Sunday, October 16, 2016

gravity sabers at 10 parsecs: Queen Emeraldas

If you're familiar with Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock or Galaxy Express 999, you're likely familiar with Emeraldas, the lady cosmo-pirate with the giant space blimp who's prone to surprise appearances whenever plots need advancing or machine planets need blowing up. Here in Kodansha's Queen Emeraldas Vol. 1, space-fantasy manga fans here in the West are finally able to enjoy her solo adventures; and rest easy, Leijiverse fans, Matsumoto's signature style of sci-fi romanticism is in full mid 1970s effect here, a handwavey future-fantasy idiom where SF motifs mix freely with Wild West tropes and the high-tech trappings of gravity waves and space drives serve only to highlight the greater struggles of the human spirit as Emeraldas haunts the spacelanes, a mystery woman with little patience for fools or cowards.

Queen Emeraldas appeared in Weekly Shonen during what must have been one of Matsumoto's busiest periods, 1978-'79. Smack dab in the middle of helping promote the Yamato boom, Leiji was also producing Danguard Ace for Adventure King, the Galaxy Express 999 manga in Shonen King, and Captain Harlock for Akita Shoten's Play Comic. Queen Emeraldas is 100% Matsumoto; the flowing scarves and cloaks and hair, the vast sky/starscapes, and the stately panels filled with elaborate space machinery covered in meaningless dials all let the reader know exactly whose comics he's reading. Manga is thought of as filmic, kinetic and fast-paced, but Matsumoto's work is a different kind of cinematic, slow and contemplative, and Queen Emeraldas is no exception, filled with long shots of windswept asteroids, double-page spreads of deep space, and tableaus heavy with impending doom.

Matsumoto's atmospheric, engaging, all-natural brush line picks out every board on dilapidated Martian towns and every swirl of dust in the thin atmosphere, and his cartoonish, exaggerated characters contrast nicely with the slick mechanical renderings (perhaps courtesy Matsumoto assistant Kaoru 'Area 88' Shintani) of vehicles, weapons, space stations, futuristic cities, and the other super-constructions they utilize or inhabit. Emeraldas and other characters loom in and out of rich, inky darkness, visible in the light of endless rows of analog dials and meters and screens set against highly polished fittings. There's been a lot of animation based on Matsumoto's work, but what we see on the TV never quite seems to capture the cold metallic elegance of his manga-style brand of outer space.

Queen Emeraldas opens as young Hiroshi Umino's patchwork spaceship augers into the rock of Martian satellite Deimos, a signature Matsumoto western-frontier space boomtown. Stranded with nothing but his pride, young Umino's True Grit touches the heart of Emeraldas, who is introduced to the reader in awestruck tones cut short as grizzled barflies shut their pieholes rather than offend the mysterious bounty hunter. Stubborn Hiroshi would die before accepting help, but help he gets anyway, and soon he's odd-jobbing his way across an unfriendly solar system where the harsh code of the West – I mean, Space – is superseded by the harsher laws of gravitational physics. Want a meditative spaghetti-western gunfight set in a spaceship's control room? Well, why not. No point in mixing genres halfheartedly.

Hiroshi's poverty, potato-head physique, and casual betrayal by beautiful women bear strong parallels to the adventures of another Matsumoto manga star, Ooyama of "Otoko Oidon", the poor but proud wandering-ronin college student trying to make good on his vow to make it on his own in the big city. Or outer space, as is the case here. Eschewing help from others, Hiroshi swears to build his dream spaceship by himself; a libertarian fantasy if ever there was one, considering the vast teams of engineers and scientists required to put even the smallest satellite into the most temporary Earth orbit. At least here the text throws us a reference or two to 'construction droids,' a step up from Tochiro Oyama's bespoke hand-built space battleship seen in 1982's "My Youth In Arcadia."

Matsumoto's iconic characters might perhaps be best used sparingly, as a dash of inspiring color at the edges of more direct narratives involving people who actually have things to do, and here in her own book Emeraldas is no exception. At times she almost assumes the maternal Maetel role as she watches Hiroshi's struggle from afar, only occasionally dropping in to shoot someone or make financial arrangements, or sometimes both. Emeraldas comes close to being a secondary character in her own comic, but she takes center stage when necessary to give us glimpses of her own backstory. She too fled to outer space but made it further than Hiroshi did, all the way to the planet Jura in the Ammonite solar system (that's where Harlock's Miimay is from, kinda), and we see how she receives her amazing spaceship Queen Emeraldas and how she is taught the inflexible law of survival in outer space, which involves the unbreakable rule to never ever show mercy to your enemies or allow the guilty to escape punishment no matter the cost.

Emeraldas as star of her own Galaxy Express 999 special
We'll travel to the Sargasso Of Space – every pulp SF series has a Sargasso Of Space – and see her kickstart a revolt on a planet where the non-beautiful are imprisoned, and we'll see Hiroshi labor in the mines of Ganymede and the run down frontier towns littering the badlands of the solar system. All the while we'll be lectured about what it means to be a man, about how much mercy to show our enemies (spoiler: none), and of the greatness of making our own way in the universe. Characters major and minor emote at length on flying freely without let or hindrance in their own space ships, but we're never told what it is about outer space that makes them want to go there so badly. Hiroshi Umino, and to a certain extent Emeraldas herself, aren't interested in marveling at the awesome spectacle of the universe. They aren't on a quest to save the Earth or find a space treasure or solve a space mystery. The reader looks hopefully for a plot development that at least pretends to matter to society as a whole, but our heroes are steadfast in their earnest desire to simply tool around the universe riding their machines without being hassled by "the man."

Filled with characters taking extreme positions on focus-tested shonen manga ideals, sometimes these stories resemble a more lyrical version of Steve Ditko's "Mister A." However, the aggressive self-reliance of the characters is subverted by the text; for every proud declamatory speech about doing it yourself by your own bootstraps, there's a helping hand behind the scenes keeping Hiroshi (and occasionally Emeraldas) afloat. Maybe it really does take a village to launch a spaceship. Ending as it does with Emeraldas encountering a huge armada of perhaps village-launched spaceships that may be able to help her on her enigmatic quest, we can only wait for Volume 2 to witness the culmination of all this interstellar self-actualization.

Kodansha's Queen Emeraldas vol. 1 is a classy, heavy hardback printed on nice paper, a professional package representative of comics today, which is to say, $30 books rather than $3 pamphlets. It's an impressive format with the downside of limiting exactly how many comics the average reader can bring home in a month – both the arm muscles and the pocketbook give out after a few of these things. I do feel with the $25 price point ($32 in Canada) they could throw in a few interior color pages, but that's me. Emeraldas has a beautifully printed hard cover and well-bound interior stock that justifies the sticker price and holds up nicely to the enormous swaths of inky space blackness haunting every other page. Zack Davisson's translation manages to throw in an Oscar Wilde quote and never gets lost in Queen Emeraldas' storm of SF adjectives, giving the reader both the cold formality of Emeraldas's dialogue and the seedy slang of hard-bitten spacemen and derelict space-drunks.

Classic Showa-era Matsumoto manga is thin on the ground this side of the Pacific; the arrival of Kodansha's Queen Emeraldas is like welcoming a long-lost cousin who should have been here a lot earlier, warranting both "at last" and "it's about time." A manga creator as prolific and as influential as Leiji Matsumoto deserves more representation in the bookstores of America; if they can handle endless volumes of One Piece, Dragonball, and Naruto, they can surely deal with an Emeraldas or two. I look forward to continuing the journey of Hiroshi Umino and Queen Emeraldas, wherever in space they take us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2016

Yessir, it's time once again for Atlanta to bestir itself down to the Cobb Galleria Center, and the Waverly, and what soon will be the new Braves stadium, and gird its loins for the 22nd annual Anime Weekend Atlanta! What started out in 1995 as a gathering of a few hundred die-hard Japanese cartoon nerds has become the Southeast's pre-eminent gathering of twenty thousand die-hard Japanese cartoon nerds. And as one of the founding members of this august body of Japanese cartoon nerds, I'll be front and center delivering the kind of unprofessional yet self-important scholarship that anime fandom would be lost without.

You want to make sure you're there on Thursday to pick up your badge in time to visit the Super Happy Fun Sell, a yard-sale swap-meet of fans feverishly selling their previously loved used anime merchandise to wide-eyed bargain hunters. We sold out every table this year so it's gonna be crazy in there!!

Then on Friday you don't wanna miss the opening ceremonies because I might clock you in the eyeball with some Dubble Bubble gum from my sniper's next onstage in the glare of the spotlights, opening yet another AWA with a firestorm of candy.  Stay close to the main stage because at 4pm that's where anime translator extraordinaire Neil Nadelman presents his world-famous Totally Lame Anime!

Remember, if that pond's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin! Afterwards you might want to hit the dealers room or watch some anime or see some guests or snap some cosplay pix, but stick around because at 10pm I drag AWA back down to Anime Hell!

It's two hours of confusing ambiences and ill-timed shorts, mixed with crazy ads, old safety films, that rock music the kids seem to like, and Galaxy Goof-Ups aplenty. And then stick around because midnight is time for Midnight Madness!

Yes, the famous parody dub celebration returns with all your favorite cartoon characters mouthing swears. It's a riot and guaranteed to make you laugh til your guts bleed, as the teeners say.

Saturday morning you're gonna wanna get up bright and early, though, because it's time to find out all about the Craziest Anime You Never Saw!

The Kennesaw room will be the scene of enlightenment as Americans learn of amazingly weird cartoons that not only were never imported into the United States, but will NEVER be imported into the United States, and I make this bold and definite statement in the fervent hopes that somebody out there proves me wrong. I dare you to release these cartoons. I double-dare ya. Anybody?

Stick around Saturday night and make some new pals at the AWA Mixer! Yes, it's a place for the grownups to meet and greet and have grownup conversation about real estate, insurance, retirement plans, and transforming super robots and idol singers. There's a cash bar and plenty of friends you haven't met yet, so be there! Mention Let's Anime and I might get you into the secret after party.

Sunday afternoon it's time to relax a little, let your inhibitions down a bit, and slide into the Hot Tub Anime Club Time Machine! Let those bubbles take you back to the early days of anime fandom where we'll find out exactly what these proto-otaku were watching and how they were watching it, and with whom.

And then, before you know it, another AWA fades into the distance in our rear-view mirror!  It's gonna be a super blast and you GOTTA be there. Find out all about how and when and where  - here!

Monday, August 29, 2016

what I did on my vacation '16

Summer's just about over and that means it's time to look back and reflect on what you did on your time off. Where did you go? What did you do? And how long will you be paying the credit card companies back for it all?

Well even though this year we didn't visit Tokyo, we did get to experience enough classic Japanese cartoon goodness to realize that one doesn't have to cross the Pacific to find old-school anime.  On our trip through upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Quebec, we found them bug-eyed Japanheeno cartoons peeking out at us around every corner, seemed like.

As a French-speaking province linguistically tied to a nation that spent the 1970s and 1980s watching as many Japanese cartoons their PAL television system could cram onto the airwaves, Quebec was North America's go-to region for classic anime. And here in 2016 that's evident everywhere people of a certain age gather, especially in Montreal's hip burger joint La Belle et la Boeuf, where not only can you consume a giant burger named after UFO Robo Grandizer, but you can wash your hands under the protective gaze of Captain Harlock for men and Candy Candy for the ladies.

Get up early the next morning and hit the antique malls, where a selection of Albator (Captain Harlock) and Goldorak (Grandizer) merchandise awaits you! The Goldorak stuff was overpriced IMHO ($10 for a scratched up 45 single of the French theme song, no thanks) but the Albator BD (that's "bandes dessinees", or comic books) were a bargain at twice the price. 

 The fascinating thing about these French Harlock comics is that they took terrific liberties with the original source material, sometimes adapting television stories wholesale, and sometimes going off in crazy new directions involving characters from completely different Japanese anime series.

(and yes I'm aware that Matsumoto shoe-horned Harlock into his Yamato manga. A giant ghost Captain Okita, not so much)

While in Massachusetts, you should definitely visit The Outer Limits in Waltham, a great comic book store with lots and lots of comic books of all kinds, as well as an interesting selection of toys & stuff from the 70s & 80s era of Japanese cartoons. You should also take a trip through Lexington, site of a pivotal scene in American history, and also a place where an auto dealership uses Astro Boy to advertise their excellent service department. No, seriously.

I wouldn't kid about something like this
When visiting New England you owe it to yourself to visit the Fun Spot in Weirs Beach New Hampshire. Not only can you play skee-ball, immerse yourself in the largest selection of working classic arcade games under one roof in the Western hemisphere, and roll your eyes at the Objectivist lecturing thoughtfully provided by the management, you can also revisit your first exposure to Lupin III in the form of the laser disc video game Cliff Hanger.

Yes, it works, and yes, the game play is just as mechanical and unsatisfying as you remember. But hey, game play is still a quarter just like it was in the 80s! Pile up a stack of tokens and play your way through the ninjas and gather a crowd of awestruck 12 year olds around you!

Next on our journey we crossed over into Vermont, where we visited Quechee Gorge, a beautiful spot of natural wonder located providentially next to an antique mall. Antique Malls are surprisingly fruitful locations to find bits of Japanese pop culture hiding among the fake tin reproduction signage and the plastic M&M figures that ARE NOT ANTIQUES, and Quechee is no exception.

Here we see celebrity anime translator Neil Nadelman modelling a lithograph of the Speed Racer cast signed by Peter Fernandez and Corinne Orr. Like the helpful post-it says on the back, "they do the voices." And they do!  When visiting Quechee, head upstairs to their Toy Museum and prepare for your eyes to bug out and your jaw to drop at all the awesome, awesome toys they have on display that you cannot ever play with, ever.

Then you'll want to head over to Rutland Vermont, filming location of the amazing sci-fi drama Time Chasers. If you've ever wanted to learn Japanese, well, you probably own books published by the Charles Tuttle Company of Rutland. Well Charles Tuttle was a real person and he really lived in Rutland and he had his own building right downtown!

Then, and only then, may you visit the local thrift store and freely avail yourself of the 5-for-$1 VHS tapes.

And that was our vacation. Well, okay, it wasn't all ferreting out silly cartoon nonsense. We saw a bunch of friends and ate terrific meals and got some beach time in and even did a little paddling on one of New England's more picturesque lakes. For YOUR next vacation, why not consider the Quebec-Vermont-New Hampshire-Massachusetts region?

Friday, July 22, 2016

some notes from the meeting of the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club

The following is a transcription of a recent assembly of one of the foremost Thunder Sub fan organizations, and is presented to the readers of Let's Anime as a public service in the hopes that this will further understanding of both Thunder Sub and the fans thereof.

(transcript begins)

Hello! Welcome to the biannual meeting of the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club. As you know, it's official - we are now the largest Thunder Sub fan organization in this part of the state! Captain Noah himself would be proud of your dedication. Now I'd like to bring our new members up to full cruising speed, so to speak. Thunder Sub – that's TWO WORDS, ladies and gentlemen – began as the Japanese animated TV series Space Carrier Blue Noah, back in 1979. In the midst of activity regarding another of his many animated productions involving outer space battleships, producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki somehow managed to find the time to inspire a handpicked team and start an entirely different voyage.

This wouldn't be Nishizaki's first undersea trip; as producer of the animated version of Tezuka's Triton Of The Sea, he'd learned a thing or two about getting wet. Springboarding from the sub-sea fantasy of second generation SF writer Hikari Tanaka, writers Hideaki Yamamoto (The Super Girl), playwright Seiji "La Seine No Hoshi" Matsuoka and future Pretty Cure scribe Takashi Yamada created an entirely new saga of a super-ship, mankind's last hope against an invading alien armada. With direction by Tomoharu Katsumata (My Youth In Arcadia) and veteran animation director Kenzo Koizumi – fresh from work on Grandizer, Mazinger Z vs Black General, and Daikengo – the Blue Noah was ready for launch.

It is the year 2052! When the far-away planet Gotham faced destruction via black hole, dictator Leader Zytel (or "Doctor Z" in English) ordered the construction of a gigantic colony vessel – the charmingly named "Terror Star" - to allow their civilization to escape. Using its gravity beams to decelerate from interstellar speeds, the Terror Star's insertion into Earth orbit wreaks havoc on our planet, and the Death Force air attacks just make things worse.

Fleeing earthquakes, tidal waves, and Death Force fighters, our hero young Shin Kusaka (Collins) follows the dying wishes of his scientist father and travels to the secret science base N1. Collins and his academy classmates find themselves on board the planet Earth's last hope, the super submarine Blue Noah (or as we know it, Thunder Sub), much to the surprise of the sub's skipper Captain Domon (Noah).

the valiant crew of Thunder Sub
Launched from a secret base, manned by an untried crew of recruits, equipped with an array of powerful weapons including the unstoppable, bow-mounted "Anti Proton Gun", the Blue Noah sets out on a journey through Earth's oceans, travelling from secret research facility to secret research facility, to find the device that will allow them to defeat the Death Force and their Terror Star!

Space Carrier Blue Noah would air on NTV and TBS stations in Japan from October '79 until March of 1980, premiering with a special telefilm pilot. Largely ignored by Japanese audiences, it would vanish after 24 weeks. Ancillary merchandise would include model kits, soundtrack LPs, tie-in manga, a sweet "DX" toy and an Asahi Sonorama single; a mere trickle of merchandise compared to other, more popular shows that might have involved space battleships. But hey, we here at the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club will take whatever we can get!

Regardless of public indifference, select fans like ourselves were enthralled as all 27 episodes (the pilot was cut three ways for syndication) intrigued us with the deadly rivalry between Colonel Lupus and the Thunder Sub and revealed the secret relationship between Captain Noah and default love interest Anna. We thrilled to the guerilla war waged across a ruined Earth and we shuddered to learn of Gotham's plan to install gravity converters at the poles and make Earth uninhabitable for us humans.

Western-World TV and Lionheart documentary evidence

Without worldwide syndication, the show would merely be an even more obscure footnote. Fortunately, a global thirst for cartoon programming would bring Thunder Sub to us. In the mid 1980s Nishizaki's Office Academy cut a syndication deal for Blue Noah with Western-World Television, noted for their David Warner-Carrie Fisher Frankenstein telefilm and co-producing the British nuclear-war gloom-drama Threads. If you caught the BBC's classic Dr. Who on American public television at the time, you might recognize Thunder Sub's distributor – Lionheart Television, of which Western-World owned a good chunk. Thunder Sub's TV broadcast credits don't list a dub cast, but sharp-eared viewers familiar with the TNT's 1990s airing of tokusatsu classic Ultra Seven might recognize the same voice actors in Thunder Sub, leading us to conclude Blue Noah's localization was executed by the same outfit – Montreal based Cinar. Thunder Sub's competent English cast handled the show's complex science-fictional concepts magnificently, with only a few missteps along the way (identifying Japan as "Hawaii" on a world map shows somebody wasn't doing their geography homework).

"N1" - that's not Hawaii, folks

Thunder Sub would air in a few US markets, including Atlanta's WATL 36. A compilation of the first 3 episodes would also get a UK home video release. Thunder Sub was also shown in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Russia, and the Arabic nations, but after a few seasons the show would sadly vanish, leaving nothing but traces in industry publications and snippets saved to off-air VHS tape. Still, the fact that our Real Deal Thunder Sub Club exists proves the show meant something special to at least a few of us – those of us who gasped at the Death Force's heavy water plants destroying Earth's ecosystem, who thrilled as the evil Colonel Lupus's space fighters engaged the Thunder Sub in a sequence animated by the great Yoshinori Kanada, who clutched the arms of our living room sofas and nearly upset our Capri-Suns and our Fruit Roll-Ups as the Terror Star lurched out of control straight for Earth, with only the Thunder Sub standing in its way.

Kanada blows 'em up real good

Now, as members of the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club, we're fully aware of the haters who say Blue Noah is merely an imitation of another Yoshinobu Nishizaki-produced cartoon, Space Battleship Yamato. They claim the characters are Yamato retreads, the weapons and story arcs are similar, that even the music is close enough to Yamato's soundtrack to make the most casual viewer say "Wait a minute!" and "Oh, come on!" and "Holy jeez, what a rip off!" We here at the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club have heard it all. And our reply is a polite no sir, we beg to differ; Blue Noah is NOT a rip off – Blue Noah is a blatant Yamato cash-in, an undersea exploitation vehicle steaming through a victory lap for Nishizaki, as he grabs whatever market share was left lying on the table, filling a timeslot left blank after Yamato 2 ended, keeping the advertisers happy and his Office Academy office gainfully employed.

We here at the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club think of Thunder Sub and Space Battleship Yamato as two great shows that happen to share a few elements. That is our position, and if you don't like it, there's the door. Just kidding! That door is locked.

any similarities between Thunder Sub and Space Battleship Yamato are purely coincidental

Even the angriest Yamato fans have to acknowledge vast differences between the two shows. Thunder Sub doesn't feature a kooky male ship's doctor – Thunder Sub's doctor is a woman! There isn't a cat on board the ship – there's a dog! And sure, both shows have young female leads whose main job is to look worried, but Thunder Sub dismisses entirely the Space Battleship Yamato concept of ethereal space goddesses. No cosmic mystery forces in Thunder Sub!

Thunder Sub's doctor inspects the troops 

Even the evil leader of the Death Force over there on the Terror Star, well, he's not a retread of Yamato's Leader Desslar. No, Thunder Sub's enemy commander is a real doctor, with a PhD in taking over planets, building Terror Stars, and blasting his entire culture across light years to conquer the Earth and secretly repopulate it with his own specially-bred master race of Doctor Z clones! And let me tell you when the Death Force rank and file find out, they aren't happy about it!

subordinate, Lupus, Doctor Z

In fact, the climax of Thunder Sub takes a sharp turn away from typical Space Battleship Yamato planet-exploding heroic sacrifice cliche just at the last minute! Not to spoil things for those of you in club who haven't yet achieved Full Real Deal Thunder Sub Real Dealness, but it turns out planet Earth is saved by the Death Force itself! That's a twist Yamato would never allow itself to take, and one more in the "win" column for Thunder Sub!

the Death Force and their Death Hats
But let's be fair. Frequently the animation is wonky in that very 1980 sub-contracted, barely moving, get-it-done-already way. And the kind of outer-space romanticism that Space Battleship Yamato did so well, the melancholy cosmic queens marooned on dead planets, universal love saving the galaxy, that sort of thing, well, that sort of thing is completely absent. Thunder Sub is much more invested in dressing its characters in sensible dungarees and making sure the audience knows how sonar can reflect off of differing temperature layers or clouds of plankton. If you've ever wondered what Yamato would have been like if Nishizaki hadn't joined forces with Leiji Matsumoto, Thunder Sub is the answer; gadget-heavy space checklists of moving from point N1 to point N2 to point N3 with faces set in grim determination, while the music swells in a just-this-side-of-actionable way.

And ultimately I think that's what led to Blue Noah / Thunder Sub's 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' performance on the world's TV screens. Viewers had been there and done that. As impressive as a flying submarine with an Anti-Proton Gun is, it can't match a romantic universe filled with space goddesses in diaphanous robes. Even though we here at the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club are as Real Deal as any Thunder Sub fans can be, we still have to face facts bravely, just as Captain Noah and Collins would do if they were here, and if they were real.

But take heart; the world has not abandoned Thunder Sub. Fans around the globe keep the show alive with fan sites, releases of its various national iterations on DVD, and by making their carefully hoarded off-air tapings available for all on YouTube. Even Yoshinobu Nishizaki himself didn't forget his orphaned space submarine, prominently naming an Earth flagship "Blue Noah" in his 2009 feature Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection.

somebody out there remembers us

In spite of all the haters and the larger forces of widespread public indifference, Thunder Sub is a show that refuses to go away, and that's just how we here at the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club like it. And now gentlemen, to business! Namely, an update in our never ending struggle with our cross-town rivals, those losers in the so-called Ultimate Thunder Sub Fan Crew! Here to report is our Secretary-Treasurer, who will... (transcript ends)

The Real Deal Thunder Sub Club is a select group of Thunder Sub fans. Membership is strictly limited to those who publicly demonstrate True Thunder Sub Real Dealness through a variety of methods. In fact, you may already be a member and not even know it. Do not attempt to contact the Real Deal Thunder Sub Club; they will find you.

Monday, June 6, 2016

defender of the universal remote

From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the UHF dial, from television producers starved for toyetic robot action, it's Voltron!  Here in the future we're faced with the prospect of yet another Voltron reboot, and it may be instructive to look back at a time in which Voltron conquered the hearts and minds of America through a wide variety of ancillary media.

The October 1985 issue of Scholastic's DYNAMITE thrilled 80s kids with Punky Brewster, the popular features "Bummers" and "Count Morbida", and of course this in-depth report on Voltron.

Kids could also enjoy Voltron via this "Galactic Activities" book of games, puzzles, and mazes, illustrated by the hand of Tony Tallarico whose work in the field of media tie-in comics has been examined at length by qualified researchers. 

Kids could also enhance their reading skills by reading along with the cassette tape adventures of Voltron as they faced Lotor's Secret Weapon, which probably was the conditioner he used on his majestic, flowing, luxurious mane of hair.

Kids could also enjoy educational play activity with the many Voltron toys produced by Panosh Place and by Matchbox.

You don't want to be the kid on the playground picked to be Pidge, believe me. Anyway, the unstoppable force of Voltron rolled across America demolishing everything it is path, indelibly impacting American pop culture, and leaving its spoor of abandoned metal-box Lion Force Series DVD tins in used DVD stores throughout the land.

Will the new Voltron series capture the hearts and minds and Christmas shopping lists of America as firmly as the old one did? Only time will tell, because sadly Dynamite Magazine isn't around any more to give us the skinny.  Meanwhile, here's a puzzle.