The Argo Press Comic Book Series

Argo Press + Studio Go! = Dream Job

By Tim Eldred with Bruce Lewis

After the Comico comics of the 1980s came the first step toward everything that has happened with Star Blazers since. As with most stories about lucky breaks, it begins with a string of innocent events. During the year Comico was publishing its second and final Star Blazers miniseries, I got my first big break as a professional comic book artist, drawing an adaptation of the Lensman anime feature film for the now-defunct Malibu Graphics. (Specifically, their “Eternity Comics” imprint.) I had long held the dream of one day drawing Star Blazers comics (and other anime that I liked more than Lensman), but this was a good start. Between ’89 and ’92, I did more for Malibu; Lensman gave way to Captain Harlock which gave way to Robotech, and not once did I ever give up the dream.

In fact, I also did a little freelance work for Comico during this time, which inspired me to assemble a proposal for their next Star Blazers comic. I’d hoped to convince them that fans hungered for an adaptation of the Bolar Wars series, which had been seen on TV in very few cities and was now off the air indefinitely. I was completely unaware that at almost exactly this same time another fan named Bruce Lewis was writing his own Star Blazers proposal titled Dream Ship Neo Yamato for exactly the same publisher. (A page of which is shown below at far right.) Neither of our proposals were accepted, but sheer dumb luck would grant us our wish in the end.

In late 1992, Malibu made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: to move all the way from ice-cold Michigan to sun-drenched Southern California to join their in-house staff. I said yes in a heartbeat, having only a slight notion of all the amazing opportunities this would put in my path in the years to come.

Malibu was expanding their operation in the early 90s, prepping a new line of comics to capitalize on the super-hero boom at the time. Eternity Comics was becoming an all-anime line, and I was grateful to be there as an advisor. Eternity was going great guns with Captain Harlock and Robotech, which caught the attention of Voyager Entertainment, who had become the new owner of Star Blazers in the early 90s. They were looking for ways to increase its visibility, and thought a new Star Blazers comic book would be a pretty good idea.

This is where that earlier bit of serendipity paid off. I had made friends with Bruce Lewis through anime fan circles and since Malibu was still looking for talented artists to join their staff, I suggested him. He was instantly accepted, and he made the drive from Texas to California with the same sense of adventure that had brought me. Someone else I suggested to them was another anime friend named John Ott. John already lived in Southern California, but was satisfied with his current job and didn’t sign on at Malibu. But no matter; our love of anime in general and Leiji Matsumoto/Yamato/Star Blazers in particular only strengthened our friendship.

This is where the plot twists. One day in 1993, Malibu received a proposal letter from Voyager Entertainment suggesting a partnership that would result in Malibu publishing Star Blazers comics. Bruce and I could barely contain ourselves, our heads exploding with all the possibilities; our dream job had fallen right into our laps! But Malibu was much more interested in their super-hero line (which later lead to their downfall, but that’s another story) so they turned it down. But we weren’t wiling to let it go, and we hatched an idea so crazy it just might work: we could produce the Star Blazers comic book ourselves with Voyager as our employer and publisher.

We invited John Ott to step in and help us with the technical issues, turning us into a three-man, comic-book-packaging dream-team that we decided to call Studio Go! Under this name, we crafted a counter-proposal for Voyager, and after hashing out the details in 1994, the game was on. Star Blazers: the Magazine of Space Battleship Yamato was the title we agreed upon, since each issue was comprised of 24 comic pages and 8 news & article pages. In a very real sense, it was the ancestor of the website you’re reading now.

So without further ado, here is a complete record of everything we produced for Argo Press, the publishing imprint of Voyager Entertainment specifically formed to turn our Star Blazers dreams into reality. Clicking on the links will open a PDF file that contains each issue, cover to cover.

Issue 0: The Scarlet Scarf

March, 1995
Comics written and drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by Albert Deschesne

Shortly after the cleansing of Earth by the Cosmo DNA, the monument to Captain Avatar is dedicated on the day before Derek Wildstar is to embark on a year-long patrol on the Argo. The prospect of leaving Earth so soon puts him in a dark mood which is lifted by a reading of Captain Avatar’s diary about the journey to Iscandar. None of us wanted to risk getting bogged down in an episode-by-episode adaptation of the first TV series since it was already available in many forms, so we opted instead for a one-issue retelling of the entire story through Captain Avatar’s words. This alternate perspective allowed us to explore well-trodden ground with fresh eyes. The issue was numbered zero in order to test the waters for a regular series, and when the order came in for well over 20,000 copies, we knew it was going to happen.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 0.




Issue 1: The Gift

August, 1995
Comics written and drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by Bruce Lewis

Since the format of issue zero worked so well, we used it again–this time seeing the story through Desslok’s eyes. After the events of the Comet Empire series, Desslok pens his memoir, reflecting on the gift of compassion he was given by Wildstar and Nova. He recounts his experiences from the end of TV series 1 all the way through to the present moment, then addresses his surviving troops about the path they will now take together in the scene that kicks off The New Voyage. This was an intentional setup for our complete New Voyage adaptation that would fill the next four issues. Issue 1 was a great way for us to examine Desslok’s growth from an arrogant despot into a fully-rounded, multi-dimensional personality; still one of the most fascinating anime characters ever created.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 1.




Issue 2: The New Voyage part 1

October, 1995
Comics written and drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by John Ott

Starting with the Argo‘s return to Earth after the Comet Empire war, this first installment followed the crew’s recovery and the arrival of the cadets who would form the new Star Force. After a few awkward moments, they launch the ship and we join Desslok for his return to Gamilon. Thanks to the meddling Dark Nebula Empire, the planet is destroyed before his eyes and Iscandar is hurled out of orbit. We decided to make this adaptation look as much like the movie as possible, redrawing frames directly from animation stills. We had a unique opportunity here to restore the little-known deleted scenes to the story, and wanted to make the reading experience as seamless as possible. This was, of course, long before we knew what DVDs would be capable of. Our main backup feature was a rare in-person interview with Yamato‘s animation director, Noboru Ishiguro.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 2.




Issue 3: The New Voyage part 2

December, 1995
Comics written and drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by John Ott

As the Star Force conducts training maneuvers with the new recruits, Desslok’s Gamilon fleet chases down the runaway planet Iscandar and learns that Starsha & Alex are still alive. The Dark Nebulans attack and drive the Gamilons down to the surface. Despite a determined defense, the Gamilons are severely outnumbered and put out a call for help. The issue ends with the triumphant arrival of the Argo, which out of sheer fanboy hubris we had decided to rename Yamato. The backup features in this issue were a pair of firsts: the first-ever Star Blazers interview with voice actors Peter Fernandez and Corrine Orr (who worked on the Bolar Wars series) and the first-ever English translation of the 10-minute Space Battleship Yamato pilot film.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 3.





Issue 4: The New Voyage part 3

February, 1996
Comics written and drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by John Ott

The Star Force comes to Desslok’s rescue, making mincemeat of the Dark Nebulans. But no one is able to stop Iscandar from its continued flight. This issue contained the first major deleted scene, in which Alex Wildstar steps up to take matters into his own hands, dropping bombs into a volcanic fissure to force an explosion. He quickly gets into trouble from which Sandor bails him out, but his bold move manages to tip the balance just enough in the Star Force’s favor to win the day. Greater danger lies ahead, however, when Iscandar blunders into the next deleted scene: a crash-course into the heart of an angry red star! The backup features in this issue included the first translation of the Space Cruiser Icarus scenario and the beginning of Bruce Lewis’ history of the original Battleship Yamato. Little known secret about this issue’s cover: the blank area of sky below the logo was supposed to feature the ship…but I was so intent on coloring the fighters, I forgot to put it in.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 4.



Issue 5: The New Voyage part 4

April, 1996
Comics written and drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by John Ott

Iscandar is nearly roasted by the red star, but everyone watches in amazement as other burned-out planetoids move around and disrupt the gravity well, flinging Iscandar free. This is the work of the Dark Nebulans’ Space Fortress Goruba, which fights Desslok and the Star Force to a standstill. Queen Starsha herself intervenes, and The New Voyage rockets toward its dramatic conclusion. Before this adaptation, the only other comic artist to present the deleted scenes as part of the narrative was Akira Hio in 1979. The Voyager DVD would do the same with video footage in 2003.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 5.







During the time these first several issues were in production, Studio Go! had other comic books underway, and as I was finishing my work on issue 5, Bruce Lewis was finishing up another project, Gall Force Eternal Story for CPM Comics. This timing finally made it possible for him to take the reins and steer the book into a new direction. And here he is now to do the same with this very article…

I was more than ready to tackle an original Star Blazers story by the time pre-production for issue #6 rolled around. I had been rolling Star Blazers stories around in my head since 1979, and the chance to convert my fan fiction ideas into paying (and canonical!) parts of the Blazers oeuvre was a dream come true. There were several portions of the SB story I’d desperately wanted to see for years–and now I could. The first thing I did, however, was to convene a panel of old-time fans to read over my scenarios to make sure that I didn’t grossly violate established continuity. Although I tend to think like Leiji Matsumoto when it comes to canon (that is, if a cool story contradicts canon, then ignore canon!), I recognized that not all SB fans felt that way, and as a fan myself, their feelings mattered to me. Besides, my intention was not so much to create new parts of the SB universe, but to expand upon what we’d already seen. To this end, my old friend and Blazers uber-fan Derek Wakefield assembled a crack team of fandom experts steeped in Star Blazers lore. This group, which came to be known as the “Iscandar Project,” kindly reviewed the story treatments for each of the issues written by me, and offered correction and commentary by means of audio tape.

Side note: the complete Star Blazers history as conceived by the “Iscandar Project” can be read here. Now back to Bruce.

While I didn’t always agree with their commentary, I took it seriously and made changes to my stories when needed to bring them into line with established SB continuity. Thanks to this corps of SB “Torah scholars,” I could get down to the business of showing some of the parts of the SB story I’d always wanted to see. The first and central theme of the three-issue Icarus arc was Sasha, the daughter of Alex Wildstar (Mamoru Kodai) and Queen Starsha of Iscandar, a character who had never appeared in SB as such, but who was well-loved by both Blazers and Yamato fans alike. Since her introduction to the Yamato universe in Be Forever Yamato, Sasha had risen to become arguably the most popular character of the series, outside of Yuki (Nova), Kodai (Derek Wildstar), and Okita (Captain Avatar). She was also my favorite character, and the opportunity to introduce her to the Star Blazers universe was irresistible. Given that her story was intertwined with my second-favorite character, Sandor (Sanada), I knew already what I was going to do: tell the story of the doomed Princess Sasha, her adoptive father Stephen Sandor, and the short life they shared before the events of Be Forever Yamato.

Issue 6: Icarus part 1, The Rock

June, 1996
Comics written and drawn by Bruce Lewis, colored by John Ott

We open with a flashback scene I dearly wanted to see in Star Blazers itself: the return of Yamato to Earth after the mission to Iscandar. This is used as a lead-in to the “present-day” life of Sandor and Sasha in the asteroid Icarus, hiding place and drydock of the Yamato in the wake of The New Voyage. I had a great deal of fun showing the normally laconic Sandor as the harried single dad of a most unusual–but in many ways typical–teenage girl. (If there’s ever a job that calls for having exploding limbs, it’s being a teenage girl’s dad!) I took this as an opportunity to delve into Sandor’s essential loneliness, both as the most isolated member of the Star Force (he never had a buddy as Wildstar did in Venture) and as a man who could never start a family of his own due to his extensive injuries. I then introduced rivals for Sasha’s affections: Black Tiger pilot Deke Wakefield (Derek Wakefield’s price for his script-review duties!) and her uncle Derek Wildstar. By placing Sasha between lonesome Sandor and affectionate older-brother Deke, I got to introduce a new and juicy side to stolid old Sandor’s character: the jealous father. The issue ends with a soap-opera-type argument between adoptive Dad Sandor and real dad Alex, who knows exactly what the future holds for himself, his child, and the Earth, yet is powerless to stop it.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 6.

Issue 7: Icarus part 2, Waxwing

August, 1996
Comics written and drawn by Bruce Lewis, colored by John Ott & Tim Eldred

Click here to read Bruce’s comments about issue 7

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 7.













Issue 8: Icarus part 3: Angel Too Close to the Sun

October, 1996
Comics written and drawn by Bruce Lewis, colored by John Ott

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 8.
















Issue 9: Be Forever Yamato Prelude, The Gathering Storm

December, 1996Written by Bruce Lewis & Tim Eldred, drawn and colored by Tim Eldred

Bruce’s story continued through issues 7 and 8, playing out the drama between Sandor and Sasha (and the others stationed on Icarus) and setting the stage for what was to become our multi-part adaptation of Be Forever Yamato. This began with issue 9, which took place just prior to the movie and put the last pieces of the puzzle into place by bringing Captain Yamanami to Icarus (simultaneously explaining why Kitano and Sakamoto didn’t rejoin the Star Force after The New Voyage) and introducing the EDF’s Automated Battleships. We also meet a completely new character invented by Bruce: Security Minister Aziz, who was to play a major role in upcoming issues. As if that weren’t enough, we even found room for cameo appearances by Desslok, Talan, and the slowly-reviving Captain Avatar. Basically, issue 9 was our personal wish-list of things that we would have included in Be Forever.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 9.



Issue 10: Be Forever Yamato Invasion: Earth!

February, 1997Written by Bruce Lewis, drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by John Ott

Here’s where everything kicked into high gear. Be Forever Yamato, as everyone knows, hits the ground running and never lets up until its final scene. And it’s loaded with so many moments that are connected to other unseen moments, it could very easily have been twice as long. (In fact, it would have expanded nicely into a darn good TV series, but this was not in the plan.) Bruce’s approach to the adaptation was to hit the key moments in the movie (especially in the first chapter) but then to veer off into unexplored territory.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 10.








Issue 11: Be Forever Yamato Trial by Fire

May, 1997
Written by Bruce Lewis, drawn by Tim Eldred, colored by John Ott

As we know from the movie, Commander Singleton responded to the Dark Nebulans’ invasion by forming a resistance. Minister Aziz would take a different path, cooperating with them to further her own personal power-gathering agenda. Issue 11 was particularly gratifying, since it gave us the chance to restore a scene that had been cut from the movie, which explained how Wildstar’s group was able to sneak off the Earth.

Click here to open and read the PDF for issue 11.








Issue 12

Unpublished

We closed issue 11 with the “breakout launch” as the ship emerged from Icarus, and we immediately got started on issue 12, which would take place entirely on Earth. Singleton and Aziz were just taking their first divergent steps when word came down that we had to close up shop. At that point, the issue was half-written and half-pencilled. There it remains to this day, alas.

Click here to open and read the PDF for the unfinished issue 12.










Perfect Album

June 1996

This 80-page graphic novel contained reprints of issues 0 and 1, both of which were now sold out at stores and had become difficult to find. This was augmented by a 27-page “World of Yamato” guidebook, which included story notes, character and mecha designs, and many other details. Since the comics in this book focused on the first two TV series, the guidebook did the same.












Special Edition

October 1996

This rarest of all issues came bundled with the first Star Blazers VHS tape, which contained episodes 1 and 2. We decided to devote this issue entirely to the timeframe of those episodes. It was broken into three eight-page segments. The first was “World at War,” a historical photo album of the war with Gamilon. Following this was the “Yamato databook,” a brief guide to Earth’s mecha and characters seen at the very beginning of the TV series, along with specs on the Argo. Wrapping up the package was an eight-page excerpt from issue zero that concluded with the first launch of the Argo. The finishing touch to all this was a wraparound cover shown in full below.

Click here to open and read the PDF for the Special Edition.







The Argo Press comic book series was warmly received, and many fans have asked in the years since its cancellation why it didn’t continue. It’s hard to explain without going into a long lecture about how the comic book distribution system worked in the 1990s, but I’ll give it a try.

In the late 80s and early 90s, there were two major distribution companies that provided the link between publishers and stores: Diamond and Capital City. The super-hero boom of the early 90s sent powerful ripples throughout the industry, which struck especially hard at Marvel Comics and filled them with the need to strike back. They did so by taking over Capital City and turning them into an exclusive vehicle for Marvel products.

This had a severe impact on smaller publishers such as Argo Press. Being limited only to a single distributor (Diamond) reduced circulation on many titles below the level of sustainability. Almost overnight, small-press and independent comic books were being cancelled left and right. Star Blazers held out against this for a while, but the double-whammy of lost orders and the ever-increasing superhero glut eventually worked their evil magic. We first had to eliminate the news-and-article section in the back of the comic in order to reduce production cost, and shortly thereafter we lost everything else.

Star Blazers was far from the only innocent bystander in this mess. Studio Go! soon lost its other major client, CPM Comics, and the three of us would have to part ways for other work. But we lived a great dream during the two years we worked on Star Blazers, and we will always remember it with fondness. To those of you who supported us during that time, we were (and still are) extraordinarily grateful to you for filling in the rest of the equation that made it all possible.

4 thoughts on “The Argo Press Comic Book Series

  1. collecting these comics. Star Blazers was my favorite tv show as a child. There are some issues, I do not have that would like.

    • Thanks! The series won’t be continued, but there are the two Star Blazers webcomics right here at this site. You can find them easily in the Special Archive section.

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