Monday, April 27, 2009

Apparently, His Mustache Really Did Eat His Beard

Guys, you guys. Have you ever had a question that was kind of pesky, but you didn't know how to find the answer? I've long had that problem with WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? I love that movie, and I even wrote about it (albeit not particularly well) in my fanzine. I intend to write about it again on this blog, and hopefully do a better job than my 1996 effort. But one thing that always bothered me about the film was that I could never learn the names of the two actors who played Shephard Wong's chief henchmen. These weren't small roles, but rather significant ones. I mean, I could match names to several bit players, and not these guys? It was aggravating.

For the record, the main Japanese cast as I knew it was this :

Tatsuya Mihashi - Phil Moskowitz
Mie Hama - Teri Yaki
Akiko Wakabayashi - Suki Yaki
Susumu Kurobe - Wing Fat
Tadao Nakamaru - Shephard Wong
Makoto Sato - Phil's partner
Kumi Mizuno - "presidents" girl
Tetsu Nakamura - Grand High Macca of Raspur
Hideyo Amamoto/Eisei Amamoto - cobra man
Sachio Sakai - Wing Fat henchman

Recently, I stumbled on the website for Variety Japan, and discovered that they have probably the BEST cast listings for most Japanese films. Way better than jmdb, that's for sure. It occurred to me that I could look up the original Japanese movie that comprises most of TIGER LILY, and take it from there. So I did.

And lo, an answer was found. The guy referred to as "yellow smock" is played by SHOJI OKI.

And the bearded Wong henchman? AKIYOSHI KASUGA, now SHUNJI KASUGA.

This is something that has been bothering me for at least 15 years. I can't believe I found the answer! I also discovered that TIGER LILY definitely incorporates footage from another Toho spy flick, as neither Makoto Sato nor Kumi Mizuno appear in the fabled KEY OF KEYS. Those scenes are from A BARREL OF GUNPOWDER, as can be proven by viewing its poster here. That last link is interesting, as it's a write-up about those "International Secret Police" movies.

So now I know - Shoji Oki and Akiyoshi (Shunji) Kasuga. It's a good feeling to finally have solve one of my lingering mysteries. If only all of life's questions could be answered so neatly!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Because You Need To Know

C. Elam : Lewis, can we kill comics?
Kazekage : Let's starve them to death with the bitter vinegar of our apathy
C. Elam : I was hoping for something with more bloodshed

Read more of Kazekage's wisdom at Witless Prattle!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Foreign Types With The Hookah Pipes

Not Susanna Hoffs, I'm afraid...

All the Japanese with their yen
The party boys call the Kremlin
And the Chinese know (oh whey oh)
They walk the line like Egyptian

All the cops in the donut shop say:
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian
Walk like an Egyptian.

Lyrics excerpted from the official website of The Bangles.

Screenshot from the Toei series 不思議少女ナイルなトトメス.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Burning! ROJ Update Appears

Well, this took a little longer than I'd hoped, but some new material has been posted today on For this update, I've finally uploaded the Production Notes for New Return of Jetman Episode 6. These notes (and the episode) can be accessed from Episode Guide Page 2. If you prefer the direct approach, you can also get to the notes via this link.

That's all this time, but still in the pipeline for the future :

- completion of Notes for ROJ Episodes 12, 13, and 14

- completion of New Return of Jetman series with Episode 7 (and its accompanying notes)

- secret stuff I can't tell you about yet

- those mysterious things that even I don't know about until they come to pass

Shockingly, this summer will mark the 14th big year since ROJ was founded by Lewis Smith. It has been my privilege to carry the banner since 2002, and hopefully, there will be still more fun in the future!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Crazy Talk!

Q Is there such a thing as a computer pen-pal?
Toronto, Ontario

A Yes. All you avid correspondents out there will be happy to know that at least two information networks have services that will let you communicate with other computer users on-line. First, there's The Source which offers users three options : Chat, Participate and Electronic Mail. The first enables you to "chat" on-line with anyone in the world. You do, by the way, have the choice of not "chatting," exercised by simply typing "Refuse Chat." Participate is like chat but it involves several people, not just two - like a conference call. Electronic Mail is just what it implies. You can send letters via computer to anyone else who subscribes, provided you know his or her ID number. And the other person needn't be on-line to receive them. They will be stored in an electronic mailbox until the other user goes on-line and calls them.

CompuServe also has an Electronic Mail service which works the same way as the Source's. In addition, CompuServe offers a communications network which is a CB simulator. You've got a certain number of channels over which you can "broadcast," and you've got to have a handle. 10-4, good buddy.

After paying the initial $100 to join The Source, time on-line costs anywhere from $10 to as low as $5.75 an hour, depending on the time of day you use it. If you wish to use CompuServe you can do it by buying a starter kit from Radio Shack for $19.95. This gives you one hour on-line free. After that, it's $5 per hour from 6:00 pm to 5:00 am and $22 per hour during prime time (8:00 am to 6:00 pm). CompuServe divides the hour into one minute increments, so a 59 minute conversation will cost less than a full hour one will. You can contact The Source at [phone # redacted] and CompuServe at [phone # redacted].

NOTE : Excerpt from "Input/Output" Q&A column (author uncredited) of Electronic Fun with Computers and Games magazine (July 1983, Vol. 1, No. 9). Offers probably no longer valid, but knock yourself out if you want to give it a try.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Kikaida Brothers Are Unbeatable!

I have been watching DVDs of the Japanese superhero programs JINZO NINGEN KIKAIDA and KIKAIDA 01 from Generation Kikaida since late January. It's been an interesting experience to follow these shows in chronological order. The sequel series isn't as successful as the original, but that is perhaps to be expected. It's also material for a different post entirely. No, today I want to talk about one of those amazing moments that can only be offered by Japanese hero shows.

I was watching KIKAIDA 01 a few days ago, and it seemed the bad guys of SHADOW finally had a foolproof plan. They shot Ichiro (Kikaida 01 himself) to the moon in a rocket ship, along with a couple of hapless civilians. Well, the baddies teleported themselves there to fight him. This meant that, though Ichiro had rigged the rocket to blast off, he had to stay behind. After the villains realized he was still kicking their tails, they departed too. This left Ichiro stranded all alone on the moon, with no hope of getting home.

But wait! What should appear in the lunar sky but ICHIRO'S MOTORCYCLE. It had been sent by Ichiro's android brother Jiro, who included a note explaining that his circuits had alerted him to Ichiro's plight and that the motorcycle was refueled and ready. A grateful Ichiro hopped on his bike and drove home. From the moon.

At that moment, I realized the villains in this show have no chance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Rip The Lid Off The True Story!

It's a little known fact, but Famous Comics Blogger® Chris Sims revealed in 2006 that my good friend Kabuki Katze once tried to seduce Superman.

Kayleigh's comet? (Sorry K, I couldn't resist!)

I've met her - Superman should be so lucky!
(That second pic is my own scan, by the way.)

Now, never mind that "Dr. Edna Blaine" business, or the fact that the comic was first published well before she was born. I think we can all agree those are mere pesky details.

When contacted, Kabuki said this :

It's true, I admit it! I wasn't a Swedish masseur or a Japanese courtesan in my past life--I was Dr. Edna Blaine and I worked cat-eye glasses and pumps like nobody's business.

She's not lying, as you can see:

Pretty snazzy for a self-described "girl scientist", don't you think?

I don't know about you, but that makes me want to check out her amazing art site more than ever!

(All panels & characters depicted are from "The Super-Prisoner of Amazon Island ", as published in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #104 (Oct. 1970) & © DC Comics. Story originally published in Action Comics #235 (Dec. 1957).)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The World's Finest Artist

It's a joke that's not even very funny, but it's one of the first things I remember when I think of the artist I am discussing today. Namely, what comic book artist has a name that is also a sentence? The answer : Dick Sprang.

I don't know a whole lot about Dick Sprang, and please, you don't have to fill me in. I'll research it myself if I get the urge. All I want to discuss today is Sprang's definitive run on the title World's Finest Comics. And "definitive" is not too strong a word, because he is the artist people most associate with the Superman/Batman team-ups in the book. Yes, even more than a legendary talent like Curt Swan.

Dick Sprang wasn't the first artist on the Superman/Batman team, but his tenure breathed a new life into the feature. He was working in a heavily stylized style typical of the "Bob Kane" school used for the Batman titles, but he brought something else to the table. His characters were lively and colorful and seemed to display genuine personality at a time when such a thing was rare. It's even rarer when you consider that not a single story Sprang pencilled during the main portion of his career was ever signed.

It's perhaps a testament to Sprang's abilities that his replacement on World's Finest, Jim Mooney, couldn't match the level of vitality Sprang brought to the strip. I only bring this up because Mooney was no slouch himself, with an impressive career in his own right. And yet? Yet, it's hard to argue that his run on WFC was just a shadow of what Dick Sprang brought to that comic.

I've been reading the two volumes of DC's Showcase Presents : World's Finest over the last couple of weeks, and Dick Sprang's artwork is the kind of thing that can bring joy to a cloudy day. If you're unfamiliar with his work, and have a love of solid cartooning, take a peek and see what you think.

Want to read more?

Dick Sprang @
POV Online column about Dick Sprang by Mark Evanier
Dick Sprang @ Who Drew Batman?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Toei Tokusatsu Hero Box - Disc 3

(It's that time again! You know you love it!)

As 1975 dawned, the bloom was coming off the rose for the Japanese live action superhero program. The tokusatsu genre didn't disappear by any means, but its popularity was not what it had been only 3 years earlier. Both the Ultraman and Kamen Rider franchises went into dormancy before the end of the year, which surely could have been taken as a signal of the changing times. And yet, it was in this climate that the longest-running tokusatsu series of the decade flourished.

It will pain diehards to realize this, but I'm talking about GANBARE! ROBOKON.

(Before nitpickers bring it up, I am aware of shows like ULTRA FIGHT and REDMAN, but I'm speaking of full-length programs here.)

As hard as it might be to believe for American fans, the 118 episodes of ROBOKON pretty handily outpace KAMEN RIDER (98 episodes), GORANGER (84 episodes), and SPECTRUMAN/SPECTREMAN (63 episodes) for the distinction of most durable tokusatsu show of the 1970s. In fact, it's entirely possible that the series only ended due to a shift at TV Asahi at the time, which led to its replacement by the similar (but much less popular) ROBOT 110BAN. So we're left with the scenario that ROBOKON could have kept going had it not been curtailed by its own network. The mind boggles!

I bring this mini-history lesson up because it's impossible to discuss the third disc of this set without it, as it is almost entirely ROBOKON. Three episodes of the series are shown in the cropped widescreen format, while there is also the original movie ROBOKON NO DAIBOKEN. The latter is definitely the best of the bunch, showing a sense of scale and adventure not usually present in the largely comedic TV series. In fact, I'd rank ROBOKON NO DAIBOKEN as one of Toei's better original tokusatsu efforts for the Manga Matsuri shows.

As far as ROBOKON itself, the program is pretty inexplicable with all of its oversized bizarro robots roaming free. Watching it is probably akin to having your eyes drop acid. I can't rate how "funny" it is, since I think I need more fluency to grasp some of the humor. But hey, there's plenty of physical comedy derived from people in weird outfits.

ROBOKON turned out to be influential in the United States, too! Rock star Beck's music video for his song "Sexx Laws" features a completely unexpected homage to ROBOKON NO DAIBOKEN! I would love to know the full story of how that came about.

Disc 3 is filled out somewhat ironically by AKUMAIZER 3, a series involving heroic demons fighting for mankind. This is the first episode, and is actually more concise and "complete" than KIKAIDER 01's debut in my previous piece on this set. As a result, it's a lot more satisfying viewing. Jiro Chiba stars, but he's not the hero - though this is nothing new for the guy. The fights place a heavier emphasis on fencing than hand-to-hand combat, which adds a unique flavor for Toei. The designs are suitably outlandish, and we get one of those flying galleon ships that are a recurring theme in Japanese sci-fi.

Next time, on Disc 4 (and man, who can guess when that will happen?), we take a look at the artifacts of Toei's late 1970s tokusatsu output.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Bearded Boy

NOTE : This entry originally appeared, in slightly different form, on June 6, 2006. See below for a little 2009 commentary!

OK, honestly? I was going to make a post last night, but Blogspot thwarted me at every turn and I ultimately surrendered. I suppose in a way it turns out to be good fortune, because Mighty Mike Sterling made a post that demanded my attention. Specifically, he mentions that Grant Morrison's Beard Hunter character from his Doom Patrol run was hired by "The Bearded Gentlemen's Club of Metropolis." This reminded me of a certain story I've been meaning to discuss one day.

Hey, remember that book Showcase Presents : Superman Family Vol. 1? It was in all the papers. That's the book that reprinted the first 22 issues of Jimmy Olsen along with the first Lois Lane tryout issue of Showcase. Well, this story isn't in that book because it's from Jimmy Olsen #23, though it was reprinted in #95 of that same title. That latter issue is my source here, courtesy of a tattered and incomplete copy supplied by pal David McRobie. Enjoy it in good health, my friend.

"Jimmy Olsen, The Bearded Boy" opens with our intrepid Jimmy trying to sneak into the top secret, members-only meeting of the BEARD BAND. He fails, mostly because you must have a beard and his fake one wouldn't convince anyone. As he tosses his phony beard away, a gent offers him a beard tonic that will allow him to grow a real beard rapidly. Even Jimmy is skeptical of this proposal, though he takes a swig anyway.
Just how old ARE you anyway, Jimmy?
So Jimmy makes his way into the meeting and learns that the BEARD BAND is really hardcore about their beards. Also - SURPRISE! That man on the street is the leader of these bearded boys. And it turns out they have something in mind for Jimmy!

What is the BEARD BAND's sinister motive? Robbery? Ransom? World domination?

Er, no. They just want more men to grow beards.
The Beard Band is going to be disappointed by this plan.  I think we all can see that now.

Jimmy returns to the Daily Planet and tells his wild story to Perry White and Clark Kent. They laugh it off, both of them drinking the tonic in the process despite the clear evidence that Jimmy's beard is getting pretty long. They aren't laughing when Perry starts growing a beard immediately too. This causes problems for Clark (who is secretly Superman) since the tonic can't work on his super-charged follicles. He solves this dilemma by making a fake beard from his suit.

Yes, really.
Why yes, that is Perry White with his beard caught in a typewriter.

Jimmy makes the public appearances as instructed, and manages to botch every single one of them in that special Olsen way that we all know and love. Interestingly, he loses a big portion of his beard each time, but it grows back relatively quickly. I can't decide if this is so they didn't have to explain how he could get around with a forty foot beard or if it was to highlight Jimmy's complete and utter ineptitude. Either one makes sense, if you can use that phrase in relation to this story at all.

Naturally, the BEARD BAND is unhappy with Jimmy's results.

I'd string you along about the true nature of the BEARD BAND's ominous-sounding masterplan, but really, I don't think even your best guess could top this for being the most mundane diabolical scheme ever.
By Jove, that is horrific!

Jimmy's "idea" is to throw one of his old shaves at the burner and hope it ignites. He misses and it drops in the vat, so he's pretty much screwed up his only chance. The BEARD BAND tests their new tonic (because they're all CRAZY WHACK FUNKY for beards) and...
Only now you know...the REST of the story!

Wow. I'd love to analyze this, but it almost feels wrong to try. I'm guessing the BEARD BAND avoided jail time, since "forcing people to grow beards" isn't a criminal offense as far as I know. Also, maybe I'm speaking out of turn, but why must this be "the end" of the BEARD BAND? Yes, their beards are gone, but surely they'll grow back. I mean, their antidote can't permanently inhibit facial hair, right? I'm thinking too much, aren't I?

This is what you have waiting for you when the inevitable Showcase Presents : Superman Family Vol. 2 comes down the pike. I know you're all going to start saving your pennies now.

2009 Commentary : Well, to no one's surprise, Showcase Presents : Superman Family Vol. 2 was indeed published, and this story turned out to be too good to resist for comics blogs besides my own short-lived effort. I am not going to try to figure out who among us wrote the best entry. Heck, that's a fool's errand! But here is a (surely incomplete) list of other bloggers who talked about this peculiar story :

As you might notice if you read a couple of those entries, Grant Morrison's group is written to be exactly the same one as the one from this Jimmy Olsen story. That's the kind of insanity that blows even my mind.