How Alex Ross reintroduced the Battle of the Planets to the comics
Welcome to the 10th installment of Nostalgia Snake, a look at the 2000s revivals of 1980s properties, which are now so old they are also nostalgic (hence the nostalgia snake that eats itself) . This week is Battle of the planets (a.k.a Gatchaman), a series designed for Japanese audiences in the early 1970s, aired throughout the 1980s in the United States, and received its own nostalgic reboot in the 2000s. And if you have any suggestions for the future, let me hear them. Just contact me on Twitter.
After the massive success of the covers of the early 2000s GI Joe, Transformers, ThunderCats and Masters of the UniverseIt was clear that there was a market for modern takes on beloved afternoon action-adventure properties. And while most of these covers come from relative unknowns within the industry, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a big name attached to your project. And even if you think superstar painter Alex Ross likes imported anime Battle of the planets, you need to multiply that number by five.
How Gatchaman of Japan became the Battle of the Planets in America
Top Cow’s entry into not quite classic cartoon covers for comics looked a little deeper for inspiration, like Battle of the planets aired original episodes in America from 1978 to 1980 (and continued in reruns until 1985), having debuted in Japan in 1972 as Gatchaman of the Science Ninja team. Created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida, Gatchaman featured five young superhero ninjas who worked for the International Scientific Organization to fight the terrorist organization Galactor. The show leaned heavily on environmental themes, as the bad guys tried to control Earth’s endangered natural resources.
American television producer Sandy Frank was convinced that an audience for the series existed in America, after the release of Star wars in 1977. It wasn’t the superhero element that convinced Frank of the property’s commercial value; Gatchaman ‘Robots, futuristic vehicles, and sci-fi tech caught his eye. Frank’s reimagined title, Battle of the planets, was itself a game on Star wars. While most of the originals Gatchaman the episodes were linked to the earth, Battle of the planets his heroes traveled to many alien worlds that seemed one awful much like Earth, because that’s where the locations were meant to be in the anime.
The reinvented Battle of the planets casts all five heroes as G-Force, referring to the force of gravity and not specifically Gatchaman. Its members are even-tempered boss Mark, fiery rebel Jason, an independent woman ironically named Princess, comedic relief husky Tiny, and the team’s little brother, Keyop. Known as the mischievous Jinpei in Japan, Keyop received the adaptation’s most drastic overhaul, becoming a genetically engineered clone child with an unusual speech impediment that caused him to stutter and purr noises. He was played by Alan Young, the longtime voice of Disney’s Uncle Scrooge.
G-Force is overseen by Dr. Anderson, Team Founder and Head of Security for the Intergalactic Federation. He gives G-Force their assignments and is described as someone genuinely concerned about the safety of the adolescents in his care. Much of his role as a mentor in the original anime has been removed and given to a new character, 7-Zark-7, a robot introduced to American audiences. 7-Zark-7 provided voiceovers that smoothed out any cut scenes from American broadcasts (often due to the original’s violent content) and some kid-friendly comedic relief. Its visual evoked Star Wars’ R2-D2, while his personality was similar to that of C-3PO. New animation was created to squeeze 7-Zark-7 into the episodes, but fans noticed that it didn’t match the quality of the original anime.
G-Force’s revamped mission is to protect Earth from threats from outer space, such as Masked Overlord Zoltar from planet Spectra. Zoltar receives orders from the “Luminous”, who appears to him as an ethereal floating head. In his Gatchaman incarnation, the original interpretation of Zoltar could take on many female forms, a discontinued element of the American version.
Gatchaman merchandising, suites and rebranding
The art of merchandising cartoons for toys, comics, sticker books, records, and everything in between hadn’t been perfected yet when Battle of the planets made its debut. And Federal Communications Commission guidelines had not yet been deregulated under the Reagan administration, which would have prevented Battle of the planets to be explicitly sold as a mass property. However, Gold Key released a 10-issue comic book adaptation, and a few inexpensive toy guns from low-budget toy maker Henry Gordy were sold in grocery stores with Battle Branding.
In 1986, Gatchaman has been reworked yet again for American viewers as G-Force: Guardians of Space by Turner Program Services, the syndication division of Turner Broadcasting. G-Force: Guardians of Space restored many scenes cut from Battle of the planets, and tried to follow the original anime more closely. A new voice cast was also used to move the show away from Battle of the planets. It is assumed that the series is only broadcast as part of a contractual fulfillment. TBS aired the series for a week before replacing it with Gilligan Island reruns.
Two of the anime’s follow-up series, Gatchaman II and Gatchaman fighter, received another rebranding for Western audiences in 1996 as Saban’s Eagle riders. A little like G-Force: Guardians of Space, the show was not successful in the United States, although it was syndicated in syndication with Dragon Ball Z.
Alex Ross and Top Cow have teamed up for a Battle of the Planets comic book revival
Even if Battle of the planets did not have much life in the United States after 1985, a cult existed. One kid back then who never forgot the series was Alex Ross, who by the early 2000s had become one of comics’ most acclaimed artists. Teaming up in 2002 with Top Cow Productions by Marc Silvestri, Ross served as artistic director of Battle of the planets’ first appearance in comics in over 20 years. Orders for the first issue, according to the Top Cow press release, were double what the company expected.
To create anticipation of the relaunch, Top Cow released Battle of the planets # 1/2 through the fanzine Wizard, with art direction and covers by Ross, a story by Munier Sharrieff and illustrations by Wilson Tortosa and Edwin David. Colourist Shane Law from Udon Studios has added a touch of anime with Udon’s trademark style, though it’s actually quite small compared to the last one. street fighter comics.
Issue 1/2 acts as a prequel to the Rebooted Top Cow series. The cast is presented by General Tomak, who is deeply resentful of Dr. Anderson’s allegations of impending alien invasions and the army of children he is preparing. Tomak interviews Dr Brenden Meara, who was G-Force’s psychologist until he was fired six years earlier by Dr Anderson. He details the team’s training, dating back to when they were young children, showcasing G-Force with individual segments.
Dr. Anderson featured in these flashbacks is not a benevolent father figure; instead of; he’s ruthless and cold, dragging the G-Force like a demented Professor Xavier into a truly deadly danger room. Princess, for example, is forced to handle real explosives during her sessions.
General Tomak believes he has been given enough filth to destroy Dr Anderson’s career, but the final scene reveals that Dr Meara is actually a plant of Anderson, who wishes to draw Tomak’s attention to himself – and away from G-Force. We don’t know if Dr Meara was telling the truth about Anderson’s horrific training program (although that appears to be a severe departure from the source that Ross likely wouldn’t tolerate).
Battle of the Planets # 1/2 also featured Alex Ross’s G-Force sketchbook
The remainder of the issue includes sketches and notes by Ross on the series; funny way some of them are on old school marvel stationery. Its logo treatments also indicate that the series may have been about to be called Force G in the place of Battle of the planets.
The comic foreshadows Top Cow’s point of view Battle of the planets. There is a concern to keep the cast on the model, right down to their 1970s fashions and hairstyles. The interiors have an obvious influence on the anime, with a bit of contemporary superhero comedic rendering. The alternate covers instead have Top Cow artists representing the cast in their studio style, with fine, detailed render lines covering the team uniforms.
The real star visually are Alex Ross’s covers, which merge his photorealistic style with the cartoons from the series. His color choices are remarkable and he makes these cartoon images look very three-dimensional. Ross had already earned his reputation as the “Norman Rockwell of the comics,” but these images were the first indications of his impressive ability to stretch his style. If there is ever a CGI-animated Battle of the planets Where Gatchaman movie (something we’ve been talking about for years but got stuck in development hell), it would be a shame if it didn’t look like Ross’s work.
KEEP READING: Alex Ross’ Superman: Peace on Earth and Batman: War on Crime Portraits Up For Auction
My Hero Academia: Why Every Might’s Eyes Are Completely Black In Hero Form
About the Author