Sunday, 26 April 2015

Are you a fan of DIC Cartoons? Les séries de notre enfance - interview with Nordine Zemrak

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Nordine Zemrak who, along with Maroin Eluasti, wrote the book Les séries de notre enfance (The series of our childhood).  Their book is all about DIC Entertainment; creators of so many great TV Series - including many of my childhood favourites – Ulysses 31, Inspector Gadget, Pole Position and, of course, M.A.S.K. to name but a small few.

Les séries de notre enfance Cover
After a few messages back and forth, Nordine has agreed to do a Q&A session for your reading pleasure!

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC) – Thank you for taking the time to have a chat.  Can you start off with telling us a little bit about yourself?

Nordine Zemrak (NZ) – I'm 40, I live in Lille in Northern France. I am a professor of commerce and likewise and I mix progressive music for webradio and of course I am a fan of animation, retro games and Japan.

(MC) – When did you first become a fan of cartoons from the DIC Stable?

(NZ) – I became addicted to DIC series very quickly. This is going crescendo, Ulysses (31) took me in very distant lands but The Mysterious Cities of Gold completely overwhelmed me. I noted the names at the end of the credits and I soon realised that the name DIC was present on both series. Inspector Gadget, Here Come The Littles, M.A.S.K. and Jayce (and the Wheeled Warriors) confirmed this love for the series DIC. Nothing surprised me when I saw after the logo at the end of a generic.

(MC) – What was it about their cartoons that you liked?

(NZ) – I loved the adventure side.  These animations allowed us to escape, to travel while staying at home and also teach us values!

(MC) – I remember growing up watching many great DIC programmes from Pole Position to Inspector Gadget.  All great, but I think M.A.S.K. has to be my favourite.  Is there any particular series that you would call your favourite?

(NZ) – Without hesitation, I would say The Mysterious Cities of Gold brought me a dream every Wednesday (French broadcast).  I collected all the goodies about this anime  and I still continue.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold
(MC) – What is about that particular cartoon that you love?

(NZ) – The dream, adventure.

(MC) – One of the things that stays in mind after all of these years are the incredible Theme Tunes each cartoon had.  Do you thing these added to the success and longevity of DIC's cartoons?

(NZ) – The music has positively contributed to the success of each series. S. Levy and H. Saban had the power to make magic on each series - worthy of Hollywood movie.

(MC) – Do you have a particular favourite Theme Tune?

(NZ) – Very difficult for my heart - balance between the Mysterious Cities of Gold, Jayce and M.A.S.K.

(MC) – As you may already know from my blog, I'm a big fan of the UK M.A.S.K. Comics.  Did you ever collect any merchandise?

(NZ) – I collected the Panini album which includes the stickers, a few toys and comics.

(MC) – Do you still have your collection?

(NZ) – Unfortunately I did not keep everything on this series. I have the Panini Sticker Album, a promotional brochure and an audio tape, but I keep in touch with big collectors.

(MC) – You wrote Les séries de notre enfance with Maroin Eluasti how and when did the two of you meet?

(NZ) – We met through ebay (lol) there 8 years.

(MC) – When did you come up with the idea of writing a book chronicling DIC?

(NZ) –  When I was a kid, I had a book which incorporated information on DIC and its seriesIt was after a meeting with a friend, who had a fanzine, that the idea of a series and later a book that has materialised with Maroin.

MC) – Can you tell us about your book?

(NZ) – Our book traces the genesis of the DIC Studio and the adventure that lead Jean Chalopin to offer us all these exciting series. It presents the beginnings of DIC, the Development Studio and each series through the scenes.

(MC) – I assume that you had a lot of inside help from DIC – perhaps from Jean Chalopin himself?

(NZ) – Jean Chalopin and a lot of the French, Japanese and American DIC team brought us a lot of elements to build our articles. I mention Bruno Bianchi who greatly helped us and unfortunately left us before the release of the book.

Nordine Zemrak, Jean Chalopin and Maroin Eluasti

(MC) – Was it a childhood dream getting the inside scoop?

(NZ) – Absolutely, the dream has come true to be able to meet all these people who have made us our dreams.

(MC) – With the back catalogue that DIC owns, was it a huge challenge to write this book?  Is there scope for a sequel?

(NZ) – It was a very very big challenge that took us 10 years.  We will not make a sequel.

(MC) – Unfortunately, I don't speak French.  Are there any plans to translate your book into other languages?  I'm sure there would be a big market for an English version?

(NZ) – It is with great pleasure that we would like to adapt the book to the English market.  We did not have the means. We must remember that when published our book we didn't even have a French publisher interested in our project. We appealed to the participation of users via Ulule platform to support our project. But we are very interested for the English edition.

(MC) – I was a fan of Inspector Gadget when I was younger.  When the movies came out, they were a must see for me.  How do you think the live action movies compared to the cartoons?

(NZ) – Inevitably the cartoon keeps a most beautiful place in our heart.

Inspector Gadget

(MC) – Would you like to see more DIC cartoons turned into Live Action Movies?  If so, which ones?

(NZ) – Cinema adaptation of Ulysses, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Jayce and M.A.S.K.

(MC) – As you may know from my blog, I started my journey just over five years ago when I started writing a M.A.S.K. script.  Do you think M.A.S.K. should receive the Live Action treatment?

(NZ) – M.A.S.K. would not be out of place in a live action. This is a fantasy that has its place in the current series or films. You write the script for our friend Dave?

Les séries de notre enfance - M.A.S.K.

(MC) – No.  I'm not sure who wrote Dave Guivant's script – I think maybe he wrote it himself. 

If M.A.S.K. were made into a movie, what characters and vehicles would you like to see?

(NZ) – Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem, of course. Then there are other characters but I'm not sure that the names are the same as in the Anglophone release.

(MC) – What does the future hold for you?  Are you currently working on any more projects?

(NZ) – We have many projects. My friend Maroin pulled a trailer called Asterion a collaboration between France and Japan as at the time of the DIC.

(MC) - Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions.

So, there you have it.  If you are a Fan of DIC, then Les séries de notre enfance is the Ultimate Book for you.  It is currently available from Amazon!

Click here to be taken to a great commercial for this fantastic book that has some clips from our favourite DIC TV series - including M.A.S.K.

You can also keep up-to-date on the Les séries de notre enfance Facebook Page.

Bernard Deyries (Director) and Jean Chalopin
Keep up-to-date over at the M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page also.

I'd like to thank José Manuel Rosario Rodríguez - without his great wanted poster, I wouldn't have had the chance to chat with Nordine.  Who knows, perhaps my next interview might be with Jean Chalopin himself?

#assembleMASK #Hasbro #MASKComics
#DIC #DICEntertainment

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Transformers Prowl, Smokescreen & Bluestreak Vs M.A.S.K.'s Manta - Datsun 280zx Vs Nissan 300zx

When I was growing up in the 70's and 80's, my Father was a mechanic.  He worked in the local garage which had a Saab Franchise.  Saab always had a reputation of being quality cars - it's a shame they are now defunct.

During the same period, a family friend of my parents also worked as a Mechanic - however, he worked on the Datsun brand.  There was some friendly rivalry between my older brothers and his kids - I guess both having Fathers in the same trade made us quite similar.

My brothers used to joke that their Father worked on "Crapsun Datsun's"!  They were somewhat different to what we were used to.  Someone in the village had a Triple S coloured like Starsky's Ford Gran Torino.

Many times M.A.S.K. is compared to Transformers.  Like M.A.S.K., quite often Transformers toys were based on real vehicles.  Coming from Japan, it's no wonder that the Datsun 280zx featured as part of the Transformers line-up.

The 280zx is very much a car styled in the 70's (a bit like myself)!  It is very sleek (unlike me) and shares many design cues from European Sports Car of the same era.

Transformers took this style, painted it black and white and put blue flashing lights on it and called it Prowl.

When I first started buying the Transformers Comic in the UK and watching the TF Cartoon, I wasn't really aware that this was a real car - let alone a Datsun.  Prowl is a great looking toy and was a brilliant character.

The attention to detail of this "scale model" is amazing.

Prowl had a couple of "Brothers" who shared the same Datsun platform.

Bluestreak is one of Prowl's Brothers.  With a change of paint, removal of the blue flashing lights.  Smokescreen does gain with Glass Panels in his T-Top.

In this coulour, it reminds me of James Bond's Aston Martin DB-5.

The third and final brother is Smokescreen.  A racing car in red, white and blue.  The front bumper (fender) has changed and he also has the addition of a rear spoiler.

With his racing pedigree, Smokescreen looks awesome!  Having all three in the image above it's easy to see the differences between the three.  I guess it could've been so easy for Hasbro to have made them completely identical and just paint them in three different colours.

What they have done, is given each of them their own unique identity - which is something that they achieved with a number of other similar Robots.

If I'm honest, I kind of lean towards Prowl as being my favourite.

By the time M.A.S.K. came out, the Nissan brand name had taken over from the Datsun brand.

The 280zx had been replaced with the more modern, 80's styled 300zx.

There are clearly similarities been the 300 and it's predecessor - I guess like the Porsche 911, a classically designed vehicle only needs minor changes through it's life to stay modern and up-to-date - whilst still keep the original's look.

Pop-Up Headlights were the order of the day on 80's Sports Cars.  As a kid, when you saw these, you were in awe.  As an adult, you think "that's going to be expensive when they break!"

If I'm honest, as much as I love the 300zx, I think that the style of the 280zx is nicer!  I know as a M.A.S.K. fan you would think I'd go for the 300 - it is a great car after all - but the 280 has more curves and nuances that set it apart.

Like Transformers, M.A.S.K.'s attention to detail is amazing and the likeness to the real thing is uncanny.  I think Transformers has the edge over the amount of moving parts when they cars transform into robots.

But this is sometimes, I feel, a negative.  I didn't have any Transformers growing up!  Now that my son has a few, I sometimes wonder if they are a toy or a puzzle.

The transformations on them seem overly complicated.  I can appreciate their beauty in both Robot and Alternate modes - but changing them from one to another is a struggle and frankly, I give up.

M.A.S.K. toys on the other hand normally have some ingenious mechanism that, at a touch of a button, quickly converts them from one mode to another.  As a kid, this allows you to learn how to use them quicker and ultimately get to play with them much quicker!

However, like the Pop-Up headlights on the 300zx, if something goes wrong with the mechanism on the M.A.S.K. toys.....

As we all know, Manta converts into a plane - and looks spectacular - especially on the box art.  We also have the charming Vanessa Warfield with her Whip Mask.  Looking back at it now, with the way she is dressed in her skin tight catsuit and her Whip Mask, I'm thinking she is a bit of a dominatrix!

One thing I could never understand with Manta, was the name.  It's a great name, don't get me wrong, but why Manta?

There were two things that stuck in my head when I first came across Manta -

1) Manta is a car.  There is a car called an Opel Manta - so to call it Manta and be a Nissan confused me.
2) Manta is a plane.  I don't see any link between a plane and the word Manta.  Had it been a submarine like M.A.S.K.'s Shark - fair enough, as it would fit in with Manta Ray.

Perhaps there is someone out there with and idea of where the name Manta fits in?

It's difficult to say which of these four great toys is the best.  As a M.A.S.K. fan, I think I have to stick with Manta.

What do you think?

Feel free to leave your comments below or over at the M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page.

Thank you,


#assembleMASK #Hasbro #MASKComics

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Box Art - M.A.S.K. and Airfix

We all now how great the M.A.S.K. Box Art is - as can been seen in these images from Albert Penello's M.A.S.K. website.

What makes them so great is the attention to detail; the action; the drama.  They truly bring these toys to life.

It was a master stroke to use this artwork to draw you into the action and grab your attention on the shop shelves.  

However, M.A.S.K. weren't the first toys to use this type of artwork on their boxes.  A UK based model company, Airfix, were (and still are) famous for this style of artwork.

I grew up with 4 older brothers so Airfix models were common place in my house.  The boxes all had great artwork and featured an image of the vehicle in some great action/battle scene.

For those of you not familiar with Airfix, they were kits that you built yourself.  The kits always came in the following format.

You would cut the pieces from the backing, glue them together, paint them and add decals.  I always found them fiddly myself and wasn't great at building them.

One of my pride and joys when I was younger, was a Millennium Falcon kit.  My oldest brother, Peter, bought it for me.  Luckily, he also built it up for me so it looked as good as it was meant to!  I hate to imagine the mess I would've made had I attempted it!

Much of Airfix's catalogue features Military Vehicles - planes, boats, tanks, etc.  There are, of course, so many more kits; as previously mentioned, the Millennium Falcon is just one of many Star Wars and other Sci-Fi related kits.  But anything that that drives or flies has most likely had the Airfix treatment.

To add to the drama, some of the vehicles featured on the boxes would be seen suffering damage making them vulnerable and adding to the realism.

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Sunday, 12 April 2015

M.A.S.K. Comic UK Issue 19

The 4th of July through to the 17th of July 1987 saw issue 19 of M.A.S.K. UK Comic for sale in all good newsagents.

We have another fun cover that doesn't relate to any particular story in the comic.

On the front cover, Miles Mayhem is boasting that he has taken over the wraparound cover with pictures of himself.

Luckily, Julio Lopez in Firefly is on hand on the back cover and uses his Streamer Mask to squirt oil over the images on the back page.

Table of Contents -

  • Front and Back Wraparound Cover
  • Five Pages - "Inside the Volcano" Part 3 (B&W with Pink Tint First Cell)
  • Four Pages - "Royal Rescue" Part 3 (Colour)
  • Five Pages - "Operation Vandal" Part 3 (B&W)
  • Centre Page Spread - Dusty Hayes and Backlash
  • Five Pages - "A Matter of Honour" (B&W with Pink Tint First Cell)
  • Single Page - Advertisement
  • Single Page - Letters Page
  • Single Page - MASK Art
  • Single Page - Advertisement
  • Four Pages - "Young at Heart" Part 5 (B&W)
  • Single Page - Advertisement

After being lured in by the Multi-Billionaire, J. J. Kinsale, Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem are having to work together "Inside the Volcano".  An artificial Jungle has been created inside the Volcano hiding many terrors for our duo to fight their way out of.

As they continue to battle the ginormous Robotic Elephants and Robo-Hunters from last issue, Matt Trakker is forced to make the decision to save Miles Mayhem's life.

Trakker and Mayhem Make their way to their vehicles - Thunderhawk and Switchblade.

Watching all of the action on large monitors, from a safe distance, is Mayhem and Trakker's Captor - J. J. Kinsale.

On the monitors we see that our duo have now reached their respective vehicles and have taken flight to destroy the common enemy.

We also see a captive Scott and T-Bob - Gagged and tied up.  Some might say that this is the best way to keep these two during any mission!

One of Switchblade's stinger rockets almost hits Thunderhawk and the two exchange words with each other.

Each knows how much they would love to wipe out the other - but they also know that to do so would halve their chances of survival - and so the truce must continue...

Matt detects a laser overhead that will prevent their escape from the top of the Volcano so the decide to continue through the Jungle to see if there is another way out of their prison.

As they continue on, a massive spiderweb is unleashed directly in their path.

Matt releases two of Thunderhawk's "Melt Bombs" that clear a path for him through the web.  However, Mayhem is not so lucky and Switchblade gets caught up in the web.

Caught like a fly, Massive spiders make their way towards the stricken Switchblade and attempt to devour her.  Mayhem unleashes his nose cannons to fend of the Eight-Legged Freaks descending upon him.

He then starts Switchblade up in Helicopter mode with the Rotar Blades cutting through the web freeing him up.

Trakker and Mayhem decide to land to "get their bearings" and find out from Mayhem that he's tried to contact his team but his radio is being jammed.

Back in his control room, Kinsale pulls a lever to make life even more difficult for his victims - an earthquake.  A large fissure appears separating Trakker and Mayhem from their vehicles - as it does, Trakker falls into the fissure.  Using Spectrum's Freefall abilities, he manages to slow down and attempts to climb back out.

As the fissure closes, will Mayhem come to his rescue?

During their "Royal Rescue" attempt of Prince Sabana, Buddie Hawks is down and appears to be out after trying to infiltrate V.E.N.O.M. to glean information.  Fortunately, he's not as stricken as would first appear.
He manages to hit Miles Mayhem in the face with some snow and then gets up in an effort to get to Mayhem and stop him.  However, Sly Rax and V.E.N.O.M. soldiers go after Hawks as Cliff Dagger's Torch mask fires and creates a barrier of flames between Hawks and Mayhem.

They take Hawks back to their lair, Castle Hotzmeir.  When they get there, Buddie is tied up and and hung outside the castle as a shield.

Matt Trakker and Bruce Sato in Thunderhawk, manage to trace Buddie's location via a hidden locator bug in Buddie's shoe.

As they get close to the castle, a Helicopter with a Red Cross emblem comes up at their rear - but all is not as it seems as it opens fire on our heroes.  Thunderhawk manages to evade the attack and circles around and blows the chopper out of the sky.

As Thunderhawk is within visual sight of the castle - V.E.N.O.M.'s anti-aircraft guns manage to blow up Thunderhawk....

The artwork in the colour strips continues to get better.  I also like the use of the V.E.N.O.M. soldiers - it gives credence to Miles Mayhem's military attire that he wears and makes him look more like a general.

This issue's continuation of "Operation Vandal" is somewhat confusing.  In the last issue, Matt makes a comment about following up a lead in France.  The last two panels of said issue one would assume that Matt is on his way to France when he encounters Mayhem, but reading this issue - it says that Matt and Miles' encounter is far out over the Atlantic Ocean, on the way back to the U.S.

When you back to re-read issue 18's story, it was easy to mis-read what was going on.

As Switchblade takes on Thunderhawk, Matt releases some smoke to make it look like his vehicle is damaged and plummets into the cloud cover.  As he does so, he releases a bomb that explodes in the water just as Switchblade makes her appearance.  Mayhem, believing he's killed his arch-enemy, continues onto America.

Meanwhile, already in America, Floyd Malloy on Vampire is attacking a Castle.  Although it doesn't say it, it looks like a Disneyland Castle, but we can't confirm this.

In another confusion - the rest of the M.A.S.K. team are already back at Boulder Hill - ahead of Matt Trakker.  Two issues with this - 

  1. In last issue, Alex and the team were meant to be checking out V.E.N.O.M.'s French hideout - so how are they back before Matt?
  2. The caption states "At Boulder Hill, where Alex Sector and the other VENOM Agents have returned from Europe".  VENOM Agents???  Really???
In relation to point one above, it could be that as Matt was following Miles, he may have had a longer journey.

As Matt arrives back, plans are already afoot - due to the prospect of Mount Rushmore being destroyed, Gator and Condor and being dispatched there.  It is suggested that Firefly and Thunderhawk be dispatched to Sierra Nevada  - but Matt says he is going in Rhino as Thunderhawk, and himself, are meant to be destroyed.

For some reason, Matt decides he's taking Scott and T-Bob with him in Rhino - great parenting skills!

Back at V.E.N.O.M.'s lair in Sierra Nevada, we find that the Grand Canyon is the real monument under threat and not Mount Rushmore.  We also discover that Mayhem, with delusions of grandeur, has carved his face into a mountain à la Mount Rushmore.

Onto our centre page spread this issue and we have Dusty Hayes.  Renowned for his skills as a Pizza Chef, Dusty is Gator's pilot.

With previous skills as a stunt driver, and handy with this Backlash Mask, Dusty is an integral member of the M.A.S.K. team.

The image to the right makes it look more like Backlash has sonic capabilities - like Spectrum, but his Mask is truly a great weapon as it fires Sonic Booms/Waves and can cause a lot of havoc.

Dusty is great not only in the UK Comics but also the Cartoons - he was always one of my favourites.

On a personal note, he is also one of my son's favourites as well - he's already mentioned that he wants him for his Christmas (thinking about Christmas already!!!)!

So, if any my readers out there have a Gator and Dusty Hayes they are looking to sell - can you please send me an e-mail?

I'd be looking to pay a fair and reasonable price - not some trader/collector price!

On his way back to Boulder Hill after a mission, Julio Lopez in Firefly is downed by Floyd Malloy on Vampire.  Vampire lands and Malloy tells Lopez that he wants to fight him man-to-man to settle "A Matter of Honour".

He tells him to contact him with a time and place and then heads off.  As he reports back to Mayhem, we discover that this is a plan to keep M.A.S.K. occupied whilst the rest of the V.E.N.O.M. team robs the Bullion Vault at the Santa Rosa Bank.

As Julio tells Matt of what has happened, Alex Sector intercepts "false comms" from V.E.N.O.M. with plans that they are going aid Vampire in destroying Lopez and Firefly.

Plans are set in motion for the M.A.S.K. team to aid their friend and colleague.  However, V.E.N.O.M.'s resident idiot, Cliff Dagger, lets the plan slip over the intercom and soon our M.A.S.K. team are heading to the Santa Rosa Bank to scupper V.E.N.O.M.'s devious scheme.

All, that is, except for Julio Lopez who seeks out Floyd Malloy and takes out Vampire to settle his honour.

As I didn't collect M.A.S.K. toys, I was always excited when something new enter the M.A.S.K. comics - 

When this full page advert hit the pages of my favourite comic - I was in awe.  It's not just the quality of the image itself, it's the fact that Miles has a twin brother?  Buddie is now called Clutch - that used to only be his codename - with new fatigues and mask.

I could only speculate at the two figures using a jet pack and helicopter pack...

Alex Sector, using Jackrabbit, has come under fire from both Switchblade and Vampire as he is crossing the English Channel with an antidote that can revert people who are now "Young at Heart".

Brad Turner is left in London to babysit Bruce Sato who has had a dose of the Anti-Maturity Gas and is in no fit state help.  Meanwhile, Matt Trakker takes off in Thunderhawk to go help Alex, with Julio Lopez in Firefly as his wingman.

They engage the V.E.N.O.M. Agents and send them packing as Mayhem doesn't want to get into a "fair fight".  As they head off, our heroes chase after them, leaving Alex to make his way safely to London.

In the Swiss Alps, Mayhem and Malloy disappear.  Our heroes discover a cavern cut into a mountain and believe this is Mayhem's hideout where he is storing more gas.  They fire everything they have at the cavern to destroy everything and everyone inside.

Unknown to them, Mayhem has a secret escape route and he and Malloy manage to get out.

Back in London, Sato has been given some of the antidote and makes a speedy recovery.

Another advert - for ASDA this time - featuring M.A.S.K. and Centurions toys.  How great were the Centurions?

Anyway, although the picture features the original vehicles in the UK Comic - there is mention of a price for Raven and Hurricane!  Vehicles unfamiliar to the UK Comic as this point!

As always, a great issue and great to get some hints of what's to come by reading the adverts.

Remember you can make your comments below or over at my M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page.

The Bring back M.A.S.K. Petition is still ongoing and at last count at 318 signatures - please sign up to help us bring back M.A.S.K.

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