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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Lost Comic-books from the 80's Pt. 24

Star Blazers. Written by Phil Foglio and illustrated by Doug Rice - (based on characters and situations from ' Space Battleship Yamato' credited to Leiji Matsumoto & Yoshinobu Nishizaki ). Comico Comics, published in a monthly format for a total of #1 - 4 issues, from April 1987 to July 1987, and #1 - 5 issues, from May 1989 to September 1989.
This short lived transference from popular television cartoon show 'Star Blazers', an early breakthrough in dubbed Anime that was the heavily edited for America. Taken from 'Space Battleship Yamato', that had an on-going storyline needing to be shown in order.

The Basic plot is set in the year 2199, the Earth is a radioactive dust-bowl thanks to an Alien menace and what's left of the Human race lives in cities deep under ground. At this time Earth scientists have calculated that in one year the radiation will reach fatal levels for all of Humanity, but as fate and luck would have it the earth has a new ally who sends engine blueprints for a faster-than-light Star-drive.

Earth resources are pulled together and the ancient Battleship Yamato is retro fitted and made in to a Space battleship, we then follow the crew on their journey through hostile space hoping to reach their new ally who has technology to clean the Earth of it's radiation.

[Note: I have either misplaced or lost my Comico 'Star Blazers' comics (as of writing this 30th. December 2013), I'll see if they can be found or replaced.]

[Note: In 1982 Comico was founded, and at its hight of popularity in 1985 saw the simultaneous debut release of three Robotech comics series, but sadly to say Comico ceased operations in 1990.]

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Comic-books in the 80's Pt. 23

The Original Astro Boy 12. Written by Ken Steacy and illustrated by Ken Steacy & Andrew Pratt - (based on characters and situations from The Mighty Atom created by Dr. Osamu Tezuka. 1963). NOW Comics (a division of Now Entertainment Corporation) published in a monthly format for a total of #1 - 20 issues, from August 1987 to April 1989.
In a World of the future where humans co-exist with robots in every walk of daily life, the head of the Ministry of Science Doctor Tenma built Astro to replace his young son Tobio who had tragically died, Astro could love his creator like his real son, so Astro was sold like any other robot (to a circus no less).  Luckily for Astro Professor Ochanomizu, the new head of the Ministry of Science found him and saved him from the cruel circus owner and takes him home to stay with him.
Another kids comic-book from the late 80's “The Original Astro Boy 12”, the series was based mostly on the1963 “The Mighty Atom” Japanese cartoon series of 1963, following the growing pains and human curiosity of the World's most loved Boy robot “Astro”, a self-aware robot boy, helping those in need (robots and people alike) and finding his way in the World.
At the time of the 60's when Japan had not its modern reputation electronics & technology Osamu Tezuka's little robot was at the epicentre of manga & Anime. Be he “Astro Boy” or “The Mighty Atom” to you, he is the child in us, who never grows up!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Comic-books in the 80's Pt. 22

Speed Racer. Written by Tony Caputo and illustrated by Ken Steacy (later Joe Koziarski & Kyle Hotz) - (based on characters and situations from Mach Go Go Go created by Tatsuo Yoshida (Tatsunoko Productions Inc.). NOW Comics (a division of Now Entertainment Corporation) published in a monthly format for a total of #1 - 38 issues, from June1987 to July 1990 .

Even when you are in your early 20's you can be nostalgic about the little kid you remember who was under ten years old watching Saturday morning cartoons, and Speed Racer was showing, so you pick up that kid's comic-book.
Still riding on the wave of popularity 'Speed Racer' was taken from the Japanese original kids cartoon show 'Mach Go Go Go' (1967) that was re-dubbed in America and aired in the1970's it seems to find a new audience each decade!
A simple tale of exciting race car driving with dangers on and off the track, and a family that sticks together. 

We follow our hero Speed (Speed Racer) as he drives the 'Mach 5', a state of the art race car agenst the odds, supported by his parents Mom Racer & Pops Racer, his cheeky little brother Spritle who with his pet chimp ' Chim-Chim' always got in to mischief , and Speed's girlfriend Trixie. All is not fast cars and fun as we see Speed missing his older brother, Rex who he looks up to. Rex has been secretly helping Speed disguised as the mysterious masked 'Racer X'.

Fun for all the family, from a simpler time.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Comic-books in the 80's Pt. 21

Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock. Written by Robert W. Gibson and illustrated by Ben Dunn - (based on characters and situations from Space Pirate Captain Harlock created by Leiji Matsumoto). Eternity Comics (a division of Malibu Graphics Inc.) published in a monthly format for a total of #1 - 13 issues, from October 1989 to December 1990 .

“In the30th. Centry, the Earth and its colonies lost a bitter war with forces of theIllumids, a race of aliens who exist only to conquer. Now the once-proud inhabitants of Earth live as slaves-- at least the lucky ones.
Only the pirate Harlock declared he would not be a party to the occupation. With the aid of Tochiro (perhaps the greatest mechanical engineer of his time), and a crew of idealistic outcasts, Harlock left Earth in the magnificent space galleon 'Arcadia', to live a renegade's life in the “sea of stars”. But his heart, he could never truly abandon the land of his birth, nor the people who, without his leadership, would be subjugated forever.”

Clearly one of the most Iconic and recognisable characters from Japanese animation for a whole generation of fans, Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock a creation of literary stature brought to our western shores, that will always have a place in our hearts.

Leiji Matsumoto's other recognisable works include “Space Battle Ship Yamato” (known in the USA as “StarBlazers”), Galaxy Express 999, The Cockpit, and to a lesser extent Queen Emeraldas and Queen Millennia, all have his signature style.

[Note: in issue #1 at the back you will find the "Afterword" by Robert W. Gibson – is, and I quote a "Labor of love".]

[Note: Robert W. Gibson stories are set two years after the events featured in the film "My Youth in Arcadia".]
[Note: a total of 28 Captain Harlock comic-books were printed between 1989 and 1993 (end-date to be confirmed) by Robert W. Gibson and various illustrators.]

[Note: details of the of the comic-book's demise rest on publishing Rights that were sold to Eternity Comics (a division of Malibu Graphics Inc.) fraudulently by parties unknown to me at this time of writing – sad news indeed.]

Monday, 9 December 2013

Comic-books in the 80's Pt. 20

Dirty Pair. Written by Toren Smith & Adam Warren and illustrated by Adam Warren - (based on characters and situations created by Haruka Takachiho). Eclipse Comics published in a monthly format for a total of 15 issues, from June 1989 to March 1990 .
The first 4 novels where originally published between 1980 and 1993 in SF Magajin by Tor Books.

[Note:Dirty Pair #1-5 (June 1989 to October 1989) - Dirty Pair II #1-5 (November 1989 to March 1990) - The Dirty Pair (III) #1-5 (April? to August? 1990 ).]

[Note:Dirty Pair book One: Biohazards (a collection collection of the first series), Dirty Pair book Two: dangerous acquaintances (a collection collection of the second series), The Dirty Pair (III): A Plague of Angels (a collection collection of the third series 1990).]

The cry of “It's not our fault!” as the impact of Manga and Japanese cartoons gained a foothold in the US of A, Toren Smith founder and translator at ' Studio Proteus' acquired rights to create comic-book versions of The Dirty Pair in a joint project with Adam Warren who wrote and drew the comic-books (quoting Fred Burke).

This very popular Space Opera that takes place after the year 2138 and follows Two "trouble consultants" agents of the 3WA (World Welfare Works Association), and their fierce cat-like being “Mughi” (an electronics expert among other-things), Kei and Yuri codenamed the “Lovely Angels”, but more commonly referred to as the “Dirty Pair” due to the destruction left in there wake (Some times on a Planetary scale, such is other people's misfortune) after completing their mission.

A fun read!

[Note: they are the creations of Haruka Takachiho, who brought us “Crusher Joe” and in the books at least they are all in the same universe.]

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 19

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki . Viz Comics published in a monthly format broken down in to 4 parts with a total of 19 issues, from November 1988 to October 1994 . The manga was originally published between 1982 and 1994 by Tokuma Shoten. [Note: Toren Smith of Studio Proteus was credited as translator as a footnote for parts one and two, but not for parts three and four.]

Hear we see “the Valley of the Wind” a Kingdom of roughly 500 subjects untouched by the ever encroaching jungle forest of giant poisonous Fungi known as the “Sea of Corruption”. Its frailty only supported by the coastal sea breeze protecting the lush farmland and the people's way of life.

War rages between the Torumekla Empire and the Dorok Empire which threatens to spillover and remove the Valley of the Wind's autonomy, our virtuous and fearless Princess Nausicaä will discover that doing what is right thing evolves into, what is right for the 'Valley of the Wind', what is right for the Human race, what is right for the Ohmu (the giant insects that protect the earth's jungle forest), and what is right for the Planet. A warrior of great compassion, a warrior for peace!

Nausicaä is an epic story weaving Science Fiction with an ecological message set in a post apocalyptic world with ancient high technology, truly a masterpiece of literature that has a cinematic quality rarely seen.
This is an exceptional comic-book and one I always made a point of getting my hands on the next issue, even when it was that the months turned in to years of waiting!!

[Note: It was serialized sporadically and intermittently between Miyazaki's animated films from 1982 to 1994 in Japan.]

[Note: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Part One: #1-7 (Nov1988-May1989); Part Two: #1-4 (Sep 1989-Dec 1989); Part Three: #1-3 (Dec1992-Feb1992); Part Four: #1-5 (Jun1994- Oct 1994 ).]

[Note: Viz Issue 1 had an exclusive fold-out Poster by French illustrator and comic-book writer Moebius, as well as a two page dialogue between Moebius and Miyazaki.]

[Note: Viz Issue 3 had a two page article written by Hayao Miyazaki on the character of Princess Nausicaä, translated from the Japanese magazine “Animage”.]

[Note: Viz Issue 7 had full two page article by Toren Smith entitled “ Nausicaä a labor of love” - To quote “The whole thing began when Yoshiko Saito of 'Starlog' magazine in Japan printed an article I'd written about the terrible English version of the animated Nausicaä movie. Miyazaki happened to read it and contacted the well-known Science Fiction translator Mikru Abo, asking him to bring me around for a talk”.]

[Note: by Viz Part two (issue 1) Jerry A. Novick had printed 2 fan letters under the title of “Out of the Miasma” such was the overwhelming positive correspondence for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.]

[Note: When the Japanese manga was printed in book form, it was done so in Sepia to give it a more dream-like tone – the cover that was for Part 1 #3 (Viz comics) was the water colour print used for the free poster in Japanese Book 1 release.] 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 18

AKIRA. Written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. published by Epic Comics ( a division of Marvel Comics) in a monthly format in colourised version, with a total of 38 issues, from August\October 1988 to  1995 . The manga was originally published between 1984 and 1989 by Kodansha Ltd. & MASH ROOM Co. Ltd.

A first to recognise the market in the readership of High School and College students, Otomo's AKIRA taped in to a arts and entertainment well informed audience hankering for something new that they could relate to. At the heart of this is Otomo's storytelling and artwork, no CUTE teenage school girls in uniform are to be found, with some critics saying that the female characters are even ugly! 

Visually rich (and lucky for us in the West colourised with love and care) and a gripping narrative AKIRA should not need an introduction.
Like a binary star the two protagonists Kaneda Shotaro and Tetsuo Shima two friends in a juvenile biker gang get mixed-up in secret Government experiments, political & military power struggles, religious and anti-government groups all set in the year 2030 in Neo-Tokyo, and they even have time for the societal pressures of relationships, school and the odd scrap with rival biker gangs, and like all teenagers feel alienated and disillusioned with modern society and the adults who run things.

In this lush back drop of a CyberPunk like world in the year 2002 where scientists have nurtured and enhanced children's psychic abilities (because they can!) to catastrophic magnitude in one or two cases of their test group, and by 2030 the decay had set in to this utopian city no more a scientists dream of a better tomorrow! Like “10 degrees of separation” all the supporting characters are in some way intertwined and have their own story arc and considerable time in the limelight too.

This Manga is one that we all should have on our shelf at home, and for some it was their first introduction to a much wider World of this Japanese phenomenon of comic-books.

[Note: Quoting Archie Goodwin - Otomo personally chose Steve Oliff as colourist (America had the most advanced computer colouring system at that time) for the English translated manga and furnished him with colour guides each step of the way. Studio MASH ROOM Co. Ltd. Also adjusted the artwork for the western comic-book format.]

[Note: When the first volume was released in Japan in September 1984 the print run shot up from an estimated 30,000 to nearly 300,000 and became a best seller. The cover had the author’s name in English as well as the title, a bold break with Japanese manga tradition.]

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 17

Crying Freeman. Written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami . Viz Comics published in a monthly format broken down in to 5 parts with a total of 46 issues, from October 1989 to September 1993 . The manga was originally published between 1985 and 1989 by Shoakukan inc.
A potter by trade Freeman was snatched off the street in Japan by the Chinese Triad (Mafia) called the "108 Dragons" and subjected to drugs, acupuncture and hypnosis to bend his will to serve as an assassin and their puppet, from then on he's only release of emotion is that he sheds tears after he kills each of his targets.

To denote his affiliation to the "108 Dragons" his body is extensively covered in a single tattoo of an Oriental Dragon (in a style similar to the Japanese Yakuza).

As you read the story of the underworld, it unfolds that Freeman is embroiled in, you see how he becomes an  individual who loves and not just a puppet assassin who leaves no witnesses.  

With the label “For mature readers only” you would be forgiven to think that the nudity and violence is only for titillation but with story written by Koike who brought us “Lone Wolf and Cub” and Ikegami who's artwork was first introduced to us from "Mai, the Psychic Girl" we find the adult themes delt with in a such superior maner then bulk of western comic-books in dealing with how the charcters interact, and in thier relayshionships that are turly human.

Crying Freeman sets the standard not only for the gangster genre, but for comic-books speaking to a mature audience.

[Note: Crying Freeman Part One #1-8 (Oct1989 - May1990); Part Two #1-9 (1990 – 1991); Part Three #1-10 (1991- 1992); Part Four #1-8 (Mar 1992- Oct 1992); Part Five #1-11 (Nov 1992- Sep 1993).]

[Note: From my own collection issues that I've found start at Part 2 issue #1 onwards. The 8 issues of Part One that are printed in B&W elude me!]

[Note: Crying freeman: Part four issues #1-3 were printed in colour from March 92 to May 92, then issues #4-8 were printed in Blank 'n' White spanning June 92 to October 92. Originally Part four was to be printed in Colour to run 7 issues from March 92 to September 92.]

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 16

Appleseed. Written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. Eclipse Comics with Studio Proteus published 19 issues in a bi-monthly format spanning the 4 original books, from September 1988 to August 1991 . Cover art for the monthly issues for book 2 was Art Adams and book 3 was done by American illustrator Adam Warren.
The manga was originally published between 1985 and 1989 by Seishinsha.

[Note: As at the time of this post I am unable to find My own issues of Appleseed Book 3 #1, #2, #3 (August, September, October 1989) Published by Eclipse, in which I believe the 'Letters page' had printed American Anime\Manga Fan Club addresses. Thus started my journey in to Fandom, but as you can see I did import the original Manga at that time.]
 [Note: now have Appleseed Book 3 #2 read on.]

Shirow's artwork just blew me away, the attention to detail in the city-scape, the futuristic designs of vehicles, cyborgs, and power-armour were so fresh in the 1980's, and add to this the storyline of newcomers to the utopian city-state of Olympus, Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires who join the city's law enforcement’s ESWAT (Extra Special Weapons And Tactics) division. 

What follows is the relationship between Deunan and Briareos as they rely on each other as they take on the political underworld and powerful criminals of this veneer of a utopia where over 50% of the population is bio-engineered! 
You can just see how this Japanese Cyberpunk manga became award-winning!

[Note: Volume titles are - Book 1. Prometheus Challenge, Book 2. Prometheus Unbound, Book 3. Scales of Prometheus, Book 4. Prometheus Balance.]

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 15

Cyber 7. Written and illustrated by Shuho Itahashi. Eclipse Comics with Studio Proteus published 17 issues in a monthly format from March 1989 to Autumn 1990 spanning the 2 original books.
The manga was originally published by Hakusensha in the mid to late 80's.

Our young protagonist Tatsuki finds a photograph that shows a group of organic androids helping people after a vehicle accident, this he then sells to a tabloid newspaper, making it public knowledge 14 years after the accident and exposing their secret existence, and putting himself and those now teenagers and the scientist in great danger!

The secret of the 7 organic androids is that they are self-aware and make their own choices, and need a convincing discussion before undertaking any new obligation, and up until now have been kept a secret.

The threat to all, is a 7 foot tall anthropomorphic Rabbit who's technology is way-ahead of this Earth's time, not to mention his organisation's foot soldiers!

[Note: The artwork has a distinctive European feel to it, but the story is one truly from a Japanese prospective.]

[Note: I only have a smattering of the comic-books, so it is difficult to do it justice.]

[Note: For many weeks now I have been ranking my brain with the notion that “Cyber 7” is not translated from the original Japanese title..... but I as yet can not find any proof of this!!]

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 14

The Legend of Kamui. Written and illustrated by Sanpei Shirato (by Akame Productions). Eclipse Comics with Viz Comics published 37 issues in a Biweekly format from May 1987 to November 1988, spanning 13 chapters taken from the original books published by Shogakukan Inc. that ran from 1982 to 1987. - English Translation by Toren Smith & Satori Fuji.

Rivalling “Lone Wolf and Cub” for the historical manga crown, for its scope and scale of storytelling, and art style (new to a Western reader) “The Legend of Kamui” is a powerful story that draws the reader in to the outlaw world of the underclass removed from the restrictions of the Bushido code, where a young man's desire for revenge threatens to overtake pursuit for freedom from the Ninja clans, and live as a free-man.

Kamui introduces himself as a “Nukenin” (a runaway shinobi) who can never return to his village now that he has left, he is alone. Encountering many souls on his journey, many of these regarding him as a renegade ninja thus fights to the death ensue.
The historical richness of this era, adding to this the explications of fighting styles and weapons used bring the myth and legends of the Ninja to a harsh reality for the mature reader.

[Note: Two stories were printed “The Island Of Sugaru” who's 6 chapters ran from issue 1 to issue 13, and “The Sword Wind” story who's 7 chapters ran from issue 14 to issue 37.]

[Note: In 1990 when Viz Comics had the rights to print (dairy format) “The Island Of Sugaru”, volume one had chapters 1 to 4, and with a 2 page introduction by American Manga aficionado Frederik Schodt, and it also had a 2 page Glossary at the back.]

[Note: Quoting the American scholar 'Hart Larrabee' “the Manga of Shirato Sanpei, they are what distinguishes literature from the simple story”.]

Monday, 28 October 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 13

Outlanders. Written and illustrated by Johji Manabe. Dark Horse Comics with Studio Proteus published 33 issues in a monthly format, from December 1988 to September 1991 . The manga was originally published by Hakusensha in Comicomi magazine in the mid to late 1980's.

A favourite manga of mine with an engrossing story and appealing art with its character design and organic integrated technology all wrapped up in a space opera.

The invasion of Earth by the galaxy spanning Santovasku Empire's immense living battleships and terrifying ground troops and war beasts, our reluctant hero a Tokyo News Photographer by the name of Tetsuya Wakatsuki is taken as a prisoner by the beautiful (but deadly with a sword) Princess Kahm who has such lovely horns befitting one of Royal blood is the daughter to the Santovasku Emperor!
For a start humans are seen as vermin on this sacred planet and battle fleets of star-ships have been given orders to exterminate the infestation! With such a large Empire of many bipedal races (much like inhabitance of moons of the planet Mongo!) some fish-like (Royal Servant Nao ), and some the pinnacle of feline (Lady Battia) and canine (General Geobalai) evolution I think.

Tetsuya persuades Kahm to save the Earth and all its Human inhabitance and she promises to marry him and take on her father, but others are plotting against her, add to this confrontations between Lady Battia and General Geobalai and family of Royal Servants loyal to the princess you have a space opera with style!

[Note. Toren Smith of Studio Proteus sold the translated manga of Outlanders to the fledgling comic-book company Dark Horse, thus gave them their first manga title and a foot-hold in the newfound market. Such was its importance!]

[Note. 8 Volumes were printed by Dark Horse covering the entire series (of 33) & the one-off specials (dates to be confirmed).]

Monday, 21 October 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 12

Grey. Written and illustrated by Yoshihisa Tagami. Viz Comics published 9 issues in a monthly format, from October 1988 to June 1989 . The manga was originally published by Tokuma Shoten in the mid to late 80's.

One of my fondest memories was seeing a poster on the wall of the 'Final Fronter' comic-book shop (sadly no longer with us) this film size poster of Grey death with the iconic two legged flying machines in the background, just looked like the coolest Science fiction I'd ever seen (back in 1989)!

Set in the future when man's lust for war has reduced the human population to small pockets of scattered villages and the occasional town, with most of the high technology lost or restricted to the general populous. Life is hard, living in what for most is a ghetto, feeding from what others throw away. There is endless war and the threat of attack from the next village or even from your own 'Troopers' who defend the settlements and strike back, because in this class system of society, if you're not a 'Trooper' you're scum (class “F”)! There are even classes of troopers class “E” up to class “A” (50% of all who start never make it to a class ”D” trooper), with the promise of food, shelter and safety from invaders in 'the City' being a class “A” entitles you to become a citizen, and you are set for life! Killing the enemy and destroying vehicles and machines of war advances you up the ranks!

We follow the chronicles Grey as he becomes determined to survive after the death of his girlfriend called Lips, carrying her dream of becoming citizen and living in the city, is his relentless drive. As a trooper he is sent on mission after mission, each one harder than the last. His uncanny survival and being the sole trooper out of his squad to return from many a mission marks him with the nick-name Grey Death as we witness him becoming a ruthless killing machine focused on the next class rank! From retro fitted WWII tanks and vehicles to power amour and Mecha, and the realisation that humanity's fate is not their own, and that there is a group fighting a resistance, Grey now seeks answers to the endless battles.

[Note. There is a three page article at the back of volume one entitled “Confessions of a rewriter by Gerard Jones. To quote him “Ultimately, the story of Grey springs not from the characters but from the machine-dominated world in which they function.”]

[Note. The American author Harlan Ellison mentions in his introduction to the manga of Grey, “it is an important comment on how a society mad for war can debase and chill its citizens. Grey is also a powerful statement about the demeaning caste systems we create to keep others in their place.”]

Manga in the 80's Pt. 11

Fire Tripper. Written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. Published by Viz comics 1989 (the first the “Rumic World” showcase series). The manga was originally published by Shōgakukan Inc. 1989. 
This cleverly worked time travel short story centring on two children both flung from their respective times (1980's and possibly Japan's feudal civil war of the1500s) by a fiery explosions, with both of them having forgotten their juvenile past. The principal part of the story takes place in feudal Japan where the teenage schoolgirl Suzuko has been transported to a field in aftermath of a battle, and rescued by an older boy Shukumar who takes her to his village, where their relationship blossoms. 

[Note. Laughing Target (1990) was the second short story in the collection of Rumic World.]

[Note. Dear reader, 'Fire Tripper' is the only surviving issue I have from the 'Rumic World' that I have found in my collection, and with the OVA releases of the same name and under the same banner, I'm sorry to say I can not at this time recall all the manga that was featured.]

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 10

We also had stand alone issues of Manga released as one-offs at the end of the 80's, and Go Nagai's Iconic “Mazinger” was one to get.
Mazinger. Written and illustrated by Go Nagai. Published by First publishing Inc. in December 1988. The manga was originally published by Dynamic publishing Inc.1988.

From the 70's and 80's to this day the World of Go Nagai and his beloved creation Mazinger live on. Now we see in full colour this manga styled graphic novel, as each panel and page are an art peace in themselves (looking to be painted in Acrylic and Oil paint) this adds to the fantasy of science fiction, inspired by one of the tales from “Gulliver's Travels” by Jonathan Swift.

 The year is 214X, eight years after the nuclear war and its nuclear winter the ten percent of humanity is split between North & South as the new super powers fight for resources, thus starts the one hundred years war, with war machines of gigantic size!
Our hero young Major Koji Kabuto is flung in to battle in the Combat Robot Mazinger, the masterpiece of the subterranean arsenal. As the battle rages something he is unprepared for happens and the battle shifts, changing his motivation to saving a beautiful woman from the horrors of war!

[Note. Go Nagai is known for his part in the Japanese robot revolution on TV in the 1970's and his reputation for hypersexual psycoviolence (Cutie Honey, and Devilman) changed the manga industry for kids comic-books & comic-strips for that decade and beyond, spawning many Anime tv series.]

[Note. A four page article by Frederick Patten on Go Nagai at the back of this graphic novel is well worth reading.]

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 9

Dominion. Written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. Published by Eclipse International & Studio Proteus in 6 issues in a Monthly format from December 1989 to May 1990. The manga was originally published by Hakusensha 1986.
We follow our heroin Leona Ozaki in her day to day job, protecting the citizens of the megalopolis, a city engulfed in a deadly bacterial smog (were the mask you wear saves your life!), and crime is dealt with the deadly force of the Tank S.W.A.T. Police (urban pacification that is outrageous!). In this futuristic world of bio-technology & cyber-technolgy and the use of tanks in a city Leona a girl who loves her little tank (named Bonaparte) struggles to be taken seriously as the male members of the Tank S.W.A.T. Police have the much bigger military tanks!
Shirow is know for his meta detailed city landscapes and cybernetics tech illustrations to flesh out his Worlds, and added to this is a wit and humour of the absurd with depiction of SD characters (super deformed – an art style).
A highly enjoyable Science Fiction comedy!

[Note. Like so many translated manga of its time only a short number of issues where produced to show the verity and style form Japan, and then where gone! Easily missed at your local comic-book store.]

 [Note. So popular was this series that over the years, 3 sets of OVAs have been animated (Dominion Tank Police, New Dominion Tank, and TANK S.W.A.T. 01).]

[Note. Masamune Shirow is best known in the West by his seminal work “Appleseed”.]

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 8

Lum. Written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi and Viz Comics published 9 issues in a Monthly format in 1989, taken from serialized manga in Weekly Shonen Sunday spanning from 1978 to 1987.

Known as Urusei Yatsura (Those Obnoxious Aliens) in Japan this is a fanciful comedy following Ataru and his girlfriend Shinobu, who have relationship troubles like most young couples, but things are going to get a little bit more complicated, as Ataru has been randomly selected (by computer of course) to stop an Alien Invasion in proudly representing Earth as its champion in a competition of 'Tag'..! 

Faced with the world resting on his shoulders, and running out of time to tag the very cute Alien Lum (who could fly) Ataru only manages to grab hold of (and keep) Lum's bikini-top, his new found motivation of his girlfriend's offer to marry him if he wins, gets misunderstood by Lum as a marriage proposal! Now life for Ataru Moroboshi is all kinds of weird, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

[Note: In the back cover of Issue 1, a small Biography is printed “She attended a woman's college in Tokyo where she began studying comics with 'Kazuo Koike” (the writer of 'Lone Wolf and Cub', and Crying Freeman). By the late1980's Rumiko Takahashi was the most popular comic-book writer in Japan!]

[We in the West have come to know this female Manga artist and writer Rumiko Takahashi and her many works, both comedic and supernatural from 'Ranma ½' to the Mermaid Saga!]

[With a recognisable supporting cast of characters that rivals 'The Simpsons' in number, Lum (aka Urusei Yatsura) is a Japanese phenominum that is hard to miss, and even harder not to like.]

Manga in the 80's Pt. 7

Justy (Cosmo Police). Written and illustrated by Tsuguo Okazaki. Viz published 9 issues in a biweekly format, from December 13, 1988 and April 4, 1989.and with Dave Smeds was the English rewriter, and Translated by Satoru Fujii. Originally published by Shogakukan. Inc.

These tales of science fiction feature 'Justy Kaizard', a guardian of the innocent and pursuer of the guilty, who as a member of the Galactic patrol hunting down criminal Espers (those with extraordinary psychic powers). He himself has such formidable powers that he wears a head-band to focus and control his abilities as well as limit them!
A Super-human in a futuristic World is a Japanese archetype seen often in Manga and rivals any Marvel or DC cop in Western comic-books!

[Note: in Issue 7 that has a letters page: “after 3 years of running as a monthly manga, it was made into 5 volumes”, and its target audience was 6 to 11 year olds ( Junior High school). Dave Smeds the english rewriter made a few name changes such as Jerna's Japanese surname “Flarestar” inverted to “Starflare”.]
[Note: I am a big fan of the OVA (animé) of Cosmo Police Justy (released in Japan1985) luky I had a synopsis to read at the time.]
[Even such a short run of only 9 issues, but by issue 2 fans were encouraged to write-in and suggest a name for the 'Letters Column', and winning title was “Brain Waves”.]

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 6

Fist of the North Star. Written by Buronson and illustrated by Tetsuo Hara, published by Viz Comics from April 1989 to December 1989 (that was taken from a serialized Weekly Shonen Jump from 1984 to 1988), initially ran for 8 monthly Issues covering the first 16 chapters (out of a possible 245 chapters).

Set in a post-apocalyptic world not unlike the1981 film 'Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior' where order and civilisation have broken down and Warlords and their gangs prey on the weak in a fast nuclear wasteland! Two schools of rival Marshal-arts the Southern Star & the Northern Star emerge and our hero Kenshiro is trained in this most lethal fighting style of the Northen Star overloading your oponent's body's own chi when attacking its acupressure points with the result being incredibly violent and gory with organs, muscels, and bone exploding, bodies splitting apart!

Kenshiro champinions the weak, as he walks the wasteland taking-out one Warlord and their gangs one after the other!

[I only ever picked up 2 issues of the comic-book back in the day, but I do still love the animated movie!]

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 5

Xenon Heavy Metal Warrior. Written and illustrated by Masaomi Kanzaki.Ran for 23 Biweekly Issues from December 1987 to November 1988 by Eclipse International\Viz Comics completing the story arc. Taken from serialization in Shonen Big that started in1985.

[reprinted in volumes (1 to 4) and owned by Viz Communications in 1992]

This is our first foray in to a technological World of Science Fiction, when after missing for three months the17 year old Asuka Kano having been kidnapped by the organisation of the “Bloody Sea”, and against his will made into a weapon, a Cyborg no less! The trauma of which has given him amnesia, so he does not know that he has been transformed!!

Now the deemed the 'ultimate project' and labelled 'Xenon', Asuka has become two fully integrated creatures, one mechanical, and one Human, and after his escapee from the Bloody Sea's laboratory, he is hunted by those employed with a psyche found in nature of violence, bloody violence (volunteers to be man-machines), all is not lost as his High School friends try and help him regain his identity and memories, and as luck would have it the girl with the schoolgirl crush on him has a Grandfather who is a scientist (a little off his could say) with a fully equipped mansion laboratory.
The action of blood and oil, wires and sinew took place over comic-book panels where the art replaced the dialogue in telling the story (the Manga style).

[You will find this a reoccurring theme of “man and machine” is part of the Japanese national Psyche. In understanding industrialisation, and a hope for a better tomorrow.]

[ In issue 3 a two page article written by the author of 'Manga, manga: the World of Japanese comics' Frederik L. Schodt was entitled 'Japan – A land in love with Robots'. From a child android and remote controlled brutish robot, to the piloted warrior robots, and Cyborgs, to the machine known as a Mobile Suits, Japan was indeed in love with Robots, and so it was in the West in the 1980's too!]

[A forthcoming book in January of 1988 from the pen of Frederik L. Schodt entitled 'Inside the robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics and the coming Robotopia' would give us all an insight into this fascination of Japanese obsession with Mr. Robotto!]

[Later in 5 Issue had another two page article appeared, this time written by Abra L. Numata from the Viz Communication Inc.'s editorial team. It was all about the Manga industry and the Japanese art style that has a storyboard\cinematic look and feel to it, and the up and coming emergence in1983\1984 of leaders progressing the Japanese Manga comic-book to new levels, (Translated examples of this 'new wave' of comics are given as AKIRA & GREY), and the article explained how they were editorially put together for a English readership (very interesting).]