Way back when I was a wee little one, I had a favourite show, which featured my first crush.
This most awesome show ever made, to my six year old mind, was called Battle Of The Planets, and the lovely lady whom I fell for was named Princess.
For those of you of a certain age, Battle Of The Planets will instantly bring to mind not only the show, but also that thumping orchestral theme song. That tune is now jumping around your eardrums right now. Admit it.
BOTP, as the true fans know it, was originally a 1970’s Japanese cartoon series called Space Ninja Gatchaman. When it was brought over to North America, and slightly re-edited to delete some violence and sexuality, it was rechristened Battle Of The Planets. And it took the schoolyards like mine by storm.
The basic premise was that alien invaders called Spectra attacked Earth with giant metal monsters all the time. Four teens and one genetically grown youth, all decked out in 1970’s leisure suits, have been trained and made cybernetic in order to fight this menace. When duty calls, they wave their watches, causing funky disco lights to transmute their clothes into specialized bird based armour and weapons. And they are called G-Force!
Mark is the steadfast leader flying the jet. Jason is the jerk sharpshooter driving a racecar. Princess is the calm gentle lady whipping about on a motorcycle. Keyop is the cute trickster who has a bubble thingee full of gadgets. And Tiny is the one whose heart is as big as his size, and he flies the group’s main vehicle The Phoenix.
Extra characters are along for the ride. One is Chief Anderson, their leader slash creator. Another is the villain Zoltar, who harbours a shocking secret for 1970’s television. To make the show more palpable to us little kids, they plopped in new animation with the robot 7-Zark-7 to explain away parts of the story. None of us in the schoolyard liked that yakking twerp.
The series had thrills, chills, romance, pulse pounding adventures, and one two-parter that totally blew my young mind. The bad guys had found out where Center Neptune, the hidden underwater headquarters of our heroes was, and mercilessly attacked it. Best. Episodes. Ever. The fact that Center Neptune was rebuilt right away like nothing had occurred ticked off my fanboy sensibilities.
Princess became a major preoccupation of young love for me. I knew right then that someday, somehow, I would marry Princess and help her fight the good fight and save the Earth. This was just fate and destiny obvious to all. The fact she was a cartoon character never seemed to enter my logic. Unrequited love hurts so much.
Keyop was the one character I disliked. He was the scrawny little one, much younger than the rest, and because I was undersized for my age, many in the playground automatically labeled me Keyop. Adding to my woes was that Keyop spoke with a stutter and other speech impediments, a trait I happened to have as well, did not help. Against my wishes many a time, I was forced to play Keyop whenever BOTP was enacted by my peers. Grew to really hate that. Never got to play Mark, Princess’s quasi-love interest. Darnit.
For the longest time after the series ended, it simply vanished. About a decade ago, they finally started releasing dvd’s for the masses, which I have some of thanks to my brothers. The coolness factor of seeing these old favourites still give me goosebumps. Unfortunately, those two exciting episodes with Center Neptune getting demolished is not included.
This remembrance was prompted by an acquisition I made at FanExpo this year. After many years of hemming and hawing, I finally took the plunge and picked up the Battle Of The Planets comic series from 2002. These twelve issues were critical and commercial successes, and apparently redefined the BOTP universe for all time.
To say the least, this series does all that. And does it magnificently.
Battle Of The Planets dwells into the characters, their histories, and distinct personalities. Mark’s insecurities as leader is contrasted with how hotheaded Jason blows off steam. Princess exhibits her natural nurturing with the haunted Keyop. Tiny shows love through strength while Chief Anderson maneuvers through political minefields with expert aplomb. Thankfully 7-Zark-7 makes no appearances here.
All sorts of little nitpicks and inconsistencies that fans have been obsessing about for years are addressed here. And so many finer points of logic and storytelling never mentioned or thought of in BOTP is dealt as well. Would the military accept G-Force? Where did those giant mechanical monsters come from? And would anyone else try to take advantage of the chaos these attacks would create?
All this is wrapped up very nicely is an action packed exciting adventure story. The start of issue five contains a rescue sequence with the cool factor turned up to eleven. Appropriate breaks in the main narrative happen later in the series in order to accommodate a few spinoffs thrown in along the way. These are next on my to get list.
While the series ends with a SHOCKING twist, unseen and unheard of in the history of Battle Of The Planets, there was never any conclusion. The license expired, which causes much consternation for me and my five year old self. What will happen next? Will our heroes overcome and ultimately defeat the threat of Spectra? My goosebumps have goosebumps awaiting this resolution.
This series that I have finally read after ten years of dithering is well worth it. A modern update that maintains the flavor of the original Battle Of The Planets, leisure suits and all.
And I still have a crush on Princess, my favourite cartoon princess ever.
P.S. All images are copyright 2012 to Sandy Frank Entertainment.