Kitty as Princess from Battle Of The Planets



Here is a sketch of  Die Kitty Die’s Kitty Ravencraft dressed as Princess the female member of the classic anime cartoon Spaceteam Gatchaman edited and syndicated as Battle Of The Planets here in the US during the late seventies.

As a kid growing up during that time, I was a big fan of the show even though I was pretty ignorant of it’s origins and the way it was chopped up for US audiences. I knew it was some sort of import from Japan much like Speed Racer and my much beloved Star Blazers, but I had no idea of how the show had been changed from its original form. To me, it had super heroes fighting giant monsters and that was all I needed!

This piece was done as a reward for Sean Allen, one of Kitty’s biggest supporters during last year’s Kickstarter campaign. I hope he’s happy with this one. I still have a bunch of sketches ahead of me including another piece for Sean so I’ll be posting them as I go. Keep checking back here… and as always… comment below!



20 comments on “Kitty as Princess from Battle Of The Planets”

    • fernando

      Ha! Thanks, Sean! This was a fun one!

      It really took me back as I had to research Princess a little to get the details of her costume down. There were a lot of little details that had blurred in my memory since I really haven’t seen the show since I was a kid. It’s got to have been a good thirty years! I was a little hazy on the exact shape of the flaming bird head on the front of Princess’ tunic.

      I’m glad you approve of my subtle product placement!

      Now onto your next piece… This is another one I’ve been looking forward too. Already the theme song is playing in my head…

      “We’re off to outer space…”

  1. Dennis

    The literal translation of the Japanese title was Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (“Gatchaman” has no translation, it’s a portmanteau of Japanese and English). Don’t ask me what a science ninja is, but that’s what they were. (They don’t seem particularly stealthy, but…?)

    The interesting thing about this cartoon was that the creator (Tatsuo Yoshida, also responsible for Mach Go-Go-Go/Speed Racer) was influenced by postwar American comic books, and wanted to create something like the American type of superheroes for Japanese kids, as opposed to Ultraman or the super robot type hero, but the Gatchaman team went on to influence a whole subgenre of tokusatsu shows called sentai (US: Power Rangers). Five heroes (one female), similar designed but color-coded costumes, and a large transforming vehicle.

    You don’t often see the yo-yo used as a weapon these days, but that’s how it originated. Gee, maybe you should make some Astro Comix yo-yos! That one looks pretty keen! You did a great job on Jun the Swan (I mean, Princess… I mean Kitty)!!

    “We’re off to outer space…” — Wasn’t that the Star Blazers theme? “… defending Mother Earth, to save the human raaaace…. Our Star Blazers!” (Space Battleship Yamato) I guess maybe I should have spent time learning to draw instead of memorizing useless trivia, but we are what we are.

    • fernando

      I always dig the background trivia stuff. Keep it coming. As for Star Blazers, I loved that show even more than I loved Battle Of The Planets. I’ve got an Archie-Star Blazers piece that I’ll be posting soon!

  2. Dennis

    One additional bit about the word “Gatchaman” (which doesn’t refer to any one character, but to the whole team) is that the coinage of the word seems to take the English “man” from Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man — all of whom were known in Japan at the time Gatchaman was created (as was the Japanese original “Urutoraman”… Ultraman) — to invoke an American style superhero. As to the origin of “gatcha”, if I understood this correctly, it has no specific meaning in Japanese, it’s more like a sound effect phonetic that implies action, that you might possibly find lettered into the background of a manga panel. To draw an English-language parallel, it would be a bit like crash, biff, slam, zap or pow. So in Japan, “Gatchaman” would have an effect similar to an English-language character name like Crash Corrigan, Biff Bronson, Slam Bradley, Zapp Brannigan, or perhaps a bit more closely… POW-Girl!

    Sandy Frank’s English adaptation completely glossed over this, but each member of Gatchaman has (in addition to his or her own signature weapon and vehicle) a costume that invokes a specific type of bird (implying a specific style of attack or fighting skill): Ken the Eagle (“Mark” in BotP), Joe the Condor (Jason), Jun the Swan (Princess), Jinpei the Swallow (Keyop), and Ryu the Owl (Tiny). If you look closely at the clear visors on each character’s helmet, you can see that the shape of the visor conforms to the shape of the beak of his or her specific bird avatar.

    “Battle of the Planets” was the first time Gatchaman would be dubbed into English, but by no means the last. Later it was syndicated on two different occasions (with two different English dubs) as “G-Force”, and “Eagle Riders”. ADV Films finally released the entire original Gatchaman series uncut on DVD, in the original Japanese with English subtitles, or an optional English-language dub track (featuring a completely different English cast). The DVD box art on those releases was provided by Alex Ross. A 2-disc CD soundtrack was also released which had both the BotP score (by Hoyt Curtin, of Hanna-Barbera fame), and the original Japanese BGM score.

    Archie/Star Blazers sounds cool. Should make a worthy companion piece to Dan’s Archie/Star Trek mash-up (both somewhat cooler than “Starship Rivda”, I should say).
    Have you gotten any commissions yet for MLJ/Mighty Comics superheroes?

    • fernando

      You’re blowing my mind, Dennis! All these years, I thought Jason was a hawk! Now what was the story with Keeyop and his funny speech patterns. Was he an android? An alien? I didn’t know he was a swallow either. I thought he was a common duck.

      I have only done a few Mighty Crusaders commissions and they were many years ago right around their appearances in Archie’s Weird Mysteries. I haven’t had any requests for those characters since. I’d love to take the Shield, the Web, or the Fly.

  3. Dennis

    My memory fails me as to exactly how (or even if) Keyop (Jinpei in Gatchaman) was explained in the original Japanese version, but I do easily recall how it was explained in the Battle of the Planets English adaptation. To the best of my recollection, though there was never an episode that depicted this as such, the voice-over narrator explained that Keyop was a product of genetic engineering, grown in a laboratory while being given “cerebonic implants”. As the narrator explained, “His unique way of speaking in burbles and chirps endears him to all.” The vocal tics are accounted for in-story as a side effect of slightly defective genetic engineering. I sure they’ll probably iron out the glitches in the next batch of laboratory-grown superpowered kids though. Yikes!!

  4. Dennis

    For years, there was a theory among American fans of anime that Keyop’s “burbles and chirps” (accompanying the animated somewhat spastic lip movements) had been overdubbed to account for the character Jinpei in the Japanese version supposedly having some kind of Tourette’s Syndrome (uncontrollable swearing). It turned out not to be true in the original Japanese-language version of Gatchaman, but it’s still an interesting footnote.

  5. Dennis

    Your mention of THE FLY got the gears in my brain turning with possibilities. As you may already be aware, about a decade ago the estate of Joe Simon sought to recapture the rights to his creations for ACP, The Fly and Lancelot Strong (the 1950s revamp of The Shield). Although Archie retains the trademark to The Shield, rights to the characters of The Fly and Lancelot Strong have reverted to the Simon Estate (now administered by Joe’s son, Jim Simon). It’s my understanding that the agreement hammered out between the Simons and ACP resulted in ACP retaining reprint rights to the stories it published in the past, but any new comic books based on The Fly or Lancelot Strong characters would need to obtain the permission of the Simon Estate. And indeed, a few new stories based on The Fly and Lancelot Strong have appeared in an anthology comic published in France.
    As far as how this might potentially involve you, in speaking with Dan Parent at Boston Comic Con about a week ago, he indicated to me that your arrangement with Chapterhouse Comics is such that they are open to the possibility of publishing other titles by you and/or Dan (he mentioned The Carneys, which he co-owns with Bill Golliher, as one such potential possibility). When you mentioned The Fly, I couldn’t help but wonder what a Fly comic drawn by Fernando Ruiz might have been like. While I’m not sure that Chapterhouse Comics, being a Canadian publisher, would have much interest in a U.S. patriotic character like Lancelot Strong, a revival of The Fly with the cooperation of the Simon Estate (and Chapterhouse Comics, if they were interested) struck me as an idea with some potential, as drawn by you. Whether an agreement between all parties could be reached that would be economically viable for all concerned is a difficult question to answer, but who knows? I’m not sure if you have that great an interest in the character, but I certainly do. Sounds Kickstarter-worthy to me, if you don’t already have too much on your plate.

    • fernando

      Interesting possibilities about the Fly and another favorite design, Lancelot Strong. It’s fun to think that door MIGHT be open but probably still a legal hassle to undertake. I have a feeling whether they have a legitimate right or not, I’d hear from Archie on those. Regardless, I’d rather pursue a little more Kitty or Iron Ghost if I had more time to devote to another project.

      A couple of stories concerning the Fly…

      First, early on when I first started, I was drawing a digest story where …although I can’t remember what it was about… a lot of super hero cameos were appropriate. The story may have been set in a comic shop or a convention. Being the king of cameos, I sprinkled a lot of the Mighty Crusaders through out the backgrounds including two of my favorite designs, the Fly and Lancelot Strong. When I handed the pages into Victor Gorelick, he told me I had to take out the Fly and Lancelot Strong. The Shield and the rest were okay but the Fly and Private Strong had to go. This was the mid 90’s and Joe Simon was starting to make noise over at Marvel about Captain America. I don’t know what if any inquiries he’d made at Archie, but they were definitely afraid of having him sniff around. This was even before the trouble with DeCarlo started. The ban on the Fly lasted quite a while. You’ll notice he wasn’t present in the Crusaders’ appearances in Archie’s Weird Mysteries. I’m not aware of any arrangement between Archie and the Simons. Your account was news to me.

      My other Fly story also goes back to the nineties… I was in a conversation about the Mighty Crusaders with other comic pros including one pretty prominent super-hero writer. I won’t say who but he expressed an interest in the Fly. The appeal to him was Tommy Troy’s background as an abused child. He thought, as he put it, “there might be something there.” Ugh! It was a disappointment to me. Here you have a kid with a magic alien ring that turns him into a super-powered adult and the appeal is some hackneyed story about an abused kid?!? To me that statement spoke volumes of the state of super hero writing and where it would eventually go.

      This is why we are where we are!

  6. Dennis

    I wonder if you know anything about this story. In 1989, Archie Comics was going to reboot and relaunch a few of their superhero characters in a new imprint to be called Spectrum Comics. The editor assigned to the project was Scott Fulop. They managed to hire some high-profile (at the time) names. Steve Englehart and Michael Bair were going to do THE FLY; Len Wein and Kelley Jones were to do THE HANGMAN. These were the two initial title launches that actually had the most work on them completed. Englehart completed a script for the first issue of THE FLY reboot that he described this way:

    “The Fly that I came up with owed more to the classic horror movie than the classic Joe Simon & Jack Kirby comic, though of course I paid my respects to that as well. The editor, Scott Fulop, and I were extremely enthused about this series – but once Archie’s Powers That Be saw it, they decided it would never mix with the teens at Riverdale High and cancelled it.
    The idea is simple: a special person gets super powers from an alien to fight for justice, just like in a million other comics – only the powers are a virus that kills the new hero and infects other humans, who then die. This alien was lying, unlike the million others; the powers are a means to decimate humanity before the aliens take over. Every issue, the person with the Fly powers dies, and a new Fly is born. They eventually neutralize the virus and fight back, but I was intrigued by the challenge of – up until that time – making you like each new hero even though you knew he or she was going to die.”

    Now, this was 1989 remember, well before Image Comics, The Death of Superman, Batman: Knightfall, or any of that stuff (except Miracleman, Watchmen, The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns — all of which had been set apart from the mainstream of comics in various ways, by format or otherwise). Now ACP has Dark Circle Comics, the tone of which is very much akin to what the Spectrum Comics imprint would have been, circa 1989. But then, the story goes that Richard Goldwater got a look at some of Kelley Jones’ completed pages for HANGMAN, and was so revolted by the dark look and the creepy tone of the artwork, that he immediately quashed the project, even though advance publicity had been circulated via THE COMICS BUYERS’ GUIDE, and a considerable amount of time and money had been invested in the project.

    I have to tell you that I liked what they did just a few years ago with NEW CRUSADERS and THE FOX. Those were decent comics, but then they decided not to continue with those, change the name of the line from Red Circle to Dark Circle, and go from having continuity with the 1940s/1960s/1980s superhero lines to just a totally dark reboot of of every character: BLACK HOOD, HANGMAN, etc. You’d think a character like THE SHIELD might be an exception, but no, not by much (and they are selling terribly, yet they continue, as if ACP has some point that they’re determined to prove). I don’t know, maybe it’s the AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE thing… “Hey look, we can also mess up our superheroes and make ’em into dysfunctional headcases! Why won’t you love us for that, too?!” Ugh!! No thank you. I’d rather read SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP to get my superhero fix.

    • fernando

      I’d never heard of that Spectrum idea. This is all news to me, but I will say the reaction from Richard Goldwater sure sounds like him. A lot of people have a lot to say about his tenure along with that of his partner Michael Silberkleit and a lot is certainly deserved, but that’s a whole other topic. One thing I will say is this past year has certainly made me appreciate Richard and Michael as the fierce protectors of the Archie brand that they were. That no one can take away from them.

      As for the idea itself all I can say based on your description it doesn’t sound like it would be up my alley. As a Fly fan, I’m not sure this sci-fi virus story meets my Fly needs! It might’ve ended up being very well done, but much like the Archie reboot, its not what I’m looking for or expect as a fan of the character in his original form.

      I thought the New Crusaders stuff was okay. Its a shame it didn’t sell better. The Fox also was pretty good but a very poor seller. As solid as that stuff was, I think the overall cartoony look worked against it and caused the potential audience to ignore it. As for Dark Circle… Yeesh! I’ve described it elsewhere as a bad idea based on the bad cliches of the 90’s. As people are turning to brighter, more optimistic titles, Dark Circle was going to be a tough sell. Plus, the end result just screamed of “trying too hard!” Archie was praying to God the Black Hood could get picked up as an HBO series hence the gratuitous profanity that stuck out like a sore four-letter word, but the stories word boring and depressing and the art was mud. All of their books were just overall… unpleasant. I’ve said elsewhere that Dark Circle was one part of the Unholy Trinity of Bad Ideas Archie had in 2015, that trinity being comprised of the Reboot, the Kickstarter and Dark Circle. In the case of the Reboot, it at least afforded them some publicity and some (momentary) increased sales. The Kickstarter was forgotten as soon as they pulled the plug on it. Dark Circle though continues to be a cancerous, life-draining embarrassment. I’ve often referred to Dark Circle as “Black Hole.” It sucks everything in without giving back anything!

      It’s shocking to me that Archie is continuing with this line. At this point, it’s got to be out of sheer stubbornness. I don’t think the line would be alive were it not for that infusion of investor money earlier this year. Those poor investors! They should’ve just lit that cash on fire! Mark my words! Those investors could be the NEXT Archie lawsuits!

  7. Dennis

    When I heard about the investment capitalists funding ACP, I immediately thought this was opening the door to the investors taking control of the company if ACP fails to return a profit on their investments. I guess that is probably going to hinge more on the success or failure of RIVERDALE than anything else. But if ACP turns into a sinkhole for the investors’ cash infusion, I can see something like that happening. These investment firms don’t survive in the financial world by flushing their money down the toilet. The only reason they sink money into something is to turn a profit for themselves, and I can’t believe they aren’t shrew enough to have contracts written in such a way that in the event that things don’t pan out for the company, they just walk away empty-handed. I can well imagine if things continue on a downhill path for the company that the investors take control and wind up selling off ACP’s intellectual properties to recoup their lost investments.

  8. Dennis

    In point of fact, I believe Jon Goldwater would like nothing better than for RIVERDALE to be just enough of a success that he can attract a buyer and sell the company, retiring with a big cash buyout.

    • fernando

      I’ve speculated exactly this for a while now and I’ve said so on both the Fans Of Archie Facebook page and the Archie Fan Forum. Archie Comics’ publishing strategies for the past few years have been so short-sighted the possibility… and it increasingly looks like a good one… that Archie Comics is looking to do enough of a patch job on their own leaky boat of a company that they can unload the whole thing on some poor sucker before it goes under all together. Consider how insubstantial their recent choices have been…

      1. They commit to a slapdash reboot with no Plan B in the event the reboot fails. We were told repeatedly during the development of the reboot that the future of the company depended on the reboot succeeding. Even then, I said to myself, “We’re doomed.”

      2. The sign up a few major talents for VERY limited runs on their respective titles. Fiona Staples did only THREE issues of Archie. Adam Hughes is reportedly contracted for only four issues of Betty and Veronica. These names are nailed down without any thought for who is going to follow them up on their books. Its further incriminating in that you never see Archie be very forthcoming in that these talents are only signed on a very temporary basis. Archie deliberately suppresses that fact… without out right LYING about it. They just hope no one brings it up or asks about it.

      3. They rush to make announcements. Who cares if what they’re announcing ever happens? They say it NOW and it seems like Archie is a relevant company full of activity. Few fans have enough of an attention span to follow through and see if these announcements ever happen. Say… When IS that Lena Dunham story going to happen?

      4. Archie has absolutely no patience …or perhaps TIME… for brand building! Why establish your own brand when you can reach out and buy an already existing one? They don’t have the time to take an unknown artist and forge him into the next Dan DeCarlo. They’re simply going to shell out a truckload of money for Fiona Staples. She’s famous already!

      Regarding the investors, I know the higher-ups have been courting outside capital for a while. Supposedly for the longest time, investors were put off because of the reported antics of Nancy Silberkleit and the lawsuits between her and Goldwater. Whether this was true or not, I don’t know but it is what I was told by multiple sources. I find it very, very telling that the announcement concerning these new investors came right on the tail of the announcement that the CW had picked up the Riverdale series. I think the two announcements were about a week or two apart. Clearly, these investors were waiting for the pilot to be approved before they sank their money into Archie. They’re indirectly investing in the TV show more so than in the comic book company itself. Archie repeatedly told us that the company’s future depended on the TV show and this may be why. It could be that Archie really, REALLY needed that fast infusion of capital. As it is, even with the prospect of the show, I still have to wonder how Archie was able to seduce these investors into perceiving their company as a solid gamble. They are riddled with debt, law suits, and the two principle heads of the companies are locked in a very public, and venomous feud. How is this company a safe bet?

  9. Dennis

    That is exactly why I don’t think these investors haven’t made sure that they have the upper hand (in the contractual, legal sense), so that whatever happens, they aren’t going to wind up losing that money (in the long run) that they are blithely handing over to the publishers at ACP. On the surface of things, to all appearances they would be safer in “investing” their money in a weekend in Vegas. The fact that the deal happened at all indicates to me that the investors made sure that there are definite strings attached to that money. Since it’s the only deal ACP is being offered, in a last gasp act of desperation (no backup plan here, as you noted) ACP is taking that money in the knowledge that if it doesn’t turn back into profit for those investors, they stand to lose the company. But what good is the company to them if they go bankrupt? That’s why I think that there’s nothing less at stake here than the ownership of ACP’s intellectual properties, if push comes to shove. The mass layoff of the in-house staff in November of 2015 was an indicator of how thin the operating budget was getting, as were the cancellations of numerous trade paperbacks solicited from 2015 through 2016. They can’t even afford to pay the printers? Yikes! Just by the by, many of the former subscribers have nothing but complaints about non-delivery of issues since the layoff, and they are letting those subscriptions (mostly digests) run out. Digest issues are typically delivered anywhere from a week to a month after they’re available in stores, whereas prior to the layoff they typically arrived within a week of when they were available in stores, sometimes even a week or two earlier!

    You’re right that they’re out of time to simply acquire fresh young talent at newcomer rates and groom them, trying to grow sales over time by word-of-mouth. There’s no time left for that at all. The only strategy left for them is to make a lot of noise in the comics industry press to attract attention, and they need “marquee names” with the power to leave an impression on the average comic shop consumer to do it. The irony here is that those same names have no value at all to “Archie fandom”, such as it is. Mark Waid, Adam Hughes? They only know what they read about them on the internet, because it’s for sure they weren’t reading their superhero comics (or the vast majority of them weren’t, at any rate). Archie fandom is a tiny thing indeed compared to the larger body of mainstream comics fandom. The intersecting set of the two groups is just a few dozen people like you and me. You probably already know all their names, if they bought a commission drawing of an Archie character in a superhero mash-up, or any superhero commission drawing from you or Dan, or you’ve exchanged communications with them online. The average Archie fan really doesn’t understand much about how the comics industry works, from what I can tell. It’s just a different world, where comics revolve around the hub of the Archie characters for them. So when ACP makes an announcement of ‘so-and-so will be writing/drawing such-and-such a character’, they just don’t understand that ACP can’t afford to pay that kind of talent on a monthly basis, 12 months a year (or even 8). They don’t realize what Archie’s traditional rates are like compared to what the Big Name Creators can earn working for Marvel or DC or Image, if they’re really in demand. Most of those Archie fans seem dismayed whenever the creative team changes again, as if they never expected it.

    • fernando

      A friend familiar with the business of investments agrees that these investors aren’t foolishly handing blank checks over to Archie Comics to do with as they please. He suggested that the investors may be releasing their capital in a tiered manner where certain sums are given as certain benchmarks are met. For example, the investors might have awarded some funding up front. Then when the TV pilot was picked up, the investors released a little more funding and so on. This way the risk to the investors is kept to a minimum.

  10. Dennis

    PS — I don’t mean to be derogatory towards Archie fandom. Most of those fans seem to be very nice people. Just blissfully unaware of the harsher realities of the business of comics, or they tend to not want to dwell on the unpleasantness involved in “the business”, when such news penetrates their consciousness. After all, the main reason to read Archie comics is to relax and have fun (or at least it used to be — and should be).

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