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When Osamu Tezuka passed away in February 1989 at age 60, he left behind countless fans, an influential body of work that includes Astro Boy, Black Jack and Buddha and, tantalizingly, a locked desk with a lost key.
Rocket News 24 reports that recently, some 25 years after the death of the “god of manga,” his daughter Rumiko to open the desk, where she discovered a half-eaten piece of chocolate, a handwritten essay about Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo and a bag of sketches, including a stash of erotic drawings by Tezuka.
Note: I feel like I should place a warning in here, but I’m honestly at a loss as to whether these sketches aren’t safe for work. They’re not so much graphic as they are … odd?
Here’s a treat for fans of both Astro Boy and Katsuhiro Otomo: The creator of Akira drew Osamu Tezuka’s robot for the cover of the third volume of the industry magazine Anime Busience as only Otomo can.
Crunchyroll notes that Neon Genesis Evangelion character designer and manga author Yoshiyuki Sadamoto took on Akira for the cover of the magazine’s second volume (below), while Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno depicted Space Battleship Yamato for the first.
Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]
Comics sales | ICv2 crunches the January numbers and calculates that just one comic, Batman #27, sold more than 100,000 copies in January, something that hasn’t happened since August 2011; this follows a weak December in which only three comics broke the 100,000 mark. The retail news and analysis site also lists the top 300 comics and graphic novels for the month. [ICv2]
Creators | Batman writer Scott Snyder talks about his plans for Batman #28, writing the Riddler, working with artist Greg Capullo on the action sequences, and getting ready for Batman’s 75th anniversary. [Hero Complex]
Creators | Eugenia Williamson profiles Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, whose work as artists on the Adventure Time comics has brought them an unexpected measure of fame. [The Boston Globe]
A Centaur’s Life, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas): Easily the weirdest comic I read this month, Kei Murayama’s manga is about an alternate world where everything is the exact same as it is in ours, save for the fact that there are multiple races like centaurs, angel folk, goat folk, cat folk, dragon people and so on. Oh, and while human beings apparently still exist, the only one glimpsed is a medieval knight seen in flashback, having enslaved a centaur is some bizarre armor/restraining device in order to ride him.
What makes the manga so weird, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason, at least not in this first volume, for why our heroine Himeno is a centaur, and why her classmates are all various fantasy races living out an otherwise completely mundane existence.
Himeno is a sweet, shy, pretty and popular Japanese schoolgirl (who is also a centaur). She’s afraid of boys, likes hanging out with her friends, and love sweets, although she worries about getting fat. The stories are mostly of the frivolous high-school comedy sort that could easily have been told with human characters.
In the first story, Himeno is self-conscious about her genitals, which she’s never looked at, as she’s afraid they might resemble those of a cow the kids once saw on a field trip (unlike some centaurs, the ones in this comic keep their horse parts covered in elaborate pants that appear difficult to put on and take off). In another, her class puts on a play, and she’s cast as the female lead, while her best friend — a girl with bat wings, a spade-shaped tail and pointy ears — is the male lead. In another, she’s suspected of doing some modeling work, in violation of school policy regarding part-time jobs.
Last weekend I went to Comic Arts Brooklyn. I bought a lot of comics. Here are six that I think are really good, and I think you should try to find as well.
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Saba’aneh was released from an Israeli prison on Monday, as scheduled. Saba’aneh, who was originally held without charges and eventually sentenced to five months for “contacts with a hostile organization,” drew several cartoons while he was in prison and plans to do a show of his prison drawings, focusing on Palestinian prisoners who, he says, are in prison “just because they are Palestinians.” [PRI’s The World]
Manga | In a major coup for a manga publisher, Digital Manga (which, contrary to its name, also published print manga) announced at Anime Expo that it has signed a deal with Tezuka Productions to publish all of Osamu Tezuka’s works in North America. While the details aren’t entirely clear, it sounds like Digital is working on some new licenses and will have digital rights to books released here in print by other publishers. [Anime News Network]
Letting It Go (Drawn and Quarterly): When we last saw Miriam Katin, it was in the pages of her We Are On Our Own, her 2006 graphic memoir about how she and her mother survived the Holocaust, hiding out from the Nazis in the Hungarian countryside. Her new memoir continues that story, by skipping ahead to her current life as a middle-aged artist living in New York City and harboring the deep and bitter prejudices against a city, a country and a people that her childhood understandable instilled in her.
The subject matter is awfully heavy, but it’s presented quite lightly — this is a fun, funny comic about a grown woman coming to terms with the irrational prejudices and bias born of the irrational prejudice and biases of others.
When we meet the Miriam of Letting It Go, she and her husband are seemingly living an idyllic artistic life, he in a room playing his clarinet, she procrastinating starting to draw something. When her grown son says he wants to move to Berlin, she reacts negatively instinctively, and gradually comes to terms with it, visiting him in Berlin, and then returning a second time almost immediately in order to see some of her art hanging at a show there, learning the word vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past) and how to start doing it … if not how to pronounce it.
Katin’s graphic novel is border-less, the “panels” implied ones formed by the consecutive, often overlapping images, giving the artwork a winding, rhythmic flow that moves over the pages like water. That and the somewhat-sketchy nature of the art, in which you can see each and every line that goes into the drawings, gives the book an incredibly intimate feel, as if a reader has simply discovered Katin’s sketchbook, rather than something mass-produced.
Comics | The Wall Street Journal takes a look at comics as investments. Interestingly, while the rare, old issues bring in the big money, some more recent comics, like the first issue of Saga, have appreciated quite a bit. There’s also an accompanying video. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | ComicsPRO, the comics retailers’ association, held its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta, where the group bestowed its Industry Appreciation Award on Cindy Fournier, vice president of operations for Diamond Comic Distributors. Thomas Gaul, of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, California, also was elected as president of the board of directors. [ComicsPRO]
Love it or hate it, manga has revolutionized American comics by bringing in new readers, new genres and new creators. Sometimes the influences are obvious, as in the manga-style graphic novels of Svetlana Chmakova or Laurianne Uy, and sometimes they are less so; many artists who don’t work in what we think of as the “manga style” have adopted storytelling, paneling and pacing techniques from Japanese comics.
What we forget, because manga still seem so exotic and foreign, is that the influence went the other way, too, and that’s the underlying premise of a fascinating new line of manga scholar Ryan Holmberg is editing for PictureBox. Titled Ten-Cent Manga, it will showcase manga that explore “that mysterious underground country between Japanese and American popular culture.” Even the name suggests a pulpy sensibility that is straight out of the American mass market of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Digital comics | Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing app on the iPad in 2012. Last year Comics made No. 10 on the charts, and two other comiXology apps, their Marvel and DC apps, also made the Top 20. [Inside Mobile Apps]
Manga | Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe has announced that after a nearly two-year hiatus, he’ll resume his hit manga in January or February. The violent action/black comedy series, which centers on a team of pirates/mercenaries, is published in North America by Viz Media. [Crunchyroll]
Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]
Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]
An unpublished manga drawn by the legendary Osamu Tezuka when he was a teenager was discovered at a used bookstore, where it was purchased in April by Tezuka Productions for $37,000.
According to Anime News Network, which translated reports from 47News and FNN, the 19-page comic was created immediately following World War II and just before Tezuka made his professional debut. The Astro Boy creator had given the work to a former classmate, who held onto it for more than 60 years. Harumichi Mori, head of the Tezuka Productions archives, said they were unaware of the comic until its discovery at the bookstore.
Tezuka, often referred to as the “father of manga,” passed away in 1989 at age 60.
Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.
To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.