Battle of the Planets:
There is a long tradition of the Japanese creating very direct names for entertainment properties rather than artistic ones. An interesting name is 'Science Ninja Team Gatchman', which is very clear in meaning but isn't that dramatic. You really can't even make an acronym out of it, so a more dramatic names is in order. 'Struggle between two orbiting celestial bodies' is better, but 'Battle of the Planets' would work best, and so it did.
Battle of the Planets (BOTP) was an animated series produced by Sandy Frank Entertainment in the late 1970's. The show was based on the 1972 Japanese series Gatchaman from Tatsunoko, though it made some concessions for American audiences. The violence from the original show was toned down and most importantly the show was done in English, which is a big help. The show was ground breaking in Japan, and is considered one of the most important anime shows ever produced in Japan.
The planets from the title are Earth and Spectra, as the latter has exhausted its natural resources and figures Earth would make a nice refill. Zoltar, who was chosen by the Great Spirit of Spectra to lead the conquest of Earth and ensure that the Great Spirit's dry cleaning is done, leads the villains. Conquest takes up most of Zoltar's time, though.
To stop Zoltar and his minions, Earth has 'G-Force'. G-Force is a group of five teenagers who have been trained almost from birth to work together and defend the Earth. They all work for 7 Zark 7 (not to be confused with the bootleg 1 Adam 12), who stays at HQ and sends out their orders. Five teenagers versus the might of Spectra would be a short fight if they didn't have some advanced technology and weapons to match up with the enemy, and G-Force has it in spades. The five members of the team are Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keyop, and they each have unique abilities and personalities and their own 'G-number' (i.e. Mark is G-1). Just to start a rumor, their dog mascot was named G-Spot.
One of the concepts that grew from the original show into BOTP was the use of different vehicles that would combine to form one much stronger vehicle in times of need (which would usually be around once per episode). Their base ship the Phoenix could transmute into a fiery ship, but unlike most ships that catch on fire the Phoenix could transmute back to normal on command. Each of the five members had a vehicle that was unique to them and that joined together in their ship or that they used solo. They each had unique weapons and fighting skills because they were all... unique.
Another concept was that of transmutation. Alchemists thousands of years ago were obsessed with transmutation, so this isn't exactly a brand new idea. The characters and their vehicles were able to transmute into different forms. Each of the five teenagers would transform into costumes that were based on birds. Mark is an eagle, Jason a condor, Princess a swan, Keyop a sparrow and Tiny an owl. Original plans had called for designs based on egg-laying mammals but it was abandoned when they realized there were only three species that would fit the bill, though having the remaining two characters as eggs was bandied about.
Diamond Select has started with Mark, Keyop and Princess for the first series of BOTP, to be followed by Jason, Tiny and Zoltar in series 2. Gabriel Marquez sculpted all the figures and their accessories in this line, and his work can also be seen in the Vampire: The Masquerade figures and the Ultimate Green Goblin bust, both from Diamond Select. Each of the figures has a weapon and mini-vehicle packed with it, and all the characters have at least one variant available. The mini-vehicles were sculpted by SOTA, whose work is widely available and can be seen on a larger scale in Palisades Resident Evil series 2 on several of the figures (including the licker). The mini-vehicles are all solid pieces and none of the wheels roll on them.
One of the great touches on these figures is the use of various types of plastic mixed to create different looks on the figures. It's becoming more and more common to see this, but Diamond Select's use of some softer plastics to hold details and detailed paint washes and applications make the figures stand out. The figures are done in a seven inch scale, though the tallest (Mark) is just over six inches tall.
Mark is the leader of G-Force and along with Jason are the only ones to have regular names. He's 'G-1' and when he transmutes he takes on an eagle design. Mark is a danger junkie, because when he isn't risking his life fighting aliens he's a test pilot. The encouragement he gets from his secret half-sister (who holds a very large life insurance policy on him that pays double for death by alien or during a test flight) probably doesn't help.
Since Mark is a pilot he rents a small place near a small airfield. He flies a single engine prop plane that can transform into his Summit Jet. The Summit Jet docks in the tail of the Phoenix so he can join the rest of the team inside. Mark uses a sonic boomerang as his weapon of choice, which sounds like the Japanese translation for 'echo'. Mark also has the hots for Princess, though in his own words, he hasn't "been able to close the deal."
Mark is the leader so he gets to go first. As 'G-1' he leads the team and is the main protagonist on the show. The action figure is just as authoritative, with ball-jointed shoulders, elbow joints, waist neck and thigh twists. To cover his back is a soft plastic cape that is a large wing design with highlighted white on the back and a red liner, though even the liner has highlights. This version of Mark has a non-removable helmet with a clear blue visor shaped like a beak, which is well designed to scratch the Princess's back when she needs it. She doesn't need it much. Mark also has a few accessories, including a small version of his Summit Jet and his Sonic Boomerang. He can hold the boomerang (it doesn't fold like the one on the show) but can't fit in the jet. Win some, lose some. A variant version of Mark is the "Civilian Mark" figure, without his helmet. That version will be a shared exclusive to Tower Records and Electronics Boutique
The second variant version of Mark has a pearlized finish and is limited to 2002 pieces available only at the San Diego Comic Con. Having one to review here several days before the Con kind of blows the credibility of that last statement, so to repair it we'll admit we traveled through time and space to get this during the con then brought it back for review. Problem solved. These aren't the droids you're looking for... His accessories are the same and while the whole costume has a pearl finish, the mini-vehicle doesn't. He loves to play 'Pearl Necklace' from ZZ Top, but when he does Princess and Keyop look at him funny.
Just like Madonna and Cher, Princess is a one-named sensation and is the sole female member of G-Force. As an orphan she lacks parents to give her guidance and a last name, but that hasn't stopped her from excelling. She's a master of explosives that has made it difficult to find any old boyfriends who have broken up with her. She has studied about Spectra and is an electronics expert and an accomplished pilot (even taking the helm of the Phoenix). She has a Galacticycle that she rides around on, and that can transmute into an even better version of the Galacticycle, but sleeker with 'G-3' on the side.
The Princess has a nice figure, and that works on a few levels. The regular version comes with her helmet attached along with its cute antenna on the back and pointed face shield. She has ball-jointed shoulders, elbow joints, waist and neck twists. Her thighs are a bit deceptive until you open her up to discover they are ball-jointed and not just swivel joints. Her skirt is made of softer plastic so can actually take advantage of those joints, and she has a surprising range of motion. She also has a surprisingly short skirt - not unwelcome, just surprising. She comes packed with her transmuted Galacticycle (which she can't ride) and a Yo-Yo Bomb.
The civilian version of the Princess is available as a shared exclusive between ToyFare magazine and Tower Records and is the same basic figure with slightly different accessories and an unfettered head. The civilian Princess doesn't have the helmet her regular version wears and this avoids helmet hair and lets us see her dark locks. Her hair is a softer plastic so it has a bit of a bounce to it, though it is very firmly attached. She has the same costume (and short skirt) as the regular version, and the articulation is identical. They both has the soft plastic capes with a red liner, and both have the amazing Yo-Yo Bomb. Yo-Yo Bomb sounds like a rapper from the 80's, doesn't it? She has a miniature motorcycle with her, which represents her vehicle before it 'transmutes' into the Galacticycle. She may not be able to ride it, but she can hold it and show you how cool it is. Agree or you get the yo-yo. Your choice.
Keyop is the smallest member of the team, and in addition to his small stature he also has a speech impediment that flavors his language with some beeps and pauses. He is an honors graduate from 'Yoda's School of Confusing Speech' along with Jar Jar Binks, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, that guy from Sling Blade and Bob Dole. Keyop was created in a laboratory from a single embryonic cell, unlike most humans who are created from a single embryonic cell, though most often in the back seat of a Buick. Keyop has a Dune Buggy that transmutes to a Star Buggy and he likes to hang out with Tiny, who will join the team in the second series of action figures. Joking aside, Keyop is a valuable member of the team and his size makes him try even harder to prove himself.
Keyop has two versions, a civilian one and a regular one in full costume. The full costume version is the regular one and his bird motif is related to the sparrow, due to his small size. Keyop has ball-jointed shoulders, elbow joints, waist, neck and thigh twists to give him some mobility. His helmet has a pointed visor and it seems he can do without the antenna that both Princess and Mark have on their helmets. His cape is lined with green and the back of it is also a very deep green rather than black. Keyop's favorite weapon is the bola, and he has a set with him molded in very soft plastic to keep the untrained from injuring themselves. He also has a miniature version of his Star Buggy along with 'G-5' on it. Alas, poor Keyop is the dreaded 'G-5' which is still probably better than being number 2!
The civilian version of Keyop has the same articulation, bad speech and bolas as the regular version. The civilian Keyop is a Previews Exclusive, so you should be able to get him at your local comics shop. What this Keyop doesn't have is a helmet, and this lets his unkempt hair blow in the breeze. The hair is the same soft plastic as the Princess's hair, so they may use the same stylist or shampoo. Keyop does have a wayward hair that stands up Alfalfa style on his head, though it may be due to his use of 'Vogaine' (an experimental combination of Rogaine and Viagra, check with your physician). A Dune Buggy is included with him for fun in the sun when he has a chance to get away from the team for some R&R.
Pictures of Mark
Pictures of Pearl White Mark
Pictures of Princess
Pictures of Civilian Princess
Pictures of Keyop
Pictures of Civilian Keyop
|Where to buy Battle of the Planets: The BOTP action figures retail for in the $9.99 to $11.99 USD price range and are available at your local comic book stores as well as in specialty stores such as Tower Records, as well as various online toy retailers.
One such online store is RTM sponsor The Outer Reaches. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)