Saturday, January 16, 2016

In Celebration of 75 Years of American...Rap Music?*

"Listen close, I don't want you to miss none 
of this here story, 'cause it goes like this..."  

Yeah, yeah, KRS-One. The Boogie Down Bronx may be the birthplace of hip-hop music, but some of its precious "blueprint" appears to have come from the rough-n-rugged suburbs of Virginia. That's right, Virginia. It was in the Norfolk suburb of Berkley,VA that the gospel music act known as the Golden Gate Quartet was formed in the 'durrty' 1930s. Negro spirituals were this crew's specialty, but they were famously known for rockin' the mic with a trademark blend of toe-tapping gospel, marinated in the secular styles of jazz, blues, pop and rap. And this is decades before rap even had a name! In fact, the Golden Gate Quartet's 1937 remix of the Arthur Collin's song "Preacher and the Bear" even seems to be the earliest and best defined example on wax of the sound that would come to revolutionize music four decades later, upon release of Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." 

Yowza, yowza, people. The Golden Gate Quartet is crazzzyyy old school!




*Originally published on the Your Kung Fu Sucks blog. Music links courtesy of Archive.org

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We Are the Robots - The Visionary 3-D Digital Concept Designs of Vladislav Ociacia

At any given time, the world wide web can reward curious eyes and minds with something really different. I was recently reminded of that ever-expanding reality when I happened across the amazing 3-D concept designs of Ukranian technical artist Vladislav Ociacia. As you can see with your own curious eyes, the level of mechanical detail involved Ociacia's 3-D model work is really remarkable.

Equally remarkable too, maybe, are the physical types that appear––rather matter of fact, mind you––in many of his "Ociacia Robot" designs. This fairly sophisticated approach to robot concept design made it seem as though Vladislav would be a pretty cool guy. So I promptly sent off a Facebook friend invite. When I noticed the next morning that the invite had been accepted, my immediate impression of him was confirmed.

To check out more of Vladislav Ociacia’s stunning robot concept designs, visit his page on ArtStation. And if you're thinking that your Facebook friend list doesn’t have nearly enough cool robot concept designers, you can add Vladislav to it by clicking here.







Monday, January 11, 2016

The Life & Death of Captain Kremmen – Thanks For The Mammaries*


Words: St. Paco 
(*Originally published in KFG #2)

It’s pretty amazing to me to think that it's been nearly twenty-five years now since I last saw Captain Kremmen, a witty animated segment that once ran during television’s Kenny Everett Video Show. And that somehow––after well more than two decades––I can still hear the husky voice of space cadet Carla, Kremmen’s busty co-pilot, high-heel-bootin’ it through adolescent memory. 

At only about three minutes in length, the animated shorts that featured the exploits of Captain Kremmen and Carla made up a very small portion of the The Kenny Everett Video Show. Nonetheless, those ‘toons are the portions of the program that I remember most.

British Invasion

For those of you who missed it, were simply too young, or happened to live way out in the boonies, The Kenny Everett Video Show was a raunchy British television import that was, in some ways, even more racy than the mindlessly popular Benny Hill Show that was also being aired in America at the time. 

With its mature-minded content, Kenny Everett’s program wasn’t exactly appropriate viewing material for youth audiences––or Benny Hill either for that matter. Nevertheless, all across Chicago throngs of pubescent males were awake after hours watching, and oft’ times drooling.


This was back around 1982, when having a remote control for the television almost seemed like an upper middle-class luxury. Back then, most TVs had two large, round turning dials for tuning in both the lower band (VHF) and higher band (UHF) stations. 

Thanks to public television, my early interest in British import programs had been primed since the late 1970s with transatlantic TV transplants like Monty Python’s Flying CircusFaulty TowersThe Two Ronnies and perhaps best of all, Doctor Who. Those shows, and a few others, were broadcast by the respectable PBS station WTTW, channel 11. 

By glaring contrast, the more risque shows like The Kenny Everett Video Show and The Benny Hill Show were both aired by the campy upstart WFLD, channel 32. 

Petting Frenzy

The Benny Hill Show was slotted to run on weeknights, airing right after the nightly news in the 10:30 PM slot. Kenny Everett's show, geared towards a younger, hipper viewing audience, aired in the 10:30 PM time slot on Saturdays.

Far more than The Kenny Everett Show, though, it was the sexualized humor of The Benny Hill Show that appealed my elementary school playmates who also stayed up past their curfew. In class each day, episodes that aired the night before were discussed in whispered tones like arcane mysteries shared between the young initiates of a secret society. 

Almost single-handedly, it was The Benny Hill Show that ignited a wave of sexual awareness among elementary school students across Chicago. Overnight, pubescent boys––once mainly concerned with the playground games of tag, dodge ball and Johnny-run-across––became booty chasing molesters in training, as life imitated the lowbrow art of The Benny Hill Show.


Dimwitted skits on the show regularly featured Hill and his horny middle-aged cronies as they ogled, fondled and chased sexy young ladies across the British landscape. The petty frenzy was often performed to the blaring tenor of the closing theme song “Yakety Sax.” On the playground each day, just as on the screen, pubescent girls would shriek and dart about, pursued by lustful, outstretched hands grasping for the feel of butt flesh across a blur of asphalt.

To be honest, I never participated in the rite-of-passage petting orgy. Even at that age I found it distasteful to force myself on the opposite sex. 

Also, since I was actually a fucking kid at the time, the little interest I had in girls then was greatly overshadowed by my interest my in science-fiction, art, toys, cartoons and comic books. These would maintain large portions of my attention, and help explain why I was particularly drawn to The Kenny Everett Show. The inclusion of an animated segment detailing the star-spanning exploits of a wacky space captain and his busty cadet virtually guaranteed an appeal. 

Flesh Peddlers

With its sexy space opera subject matter, the cartoon art of Captain Kremmen seemed to have blasted right from the pages of the illustrated adult fantasy art magazine Heavy Metal. Founded in 1977, the popular adult publication featured mature science fiction and fantasy tales written and illustrated by several renowned artists of the day like French cartoonists Jean ‘Moebius’ Girard, Milo Manara, American cartoonists Richard Corben, Vaughn Bode and others.


In 1981, at the same time that the Kremmen segments were causing a stir with the Kenny Everett Show, an animated feature film adaptation of stories from Heavy Metal was released to theatres. Cut from the same scanty cloth of mature 2-D entertainment as both the magazine and its subsequent movie, Captain Kremmen would have made a fine complement to that groundbreaking film. 

Still, while not exactly kid-oriented fare, Kremmen was still tailor-made for the small screen, with stylish production done by Cosgrove Hall Animation. Years later, Cosgrove Hall would be responsible for creating such cross-continental kid favorites as Count DuckulaDanger Mouse and the stop-motion classic Wind in the Willows

In addition to its silly adult subject matter, Captain Kremmen also featured an interracial relationship between the Captain and his sexy cadet, Carla. It was one of the few such relationships depicted on television at the time––animated or otherwise. 

What's more, at the time the Kremmen segments were airing, Carla stood out as one of few animated characters of African ancestry appearing anywhere. Painted with a carmel complexion, a pretty face, a massive smile, wide hips, slender waist and breasts like flesh zeppelins, Carla was also one of the sexiest characters in animation––period.


Clothed in crotch length, olive green mini-dress and white high heel boots that nibbled at the character’s knees, she was a pubescent teen’s wet dream. In fact, had it been possible for me to loose my virginity to a cartoon character, I would probably have sacrificed my comic book collection to the devil for the chance to have Carla turn the boy I was into a man.

Naughty Bits

Kenny Everett, the creator of Captain Kremmen, began his career in British entertainment as a disc jockey and radio show comedian. Kremmen actually started as a comedic spoof from his radio days around 1977. The following year, the radio funny man was tapped to host his own television show. 

Taking advantage of his bustling catalog of characters during the course of the shows run, Captain Kremmen and company were adapted for the small screen, appearing as short animated segments around the summer of 1980. The animated segment was popularly received. Within a few years the segment would spawn a series of books, records, comic books, and a daily cartoon strip featured in The Evening Standard newspaper.  


Despite its popularity, Kremmen was dropped from Everett’s program for reasons that to this day are still unclear. The glaring, albeit officially unacknowledged absence of the animated shorts caused many like myself to think that with the absence of Captain Kremmen, The Kenny Everett Show had lost some of its cool, candy-coated edge. 

In a decision completely unrelated to the exclusion of Kremmen, The Kenny Everett Video Show itself was dropped from the WFLD-TV weekend line-up. The Benny Hill Show, however, continued to run in the usual weekday slot. In the UK, Everett’s show would continue to air until 1988 when, after a decade of television success, the show was actually cancelled at the request of Kenny Everett, who yearned for a return to his radio broadcast roots. 

In May of 1993, British news sources broke the story that Kenny Everett had been diagnosed with HIV. Soon after the story had swept the headlines Everett would step forward to confirm the grim report –– all to the shock and dismay of both devoted and casual fans. Two years later, in April of 1995, the brilliant creator and comedic voice of Captain Kremmen died of AIDS related complications.

Now more than two decades since I last saw the amusing characters born from the genius of Kenny Everett, it’s still easy recall the bold impression that his show left, the fan of me that Captain Kremmen quickly made, and the adolescent hormones that space cadet Carla stirred long ago, from a galaxy far, far away.

With a two-hour “best of” compilation of the show presently available, Kenny Everett Show: The Complete Naughty Bits, I think it’s time that I call in a marker held by a shady acquaintance in the UK to see if I can acquire a bootleg copy. 

If not, it would still be well worth the cost of overseas import to see if my mammary... er,  “memory” of Carla, Kremmen, and the rest of The Kenny Everett Video Show is as good as the powers of recollection lead me to believe.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Secret Origin of Ogin (aka Afro Lady) from Afro Samurai Resurrection – A Sad But True Hollywood Story









The Secret Origin of Ogin (aka Afro Lady)

The beautiful character of Ogin (shown in the screenshots* above) was featured in the gambling house sequence of Funimation's Afro Samurai: Resurrection. Her unexpected presence was a pleasant surprise when she appeared in this part of the Afro Samurai tale, and it really made me wish that there had been more of her. When I watched the extras on the DVD, I was shocked to discover that Bob Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, and director Fuminori Kizaki had actually planned to do more with this character. Much more.

According to Kizaki, the Ogin character (or Ogin-san as they affectionately referred to her) was originally conceived to be the villainous adversary of Afro Samurai in this second animated story of the titular character, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. But, in the words of the director, "The American side said 'no.'" Oh, that's right folks, in an anime feature called "Afro Samurai," it seems the idea of also having a black woman prominently featured triggered melanin-motherfucking-overload for the shot-calling US-based side.

Arrrrgggghh!

After learning of the slight, my beautiful black mind promptly began to ponder what if Ogin-san had been voiced by the blaxploitation legend Pam Grier, or Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett! That shit would have been bananas, and it could have been the talk of San Diego Comicon (Funimation hosted a panel there in '09 to promote Resurrection). Oh, the friggin' fun the people at Funimation could have had with such a production, if only they didn't have their heads shoved so far up their culturally henpecked asses.

Instead, the Funimation folks went the pseudo culturally sensitive safe route with a non-black female villain voiced by actress Lucy Liu. Now, I really adore Ms. LL, so it's really hard to bitch about that. And so I won't. But the Ogin-san idea that I've tossed out here would have been dyn-o-mite, out of sight, and super...fucking...cool. If only Funimation had just taken a moment to think outside the box, the studio could have made something really special and absolutely unprecedented.


*Shout out to citedsilence at Tumblr for posting these beauties.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Recommended reading: "Being ‘hafu’ in Japan" by Roxana Saberi / Al Jazeera American News

Miss Universe Japan 2015 Ariana Miyamoto 
Photo: Akio Kon / Bloomberg / Getty Images

"Hafu with a Korean or black parent tend to have the toughest time in Japan, according to Megumi Nishikura, a half-Japanese, half-Irish-American filmmaker who co-directed the 2013 documentary Hafu..."There’s an unspoken racial hierarchy” inside and outside the hafu community, she said. “If you are half-white, you are considered to be the ideal hafu.” 

Click here to read more about what it means being hafu in Japan.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Psyence Fiction: Naomi Campbell & Seb Janiak, circa 1997

The stunning collection featured in this post (circa 1997) is actually a prelude to another remarkable set to be featured later on this blog, also produced by photographer Seb Janiak and supermodel Naomi Campbell. Looking at this particular set, though, now nearly two decades since the images were first created––the work still seems somewhat ahead of its time.


On a side note, they also inspired me to think: If I had happened to wake from slumber one morning a year or so ago and––by some bizarre, body-swapping circumstance––found myself wearin' the pajamas and construction boots of the set decorator on FOX TV's Empire, I would have made it my mission to have these first images featured on walls inside the condominium apartment of Hakeem Lyons.



If you're not a cool enough to be a regular watcher of the cult hit that is Empire (or a lame ass, marathon viewer like myself), Campbell had a part in season one as the cougar-ish love interest of Hakeem, one of Empire's main characters. Ginormous (4ft x 6ft) framed prints of the two mentioned images on walls of Hakeem's living room or den would have been utterly, utterly, utterly bad ass. Trust and believe. 






Monday, January 4, 2016

Crisis in Electric Ladyland: A Report by the Committee for the Equal Distribution of Super Powers in Comic Books

COMMITTEE FOR THE EQUAL
DISTRIBUTION OF SUPER POWERS
1976 S. Isabella W. Cockrum Avenue, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20002


"CRISIS IN ELECTRIC LADYLAND"

July 11, 2011



To all whom this matter may concern:

It has come to the attention of the Committee for the Equal Distribution of Super Powers (CEDSP) that there are at present as many as ten (10) black characters in comic books and cartoons whose names, powers, or visible manifestations of power are related to electricity. Included in an initial report filed with the CEDSP in 2009 were the names of the following four (4) characters:


STORM

BLACK LIGHTNING

STATIC SHOCK

JAKEEM THUNDER


As an organization whose primary concern is the equal distribution of super powers, the CEDSP has drafted this 6-part notice to inform publishers that the quota for black characters with names and powers  directly or superficially related to electricity has been grossly exceeded. Please be advised that no additional characters beyond those presently in existence will be permitted.

––––––

PART II. 
EXHIBITS A-D

 EXHIBIT A: STORM

EXHIBIT B: BLACK LIGHTNINGEXHIBIT C: STATIC SHOCKEXHIBIT D: JAKEEM THUNDER


––––––

PART III. 
CLARIFICATIONS

In the interest of reaching a full and complete understanding with all concerned parties, we say again that the Committee for the Equal Distribution of Super Powers henceforth prohibits the creation of any new superheroes of African ancestry whose names, powers or visible manifestations of power have any relation (either loosely or literally) to the following:

e•lec•tri•ci•ty n 1. a fundamental form of kinetic potential energy created by the free or controlled movement of charged particles such as electrons, positrons and ions


juice
 n (slang) electric power


light•ning
 n flashes of light seen in the sky where there is a discharge of atmospheric electricity usually occurring during a thunderstorm.


shock
 n a sudden painful physical reaction consisting of nerve stimulation and muscle contraction caused by an electric current flowing through the body


stat•ic
 n a stationary electric charge that builds up on an insulated object, for example, on a capacitor or a thundercloud


storm
 n 1. a disturbance in the air above the earth with strong winds and usually with also rain, snow, sleet, or hail and sometimes lightning and thunder


thun•der
 n 1. a loud rumbling noise caused by the rapid expansion of air suddenly heated by lightning


––––––

PART IV. 
ASSESSMENTS

It will hereby be observed that in our initial report it was noted that from 1975 (when the Marvel Comics superhero known as Storm was created) until the present time Marvel has consistently and ethically maintained a quota of one (1) black character with powers directly or superficially related to electricity. The members of the CEDSP applaud Marvel Comics for this achievement.

Conversely, however, DC Comics has grossly exceeded the quota and ignored ethical guidelines by having five (5) such characters in its comics. Even more... shocking, four (4) more characters of this type were created by affiliates of DC Comics for use in animated TV shows. Included in a secondary report filed with the CEDSP in 2010 were the names of these additional characters:


THUNDER

LIGHTNING

BLACK VULCAN

SOUL POWER

SPARKY

JUICE


Because the CEDSP believes it should shoulder at least some of the responsibility for failing to prevent the disproportionate distribution of names and super-powers directly or superficially related to electricity to as many as ten (10) different black characters in comics and cartoons, no penalties for the infractions cited above will be assessed.

Be advised, however, that harsh penalties will be levied henceforth and forthwith against any and all parties who knowingly and willingly or unknowingly and unwillingly conspire to create yet another superhero of African ancestry whose name or power is either directly or superficially related to electricity. After 35 years, this insidious practice must come to an end.

––––––

PART V. 
EXHIBITS E-G

 EXHIBIT E: BLACK VULCAN, LIGHTNING, THUNDEREXHIBIT F: SPARKY, SOUL POWER, JUICEEXHIBIT G: JAKEEM THUNDER & THE GENIE "THUNDERBOLT"
 
–––––– 

PART VI. 
CONCLUSION


Because the CEDSP also believes in working as an agent of positive change, members of the committee have determined that quotas for black characters with abilities derived from every other known power grouping have NOT yet been exceeded. These include: fire, ice, speed, intelligence, radioactivity, magic, martial arts, robotics, genetic mutation, mythology, alien ancestry, wealth and childhood trauma.

Please note, however, that though the quota for the speed grouping has not yet been exceeded, it should be avoided. Track & field statistics dating to as far back as 1936 have rendered powers from this grouping extremely unimaginative and cliché. Furthermore, the speed grouping can be superficially linked to electricity, as in: That Usain Bolt guy is as fast as lightning.

For private inquiries related to this extremely sensitive issue, please e-mail questions to the Committee for the Equal Distribution of Super Powers. For any concerned parties who are at the present time prepared to make public statements regarding this matter, please feel free to post a comment in the area designated below.



Thank you.

St. Paco

CEDSP Chairman


"Crisis in Electric Ladyland" © Paco D. Taylor 2011, originally published on the Your Kung Fu Sucks blog July 11, 2011 • Storm ™ & © Marvel Characters, Inc. • All DC Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © DC Characters, Inc. • 

In memory of Dwayne McDuffie & Gene Colan



Friday, January 1, 2016

A pulse-pounding preview to a post on Paco's other blog: What If Marvel Studios Made Blaxploitation Movies?


What If Marvel Studios Made 
Blaxploitation Movies?

By St. Paco

If you were ever a fan of Marvel Comics from, say, 1977 to now, then you've probably run your eyes through an issue or two (or twenty) of Marvel's long-running What If...? title. For those who aren't familiar with the book, the stories in What If...? explore themes that deviate from or alter completely the established norms of Marvel's literary canon. For instance, on the cover of What If...? #1, readers were asked to consider, "What if Spider-Man was a member of the Fantastic Four?" Then, over the course of eighteen pages the writer and artist explored that idea without it actually impacting 'real' comic book continuity.

It was with a similar concept in mind that I made a limited series of "Marvel Blaxploitation" mini movie posters. The process permitted me to do some serious "What if...?" imaginings of my own. The very first of these was, "What if there was a fourth Iron Man movie with Ghostface Killah in the title role?" For those of you who don't listen to much hip-hop, Ghostface Killah is a member of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to his main kung-fu movie inspired stage name the rapper also uses the comic book inspired nicknames, Iron Man and Tony Starks (ol' shell head's billionaire alter ego). To illustrate how much of a fan the man is, his first solo album was even titled "Iron Man."

(Wanna read-n-see the rest, true believer? Then visit my other blog by clicking here.)