Saturday, March 29, 2014

Back in Orbit

Ever since I re-introduced Orbit on my blog, I was hoping that it would renew interest in the once-forgotten children's newspaper comic.  Sadly, the Orbit Project that I so proudly proclaimed, seems to have gone offline without any further ado.  For a long time, I agonized over the fact that I didn't get the chance to save the rare clippings when I had the chance, confident that they would be posteriorized for a long time.

That was until I checked my email search engine, and found that copies had actually been forwarded to me before the project started.  Oops.

Granted, the following doesn't include the online newspaper copies from the online archives, but it's still better than nothing, and you get the following in chronological order.  I've posted several of these comics before, but they may make more sense in conjunction with the daily strips.

Orbit's shoeshine business was a running theme that occasionally popped up in the strip, and was strongest at the beginning when he was regulated to the post of a... shoeshine boy.

Bear with it.  This is the last of bad puns for a while.

Pay attention to the reuse of a certain panel in this Sunday comic for a daily strip later.

Have you found the duplicate panel yet?

And that's where my collection runs out.

EDIT - a commentor pointed out that the link is still available on WebArchive, but most of the pictures are broken.  Fortunately, the blog images they were posted to still work.  Rather than go to the trouble of going to another mostly empty page, I'll save you the trouble & show the missing pictures.  But before that, here's some fan art of the founder, Jason F. Talbert.

There was also an ad for submissions for a drawing contest for children.  Most of these would take up space in the Sundays, rather than advance the story.

 And now for the remainder missing comics:


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Knowing the Battle

There was a Facebook post that had the following statement:
It has come to my attention that despite the many parodies that have been done over the years of the GI Joe "Knowing is half the battle" PSAs, nobody has ever made an attempt to do any kind of straightforward parody and/or homage using the Cobra characters to give the advice rather than Joes. 
This, in an era when Arthur Burghardt, Michael Bell and Morgan Lofting are still alive and working and perfectly happy to do silly things for fans at cons, and in which several well-known actors can at least do a passable rendition of Chris Latta's voice as Cobra Commander. 
The thing practically writes itself and could be done with a little relooping of existing footage. YOU HAVE FAILED ME FOR THE LAST TIME, INTERNET.
While this might be true of recent submissions, that doesn't account for parodies that were done in the past.  The recent axiom of "The Internet never forgets anything" is only true up to a point.  There are countless conversational forums on various subjects that oftentimes derail their subject headings and go off into uncharted territory.  Back when I had more free time, I would venture out onto various Newsarama forums among others, and copy / paste the best results to save them for later.

Now, first off, some admissions:

  • I've always been more partial to Transformers than G.I. Joe.  I identified more with the giant fighting changing robots than the diverse cast of fighting humans.  I simply couldn't tell which side was which, since they all pretty much looked the same to me.  I wasn't a fan of "serious" animation, and had no idea which one of these people were "Joe".
  • It also didn't help that neither franchises were captioned (save for the movies), and I could only catch some of the episodes while over at a friend's house who got the channels I didn't get at home.
  • The only thing I really enjoyed about G.I. Joe was the opening for the first season, which was a wild roller coaster, and more exciting than the actual show.

Some context for the following is probably required.  There was an incident in the news at the time involving a kid who stuck Oreos in a toaster, and when they got stuck, got electrocuted when trying to dig them out with a fork.
And then you find out that yes, kids are just that dumb. 
This whole Oreo incident reminds me of another stupid parent that blamed her own negligence on the companies that she bought from.  Her name was Maria Rovella (Actually Ellie Rovella) and one day Ms. Rovella was in the store with her little boy.  We'll just call him Billy for now.  Little billy saw a video game that he really wanted called "Primal Rage" the one-on-one- dinosaur fighting game!  So he begged and whined and yelled and shrieked and hollered until finally his mother, now sick of his voice, doled out the money to get him the game and make him shut up. 
Later that same evening... 
Little Billy was playing Primal Rage to his heart's content when his mother walked in and saw him perform one of the game's finishing moves where a big ape pees on his beaten opponent.  Well!  That was all Ms. Rovella needed to see and in that instant she ripped the game out of the console, stormed back to the store, and not only demanded her money back, but demanded that all stores everywhere in the entire world stop carrying this game!  Obviously, it was the game designer's fault for making such a horrible game!  Why, it couldn't be Ms. Rovella's fault for not checking the warning label on the game that said it was meant for kids 13 and up  But of course little 8-year old Billy wanted the game so baaaaad!  And it couldn't be Ms. Rovella's fault for not reading the label that said the game had violent and objectional content.  Nah, she's a busy parent, she doesn't have time to read important messages that affect her children. 
And the sad thing is she actually got the store to pull the game.  And not just that store, but a couple hundred stores nationwide.  Then there's the hotline she started to spread the news about this horrible game.  I'm dead serious here, people!  This is one hundred percent true.  Why even Mrs. Clinton and (then Senator) Lieberman spoke out on violent games shortly after Rovella took her complaints straight to the White House! 
And not one person in the media, in the stores, or in the White House asked, "Why did you buy your kid that game then?"

This then led to a various number of parodies of the G.I. Joe PSA at the end of every episode, including a few from the Cobra camp:

(A 4-year old sticks some Oreo Cookies in a toaster.  When they don't pop up into tasty treats, he attempts to pull them out with a pair of scissors, but before he can, Bazooka from GI Joe turns the corner, startling the boy...)

Billy: AAAAHH!!  A Stranger!

Bazooka:  Don't you know who I am?  I'm Bazooka!  (Geez, Alpine never had this problem with lost kids at the carnival...) Uh... Hey Billy, don't you know that putting metal objects into a toaster is dangerous?  Always have an adult or Police Officer help you with appliances at home so you don't end up toasted!  Heh heh, I made that up myself!

Billy: AAAAHH!!  Mommy, this strange man with a Big Gun knows my name!  AAAAHH!!

Bazooka:  Wait, Kid!  You're supposed to say "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle..."  Ahh, the heck with it!  I'm outta here!


(Little Billy sits trying to dig Oreos out of the toaster with a pair of scissors)

(Voice from around the corner) No, child, you mustn't do that!  (Billy looks up and sees Dr. Mindbender)

Billy: Dr. Mindbender!

Dr. Mindbender: Billy, don't you know that shoving metal objects into electrical devices is dangerous?  You could be hurt or killed.

Billy: Wow, I never thought of that.

Dr. Mindbender: Yes, Billy, that's why, if you have an object lodged in the toaster, you should always use your mind control device to force someone else to dig it out for you.

Billy: But I don't have a Mind Control Device.

Dr. Mindbender: Well, you could always make a synthoid clone of yourself and have him do it.

Billy: What's a clone?

Dr. Mindbender: Hmmmm.  You could try using the Weather Dominator to force the President to dig them out.

Billy: (Blank stare)

Dr. Mindbender: Bah!  Have you any worth at all?  Very well, proceed with your digging, and don't stop until every crumb is out.  If you don't, you know I'll be back.

Billy: I know...

And knowing is half the battle!


(Jerry's in a store, eyeing the newest hottest toy)

Jerry:  I really want this toy, but I don't have any money.  If I stuck it under my shirt and walked out, no one would know.

(Two aristocratic voices in unison speak behind Jerry)  Are you crazy?  You'll be caught before you get to the door!

Jerry: (Spins around) Tomax & Xamot, the Crimson Twins!

Tomax:  That's right, Jerry.  This is a very petty crime you're pulling.  You should be ashamed.

Xamot:  Very sloppy indeed.  (Points to the ceiling)  Don't you see all of these cameras?

Tomax:  Yes, and the sensor tag glued to the side of the box.  You'd set off all of the alarms.

Jerry: Gee, I never thought of that.

Xamot: Besides, there are much better ways to get what you want.

Tomax: That's right.  You should be at home using your computer to embezzle money from Online Bank Accounts and committing Credit Card Fraud.

Xamot: It's rather easy, you know.

Jerry: I know now!

Tomax & Xamot: (In unison) And knowing is half the battle!


Jerry the Shoplifter: Take 2

(Jerry's in a store, eyeing the newest hottest toy)

Jerry:  I really want this toy, but I don't have any money.  If I stuck it under my shirt and walked out, no one would know.

(The rumble of motorcycles are heard as tires screech through the store.  Jerry looks up and sees the Dreadnoks riding towards him through the aisle)

Jerry: AAAH!!

Torch:  Blimey!  We've a daft wanker 'ere!  (Shoots a burst of flame at Jerry's feet)

Ripper: Indeed we do!  What the slag were ya thinkin', Jerry?!

Jerry:  I just wanted this toy so bad.

Buzzer: Well bloke, ya don't think they're gonna just let ya walk out wif it, do ya?

Ripper: 'At's right.  Whatchu need, me boy, is a diversion!

(Scene change to the Hardware Aisle, Ripper & Buzzer are seen dousing the area with Kerosene while Torch & Jerry lean over some Propane bottles)

Torch:  ...and ya connect the De'onator here.

Jerry:  Wow, I never thought of that!

Torch: Now light the fuse an' wait for the fun to start.

(The Dreadnoks step back as Jerry lights the fuse)

Jerry: (Trying to light a match) Something smells funny guys.  (The match lights)

Torch: GOR!


(Torch, Ripper & Buzzer are seen bursting through the front glass of the burning store on their motorcycles)

Buzzer: Poor lil' wanker couldn't recognize the smell o' Propane.

Torch: Ah, well, let's go to Lane Byrant.  Y'know 'ere's some saucy wenches there!!

Ripper: Now I know!

All three in unison: An' knowing' is 'alf da Bat'le!  Har! Har! Har! Har!

(The Dreadnoks ride off into the sunset)


(Little Johnny sits on the toilet in a public restroom doing his business when he notices that there's no toilet paper)

Johnny: (Looks around frantically) Oh no, what am I gonna do now?!

(Suddenly the stall door bursts open and a clearly inebriated Shipwreck staggers in with Polly on his shoulder)

Johnny: GAH!

Shipwreck: Gah!

Polly:  Gah!  Gah!  Stupid Mother&*%$er!

Shipwreck: (Slurring his words) Shut up, bird!  What's the matter Johnny?

Johnny: (Trying to cover himself with his shirt) This stall's outta toilet paper.

Shipwreck: (Barely able to stand) Heh.  I've been there before kiddo.  There was this one time in Okinawa when I met this cute little Geisha.  Man, did she have the nicest...

Polly:  Dirty Mother&*%$er!  I'll kill you where you stand!

(Johnny looks frightened and bewildered)

Shipwreck: Shut up, bird!

Johnny: What can I do, Shipwreck?  My legs are going numb.

Shipwreck: (Staring off into space, thinking of the Geisha)  ...huh?  Wha?  Oh yeah.  Well, you could always just use a dollar.  It's not as soft as toilet paper, but it gets the job done.

Johnny: Gee, I never thought of that.

(Scene change to outside the bathroom) (Shipwreck leans against the wall, looking down over the trash can, wiping the bile from his mouth, his stomach still heaving, as Johnny walks out of the Bathroom)

Shipwreck: (Noticing Johnny's look of disgust) (Still slurring his words) Whassamytter, Johnny?

Johnny: I used a dollar like you said, but my hands still got messed up.

Shipwreck: That's odd, a dollar bill usually works fine for me.

Johnny: A bill?  I used four quarters?

Shipwreck: Y'know, that's &*%$ing gross, kid.

Johnny: I know, now!

Shipwreck: And knowing is half the mother&*%$ing battle!


(Late at night, two young ladies of the evening, Liz and Connie, walk the street)

Liz:  Ya Connie, that guy tried to take off without paying, so Sugarbear cracked him over the head!

(A Sports car pulls up to the corner)

Connie: Hah ha ha!  Oh look, a car's pulling up, maybe another John!

Liz:  Or a cop.  Heh.  (Leans towards the window) Hey Sugar, want a date?

Connie:  I'll break your heart, baby!

(The window rolls down revealing the Baroness)

Liz & Connie: The Baroness!

Baroness:   Yeeeees, it is.  Don't you girls know how dangerous it is to be on these streets at night?

Connie: Yeah, my frien' Donna got cut up last week.

Liz: Oh, and they still haven't found Susan.

Baroness:  That's right, and then there's the dangers of disease and bad... ahem... management.

Liz:  Yeah, Ol' Sugarbear sure does take a lot of my money.

Baroness:  Indeed.  There are many other options for your line of work.  A better way to trade your favors for power and money is to marry a Politician or a Corporate Executive.

Liz: Yeah, I see what you mean.

Baroness:  And if those don't work, there are plenty of girls like you two in acting.

Connie: Gee, I never thought of that!

Liz: Now we know.

Baroness:  And knowing is half the battle!  (Drives off in her sports car)


(Young Billy walks out of the school restroom to go home when he sees a dark man looking at him)

Billy:  Hey, it's Snake Eyes!

Snake Eyes:  ...............

Billy:  Bye Snake Eyes, nice seeing you!

Snake Eyes:  ...............

(Later, as Billy walks home, he looks over his shoulder to see Snake Eyes staring at him from the corner)

Billy:  Is there anything wrong, Snake Eyes?

Snake Eyes:  ...............

Billy:  Well... okay then.  I gotta go home.

(Billy breaks out in a quick uneasy walk.  He turns and looks over his shoulder once again to see Snake Eyes gone)

Billy:  Oh... heh, he must've had to report back to Joe HQ to fight off the evil Cobras!

(Billy turns back around to see Snake Eyes 3 feet in front of him)

Billy:  AAAHH!!!  What's wrong Snake Eyes?

Snake Eyes:  ...............

(Billy runs frantically back to school to see his principal leaving with one of the young school children)

Billy:  Principal! Principal!

Principal:  Erp... Uhh, hi Billy.  I'm just taking Johnny home, that's all.  Nothing else.

Billy:  What?  Oh, hi Johnny.  Principal, Snake Eyes is following me and won't leave me alone!

Principal:  Well, get in the back seat and I'll drive you home.

(Billy gets in the backseat and they go towards his house when there is a loud thump on the car roof)

Billy:  AAH!  He's coming to kill me!  Mommy!

(The Principal stops the car and steps out to look at the pounced Snake Eyes clinging to the roof of the car.  Snake Eyes jumps off and opens the door to the car, much to Billy's disapproval)

Billy:  I didn't mean to steal that pack of gum, honest!

Snake Eyes:  ............... (points at Billy's pants)

Billy:  Huh?  (looks down)  Oh, you were trying to tell me that my fly was down the whole time!

Snake Eyes:  ...............

Billy:  Thanks Snake Eyes, now I know!

Snake Eyes:  ...............


(Sally, a young girl, stands hitchhiking on an Alabama roadside, when a Lincoln pulls up with Roadblock driving)

Sally: Hi Roadblock.

Roadblock:  It's dangerous, standin' on the road, raiting' on a ride from a guy you don't know.

Sally: Yeah, I guess so.

Roadblock:  Hop on in, and I'll take you home, 'cause you never know where a psycho could roam!

Sally: Thanks Roadblock!  (gets in the car)  Oh maaan.  What is that smell?!

(A loud belch is heard from the back seat)

Roadblock:  That's just Shipwreck, he's kinda drunk.  He reeks so much I should put him in the trunk.

Shipwreck:  I heard that &*%$face!

Polly:  &*%$face!  &*%$face!

(As they drive down the road, a Highway patrol car pulls up behind the Joes & Sally, siren screeching)

Roadblock:  Seems like there's a snag in our plan, better pull over and listen to the man.

(Sally looks at Roadblock strangely)  (The Policeman swaggers up to the window)

Roadblock:  Is there a problem officer?

Cop:  I'll ask the questions, boy.  Git outta the car.  Keep yer hands where Ah kin see 'em.

(Roadblock gets out slowly and talks to the Patrolman)

Shipwreck: (rising up from the backseat, slurring his speech, looking drunkly at Sally in the front) So sweetheart, you got a boyfriend?

(Sally recoils from his alcoholic stench)  (Polly flutters out the window and lands on Roadblock's back)

Roadblock:  You see Officer, it's all okay.  I'm just helping this young lady on her way.

Cop:  Well, Ah don't see much reason to keep you here any...

Shipwreck:  Dammit, RB!  You don't hafta take any &*%$ from that &*%$ing PIG!

Polly: (On Roadblock's back)  &*%$ing Pig!  &*%$ing Pig!

Cop: (Looking at Roadblock)  Is that so, boy?!  (Tasers Roadblock.  Roadblock drops to the ground in convulsions)  And why don't you join yer friend, ya Village People reject!  (Drags Shipwreck out of the car.  Shipwreck takes a drunken swing at the Cop, missing him by a mile.  The Cop beats him into submission with his nightstick)

(The Cop shoves the two Joes into the back of his car)

Roadblock:  Look officer, it ain't played that way, y'see.  Ain't we innocent until proven guilty?

Cop:  Don't give me none of that Jive talk, boy.  (Slams the car door shut)  (Turns to Sally)  Young lady, I'm taking these two in.  You should have known better than to catch a ride with weirdos.

Sally: Now I know!

Polly:  (Riding on top of the Cop Car) And knowing is half the battle, &*%$ing Pig!


(Johnny is walking down the street, rubbing his shoulder)

Johnny:  Ow, that bully really gave me a beating today!

Storm Shadow: What happened Billy?  You look like you got beat up real good.

Johnny:  Wow!  It's Storm Shadow, ex-Cobra ninja turned over to the forces of good!  I could sure use your help, Storm Shadow.  Billy the school bully steals my milk money then beats me up!  What should I do?

Storm Shadow: When a ninja confronts an enemy greater than himself, the ninja remembers the teachings his Sensei taught him.

Johnny:  Gee whizz, you mean like that stuff that says never get into a fight unless you have to or to think before you act?

Storm Shadow: Baka!  That's only fluff to appease your parents.  No, what you do first is to deliver a swift right knee kick to your adversary's groin.  As he doubles over, place your descending right foot to the back of your opponent's stance, following with a sweep to the right side by your left feet.  You should be right behind the brute.  Next, with your left arm, wrap it around your victim and tilt your head right, leaning it on the left hand.  Then with your right hand, give a strong push to the left on your adversary's head.  You should hear a faint but audible snap of his neck breaking.  If done quickly and properly, this attack creates little noise and no traceable evidence to you.

Johnny:  Golly, now I know how to stop Billy for good and to defend my lord's honour!

Storm Shadow: And knowing is half the battle!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dorohedoro, the Manga Grant Morrison Never Wrote

What we Already Know:

1.  Manga has a tendency to keep going regardless of its shelf life.
2.  Naruto's on the verge of having its long-winded war reaching it's ultimate climax.
3.  Bleach's entered it's longest final arc.

But there's another Manga that's on the verge of wrapping up.  The only difference is that unlike the other two, readers still have no idea of how everything's going to end.  That would be... Dorohedoro.

Running sequentially in Ikki Magazine since 2002, Dorohedoro has always been one of those out there Mangas that was always there.  Only recently has the long-running Manga been inching towards a conclusion.  At first, it was thought it would end at an extended 19th volume, but the author decided there was more things she wanted to draw, and with the approval of her editors, decided to extend things to a 20th volume.  While this would be thought of dragging out an already long series, having more chapters would help prevent having a rushed ending.  Indeed, with all the plot points and factions coming together into a mish-mash mess, it's difficult to imagine how everything could come together.

It has the cool premise of an amnesiac cursed man with a lizard head wearing a gas mask looking for the magician who changed him.  This is accomplished by forcing magicians' heads into his mouth and asking if the man inside his uvula confirmed if it was them or not.  (One wonders just HOW they found out about that little factoid in the first place.  Did the doctor lean in too deep with his tongue depressor or something?)

In this world, Magicians come to the city of Hole to experiment practicing their magic on their victims, and the citizens there are pretty fed up with having their bodies mangled into warped shapes purely for their amusement.  Magic is represented in the form of black "smoke" that spreads from the user's fingers.  Alternate means is by taking concentrated powder from the magic user (sometimes unwillingly), with unexpected results.  For Kaiman, this curse has the added benefit of making him immune to magic, which makes him a double threat - he's targeting Magicians, and he's not affected by their spells.  The magic users in turn, are also looking for whoever turned Kaiman into a lizard, since they don't want any more of their fellow magicians to be in indiscriminately killed off, and find out why he was changed in the first place.

The creator, Q. Hayashida was an assistant to Tsutomu Nihei, the creator of BLAME!, and the influence shows.  While the latter Manga artist might've gotten his reputation by creating vast non-euclidean worlds filled with mindscrew elements, Q. Hayashida goes more for the visceral effect, and the result is a warped world that has heart, rather than vast architecture in search of a plot.  The comparison with Grant Morison is apt, since the British writer is a great admirer of Silver-Age comics, as well as known for creating stories with weird elements for American readers.  (Or maybe what's considered weird is the norm in British comics)
Not exactly The Man with the Head of Saturn.
Every Magic user wears unusual masks when they go out.  We're not talking about garden variety masks that merely cover your eyebrows or hair, but full-face halloween masks of varying designs, including a roast turkey, a heart-shaped mask worn backwards, and chattering teeth clearly inspired by Hellraiser.  These masks range from home-made variety to Masks created by Devils.  The latter increase the Magic user's power, as well as improve their status.  But you would be forgiven for not knowing that, since none of this is explicitly spelled out.

Rather than being spoonfed information, we're left to our own devices to figure out what's going on.  Things are more implied than outright stated.  On the one hand, we're spared the expense of having long speeches slowing down the narrative that's typical of long-running Manga.  On the other hand, we're left with deliberately vague hints that isn't made obvious without multiple re-readings.  In that sense, its closer to an European comic in terms of art and story, and an American comic in terms of shock value and trade packaging.
Gives a whole new meaning to "baring your chest".
In a world that's divided between magic users (En's gang) and magic hunters (Nikaido & Kaiman), and non-magic users who use illegal magic (Crosseyes gang), there's very little animosity between the different parties.  And that's not counting the Devils from Hell, who despite their reputation, are a rather jovial bunch... as long as their rules are respected.  Break them, and you're due for some punishment in the form of expulsion.

While it sounds like an alternate dystopian future, what helps save it from sinking into complete misery is the humour that's more absurdist than black.  Even with the amount of disturbing imagery, it never quite feels totally exploitative, no matter how shocking it appears.  Everybody may be murderous people, but what makes them stand out is how much they CARE about each other.  "Kaiman cares about his partner Nikaido; the two hitmen cleaners trust each other explicitly."
"The two low-level Magic users both say they can't stand each other,
but really want to be friends.
In fact, if there's a constant theme (apart from the surprising amount of gore) in this Manga, it would be things going wrong.  Hardly anything ever goes according to plan for either side, and everyone usually winds up improvising the situation they're handed with.  Indeed, any sense of foreshadowing is completely overwhelmed by its unpredictability.  It's impossible to tell just where the story is going to turn next, because there's no rationale that's not clearly lined out, since whatever happens is determined by the author's whims. For instance, here, Ebisu, the Magic girl (whose magic smoke turns her into a monstrous dinosaur) attempts to transform (even striking a pose as she does so), only for the results to be less intimidating than expected.

Because of its meandering narrative and lack of focus between chapters, Dorohedoro can be forgiven for being considered episodic.  While that's true up to a point, there's a larger story that's subtly broken up by various events taking place.  There are all kinds of weird minor details showing up in the larger frame of the narrative, even as the focus of the MacGuffin plot goes largely ignored.  Anybody expecting quick answers is going to wind up disappointed.  And the puzzles that DO get answered only wind up raising MORE questions.  But even if you have no idea what's going on, it can still be enjoyed purely for the sheer head trip.
"Everything is connected!" is a particularly popular Grant Morrison line.
What's remarkable about Dorohedoro is how Organic its world is, and I'm not just talking metaphorically.  (Though there is a fair amount of organs on display, lovingly rendered in Gantz-like cross-section form)  It feels like a natural working world with its own internal logic amidst toilets connected to Hell, gigantic cockroaches that only say "Shocking!", and a serene mad scientist who appears younger as he grows older.  (Not a warped Benjamin Button kind of thing)  The people indulge in everyday conversation in all this madness.

While being strong and having access to awesome weaponry is a requisite for surviving, that accounts for only a small fraction of time for action heroes.  What's more important is food to eat, and a home to return to.  And that's pretty much true for the citizens of Hole who're more concerned about living their lives than trying to make a stand against Magic users.  As a result, there are more scenes involving cooking and shopping than hunting down magicians.  Not trying to sound sexist or anything (but totally failing anyways), these are the only clues that the Manga's done by a woman, but it's done in a way that feels more educational than condescending.  The climax is apparently taking place in a SHOPPING MALL of all things.  What helps save the potential lameness is how little it resembles your typical shopping mall.

In the end, the question of who Kaiman is, is less important than the question of what he would do once he gets his memories back.  Surprisingly enough, the MacGuffin is resolved halfway through, but that brings up the whole other question of what happens next once Kaiman's curse is lifted.  After that, things start getting weird.  (Well, weirder than they already were)

Since Dorohedoro ran in a cult magazine, the chances of it breaking out was always low.  It's impressive that it's been running for so long, considering there isn't even an Anime of it.  Fans may complain that their favorite Seinin series like Berserk haven't gotten another season after an unsatisfying and unresolved season finale, but at least they got to see their Manga animated.  There are MANY Mangas out there that don't have the merchandising bonanza that's the backbone of the organization.  Anime is just another form of publicity, striking while the iron is hot.  Once the animated version is presented, as long as it pierces public consciousness, it's done its job.

If there is a fault with Dorohedoro, its that the volumes are too damned short, even with the bonus chapters.  There are only six chapters per book (not counting the bonus chapters), and each chapter deals with a different subplot, further moving various factions around.  In addition, a chapter in the middle can end with a cliffhanger that won't be followed up until the NEXT volume.  This is compounded with multiple subplots being told throughout, that set up a situation of conflict/drama, and then the scene will cut away to other characters.  By the time we get back to the dilemma, they've either moved on to something else, or are concerned about something related to what happened.  Because there's so much jumping around, its difficult to get a handle on what's going on, especially since there's very little recapping.  Especially when there's a rotary of about 30 characters who pop up at random intervals.

It doesn't help that Dorohedoro is maddening slow to reveal its secrets.  For instance, the identity of the thief who stole Kaiman's cut-off head in the 2nd volume probably won't be revealed until the 20TH volume. That's a long time to wait for a throwaway mystery, though there have been various clues popping up lately. Even the main characters themselves are struggling to understand just what the heck's going on.  This is not a Manga meant for casual readers,  You're not going to get plenty of exposition explaining the background of the world - you're going to be served up a scenario already in action, and how the players are dealing with it accordingly. Clues are deliberately sprinkled here and there, and are doled out sparingly, leaving the reader to ponder over these until their meaning is revealed much later.  Much of this becomes clearer upon marathoning or rereading, rather than having to recall minor details that would be forgotten in six months.
I wasn't kidding about the Mad Scientist's age.
Sadly, the Viz version has some problems, part of which is the greyscaling of coloured pages, translation inconsistency and gender confusion of some people, which isn't surprising, given the neutrality of some costumes.  One of the worst things is when you spend a lot of time working of a faithful translation that'll sound smooth and natural, and hardly anybody bothers to purchase it to see the fruits of your labours.
This was a problem Toren Smith had with Tokyopop's success.  It's a sad reality that Manga that don't have Anime tie-ins don't fare well with sales.  But that shouldn't be an excuse not to read Dorohedoro in the first place.  There are plenty of reviewers who enjoy reading the Manga for the maniac worldview it provides.  The Attack on Titans and One Pieces may get higher sales, but that still shouldn't detract from the other unsung treasures out there waiting to be rediscovered.

What we learned today:

1. British writers are just as insane as Japanese writers.
2. Kaiman's head was turned into a lizard's by a Magic user.
3. Magic users wear masks made by Devils.
4. Apocalyptic futures are fun, because they look lived-in, rather than prepackaged.
5. The chapters may be brief, but the contents are stuffed with details.
6. There are lots of great Mangas out there!
7. Merchandise is a necessary evil in making a profit.
8. Translation issues are still a concern among fans.

As for what's coming next... that is still under speculation.

That is Dorohedoro!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Assassination Classroom Vs. One-Punch Man

There's been a rash of surprising licenses from Viz lately.  Ranging from two Shoujo Vampire stories to
the once-thought unlicensable Master Keaton, due to the copyright conflict between Naoki Urasawa and Hokusei Katsushika, over whose name should've gotten top billing.  But the one that stood out was Assassination Classroom, which was once said to be too risky, considering the nature of students bringing guns to school in an attempt to kill their alien Teacher, who unlike the My Teacher is an Alien children books, makes no bones to hide his foreignness from his class.  At the time, it was thought to be too sensitive with the memory of Columbine being too fresh in people's minds.  But considering the once gun-shy country expressing outrage at being unable to bring firearms into coffee shops, and how the series relies less on long-distance weapons further on, the restrictions began to look rather pale in comparison.  The fact that guns are edited out of Anime is frankly, ridiculous.
A scene from the Storm story, "The Slayer of Eriban",
about a student from an Assassination school on his final exam
You would think that somebody who looks like a Smiley "Have a Nice Day" Face with teeth from Derek Kim Kim's The Eternal Smile wouldn't be much of a threat.  But as we all know, looks can be deceptive.  In Shonen Manga, the unassuming child can turn out to have planet-destructive abilities beyond the ken of mortal men.  Likewise, the perpetually grinning alien masks the extent of his destructive power and speed. While Koro-Sensei has designs similar to Nyarlathotep in eventually destroying the Earth, gleefully teaching students to learn how to kill him (despite their wasted attempts), his intent is more about inspiring his students to become better students by way of teaching them valuable learning skills independent to each individual student, working around their mental blocks and past trauma.
Can you tell the difference?
Since Assassination Classroom is in Shonen Jump, it stands to reason that a crossover with another licensed property, One-Punch Man, wouldn't be considered out of the question.  What's surprising is that a Doujin of this caliber hasn't been accomplished already.  It certainly would be something to see - a great fight between the strongest apathetic hero and the strongest Anti-Villain.
There can be only one winner - the audience.
Until then, you'll have to settle for this rough fanfic of what the match-up would most likely be.

(Saitama is roaming the outskirts of the country, until he comes across a ramshackle house)
Saitama: (knocks door) I thought I heard gunfire.  Is everything alright there?
Nagisa: (heard through other side of the classroom door) Oh yes, we were just starting class.  Nothing to worry about.
Saitama: (sounds unconvinced) Really.  Then you won't mind if I take a look?
Nagisa: No, wait!
(Saitama opens the classroom door)  (sees all the students with guns aimed at an alien octopus wearing a graduation cape and hat)
Saitama: (concerned) What are you doing?!  Are you trying to kill your teacher?!
Nagisa: Uh... yes.  that's kind of the point of this class.
(slightly embarrassed) Ah, well.  Sorry to intrude.  I'll be going now.

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #1

He's extremely acceptable of outrageous situations.

Saitama: (changing his mind) No, wait, that's not right.  I came here because I heard news that there was a monster that was terrorizing the students here.  Would you know anything about that?
(All eyes in the class look towards the blackboard where Koro-Sensei is nonchalantly trying to appear inconspicuous, as inconspicuous as a smiling humanoid octopus can be)

(Saitama walks towards the teacher's desk where Koro-Sensei is simultaneously correcting the student's homework, taking attendance, doing flower arrangement, casual calligraphy and carving miniature Renaissance art on the side of a spent bullet shell)
Saitama: Can we talk outside?
Koro-Sensei: Certainly.  (Claps tentacles)  Free period everybody!  Feel free to think up impressive techniques to kill me!

(The two of them walk quite a distance until they come across an abandoned baseball field)

Saitama: You didn't have to go so far out of earshot.  It's not like I was going to yell at you.  I just wanted to understand what's going on here.
Koro-Sensei: Well, it's like this.  As you no doubt noticed, the surface of the moon has been obliterated, leaving a slim outline of its circumference, resulting in an eternal crescent moon is hanging in the sky.
Saitama: (Looks up at the sky where the remains of the moon is) Huh.  I never noticed that before.

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #2

He's oblivious to the obvious.

Koro-Sensei: That was just a mere display of the extent of my powers.  I've given the Government one year to get rid of me.  In exchange, I'm training these lowly students in Class-E - the refuge for students considered to be beyond help in terms of educational advancement.
Saitama: (Presses fingers to bridge of nose) Wait, wait, back up a bit.  You're holding off destruction of the Earth unless one of your problem students manages to learn how to kill you before then?
Koro-Sensei: (Clenches tentacles in excitement) Nothing motivates you more than a project with a literal deadline.
Saitama: And what if somebody offs you before they have a chance to?
Koro-Sensei: They're welcome to try.  Though none have managed to succeed.  (Holds up pellet) So far, the only thing that can damage me are these harmless ball bearings -
Saitama: (holds palm up) Don't tell me your weakness right off the bat.

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #3

Interrupts the speaker if they're talking for too long.

Koro-Sensei: Don't tell me you're going to try to kill me?
Saitama: (winds up shoulder) Well, that depends on just how formidable you really are.  You never know until you try.
Koro-Sensei: (Spreads tentacles out) And just how are you going to kill me?  A sneak attack?  An overhead laser canon?
Saitama: (Calmly walks forward) Nah, I'm just gonna punch you.
Koro-Sensei: (Chuckles inwardly) (Thinks) The fool.  He has no idea what he's in for.  He's going to experience humility on a scale that can't be measured.  I'll tease him a little first.  His head looks so lonely without any hair on it.  It could use a powdered wig.
(There's a quick imperceptible blur near Saitama)
Koro-Sensei: (Thinks) What was that?  It must've been my imagination.  Hmm?  That's strange.  (sees no wig on Saitama) I can't feel my limb?
(Sees his tentacle that was intended to play with Saitama has blown apart)
Koro-Sensei: (Stambles and falls back) (thinks) Wha-wha-wha-wha??? What was that???  He just blew away my tentacle apart in an instant???  And it's not regenerating?????
(A fly buzzes near Saitama.  He slaps and misses)

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #4

He can't swat mosquitoes? (?????????????????????????????????)

Saitama: What's wrong?  I just barely brushed you.
Koro-Sensei: (thinks) It's BECAUSE you brushed me that I want to get away!!! (Escapes at Mach 20)
Saitama: (Easily catches up) Found you.
Koro-Sensei: IMPOSSIBLE!!! I'm moving at Mach 20!
Saitama: Oh?  I wasn't really paying attention.
Koro-Sensei: How fast can you go?!?
Saitama: No idea.  I've never been pushed that hard enough.
Koro-Sensei: (Panicking) (Thinks) Imma gonna fake him out with a buncha after-images! Each one in an individual attack pose!  I should be able to tell his fighting technique from how he fights each one!
Saitama: (Looks slightly impressed) Huh.  Cool trick.  Lemme try.  (Creates multiple after-images in front of each Koro-image, each one showing the exact same pre-punch stance)
Koro-Sensei: (Too shocked to think rationally) GNAFGEFSKAWA.  (Barely escapes intact)
Koro-Sensei: (Thinks) What's with this guy?? I can't read any killing intent off him, yet his punches are powerful enough to rip through my defenses like toilet paper!  I can't even smell any phreromones as to what he's going to do next!  Gotta contain him!
(Koro-Sensei extends remaining tentacles to restrict Saitama's movements)
(Saitama dodges and breaks apart the tentacles without hesitation)
(Koro-Sensei rockets up in the air)
(Saitama jumps up to where Koro-Sensei is)
Koro-Sensei: He's caught up to me already?!  Gotta go faster!!!  (Zooms away from Saitama in a hurry)
Saitama: (looks disappointed) He left the country.

(Out in the realm of the atmosphere)
Koro-Sensei: (ThinksGottagetawaygottagetawaygottagetaway!!!  (Zipping across multiple continents, looks behind him) Wait, he's not coming after me?  I don't see him anywhere.  Where'd he go?  Is he waiting somewhere in front of me??  (swings past Japan) Oh, he's still hanging in midair, slowly falling back to Earth.

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #5

He can't fly.

Koro-Sensei: (Thinks) So he's not ENTIRELY Superhuman!  I can use this to my advantage.  Firstly, I'll spin around the Earth a few times to build up speed.  Secondly, I can compose my thoughts.  Thirdly, I can plan a counter-attack.
Note: [All of this takes place in a fraction of a second]
Koro-Sensei: (Thinks) He won't know what hit him!

(Saitama is looking forlornly up at the sky when he notices a  faint shining light coming closer towards him)
(It's an asteroid with Koro-Sensei's smiling face carved into it, with a handwritten note on the side saying "Love & Kisses, Koro-Sensei")
(The Koro-Asteroid is bearing down on Saitama at tremendous speed, burning up upon re-entry)
(Saitama easily and impassively smashes the incoming meteor to dust particles with a well-timed hit)
(Within the dust, Koro-Sensei covertly sneaks his way to Saitama's back)

Koro-Sensei: (thinks) I compressed myself to the size of a fly, and camouflaged myself on the meteorite's surface, all for the purpose of getting to his largest and most obvious weak spot:

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #6

His cape.

(Koro-Sensei snags Saitama's cape from behind)
(Saitama instantly hits Koro-Sensei from behind)  There you are.

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #6

His cape.
Scratch the cape!  He's full of openings, but they're all dangerous traps!  Stay as far away as possible!

(Koro-Sensei's tentacled body has burst apart like a spilled bucket of water balloons under a cactus)

Koro-Sensei: (Thinks) That didn't work.  Gotta keep my distance!  I'll figure out how badly I've been hurt later.  Uh?  Why is the ground getting in my way?  And it seems to be getting larger?  Oh, here it -
(Koro-Sensei prepares himself for a crash that never comes)  (opens his eyes)
(Saitama is standing calmly, holding Koro-Sensei's ruined body one centimeter away from hitting the surface)
Saitama: That was close.  You could've gotten hurt.

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #7

He's too caring towards his victims.

Koro-Sensei: Why did you save me?  Didn't you come here to collect on the 10 Billion Yen reward?
Saitama: (Looks dumbfounded)  Ten billion?  Who needs that much money?  I'm just doing this for the challenge.  Let's wrap this up before the discount special day ends.
Koro-Sensei: (Looks shocked)  You buy discount foodstuff in the bargain bin too?
Saitama: (snaps fingers) You're the guy with the prosthetic nose at the Supermarket!  I was wondering if your face had plastic surgery or something.
Koro-Sensei: Uh... yeah!  You're the guy who's always wearing that weird-looking spandex costume in the shopping district!
Saitama: I'm still wearing the same costume.  And you didn't recognize me until now?
Koro-Sensei: I... thought you were somebody else with a similar fashion trend.

Karasuma: (who'd been watching the whole action taking place at the sidelines) (clapping sarcasically) Very clever, becoming fast friends with the man who beat you within an inch of your life.
Koro-Sensei: Uh?  Ah, yes!  That's what this was!  Buying time by finding common ground between yourself and your killer!
Karasuma: (whispering) He's totally covering up for his ineptitude isn't he?
Irina: So sad.
Koro-Sensei: That - that's not it at all!  I could fight back seriously if I really wanted to!
Saitama: Oh, so you CAN fight better than this?  I'm looking forward to next time.
Karasuma: (Gives Saitama the stink eye) Aren't you going to finish the job?
Saitama: I'm not going to steal your student's Finals project away from them.
Koro-Sensei: See?  He DOES understand!!
Saitama: Besides, I can tell that you're not evil.  If you really were a threat, you would've taken one of your students as a hostage.
Koro-Sensei: (Fumes) How dare you!  What kind of monster do you take me for?
Saitama: The kind of monster that could actually put up a good fight.  Besides, anybody who's frugal with their finances can't be all that bad.
Karasuma: (thinks) What kind of logic is that??
Saitama: If you do some exercise every morning, you should be able to put up a better fight next time.
Irina: (thinks) Don't encourage him!
Saitama: I'll be back in a month to see if you've improved any.  If not, I'll be having octopus stew for supper.  (wraps up fallen tentacles in a grocery bag)
Karasuma / Irina: (disgusted, thinks) You're not having that for dinner, are you??

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #8

He doesn't discriminate on eating Octopus bal / Tenta / weird food.

Saitama: Well, if there's nothing else, I'll be off.
Nagisa: WAIT!!  How were you able to hurt Koro-Sensei like that??  We've never been able to even get close to him!
Saitama: (Looks at Koro-Sensei) Is it alright if I be your substitute teacher for five minutes?
Koro-Sensei: (gestures tentacle) Be my guest.
Saitama: Hello everyone.  I don't have much time before the bargain sale ends, so I'll make this short.
(turns to blackboard, drawing crappy stick figures worse than ONE's artwork)
Saitama: What you do is you raise your arm back, clenching your hand into the shape of a fist.  Then you thrust it forward towards your target with intent to hurt.  And that's all there is to it.  Any questions?
Entire class: (Thinks) TOO BRIEF!!!

Koro-Sensei Notebook: Saitama's Weaknesses #9

He can't explain his ability.

Koro-Sensei: It's true after all - those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach.
Irina: (whispers) Does that mean you can't teach these students to kill you properly?
Koro-Sensei: (miffed) Quiet, you.
Of course, this is possible too.