Sunday Bonus Post:
My friend’s favorite comic book character is Scrooge McDuck. In fact, his favorite comic of all time is an Uncle Scrooge story. In that story, a tornado sweeps away all of Scrooge’s money. He informs Huey, Dewey, and Louie to just “keep working.” All of the other characters are wasteful with their wealth, and lazy, so fairly rapidly, as the only people working, all of Scrooge’s money comes back to him. It’s a fairly compelling parable about the value of work ethic, and also a fairly simple introduction to supply and demand based economic structures. In addition, it is kind of funny.
My friend is moving away, and pretty soon. October, in fact. In so doing, he’s leaving behind a business that is very successful, although being fair, he has already enjoyed a large amount of success. That’s pretty much what the art is about, above…some money bags might be falling out of the balloon, and a pony…but the pony can fly, and the rest is replaceable. It will all be okay, if in the moment, everyone seems surprised by it. everyone except our hero, who is more flat footed, and depressed.
In celebration of all of the excellent things that I love about comics, I have to talk about “Battle of the Planets.” In the late seventies, just after Star Wars came to theatres, this show hit television…and blew my mind. It was genius, great to look at, and there was nothing else on Western TV like it. It had five teenagers, who had these wristwatches that let them transform into bird themed superheroes with karate. In addition, they each had a vehicle, which dropped out of or combined into a spaceship called the Phoenix. Together, they defended the Earth from alien invasions.
Specifically…Battle of the Planets (1978) is an American adaptation of the Japanese anime series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (from 1972). Of the 105 original Gatchaman episodes, 85 were used in the Battle of the Planets adaptation, produced by Sandy Frank Entertainment. The adaptation was generally faithful to the plot and character development of the original Gatchaman series, but significant additions and reductions were made in order to increase appeal to the North American television market of the late 1970s, as well as avoid controversy from parents; most notable was the removal of elements of graphic violence, and profanity.
The slogan from the beginning of the show told you everything you needed to know:
“Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason! And watching over them from Center Neptune, their computerized coordinator, 7-Zark-7! Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies beyond space. G-Force! Fearless young orphans, protecting Earth’s entire galaxy. Always five, acting as one. Dedicated! Inseparable! Invincible!”
Pretty good intro. The G-Force team was outfitted with gear that had never before been seen on Western screens, and defined seventies cool. The main ship of the G-Force team was called the Phoenix, which could carry, transport and deploy four smaller vehicles, each operated by one team member. The four vehicles included a futuristic race car with various hidden weapons driven by Jason; this vehicle was concealed within the Phoenix’s nosecone. The “galacti-cycle”, a futuristic motor cycle the Princess rode, was stored within the left wing capsule of the Phoenix. Keyop’s “Space Bubble”, an all-terrain, tank-like vehicle capable of VTOL as well as being a submersible craft, was held in the right storage capsule of the Phoenix. And lastly, a futuristic jet fighter Mark pilots was stored in the top rear section of the Phoenix command island structure, and which used its tail fin to make up the center tail fin of the Phoenix. The fifth crew member, Tiny, was assigned to pilot the Phoenix rather than one of the detachable craft.
A regularly featured plot device was the transformation of the Phoenix into a flaming bird-shaped craft able to handle virtually any exceptional situation by functioning as a sort of giant, super blowtorch called the Fiery Phoenix. The Phoenix’s primary weapon was a supply of rockets called “TBX missiles” in the series. It also occasionally flaunted a powerful solar-powered energy blaster, although the team had the misfortune of choosing very cloudy days to use it.
The G-Force team themselves would use a combination of martial arts skill, ninja-like weapons, and their “cerebonic” powers to dispatch hordes of enemy soldiers and overcome other obstacles. Their bird-like costumes include wing-like capes that could fan out and function nearly identically to parachutes and/or wing suits, enabling the G-Force members to drift or glide down to safety from heights which would otherwise prove fatal.
Apparently, in the initial Gatchaman series, Jason is killed off. Hence, that would leave a spot open, to drive the race car part of the Phoenix craft…and wear the T-shirt with the number 2 on it. Hence the above artwork, suggesting what our hero was doing in the late seventies. There were several comics versions of the franchise, so we aren’t that far afield. Battle of the Planets in comic book form, was originally by Gold Key Comics, but later revamped by Top Cow Productions. Among the Top Cow comic books was Battle of the Planets: Princess, written by David Wohl with art by Wilson Tortosa, released in 2002.
To end the bonus post, I wanted to do a rendition of the Batcave, as envisioned by Dick Sprang. This would be a pre-1966 cave, without many of the things that we now take as necessary. Only two Batmobiles, no nuclear power source, primitive computers. Still, the dinosaur is there, as is the Joker head and the giant penny. The original piece by Dick Sprang is one of my favorite pieces of art, since it is like an encyclopedia of Batman history. Every time I look at Sprang’s piece, I see something I haven’t seen before. Doing such a detailed re-imagining of it only made me see more of the depth of brilliance in his work.
Our hero and Pony intentionally look a bit sad, or bittersweet. The Batcave is a kind of home that they can’t go home to again, despite the fact that Alfred will still let them in.
Next Issue: Another Meeting!