Saturday, June 30, 2012

Atari 1200XL

As you may have ascertained from this entry, I've been re-reading some of my old video game material from the early 1980s. There's a lot in them that bored me as a kid that fascinates me now as an adult. Back then, I was just interested in the graphics and characters (because I couldn't play for crap, and still can't). Today, they offer a window back into a world that seems so long ago in terms of both hardware and software.

Electronic Fun with Computers and Games is a particularly instructive artifact in that respect. Though designed to jump on the bandwagon after the launch of Electronic Games, and generally uneven in quality (both issues I own have several pages each devoted to utter nonsense, and one cuts off an article in the middle), Electronic Fun with Computers and Games mixes in non-gaming computer material, too. Besides the obvious reviews of contemporary games on every platform imaginable, it also includes articles on computer clubs and an EPROM burner called the Promqueen.

One aspect of these magazines I especially liked were the reviews of new computers by Jules Gilder. At least, I assume that Mr. Gilder is the same Jules H. Gilder who wrote reviews for Electronic Fun with Computers and Games in the 1980s. It would seem improbable two men would have the same uncommon name and a concurrent interest in the same field. Mr. Gilder's reviews weigh both the positive and negative aspects of the new products hitting the market in 1983, and do so in a way that communicates clearly to the reader.

I am especially taken by his review of the Atari 1200XL. If you clicked that link (and you should), you might have an idea as to why. But here, let me show you. This article is scanned from the August 1983 issue of Electronic Fun with Computers and Games (Vol. 1, No. 10). Right click an image to view it at a more legible resolution. (And no, none of them quite match up in terms of size. Sorry.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lad Mag Mascots In Card Form

Sometimes, crazy ideas are the best kind.

Recently, our pal Kabuki ran a sale on her ACEOS. Order two, get a third free! Whee! Well, except for the fact that I've been feeling pretty dry on the commission front. I had no really clever ideas. Well, except...

Thought it over for a few days, decided to go for it. What did I commission? Well, hey, remember that Jaguar Bond from not very long ago? The one from Myron Fass' JAGUAR magazine? Him. But to fill out the dance card, I brought along his compadres Le Duke and Pussy Katz from the Fass skin mag DUKE.

KK latched onto this idea with the kind of aplomb that only she can bring to the table. She volunteered to write appropriately terrible jokes for the trio, and even gave Miss Katz a jumpsuit that really shoulda been around back in the day. Don't be surprised to see Kabu use that design again - I know I won't be.

Without any further ado, here to launch you into your weekend are three dirty-minded cartoon characters formerly from Myron Fass' Countrywide "empire."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two Sentences About Bach I Can Scarcely Believe Exist

Johann Sebastian Bach had no time for video games. He was too busy raising his 20 children and churning out cantatas like nobody's business.

--An excerpt from a completely insane article by George Kopp entitled "Roll it over, Beethoven! Top scores of the video game composers" that ran in the August 1983 issue of Electronic Fun with Computers and Games (Vol. 1, No. 10).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emi Ito

I don't like writing these sort of things. Emi Ito, one half of "The Peanuts" with her twin sister Yumi Ito, passed away on June 15 at the age of 71. The Peanuts were the original twin fairies of Mothra, and will always be the best. But they had an impressive career apart from those monster movies. They even made it onto Ed Sullivan's show!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My World : Red Taiyo

Red Taiyo (レッド太陽 Reddo Taiyo) is secretly Atsushi Anzai (安西敦士 Anzai Atsushi), an associate lecturer of astronomy at Tokyo’s Johoku University. Returning home late one night, his motorcycle disappeared into a burst of light. Anzai was greeted by three luminous beings who introduced themselves as the Solar People. These mysterious Solar People bestowed upon Atsushi Anzai both a henshin (transformation) belt and a mission: fight for Japan and the entire world during a coming time of darkness.

Returned to the normal world, Anzai took his newfound mission to heart and created the identity of Red Taiyo (“Red Sun”) with his henshin belt. He uses the powers of the belt to transmute his standard bike into a potent machine dubbed “Sunflare.” Red Taiyo utilizes Sunflare and the enhanced strength granted him by the belt to fulfill his promise to the Solar People.

Red Taiyo is trailed in his ongoing crusade by Kenta Chiba, a bumbling freelance cameraman. Chiba does his best to be helpful, and sometimes even succeeds. Whether he will prove to be a hindrance or an asset in Red Taiyo’s mission has yet to be determined.

If you're a longtime follower of my work, you might recall a character from my elementary school days named Red Circle. As I've mentioned in the past, he was inspired by a one-shot hero "Captain Japan" featured in Marvel's puzzle comic Fun & Games. Red Circle had no connection to Japan, and was basically what I thought was a cool visual.

I love Japanese superheroes, but had felt for a long time I had exhausted everything I wanted to say about them through Return of Jetman. Red Circle is a guy I thought had a lot of potential to fill the role of classic Japanese superhero in my Owariverse. There were two things I had to keep in mind: 1) I couldn't call him "Red Circle" (Archie Comics owns this name, which it has used as a publishing brand) and 2) I didn't want to make him look too much like Battle Japan from BATTLE FEVER J in revamping him.

I've discarded any number of ideas over the last couple of years before hitting on the "right" formula for the newly-rechristened Red Taiyo. I am pretty happy with what I've devised in terms of both design and backstory. It all strikes me as reasonably authentic in terms of the aesthetic I'm trying to emulate (1970s superhero shows).

About the new design - the headpiece is a full-fledged helmet rather than a mask. I mean, he rides a motorcycle, right? The belt is designed in such a way that it could conceivably be converted into a toy every kid would want. And yes, that is a scarf. Gotta have the scarf.

Igadevil proved an invaluable source of assistance in brainstorming ways to make Red Taiyo just right. In fact, he even is the character's sorta namesake! At a loss for a suitably interesting alter ego, I plugged his "real" name into a Japanese name convertor and arrived at Atsushi Anzai! For the record, bumbling sidekick Kenta Chiba gained his name from the result when I put my own name in that generator.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Magic of the Ninja - Lion Maru

I was looking for some videos on Dailymotion one night when I discovered something that I thought might interest Kabuki Katze a great deal. This comment thread on dA was the result. There are video links!

Little did I realize this would lead to four downloadable wallpaper packs of chibi cat characters from P Productions! WOW! It's really outstanding fanart, and desperately makes me want to create my own cat dudes. Well, especially coupled with Jaguar Bond! I can say it had an influence on my following through on something that had been bouncing around my head for at least a year. You'll be seeing THAT soon enough!

While I was still lurking in limbo, I remembered something I had neglected to mention to Kabuki when I first exposed her to these shows. Namely, there exists an ENGLISH DUB of the first episode of KAIKETSU LION MARU. There might even be more, but the one is all that's surfaced. Entitled "Magic of the Ninja", it turned up on an obscure kiddie tape back in the 1980s. I knew of it, but had never managed to score a copy back in my tape trading salad days.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, "Magic of the Ninja" can now be seen on this very blog. It was in two parts on Youtube, so I made a playlist. Both parts should play one after another in the player embedded below. Double click to watch it on Youtube at larger size.

(EDIT: I am not sure why Youtube keeps making this Playlist inaccessible, but I am wearying of it. Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Whatever Happened To That OWARI Thing?

It started, as momentous events often do, on a Wednesday.

I had treated my sister to Five Guys after we both got off work as a premature birthday present. Then, I made my way home. Right before the rains came. Great.

My internet is cranky and prone to not working when there is even a hint of rain. My frustration mounting after days of this, I finally just gave up and went to go read. This was a good thing.

Except I made a crucial mistake.

As the inoffensive rainstorm intensified dramatically into a raging thunderstorm, it occurred to me as I read my book that my laptop was still connected to my (non-functioning, you'll recall) Internet. This had the potential to be Not Good. Very Not Good, in fact. As I dashed out to turn everything off, I arrived just in time to see my computer turning itself off.

Oh boy.

The computer did come back on, and I miraculously didn't lose any files in this incident. However, my laptop's ability to actually find the Internet was officially history. Which wasn't as big a deal as it sounded, since the modem I had been using got fried anyway.

My sister Amy is largely a silent partner in my antics, but really, she rides to my rescue more often than not. She helped me place an order for a replacement laptop and then graciously allowed me time every day to check on my important matters. Without her, I'd be hopelessly behind on everything and possibly trying to warm myself by rubbing two sticks together.

Still, there were limits, and that included a distinct lack of internet at what I jokingly refer to as OWARI HQ. I did still have a computer that worked (albeit with a disturbing tendency to turn itself on), so I could still get some things accomplished. And in fact, I developed some stuff that should be going up in a day or two.

I finally got my new computer on Friday, and have slowly been trying to get my bearings with it. I'm still not there, but maybe in a couple of weeks, I'll be adjusted. However, I don't think things will ever be quite the same again. At least, that's my hope.

You see, I have been sans computer and/or Internet in the past, but the most recent bouts have been oddly brief. This was different. The delay in getting back up and running really highlighted for me some of the negative stuff that I had developed. Without the crutch of the Internet, I was forced to readjust into something that felt a little saner.

I think it doesn't become obvious just how MUCH time you waste on the Internet until you don't have the opportunity to waste it. Holy cow. I've found myself sleeping much better the last couple of weeks, and it's only been trying to get all my modifications made that has kept me up even semi-late. Even then, it's earlier than my evenings had been.

My ultimate goal is to make the time I spend on the Internet MOSTLY productive. There's always going to be some time wasting, but I want to cut down on the aimlessness that accomplished zero. So far, so good. Maybe I've trained myself to look at things differently. Or maybe this is just temporary. We'll see.

Related, I'm trying to be a little more zen about the lousy Internet I do have. Somehow, via some miracle, we got a modem that previously wouldn't work to work, and thus, I didn't have to wait an extra week to get back in the saddle. If I could have not been so peeved about my shoddy service, maybe I wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

So, I think I've learned some lessons. But they were expensive, and I can ill-afford them. Things are terribly unsettled for me, and while I've tried not to focus on it here, I just don't know where I'm going right now. When my last desktop contracted a virus last year, I wasn't upset because I had been intending to buy a new computer anyway. This was not part of my plans, and really sort of alters things.

The most practical application of this newfound money tightness is a scaling back of my hobby activities. This was already in place, but I guess it may have to extend further than I'd hoped. This likely means fewer commissioned art pieces in the near future, which is my single biggest disappointment. Never fear, though! I won't be discontinuing them entirely! In fact, I have something in mind right now...

You've probably also noticed this blog has been in a state of near-dormancy the last two weeks. This was also not part of my plans. I have a ridiculous number of planned entries that were supposed to be occupying the dead zone that was June 13 through June 22. Some of them may not end up happening at all. I need to go back to my list (yes, I keep one) and decide. In the meantime, I am temporarily suspending my unofficial rule of one post per day for the duration of June. I'm not even sure how much will even make it online for the rest of this month, but I don't want to limit myself.

Anyhoo, this was all a very wordy announcement that I am back. Miss me?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fabulous Monsters of Movieland: Dr. Macabre

You might recall that back in April and May, I featured a series of 4 commissions by the inestimably-talented Kabuki Katze dubbed "TV Sherpa." Though she invented this name for an earlier series, I asked to recycle it for my own set of fake covers that would spotlight re-imagined public domain heroes. Our NEW TV Sherpa series went off without a hitch, and there was much rejoicing throughout the land.

I had one minor loose end after that set that I wanted tied up. Namely, where were the villains? Well, I had something in mind there, but I wanted to make sure we concentrated on the heroes before moving in that direction. It's only been since we finished up the four separate hero pieces that I let my mind go the way of villainy.

Only, which villain? Easy - Dr. Macabre! Dr. Macabre was a recurring foe of Cat-Man and Kitten, and seemed a likely candidate as a semi-regular guest villain on a TV show. However, while I like the look he originally sported, I couldn't help but feel I needed something a little different to distinguish him among my cast of characters. I ultimately decided the trick would be KISS make-up.

Well, to be more exact, think of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, since that's what KISS was trying for with their alter egos. As far as the cover itself, I wanted to pay tribute to classic monster magazines, with the Joker cover of Castle of Frankenstein on my mind. I chose to use a parody of Famous Monsters of Filmland in place of a parody of CoF, largely due to the fact that FM is just more well-known and had a more evocative name.

I actually wrote all the copy this time, thank you very much. I included little homages to things like The Green Slime and The Groovie Goolies just to add an appropriate level of text-heaviness. But it was Kabuki who brought it all to life, especially with that amazing effect she incorporated with the watch.

This entry has been a LONG time in coming, but I recommend all of you check out Kabuki's page for this piece! Leave a comment, leave a compliment, leave a cookie! Cookies are always nice.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Please Stand By...

We are experiencing technical difficulties here at OWARI HQ. That is why you've had a week of radio silence from this blog. I'm not even going to hazard a guess as to how long it will take to have things up and running like normal around here. I'll keep you posted, but don't be surprised if there are no more entries for the rest of this week.

Meanwhile, as I cool my heels, you can check out a guest post I prepared for Gravedigger's Local 16 prior to my crash and burn here. It's probably a tad...familiar to OWARI readers, but I appreciated the invitation to get the word out. Shout out to the GDL16 crew for making this happen!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bob Seger - He's A System AND A Man

I recently have embarked on a little Facebook project wherein I am posting videos for all the songs in the music folder on my laptop. There are currently 102 mp3s, so at three a day (possibly more some days), it'll take about a month to complete this. It's mostly just for fun, and might even introduce people to songs they don't know.

So far, one of my coolest discoveries has been this clip of the Bob Seger System appearing on some 1960s TV music show to promote "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". I dunno, I just never imagined Bob ever looking like this.

Friday, June 8, 2012

OWARI Girls, 5 Years Later!

You may remember this piece of artwork that changed everything. Unbelievably, that picture was done five years ago. In honor of that milestone, I commissioned Synthetic Platypus, aka Sara to draw an anniversary picture of those four super ladies again.

You can see the amazing result above. If you'd like to see Sara's explanation of her side of the story, go here. Personally, I am tickled by this new portrait of those characters, and pleased to celebrate one of the sparks that led us to where we are today. Without Sara's excitement, I don't know if there would be an Owariverse as I know it today. I'm happy I was able to give her a chance to revisit it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stuff I Like In Modern Superhero Comics

As I think I've made clear, I don't read contemporary superhero comics anymore. Unlike a lot of my peers in the same boat, I don't hate them. Oh, I suppose I once did, but I have mellowed in my viewpoint. They just don't appeal to me or interest me, so I choose not to read them. The fact that I once held an attachment to a lot of those characters has faded over time. Now, I just disregard things that I don't like as not affecting the comics I still hold dear.

However, I've been mulling it over recently, and there are a few developments in recent comic book lore that I do like. Therefore, in the interest of being balanced, here is a list (2 apiece from Marvel and DC) of stuff I like in modern superhero comics.

1)Namor as a member of the X-Men: No idea if he still is or not, but I love this idea. The Sub-Mariner is the oldest Marvel superhero, but you sure can't tell by the respect the character is afforded. In fairness, Subby has worked best since his revival either as a noble adversary or as a team member. Making a solo strip work has been a harder sell, though Marvel has given it the old college try.

This is why I love integrating Namor into the X-Men. There is a perfectly valid background for it, dating back to the Lee/Kirby days of the title. It elevates Namor's importance in the Marvel Universe by association with those other famous mutants. He's a great character, though maybe his ability to carry his own book in the current marketplace is lacking. That's no reason to retire him, and using him in the X-Men allows him to be front and center.

2)Swamp Thing rejoining the DC Universe: Ditto for Animal Man, John Constantine, etc. Look, I get why Vertigo was and is an important thing for DC. I realize superhero hijinks were not what the Vertigo audience wanted. But the "embargo" on certain characters from interacting with the mainline DC Universe was silly. One of the strengths of the Moore/Bissette/Totleben Swamp Thing run was how it utilized all the DC character appearing in its page in new and interesting ways. That was the book that served as the very FOUNDATION for Vertigo.

I understand that Vertigo has mostly moved on from its ties to the traditional DC Universe. But really, things like THE SANDMAN and THE BOOKS OF MAGIC would not have happened without those ties. There's really no logical reason in a shrinking market to limit where Swamp Thing can appear simply because it isn't deemed "realistic" enough.

3)Carol Danvers as the new Captain Marvel: This has been long overdue. Understand, Billy Batson has the "moral" rights to the name as far as I'm concerned. However, for trademark purposes, Marvel needs a character with that moniker. Mar-Vell sufficed until Jim Starlin killed him off in a brilliant graphic novel. That has led to many, many attempts since then by Marvel to figure out how to keep the name alive. There have been a couple of new Captains who were perfectly fine characters, but lacked a certain something to make the name meaningful.

Yet, here we have the much-abused Carol Danvers character, and who better as a successor to the name? She was a supporting character in Mar-Vell's strip well before someone decided to make her a superheroine. If the original claimant is gone, why shouldn't Ms. Marvel take over? She has the history, she has the powers, and I can't believe no one (including me!) thought of it before. I don't know if this will succeed, but it has a better chance of sticking than a Skrull wandering around thinking he's a deceased hero.

4)The "new" Alan Scott is gay: The original Alan Scott, the one in those comic books in the 1940s, was not gay. There was entirely too much sexual tension with the Harlequin for this to be possible. However, the "New 52" means everything is starting over, and in that spirit, I really don't consider the characters running around in the current crop of DC books to be the same ones I read as a kid. I mean, I haven't for a long time, but this just makes it official.

To clarify, I don't really have a problem with this. Honestly, part of me wishes DC had done this hard reset back in 1986 instead of what we got. In that respect, I have zero problem with this new version of Alan (Green Lantern) Scott being gay. I think it's good to have comic books represent diversity, and since it's all on a parallel Earth (again!) anyway, DC can have their cake and eat it, too. It's pretty much win/win as far as I'm concerned. Which doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people out there declaring it the Worst Thing Ever, but seriously, when isn't there?

What do you like?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jaguars, Jetmen, and Fantasies (oh my!)

Sometimes, your ideas cannot be contained by just one blog. While this one does a pretty good job of encompassing anything and everything, there are still things that don't quite fit. This is where you find out about a few of those odds and ends.

First up to bat is my latest commission from Kabuki Katze! But wait, that's usually a staple here. Why exclude it now? Well, as it turns out, this one is a bit...risque. Nothing terribly bad, but I'd prefer not to bring down the wrath of the Google Overlords if I can help it.

Therefore, this goes on Tumblr! I've recently changed the settings on OWARI 2.0 to NSFW - not because I intended to post a lot of that sort of stuff, but because I wanted a little more flexibility. So keep that in mind before you click the link below, but also remember that there's no one checking your I.D. at the door.

Here's a sample:

Click here for the Jaguar magazine commission!

In other news, I just added Notes for New ROJ Episode 4 to my long-running Return of Jetman site. That brings the total count left in need of annotation to three. I'd like to get that done before year's end, but realistically, I just might not find the time.

Going back to OWARI 2.0, I will be taking advantage of my newfound flexibility to post the occasional entry that might be questionable here. This discussion of Suzanne Fields is one of those instances. It's more about the text than the picture in this case, which you'll understand if you decide to take a gander. And when the dialogue starts with "Well, I’d like to be seduced," why wouldn't you?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Player Come Back

Last year, I wrote a little entry where I pointed out that many musical acts considered "one hit wonders" really aren't. I even cited a few examples. Now, if you wanted to argue (unheard of on the Internet, I know), you could counter that skirting the lower end of the Top 40 for a couple of weeks barely counts as having a hit record. OK, but what about these guys?

That's Player with their monster hit "Baby Come Back". It spent 16 weeks in the 40, including three at #1. It was part of the RSO juggernaut of 1977-78, and the only Number One not involving a Gibb brother in some capacity during that unprecedented hot streak. In fact, from the last weeks of December 1977 to the middle of May 1978, it was the only #1 without the Gibb name. So "Baby Come Back" cannot be underestimated (no matter your opinion of it), and it is one of those songs that is truly synonymous with the 70s.

But how many people remember this?

"This Time I'm In It For Love" was Player's next big single. It spent 12 weeks in the Top 40 and peaked at #10. No, it wasn't a second #1, but cracking the Top 10 twice in less than a year is a pretty good achievement. Yet, if pressed, the average music fan would identify Player was a one hit wonder, because all that still gets consistent airplay is "Baby Come Back". Despite being a decently successful hit in its own right, "This Time I'm In It For Love" is forgotten.

And yes, Player had a third Top 40 hit, but your homework for this entry (if you are interested) is to find "Prisoner of Your Love" for yourself.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Great Artwork, Great Ladies!

I received my package with Doppelgirl from Nicky Flamingo the other day. As I was fawning over it all over again, I noticed something lurking at the bottom. "Oh, what's this?"

Oh nothing, just a free sketch of Shelly Ericson included as a gift. Mayhaps this is unmanly, but SQUEE! All things considered, that made this week a whole lot nicer! Why not go lavish some praise on Nicky, since you're not doing anything better right now?

Speaking of lovely artist-type ladies, Kabuki Katze (remember her?) is offering some free wallpaper packs on her website! But not just any kind, oh no. The first one is of that Japanese superhero TIGERSEVEN! I sort of caused this to happen, and I have no regrets. Plus, there are three more wallpaper packs in the future, and I'll just bet they follow a theme that will please fans of Tigerseven. Word to the wise, and all that.