Monday, March 10, 2008

Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips and Dragon Ball vol. 7

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that I only became aware of this collection a few months ago, when doing a Reprint This! feature on the brilliant old Thunderbirds strip that used to run in TV21 and Countdown in the late sixties and early 1970s. Turns out this is not as complete as I'd like, at all, and suffers from a lack of production credits - Graham Bleathman and Sam Denham did a great job incorporating period advertisements and features into the book, but didn't find room for any "originally presented in" notations, or a stripography like a typical Titan collection would include in the back.

The stories themselves - five Thunderbirds strips and three of the companion Lady Penelope stories - are very entertaining. They are all written by Alan Fennell, who wrote about one-third of the TV scripts, so they're very true to the series. Six are from the weekly comics and two are presumably from some annuals or specials. Most of them are illustrated by Frank Bellamy, with a couple by Eric Eden and one by Dan Dare's Frank Hampson. It is very entertaining, and the price is fantastic, but a more comprehensive set of reprints is still needed.

In 1984, Akira Toriyama ended his hit comic Dr. Slump, which, especially on the back of a long-running TV cartoon adaptation, had made him some serious bank and the clout to do whatever he wanted for Shonen Jump next. That turned out to be Dragon Ball. The only things you need to know about Dragon Ball are that it ran almost every week for eleven years, it led to an omnipresent TV franchise and countless imitation series (Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, InuYasha, etc), and, a year and a half into its endless, turgid run, two of the duelling characters land in Dr. Slump's Penguin Village in what I would assume to have been a hugely promoted three-week crossover.

So in volume 7, you get thrown in the deep end of this ongoing chase/fight between the young martial artist protagonists and the evil Commander Blue, who has the power to paralyze opponents by making eye contact with them. This actually leads to the only point where I laughed aloud reading the book, and I'll spoil it for you: Son Gokku gives Commander Blue a Moe Howard-esque double eye-poke to nullify his power. Anyway, more than a hundred pages into this, Blue and Gokku's scrap has them crashlanding into Penguin Village, where Arale thinks she's found somebody new to play with, and where Blue has to put up with Suppaman being as clueless as ever. It's recommended for Dr. Slump completists, but it's got a character who hasn't showed up in the English-language Dr. Slump books yet, so there's no big rush.

I think Toriyama's been enjoying the fruits of Dragon Ball's success ever since that strip ended. He's wealthy enough that he hasn't had to commit to any long-form projects in a dozen years. Apart from a few months' worth of mid-90s Dr. Slump comics (about which I know next-to-nothing; apparently the title translated as Dr. Slump Returns, But Only for a Short While), and a 14-week strip called Sand Land which Viz has released in the US as a done-in-one digest, Toriyama has only done short stories and projects, most of which haven't been translated or released in the US yet. I kind of wish we could see what wacky stuff he's up to these days.

(Originally posted March 10, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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