I’ve mentioned ShiftyLook when talking about the Bravoman cartoon. For the uninformed, this is a website created by Namco Bandai to show off some of their properties by creating webcomics of the more unknown or forgotten games in their library.
Word came this week that this will soon end as ShiftyLook will be closing down by the end of Spring. So I thought I’d go over some of my favorite comics from the site as a memorial to the lost and soon to be.
Matt Moylan (writer) and Dax “D-Gee” Gordine (artist)
Like most of the games on this list, I had never heard of Bravoman prior to this comic. In this version, we follow the wacky adventures of salaryman turned superhero Bravoman, his questionable mentor, Alpha, the ninja assassin Waya Hime, who wants to both kill and marry “stretchy cuteness”, the mirror opposite Anti-Bravoman, and Bravo’s arch nemesis, Dr. Bomb, a man who could give speech lessons to Mojo Jojo. If you’ve seen the show on YouTube or posted here to the Spotlight, this comic was the basis for that cartoon.
Some of you may also remember Moylan for his Transformers turned nostalgia gag strip Li’l Formers or his work with Udon Studios, who is releasing print versions of the comic. This is my favorite strip and I’m going to miss it most of all.
Erik Ko & Jim Zub (writers) and Omar Dogan (artist)
You’ve probably seen this on YouTube as well, or Crunchyroll. Again, it’s based on this comic which follows the adventures of Momiko, daughter of the original Wonder Momo, who is forced to take up her mother’s mantle to protect the world from evil. The original game was never released stateside but thanks to this comic I suggested the game to the late JewWario for You Can Play This out of curiosity for the game. Sadly, we never got to learn if we can in fact play this.
The comic gives a good cast for Momiko, from her rival who is a huge fan of the original Momo and uses her old enemy’s armor and identity (but is one of the good guys, promise) and Momiko’s possible boyfriend, Natsuhiko. While not as wacky as Bravoman it’s still a fun superhero action show that has as much Japanese flavor as a bunch of non-Japanese people can put into it. I also recommend the short-episode anime.
Alex Culang and Raynato Castro (both writing and art)
I’ve never played the game, but the comic adventures of the Prince Of All Cosmos and his cousins are a lot of fun. (And yes, the King does make appearances.) The comic follow the Prince helping people, which is considering how many have been rolled into a huge ball, launched into space, and set on fire. Still, the Prince is a friend to everybody and uses his Katamari to help solve problems. He and his cousins have their own personalities and it’s interesting watching them work.
various writers and artist
Based on the classic game, ShiftyLook did something different with his series. There is no set continuity and no one art team. Various writers and artists came together, each with their own explanation as to how things work in the Dig Dug universe. Above you see the current multi-parter take with a semi-serious tone. It’s interesting to see how each team approaches the game differently.
There’s some wording in the press release I linked to in the beginning of this article that, if I’m interpreting right, makes me sad.
We originally got the ShiftyLook project going at NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. back in Fall 2011. The idea was to take the unused, “sleeping” video game characters of our past and bring them back first with webcomics, and then – once they had gotten enough traction – expand into other media like web animation, games, and merchandise.
I’m happy to say that we’ve done this with Wonder Momo, Bravoman, and some other very cool characters, which are now beloved not just in gamer circles, but at conventions, art groups, and many, many places we’d never expect. That said, now that we have successfully revived so many franchises, the heavy lifting is completed – and so is our work. We battled the video games abyss and won, which means it’s time for us to move on and let the hit-makers play with some new toys.
If they were only making the comics to sell “what they really wanted to” then that’s sad and something that really bothers me as a multimedia storytelling fan who chose comics as the best avenue to tell stories. I only listed my four favorites. They have a whole lot more and to stop making these is disappointing. What about potential fans who haven’t come across these yet? Or those like me who really enjoy them and want to see more, regardless of the games and cartoons and merchandise out there. These are good comics, even the ones that didn’t grab or hold my interest and it’s a shame that Namco Bandai is so willing to drop this simply because they’re goal of reminding people they exist was achieved. They’re eliminating an outlet to continue advertising these games, showcasing new ones, selling the merchandise and print collection, and just plain giving fans some good, mostly wholesome, fun comic strips. I hope they change their minds because it would be a shame to see these comic strips end.