Thursday, May 14, 2009

History of ROJ - Part 4

Part 4 - Reborn! Return of Jetman

ROJ never really went away for us. During the summer of 2001, Lewis did four new pictures for it just for his own amusement. Both of us wrote reflections on the series in various places. But we had, by and large, consigned it to the past. At least for a little while.

Assorted personal issues had sort of left me adrift in the early months of 2002. I was scrounging about looking for something new, something different from what I had been doing. In the midst of this lack of direction, my thoughts returned to "Return of Jetman".

On April 7, 2002, someone with the username "Ali24" began a thread on the now-defunct Xenorama ezboard message board asking about Return of Jetman. To say this left me flabbergasted is a bit of an understatement. When I replied to this thread, I opined, "It's unlikely at this point the story will ever be finished."

As far as I knew at the time, that statement was true. And yet...the more I thought about ROJ and the potential it held, the more I became gripped by a sensational idea. I could take the series and finish it myself. I could use its familiar territory to return to fiction writing in earnest for the first time in years. And then - I could post it on the Internet!

I did what I usually do when I have a radical idea - I started to work on it in secret. No sense in getting anyone excited if nothing came of it. I sat down with Lewis' originals and determined that my best course of action would be to revamp the whole thing from the ground up, using his plot structure as my guide. This was no knock on his storytelling, but rather an acknowledgment of the fact that we are not going to approach a story the same way. If this new ROJ was to have any stylistic continuity, it would have to be me from start to finish.

My plan was ambitious - TOO ambitious. I wanted to write an elaborate, 52 story epic that would emulate the basic structure of the Japanese "sentai" shows that inspired the story. As I worked my way through the planning process, I came to understand that such lofty goals were setting myself up for failure, or at best mediocrity. I wasn't ready to do something of that scope. I scaled back gradually until I arrived at the present total of 14 stories for ROJ.

The glue that bound my new story structure together was something I called "Uchu Sentai Galaxyman" years ago. Basically, while Lewis was creating ROJ, "Galaxyman" was a similar concept that I was toying with in my head. I never set any of it down in writing, but I developed a general plotline for "Galaxyman" that I found satisfying. I incorporated workable elements from that plotline into my new ROJ concept, with modifications.

(Ironically, in between my creation of "Galaxyman" and my relaunch of ROJ, one of Toei's sentai series was named GINGAMAN, which translates as..."Galaxyman". I guess it was too good a name to go unused forever.)

Well, when I had something solid, I presented it to Lewis for his approval. He was surprised but enthusiastic. Of course, he couldn't realize what he was getting himself into by greenlighting the thing. You see, I had loved Lewis' 4 new ROJ pictures. So much so, I wanted to put them up on the 'net. The story gave me a perfect excuse. But he had only done four characters. I would need the rest. This led me to actually commission Lewis to do new versions of those characters he had created so long ago. I think "dumbfounded" would be the best way to describe his reaction. But Lewis came through with flying colors, turning out some sensational new pictures.

While Lewis worked on his art, I was toiling away on recreating the magic of 1995. No one was more surprised than me that it was working. The new ROJ was coming together better than I could've dreamed possible. I came to realize that the ROJ site was not just a faraway possibility. It was something that HAD to happen and SOON.

I quietly posted early drafts of the first two episodes of the "new" Return of Jetman series on Lewis' late lamented ESB/GMB Forum in June 2002. They didn't garner much notice there, but seeing them online was a start. It also gave me the opportunity to work out a few kinks that I had let slip in due to a lack of attention and/or inspiration. But I had much bigger things in mind.

I would found my own message board, dubbed "OWARI Message Board", on July 30, 2002. This board was created for a myriad of reasons, but one of the main ones was for me to have a place to promote the new ROJ material and get feedback on it. It proved to be an excellent vehicle for those purposes, first in the separate "Return of Jetman" forum and later in the "OWARI" forum when I merged the forums together.

The "Return of Jetman" page made its official debut as a subsection of my OWARI site on November 18, 2002. A new episode debuted every month until ROJ reached its conclusion on December 23, 2003. The message board hosted a number of fun and enlightening discussions about the series, but it began to wind down after the narrative finished. I ultimately decided to shut the board down entirely in October 2004.

However, the wrap-up of the ROJ series didn't mean the end of ROJ entirely. I continued to bring in new content until I decided that my small ROJ webspace was entirely too limited to hold it all. This led me to launch in 2004, with the hopes of having all relevant ROJ content in one easy to find location.




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