Monday, May 31, 2010

My World : Invincible Alliance

Invincible Alliance

It was the day when it seemed that Captain Satellite would surely lose. Third World had launched their most outrageous and potentially devastating raid of all time. An entire squadron of the mammoth Macro Warriors landed throughout Major City and threatened to tear the hero's home base apart. Against one or two of the giant robots, the Captain might have stood a chance. But six? While Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson unhesitatingly leapt into the fray, they knew their chances of survival, much less winning, were slim.

But just as Third World found strength in numbers, so did the forces of good. From out of the "Minors" district came Urban Nightmare. From MTI's campus came the trio of Blue Behemoth, Drone Man, and Firegirl. And from our nation's capital, the military dispatched a new incarnation of Ultimate American on his very first mission. Gathered as a united front, these seven heroes defeated the Macro Warriors, and dealt a blow to Third World's plans.

After the dust had settled, a proposal was put forth by Drone Man. Why couldn't they join together on a full-time basis as a team? His partners Blue Behemoth and Firegirl agreed that they would come on board such a venture, and Ultimate American too allowed that the idea had some merit. The other heroes, however, weren't quite so sure. Captain Satellite offered that he could join on a part-time basis, but he was so busy that he couldn't make any commitments. Shelly Ericson, on the other hand, flatly declined to be part of what she termed their "glorified pajama party."

And Urban Nightmare? He merely cryptically muttered that he would call them if he ever needed them before slipping away.

Despite this slightly shaky start, the Invincible Alliance was officially formed at this impromptu meeting. Captain Satellite and Urban Nightmare would be listed as "part-time" members on its roll call, with the Nightmare's parting statement interpreted as an acceptance of membership. Captain Satellite deferred the offer of leadership of the group, nominating Ultimate American in his place. Ultimate American was voted into the role handily, much to his dismay. His fellow Alliancers apparently think he has been on the job a lot longer than he has, and don't realize he is essentially the rookie.

Since then, the Invincible Alliance has grown and prospered in its fight against evil. Captain Satellite joined them on select cases, but was just as unable to be a part of the group's nucleus as he predicted. Eventually, he resigned his membership entirely, and recommended the robot Elektroid as his replacement in the ranks. Elektroid's membership led to some friction with Blue Behemoth, but eventually the man beast came around. Even the Urban Nightmare has returned to fight alongside the IA on rare occasions, solidifying his nebulous place on their roster.

The Invincible Alliance has been organized as a non-profit foundation through donations by Paul Mann and other wealthy individuals and interests sympathetic to their cause. It is not aligned with any government (despite Ultimate American's service in the U.S. military), and it carries on its activities through a United Nations charter granting it special status. This allows the Invincible Alliance to function as a truly global troubleshooting force, and to tackle such a disparate problems as dinosaurs emerging from the streets of Paris, space invaders appearing in Tokyo, and the dreaded "Backwards Plague" in Bulgaria.

The Invincible Alliance has established a string of embassies across the world, to allow them to have a central base wherever they need to go. You can be sure to find Blue Behemoth loafing around at whichever embassy is serving as the IA's current headquarters, and Drone Man trying to make sure his buddy doesn't cause too much trouble. Firegirl is usually out enjoying the good life, and Elektroid is trying to satisfy his curiosity about the human experience. And Ultimate American? He does his best to hold it all together. That's a full-time job.

I am a sucker for superhero teams, so when I finally made the decision that Captain Satellite would not be unique in his world, it was a no-brainer that there would be a hero club. "Invincible Alliance" was the name I had long ago settled on as my favorite for such a thing, so here they are. I wanted them to have an origin that was "big", so it is something that has been alluded to in many prior profiles.

There isn't a lot to add about the characters that hasn't been discussed in their individual profiles. I have tried to make an effort to give them a distinct purpose in their fictional world. Their group dynamic and the team's trappings display stray influences from a wide variety of sources, but hopefully they've been mixed together into something a little fresh.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Magneto and Titanium Man

I first learned of the Paul McCartney and Wings song "Magneto and Titanium Man" from, perhaps appropriately, an installment of the "Bullpen Bulletins" page in Marvel comics of the 1970s. Was it Smilin' Stan Lee himself who clued me in via his "Soapbox" column? Probably. That was the sort of thing usually reserved for "The Man" in his personal platform.

I didn't actually HEAR the song until the 1990s, when I caught it on a request show one afternoon. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are now. That motivated me to eventually pick up the Venus and Mars album to get my own copy. That meant that I had a chance to evaluate the tune based on its merits, rather than faded hype and a novelty radio spin.

And the verdict? Much as I hate to say it, there's nothing special about the song. It's slight and pleasant, but other than namedropping the titular duo (and the Crimson Dynamo), it doesn't really stand out compared to Wings tracks like "Jet" or "Band on the Run". It doesn't even have anything to do with the characters. I know the band performed the song alongside pictures of them on tour, but I genuinely get the idea that nobody in Wings knew a thing about them.

Anyhoo, I was chatting with my pal (and Xenorama major domo) David one night, and he revealed to me that he had never heard the song. This sent me on a quest to find a Youtube video for it. I did more than just succeed. I found the video linked below.

This fan video, by user "peachmon", is truly one of the best homemade music videos I have ever seen. It takes two less than perfect elements (mediocre Marvel cartoons and an average McCartney song) and blends them together into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Truly, this is the way the song should be experienced.

(Magneto was mad! Titanium too!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Edith Hanson

Edith Hanson is known in the West primarily for her appearances in the TV program THE SPACE GIANTS (Japanese title : MAGMA TAISHI) and the Gamera film variously titled ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS, GAMERA VS. GUIRON, and GAMERA VS. GUILLON. Even then, her name is filed under "obscure trivia" rather than "essential knowledge." Ah, but in Japan? In Japan, she is far better known, and might truly deserve the title "renaissance woman."

Edith Hanson was born August 28, 1939 in Northern India to Methodist missionary parents. One of Edith's siblings was a much older brother named Robert M. Hanson. Robert was a Marine Corps pilot who shot down 25 Japanese planes in WWII before being killed in action in February 1944. That distinction is a little ironic when you consider his sister's later pursuits in that country.

Edith Hanson came to Japan in 1960, and resided in Osaka until 1966. I believe I saw something about a marriage during that time, but my translation skills are not at a level where I'd be willing to say for sure. Regardless, Hanson ended up in Tokyo, and that was where her show business career really took off. After having made her apparent film debut in 1964, she landed a part in the 1966 Toho film ALPS NO WAKAIDAISHO - part of the popular "Wakaidaisho" ("Young Boss") series starring Yuzo Kayama. Though she seems to have curtailed her acting roles since 1987, Hanson has appeared in films as recently as 2003 and on TV as recently as 2006.

What makes Edith Hanson far more worthy of discussion beyond her thespian work is her humanitarian efforts. From 1986-1999, she served as director of the Japanese branch of Amnesty International. She wanted to slow down after leaving that post, but ultimately accepted a position as the director of a non-profit organization called EFA-Japan in 2004. EFA-Japan is dedicated to improving the education and overall situation of children in the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Just in case you aren't impressed so far, Hanson is also a published author and essayist. Her credits stretch back at least as far as 1969, and go up to at least 1998. I have no idea if any of her work has ever been published outside of Japan, but getting anything into print at all is a major accomplishment.

I wasn't kidding when I called Edith Hanson a "renaissance woman" in my introduction. In addition to what we've already discussed, she also plays the French horn, and once considered pursuing music professionally. She has also studied Japanese dance, flower arrangement, and tea ceremony. She is a big fan of baseball (the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes were her team before they merged with another club to form the Orix Buffaloes), and, perhaps oddly, professional wrestling. All-Japan Pro Wrestling grappler/owner Shohei "Giant" Baba was a favorite of hers, and she was seen frequently at ringside. She even attended Baba's funeral.

Today, Edih Hanson resides in Tanabe, Wakayama, Japan. She was recently (2010) named a guest professor at Kinki University in Osaka. You can read an English language discussion regarding her work with EFA-Japan at this link.

Edith Hanson

Monday, May 24, 2010

My World : Macro Warriors

Macro Warrior
The Macro Warriors are giant robots created by Third World, and are the crowning technological achievement of that subversive organization. Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't a little buggy from time to time.

The most notable appearance of the Macro Warriors was when Third World launched a full-scale attack on Major City with a squadron of the mechanical monoliths. This epic battle led to the formation of the super team the Invincible Alliance, which is another example of Third World's exceedingly bad planning.

At least one Macro Warrior has been captured intact and is in the custody of the authorities. This refurbished robot was called into action to subdue the rampage of the giant ape Gargantua Maximus.

Giant robots are something that I enjoy a lot, so it's only natural that I would find a place for them in the Captain Satellite world. The name "Macro Warrior" is influenced by both the Shogun Warriors and Micronauts toy lines. Ah, toys in the 1970s. We had so much fun with them.

This particular profile picture is a composite of two different drawings. The pilot was drawn and colored as a separate element and then incorporated into the robot at a much smaller size. He's actually so small in the final copy that at least some of the work I put into him doesn't show up, but I know it's there and that is what counts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Whatever Happened To Return of Jetman?

(EDITOR'S NOTE : OK, I've had at least two versions of this post up already, and had to take them down. Please note that the DNS seems to still be unstable right now, and the site has temporarily disappeared spite of the fact that it automatically updated while no one was looking. So, it's there, even if it's not showing up at the moment. Notice how I allude to plans always seeming to go awry for ROJ a few paragraphs down? This is exactly what I'm talking about. Sigh!)

Remember how I used to discuss the "Return of Jetman" project a lot on this blog in the first half of 2009? That sort of thing subsequently tapered off a lot, and the site didn't receive much attention. Despite my occasional mentions, I'll bet a lot of people assumed I had abandoned it.

I haven't acknowledged it publicly until now, but 2010 is the 15th anniversary of the launch of OWARI. That also makes it the 15th anniversary of the creation of Return of Jetman by Lewis Smith, even if ROJ didn't manage to get to the general population until 1996. In light of these milestones, it felt only right that 2010 be a year of special things for both OWARI and ROJ.

Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that several of the old ROJ links posted on this blog are no longer working, and the site has been removed from the "My Links" section of the sidebar. The good news is that these broken and removed links signal the return of Return of Jetman...with a vengeance.

Please join me in ringing in the ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT RETURN OF JETMAN! Yes, the ROJ site has become a blog. But there's so much more. Improvements are all over the place. If all goes to plan (and we all know how that has gone for ROJ since 2004), the overwhelming majority of the old site will be online by year's end. Maybe if we're all very good, that might include a conclusion for the long-delayed current serial.

There's more details on this news over on the ROJ site. Just click the "Important Announcement" link at the top. Oh, and if you'd like to keep up to date, the site has been moved to the blogroll on the sidebar. Now, updates will be delivered directly to you.

Here's hoping this marks a new era of greatness for Return of Jetman!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Making of "Shelly's Story"

Today, we're going to discuss the nuts and bolts that went into "Shelly's Story". You can click the link if you need to refresh your memory as to what it was all about.

The "Shelly Ericson" character was created in high school as the partner/assistant/bodyguard/love interest of Captain Satellite. During those days (1986-1990, if you are keeping score at home), I toyed with a lot of story scenarios. One of those was called "Shelly's Story", and it would have gone into some depth on her background. But this tale went unwritten, as did virtually all of the Captain Satellite mythology.

Shelly was intertwined with the origin I finally conceived for Captain Satellite, involving her foiling an assassination attempt on his civilian identity and his subsequent decision to assume a costumed persona to fight the baddies gunning for him. This story also never got written, but there was at least an attempt made. I sat down in college and tried to set it down on paper, but it just never clicked. Displeased with what I had, I abandoned it, and filed Cap, Shelly, and the rest away again. They reappeared sporadically, but never in any kind of narrative.

That began to change in 2007, when I drew portraits of many of my character due to a lot of interest from some people. This seemed like a good opportunity to also flesh out some of the ideas in my head, so I wrote profiles for a few of those characters. However, I didn't take it further, as other projects demanded my attention.

Skip ahead to the beginning of this year, and I began rolling out the Captain Satellite profiles on this blog. It didn't seem right to just leave them as they were, so I modified them as it suited me. I even began to create new ones both for characters that had previously lacked them, and brand-new characters I was launching. You'll be seeing those folks here in the months ahead.

Anyway, this burst of productivity prompted my friend Kabuki Katze to inquire a couple of times whether this was all leading up to something. Well, in all honesty, no, it wasn't. I have commissioned her a couple of times with regards to this set of characters, but mostly, I was just looking for content for the blog and my art account.

Still, you can blame/credit her for inspiration, because I couldn't get the thought out of my head that maybe I should attempt something beyond the profiles. It all came together on April 12, 2010, when this story essentially wrote itself in my head at work. I ended up taking notes to make sure I hit all the high points. This was one of those times when I couldn't get in front of the computer fast enough.

I serialized the story in chapters on my deviantArt account that day and the next. I think it works better in that fashion, but I elected to just post it here as one big multi-part piece and not draw it out over days. There have been some minor editorial fixes here and there, but nothing that changes the heart of this tale.

I'm quite proud of "Shelly's Story". It took a lot of fine-tuning, and there are portions that could be better, but overall I feel like I got exactly what I wanted from it. It's true to my vision of the characters, and it balances the fantastic with the more realistic aspects. I attempted to write it in Shelly's "voice," and I like to think I did a reasonable job communicating a character that was unlike me in gender, age, and personality.

For those of you who like to analyze these things, I will cop that there are allusions to a lot of different women who have been in my life over the years in this story. None of those ladies are Shelly, though. It has taken a lot of time and thought, but Shelly has finally found a life of her own apart from just being a simulacrum for whomever has caught my fancy at a particular moment.

Some technical stuff, if you are fascinated by the process :

  • Shelly was established as being from Texas in 2007, but from where? It's still deliberately vague, but "Boonland" is her hometown. I arrived at this fictional (?) town by mashing together the southeast Texas towns of Buna and Nederland. You can draw your own conclusions.

  • "Major City State University" (located in my equally-fictional metropolis "Major City") serves as the college Shelly attended and the location of her first meeting with Paul (Captain Satellite) Mann. This was also an attempt to diversify that burg, since I figured it had to have more institutes of higher learning than the elite MTI established in the profiles.

  • The tale of Paul and Shelly's first meeting, and the job offer over dinner, is perhaps one of the oldest bits of story ever concocted for these characters. It has been expanded greatly, if only to make something that is rather far-fetched seem vaguely plausible.

  • "Chez Cafe" is an altered version of the name of an actual restaurant in my local area. Truth can be stranger than fiction!

  • The background info regarding Roxanne Prize, and the origin of the "Captain Satellite" moniker, are also things that have been bouncing around for some time. Though it is not mentioned in this story, Roxanne Prize would go on to become the super heroine Firegirl.

  • The declaration of Cap and Shelly's love was a recent invention, and depends heavily on her recent growth as a character. I don't see myself even attempting something like that back in my teens and twenties.
So, anyway, this is all vaguely surreal to me. I had decided a couple of years ago that, if I ever wrote this story, it would be from Shelly's perspective. She is, after all, the anchor to reality for Captain Satellite and thus the reader, too. And now? Now it has come to pass. I've set down the first ever story of Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson, and related their origins to the world.

I hope everyone likes it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Post Is Completely Worksafe

There I was, perusing the 2-disc special edition of DEBBIE DOES DALLAS (for purely scholarly reasons of cinematic interest, I assure you) when I spotted it. The penultimate sequence in the movie occurs in a book/record store that has been seen throughout the picture. And what is on the righthand side in the background of this scene, bigger than life?


Yes, it's a display for Blue Öyster Cult's album Spectres.

As a BOC fan, this fills me with glee. Do you think I should submit it to the official Blue Öyster Cult site?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chikara Hashimoto

Chikara Hashimoto (橋本 力), a.k.a. "Riki Hashimoto" was born October 20, 1933 in Hokkaido. Though known primarily in the West for his film career, acting was something he fell into due to his original claim to fame - baseball.

Hashimoto participated in baseball championship series in high school prior to his turning pro in 1953. He played outfielder, originally with the Kokutetsu Swallows (today's Tokyo Yakult Swallows) and from 1957 onward with the Mainichi Orions (later the Daimai Orions; forerunner of the Chiba Lotte Marines). In 1959, Hashimoto was assigned to a farm team due to injury. This proved to be the beginning of the end of his baseball days, but also led to fame and fortune perhaps far greater than he would have achieved on the diamond.

While on the farm team, Hashimoto landed a gig as an adviser and actor in a baseball movie for Daiei based on the work of famous writer Kosuke Gomi. This film, directed by Keigo Kimura and starring Kenji Sugawara, would be Chikara Hashimoto's acting debut. However, it also marked the end of his professional baseball playing days, as he broke his collarbone making a diving catch during filming. After completion of the shoot, assistant director Daijuro Nakamura suggested to Hashimoto that he should consider becoming a professional actor. This led to a discussion with Daiei president Masaichi Nagata, and an agreement was reached.

Chikara Hashimoto was based primarily out of Daiei's Kyoto studio. This is where he played what may be his most memorable role, the great stone god Daimajin in three separate films. Hashimoto was afforded an almost unique opportunity with Daimajin, as his eyes were visible and he was therefore allowed to emote with them - which he did beautifully. He was instructed to not blink on-camera, as Daimajin was a god and a god obviously wouldn't blink. It's a testament to Hashimoto's professionalism and discipline that he pulled this off, despite the considerable discomfort it caused.

Among his considerable body of credits, Hashimoto appeared in such fantasy films as GAMERA VS. VIRAS and YOKAI DAISENSO ("Spook Warfare"), the former being for Daiei's Tokyo studio. He also appeared in at least two Zatoichi movies - 1964's FIGHT, ZATOICHI, FIGHT and 1971's ZATOICHI MEETS THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN. These Zatoichi movies were possibly more pivotal than they might seem at first glance for Chikara Hashimoto, as he developed a strong friendship with star Shintaro Katsu. When Daiei declared bankruptcy in 1971, Hashimoto moved over to his friend's Katsu Productions.

Chikara Hashimoto is probably most recognizable to audiences outside of Japan (and maybe even in his native land!) for his role as "Suzuki" in Bruce Lee's 1972 Hong Kong classic FIST OF FURY (a.k.a. CHINESE CONNECTION). As you can see from the screenshot below, Hashimoto had lost none of the intensity that characterized his turn as Daimajin.

Chikara Hashimoto

Monday, May 17, 2010

My World : Enemy Alien

Enemy Alien

There have been two different Enemy Aliens on planet Earth. Though virtually identical to the casual observer, their circumstances are far different.

The original Enemy Alien was an explorer whose starship crash-landed on the outskirts of Major City only two months after the debut of Captain Satellite. Though suffering from partial amnesia, the extraterrestrial astronaut still remembered enough to know that he needed to repair his vehicle and return home. Spied by witnesses as he gathered the necessary raw materials for this task, he was immediately labeled "Enemy Alien" in sensationalistic reports. Concerned by the UFO sighting and subsequent accounts of its occupant roaming the countryside, Captain Satellite decided to investigate the area.

Unfortunately for both Captain Satellite and Enemy Alien, gangsters found the marooned traveler's ship first. The criminals extorted the hapless Enemy Alien into battling Captain Satellite by threatening to blow his ship up with crates of TNT they had stolen from a local ammunition dump. During the resulting fracas, the gangsters were collared, but not before Enemy Alien's starship was accidentally blown to smithereens. The explorer disappeared into the night, uncertain of whether he could ever return home.

Enemy Alien eventually reappeared, misunderstandings were explained, and he was even able to collaborate with Captain Satellite in finding a method to get back to his world. He has retained the "Enemy Alien" name in his dealings with the select Earthlings that know his true nature, as his proper name is unpronounceable by humans. He is, however, content to never return to Earth.

Years later, Enemy Alien inexplicably showed up stealing rare gems in select locations around the globe. Puzzled by this bizarre behavior, Captain Satellite contacted his old friend by space wave transmission and learned that the Enemy Alien responsible for the crime spree was a new claimant to the name. He was an outlaw who had stolen both a ship and a pressurized spacesuit from the exploration corps that the original Enemy Alien now oversaw. His reasons were simple - he was eluding the authorities on his planet, and he saw Earth as an easy mark.

Both Captain Satellite and the Invincible Alliance have shown the second Enemy Alien the error in judgment he made in targeting Earth for larceny. Still, he is persistent, and an expert at rocketing away before he can be captured. He knows that it isn't jail that awaits him, but a one way ticket back into space.

Enemy Alien was born during the same period of time as Elektroid, and was part of a cast of characters who bridged my old ensemble of heroes and the new Captain Satellite crew which has been evolving since high school. So he has some history behind him. Trouble was, it was sometimes contradictory.

Enemy Alien was a misunderstood hero who had gained his name purely through news coverage. Or was he a villain after all? It changed depending on my mood on a particular day. Remember - that particular period was long on mayhem, but short of consistency.

In the end, I decided to take a page from the evolution of Captain Satellite and split the difference by establishing two separate Enemy Alien characters - one good, one evil. Confusing? Maybe. It's nothing compared to the convoluted continuity I used to create for myself, just for my own amusement.

Enemy Alien's name is a play on the comic book feature "Enemy Ace", with perhaps some influence drawn from the film version of the story ENEMY MINE. I had never drawn Enemy Alien in color prior to this picture, so I solicited my friend Sara's input on colors for him. I am pretty happy with her choices.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Don Simpson's Bizarre Heroes

If I could name just one comic book series from 1990 to now that I wish would make a thrilling comeback, it would be Don Simpson's Bizarre Heroes. I realize that's not a typical answer to such a hypothetical situation. Then again, Bizarre Heroes was not a typical comic book.

Don Simpson had a hit with his first-ever comic, Megaton Man. There was even (apparently quite serious) talk of MM becoming a movie. But then, Simpson's comic book fortunes morphed from a yellow brick road to a long and winding road. It turned out to be the Image Comics revolution that altered it into the pathway that led to Bizarre Heroes.

Don Simpson wound up doing Image's self-produced parody book, Splitting Image, and also teamed Megaton Man with Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon. The royalties from these books generated a comparative windfall for Simpson, and when that much money falls into your lap, the thought turns to what you should do with it. There was something in the air at that point in time about self-publishing, so Simpson chose that route and launched his Fiasco Comics imprint with Bizarre Heroes.

Simpson had been working on Bizarre Heroes for some time, with an eye toward trying to sell it as a graphic novel to someone. I think it worked better as an ongoing comic though. The high concept of the series was that ALL of Simpson's characters - the parody ones, the less zany ones, and the "serious" ones - all occupied the same universe. After all, "uni" means "one", right? So there's just the one!

It was novel and it was fresh. The comedic trials of Megaton Man were in the same book as a dark and sinister conspiracy storyline, and the plotlines actually intertwined. It was all propelled forward by Simpson's semmingly-boundless capacity for character creation, his appealing cartooning, and his distinctive and slightly askew storytelling sensibility. If you doubt my word that a B&W book can be colorful, peep out these covers and try to tell me you wouldn't buy these comics.

Unfortunately, the self-publishing initiative preceded the bottom dropping out of the comic book industry. Simpson tried his best to weather the storm, altering the numbering system for the book to increase #1 issues for skittish buyers and lowering the grade of the paper stock. The book itself was still doing wonderful things, and was even making inroads into incorporating Simpson's SF series Border Worlds and his "adult" comics characters into the mix. But alas, it was just too much, and Don Simpson eventually had to throw in the towel.

Since then, there have been scattered shots of Don Simpson's work here, there, and for a little while, everywhere. This particular piece isn't the place for me to catalog all of them - maybe we'll go into more detail another day. What you need to know is that Simpson tied up a lot of his outstanding plotlines as best he could in some books from Image that collected older material with new stuff - Megaton Man : Bombshell #1 & the 2 issue Megaton Man : Hardcopy. And that, as they say, was that. There was a false start or two since then, but it looks like Megaton Man and friends are on a permanent vacation.

Don Simpson isn't in the comic book industry anymore, but I have heard he is enjoying his life away from it. That's good news to me. While I often had my differences of opinion with his public statements, he was always unfailingly gracious to me in our correspondence when I subscribed to his book. I loved what he was doing then, and I tend to think it has influenced some of what I've done with my own works since that time. Plus, I always knew I'd be entertained when I saw the latest issue of Bizarre Heroes on the racks or in my mailbox.

Thank you, Don Simpson. I miss your comics a lot, but I'll treasure the ones you did create.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My World : Thunder Man

Thunder Man

"HE'S THUNDER-RIFIC!" the newspaper headlines proclaimed in 1938. Archaeologist Ray Bancroft announced to the public that he had discovered a survivor of the lost continent of Atlantis in a tomb nestled in ruins that had recently surfaced from the ocean floor. That survivor had proven to be Thunder Man, a super-powered champion who had been unable to prevent the Atlantean disaster. Seeking to atone for his failure, Thunder Man pledged to protect the modern world as he had his ancient homeland. The seemingly-unaging Thunder Man's amazing deeds would go on to become the stuff of legends as the decades progressed.

At least, that's how it went somewhere else.

Thunder Man is from a parallel Earth, not the one that Captain Satellite calls home. The two heroes first crossed paths when Hugo Beaumont hijacked Thunder Man from his proper universe and mesmerized him with the Hyper Hypno Coin. Captain Satellite and Thunder Man clashed until the Captain unwittingly uncovered the truth and freed his adversary from Beaumont's manipulation. The duo then joined forces to foil Beaumont's scheme.

Thunder Man repaid Captain Satellite months later, when he used his Volt Vimana craft to rescue the Captain after he had been stranded in the Unknown Zone. Since that day, the two have become true cross-dimensional allies. There are still occasions when they find themselves on opposite sides, such as the time they had to engage in a cosmic boxing match with the fate of Thunder Man's Earth at stake due to the machinations of the Astro-Giants. But usually, the pair teams up when they are on the same case.

For the record, Thunder Man had never heard of anyone named "Devil Dynamite" until he spent time on Captain Satellite's world. Whether this indicates that DD's point of origin is a different parallel Earth or that his story's veracity is suspect is a mystery.

Pity poor Thunder Man. He has been running around my shared universe for years, but only today does he earn his actual place in it.

Thunder Man began life as "Thunderboy", a prospective kid sidekick for Ultimate American. Deciding I didn't want to go down that avenue, I elected to alter him into "Thunder Man". Thunder Man was conceived as an adult contemporary of Ultimate American in the Golden and Silver Ages - one who had disappeared before the advent of Captain Satellite's career.

As I've alluded to in the past, I don't want to crowd Cap's world with too many extraneous superheroes. I never found any other characters I liked for this "vintage" backstory, and never especially warmed to Thunder Man either. I toyed with making him a villain, but it didn't seem to work. If I hadn't drawn him in 2007 as part of the Captain Satellite cast, I might have quietly dropped him altogether.

The compromise I ended up arriving at was to shift Thunder Man to a parallel Earth. This allows Cap the chance to interact with a veteran superhero without disrupting his own continuity. Thunder Man's status as a guest star maintains the dynamic of Cap's world very nicely.

Thunder Man is a hodegepodge of elements lifted and recombined from Superman, (the original) Captain Marvel, Sub-Mariner, and the Japanese hero Ogon Batto ("Golden Bat"). His helmet was literally a last-minute change when his profile picture was created, and adds a visual reference to characters like Blue Bolt and DC's first Starman.

Thanks to Sara Denny for Thunder Man's slogan.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shelly's Story

Part 1

I don't know why my hometown is called Boonland, but it's the perfect name for the place. If you want to see a classic example of the boondocks, it's Boonland, Texas.

Hi. My name is Shelly Ericson. This is my story. It's a little unusual.

I can't complain about my childhood. My parents made a nice life for me, and I was a good student in school. Notice I said “good,” not “great.” It's not that I'm not smart, but my mind was usually on other things. Beer, boys, and late night drives in my pick-up truck seemed more important than studying at the time. And even that stuff wasn't much better.

Yep, Boonland was a safe, peaceful place to grow up. It was also boring as hell.
My escape from the monotony was learning how to take care of myself. I started taking self-defense classes as a little girl, and never stopped developing those skills. My daddy taught me how to shoot a gun when I was 12. While the other girls were going gaga over the teen idol flavor of the week, I was practicing with my ninja throwing stars on a tree in my backyard.

I signed up for the Air Force after graduation, because I thought it would be the quickest ticket out of Boonland. I'll admit it - I had visions of excitement and adventure in my head, too. Well, the Air Force was fine, but it didn't turn out to be what I wanted after all. I didn't re-enlist when the time came, and I suddenly found myself...back in Boonland.

I needed something, but I didn't know what it was. I had been taking classes while I was in the USAF, so college looked like a good option. I applied all over the country, not really caring where I ended up as long as it was somewhere else. The waiting felt like it dragged on forever, but then I got one letter of admittance in particular that changed everything.

One month later, I said good-bye to Mom and Dad and boarded a plane bound for Major City.

Part 2

Major City University was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I'd always prided myself on my discipline, even when my priorities hadn't matched the priorities everyone else had for me. But in college, I was solely responsible for myself. I hadn't even had that in the Air Force. It took some adjustment.

One day, I happened to spot a flier posted outside one of my classrooms. It was for a scheduled speaking appearance on campus by Paul Mann. Paul Mann? Wow! He was world famous as the self-made millionaire inventor. He wasn't that much older than me! I ripped that flier down as I headed to class, just to make sure I wouldn't forget the date.

I made it into the front row of the auditorium as the crowd filed in for Paul Mann's talk. I say “crowd,” but it wasn't much of one. I didn't get it. This guy had hit the big time because of his brains, and done it before he even turned 30. Why wouldn't you want to hear what he had to say?

The speech was a good one, as far as we got into it. About halfway through, a man seated in the middle of the auditorium jumped up and pulled out a laser gun. “Three for victory!” he shouted as he threw up a three-fingered salute and fired at Mr. Mann. Mr. Mann ducked that shot, but the wildman bounded over people headed to the stage.

I guess training and instinct took over at that point. I don't exactly remember thinking that I had to cut off that guy and disarm him before he reached Paul Mann. I just did it. Next thing I knew, I had him on the floor, twisting his arm behind his back while I drove a knee into his neck. Security took it from there, but I had been the one who did the hard stuff.

Everything was hectic and confused after that, so I didn't notice until I made it back to my apartment that a business card had been shoved into my pocket. I pulled it out, and it was for Mann Creations - Paul Mann's company. On the back was a note written in pen: “Meet me @ Chez Café Wed @ 6 - Thx, P.” in Paul Mann? He wanted to meet me? To thank me? Over dinner?

Part 3

I kept that appointment, even though it was a little weird. OK, a lot weird. Still, Chez Café was a public place. What could it hurt?

When I got there, the cafe was one of those intimate little restaurants, which was kind of a surprise. I figured someone with Mr. Mann's money would go for the fancier places to eat. I just didn't realize how much he valued his privacy.

I was escorted to Mr. Mann's table, and we had a pleasant enough chat. He asked about me and my opinions on a lot of things, and actually listened to my answers. That was rare. I was impressed by what he had to say, especially since he made a point to look at my FACE while we were talking.

Finally, he leaned over and said, “Shelly, I'd like to make you an offer.”

Oh boy, here it comes. I knew this was too good to be true.

“I want to hire you as my personal assistant. But really, you'd...”

Uh huh, right, “personal assistant.” We all know the code. Thanks, but no thanks.

“ my bodyguard.”

Huh? That wasn't how I'd seen that sentence ending. I grilled Mr. Mann as to why he didn't already have regular bodyguards or personal assistants or in fact anybody. He claimed that they “hindered his work.” I asked him what that meant. He clammed up.

Sooo, what were the terms? Freedom to come and go as I pleased. Set my own hours. I didn't even have to follow him everywhere all the time. All he needed me to do was to assist him with his research, and give him pointers in self-defense when I was available. Bodyguard duties would be at my discretion. I'd be on the payroll for a lot of cash, and free to decide what my job description involved.

No hanky panky? “None.”

What about his personal life? “I don't have one.”

That was a surprise, too. I knew he'd been involved with that reporter Roxanne Prize for a couple of years, but that had ended badly. He'd sort of withdrawn socially since then, and some jerks in the media had even dubbed him “Captain Satellite.” They said it was because his mind was always in orbit, instead of on Earth. Creeps.

It was my turn to look into Paul Mann's eyes, and what I saw was a sincerity and genuineness that would have been hard to fake. Plus, he sure came across as really damn innocent for someone who was one of the richest people in the world. I chose to trust him, until he gave me a reason to hit the road. Maybe it was all a put-on, but I wanted to find out for myself. Besides, if this was real, it would be the sweetest job ever.

“Mr. Mann, you've got a deal,” I said, and we shook hands.

Part 4

Working for Paul - he insisted I drop the “Mr. Mann” business - was definitely different. For one, his estate is beautiful and ridiculous. He has peculiar tastes, and you can see it in his huge mansion. I'm still not sure I've been in every room of it.

For the first few months, I stopped by after classes when I had the chance. I'd help him out in his lab if he needed a hand, but more often than not, we'd end up in his gym or on the firing range. That was where I did my best to teach him how to fight, how to shoot, and lot of other physical activities that he'd never even tried. He told me that he'd always gotten by with his intellect, and that wasn't hard to believe after I'd seen how he held a gun or threw a punch before I got hold of him.

I decided that I should live up to the “bodyguard” part of my job description when my schedule allowed, and accompany Paul to some of his engagements. I always made sure that I was in front of him or discreetly behind him back then - we were never seen side by side, or God forbid, holding hands. It wasn't like that at all.

And it wasn't. I kept half-expecting Paul to make a move on me, but he never did. I would have been out the door if he had, but he always held true to his word. Eventually, I just took it for granted that he'd always be straight with me. He never disappointed me when it came to that.

Honestly, as the months passed, I found myself growing really fond of the guy. Yeah, he was rich and intelligent; I knew that before I met him. I also knew I found him really handsome, because I'd seen his picture enough. But there was something about that boyish charm and the wide-eyed way he viewed the world that was appealing. I felt a twinge of regret from time to time that, apparently, he had shut off “those” feelings entirely when Roxanne Prize had hurt him.

I graduated from MCU in record time, thank you very much, and used that as an excuse to hang around the mansion a lot more. I still kept my own apartment, but many a night, I slept over after marathon research or training sessions. In my own room, of course. Paul was nothing if not proper.

One particular evening, I found myself dozing off in front of the TV in the main living room when the mansion was rocked by an explosion. Jarred awake, I rushed through the halls, calling for Paul to make sure he was all right. What I ended up finding was nothing like what I expected.

Paul was fine...except covered in soot. One of his little projects had gone haywire and blown up. That was nothing new, even though they usually weren't so loud. The only difference was I found him in a secret underground lab when I accidentally triggered a doorway through the grandfather clock.

It turned out there was a whole complex beneath the mansion. It was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Boy, if I had only known then. I'd never seen Paul look so embarrassed, and I think he was really afraid I was going to quit right there. I was confused, but not really angry. What was all this about?

That was when Paul explained to me he intended to become a superhero.

Oh. Really?

Part 5

Paul Mann, my boss and the guy I had been sort of falling for, was designing a powersuit that would make his “Captain Satellite” nickname come true and turn him into a superhero. It was a lot to put together at four o'clock in the morning.

The way Paul explained it, he'd come up with the idea the day that lunatic had attacked him - the day I'd saved him. That man was an agent of some secret group called Third World, and they had threatened Paul in the past. That incident had been the first time they had ever tried to carry one of their threats out, but Paul was sure it wouldn't be the last. He'd hired me partially because he needed someone to prepare him for the action side of his idea, since he had the science part mastered.

“Partially? Why else did you hire me?” I asked.

“Because you're the first person in a long time I thought I could trust,” he replied. “I didn't tell you about this because it sounded too insane.”

He was right about that. But still, it did make a certain kind of sense. I agreed that night to help Paul make his Captain Satellite dream come true. Only now, I was fully in on the secret. We worked harder than ever, totally dedicated to making it happen. Weeks later, Paul activated his Wrist Changer (imagine a really cool watch) and it transmitted the uniform directly onto his body. I held my breath as he calmly stepped out his third story window and shot into the sky.

Ten minutes later, the new Captain Satellite returned from his first test flight. I swear, I don't think I've ever seen anyone smile bigger than Paul was when he took off that mask. He took me into his arms and hugged me. It was the first time he'd ever let his guard down enough to even manage something as simple as a hug.

The next four months were a whirlwind, as Captain Satellite made his official debut battling a Third World squadron that was holding the financial district hostage. Paul was even more in demand than ever, and the people who had made fun of him weren't talking anymore. He kept asking me if I wanted my own powersuit, but I always turned him down. I'd go along with this Captain Satellite business, but I wasn't about to wear a costume. I liked to handle problems a little more realistically.

That was what Paul - what Captain Satellite - needed. He needed something to connect him to reality, something that wasn't hopelessly caught up in out-of-this-world craziness. He needed someone to watch his back, because he still wasn't where he needed to be as a fighter. He needed...well, me. I was still his bodyguard, and I was going to make sure I earned that title.

Everything changed all over again when we found ourselves held captive in a flying saucer somewhere in the neighborhood of Neptune. Don't even ask how that happened. What you need to know is that Cap had been zapped by some sort of beam that had drained his suit's power and knocked him for a loop. As he lay on the cold floor of the spaceship, he crawled over to me. I can't remember a spot where it all felt so desperate and hopeless as it did at that moment.

“Shelly,” he gasped as I pulled him up. “If we don't make it out of this, I just want you to know...I love you.”

I responded to this by punching him. I wouldn't exactly call that one of my finest hours.

“Why did you wait until now?” I screamed. “And we are getting out of this! You aren't giving up!”

We did get out of it, of course. I mean, I'm telling you about it today. And when we got home, I yanked that silly mask of his off and kissed Paul Mann for the very first time. It was worth the wait.

If you had told me when I was on that plane flying from Texas to Major City that someday I was going to be a superhero's partner, and an action hero in my own right, I would have told you that you had lost your mind. If you had added that I'd wind up with a boyfriend who was one of the richest and most intelligent men on Earth, I would have laughed in your face. It was all way too unbelievable. But it happened.

Excitement? Adventure? I've gotten them in spades. I wouldn't trade this life for anything.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Toho Classic Sci-Fi Top 10

Last year, I ranked My Top 10 Godzilla movies, according to my own highly subjective criteria. That list, as you'll recall, only covered the "classic" period of the character. I thought it could be fun to make a similar list for Toho's non-Godzilla SF movies from that timeframe. To make this easier to manage, I included the qualifications that the movie had to have an English version available, and it had to be from 1955 to 1970. Things start to get a little fuzzy in the 1970s with disaster movies and such. There is one Toho film from that decade that I feel belongs with my classic era, and so I'll give an HONORABLE MENTION to :

THE WAR IN SPACE - Toho's STAR WARS cash-in managed to also make it into (Japanese) theaters in 1977. At heart, this flick is more a callback to things like ATRAGON and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE than Lucas' franchise. I'm sure I will be unable to resist covering it in more depth in future times, but suffice to say that I like this movie a lot despite the fact that it isn't a patch on any of the movies it wants to emulate. It has its feet firmly entrenched in Toho's old school, and I appreciate that a lot.

Now then, here we go with MY...


10 - THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (1960) : Talk about kicking off with an obscurity! I can't help it - I have a fondness for this flick featuring a fadeaway felon. Yes, I did that on purpose.

9 - BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959) : Well, this one might rank higher with its amazing SPFX if I cared much about the characters. Chalk part of the problem up to the somnambulant English dubbing for the U.S. version.

8 - ATRAGON (1963) : Who doesn't love flying supersubmarines? Too bad Manda was only an afterthought, or it could have been even more epic!

7 - MOTHRA (1961) : Certified classic, with great performances and an enchanting story. Not only has Mothra grown on me over the years, but so have the Peanuts.

6 - THE MYSTERIANS (1957) : The grand finale battle is a touch static at times, but I have a lot of fond memories of this one from my old VHS with garish color and warbly sound.

5 - KING KONG ESCAPES (1967) : Loosely based on the 1960s Kong cartoon, and also (I believe) the first Japanese monster movie I ever saw.

4 - THE H-MAN (1958) : This type of film usually isn't the sort that rates this high for me, but there is a lot to like about it as far as I'm concerned. That it is genuinely creepy in places is a nice bonus.

3 - RODAN (1956) : Toho's first color monster movie is still one of my favorites. I'd say it's one of my favorite 1950s sci-fi movies, period.

2 - FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965) : Nick Adams! Kumi Mizuno! Frankenstein! And a random giant monster, because what the hell, why not? Essential.

1 - DOGORA THE SPACE MONSTER (1964) : Boy howdy, I'm sure I'd get flak over this selection if anyone really cared much what I wrote here. I just can't help it, though - I LOVE this movie. It wants to be a perfectly ordinary gangster movie, but the damn giant space jellyfish keeps showing up. And what more can be said about Mark Jackson, Diamond G-Man? How about that I wish someone would write his further adventures?

Here's the rest of the movies that didn't quite make it. For the most part, I approve of all of these films!

HALF HUMAN (1955/1958)
GORATH (1962)

And though I don't really consider it "sci-fi", I'll also toss in a mention of THE LAST WAR (1961).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anatomy of a Crisis

April 21, 2010 was a very good day. Why? Well, one reason was that a certain book I've discussed here went on sale. That's right - Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5 is now in my hands.

Did it live up to my expectations? Oh, I'd say it pretty much did. I mean, I know the stories (see linked entry in the first paragraph), so I knew what I was getting in terms of content. The reproduction is the aspect that was the biggest question mark, and for the most part, it's fine. I have a couple of quibbles here and there, but nothing I'd tag major. My biggest beef is that I wish the people who reconstruct artwork would sit back and READ THE PAGE when they are done. C'mon guys, creating new typos (or the appearance of them) is just sloppy. But if that's my biggest beef, well, I'd call that a good day overall.

You can see the exquisite cover at the DC link. Regrettably, there is a paucity of extras for this volume. No extra pin-ups, reprinted letters, or even a text piece beyond the creator bios. I'm not complaining, but that kind of stuff has always made these particular books even better deals. Guess there just wasn't enough pages to go around this time.

If you love the classic teamings of the Justice League and Justice Society, or are just perversely curious to see Jonah Hex riding a flying horse, this is a book for you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Message from Space

The single most important thing to remember about MESSAGE FROM SPACE is that it is ridiculous. I realize no one would ever accuse any STAR WARS movie of being "hard science", but in paying tribute to/ripping off STAR WARS, MESSAGE FROM SPACE manages to go even further over the top. This is not necessarily meant to be a derogatory statement, though you can interpret it however you wish. Point is, I love MESSAGE FROM SPACE and find it to be marvelous entertainment. Whether that is in spite of or because of its inherent ridiculousness is something I choose not to contemplate.

As mentioned above, MESSAGE FROM SPACE came about in the heady atmosphere of the late 1970s STAR WARS craze. Toho had already managed to crank out their response in 1977 with THE WAR IN SPACE. In 1978, it was Toei's turn. They went for something that looked at least a bit more genuinely lavish than Toho's rushed effort. They brought in Shotaro Ishimori (no "no" yet) for designs, and hired a director with some international epic experience (Kinji Fukusaku had previously worked on both THE GREEN SLIME and TORA! TORA! TORA!). But it's in the casting that MESSAGE really shines, and may be at its most loopy.

Not sure on the specifics of how or why, but Toei snagged authentic Hollywood actors for their space movie. While I doubt Philip Casnoff and Peggy Lee Brennan's names meant much to most moviegoers, Vic Morrow's sure did. Morrow plays a character who is inebriated through much of the film, and I've read accounts that he went for the method style of inhabiting that part. Even with that, he's amazingly fun to watch as "General Garuda".

The Japanese cast is pretty good, too. I have to say, Toei cheated a little bit in this respect in that the two biggest "names" in Japan - Tetsuro Tanba and Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba - don't show up until over an hour into the film. Chiba has a decent-sized role for such a latecomer, but Tanba's part is basically a highly-billed cameo. The bulk of the screentime for the Japanese players goes to relative youngsters Hiroyuki Sanada and Etsuko Shiomi. They are great, though their fighting skills aren't spotlighted as much as one would hope. Makoto Sato also gets a significant character, and I'll bet even a lot of people in the know in the U.S. wouldn't recognize him from THE H-MAN.

The plot of the movie involves the evil Gavanas who have conquered the planet Jillucia and then set their sights on EARTH! There are spaceships, laser beams, and swords aplenty. There's also kookier things like the space seeds (look like glowing walnuts), space cops with sirens on top of their spacecraft, and that outfit Vic Morrow wears as an envoy. Sheesh! I won't go into the daffier parts of the movie, but trust me, you will have no trouble picking them out.

MESSAGE FROM SPACE is more an SF adaptation of the famous SATOMI HAKKENDEN (aka "Legend of the Eight Samurai") than a straight-up copy of STAR WARS. Makes sense - Toho looked to ATRAGON and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE as the template for their version. Not to worry though - there is plenty in this movie to send the clear signal that you should be thinking of STAR WARS. Cutesy robot? Check. Imposing caped bad guy in a black armor? Check. Princess? Check. Characters named "Prince Hans" and "Meia"? Ch-ch-ch-check! No kidding gang - the climactic sequences were the first part of the movie I ever got to see (via a weak signal from a Houston TV station), and I was floored by how close they stuck to STAR WARS at times. They flattered George Lucas and company a LOT at certain points.

I come to praise MESSAGE FROM SPACE, though, not to bury it. I'd call it one of my favorite 1970s Japanese sci-fi movies, ranking right up there with the Godzilla movies of the era. That's part of why I'm writing this review, because seeing it available on DVD got my attention.

Oh, that will require an explanation. I got an e-mail from Amazon indicating that they were carrying MESSAGE FROM SPACE on DVD. This was a surprise, because I had heard nothing about such a release in North America. Well, I wasn't crazy. Amazon had a HONG KONG DVD of the film listed. Hmmmmm. This raised my suspicions more than a little, due to all the spurious "Hong Kong" (often actually from Taiwan) DVDs in circulation. Still, when Amazon finally listed the disc as available, I decided to risk it. The worst that could happen was that I would get a bum disc or that they would cancel the order.

Neither of those things happened. I really did get the DVD, and it really is excellent. It is anamorphic widescreen, with language options for both Japanese and English. Available subtitles are Chinese and English. The English ones are just adequate at best, but that is miles and away better than I was thinking I might get. The picture quality is where the thing shines, though. It is absolutely stunning. There are a couple of spots where the film print itself gets weird, but the video quality is really nice.

Is it legit? I am leaning towards "Yes, this is a licensed release", but I'll admit that I don't know for sure. It carries © Toei on both the disc and the packaging, and that's a big point in its favor. Still, there are always going to be questions about an "ALL REGION" Hong Kong release. It does come with an English track that wouldn't be available (I think?) on the Japanese release, so that means it's not just a direct copy. I'll await someone to clue me in with further insight one way or another. I don't think this DVD is a bootleg, but I have no proof that it ISN'T one, either.

Extras : yes, there are some. Three trailers for MESSAGE are included. The first was apparently cut while the movie was still in production, and is the most intriguing. It includes a number of tantalizing glimpses of the initial press conference, and even shows the three American stars arriving at the airport. It includes some English voiceover (hello, William Ross!) and a Morrow/Tanba scene that is completely different than what was included in the final version. There's also trailers for a racy film SEX & FURY and a short one for BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL.

I can recommend MESSAGE FROM SPACE the movie as an entertaining bit of crazy sci-fi cinema. I can also recommend this DVD I watched of it. Judge for yourself whether it is what it claims. Here is the Amazon page for it. Order in good health, friends!

*NOTE : I did experience a glitch in the English subtitles near the end where they first started lagging and then froze entirely. I switched to the Chinese, switch BACK to English, and returned to the point where the problem started. The subtitles displayed normally. Just a tip if you encounter the same hiccup.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My World : Elektroid


Mad scientist Dr. Sandor Varkoff had the best plan of his life. He had created an electronic android - an "Elektroid", in his terminology - that was powered by its own mini-generator. He would send his Elektroid to disrupt the set of a movie being produced by one of Paul Mann's corporations and demand a sizable sum of money to prevent further such attacks. Yes, this was his best plan ever. We told you he was "mad,", didn't we?

Unfortunately for Dr. Varkoff, his plan hit a series of snags :

1) Paul Mann and Shelly Ericson were visiting the set the day Elektroid arrived. That meant the robot's rampage was challenged by the might of Captain Satellite and his more-than-capable partner.

2) Elektroid had a design flaw that caused it to short-circuit. This did not disable it, but instead allowed the machine to discharge excess power from its generator via its computer brain. This development would have been advantageous if not for...

3) The short-circuit and subsequent power bursts irreparably altered Elektroid's computer brain. When the robot cornered film starlet Kimber Rachelle, it did not attack her as ordered. It instead realized it was being used for evil purposes and permanently broke its original programming.

Captain Satellite and Elektroid joined forces to locate Dr. Varkoff's secluded lab and fended off the mad scientist's last ditch efforts to stop them with prototypes hastily converted into Elektroids nos. 2-5. But when the case was over, there was yet another snag. Elektroid had developed free will, and he was still around - faulty artificial brain and all.

Captain Satellite's solution was to introduce Elektroid to the Invincible Alliance and recommend the electronic man as his replacement on the roster. Although Blue Behemoth grumbled a little that Cap was using the IA to "babysit" the robot, the entire membership welcome Elektroid with open arms. In time, Elektroid was accepted by the public due to his association with the respected Alliance.

Today, Elektroid, nicknamed "The Robot With The Exploding Brain!" by the hyperbolic press, continues to seek his place in a world never meant for something - someONE - like him. He has kept in touch with Kimber Rachelle since their first encounter, and though both deny being more than "just friends", there are those who wonder.

I have always had a soft spot for robot heroes, so it naturally follows that I have created a bunch of them. Elektroid (or "Electroid" as I sometimes spelled it) came about in junior high/high school, and was actually my top character for a brief period of time. He first appears as a "brand-new type of hero" alongside my elementary school characters, then eventually replaced them as the centerpiece of my hero adventures. His daydream potential was far more limited than the refurbished Captain Satellite, though, so Elektroid's reign was short-lived before the emphasis shifted to Cap.

The period of time when Elektroid rose and fell was a curious one in my maturation process. No longer was it enough for the bad guys to be caught and arrested; instead, they had to be shot, stabbed, burned, fried, and occasionally blown to pieces. I outgrew the penchant for gratuitous violence, but those drawings are a startling window to peer through today. Elektroid was no less ruthless in his pursuit of justice than any of my other heroes, and his capacity to hurl lightning bolts out of his head got plenty of use.

In reclaiming Elektroid as part of the Captain Satellite world proper, I've toned down any excessive tendencies he once displayed. That just doesn't interest me anymore. Instead, I've finally given him some background, and the potential to grow a little as a character.

I cannot place any specific influences that led to Elektroid, other than the many robot heroes I'd seen in comics growing up. The current look of his exposed computer brain, however, is definitely inspired by the Japanese hero Kikaida. I'd never even heard of Kikaida when I created Elektroid, but they are definitely of the same mold.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

April 2010 was one of my most creatively fertile months in quite some time, so that makes it a little disappointing that I closed it out under the weather and unable to continue that hot streak in any meaningful way. Bah. I have managed to string together some stuff over the last couple of days, but not much. Oh well, that gives me more to do in the months to come.

I have picked up some things over the last couple of weeks that I am planning to discuss here. Right now, I'm still forming my opinions about them. Be on the lookout for some new product reviews, including the culmination of a three year wait. Yes, really.

You will also be seeing further glimpses into the madcap world of Captain Satellite, via the publication of some pieces that were composed in April but saved for later. I didn't want to inundate this blog with too many profiles, you see. May will see the revamped 2007 entries conclude. After that? Well, you know if you follow my deviantArt account. Word to the wise and all that jazz.

There are other things brewing here at OWARI HQ, but nothing I care to disclose publicly right now. Keep an eye out for some potentially interesting news over the next few months. Oh, and a milestone that might be important to, like, a dozen people other than me.