Monday, June 16, 2008

Indy Jones Mania is Peaking in Japan!

In Japan, he's known as "Indy."

You call him Dr. Jones, doll!

Nope, sorry, Short Round. Just Indy. Occasionally, Indy Jones. But much like Capt. Jack Sparrow is affectionately referred to simply as "Jack" and Billy Blanks is likewise called "Billy," most people know the man with the hat and the whip without any qualifiers. Either it's a cultural thing where people here tend to shorten names or phrases into easily pronounced cuteness, or else people are getting lazy in their old age. Or my old age. Or Indiana Jones' old age.

One week before the Japan-wide release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the merchandise is ubiquitous. Actually, it has been for more than a month. The Zaza Toys-R-Us even has a special display near the store's front, near the video games and (more importantly) the cash registers.

At first it was fully stocked with dozens of those wall-eyed Indiana Jones 3 3/4" figures. I don't understand why Hasbro would send out millions of toys sculpted in the shape of renowned archaeologist Henry Jones, Jr. and allow every single one of them to sport goofy eyes, as if he'd been crossbred with a flounder or a chameleon. But they did. It's universal... even the dozens I saw in a famous Ginza toy shop over Golden Week shared this trait. The ol' wandering iris.

Matt Groening reportedly won't let his Simpsons characters be depicted cross-eyed, preferring a slight wall-eyed expression, imparting them with an existentially alienated appearance. So too George Lucas and Steven Spielberg with their intrepid adventurer. A wall-eyed Dr. Jones is a globetrotting Dr. Jones, I guess. And his peripheral vision is off the charts. But poor Sallah doesn't know what eye to look at when speaking to his old friend.

Now the toy pickings are slim. Shoppers made off with the picks of the lot, mostly the younger Indy despite his funked-up eyes. The nifty Hasbro 12-inch figures (I pre-ordered the more deluxe and costly 1/6th scales Indy's from Sideshow Toys and Medicom because they are works of mother-lovin' art, baby!) are still plentiful, but if you want any of the smaller ones you have to choose between some seedy characters in robes, a couple of Nazi soldiers wearing what appear to be Sherlock Holmesian deerstalker caps, old Indy... and Mutt Williams. There are a ton of Mutt Williams figures to be had. So many, they will probably still be available this time next year. Sorry, Shia.

Up the escalator you'll find Toho Cinemas (known as Virgin Cinemas until it got laid) which is incredibly tricked out Indiana Jones and the Various Movies of Doom-style. There are massive decals for the new flick on the windows, a display featuring a fake crate with a familiar-looking brown fedora lying on top of it and a widescreen TV monitor on which trailers for all 4 movies play on an endless loop, and The Store is fully stocked with action figures, books, posters, the soundtrack CD... and that amazing Japanese movie souvenir, the program.

Called a "brochure" in Japanese-English, these are colorful photo-filled booklets. The Crystal Skull program is a glossy, oversized example. Lots of artwork- stills, storyboards, set and character designs. An overview of the film series and the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show. If only I could read Japanese!

Two weeks ago, on a whim I bought a few packs of Topps Indiana Jones Heritage cards in hopes of pulling a hidden treasure... like Indy himself, I came in search of fortune and glory. The set contains photo cards of various scenes from all the films, plus some randomly-inserted autograph cards and hand-drawn "sketch" cards featuring actual art by professional illustrators. I got a sketch of Sean Connery as Professor Henry Jones, Sr. signed by "MB," who I'm guessing is Mark Brooks.

Actually, it looks a little tight for a "sketch," but not as resolved as a finished piece. Somewhere in between, what one of my old graphic design teachers might have called a "semi-comp." It's a good, instantly recognizable likeness, and I was very pleased with finding it. It gave me a little thrill, actually.

I rarely buy bubblegum cards of any kind (not since the baseball card bug bit me in the early 1990s and I recovered when things became too collector-oriented and speculative and plain nasty... just like comic book collecting before the market collapse!) and so have little experience with these things. Anyway, Mark Brooks or whoever drew this... my fedora is off to you.

Thanks, brother! Your color cards look especially nice!

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