Saturday, December 31, 2011

That Was The Year That Was

The changing of the calendar page from one year to the next is always a time for reflection in these parts. By a quirk of circumstance, it also neatly arrives at roughly the same time as this blog's anniversary. I don't have any celebration for the latter planned, but let it be noted that OWARI is entering its fourth year in 2012. No one is more surprised by this development than yours truly.

My goal for 2011 as far as this blog was concerned was to manage at least 20 posts a month, for a minimum of 240 entries on the year. Well, I didn't quite reach that projection - I faltered to just 13 posts in May (ironically, this would have been one of my better months in 2009!). However, I compensated during the other 11 months to reach what will be 288 entries when this one is published. That includes two months (July & November) where there was a post every day and stretches of 36 and 55 straight days where I got something on here. I find this positively mind-boggling.

I also seem to have accidentally published a book during 2011. Seriously, Captain Satellite: Number Zero was a fascinating creative experience. I hadn't opened the year intending to do anything of the sort, so it was just as much of a surprise to me as anyone else that it happened. Kudos to all involved who helped make it happen, especially illustrator/instigator/friend Kayleigh Lebak (a.k.a. Kabuki Katze). Much of what I do with my characters would not be the same without her efforts.

Of course, there are some loose ends from the year that didn't go quite as planned. I should wrap those up. To wit:

1) Back in April, I mentioned that 2012 would see the release of a book entitled Captain Satellite: Life & Times. I'm not as sure about that now. Work stalled on it during the year, and it has some structural problems that need solving before I deem it fit for public consumption. It MAY still happen in 2012; then again, it may not happen at all. I'm exploring my options.

2) I never did post any other pictures from this year's Chaos Theory art show, did I? Regrettably, I never made it back during the show's run, and the paltry few pics I do have still sit on my camera. Sorry about that.

I don't think anything else qualifies as a "loose end" just yet, but I'm sure someone will remind me if I'm wrong. For the record, I'll be continuing both my discussion of that Dr. Fate book and my survey of OWARI's fanzine years in the coming months.

I'm not quite certain what this new year holds. Well, I do know one thing - I will be turning 40. This is strange to write and even stranger to think about. I'm going to try not to worry too much about that, and other things that are out of my control. I just want to take one day at a time, and hope to discover greatness along the way.

See you in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Penguins Is Practically Chickens

I recently did a small favor for Kabuki Katze, and in return, she created an ACEO for me. Rather than electing to have another card done of one of my personal characters, I instead asked for The Penguin!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Owariverse Encyclopedia: Section III - Civilians (U-Z)

Velvet Verity: Velvet Verity is a world-famous supermodel who has managed to run afoul of super-villains on more than one occasion. Her sometimes reckless behavior makes her an easy target for those seeking valuable hostages, and she has required rescue several times in recent years. Sadly, she is not one to learn lessons.

Ivan Walters: Ivan Walters is a prominent film and television producer based in El Oceano. He is best known for producing the hit Cat-Man TV show, and the subsequent blockbuster movie series based on that comic book hero. Among his other credits are the TV series The Deacon and the cult classic sci-fi film The Blue Ooze. Paul Mann believes in Walters enough that he has been financing several of his recent projects. They have joined forces to form the production company WAM Films.

Basil Whittaker: Basil Whittaker is the British millionaire and daredevil adventurer who originally financed Paul Mann when he mysteriously appeared a number of years ago. Mann considers Basil his mentor, and the two have a surrogate father/son relationship that is perhaps so obvious that it led to the non-revelation that ended Paul Mann and Roxanne Prize's relationship. When not tending to his business interests or off on some boondoggle like circling the Earth in a hot air balloon, Basil is one of the foremost art collectors in the world. He specializes in pieces that are considered “grotesque” by the population-at-large.

Bruce Yee: Bruce Yee is C.H.I.E.F.'s Hong Kong bureau chief, and one of the most highly respected officers in the organization. He assisted Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson in their initial tangle with Titan Khan, and continues to keep watch for unusual threats throughout Asia. In spite of certain Western stereotypes, he is most comfortable relying on his crack marksmanship in battle. And yes, he’s heard all the jokes a million times.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas From OWARI HQ

A happy holiday doodle of Kendal (Amazing Girl) Rose supplied by Kabuki Katze leads off this Christmas Eve entry. This particular version comes from her blog, so a) this saves me the time & energy of scanning it myself and b) it's already marked and everything!

This past week has been particularly draining, which is usually the case for me leading up to the holidays. Therefore, I'm taking a few days rest from blogging. But worry not! I shall return before the coming week has completed. I can't send you into 2012 without a freshly-baked batch of OWARI goodness.

And now, here's a little number that has rapidly become one of my favorite Christmas songs. In fact, it's catchy any day of the year. It's the Waitresses, the band responsible for "I Know What Boys Like" and the theme to the TV series SQUARE PEGS, with "Christmas Wrapping"!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Altered Egos: The Untold Story

I have commissioned Kabuki Katze to do many art pieces based on my characters. Among the most popular with the public at large is a series I dubbed "Altered Egos." The gist of Altered Egos is to depict the civilian guise of one of my characters, with the background being their super identity.

Here's a handy checklist of the pictures in the Altered Egos series so far:

Paul Mann

Shelly Ericson

Xolani Shabangu

Roxanne Prize

Kendal Rose

Beth Gordon

One thing I sort of glossed over in introducing this series was its origins. You see, this particular layout did not come to me out of a void. In fact, it was inspired by some earlier pieces Kabuki had done for me in 2008-2009.

To backtrack, the two pictures seen below of Reiko Hayasaka (Blue Swallow) and Etsuko Oishi (White Swan) of Return of Jetman fame were done as giftart. Other than choosing the characters and the premise, I didn't really plan these out. The wallpaper formatting with the headshot serving as background did, however, plant the seeds in my mind for what became Altered Egos.

For the record, this is not how Reiko and Etsuko are usually costumed. I asked Kabuki to create sexy lingerie-style outfits for them based on their standard uniforms. This was an outgrowth of a picture of Kei Mizuno (Green Wyvern) that had been done a couple of months earlier by Sara. And so, the process continues. Every project feeds into another one, whether we know it or not.

Anyway, without further ado, here's Reiko Hayasaka in "Sing, Bluebird" and Etsuko Oishi in "Swan Song! They are the beginnings of Altered Egos! Don't forget to click them for full-size!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mail-Order Mysteries

Folks, I am pleased to report that I did obtain my copy of Mail-Order Mysteries as discussed in this entry. Furthermore, unlike the cheap junk the book celebrates, I found Mail-Oder Mysteries lived up to my expectations. In fact, it surpassed them!

Kirk Demarais (I am too embarrassed to check whether I misspelled his name last time) has not only put together a fine and fascinating book, but he has done a quality service for mankind. I am glad someone has documented the truth behind things like X-Ray Spex, Sea Monkeys, and the 100 piece toy soldier set. Heck, he has even uncovered a genuine Raquel Welch pillow! These sort of novelties are just as much a part of the fabric of comic book history as Superman and Spider-Man, so it's nice to have a celebration of them in all their tackiness. It also serves as a reminder that, yes, ads can and do mislead you. How else to explain something like the U-Control Ghost?

My comic book mail order experience was remarkably low key for someone who consumed so damn many comic books and was endlessly fascinated by the array of ads contained within them. Besides the obligatory comic book dealers, the only time I can recall sending away for anything through a comic book ad was for comic character flip flops. Why this, of all things? Search me, as I cannot even adequately remember the characters on this fancy footwear. I received them, and they were exactly as advertised (a reputable company? NO!), but I think the wait involved scared me off from going crazy on such deals. Wasn't it something like eight weeks? The sad truth is that flip flops insulated me from the disappointment that would have been mine had I dived headfirst into fulfilling my comic book ad fantasies.

Kirk Demarais understands this, and he's here to help. Mail-Order Mysteries is a cavalcade of fun, even if some of the products were outright frauds. In fact, I daresay that this is one of my favorite books in recent memory. If you consider that an endorsement coming from me, hey, why not order a copy?

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! If you act now (or y'know, anytime, really), you can read The "Lost" Mail-Order Mysteries! It's a look behind the scenes (if you will) on one of the more satisfying book purchases I've ever made.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Owariverse Encyclopedia: Section III - Civilians (T)

Nicola Tanihara: Nicola Tanihara is an esteemed Professor of Mathematics at MTI. She first encountered Mortimer (Blue Behemoth) Kane and Danny (Drone Man) Graham when she joined the faculty of the university, but neither of them had the nerve to talk to her while they were graduate students. More recently, Graham has not only asked her out, but there are signs that sparks might fly between them.

Debbie Truman: Debbie Truman is the teenage daughter of Tex and Gabrielle Truman, and younger sister of Dean (Ultimate American) Truman. Unlike the rest of her family, she has shown no affinity for a life of action. Quite the contrary, she is shy and withdrawn, and would much prefer solitude over hanging out with her peers. Tex and Gabrielle are hopeful that she will at least come out of her shell one day, even if she never becomes part of the family’s fighting legacy.

Gabrielle Truman: Gabrielle “Jinx” Fitzgerald was a top C.H.I.E.F. agent and codebreaker when she met and fell in love with Tex Truman. Despite their considerable age difference (offset by Tex’s youthful appearance & vitality), they decided to tie the knot. This did nothing to slow down Jinx’s whirlwind career of adventure, but she eventually retired from active duty to raise a family.

Gabrielle officially changed her name from “Gabrielle Fitzgerald” to “Gabrielle Truman” when she chose to settle into a more domestic role. She and Tex have two children together, Dean and Debbie. Though she seems content with the life of a housewife, Gabrielle can still draw on her martial arts training in a pinch.

Joe Truman: Joe Truman, the son of Tex and Anna Truman, was recruited by C.H.I.E.F. while still in college, and joined the organization after earning his degree. He served as an agent for a time, but found working for the government too stifling. He resigned from C.H.I.E.F. and struck out on his own as a freelance operator specializing in paranormal investigation.

Joe found fame and riches both in selling his services to the highest bidder (which ironically often included C.H.I.E.F.) and promoting himself through the media. His tactics in advancing his newfound career led to considerable friction with his father Tex. They finally had a major falling out after Tex divorced Joe’s mother, and the two refused to speak to one another in the aftermath.

Joe Truman disappeared under mysterious circumstances 25 years ago. He has not been seen or heard from in the intervening years.

Tex Truman: Tex Truman (his legal name) is a larger-than-life cowboy hailing from the plains of west Texas who has devoted his life to fighting for his country. Given his somewhat eccentric nature, it was probably inevitable that he was eventually assigned to C.H.I.E.F. as a special agent. After all, most G-Men don’t go around wearing a ten gallon hat and a pair of six-shooters.

Tex has distinguished himself over the years as a C.H.I.E.F. operative, including uncovering a raft of Third World agents in the organization’s ranks. For meritorious service in that case, he was promoted to director of the bureau after the forced resignation of his predecessor. He remained at the post for 11 years, and rebuilt C.H.I.E.F. from the ground up after initiating a thorough housecleaning. Since stepping down, he has continued to serve as a special consultant. Tex was never one for a full retirement.

Tex has been married twice. He wed his first wife, the former Anna Malone, while still in his 20s, and they had a son together named Joe. After a lengthy marriage, the two eventually drifted apart and divorced, citing irreconcilable differences. Tex remained single until Anna’s death by natural causes nine years later. Within a year, he was engaged to fellow C.H.I.E.F. agent Gabrielle Fitzgerald.

Tex currently stays involved by serving as C.H.I.E.F. liaison to the Invincible Alliance – the very group his son Dean leads as the Ultimate American. Otherwise, he helps his wife Gabrielle raise their teenage daughter Debbie. He is uncannily spry for being 96 years old. Perhaps that time 60 years ago when he vanished in the mountains of Tibet for a month has something to do with that?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Harmless Drudge

I first became aware of Kory Stamper via the "Ask The Editor" videos on Merriam-Webster Online (my preferred internet dictionary). Was it the now-famous "octopodes" video? I do believe it was.

(Note to self: Firefox does not recognize "octopodes" as a word. Unacceptable.)

Now, don't get me wrong - Peter Sokolowski and Emily Brewster (the other editors featured on the M-W video page) are also quite rad. I think I noticed Kory's videos first because she was so amazingly expressive and funny in addition to being intelligent. If I'm being honest with myself, the purple hair probably influenced my decision to actually watch one of her videos, too. That was not exactly what I was expecting of someone who worked on a dictionary.

Kory Stamper talks about her own preconceived notions about the dictionary in the inaugural post on Harmless Drudgery, her newly-launched blog. I am very excited that this is happening, because I had been thinking since I started following her Twitter account that hers was a voice that would be fascinating in the blogging world. She's erudite and witty, but with a healthy lack of pretension about her craft and herself. She certainly handles being a "bewildered internet phenom" with more aplomb than I likely would. (Seriously guys? Calm down already.)

I'm glad Kory Stamper has finally succumbed to the terrible disease that is blogging. Be sure to read what she has to say, and perhaps we will encourage her to never find a cure!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Weed of Crime

This English language trailer for the Toho crime film THE WEED OF CRIME is another video brought to my attention by a comment left by reader Cody Himes. Again, I had no idea. This one surfaced on a Something Weird collection, and while I have some ideas about these oddball items, I have nothing solid. Therefore, I shall restrain myself from uninformed speculation for the moment.

Cody also mentioned that another Toho crime film titled THE MERCILESS TRAP has appeared in the Sinister Cinema catalog. Damn. If this sort of movie was more my thing, I'd be all over this already. I'm still tempted as it is.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Toxic Duck

Hi, my name is Chris, and I love to buy vending machine toys.

It's a funny thing - I have long since given up collecting toys. I make an exception for those little do-dads encased in plastic bubbles that can be had for just a few coins. I will go out of my way to grab a new one, no matter how cheap and tacky.

My favorite recent find was Toxic Duck.

I should note that there are color variations for Toxic Duck, as the display card within the machine had one who was green with a black symbol. You can see that symbol is what gives him his exotic name. Also, check out how tiny the little guy is!

I was so happy with Toxic Duck that now he has a posse.

From left to right we have Screwball Duck, Retired Duck(?), and (obviously) Unretired Duck(??). I can only surmise the monikers for the latter two are some reference to shooting galleries. I further suppose the number "4" ties into this, but if there is any other special significance, it is lost on me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Berlin via the Metro

Most people who are familiar with Berlin know the band exclusively for "Take My Breath Away". While I am a big Giorgio Moroder proponent, that particular song just never did it for me. Ergo, I didn't really give the band Berlin much of my time.

This was a mistake. It was, however, an understandable one. I don't think Berlin got any radio airplay locally except for "Take My Breath Away". As it turns out, that song is not really representative of the band's capabilities. Leave it to the world to make a song written by outside hands the ONE that embodies a group.

I suppose I had an inkling that Berlin had more to offer from an old cassette I owned. It was called Heat: Extended Hot Mixes from a label called JCI Records. I bought it for other reasons (*ahem* "White Horse"), but one of the songs was Berlin's "No More Words". If I had paid attention, I would have noticed sooner that Berlin's sound on that song was different from their later hit. Alas, I did not.

It wasn't until years later, when I was buying various and sundry compilation CDs, that I discovered songs like "Sex (I'm A...)" and "The Metro". That was when I realized that Berlin was far more than just a song from TOP GUN. Better late than never!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Owariverse Encyclopedia: Section III - Civilians (O-S)

Jimmy Olive: “Handsome” Jimmy Olive is one of the more colorful characters prowling the streets of the Minors in Major City. Known for his flamboyant attire, Handsome Jimmy professes that he loves “the ladies” and “kickin’ booty” (though not at the same time). He is also one of the most reliable informants in town for those seeking a hot tip.

Bobbi Prize: Roberta Prize (though usually just “Bobbi Prize”) is the ne’er-do-well older sister of Roxanne (Firegirl) Prize. Though she shares her sister’s stunning attractiveness, Bobbi is not quite as motivated to do the right thing as her sibling. To be frank, she’s a con artist, always on the look-out for a new angle. The sisterly love between Bobbi and Roxanne is strong, but their relationship has been strained through the years due to Bobbi’s occasionally unscrupulous antics.

Kimber Rachelle: Kimber Rachelle (born Kimberly Rachelle Hackendorf) is a glamorous film starlet who got roped into the world of superheroes quite by accident. Cast as the heroine in Ivan Walters’ big budget movie The Ghost Kingdom, Kimber had no idea her big break would also lead to her being targeted by mad scientist Dr. Sandor Varkoff when he unleashed the robot Elektroid on the set. It was ultimately Kimber who swayed Elektroid enough to break his programming and turn against Varkoff. Kimber has remained close to Elektroid since then, even as she has risen to international stardom. She refers to him as her “special friend.”

Archie Richter: Archie Richter is one of the top mob bosses in Major City. Between law enforcement and rival gangsters, maintaining a grip on his rackets is no easy task in the largest city in the nation. To make matters worse, instead of avoiding superheroes, he has chosen to tackle them head-on with little success. There has been persistent grumbling in his organization that it might be time for a change at the top. For that to happen, someone will have to dare trying to rub out the seemingly-untouchable Archie Richter.

Buddy Roswell: Buddy Roswell is known in most circles as “Major City’s Angriest Citizen.” It often seems he doesn’t have a good word for ANYONE. Buddy isn’t evil; he’s just a miserable person. He also subscribes to just about every conspiracy theory known to man. He has denounced Captain Satellite as trying to control his mind through “sub-ether radio transmission” (whatever that is).

Scary Metal People: The Scary Metal People are one of the richest and most esteemed rock groups in history. Unsurprisingly, they are also a bunch of nutters.

Scary Metal People lead guitarist, vocalist, and de facto leader Arthur Crudlip first came into the public eye as “Arthur Shoe Leather,” using the gimmick of a singing shoeshine boy. He scored a smash hit on the U.K. music charts with his debut record, “Shine Your Shoes (For Tupence).” Subsequent releases under the Shoe Leather moniker were unsuccessful, and Crudlip abandoned both it and the act itself, later calling that phase of his career “a giant cock-up.”

Left to his own devices (a dangerous proposition if there ever was one), Crudlip recruited Smythe Niblett (rhythm guitar), Geoffrey Toober (bass), and Nigel Null (drums) to form a band. This quartet dubbed themselves “The Scary Metal People” for reasons which are lost in a drunken haze, and went on to perform in the sessions that led to the Scary Metal People's classic debut album Wampeter For Trouble. Among the favorites on this strong maiden effort are “The Bees That Sting Me (Ouch)” (“Beeeeeeees are upon me/And they're stiiiiiiiinging”), “Big Ol' Brain” (“MY BRAIN!” x 6), and “Kill Them All And Fall Asleep” (unintelligible except for the chorus).

The line-up of the Scary Metal People (gleefully dubbed “The World's Most Obnoxious Band” by the rock press) has remained intact and unchanged since their formation, unusual for such a durable group and downright confounding considering their often peculiar life choices. They have recently been on tour promoting their latest album, Billion Pound Bootblack, and its single, the fourth new version of “Shine Your Shoes (For Tupence)” in the Scary Metal People's catalog. Crudlip insists that the album's title is a reference to all the money he has generated through his music career, and not to his burgeoning waistline.

During one particular stop of their tour, at the Indigo Mollusk in Major City, the Scary Metal People were attacked by one-time associate Zoragaza the Mystic. Fortunately, the Blue Behemoth was attending the show and subdued the mad magician with the aid of his allies in the Invincible Alliance. Grateful for the save, the Scary Metal People invited the Alliance to appear on-stage with them two months later at a benefit show organized by Paul Mann and Pat August at Miles Major Memorial Stadium. Blue Behemoth (playing guitar on his custom-made Fender Stratocaster), Drone Man (keyboards), Ultimate American (cowbell), Firegirl (tambourine), and Elektroid (triangle) accompanied the Scary Metal People on the brand-new song Crudlip wrote especially for the performance, “Wizards Are Wankers.”

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY: Wampeter For Trouble, Matzahs Moody, Hardcore Bragging, Wreckful, Beware The Bowered Blowfly, Sextain Tacit, Hyena Thwack!, Peskier, Dazzled By The Microdot, Billion Pound Bootblack

Mondo Style: Mondo Style (obviously not his real name) is one of the more famous professional wrestlers of the last 25 years. He thought it would be fabulous publicity to challenge Blue Behemoth to a “superhero vs. wrestler” match for one of his grappling group's pay-per-view events. Deciding to “forget” the pre-planned outcome, he went into business for himself during the “contest,” and BB taught him a lesson in humility that was an entertainment bargain for fans everywhere.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Remembering The Blue Scarab

While discussing the Azure Ant with Lewis over on deviantArt, I was reminded of another inspiration. This one is probably exclusive to me, so you're forgiven if this is all new to you.

Specifically, this particular episode of SCOOBY-DOO had a big impact on me. Yeah, I know, I know, but understand this: I was 7 when I watched it. I feel certain I saw it during that initial airing, though I have not seen it since. I still recall details from that episode, and I'm pretty sure I can't say that about any other episodes of that show. Well, maybe the ones with celebrity guest-stars like Mama Cass, but that's it.

One thing that particularly fascinates me is that, even at 7, I realized that the Blue Scarab was a parody of the Blue Beetle. I knew who Blue Beetle was even then, and also knew he wasn't being published by Charlton at that time. I wonder if this episode was one of those windows into how comic books worked. Well, sorta how they worked - I mean, it's rare for disgruntled comic creators to dress up as their characters and commit crimes.

A twist in the tale is that this episode is based directly on an issue of the Scooby comic book from a few years earlier. Both were written by Mark Evanier, so there's no shenanigans going on there. I cannot recall if the TV script was a rush job or not (possibly), but that could very well be why that script got reused. I must say, since I discovered this, I've been really curious to read the original comic book version of the story.

I do find it strange that the comic cover refers to the character as simply "the Scarab" and depicts him looking very un-Blue Beetle-like. Considering the synopsis uses the "Blue Scarab" name, I wonder if that was a strategic move by Gold Key. After all, BB's most recent comic book had only been cancelled less than a decade earlier. And hey, why the Blue Beetle anyway?

I should probably ask Mark Evanier himself, but man, that gent is certainly busy. Perhaps he will wander by here someday? I'm also relatively certain this was my introduction to the word "scarab", so he broadened my vocabulary as well! Thanks Mark!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Altered Egos: Beth Gordon

Why yes, it's back for more! "Altered Egos", the series drawn by that stunning lady artist known far and wide as Kabuki Katze, returns to dazzle us once again. Today's subject is Beth Gordon!

Monday, December 12, 2011

My World : The Azure Ant

Rip Witchell is a former officer in the Major City Police Department who was busted for corruption. Ousted from the MCPD, he broke out of prison with the help of his ingenuity and connections. Witchell then disappeared into the shady world of the underground to plot his next move.

The Azure Ant is the result of Witchell’s scheming. Donning the guise of an obscure comic book hero, Witchell’s goal is nothing less than taking over organized crime in Major City. Neither the authorities nor the current gangland leaders find the Azure Ant’s plan particularly appealing.

Given the nature of his ambitions, the Azure Ant has inevitably clashed with Captain Satellite and other heroes based in Major City. Somewhat oddly, he claims that his “secret weapon” in his battles is his steadfast devotion to the soft drink Kooba Cola. He says Kooba is “invigorating, refreshing, and delicious” and “gives him the pep he needs” in taking on his foes.

Before anyone asks, "Witchell" is not a typo, but a perfectly legitimate surname. It came to me in a dream, and I was just as surprised as anyone to learn it was real. I pretty much had to use it after finding out it was.

During both 2007 and 2010, I toyed with the concept of reviving an insect-themed villain or two from my past roster of characters. Alas, nothing ever clicked to my satisfaction. Then earlier this year, I hit upon the Azure Ant name (spinning out of an older character called the Albino Ant) and my mind went into a different direction than earlier attempts.

The Blue Beetle is a comic book character with a long and torturous history, but most of it is not important for our purposes. What is important is that I am a fan of the character in all his incarnations (if not all the stories, oh no) and the original Golden Age version is in the public domain. The "Blue Beetle" name and subsequent versions of the hero are owned by DC Comics, but the first claimant to the name is free for anyone to use.

Essentially, the Azure Ant is a parody/homage to the Blue Beetle, but with a helpful name change. BB's original secret identity was policeman Dan Garret, so my villain is a corrupt former cop out to take over the underworld. And there it was - a way to make this new villain distinctive enough to have a reason for existing.

...Oh, the Kooba Cola thing? Kooba Cola was a soft drink marketed by Victor Fox in the pages of his comics (including Blue Beetle) and the BB radio show. Though promo materials exist, there is a question as to whether it was actually produced. I had already integrated Kooba Cola into the Owariverse in a story that has not yet been released, so I liked pairing the Azure Ant with it. There was also some inspiration found from Captain Beefheart's apparent addiction to Pepsi.

(And no, that color scheme isn't strictly speaking "azure" in hex code. I went with something that mirrored the Blue Beetle and just regarded the word as a synonym for "blue" in this instance.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ironfinger: Booted Babe, Busted Boss

Last week, we had this. If you click that link, you will see the bombshell link reader C.T. Himes dropped on me. But for your sake, I'll embed it here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

ROJ Episode 14 Notes Are Live!

In nearly every respect, this felt like the thing that refused to be written. I finished the episode discussed eight years ago. Now, and only JUST now, you can read the corresponding notes to Return of Jetman Episode 14. It's taken me nine months to follow up the previous set of notes on the site. Let me repeat that: NINE MONTHS.

I sincerely hope I can be a little more on the ball with the updated notes to New Return of Jetman.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the fruit of far too much labor for such a meager readership - ROJ Episode 14 Notes!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Shiera Sanders Is Still Hawkgirl

Hey there! Remember there was a commission piece of the Earth-2/Golden Age incarnation of Hawkgirl in these parts not long ago? Now there is another! This one is by Sean Moore, and was done as part of a trade for some issues of Hobby Japan. I actually let him choose whatever version of Hawkgirl he wanted to draw, and he elected to go with this version, too. Oh, and he tried some new things in this piece. I think it came out pretty snazzy myself!

Sean's dA page for this piece is right here. Show the man some love!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Owariverse Encyclopedia: Section III - Civilians (E-N)

Eve East: Eve East co-starred on the TV series Cat-Man as the hero's beautiful battling sidekick Kitten. In later years, she left acting behind and entered the arena of politics. She was recently elected mayor of El Oceano, California - the largest city on the west coast, and entertainment capital of the world. She is proud of her one-time career, but a little nonplussed when it’s all people want to talk about when they meet her.

Manon Etienne: Manon Etienne is the owner and general manager of the stylish Chez Café. In addition to its many well-deserved accolades, the Chez Café is where Paul Mann and Shelly Ericson had their first face-to-face meeting (it wasn't really a “date”). Manon’s restaurant holds the reputation as one of the places to eat in Major City. It is said that she knows all the movers and shakers in town on a first name basis.

Albert Fannick: Albert “The Panic” Fannick is a basketball star who first rose to national prominence at Magnifica University on the west coast. Signed by the Major City Electrics out of college, Fannick has gone on to have a sensational pro hoops career. His most astonishing achievement to date was scoring 75 points in a game against the El Oceano Liners. He is Shelly Ericson's favorite player, and possibly the only person in the world capable of rendering her starstruck.

Howard Fein: Howard Fein is the current President of the United States. He was eager after taking the Presidential oath of office to associate his administration with the rising popularity of Captain Satellite and the Invincible Alliance, just as he had during his term as the mayor of Major City. Critics have charged him with engaging in publicity stunts for his own gain. Fein, on the other hand, contends that he truly believes in the idealism represented by this wave of superheroes.

Curt Koorey: Curt Koorey is more than just a disc jockey; he's an institution of the airwaves. A noted radio personality and voice actor, Koorey has spun records over the years from artists as diverse as Flint Nickell, the Wee Reptiles, Billy Popcorn, Solar Cyclops, and the Scary Metal People. Disco Ball holds a personal grudge against him due to Koorey's refusal to add the works of Vance McGuire (Disco Ball's alter ego) to his playlist. And the countdown rolls on!

Dick Major: Dick Major is the wealthy scion of the venerable family that founded Major City centuries ago. Though the rest of his clan has either embraced or at least accepted Paul Mann, Dick resents what he feels is the diminishing of his family's legacy due to Mann's rise in stature in town. He is a proud (many might say arrogant) man who refuses to accept what he sees as the devaluing of the Major name. He isn’t above using unethical and possibly even illegal means to drag Paul Mann down…so long as he can’t possibly be connected to any shady dealings.

Jay Morita: Jay Morita is the Editor-in-Chief of The Major City Courier, the number one newspaper in both Major City and the country as a whole. Morita is known for his fearlessness and integrity, which is how he was able to survive the scandal that brought down reporter Roxanne Prize. Still smarting from his lapse in judgment in giving the green light to Prize's story, Morita has been working tirelessly to bolster the reputation of the Courier and fend off rival newspaper The Major City Progress.

Monica Nostro: Monica Nostro (née Monica Major) is lauded as being among the most generous philanthropists in Major City, and indeed, the nation. One of the heirs to the sizable Major family fortune, Monica has chosen to help others through charity rather than finance an extravagant lifestyle for herself. Her cousin Dick Major objects vigorously, considering Monica’s activities a waste of good money. Dick is even more perturbed by Monica’s insistence on associating with Paul Mann and Shelly Ericson, both of whom he considers bitter enemies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Fickle Finger Of Doctor Fate, Part 1

We usually talk about how certain old comic book characters were much more popular back in the 1940s. Whether it's Blackhawk or Captain Marvel or the Sub-Mariner, there are just some four color heroes who hang in there despite their heyday being well in the past. However, they seem destined to never reach those lofty heights again.

Dr. Fate is something of the opposite case. He was essentially a highly-touted also-ran during the Golden Age. He appeared on some covers, qualified for the Justice Society, and was published for a few years. But? He never broke out as a star. Contrast that with his fortunes since his revival in 1963. He became one of the mainstays of the revived JSA, rising to become arguably one of the most popular of the bunch. He has starred in several solo series and been immortalized in toys, cartoons and even live-action television. He's still a second-stringer, but a reliable one who turns up often. Not a bad showing for a guy who couldn't even hang onto the cover spot for More Fun Comics.

As you might expect, Dr. Fate proved popular enough to earn an Archive of his Golden Age exploits from DC Comics. But Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives Vol. 1 is an Archive with a difference. It is a hardcover (the product page is wrong in this respect) that collects EVERY SINGLE Dr. Fate solo strip from the 1940s. It is not cheap, but it's almost 400 pages of rare stories starring a classic character. I finally scored my copy earlier this year.

The fascinating thing about this book is to watch the progression of the strip through its four year lifespan. The Dr. Fate that debuts in More Fun #55 is only superficially the same Dr. Fate that takes his final bow in More Fun #98. Therein lies a story that I think is worth exploring.

Doctor Fate first appears with no explicitly spelled-out backstory. By this, I mean we are told a background for him, but it is not shown. What's more, it varies from story to story. In this initial conception, the good Doctor is apparently ancient. He is also quite otherworldly.

One of the things that struck me about the first year or so of Dr. Fate is just how inherently bizarre it is. Much has been made of Fletcher Hanks and his Stardust the Super Wizard, but I would contend that Dr. Fate approaches that level of surreal crazy. The key difference is that both the story (by Gardner Fox) and art (by Howard Sherman) are clearly superior for Doctor Fate. Which isn't to say they aren't strange. Both the plots and the dialogue are rather unnerving and (dare I say it?) even a little creepy for the era. The art is compressed into small panels that tell the story in the limited space provided but add a sense of claustrophobia to even the grandest of events. If I had a word to describe the travails of Dr. Fate and his female companion Inza, it would be "unease".

Oh yes, Inza. Her Golden Age portrayal is a revelation. While frequently a damsel-in-distress, she is a strong and capable one. While her relationship with Dr. Fate is not one you could characterize as "romantic" at first, it's clear he both loves and (more importantly) respects her. For her part, she is ready and willing to participate in Fate's insane adventures, which is quite a switch from the characterization attributed to her during the 1970s and 80s. How did THAT happen, anyway? To give you an idea of her perceived importance in the strip, there are several stories in which she receives a special billing on the splash page! I can't recall many girlfriends who ever merited a "co-starring" in their hero's strip.

For whatever reason, some tinkering with this formula was felt to be necessary. Inza was absent for the tale where Dr. Fate must turn back the challenge of invading fish men, but her removal was only for one story. There was something bigger in the offing. More Fun #66 features a story with a leopard girl, and everything is...different. The panels are larger. The tone is much more down-to-Earth, albeit still in the realm of fantastic. Even the mysterious Doctor Fate comes across as more approachable. This is accentuated by the end, in which he removes his helmet and reveals his secret identity of Kent Nelson to Inza.

I cannot overemphasize what a fundamental change the last was in the strip. Not only had Dr. Fate never removed his helmet on-panel prior to this, but there was never any indication that he HAD an alter ego! Until this story, he was just Dr. Fate, and that was that. Kent Nelson's first appearance here seems a signal that they want to humanize the hero and make it easier for kids to relate to him.

This is the approach to Dr. Fate utilized throughout the Silver Age and Bronze Age, which is why it is surprising to realize it only lasted for six months in the Golden Age. The next story (#67) relates an origin story for Fate that had previously been deemed unneeded. This is the foundation for his character in later years, though it does seemingly contradict his portrayal during most of the prior year's worth of stories. Not to worry, this was addressed in later retcons (some ingenious, some not so much).

Thus begins the much more obvious romance between Kent Nelson and Inza Cramer (whose surname fluctuated). Heck, they even go on a date where Kent WEARS HIS GOLDEN DR. FATE CAPE WITH HIS DRESS CLOTHES. Kent and Inza's relationship would be pretty consistent through the latter-days of the feature.

Issues #69-#71 form a probably accidental sequence that paves the way for yet another new direction. In #69, we meet Ian Karkull and he ends up getting trapped in the form of a shadow. In #70, Karkull returns for Round Two, and teams up with old Fate foe Wotan. Wotan's return is odd in itself. He appeared in the first two Dr. Fate stories, but not again until he inexplicably returned over a year later (his red outfit and green skin being supplanted by a purple suit and Caucasian skin in the process). This teaming is foiled by Our Hero is what feels like a climax. And then, in #71...

Remember how I said it was obvious in #66 that things were different? I get the same vibe from the story in #71. This story very much feels like it could be about ANY superhero, and just happens to feature Dr. Fate. I realize that could be said for much of the output of the Golden Age, but I don't think I'm barking up the wrong tree when I contend those early Dr. Fate stories had a flavor all their own. That is missing here. The artwork and everyone featured in it look the same. But the characters sound different. They act differently. Dr. Fate wins in the end, but you get the impression of him being just another long underwear type instead of an enigmatic sorcerer.

Things were about to change radically in the Dr. Fate strip. And the surest sign would be a slight alteration in his costume. That will be where we pick this up in Part 2 (whenever that may be).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ACEO on Fire!

See, Firegirl? I told you that there would be an ACEO of you by Kabuki Katze. Would I lie to a sizzling redhead like you?

You're also on deviantArt. Isn't that grand?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shaolin vs. Frankenstein

Disclaimer: A screener copy of the "Shaolin vs. Frankenstein" DVD was sent to the owner of this blog for review.

Back in the carefree 1990s, when we rode our dinosaurs to the post office to pick up the latest issues of our favorite fanzines, Damon Foster surprised us all when he began reviewing KOREAN sci-fi movies in the pages of his Oriental Cinema. Later, I even acquired a few of them (not from Damon) during those madcap video trading days. They were just as oddball as he'd said, and more than a little bit hard to follow. I don't think I own any of those tapes today, but I never forgot my exposure to those movies.

Fast forward to the present, and Damon has gifted us with his new video, SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN. SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is built around footage from THREE (count 'em!) different Korean movies. This is very much a good thing, because while these films always have some points of interest, they are also filled with a lot of stuff that is just a waste of your time. Damon has smartly solved this dilemma by weaving the plots of three separate films together into one. Amazingly, it is pretty much at least as coherent as the originals were separately.

I won't attempt to recap the plot, but I will tell you this movie features:

* Monsters! Including Dracula and the Frankenstein monster!
* The giant monster Yongary!
* The superhero Golden Bat!
* A Shaolin priest!
* An utterly moronic lead character in Shim Hyung Rae's "Young Gu"!
* Juvenile humor at its most juvenile!

SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is a little slow out of the gate, because there is only so much Damon and company can do with the expository portion of the proceedings. Still, there are good gags to be found. However, when things kick into gear, they REALLY kick into gear. Imagine if you will a superhero fight intercut with the Shaolin priest battling monsters intercut with Yongary on a rampage. It was as if everything cool had a giant mash-up party!

Damon Foster deserves a lot of credit for seriously improving on what were at best minor video curios and making them not only watchable but entertaining. I hadn't given these flicks much thought in ages, so it was a pleasure to rediscover some of their idiosyncratic charm in a more palatable form. In many ways, it hearkened back to the time when we watched movies just because they were different.

Caution: SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is not for everyone. Some of the dubbed humor may offend, but that is Damon's M.O. and I wouldn't change it. There are also some scenes from the Korean movies that may surprise you in their gross-out factor, considering these were originally marketed as being for kids. Oh, and there is one laughably cheap but disturbingly graphic (if that makes a lick of sense) sequence that I won't spoil here.

SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is a worthy addition to Damon's collection of unusual video projects. You can check those out on his video page. SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is not for sale juuuust yet, so keep your eyes peeled at Damon Foster's Page! When available, it can be yours for the modest price of $10!

EDIT March 26, 2012: You can now buy SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN at your convenience!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

100 Shot-100 Killed

My pal David McRobie over at Xenorama recently devoted the month of November to discussing spy movies. One video I found during his cavalcade was the above, and since it didn't make the cut on the Xeno-Blog, I thought I'd spotlight it here.

As it happens, I've seen the first "100 Shot-100 Killed" (literally 100発100中) film. I absolutely loved it for its good-natured sense of humor and fairly exciting action. Akira Takarada shines as "Andrew Hoshino" (but is he really Andrew Hoshino??) and Mie Hama is at her absolute zenith. I mean, check out the amazing chemistry between those two as evidenced in the trailer alone. Plus, if Mie Hama in a bikini firing a machine gun doesn't have some effect on you, check your pulse. Throw in the likes of Ichiro Arishima and Akihiko Hirata and you have a spy movie that successfully bridges the language barrier due to pure thrills and sheer likeability.

The above video also includes some pictures after the trailer, before segueing into the trailer for the second film (albeit with the theme song replacing the audio). Its title 100発100中 黄金の眼 translates as (no kidding) "100 Shot-100 Killed: Golden Eye", and it looks like the equal of the first film in terms of awesome. The new leading lady is Bibari Maeda, who is best known (if at all) for being in SON OF GODZILLA. Incidentally, both "100 Shot-100 Killed" films are directed by Jun Fukuda, and they give you a new perspective on him if you've only seen his Godzilla work.

If you are inclined, check out this video on Youtube. It even has the option of HD there!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Owariverse Encyclopedia: Section III - Civilians (A-D)

Pat August: Pat August is the president of Mann Creations, and the one who runs the day-to-day operations of the company. Though Paul Mann founded the company, and is the principal owner and CEO, it is Pat who keeps it humming along. He is probably Captain Satellite's most valuable and trustworthy confidante besides Shelly Ericson herself. Pat is involved with a number of charities and community programs both in his official capacity and as a private citizen, including serving as chairman for the Major City Council on African-American Affairs (MCCAA).

Karma Bando: Don't let Karma Bando's hippie girl name and slight appearance deceive you - she is an ace auto mechanic and expert car customizer. Captain Satellite enlisted her aid in creating his Rocket Racecar, and she has an exclusive contract to maintain the specialized vehicle. Her reputation has only grown with her association with Cap, and she has been able to franchise her Lightning Cars business around the country as a result.

Rudy Boemer: Rudy Boemer is the current mayor of Major City, and something of a political maverick. He has a very blue collar approach to city governance, in line with his roots in Middleburg (largest metropolis in the Midwest). He is still not as sold on the concept of costumed do-gooders as his predecessor, Howard Fein, was while he was in office. However, he has demonstrated a willingness to work with the superhero community in his constituency.

Bruce Chase: Bruce Chase is famous as the star of the popular and trendsetting TV series Cat-Man on the DeKalb Television Network. Noted for his exaggerated and overdramatic delivery, he was perfect for the role, and that landmark program has defined his career. Though he went on to play the title character in the cop show Lomax! (also aired on DeKalb) for several seasons, success as a serious movie actor - what he really desires - has eluded Bruce. He is still doggedly optimistic, and convinced that all he needs is the right part - such as that of Captain Satellite in the film adaptation of his life story. Meanwhile, he continues to cash sizeable checks for reprising his Cat-Man role in a string of top-grossing blockbusters.

Rex Coronado: Rex Coronado is the executive director of C.H.I.E.F. The son of Mexican immigrants, he is deeply proud of the United States, and will fight to defend it with his last breath. He wears sunglasses at all times to disguise the fact that he has a glass right eye. Rex is cantankerous seemingly beyond reason, but has been known to display a sharp sense of humor when least expected. Never one to be underestimated, he will do whatever it takes to accomplish his mission.

Whitney DeKalb: Whitney DeKalb is the current heir of Ladd DeKalb, founder of both electronics manufacturer DeKalb Laboratories and the trailblazing but perennial also-ran DeKalb Television Network. A member of the DeKalb Network board of directors, Whitney has been seeking a way for her network to better compete with the Major Broadcasting System (MBS) and the United Broadcasting Company (UBC). She thinks she has finally found one by forging a strategic alliance with Paul Mann’s Mann Creations corporation, both through the network and her own independent production company Thirteen Media.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Can You Do? You're In A Stew!

I'm not sure, but lyrics like "You're my kinda meat" and "Eat me, eat you, incredibly delicious too" won the Grammy that year, right?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Altered Egos: Kendal Rose

In October 2010, I ran a series called "Altered Egos" on this blog, wherein Kabuki Katze depicted some of my heroes alongside their civilian identities. Well, the thought had always been in the back of my mind that I'd like to return to my own personal A/E someday. Well, "someday" has arrived! Our first contestant is the one and only Kendal Rose!