Thu
Jul 1 2010 12:41pm

Childhood Dreams and Science Ninjas

A few weeks ago, I dreamed that I’d written an incredible post for tor.com about how the BP oil spill had been fixed by Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. It was a fierce scene I dream-wrote about, with lots of anime-bird-science-ninja fighting and explosions and heroic trumpet fanfares and swooping sounds. And if you clicked on a special button, Joel from Mystery Science Theater 3000 narrated my post, making it a gazillion times cooler.

And then I woke up. No Joel. No science ninjas. Still a lot of oil in the gulf. I sighed the sad sigh of sadness. Still, awesome dream, ne?

It doesn’t surprise me that I’d dream of the Gatchaman team coming to save the day. They’re deep in my subconscious. When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be part of their team, just as I wanted to control Johnny Sokko’s Giant Robot. I also wanted to jump off of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and live there. Imagine that! A robot-controlling scientific super hero pirate kid. That’s what I wanted to be. Sailing the seas with a crew of robot-skeletons, in a ship that could go into outer space and totally had a laser catapult. Yeah, a catapult. Why not? Everyone has laser cannons. I wanted a catapult. Oh, and sometimes Catwoman and Emma Peel would battle for my affections. You know who would win in that fight? Me.

Back to Gatchaman. I watched Battle of the Planets, the rather diluted American version, not the full-strength Japanese. I had no idea at the time there was any other version. Battle of the Planets (better known to most American kids back then as G-Force) featured bird-suited teenagers with special powers and weapons and vehicles and a helpful robot and a plane that could burst into flames and they could do this really powerful human pyramid wind tunnel thingie and they fought against giant monsters from outer space led by a villain—called Zoltar in the USA and Berg Katse, of all things, in Japan—who looked kind of like Anubis with lipstick and took orders from some other weird looking guy who was only a sort of astral space head and it was way more awesomer than animator Tatsuo Yoshida’s more famous creation, Speed Racer, which is plenty awesome already.

In Battle of the Planets, G-Force consisted of brave leader Mark, hotheaded Jason, burger-eating Tiny, yo-yo fighting Princess and little Keyop, who spoke with a sort of parrot/dot matrix printer speech impediment totally absent in the Japanese version. In the subtitled version of the Japanese original, they are Ken the Eagle, Joe the Condor, Ryu the Owl, Jun the Swan and Jinpei the Sparrow. Other translations have equally interesting names.

As an adult I’ve watched Gatchaman, the original show, with English subtitles. And while I certainly think it beats the 7-Zark-7 out of Battle of the Planets from my grown-up perspective, nevertheless the show I watched as a kid holds a special importance for me. I used to see myself as a sort of Voltron composite of the whole team, possessing the leadership and charisma of Mark, the strength of Tiny, the quirkiness of Keyop and the same name as Jason. I resisted thinking I was much like Princess, but I have to admit a fighting yo-yo is pretty cool. My vehicle was a big wheel that could fly and go underwater. My weapon was fire numchucks. (Yes. Numchucks. It was the late 1970s and transliteration was iffy. And anyhow, my mouth was always full of Nammalaters.)

Who did you want to be when you were a kid? What shows and movies and books informed your young mind, showing it new ways to be awesome?


When Jason Henninger isn’t reading, writing, juggling, cooking, dreaming dreaming of a laser catapult or raising evil genii, he works for Living Buddhism magazine in Santa Monica, CA.

13 comments
Maria Alexander
1. MariaAlexander
Catwoman and Wonder Woman. And I sorta succeeded on the Catwoman front. ;) Now, if I'd been exposed to Emma Peel as a child, I might have achieved a whole new level of badass in life.
AimeeA
2. AimeeA
This may be the awesomest post ever.

Maybe someday I can race your flying/amphibious Big Wheel with my multi-dimensional train (aka the fence in the backyard).
Aimee Stewart
3. Foxfires
I had a Wonder Woman one piece swimsuit when I was seven. I even have a picture of myself in it. I imagined I was Wonder Woman, but mermaid style. I imagined the star-spangled bottom just extended on out to a fish tail, and that I would look fabulous all the time under water. I'm not really sure what I was fighting. I think I was just chillin' with the sea life. Or lake life, as it were. Then, when I would get back home, I would transform into Regular Wonder Woman, with legs... and the orchard was my domain.

There was one detail that was of complete and utter importance. I knew I HAD to have lipgloss. It wouldn't work right though, unless it was so shiny I could send signals to outer space if I puckered at the right angle. So one day I sat on the living room floor with some gloss I had swiped from my older sister's bedroom, and spent a glorious twenty minutes applying it while I watched Young and the Restless (inexplicably one of my father's favorite shows. Hmmm. Note to self: don't ever think too deeply about that), because if anybody could inspire proper lipgloss application, it was Nikki Newman.

At any rate, I put on my Wonder Woman swimsuit, a cape fashioned from a sheer pink negligee robe absconded from an eccentric aunt, and my plastic brown snowboots, and trudged out into the orchard to become Queen of the Animals. Never mind that the only minions who responded to my miniscule Carol Burnett caveman call (the appropriate way to call all minions) was my German Shepherd Chinook, and her mutt sidekick Barney (Barney as in Barney Rubble, not that great big purple Eyesore).

However, by the time I got back to the house, my poor lipglossed mouth had attracted a hoard of fruit flies, and I looked like a human fly strip. That put a crimp in my style, yo. It also got me banished from my sister's makeup. But Wonder Woman lived on, until an unfortunate accident at the public swimming pool. But we won't go into that.
AimeeA
4. Stefan Jones
I certainly watched lots and lots of superhero shows as a young sprat. Battle of the Planets was years in the future; the Japanese SF on in my kiddlehood included Eighth Man (a cyborg whose powers were activated by a cigarette), Astro Boy, Gigantor (Johnny Socko's bot), and Aqualad (Marine Boy? Water Teen?) And Speed Racer of course, although I was often annoyed by it.

The only show that inspired me to wear a costume was Thunderbirds, which I saw as a five or six year old during its initial run in the mid (?) sixties. My mom used blue burlap to make a Tracy style cap and sash.
Rachel Hyland
5. RachelHyland
Oh, to have been badass Trixie, zooming around in my very own helicopter and maybe occasionally touching down to help out the Scooby Gang on a particularly troublesome case. Velma and I would trade book tips and Fred would let me wear his ascot.

And then we'd all go and see a Jem and the Holograms show (they'd be supported by Josie and the Pussycats) and we'd solve a few more crimes before my boyfriend Speed pulled up in the Mach 5 and got into a fight with Alex from The Last Starfighter, who totally needed my mad joystick skills to SAVE THE GALAXY.

And then it would turn out I was really a princess of Eternia and I would use my Sword of Protection to slice the head off Gargamel, ridding the Smurfs of his menace once and for all. And possibly I'd take out Dr. Claw as well, and Penny would be so grateful she'd give me her awesome dog, Brains, and he and I would...

Okay, I'll stop now. This is too much fun.
AimeeA
6. prometheus
I was crazy about Transformers - Optimus Prime was one of my biggest heroes.

One time, when I was about 8, my piano lesson had ended and my mom hadn't arrived to pick me up yet, so I thought, "What would Optimus do?" The answer of course was transform and roll out, and so off I headed for home.

Well, of course this left me between places when my mom did arrive, and she was then going crazy looking for me, not knowing what had happened to me. Funnily enough, I don't seem to remember asking myself that particular question again ... :)
AimeeA
7. hapax
Omigosh. My very first fanfiction was all about BATTLE OF THE PLANETS. If I remember, something in the superhero-process was glitched up for all of G-Force except Princess, so she was secretly giving the rest of the team their Ninja Powers through psychic transmission, and it turned out that she was really a Space Princess and Zoltar was her twin brother except she had amnesia and Jason and Mark totally fought each other over her and she blew them both off and went on to rule the galaxy.

And 7-Zark-7 was a traitor, except that it was too lame to even pull that off.

It was AWESOME. It was TERRIBLE. I was, like, ten years old.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
I wanted to be Lois Lane. Both the cartoon and Teri Hatcher versions. I always thought she was so cool and clever and sexy and fun. She could do it all, but she earned everything she got. And if it meant getting Dean Cain then sign me up :)

In a non-SFF vein, "Queen" Bess Coleman, the awesomest aviatrix who ever lived, and the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. And Athena. And Alexander the Great (I was named for him after all, well, him and the Great Library of Alexandria).
Mani A
9. sn0wcrash
My childhood ambition was to be a either (a)Veritech fighter pilot as per ROBOTECH, or (b)kid detective as per either Hardy Boys or The Three Investigators.

Never got into BotP. Lead in was the mega-awesome Sabre Rider & the Star Sherrifs,which was a MUCH better show to my kid self.
YouDont NeedToKnow
10. necrosage2005
I loved all of these old cartoons and still enjoy reading comic books.
james loyd
11. gaijin
Thank you for this post. When I was a kid, Battle of the Planets was THE show. I had to watch it at my best friend's house because the station that carried it had such a weak signal I couldn't get it at home no matter how we turned the antenna (cable only became available in that neighborhood within the last 10 years). One of my most prized possessions today is my BotP lunchbox.

Even though I was later enamored with Voltron and (to a much lesser extent) Tranzor Z, neither came close to the wonder and coolness of Battle of the Planets.
AimeeA
12. Dreamer of dreams
I think we all need a super hero from time to time. Thank God there are so many (different strokes for different folks) dawson.aegauthorblogs.com
Heather Massey
13. sfrgalaxy
OMG I love, love, love BOTP and Gatchaman in all of their incarnations. I was such a fangirl that in high school, I had a t-shirt made with "Battle of the Planets" printed on it and wore it to the beach during a class trip. I remember getting odd stares, though I can't imagine why...

I don't know that I wanted to *be* any of the characters from my favorite childhood shows, but I was in love with Jun/Princess and Mori Yuki from Uchuu Senkan Yamato in the worst way. Okay, I'm still in love with them. They taught me how smart and kick-ass women could be (even as they pined for the tortured-but-dense heroes of the shows. Ken and Kodai, I'm looking at you). Anyway, I spun all kinds of stories about them in my head. Couldn't ever get enough of it all.

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