Like many red-blooded American kids my age I ran home from elementary school every day in time to catch the latest episode of Star Blazers, the science-fiction adventure cartoon about a WWII battleship resurrected as an outer-space warship on a desperate mission to save the Earth. This Japanese import was originally titled "Space Battleship Yamato" and while it achieved a certain amount of late-70s success on American TV, it never caught on the way it did in Japan, where it enjoyed three TV series, five movies, and a shipload of ancillary merchandise of every possible description, including, eventually, English-language film comics for its long-suffering American fans.
But these trade paperbacks weren't enough to satisfy, and soon American comic publisher Comico, flush with cash from its licensed Robotech comics, would throw a bone at the Star Blazers fans with a new set of all-American Star Blazers comics.
And these comics weren't terrible, they weren't great, they were created by people who knew the material well enough to have produced an early parody dub of the show ("You Say Yamato"), but they just kind of... well, they were just off, a little.
For one thing characters were in the habit of exclaiming "Great Honk!" as an expression of surprise. This just doesn't work.
Wildstar grits his teeth and looks cartoony, but not in a Star Blazers cartoon way, and the Argo majestically thrusts its prow into the readers' face just as it did every week on Star Blazers, kind of. And that first 1987 Comico series was certainly a thing and we bought it because it was Star Blazers and that was all we were gonna get on this side of the Pacific. A few years later Comico's Robotech license expired and they cast around looking for another TV tie-in and remembered Star Blazers.
And so we got a second Star Blazers comic, "based on the television series of the same name" as the cover helpfully reminds us. And this one was... well, it's here at "Stupid Comics", do the math.
The story is this big mish-mash of concepts taken from the third series of Yamato and from fan fiction and from who knows where, and the artwork has trouble keeping its eyeballs on the same level.
I'm serious, the characters are drawn at weird angles that don't correspond with each other. Maybe if you hold the page up at an angle and.. no. Still looks goofy
The Japanese animation aesthetic is.. well, it's a cliche to think it's all "that bug-eyed Jap shit", as one American comic book professional would say, but it's designed for animation and movement, and something that looks fine for 1/20th of a second might not work so well taken out of that context and traced and traced again and inked and colored by a staff of people who really aren't sure how much hair Derek Wildstar has or what happens to his face when he looks up at something.
I don't even know what's happening in this panel. Inflation, pressure leak causing swelling in extremities, I just don't know. They're going through a space warp and everything looks stretched out and crazy as it does when you go through a space warp, that's it.
Luckily for the artists, the bad guy in this particular series has a giant distorted flattened head, all the easier to threaten the Earth with. In response the Earth "evacuates all non-essential personnel," to Mars or somewhere, and fires all its Wave Motion Guns at Techno Rasta Santa Claus. Since these are Earth space battleships not named "The Argo", they're all going to be destroyed, leaving the Argo solely responsible for saving the world. This is what happens in every. single. Star Blazers story. My advice to Earth Defense Command cadets? Get yourself assigned to the Argo at all costs.
Even Derek Wildstar's long-suffering girlfriend/subordinate Nova suffers from the rigors of intergalactic travel - or at least being a cartoon character originally designed by one guy (manga legend Leiji Matsumoto) and then being passed around like a Yoda pipe at a Phish concert in between legions of staff artists, inbetweeners, ad agencies, promotional packagers, and low-paid American comic book artists. You'd look weird too, is what I'm saying.
Meanwhile, space dictator Desslok of Gamilon, once an enemy and now a grudging ally of Earth, muses thoughtfully in a speech that demonstrates the editor's ignorance of key Space Battleship Yamato plot points -- namely, Gamilon is not "dying,", but "dead," as in "blown into tiny little pieces," and the missing homeworld of the Gamilons is not named "Galvin," as amusing as that would be. The planet's name is actually "Galman," a planet Desslok would find, liberate from its Bolar Commonwealth overlords, adopt as his empire's homeworld, defend in the ensuing galaxy-wide war against the Bolars as seen in the events of the Space Battleship Yamato III television series, and which would itself be demolished as a rogue galaxy impacted our own galaxy, all these events taking place sometime in 2203 or 2205, sources vary.
My point is, all this trivia was readily available to anyone in 1989 who felt like looking it up, or who was getting paid to write Star Blazers comics.
But that's OK because nitpicky trivia is inconsequential compared to the art failures scattered throughout these comics, including this one where Wildstar's left eye is going one way, his right eye is going another and his face is turning to the left and the nose is going off in the opposite direction. Punishing deadline mistake, plain ineptitude, or avant-garde Dadaist/Cubist paradigm-busting visual experimentation?
Has Lotar finally sealed the fate of the Star Blazers? I think that last panel did it, myself. Anyway, that would be it for Star Blazers for a while. In the meantime, why not enjoy some music from that other Japanese animation classic, Robotech?
I, for one, cannot wait for Robotech: The Sentinels and all its purple-haired, space-kitten-holding action! But what of Star Blazers? More faithfully written and illustrated licenced Star Blazers comics would be published in the 1990s by Studio Go, and the TV episodes along with the feature films would be available on VHS and later DVD for nostalgic American viewing purposes. More recently, the remake series Space Battleship Yamato 2199 would get a tentative DVD release in North America before Japan realized physical media is dying and yanked the plug. American Star Blazers fans are forced to watch old episodes on Hulu or YouTube and satisfy their Yamato data needs at the exhaustive Yamato/Star Blazers fan website www.ourstarblazers.com
Will Star Blazers fans get to enjoy more Star Blazers here in North America? Will the license be turned into yet another terrible Hollywood adaptation? Will legions of Star Blazers fan fiction writers ever get their chance to bring their stories to comic book life? And will Wildstar get the eye surgery he apparently desperately needs? Hurry, Star Force! There are only (insert number here) days left!
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