Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shelly Ericson - From 2001?

Longtime lovers of OWARI (all 5 of you) might recall this entry, wherein I explained how a piece of gift art our pal Kabuki Katze drew of Shelly Ericson shaped the direction of the character. This is all true. However, I have uncovered a forgotten chapter in the evolution of my favorite female protagonist. It sheds some light on how she took on the form we know today.

I made mention in the earlier entry of being massively influenced by Naomi Morinaga's portrayal of "Annie" in UCHU KEIJI SHAIDER in terms of Shelly's look and capabilities. What I did not adequately remember was that this concept went back as far as 2001. That's because the evidence was filed away on a CD-R that was put away and later assumed lost. In my recent effort to reclaim old files and maybe put them to good use, I discovered a folder that I had not thought about since my brief flirtation with a certain online bit of fun.

I'm talking about Hero Machine. I downloaded what they now call the "classic" version of it back in 2001. I played with it for awhile and then apparently lost interest in it. However, I never deleted it, and good thing, too. Otherwise, we would be denied seeing early prototypes of Shelly Ericson.

Nestled in my Hero Machine folder was a sub-folder named "Characters." Most of these appear to be created by my sister Amy or our friend Tara. There are three, though, that are undeniably mine. All of them are attempts to visualize Shelly. None quite capture the mix of beauty and toughness that Kabu achieved which has defined the image of Shelly forever after. Still, you can see I had the mix of elements floating around in my head. It took someone else to pull it all together.

(I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Sara also played a role here by introducing Shelly's trademark headband, one of the strongest visual cues of her look.)

So, tonight I am going to share with you cropped screencaps (all you can do in this version of Hero Machine!) of my three Shelly Ericson experiments from August 28-29, 2001. You may say, "Chris, I see no difference between 1 and 3." Well, I actually don't either (other than cropping variations on the caps). They are separate text files, but I can't pick out any variation between them. Maybe one of you sharp-eyed readers can spot why 2001 me differentiated them?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bob Kane meets Francis Ford Coppola

One of the fascinating things about the Internet is how unlikely things can be hiding in nooks and crannies where you don't expect them. Take the page which gives this entry it's title. No, this is not a flight of fantasy or a hyperbolized essay. In fact, "Bob Kane meets Francis Ford Coppola" is something that actually happened. And it's on the official site of the British SF comedy RED DWARF, as an interview conducted by a penguin puppet.

There are other mini-interviews with non-Red Dwarf people in that section, including the inimitable Stan Lee. "I didn't know you were still alive - I'm so amazed!" - and over 12 years later, he still is.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tim Mee Army Men Reinforcements

Friends, what you see is not a trick. Those really are Army Men, but in red and gray. This is part of the new batch of Tim Mee figures available from the fine folks at VictoryBuy. You can still get the classic Tan vs. Green assortment, but now you can also pick Gray vs. Red to add to your fantasy battles. The quality is exactly the same (very high!); only the colors are different.

But wait! There's more!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How I Changed History

White Swan by Kabuki Katze (2004)
This picture is from my Return of Jetman website. In light of our recent weekend discussions of the "Tokusatsu Gals" series by Kabuki Katze, I thought some of you might want to see Kabuki's first(?) foray into the world of Japanese superheroes. But this picture is far, far more important than just for that particular milestone.

You see, if you are paying attention, you might have noticed that this picture is from 2004. More specifically, it was commissioned in July 2004 and posted in August 2004. Perhaps surprisingly, Kabuki and I had only become acquainted with one another in May of that year. It didn't take long for me to decide I wanted her to use her talents to create artwork for characters I was writing. That's a tradition that continues to this day.

I was the first person to ever offer to commission Kabuki. This was not entirely unexpected, since she was still incredibly young at the time (not that she's old now!). What I didn't expect, and couldn't have possibly guessed, was what a big impact my decision to commission her would have. It may not be overstating things to say that it was a moment that changed the course of history.

According to Kabuki, my hiring her for this commission was when the idea was planted in her head that maybe - just MAYBE - she could do something with her art. It was, she told me, the turning point when she started taking her art a little more seriously. In retrospect, you could totally see this happen. Her style and technique began evolving after we met. If you have seen her current work (and if not, why not?), it may be hard to recognize that this picture is the product of the same artist. She has improved immeasurably in the eight and a half years since this was done, and it was a quantum leap forward at that time.

Kabuki had goals and a path charted out for herself in 2004. None of it involved being a freelance artist and web designer. Would she be where she is today if I hadn't commissioned her? Maybe; maybe not. I tend to think something would have sparked the creativity inside her that has caused her to forge a very different life than the one she envisioned when we met. But the fact of the matter is that it was ultimately my commission that provided the first domino in the process that led us to where we are today.

As someone who has struggled with self-esteem issues his entire life, I find the whole concept that something I did had such a profound effect on someone else both awe-inspiring and humbling. But you just never know, do you? As I told Roy Ware back in 2010:

It hasn't just been the neighborhood kids you contaminated, Roy. :) Your kindness to me over 15 years ago was one of the keys to cementing my love of Japanese live-action SF and classic anime. I'm not just being funny when I refer to you as my "sentai sensei". You made a huge difference in my life, because this fandom gave me the confidence to write about all sorts of other stuff.

So, if I haven't said so lately, thank you. Hope you have a great time at G-Fest. :)

The moral of this story is simple: Everyone makes a difference! Yes, even you. Sometimes, in ways you don't even realize. If you try to do right by people, you may end up changing history.

I take no credit for all that Kabuki has achieved since I met her. She has accomplished all of it through her hard work, determination, and talent. But if I somehow made her see that it was all possible one night back in 2004, well, I think we can count that as one of my good deeds in life.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Change! Tokusatsu Gals!

Today marks the finale of our friend Kabuki Katze's "Tokusatsu Gals" wallpaper series. However, she is going out with a bang! Yes, it's the one character in the series that I kinda lobbied for as an interesting milestone in the annals of tokusatsu. I don't know if I talked her into it or not, but Kabu chose to wrap things up with a wallpaper pack of Bijinda from KIKAIDA 01. Yes, that android anti-heroine is the last installment in this great series!

Kabu also has news on what her next wallpaper series will be. Now, I don't think I'm going to promote all of them each and every week, but know that KK's work comes with the highest possible endorsement from your pal at OWARI HQ. You would do well to bookmark her site and check it often. It's merely magnificent!

Friday, January 25, 2013

But Who *Is* Gekko Kamen?

I recently rediscovered my link to this character chart for GEKKO KAMEN ("Moonlight Mask"), one of the earliest truly successful Japanese TV superheroes. He was so successful, in fact, that he spawned a series of movies from Toei that were released simultaneous with the show. Gekko Kamen is not quite as famous today as Ultraman or Kamen Rider, but he was one of the pioneers that paved the way for them.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


There was a day a few years ago when I was unaccountably thinking a lot about McDonaldland. Here are a few random thoughts I had:

  • Has the Hamburglar ever been convicted?

  • Everyone wants to know what the hell Grimace is. I want to know this: Why does he have that name when he is always smiling?

  • Are there more hamburger-headed people, or are Mayor McCheese and Big Mac the only ones?

  • Speaking of Mayor McCheese, why is he the mayor when the WHOLE PLACE is named after Ronald McDonald?

  • Did the Professor create the Fry Guys or something?

  • Whatever happened to Captain Crook anyway?

  • Is it wrong to want to suffocate Birdy the Early Bird?

...And so on. Actually, the whole hamburger-headed people thing is pretty weird when you think about it. Like, if I had a hamburger-head, I might be a self-cannibal. That would be hard to explain at parties.

"Chris, have you been eating part of your head again?"


It would go downhill from there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fourth In A Series

This is not me.

However, if you wish to refer to me as Christopher "Dr. Evil" Elam, I will graciously accept the title.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Metamorpho Theme Song

Here's a flashback to the 1960s! Yes, it's back to the time when there was ALMOST a Metamorpho cartoon, and the character was deemed valuable enough to share a record with the Justice League.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I'm Not Wrong

It is probably just as well that the name "Hortense" fell out of fashion, because today, anyone with that name would likely get cursed with the nickname "Hor."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Leave It To Tokusatsu Gals!

Not only is this week another installment in the Tokusatsu Gals Wallpaper Series from Kabuki Katze, but this particular subject is one near and dear to my heart. Yatta! It's Annie, the character that defined the career of the wonderful Naomi Morinaga!

I am really thrilled to get to see a chibi Annie from KK, since I had introduced her to the career some time ago. As longtime readers may recall, Annie had a huge influence on my own Shelly Ericson, and that includes in the wardrobe department. Shelly is often influenced by Annie's outfits, and occasionally sports one that is a dead-ringer for this particular version!

Share, love, and enjoy! And be back next week to get "switched on" with another tokusatsu heroine!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Stuckey's Road Trip (April 17, 2008)

The whole thing probably started the night that Sara and I were discussing Stuckey's. Why Stuckey's? I dunno! But we were, and this led me to discover that there was a Stuckey's in Opelousas. Opelousas is not REALLY close, but it's not far, either. So an idea was planted.

Flash forward a few weeks, and my sister Amy tells me that she is taking a few days off work. I ask if she's interested in a road trip to Stuckey's. And lo, a plan was hatched.

As plans go, it was pretty basic. We drove to Opelousas, stopped to eat at the Palace Cafe, and then went looking for Stuckey's. It proved to be not very hard to locate, mostly because I wasn't the one driving. Heh heh.

The Stuckey's itself was a bit of a disappointment. There was very little in it that marked it as a "real" Stuckey's. The nut stuff was there, but alas, the incredibly tacky souvenirs were in short supply. There were a few, but not nearly enough. Still, we did pick up some stuff, and the adventure was definitely worth the effort. So hey, a day well spent, I think.

It appears that there is a Stuckey's in Orange, TX that I could get to without a whole lotta trouble. This is a relatively recent development, since it was definitely not on this stretch of road back in 2008. Believe me, I traveled it enough back then that I would have noticed. There is also a location in Winnie, TX that might even be a Stuckey's in the more "classic" vein. I don't think I will be going anytime soon, but it's something to consider for the future.

And now...PICTURES!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Back On The Graveyard Shift!

At last, I come bearing news to you about Big Bang Comics. And if my referrals are any indication, there are a fair amount of you out there seeking just that!

KNIGHT WATCHMAN: GRAVEYARD SHIFT is coming next month from Pulp 2.0 Press! This collects the mini-series that updated the Knight Watchman character for the modern age. And let me just say that, as a person who is NOT a fan of such stuff most of the time, I still love this story! It is a fantastic read, and the artwork by Ben Torres is amazing.

Pre-ordering for this book is going on right now at the link provided. My money is a little tight at the moment, so I'm going to have to delay making my order just a bit. However, I assure you that I will be ordering this book, and I urge all of you to give it a try as well. It's a great story about a man out of time (in more than one sense), and something that might ring true for a lot of contemporary comics fans.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Muhammad Ali/Antonio Inoki Fight's Surprising Cameos

What had happened was this: I was reading the Japanese Wikipedia entry for Risa Komaki with regards to the Momoranger wallpaper we recently linked here. While there, I made a surprising (to me) discovery. As it turns out, Komaki (best known as "Peggy Matsuyama", the alter ego of Momo on GORANGER) had been one of the women presenting the ceremonial bouquets prior to the infamous Muhammad Ali/Antonio Inoki fight!

The Ali/Inoki fiasco is something that deserves more coverage than I am going to give it here. Suffice to say, I find the story surrounding it far more compelling than the match itself. I tried to watch the whole thing, but only made it through 2 rounds. If you want to see Ali dancing and yelling while Inoki lies on his back and kicks his legs for 15 rounds, it's 5 stars. Otherwise, it's a good cure for insomnia.

The funny part is I sat through all the preliminaries yesterday, and found them engrossing. The event itself is remarkable, even if the fight doesn't live up to expectations in any way. Now, obviously I expected to see some New Japan guys in Inoki's corner, and Ali's usual boxing entourage was there in force. But some of the other faces, well...

1) First, Risa Komaki is there, and she's plainly visible at the 7:35 mark in the video in this post. What's more, I think she may even be wearing one of the "Peggy Matsuyama" outfits from GORANGER! I suspect the connection is that both GORANGER and Inoki's New Japan Pro Wrestling aired on NET (today's TV Asahi). The other bouquet woman with Komaki is also an actress.

2) I knew "Classy" Freddy Blassie was going to be there, but it's still strange to see him in Ali's corner. Blassie was managing in the WWWF at this time, and was a legendary figure in Japanese pro wrestling. He looks visibly uneasy as he's walking to the ring, as if he knows the whole thing is going to be a farce. I tend to give credence to his version of events from his biography over some of the more "accepted" versions. I know Blassie spun a lot of stuff in that book, but his version had a ring of truth to me from a worked pro wrestling perspective.

3) "Judo" Gene LaBell was the referee. I knew this too, but I somehow imagined he would have looked more fearsome even in a ref get-up. LaBell never was famous as a wrestler, but he was known as a shooter and made a name for himself as a Hollywood stuntman, too.

4) Karl Gotch was in Inoki's corner. I didn't see this coming, but I should have. Gotch was much more famous in Japanese pro wrestling than anywhere else in the world. Seeing Ali trash talking Gotch was amusing.

5) The Three Degrees sang the American National Anthem! I...wasn't expecting this in any way.

The video below is the preliminaries and the entire fight from an NET broadcast. Risa Komaki is at 7:35. The fight itself starts at around 20 minutes or so. Anyone who makes it through the whole thing has more stamina than yours truly.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Did You Know...

...that the album version of Sweet's "Love Is Like Oxygen" is something like 7 minutes long? I didn't either until I heard it on the radio one night as I was driving home from my sister's house. It took the entire trip for it to finish.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Atari 2600 Label Maker

I linked to this site elsewhere some time ago, but don't think it has ever made the cut on this blog. That's a darn shame, because Atari 2600 Label Maker is a lot of fun. You can upload a picture and make your own custom Atari VCS label!

Naturally, I've played around with it. Here's a modern version of the first label I ever made. And don't act surprised that I used it to promote Return of Jetman!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tackling Tokusatsu Gals!

I told you I'd be back with more news on this series, and so I am! This weekend, the sublime Kabuki Katze has unveiled a wallpaper pack starring Denpa Ningen Tackle! As you might know, I love me some Kamen Rider, and Tackle is an integral part of KAMEN RIDER STRONGER. But hey, you should read the links in that post. They might seem familiar!

Next week sounds as if it might be someone near and dear to not only me, but many visitors to this blog. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Whither Michelle Nolan?

I learned yesterday the sad but not entirely shocking news that Comics Buyer's Guide is ending. CBG was at one time one of the lynchpins of comics fandom, but times (as they say) change. You had to figure that nothing was safe after the cancellation of Wizard a couple of years ago. As much as I loathed that publication, it had leapfrogged CBG in the public consciousness. Now, both are history.

I've been buying CBG off and on for many years, and a lot of my personal fan history is tied up in its pages. In fact, it is more pivotal than you might expect. More recently, I've been buying it more regularly, so I consider it unfortunate for me that it is ending. However, with all due respect to everyone involved in that fine publication, the reason I will miss it most is outlined in this entry's subject header.

Quite simply, I think Michelle Nolan is my current favorite writer on the subject of comic books. I discovered her work in the pages of the much-missed Comic Book Marketplace. I always am entertained by her articles and learn something, too. So I am really disappointed to learn that another publication that carried her column is no more.

Which brings me to this - I don't know Michelle Nolan, but someone needs to hire her to write for their website. I am going to be cranky if I can't read her work anymore simply because all the outlets dried up. If I have to endure every wannabe comedian thinking their list is a gift to mankind, certainly there is a place out there for someone who writes intelligently and enthusiastically about old comic books.

I hope to be reading Michelle Nolan's articles for years to come. Why not check them out and see how you like them? Some examples:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Mexico!

I discovered this ad in a copy of Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #9 (June 1967) I recently purchased. At first glance, it might seem to be promoting tourism. But no! Instead, they are trying to sell you actual real estate!

When you consider that $1.98 was a steep mail-order investment for a 1960s-era comic book reader, I cannot imagine there were many takers at "only" $299. I guess this is one of those examples where the advertiser bought the space without putting a lot of thought into the publications that would be carrying their ads. I mean, I don't think there are a lot of ten year old real estate moguls.

I have fuzzed out the address, but amazingly, the offer is ongoing! I doubt this is the same company, and $299 will only get you a pat on the head, but Deming Ranchettes are still for sale. I know you are all ready to jump on this deal.

To sum up: New Mexico kicks fanny, and it isn't afraid to tell you. Why not buy some of it?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Martha and the Muffins - "Echo Beach"

This musical interlude goes out to pal Casie, who was listening to this very song yesterday. "Echo Beach" is a fantastic tune that, of course, I never got to hear when it was current. But hurray for found music in the used CD section of local stores!

Hey, look at that - Martha and the Muffins are still active!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy Bloggiversary To Me

Jet Jaguar says "Congratulations on four years, Chris!"

I chose to eschew doing a "year in review" post for either December 31st or January 1st this go-around. Because of a quirk in when I started this blog, the anniversary comes shortly after I go to that trouble. And yes, today marks the fourth anniversary of Christopher Elam's OWARI.

Obviously, this blog has evolved since its inception. It was originally created just as a back-up, then was converted into a "Greatest Hits" sort of thing. Eventually, it became not only the MAIN blog, but the personal site I'd always avoided creating. I've been mostly pleased with the results. I don't hit a home run every at-bat, but I like my current percentage.

2012 saw some fun things happen here. Though the volume wasn't quite as great as prior years, there was plenty of new art. I introduced some new characters and added some fiction, too. I finished my review of the fanzine years of OWARI. I even finally found the time to write about those Chinese/Japanese superhero movies, which is something I have been promising for years. Plus, there was a lot of other cool stuff. Why not peruse the archives if you are so inclined?

But naturally, 2012 also had setbacks. I was victimized by a lightning strike yet again. My Internet went down for days. You know the drill. Still, I soldiered on, and I'm proud of that.

2013 promises to be another year of milestones. Unless something catastrophic happens (knock on wood), I should reach 1,000 posts here at some point. This is mind-boggling to me when I consider I was only aiming for 100 in 2009. Even more mind-boggling is that July will mark my TENTH BLOGGING ANNIVERSARY. Though this blog began on January 7, 2009, my very first blog launched on July 13, 2003. Holy crow.

Through thick and thin, I want you to know that I am grateful to each and every one of you who considers visiting this blog a worthy use of your time. I drift from one subject to another on a pretty regular basis, so the fact that I have any kind of regular readership humbles me. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Now then, onward to OWARI Year Five!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Noriko Takahashi - Almost A Tokusatsu Starlet

If you are the kind of person who pays any attention at all to the human beings running around in Japanese sci-fi, you probably have at least one actress you consider your favorite. Kumi Mizuno is the one who gets the most discussion in Godzilla fandom, but she's hardly alone. There are many worthy ladies who could be considered "tokusatsu starlets": Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Yumi Shirakawa, and your favorite Toho actress I didn't list here. And that's before we even bring up the women in non-Toho films (like Reiko Kasahara) or the ones who made their mark on TV (Hiroko Sakurai, Yuriko Hishimi, too many others to list).

There is, however, one name that usually doesn't get mentioned. Oh, she's actually in a kaiju film, but not in a significant role. That opportunity escaped her not once, but twice. I speak of none other than Noriko Takahashi.

Noriko Takahashi (高橋紀子 - Takahashi Noriko) didn't have a particularly disappointing career for an actress from that era, if you look at her credits on her Wikipedia entry. However, like the majority of them, she is unknown in the West due to not appearing in a significant tokusatsu role. This is why Reiko Dan (who was in Kurosawa films) is less known in America than someone like Keiko Sawai.

Noriko DID, however, appear in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. You're excused if you don't remember her. I've included a screenshot to refresh your memory.

Yes, she's the girl who is briefly seen dancing at the party that is attacked by Baragon. It's a relatively minor role, probably amounting to about a minute or two of screen time. It's not unusual to see people who starred or co-starred in other movies make these sort of appearances in the kaiju films. It's just the nature of how Toho operated in those days.

But FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD wasn't meant to be Noriko's only Toho tokusatsu film. No, she was cast in a much bigger role the next year - that of Dayo in GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER. I could swear I have even seen a picture of her in the Dayo outfit, but had no luck finding it. According to her entry, she was hospitalized with appendicitis and had to drop out. This led to Kumi Mizuno replacing her and further cementing her future position as Toho Starlet #1 in the minds of many.

What I hadn't realized until a few days ago was that Noriko was apparently ALSO slated to play the role of Ayako Hoshino in 1970's YOG - MONSTER FROM SPACE/SPACE AMOEBA. This time, she was newly-married, and it appears she had retired prior to the commencement of filming. That led to Atsuko Takahashi taking the female lead in what is probably the last of the "Golden Era" Toho tokusatsu films.

I salute you, Noriko Takahashi. Fate conspired to make you more obscure than you deserve to be. Well, I remember you.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tokusatsu Gals Wallpapers Begin!

We here at Christopher Elam's OWARI have been big boosters of the art of Kabuki Katze since 2004. And the only reason we weren't banging the drum for her prior to 2004 is because our paths didn't cross until that year. Suffice to say, your humble C. Elam recommends the art of Ms. Katze about as much as possible on any given day of the week.

I told you that to tell you this: Today begins a special project of the lady's that transcends even that lofty praise. I didn't instigate it (oddly enough), but have been more than happy to offer my support, encouragement, and suggestions in its preparations. As you may have gathered, it is a "Tokusatsu Gals" wallpaper series! Momoranger kicks things off today!

I'll try to report back to all of you each week with the new entries in this series. Based on the criteria, I bet some of you can guess what lies ahead!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Continued Next Week!" No More?

As you may have noticed (or more likely, didn't notice at all), I have been silent about my movie serial image blog "Continued Next Week!" for the last month or so. It has even disappeared from my sidebar links a couple of times. The reason is simple: I have lost my enthusiasm for maintaining such a project.

I resisted the urge to go overboard on this blog, reasoning that it would be a surefire path to burning myself out on it. What I didn't anticipate was that even searching for the images would have the same effect. One afternoon, something snapped while I was looking at pictures and I thought, "I can't do this anymore." I kept up a token presence for a time, and more recently have been updating it on an occasional basis.

Tonight, I am officially throwing in the towel - with a qualification. I'm not actively going to seek out images for that blog anymore. However, if something interesting that fits the theme happens to stroll across my screen, sure, I'll probably reblog it there. I just won't be trying to keep a schedule of even a single post a month.

I'm not deleting the serial blog. I've learned that you can re-register names on Tumblr, and I don't relish the thought of someone claiming the URL out from under me if I change my mind. Besides, I can't see any possible benefit of getting rid of it. It has a lot of cool pictures, even if I've lost my passion for it at the moment. I think I'll just let it sit off in its corner, much like my near-forgotten comic book blog "Earth B."

I spent the better part of 2012 wrestling with how to deal with Tumblr, and I think I've got a handle on it. I'm planning to continue my primary account OWARI 2.0 and the ever-popular Pictures of Naomi Morinaga. The former will probably be regularly updated, though definitely not as much as it was this past summer; the latter will update when the mood strikes me. I have more or less come to terms with my status as a "go-to" on the 'net for Naomi.

And, uh, that's my Tumblr status for the moment. Hold that applause.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Home Computer of 2004

I picked up this picture via Alex Wald's Astromonster Tumblr (highly recommended). It is what the RAND Corporation of 1954 imagined a "home computer" would be like 50 years hence. If you haven't bothered to click the link yet, this is your cue to do just that.

In looking at this photo, one thought is paramount in my mind. Namely, where is the steering wheel for my computer? I feel cheated by progress.