CCI: Comic Character Investigation #15

1 novembre 2011 Non Par Comic Box

[ENGLISH] This month: Princess (Battle of the Planets). Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.

The Princess from Japan

In the 1970’s animation was very different than it is today. That’s no surprise. Things always change and evolve no matter what industry we are talking about. Yet Japanimation in particular was significant because this was back in the days when Manga books did not have their own section in bookstores. Days when Pokemon was not a household word. An era when Japanimation was a rather new thing. . . and a promising thing too.

One of the animated Japanese shows out of Japan was called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. This action cartoon pitted five powerful youths against the villainous Zoltar and his strange master known simply as “The Luminous One.”

The resident heroine in this group was called Princess and like her name she had a magical simplicity about her. Looking back one could easily connect her with some of the gentle Manga girls found in modern graphic novels out of the country of Princess’s origin. I guess that makes her their ancestor in a way. Along with Keyop, Tiny, Jason and Mark, who each wielded a special weapon and drove a special vehicle, Princess had some unique features of her own.

She rode a motorcycle called the galactic-cycle and her weapons included yo-yo bombs which were used like bolas and more impressively a simple feather which could do an awful lot of damage when she threw it with stunning accuracy. There was something about that little feather cutting through the air that was representative of Princess herself. It was sleek and carried an effective steel point quill, attractive and dangerous like her. She was pretty and gentle but she could be threatening when she had to be as her enemies found. As her counterparts were, she was gifted in the martial arts and she used that skill prominently.

The original Japanese version of the show was fully violent. Like their horror, the Japanese movie makers are not partial to watering anything down. When Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (more colloquially known as Gatchamen) came to America though, it was subject to American sensibilities and in the U.S. violently graphic cartoons were, as they are now, forbidden programming. The network powers that existed cut out the blood and maintained America’s protected sensibilities in a re-worked version called Battle of The Planets. The characters were all there again sans the oozing red stuff, along with a robot named 7-Zark-7 to fill in the minutes that were cut.

Princess and her friends still were entertaining youths in America as they flew in the their spaceship the Phoenix protecting the universe. During it all, whether it was in her street clothes or her altered pink outfit, Princess caught our eye.

The chosen color of her outfit could not have been a more obvious detail to make her very much the fairer sex in the group. Her alter ego Susan was just as delicate among the group but viewers could get a special thrill when Susan morphed into her costume and rode her galacti-cycle into a new mission to save a planet. The blandness of her alter ego provided an excitement to the contrast when she transformed herself.

As a member of G-Force, the name given to the BOTP characters in honor of the original Gatchaman title, Princess used her special cape in fine style too. Like her counterparts, She could safely descend from the highest of places by spreading it out causing it to function somewhat like a parachute to slow to a safe descent no matter how high us she might be. Susan operated her wrist communicator when Princess was needed and the dangerous girl in pink world reappear to join the G-Force team in their current quest to save some world from Zoltar and The Luminous One’s plans.

Japanimation has advanced and evolved and Princess may be a simplistic pink-garbed heroine barely noticeable among the Manga-focused work of today or at least now one of many like her. Yet the truth is there is no one really like her. She inspired a generation of viewers, especially young girls to believe in something beyond their limited scope, to believe in their power to become princesses themselves. While other girl characters may have come along to dominate popular culture, Princess will always be a significant part of what started it all. Who else but a princess could claim such a royal place?

[James Parducci]

James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.