Posts Tagged ‘Osamu Tezuka’

Tezuka’s Secrets of Creation


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010


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Helen McCarthy’s book The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga (Abrams) comes packaged with the NHK TV documentary Secrets of Creation shot in 1985, four years before Tezuka’s death. It’s one of the best cartoonist documentaries I’ve ever seen. (more…)

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Cleopatra (Sorta) Translated


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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


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Tezuka’s Mushi Production produced a trilogy of adult animated features in the early seventies known as the “Animerama trilogy.” They’ve been floating around online for years untranslated until recently Cleopatra has been fansubbed and posted on YouTube. As the intro explains, it was based on a machine-made translation of the Chinese version and it didn’t make any sense and so they tried to subtitle it in a way that made sense even though they don’t know any Japanese. “Every attempt has been made to convey the original story as we assume it was intended. Though some artistic liberties have been taken to ensure the story makes some sort of fucking sense.” Pretty funny. It starts here.

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Incomplete


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Friday, April 17, 2009


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I do not have the proper mindset for decent comics bloggery this week, but I still thought I’d quickly post a link to this fascinating essay by Kentaro Takekuma (co-creator of one of my favorite books of comics meta-criticism, Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga) writing on Osamu Tezuka and Hayao Miyazaki.

One of the most interesting parts of this essay, I think, is where Kentaro describes why he feels that Miyazaki’s Nausicaä manga series is “hard to read”, including this bit:

The individual panels are too “complete” as illustrations. This is only true for each singular frame (panel), and there isn’t enough of an attempt to connect one frame to the next, or to guide the reader in following the flow of the manga.

This probably has something to do with why people so often describe Nausicaä as aesthetically “Western”. The whole thing is worth reading, especially for Miyazaki or Tezuka fans.

Oh, and for the record, I personally didn’t find Nausicaä hard to read at all.

[H/t to J.O.G. McCullochuddy]

Ok. And while I was writing this, Chris Butcher linked to it, so this meager post is even more superfluous now. I’ll put it up anyway.

[And apparently D. Deppey posted it yesterday. Whatever. I'm done.]

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I Don’t Read Comics Anymore


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


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Sorry about that. It makes it hard to think of things to say about them, though.

Actually, I’m exaggerating. I read and mostly liked the two new Urasawa series that finally got published last week, and re-read and loved the Tezuka story that one of them adapted. I still don’t have anything to say about them, though.

So how about this instead?

1. Paul Karasik can still surprise me, which surprises me. Check out his take on the above Jimmy Olsen cover over at the Covered blog.

2. I like a lot of Alan Moore’s stuff, but have recently gotten tired of reading all the articles about how he doesn’t like movies made of his comics. Not that his stance bothers me, but I’ve heard it a million times now, and don’t understand why the entertainment press still thinks it’s so shocking and interesting. So it was funny (to me) that when I read the latest big Alan Moore interview, this part jumped out at me as being particularly enjoyable:

One of my big objections to film as a medium is that it’s much too immersive, and I think that it turns us into a population of lazy and unimaginative drones. The absurd lengths that modern cinema and its CGI capabilities will go in order to save the audience the bother of imagining anything themselves is probably having a crippling effect on the mass imagination. You don’t have to do anything. With a comic, you’re having to do quite a lot. Even though you’ve got pictures there for you, you’re having to fill in all the gaps between the panels, you’re having to imagine characters voices. You’re having to do quite a lot of work. Not quite as much work as with a straight unillustrated book, but you’re still going to do quite a lot of work.

I think the amount of work we contribute to our enjoyment of any piece of art is a huge component of that enjoyment. I think that we like the pieces that engage us, that enter into a kind of dialog with us, whereas with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.

I didn’t enjoy it so much because of his critique of film—which I think (or thought) was pretty banal and almost conventional wisdom at this point (Godard’s work isn’t done, I guess)—but because it just seems so refreshing after reading so many articles and interviews with comic-book people who always seem to be trying to pump up comics by saying they’re just like movies, or could make great movies, or that the reason Will Eisner is great is because he used tricks from the movies, etc. It’s nice to hear someone involved in comics who doesn’t have an inferiority complex about them, and just flat out says they’re better, and on top of that, movies are bad for your brain.

Also, usually I get all bent out of shape when someone admits to not paying close attention to comics and movies for a decade or so before turning around and bashing them on and on, but I have to admit this time I was kind of amazed at how accurate Moore was. (Though admittedly his critiques apply mostly to the superhero and blockbuster varieties.) Maybe that’s a power you get when you’re a wizard.

On the other hand, I tried again this winter, and I still can’t get through Promethea. What a chore. It seems like being a wizard has its bad sides, too.

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Recent Comics Reading


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Wednesday, July 18, 2007


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We haven’t done this in a while.

Jack Kirby‘s Fourth World Omnibus, Volume 1
Everything went right with this book, which collects the early issues of Kirby’s “Fourth World” comics for DC (Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle), with the stories printed in order of their original publication. Some have complained about the paper stock, which is superficially reminiscent of newsprint (I’ve heard this “choice” came down to a production mistake, though that may just be rumor), but it works very well, in my opinion. The coloring is as good as it gets for this kind of archival treatment. In terms of story, this is pretty close to the deep end for pure Kirby weirdness, and those who haven’t read much by him might be better off starting with his ’60s Marvel work. Or maybe not. The ’70s period finds Kirby’s art and bizarre ideas as close to “art comics” as he would ever get.

This has been one of the most widely reviewed comics collections of the year (deservedly so), so I won’t go on too much longer, but I do want to say that I really enjoy how Kirby throws in subplots and imagery with incredibly disturbing implications (the underground government cloning facility, the fact that the very first person they decided to clone was Superman (an incredibly incautious choice, I’d think)) in an almost offhand manner, barely commented upon by the characters. There are a lot more levels to these stories than might seem initially apparent.

Richard Sala‘s Delphine #1-2
I’m also really enjoying this new series from Sala, which is part of Fantagraphics’s Ignatz line. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t really get Sala’s work in time to follow The Chuckling Whatsit and Mad Night in their original serialized form, so it’s great to get another chance with this new series, which seems to be loosely based on the Snow White story. Sala’s done some great work with short pieces, but these Judex-like serials are where he really excels. One panel in the first issue actually made me jump (well, not really jump—I was sitting down—but the sedentary equivalent of jumping, anyway). Good stuff.

Rick Geary‘s Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Borden Tragedy
For some reason, Rick Geary’s drawing style has never really appealed to me—it seems too twee or something, I guess—but enough people whose taste I trust have recommended him to me over the years that I finally decided to give him a try. I’m glad I did. This narrative reconstruction of the infamous Lizzie Borden trial and the murders that led up to it is masterfully done, and a pretty obvious riposte to my ignorant lament that not enough comics were taking advantage of the form’s natural strengths for exploring historical topics. Geary uses a tremendous amount of innovative layouts and formal techniques (pretty much everything I imagined earlier, as well as others I hadn’t anticipated) to great effect, and this is a compelling true crime tale. In the end, it may seem like not much more than a well-executed genre piece, but when considered with the other titles in this series (which I definitely plan on sampling), that judgment may prove too harsh. And there’s certainly a place for good genre work, anyway. I’m still not the biggest fan of Geary’s drawings, but they do what he wants them to, which is what counts. (I’m sometimes repelled by Steve Ditko‘s art, for that matter, and he’s one of my favorites.)

Josh Simmons‘s House
I’ve enjoyed a few of Josh Simmons’s mini-comics over the years, but this is a real step up, and a very promising book-length debut. This short, atmospheric horror story follows three young people exploring a strange, abandoned house, and the first half of the book is filled with surprising and even exhilarating moments. I don’t want to give the plot away, but after being so pleased by the beginning of the book, I was a little disappointed by the ending, which felt too protracted and schematic for my taste. The author pretty clearly intended that effect, though, so maybe I’ll be more receptive after a few re-readings. In any case, Simmons displays an original voice, and this is inexpensive and impressive enough for me to recommend it to anyone interested in horror or wordless comics. I am excited to see what Simmons comes up with next.

Minetaro Mochizuki’s Dragon Head, Vols. 1-4
What is wrong with me? Everyone else in the world, from Dan to seemingly every comics reviewer on the Internet, is raving about this manga, but four volumes in, I’m still indifferent. So far, the story follows two high-school students trapped in a train tunnel after some kind of apocalyptic incident, and their struggle to survive and escape. It’s all put together extremely well, but follows the J-horror/apocayptic fiction formulas so closely that I’ve never once felt surprised. I’ve been assured by others that the series gets better as it goes, but I’m about ready to give up. This feels a lot like any number of “good” television shows (Lost, Heroes) that I don’t feel like I have the time to follow, and I don’t think the fact that these characters are drawn is going to keep me going. I am probably wrong about this series.

Finally, in the so far, so good files:

Osamu Tezuka‘s Apollo’s Song
I haven’t finished this yet, but I’m loving it, and I’m really glad that Vertical is putting out these relatively obscure Tezuka titles. When the Phoenix volumes came out, I wasn’t really ready for them. The bizarre and wonderful storytelling in this, Ode to Kirohito, and Buddha has given me new eyes.

Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman‘s Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives
This book is too expensive if you can’t find a deal somewhere, but so far, this is nothing but great, brainless, golden-age fun. I can’t read too many of these stories at once, but it’s terrific in small portions.

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Making History


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Monday, July 10, 2006


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In an attempt to beat Dan to the manga-reviewing punch, I recently read the first volume of Path of the Assassin, another ninjas-and-samurai epic from Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, the writer/artist team most famous for the legendary Lone Wolf & Cub series. I read the first four or so volumes of the Lone Wolf series a while back, but eventually got bogged down by the endless sword fights.

It was impressive enough, though, that I decided to give them another chance, especially since this Path of the Assassin series is 1) much shorter, and 2) more directly concerned with ninjas, which I’ve never seen handled in any kind of intelligent way before. (I’m sure Cold Heat will be an exception.)

Maybe ninja stories usually fail because assassins are basically repellent people; I don’t know.

In any case, I liked the first volume of this, though I have to admit much of the feudal politics and gender roles are a little off-putting. I don’t know what Japanese audiences make of this material, but 16th century Japan is almost totally alien to me, which is actually one of the things about it I found most appealing.

In fact, comics seem almost ideally suited as a medium for historical fiction (or non-fiction, for that matter). Unlike in straight prose, the comics artist can immerse the reader directly into the world visually, with unfamiliar clothing, vehicles, and tools depicted accessibly and immediately.

Movies can do this, too, but they aren’t able to easily impart a lot of the factual and contextual information needed without resorting to often clumsy exposition. (“Ever since Custer fell, Butch, the Sioux have been restless.”) Comics, on the other hand, can seamlessly include textual notes, glossaries, maps, et cetera, directly into the story.

Of course there have been many great historical comics. The late, lamented Jack Jackson specialized and excelled in them; and he could always be relied on not to cut out the good parts. Harvey Kurtzman’s period pieces from Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat are still considered by many people (including me) to be a high-water mark for the medium.

This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list, but I’m somewhat surprised that more cartoonists haven’t attempted historical work. Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde are at least partly in this vein, but I can’t think of too many other contemporary artists that apply. (Probably the comic book I am most looking forward to is R. Crumb’s adaptation of Genesis, especially after I learned that he was using Robert Alter’s astounding translation and annotation of the Five Books of Moses as a source.) Oh, and I almost forgot Maus! And Tezuka. And Jacques Tardi

Anyway, time to end the rambling. I imagine that the biggest single reason that historical comics aren’t more prevalent is economic: research takes time, and readers aren’t particularly interested. (Jackson didn’t get rich off Comanche Moon, and Kurtzman’s war comics had to be subsidized by more popular EC series like Tales from the Crypt.)

And I guess, like a lot of things that I wish were better about the world of comics, that’s just the way it goes.

UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more period comics occur to me, from Enemy Ace to the World’s Fair sections of Jimmy Corrigan. I don’t know if that supports my post, or hurts it, or both.

UPDATE II: And Louis Riel! Maybe I’m just stupid…

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