Friday, March 30, 2012

Two Characters Are Better Than One!

Elektroid was once my Top Guy, so it does my heart good to see Sean Moore do such a great job on him. This is another $10 commission (toldja there were more), and it can be seen on Sean's dA page right here. Give the man some feedback!

But wait! There's more!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Iron Superman" - Roboter der Sterne

I've been gratified by the reaction to Monday's entry on the assorted Chinese and Thai films based on Japanese superheroes. As it turns out, I've been doing more research on the matter. By playing "follow the links", and a healthy use of translator programs, I have been scouring the Chinese and Thai Wikipedias for more information. Obviously, they are only as good as their users, but I tend to trust their info on these movies more than the English or Japanese sites. What I have learned has reinforced some of my conclusions and forced me to rethink others. That's right, this odyssey is far from over! When I get all of this up on the blog, I'll go back and add links to these follow-up entries to the earlier ones that prompted this.

Let's begin with a film that I discussed relatively little in the prior entry: ROBOTER DER STERNE. Or should that be MAZINGER-Z: EL ROBOT DE LAS ESTRELLAS? It seems to be the most commonplace of these films, oddly enough. Even more oddly, it also appears to be the first of its kind. That's right, the first Chinese/Japanese superhero film isn't the Super Riders or MARS MEN, but rather this adaptation of SUPER ROBOT MACH BARON. It premiered on July 21, 1975, according to the addendum on the entry for SUPER RIDERS WITH THE DEVIL. And don't worry, we'll be getting back to the Super Riders.

That addendum is very instructive, as it makes some curious distinctions without any notice. For one, this movie apparently was produced in Hong Kong rather than Taiwan. For another, if all the dates are correct on the Chinese Wikipedia, ROBOTER DER STERNE is not only the first Chinese/Japanese superhero film, but it predates the Shaw Brothers' INFRA-MAN, too! INFRA-MAN (中國超人) didn't come out in Hong Kong until August 1, 1975. All the other "hybrid" films come even later. Clearly, something was in the air at the time.

Sadly, there does not appear to be much else available about ROBOTER DER STERNE. A film company named 長弓電影公司 is given, and the translation I got was "Longbow Film Company." Anybody? Now, I can tell you that the original Chinese title of 鐵超人 means "Iron Superman." The choice to use the term 鐵超人 is very telling, since Ultraman had already been dubbed 超人 ("Superman") and Kamen Rider was 幪面超人 ("Masked Superman"). Infra-Man, as you may have noticed earlier, is 中國超人 ("Chinese Superman"). Like I said, something in the air.

Let's take a look at this movie, in both of its known Western incarnations.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thunder Man - Still Only $10

Say, is this another commission by Sean Moore? By Jove, it is! This is Thunder Man, my pseudo-Golden Age superhero who occupies a parallel Earth. Sean really captured the feel of that old school, anything goes type of character with Thunder Man. He looks like he's leaping out of 1939!

Give this piece some love over on Sean's dA page for it! Oh, and guess what? There will be more where this came from!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Japanese Superheroes via Taiwan and Thailand

FRANKENSTEINS KUNG-FU MONSTER is, of course, the German-dubbed version of a Taiwan-made Kamen Rider V3 movie where the Riders are renamed “Super Riders” and Riderman is a woman.

It is just as amazing as it sounds.

That was my succinct explanation of this movie here, and it is in no way an exaggeration. Japanese superheroes are already pretty amazing, and when you filter them through Taiwan, they become something even more alien and bizarre than they were in the first place.

The following Japanese/Taiwanese superhero films are documented to exist:

  • Super Riders with the Devil (Krieg der Infras in Germany; incorporates footage from Kamen Rider vs. Shocker and Kamen Rider vs. Jigoku Taishi)

  • Frankensteins Kung Fu Monster (German release title for follow-up Super Rider movie incorporating footage from Kamen Rider V3 vs. Destron Kaijin)

  • Mars Men (Gli Uomini de Marte in Italy; incorporates footage from Jumborg Ace TV series. More on this later.)

  • Mazinger-Z: El Robot del las Estrellas (Spanish title for a movie incorporating footage from the Super Robot Mach Baron series; also known as Roboter der Sterne in Germany. It has no actual connection to Mazinger Z.)

As you can see, though none of these movies ever managed a U.S. release, they all found their way into Europe and possibly South America. I tend to think an eye on the international market may have been the reason for these films existing in the first place. It certainly makes sense, since the movies didn't come into being in a vacuum.

The English language poster for Mars Men from Shochiku clarified this idea for me. Shochiku marketed the film globally, presumably on behalf of Tsuburaya Productions (with whom they had a business relationship). It's not far-fetched to believe that the Taiwan production company(companies) was(were) contracted by the Japanese companies to put together "stand alone" films of ongoing TV properties that could be marketed all over the world.

Think about it. If you're Toei (for example), you have compelling, exciting Kamen Rider movies that might do well overseas. The problem is that they are too short (under an hour) and too dependent on the audience having a knowledge of the characters from TV. Why not work with an independent company that could turn them into something that could be sold in other countries? The investment would be low, and the possible return could more than make up for it.

Certainly, the Super Rider movies alone have a healthy enough costume budget to suggest Toei was partially footing the bill. They also include adaptations of the origins of the characters to establish who they are before getting to the business of splicing in footage of the Rider 35 mm movies. I can't vouch for any new footage in the Jumborg Ace or Mach Baron movies, but they don't exactly look impoverished either. At least, not compared to a movie from Thailand that's relevant to this discussion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to point out that I have never seen the Thai Jumborg Ace movie. However, I have seen 6 Ultrabrothers vs. the Monster Army, the Japanese version of Tsuburaya/Chaiyo's 1974 co-production. Without the SPFX, the movie would be positively dire. It's very telling that it wasn't released in Japan until 1979, during an Ultra boom period.

But the 6 Ultrabrothers clearly did well enough in Thailand to warrant a direct sequel. Only this time, there would be no Ultras (except in stock footage from the previous movie). No, heroic monkey god Hanuman joined forces with a quintet of Kamen Riders in Hanuman and 5 Kamen Riders.

If you've seen the 6 Ultrabrothers movie and not this one, let me assure that the Chaiyo Rider movie is worse. Much worse! Its badness is somewhat astounding and led me to be entertained by it in a perverse way the one and only time I subjected myself to it. It liberally incorporates footage from Five Riders vs. King Dark, and this recycled footage looks remarkably BETTER than the newly-shot surrounding footage. But still, bad, and not recommended to anyone.

The prevailing wisdom on this Chaiyo Rider movie seems to be that they went to Toei, asked for permission, were refused, and then made it anyway. I realize how tempting it is to make it so cut and dried, especially given Chaiyo's subsequent actions, but I wonder. I know this sort of thing went on, as a search for the likes of "3 Dev Adam" and "Turkish Star Wars" will attest. Still, it strikes me as particularly brazen to make an unauthorized Kamen Rider movie - utilizing footage from a legitimate one! - after being denied the rights. It almost crosses over into the improbable, especially when you consider the fact that Chaiyo still had a business relationship with Tsuburaya. Why would they jeopardize it by doing something blatantly illegal?

So maybe they didn't? Up top, I listed the known Taiwanese/Japanese superhero movies. Well, there is one other that is suspected to exist, and it bears the title Karatekas Del Espacio. You can see images from lobby cards for it on this German language message board thread. It is evidently not the Thai film, but rather, a Taiwanese adaptation of Five Riders vs. King Dark!

So hey, suppose for a second Chaiyo didn't approach Toei regarding making a Rider movie? Maybe they instead made a deal with the Taiwan company, and Hanuman and 5 Kamen Riders is instead (loosely) based on Karatekas Del Espacio. That would explain how Chaiyo can still market the movie to this day without Toei suing the pants off them. If you think they wouldn't go after them after the court case involving the Ultras and Jumborg Ace, I have a feeling you are so wrong.

Well, wait, I thought I said that Mars Men was Chinese? It is. But then how did Jumborg Ace figure into the picture with their legal shenanigans against Tsubraya? That's the twist. I believe Yak Wat Jang Wu Jumbo A (the Thai version of Mars Men that really isn't) came first. This is based on Chaiyo's then-strong relationship with Tsuburaya and the fact that the idol in the movie appears in Tah Tien, which is also still available. In fact, Hanuman and Yak Wat Jang even have a team-up movie called The Noble War!

If you're like me, your head is spinning. Essentially, I believe the Hanuman/Rider movie is based on a Chinese Kamen Rider X film which was released somewhere as Karatekas Del Espacio but has not yet reappeared. Meanwhile, Mars Men was constructed in similar fashion based on Yak Wat Jang Wu Jumbo A. Whether this end of the deal was brokered by Tsurburaya or Chaiyo is unknown to me, but Tsuburaya clearly thought enough of Mars Men to attempt to market it outside of Japan.

Confusing? Absolutely! But it just points out the fact that the more we know, the less we really do know. I kind of enjoy untangling the mysteries. And to think, I didn't even mention Space Warriors 2000!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maybe Batman Will Appease You?

Due to circumstances both out of and fully within my control, I'm only just now posting on this blog for the week. Ugh. To make this even more frustrating, I really do have a draft half-finished for a follow-up to that entry on MARS MEN. Alas, it's just going to have to wait a bit longer. I'm declaring this week a wash as far as this blog goes, with an eye on doing better next week. I'm shooting for completing that post and wrapping up my overview of the Doctor Fate Archive, too. Here's hoping!

Since we're here, I'll pass along something that bobbed back up to the front of my brain during the past week. It involves Batman, and experience shows me that everyone loves a good Batman post.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Universe of Monsters

Surely you recall this entry from not very long ago, which introduced the revamped version of Tex Truman as interpreted by the always awesome Kabuki Katze. Oh, and it marked the debut of Gabrielle "Jinx" Fitzgerald too, but I'm also sure you noticed her with no prompting from me. Homina.

The next step seemed to be visualizing Tex's son (from his first wife, not Jinx) Joe Truman. Only how? Unlike Tex, I didn't have an overriding image of Joe in my head even after retooling him from his original concept. There was also the thorny question of what else would be in this picture, since just Our Hero by himself didn't speak to me.

After playing with several different ideas, I ultimately settled on Joe going against a bevy of "classic monsters" - Frankenstein monster, Dracula, Werewolf, and Mummy. Somewhere along the way, "Universe of Monsters" sprang into being as the title, and it had such a ring to it. It conjured up thoughts of the Universal horror films while still retaining a uniquely pulpy feel. A real winner.

I got an idea for Joe, and it turned out to be loosely based on this guy. For those of you keeping score at home, this is at least the second time I've based a character on a Mego action figure. Hey, if it works, it WORKS!

Oh, the blonde? I have no idea who she is right now, but a damsel in distress seemed appropriate. Plus, it gave Kabu a chance to draw a beautiful lady. She likes that.

It all came together beautifully, didn't it? Your feedback is always encouraged, either here or on dA. Oh, and if you don't read Kabu's blog (why not?), perhaps you should peep out this entry for a Freudian slip that really did slip past both of us for the longest time. It's a hoot!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Love This What's Up, Tiger Lily Picture

I am going to try to give my brain a break, so no follow-up on the prior entry just yet. Instead, please enjoy this promotional still from WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? (or at least the Japanese film that spawned it). That's Tatsuya Mihashi surrounded by Akiko Wakabayashi, Kumi Mizuno, and Mie Hama.

Sharp-eyed followers of OWARI might find this image a tad familiar. Well, it's actually not the same picture that was on the cover of OWARI #3; this is a different one. However, it's obviously from the same photoshoot, and that in itself is pretty cool. That cover is one of the defining moments in the early days of OWARI, so I'm glad for a chance to revisit it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mars Men

I found this poster on Alex Wald's Tumblr a day or two ago, but it merits a little discussion. Besides, I've been excluding most tokusatsu from the Tumblr lately (long story), and this is likely to get a little involved. And it's not like anyone reads Tumblr, amirite?

MARS MEN is one of those movies that turned up in trading circles many years ago as a cool oddity. It was a Jumborg Ace movie, but it had a cast separate from the TV series. It seemed to be from Taiwan, just like the ersatz "Super Riders" movies that had surfaced. The issue was clouded a little by the subsequent revelation of the existence of this release. Maybe the Jumborg Ace movie was Thai, like 6 ULTRABROTHERS VS. THE MONSTER ARMY?

Oh, and the only copy of MARS MEN available was dubbed in Italian. There was that, too.

Inadvertently, M.J. Simpson helped clarify a few things for me when he reviewed MARS MEN and YAK WAT JANG WU JUMBO A and discovered they were two separate films with footage in common. You would think this would only confuse matters further, and admittedly, it did at first. But based on the evidence at hand, I now have a theory regarding MARS MEN and most of the other hybrid Japanese/Chinese/Thai superhero films that came about in the 1970s.

First, let's be clear: MARS MEN - the original MARS MEN - is Chinese, not Thai. Look at the names on the poster. Those are Chinese names. Additionally, the human hero of the movie (seen under Jumborg Ace's arm) is also one of the Super Riders. So I think we can safely say that the movie was made in Taiwan.

So how did the Thai version come about? Well, as I said, I have a theory about that. It ties into another Thai superhero movie. Ironically, it is not 6 ULTRABROTHERS VS. THE MONSTER ARMY! But I will get to that in another entry (I hope).

Please also notice that the poster for MARS MEN is, in fact, an ENGLISH LANGUAGE poster prepared in Japan by Shochiku. I don't know the precise timeline, but I do recall that Shochiku was distributing Tsuburaya's Ultraman films by the late 1970s. It isn't much of a stretch to presume they were acting on behalf of Tsuburaya for this Jumborg Ace movie, too. That would seem to indicate a level of involvement from the Japanese companies in these Taiwan films beyond just licensing them.

At some point, I want to untangle some of this and spell out my thoughts on these movies. But for now, a cliffhanger! And sadly, I still can't explain how Pink Floyd's "Time" ended up as part of MARS MEN's music score.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I rather quietly changed my Tumblr sidebar link not very long ago. Why? Well, one reason was because I decided I wanted a different Tumblr name. Despite it being a blogging platform (technically), I felt like my Tumblr presence had less in common with this blog and more in common with some of my other accounts. Hence, it felt right to assume the "celamowari" mantle that I've been carrying around (and confusing people with) since 2001.

There were other reasons, and they are outlined here. Yeah, I have issues sometimes. I don't think I'll ever be 100% satisfied in the way my Tumblr breaks down, content-wise, but I've at least gotten to the point where I feel like I'm in control of it and it's not in control of me.

Basically, if you'd like a glimpse into the silliness that is inspiring me at this particular moment - the things that shape my own fiction when I get around to writing it (doggone it) - feel free to check out and/or follow what I have dubbed OWARI 2.0. I named it that on the spur of the moment, since it was my second attempt at a primary Tumblr. Upon further review, it's oddly fitting - my second stab at Tumblr and my secondary blog.

And yes, though I've been posting more there than here lately, I still consider my Tumblr the secondary blog. I've been taking a bit of a break from trying to maintain a regular schedule here. I don't know, I just haven't been feeling it as much lately? I'd prefer to slow down for awhile than risk losing all enthusiasm.

The pace here will likely pick back up as I find more curious and cool things to discuss. Meanwhile, you can follow some of my off-the-cuff commentary on Tumblr and Twitter as it happens. But don't think your main OWARI source is going into hibernation, oh no. It's just picking its spots a bit more carefully.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

He Comes On Strong, Like King Kong!

And now, a transcript of the voiceover for the trailer to the film Shadow of the Dragon:

Hey dudes and foxy ladies! Look out! Here comes the meanest mother in town: Shadow of the Dragon!

Not since Bruce Lee has the screen seen such skull-busting action! It's every thrill in the book and then some! Shadow of the Dragon takes on all comers! More action and excitement than you could pack into a lifetime!

He tears 'em up, piece by piece! Shadow of the Dragon comes on strong, like King Kong! The new international martial arts champion tears 'em apart! He's rough, tough and hard to bluff!

No eye is quick enough! No hand is tough enough! No dude is mean enough to get him! One dude or an army, it makes no difference to the Shadow of the Dragon! Big or small, he gets them all! See him get down and do it in Shadow of the Dragon!

For the record, that last bit is accompanied by the hero delivering a flying kick with such power that it shatters a brick wall.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Still Reaching For The Stars

Holy cats, apparently the last time I mentioned American Top 40 on this blog was November! I am still listening, though apparently I've not had as much to say lately about it. Let's change that today, with a review of this past weekend's airing of the program for March 4, 1972. Your humble blogger was still a few months from entering this world at the time.

I remember commenting last year about a show where Sister Sledge had two songs on the countdown simultaneously. Well, this one had two hits by Melanie (Safka) at the same time! Point of fact, the prior week had three - "Brand New Key" dropped off the list for the week of this program. Unreal.

I always find it interesting to hear songs on these shows that have been edited from their album version, since these single edits have almost uniformly fallen by the wayside over the years. I mean, Yes' "Roundabout" fitting comfortably into a segment with Donny Osmond's "Puppy Love" probably won't happen today, since the full-length version is over eight minutes. The real surprise in this department turned out to be Don McLean's "American Pie". I knew the song had to be split over both sides of a 45, but this edition eliminated the intro and shortened it further! "American Pie" zipping by in 3 minutes flat is unexpected.

There was a nice variety of music on this show, and much of it still holds up reasonably well. You can't say the decade was nothing but schlock when you can have James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Paul Simon, Carole King, Al Green, and Neil Young among the top hitmakers in a three hour span. The likes of the Chakachas were rubbing shoulders with good company!

There was a lot to love about this show, as it was during a time before the music of the decade descended into pure cheese. Seriously, even I have trouble listening to songs on those shows from 1979. This was nice and balanced. As an added bit of historical context, here's a PDF of a cue sheet from 1972. I find stuff like this fascinating as far as the charting the ebb and flow of the record business.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

R.I.P. Sheldon Moldoff

I don't write something about everyone whose work I loved and/or respected, but occasionally, I feel like it would be a huge oversight if I don't say something. We learned today that Sheldon Moldoff passed away on Wednesday at the age of 91. Shelly had work in Action Comics #1, was the first "definitive" Hawkman artist, and ghosted Batman for Bob Kane for years. I've gotten countless hours of enjoyment from Shelly's work and the characters he helped define. There is a good chance you have, too.

I don't have any deep thoughts to share about Shelly, so I'll link you to this Tumblr post of mine, which has a reblog of one of Shelly's commissions and a link to Mark Evanier's post on the man. There's already been traffic on this blog of people looking for his work, and there are a few scans of it in the archives.

Goodbye, Shelly. Ninety-one years still doesn't seem like long enough.