This will be a two part edition of…
In 2002, Image Comics imprint Top Cow decided to revamp Battle of the Planets, the Americanized adaptation of the Japanese animated series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. However, some changes were made from the Sandy Frank Productions dubs. Gone was 7-Zark-7 (how can you call it Battle of the Planets without Zark? That’s just Gatchaman…) and although the Sandy Frank names remained, the feel was closer to the original Japanese series. The story always took place on Earth, rather than traveling to other worlds. Overall, however, I enjoyed the series, and I’m still disappointed that it ended on a cliffhanger. I plan to go into this series in greater detail in the future.
For reasons I still can’t fathom, Top Cow and Wildstorm (who had just recently broken up with Image and started seeing DC Comics after a one-series stand with Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn” event) decided to team up the licensed properties they had recently obtained. Wildstorm had gotten a hold on the Rankin-Bass series Thundercats, and each company put out their own crossover story. In this edition of Scanning My Collection I’ll be taking a look at Top Cow’s version, with the Wildstorm version coming in the next installment.
So let’s give this baby the once over.
Battle of the Planets/Thundercats #1
Top Cow (May 2003)
COVER 1 (shown)/ART DIRECTOR: Alex Ross
COVER 2: J. Scott Campbell & Matt Milla
WRITER: Munier Sharrieff
PENCILER: Alvin Lee & Rob Ross with Alan Tam
COLORISTS: Therealt! with Ken Siu-Chong
LETTERERS: Dreamer Design’s Robin Spehar, Dennis Heisler, and Martin Barnes
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Scott Tucker
MANAGING EDITOR: Renae Geerlings
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Jim McLauchlin
Yeah, if I have any complaint at all concerning Top Cow’s Battle of the Planets series was that there were a loooooot of people working on it. My biggest amazement is that there wasn’t a “too many cooks” issue, as this series was awesome.
After G-Force defeats another of Zoltar’s schemes, the Luminous One, ruler of the Spectra organization (yes, I’m aware that at least in Top Cow’s version there was more to it, but we don’t want to be here all day), decides that he has had enough of Zoltar’s arrogance in pursuing his own agenda. Therefore, he teleports (rather painfully) his acolyte to a different planet to oversee a smaller operation–the planet Thundera, (presumably New Thundera, as the original went boom).
Using a space-warp booster given to G-Force by their Rigan allies (you’ll have to read the series), the Phoenix goes after Zoltar, and comes across the Thundercats, who assume that the teen ninjas are part of Spectra, whom have captured one of their team, Wilykit. Thanks to the Sword of Omens, which is mystically barred from striking an innocent (like G-Force commander Mark), the misunderstanding is cleared up and the two teams make plans to take the planet back from Spectra.
At Spectra’s base, we learn that the Mutants, long-time enemies of the Thundercats have provided Spectra with the power source for the “M-Beam”, which Lion-O (upon the heroes breaking in) instantly recognizes as the sarcophagus of their arch enemy (and the Mutant’s master), Mumm-Ra the Everliving! In the ensuing battle, the “everliving source of evil” is awakened, and he is…shall we say less than pleased? How about royally cheesed off! (Hey, I try to keep the language clean around here.) Zoltar is obviously no match for the Mumm-Ra and the Luminous One, convinced that Zoltar has learned a lesson about his arrogance, is teleported back to Earth. Meanwhile, Keyop and Wilykat (the youngest member of G-Force and Wilykit’s brother respectively) rescue the young Thundercat, and Keyop falls instantly for her. (I can’t blame him. What? I was about the same age when the series came out? Sue me!)
With the window closing before G-Force has to get back through the warp to return to Earth, the hero teams say their good-byes, and G-Force returns to Earth to continue their war against Spectra. The future of Thundera was a bit more obtuse. Was the status quo restored? Despite a promise (or hope) from both hero teams to meet again, the next crossover ignored this special in favor of it’s own story by Wildstorm’s crew. More on that next time.
I mentioned in the open that I was a big fan of Top Cow’s run on the title, and that includes this crossover. In a rarity for cross-company crossovers, this story was actually cannon in the main series. A later issue mentions this story twice, although not referring to the Thundercats characters by name. (There is, however, a caption pointing readers to the story.) This is odd enough since one company usually won’t be able to refer to these events again without permission from the other company. It’s like Batman discussing his time teaming with Spider-Man. The events of the two universes can’t co-exist. This is also the case for licensed properties, due to legal issues. (This is why an Essential Rom coming from Marvel Comics seems unlikely.) And yet here you have two separate companies combining two licensed properties, and Top Cow (who used the same writer from the series) considers the story canon in their BOTP universe. The story also impacts Zoltar. In the few issues that remained from the series, Zoltar indeed is less arrogant and tends not to pursue his own agenda or methods. He indeed seemed to learn his lesson from these events.
Naturally, the BOTP characters are in keeping with the comic version, seeing as the same writer is involved. Sharrieff decided not to go with the Wildstorm version, and I’ll get into why that’s a good thing when I review their version. If this is Thundera and not Third Earth, then the artists used the wrong model for the Cat’s Lair. Here is the Lair from Third Earth and this is the Lair from New Thundera. If the comic takes place on Thundera, the artists should have used the latter model (which was also different on the inside, so there’s no mistake which version they used here). Also, when did the Thundercats start cloaking their lair? The Mutants still know where it is, and if the Thundercats were that big a threat (obvious from the Spectrans’ attitudes the Cats hadn’t begun their strike back just yet), they could have just bombed the area they it was last at. It’s not like the Lair could actually move.
There’s also the question of Mumm-Ra’s origins thanks to this story. In his debut episode, Mumm-Ra claimed to have existed since Third Earth was “First Earth”, and the ancient Egyptian motif would further suggest that Third Earth is our planet a very long ways into our future. (Other stories seem to further push that theory, which Wildstorm ran with.) That puts a lot of this story’s time placement for the Thundercat universe in even further doubt.
These are the only nitpicks, besides how “Sight Beyond Sight” works in the story, but that’s too far into “fanboy” realms for even me. Character-wise, the Thundercats are even more like their cartoon counterparts than most of the Wildstorm stories. Sharrieff already pegged himself as one of my favorite writers with the main series, but this may be one of his best BOTP stories.
From the banter between the G-Force members during the undercover stakeout of a cruise ship filled with dignitaries Zoltar wants to wipe out, to their interaction with G-Force (the best part being Jason and Panthro comparing vehicles) everything felt natural for the characters. OK, with one flaw. Admittedly, the “romance” between Keyop and Wilykit seemed a bit forced, but kid me had a slight crush on her (when most fans claim they were rocked by Cheetara, who I felt was a bit old for me at the time–granted adult me doesn’t look at either of them that way anymore), so that makes for a more draw-worthy moment based on total bias. Wilykat’s reaction (gagging) was perfect, and putting him behind the controls of Keyop’s vehicle may go down as a bad idea. Keep him to the spaceboards if you value your nine lives. 😀 The Mutants don’t do a lot here, but selling him off to Spectra to get out from under their thumb (and make a few spacebucks as a bonus) is certainly in keeping with their character.
Best Moment of the Story
When it’s all said and done, this was a great comic in a great series. There may be a lot of people involved (as was the case for the main series), but the end result is worth it. If you can find this comic, you really should get it, as well as the rest of Top Cow’s Battle of the Planets comics. (Actually, I can’t speak for the other crossover with Top Cow’s own property, Witchblade, as I never read it. I had no interest in the title–still don’t, not even the live show and anime–but I don’t think it was in canon to either series, anyway.) So how does the Wildstorm version fare? I’ll take a look at that for the next Scanning My Collection, so keep an eye out for it. (No pun intended. You know, Eye of Thundera? Sight Beyond Sight? Never mind.)