggestions on those, too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ishimori's Dream

Artist Shōtarō Ishimori built this pyramid on top of his house to test the theory of pyramid power. "Instead of thinking up new stories," he laments, "I usually wind up drinking saké and admiring the moon."
--Frederik L. Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, 1983

Friday, March 20, 2009

It Might Be Lost, But It's Also Quite Groovy

As you might recall, I picked Giant-Size Avengers/Invaders #1 as my favorite single comic book of 2008 a couple of weeks ago. This is still true, but a quirk of scheduling led me to forget that a very important book as far as I was concerned also saw print in 2008.

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1


This book is Bob Haney's final comics story before he fell ill and later passed away. The fact that it took so long for it to come out is a minor injustice. This page at the Titans Tower site charts the unfortunate series of publishing decisions that befell this book. Originally announced as Teen Titans Swingin' Elseworlds Special for October 2003 publication, it was abruptly cancelled a mere month after DC solicited it! It languished in limbo until it finally saw the light of day as Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 on January 9, 2008. And yes, it coming out so early in 2008 led me to forget that it wasn't a 2007 book.

I will never quite understand the problem with this comic. Sure, it's weird, but I would think that is to be expected when you hire BOB HANEY to write a script. I'm not sure how a silly one-shot could have torpedoed DC's latest futile attempt to recapture the Titans sales magic they so amazingly squandered back in the 1980s. If anything, the way they ultimately published the story is probably more confusing than its original scheduled format.

(For the record, the "Elseworlds" version would have been a squarebound book clearly marked as out of regular continuity. The "Lost Annual" version is a standard stapled comic book with no clear marking of its non-canonical status. Why did any of this make a difference? I have no idea!)

As for the story itself, it is a fine piece of funnybook nonsense, wonderfully illustrated by Jay Stephens and Mike Allred. Teen Titans has never been my absolute favorite Haney title (that prize goes to a certain Batman team-up series), but it made me smile to finally get to see his first crack at them since 1979. Adding to the fun is a fabulous cover by classic Titans artist Nick Cardy, to say nothing of some bonus pieces by him lurking in the back pages.

No one is going to be confused into thinking Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 is an amazing piece of literature that will change the lives of its readers. It is, however, a darn entertaining comic book, and the final bow of one of my favorite writers. It deserves better than to be forgotten.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Offered With Commentary

There's nothing more embarrassing than blowing the deadline on a mini-series. (Laughter.)
--Keith Giffen, interviewed by Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Comics Interview #20 (Feb. 1985)

I guess we can safely say that a lot of comics creators, including Keith Giffen himself, have developed a healthy tolerance of embarrassment during the years since this interview took place.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You Might Be A Japanese Superhero If...

Based on the article from OWARI #3 (Nov. 1996).

Well, all right! You've got your crash helmet, your colorful jumpsuit, and your contract with a Japanese toy company. On the surface, it appears you have all the ingredients to be a successful Japanese superhero. But, are you sure? Below is a checklist to determine if you have all the necessary traits. If you meet all of these qualifications, or even some of them, then you too might be a highly merchandisable character from the Land of the Rising Sun. So, without further ado (and with all apologies to Jeff Foxworthy for ripping off his schtick), OWARI proudly presents this valuable public service to all would-be defenders of truth, justice, and the Japanese way.

You might be a Japanese superhero if...

  • you feel a strong desire to pose and shout your name in battle.
  • your enemies stand around like a bunch of dopes when you pose and shout your name in battle, rather than doing the sensible thing and killing you.
  • little children with high-pitched voices and bad outfits are constantly running to you for help.
  • you don't bleed when slashed by a sword - sparks fly from your body instead.
  • your adversaries all have impossibly long names like "Violent Evil Alien Ninja Jack Satan" or "Subterranean Fluorescent Kaiju King Kamasutrasaurus".
  • your presence leads indirectly to the death of every kindly old scientist within a 500 mile radius.
  • you announce the name of every power or weapon you use (e.g., "Zowieman Spinning Super Strato Kick!").
  • you discover the love of your life is (a) a servant of evil (b) a secret agent (c) an alien visitor (d) dead.
  • you belong to an elite agency dedicated to battling weird menaces which is staffed by only six people (huh?).
  • you know more than one person whose name includes the word "guy".
  • (males only) you accessorize with a scarf, and no one questions your masculinity.
  • (females only) your costume comes equipped with superfluous earrings attached to the helmet and/or a skirt to go with your spandex.
  • you constantly feel the need to "power up" your arsenal (e.g., your "beam blaster" gets upgraded to "Ultimate Beam Bazooka").
  • you frequently talk to disembodied voices and no one questions your sanity (to your face).
  • you will use any word or phrase, no matter how ridiculous, as long as it is in English (e.g., "Nifty Buster Robo - Go!").
  • you wear a blinking light on your chest and it is not because you are a moronic football fan trying to get on TV.
  • that mysterious cool character who keeps popping up turns out to be your long-lost _______________ (insert relative of choice).
  • you suspiciously eye any strangers you meet, figuring they're really monsters in disguise (and you're usually right).
  • you reason that any problems you have in your life are due to the diabolical machinations of your foes (and you're usually right).
  • your name is "Hayata".
  • having your own line of sausages sounds like a pretty neat idea.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Brave and The Bold Team-Up Archives Vol. 1

Let's take a look at this hardcover collection of stories from The Brave and The Bold, one of the few DC Archives I plan on keeping other than my beloved All Star Archives. While B & B is one of my favorites series, I held off on purchasing this book for some time. Why? Well, I already owned 7 of the 8 stories collected in it. That made it hard to justify spending fifty bucks on it. However, I ended up getting it for a nice price from the imaginatively monikered "Stinkfoot" of the Collected Editions Discussion Forums. So, with thanks to him, let's examine this tome of awesomeness.

The Brave And The Bold Team-Up Archives Vol. 1
Written by Bob Haney & Robert Kanigher.
Art by George Roussos, Howard Purcell, Joe Kubert, Bob Brown, Alex Toth, Bruno Premiani, Ramona Fradon, Charles Paris, Bernard Baily, and Gil Kane.
Original series edited by Murray Boltinoff, George Kashdan, and Robert Kanigher.

Boy, take a look at the cover at the above link. That George Roussos image (miscredited to Bernard Baily in the actual book) has been amusing me for years, and the fact that they used it for the cover proves that someone at DC has a sense of humor. Between J'Onn J'Onzz's leer and the fact that his hand is a bit hard to track down in all that green, you have the kind of cover that keeps slashers happy and content at night. I like that.

The cover is taken from the first page of B & B's #50. Using two of DC's perennial back-up stars to launch a series seems an odd move in retrospect, and yet...it worked. Bob Haney took a few liberties here and there in the details, but it's a perfectly acceptable story from that era. Roussos' art looks a bit cruder than you'd expect from DC at the time, but it's atmospheric and tells the story well.

#51 benefits immensely from some fine, fine art by Howard Purcell. The people from Atlantis have a fondness for fin-backed helmets that I don't recall seeing elsewhere, but some panels are almost nightmarishly creepy. Plus, Aquaman and Hawkman are more or less spot-on - always a plus.

Bob Kanigher takes over as writer and editor for #52 only and it's...well, it's a Kanigher war comic. The characters are as fearless as you would imagine, and the Joe Kubert art is excellent. It's nice to see the three "battle stars" together, along with the special surprise. Of course, this was Sgt. Rock's first appearance in B & B, something Kanigher I'm sure later regretted. But more on that another day.

#53 is...Alex Toth? Really? Yep, there he is, drawing Flash, Atom, and a baddie named "Atilla-5." This might be where Haney's stories started getting a little odd, but that's probably something a smarter person than me should analyze. Unfortunately, this story is the cause of one of my beefs with this book. How in the WORLD do you lose pages from an Alex Toth story and end up reproducing them photographically? Especially when the story had been reprinted in a previous hardcover (The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told) that was still in print in trade form until relatively recently? I sit and look at the pages and just shake my head, since they look to be from that earlier hardcover. I'd love to know the circumstances behind that.

Look, #54 has the Teen Titans! Well, not really, but this story directly led to the TT. The dialogue isn't nearly as "gear" as it would later be and Haney does manage to tattoo a little personality onto the bland boy sidekicks. Bruno Premiani's art is stiff, but expressive and wonderful. I just can't praise it enough.

I love the Metal Men and I love Ramona Fradon, so #55 is a treat. I've always felt that Haney was one of the few writers besides Kanigher who "got" the Metal Men and this is his first crack at them. Fradon's art makes just about anything better (even that 1970s Plastic Man series), so you can't go wrong with her versions of any of the characters.

It's my pleasure to own a copy of #56 and it's surprisingly well-rounded, all things considered. I sure don't remember Iris West being quite so nasty to Barry Allen in his regular book though. As for Baily's artwork, it's stiffer than I remember it (though still pretty good). He did great work before and after, so perhaps this was just symptomatic of trying to draw "house style" or just lack of interest. One oddity - his complete inability to draw Superman's "S" shield properly.

We skip #57 and #58 (the Metamorpho tryouts) and head straight into #59. First Batman team-up! An excellent Gil Kane cover and nice Fradon interiors keep the art side going strong. As for the story, it has an ingenious time travel gimmick that you should not think about at all or you will be utterly baffled. Also on display is Batman doing something stupid and the public being intensely gullible. In many ways, this issue foreshadows many a B & B to come.

All in all, an entertaining book despite my quibbles. But then, I'm hardly unbiased. Your mileage may vary.

As Bob Haney used to sign off, "B & B seeing you!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kathy Horan - Found! (And She Didn't Even Know She Was Lost!)

I used that phrase on a long-vanished message board thread in 2001, but it became even more appropriate in 2007.

Who is Kathy Horan, anyway? Well, long story short, she was an American living in Japan who appeared in a number of Japanese movies. As you can see on her IMDB page, she has decent-sized roles in such cinema legends as THE GREEN SLIME, GENOCIDE : WAR OF THE INSECTS, and GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL. Besides those, she also turns up in KING KONG ESCAPES, LATITUDE ZERO, and THE X FROM OUTER SPACE. She had an exciting screen presence for someone who was essentially an amateur, and she was quite attractive as well. She's on the cover of the U.K. R2 DVD of GOKE and you can see a decent shot of her on this page from production company Shochiku. She's the non-Japanese person, obviously.

Beyond that, she was a mystery. Heck, there was even confusion as to whether her name was "Kathy Horan" or "Cathy Horlan". Like most gaijin in Japanese movies, she eventually disappeared, leaving no clues about herself except the films in which she appeared.

Until, remarkably, I got involved.

As you might have gathered, I have a fascination with the foreigners in Japanese movies. Kathy Horan was definitely very high on my list of actors who interested me. Periodically, I plug their names and relevant keywords into search engines to see what I discover. Usually, I get nothing. But one night, somehow, I stumbled onto what I deduced might be Kathy Horan's e-mail address.

Well, that was too good an opportunity to pass up. I sat down and composed an e-mail, with the subject header "Are you THE Kathy Horan?". I waited a few days and heard nothing, so I didn't hold onto it. I mean, long shot, right? But eventually, I got an e-mail back, which I still have to this day.

Subject line? "Yes, I am the Kathy Horan".

Well, you coulda knocked me over with a feather. We exchanged a couple of e-mails, and we were going to do a Q&A, but eventually it sort of dried up. It was hard to be worried about it too much. I mean, she probably had a lot of things to do, and things like that can slip through the cracks. What I took away from the experience was that I got to interact, albeit briefly, with a movie "star" (well, she was to me) who had always fascinated and entertained me. That's good stuff.

Well anyway, fast forward a few years. An acquaintance of mine named Brett Homenick inquired about my contact with her and wondered if I could get him in touch with her. Well, I hadn't had contact with her in years, but since he asked me, I directed him to the page where I found her e-mail. I pretty much left the entire thing in his hands, and his success or failure at interviewing her would be based on his actions alone.

(Disclaimer - Brett is the only person who actually asked me about getting in touch with Kathy independently since I had lost touch with her. I did not, in any way, try to keep Kathy "under wraps" - which would be an absurd notion even if I'd wanted to do it. The information I had was widely available on the Internet if you knew where to look. If others had contacted me in the same way that Brett did, it's entirely probable I would have done the same thing for them. Simple as that.)

Well, Brett succeeded. He got in touch with Kathleen (her full name) and arranged an interview. He asked me for my input, which I gladly provided, and he put my name in the acknowledgments of the interview's opening. That interview was published in G-Fan #78, and while brief, it felt a lot like the culmination of years of dreams. Because there it is, in print - an interview with the long-lost and mysterious Kathy Horan. She is alive and well, and doing great in her life since leaving Japan in 1969. She hasn't been back, but feels confident she will "someday".

I hope so, Kathy. And I'm glad life has treated you so kindly.

Needless to say, I'm proud that my interest in Kathy Horan's career gave her the chance to tell her story (what she remembers of it) to an audience. To me, that makes this crazy hobby of mine worth it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Funky Facial Hair

I went to Kinder, LA one day to get a bite to eat and decided to pick up a box of donuts, because dammit I deserved them. Anyway, as I was checking out, I happened to notice the vending machines up front. You know the candy apple red dispensers of cheap toys and cheaper candy. Well, one of the little darlings was pushing "Funky Facial Hair". Yes, for the princely sum of 75 cents, you could possibly receive a)a mustache, b)a beard, or c)two sideburns.

I gambled my three quarters and came up with a beard. I think it's the beard, anyway. Honestly, it looks more like a small rodent. My first instinct would be to trap it if I saw it out of the corner of my eye. As fake facial hair goes, resemblance to small furry creatures can't be a plus.

The machine promised that its product would help you "fool your friends" and "look cool". I am reasonably certain Funky Facial Hair will accomplish neither thing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Toei Tokusatsu Hero Box - Disc 2

(Yes, these again! The series continues!)

While it wasn't the trailblazer when it came to starting the 1970s Japanese hero boom, KAMEN RIDER was definitely the spark that made it explode. All the proof you need is the slate of featurettes on this disc. Not one of them features the Riders (though some trailers with them are included), but their scarf-wearing presence is looming in the background at every turn.

HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI kicks things off, and the best way I can explain it is by calling it a Kamen Rider period piece. There is a very distinct feeling that this is what a Rider show would be like as a chanbara. That is counterbalanced by the unfortunate resemblance the titular character bears to a big chicken. I am told he's supposed to be a hawk, but I'll be darned if he doesn't look like a chicken man to me. So the costume is a bit of a problem, though not an insurmountable one. It just makes me wonder if an alternate title for the series could have been "The Ninja Chicken Emergency".

Kidding aside, ARASHI is by no means a bad show. It is overshadowed a great deal by P Productions' twin LION MARU series, but that's more of a reflection of their influence rather than any deficiencies in ARASHI. While jidai geki Kamen Rider isn't my cup of tea, that doesn't mean it can't be fun.

Takao Saito's creation CHOJIN BAROM-1 might as well be called NOT KAMEN RIDER BUT ALMOST during the phase of the series reflected in its film. The hero resembles a Rider. He drives a fancy car instead of a motorcycle. His kaijin are very Shocker-esque. Even the music recalls KAMEN RIDER! BAROM-1 has its own peculiar twist on things, including the surprising secret of the hero's true identity. It's just that if Toei hadn't made the show, it might have been legally actionable. It changed as it progressed, with some seriously loopy monsters, so perhaps even the people involved felt a desire to do something different.

ROBOT KEIJI, about a robot who dresses in people clothes and works as a detective of sorts, is one of the more oddly constructed featurettes I have ever seen. It's not a narrative, but rather a highlight film from the beginning of the ROBOT KEIJI series! This fact came crashing home when the narrator informed me that the character who had just appeared on-screen was played by "Chiba Shinichi" (Sonny Chiba), the brother of series co-star Jiro Chiba. Excuse me? It's a jarring and not entirely satisfying way to watch one of these play out, but you get to see plenty of robot fighting action as a result.

KIKAIDER 01 is a cropped 35 mm blow-up of the shot on 16 mm first episode of the series. So it should be relatively easy to follow, right? Well, this show sort of hits the ground running, and there's a lot of inexplicable stuff in the movie as a consequence. The completely unnecessary Hanpei Hattori stand-in dude who ended up being dropped from the show for adding nothing is a good example of that. Still, it's a strong start for the show, and KIKAIDER was probably the biggest success of the similar shows launched in the wake of the KAMEN RIDER franchise. Its sequel didn't quite match that peak, but it has many virtues in its own right.

INAZUMAN FLASH is another "blow-up", and it strikes me as an odd choice considering that our hero is barely in his heroic guise in this episode! FLASH is the sequel/continuation (take your pick) of INAZUMAN and not as quirky as that series was. Actually, this whole thing feels pretty bleak and a little bit of a downer for a kids festival entry. I wonder why they did that?

I'm looking over what I've just written here, and I almost feel like I should apologize. I like Japanese superheroes, really! I even like all of these series to varying degrees. But there's no question that the Riders were king at Toei during this period, and it is reflected in the fact that all of their movies are more memorable than these.

Tune in for Disc 3 coverage (whenever I get around to it) when we discuss the longest running tokusatsu series of the 1970s.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who Made Sentai?

If you are a reasonably knowledgeable fan of the super sentai series, you likely consider the question in this entry's title to be a no-brainer. Well, duh, it was Shotaro Ishinomori (石ノ森章太郎 Ishinomori Shôtarô) who created HIMITSU SENTAI GORANGER. Everyone knows that Ishinomori-sensei was responsible for the creation of sentai, even if Toei did try to entertain the fiction that "sentai" and "super sentai" were different concepts for a few years. So we'll set aside that "Saburo Yatsude" (or is it "Saburo Hatte"?) group name business and just look at actual people for our purposes. Ishinomori made sentai, right?

Well, not exactly. Ishinomori did create the concept, design the characters, and that other good stuff. But was he truly the one who made sentai as we know it and love it (or loathe it, your mileage may vary)? Take a look at this page and come back when you're done :


Finished? As you might have gathered, that is a chart of the writers for every sentai episode from GORANGER (1975-77) through GEKIRANGER (2007-2008). Notice a name that is missing? Yes, Ishinomori never penned a single teleplay for any sentai. That's not all that surprising, but he was never directly involved in any of them. And by all accounts, his manga version of GORANGER diverges a great deal from the one that aired on TV.

Well then, if Ishinomori didn't make sentai, who did? I think at least a portion of the credit should go to the men and women who labored over the scripts that ended up being filmed for the shows. Two names in particular stand out - Shozo Uehara (上原正三 Uehara Shôzô) and Hiroshisa Soda (曽田博久 Soda Hirohisa). Uehara wrote the majority of episodes for the first 5 sentai series (though Susumu Takaku - 高久 進 Takaku Susumu - was the main writer of record for BATTLE FEVER J), and Soda picked up the baton to be the main writer for a mind-bending 9 straight series.

Take a look at the chart again. Soda and Uehara are at the top by a wide margin. Only four writers are even close to them : Naruhisa Arakawa (荒川稔久 Arakawa Naruhisa), the late Noboru Sugimura (杉村 升 Sugimura Noboru), Yasuko Kobayashi (小林靖子 Kobayashi Yasuko), and Junki Takegami (武上純希 Takegami Junki). Point of fact, Soda's last episode for sentai was broadcast in the early days of 1997, and he's still left everyone in the dust with 399 scripts to date. And who knows? The man could still write more!

My point here is that I feel both Uehara and especially Soda did a great deal to define the sentai series as it evolved, to the point where many of their innovations are now considered standard tropes of the show. In fact, I think they went such a long way in molding sentai's story directions that when Toshiki Inoue (井上敏樹 Inoue Toshiki) went out and did things a little differently in JETMAN, he was widely hailed as an innovator. And while he certainly was, it's worth remembering that the work of his predecessors was what made that possible.

There are many people responsible for any tokusatsu show that makes it to the air. While I certainly don't think anyone should be shortchanged in the credit department, I'd like to garner a little recognition for the folks who write the scripts for these amazing flights of fantasy. If anyone is underrated in the tokusatsu department, it's the writers of the shows.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009



This poster (dated April 18, 1993, if you are interested in such things) was created for a college class, and it's the only time I ever used "Orange Man". I procrastinated in taking a picture of it for a long time, but finally yielded to the adorable demands of my friend Sara Denny.

And now, Miss Denny presents "The Orange Man Theme Song", sung to the theme from the 1960s SPIDER-MAN cartoon :


Orange Man
Orange Man
Does whatever an orange can
Spritzes juice, in the eyes
Blinds the thieves, all bad guys
Drink up!
Here comes the Orange Man.

Is he healthy?
Listen dude
He is found in your food
Can I eat him when it's late?
Take a look, at your plate
Eat up!
There goes the Orange Man

On a hot summer day
As the ice cream trucks' whistles chime
Where children are out and they play
He comes just in time

Orange Man
Orange Man
Friendly Neighborhood Orange Man
Salt and Fat
He's ignored
Vitamin C is his reward

To him, vitamins is a great big job
So make sure you put him in your gob
There is the Orange Man.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your Return of Jetman News Break

Hello, it is time for the latest update to Return of Jetman. Can you feel the electricity in the air? Wait, what's that? I've just been rubbing my feet on the carpet trying to shock you? Would I do a thing like that?

OK, yes, I would. But that's beside the point. We're here to discuss this update. And it's fantastic update, too!

There are seven new pieces of artwork posted to the DX Gallery. Two of them are from Kabuki Katze, and you can find a handy reference for both of them on this blog entry of hers. Two more are from newcomer to ROJ Sean Moore. And the last three? Well, they tie into the other portion of this update.

As promised, New Return of Jetman Episode 6 - "Beyond the Universe" is now live! But this isn't just any episode, oh no. This particular episode is also a CROSSOVER produced in cooperation with those enigmatic daredevils Kazekage, Igadevil, and Kabuki Katze. Each of them had full approval of the usage of their characters (Kienan Ademetria, Kamen Rider Sigma, and Star Anise, respectively), and each also has permitted an art piece depicting my special guest stars in the DX Gallery. I offer my humble thanks to all of them for letting me play in their sandboxes.

This particular episode turned out to be so massive that the accompanying notes did not get finished in time for this update. They are in progress, and will be posted when the next site update happens. Trust me, they will be worth the wait.

Oh, and before I forget - this episode carries a special dedication. I've been keeping it under wraps until this update was posted. It's just a small gesture to someone who has offered a lot of support, encouragement, and advice over the last few months as I toiled over this lengthy and challenging story. Thanks again, for everything.

Your feedback on any part of this update is warmly welcomed. Enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Know Ye These, The Hallowed Labels of OWARI

I hop around from one subject to another, and I imagine that can be a little frustrating for some people. If you are one of those people, you will be pleased to know that I have spent some time this evening adding labels to all of the posts on this blog. I intend to continue this practice in the future, which will give everyone yet another option in navigating this odd little corner of the web.

The labels will be appearing in the sidebar in order of most frequent usage. I expect them to swap places often. As of this writing, they appear in this order :

comic books : Posts about comics, comic creators, and things related to the medium, even tangentially.

tokusatsu : Posts about Japanese live action science-fiction - superheroes, monster movies, that sort of thing.

blogging : Posts where I discuss blog matters (such as this one).

works : My original works, both in prose and in art.

music : Posts related to music in some fashion.

quotes : Interesting quotes I have gathered from various sources.

cartoons : For animated fare of every stripe.

general nonsense : For those times when you want to be totally random.

movies/TV : For those things that do not fall under "tokusatsu" or "cartoons", which will happen a lot. Sports will probably appear under this label, too.

reading : For print material that has nothing to do with comics.

I've also got the special guest star label in the works, but you'll understand that one better when and if I actually need to use it.

The big site update is scheduled for tomorrow, and I'll probably be posting it in just a few hours. As for the rest of the week, I have a bit of a backlog of completed entries that have been sitting around unposted. I completed the revision of one in particular over a month ago, and have yet to find the right time to post it. So I will be increasing the posting here slightly for a week or two, in an attempt to clear out those pieces and make room for new things.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Brain Hurting

It all started when LJ-user Cosmorific posted a meme in her journal where you were asked to write a drabble (short fic, ideally 100 words) about a highly unlikely fandom pairing. These pairings were not left to chance, but were created via the Brain Hurting Fanfic Pairer. And trust me, that sucker more than lives up to its name.

Now, this usually isn't my sort of thing, but I was intrigued and took her up on the challenge. So which oddball pairing did I choose? Why, Rorschach and Dr. Gregory House.


Watchmen spoilers. Oh, and slash.

Rorschach (Watchmen)/Dr. Gregory House (House)

"Dead dog brains, splattered on the pavement..."

"Excuse me?"

Rorschach turned, the ink blot pattern on his mask betraying no emotion. "Veidt. Veidt killed half of New York."

Dr. Gregory House sighed petulantly. "Not this Veidt rubbish again. Look, I'm a busy man and I haven't got all night."

"But the people must know. The journal..."

House leapt from the seedy motel bed and grabbed Rorschach by the collar. "Listen Kovacs..."


"Whatever. Are we doing this or what?"

Rorschach eyed House's wiry frame and the ink blots arched upward. He threw his hat aside.

"You like it rough, hurm?"

As you can see, the results of writing challenges can be interesting to say the least. And scary.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Of 2008

I know absolutely no one is dying of suspense over my "favorite comic of 2008" choice. Still, I will tell you anyway.

Giant-Size Avengers/Invaders #1



I am sure anyone who cares is probably shaking their head. I like this comic book for a lot of reasons, not all of them directly related to the content. I like that too, but the whole package is what endears this book to me.

It's weird, though - I am a knee-jerk DC Comics fan from way back. And in fairness, I did enjoy some stuff from DC in 2008. However, my tastes and DC's publishing plans both have been drifting in odd directions. So while I certainly enjoyed Ambush Bug : Year None, I am not prepared to throw a party for that series and declare it my favorite book of 2008. That's partly because I had some problems with it, and partly because the final issue is running ridiculously late.

On the other hand, Giant-Size Avengers/Invaders #1 tickles me exactly the way it is. The first thing I love about this book is that it is the gratuitous reprint tie-in comic. It was created largely as an extra "product" for people interested in Marvel's Avengers/Invaders mini-series. It even has a few pages in the back previewing that comic. But they are without dialogue, so you can just look at them or even ignore them if you choose. They won't pull you into the "big" story unless you're already on-board for it.

(I'm not, if you hadn't guessed. Not my cup of tea.)

The second thing I love about this book is that it reprints comic stories I already love, though it is almost random in places. Avengers #71 and Invaders Annual #1 are both obvious choices if you've read them. I presume the tale from Giant-Size Invaders #2 (by Roy Thomas & Lee Weeks) snuck in because it was a recent story with the Invaders. Can I also say how awesome it is that this book thereby flaunts the old "seven year rule" by doing this? I know that rule is largely antiquated anyway in this day and age, but this comic book reprints a story from another comic that is LESS THAN THREE YEARS OLD. I'm not even being sarcastic when I say this makes me laugh. The final story included is from Invaders #10 and its inclusion is so random that I can barely hazard a guess. Maybe they wanted to "preview" Invaders Classic Vol. 2 and this was the best they could do without filling the whole comic?

My thoughts on these stories :

  • Avengers #71 - the concluding chapter of a three-parter from my favorite run of the title.
  • Invaders Annual #1 - Roy at his most willfully indulgent, but still lots of fun. I mean, I can describe it using the terms "Sub-Mariner" and "panty raid" in the same sentence. How can that be wrong?
  • Invaders #10 - This was a pre-designed "filler" story that incorporates a 1940s Captain America tale. Yeah, head is spinning too.
  • Giant-Size Invaders #2 - This has the same tone that characterizes most of Roy's more recent (think last fifteeen years or so) superhero output. I liked it OK, though the allusions to current events are about as subtle as a kick to the head with an iron boot. Artist Lee Weeks is heavily underrated, and turns in some nice work.

I also like that this is a comic I could buy and enjoy and not have to worry about any other comics. I mean, it technically is a tie-in to a big mini-series, but none of the stories expressly point you to it. It's a self-contained book. That's rare in this day and age.

Lastly, I like this book because of how I got it. My store had sold out of it, and I found a copy of it while I was visiting my good friend Sara Denny this past May. So it is wrapped up with some special memories, too.

So there you have it, my favorite comic of 2008. No one is more surprised about this than me.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Green Arrow Gets Confused

Don't even ASK where he's keeping the arrows...

From World's Finest Comics #249 (Feb.-Mar. 1978). Writer : Gerry Conway. Penciller : Trevor Von Eeden. Inker : Terry Austin. Colorist : Gene D'Angelo. Letterer : Ben Oda. Editor : Jack C. Harris. Batman, Green Arrow, & artwork © DC Comics, Inc.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Hypnotic Paul McCartney Medley

I understand why the jailer man is so worried about it, but what is Sailor Sam's beef with the Band on the Run?

Monday, March 2, 2009



It was but one strained, whispered word, but it spoke volumes. Shinsei Hinotori sat in front of the staticky screens of Skywatch's command center. The mission he had been monitoring - Jetman's infiltration of Nemesis' base at Jigoku-dani - had obviously gone wrong. Horribly wrong. A massive energy surge had flared up right when communications had been abruptly cut off.

"This is bad," his companion Michiru Oshima muttered in disbelief.

"I'm not sure it could be much worse," Shinsei said as he stared at the screens despondently.

"What...what can we do?" Michiru asked.

Shinsei rubbed his face. "I don't know. If Jetman has lost, I'm not sure what anyone can do."

"I'll tell you what we can do!" an unfamiliar voice announced confidently. "We can take the fight to Nemesis ourselves!"

Shinsei and Michiru whirled around in surprise to face their unexpected guest. They were greeted by what appeared to be a handsome Japanese man attired smartly in a suit, tie, and hat. He almost looked like an anachronism in the 21st Century. Yet his manner betrayed to them that there was far more to him than was apparent.

"Who the devil are you?" Hinotori inquired sharply. "How did you get into Skywatch?"

The mysterious man tipped his hat with a knowing smile. "There are few places I cannot access, if it suits my purposes. As for my name, I have lately been answering to...Mr. Hoshi."

"Well, I've never heard of you!" Shinsei retorted angrily.

"No, I suppose you haven't," Mr. Hoshi noted. "Ken Tendo would never have volunteered that we had crossed paths, and as for his father..."

"Ryu?!" Shinsei exclaimed as he jumped to his feet and grabbed the stranger by his lapels. "What do you know about Ryu Tendo? What's happened to him?"

"Patience, my good man," Mr. Hoshi cautioned as he effortlessly slipped from Shinsei's grip. "I will explain everything, and then..."


"Then, we will endeavor to save the universe."


New Return of Jetman Episode 6 - "Beyond The Universe" will premiere March 10, 2009 at www.returnofjetman.com. Don't miss it!