Anime fan art, Volume 1

In the strange days that stretched between my fanzine years and professional comic years, a period running from 1984 to 1989, I took my decisive plunge into the world of anime. It’s fair to say I still haven’t come up for air, and in fact now dwell so deep in that world it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t. And I’m certainly not alone there.

Like every fan with artistic proclivities, I took my turn at the fan art wheel. In the beginning, my vehicle was what the cave men used to call an APA. That stood for Amateur Press Activity. It was like a Discord or Facebook group, except it was on paper and we didn’t quite have an internet yet. The way it worked was, you’d write up your “trib” (short for contribution, not that other thing on Urban Dictionary) and make a copy for everyone in the group. You’d send those copies to an organizer who received all the tribs, collated them and mailed them back out.

Then, one day every couple months or whatever, you’d get a big envelope in the mail with a copy of everyone’s “trib” in it. This was the finished APA. In the next round, you’d write whatever you wanted, along with responses to what everyone wrote in the last round. It also gave you a place to share your fan art if the spirit moved you to create some.

Now, of course, we have social media to scratch that itch. It works faster and better, so anime-themed APAs are basically extinct. But MAN were they fun to be in! I belonged to two of them during that stretch of time I mentioned above: first APA Hasshin and then Animanga. I kept up with them all the way through the start of my TV animation career in 1996, but had to walk away when playtime dwindled.

Most of what you’ll see in this collection was done for one APA or another, but there’s some other stuff too. If you’re an anime fan but still completely baffled by these, remember what stretch of time this represents, and what the favorite shows were back then. If you recognize all of them, we’re automatic friends for life.

This was the first time I ever drew Yamato, my favorite anime spaceship. It was for the cover of the first APA Hasshin in 1985. “Hasshin” is the Japanese word for “launch” and after this was shared with the group I learned that a “double S” would be a better match for Japanese pronunciation. Years later, drawing Yamato became one of my many honors as a professional comic artist, and now I run the world’s largest Yamato website here.

I was so excited to be part of the APA Hasshin roster that more ideas for cover art came pouring out of me. Only a couple of these got done, though.

My next Hasshin cover featured one of my favorite anime robots, Round Vernian Vifam. The series is still in my top 5 today. Read my profile of it here.

In the Vifam opening title, you hear the words “Permission to sortie?”

Next up: cartoons based on the first sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam, the mighty Zeta Gundam. It was a notoriously complex show with a thick language barrier. And official spellings for character names hadn’t sunk in yet, as you’ll see in the next piece…

Cartoon featuring characters from the next series, Gundam Double Zeta.

Speculation on where things might continue to go if the Greek Alphabet became a regular naming convention.

Fun with Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock. Back in the mid 80s, we still called him “Reiji” sometimes.

Private commission for Harlock’s ally Emeraldas, drawn in 1991 during the time I was drawing Harlock comics.

The following year, Mecha Press hired me to draw the Arcadia for a magazine cover. Then, for whatever reason, they didn’t use it.

What they went with instead was fine. No complaints from me as a fan, but I’m not sure what the problem was.

“Cool boys” of the 80s: Son Gokku from Dragonball, Judo Ashta from Gundam ZZ and Barts Lyan from Vifam.

This is funnier if you know which robot that is.

Priss from Bubblegum Crisis. I don’t remember why I drew this. I wasn’t a huge fan of the series. But OH MY GOD it sure seemed like everyone else was. Everywhere I went, that’s all they wanted to talk about. I soon found this to be very, very tiresome. And now barely anyone remembers the show.

This one is as obscure as it gets. That’s the villain from StarzanS, named Darth Verro. StarzanS was and is one of my guilty pleasure comedy anime shows along with Dr. Slump. If you mashed up Star Wars, Tarzan and Futurama you wouldn’t be far off.

I don’t want to explain this one. You either get it or you don’t.

I’ll end this set with a personal favorite. Back in 1989, I ran an anime viewing club out of Ann Arbor Michigan called Animania. Every month I produced a newsletter for the members with articles about anime and the shows we were watching. At the end of the run, I drew this mashup featuring characters from the shows we’d watched over the previous year: Giant Gorg, SPT Layzner, Fist of the North Star and selected episodes from the first Lupin III series. This stuff was solid gold then, and still is today.

Click here for Volume 2!

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