Monday, February 18, 2008

Pirate vs. Ninja!

That's right - I said

Pirate!

versus


Ninja!


One of the most proliferant memes on the internets, Pirate versus Ninja is high concept at its highest, a pop culture mash-up cum personality test that is more exciting than anything since the Captain Midnight-Spy Smasher crossover of 1943 and a heckuva lot more fun than a Myers-Briggs assessment.

And now, thanks to assiduous research a lucky Google hit, I believe I have uncovered the ur-document, the prime source, the unmoved mover of the whole megillah.


Unknown Soldier #254 - 256, August - Oct0ber 1981; DC Comics
Captain Fear by Dave Micheline, Walter Simonson, John Workman, and Carl Gafford.

Captain Fear was an 18th-century Pirate of the Caribbean with a twist. Beginning his career in Adventure Comics in 1973, he was a Carib Indian and leader of the indigenous people in the region who becomes a pirate and taunts and twits the Spanish hegemon much like Zorro in California (except that as an actual member of the oppressed people, instead of merely their champion, he gets to keep the booty for himself).

The good captain sailed around the periphery of the DC universe on a course so eccentric he was revived (with a distinctly Ricky Martin vibe) in Architecture & Morality along with other D-list characters representing The Obscure. Back in the summer of 1981, he had found a temporary home in the war title Unknown Soldier, competing for his six or seven pages with Dateline: Frontline (tales of a war correspondent) and miscellaneous non-serial fillers. His stories didn't even get titles, but this three-parter is significant for its ground-breaking theme.

A splash-page prelude establishes some sort of connection between the Battle of Sekigahara in Japan in 1600, the European War of Austrian Succession begun in 1741, and a 1748 confrontation between a Spanish warship and strangely unresponsive Dutch freighter. Fear and his crew of buccaneers interrupt the standoff, seizing the Spanish ship and taking the Dutch ship as their own prize.

Upon boarding the East India trading ship, they find the entire crew slain, by mysterious star-shaped weapons. Fear finds what he believes to be something of value - a scroll, apparently being guarded by a "yellow man." Fear takes the scroll and other booty and leaves a skeleton crew to guard the ship: sailors who are doomed, because the unseen assassin cuts them all down before revealing himself to the reader in this dramatic shot:



In the next installment, Fear takes the scroll, in the middle of the night, to the governor of the island of San Bastienne and, at swordpoint, forces the Spaniard to read it to him. (Why he didn't just find someone friendly is not explained - literacy must have been rare in those parts). The governor soon realizes the document is a "communique between dissident factions in Japan and the King of England" about a possible alliance. Realizing the value of the document in Europe, he offers to buy it from Fear, but their negotiations are interrupted by the ninja, who has tracked the scroll across the world for the Shogun and is sworn to retrieve it. What follows, is, of course, pirate versus ninja, presented here in all its muddy, mando-paper glory:







Ah, if only they had continued to fight until a clear winner was determined - the internets might have been spared so many pointless interesting arguments! But, alas, the governor's guards burst in at that moment, scattering the opponents.

The final chapter begins with two vessels, one piratical and one gubernatorial, moored together so Captain Fear and Governor Luis Castelone (who now has a name) can swap scroll for gold. Of course, the unscrupulous Spaniard attempts a double-cross, but Fear's life is saved - for the moment - by the ninja! Oh, how ironic!



It all goes south from there, as the governor's reinforcements arrive, Fear sets fire to the two ships with a pre-arranged booby-trap, and a melee breaks out in which the captain-san and the neen-ja find themselves on the same side. Oh, irony redux!



You can probably write the rest of this yourself: ninja is killed, Fear avenges his death by killing the governor, Fear gets his gold and leaves the scroll with the ninja on the burning ship, so the ninja can die having completed his mission for his master. Ah, the Bronze Age.

So, there you have it, perhaps the original Pirate vs. Ninja: pre-YouTube, pre-internet, pre-COIE even.

And the world would never be the same.

Notes:

1. The (clear) covers were skimmed from GCD, as usual. The (crappy) interior scans are from the actual comics, now in the LSB.
2. That whole story took eighteen pages - and that includes the beginning-of-chapter recaps!
3. The best sound effect in the story is not that "SLLLATCH" of a ninja sword slicing a Spanish sailor, but actually the "SHRATCHAFOOM" of a pitch-and-kerosene soaked frigate exploding into flame.
4. Now that I think of it, we see the ninja shot by a volley gun and left on a burning ship, but never actually get his death confirmed. Perhaps we underestimate... a ninja! Maybe there's an even more obscure character waiting to be revived, eh?

2 comments:

The Fortress Keeper said...

I ... must ... get ... these ... comics!

Anonymous said...

好秘书 中国呼吸网 肿瘤网 中国皮肤网 癌症康复网 工作总结 演讲稿 竞聘演讲 就职演讲 比赛演讲 征文演讲 节日演讲 演讲技巧 方案制度 工作意见 活动策划 工作方案 整改方案 实施方案 企划文案 销售方案 培训方案 应急预案 规章制度 法律法规 材料大全 事迹材料 先进事迹 个人事迹 申报材料 学习材料 考察材料 经验材料 交流材料 个人鉴定 自我鉴定 模板范例 技巧经验 工作计划 工作规划 年度工作计划 学校工作计划 个人工作计划 财务工作计划 团委工作计划 工会工作计划 单位工作计划 德育工作计划 教学工作计划 班主任工作计划 党支部工作计划 先教活动 整改措施 剖析材料 反腐倡廉 三农问题 和谐社会 三个代表 八荣八耻 先进性教育 党团工会 党团知识 党员相关 党会发言 党性分析 民主生活会 入党志愿书 入党申请书 入团申请书 转正申请书 公文写作 板报设计 办公表格 谈判技巧 外贸信函 公文 秘书 广告启事 通知 求职指导 求职信 自荐信 简历封面 简历模板 简历范文 简历制作 英文简历 面试技巧 学术论文 企业文化 毕业论文 经济工作 财经金融 城建环保 教育教学 工矿企业 党政司法 合同 合同知识 买卖合同 承包合同 投资合同 招标合同 建设工程 劳动合同 运输合同 房屋合同 借款合同 销售合同 租赁合同 保险合同 其它合同 秘书 述职报告 呼吸机 氧气机 决定不掉泪 一杯咖啡 最熟悉的陌生人