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Monday, December 17, 2018 

Is it possible Dragon Ball wasn't translated by the awful Gerard Jones?

I've read a few times here and there that the Dragon Ball translations by Viz Media, probably not the best distributor of manga around, were unpopular with fans because the dialogue is very poorly translated from the original Japanese to English. But what's even more surprising is what the following manga researcher said a few months ago about alleged translator Gerard Jones, as he was being convicted for his criminal offenses:

Hmm, interesting. I've noticed people discussing on social media at least a few times how there may be "writers" who've just taken credit for ghostwriters, and it could be possible that Jones, already disgraced and now in prison, was actually just taking credit for a job done by the late Canadian manga/anime translator Toren Smith, who passed away about 5 years ago. Smith, by contrast, had a better reputation, though if he was the actual translator for Dragon Ball, it must've been a rare misfire for him, though it's also possible Jones tampered with some of the already translated dialogue he was given to suit his visions. If anything, this brings up the intriguing topic of whether some overrated freelancers make a whole career out of taking credit for ghostwriters, for reasons I can't even begin to fathom.

Since we're on the subject, I also found a CBR article from the end of August, which deals not with how we can prevent predators from getting jobs in the medium, but rather, the so-called "legacies" of such vermin. It says:
The end of Jones' trial still probably comes as a shock to those who know him through either his comics work for Marvel, DC or Viz Media, or his nonfiction writing, like the Eisner Award-winning Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. While Jones was never really a superstar writer of his era, he has -- or had -- a generally well-regarded legacy in comics.
Sorry, but after some further research, I have to conclude that whatever "legacy" Jones had was a huge exaggeration, probably made by people who were understandably alienated by the direction DC took with Hal Jordan as Parallax in 1994, and wound up thinking it all made Jones' run look better in retrospect. Alas, but today it definitely doesn't. His run on GL certainly wasn't exceptional.
In the wake of his singularly horrific crimes, amidst the more pressing question of how his conviction provides justice and healing for his victims, there comes the (again much less important) quandary: What should happen to that body of work?
Even if one can separate the art from the artist, it'd be best at this time not to reprint his work, if only because we don't want such an awful man to benefit from royalties, unless maybe a legal stipulation can be attained, ensuring he'll have to forfeit them altogether. Even then, I for one have since re-evaluated some of the material he wrote, and concluded it wasn't worth the trees cut down to make the paper.
Gerard Jones had lengthy runs at the Big Two, notably being central to the Green Lantern and Justice League lines for DC, including penning what's probably still the most widely read Hal Jordan story ever. Green Lantern #46, a tie-in to the "Reign of the Supermen!" arc of "The Death of Superman," saw Hal Jordan confront and fight Mongol over his role in the destruction of Coast City, an issue reprinted in collections of what's still one of the highest-selling storylines in comics to this day.
And all at GL's expense. Much like Jones' own writing, which was definitely overrated.
Perhaps even more significant is Jones' role in some of the most popular manga ever created. When Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball were both brought to America by Viz Media, it was Jones who adapted it from Mari Morimoto and Lillian Olsen's translations. Jones' words are also how American readers first encountered the work of Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2, as well as Nobohiro Watsuki's seminal Rurouni Kenshin. (Notably, Watsuki was also found guilty of possession of child pornography by Japanese authorities earlier this year.)
And he got too light a sentence. The writer of this dud piece evidently wouldn't consider the possibilities Jones' role in Dragon Ball's translations may not have been a real deal, as noted above, so Jones' role isn't so significant at all. But wow, he played a part in translating another manga produced by a mangaka who also turned out to be a perverse felon? Good heavens.
There are several other titles in Jones' oeuvre, but these are the big ones. And what should the respective publishers do? The most obvious solution and the least costly one is to let it all go out of print, but there are obstacles to this approach that make it unlikely to happen.

For one thing, while large chunks of Jones' DC work aren't in huge demand anymore from a consumer standpoint, "The Death of Superman" is, as we said, one of the highest-selling superhero stories of all time. Given the pivotal role Green Lantern plays in the final arc of that story, reprinting that story without the tie-in issue would be confusing to new readers. But aside from that, DC really has no reason to reprint, say, Batman: Jazz. Ditto Marvel, who still has comics written by Jones up on Marvel Unlimited at the time of this writing, but may not necessarily be all that motivated to keep them in bookstores moving forward.
Curious they say the Death of Superman is a big seller, but don't actually say it's one of the best written tales around. And from what I recall reading, I don't think it is, so I don't see what they're getting at. An overrated stunt, where the death and resurrection of the Man of Steel is the least of the story's problems, and it largely wound up appealing to the wretched speculator market. As for Marvel, the most standout title Jones wrote for them was Wonder Man during 1991-94, and save for 5 issues reprinted in Operation: Galactic Storm and the Infinity War, the bulk of that title is clearly not going to be reprinted for a long time. And it doesn't matter either, because the material I read from that series, in hindsight, wasn't very impressive either. I thankfully never read Jones' work on the 2099 Hulk, and that's one more title he wrote at Marvel that won't be reprinted for quite a while.
But it's Viz who has the hardest call to make, here. Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z is easily the most influential manga (not named Akira) of the last 50 years, and a book that famous and popular is simply never going to go out of print. Ditto works like Inuyasha, which is almost certainly seeing a boost in interest after Takahashi was finally inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame this year.

But Viz has an easy solution. Given that translation standards have become better and much tighter over time as manga has become the fastest-growing sector of the modern Western comics marketplace outside of kids' OGNs, and given the jarring inconsistencies in Dragon Ball/Z specifically (unnecessary censorship, bizarre speech patterns and naming conventions), it would be worth Viz's investment to commission new translations and adaptions of works Jones was involved with. In fact, Viz has already begun doing so in the upcoming omnibuses of Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura, though there has been no mention if Jones' involvement with the original translation factored into this move.
Of course they have an easy out (so why say a hard call?). And that could be to simply give the late Smith credit where it's due for starters. Or to find out if Jones manipulated any of Smith's efforts and make him apologize for harming the late manga specialist's hard work. It's interesting they mention unnecessary censorship, because that's something much of entertainment's suffered from for the past 5 years or so. If they're still okay with whenever it happens in US entertainment, they have no business bringing it up when manga is the topic in focus.

Anyway, if there's a title Jones wrote that'll certainly go out of print, it's Emerald Dawn, which is not well regarded, and was a glaring example of a company desperate to make Hal Jordan "realistic", but only made things much worse by depicting him as a big drinker, and I don't think the idea of making Sinestro Hal's trainer was a good idea either. But what a shame the CBR writer wasted so much time talking about "legacies" instead of how to prevent perverts from gaining footholds in entertainment mediums. Isn't that why all these past works wind up tainted?

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You've said your piece on the written translation, what do you think about the actual story?

Jones is often credited as a rewriter rather than a translator; I don't think he can read Japanese. Rewriters take crude literal translations made by the Japanese publishers and rewrite them for an English audience; a two stage translation effort. So no, he probably was not the translator of any of the books.

If you want commentary on Dragon Ball itself, here's a guy who knows what he's talking about:


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