Wednesday, April 28, 2010

8-Track Heaven

You can blame an issue of Goldmine magazine from several years ago for turning me onto 8-Track Heaven. Your eyes do not deceive you - it is a site devoted to celebrating 8-track tapes.

As a child of the 70s and early 80s, the 8-track tape was everywhere for me, and then it was gone. I still have a lot of fond memories of those bulky hunks of plastic and their oddball functionality. I even still own some 8-tracks, though the last player we had for them gave up the ghost sometime in the last century.

8-Track Heaven has a lot of interesting articles on the history of the format. Did you know there is an album from a world famous performer that was only released on 8-track? It's true! That's just one of the interesting gems you can unearth if you poke around the site. The last time I checked, some of the URLs were broken, but wading through those is a small price to pay for the entertainment the site offers.

8-Track Heaven is a great site for people who remember those antiquated tapes, or just those who are amused by pop culture nostalgia. Recommended!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Firegirl vs. the Tantalizing Tentacles of Terror!

Remember the faux comic book cover of Captain Satellite & Shelly Ericson my friend Kabuki Katze did last month? Well, I commissioned her to do a second piece shortly afterward, and it has just been posted on her dA page.

Firegirl vs. the Tantalizing Tentacles of Terror!

(If you click-a the pic, you go-a to her full-size version on dA!)

Yes, that is Firegirl at the "mercy" of Hugo Beaumont and the Phantom Rogue. Only, it isn't quite going the way Hugo and the Rogue planned.

Here, let me, myself, as it turns out, from Kabuki's description :

"Firegirl [is] . . . tied up dangling over a pit (alligators or squidgy tentacles optional.)

The thing about this is, though, that she would be smiling and really pleased with herself. Part of that would be because you could see at least one of her hands and a bit of fire is on her fingertips, indicating she will be freeing herself soon. The other, well, maybe she likes being tied up more than she lets on. :)

The villains who have perpetrated this dastardly deed and are lurking in the background are Hugo Beaumont and the Phantom Rogue, neither of whom are probably realizing Firegirl is just as much a pain in the ass as Captain Satellite."

I am so thrilled by this picture that you don't even know. I was sure Kabuki could do a good Firegirl, so I was interested in seeing what she did with the baddies. I think the results are amazing!

Kabuki is leaving tomorrow to begin a long trek overseas, as she has been chronicling in her adventure blog Wandering Kotka. I hope you all will join me in wishing her a safe trip, and a wonderful journey for this latest and greatest of her adventures.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sometimes I Am Dumb

Every time I see a business called a "coin laundry," I think to myself, "Why would anybody need their coins laundered?"

Don't judge me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

All Riders vs. DaiShocker

Due to the amazing generosity of my brother-in-blogging Igadevil, I was finally able to check out last year's ALL RIDERS VS. DAISHOCKER. This is the Kamen Rider film that brought in a ton of Riders stretching all the way back to 1971, and it's loaded with fan-friendly moments no matter when you were born. In describing it to people, I summed it up with "Great superhero movie or GREATEST superhero movie?" So yeah, there's no question I loved it.

Is it perfect? Nah, nothing in life truly is. Some of the cameos are way too brief, and the implied voiceover participation of certain famous Rider actors failed to materialize. Still, even considering that, it's one smashing piece of monster fighting cinema, and manages the task of not overstaying its welcome.

If you'd like a more detailed overview of the actual movie, fret not. Iga is on the case with both Spoiler & Spoiler Free reviews. If you have even the most passing interest in Japanese superheroes, you owe it to yourself to check out his site. He's been working hard on it lately, and it is really looking good!

I do want to comment, however, on something I have noticed both Toei and Tsuburaya Pro. (owners of the Ultra Brothers) excel at compared to the owners of American superheroes. Toei and Tsuburaya go out of their way to add mystique to their older characters and shows. Riders, Ultras, and Sentai all celebrate the past whenever the opportunity arises, and it is almost always treated with the utmost respect in its context. If Kamen Rider 1 or the original Ultraman shows up, you KNOW it's serious business. The new stuff is the primary focus, but neither company loses sight of the fact that there is still money to be made off what has come before.

In contrast, American superhero franchises seem perpetually in denial about their pasts. SUPERMAN RETURNS was billed as a continuation of a series, but ignored two installments of it. How many years were there between the two recent mutually-exclusive Hulk movies? How often have we heard folks badmouthing this or that adaptation because it didn't hew to their approved "vision"?

I'm generalizing, of course. There are Japanese hero projects that do the same thing (hello there, SHIN KAMEN RIDER), and American hero projects that seem practically giddy to jump hip-deep into their legacy. I just find the difference in the prevailing trends in two parallel genres interesting.

Back on topic, enjoy this promo for ALL RIDERS VS. DAISHOCKER :


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The DC Implosion

I remember the DC Implosion pretty well, since I was there at the time. For those unaware, this was when DC's efforts to expand their line with the "DC Explosion" were scuttled by the suits and they ended up contracting big time instead. It's probably fair to say it was one of the few times in the last 50 years that DC was in danger of being shut down entirely.

Since that fateful time in 1978 when the Implosion rocked DC, the legend of the DC Implosion has grown to the point where many people include a lot of comics on the list of casualties that just don't belong. Things like Hercules Unbound and Metal Men don't count, guys. Their cancellation had nothing to do with the edict that DC's line should be slashed to twenty 40¢ monthly books and six $1.00 bi-monthly books.

The following books were cancelled in 1978 due to all the reshuffling of the DC line. Some of these were axed prior to the word of the Implosion coming down from on-high, but I'm including them anyway because their ends were abrupt and not announced in the comics themselves. Pinning down what was and wasn't cancelled due to the Implosion can be a lot more challenging than you might guess.

  • All Star Comics
  • Aquaman
  • Army At War
  • Batman Family
  • Battle Classics
  • Black Lightning
  • Claw the Unconquered
  • Doorway To Nightmare
  • Dynamic Classics
  • Firestorm
  • House of Secrets
  • Kamandi
  • Mister Miracle
  • Our Fighting Forces
  • Secret Society of Super Villains
  • Secrets of Haunted House
  • Shade, the Changing Man
  • Showcase
  • Star Hunters
  • Steel: The Indestructible Man
  • Witching Hour

The following books were advertised, but never appeared : Demand Classics, The Vixen, Western Classics, and revivals of both Weird Mystery Tales and Strange Adventures (offered for subscription). Also on the table during that time were projects like The Deserter, Starslayer, and a revived Swamp Thing.

Oh, and these books should get honorable mention. They were also cancelled during the general Implosion timeframe, but are rarely included in lists : Challengers of The Unknown, Freedom Fighters, Karate Kid, and New Gods. I don't own any of those final issues, but I'll hazard a guess that those books got to at least acknowledge they were cancelled. Special titles Limited Collectors Edition and the umbrella DC Special Series also disappeared at this time.

Lot of comics, isn't it? One startling footnote to this mass pruning surfaced a couple of years later :

...though we do cheerfully admit that Kamandi was one of about five books that were cancelled in our cutback in 1978 simply because we wanted to have only monthly 40¢ comics, which meant that a handful of decent sellers had to go...
-Paul Levitz, excerpt of lettercolumn response, The Brave and the Bold #162 (May, 1980)

This has always fascinated me, and it makes me wonder which of the other books on the list would have survived without outside forces stepping into the picture. I've speculated on this in the past, but the facts didn't always match up as well as I thought. For example, I would have bet money one of those titles would have been Secret Society of Super Villains. It was an 8 times a year title when bi-monthly was the norm for a second-tier DC book and was also considered strong enough to warrant an oversized special in the DC Special Series. But no, it was already on the chopping block when the Implosion was happening - it just happened really fast.

Let's make a couple of guesses as to what other titles almost sold well-enough to make it through the Implosion :

1) All Star Comics - I admit I'm biased regarding this comic, as it is one of my favorites of the era. But I genuinely believe it sold decently. It ran for almost three years, it was to have had its own DC-sponsored fanclub before that project was junked, and its inventory was transferred to Adventure Comics after it ended. Plus, if we consider All-Star Squadron a "revival," it was more or less back on the stands by 1981.

2) Batman Family - This is a little bit of a cheat, because Batman Family wasn't really cancelled. Detective Comics was cancelled, but smart-thinking staffers at DC salvaged that venerable title by folding Batman Family into it and making 'Tec a Dollar book. Eventually, the "Batman Family" format of the book was discontinued, and it reverted back to being a regular Batman book. Today, it is one of the very few books retained in the Implosion that has maintained its original numbering. So the escape clause that Batman Family temporarily provided for it meant that one of DC's truly historical series was preserved.

And after those? Well, it depends on if Paul was basing his statement on sales reports they already had on hand in 1978, or if it included data that had arrived after the final curtain. Here are the arguments you could make for a few books :

* Firestorm didn't sit on the shelf long, despite the short life of his debut series. He was used in team-ups, the Justice League, and had his own back-up feature in The Flash. By 1982, he was back in his own book, and it had a healthy run.

* Secrets of Haunted House returned to the schedule less than a year after its cancellation in the Implosion.

* Claw The Unconquered had been revived due to promising sales on the final issues on its earlier run.

* Black Lightning was another one of DC's better new heroes of the 1970s, and his strip also found a new home quickly. Unfortunately, his creator (Tony Isabella) didn't stick around DC like Firestorm creator Gerry Conway, and I think that hurt Black Lightning's chances. He did prove to be a linchpin of Batman and the Outsiders a few years later, but Black Lightning should have been strong enough to make it as a solo.

Those are my nominees, but beyond that, I'm not going to commit myself.

And because it's a list that doesn't get cited nearly so often, here are the survivors :

20 40¢ monthly titles

  • Action Comics
  • Batman
  • The Brave and the Bold
  • DC Comics Presents
  • The Flash
  • Ghosts
  • Green Lantern
  • House of Mystery
  • Jonah Hex
  • Justice League of America
  • Men of War
  • Sgt. Rock
  • Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes
  • Super Friends
  • Superman
  • Unknown Soldier
  • The Warlord
  • Weird War Tales
  • Weird Western Tales
  • Wonder Woman

6 $1.00 bi-monthly titles

  • Adventure Comics
  • Detective Comics
  • G.I. Combat
  • Superman Family
  • The Unexpected
  • World's Finest

It's telling about the fickle nature of comics that, less than a decade later, only 11 of the titles judged fit enough to continue in 1978 were still being published in any form, and many of those had either changed titles or relaunched with new series.

A huge thanks to Mr. Jim Van Dore, who caused me to re-examine my own thinking on the Implosion when we interacted in this message board thread. I promised Jim LAST YEAR I would acknowledge the impact that discussion had on this entry, but I didn't realize it would take me so long to get around to writing it. Jim has contributed a great deal to the GCD index on Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, one of the peculiar relics of this strange period of time. Check out the amazing work that's been done to catalog comics that were never officially published. Hats off to those guys!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Stax Museum

Not long ago, I got behind a car with an out of state plate that was adorned with a bumper sticker for the Stax Museum. Stax, if you don't know, is a famous record label noted for soul music. Heard Otis Redding's "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay", Isaac Hayes' "Theme From Shaft", or Booker T & The MGs' "Green Onions"? That's Stax.

As I drove behind that car, looking at the bumper sticker which read "I Visited The Stax Museum", all I could think was, "I want to go there."

If you click the link, you probably will too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My World : Firegirl


Fiery reporter Roxanne Prize was not only one of the first people befriended by Paul Mann when he arrived in Major City, but she soon became his girlfriend as well. Outwardly, they seemed the very picture of a happy couple, but both of them were keeping secrets. Roxanne's secret was that she was trying to dig up clues to the mystery of Paul Mann's background.

Although Roxanne had initially become involved with Mann to learn more about him, she grew to genuinely love him. That made it a gut-wrenching decision when her research was finally completed and she had reached her conclusions. Should she release the story, or should she just forget it? In the end, her (somewhat unethical) journalist side won out over her personal side.

When Roxanne's exposé on Paul Mann broke, it drove a wedge between the two of them that was impossible to overcome. To make matters worse, it soon became clear to everyone that Roxanne's reasoned deduction of Mann's "true" identity was, in fact, wrong. Having lost both the man she loved and her already iffy journalistic credibility due to her deception, Roxanne more or less went into hiding. She retreated to the west coast and began writing for celebrity gossip magazines under an assumed name.

When Paul Mann created his Captain Satellite persona a few years later, Roxanne Prize saw an opportunity to make amends for what she had done. Returning to the east coast on "special assignment" for one of her client publications, she turned up on the MTI campus ostensibly to interview Mortimer (Blue Behemoth) Kane and Danny (Drone Man) Graham on their recent exploits. But she had an ulterior motive - she pleaded with the two newly-minted heroes to make her a super heroine.

After considerable convincing and arm-twisting, Kane and Graham relented and pooled their resources to help Prize develop her own super identity. The result of their efforts was the flame-discharging gun christened the "Pyro Pistol". With this weapon in hand, Roxanne fashioned her own flashy heroine costume. Weeks later, Blue Behemoth and Drone Man had a new partner in their crusade when Firegirl, the Princess of Pyro, made her debut.

Firegirl has sought to use her return to the limelight to redeem herself for her past transgressions, and perhaps make the world a better place in the bargain. She is known far and wide as a strong woman who is ingenious, courageous, and more than a little flirtatious. She even has her own super powers now, as an especially bizarre case gave her mastery over fire and rendered the Pyro Pistol superfluous. Firegirl is a founding member of the Invincible Alliance, and has distinguished herself time and again.

Captain Satellite and Firegirl appear to have finally made peace with each other over their failed relationship. However, Roxanne seems oblivious to the crush that the Blue Behemoth harbors for her. Will the blue-haired beast with the mind (and heart) of a man be able to confess his true feelings? Stay tuned!

There's a lot of words I could say about Firegirl, but we'll keep it brief in this profile.

I'd wanted to do a fire-themed heroine for years, but never drew her until I did giftart for my friend Sara in 2007. I needed to list the names of all the characters in the picture, and just couldn't bear to saddle this character with the terrible pun that had been her working name. That was "Miss Fire", if you must know. So I instead gave her the inoffensive moniker "Firegirl".

Well, Firegirl has captured the imagination of a lot of people since then, and that makes me think I made the right call. In writing her backstory, I chose to make her Captain Satellite's reporter ex-girlfriend - originally a non-costumed supporting cast member. It added a certain degree of shading to what could have been just a very simple idea.

Firegirl's design draws heavily from 1940s-era super heroines. Her "fire character" inspirations include such Golden Age worthies as the Flame (the gun), Pyroman (color scheme), and Wildfire (fire-based heroine).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My World : Drone Man

Drone Man

Everyone at MTI knew that Danny Graham was a technical whiz. They also knew he was a total flake. Despite being a certified genius, the only one of his graduate student colleagues who even deigned to associate with him was Mortimer Kane. And Mortimer was just as lacking in social skills as Danny.

Things started getting interesting for Danny when his friend Mortimer was transformed into the creature who became known as the Blue Behemoth. Kane's attitude changed along with his appearance, and this worried Graham. This so-called "Blue Behemoth", his formerly mild-mannered friend, was going off and taking lots of crazy chances. Danny designated himself the Behemoth's watchdog, but keeping up with the big lug proved to be no easy task. Danny Graham decided that the best way to handle his problem would be to create a super identity of his own, based on his affinity for gadgets and gizmos. And bees.

Thus was born Drone Man! OK, not the most awe-inspiring superhero name. It points up the fact that, while Danny has a good heart and brains to spare, he falls a little short in the sense department sometimes. In fact, the only reason he even settled on "Drone Man" was because Blue Behemoth managed to talk him out of his first choice. The blue-furred man-beast didn't think "The Bumbler" would strike anyone as impressive.

Drone Man's uniform is equipped with, but not limited to, the following specs : body armor, insulated helmet, two-way radio antennae, multi-purpose compound lenses, anti-gravity boosters, navigation wing pack, and sting beam disc system. So you see? He has the skills to create a dynamic and powerful set of gimmicks; he just can't come up with a catchy name for himself. That's the way it goes sometimes.

Drone Man joined Blue Behemoth in his crimebusting, and the pair earned considerable praise for their good works. He also assisted Kane in creating a super alter ego for reporter Roxanne Prize. Drone Man was one of the founding members of the Invincible Alliance, and is considered among the core members of the group. When not out doing the hero bit, he can usually be found at Alliance HQ, still doing his best to keep Blue Behemoth out of trouble.

Drone Man has gone through various incarnations and name changes over the years, but I've always been partial to having a bee-themed hero in my lineup. Why bees? I have no idea, but it seems right to me.

Drone Man as he currently exists owes a lot to the Steve Ditko version of the Blue Beetle. There are traces of other insect-based characters in his genetic make-up, but nothing so obvious that it stands out to me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My World : Blue Behemoth

Blue Behemoth

Mortimer Kane was the very definition of the word "milquetoast". It didn't matter that he was one of the most brilliant graduate students at Major Technological Institute (MTI). He was so unassuming and timid that he was largely ignored by the vast majority of people on campus. In fact, the only person he could truly call a "friend" was his colleague Danny Graham. That wasn't really bad, except Danny was just as socially inept as he was.

Mortimer Kane's life changed forever the day he got caught in his experimental Reaction Rearranger. It affected an irreversible change on Kane, mutating him into a large, blue-haired anthropoid. His intelligence was left intact, but there was a noticeable change in attitude. He became more boisterous, opinionated, and outgoing.

Ostracized even further due to his condition, Mortimer Kane created the "Blue Behemoth" identity to fight crime and injustice and...well, for something to do. Joined by his buddy Danny under the name "Drone Man" in the crimefighting business, the duo forged a solid reputation at the college and in the surrounding area for their tireless efforts to keep the peace. By becoming even weirder, two losers had made themselves Big Men On Campus.

Blue Behemoth possesses tremendous strength and astonishing agility. Contrary to popular belief, his mask is not just an eccentric superhero affectation. One of the side effects of his transformation is that the Blue Behemoth is now color blind, and the mask contains corrective lenses designed by Drone Man to maintain proper vision.

Blue Behemoth and Drone Man were instrumental in assisting Roxanne Prize in creating her own secret identity. Kane harbors a crush on Prize, but so far has been unable to admit it to anyone. It remains to be seen if this uncharacteristic throwback to his old personality traits will persist.

Blue Behemoth was there when the Invincible Alliance was founded, and is currently one of the core members of the group. He can frequently be found loitering around its headquarters when not on a mission.

Blue Behemoth was born in the late 1980s, and was originally named "Blue Baboon". He is heavily influenced by both the Thing (Fantastic Four) and the Beast (X-Men & the Avengers - blue furry version, please). He has been remarkably consistent in his existence over the years. Other than his hero codename and origin details, the character is largely the same as when he first popped into my head.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My World : Ultimate American

Ultimate American

The Ultimate American - The Faceless Defender of Democracy! Secretly Tex Truman, this ordinary soldier was given the identity of Ultimate American by the U.S. government to root out spies and other enemies in the early part of 1940. When the United States entered World War II, Ultimate American fought for his country both on the homefront and across the world.

Tex Truman continued his career as Ultimate American after the war ended, and in fact maintained the guise until his retirement in 1966. That was the year his son Joe Truman donned the mask and became the second Ultimate American. Joe carried on the tradition valiantly until his mysterious disappearance in 1986.

Today, Tex Truman's much younger second son Dean Truman has assumed the mantle of the Ultimate American. This third Ultimate American continues the good fight and seeks to learn the fate of a half-brother he never knew. He serves as the leader of the Invincible Alliance, and does his best to keep the wild personalities of his teammates in check. Meanwhile, Tex stays involved as the Alliance's liaison to the American spy organization C.H.I.E.F.*, and does his best to help his son balance his responsibilities as a superhero and a U.S. citizen. He is uncannily spry for having been born in 1914.

*EDITOR'S NOTE : C.H.I.E.F. = Command Headquarters International Espionage Force.

Ultimate American is my "patriot" hero, with several nods to those that have come before him. The debts to both "Captain America" and "S.H.I.E.L.D." should be readily apparent. However, just as vital are the influences of the original Shield from Archie Comics (the very first star-spangled superhero), Archie's second Shield (Lancelot Strong), and the Fighting American.

Certain aspects of Ultimate American's costume are similar to those of Captain Satellite. This is deliberate. The idea is that Cap drew partial inspiration for his suit's look from the first two Ultimate Americans, before the third one came along as a contemporary. Just another example of reverse-engineering at work!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My World : Urban Nightmare

Urban Nightmare

After the debut of Captain Satellite as a very public hero based in Major City, it was perhaps inevitable that a counterpoint to him would emerge sooner or later. Urban Nightmare is that counterpoint. He is a street level crimefighter who stalks the inner city of Major City, referred to as "The Minors" by locals. No one knows his true identity, though there are some potent rumors pointing to certain rather surprising individuals.

Urban Nightmare shuns publicity, and appears in the limelight only with great reluctance. His most famous adventure was his part in combating the Macro Warrior invasion of Major City that resulted in the founding of the Invincible Alliance. Though considered a charter member of that group, he only operates with them when it suits him - in other words, rarely. He is not an active member of the Alliance, but is instead respected and feared as an effective and enigmatic force of justice.

Urban Nightmare is a character who was born, as were many of the Captain Satellite crew, as a vague sketch in high school. The pose was virtually identical to the one seen above. Point of fact, he almost ALWAYS is in that pose when I draw him. And I know his outfit is inherently ridiculous - the bright yellow, the oversized jacket, the semi-pimp hat. Believe me, I've tried to play with the design, and this is just the one I think looks best. It's oddly compelling without being remotely believable. Yet, there's nothing especially outrageous about it when you consider it. It's just a fairly implausible look for a character. Maybe that's why I like it so much.

Urban Nightmare served as both a hero and a villain in his evolution, but I decided I liked him best filling the "vigilante" role in my universe. To use analogies to famous characters, he is the Batman to Cap's Superman, or the Shadow to Cap's Doc Savage.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Links & Labels And Such

Those of you who read these entries via feeds, please just bear with me here. There will be something for you, too.

Last year, I set up a series of labels on this blog to make it easier to find which posts were on which topics. All well and good, but as we've gone forward, it's become increasingly obvious that portions of the labeling system just weren't working the way I'd intended. This week, I took some steps to remedy that problem.

The following labels are unchanged in this transition : comic books, music, blogging, life. I don't think anything changed in those four categories.

The following labels have been discarded : cartoons, movies/TV, reading, special guest star. The first three simply didn't get a lot of use here, and sometimes fell into vague "I'm not sure" zones with other labels. As for "special guest star", my friends are no less special than when this was in place, but the original intent behind its creation fell by the wayside long ago. Its use was frequently a judgment call, and not one I care to continue making.

The following labels are new : captain satellite, return of jetman. Honestly, this is way overdue. I've discussed ROJ a lot here, and while it has been dormant recently, don't expect it to stay that way. The "Captain Satellite" project has been getting a lot of play lately, and while there isn't anything set in stone with those characters, I expect they will continue to have a role on this blog.

The following labels have been shuffled around : general nonsense, quotes, tokusatsu, works. It stands to reason that, with some new categories added and some old categories retired, there would be some that see changes. "Works" is mostly the same, except that it now excludes ROJ website updates that do not include written material by me and Captain Satellite material created by folks other than me. You can find that stuff in their respective categories. "Tokusatsu" now excludes all ROJ content unless it specifically discusses authentic Japanese material. However, this label now includes Japanese-related material like anime and non-SF Japanese productions. I realize this isn't technically correct, but it's my blog and I just don't feel like changing the name of the label! "Quotes" didn't lose any posts, but it gained a few that quote friends of mine that were originally filed under "special guest star". And "general nonsense"? It's still the "everything else" category, but that's defined a little more broadly than it used to be.

Hopefully, this new label system will work better for my needs, and enable people to find what they're looking for when they visit my blog.

In other blogging news, I've dropped the sidebar links other than my "Friends of OWARI" blogroll. It's not that I have anything against any of the sites formerly listed there. Rather, I'm trying to be more streamlined, and I seriously doubt those links got much use anyway. However, I still support all of those sites. In fact, here is a list of all of them for the record. All are still recommended!

Big Bang Comics : Fun retro comics. I hope they make a comeback someday.

Blue Öyster Cult : One of my favorite bands ever.

Dilbert : A comic strip I read because I genuinely enjoy it.

Generation Kikaida : Japanese superhero nostalgia from the great state of Hawaii.

Grand Comic Database : One of the best resources for comics fans. If you love comics, this should be one your bookmarks, pronto.

A profile & tribute to comics writer Bob Haney : Touching. : Cartoonist Fred Hembeck is super-talented, and a classy guy to boot.

Paper Heroes : Your source for a wide variety of hobby needs in Lake Charles, LA, and the surrounding area.

Super : The official site for the long-running Japanese superhero series.

Lest anyone think this was all about trimming down, I did add a new link to the blogroll. JR The Monsterboy has done work for me in the past, and I consider him one of the best artists I know. Check out his sketch blog (and also his pin-up blog, not linked here) and see what he's capable of doing strictly by hand. I think you'll be impressed.

That's all for housecleaning matters. Tune in Monday for the beginning of five consecutive days of entries covering the Captain Satellite characters!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hiroshi Miyauchi Is A Stone Cold Pimp



I have sung the praises of Hiroshi Miyauchi anywhere I can find a forum on the Internet. He is my all-time favorite superhero actor. Not just Japanese superhero actor, but favorite superhero actor overall.

Miyauchi isn't the best thespian to ever play a superhero. He probably isn't the ideal physical specimen. But doggone it, the man has charisma to spare, and I've never seen anyone have a better time giving the business to bad guys while wearing a funny suit. He tackles his roles with conviction and humor, and you can tell they really matter to him. Plus, he is cool. Just look at him!

Hiroshi Miyauchi rose to prominence playing the alter ego of the title character in KAMEN RIDER V3 in the early 1970s. But I'd argue it was later in the decade when Miyauchi truly came into his own. In shows like HIMITSU SENTAI GORANGER, JAKQ DENGEKI TAI (photo source), and most especially KAIKETSU ZUBAT, he distinguished himself from the rest of the pack. ZUBAT is so essential Miyauchi that his portrayal of Ken Hayakawa has largely defined his career.

Even as a guest star, Miyauchi shines. He practically steals the direct-to-video GAORANGER VS. SUPER SENTAI (2001) from the rest of the cast, which includes other veterans of vintage sentai shows. And then, there's the Japanese Spider-Man series. Miyauchi is in a grand total of two episodes, but wow, he makes an impression in them. Best of all, I can demonstrate his prowess because of them.

Marvel's official website offers free legal videos of the entire Japanese Spider-Man series, complete with English subtitles. Nothing is going to replace my limited DVD box set in my heart, but this is still one of the greatest boons to Japanese superhero fans in the history of the Internet. (Now, how about swinging a DVD on demand release, huh?)

Anyway, here are Hiroshi Miyauchi's two episodes of SPIDERMAN :

Episode 31 - "No Tomorrow For The Detective And Son"

Episode 39 - "The Greatest Martial Arts Tournament In The World"

WARNING : OWARI takes no responsibility for you being utterly rocked by the preceding videos.

Hiroshi Miyauchi is still going strong, as this page amply demonstrates. He is simply a treasure, and someone for whom the term "larger than life" is just not even adequate as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

When Your Characters Move On

In Monday's entry, I made the statement, "I never waste a character if I think they have even a scrap of potential to be something entertaining." True enough. But the flipside of that statement is that sometimes characters just stop working. This can be because the character is so derivative of another that you can no longer justify their use. That fate befell my own Ferro Man, and it's why he (more or less) evolved and merged into Captain Satellite. But more often that not, it's not a failure of the character, but more their context.

I'm a firm believer in the notion that there are no bad characters, only a lack of imagination. I have lived long enough to see the rehabilitation of comic book heroes once deemed hopelessly lame, like Mr. Terrific. You can find value in anything if you put forth the effort and creativity. It's just that the situation isn't always ideal.

I'm not explaining this well. Let me give you two examples from my own experience to illustrate my point.

1) Doctor Diabolo is seen here as delineated by Sara Denny. This is how I explained his origins in 2008 in the notes for the 10th Episode of the "Return of Jetman" series : "Dr. Diabolo was originally a character I created to battle my personal superhero Captain Satellite. The unusual spelling "Diabolo" (not a typo for "Diablo", as a gag much later spells out) derives from the time in high school in which one of my classmates was singing the praises of the Lamborghini Diablo and couldn't quite pronounce the name correctly."

When I wrote that particular ROJ story in 2003, I didn't anticipate doing much of anything with Captain Satellite and his gang. I drafted Dr. Diabolo into ROJ because I liked his name, and he was a "blank slate" that I could mold however I saw fit. He didn't even have a set design until I commissioned that drawing from Sara.

Well, a few years down the line, I wound up doing a lot with the Captain Satellite cast of characters. Perhaps you have seen them here? Unfortunately for him, Dr. Diabolo was no longer a good fit for the very world that had led to his creation. There were other characters who filled all of his functions more elegantly : mad scientist, would-be world conqueror, armored villain, guy with alliterative "DD" name, etc. My use of Dr. Diabolo in ROJ led to his being crowded out of Captain Satellite.

Don't feel too badly for Dr. D - he fared pretty well snagging the ROJ gig. He scored a wonderful design by Sara, and the story featuring him has probably been read by hundreds of people around the globe since 2003. You could convince me pretty easily that ROJ and Captain Satellite inhabit the same "world", but I don't foresee Dr. Diabolo and Captain Satellite crossing paths in any official capacity.

2) Amazing Girl & Muscle Woman are two characters I invented back in my elementary school days. They are also the only two characters to ever be annexed into Captain Satellite's domain by popular acclaim.

I've related the story of my first jam picture here in the past. What I didn't spell out was that, a week after its original posting, I received the best gift in my Easter basket ever. That was the first time Sara posted art of my characters, but it would by no means be the last.

Sara was and is quite keen on my super heroines. She and the mysterioso Kabuki Katze even conspired to fashion for me a most excellent birthday gift in 2007 involving them. You'll probably be seeing more about that project one day.

My jam picture was intended as a symbolic shot, uniting bunches of characters running throughout my imagination. It's not a literal representation of the way my "worlds" operate. The old childhood "Legion" characters are separate from the "Captain Satellite" group, largely out of necessity. But Sara and Kabuki chose to illustrate the four heroines (two from each "world") together, and there was no harm in that. They were wonderful pieces of artwork, and the conceit worked beautifully. It was thrilling.

Eventually, Sara and I concocted a project which would have brought Amazing Girl and Muscle Woman fully into the Captain Satellite mythos. We had lengthy discussions about ideas, and even devised civilian identities for the pair - something they had lacked up to that point. (Amazing Girl was Kendal Rose, with one "l", and Muscle Woman was Beth Gordon, if memory serves.) Sara designed new looks for all four girls, and I went back and colored some of my old art as a bit of a teaser. This was the "reason" alluded to in the description on the Muscle Woman page.

This collaboration eventually fell by the wayside, as both Sara and I ended up getting involved with other things. That sort of thing happens all the time, and it wasn't a big deal. However, it left me with a bit of a problem. Amazing Girl and Muscle Woman had been sort of halfway inducted into the Captain Satellite mythos, and I had no real ideas for them.

I'll delve into my concepts on the "Too Many Superheroes" conundrum someday, but the main point here is that I try to limit the superheroes running around Captain Satellite's world to preserve the uniqueness of the ones already there. Heck, there were stages in its development in which he was the only superhero. So it is vital to me to ensure that I have some potential stories in mind for every character in what I have grandly dubbed "My World" on this blog. And sadly, I have none for Amazing Girl and Muscle Woman. That was really a story that Sara had wanted to tell, and she has moved on to other things.

After struggling to develop something that grabbed me, I ultimately decided to abandon my efforts to make Amazing Girl and Muscle Woman fit into Captain Satellite's universe, and put them back on the shelf with the rest of their Legion colleagues. They are not dead or forgotten; they can still frolic and play with their old buddies and can still star in new art both canonical and non-canonical. I'd even say the door is still open if either Sara decides she is dying to tell her stories or I somehow come up with concepts to do my delightful duo justice. It's just that I'd rather preserve the mystique they earned rather than diminish it by doing something half-hearted.

Whew! That was very long-winded, but those stories illustrate two different examples of characters of mine who are perfectly fine but no longer fit into their original plans. Fortunately, they can live on in their current versions, so nothing is truly lost.

A huge, HUGE thanks, and much credit, to my friend and former collaborator Sara. We did a lot of fantastic work in tandem for a couple of years, and her influence looms large in much of what I do to this day. Do yourself a favor and be sure to check out both her blog and her brand-new deviantArt page.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Green Machines

Did you ever come across something that makes perfectly good sense, yet you can't quite reconcile it with something else you know to be true? Here, read this quote from Greg Theakston that was published in Comics Interview #20 (Feb. 1985) :

[Jim] Steranko told me a story once about Stan Lee and his colorists. Again, there was nobody out there teaching anybody how to color, so Stan took a mess of comic books and cut them up, pasted them into a big scrap book, and marked DON'T DO. Don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this. And a lot of it is logic. I mean, you don't color machinery green. Green is an organic color. You color things like vegetation green, and maybe costumes green, but you don't make machines green because machines are metal, even though can paint a machine green, you think of chrome and metallic colors, which tend to be in the blues and purples. Now, a comic book is shorthand for reality. A twisted reality, but it's a shorthand for reality.

What's the problem with that, sez you? Well, something was nagging me about it, but I couldn't put my finger on it for the longest time. Then, I realized what bothered me about the story. It was the Titanium Man.

Who? Old Iron Man villain, first appearance in Tales of Suspense #69 (Sept. 1965). Notice something about that cover? He's the Titanium Man (as in steel), and he's green.

Well, you say, that sort of thing happens. But if it's a rule, you'd think they would have changed it. But no, Titanium Man stayed green for years. He's probably still green, if he's still around.

And who was the editor of all three comics linked above? You guessed it : Stan Lee.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

All Hail Lordwormm

I know very little about the person who calls himself "Lordwormm". He joined the deviantArt site last year, and has been making quite an impression on a lot of people with his enthusiasm. The sheer scope of both his imagination and his productivity is staggering. He has a distinctive style that I find fascinating. And most startling, at least from my perspective, he's done unsolicited fanart of my characters.

Lordwormm is big on promoting original characters on dA - both his and those of others. Little did I know when we first crossed paths that he'd be taking my gang along for the ride. So far, he has included Blue Behemoth, Firegirl, and Urban Nightmare in multi-artist pieces he has done. My favorite of those is probably the second one, as it is an homage to the cover of All-Star Squadron #1. Need I add I bought that comic when it first came out? Urban Nightmare taking the role of Kanjar Ro in spoofing the Justice League "Slave Ship of Space" cover makes me laugh, but I should hasten to add that the Nightmare is actually a heckuva nice guy. Well, no, he really isn't, but he's no evil-doer either.

There's also the little matter of this :

(Click that image for a much larger version of the pic at deviantArt!)

Why yes, that is indeed a picture devoted strictly to my characters. In it, Enemy Alien is ready and willing to match strength with the heroic assemblage of Captain Satellite, Drone Man, Ultimate American, Thunder Man, and Elektroid. I especially like Lordwormm's take on Thunder Man - in fact, I'm filing it away for future reference on the guy. I'm also deeply impressed that he didn't cheat on all the wires in Elektroid's head.

I can't even explain what an amazing surprise this picture was. All of Lordwormm's tributes have been gratifying and humbling, and I hope I can repay him a little by promoting his awesome gallery on my blog. Thanks, Lordwormm, wherever you are!

Oh, and if you're thinking you're not familiar with some of these characters of mine, you shouldn't worry. You'll be meeting them before you know it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dreaming Is Free

My dreamscape is usually not a pretty place. I try to maintain a positive attitude towards life in my waking moments, so my subconscious often feels the need to compensate. Goodness, my dreams are frequently angst-fests, and not something I look forward to remembering. Ah, but sometimes...sometimes a completely different part of my brain operates during sleepy time.

Creativity is a nebulous sort of thing in a lot of ways. I know I don't really understand how it works even for me. But I do know that when my subconscious decides to exercise its creativity instead of its anxiety, the results are pure gold.

As an example, a couple of weeks ago, I had a pair of amazing dreams. I dozed off one Saturday night for an hour or so, and that is a standard recipe for the worst kind of dreams for me. Instead, my brain crafted a neat little tale where my characters Drone Man and Enemy Alien had a fight in a spooky forest at night. There were ray guns and sting beams galore. Genius! A day or two later, I dreamt that Igadevil and I had organized a Kamen Rider convention/stage show in my tiny little hometown. It was so cool that I was disappointed when I woke up. Usually, I'm relieved to learn "it was all just a dream".

I've even been known to create characters in my dreams. The best example came a long time ago, back in the days when I was voraciously reading the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series. I was fascinated by the appendix section on the inside back covers, which included brief text entries for characters that didn't warrant full entries. Many of those guys were unknown to me at the time, and I still can't say I know most of them that well.

As it happened, one night that appendix got filtered through my subconscious, and what came out was intriguing indeed. At least two Marvel characters I had never seen, Cobalt Man and the Orb, were recast in all-new Chris Elam versions. My dream guys have very little to do with the "real" characters, but that is what makes them fun. In fact, they will be turning up later this year in renamed form as part of Captain Satellite's world. I never waste a character if I think they have even a scrap of potential to be something entertaining.

This past Wednesday night, I was lying in bed, half awake and half dreaming. It was the same state that conjured my ersatz Cobalt Man and Orb years ago. This time, my mind created a character I dubbed "the Psychedelic Man". I love psychedelic music, and the imagery that accompanies it. Heck, I even think the word "psychedelic" is quite groovy. I'm down with everything except the substances, I suppose.

Next morning, I sat down and drew the Psychedelic Man exactly the way he had appeared in my mind. You can see him over at my deviantArt account. That led almost inexorably to even more artwork. It was nicely reassuring that, even when you feel like you're in a bit of a dry spell, your brain can snap out of it without warning.

Do you get any creative inspirations from your dreams?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together?

I don't think I need to fess up to the fact that I have wildly varied musical tastes. I make no apologies for that. I like a lot of different types of things. Music is music, no matter what genre you choose to compartmentalize it under.

That said...

I was on Amazon recently and saw something that gave me pause. It happened while looking at CDs for that great American thinker, Tone Lōc. You remember him, right? 1980s, "Wild Thing", "Funky Cold Medina". Yeah. that guy. I saw something on one page in particular that caught my eye so much that I felt I needed to comment on it.

(You might need to click this one to see it well enough for it to be legible.)

To repeat - Huh?

I guess I can see the Michael Jackson album as something someone might buy with this particular collection. But Three Dog Night? As I captioned there, "Huh?" Someone decided that what really goes with "Funky Cold Medina" is "Joy To The World" and "Never Been To Spain"?