Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monsters Play Dress-Up, Too

Happy Halloween, folks! In honor of my favorite holiday, I'm going to post a couple of pictures I did that depict classic monsters in unusual (for them!) get-ups!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Altered Egos: Roxanne Prize

Greetings, fellow traveler. Today we conclude (at least for now) the "Altered Egos" series crafted by Kabuki Katze with a character that has grown very near and dear to the hearts of Captain Satellite fans these last three years. I speak, as you may have gathered from the title of this entry, of Roxanne Prize. But you can call her Firegirl when she's on duty for the Invincible Alliance.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Horse Balls

As I am pretty sure I've mentioned, I live in a rural area. Though I grew up here, I am not exactly "of" here, if you get my drift. I am not really a country boy, but I'm not exactly a city boy, either. Basically, I am both, and therefore neither. Kind of funny how that goes, isn't it?

Living in these parts can be colorful sometimes. Whether it's passing a horse-drawn carriage on my way to work, or getting an eyeful of donkey-on-donkey action during my walk, there's usually something entertaining in this environment. And to me, the perfect store to epitomize the area is Nichols in DeQuincy.

I'll let you explore the Nichols website to get a better idea of what sort of thing this store carries. It is one of my favorite places to browse. I am not a hunter, but that's part of why I find it so fascinating. It is the kind of store that used to be prevalent, but is now a dying breed.

One of my favorite aspects of Nichols is their toy department. If I could, I would buy everything there. Why? Because it is loaded with the kind of stuff that you just don't see anymore, if you ever saw it in the first place. Want a bag of those solid plastic cowboys & Indians? Done! How about licensed Hannah Montana and Dora the Explorer fishing poles? Got 'em! Looking for action figures of rodeo cowboys and deer hunters? Yes, they have those, too!

They also have this:
"Hey kids! Want some Horse Balls?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Captain America : Patriot #1 and #2

It is rare for me to tell you that I am reading and enjoying a currently published comic book series. It is even rarer for me to tell you that it is a story I have been waiting over 25 years to see published. Captain America: Patriot fulfills both of those statements quite nicely.

If you have more than a passing familiarity with Marvel Comics, you surely are aware that occasionally the continuity gets...involved. OK, there are times when it can be a snarled and tangled mess. This leads to all sorts of things that only exist to solve perceived problems. The multiple post-WWII Captain Americas are just one example, but they are the subject of this mini-series. Well, one in particular.

I'll give a short explanation, for those of you who neither know nor care about continuity minutiae. When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby revived Captain America in the pages of Avengers #4, they said he had been on ice since 1945. That's reasonably common knowledge. Trouble is, Captain America's comics were published continuously until 1949, and he had also been revived in the early 1950s. How to reconcile this? Well clearly, the Cap stories after a certain point must have REALLY involved different men wearing the guise of Captain America.

This all came up in the 1970s, and it's actually led to some good stories here and there for something that was just a continuity implant. The one story that largely went untold that I personally wanted to see was the career of Jeff Mace as Captain America III. Mace had originally been a hero called the Patriot, but he assumed the mantle of Cap under less than ideal circumstances. Plus, he was the only Captain America who voluntarily retired from the job. It just seemed to me that Cap III was filled with unexplored potential for storytelling, and I sometimes fantasized how I would write the tale if given the chance.

Well, that obviously never materialized, but Marvel has finally decided that now is the time to give us more Jeff Mace in the limited series Captain America: Patriot. I was super-excited when I learned this was happening, especially when I discovered that Karl Kesel was writing. Kesel is an experienced talent who respects what has gone before while also scripting adventures that stand on their own. Plus, he had already done wondrous work in fleshing Cap III out in last year's All Winners book.

This isn't quite the story I had pictured back in the 1980s, but darn it, it might be even better. Kesel deftly builds on elements from All Winners and incorporates pre-established stuff from dozens of prior comics to weave a tapestry that is at once tied to continuity and yet remarkably fresh due to the inherent obscurity of the sources. I mean, I consider myself fairly well-versed in such matters, and I didn't even know about Miss Patriot!

The characterization is sharp and on-the-mark, too. I think people sometimes assume books like this will be simplistic. Not so! Kesel's characters are far from cardboard cut-outs. He's taken What We Knew and extrapolated it into something better defined. That's the kind of comics I like: old school storytelling synthesized with valid and contemporary characterizations.

I have mostly discussed the writing so far, but do not let that leave you with the impression that the art doesn't hold up its end of the bargain. On the contrary, the art is (pardon the pun) MARVELOUS! I raved about Mitch Breitweiser last year when I talked about that Sub-Mariner book, and I'd say it's a dead certainty that his work in Captain America: Patriot is even better!

If you haven't yet seen Breitweiser's work, make your way to his gallery pronto. You will see a number of teaser images from this book which will illustrate my point about the art's quality better than any words I can muster. I am impressed that he doesn't shy away from the fact that this is a period piece, but in fact embraces it. There is plenty of room for dynamic action such as this page, but the devil's in the details. Breitweiser brings the goods, and hopefully, this will only lead to bigger and better things for him!

Oh, and I would totally remiss if I didn't compliment the extraordinary coloring work on display by Bettie Breitweiser, a.k.a. the artist's wife. She finds a nice balance of hues that gives the hero action the proper splashy impact of the era, but counterpointing it with a realistic tone when the situation requires. Coloring doesn't always get the respect it deserves, so let's have some props where they are due!

To sum it up, I really loved the first two issues of Captain America: Patriot. The third issue goes on sale TODAY, so if you are on your game, you can score the 3/4ths of the series in one go. It is worth the price of admission, and I cannot wait to see how it all plays out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just Imagine With ROJ

The day is finally here. Yes, the day I have been repeating incessantly for months. It's October 26. Today is the day when the storyline for Return of Jetman culminates in an ending that is hopefully as well-received as it is long-awaited.

I could babble some more about this, but forget it. Now is when the story over 5 years (or 15 years, depending on how you're counting) in the making takes center stage for its grand finale. So go take a look and tell me what you think!

Read New Return of Jetman Episode 7 - "Just Imagine!" here!

Monday, October 25, 2010

My World : The Masked Menace

The Masked Menace first appeared in 1941 as a "foreign saboteur" who fought the original Ultimate American. Though his initial scheme to blow up American dams was foiled, the Masked Menace quickly established himself as Ultimate American's arch-enemy in the minds of virtually everyone by sheer persistence. And when the United States officially entered World War II, he began to more blatantly express his allegiance to the Axis powers - particularly the Third Reich.

The Masked Menace's true identity was a matter of considerable interest to the U.S. government, due to his fifth columnist activities and apparent ability to travel across the world at will. Suspicions eventually zeroed in on one Wilhelm Krupp, a member of the German American Bund. However, as federal agents sought the Bundist for questioning, they discovered him murdered in his apartment. That evening, Ultimate American caught the Masked Menace planting TNT at a munitions factory.

The end of WWII did not spell the end of the Masked Menace. His anti-American rhetoric faded away, to be replaced almost entirely with a focus on crime. The Masked Menace continued in this vein until 1948, when he was gunned down by his own gang. That seemed to spell the end of the infamous villain.

Somewhat inexplicably, the Masked Menace returned in 1954, claiming to be the original and refusing to explain his resurrection. He briefly espoused a belief in Communist doctrines quite at odds with his wartime views, but later became entirely intent on elevating himself to a position of power. This phase of the Masked Menace's career lasted until 1965, when he was caught up in the detonation of a bomb intended for his old foe the Ultimate American.

The Masked Menace resurfaced alive and well in 1968 and captured the second Ultimate American, prompting the original to come out of retirement to rescue his successor. The two heroes teamed up to fight off their adversary, but this was only the beginning of the third stage of the Masked Menace's reign of terror. He eventually challenged Ultimate American II to a "final" battle in 1977 that ended when he accidentally stabbed himself with his own knife and plummeted from the top of the Mando Building. This seemed sure to be the last chapter, but the Masked Menace's body was not recovered afterward.

The Masked Menace made one final comeback in 1984, and engaged Ultimate American II in a fierce duel to the death. He lost, and as he clearly died for at least the fourth time, the Masked Menace crumbled to dust. He has not returned since, but if history is any indication, it is only a matter of time.

The Masked Menace arose out of a desire to do a purely Golden Age of Comics, 1940s-style super-villain, and then follow him through the decades. I rejected a lot of names and looks before I settled on the "Masked Menace" seen here. I like him chiefly because he displays certain parallels to the Ultimate American and because his design does not owe any specific debt to a certain ideology. That's sort of important, because a character tied explicitly to Nazism is a lot harder to use outside of the WWII setting. All you have to do is compare the latter-day fortunes of the Red Skull and Captain Nazi to see what I mean.

Speaking of the Red Skull, he's probably the character most people would compare to the Masked Menace. There are inevitable similarities, but only in the broadest sense. To me, the Masked Menace is a kind of Everyvillain from his 1940s era. He just had to adapt with the times, and like the Skull, that wasn't always an easy or logical fit.

I enjoyed working a certain element of mystery into this profile, and weaving together a string of unexplained and increasingly improbable returns from the dead for the Masked Menace. That sort of thing was the stock-in-trade of super-villains in a more innocent era, and it was a lot of fun to see how many different demises I could use. Of course, these unlikely escapes would seem to indicate that there is more to this story that will be told someday.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dedicated Follower Of Stats

Hello, my name is Christopher Elam, and I am addicted to my website stats.

I first got hooked on checking my site stats when I moved to a new server in 2007 (insert subtle plug here). I'd never bothered with them that much until I had them right at my fingertips. Then, it became hard to resist checking them all the time.

When I began the OWARI blog in January of last year, Blogger didn't have a feature for compiling stats, at least as far as I knew. I registered an account for a service, but I didn't get around to implementing it. I eventually started using Google's webmaster tools, but that was far from perfect in giving me the picture of what was getting hits on a blog as obscure as this one.

At some point a few months ago, Blogger introduced a "Stats" feature. I'm not sure exactly when - it says May, but it doesn't show any views for me until July. In any event, these Stats give a clearer picture of what is getting the most views on this blog. It doesn't fully address the issue of audience, because it doesn't account for my Facebook syndication of these posts or those folks who read via feeds. But it does give me an idea of what the most popular entries on this blog are. The results are sometimes surprising.

Right now, I'm going to take a look at a few of the most popular entries on this blog. As stated above, this only takes into account views since approximately July. That certainly shortchanges every post prior to that, including the entirety of 2009. But even with that caveat, and the wildly erratic functionality at times, I think this list is pretty indicative of what is driving people here.

  • Superman And Batman - STARKERS : This isn't really a surprise, is it? It shouldn't be after the explosion of hits it generated. That has quieted down a lot over the last few days, but the entry still gets a few views every single day. A side effect is that it has also bumped up views of this entry linked in its body. But not nearly enough, so get clicking!

  • Blue Behemoth's Bulletin Board : I love that this entry is popular, but I can't quite figure out why. It has more views than any other post devoted to either my superhero universe or my collaborations with Kabuki Katze. In fact, it's by a wide margin. What makes this entry so special? Is it the term "bulletin board"? That is my only guess at this point.

  • Batman's Thoughts On Love : If we're being realistic here, this is probably the most viewed post on this blog. I mean, it's over a year old, and it drives in visitors every week. Just think how many of those happened before the Stats started recording them. But really, one look at it should explain why. Everyone loves Batman.

  • Devo - Something For Everybody (2010) : This is my review of Devo's latest album. Interestingly, it is not people searching for "Devo" that garners this entry most of its attention, but people searching specifically for that new album. This is by far the most popular piece I've written in the music category. Recording industry, take note!

  • SD Battle Japan : I have written about the Japanese superhero show BATTLE FEVER J a lot more on this blog than I would have expected. This particular post is the highest ranked of those discussions. I gather it turns up pretty highly in image searches for the series. I expect that means a lot of people are saving the GIF. Pretty funny when you consider it is one of the earliest examples of my attempts to learn how to color via Photoshop.

  • Naomi Morinaga Kicks It Old School : Lost in the hubbub of the recent Superman/Batman post is the popularity of this entry. It has been steadily climbing every day, to the point where it's in the Top 10! This despite the fact that Toei apparently made a claim to get the video embedded in the body of the post removed from Youtube.

  • Super Robot Red Baron : This particular Japanese superhero show has been afforded a U.S. DVD release, and is in fact now available ridiculously cheap through a bargain label. That's exactly the sort of thing that will increase the traffic, especially when it's something that is bit of a fringe thing for most of the usual suspects.
The only thing I truly take away from this list is that people that arrive here are interested in a lot of different subjects. I guess I'll keep doing what I'm doing and hope people find me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Altered Egos: Xolani Shabangu

Why yes, it is indeed time for another chapter of "Altered Egos", the series in which Kabuki Katze (with more than a little input from yours truly) breathes life into the civilian guises of characters from the Captain Satellite universe. Today's subject is Xolani Shabangu, the true face behind that mysterious dweller in the shadows named Urban Nightmare.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Baby This Evening

Every time I hear Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" on the radio, I think of Eddie Gilbert.

He would like that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mammoth! Behemoth! Goliath!

The other night, I was looking for something else for Igadevil and came across this in my search. It is way too cool not to share, so I'm sharing!

"Mechani-Kong and Dr. Who’s secret pyramid base" @ Pink Tentacle

I'm really charmed and fascinated by these completely wonderful illustrations from Shonen Magazine that are based on the King Kong cartoon series. As most people reading this blog probably know, that show also served as the basis for Toho's KING KONG ESCAPES. Though I've not watched much of the animated exploits, KKE was my first-ever Japanese monster movie, so I have a special affection for it as a result.

It is interesting to note that the schematic is rather clearly labeled "Robot Kong". While that was the name used in the English dubbed incarnation of KKE, the Japanese version referred to the alloyed ape as "Mechani-Kong". Funny how no one had a consensus on the guy's name, despite his appearing in several different media.

Also, is it wrong that I covet Dr. Who's secret pyramid base and Sphinx Tank? It is the kind of thing to make you yearn for a sequel featuring such elaborate set-pieces. And let's not forget the image of bank robber Kong! C'mon, who wouldn't pay to see that sort of thing? I would in a heartbeat!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Blog Entry Beyond ROJ!

If it's Tuesday in October, it must be time for the latest episode of New Return of Jetman over at! But this isn't just any episode, oh no. You might recall my promotion of it LAST year back when it appeared on the previous version of the site. Yes, we have arrived at "Beyond the Universe", ladies and gentlemen.

This particular episode is also a CROSSOVER produced in cooperation with those enigmatic daredevils Kazekage, Igadevil, and Kabuki Katze. Each of them had full approval of the usage of their characters (Kienan Ademetria, Kamen Rider Sigma, and Star Anise, respectively), and all of them exercised that option in the storytelling process. That makes this installment truly unique on the site.

I offer my humble thanks to all three of my collaborators for letting me play in their sandboxes. I also am grateful to the person given a special credit on this story for their valuable input over the years. Soon, the whole thing will be done.

And yes, that's true. The concluding chapter of New Return of Jetman will be going live on October 26, 2010! Don't miss it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

My World : King Zaur

King Zaur is the emperor of the Reptile People, a race of humanoid dinosaurs that dwells in a mysterious kingdom referred to as "the Hidden Empire". While the gateways to this realm are scattered all over the globe, the Hidden Empire itself actually occupies an otherdimensional plane where physical laws operate somewhat differently.

King Zaur first appeared on Earth with designs for conquest in 1967, and he was bested by Ultimate American II (Joe Truman). This led to a series of showdowns between the two opponents from the late 1960s through the duration of the 1970s. Finally, this rivalry culminated in a titanic battle in Antarctica in 1981 that ended when King Zaur was trapped in an iceberg off the coast of the continent.

However, King Zaur measures his lifespan in millions of years, so decades are of little consequence to him. He broke free from his frozen tomb recently, and subsequently butted heads with the Invincible Alliance. This was further complicated by the fact that King Zaur believes the IA's leader is his old foe, little realizing that it is actually Ultimate American III (Dean Truman).

The Alliance turned back the challenge of King Zaur after a hard fight, but the wily dinosaur man slipped away. Now our heroes must prepare for his return, and the one person who could give them advice on how to defeat the villain is missing in action.

It is not always obvious, but there is a significant toy influence on the Captain Satellite cast. You see, I am not a toy collector, but I understand toy collecting. I love to admire vintage toys, and I look to them for inspiration. It's a similar process to my childhood habit of using my imagination to recast my toys into original characters.

So if you find something inherently appealing about my heroes and villains, it's because one part of me looks at their creation as designing a line of action figures that I would have wanted to buy. That's one of the visual hooks I use for all of my characters.

What does this have to do with King Zaur? King Zaur is my most blatant example of using toys for inspiration, and I do so unapologetically. I have altered details to give him more originality, but both his name and his design owe a large debt to toys. Which toys? I'll let any junior detectives in the audience figure that out.

Conceptually, King Zaur is a villain who allows me to play with several different themes, including dinosaurs. I introduced him in the Ultimate American Chronology, even though I had created him prior to writing it. I wanted to establish that there were super villains that existed prior to the debut of my current generation of heroes, and a dinosaur man was a good candidate for an "old" villain that could still be vital in modern times.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened This Past Week

I was scrounging about my mind, looking for something to discuss on this blog for Thursday. I happened to remember a pair of comic book scans that had been sitting on my computer since October of last year, and decided that they would do for a quick and easy entry. Given the very nature of the entry in question, I suspected that it would eventually become one of the most popular posts on my blog through search engine hits.

Little did I suspect while composing that bit of nonsense that it would catch the eye of notable comic book blogger and all-around swell guy Mike Sterling and that he would link to it on his entertaining Progressive Ruin blog. I should hasten to point out that this isn't the first time Mike has favored me with a link, but it's the first time since Blogger instituted their "Stats" feature. Before then, I chose to carry on unaware of what was getting the most traffic on this site. Now, it's just a tab away.

And wow. Since these stats went live in June-July (they say May, but I have trouble believing I had zero hits that month), I had been racking up a modest number of pageviews on most entries. A few select posts were seemingly more popular, but nothing especially off the charts. Until Thursday, that is. Within 8 hours of Mike's link going live, that entry zoomed to the most hits of any page on this blog since Blogger started compiling stats. It is at 512 views as of this writing, and continues to get new ones seemingly every hour. It has already started to level off a bit, but that is still enough to make it five times more popular than its nearest competition.

Thanks large, Mike! You definitely increased the traffic exponentially on my obscure corner of the blogosphere, and I'm quite grateful. I'd like to believe I have retained even a fraction of that potential audience, but I guess only time will tell.

If you happen to be someone who clicked the link and decided to stick around, welcome to OWARI. This blog is basically just me talking about whatever crosses my mind. That often includes comic books, Japanese science-fiction, music, and my own idiosyncratic works. I've also recently taken up livetweeting broadcasts of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's over on my Twitter account, and folks seem to like it. At least, the pitchforks and torches haven't been brought out so far!

The one thing I cannot promise you here is more pictures of naked Superman and Batman. But hey, you never know what I might find!

(EDIT: Y'know, I realize now that the assertion above that this was the first time Mike has linked here since the Stats feature came about is incorrect. Mike has linked to my blog fairly recently, as a matter of fact. I guess the subject matter of this particular link was what did the trick!)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Old Fashioned Boy (You're The One) by Stallion

I am a music chart aficionado, because I have found it is a great method to learn about music. Sometimes, you learn about things you didn't know existed. Take the band Stallion, for instance.

Who the heck is Stallion? Exactly! When I came across their entry in Joel Whitburn's Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, I had never heard of them before. In fact, this became a running joke of mine. You can see an example of it waaaaaay back in the early weeks of this very blog. It even led me to a story idea, one that maybe I'll do something with someday.

Here's the beginning and end of what I knew about Stallion:
  • They were a "pop-rock group from Denver".
  • Their members were Buddy Stephens (vocals), Danny O'Neil (guitar), Wally Damrick (keyboards), Jorg Gonzalez (bass) and Larry Thompson (drums).
  • They had a single called "Old Fashioned Boy (You're The One)", which was Casablanca 877.
  • This single entered the Top 40 on April 23, 1977, stayed in the Top 40 two weeks, and peaked at #37.
That was all! Everything else was a mystery. No one talked about them or wrote about them, even on the Internet. It was as if they fell off the face of the Earth after 1977.

Happily, things have changed since I first learned of Stallion. I eventually came across this page chronicling the releases of their single. They have their own Wikpedia entry, skimpy though it may be. I even found out what lead singer Buddy Stephens is doing these days, via his official site All of these little pieces came together to further complete the puzzle of Stallion. However, one thing always eluded me - namely, "Old Fashioned Boy (You're The One)".

That all changed recently thanks to a search I made on a whim and Youtube user "MusicMike2". Yes, there is now a STEREO Youtube video for this "lost" Top 40 single. I clicked on it with a mix of anticipation and dread. I mean, I was bound to be disappointed, right? Well, let me link you to this video, and then we'll talk about the song after you give it a listen.

At long last, here is "Old Fashioned Boy (You're The One)" by Stallion. Thanks, MusicMike2!

Back? Listened to it? I hope so! Anyway, I was happily surprised that I didn't hate it. It's not bad. But I understand better why this song is largely forgotten.

Let me reiterate that I don't think it's a bad song. But it's also not a particularly memorable song. You listen to it and then it's gone when it's over. It doesn't stick with you. It's certainly not the type of song that will bounce around between most people's ears for 30 years.

I guess that's what happened. This song was a minor hit, probably garnering some airplay and maybe some sales. But when its lifespan was over (and remember, it was a lot shorter in those days), it was never played again. Then Stallion faded away without another hit, further burying this tune into obscurity. All that was left was the record of its existence and whatever copies were in circulation.

Well, I'm glad I finally got to hear "Old Fashioned Boy (You're The One)" and find the answer to one of the musical questions that has plagued me for years. Who the heck is Stallion? Now I know, and so do you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Altered Egos: Shelly Ericson

We have returned with another thrilling installment of the "Altered Egos" series by Kabuki Katze! This week, our subject is that bodyguard to the superheroes, the amazing Shelly Ericson!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Superman And Batman - STARKERS

To those with faint hearts, beware! Go no further or you may actually encounter (OMG!) revealing pictures! If your work frowns on this sort of thing, consider yourself warned!

Has it really been almost a YEAR since this entry? Good gravy! That makes it way past time I posted these other panels from World's Finest Comics #251.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PSC Wave 3 - Part 3

By Jove, we're going to take another look at Personal Sketch Cards of Captain Satellite characters done by Sean Moore!

For this go, we have Disco Ball, Mr. Metal, and Enemy Alien. I think Sean may have been a little nervous about these, as he took some additional liberties with my rather basic designs. However, this sort of experimentation (within reason) was exactly what I wanted him to do!

Sean really went to town on Disco Ball and Mr. Metal, getting across both the disco excesses and kitbashed nature of their respective looks. He finally extricated them from their inherently derivative origins. I'm also very grateful for his take on Enemy Alien, because he somehow made that design look like an extraterrestrial spacesuit. I love it!

More to come? Yes!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ROJ's Countdown To Infinity

Hey folks! It's another October Tuesday, so let's begin the full-court press to the conclusion of the current NROJ storyline. That's due on October 26, if you have somehow forgotten the reminders I've been posting.

If you were to wander over to right now (hint hint), you would be able to read the fifth big episode of New Return of Jetman. Considering how long it took to get this one put together, I'm amazed that I've only had to overhaul it twice since its original premiere.

There's other new stuff other there, including Joe Zierman's Jet Phoenix sketch that was posted yesterday. The index pages are somewhat more up to date now, so navigating will be easier. Sorry people, I only get the chance to do that about once a month!

Monday, October 11, 2010

My World : Gargantua Maximus

Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, presenting the wonder of our age -- Gargantua Maximus! This size-changing, often giant gorilla is another creation of the mad Dr. Sandor Varkoff. Gargantua Maximus is not inherently evil or belligerent, but can become violent when provoked. At giant-size, he is nothing less than a menace that must be contained. On one occasion, Captain Satellite used a confiscated Macro Warrior to accomplish that task.

Gargantua Maximus has been relocated to a small island in the South Pacific. It is hoped he will remain there.

The origin of Gargantua Maximus is that I have often drawn just as much inspiration from old B-movies as from comic books for Captain Satellite and company. Giant gorillas are evocative, and let's face it, just plain cool. So Gargantua Maximus will always have a place in my cosmology.

Gargantua Maximus gets his name from what was once the most famous gorilla in the world - Gargantua. I'm sure Koko has usurped that title, but "Gargantua" is a lot more impressive sounding. "Koko Maximus" just wouldn't do. I don't quite remember when I coined the name "Gargantua Maximus" anymore, but it probably dates back to the 1990s.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Your American Top 40 - The 70's Recap

No, I'm most emphatically not planning on making posts like this and Wednesday's initial foray into a regular feature on this blog. However, I enjoyed my livetweeting of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's on Saturday so much that I figured I should share. I skipped posting for Sunday's broadcast almost entirely, for reasons you will soon understand.

So without further ado, direct from my Twitter account to your heart, here's your recap of this weekend's Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's!

  • 9:03 AM - And now...this week's AT40 is from Oct. 9, 1971. Well.
  • 9:05 AM - Delaney & Bonnie up top. Buy it or Bonnie will punch YOU!
  • 9:10 AM - Soul songs from the first half of the 70s hold up best of anything.
  • 9:11 AM - Is this the Four Tops with MacArthur Park?
  • 9:12 AM - THE CAKE! IN THE RAIN!
  • 9:21 AM - One Fine Morning is an interesting song...
  • 9:29 AM - The Who! Wow, there's a pulse!
  • 9:33 AM - Seriously, Won't Get Fooled Again is a wake-up call, 1971. Peaked at 15? Craaaazy.
  • 10:01 AM - I have never heard this Extra. One Tin Soldier?
  • 10:08 AM - Oh this song geezzzZzZZZZ
  • 10:11 AM - No, I will never be lucky enough to sleep thru that one.
  • 10:12 AM - OK, the Dramatics make up for the last one.
  • 10:15 AM - The Story In Your Eyes is my favorite Moody Blues tune.
  • 10:22 AM - James Brown makes it funky! That's what he does. It's his thing. Good God!
  • 10:29 AM - Oh dear. I love this dopey Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep song. There, I said it.
  • 10:31 AM - Raindance is growing on me. Lesser known Guess Who hit.
  • 10:46 AM - Partridge Family underperforming, oh no!
  • 10:51 AM - Smackwater Jack!!!
  • 11:00 AM - Vintage Casey Extra. Hilarious description of Rod Stewart!
  • 11:22 AM - Way to blow away the rest of the show, Stevie Wonder!
  • 11:24 AM - And I know I know I know I know, etc.
  • 11:26 AM - We're so sorry, Uncle Albert - for the kazoo.
  • 11:29 AM - And now, both Admiral Halsey & I must bid you adieu!

If you're curious, according to Joel Whitburn, that program's Number One was "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart. And for the record, Casey Kasem described Rod as "the Englishman with a voice like a velvet sack of gravel".

Join me on Twitter next weekend as I attempt to do another commentary on a vintage countdown show!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Kimota!" Isn't The Same These Days

I have officially lost all patience with Marvelman Family's Finest.

I reviewed the first installment of this projected 6 issue limited series back in July. I wasn't exactly effusive in my praise. Well, we've made it up to #4, and I'm still waiting for this to get better. I suspect I'd be waiting an eternity if it weren't scheduled to end soon.

I used the term "bizarro offbrand clone of the original Captain Marvel and his family" in that prior entry, and boy, does it fit. If you've never read the old Captain Marvel books of the 1940s & 1950s, they are filled with delightful cartooning and clever storytelling. I would daresay that they are the superhero comics of that era that hold up the best 60+ years later. They are high quality entertainment, be it in 1950 or 2010.

Marvelman and his crew are, to be blunt, pale imitations of the Marvel Family. They emulate the basics, but the spirit is just lacking. The art ranges from interesting to much less so. As for the storytelling? Well, it varies. Sometimes, it is just OK. Sometimes, it reaches new lows of banality like "Kid Marvelman and the Bad-Tempered Farmer" (an honest-to-goodness story title!). And sometimes?

Sometimes, Gargunza (the dimestore Sivana) makes a trip to the Department of Redundancies Department.

I want to like these stories. I really, really do. I don't remember disliking the reprints Eclipse put out way back when this much. But then, I didn't miss them when I got rid of them. I genuinely don't think it's antipathy toward Marvel, as I have been buying more of their books than anyone else of late.

No, these stories are just bad. I don't know if it's the ones chosen for this series, or if my standards have improved, or what. All I know is that they make me long for the real Marvel Family as I read them. I can genuinely understand why Alan Moore chose to take a revisionist route when writing his version of these characters. Any other method is the path to madness.

I can't begrudge anyone for liking these stories, especially if they grew up with them. Nostalgia can color our opinions, and I'm just as guilty as anyone. And really, I cannot find it in my heart to hate a comic that puts forth a villain named "Young Nastyman" with a straight face. But c'mon Marvel, don't ever do this again. Please?

Oh well, at least the covers are nice.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Altered Egos: Paul Mann

Today, we launch "Altered Egos", a new Captain Satellite art series that was brought to life by the one and only Kabuki Katze. "A/E" takes a little bit from stuff she did in previous projects, and a little bit from Captain Satellite-themed pieces done earlier this year. It's all blended together in the wonderful Kabuki style to create commissioned pictures that are everything I could've possibly imagined.

I brought the "Altered Egos" series to Kabu with a very simple goal in mind - namely, I wanted to see the Captain Satellite characters depicted in their everyday (I can't call them "normal") identities. Stock art from previous pictures would be in the background illustrating that character's heroic identity. Oh, and the font would be Odaballoon, because I love it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Naomi Morinaga Kicks It Old School

I have lately been thinking a lot about Naomi Morinaga (森永 奈緒美 Morinaga Naomi), which is sort of appropriate when you realize that I am responsible for one of the top English language links pertaining to her. No, seriously! Fire up your favorite search engine and see where this cut & paste comic strip I did in 2003 falls in the results. According to Google, it currently ranks higher than her Wikipedia entry!

As you might gather, I was at one time quite taken with Naomi Morinaga, and I chose to satirize that in a series of comic strips. I can't say I was EVER as preoccupied as depicted there, but I still count her as my top celebrity crush. Why? Well, instead of just telling you, let me show you.

"Annie ni Omakase" by Naomi Morinaga

(Before you ask, yes, that is Naomi Morinaga singing. Though not terrible, it's obvious why music was not her call to glory.)

Naomi Morinaga is best known for her role as "Annie" in UCHU KEIJI SHAIDER ("Space Sheriff Shaider"). Naomi was only 20 years old at the time, and though she had been in the business since at least 1982, this would prove to be the moment that defined her career.

SHAIDER was the third space sheriff series, following GAVAN and SHARIVAN. The preceding two series had also featured heroic armored heroes with female assistants. The key difference was that Kenji Oba and Hiroshi Watari (stars of GAVAN and SHARIVAN, respectively) were both trained stuntmen and could carry fight scenes in their civilian identities until it was time for the guys in the suits. Hiroshi Tsuburaya, star of SHAIDER and grandson of Japanese SPFX master Eiji Tsuburaya, was most definitely not a trained stuntman. There were certain tricks that could help fake that to a degree, but there was no way Tsuburaya could equal Oba and Watari in that department.

Enter Naomi Morinaga. Previously, the female assistant's primary roles were to be pretty and pensive. It was rare for them to be called on for more than that. Morinaga was going to be different. Not only was she pretty, but she was also a trained stuntwoman. Therefore, it fell to her to carry the civilian identity fight scenes. You see all that crazy stuff in that video? She did it. Yes, even the rope swinging scene.

So Annie kicked serious butt, but she was still the sidekick. She consistently found herself at the bad guys' mercy, despite putting up an excellent fight, and had to be rescued by Shaider. This happened all the time. It seemed a bit unfair, considering she was doing the lion's share of the work and was also more charismatic than her heroic leading man. But that was the way it went, and really, it was a small amount of progress for such shows.

(Another parenthetical aside to mention that I have never worked out why Annie didn't rate her own special armor. After all, she was a space sheriff, too! Was it because her own planet was destroyed and thus she didn't rate one? Speaking of unfair...)

I can understand why SHAIDER played out the way it did, but it has always struck me as a missed opportunity on Toei's part. No disrespect to the late Hiroshi Tsuburaya, who was quite good in his role in spite of his limitations, but Naomi Morinaga really stole that show from him. I wish we could have seen the series reflect this and had the emphasis shifted more to Annie. I know it never would have happened, but it's the sort of thing that fires the imagination. Just think, Space Sheriff Annie as the pistol-packing, hard-driving, high-kicking female action star of the 1980s!

Morinaga's career had its ups and downs after SHAIDER. In the early to mid-1990s, she shifted into roles that were very far from Annie. Some folks have rather harshly and judgmentally characterized the phase of her career that led to things like TORIKO and the nude photobooks as a step down. The way I look at it, it's not much different than what a lot of American starlets do to get noticed. TORIKO was an erotic thriller. The books and layouts were, as far as I've seen, tastefully done. I have never seen anything that Morinaga did as degrading, and those that label it "pornography" may need to take a step back. The woman was in her 30s by that time, and the idea of continuing to put her body on the line doing stuntwork was probably looking less appealing. What's wrong with redefining your image?

(Final aside here : Though it is not a "dirty" movie by any means, TORIKO is exactly the sort of Japanese movie that I find incredibly maddening. The sad part is that Naomi is really quite good in it, her acting having improved markedly over the years. But even with her thespian skills and her undraped form, I still got rid of TORIKO. 'Nuff said?)

Naomi Morinaga has dropped off the radar now. The last I read, she had married, and presumably she retired afterward. Perhaps she's even begun a family. If so, good for her. She had a more interesting and notable career than many of her fellow Japanese actresses, and it seems as if she did it on her own terms. That's really the best that you can hope for sometimes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Livetweeting American Top 40 - The 70's

As I have mentioned before, I listen to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's weekends on my local station KHLA 92.9. I have a great time with it, but I have two problems enjoying the show. You see, it airs from 9 AM to 12 PM, so I frequently doze during the first hour and always have to miss the last half hour due to having to be at work at 11:30.

I can't do anything about the latter issue, but the dozing off really bothers me. As I see it, it arises not only from my still being sleepy, but also from my lack of anything other than the radio to focus my attention. Well, I recently linked my Twitter account to my phone, and I had a brainstorm. Why not livetweet AT40 - The 70's to keep my mind active? This past weekend, I did just that.

I livetweeted the show on both Saturday and Sunday, so what follows is a combination of both airings into a single timeline. The program in question was originally from the weekend of October 7, 1972. I was not even 3 months old at the time.

Now, on with the countdown!
  • 9:18 AM - How many times did Casey Kasem tell the story of Joe Cocker getting bottles thrown at him?
  • 9:20 AM - Also, this is one strange version of Midnight Rider.
  • 9:27 AM - I swear the Bee Gees are on every one of these shows.
  • 9:41 AM - Hey, a citation for the story of how the Eagles decided on their name!
  • 9:48 AM - Elton John & 'redneck ways' - quite the contrast there.
  • 10:24 AM - We have an Arlo Guthrie sighting on AT40: The 70s!
  • 10:26 AM - Get on the good foot!
  • 10:43 AM - 'Think of me & try not to laugh.' Oh Rod Stewart, I don't know if that's possible.
  • 10:44 AM - Ricky Nelson had a black belt?
  • 10:51 AM - It is very jarring to hear Rick Springfield on a 1972 show.
  • 11:22 AM - Popcorn & My Ding-a-ling back to back. Did I program this show?
  • 11:26 AM - Elviiiiiis! He's a hunka hunka burning love!
  • 11:38 AM - The Raspberries justify being late for work. Go all the way!
In case you were wondering, the number one song on this program was "Ben" by Michael Jackson.

I had a lot of fun doing this, and it kept me alert though the whole show on Sunday. Hopefully, I can make it a semi-regular thing. Keep watching the Internet!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's A "Return of Jetman" Kind Of Entry

Salutations, folks! We are here to discuss that li'l site I refer to as We have another update today, as we have reached Episode 4 in the "New Return of Jetman" series. I really like this story a lot, and I hope you will check it out.

Of course, there have been other ROJ updates since our last linking to that site, so be sure to check the archives and the main pages (err, when I update the latter, that is). And please don't forget, the GRAND FINALE EPISODE will be going up on October 26, 2010. Yes, it is finished and ready to go! All we have to do now is be patient!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My World : Dr. Sandor Varkoff

Dr. Sandor Varkoff

"Mad science" is still not a recognized discipline, but if it ever is, Dr. Sandor Varkoff would be an excellent candidate for accreditation in the field. Varkoff has a vast body of knowledge in a wide range of specialties, and is unquestionably a genius. Unfortunately, this brilliant man is also extremely twisted, and has a penchant for hatching plans that can only be called "crackpot".

Dr. Varkoff's career path as a mad scientist has led him to butt heads with Captain Satellite, Shelly Ericson, and the Invincible Alliance. He has never been particularly successful in any of these clashes, but he's persistent. You have probably heard the popular wisdom on doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Dr. Sandor Varkoff's chief claim to fame is being the creator of Elektroid, the robot which rebelled against him and later joined the heroes of the Invincible Alliance. Varkoff was also responsible for unleashing Gargantua Maximus, the size-changing giant gorilla, on an unsuspecting world before losing control of the beast. Notice a pattern here?

I never intended to do a profile for Dr. Sandor Varkoff. I created him because Elektroid needed an inventor of some kind. However, I sort of latched onto the idea of a mad scientist whose schemes never quite worked out, and decided it might be fun to give him a little more to do.

"Sandor", by the way, is totally a real name. Look it up! The distinctive Sandor Varkoff moniker was inspired by the actor who used "Zandor Vorkov" as a stage name. Mr. Vorkov is best known for the playing the part of Dracula in the Al Adamson DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN.

Visually, I got a lot of cues for Dr. Varkoff from Bela Lugosi, a veteran at playing mad scientists and other movie villains and oddballs. I was especially taken by stills of him from the film WHITE ZOMBIE. In designing Sandor Varkoff, my proudest and happiest moment was the decision to give him a widow's peak. To me, it defines his look.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Revenge Of A Few Of My Favorite Things

  • "black belt in comics"
  • Blue Oyster Cult
  • Brain 17
  • cool clear water
  • Count Dante ads
  • Dolemite
  • gaijin in Japanese movies
  • Japanese superheroes
  • Johnny Cash
  • Kumi Mizuno

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm Helping!

Here are a couple of links to comic book-related pages that credit me with some assistance.

I supplied Rob Kelly with the first and third issues of Gods of Mount Olympus in Ancient Mythology for both his personal collection and his amazing Treasury Comics site. Full disclosure : those books were originally sent to me by David McRobie. Paying it forward, if you will.

I've linked to the Unofficial Blackhawk Comics Website in the past, but I didn't mention my contribution to the Stormbirds Page. Ah, remember when Alan Moore and company were remaking the Silver Age DC Universe on Rob Liefeld's dime? That scan was clipped from an old issue of CBG, but site owner Dan Thompson cleaned it up a lot. I didn't realize he was going to quote my e-mail on the page, too, but I'm sort of flattered that he did. I just hope what I wrote actually makes sense, because I'm not exactly sure myself!

In the interest of both fairness and coolness, I stumbled across this entry on Rick Veitch's site/blog that shows a scan of that design sketch's original art, which depicts the rest of the Stormbirds team. The sketch never made it into a comic to my knowledge either, and this is the first time I've ever laid eyes on those guys.