Nerding Day: Paparazzi Samurai 🌭

I’ve covered a number of different children’s properties created by Marty Abrams and his production company, Abrams Gentile Entertainment. They brought us, among other things, Dragon Flyz and Sky Dancers, Van-Pires, and Snailiens. In short, their MO was to invent toys which could injure children, and failing that, to create the kinds of television shows that would only ever exist as half-remembered dreams in the minds of adults years later until some asshole wrote several thousand words on each of them. But the stories of AGE’s tangible successes are perhaps less interesting than those of their many, many failures.

See, ever since I discovered that AGE’s site was somehow still online, I’ve had a white whale of sorts. Go to their brands page and among the listings for “Happy Ness,” “Popcorn Pretties,” and the Power Glove (far from the most bad thing here), you’ll find one for something called “Paparazzi Samurai.”

As best as I could tell, Paparazzi Samurai was an attempt to create a line of nonviolent boys’ superheroes. See, the ’90s were a brutal period. We weren’t yet making cartoons about how it was ok to have feelings or be different. Cartoons were about solving your problems with lasers, adamantium claws, and giant robots built like dinosaurs. Mainly, though; they were about selling toys.

Enter the Paparazzi Samurai. Instead of shooting bad guys, they “shoot” the truth! But there were no Paparazzi Samurai toys on the shelves of Toys R Us. There was no Paparazzi Samurai cartoon. An entry in the 1998 International Television and Video Almanac claimed that there were 26 episodes slated for production. Oh, Marty, were you ever so young and hopeful?

Allegedly, AGE produced a comic strip starring the characters for publication in an issue of “Movies” magazine, which seems to have been one of those little booklets you could pick up for free at theaters in the ’90s and 2000s. Not only can I not find this issue anywhere, I can barely find evidence that Movies magazine existed in the first place. There are tiny, indecipherable shots of the pages on AGE’s site, along with slightly more legible art of the three main characters, so the comic almost certainly existed, but it appears to have been lost to time.

I’ve stewed on this for over a year. I’ve tweeted about it, dreamed about it. I don’t think Paparazzi Samurai is important “lost media,” but something about it consumed me. Therapists tried and failed to convince me to let it go. It cost me relationships — I’d wake up in the middle of the night, hollering, “It’s TMZ for kids – Get the Picture!”

On a recent trip to New York, I sought out the office building that, according to Google, Abrams Gentile’s office is located in. “Why, there haven’t been Paparazzi Samurai here in 50 years!” The security guard, who was also a ghost, told me.

I desperately wanted to write about this… show? Comic? Stillborn concept from the mind-womb of Marty Abrams? But there just wasn’t enough to go on.

Until now.

AGE’s site, as outdated as it is, doesn’t have embedded links to YouTube for its video content. Instead, it simply presents a link asking you to download Quicktime Player. I figured that any original video files might have been lost to link rot, until on a whim I decided to poke around with Inspect Element. What I discovered shocked and delighted me: a 240p, two a half minute long live-action trailer for Paparazzi Samurai.

(Of course, then I realized if you open the page on Chrome rather than Safari, which I still use, like a total asshole, it automatically downloads the video. But it’s still not like anybody but me has ever thought to seek this shit out.)

I have uploaded the video to YouTube for posterity.

And now, let us begin.

We open, with an echoing gong, on an elderly man sitting amidst a number of candles. He appears to be of Chinese extraction, wearing a traditional changshan and rounded hat.

Samurai, it must be said up front, are not from China. And this was the late ’90s— Americans were starting to actually know the difference between China and Japan by then. But I digress. If we get stuck on which cultures Paparazzi Samurai is insensitive to and in which ways, we’ll be here forever.

“In our short time together,” our man tells us, “I have taught Felix, Al, and Maurice many things.” We get our first look at the Paparazzi Samurai here, or should I say, our proto-paparazzi. See, these warriors of photography aren’t just desperate ghouls seeking out compromising pictures of celebrities to pay their alimony bills. Neither are they, like the Power Rangers, teens with attitude.

Make no mistake: they have no attitude. They are attitude voids, into which all attitude is helplessly drawn. They are full-on dorks.

It’s hard to tell from the low resolution, but one of them inexplicably appears to be a balding, elderly man of at least 50. They have terrible posture and dress sense and lack any knowledge of personal hygiene, as the master explains.

But he has taught them much, in addition to the importance of deodorizing one’s balls. He has taught them right from wrong, good from evil. And also a bunch of photography stuff.

Here’s where I wish I had the design bible for Paparazzi Samurai, because I would love to know more about this mentor guy and why he is so invested in the personal development of three dudes he seems to fucking hate.

The textual setup is going for Karate Kid, but the fact that he’s teaching them to stealthily take photos lays bare a darker possibility where he’s convinced three socially awkward men that snapping shots of nude celebs for his personal use is actually a moral good.

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a Morita stand-in. Or am I?

“Their mission: to expose themselves — excuse me, to expose the truth,” our guy continues.

I’m not sure how many people that line made it past in the production cycle, but regardless: it was too many. Maybe nobody knew how to say no to Marty Abrams after Van-Pires. When the guy who invented automotive vampirism tells you to put a joke in your video pitch about how maybe the three men whose superpower is taking photographs of depressed celebrities walking to the store in sweatpants also reveal their genitals to unwilling audiences sometimes, you don’t question it. You just fucking do it.

It’s like George Lucas telling you to name your protagonist “Darth Icky,” except you actually listen to him. Marty Abrams invented the modern action figure!

The master — who in this short video remains nameless — finishes explaining that through forbidden Eastern wizardry and a cocktail of untested Western research pharmaceuticals, he has created a trio of picture-taking supermen. I mean, he doesn’t come right out and say that, but it’s implied.

The Paparazzi Samurai wield great power — taking pictures of things — and are charged with an equally great responsibility — coincidentally, also taking pictures of things.

“The truth is out there,” the master says. “They just have to take a picture of it…

and see what develops.”

For an AGE production, that qualifies as decent wordplay. These are the same people who wrote the dialogue in Van-Pires, which was 95% car puns.

Anyway, it’s time for the big reveal! Let’s get a look at those beautiful boys. PAPARAZZI SAMURAI ROLL CALL:

Felix: love the filmstrip belt and bandolier and the camera belt buckle. One note, though, buddy: that is entirely too much shmeat. You look like you’re a novelty superhero created for an overly ambitious ’90s porno, which, for all I know, is maybe what Paparazzi Samurai was originally going to be.

Al, fantastic energy you’re bringing here. Really getting into the whole martial arts angle with that pose. Not getting the photography angle so much outside of the filmstrip headband.

Maurice: you’re killing it, baby! Wonderful filmstrip suspenders. The vibe I’m getting here is “rarely-picked character from a third-rate Mortal Kombat clone that everybody hates.” Perfect.

Together, these three jamokes are the Paparazzi Samurai!

Do we have a theme song? You better believe we do.













What kind of “photo stuff?” How about Felix’s camera belt buckle, which turns into a hundred rotating cameras.

I hear you: that’s fine for taking a 360-degree panorama of everyone’s crotches, but it’s not splashy enough. Splashy, huh? How about the same spinning camera ring… attached to an umbrella for some reason?


You cry out for more. Give us more cool photo stuff, Marty. He has heard your pleas. No superhero is complete without a cool car, right? How about a big yellow taxi?

Sorry, I meant to say “a big yellow taxi that’s also an entire movie production crew.”






Right! It’s easy to lose sight of in all of the camera puns, but the whole idea of Paparazzi Samurai was to create a non-violent superhero team. They don’t solve problems with their fists, they—

They immediately fuck everything up by using their fists?

Here’s what happens: the Paparazzi Samurai somehow hear Steven Seagal steal a little girl’s ice cream cone in a park. They burst out of the woods, and Felix does a bunch of flippy karate nonsense before palm striking the ice cream off of the cone, essentially escalating dessert theft into a midday park brawl for no goddamn reason.

But don’t forget, they have cameras!

They take their shot, and…

I didn’t cut anything out here. The Paparazzi Samurai pull out their cameras and snap a picture of the ice cream criminal, at which point he is instantly bound and gagged (with film, natch) while the unattended child is left sitting atop his helpless form, ice cream restored to its rightful owner.

What are we to assume here? The simplest and most logical explanation is that, blinded by three simultaneous flash bulbs, the villain was stunned and quickly hog-tied, after which the Paparazzi Samurai went and bought the girl a new ice cream cone. But there’s another possibility, which is that they’re so good at taking pictures that they can actually alter reality to suit their whims. Both scenarios are somehow more stupid than the other.

And is that really the stakes we’re going with? A girl had her ice cream stolen? Not to get dark here, but of all of the possible outcomes of a strange man interacting with a child in a New York City park, that’s got to be one of the best ones you could hope for.

The thing is, camera-wielding superheroes isn’t one of those concepts that’s doomed from the start, like teens who turn into car monsters and fight space alien car vampires. Maybe one week they head to a conflict zone to document human rights abuses, and another they’re looking into political corruption that goes all the way to the top! Really, there’s countless possibilities.

Hell, they could have had a crossover with Van-Pires where they were trying to prove the existence of Tracula and his minions but were frustrated again and again by the fact that, as vampires, they didn’t show up on film!

Instead, they wave their cameras around midtown Manhattan while doing martial arts stunts, punish a strange man for stealing ice cream, and no third thing.

So, fine, not the best proof of concept. And sure, Paparazzi Samurai was basically a nothingburger of an idea topped with madness and confused Orientalism, but it was arguably more of a premise than many of their properties, which were just first drafts of wordplay that somehow made it to production. Van-Pires, Snailiens, things of that nature. They were riding high in the ’90s! They should have been able to pull it off.

Well, I did some digging and discovered they filed the trademark for Paparazzi Samurai in 1996. Maybe something happened around then that convinced them the premise of a team of “non-violent” paparazzi superheroes was a bad idea?

Oh. Oh no.

Imagine, if you will, Marty Abrams coming into work one morning, high on the success of Dragon Flyz and Sky Dancers — the lawsuits for the injuries they caused are still years off. Imagine him looking forward to a bright future, a world in which non-violent photo-taking superheroes displace the Power Rangers as they had done to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in turn. For the first time since his fraud conviction in 1982, things are really looking up for old Marty.

And yet, he’s surprised to find the mood in the office glum. Is Debbie out with the flu again? Did Steve’s pet turtle die? He sees the headline on the newspaper his assistant leaves on his desk.

His future comes crumbling down around him.

On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris. The cause of the crash would be the subject of countless conspiracy theories, but is generally believed to have come about due to a combination of her driver’s drunkenness and close pursuit of her vehicle by overzealous paparazzi.

The many worlds theory postulates that all possibilities occur in parallel universes. If this theory is true, then there is a world in which Princess Diana did not die in that car crash. In that world, Paparazzi Samurai was made. It might even have become a huge success.

In that world, people speak of Felix, Al, and Maurice in the same reverent tones as we speak of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. Paparazzi Samurai has been rebooted a half-dozen times. Abrams-Gentile still occupies that midtown Manhattan office space. A different world? Certainly. A better one? That is left as an exercise for the reader.

This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Kyle Campbell, aka Blast Off, leader of 1986’s hottest new cartoon astronaut squad, the Immortals!

8 replies on “Nerding Day: Paparazzi Samurai 🌭”

Cannot imagine the amount of coke required for a man to think that “non-violent paparazzi trained by an Orientalist caricature” is a good idea. At least Van-Pires can be fun in a so bad it’s good “lol can’t believe this is a real show” way. But this… this is just madlibs. It’s a haiku of nonsense.

If it had actually aired on TV, I think the universe would’ve collapsed. Samurai Paparazzi would’ve singlehandedly caused the Singularity.

The Orientalist caricature mentor was basically a free space in 70s to 90s pop culture, mind.

I legit love it when my favourite hot dog themed website goes into full investigation mode

Ok, so the first step obviously is an ai upscale of this clip. Then Merritt feeds another ai that clip, plus the original and all other extant material featuring this crew, and commands it to craft the twenty-three episodes of Paparazzi Samurai our reality has denied us.

I just knew halfway through that Princess Diana’s death factored into this, that really was when people changed their view on paparazzi.

I saw Merritt mention this on BlueSky and I just rolled my eyes. “Come on,” I thought, “that’s just two words that have no relation put together.” Then I saw the video she uploaded and I had to come here right away to learn everything I could.

All this magnificence and the only thing I can think of is: shouldn’t paparazzi be ninja instead of samurai? Clearly this is why they failed.

It’s hard to see at that scale but the promotional art looks kinda like Neal Adams. A famous comic artist that also did some weird ‘for hire’ stuff.

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