Armagideon Time

As the first wave of the translated manga gained traction in the North American direct market in 1987, pestilence so too did a number of home-grown works pop up to homage and/or parody these “strange” and “exotic” funnybooks from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Eclipse Comics, ed one of the first and most prolific purveyors of localized manga material, was not above mocking the trend with its own satirical one-shot….

Radio Boy and, yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.

Supposedly a collection of tales crafted by the revered “Hawiya Nistamicha” (the expression on your face is no less pained than mine, trust me), Radio Boy was actually the handiwork of a well known American comics scribe (hint: his name rhymes with “Buck Nixon”) and a trio of cartoonist collaborators.

It is also one of the worst funnybooks I have ever had the misfortune of reading.

Making fun of anime and manga tropes isn’t that difficult a task. In fact, there’s a whole subgenre of Japanese works that do just that, with the results occasionally overshadowing the source material in terms of popularity. Ninja High School may have been a derivative grab bag of stuff pulled from American “Japanimation” fanzine features, but at least it demonstrated an understanding of what it was parodying.

Radio Boy, on the other hand, shows only the sketchiest grasp of the material it was purportedly mocking. There’s a titular riff on Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, more inspired by the fast-and-cheap American localization of the cartoon than the original comic stories, followed by two overpadded gag strips poking fun at the Giant Robo genre and Fist of the North Star.

The latter is the only one that even come closest to approaching wit, but its mildly amusing “all leathered up and nothing to kill” punchline is derailed by…well….just see for yourself.

Lacking any sort of insight about or engagement with the world of Japanese comics, Radio Boy’s attempts at “humor” take the form of racial caricatures and ethnic jokes — a sustained barrage of buck teeth and Mr. Moto style Hollywood “Engrish” dialogue.

It’s snide, it’s crass, and it reeks with the resentment of a creator pissed off that the readers were opting for imports instead of buying American. Yet as tempting as it may be to lob brickbats at the writer, the sad truth is that this type of nonsense wasn’t that uncommon at the time.

Sixteen Candles, Remo Williams, scores of “Wacky Japanese Businessmen” in period sitcoms — 1980s weren’t exactly a high water mark for sensitive depictions of Asian people in American popular culture. It might not have been as virulently malign as similar phenomena, but that only allowed to it persist while other racist caricatures became outright unacceptable.

Radio Boy is a nasty bit of low-road reductiveness aimed at the alien and the exotic — and though their professed intentions claim to be more benevolent, strains of these behaviors still exist among sincere and “enlightened” American anime/manga fans in the present day.

(Props to rap genius Adam Warrock for reminding me of this atrocity’s existence.)

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2 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Not nearly so sorry enough”

  1. Aberration, The


    I grew up in the depths of Murikan Crackerland (the nearest city was Ocala, some forty miles away, and if you just said, “…where?,” you’ll understand what I mean by “depths”) and what I knew of other cultures came from either my third-gen VHS boots of Nausicaa and Arrivederci Yamato and anime mooks I had to scrape and save to get my mitts on…or locals’ vivid descriptions of what “non-whites” were like. (My social studies teacher allowed a classmate to bring his father’s Klan newsletter to class, for fuck’s sake.)

    Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Tezuka, 8th Man, Akira Kurosawa and Chris Claremont saved my soul, but it took escape from my own “culture” and enrollment in some “lie-burul” northeastern university to scrape the last of the redneck crud off. Even if it was a less-enlightened time, even if no one else alive remembers them, a few things I did and said in those days are going to humiliate me for the rest of my life. Thankfully, only one or two ever saw print.

    If Hoho up there had been one of them…

    Never got into Ninja High School, but my first (and last, for years) “American manga” comic was Rion 2990, a brief failed attempt to zip-tone and speed-line a slew of anime, manga, and American superhero elements together the same way George Lucas made movies. At least it knew what it was trying to do and tried its best, even if its best wasn’t very good.

    Radio Boy, on the other hand, is pure “Anime? …You mean, like, Japs and shit? Pffffft! Oh yeah, I know lots of jokes about THEM! Huh huh huh!” and I feel like I’m back in the sticks again. It’s not nostalgic.

  2. sallyp

    Jeez, this would have been racist in the 1940′s!

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