Robert W. Gibson: All About the Man, part 1

Robert W. Gibson, 1960-2015.
Photo taken September 2014 at Anime Weekend Atlanta.

By Tim Eldred, October 2014

If you became active in US anime fandom during the 1980s, chances are very good that your path crossed Robert’s. If you joined up later, you should know that Robert is one of the reasons there IS a fandom.

He was a core member of C/FO San Antonio, one of the most active clubs in the nation at that time, and in that capacity he helped just about everyone to start (or expand) their own anime collection. His group became a major hub for VHS tape trading, which opened up all the paths that were paved by professional anime importers a few years later.

I first encountered Robert when I got serious about tape-trading in 1985, and I was just one of countless beneficiaries of his unconditional generosity. We began a professional relationship five years later when we found ourselves teamed up on the Captain Harlock series for Eternity Comics. It was a dream project for us both that lasted 17 issues, concluding in 1993.

Our paths took us in different directions afterward, and we gradually lost touch. Before we knew it, a stretch of twenty years had flown by before we were finally reunited in late September 2014 at Anime Weekend Atlanta 20. This interview was the result, a chance for us to dig into the eclectic corners of Robert’s personal history.

1: Japan to America and back again

We start with Robert’s first exposure to anime during his childhood in Okinawa and learn how it found him again later, brought him new friends, got his picture into a Japanese magazine, and lead him to discover his favorite show of all time.

Left: Robert’s Tetsuwan Atom getis, circa 1965.   Right: Photo from the March 1987 Animage.

2: Video pirates and space pirates

A country music connection carries Robert to a rising tide of anime tape-trading that lifts all boats, and we begin our conversation about the origins of the American Captain Harlock comics in a time before “OEL” meant manga.

3: Adventures in comicdom

We leave anime behind in this part of the conversation and dig into the history of the Captain Harlock comics – how they got to where they were going and what happened when the endless road turned out to have an end after all.

Naturally, a guy like Robert can’t be contained in just one interview. As you can guess from the title above, there is a Part 2. The mighty Anime World Order picked up where I left off and continued the conversation for an eyewitness view of anime fandom’s quirks, feuds, and capers as it evolved to a true cultural phenom.

Hear Part 2 at the Anime World Order website.

Read Robert’s blog Hokuto no Fogey here.

Last but not least, since this is a rare opportunity to share the actual work Robert and I did on Captain Harlock, here is a cover-to-cover presentation of two mini-series we talked about in the interview. I no longer own all the original art, but I made archival photocopies before parting with it, which means these pages are scanned from a much cleaner source than comic book newsprint.

The first is Pirate Queen Emeraldas (1990-91), which is Robert’s favorite. This was my first involvement with the series, as an inker over Ben Dunn’s pencils. As we progressed, he pulled back to rough layouts and I stepped up with a greater hand in the finished art. Afterward, I took over all the art duties on the regular Captain Harlock series.

Click on the links below to read a PDF of each issue.

The second is our last mini-series, The Machine People, published in 1993. There were 13 issues between Emeraldas and this one, during which time my drawing and storytelling skills increased steadily to culminate here and make it my personal best. Robert and I have both come a long way since then, but we look back with pride on our unique creative partnership.

Click on the links below to read a PDF of each issue.

Related links

See a complete Captain Harlock comic book index here.

Read all about Captain Harlock‘s involvement with Space Battleship Yamato here.

4 thoughts on “Robert W. Gibson: All About the Man, part 1

  1. A few clarifications and embellishments…

    The person running the C/FO Austin was Mike Wright. As of 1986 or so. Never found out what happened to him after that.

    The Deborah Allen album was released in ’83, so my relationship with Mitsuyoshi started a bit sooner than I remember it. Found my stash of correspondence (including Chrismas cards, of all things) from him, but all the postmark dates are hard to read. Also came across letters from Toren Smith, Scott (now Jan) Frazier and others, along with a picture of Mitsuyoshi with Toren and Mary Kennard that he sent me after one of Toren’s trips over there before he began translating and publishing.

    Speaking of Mary, it was fantastic finally running into her at AWA after all these years. She got my last couple of SPT Layzner cels because, of all the people I knew back in the day, she was one of the few who really dug the show enough to write about it.

    All I’ve got left is a couple of Robotech items and Hokuto no Ken stuff that I’m still torn over parting with. The HnK stuff, anyway 🙂

    Anyone reading this that wants one of those huge SDF-1 toys (Robotech version), I have one in the box, slightly worn. What can I say, I actually mess with my toys 🙂 It’s the American version of the one in the picture accompaning the interview, except it doesn’t shoot anything that might put your eye out.

    Again, I had a great time at AWA, even considering I almost passed out by walking up and down 10 flights of stairs multiple times because of the fire alarm…

    RWG (say what you will, but Dave’s cons are never boring 🙂

      • I heard about the news on twitter from Dave Merrill feed last Friday, and it wasn’t until today that I found out he actually responded to one of my post on the AWO interview with him, which was back in November of last year.

        I really enjoyed reading his Hokuto No Fogie blog he did a few years ago, and it seems to be a staple of first hand archived knowledge of what it was like in those early days of anime fandom in America.. I wish more stories like what he put on his blog can be told and be collected in a way to make everything well documented during that era.

        I do wanna say that I read Robert’s blog during my hellish call center job at my cubicle, half way paying attention to a customers billing complaints as i’m reading about what it was like putting on Wicked City to a packed room in 1987. I think that his blog inspired me to start my own blog, which became the podcast link you see in my name over the years. At one point it seemed that Robert vanished from the internet, and one such rumor came up that he might have been eaten by a crock in Louisiana somewhere. But I was pretty happy to see him back on after a couple of years absence.

        I need to pick one night and pour out an Harlock .40 for my old anime homie, all the while catching up the last arc of Hokuto No Ken. RIP Robert, your old kung fu will never be forgotten…

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