In October of 1989, Eternity comics published the first american adaptation of the Captain's adventures. Drawn by the fabulous Ben Dunn (of Ninja High School fame) and written by Robert Gibson, the black and white comic enjoyed a fairly successful run until its final "Landmark" issue in 1993. The only reason why that wonderful comic had its life cut short was because Toei Anime did not (and that i have no idea why) wish to renew the rights to Captain Harlock in america. Those bastards! (I'm sure i'll hear from their lawyers now...pah!).
The original american Captain Harlock comic suffered a few changes during its run. The comic now became a series of mini-series (how redundant can one be?), beginning with "DeathShadow Rising". At this point, Ben Dunn left to work on his Ninja High School comic, and Tim Eldred ( Star Blazers magazine) was his successor. Under Tim Eldred's pen, the characters became slightly more americanised (i didn't like it at first, but Tim's personal style, not entirely american nor japanese, grows on ya. I love his work on the current Star Blazers Magazine.) In the storyline, elements from other the other Harlock series (Arcadia of my Youth was the original basis for the comic) were added, including the blonde Keiko and the boy Tadashi. Dr. Ban,(here called Dr. Zero after the name of the doctor on SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK) now bearing a beard, was the next carry-over.
The comic did well in establishing its own timeline. It's not canonic, but tis a lot of fun.
Here we have an interview with Tim Eldred. I've contacted Ben Dunn too, and he said he'd love to do an interview. I've sent him the most asked questions, and eventually he'll reply...he's told me he's had no time, but that he will in fact do it, so when i get it, you'll see it here.
The other man we cannot forget here is, of course, Robert Gibson. I believe he's on Compuserve, so i'll try bugging him too, soon (grin).
1)I think i'd like to start by asking: when was your first contact with Captain Harlock, the manga or the movies?
The first Harlock I saw was either the English-language GALAXY EXPRESS movie or the original fan-subtitled MY YOUTH IN ARCADIA, I don't remember exactly which. Then it was on to SSX and, later, SPACE PIRATE and the Matsumoto manga. It took me a long time to get used to the Matsumoto "potato-head" artstyle. It was only later that I learned to appreciate what an important icebreaker YAMATO was in that respect.
2) Could you tell us a little about your artistic background? Formation and all?
I was always equally influenced by comic books, movies, and animated TV shows. I would spend Saturday mornings watching 'toons and then spend Saturday afternoons drawing what I saw on TV. Later on, STAR WARS, STAR BLAZERS, and the whole world of anime worked their magic on me.
3)I noticed how you managed to capture "Robotech" into comic form. It seemed a bit influenced by Star Wars. What do you have more fun drawing, tech (ships, etc.) or people?
It's more fun to draw people, since they're more pliable and interesting, but I do take a lot of pride in careful, precise renderings of mecha. In fact, I may overcompensate when it comes to mecha, because so many American comic artists neglected it for so many years. Nothing bugged me more as a kid than seeing a comic in which the artist spent all their energy on action poses, then slapped a bunch of simple shapes together and called it a robot. STAR WARS really opened my eyes to how well mecha could define the environment of a story if it was given the same attention to detail as the human beings.
4)How did you first become involved with Eternity Comics? Were you THRILLED??? (i know i'd be)
I first met with the editors of Malibu/Eternity in 1989, when I showed them
an original series I'd developed called BROID. Because it had an
anime/manga look to it, they thought I'd be a good candidate for LENSMAN,
which they'd just gotten the rights to publish. So LENSMAN became my first
major comic book project, and BROID soon followed. (They both debuted in
LENSMAN petered out after a year and a half, just at the time Ben Dunn was ready to give up CAPTAIN HARLOCK. Talk about right place/right time!
My relationship with Malibu continued for several years (which included time on staff), and I parted with them in '94 to co-found Studio Go!
5) In comparison to Ben Dunn's work on the book, yours seem more personal, and now that i know your work a bit better (since i never miss an issue of STAR BLAZERS MAGAZINE), it has "Tim Eldred" written all over it. What was the fans' original reaction to the change from Ben Dunn's clearly Manga based art to your unique style?
It took a little while for fans to get used to my rendition of the
characters, since I intentionally blended my American influences with my
Japanese ones, but everyone took to the mecha art right away. I'd noticed
that Ben didn't draw a lot of spaceships in his issues, so I wanted to
bring them to the forefront the moment I came on board.
Later, I reached what I consider an artistic peak with the character renderings in THE MACHINE PEOPLE. Of all the Harlock books I did, this had the strongest American influence, yet keeping its Japanese structure intact. (true story: one of DC's stodgiest editors looked at it and said I'd taken something he didn't like--Japanese style--and finally made it "interesting".) Unfortunately, that was the last Harlock series from Eternity.
6) There have been many mentions of you being a "very hard worker", and that is quite apparent by your working on "Captain Harlock". You also did "Lensman" and created "Chaser Platoon". How many comics were you working on at the same time then, and now?
I think my record was three books per month over a four month period in 1990. Usually, I work on two a month, though lately I've finally been able to pull back a little and focus on just one book: ARMORED TROOPER VOTOMS. This happens to be based on my all-time favorite anime series and will debut from CPM Comics in July '96.
7)What was your favorite Captain Harlock comic? (i.e. "DeathShadow Rising," Machine People")
I always have a special fondness for the first issue of a new series, since
I can look back on it and recall all the trials of learning a new visual
language and the determination to get it right.
Artistically, though, MACHINE PEOPLE is still the highlight for me. I wish it could have continued.
8)Ok, now the big Bomb. In the "Final Landmark Issue" of "Captain Harlock", it was said that the book had had a successful run, but Toei did not wish to renew the rights to the Space Pirate in the U.S. A. and that was why the book was cancelled. Yet, you obviously know the story better. So, what REALLY happened? And How? Give us the gory details...
Here goes...in 1986 (maybe '87) the editors at Eternity were flushed with
the success of ROBOTECH and wanted to get another anime-based title going.
They consulted with Ben Dunn, and he recommended they track down CAPTAIN
HARLOCK. As some will recall, Harlock was briefly licensed by Harmony Gold,
who smashed it together with QUEEN OF 1,000 YEARS. (The less said about
this the better.)
By the time Eternity checked into it, Harmony Gold's rights had reverted back to another company called Coral Pictures. Eternity contacted Coral, bought the publishing rights for a period of 3 years, and off they went.
Ben worked on Harlock for a year, I took over and ran with it for another year, and just as the book entered its third year, the proverbial fecal matter hit the rotary blades. Toei animation noticed the American Harlock comic and contacted Eternity to tell them the American publishing rights did not exist, so therefore they weren't supposed to be doing a Harlock comic.
Eternity pointed the finger at Coral Pictures, and it turned out that Coral wasn't a real company--just some individual living in Florida who traded in fake licenses like junk bonds. Eternity had unknowingly licensed Harlock from a real-life pirate!
Toei was informed of the situation, and graciously allowed Eternity to play out its bogus contract. We reached the end of the 3-year period and that was the end of it. Toei wasn't willing to sell the legitimate rights, because they didn't want to condone a Harlock created by someone other than Matsumoto. Eternity could have gotten the reprint rights to the manga, but the comic wasn't quite selling enough copies to justify the cost.
I can't guarantee that this is 100% true, but that's how I heard it as it all unfolded.
9) STAR BLAZERS MAGAZINE is a dream come true!! Are a lot of Eternity Comics people working in Argo Press now?
Yes and no. I did several comics for Eternity, and Bruce Lewis did a few.
Both of us are working on STAR BLAZERS now for Argo Press. (together, the two of us and another artist named John Ott form Studio Go!)
I did the artwork for SB #'s 0-5, and Bruce will be writing and drawing an original story for #'s 6-8.
10)Are there any plans to bring the Arcadia back into American skies? New mini-series, perhaps?
We've asked Argo Press to look into the rights, but I can't predict if anything will come of it.
11)What advice do you give to young future artists?
I give out a lot of advice about a lot of things, but the most important item is to develop your style as an individual, not a mimic of someone else's. The comic book industry is full of people who only learned to draw by copying other comic art they thought was "hot" or "trendy." As a result, truly innovative work is harder to find now than it's ever been and the whole artform is in a rut.
12) Thank you very much for the support you are giving the fans through this page, and good luck with the STAR BLAZERS MAGAZINE!!
On the other hand, you could say the fans are supporting me everytime they buy one of my comics. That's where the thanks should go.
This page copyright 1996 Cristian R.
Thank you for the cover gif, Phil Rutherford!!