Wednesday, April 04, 2007

20 Years of Ninja High School

When I was a teenager, I collected comic books. Most of them were from a small San Antonio-based company called Antarctic Press. The flagship comic of AP in those days was Ninja High School, which is now celebrating twenty years in print.

I haven't read NHS in years, but I have fond memories of it. It is a humor/adventure/romance comic drawn in the manga style, originally by Ben Dunn, but by many other artists since. The story focuses on teenager everyman Jeremy Feeple in the small American town of Quagmire. Various legends taken very seriously by an alien race called Salurians bring their catgirl princess Asrial to Earth and Quagmire specifically because it is foretold that Asrial must marry this human boy, Jeremy. Simultaneously, similar legends compel Japanese ninja babe Ichi-kun Ichinohei ("Itchy-koo" as she becomes nicknamed) to believe that she must marry Jeremy if she is to become head of her ninja clan. Conflict ensues.

The stories tend to become pretty nonsensical after that, with alien invasions, the arrival of witches in Quagmire, a high school science teacher who tries to reintroduce steam engines, and many other bizarre storylines that filled twenty years, of which I read about five.

I think what made Ninja High School so appealing was that it didn't take itself too seriously. It was a celebration of absurd plot devices and preposterous coincidences. Deus ex machina reigned supreme. And then it would take the reader by surprise with sudden moments of character depth, startling action, and haunting romance.

The series has since moved off the original characters, introduced a second set, and then a third. More serious comics like Batman or Spawn can last for generations, for there are always evils to fight; always dragons to slay. But Ninja High School was not about evil, but about innocence. And innocence can only last for a brief moment in time, like a first kiss or a lazy Saturday afternoon wandering about the mall with one's friends, young and carefree. And that, I suppose, is what I miss about Ninja High School -- not just the comic, but what it represents.


Jeff the Baptist said...

Well Ninja High School was mostly a send up of various Japanese manga and anime conventions. The original arc-plot was a mix of Urusei Yatsura with some Ranma 1/2 and other archetypes thrown in. Good stuff.

the reverend mommy said...

Yeah! Manga!

John said...

Except that the male characters in NHS tended to be more admirable than the lecherous cads in Urusei Yatsura and Ranma. But yes, there is some correlation.

Yep, Rev Mom, NHS was the best. In fact, Antarctic didn't produce anything that wasn't worth reading. Warrior Nun Areala in particular was excellent.