Monday, November 06, 2006

Rocket fistfull of suck

Remember that comic book about the big robots where there was that bad guy named Megatron and he could transform and the good guy transforming robots had to stop him? Yeah, I do to. Too bad it got totally ripped off years later by the Transformers.

Robot cartoons in the late 70's and early 80's kicked lots of butt. One of my biggest regrets was not being born a little hawaiian boy about 5 years earlier so that I could really understand all the bastardized english dubbed anime cartoons from Japan that aired on TV when I was five years old. If only I was just a few years older I would have really been able to comprehend how mind blowingly awesome this crap was. I got to watch Tranzor Z, Starblazers and the Force Five block of robot shows as a kid so I guess I can't complain, but watching a show at 4 years old doesn't have the same effect as watching a show at 10. It's like the difference between being a fan of Tranzor Z and having a doctorate in Tranzor Z.

I really started paying attention to these crazy syndicated robot cartoons in El Paso when I was going through a weird time in my life, also known as 1983. It was a transition period for me. My old likes were no longer fresh and new. I had to find new likes. My Star Wars was old and busted and my mom stopped buying He-Man because she thought it was satanic. Transformers hadn't hit yet. I thought GI Joe was lame because it had people in it. I wanted to watch robots. And sure enough, thanks to KCIK, the UHF station channel 14 in El Paso, there were robots to be watched. Channel 14 was my favorite as a kid growing up. They have since sold out and are now whores of the Fox corporation, buck back when I was a kid they were the ass kickingest, Japanese robot showingest channel in El Paso.

The thing about the Force Five robos was they weren't commercially available as toys this late into the 80's. They were sold as Shogun Warriors in the late 70's. I was able to watch the shows in the early 80's, but I had missed the boat as far as toys. I don't think Starblazers ever had toys. So here I am at 8 or 9 years old and the only Shogun Warriors stuff I had was a small 3 inch Dragun (who I broke a face spike off of when I was 4) and that legendary two foot tall Godzilla, who I still have. I got that for Christmas in the late late seventies when I was four or five. So by the time I was 9 and thought this stuff was cool, it was all over and the weird robo lull of 1983 settled in. As a kid I didn't have the resources to really commit my life to Shogun Warriors and try to hunt down their merchandise. The next best thing was the fights I would get into in the 3rd grade pretending to be Mazinga or Dangard Ace and then getting my ass kicked by little girls smaller than me.

So fast forward to 2006 and I'm going to Kmart last Saturday and I find a new little bookstore in the seedy little shopping center where KMart is here in Rapid City. Amongst the piles of sports memorabilia, records, paperback books and other assorted crap are three boxes of comics. I love Rapid City because almost every mom and pop antique shop and bookstore will have comics. And holy hell, this guy had a buttload of Shogun Warriors comics. Here at last was my chance for redemption! My 8 year old self may have been too lazy to get a job and track down old comics, but now at 32 I had $20 in my pocket and I was ready to roll!

So I bought the last six issues of the book just to see what it was like if I knew how to read in 1979. I was learning letters back then. I was just in kindergarten. I don't even think I was housebroken by then. I had a lot of trouble with that. Thankfully, after reading these books I realized that the Shogun Warriors comic had a lot in common with my kindergarten pants-they were both steaming piles of crap.

I thought this book was supposed to be the American equivalent of the Japanese manga for these robots. Maybe a loose translation of some wacky zany adventures these guys were going on in Japan. But nope, Doug Moench the writer just made crap up that had nothing to do at all with anything that these robots were doing in Japanese fiction. It's kind of like when I'd take my He-Man figures and pair them up with my Maxx Steele Robo Force and call them Prehistoric Robot Dinosaur Humpers Force. So although the toy companies invested millions of dollars establishing elaborate mythologies for the characters these toys represent, in my house they'd go on adventures humping plastic dinosaurs I got from the swap meet. In a fantasy setting represented by my toilet. I was a four year old Doug Moench.

Shogun Warriors the comic book is also some of the most racist offensive stuff ever. There's a black guy robot pilot in the book whose first name is unpronounceable so they call him by his last name all the time, which just happens to be Savage. So they call the black guy "Savage" all the time. Plus there's a story where a rat accidentally gets teleported into one of the robots. Then a little while later, the same accident occurs except this time a little mexican boy gets teleported into the robot. I understand the literary device of foreshadowing, but I also sensed a bit of racism here. Does this mean the writer was trying to equate Mexican boys with rats? I think so. What's up with that.

In the end, Shogun Warriors the comic sucked total ass and I guess I'm a bit better off for not knowing how to read or poop yet in 1979. My ignorance saved me. But sometimes when you're a kid, crazy crap like big gold racist robots named Megatron that want to stomp little Mexican boys have a strange appeal. Who am I kidding. It was robots. I would probably have loved reading it back then no matter how much it was calling me a rat boy.

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