Friday, January 29, 2010

"Why is it called YOG anyway?"

Adapted from the article originally presented in OWARI #1 (October/November 1995).

"Why is it called YOG anyway?"

That question came up periodically back in those halcyon days before Toho's "international" version of the same movie, SPACE AMOEBA, superseded the AIP-released YOG - MONSTER FROM SPACE. It's a good question, too. After all, the monsters were actually named Gezora (cuttlefish), Ganime (crab), and Kameba (turtle). They were mutated by something referred to as "Astro-Quasars" in the dubbing. In fact, the name "Yog" is seemingly the only one never used! What's the deal?

Here's my theory : American International had already pre-booked a movie called "Yog - Monster from Space" to theaters, and that project subsequently fell through. Not wanting to lose a buck, AIP scrounged about for a movie that might vaguely connect with that title and discovered they had the rights to Toho's 1970 film ゲゾラ・ガニメ・カメーバ 決戦! 南海の大怪獣 (Gezora · Ganime · Kameba - Kessen! Nankai no Dai Ketto - "Decisive Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas"). A little creativity on AIP's part and VOILA! YOG - MONSTER FROM SPACE is born!

Believe it or not, something like this has been documented with another movie and another company. Independent International promised a movie entitled "Blood of Frankenstein" for 1971. This didn't pan out, so they took Paul Naschy's 1968 Spanish Wolfman flick LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO ("Mark of the Wolfman") and tagged it with the highly deceptive moniker FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR! Only an added prologue provided even a slight connection to the Frankenstein legend.

Did the movie that Toho marketed as the English-dubbed SPACE AMOEBA outside of Japan meet the same fate as Naschy's epic? I don't know, but that's the best idea I've ever managed to muster as to how AIP's newly redubbed theatrical release of it came to be called YOG - MONSTER FROM SPACE.

(Tip of the cap to David McRobie of Xenorama for suggesting this article for re-presentation in his recent blog entry on YOG - MONSTER FROM SPACE/SPACE AMOEBA.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My World : Some Annotations

Hope everyone enjoyed their glimpse last week into a few of the characters in my personal fictional world. Guess what? You'll be seeing more of that in the future. So be ready for it.

I suppose some background for this particular project is in order. In 2007, I went on a bit of a tear (by my standards) in producing artwork. Now, I have no illusions that my art is good, but it's mine and I have a lot of fun making it. This is lost on some people, I guess. Anyway, I was very prolific that year, and one of my main projects was to create art pieces depicting the characters of my "modern" universe.

I don't really have any concrete plans for this project beyond the art pieces and accompanying backstory thumbnails. However, that doesn't mean you won't be seeing something more involved in the future. There just aren't any plans. Yet.

  • Captain Satellite : Captain Satellite first came into being sometime around the 6th grade. He wasn't anything special at first, but eventually he merged with various other characters running around in my own personal universe. By the time I was done, he had emerged as my superhero alter ego. I've been using his name for various projects since 1995.

    Interestingly, Captain Satellite was originally conceived as a VILLAIN! He was an adversary for the various superheroes I was playing around with at the time. Later I had a change of heart and "killed off" the villainous Captain Satellite and replaced him with a second Captain who was a superhero. As time went by, Captain Satellite's nefarious origins were forgotten entirely and the superhero version became the only version. That Captain Satellite was the one who evolved into the one we know today.

    The earliest incarnations of the character looked somewhat different. The main distinguishing characteristic is that the Captain used to have an old style satellite chest emblem. I'm pretty sure that got dropped because it looked too busy when I drew the character at a smaller size. I originally envisioned his uniform as being yellow, but settled on the current color scheme. This was likely an influence of the old Legion of Super-Heroes member Ferro Lad, who had inspired me a great deal as a kid.

  • Shelly Ericson : Shelly was born in my high school days, though truthfully she has her origins in many female characters I created over the years. Her name and particular backstory struck a chord with me, so she was chosen to be the one to get fleshed out into something like a real character instead of just a surrogate fantasy girlfriend.

    The key turning point for Shelly was the Japanese superhero series SHAIDER. As I've discussed in the past, I'm rather enthralled with Shaider's sidekick Annie in the show. She is competent and charismatic, but still needs to constantly have her bacon saved by Shaider. I wanted to take that concept one step further, and have a female sidekick who was actually more competent than the hero. Shelly's personality gradually began to take shape from there, and her distinctive look evolved from Annie's inspiration.

  • Third World : Third World is my underground subversive organization. As you might guess, their name is inspired by the phrase "third world power" that doesn't get thrown around nearly so much since the Soviet Union fell apart. Third World itself owes a huge debt to Marvel Comics' group Hydra. A number of details of Third World are inspired by Hydra, but I sort of took it into my own direction - especially as far as the design of the agents (pictured).

  • Hugo Beaumont : Hugo Beaumont is the Captain's arch-enemy, I guess. I liked the idea of mixing the mad scientist type with the time traveling villain type. Hugo is also a great excuse to mix together hoary old bad guy tropes like the top hat, pencil-thin mustache, etc. He draws from many sources - silent movie bad guys (or Snidely Whiplash, if you prefer!), Lex Luthor, and Kang the Conqueror to name three specific ones.

As you may have guessed, one of the biggest challenges in this project is creating something interesting from what was originally just a big personal fantasy. I suppose that is why I've never followed through on my threats of telling an actual story with these characters. They are fun to put through their paces in my head, but I'm not entirely sure that would translate for readers.

As the years have passed, Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson have moved away from their original purpose of serving as idealized wish fulfillment characters. Why? Because that grew boring to me. They still have their roots in those interpretations, but I enjoy them a lot more now that they've been allowed to stretch out and grow away just being generic avatars for my daydreams. If the day comes when their world is more fully-realized, it will be because they have stories that are demanding to be told.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Favorite Screenshot Ever

Remember those bootleg Hong Kong (actually often Taiwan-pressed) anime and tokusatsu DVDs that used to be all over the Internet? Maybe they still are, for all I know. Besides their relative cheapness, one of their biggest selling points was that they featured English subtitles.

The catch in that boon to fankind was that the English subtitles were just translations of the Chinese subtitles, sometimes by people with a shaky grasp of both Japanese and English. It's amazing the subs ever came out coherent at all. Sometimes, they didn't even manage that.

The comedy value of these discs can be extremely high. The word "karaoke" became "Karate OK" in one show. But my all-time fave comes from a copy of the 1984 BIOMAN movie. My disc ended up going bad (no great loss), but I had to save this for posterity.

Second one is me, Taco watch my bubble hell

Yes, watch it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My World : Hugo Beaumont

Hugo Beaumont

Hugo Beaumont was bored. Very, very bored. It was hard not to be, considering his lust for adventure in the safe and sterile world of the far future. He craved excitement, but that was the last thing his environment could offer him. All he could do was throw himself into developing the technology that would allow him to break the shackles of his dull existence.

That day came when Beaumont invented his time travel belt. Using the belt, he can travel through time and space to anywhere in the known universe. Now, a normal person would use such an invention for useful purposes. But Hugo Beaumont? He chose to make himself into a nefarious villain - for kicks.

Adapting a peculiar form of costuming, Beaumont traveled to the era of Captain Satellite to match wits with the hero. Their battles have already proven to be considerable, but does Beaumont know how the game will play out? Only "time" will tell!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My World : Third World

Third World

The origins of the organization dubbed "Third World" are shrouded in mystery to this day. What is definitely known is that they arose during the years after World War II. Whispers say that among its founders were former Nazis, and the trappings of the group would seem to bear this out. But Third World has followed its own peculiar agenda, far separate from that of Hitler and his ilk.

Third World's goal is complete and utter world domination. This has been complicated by the numerous splinter and spinoff groups that have formed from it. Still, they work tirelessly to achieve their rather lofty goal. What they plan to do after they take over the world is still open to debate, since they don't seem to have a clear idea themselves.

Third World employs a number of super science devices in their arsenal. They sought to kidnap Paul Mann and force him to aid them in creating more such weapons. These foiled attempts led directly to the birth of Captain Satellite, who is now the biggest thorn in Third World's side. Not good thinking on their part, was it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My World : Shelly Ericson

Shelly Ericson

Can a small town girl from Texas make it in the big city? Shelly Ericson has every intention of finding out.

Shelly arrived in Major City freshly discharged from the Air Force, looking for some direction in her life. She had no idea that it would find her when she attended a speaking engagement at a local college.

As it turned out, Paul Mann was the featured speaker that day, and an agent of Third World attempted to use that to his advantage. The enemy operative stormed the stage, laser pistol at the ready. Thinking quickly, Shelly cut the Third World agent off and disarmed him with her superior fighting skills.

After that incident, Mann offered Shelly what seemed to be a too-good-to-be-true job. She was hired to be his "assistant" - in reality, his bodyguard. Along the way, she would give him pointers on developing skills to protect himself. So when Mann adapted the identity of Captain Satellite, there was no doubt that Shelly would be fighting right alongside him.

Shelly is brave, intelligent, and more than a little stubborn. Though their relationship was strictly business at first, feelings have developed between Captain Satellite and Shelly over time. Where that will ultimately lead is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My World : Captain Satellite

Captain Satellite

Who is Captain Satellite? Captain Satellite is Paul Mann - everyone knows that. The real question is : Who is Paul Mann?

Paul Mann showed up in Major City a full decade ago, and quickly took it by storm. His shy, mild-mannered demeanor did little to blunt the brilliance which caught everyone off-guard. Before he'd hit his 21st birthday, Mann was a multi-billionaire.

Except who is Paul Mann? His background details are virtually impossible to verify. His one-time girlfriend, investigative reporter Roxanne Prize, took it upon herself to discover who he really was. She failed, and the resultant rift finished their relationship.

But there are other, more sinister forces that want to know what makes Paul Mann tick. The subversive group Third World has decided that they must have his knowledge to insure the success of their plans. But Paul Mann is not going down without a fight...

Paul Mann has channeled his super-scientific knowledge into the creation of the "Captain Satellite" suit. This unique lightweight powersuit allows him to function as a superhero - Captain Satellite. Though he has no formal training in the ways of adventuring, Mann has the able assistance of his bodyguard/girlfriend Shelly Ericson to give him pointers on combat skills.

Paul Mann has made no secret of the fact that he is Captain Satellite. But who is Paul Mann? That question...has yet to be answered.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Most Wanted Reprints : Two Crises

Now that Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5 is officially on the schedule for this year, we can turn our attention to other vitally important comics reprint matters. Namely, when are we going to get Volumes 6 and 7 in this series?

OK, no, I'm really not that impatient. But it has been a long time between volumes, and I'm more than ready to see ALL the classic JLA/JSA team-ups back in print. I fully realize some of these tales are more classic than others, but they are still a lot of fun and they'll still sell to cats like me.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6 would lead off with Justice League of America #195, #196, and #197. This three-parter is a justly-famous one that involves our heroes being targeted by a new version of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. I shouldn't say too much about it, because this story is also slated to be reprinted in DC Comics Classics Library : The Justice League of America by George Perez Vol. 2 in a few months. It is a definite winner, though, and this upcoming reprint will make it that much easier for it to be included in another book.

Volume 6 would only have room for one another team-up, but that's only because it's quite a doozy. "Crisis on Earth-Prime" encompasses an incredible by 1982 standards FIVE separate comics : Justice League of America #207, #208, and #209 AND All-Star Squadron #14 and #15. It takes us through three separate decades, and has a cast that spans four separate universes. Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas weave a tale that is worthy of being the 20th anniversary team-up just in terms of sheer scope, and Don Heck and Jerry Ordway bring it to life with their pencils. I was 10 years old when it came out, and while it isn't necessarily my favorite of these team-ups, it is the one of which I have my most vivid memories.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 7 is, I'm sorry to say, the runt of the litter of this line of books. If it wasn't for the nagging insistence on a complete run in my head, it's one that I'd say should be skipped altogether. It's not that these stories are horrible or anything, but the luster of the JLA/JSA tradition was wearing off by this point. I can't really call any of the stories that would be reprinted in a Volume 7 especially memorable, though they have considerable curiosity value.

My favorite of the lot is the one from Justice League of America #219, and #220. It has an easy charm to it, and pleasant Chuck Patton pencils. It also has one of the biggest DC retcons of the Pre-Crisis era. It makes sense, I suppose, but in retrospect may be one of those things that made people label DC "too confusing". Gosh, what do they think now???? (Sorry, editorializing there...)

In the midst of a massive reshuffling of the deck chairs in the title, we got Justice League of America #231, and #232. It's a fill-in story by Kurt Busiek, of all people, and I'm sure his name would attract attention to the collection. He's not quite reached the level he would in another decade or so, but it's a decent enough story told under a lot of constraints. I just wish he could've had more freedom in what he was doing, instead of having to tiptoe through a ton of then-current continuity.

At last, we reach the finale, and it's...well, it's a disappointing one. In theory, the idea of bringing Infinity, Inc. into the mix during the Crisis on Infinite Earths sounds like a lot of fun. In practice, it's somewhat less. I tend to blame that on the Crisis, as I do many things. (oops, editorializing again!) The crossover between Infinity, Inc. #19 and Justice League of America #244 has way too many loose ends, and I honestly have no idea if all of them were ever resolved or not. It's a generally unsatisfying conclusion to a comics tradition, in service to a big "event". Too bad. It does, however, boast the unique virtue of being a story begun by Todd McFarlane and concluded by Joe Staton!

In spite of my reservations, I feel strongly that these two books would be an asset to DC's somewhat embattled collected editions program, and would garner enough orders to make them profitable. They'd also be attractive backlist items, in creating a series that was finite and very easy to complete, but deep enough to involve some investment. Let's make it happen!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm Ready! Are You?

Last month, I posted a humorous Steve Martin quote about writer's block. Go look it up if you don't remember it.

Back? OK, that entry was posted at least partially for my own benefit. You see, I really feel like the best way to handle writer's block (if such a thing truly exists) is to tackle it head-on. If you're having trouble writing, the solution is just to WRITE MORE. It doesn't even matter if it's any good or not.

I spent several years putting in an effort to write something every single day. It wasn't always brilliant. Heck, some days, it was lazy and/or awful. But the practice gave me the ability to think my way around certain problems that I had created for myself with regard to writing. That was valuable.

Today, I don't write every single day. However, I keep my mind active enough that I can CREATE at a moment's notice. Is it always genius? Ha, hardly. But if you don't allow yourself the luxury of creating bad ideas, you'll never have good ones either.

It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like everything must be just so. Or to want to be as exhaustive as possible in what you're doing. Hey, I've been there. All it ever did was paralyze me from finishing anything. Or when I did manage to get something done, I was inevitably disappointed. My own perfectionism was my worst enemy.

Lately, I have been thinking about this. I have been struggling with a story for many, many months. I wouldn't say I had writer's block; if anything, I was just completely uninspired. The action was in my head, but I couldn't will it to be expressed. There are reasons for that, and not all of them are even up for discussion.

I was pondering this dilemma Tuesday. I haven't had any serious issues finding writing challenges on this blog during the past year. There have been times when the well ran a bit dry, but I've always been able to mine my mind (good one) a bit further to find something worth discussing. But this story has vexed me, and I couldn't figure out why.

Then it hit me. I guess I've known all along. I am too concerned with making it truly worthwhile and epic. The "stage fright" (for lack of a better term) at the prospect of having to pull this off has largely rendered me unable to work on it. I'm too nervous to fail.

This is no way to get anything accomplished. Sometimes, you just have to get down into the trenches and do what needs to be done. With that in mind, I sat down, and penned the longest bit of fiction I've written in at least 9 months. Is it perfect? Doubt it. Can it be fixed, if necessary? Absolutely.

It's just worth remembering that the only way to do good work is to, you know, actually do work, rather than sitting around talking about how you're going to do this and going to do that and this will be amazing when you get around to it. Because unless you actually deliver on those promises, all that talk is just that - talk. I've been plenty guilty of that through the years. I like to think I've gotten better, and 150 blog entries with this particular post would bear that out. So would 2,000+ entries on my old journal. But it's just so easy to fall back into the bad habits, and not getting anything out there because you're so focused on making sure everything is the best thing since sliced bread.

Well, this is rambling and stream-of-consciousness, as I rather expected it would be. I'm just pleased that I managed to overcome another one of those walls that exists inside my head. Let's see if I can sustain that momentum.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some 2009 Leftovers

In lieu of a new entry, I've put together a collection of one-liners (and two-liners) that were posted elsewhere in 2009.

*I'm being attacked by offers from potential mail order brides! Send help!

*I know way more about Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt than can possibly be healthy.

*Christopher Elam is outside your window. Right now.

*Managed to get a wrench jammed through my tire while driving this morning. Oh life, you are full of excitement.

*I don't trust my new friend Miss Nancy. "My name is nancy,i saw your profile today at and became intrested in you,i will also like to know you the more,and i want you to send an email to my emailaddress so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am. Remeber the distance or colour doesnot matter but love matters alot in life."

*Every night, I smell apples. There are no apples here. Is this what it's like to go insane?

*So, I dozed off and had a dream where a glitch created a small field of anti-gravity in front of my computer . That is an interesting form of pseudo-science you got going there, subconscious.

*Corn chips count as vegetables, right?

*Just in case one of those guys running around Lake Charles who looks just like me is mugging someone right now, I'd like to say that I wouldn't say no to some delicious pancakes. (Some background.)

*Intellectually, I know Cheese Puff Corn is basically one step removed from flavored packing peanuts, but it's still damn tasty.

*Misread a church sign as saying "You don't have to feel lust." Pretty sure I do.

*I bought trading cards today. What is this, 1992?

*"Ronnie Jetman"? Random person on the Internet, what in the world motivated that particular search?

*...Did I mention I had to call 911 as I was driving home because there were two horses running free down the middle of the road? After dark, mind you. Country life, you are so amazing sometimes.

*"A maniac with a lot of knowledge is a threat." (from THE BRAINIAC)

*The only thing I remember well from the 1980s is rap song lyrics. This is both troubling and hilarious.

And also for you music lovers!

Christopher Elam... your favorite foreign movie

...thinks "Come On Eileen" is another song that is "incomprehensible at any speed."

...admits it - I'm the one who left the cake out in the rain. Sorry.

...just had his mother explain the membership of the Black-Eyed Peas to him. What?

...suggests that all of you avoid Grand Funk Railroad's cover of "Gimme Shelter".

...needs fifty dollars to make you holler.

...thinks this song is about him!

...woke up this morning with a wine glass in my hand.

...thought the major was a lady suffragette.

...feels like a bullet (in the gun of Robert Ford).

...heard the Worst Radio Edit Ever today. Who would've guessed the victim would be Neil Sedaka?

...would walk 500 miles, but not 500 more. That's right out.

...grabbed the piano player and I punched him in the face!

...His name is Ted. Can you believe that?

OWARI will return when the weather returns to something approaching normal. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Suddenly, one year later...!"

I almost didn't use that title, as it (and subsequent variations) has been used by Mike Sterling over at Progressive Ruin. Progressive Ruin, if you didn't know, is the finest comics blog in this or any other dimension. But then I remembered I got it from BRAIN 17, which I suspect Mike has never seen, so all is right with the universe. For now.

As it turns out, it has been almost precisely one year since we launched this little blog. Time flies, no? I look back on that tentative first entry, and realize things have evolved a bit since that day. Mainly, the LiveJournal hasn't gone away, but it has been increasingly de-emphasized to the point that I consider its continued existence an afterthought. For better or worse, this blog is now the go-to place for my latest written pieces.

I like to think that's for the better. I am not shy about recycling material if I think I can find a new audience for it, but I've tried to create enough of a mix here to keep everyone on their toes. I doubt I please everyone all of the time. Heck, I only rarely please myself! But I have tried to make this blog someplace interesting and unique. I know I've been having a good time making it.

Since I started this thing, I've added some feeds in the wilderness of the Internet. Probably the most read of those is on my Facebook. Part of me wishes I had thought to do that earlier, as there is some stuff from the early days that I think gets overlooked. In fact, let me link some of it!

And those are just a few of the highlights of the first three months of the blog. So, check out the archives, and see what I have to offer. Thanks for reading this past year. I'll do my best to keep this up as long as possible.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sarome, The Beauty Pair, and You

I was chatting with my esteemed colleague Igadevil one night not terribly long ago, and we found ourselves discussing the sentai series BATTLE FEVER J. Iga in particular was fascinated by Maki Ueda's portrayal of the villainess Sarome. Ueda is quite a unique presence, and not as easily defined as your average actress in such shows. Iga found that hard to understand, but this was mainly due to a gap in his knowledge base. For you see, Mr. Devil is wise in many things, but Japanese "puroresu" is not one of them. This can actually be problematic when you realize that certain aspects of tokusatsu make no sense whatsoever without their connection to the world of pro wrestling.

Maki Ueda was one half of an incredibly popular female tag team called "Beauty Pair". I'm fairly certain she was brought into BATTLE FEVER J because of her name value. Earlier in 1979, she was "forced" into retirement from the mat business after losing a special stipulation match to her former partner Jackie Sato. In reality, she gave it up due to back troubles, but you have to make it sound good for the fans. So she was well-established in the minds of the public as a tough woman, and the character of Sarome was just an extension of that image.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The World's Most Dangerous Comic Book

I have never been a fan of Mark Millar's work, but you have to give the man credit for being successful in the comic book industry. He even managed to turn a rejected pitch for a Secret Society of Super-Villains revival into a popular creator-owned title, which in turn spawned a movie deal. The only thing that serves as a minor irritant for me about his good fortune is that he unwittingly(?) co-opted the name of one of my favorites comic books in the process.

To the general public, Wanted is now that movie with Angelina Jolie. There are more than just few in that crowd that would associate the title with Millar's comic. But to me, Wanted is a seminal DC reprint series of the 1970s, edited by E. Nelson Bridwell. And quite frankly, neither Angelina Jolie or Mark Millar are going to change that.

Subtitled "The World's Most Dangerous Villains", Wanted got its start in two issues of DC Special, #8 and #14. I guess those over-sized collections sold rather well, as a spin-off regular series followed in 1972. Wanted only ran for nine issues, but taken with the two proto-specials, they provide eleven comics full of super-villainous goodness. Or do I mean badness?

The really interesting thing about Wanted was that the regular series often spotlighted Golden Age superhero stories. This was no small thing back in the 1970s, especially since the book was a standard 32 page comic. I'm sure the 1940s tales were attractive partially because they were shorter, and more could be crammed into a single issue. That doesn't lessen the novelty factor of seeing a book that cover-featured Starman and Wildcat for one issue, or the original Green Lantern and Kid Eternity on another.

The villain assortment for Wanted was also a point of interest. While it was launched with big names, and occasionally brought out the likes of a Joker/Penguin tandem or Captain Cold, it was just as likely to give exposure to the likes of the Dummy or the Nyarl-Amen fish men. Believe me, that is just as much fun to write as it is to read! You never knew quite what you might get in Wanted.

The series ultimately shuffled off into cancellation limbo, probably done in by market resistance to reprints and its own dedication to obscurity. DC let their rights to the title languish for decades, which meant that it had become available as a trademark for Millar's Image book. I guess there is a certain justice to that, since DC's series wasn't even the first to bear that title. There had been a Golden Age Wanted well before DC ever considered publishing such a comic. I guess Billy Preston was right, and it does go round in a circle.

The 1970s Wanted is a mostly forgotten treasure of the back issue bins. Seek it out for old-fashioned superhero fun!