Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *Astra

Jerry Robinson is probably best known as one of the original artists on the Batman comics along with Bob Kane back in the late 30-early 40s, and is often credited as the creator of Joker. However, he also put together a very interesting story for a musical along with Sidra Rausch titled Astra that was adapted into a manga series in Japan in the late 90s. Along with scriptwriter Shojin Tanaka and artist Ken-Ichi Oshi, this managed to get released in America through CPM Manga at first in single issues. The strange thing is though it wasn't completed until it was printed into a trade paperback. This was even turned into a short-lived off-Broadway musical in Washington in 2007. Despite this though, it seems like if Jack Kirby had tried to do a very ecchi manga.

Astra is a princess from the planet Eros which is made entirely of women. She is sent on a mission by her mother the Queen to find some healthy sperm for them to use as they're all tapped out back home. So Astra takes her little spaceship and voyages towards Earth. At this point in human history, space flight is a semi-common thing, and Yosuke, a truck driver from Japan, wins a trip on a newfangled space shuttle. He carjacks the mini-shuttle inside it, and takes a little joyride through space, where he finds Astra's ship. He hops on board and wakes her up from suspended animation. Astra and Yosuke are brought to Earth by the Ministy of Science, which is run by the unscrupulous Godai. Godai learns of Astra's true mission and plans to capitalize on this, even though Yosuke seems to have won her heart. After failing to find any real contenders for a sperm donor, Astra falls under the spell of Godai who hypnotizes her into loving him. Astra's people later arrive on Earth, and are about to take Godai as their new savior, but Yosuke shows up and reveals Godai's scheme. Godai and Astra then head back to Eros to live happily ever after.

Astra is a mixed bag of an homage to Golden Age sci-fi stories, plus a strait-up fan service manga, but they both seem to work rather splendidly here. It seems like something that Jack Kirby might've put together if he collaborated with Japanese creators. The art is very enjoyable, although the translation is a little rough at times. If you dug Buck Rogers or Barbarella, then this is the manga for you.

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