Friday, July 30, 2010

Anime Fanfiction & Superhero Sausages

I check the referral links for this blog from time to time. Usually, I don't see anything worth noting. Hey, I'm still pretty obscure, so that's no surprise. But every once in awhile, I come across something fascinating.

Perhaps my MOST fascinating discovery was when I stumbled across this post on an anime message board. Press the "Show" button in that message and you will see a piece of fanfiction that uses this entry of mine as a springboard. And it's actually pretty interesting, though I have no knowledge of the series in question.

I spoke to the author briefly in IM the night I found this story to compliment his work and tell him that I planned on linking to it here. I do get the idea he might have been less familiar with the Ultra genre, as the references geared to that type of series seem to be the most puzzling to his characters. Except for the bit about sausages, which leaves them dumbfounded.

I suppose I should explain that one. The sausage thing dates back to when I was watching a lot of Toei series on VHS tapes that were recorded from TV airings with the commercials still intact. Among the outrageous ads I saw were commercials for superhero sausages like this one included in a set of METALDER commercials. It was the sort of thing that screamed to be parodied.

Amazingly, Marudai is still marketing superhero sausages, as you'll learn if you watch this video. Now, I don't know about you, but at about the four minute mark of that video, I was chanting "EAT THE SAUSAGE, EAT THE SAUSAGE!"

I am sure this is an entry filled with knowledge that none of you needed. You are welcome. And don't forget to read the story!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Fear

If you have been following the OWARI blog from the beginning (not applicable to my FB and LJ feeds, sorry), you may have noticed that I have only exceeded 20 entries for a month once. That was 22 in March 2009, the third month of the blog's existence. Since then, I've never even hit 20. Until today.

This has not been an accident. Part of this is because I have a perhaps irrational fear that I will burn through a bunch of good material quickly, and then be stuck trying to figure out content for the blog. That was part of the problem for the next 3 months after that 22 post flurry. But only part of it.

I also have a definitely irrational fear that going over 20 is indicative that something is wrong with my personal life and I'm compensating. I even expressed this to a friend a few months ago, saying, "If I go over 20 in a month, you might want to get worried." This has its roots in what was happening in my life away from the creative side of things in 2009, because things WERE wrong and I WAS compensating. Since then, I've had a quiet dread that if hit the 20 entry mark, I was jinxing myself.

Well, today I am casting aside this notion by posting this entry - the 20th for July 2010. I may even manage another for the month. I'd rather not let my efforts here be manipulated by something that clearly has no bearing on reality, especially as OWARI will be getting more attention than ever now that the ROJ story is finished.

What I don't want is to be one of those blogs that starts out with a flourish of activity and a huge volume of posts and then tails off as it gradually dies. You've seen that blog. I've seen that blog. And while I don't know how long this forum will last in the long run, I don't want it to be that blog. I'd prefer to be consistent and build an audience (such as it is) gradually instead of going for the gusto and then losing interest.

So, hello. This is the 20th entry of the month. How are you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


If you follow my Twitter account, you might have seen me making an unexplained countdown over the last few months. Well, early this morning, I declared that I was done. Again, I didn't say with what. So what's this all been about?

It's been about Return of Jetman, actually. I was counting down the number of sequences I had left to complete the final story in this ongoing saga. And if you can put two and two together, you realize that at approximately 1:45 this morning, I finished what I have been referring to as "principal writing" in my notes for this project.

Yes, it's done. It's been proofread. I just printed out a hard copy, and I'll be checking over that too. There's still the chance that things will need to be changed somewhere along the way. That's normal. But the heavy lifting - the actual writing of the story and making sure it has a beginning, middle, and end - well, it's finished.

I've written a lot about ROJ, in addition to writing a lot of it, and obviously, that's not going to change. It does beg the question of how I feel at this moment. What's it like to finally reach the point where the hardest part of a project is done?

I'm ready. Ready for it to reach this seriously belated conclusion. Make no mistake, I'm pretty proud of what I have in my hands. The file for this piece of work is the single largest text file for any story I've written in this cycle. But I've expended a huge amount of time and brainpower to get here. I'm ready for it all to be out there for the people to see. Whether they like it or not is another matter entirely. Sure hope so.

Alas, I must leave you tantalized for awhile. The site's schedule is set up and I am loathe to try to jump the gun. We're currently at Episode 9 of the first ROJ series, and reaching a rather critical juncture in the narrative. The new series won't be returning to the site until September.

So, mark your calendars now, friends! New Return of Jetman Episode 7 - "Just Imagine!" will be making its premiere on October 26, 2010. I know that's three months away, but the journey there is going to be very interesting indeed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25, 1981

July 25, 1981

July 25, 1981

I look at this picture, and it is hard for me to understand that this was almost 30 years ago. Many of the people I count as friends today didn't even exist at this moment in time. I still remember what it was like to be this 9 year old - both the good and the bad. In some ways, I envy him. But in others, I am glad I never have to go back.

The toy is a Kraken from CLASH OF THE TITANS. The Kraken made his home in our attic for many years, but along the way, I promised him to my friend Eric if I ever decided to part with him. That day came a couple of years later, but I had a little bit of trouble catching up with Eric to pass it along to him. This led to the comedic sight of the Kraken tagging along in the trunk of my car! When I finally gave Eric the Kraken, his eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. He told me that he still occupies a place of honor on his shelf. I think Eric has gotten even more joy out of the Kraken than I ever did.

Have a good day, folks. No, seriously. It's my day. I command it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why I Loved Sheena Easton

For the record, this entry is about a subject I hadn't thought about in a long, long time until my memory was jogged by a discussion over at Witless Prattle. If you're thinking that's an endorsement of the Prattle, it totally is.

Sheena Easton's A Private Heaven just happened to be released when I was 12 years old. That little bit of serendipity meant that as soon as I laid eyes on that album cover, Sheena shot up to number one on my mental list of hottest female celebrities. She stayed there for awhile, too. I didn't know much of anything about Sheena Easton prior to 1984, but I knew that in addition to being in love with her picture on A Private Heaven, I was crazy about the song "Strut".

You should listen to (and watch) "Strut" if you never have. The video isn't much, Sheena's moves aren't much, but I really didn't care. She was gorgeous, her voice was killer, and the song was assertive and yet sexually-charged. It's not deep, but I was 12 and didn't know that. To me, at that time, "Strut" was really daring. And then, the next single was "Sugar Walls".

Yes, "Sugar Walls", the Prince-penned ode to subtlety. Well, that one did it. I had to buy the cassette of A Private Heaven for myself. And I really liked it! It wasn't brilliant or life-changing, but it was fun pop music.

After "Sugar Walls" ran its course, "Swear" was the next single from this pivotal album in my life. You will notice that the video quality is noticeably poorer than the previous two linked videos. That is because the first two singles are available on the official EMI Music channel, but "Swear" is not. That is because "Swear" stalled big time on the charts, and vanished after some minor radio airplay.

I guess that is what happened with my infatuation with Sheena Easton, too. It burned brightly, and then it quietly went away. I still liked her, and even picked up some of her later material. But somehow, it just wasn't quite the same. Maybe it was the ridiculous (and old) TV special starring her that I remember anticipating so much and finding so disappointing. But for whatever reason, Sheena went from being number one to one of numbers.

Still, old habits die hard sometimes. What was one of the very first CDs I bought for myself? This one. And I did it without a shred of irony.

I still get the urge to listen to it sometimes, too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Lemon Cowgirl" by Kabuki Katze (2005)

Lemon Cowgirl by Kabuki Katze (2005)

This particular picture has been absent from the Internet for a little while, as Kabuki Katze removed it from her deviantArt account some time ago as no longer representative of her capabilities. If I know her, I am sure she is wincing a little to see this older piece of hers. That said, "Lemon Cowgirl" is a vital moment in the evolution of the Captain Satellite cast. It was only the second time one of those characters was handled by hands other than mine, and it was the first such piece that directly influenced my handling of that world.

It all started on Aug. 12, 2005, when I was one of several recipients of a private message from Kabuki. It seemed she wanted to thank us for our individual contributions to her account by doing giftart for each of us. Well, that was deeply flattering for me, and I pondered a good subject for this little gift.

Ordinarily at that time, I probably would have immediately asked for something pertaining to Return of Jetman. However, it just so happened that Kabuki had recently finished off a rather large and challenging commission project for ROJ. So tossing more such stuff her way so soon didn't sound especially like something she would have wanted. And honestly, I felt like I should use this opportunity for something a little more creative. That is when I thought of Shelly Ericson.

We've discussed the genesis of Shelly in the past, but in 2005, she had yet to be so much as mentioned online. That was mostly because I didn't have the confidence yet to write stories with those characters, and my attempts to draw her were wanting. But I had ideas for her - in fact, her present incarnation was already starting to take shape. I decided, after much uncertainty over the years, that a good outfit for her would be something similar to that worn by Naomi Morinaga as "Annie" on UCHU KEIJI SHAIDER. That led to the concept of twisting Shaider's relationships around to create the Cap/Shelly dynamic, and establishing Shelly as the better action hero no matter who had the super suit.

In explaining Shelly to Kabuki, I kept it brief : 1) attractive (dur!), 2) brown hair, and 3) an outfit similar to "Annie", with a link. Kabuki chose to use Annie's movie outfit (seen here) as her inspiration, rather than the more familiar TV colors (seen here). That is how yellow became one of the prominent colors in many of Shelly's subsequent outfits.

Kabuki used Imani Coppola's "Legend of a Cowgirl" as another inspiration when doing this picture, due to the neo-Western theme I'd sort of given her. This inadvertently played right into my (still secret) plans for Shelly when Kabuki added the line "Good as any man" to flesh out the piece. Seriously, she couldn't have read my mind any better if she were psychic.

I don't know why Kabuki chose to illustrate Shelly in the style of a Nagel girl, other than perhaps she wanted to give that a go. It's sexy, isn't it? I can't see the current version of Shelly being in such a pose, but nobody knew enough about her when this prototype was created for it to make a difference. That includes me, by the way.

I seem to recall one or two commenters not understanding the Nagel influence when this was originally posted September 3, 2005, but it was mostly well-received. I know I was tickled by it. I promised Kabuki that I would find a place for it on my site one day. Well, it took almost five years, but this is the day.

"Lemon Cowgirl" disappeared for awhile, but its influence was deep. At last, I had seen Shelly through someone else's eyes, and that opened me up to more possibilities with the character. When I drew Shelly in 2007, and when Sara wanted to draw Shelly that same year, I pointed to "Lemon Cowgirl" as the starting point. Shelly has since grown as a character through the work done by Kabuki, Sara, and I, and this piece really doesn't quite fit that identity. BUT, that identity wouldn't be possible without "Lemon Cowgirl".

Besides, I can totally see this as a glamour painting hanging over Captain Satellite's mantle. Can't you?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Age of Assassins

Trailer for 殺人狂時代 ("The Age of Assassins")

THE AGE OF ASSASSINS (殺人狂時代 - "Satsujin Kyo Jidai" in Japan) is one of the best movies I've ever watched that I also freely confess to not quite understanding. I picked it up on VHS long ago because of its tangential relationship to Japanese sci-fi, and usually, watching unsubtitled Japanese SF movies is not really an issue. Well, as I viewed this film, it dawned on me that it wasn't really an SF movie at all, but more a black comedy mixed with liberal doses of artistry, psychology, and action. I suspect it's difficult if you HAVE a translation handy, or even if you're fluent in the language. A cursory Google search seems to reveal that there are fan subtitles floating around out there, and if I ever purchase the film on DVD (it's on the short list!), I may need to to look into them.

THE AGE OF ASSASSINS is a directorial effort of Kihachi Okamoto, one of the great Japanese film directors. Seriously, you should look into his body of work that's available in this country. The star is Tatsuya Nakadai, who really shows off his range and versatility in his role. Also on hand are Eisei Amamoto, Reiko Dan, and Hideo Sunazuka. Amamoto is properly sinister, and yet at the same time affable - the kind of thing he did so well. Dan, not as revered by Western fanboys as Kumi Mizuno and Mie Hama due to her not being in monster movies, makes a wonderful heroine- if you can call anyone in this movie any derivative of "hero". And Sunazuka? I only knew of him from GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, and his character in THE AGE OF ASSASSINS has a lot in common with "Nita". There are plenty of other familiar faces from tokusatsu lurking through the movie, too.

If you've watched the trailer, you've seen the amazing camerawork and photography. You've noticed the stylish art direction, and heard the memorable Masaru Sato score. So I'll just take a moment to mention the darkly hilarious animated opening titles which are not hinted at in the preview. They are perverse and cute at the same time. I mean, at one point, the kanji for "hachi" in Kihachi Okamoto's name is represented by an 8 ball!

THE AGE OF ASSASSINS seems like a prime candidate for a belated subtitled release on one of the prestige or arthouse labels out there. It's obscure, it's fantastic, and it's a movie more people need to see. Hopefully, that will happen someday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Into The 'Zine Zone

Recently, my pal David of Xenorama fame has been entertaining the notion of reviving the fanzine of the same name. I'm all aboard for this idea, and not just because it would mean my name in print again. (Well, there is that, too.) No, Xenorama was one of the more entertaining fanzines I read back in the 1990s, so it would be really keen to have it back - even for just one issue.

By sheer co-inky-dink, I was doing some tidying the other day and unearthed my cache of copies of MY 'zine, the ever-obscure OWARI. Despite structuring the later issues so that I could produce them on demand, I resolved to put the whole thing on the shelf around 2006 or so. Naturally, most of what I have is from the 21st century period of the 'zine, but I STILL have a copy of #2 from 1996!

So, will I be deciding to revive the print version of my own fanzine? Well, never say never, but I just don't see it happening. OWARI never managed to garner much interest even in its heyday, and that was when fanzines were still in fashion. I mean, I was essentially giving them away at the end, and I still couldn't get people to take them. I will never forget leaving a stack on the counter at my local comic shop and the only time I ever saw someone pick one up...was to use as scratch paper to write themself a note. Bit deflating, that.

Besides, I abandoned OWARI as a fanzine in 2002. The only reason I even did that last issue in 2005 was to give a sense of closure to the run. Even that didn't work out so well in the end, but I'm glad I did that last issue. I think it got my last lingering desire to do a fanzine out of my system.

Of course, just because I'm not going to do OWARI as a fanzine again doesn't mean that there might not be alternative ideas that come into play. We'll just have to wait and see.

And yes, one of these days, I'm going to get around to doing entries on my old fanzines.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Marvelman Family's Finest #1

So yes, I bought Marvelman Family's Finest #1. Point of fact, I bought it twice. If you'll check out the GCD cover gallery for that issue, I am now the owner of copies with the first two covers. I could have bought the third one too, but I elected to pass. Not that it's not good, but I figured my comic shop might only get a sale to somebody with that "collector's variant". They still had plenty of copies of the regular cover when I showed up.

I alluded to the Marvelman/Miracleman situation a bit in our discussion of Power Comics last month. Marvel is currently claiming the rights and have reverted the character to his original moniker. This is, naturally, not even close to the end. Seems the stories authored by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman (the ones most people actually want) are still in dispute. I have a feeling that Marvel has only gone ahead with their current publishing plans for Marvelman to get him back into the market and to demonstrate good faith in their dealings with original creator Mick Angelo. I can't imagine they are reprinting the 1950s stories of the MM characters because of any perceived overwhelming demand, that's for sure.

This comic is the first shot across the bow for Marvel's revival of Marvelman. And, uh, it's kind of amazing. Just probably not the way you would hope. See, beneath those glossy covers promising unbridled coolness, you find 40 black and white newsprint pages of a bizarro offbrand clone of the original Captain Marvel and his family. There's such thrilling storytelling as this :

(It's not much better in context, by the way.)

(It's not much better in context, by the way.)

It's not as if any of this should be a surprise. Just, I find it remarkable that it's happening in 2010, and it's ostensibly Marvel's centerpiece for this property. I'm not going to tax my noggin or yours by going through a laundry list of how these stories aren't even classics of their era. They have a certain primitive charm to them, though, and they made ME smile. I just don't see them winning new converts to this property. That's why I think this is just a placeholder until they can roll out the stuff that made Marvelman and company one of the hottest legal issues in recent comics memory.

Is Marvelman Family's Finest #1 a huge waste of Marvel's assets? Oh, I don't know. I liked it, but I'm not going out of way to make sure I get every issue. Only the long-term fortunes of the character will show us if it was one of Marvel's biggest publishing goofs or not. Besides :

Well said, gentlemen.  Well said.<br />

Well said, gentlemen. Well said.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Firegirl's Internet Diary

Entry for July 7, timestamped 03:16 A.M. EDT

Wow! Today was certainly an eventful day! It was also way more entertaining than I would have guessed.

I woke up at about 10 this morning and reluctantly pulled myself out of bed. God, I so wanted to lay around after we foiled those aliens with heads that looked like hamburgers last night. All I got out of that case was a craving for late night burgers and learning that drive-thru windows really will wait on Air Cars.

Oh, but I paid for it. I stumbled into the the bathroom and fumbled in the medicine cabinet for my indigestion medicine. I downed some as I turned on the shower and leaned against the wall. I rubbed sleep from my eyes as the water got insanely hot. Well, hot for a normal person. For me, it was no problem.

The medicine started working on my upset stomach as I stood under the shower head and let the water cascade over me. I had a soothing, peaceful shower - no Blue Behemoth buzzing me on the intercom for something "urgent", hoping to get me in the halls in my bathtowel. Still, the big lug is just so cute that I play along. Besides, the attention is nice after a couple of years there of living like a nun.

Getting dressed is always an adventure for super folks, but fortunately, my Firegirl costume is, ahem, skimpy enough that it doesn't interfere with fashion. That's important! As I was getting ready, I went to grab the Pyro Pistol and put it in my purse before I stopped myself with a chuckle. It hasn't been necessary for a long time after that whole "Volcano Monsters" incident, but old habits die hard.

I headed to the hangar to hop into my Official Invincible Alliance Air Car™ for my book signing and saw that the boys were already at work. Drone Man was pointing to something on a blueprint Ultimate American was examining, while Elektroid held the prototype new model Air Car aloft. I asked them where BB was and D Man guessed that he was watching the kung-fu movie marathon on TV. Ah, that gorilla man.

I called Shelly up as I jetted to the bookstore, and we had a pleasant chat. We even set up a lunch for next week! It's still awkward sometimes between us, because Shelly is really protective of Paul and, well, there's that history. I can't blame her for being leery of me after what happened years ago. Every day, I wish I could take back what I did, but that's just not possible. Paul and I have mended things as best we can, and I'm so happy that he met someone like Shelly. Now, I just have to earn her trust.

The signing got started right on schedule at noon, and it was such a thrill to meet so many people who love my book. One thing that irks me is how some critics label me a "vapid party girl". Look, I'll cop to "party girl" sometimes, but "vapid"? Please! Are they forgetting who I am? I was a reporter long before I was Firegirl, and even if that career didn't work out, I'm no idiot. No one calls Roxanne Prize's intelligence into question! It's vindicating to have my book chronicling the Invincible Alliance's most amazing cases sitting on the Major City Courier's bestseller list.

There was one guy there got my attention during the signing, but not in a good way. Have you ever met anyone you'd describe as "oily"? This was that guy. He sort of oozed up through the line, and something about him reeked of sleaze as he slide his book to me. Look, I worked for some sleazy types out in El Oceano, I know what I'm talking about here. But not even those west coast lowlifes set off my alarms like the person who introduced himself as "Alex Royce". I crossed my fingers that he didn't catch the chill he gave me (ME!) as I went to add my autograph to his copy of my book. Strangely, he'd opened it specifically to the Rogues Gallery section for my signature. Ugh. I scrawled my name quickly and handed the book back to him, offering my best fake smile.

The rest of the signing was uneventful, but that "Alex Royce" kept milling around well after he'd been through the line. I kept one eye on him as I greeted my fans. Yeah, he was definitely casing the place, or creating a diversion. Only why? It wasn't even like we were at a big chain bookstore; I'd deliberately chosen an independent to increase their business. Then I remembered the owner telling me about the rare books upstairs, including first editions of works by Calvin Major. Any one of those would fetch a fortune on the black market.

After the event was over, I procrastinated and socialized, just to watch the mysterious Mr. Royce. Sure enough, I spotted him trying to surreptitiously make his move up the stairs, and I followed him. I grabbed his shoulder from behind and notched the heat of my grip a few degrees.

"Honey, the party's down here," I cooed as I tilted my head.

Royce must have known then he was busted, because he pushed me away and broke into a mad dash up the stairs. I raced after him, doffing my civilian clothes and donning my mask as I did. Sure hope I didn't jumpstart any kids into puberty.

When I made it to the second floor, I was in full Firegirl regalia. As I soon learned when a bullet whizzed past me, my new friend had also brought a change of clothes. Except there was nothing "new" about this "friend".

"Phantom Rogue!" I exclaimed as he stepped out of the shadows. Never one for modesty (yeah yeah, I should talk), he couldn't resist taking a bow.

"We meet again, Firegirl," he intoned in that peculiar voice of his. "You saw through my deception. Well done."

Ordinarily, I would have immediately thrown a fireball at the clown. Do you know why I didn't? Right - I was in a BOOKSTORE. It would be sort of dumb to incinerate priceless books while trying to prevent their theft. So I held back.

"I should tell you," the Rogue continued, "that my accomplice has already secured my prize."

It was true. The Phantom Rogue was waving a musty-looking book in my face, taunting me. I inched forward, but the Rogue cocked his gun at me.

"As you may remember, I am a gentleman," he said.

"Oh really?" I countered in exasperation. "Funny, you didn't mention that when you were tying me up and dangling me over a tentacle monster!"

I swear to you, I saw him grin beneath that ghost hood of his. "Instead of fighting you, Spookette will do the honors."

That was when the Rogue's accomplice showed herself. Yes, herself. She was a redhead like me, but her cute face was framed by a pair of glasses. She otherwise wore a white costume just like the Rogue's, but it was a whole different story on a girl's body. It's a shame she's a criminal, because she has a hell of a nice rack.

Hey, I notice things like that. :)

The Phantom Rogue took off for the roof, carrying his ill-gotten reading material. I tried to give chase, but I got tackled to the floor by Spookette. Don't get me wrong, I'm usually game for rolling around with anybody (equal opportunity, ha ha), but the quarters were cramped and the Rogue was getting away. I managed to shed Spookette and got to the roof.

Are you surprised he'd already gotten the Spookcopter there by remote control? I wasn't. I shot a stream of fire at the Rogue, trying to be careful to avoid the fuel tank of his getaway vehicle as I cut him off. My caution almost cost me, because it meant I forgot about Spookette for a split second.

"Split" is about right, because I had a splitting headache after she clubbed me in the head with her gun. I whirled around and shot the fire in her direction without thinking. Lucky for her, she avoided it.

The Phantom Rogue was boarding his Spookcopter and was going to escape scot-free with the book. That would not do. Holding Spookette at bay with fire from one hand, I pulled off one of my boots with the other and flung it at the book. Bullseye! It fell out of the Rogue's hands onto the roof as the Spookcopter rotored off to its preset destination. All the Rogue could do was count on its recovery by the hench wench he was abandoning.

Spookette decided to use her gun more practically and took a couple of potshots at me. It's pretty easy to stop bullets in mid-air with a controlled fireburst. I needed a bigger fireball to melt the whole gun when Spookette chucked it at me after emptying it. Still, all that accomplished for her was her last weapon being reduced to a useless hunk of metal.

I expected Spookette to surrender. Instead, she took a flying leap at me, with an expression that indicated she was in no mood to just give up. That girl was out for blood. She hit me a few times, and I tried some of those fancy martial arts moves Ultimate American has been teaching us. I think I need more practice.

I don't know how I hadn't noticed, but our struggle brought us to the edge of the roof. Spookette did notice, and let loose with this HUGE kick that sent me right over the edge. I doubt if she even bothered to watch me fall. Tough break for her.

Let me explain. My powers have a lot of applications. One of them is that, if I concentrate, I can heat the air around my body enough to make myself lighter than air. It's not enough to fly like Captain Satellite, but I can float. That's just what I did as I careened off the building - I heated the air so that I slowly and safely floated down instead of falling.

I counted on Spookette not knowing what had happened to me in the confusion of her escape through the bookstore. So as she retreated, stolen book in tow, into the alley where I had fallen, she discovered an apparently-dead Firegirl sprawled on the pavement. She couldn't resist checking out her handiwork just to be sure, and that was when I had her.

I caught her head in a scissorlock with my legs. She didn't even have enough time to resist before I pulled her down to me, grabbed a handful of hair, and delivered a chop to the back of her neck. It was lights-out for Spookette, and at least one book thief was on her way into custody.

I retrieved the book, and sure enough, it was one of the Calvin Major texts. I am fairly certain it was the first edition of his autobiography, but I didn't have the opportunity to take a peek inside to satisfy my curiosity. I wonder why that one in particular was the only one the Phantom Rogue tried to steal?

Anyway, by the time I had everything sorted out and I was headed back to the IA embassy, it was ten o'clock! If I was going to be stuck with having a late dinner, I decided to make it one I'd enjoy. I rounded up the whole gang when I got home, herded them into the transporter tubes, and beamed us all to the Tokyo IA embassy! You see, there's this great little restaurant I know over there, and it was already the next day in Japan. Their mid-afternoon lunchtime was my dinner!

We had a great time. I even got the Amercian to roll up his mask and try some sake. He's one that could stand to loosen up a little - maybe even take some lessons from the Behemoth. SPEAKING OF BB, he surprised me yet again by discussing his admiration for kabuki, noh, and bunraku theater. I will never figure him out.

I wanted to hit one of the bars for a nightcap (at 1 in the afternoon local time!) and maybe coax some daytime karaoke out of Drone Man. He doesn't like it when I out his beautiful singing voice! ;) But Elektroid kept going on and on about time zones, so we relented and headed back for Major City.

Goodness, this has been a really long entry! I guess I got carried away in telling that Phantom Rogue story. Sorry! I've had some time to wind down now, so I think I'll turn in for the night. Ciao darlings!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gimme Dat Ding

"Gimme Dat Ding" is yet another weird 1970s song that I had never heard prior to the rebroadcasts of old AMERICAN TOP 40 shows on local radio station 92.9. In fact, "Gimme Dat Ding" was headed up the charts on the very first AT40 show on July 4, 1970 - which I just got to hear not long ago. It managed to make it all the way to #9 on the Billboard chart, which I find both heartening and a little stunning.

"Gimme Dat Ding" is by a band called the Pipkins, which wasn't even a real band at all at first. It was actually a studio project featuring the duo of Roger Greenaway and Tony Burrows. Burrows is one of those guys (like Paul Carrack in later years) that sang on multiple hit songs for multiple groups, but never became world famous in his own right. Burrows can also be heard on such tunes as Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" and The First Class' "Beach Baby".

I like to call "Gimme Dat Ding" one of the smartest dumb songs I've ever heard. Seriously, it's goofy to the nth degree, yet it uses a hard word like "metronome" at the same time. It was written by the duo of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood, both of whom produced songs that are much better known than this little novelty number. When I first heard it, I thought maybe Wolfman Jack supplied the gravelly-voice, but alas, it was not to be. Not that there aren't plenty of songs that do feature the Wolfman.

Little did I know (until I researched it) that "Gimme Dat Ding" was originally written for a musical and later used on a kid's show, too. But it was as incidental music (instrumental version) for THE BENNY HILL SHOW that it founds its most lasting fame. Seriously, who knew?

I have a bonus for you guys today. I am sure you'd like to hear the song if you never have, and this homemade Youtube video shall suffice. Now, if you are like me, you will be left with an additional question after viewing that piece. Who is the girl in the green top???? It's this lady right here. Holy smokes, she is an amazing dancer. Her steps are culled from this dance to Artie Shaw's "Diga Diga Doo". So even if you don't like "Gimme Dat Ding", there is something for you, too!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


KAMEN NO NINJA AKA KAGE ("Masked Ninja Red Shadow") is a Japanese superhero series I described as "a lively and colorful fantasy action series from when those things were the exception rather than the rule" when I touched on it in this entry. It's also a period piece, but way more sci-fi tinged than you'd expect a chanbara show to be. When I first heard that there were English dubs of AKA KAGE, my initial reaction was "Sign me up!" Now I've seen one, and, well...

I stumbled across this release on Amazon a few months ago, and I couldn't resist it. I'd never picked up any of those movies in what we prefer to call "collector's circles", but ten bucks wasn't bad at all. Alas, the price seems to be so good because this appears to be an unlicensed general release. How funny is it that Navarre Corporation shut down BCI as they were making inroads to respectability with quality, licensed releases, and then turns around and finances a company responsible for this sort of thing?

(If anyone has proof that Toei was involved with this release, please pass it along.)

But legal issues aside, what about the movies themselves? Well, ignore the ill-informed reviewer at Amazon (shocking, right?), because there are no widescreen versions of any of these flicks. Why? Because these "films" are all individual episodes edited together to form a narrative. And I bring this up so early because that is the single biggest problem with the only one I've finished, NINJASCOPE (THE MAGIC WORLD OF NINJAS). Stringing together TV episodes to make a movie is profoundly unsatisfying to me as a viewer, because it throws the pacing straight to hell. I enjoyed the individual segments of NINJASCOPE, but pasting them together and calling it a "movie" tempers my enthusiasm. Shows like this are, by their nature, repetitive. Heck, that comfortable series of rituals is a strength! It just starts to feel tired when they get trotted out again and again without a break. This might work better if it filled a TV movie time slot, where the commercials would provide natural breaks, but that's not an option on the DVD.

There's also the little matter of the English dubbing. Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of the "Hong Kong dubbing", but it's a little more problematic here. The HK dubs are almost uniformly stonefaced serious, and usually, that's fine. Not always skillful or 100% accurate, but fine. However, AKA KAGE is a show that is lighthearted, and it needed a dub that reflected that sort of tone better. IF this collection had gotten picked up for American release, it might have gotten a new dub via Titra or the folks responsible for JOHNNY SOKKO. Ah, I can dream, can't I? It's all academic, since this never darkened U.S. shores back in the "good old days" as far as I can tell. I don't have an insight into why, except perhaps that it was too lengthy even in this edited form.

Aka Kage, or Red Shadow, whichever works best for you, is the main hero of the action. However, there are two other super ninja - Ao Kage (Blue Shadow) is a little squirt sidekick, and Shiro Kage (White Shadow) is the older ninja who doesn't display an affinity for basketball. Sorry, obscure joke there. The villains are suitably colorful and interesting, including the giant monsters that pop up. Trouble is, you can't disguise that they wander in and out of the story with little rhyme or reason the way things are structured.

I haven't watched the other two films in this set yet, and there is a whole additional backstory about them that I'll save for when/if I review them. I can tell you two things from the snippets I previewed : 1) the dubbing is worse and 2) they are longer. Oh dear.

I can't really recommend this release, as it is both unauthorized and I didn't care for it as much as I would have translated episodes of AKA KAGE. But, if you think you can get past the pacing difficulties and less than appropriate dubbing, it's worth your time to check out NINJASCOPE. It is the best English language version available of this stuff.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where Monsters Dwell #19 (January 1973)

Where Monsters Dwell was one of a plethora of series launched by Marvel Comics in the 1970s to cash in on the monster/horror boom of the decade. Unlike a lot of those books, I don't think Where Monsters Dwell ever featured new stories. It was a straight-up reprint title from start to finish. Since that meant it featured work by stellar artists and stories starring the infamous monsters that preceded the "Marvel Age of Comics", this was by no means a bad thing.

I recently obtained a copy of Where Monsters Dwell #19 from our friends at Paper Heroes for the princely sum of $2. If you click over to the GCD index link, you'll notice that the cover is one of Gil Kane's many 70s jobs. It's a dynamic and eye-catching cover. It is also a complete and utter lie. Well, that is an exaggeration. Yes, the lead story is called "The Insect Man" and it does feature giant insect people and a man inside a capsule. But the rest of the cover goes off into a completely unrelated direction. I think I'd much rather read the story that cover promises than the one I got instead.

The GCD index revealed to me something that I perhaps should have figured out on my own. This issue of Where Monsters Dwell reprints the entirety of the feature stories from an earlier Marvel anthology. The book in question is Tales of Suspense #24. This explains why only one of the stories in a book with the word "monsters" in the title actually features monsters. OK, maybe two, if you stretch the definition of the word almost to its breaking point. Sorry, mean people might be "monsters", but they aren't what I'd expect if I buy a package with that label.

That Tales of Suspense Jack Kirby cover is somewhat more accurate in its depiction of the lead story "The Insect Man", but still misrepresents the story a bit. The insect people aren't belligerent at all; in fact, the story even mentions they don't want to harm our human hero! The whole premise of the story is a little hard to swallow, even by the standards of these sort of things. And naturally, there is the obligatory twist ending.

"Beware...the Ticking Clocks!" has fun Kirby depictions of clocks that manage to look more interesting than the entire body of some artists' work. For Marvel madmen, there's an early use of the proto-name "Zemu", later made famous (in altered form) by a certain hooded villain. The thing that struck me most about this story was that it was very clearly tampered with by the Comics Code. The assassin Klugari never brandishes a weapon once in 5 pages! You see his fist, and it sure looks like he's holding, I dunno, maybe a knife. But the knife has been removed, and whew, I feel safer already! As a result, the feared assassin apparently takes out his targets by shaking his fist at them.

"Something Lurks in the Fog!" is a moody piece illustrated by Don Heck. It does point up the fact that Heck was a better artist than he was ever credited with by organized comics fandom; he was just one who was less suited for the superheroes that took over the business. The story itself is no great shakes, about a con man scared straight by spooky hooded folks in the woods.

"Long Live the King!" is possibly my favorite of the book, art-wise. Steve Ditko really was in a groove during this period, and several panels are just outstanding. These are, however, some of the whitest Asian people you'll ever see. The action allegedly takes place in Tibet, but could just as easily be in the European kingdom two stories ago.

One thing this peculiar time capsule demonstrates ably is just how astonishing Marvel becoming the biggest company in comics truly was. The issue of Tales of Suspense reprinted is one month AFTER Fantastic Four #1, and I don't feel like I'm being unfair when I say there is nothing special about it. In fact, it's kind of mediocre as these things go. Stan Lee has spoken of his intention to quit comics until the edict to do superheroes lit a fire under him to try different things. I can believe it. Whether as writer or editor, the scripts for these stories read uniformly as if Stan didn't care to be more than average at best. What a difference some motivation can make.

Where Monsters Dwell is a 1970s comic though, no matter its source material, and the advertising is glorious. Sometimes, I just kick back and read the ads in these old comics. There is a hilariously awful centerspread advertising NBC's new Saturday morning kid's show lineup for the 1972-73 season (the book came out in the latter half of '72, despite the cover date). Were it not for the irreverent update of SEALAB 2020 that came around a few years back, the only shows I could name from this ad that I knew were the old ones being shown in reruns. Those were THE PINK PANTHER, UNDERDOG, and THE JETSONS. But the true gem of this comic is hidden in the classified section on one of the multi-ad "Shop By Mail" pages. Under the heading of "Science" is an ad for an ANTIGRAVITY DEVICE. The brochure was only 35 cents! Who knew such information could be had from Bartlesville, Oklahoma?

I won't lie to you and say that this is a great comic. It is a thoroughly unremarkable comic. But even with that, it still has a lot of points of interest. I'm glad I bought it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Career In Advertising

If my job was to sell the public on BBQ ribs, I would have an ad showing a gorgeous woman eating them. She might even be licking her lips and staring seductively at the viewer. The tagline would be "Ribs - For Her Pleasure".

People would buy the hell out of those ribs.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My World : Mystery Spaceman

Mystery Spaceman

He first appeared in the skies of Major City one crisp autumn afternoon, and alighted atop the towering Mando Building. Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson were called in to investigate, and the Captain dubbed the stranger "Mystery Spaceman" due to the symbol etched into his uniform resembling a question mark. Shelly is still annoyed that her suggested name was shot down : "Space Face."

The Mystery Spaceman is a riddle. No one has ever been able to discern a motive for any of his actions on Earth. It doesn't help that he (it?) doesn't communicate in any manner recognizable to humans. Mystery Spaceman simply is, and mankind just has to deal with it.

Upon learning of their existence, Captain Satellite postulated that the Mystery Spaceman was an emissary of the Astro-Giants. This theory was demonstrated to be spurious when the spaceman inexplicably joined Cap in driving the cosmic entities away from Earth. All that case ended up proving was that alien beings can have their own agenda, separate from anything we might comprehend.

Hugo Beaumont has hinted that he knows the true nature of the Mystery Spaceman, and it is something no one could possibly imagine. Other than that, he isn't talking.

Does it surprise you that this guy developed from the name "Space Face"? No? Didn't think it would.

The Mystery Spaceman is a character who more properly falls under "adversary" rather than villain. I like the idea that he is so inscrutable that he is impossible to understand. He might be evil, but then again, he might be more akin to a force of nature. We just don't know.

I was thinking of cheap space action figures while designing this uniform, if it reminds you of them. The color scheme and some costume elements are reminiscent of the Legion of Super-Heroes character Wildfire. I credit an earlier picture I had done of my friend Lewis Smith's character Hellfighter with sending my mind in that direction.

As for the face, well, that was the whole reason to do this character. I pulled off a similar trick in a picture some five years ago, but this was executed with a lot more confidence.

The image used was found on the Great Images in NASA website. It is not protected by copyright.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My World : Titan Khan

Titan Khan

When C.H.I.E.F.'s Hong Kong bureau chief Bruce Yee (yes, he's heard all the jokes a million times) contacted Captain Satellite asking for assistance about a "problem" he had encountered, he didn't dare elaborate further. Why? Because he had uncovered a sinister plot against the hero masterminded by Asia's newest and deadliest crimelord, Titan Khan.

Titan Khan is an enigma. He first surfaced in Macau, but has been sighted all over Asia. He refers to himself as "Khan", but his garb recalls that of the samurai of Japan. No one knows his true nationality, or whether he is even Asian. He has demonstrated fluency in over a dozen languages, but his "voice" in each is different and clearly mechanically-processed. Shelly Ericson suggested that he sounded like he was "badly dubbed."

Captain Satellite, Shelly Ericson, and Bruce Yee managed to overcome Titan Khan and his confederates, but it was a monumental task. They even confiscated one of his fearsome Fire Swords, but it's a sure bet that the crimelord has more to go with the vast array of weapons installed in every inch of his armor. Titan Khan's current whereabouts are unknown, but it seems certain he will return one day.

While going through my old drawings looking for ideas, I came across an apparent one-off character named "The Mighty Kahn" (sic). This particular guy had a fire sword and horns, but was otherwise pretty generic. Still, he set some wheels in motion regarding an angle I'd wanted to pursue.

Since I am interested in Asian culture, I had been looking into ways to do something in Captain Satellite that incorporated that influence. With my old character in hand, I developed something new and ever-so-slightly more sophisticated. Basing him on photos of samurai armor I have in my personal collection, the end product had the colorful name Titan Khan.

Titan Khan's backstory owes a great deal to martial arts films, and hopefully provides an intriguing narrative hook. This is one of those instances where I felt what the character did was more interesting than how he came about, so there is no proper origin.

I usually rely on primary colors for my palette, but with Titan Khan, I pulled the shades used directly off my photo references. It gives him a whole different look from most of the characters of this setting, and I think makes him distinctive.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My World : Sultura


She's bad. She's ambiguously European. She's famous for being infamous. She's Sultura, and she's a constant thorn in the side of those who fight for justice.

Sultura is a safecracker, thief, kidnapper, counterfeiter - the list is seemingly endless. The most consistent trait in her career is her vanity. Her motto "I make being bad look damn good!" is not just a catchphrase, but her goal in life. Most people would not go so far as to print up fake money with their own picture on it, but most people aren't Sultura. She may end up redefining narcissism, if anyone ever discovers what the limit of hers actually is.

Sultura has particularly earned the wrath of Shelly Ericson for taunting her as Captain Satellite's "concubine" during one brazen heist. Shelly has promised that there will be payback each and every time she gets her hands on the femme fatale. And Shelly isn't the sort to make such a promise and not fulfill it.

It occurred to me a few months ago as I was working on updating the Captain Satellite universe that there was a dearth as far as villainesses went. That didn't surprise me at all. While I LOVE women, I've never been handy at drawing them. That was why I only have a handful of heroines in my entire body of work, and even fewer villainesses.

I decided to address this deficiency and brainstormed for ideas on an evil woman to add to my stock cast. Enter Sultura. Her name is a real word (I think Italian), but I never was able to discern if it meant what it sounded like it meant. Not that it mattered very much. It had a great ring to it, and was perfect for a female name.

Fixing a look for Sultura and drawing her were considerably more difficult than christening her. There are a number of false starts in my files, and two completed pictures that were deemed unacceptable. Yes, I do maintain some quality control, as hard as that might be to believe. Finally, after doodling up yet another new design, I created the Sultura you see before you.

While I was coloring this picture, I had the uneasy feeling that I was making Sultura resemble an established character. After I was finished, I realized she looked somewhat like Cobweb, a character created by Alan Moore with his now-wife Melinda Gebbie. Well, Sultura isn't meant as an imitation of Cobweb. I arrived at the color scheme independent of any influence from that character. Believe me, I'm not looking to have any magic spells cast on me by Alan Moore. I'm sticking with what I have for Sultura though, so if you hear that I turned into a goat, now you know why.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My World : Mr. Metal

Mr. Metal

It's a story we've all heard countless times. Two business rivals compete in the same arena. One of them is far more successful in his endeavors. The other lags behind and declares bankruptcy. One blames the other for his company's failure and vows revenge. Usually, the results aren't worth discussing. The case of Paul Mann and Louis Schmidt is the exception.

The reasons why Louis Schmidt lost out to Paul Mann had nothing to do with a lack of skill on Schmidt's part. They also weren't due to any unethical behavior on Mann's behalf, but that wasn't the way Schmidt saw it. He felt that Mann's gains in their sector had to be because he was cheating. To Schmidt, there could be no other explanation. He was clearly superior to Paul Mann in every way - at least in his mind.

Especially galling to Louis Schimdt was Paul Mann's career as Captain Satellite. Schmidt complained loudly and often that reporting the Captain's exploits constituted free advertising for Paul Mann's business interests. He demanded equal time, but was rebuffed at every turn.

Bankruptcy was the last straw for Louis Schmidt, and the end of anything passing as "reasonable behavior." Whether he snapped completely or just was consumed with a lust for vengeance is academic. Schmidt used his company's resources to construct the armor that would make him into a super-villain. Now known as Mr. Metal, he swore that he would destroy Paul Mann just the way Paul Mann had destroyed him.

Mr. Metal has never quite achieved his stated goal, but he is a powerful force of villainy. He has been known to form a team-up of convenience from time to time with fellow felon Disco Ball. Neither is very happy with the arrangement, for differing reasons.

The proto-Mr. Metal was born in the same dream that led to Disco Ball, which is why I like the idea of them as reluctant partners. Mr. Metal was originally my brain's interpretation of the Marvel villain Cobalt Man without having ever seen Cobalt Man. And yes, he had a cape in the dream.

I had two problems with bringing this character up-to-date. One was he needed a new name, and it took a few tries before I settled on "Mr. Metal." The other was his coloring. The dream Cobalt Man had a yellow helmet, but the rest of his armor (and his cape!) were jet black. Maybe stylish, but not really colorful or original - even in my world. I chose to go gold on the helmet and threw in a few other armor details to break up the color scheme a mite. The armor is now a shade of grey and the cape is green. Why green? Because the first caped armored character I ever saw (yes, there have been others) had a green cape. That was a 1980s interpretation of the Golden Age Superman villain Metalo. Please note, there's only ONE "l" in his name!

As a strange footnote, I recalled while preparing Mr. Metal that I had seen a pre-existing character with the black suit/yellow helmet combo. This was "Mask Man," a one-time foe of the Legion of Super-Heroes who appeared in digest-sized reprint I read in my youthful days. I can't tell you 1) if I read that reprint before or after the original dream or 2) if it was an influence in any way. It might just be a huge coincidence, similar to the one that led me to choose a double "M" name for my character too.

Design-wise, Mr. Metal obviously owes a lot to Iron Man. This was even more pronounced in his original incarnation, but I've tried to stray a little and find my own way with him. His alter ego is a little bit of a tribute to my favorite Iron Man fan, and is all in good fun. The origin I developed sounds suspiciously like that of Wonder Man to me, but I am certain it's been used a hundred times over.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My World : Disco Ball

Disco Ball

Disco never died! At least, that's the premise of the person who has chosen to call himself Disco Ball.

Disco Ball is on a crusade to discover the evil possibilities of disco. Which are legion, as you might imagine. Utilizing weapons powered by his "Discotech Systems," he has racked up some impressive criminal credentials. He made world news with his takeover of the famous Studio 69, declaring that he would turn it into "Studio 86" if he wasn't paid off extravagantly.

Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson put a stop to that plan. Disco Ball has soldiered on though, sometimes solo and sometimes commanding henchmen he insists on referring to as "the Boogie Knights." The henchmen are why he carries a swagger stick. And yes, it's a "swagger stick." Not a pimp cane.

Disco Ball was originally a character who came to me in a dream many years ago. He was what my subconscious created around the name of the obscure Marvel Comics villain the Orb. I had read about the Orb, but never seen a picture of him. My dream conjured up the proto-Disco Ball to go with the name. I decided to dust off the basic design for that character, and one revamp later, we have Disco Ball - a new villain in the Captain Satellite universe.

It's worth noting that, although I dropped the "Orb" name, Disco Ball still retains some characteristics from that incarnation. For one, although it's been altered in places AND filtered through my unique style, Disco Ball's costume is still somewhat based on that of a well-known comics character. I swear, the original is EXACTLY what was in my dream. I know a couple of you can identify it without even trying. The "swagger stick" was drawn from my memory of the accessory that came with Ideal's Evel Knievel action figure. I checked afterward, and it's not a bad likeness!

Disco Ball has had some patch work done on him, but I think it got incorporated seamlessly. I abused the lens flare tool a lot, but this guy really seemed suited for that treatment.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Satellite of Love

Satellite of Love by Kabuki Katze

"Satellite of Love" is one of Lou Reed's most famous songs. It can be found on his seminal Transformer album alongside the likes of "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Vicious". You can hear it via Youtube by clicking here.

"Satellite of Love" is such an iconic song that it has found its way into pop culture. In fact, I had first heard the term in the song "Rocket" by Def Leppard (but please, don't hold that against me). There is also a certain famous TV series that refers to one of its locations as "the Satellite of Love".

Considering the main hero in my superhero flights of fancy is called "Captain Satellite", it was perhaps inevitable that I would turn to "Satellite of Love" for inspiration. The song itself isn't really romantic, but the title...the title had infinite possibilities. Especially when you factor in the relationship between Cap and Shelly.

I turned to Kabuki Katze once again to make my idea a reality. She had, after all, just breathed life into Cap and Shelly scant months ago. She was up for the challenge, and you can see the outcome of our commission transaction above. I have to say, it is at least as fantastic as I pictured it. Probably even better!

We'd love to get your feedback, either on this entry or on Kabuki's dA page for the piece. Oh, and if you like what you see of her work, the lady is available for your commissions, too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Not Mario...

Bootleg Donkey Kong stickers
...But an incredible simulation.

I have owned these bootleg DONKEY KONG stickers since the early 1980s. Yes, they are still sealed in the plastic. This was less about maintaining any sort of perceived collectibility and more about maintaining them. I somehow knew opening them would mean losing them. As it stands, they are still in reasonably good shape.

For an unauthorized product, they really aren't bad. The art is somewhat off-model, but certainly more than just competent - I'd call it "pleasantly cartoony". Were it not for the lack of logo and copyright information, I might be tempted to call them legit. But there is no date, no "Nintendo" anywhere to be seen, no "Donkey Kong" logo at all. Just a generic header card with "MADE IN TAIWAN" imprinted on the back. So yeah, bootleg.

One thing that this scan (even if you click over for full-size) does not do justice to is the garish colors of these stickers. The orange on Donkey Kong is about 4 shades louder than you're seeing. The flesh tones are actually pink. Honestly, the scan makes these stickers look even better than they do in real life!