The G-Force gang.


Original medium: TV Cartoons
Produced by: Sandy Frank Entertainment
First Appeared: 1978
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The title War of the Worlds was already taken, even discounting the Marvel Comics version, so Sandy Frank Film Syndication settled on a slightly less dramatic name when adapting the 1972 Japanese animated TV series Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman ("Science Ninja Team Gatchaman") to the U.S. market. Battle of the Planets

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… was first seen on American screens on September 10, 1978, Frank Americanized several Japanese properties over the years, but only this one was originally done as animé.

In both Japan and America, the main storyline concerned defending Earth and planets colonized by Earth, from attack by the planet Spectra — but other threats from "beyond space" were the focus of many episodes (which numbered 105 in Japan and 85 in America). The main difference was to make it more juvenile, to appeal to America's younger cartoon audience.

Opposing both Spectra and whatever came from beyond space was G-Force, a team of five young superheroes named Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny. They got around in a space ship called Phoenix (no relation), which, like The Fantastic Four's flying "Fantasticar", was capable of splitting into independent segments, so each member could operate independently. When together, Phoenix was capable of forming an actual flaming phoenix bird, able to incinerate any opponent. Less effectively, it had a solar-powered foe-zapper, but that didn't work very well on cloudy days, which is when they usually tried to deploy it. Phoenix's main weapon for everyday use was an apparently infinite supply of rockets.

Voice talent included Ronnie Schell (also heard in post-series versions of The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and others), Janet Waldo (Penelope Pitstop, Judy Jetson), Keye Luke (The Amazing Chan, but better known as a face actor), Alan Young (Uncle Scrooge in DuckTales, Mr. Terrific (a Batman knock-off)), Casey Kasem (Robin in Super Friends, Norville "Shaggy" Rogers in Scooby Doo) and Alan Dinehart (voice director for the 1980s Alvin & the Chipmunks, Spider-Man and others).

Starting in 1979, Gold Key adapted Battle of the Planets into five issues of a comic book. A generation later, the franchise was still robust enough for Image Comics (Savage Dragon, The Maxx), specifically its Top Cow Studio (Witchblade) to revive the comic. The 21st century series did a crossover with Thundercats.

In animation, too, Battle of the Planets continued to echo through the years. In 1987, Gatchaman was adapted into a similar but not identical show called G-Force: Guardians of Space, by Ted Turner's broadcasting empire (which includes the Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons, among others). Two follow-up series were made in Japan, one of which was adapted into an English-language version, Eagle Riders, by Saban Entertainment (Casper Meets Wendy, Dragon Ball Z).

The entire run of Battle of the Planets has been made available on DVD.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Sandy Frank Film Syndication.