AGE OF DAMON! Oriental Cinema Editor Damon Foster on His Fascinating Journey from Film Critic to Filmmaker!

Damon Foster poses with the remnants of Ryosaku Takayama’s original Ragon mask used in the TV series Ultraman in 1985. Photo © Damon Foster.

Damon Foster, the outspoken editor of Oriental Cinema magazine, has never been at a loss of words, and this Q&A with tokusatsu fandom’s resident independent-filmmaking iconoclast is certainly no exception. In this December 2020 interview, Damon recalls the origins of his interest in Japanese sci-fi, how he became a fanzine editor in the ’70s, and even what he remembers about some of his professional acting gigs in the late ’80s. Those of you who have read Oriental Cinema are already very familiar with Damon’s trademark crude language and humor, a lot of which is contained in the following discussion. So, now that you’ve been properly warned, let’s get on with the interview.

Brett Homenick: How did you discover Japanese films for the first time?

Damon Foster: Some hippie babysitter (later stabbed in a drug deal gone wrong, and he died) was watching Atragon in the 1960s. He said something like, “Just watch. They’ll show a monster.” I still remember the fake Manda (part of a submarine, I think) firing some sort of beam, and it wasn’t until years later that I saw the movie in its entirety and realized that particular “Manda” was ornamental. I was also into Ultraman and The Green Hornet at the time, which had an influence. Then in 1970 came the pivotal, life-changing moment. It was as close as I’ll ever come to having a religious experience.

At six years old, I saw Monster Zero on KBHK-TV’s (Channel 44) Friday Night Drive-In Theater. Atragon and Ultraman were just warm-ups, but Monster Zero started an obsession with Japanese sci-fi at my elementary school; most of the male students just couldn’t get enough. I still remember my brother and I glued to the TV while, in the living room, adults were partying. At least one of the grown-ups took a significant break from the marijuana, and joined us in my brother’s bedroom. He was just as amazed as us kiddies, and we huddled around the B/W TV.

BH: What did Japanese films have that American ones didn’t for you?

DF: Monsters who’d return in later films, to fight other monsters. The giants often survived the finales, which the American movies sure as hell weren’t doing. If American cinema had offered me “Zontar vs. Robot Monster” or “Creature from the Black Lagoon vs. the Party Beach Water Zombies,” then I’d probably have liked the American-made crap. But, also, the yanks included too damn many romantic subplots. Heroic men dating girls young enough to be their daughters, to frequent violin music. I fuckin’ hate violin overkill.

Damon Foster with his “extended family” Keiichi Youda and a young Milla Jovovich during Easter 1984. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: Growing up in the Bay Area, what kind of influence did Bob Wilkins have on you?

DF: Bob Wilkins influenced me to stay up late. It’s amazing that Creature Features never led me into a life of amphetamines. (I didn’t try cocaine until Creature Features was off the air.) I also appreciated his sense of humor, and, as I began my journalism hobby, I too tried to be silly whenever possible.

BH: How did you become familiar with the world of fanzines?

DF: At around nine years old, I got frustrated with excess coverage of Hammer movies. (This would change as a teenager when I noticed the cleavage and learned to masturbate). I had a subscription to Famous Monsters of Filmland in the mid-1970s and cried to see Dracula on the cover — yet again. I drew a mustache on Dracula before tossing that lousy issue into the recycling bin. But I began noticing alternatives, starting with English-language publications from Hawaii. Hard cover, full-color picture books for kids, and also large, newspaper-like magazines that I could actually read. These weren’t really fanzines, but they introduced me to names like Kamen Rider and Denjin Zaborger.

I began making my own little xeroxed booklets using Scotch tape and marking pens. The handwritten, digest-size Japanese Monsters lasted from about 1974 to 1976. A typical review might have been like this, “This is Raideen. His human pilot is Akira Hibiki. They’re really cool.” Some issues had one-of-a-kind Godzilla bookmarks, which I handmade from craft paper and crayons. I gave them out to my fellow 4th graders and still remember one of them getting torn in the school’s jungle gym area.

Damon poses with Ryosaku Takayama’s original Aboras mask from Ultraman. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: What inspired you to start your own fanzine, and how did you decide on the name?

DF: In a professional magazine (FXRH), there was an ad for The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal. I sent my whopping 75 cents and was inspired by the zine’s B/W crudeness. I’d never seen a fanzine before. Thanks to the ads in JFFJ, a discovered many imitators, and found myself using my meager allowance to buy fan-made publications from all over the country. Seeing so many fans being creative inspired me, but not to revive the crappy  Japanese Monsters. (I needed to start fresh and write in complete sentences.) There were so many zines with similar titles. I came up with Japanese Movie Sci-Fi, because there was a slight aversion to the abbreviation, “sci-fi.” Some considered it derogatory. I recall “serious science fiction fans” (the phrase makes me want to puke) suggesting I drop the “sci-fi,” or I wouldn’t be “taken seriously.” So that settled it — Japanese Movie Scifuckin’-Fi!

BH: What were some of the topics you covered early on?

DF: The title change from Japanese Movie Sci-Fi to Oriental Cinema happened because of Bruce Lee. I really wanted to cover more martial arts, and the word “oriental” was in common usage, and not considered racially insensitive at the time. Not that I didn’t enjoy an occasional ethnic joke. You want me to tell you one?

BH: Um, no. That’s OK, Damon. So what kind of feedback did you get in the very beginning?

DF: To a 12-year-old kid, it was mostly positive. Taking buses to off-set printing places, and to the post office took a long time, but the sales covered the expenses. One guy, Dave Milner, did say my work “stinks,” and I received a subtle jab from some other mid-1970s zine (they being full of shit), but most of the letters were always ego-enhancing.

Damon as Karas (Ra in the Japanese version) from Spectreman. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: Looking back on it now, what do you think about those early issues?

DF: I now agree with my detractors that I just mentioned. My early zines now strike me as junk (with vintage mildew odors), not worth the paper they were printed on. But not bad for a little kid limited to 1970s resources. That’s the best I could have done at that age and at that time.

BH: As you entered your 20s, how did OC change?

DF: I’d entered adulthood, followed by adultery. By then, rival zines and sister publications seems to disappear. I no longer had reading material from peers, but I instead was buying Japanese publications (having learned to read some of the language) and National Lampoon magazine. I just loved reading funny stuff — and it certainly affected my approach.

BH: How did you get your connections in Japan?

DF: I think there were Japanese fans in the 1970s who had some involvement in Famous Monsters of Filmland. Katsuyuki Kimura was a kid I traded with, and I don’t remember the names of the other Japanese people I knew in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Damon gets friendly with Spectreman’s “computer bug” prop at the home of its creator, Ryosaku Takayama. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: What led to your moving to Japan in the mid-1980s?

DF: I knew Japanese student Keiichi Youda, at Cal State Hayward where I was enrolled in Japanese language courses. I had my “I Hate Cal State” tank top (I added “I hate” with a marking pen) for years afterwards. I still remember exchange student Keiichi renting a room in my house, traveling with us, spending Xmas with us, etc. At one gathering was a young Milla Jovovich, who almost became my stepsister. Such funny games and humor. Good times.

Anyway, Keiichi put me in contact with his friend Chikako Komine in Tokyo. She was a recruiter for 3F Club. It was a “cultural exchange” group that hired gaijin to come there and work. According to the 3F Club managers the Tamuras, the 3Fs stood for “Freedom, Friendship, and Forward action.” All us gaijin (i.e., my roommates Gary and Ian) were in our early 20s, with constant access to alcohol, and were not living celibate lives. So we often said that the 3Fs actually meant, “Find ’em, Fuck ’em, and Forget ’em”!

BH: How did you adjust to life over there?

DF: I was only in Tokyo for four months (maximum) in 1985 and have never wanted to go back. It was interesting to live on my own for the first time, and in a foreign country, no less. I remember catching bad colds or allergies in rapid succession, which has never happened in the warm U.S. In California and Arizona, seasonal illnesses seem to be spread well apart, like maybe once every three years. But, in Tokyo, I got sick every week. Now I understand why I saw so many people in public, walking around in surgical masks in the Shinjuku district where I lived. (“Existed” might be a better word.) The Japanese are more conscientious, but we ass-backwards yanks finally caught on in 2020! It was also the first time I saw so much snow — totally covering some parked cars. At first, I wondered if they were handmade; we make snowmen, and they make snow cars.

Damon and Ed Martinez (to the left of Damon in sunglasses) meet Junichi Haruta (to the right of Damon in sunglasses) on the set of Juspion. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: Did you have a chance to see Godzilla (1984) while you were there? What was your opinion of it at the time?

DF: I found a nearby Toho theater on my first night in Japan. Despite jet lag, I was curious to see Godzilla (1984). But I was too late — it had just come out on VHS. So I watched it at my friend Takahiko’s house, and we chuckled at the corpses on the ship. Takahiko said, “A little boy saw this and asked, ‘My man turn into doll?’” It didn’t do anything for me, nor did it hold my attention. I was more into karate stunts than giant monsters, and never once visited Toho.

BH: Let’s talk about Ryosaku Takayama. You were able to meet his widow in Japan and see some of his work. What do you remember about that experience?

DF: Takahiko Mamiya (illustrator at TV-kun magazine) invited me to the Takayama household, but didn’t explain the importance of this Eiji Tsuburaya protege. The widow was really nice and served us lunch. Good bowls of noodles, but she apologetically removed the portions we didn’t like. I felt bad for seeming so picky. She used a spoon to remove the hard-boiled egg from my bowl, and also to remove the tomato from Takahiko’s bowl. Takahiko stated he hated tomatoes and began singing a song from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. No, not “Puberty Love,” but some other song (perhaps used in the trailer) about San Jose, as I recall.

As we all sat to eat, talk, and laugh, Mrs. Takayama noticed my attire and spiked hair, and seemed intrigued. In broken English, she said something like, “I see you like punk rock. Did that start in England?” After I talked about punk rock history (“Ramones blah, blah, blah,” “New York blah, blah, blah,” “Johnny Thunder blah, blah, blah,” etc.), we examined the tokusatsu relics — actual props from Ultraman and Spectreman. I still have my gift from Mrs. Takayama to this day — a handful of Gamakujira spines!

BH: Who else did you meet in Japan?

DF: Kenji Ohba and several other members of Sonny Chiba’s Japan Action Club. I met Ohba backstage after a JAC.stage show. I took a few pictures of he and I shaking hands and doing fighting stances. Then, after the thrilling encounter, my cheap Kodak camera fell from my pocket. It landed on concrete steps outside and was ruined. Worse yet, so were all the damn pictures I had just taken! Shit! Shimatta! Fuck! The camera was expendable, but not the precious photos.

Damon and Ed pal around with a new friend on the set of Juspion at Toei Studios. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: What other interesting or memorable experiences did you have there?

DF: At Toei, I was on the set of [Megabeast Investigator] Juspion. I was hanging out with actors and stuntmen, and one rather quiet actor in blue denim. He seemed “important” and kept to himself. The actor (who played a villain) just sat outside the set, while I conversed with extras, and the cameramen moved their huge tripods around props and equipment, getting ready for the next shot. I talked at great length at how much I loved Dynaman, and that Dyna Black was my favorite character. Some crewman said, “You mean Junichi Haruta, over there?” My heart pounded, realizing I’d been hanging out with Dyna Black all day! He wore blue attire, and not the recognizable ninja stuff he wore in Dynaman.

BH: Why did you eventually return to the U.S.?

DF: Homesickness, expired visa. I had a good, thriving, creative life (and always have) and many friends in the U.S., and just couldn’t wait to get back. Four months in The Land of the Rising Phlegm was more than enough.

BH: In the 1980s, you knew Steve Wang in the Bay Area before he went to Hollywood and worked in special effects. What do you remember about Steve Wang from this time?

DF: We met at some party, and then again at a Billy Idol concert. At some point, we traded phone numbers. Then, at about the same time that my family had gotten a huge, cumbersome video camera (including a portable VHS VCR), I visited Wang at his San Jose home. The latex masks he made were amazing, and I didn’t know amateurs could do that. So we made the student video Ultra Cyborg (1983), using my camera and his masks.

Damon battles Steve Wang in a screen grab from Ultra Cyborg (1983). Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: Why did Hiroshi Watari come to San Francisco, and when did he go there?

DF: We had mutual friends (i.e., Yukari Suzuki, Barrie Evans, and Kohei Gomi), and he was flattered to know California had adult fans of his TV shows. I remember picking him up at San Francisco International Airport, but his English was limited. He stayed at my house for nearly a week, sleeping on the bottom bunk in my bedroom. It’s amazing to think that Space Sheriff Sharivan was my roommate!

BH: What sort of things did you do with him?

DF: Lotsa sightseeing and touristy stuff. But being young, we were also going to Bay Area goth clubs in the 1980s. Some awkward situations with drunk girls, and tons of laughter — seeing Hiroshi dressed in black and doing mid-air somersaults on the dance floor to Killing Joke, the Ramones, and other bands of the time.

Damon is all smiles posing next to Space Sheriff Sharivan’s Hiroshi Watari. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: Later on, you met (and even worked a bit with) Anthony Houk. What could you tell us about that?

DF: The late Steve James (good friend, and avid OC reader) was supposed to play the kung fu instructor in Age of Demons (1993). But we were saddened to hear of his passing while AOD was in production. I was planning to fly to L.A. with my camcorder and videotape myself with Steve, and then fly back to the Bay Area and shoot around his scenes (maybe using my friend Dwight Boyd as his double). But then the loathsome opportunist S. C. Dacy had to be the first to “break the news” of Steve James dying of cancer. Being Dacy, I first doubted the sincerity of the postcard announcement of Steve James’ death he’d sent me. But, alas, it was true.

As I began to re-write the script, childhood friend August Ragone mentioned he actually knew Anthony Houk. So instead Houk played that role. I remember Anthony as a Bay Area martial artist who played villains in Hong Kong action movies. I really loved Outlaw Brothers and The Dragon from Russia, but barely remember them now. I put him in my video Age of Demons, but I didn’t direct him well. I really should have listened to the recordings. The whole plot point was that the character was supposed to say, “But you didn’t invite me!” But the microphone was too far away, so it sounds like, “But you didn’t fight me!” It’s a misunderstood line that makes no sense, but it’s not the fault of Anthony Houk. I only met him that one time. It was interesting to hear his real voice in person because I’d only seen him dubbed in Chinese.

Anthony Houk points to the sky during the making of Age of Demons while Damon and Perry Wong look on. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: How did Draculina come into the picture for Oriental Cinema?

DF: Draculina was expanding because print media was still popular. I, however, was getting tired of making Oriental Cinema because of costs and tedious labor (tons of stapling 11×17 pages together). 1993’s “Bruce Lee Imitators” issue was going to be the last one. So Hugh Gallagher (Draculina’s manager) offered to take up the slack. All I had to do was the fun part — writing the articles.

BH: How did the magazine change after that?

DF: It was thinner because it was now published three times a year — instead of once a year like before (when it was bursting at the seams). I deliberately made it sleazier to help with sales. I don’t know that the hot chicks made a difference, though, considering there was already some porn magazine called [Asian] Snatch!

BH: What were some of OC’s highlight’s during the Draculina years?

DF: Making new friends all over the world, who would then help with rare materials and information from a variety of countries. It was a thrill to go into stores all over the USA and see my work. Not just because it was my work, but because things like classic 1970s Kamen Rider and Majin Hunter Mitsurugi were now visible on the B. Dalton bookshelves. This was unheard of outside of Japan until my magazines were in national chain stores.

Damon gets kicked by Anthony Houk (using HK-style “powder puffs” to accentuate the full-contact blows) on the set of Age of Demons. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: Were there things you didn’t like writing about in OC but felt you had to cover?

DF: I felt the need to stomach a lot of anime. It was just to boost sales. Nobody pressured me into doing anything, and I always had full control.

BH: Who’s the most famous person you’re aware of who has seen an issue of OC?

DF: Myself, of course! I’m pretty famous; I think of me all the time! I wanna be just like me! But, seriously, I don’t know. Maybe Noriaki Yuasa. I gave the late Gamera director a copy because it had his biography, and he was flattered. Steve (American Ninja) James was also a fan. I think Cynthia Rothrock glanced at an issue on her way to an autograph table.

BH: What was the strangest reaction you ever got to something that appeared in OC?

DF: Some reader (a fan) had a Japanese wife (not a fan) who translated for me. I’d send them (the husband being American) Japanese text in postal mail, and they would send it back written in English. But they got divorced, unbeknownst to me. The Japanese ex-wife was still at the house and continued receiving my Japanese language xeroxes (about Gorangers, I think) for translation. She told me she was no longer with her American husband John, but was happy to keep translating for me! Setsuko did so for a while, and then invited me to some social group on the then-new Internet. This was long before social networking as we know it today. I had just recently gone online for the very first time, and joined the crude group. It was all for Japanese women wanting to marry American men and get the hell out of Japan! I received some strange, broken-English messages from women. Rest assured, they had little to do with Kamen Rider. One member seemed to imply I was “a manipulator,” “a tease,” or something like that.

Damon (on the right) in full zombie makeup during the making of The Dead Pit. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: You’re also known for your amateur and independent films. Which did you enjoy making more — OC or your movies?

DF: The videos. Journalism is solitary and sedentary — just sitting, researching and typing. But making movies is being funny, creating costumes, doing martial arts, cast member friendships, designing sets, and experimenting with special effects. Partying with pizza, crew members, and beer afterwards was always to fun and hilarious.

BH: Do you think people ever had a misconception about you or OC as a magazine in terms of your opinions and/or biases?

DF: Yes! Indeed, because my humor pissed off a lot of people! Readers thought I was a homophobic racist because of my jokes. I can now see why they would believe that, but I was just trying to be funny. Even I am a lot more sensitive and respectful now, but the 20th century really was a time of political incorrectness. Since 2016, I’ve really been pushed to the far left and am now the same kind of PC type that used to frustrate me.

A newspaper clipping featuring Damon as Big Bird, as he entertains children on behalf of Spirit Halloween.

BH: What was the hardest thing about editing, writing for, or publishing OC?

DF: During its brief period as a profitable magazine, I had to save all my receipts. It’s because, after its first profitable year, I had to pay around $400.00 in taxes. Not being a conservative capitalist, I’ve never had an issue with taxes I paid (expenses for roads, structures, and maintenance has to come from somewhere). But I therefore learned to save all receipts, including OC-related gas mileage! Driving home back from my day job  was considered “driving to OC work,” for example. But the constant deductions and paperwork were a real pain in the ass.

BH: On the other hand, what was the funnest thing?

DF: Discovering uniquely colorful productions to review. There were some real gems (i.e., weird shit from Korea and Thailand) that were unexpectedly entertaining. I never would have seen them if OC hadn’t kept me pushing the limit and forever seeking odd foreign movies.

BH: During the 1996 presidential campaign, your name appeared in an open letter to Bob Dole written by an academic, and a portion of your Zeiram review from OC was even quoted in it. What was your reaction?

DF: It gets back to my belief that many of my fellow progressives are too sensitive and are laughter-impaired.

Maybe he was right about my “intellectual flabbiness” and “Foster’s stupidity.” My limited attention span and admitted simple-mindedness kept me from reading Craig Fischer ‘s big article in its entirety. He quoted me from a review I wrote while I was both angry and trying to be funny. I was venting because of the frustrating situation (trying to see that stupid movie). I try to channel my anger into comedy, turning negative into positive — though I’m not always successful at it. It’s amusing though mildly regretful that my jokes often made me seem conservative.

Back then, there was indeed such a thing as a politically incorrect liberal, and that’s what I was. Fischer’s quote, “conservatives like Foster who use violent movies as an opportunity to exercise rabid prejudice,” and something about Bob Dole “counting on” my vote, are just examples about how my attempts at humor have created a false impression of me! It’s my fault (but fun to talk about in hindsight), of course! I’ve absolutely never voted for a Republican in my life and have, in fact, donated thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians (i.e., Bernie Sanders) and environmental causes.

Damon (on the left) on the set of The Dead Pit. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: How did the relationship with Draculina come to an end?

DF: They just fizzled out and couldn’t afford to print magazines anymore. The Internet dealt the deadly blow — but also our distributors were bought out by big comic book companies, so only comics would be in stores, nationally. Hugh Gallagher tried his best, getting odd jobs to help pay the bills. One of my last conversations with him was when he said he’d made some money piloting a boat on some fishing cruise! Despite warnings, he dangerously maneuvered around all these huge boulders in a hazardous stretch of river that could have broken the boat’s hull and stranded the passengers in the wilderness.

Gambler Hugh got them out without a scratch, but obviously his heart was elsewhere — he’d rather have been a publisher, like in years past. But, alas, he too finally had to get a day job in the 21st century, like the rest of us. Last I heard from him, much of the product stock (Draculina, OC, and my short-lived Heroes on Film magazine) was left in unstable storage in 2002. Due to a leak, millions of now rare and lost magazines were turned into papier-mâché by the Illinois rain!

Damon as Batman during a Castro Valley, CA, parade. Since the parade was held prior to the release of Batman (1989), many of the spectators had never seen Batman in a black costume before. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: What do you remember about working on The Dead Pit (1989)?

DF: I remember the film’s production coinciding with the beginning of the now-national chain Spirit Halloween. Then called Spirit Costume & Party Supply, I was one of the store’s very first employees. Ed Martinez and I were hired when Spirit was just a large warehouse full of boxes. Spirit’s humble beginning was on Foothill Blvd., in Hayward, CA. We were both hired at the huge store (not yet open to the public, being 1986) because we were able-bodied young men who could climb ladders and move heavy boxes. But our knowledge of the materials (costumes, monsters, cinema, special effects, movie genres, props, and ancient cultures) had a lot to do with it as well. When Spirit opened, my hours were cut, and I didn’t always like being a store clerk. But, man, lots of crazy stories from those years! That’s a topic all on its own.

Anyway, around the time, Spirit was doing costume mascot performances (I was Mickey Mouse, ALF, Big Bird, an acrobatic ninja, and even Batman in a parade), and I was simultaneously wondering how else I’d make ends meet, cashier Ed Martinez said, “Guess what?! I’m doing special effects in a movie where a zombie is thrown off a tower, and I want you to play that zombie!” Store owner Joe Marver (who’d later sell Spirit to Spencer’s), was totally understanding that I wouldn’t be available for my part-time position at the store — and, if anything, was amused that his minimum-wage manual laborer would be soon working with actor Jeremy Slate! I enjoyed hanging out with Jeremy Slate and producer Jack A. Sunseri on The Dead Pit set.

Thanks to the first two George Romero “Dead” movies, I was a zombie fan (meandering crap like The Walking Dead has long since killed that love, and I want nothing to do with zombies) and enjoyed being the “stunt zombie” in Jack Sunseri’s The Dead Pit. I played several zombies in that movie and was paid very well for the stunts — the many “background dead” extras only got lunch. Being accustomed to acrobatic flips and complex martial arts, the stunts in The Dead Pit were child’s play to me.

I still remember my last day on the set (Agnews Developmental Center) and some accountant writing my check. “I can really only pay you for the stunts and not every day you were present,” she said. I could have easily lied about what qualifies as a stunt, but I’d have felt guilty about trying to milk a low-budget movie out of their limited cash. But I must have been paid around a thousand bucks, which more than compensated for my hours being cut back at the store. I could go on about The Dead Pit, but that would take forever. They’re topics for a different time or project.

David Rodrigues, Samantha Noelle Balise, and Damon on the set of Secret of the Superheroes. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: After The Dead Pit, you worked on the unreleased Secret of the Superheroes. What stories from the set can you share? 

DF: Way too many! When The Dead Pit was in post-production, I guess that some cast and crew members (lotsa conspiring and networking on The Pit!) were already jumping onto other projects in the Bay Area. I had hoped to meet Linda Blair (my childhood crush!) in The Chilling (1989), but hadn’t maintained contact with Jack A. Sunseri. I don’t think The Chilling was an actual sequel to The Dead Pit, but seem to remember its pre-production title, “The Frozen Dead.” Unfortunately, me and a few Dead Pit alumni instead ended up in the even-lower-budgeted Secret of the Superheroes. It’s like being tossed the scraps.

The scraps, or rather, 1989’s shot-on-video, feature-length piece of garbage was Secret of the Superheroes. A slow-paced, dreadfully dull, pointless movie where I was cast as a “zombie superhero.” I’d be part of a superhero team, so I (being ahead of the times) instantly thought, “Sentai!” But American directors didn’t know about Sentai yet because Power Rangers was still five years away.

Secret of the Superheroes struck me as a boring take on The Fantastic Four, except that the team of blue-leotard heroes just sat around in their apartment, or talked their way through unexciting situations. No real action or highlights — just a plan to get from point A to point B. So long as their timid soap opera had a beginning, middle and end. I never understood why they thought this was a good idea, or how they got such gullible investors. I hated the script, offered my two cents’ worth and wanted to change it, but I needed the money. I’d probably spent all my Dead Pit money on OC printing bills or drugs.

Damon (in full Deadman costume) doing paste-ups for OC in between takes. Photo © Damon Foster.

My expensive video camera had broken down simultaneously, just as I had begun work on my own no-budget video, Hot Dogs on the Run (1990). Hot Dogs was therefore put on indefinite hiatus, because I lacked $800.00 to get it repaired. The Panasonic repair place alone is the source of amusing memories — but I digress.

So I put on the blue leotard and rubber zombie mask to play kindhearted corpse Deadman, just for the money. In between takes, I sometimes did paste-ups for OC to pass the time. Plenty of tension, memories, and crazy stories on the set during those frustrating months, but again my “stunt zombie” work paid a pretty penny.

I made bank on Secret of the Superheroes, though the movie was never released anywhere that I know of — yeah, it was that bad! But the paycheck was necessary because I was finally able to repair my crude Panasonic VHS video camera (and its portable VCR on a strap). Thanks to the Secret of the Superheroes payroll, Hot Dogs on the Run was saved. Hot Dogs on the Run went on to sell into the thousands, and I still receive orders every year for DVDs and even VHS tapes. The legacy of Secret of the Superheroes was the completion of Hot Dogs on the Run, which had maybe 1% of its feature-length benefactor’s budget!

Damon with his Panasonic video camera during the making of Hot Dogs on the Run. Photo © Damon Foster.

BH: OC hasn’t been published as a magazine in many years, and even OC: The Webcast hasn’t seen a new episode in ages. Will OC in any form ever return? 

DF: No. I used to think I would do “OC: The Book,” but my heart just isn’t in it. Life goes on, and we evolve. Life is good, and I don’t find myself looking back. However, I have made available a few of those rare movies I reviewed in OC long ago — public-domain foreign films that I dub into English (with varying levels of accuracy and humor, depending on the movie). The DVDs sell well at conventions, and, occasionally, people might buy them at my website. So, in a way, “The Spirit of OC” continues in the form of these DVDs. Asian movies that aren’t necessarily good but with enough karate chops and offensive dialogue (here we go again!) to be consistently entertaining. So perhaps the “The Spirit of OC” exists in the form of comedies like Wu Tang vs. Batman, Shaolin vs. Frankenstein, and, my personal favorite, Mulan vs. Batman!

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