Always Five, acting as One!

I didn't even realise it at the time, But Battle of the Planets - a completely brilliant cartoon shown on BBC1 in the 70s and 80s - was Japanese of all things! Now, I can see it so clearly, the honking big eyes, the magical transformation sequence, the threat from an outside source - all so quintessentially Japanese anime.

At the time though, I just thought it was seriously cool, and it was, along with the campy, kitsch 1960s Batman, possibly one of my first exposures to super heroes. For those of you who know me, it might possibly be said I have a slight interest in super heroes. Okay, I love them. I even did a degree in Classical Studies so that I could study Greek heroes (not such nice guys) in more depth. I may have one or two thousand comic books. Super heroes are just brilliant.

I remember Battle of the Planets, the sweeping strings of its theme music influencing me greatly as a little boy. It's one of the first things I remember wanting and striving to draw. The one really clear memory I have is of trying to draw Mark (courageous team leader) and inevitably messing up, and my mum telling me that I should probably use a pencil instead of a biro, then I could rub out mistakes.

I've gotten a bit better since then, and I rarely draw in biro. But Battle of the Planets, and its heroes: G-Force is something I have returned to again and again over the years, depicting the same characters in a variety of styles and mediums. I saw a picture online recently that I though would make a perfect reference image for one of the characters, and so I actively searched for others to complete the team, and then started drawing.

Everything went pretty smoothly up until Princess, the token female character. Something just wasn't right, possibly because I was trying to combine two reference images into one final piece. So I started again, finding more reference images, but she still wasn't right, and so I tried a third time. I still don't think that she's looking great, but I don't have the heart to try a fourth time - these were supposed to be a bit of quick fun, not an epic mission for perfection. I'm sure I'll be coming back to these characters in the future, and I can improve before then.

The backgrounds - which is supposed to be the easy part of an illustration, especially if all you want is flat colour! - were a pig to do on these too! Maybe the paper wasn't great and the paint was just sitting on top instead of being absorbed. Maybe I'd thinned the paint down too much. Maybe the paper buckled because I had watered the paint down too much. Maybe the cold weather made it slower to dry, I don't know, but they took a lot longer to do than I expected, and each piece needed at least three coats of gold gouache to get a solid colour.

I'm glad I pushed through the pain though as I like how they've come out, and the gold gives it a sense of antique Japanese screens. I've done little block prints of each character's name in Japanese script that I might add to them as well, just for that extra something.

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