It’s my Comic-Con and I’ll cry if I want to! Why?! ‘Cause I’m not there this year! However, our fearless leader at this site Andy Liegl is, and I’m sure if you stay tuned to us he’ll have some cool stuff from it. However, as for me I’m stuck on the other coast, BUT if you’re like me and couldn’t go to Comic-Con you certainly don’t have a lack of comic book related stuff to do. At the box office this weekend Captain America: The First Avenger opens, of course based of the Marvel comic. If you have Netflix you can watch everything from the 90s Spider-Man animated series to Saban’s Big Bad Beetleborgs TV series. And of course, who could forget the tons of comics out there to read! Let’s get down to it, shall we? Welcome back to From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays!
With the new Smurfs movie opening in America next weekend, I thought I’d take a look at the latest Smurfs collection from Papercutz called The Smurfs and the Howlibird. Once again the collection is one of the finest examples of comics from Europe, and it’s great to have them printed here in the United States again. This collection contains the stories “The Smurfs and the Howlibird,” “The Smurf Express,” and the one-pager “You Can’t Smurf In The Way of Progress,” all originally published in European comic magazine Spirou.
“The Smurfs and the Howlibird” is a great story, and is the first in the Papercutz release of the series to be a story worked on by artist Gos who frequently contributed to the Smurfs comics. After Papa Smurf accidentally makes a formula that turns his plant into a killer-monster, he orders the formula to be dumped far away. However, the lazy Smurfs in charge of the task really smurf things up and just toss it over a cliff nearby where it dumps on a baby bird, transforming it into a large monstrous Howlibird, who keeps trying to destroy the Smurfs every chance it gets. “The Smurf Express” by series creator Peyo gives us the return of Gargamel, who notices that the Smurfs have begun to use a small train to transport goods across the forest. Obviously this is too good for him to pass up, and he begins to try and use it to his advantage to capture our Smurf friends. “You Can’t Smurf In The Way of Progress” is a one-pager by Peyo, so I won’t give it away, but it’s funny.
The stories in both this and other volumes of this series are great, entertaining, and an enjoyment for all ages to read, kids right up to adults. Seeing Gos step in and draw a tale in this volume was fine, his art and stories filled with as much Smurfy-goodness as Peyo’s. The colors are bright and the characters fun. Papercutz offers it both in a softcover for $5.99 or a hardcover version for $10.99. At those prices for these quality comics you can’t go wrong. Out now.
The films of director Keita Amemiya are interesting to look at. Frequently his works, which include cult classics like Zeram and Hakaida, take the classic monster-of-the-week flare, but present it with a much darker tone, making it still “kid-watchable,” but its Spawn-esque feeling makes it appeal and have a stronger fan base among teens and adults. His 1987 film Cyber Ninja (original title Mirai Ninja, which translates as Future Ninja) is no different and still presents us with a wild ride in a style that is 100% Amemiya. The film was produced by Namco video games, and obviously given who produced it, had a video game released based off the character from the side film that was only released in Japan titled Mirai Ninja: Keigumo Kinin Gaiden (translating roughly as Future Ninja: Stealth Cloud Machine Side Story, I agree the Japanese get cooler titles for their games than us). This was not an unusual move for Namco, who’d do this formula several times, including bank rolling America cult film studio Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.
The film’s setting is in this odd future which looks like medieval Japan meets Terminator. There are samurais running around using both swords and lasers, robot ninjas, houses that become walking robot-like battle units, a giant house-laser-cannon that looks like it should be in the live action version of Samurai Pizza Cats...fun stuff. The plot is basic: a clan at war with the Dark Lord gets their Princess and leader captured, and it’s up to a band of warriors to save her. Independent from that band is a cyborg warrior known as the Cyber Ninja, who also has some sort of score to settle with the Dark Lord. The two end up teaming up for an all out attack hoping it will be the final battle. Although the plot is simple, the movie is super entertaining and has cool effects for the time. The Cyber Ninja costume design is just swank, the fights are pretty decent with lots of cool cyber-monsters, and there is plenty of flying ships and sword play to make this fusion of ages feeling worth tracking down to watch. Your something to watch this weekend is some Japanese hero goodness with Cyber Ninja.
That’s it for this week, see you next! Sending you kaiju-love from Africa!