Category Archives: ultraman

The Magic of Gerry Anderson

Yesterday while I was writing about the deaths and lives of Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, we lost someone who was definitely lesser known, but also much closer to my heart – producer Gerry Anderson. They say these things happen in threes. Let’s hope this is the cycle and we don’t lose anyone else.

Many of you probably don’t recognize the name Gerry Anderson and there are some of you who are mourning the loss of this great talent in genre television. He was a writer, director, producer, publisher, futurist, a television pioneer, the developer of Supermarionation, and a master of storytelling. However, all that said, you might just know him better by three specific words – “Thunderbirds are go!”

I first encountered Gerry Anderson, and his then wife and partner Sylvia, as a child of the 1970s. I have a very distinct memory of hearing about a new show coming on weekday afternoons on UHF channel 17, the TV announcer had said it was ‘cooler than “Ultra Man,”‘ so you know darned well I was glued in front of the folks’ black and white television when “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” premiered.

“Captain Scarlet” was a program created completely using marionettes and models, and it wasn’t stop motion or animation, it was film, and the puppets and machines were actually moving. To add to the fascination was the stunningly adult, startling violent story that went along with it. It was a spy drama with the earth defending itself against an evil alien race, the Mysterons, who had infiltrated mankind, and the hero who would save the day, Captain Scarlet, who had become indestructible.

It was awesome, and I was hooked. The only things that “Captain Scarlet” had going against it were my low tech TV (all the characters were color codenamed) and my own as yet non-mastery of spelling (I kept waiting for Mogera from the Toho film The Mysterians to show up). This was also around the time “Space: 1999” was hitting it big on prime time television, also, although unknown to me at the time, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, but in live action.

Anderson’s most famous creations are perhaps only peripherally known here in the United States, but in his native UK, everyone knows “The Thunderbirds.” Among his other work, both in live-action and in Supermarionation, include “Stingray,” “Supercar,” “UFO,” “Terrahawks,” “Space Precinct,” “Fireball XL5,” and “The Protectors,” among others. He and his wife also produced two “Thunderbirds” movies at the height of their popularity.

In recent years, Anderson produced a fully computer animated version of “Captain Scarlet” and consulted on the big budget live-action motion picture version of The Thunderbirds. The former did quite well in the UK, but the latter was pretty much a flop here. The beloved producer’s reputation was still untarnished.

Gerry Anderson passed away yesterday after a long battle with dementia brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. We have lost a creative star in the field of television, he will be missed.

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Level Up (or is that down?)

My buddy Ray, in order to give me some more range in what I write about here on The Non-Gamer’s Gamer’s Blog, and just because he’s a great guy, and a helluva friend, lent me his PS2. He even came over to hook it up, and gave me a game.

Ray got me the Atari Anthology, yeah, baby, kicking it old school. I think it was also a left-handed way of saying I was inept at gaming, and just old, period. The implication is that these would be the only games I would be good at. I can’t deny that, I guess. I was damned happy to play Yar’s Revenge on my HD TV.

Now when Ray told me he was doing this last week, I knew what I had to do. I had to get a copy of Justice League Heroes. On one New Year’s Eve several years ago, Jeff and I played this game for about, oh, I don’t know, six or seven hours straight while our respective other halves chatted and eventually slept. I had a blast. Not only was it a reintroduction to videogames for me, but it was also a cool superhero game that also played with the continuity of the comics. This was a DC Universe of characters and situations I knew. I loved it.

Once I knew there was a PS2 coming, this was the game I wanted. Well, that and the Godzilla and Ultraman games for the PS2, but those have proven slightly elusive, if not impossible. Why wouldn’t you make a game for the whole world to play? Grrr… don’t get me started…

So after warming up with some Atari, looking bright and colorful in high definition, I moved over to Justice League Heroes and enjoyed smashing Brainiac’s robot minions with Superman and Batman. Hmmm… I guess Brainiac is the default bad guy for DC Comics videogames…

I had a blast. I confess to having to call Ray to ask how to turn it off when I was done, but I’m learning. More reviews to come, especially from the PS2 now too. Thanks, Ray!

RIP Peter Fernandez

Award winning actor, voice actor, author, lyricist, writer and director Peter Fernandez passed away Thursday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 83.

Peter Fernandez was the guiding force behind the Americanization of such anime classics as “Speed Racer,” “Gigantor,” “Astro Boy” and “Star Blazers,” and also live action imports from Japan like “Ultraman,” “Space Giants,” “Mothra” and several of the Godzilla films from the 1960s. His early career was in radio on shows like “Gangbusters,” “Mr. District Attorney” and “Superman.”

More recently he had a small part in the big screen version of Speed Racer and a featured role in the newest incarnation of the animated series. Other recent work included “Kenny the Shark” and “Courage the Cowardly Dog.”

I had the opportunity to interview the man at the New York Comic Con a few years back and it’s one of my most cherished memories. I was nervous as hell but he was a very kind and generous, and understanding interviewee. Some of that interview is available here.

I have lost another huge chunk of my childhood, but I’m glad I was able to meet Mr. Fernandez, and at least tell him how much his work meant to me. He will be missed.

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Bill Webber Passes

Philadelphia radio and television legend Bill Webber passed away this weekend. He was scheduled for heart surgery but died before it could be done. He was 80.

Webber was a fixture on the Philadelphia media scene for over five decades, and never retired. He was a radio disc jockey, television pioneer, talk show host, kids show host, telethon emcee, announcer, nice guy, a giant of a man, and an industry legend. He served for years as an officer in the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1999. He worked in many, if not most of the media outlets in the Philadelphia area.

That would be enough, but on a personal level, I feel like I’ve lost a part of my childhood. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bill Webber doubled as Wee Willie Webber on local channel 17 on weekday afternoons as the host of their children’s programming. Bill Webber was the face that greeted me when I got home from school and filled in the commercial breaks during such life-shaping TV shows like “Speed Racer” and “Ultraman.”

That might sound silly, but when I met the man in person years later – thinner, older and sporting a goatee – Mr. Webber was thrilled to hear that he was remembered so fondly and insisted that I, then a grown man, call him Wee Willie and even imitated Ultraman’s Spacium Ray gesture at me as he walked away. A nice man, and a very cool man. He will be missed by many.

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Spider-Man Alive and Well in Bangkok

Spider-Man is real for one eleven year old boy in Bangkok today.

From DannyChoo.com:

A firefighter donned a Spider-Man costume to coax a frightened 11-year-old boy from a balcony in Bangkok, Thailand.

Teachers at a special needs school in Bangkok alerted authorities on Monday when an autistic pupil, scared of attending his first day at school, sat out on the third-floor ledge and refused to come inside.

Despite teachers’ efforts to beckon the boy inside, he refused to budge until his mother mentioned her son’s love of superheroes, prompting fireman Sonchai Yoosabai to take a novel approach to the problem.

The sight of his hero holding a glass of juice for him brought a big smile to the boy’s face.

“I told him Spider-Man is here to rescue you, no monsters are going to attack you and I told him to walk slowly towards me as running could be dangerous,” Mr Somchai told local television.

The young boy immediately stood up and walked into his rescuer’s arms, police said

Mr. Somchai said he keeps the Spider-Man costume and an outfit of Japanese television character Ultraman at the fire station in order to liven up school fire drills.