Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is what I love about this blog

It really is true that however weird or obscure your interests, you'll always find someone on the internet who's into the same thing. Be it Ken H Harrison versus Peter Davidson, My Own Genie, Coco Pops adverts or even Krypton Force videos, I'm always delighted to get a comment from fellow enthusiasts. I've been collecting these things for ages, at charity shops and car boot sales, but it's years since I've seen a new Force Five one. I'd love to hear from anyone else who's got one.

Well, since I now know these late-eighties video releases have such a big fan following, they deserve another blog post devoted to my collection. I have eight Force Five tapes (the American translations of five Japanese anime series from the seventies), four Videotoons (collections of American public domain cartoons from the thirties and forties) and one other tape that isn't a Krypton Force release but does have art from the inimitable "Marc" on the cover. So here's a gallery of the thirteen, with brief comments. Apologies for the plethora of pictures, making it hard to skip this post if you're trying to get to the interesting ones, but it's my blog and I'll do what I like.

My brother's got about ten more Krypton Force tapes, which I'll borrow, scan and narrate here when I get a chance.

This is two GaiKing episodes, normally called "Protectors" by Krypton Force but here labelled "Formators" like Starvengers. Whatever you call it, this one is probably my favourite of the Force Five series - there's a really great Star Trek feel to it, a team of heroes who fly around in the Space Dragon fighting the evil alien invaders the Xelans. Unlike the other series, which focus on three or four characters, this one has eight main characters, most of them with their own cool mecha vehicle and a big support crew of nonentities. Oh, and an annoying kid. There's always an annoying kid. They use weapons like the Miracle Drill and Giant Cutter. This tape has the final two episodes in the series, and good ones too - the first featuring a super-powerful robot in the shape of a young boy who has to find the courage to sacrifice himself to save the team, and the second an all-out big-explosions fight between all the good guys and the bad guys' most powerful robots and the Xelan leader Darius himself (he has a mouth on his forehead and is fifty feet tall). Plus the line "What's that? Xelans on Mount St Helens?"

The front cover, signed by Marc, is a fine example of his work. The central giant head is a Quintesson from a Transformers book, cut-and-pasted (literally, not computerishly) onto the drawing. The other characters are Marc's usual renditions of still-frames from the episodes, and done quite well, too. The two pictures on the back are more cut-outs from a Ladybird Transformers book, if I'm not mistaken. Remember, the key to Krypton Force marketing was to convince gullible children that they were buying Transformers videos, by fair means or foul.

Moving on to the real Formators, or Starvengers, this series focuses on three heroes, each piloting a plane that combines with the others in three different ways to make three different giant robots. Their enemies are the Pandemonium Empire, who try to steal the source of the Starvengers' power, the Star Energizer, on a regular basis. It's very entertaining stuff.

The cover of this one describes it as volume 4, but these numbers seem to be completely randomly assigned to collections - they certainly don't reflect the order the episodes were originally shown. It's another great Marc collage on the front cover, and on the back we have (on the left) the box art from the Transformer Hun-Grr with the head of one of the Starvengers robots drawn on top of it. This same picture was used as the cover of another Krypton Force video. The other two pictures on the back are screenshots - the right-hand one shows Colonel Fuhrer. That's right, he's Adolf Hitler with horns.

More Formators, and a good example of Krypton Force's bizarre titles for their tapes. One of the episodes on this tape does feature a symbol, I suppose, as a minor part of the plot, but why that suggested the title "Havoc Symbol", I can't imagine. As for the subtitle, they seem to have misheard the name of the robot Star Arrow as "Star Erin". Perhaps they were trying to appeal to the Irish market? There's no signature on the front cover, but it looks like a Marc to me.

This one's probably the best of the Starvengers stories - a thrilling two-parter with a great big fight against the Pandemoniums as they finally launch a full-scale invasion of Earth. The Krypton Force approach to packaging these cartoons makes for interesting viewing here - they chop off the opening and closing credits so the two episodes on each tape are joined together without a pause. In this case, we get part one of the story which immediately jumps to a recap of the first part, then part two.

The Marc cover has two heads, three full-body figures, a spaceship and the Earth! I wonder if he got paid extra? And Europe seems to be shaped very strangely. Must have been damaged by the Pandemoniums.

Now we come to Sci-Bots, known in America as Spaceketeers. It's a very lengthy space quest story in which Princess Aurora and the three musketeers-style cyborg heroes travel through the universe trying to save it from the effects of the Dekos energy and the mutated evil creatures it has created. There are two different American translations of the series, strangely enough - this tape is volume two of what I call "Sci-Bots The Movie", which is basically edited highlights of the series all combined into one short-ish storyline. It has different dialogue and voice actors than the regular episodes, it's not just a director's cut. It's also almost unwatchable, because they cut out about 75% of the storyline and what was left doesn't make a great deal of sense.

No signature on the cover picture. I do wonder if they were all by Marc or if there was another, more modest, artist involved in the process too. Or else they just covered up his signature with little captions like the "Sci-Bots fight on" on this one. On the back, we have some pretty pictures of the Transformers Megatron and Ravage.

This one is two of the normal episodes of Spaceketeers/Sci-Bots. Most notable for the Marc cover featuring... a big demon thing of some kind, in the background. It's not anything that features in the cartoon, and judging by the shading it's not something Marc has drawn himself, but I don't know where it was stolen from.

Most Krypton Force videos are organised enough to have two consecutive episodes of the series on them. This one, in the Force Five series with most continuity from one episode to the next, has one episode from early on, followed (without pause or credits, as usual), by a much, much later one. Another unsigned cover, but that's got to be Marc.

Hey, where did those trademark Krypton Force hexagons go? This is the only KF tape I've seen with this unusual background pattern, and the only one I've found with Grandizer (or Orion Quest) cartoons. It's more giant-robot adventures, but with a central theme of flying saucers. Everyone and everything in this series turns into a flying saucer. The enemies here are the Vegans, and this release probably takes the grand prize for Most Incomprehensible Title. What, exactly, is "The Youngest Eclipse" supposed to mean?

Now we come to the Videotoons branch of the Krypton Force VHS empire. This one, volume 2, is the best if like me you're a fan of old Warner Bros cartoons - it has four of them, and rather good ones too. It has a cover in which Marc valiantly attempts to draw a world-famous and recognisable character in Bugs Bunny, and, well, nearly gets it. The titles listed on the back are mostly correct (the cartoons on these tapes have the title cards cut out and probably came to Krypton Force in that state, so they couldn't check the titles just by watching them), except the third one down. "Clubarable"? The real title is "The Unbearable Bear". What did they think "clubarable" meant?

I'm not sure if the rest of the Videotoons are Marcs or not. The style seems a bit different, and there's no signature.

I haven't actually got the tape that's supposed to be in this box - when I bought it, I didn't check the tape inside, which is actually volume 5 (see below). So I'm just having to take a guess at the cartoons on it. I'm still drawing a blank as to the one they call "Porky & Co" - there isn't a Porky Pig cartoon with that name, and I can't work out from the description or the picture which one it would be. Those pictures, by the way, are home-made by Krypton Force. Several of their tapes feature unbelievably primitive title sequences made on what looks like a BBC micro. These next two Videotoons are notable for featuring unusually hi-tech title graphics.

Not much to add here, but how's that for a Freudian slip? The character's name is Betty Boop, people. Boop with a P on the end. And they sold this to children!

One last Marc masterpiece as the bonus feature in this post. I love this one, because he's drawn the whole background by himself. And although he's just copying a still-frame from the cartoon, the perspective is very wonky indeed. Still, I shouldn't criticise. It's not like I can draw that well...


Anonymous said...

Just noticed your Krypton Force article; I've collected quite a few of the tapes myself, and can fill in at least a couple of blanks for you!

The whole lot of the Force Five series were released in their original versions (naturally all entitled "Force Five") in pre-cert tapes in the very early 1980s. Obviously due to their age, these particular tapes are very scarce.

When Krypton Force came along, all they did was seemingly use *those same old rental tapes* and overlay their dodgy graphics with their own Transformer-inspired titles.

I've long suspected that they didn't get any rights from anyone when they made those tapes! It's boosted by the fact that the actual tapes they used tended to be of questionable quality, with one of mine containing an episode of the old BBC sitcom Sykes at the end, complete with Norwegian subtitles! (I've since heard of someone else's KF tape having a Channel 4 New bulletin at the end of it!)

Oh and by the way, you're right about the big menacing figure on the "Death Valley" tape, he's not a Marc original, he's a Marvel Comics character called the Beyonder!

Zoomy said...

Oh yay, another Krypton Force fan! Thanks for identifying the Beyonder - I should have recognised him myself, really, but I never really read most of Secret Wars 2, I was still reading nothing but Transformers at that time.

I'd love to find an original Force Five tape some time, but not having the Marc covers would take some of the fun out of it...

Anonymous said...

Hey Zoomy,

I agree with you about the internet. Who would have thought that there would be more than one person interested in Krypton Force videos?

Well, I've got a bunch and I'll gladly share the covers with you if you like. Head over to my website www.anime-games.co.uk/sci-bots7.php where I've got one already posted. If you'd like more give me an email.

LMSN said...


i just noticed this newer post, i think i commented before on the first time u wrote about krypton force. as soon as your pics started loading though i quickly averted my eyes, i dont want to ruin the surprise of what i am still yet to find. i think one of my favourite things about krypton force is the titles.
i am a big fan of Marc, and i foudn a new non-krypton force video just recently. it might be on your list but i am afraid to check becuase i dotn want to ruin any surprises. the video is called fun parade and depicts a group of men waving cups of beer around and a small squashed bus character.

if u are interested in this art you might like http://paperrad.org i know they are also big fans of this work.

Zoomy said...

Hi Leon! You might also want to avoid looking at this blog entry, which has pictures of lots more Marc art. I've got Fun Parade Volume 3, with a fantastically bad Marc cover, but I haven't got the one you're describing.

Zoomy said...

Whoops, wrong link. I meant this one.

Anonymous said...

i cant believe i found something on the internet actualy relates to these videos these were my all time favourites as a kid me and my brother used to watch them over and over again

ive only got the youngest eclipse at the moment the others have been thrown out of watever through the years

its was nice to see soemthing about these tapes still lives on anyway

Zoomy said...

It is so cool that people keep finding this blog post, looking for websites featuring Krypton Force videos or Marc artwork! They're cult classics!

Unknown said...

Hi Zoomy, I need AVG serial numbers if you still have them. Best wishes, Outerlimit

Anonymous said...

Hi, yesterday at a local charity for £1 I bought a Krypton Force vhs tape called "Triple Triangle - attack to the ranch", it's the serie n.1 of a Grandizer cartoon. Does anyone know it?