In 1999, the Dragon sphere faithful witnessed the picture of the fabled supervisor Saiyan 5.

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There that was: one immaculately chiseled Goku, pecs and also delts whereby they couldn’t probably exist, stand aloft and unfazed above another extraterrestrial battleground. His mane was decision white; it spiked down his ago to satisfy a regal simian tail and also a billowy pair of cream color fight pants. Aesthetically, at sight Saiyan 5 merged the hairy, primeval weirdness of supervisor Saiyan 4 and the angelic overabundance of at sight Saiyan 3.

When the image appeared on primitive fan court of the late ’90s, that was basic to purchase in. No one questioned it because no one want to break the spell.

”We’d spend hrs each day on ours 56K modems downloading and install images the different characters whose names and also likenesses were international to us, and also random, low-resolution video clip clips from throughout the various series, including from <Dragon Ball> GT, which had actually yet to air,” claims Derek Padula, a Dragon ball historian, and also the writer of a forthcoming book called USA DBZ: The True strength of Dragon ball Z in America. “All the it to be fascinating and novel, and also fans shared clips and also characters through a lot of excitement. Anyone was trying to placed the pieces with each other of who these world were, and also how the Dragon round story unfolded.”

The renowned Super Saiyan 5 to be a hoax. The image didn’t come indigenous Dragon round creator Akira Toriyama’s pen, nor was it intended as a superpowered illustration of Goku. It is the first thing David Montiel Franco corrects me about when ns reach out to him over Twitter to talk about the fan art the accidentally made the famous.

goku vs. Tablos Courtesy of David Montiel Franco
The saiyan in question is named Tablos. Franco produced him in 1998, when he was 17 years old. Looking at the worry of hobby Consolas, the Spanish gaming newspaper that released Franco’s drawing, friend can start to see how the misdirection started. The stoic, silver-haired Saiyan takes up the bottom edge of a page, alongside through the engraving “Dragon ball AF.” AF was the name of Franco’s very own homebrew manga collection — he dreamt increase storylines that can take place after the conclusion of Dragon ball GT, a time wherein there no any new episodes top top the horizon.

”The goal to be to innovate the Dragon Ball series creating new characters, new races, and new enemies taking place in the alternate future the Trunks wherein no Z warriors existed,” Franco tells me over email. So, in his own an individual fiction, Tablos was an unknown saiyan that miraculously survived the destruction of planet Vegeta, and also “little by little, would begin to understand his genuine identity.”

This was the so late ’90s, a time when millions of newborn Dragon ball fan artists, largely in high school and middle school, flooded forums with their own rough takes on Toriyama’s classic silhouettes. In the sense, Franco was like any type of other teenager, mocking increase his really own fanime as a way to case a edge of the DBZ multiverse. The only difference was the Franco’s art was light-years far better than the amateurish mockups the his contemporaries. Gotten rid of from its initial context, it would certainly be basic to think that it came straight from the Toei mothership.

And that’s precisely what happened. Sometime in the late ’90s, a theoretical Dragon round fan scanned the Hobby Consolas page, cropped everything however the majestic image of Tablos, and also posted it come a forum, where world inferred that it was son ogong transformed into a mythical super Saiyan 5. Franco’s name was removed from the proceedings entirely, and the community, frothy through the expect for brand-new content, new characters, and new power levels, jumped to the conclusion that it was witnessing a spicy new leak indigenous Japan.

The Dragon ball AF ensemble Courtesy of David Montiel Franco
Dragon round lifers were an especially interested in that innocuous “AF” in the corner of the drawing, i m sorry scanned as a logo design for a new series. The fan ar eventually agreed that AF need to stand for After Future, the hush-hush project that Toei company was working on to proceeding Goku’s journey into greater and greater celestial strength plateaus. According to Padula’s study on his Dao of Dragon Ball blog, the internet rarely wondered about the veracity the AF. Believing in something as amazing as a at sight Saiyan 5 Goku and also 100-plus brand-new half-hour reflects was a blast. Pan filled in the margins with homemade “illustrations, videos, and also episode listings” because that the hypothetical AF, which created a radical of material that make it tough for any type of casual to actors doubt.

Franco wasn’t conscious of any kind of of this. “After sending and publishing the photo in the magazine I started to work and study at college of Alicante and stopped drawing,” that says. For practically 20 years, he had actually absolutely no idea the his fan-art was being passed roughly as one official picture from the Dragon Ball brain trust. Meanwhile, people like Padula to be eating it up.

”Only the super well-educated fans who had actually seen the whole of the series by then, such as by watching the Japanese bootleg VHS tapes, might know the it no real,” he tells me. “These educated fans produced a tiny dissenting voice in the crowd, however most people remained ignorant that truth and falsehood. Yes sir so much to learn about Dragon Ball, and so lot misinformation, the it have the right to be an overwhelming to tell what’s real and fake.”

An element of doublespeak has constantly been a an important ingredient the Dragon sphere fandom, simply since it’s complicated to monitor the whims of an enigmatic production company throughout the Pacific. “Dragon round is a series made through a Japanese man who is still lively today, however prefers to continue to be hidden, while a giant publisher and also animation studio develop his works and distribute it come the world,” proceeds Padula. “If Toriyama were like Stan Lee or one more comic creator that was actively involved in the community they aided create, he might have quashed those rumors as soon as castle began, and also it would have actually put the last nail in the coffin.”

Today, a arbitrarily fan have the right to pen a tweet come J.K. Rowling and can potentially receive a fiction-altering nugget yielded right to their door. That’s never been the situation with Dragon Ball. The cosmos is also silly, as well unruly, and also too stuffed through fringe instances for anyone come be certain they’re stand on solid ground. This is a franchise that deemed an entire television arc, Dragon ball GT, to be non-canon. So is the really that surprising that the neighborhood could be baited by part well-executed pan art? to me, that’s simply a lovable symptom of the culture.


The covers because that Tablos’ Dragon ball AF origins manga publications Courtesy that David Montiel Franco
As the years piled on, and also the web accelerated, and much more Americans got their hands on illustration of Dragon Ball, it slowly became clear that Super Saiyan 5 — at the very least in Franco’s translate — no exist. The rumor was formally put to bed in 2012, as soon as Padula made that his mission to identify the beginning of the illustration once and for all. The lays out all of the detective occupational on his blog, but basically, he tracked under that problem of Hobby Consolas, examined Franco’s signature in Photoshop, and miraculously discovered him online. Padula to be the first one to educate Franco of the legacy he unsure left in his wake.

”I was entirely ignorant around this worry all the time,” says Franco. “The difficulty was that i was absent, and also people didn’t recognize the real beginning of the picture.”

In 2015, Dragon ball Super premiered, serving together the an initial entry in the Dragon round universe due to the fact that the late-’90s. It certainly meant that Toriyama was not working ~ above anything dubbed Dragon ball AF, or a at sight Saiyan 5. Provided Toei’s general reticence v the press, this was about as close as anyone to be going to obtain to a officially repudiation the the myth.

And yet, the folklore tho thrives. Walk to the Dragon round wiki, and you can find a delightfully in-universe history of the at sight Saiyan 5 form, and also how son ogong was the first to accomplish it, and also how it differs from the contours of at sight Saiyan 4, with absolutely no disclosure that the fiction was produced out of slim air by confident fans. Scroll with all the fanart motivated by Franco’s drawing, that drapes the other Dragon Ball characters with the very same trappings. (Super Saiyan 5 Gohan! supervisor Saiyan 5 Vegeta!) The legend has existed for too lengthy for the to ever before die. “ lives eternal,” says Padula. “Like Shenron.”

The tradition is developed on great fulfillment. If you prospered up believing that Franco’s illustration to be canon, and that Americans to be just approximately the corner from finally getting your hands top top AF, it deserve to be an overwhelming to concede that every one of that anticipation was for naught. “’Super Saiyan 5 goku is real’ is the Dragon Ball version of ‘Elvis Lives!’” add to Padula. “People want to believe.”

Dragon Ball, in the beautiful, absurd sprawl, across countless video clip games, movies, mangas, and dubs, motivates its viewers come distort their discernment. Supervisor Saiyan 5 will be passed roughly for eons. The belongs to the fans. That as real as anyone desires it come be. Provided how other, more contemporary fan manga series like Dragon Ball brand-new Age and also Dragon ball Multiverse continue to thrive, the dose of non-canon daydreaming might be a optimistic force.

Franco has actually greatly took pleasure in his found celebrity. In 2016, because that the an initial time since he set off because that university, that started drawing Dragon Ball art again, encouraged by his friends, who told him how many people in the community still thirsted for the AF mythology. Last year he went to number of manga conventions with his canvases in tow. As soon as he sets up his booth, behind him always is that same fierce portrait of Tablos. At sight Saiyan 5 Goku has lifted a lapsed pan artist out of exile, and returned him to his rightful place. Franco isn’t an main arbiter that the canon, yet he’s likewise not not that either. The Dragon Ball universe is complete of contradictions, it makes sense the the reality neighboring it would be the same way.

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”The bulk of people don’t believe that i’m the original creator, other world ask me, ‘When will the Dragon ball AF anime start?” the says. “I feel prefer another basic Dragon round fan who thrived up with the series. Hope I can collaborate through Toei animation in the future. We would have an impressive Dragon ball series. Ns promise.”

Luke Winkie is a writer and also former pizza-maker native the hills of Rancho san Diego, who lives and works indigenous Austin, Texas.