Eat comic mayhem, villians!

 

Some history

All right, so Adam Warren is at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in 1985, starting a three-year course to learn how to do comics (beats tending cemetary lawns...). By the Christmas break, he's having real doubts about an art career, when he sees some manga and anime for the first time. He gets a look at episodes of the Dirty Pair TV series early in '86 (not long after it had ended its run in Japan) and finds new motivation for his work. Soon thereafter, he is taking a stab at writing and drawing his own short stories about the two WWWA trouble consultants.

panels from one of the early unpublished stories (c. 1986)

 

He feels that this is a series that deserves an American comic and begins to look into getting the rights. For about a year, he gets absolutely nowhere. Somewhere in there, copies of his stories, via Jim Hudnall, come to the attention of Toren Smith at Studio Proteus and the two of them finally make contact in 1987.

convention photo of Warren and Smith

Warren prepares a portfolio and a proposal that Smith takes first to Sunrise Productions. Negotiations are fruitless: at the time, the Classic OAV series was in release and there were future projects being contemplated. Smith then tries approaching Takachiho Haruka himself, whom he had met previously on his travels in Japan. This is more immediately successful: Takachiho is pleased with Warren's rendition of the characters. He advises Smith that Sunrise can have no objections to the comic book work, provided that the designs are changed from those used in the anime.

Warren and Smith feel their way along on their first collaborative work, Biohazards, due to their relative inexperience in scripting and drawing a book-length story; in this effort, they stick more closely to many of the familiar features of the Classic anime. By the time they reach their third story, A Plague of Angels, they display a formidable level of skill in concept and detail; it features possibly the best of the comix plots, particularly in its thrice-deferred climax. The DP comix "universe" has also diverged considerably at this point from either the prints novels or the anime.

The sheer amount of labor involved on Plague, however, causes the publication of the five issues to stretch out over more than a year and requires the dragooning of a number of other artists to complete all the lettering and "zipatone" work. The development of the story is also the source of substantial technical conflict between Smith and Warren. After the completion of this project, Smith returns to continue his work at Studio Proteus and Warren now goes solo on the writing for the DP stories.

 

Over the last thirteen years, as Warren has developed his skills and gotten tired of one particular version, he has worked thus far with three basic character designs for the Lovely Angels:

 

1988-1990:

for Biohazards and Dangerous Acquaintances

 

 

1990-96:

for A Plague of Angels, Sim Hell (these in black and white), Fatal: But Not Serious (color, minus the leg cast), and "I Honestly Hate You"

 

a 1995 trial leading to the present character designs

 

1997- present:

a black and white sketch and a color promotional rendering for the announcement of the proposed Superman/DP crossover graphic novel; the character designs are used in Start the Violence and Run From The Future

 

The comix stories reflect Smith's and Warren's avowed fascination with high-tech (see the afterword to the original edition of Biohazards and the articles cited below). Warren admits, especially for the last four graphic novels, to a sizeable influence from (and any number of allusions to) American "cyberpunk" and "post-CP" science fiction of the 1980s and '90s and from the works of Masamune Shirow. Sharp-eyed anime fans will also spot any number of characters from other shows planted in the crowd scenes.

It is worth mentioning that the comix version of the Dirty Pair is probably at least as well known now as the Classic version. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, I have seen Web site or Usenet references to it from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal (where they are known as "La Pareja Sucia"), Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Hungary ("Bájos Angyalok" / "Mocskos Pár"), the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Mexico ("Los Angeles Encantadores"), Argentina, Chile, and Brazil ("As Panteras do Espaço"), as of December 2006. Because of the licensing arrangements, the comix are not published in Japan, but they are known there; indeed, Warren's Biohazard Project sketchbook, which includes many DP illustrations not found elsewhere, was sold as a doujinshi there in 1996.

(left) Start the Violence in the Slovakian magazine Crew (2000)

(right) A Plague of Angels, released by Mythos Editora in Brazil (in Portuguese) in autumn 2001, as a two-parter, in conjugation with the appearance of Classic DP anime on the Locomotion channel; the covers, of course, are from other work of Warren's

 

(left) Pestes d'anges (A Plague of Angels, en française) in the first three issues of Kaméha from France (1994); the drawing of Kei is actually that of Anime UK's own Steven Kyte

(center) Sim Hell (im Deutsch!) in a large-format paperback from the German publisher Schrieber und Leser (1996)

(right) Sim Hell: Remastered in Finnish from Egmont Kustannus (2002)

 

Warren informs us that he has continued to script DP stories from time to time and plans another project, probably in the form of his most recent work, Empowered.

 

Something to know about the characters

The comix version of the Lovely Angels actually draws many of its details from the novels and particularly the anime (originally from Classic, but lately also from Flash): a great many story elements and basic ideas can be traced back to specific stories and episodes. Warren, however, emphasizes the zanier aspects, extrapolating the "out-of-control" developments in the plot-lines and the technological features well beyond those in the Japanese versions.

He has said that his version of the Pair was developed from his early viewings of the Classic anime without translations, so that he constructed their personalities based on their behavior and vocal characteristics (he confesses that he was surprised in some cases when he learned later what the Angels were actually saying). Consequently, his version of Kei is somewhat more violence-prone and less intelligent and Yuri is rather more intellectually sophisticated than their Classic counterparts.

The Angels' clairvoyant ability is here neglected or outright dismissed; instead, their capabilities derive from their trained skills and the large variety of sophisticated future-tech hardware they carry either on or (in the later stories) within their persons. Their astounding luck, of course, is carried over intact.

From A Plague of Angels onward, the Pair have come to carry progressively greater amounts of implanted electronic and biological technology -- this is the 22nd Century, after all -- and their physical characteristics and capabilities have also been enhanced by genetic engineering. Their uniforms are silver, even reflectorized; Warren also seems to be experimenting with precisely how minimal they can be made...

 

Story chronology

There is no consistent timeline for these stories: the last four graphic novels, for which dates are given, do not present a sensible story continuity. A Plague of Angels mostly transpires during 24 & 25 December 2141; most of Sim Hell, perhaps in the span of several minutes in the afternoon of 23 November; Fatal: But Not Serious largely unfolds on the 12th and 13th of September* ; and Run From the Future takes place during midday of 15 October. There are also several inconsistencies about some of the characters between the stories. What this suggests (to me) is that one should not take these comix as parts of a single history, but as Warren's variations on the theme of the Dirty Pair.

*Not bad: the con hotel (and star system) get "trashed" the very first day

Much of the general background for the comix version is taken from the first short story, "The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair", and the Classic anime. One major alteration of future History is introduced in Sim Hell and is (perhaps) applied to later stories. This is the destruction of Earth and the colonized Solar System in April 2071 by an outbreak of (possibly) mass-sentient, self-reproducing nanomachines, referred to by historians as "the Nanoclysm". Apparently, interstellar colonization was already underway by then, so that all of humankind was not exterminated.

Warren gives Kei's birthdate as 27 December 2121, using what is actually an error in the publication of David Lewis' translation of the first DP short story; the correct birth month is November, as given in the original Japanese.

 

Continue the mayhem...

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