Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Get Ready To Crumble"

Here's a TV spot for GODZILLA 2000. I was sad it wasn't even a modest hit, but can't say this surprised me. Still, the commercials were awesome.

Here's the theatrical teaser trailer, which is also pretty great.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Godzilla 2000 Nostalgia

Last night, I was going through some of my boxes, looking for things. Well, I didn't find those particular things (shocking!), but I did unearth some packs of newspaper clippings and other assorted mementos from a decade ago. And really, it's a sign you're getting older when none of it feels that old to you.

Among my treasure trove is this:

(Right clicking that will make it super-sized.)

That's a newspaper ad for GODZILLA 2000 clipped from my local paper The American Press. I don't recall how many of these ran, but given the "8/18" in the lower righthand corner (opening day was August 18, 2000), I'll guess not many.

I was really jazzed to see GODZILLA 2000. Since I had inexplicably not gone to see GODZILLA 1985 when New World released it, this was my first opportunity to see a Japanese Godzilla movie in a theater. While the movie itself is just OK, the experience made up for it. Even if it was in the ill-fated Oak Park Cinema 6, which is currently a church.

How excited was I over GODZILLA 2000?

I saw it twice.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Trucker's Dream If I Ever Did See One

A Trucker's Dream by ~celamowari on deviantART

A doodle I did several years ago based on the song "Up On Cripple Creek" by the Band.

Having been in my fair share of truckstops, I think I let them off easy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Super Bad x 2

There hasn't been enough K-Tel in our lives here, has there? Well, that's easy enough to fix! Plus, this is something I've been meaning to highlight for some time.

Super Bad was a K-Tel album with an actual recognizable theme. Building off the title (derived from the James Brown song), it was a collection of soul music. The commercial reflects this, and does so with a minimum of patronizing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sources of Inspiration (Marvel Comics Edition)

I tend to look at comic books equally, but can't deny I've gravitated more to DC's characters over the years. Why? I really couldn't tell you. Something about their heroes connected with me in a way that I just can't explain all these years later.

However, there is plenty to like from Marvel Comics. I've read my fair share of their books over the years. Today, I want to look at two images from comics that have inspired me. I wouldn't necessarily call these books my "favorites," but their imagery has been burned into my brain.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


(Full disclosure: This image of the cover has been altered to more closely approximate the concept behind it. If you want to see what the actual cover looked like to the people who own this 'zine, I'm afraid one of them is going to have to scan a copy.)

If you've been following my ongoing review of OWARI's fanzines days these last two years(!), you may remember that I had been toying with doing something separate from OWARI even before I relaunched the 'zine in 1999. In fact, I spent much too much space in OWARI #5 blathering about these possibilities. Only one of these was dismissed in that issue. So naturally, guess which one actually became a reality?

THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE was an outgrowth of Ronnie Burton's column that began in OWARI #3. In truth, though, it was bigger than that. Ronnie and I had been collaborating on translating kaiju and tokusatsu film credits since 1996, but finding the proper venue for that research was another story entirely. The thought had occurred in 1999 that maybe it could exist as a standalone project, but I dismissed this because I didn't want to stretch myself too thin by juggling four separate fanzines. When the Big Bang Comics and Return of Jetman ones hit some delays, I realized I could do THE KAIJU DETECTIVE.

There was another motive behind doing THE KAIJU DETECTIVE, and it was a bit more practical. OWARI and I both had fallen off the map in the Godzilla fandom, and that was where my main audience had been. Even though I had resorted to giving OWARI away, I still didn't have many takers. Something like THE KAIJU DETECTIVE would have an automatic appeal in that community, and maybe I could use that to promote OWARI. I wasn't expecting to be deluged with orders, but I wanted to remind old readers I still existed and maybe entice a few new readers into the fold.

THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE is subtitled (OWARI SPECIAL SERIES #1) in the indicia. If you just go by the cover, the OWARI logo is the biggest one. Why? Well, I had no resources to create a proper logo for THE KAIJU DETECTIVE, and Rob Perchaluk's OWARI logo had been consigned to its smallest version on the 'zine itself. I elected to create an umbrella title for my assorted special projects, and drew inspiration from DC Special Series. And lo, OWARI SPECIAL SERIES was born, and I had an adequate excuse to slap the OWARI logo on the cover.

Even though his name is given top billing, I haven't really mentioned Ronnie Burton's participation in this project. Though much of the research presented originates from him, the truth is the actual preparation of the "book" itself was mine. I don't think Ronnie got a glimpse of the presentation until he received a copy of the finished product. This was by no means an effort to exclude him, but by choice, Ronnie had stepped away from actively writing fan articles.

THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE is 20 single-sided pages, and may tie OWARI #3 as the most labor-intensive publication I ever created. The format dictated that I couldn't include everything I would've liked, so I decided to go with what I perceived as the most "commercial" stuff - namely, Godzilla. Specifically, the coverage would be for the 15 Godzilla films from 1954-1975. Had interest warranted it, I would have followed with either the 1984-1995 Godzilla series or Toho's 1955-1970 tokusatsu films in THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK TWO. Obviously, that didn't happen, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Suffice to say, plans were never to just cover the original 15 Godzilla films and leave it at that.

In terms of presentation, this is a curious amalgam of fanzine and "book." In fact, I think I used the term "booklet" to describe it at the time. There is both an introduction and a detailed explanation of the format. Then, we dive headlong into the films. Each of them is allotted a page with as much translated data as we had on hand - titles, running times, staff and cast lists, etc. But it's more than just staid facts - there are also film stills illustrating each movie. Plus, in what seemed like a masterstroke at the time, I included illustrations depicting the Japanese titles for each movie. Therefore, the page for TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA also includes 「メカゴジラの逆襲」 ("Mechagodzilla no Gyakushu").

Rounding out the issue was something else I considered a brilliant idea. Acknowledging the fact that many of the performers listed in its pages were unknown to most readers, THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE included a "Godzilla Series Actors & Actresses Gallery." The goal here was to depict as many of them as possible, no matter how minor. So while luminaries like Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata, Mie Hama, Kenji Sahara, and Kumi Mizuno obviously got listed, equal time was given to such relatively obscure names as Yoshio Katsube and Hideo Shibuya. It was a great way to match a name to a face and go, "Oh, that guy/girl!"

...So it's a pity the thing printed so badly. I'm sitting here looking at the original layouts, and while they are far from crystal clear, there's nothing to indicate just how poorly they would reproduce. I'm still just as disappointed today as I was when I saw the results of weeks of careful work rolling out of the photocopier. It eases my pain a little bit that someone in Japan has created a webpage that is the same basic idea. Unfortunately, their version is Japanese-only.

I ended the proceedings with an ad touting OWARI, which I called "[a] newsletter of the profound and the absurd (but mostly the absurd)." If I'm being honest, that was likely only there because I needed to fill out the 20th page and ran out of pictures of performers. Ah, necessity.

My initial printing of THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE was a conservative 14 copies. That's because the thought of collating the darn thing by hand filled me with dread. I figured I could always print more when it became necessary, and I'd just make do with what I had at hand. I mailed out sample copies to a few folks, placed a classified ad in the pages of G-Fan (shades of OWARI #1!), and waited to see what would happen as I worked diligently on the next issue of OWARI.

So what did happen? Well...not much, as it turned out. Everyone who saw THE KAIJU DETECTIVE raved about it, despite its crude reproduction and spotty editing. There just weren't that many people who actually saw it. I'm trying to remember exactly how many responses the G-Fan ad generated. One? Two? In any case, I still have a copy of THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE in my files after filling orders and sending comp copies. That means there are, at most, 13 copies of it out in the wild. Unless someone bootlegged theirs, and I'm sure that would have looked positively dreadful if it happened.

How did I go from distributing 60 copies of OWARI #1 in 1995 to 13 copies of THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE in 2000? That's a good question. I'm sure the price had a lot to do with it. I had priced OWARI #1 at $1.50, while #2 and #3 had been $2.00. Those prices "sounded right," but in practice, I lost money on every single issue I sold. I wanted to at least break even for once, so I arrived at the sum of $5.00 for THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE. This would cover the cost of physically producing a copy of the 'zine and mailing it out.

Was $5.00 too much? Probably. G-Fan itself was only $3.95, and it had become a professional-looking publication. I realized I was probably cutting into my potential audience, but I held out hope that diehards and fans of the esoteric still might take a risk. It just didn't happen. I can't say I regret the price point, because I arrived at it after a lot of consideration. It just probably didn't help.

A larger problem was something that had happened during my extended hiatus from active Godzilla fandom - the Internet had become a much, much larger part of it. I don't need to explain what the Internet is to you, but it was not nearly as big a factor in 1995 as it was in 2000. By that point, there was much less need for a lot of cheap fanzines. Someone could just go online and create their own GeoCities/Angelfire/Tripod site instead.

Make no mistake, there was a glut of kaiju-related fanzines in the 1990s, and I was definitely just a small part of it. But that fad had largely passed by 2000 (I realized in retrospect), and the fanzines that remained were mostly firmly established. OWARI was not one of them, and I did not have the name value to sell my work based on reputation alone. I had been laboring on my fanzine for almost a year in the hopes of rebuilding my audience, only to realize too late that said audience had already left me behind.

To his credit, J.D. Lees believed in THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE enough that he continued to carry my classified ad for it long after the fee I'd paid for it had expired. I'm still flattered and humbled that he chose to do this, as it caught me completely by surprise. I don't remember when, but I ultimately asked him to drop it because there had just been no real response and I didn't foresee there being one. Still, I'm grateful for that and all the plaudits THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE earned for Ronnie and I from its miniscule readership.

Though OWARI SPECIAL SERIES was conceived as the first in an ongoing series of specials, there were never any others. The failure of THE KAIJU DETECTIVE BOOK ONE to find an audience meant there would be no future volumes of that title. The Big Bang Comics deal was finally incorporated into an issue of OWARI rather than risking another high workload/low reward one-shot special. The Return of Jetman volumes ultimately never happened, as detailed here. There was some consideration given to having Lewis Smith do a solo special highlighting his current work, but the onus of THE KAIJU DETECTIVE's fate coupled with some outside concerns torpedoed that idea, too.

For the remainder of OWARI's print incarnation, it would be my sole focus. However, the notion that fanzines were passé had been planted in my brain. I soldiered on with what I knew, but the creeping feeling was that the times had passed me by. It was an attitude that would color the remainder of my days as a self-publisher.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Turn The Beat Around by Vicki Sue Robinson - LIVE!

This video is all the proof that I need that Vicki Sue Robinson deserved a better career than she got in her all too brief time on this planet.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

OWARI #6 (October 1999)

Magically, these overviews of issues of my old fanzine take longer to produce than the issues themselves. I don't know why, but it seems appropriate. Just like the old days, I have to go back to make sure I don't contradict myself TOO much in the narrative I've established.

OWARI #6 was my effort to broaden my horizons a little. I expanded from 5 pages to 8. I didn't do it alone, though; this was the issue where I began soliciting new contributions from some of my pals. That meant the return of some old friends as well as the debut of something new.

I led off the issue with coverage of the revival of famed comics fanzine ALTER EGO. It was still early in A/E Vol. 3's life, which is why I illustrated my review with the cover image for the second issue. Amazingly, ALTER EGO is still going strong to this day! I just purchased #111 a couple of weeks ago.

Next we have a feature on Power Pro Wrestling. No, not my beloved Mid-South Wrestling/UWF "B" show, but rather the Memphis-based wrestling promotion that had the same name. My friend Ronnie Burton generously taped a few episodes for me, so I gave it the once over. The thing that stands out to me in this piece is an omission. One wrestler I didn't mention made his PPW debut toward the end of that tape. I guess I didn't anticipate Kurt Angle being that important in 1999.

Hey, look at that, I really did call AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME better than its predecessor. I'd like to amend that opinion officially and on the record. I still like it, but it doesn't ring as true to me as the first movie. This segment also reminds me that I went to see MYSTERY MEN and TWIN DRAGONS in the theater. I barely remember either one of them.

"After King Kong Fell" is a Philip Jose Farmer story that I own in a paperback anthology named Omega. I was interested in it since I'd recently purchased his books TARZAN ALIVE and DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE. The Kong story spins out of the premise that a giant ape really did run amok in NYC.

Ah, here's a review of THAT 70s SHOW. Gosh, I really loved that show at the time. Unfortunately, like all TV series (or so it seems), the quality dropped too much for me to continue. But hey, we'll always have 1999, right?

Page 4 is labeled "Features" as opposed to "Reviews." This was, I believe, an attempt to give a name to the random observations and bits of whimsy that I like to include in my work. I talked about an old comic book character (complete with story sample!) named Madam Fatal, who has the distinction of being a cross-dressing hero. There's also a thing called "My Car Trinkets," which I seem to recall was considered a waste of space in some quarters. I can't exactly argue with this assessment, but it's the ancestor to far funnier stories I've related on the Internet in the intervening years.

"The Hall of Ranting" was a column set up entirely for Lewis Smith. More properly, it was adapted from his website at that time. This would all be changed by its next appearance, but this at least got the guy back into the pages of the revived OWARI.

My layout for Lewis' column came up a bit short. That must have been the reason I created this little filler:

As you can see, Return of Jetman had hardly been forgotten.

"The Kaiju Detective" and Ronnie Burton also returned. Rather than go with his KING KONG ESCAPES write-up/cast list originally prepared for #4, I chose instead to use this as an excuse to include the credits for GODZILLA'S REVENGE that had been crowded out of the previous issue. Ronnie was disinclined to write a column on the movie, so I just went with the data and added a couple of notes.

"Dark Designs and Fearful Fantasies" was a page for my friend Tara DeVeau, and I have to tell you she is blameless as far as the name goes. That was all me. This was a chance to get some of her poetry into print, and I'd like to think that was a worthy goal in itself.

I rounded out the issue with an op-ed piece meditating on the nature of fanzines. There's something cruelly ironic about this, now that I think about it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Among the shout outs to the usual suspects at the time was a thanks to the very first person who ever sent an SASE for an issue. That was Jillian, and I just recently reconnected with her after much too long.

I ended the issue with a Y2K joke. How very topical of me.

Looking over this issue is interesting. I can see myself already feeling confined by the format I'd set for myself and struggling to do different things with it. Of course, I had other projects in mind besides OWARI. That was about to become abundantly clear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blogger, This CAPTCHA Is Ridiculous

I got this CAPTCHA while leaving a comment on Witless Prattle (which you should be reading!):

What, exactly, am I supposed to be seeing in that picture?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kory Stamper And More Than One Octopus

Kory Stamper will not marry you (she says so), but you should still read her blog. It's smart, funny, and sometimes she uses bad words.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fun With NFL Replacement Officials

It's an NFL game, and it doesn't matter who's playing. Suddenly, a yellow flag flies and a whistle blows. A penalty! Or is it? The strike-breaking replacement referee walks to the center of the field and speaks into his microphone for the benefit of the crowd and the audience at home.

"There is no foul. I--I don't know why I'm here. Who are all of you people?! Timeout on the field! The line judge is having a nervous breakdown. Is there a licensed psychotherapist in the stadium?"

Admittedly, this would make up for the abysmal quality of officiating we're going to get from these replacements.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Kingston Trio's Spurious Kangaroo

I was listening to the American Top 40 program from August 4, 1979 this past weekend when Casey Kasem came out with a helluva teaser. He said that coming up would be a song from a member of a famous trio who once had money stolen by a kangaroo in a sports coat. To which I said, "WHAT??!!"

This was a set-up for "Gold" by John Stewart, as Stewart was a one-time member of the Kingston Trio. I don't know if the tale originated with Stewart, but as Casey told it, the group was on an Australian tour when their vehicle struck a kangaroo. Thinking they had killed the animal, and feeling a bit strange from the tour, they had their manager dress the kangaroo in his hat and sports coat. As it turns out, the beast was merely stunned and hopped away...complete with the jacket holding the receipts from the previous night's concert!

It was a great story, too good to be true. And alas, that is exactly the case. Variations on this urban legend have been circulating since at least 1902. As I said, I don't know who supplied Casey Kasem with that imaginative fabrication, but it definitely livened up a late 70s broadcast with some unaccountable strangeness.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Secret History of AA Comics

What if? Potent question, huh? It gets a lot of use in speculative fiction, including comic books. It's even the title of a rather venerable comic book series from Marvel. However, the book The Secret History of AA Comics explores a "what if" for DC Comics. Not "What if Krypton had never exploded?" or "What if Bruce Wayne had never lost his parents?" Those are small potatoes.

The Secret History of AA Comics is an alternate history of what we today call DC Comics. Here, I'll let author Bob Rozakis' blurb explain it for me:

In the 1940s, M.C. Gaines sold his All-American Comics line to his partners at DC Comics. But what if, instead, he had bought out DC? And suppose Green Lantern and The Flash had become the surviving heroes of the Golden Age, with new versions of Superman and Batman launching the Silver Age of Comics?

Comic book industry veteran Bob Rozakis delivers a fascinating tale of what might have been, complete with art from the "Earth-AA" archives!

Since he's been gone from the company for a number of years, I hope Bob Rozakis will forgive me for this characterization, but he's one of the people I think of when I think of DC Comics. He had his hand in a lot of aspects of DC, but the one that stuck with me as a kid was his role as "The Answer Man" in DC's house ad page "The Daily Planet." I probably knew who Bob Rozakis was before I knew the majority of comics pros. Kinda funny that I am linked on his Wikipedia entry for this entry (or at least, have been - you know how these things go).

If you read that entry, and it's one of the more viewed posts on this blog, you know that I talked about this project when it was a series of articles in ALTER EGO and BACK ISSUE magazines. Well, this book collects that material, but expands upon it. This suits me just fine, since I've never been able to keep up with BACK ISSUE like I have ALTER EGO in the first place. So a lot of it is new to me, and that's even before you get to the stuff that's exclusive to the book!

It's fun reading. As a longtime JSA fan, it's humorous to imagine all the role-reversals postulated in its pages for famous DC characters. Among the heroes on the cover are Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman. Can you recognize them?

Beyond the comic universe stuff, there's also an alternate history of the behind-the-scenes business. To me, this might be the most fascinating part. If you read carefully, you can glean Bob's thoughts on any number of folks mentioned (or more tellingly, not mentioned) in his chronicle. There's even a stealthy New Business Model tucked into this book. It's the sort of thing that might appeal to all the disillusioned comic fans out there. "What if?" indeed.

I can definitely recommend this book, and am only sorry my review of it got pushed back a month due to circumstances. You can order it via Lulu or Amazon. Bob Rozakis' blog is called Anything Goes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Owariverse Encyclopedia: Revised and Updated

Over the last month and a half, I've been quietly revising every entry in the Owariverse Encyclopedia. Why? Well, sometimes these things need work, and I want to have the most "accurate" version of each profile available under that label. I don't have the will to update every instance where my continuity has been changed, but I can at least keep the Encyclopedia up-to-date.

This is also the precursor to some NEW ADDITIONS to the Encyclopedia. You've seen some of this already, but some of it will be totally new. I have no timetable yet, but expect to see some posts trickle out before the end of the month.

Friday, August 3, 2012

BOC in Walgreen's!

I stopped in Walgreen's this afternoon and heard a familiar song on their in-store radio network. I couldn't place it at first, but soon realized it was Blue Oyster Cult! FAN-tastic!

No, it wasn't that one. Or that one. Or even that one. It was this one:

Gotta admit, "Goin' Through The Motions" was a bold choice, person who programs Walgreen's radio.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kabuki Katze's Space Princess

Because I promised you, here is Kabuki Katze's original rendition of Princess Nikatonia. You should particularly note the distinctive tattoos the character has. None of my characters had had visible body art prior to her, so when Kabu suggested it, I thought that would be an intriguing touch.

Kabuki's version, while stylized, has some actual meaning. I couldn't really recreate that in my take on the character, but I felt it was worth pointing out for the record. See if you can figure it out!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My World : Princess Nikatonia

Princess Nikatonia is alien royalty from the planet Oraygion. Her mission on Earth is to kidnap women and return with them to her homeworld for unspecified purposes. Predictably, this has brought her into conflict with Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson. Somewhat less predictably, these battles have led Princess Nikatonia to conclude that Shelly would be an ideal subject for her objective.

Princess Nikatonia wields the Stellar Staff, a powerful weapon she uses to channel a mysterious force dubbed “Jadoo.” The princess insists that the enigmatic Jadoo is the source of her strength in battle. However, no one is exactly sure what Jadoo is supposed to be (other than Princess Nikatonia herself).

The genesis of Princess Nikatonia is a conversation I had with Nicky Flamingo when I had her do a commission of Doppelgirl. As you may recall, Doppelgirl's appearance is loosely-based on that of Kabuki Katze. Since Nicky admires Kabuki and her work, this was a bit of a stumbling block for her at first. She overcame it brilliantly, and we had the following (excerpted) exchange afterward:

CE - "Maybe I should make up a character based on you and have her draw that? ;) (I'm only half-kidding)"

NF - "And I can tell you any superheroine based off of me would be extraordinarily boring =P"

As you might know from the Doppelgirl character, these sort of inadvertent challenges don't go forgotten. I knew then that there would be a character inspired by Nicky. But who and what would it be?

I entertained several ideas along the way before settling on casting this character as not a superheroine, but as a villainess. From there, Princess Nikatonia evolved rather quickly as a concept. I lifted the element of "alien seeking Earth women" from sci-fi movies like THE MYSTERIANS, MARS NEEDS WOMEN, and most especially FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER. Why that movie? Because leading the charge for those aliens was a FEMALE PRINCESS!

So I had a space princess. This led naturally to a character type I'd always wanted to incorporate into the Owariverse: the Amazon Warrior. Since Princess Nikatonia derived from Nicky, it felt only right to add a dash of Sailor Moon to the mix. Throw in some in-jokes and I had something.

(These include "Jadoo," which popped into my head because I was reading about John Keel at the time and it is the title of his first book.)

With these disparate elements in tow, and half a profile, I came to Kabuki Katze. For you see, Princess Nikatonia would be a little different than the usual process. I wanted to collaborate with Kabuki right at the outset and have HER perfect the character's design. She did just that, and you can see her original version right here. You'll be seeing it here soon. I took that and filtered it through my own unique style.

Princess Nikatonia might be somewhat naughty, but she is a testament to the talents of the two ladies who made her happen. Thank you, Kabuki Katze and Nicky Flamingo, for your inspiration!