What do you get if you cross this:
And set it here:
Unfortunately, you only get the very first book of it! The “Champions”-like characters disappear after the first three chapters (and, in fact, are barely mentioned in the third), though the series has been running on-and-off since 1976! I don’t know if it’s running at present, but the Wiki page says the most recent series began in 2009. Though the Wiki page may not necessarily be up to date.
Anyway, let’s focus on the good bit. The three characters appear on the very first page. They’re a trio of Brits called Caesar Gabriel, Sugar Plum and, erm, Leopard Solid. Well, it was both Japan AND the 70’s, who cares about cultural accuracy?
Sugar Plum visits the National Gallery, to look at her favourite painting, when she notices a beautiful man called “The Earl” nearby. He tells her to enjoy the painting, because she won’t see it again. Then Leopard calls to her with telepathy. He was involved in a serious accident, but shrugged it off with only a scratch.
Anyway, after that, they meet up with the even-more-beautiful Caesar, who has all the girls fawning over him. Even though he looks like a girl himself – now, I’m no expert, but wandering around London, looking like that, in 1976 would have been more likely to have got your neck snapped. Unless it was Soho, anyway. Somebody even says he “looks like a character from a girl’s romance comic!”. I only really know about the girl’s romance comics of the 50’s and 60’s (and precious little, at that), but I really doubt any 70’s ones featured guys who looked like that! …unless she’s talking about Japanese ones, anyway. Naturally, there’s no girl’s romance comics in Britain today, and ‘the enemy’ would be up in arms about anything featuring only straight relationships, and targeted at a specific gender, if anybody tried to publish one!
There’s then a bit of backstory, about how the three characters got their powers – and also who has what. It’s possible these characters were directly inspired by The Champions, which originally came on (in Britain) in 1968. The Champions all had “superhuman” (well, technically, the maximum human ability in every form of athleticism) strength, speed, stamina and senses. They also had boosted intelligence and telepathy. The three Eroica characters all have the abilities ‘shared out’. Leopard has the strength and speed, Caesar has the intelligence, and Sugar has the extra senses, and is even able to see visions of the future! They can all talk by telepathy, though – even over hundreds of miles!
The Champions got their abilities in Tibet, after stealing a secret bio-weapon from China, and escaping in a damaged plane. They were found by a race of monks, who have hidden away in the mountains, and who gave them their abilities whilst healing their injuries. The Eroica characters simply got lost in Peru, and were found by a mysterious man from the lost Inca / Nazca civilisation. Anyway, they got back to London, and are all attending “London University” (well, actually, 19-year-old Caesar is already working there as a tutor!), when Erioca appears on the scene, and starts stealing famous works of art, from all over Europe. Eroica also has a large number of followers, which allows him to rob many places at once. They also dress as women, quite convincingly XD.
Note one of the guards is reading Princess XD. Where did he get that? I doubt Japan Centre was open in 1976!
Anyway, Eroica quickly turns out to be the Earl. He loves “beautiful things”, and steals them. He keeps some of the art for himself, but holds most of it to ransom, leaving his accountant to work out how much they can make from selling each piece back to the original owner. Later, we find out the accountant is in love with him, but the Earl just gives him more work to do.
Anyway, before a painting was stolen, Caesar said he liked it, which leads a very stupid Japanese cop, called Taro Bannai, to assume he is Eroica. The cop is also a “master of disguise” (but it always just looks like him with different clothes on), and, for some reason, has flowers coming out of his mouth. He also appears to just vanish after Chapter 2/3 XD.
He also can’t remember anybody’s name
Anyway, Earl gets away with his stolen loot, but he’s seen something else beautiful he likes – Caesar! …Who has also worked out that Erioca will rob the Tate Gallery next. They try to set a trap for him, but the gang spot them – as does Taro Bannai – who keeps showing up in different disguises, going “At times, I’m the…”. They also hide at a gig, as extra members of the band! Apparently the band are characters in another Princess story called “Sons of Eve”.
Anyway, while that’s going on, Earl finds and kisses Caesar, who comes down with a touch of the yaois:
While he’s recovering, the other two make an angel statue based on him, and bury it in Oxford, where they know it will be found. Sure enough, it’s soon dug up, “accurately” dated as more than 2000 years old (XD), and put on display at Oxford University. Erioca steals it, even though it’s an obvious trap, by simply decoying the other two out of the room, and stealing Caesar as well as the statue! He flies them to a private island, but a tracking device was hidden in the statue, and Leopard can swim as fast as a boat, so he and Sugar organise a rescue mission. This comes off, in a screwball comedy kinda way, and the Earl and his gang leave the island, leaving all their stolen art to be returned to it’s rightful owners.
A few days later, Caesar is drifting about in a dream world – he’s fallen in love with the Earl! …and that’s the end of chap 1.
In chap 2, it all starts to go a bit wrong, as Major Klaus Heinz Von Dem Eberbach (XD) is introduced. He’s an uptight secret agent who works for NATO, and is given a mission to investigate Caesar, who they suspect of having special powers (much like The Champions, who are secret agents, and pull off impossible missions, without ever telling anybody, even other secret agents, about their powers). The Major thinks Caesar is a “sorry excuse for a man”. He later meets the Earl, who immediately comes on to him. He thinks he is a “degenerate” XD. Anyway, Earl is after Caesar, and some more paintings, which are partly under the Major’s care (he’s related to the aristocratic family they originally belonged to). The Major tries to drag Caesar away somewhere, to test his abilities (the other two characters are sidelined in Scotland, though he can still telepathically talk to them. They are later arrested by mr flower-face man).
Anyway, after many capers, the Major, Earl and Caesar end up on a tiny island, with a tank. NATO forces come, take Caesar and the Major back, leaving the Earl behind. His own men come, and he steals the tank XD.
After that, the three “Champions” characters vanish entirely, and the plot devolves into a screwball comedy where the Major has to capture some secret microfilm, which is hidden in exactly the same place as a work of art Earl wants to steal. Usually the KGB are after the same secret, and the two end up having to work together to defeat them. It’s basically the same plot in nearly every chapter, though they are still pretty funny. The accountant and “Agent G”, a NATO spy who has to drag up in his introduction story, and just keeps on dressing as a woman in every other story, become the love interests. The accountant also starts to obsess over underwear XD.
Even by volume 2, it’s a double act XD
Anyway, the Wikipedia site said the original series ran irregularly from 1976 to 1979 in “Viva Princess” (maybe a quarterly “one off stories” sister to Princess?), and then monthly in Princess until 1989. It restarted in 1995, and ran irregularly until 2007, then came back again, this time in Princess Gold (dunno… maybe a different monthly for new tales of the ‘most famous’ Princess characters?), in 2009, and was still going in 2012… and may still be going now, but the Wiki page might not be up to date! I did see some issues of Princess in the Japan Centre in London, but they were like £13.50 each! (that’d probably be the going rate for a monthly comic of 500-odd pages in Britain, in Japan they’re about £4).
Eroica was one of the first manga to “find penetration” in the west, being circulated in illegally-photocopied fan-translations around the US in the 1980’s, Mainly among the “slash fiction” community, which is a rough equivalent to the amateur yaoi doujinshi-making community in Japan. Only slashers write text stories, tend to be older / middle aged women (rather than teens-twenties, as in Japan), and don’t have vast million-attendance conventions, or 7-storey shops dedicated to their hobby XD. Well, actually, that’s only come about in recent times in Japan, too. Shonen-Ai / BL / Yaoi manga used to be infamous for bad artwork, gigantic pointed chins and “yaoi hands”, which were bigger than the character’s heads. That was because, as a niche genre, it couldn’t attract the best, and most expensive, artists. That’s all changed today!
Natually, with something so “exotic” and also “gay themed” reaching the west, ‘the enemy’ had to start sniffing around. The wiki article uses the word “objectification”, and cites academic papers with titles like “Pornography or Therapy? Japanese Girls Creating the Yaoi Phenomenon” (Jesus Christ…). Be ever vigilant against Critical Theory!