March 25, 2007
How about an Osamu Tezuka series from a few years ago? I haven’t had enough of him lately, and I need something to tide me over until Phoenix 10 comes in the mail.
Let me just say that I was totally disgusted by the presentation on this book. It looked like the source was a bunko-sized edition and the art had been resized to fit this larger book, so it had horrible resolution all the way through. And it takes a lot to get me mad about something like that. Plus, the gutter was extra-wide for some reason, so there were huge gaps in the two-page spreads. I will admit this is a problem too, because Tezuka runs dialogue right into the gutter sometimes, so the wide gap does make it legible, but it made me think some of the pages were missing, because he does some cool things with panel layouts in the beginning across the spread, and having a big white bar separating the two halves of the panel is confusing and makes me think that a page got skipped.
The story itself is extremely OLD. And also for little kids. Apparently he redrew this 3 or 4 times, the first time in 1940, and this is the last version, which was presented as a children’s series. He mentions he regrets this since some of the things the characters say don’t make sense later (since the scientist is supposed to be a little kid, when he gets stranded with a plant-woman on the planet, he says that they can be brother and sister, and later it is mentioned that they are repopulating the planet themselves), but things like bizarre violence are kept intact, so that’s cool.
And this one is pretty violent in a ’30s way. There is a sort of charm to to this ancient sci-fi series, and little touches like the people getting their news from publicly-mounted radios because tvs weren’t widely used at the time make all the difference. And when you realize that it doesn’t seem like a futuristic city because computers hadn’t been invented yet to put the science in sci-fi, it kind of makes reading it more fun. There are storytelling conventions, too, that didn’t survive the early era of comics, my favorite being moderate character reactions. There will be panels where something catastrophic happens, and in the next panel two characters will be standing and saying something like “Professor just died!” “Gee, that’s really awful!” with absolutely no hint of action, or even much emotion, and usually with repetition of the obvious from the panel before. It’s hard to describe without showing you, but I laughed several times at moderate character reaction.
The series also dates itself with one of the most awesome two-page spreads I’ve ever seen, where Higeoyaji makes his way through a crowd of about 50 recognizable comic characters from the early 20th century, including Popeye, Blondie and Dagwood, a disembodied pissed Mickey Mouse head, Betty Boop, and a few other rather American entries. I didn’t recognize them all, but it was totally cool, nonetheless. If I told you how shocked I was when I finally saw Tezuka art and found out that the entirety of manga was based on Betty Boop (which you’d think too if you grew up watching Betty Boop religiously and the first Tezuka manga you saw was Ribon no Kishi), you’d know how delighted I was to see her show up in that panel.
Have I not talked about the plot of the manga yet? Well, that’s probably because it’s kind of boring. It’s definitely for little kids, and stars a little kid scientist and Higeoyaji. The little kid scientist was also in Treasure Island, Tezuka’s first work, but the character designs are kind of primitive here, so I can’t identify him as a character in another series. Acetylene Lamp appears as a reporter with an extremely lumpy head, so the story Tezuka told about being able to put a candle on the notch in the back of his head makes slightly more sense with this design. The beginning is extremely, EXTREMELY boring, and if not for the use of talking animals, I probably would’ve given up. There is a stretch of violence as Higeoyaji tries to beat up some criminals, and we see more of the bizarre “gee, this character is dead, oh wait, what’s going on over here?!” treatment that we sometimes get in Astro Boy that unnerves me a bit. There’s another boring stretch until the characters actually get to the Lost World (with dinosaurs!) then it’s nonstop action til the end, where almost all the main characters get shot, eaten by other people, eaten by dinosaurs, sucked out into the vacuum of space (which is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen, thank you Tezuka), or blown up. Don’t worry, you don’t have to think about any of these deaths too long… though I guarantee you I won’t be sleeping tonight after seeing the angry look on the guy floating around dead in space.
For $18, not really worth it, but it’s got a lot of AWESOME historical value, and the amount of deaths that are totally disregarded is quite high, so I was pleased.