“The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime,” by Toshio Ban, published by Stone Bridge Press, is a work in manga fit for one of the greatest manga artists ever, Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989). Manga is a very particular experience and much can get lost in translation. One key trait to manga is that time constraints often go out the window, the format embraces extended scenes. I like this approach and find it can be quite effective in setting a mood. Like any other technique, it can be overdone. I thought this to myself as I began to undertake this behemoth of book clocking in at 928 pages. Could it have benefited from some restraint? Well, yes and no. Overall, I highly recommend it on many levels. It provides much needed context and general information. And, in the end, there is an enthusiastic spark throughout that lifts the reader.
Manga is inextricably linked to a different world view, as opposed to most Western comics. We Americans, even the most seasoned readers among us, have been conditioned to more tightly edited work. You just need to come into reading this biography with the same spirit you would approach a gloriously sprawling foreign film. Yes, expect to find many detailed scenes with the little boy Osamu. And, yes, expect various detailed scenes of Osamu, the man, at his drafting table.
Osamu Tezuka in his prime.
Who exactly was Osamu Tezuka? you may ask. In the United States, Osamu Tezuka is not as well known as he could be. But, in Japan, he ranks as high as, say, Charles M. Schulz does in America. There is every reason to believe that Tezuka could become as beloved an artist as Schulz. And that adds to the importance of this biography. In America, a certain number of enthusiasts know Tezuka for his landmark Buddha series. In Japan, Tezuka is also celebrated for Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Black Jack. Also covered in this book is Tezuka’s trailblazing work in animation. It is no exaggeration to say that Japan’s manga and anime owes greatly to the work of Osamu Tezuka.
Working for Osamu Tezuka proves challenging.
Among the memorable detailed accounts: Tezuka, up to his ears in work, is literally fleeing anxious editors from various publications hounding him to meet his deadlines. The King of Manga, hiding out in hotel rooms from publishers, with the press not far behind, became a veritable cause célèbre. At the height of so many conflicting deadlines piling up on him, Tezuka had to devise various systems to cut down the time-consuming process of creating manga. This included hiring a team of assistants. The poor devils were left to do various bits of piece work without a clue as to what would ultimately go where. This would be just a taste of what it would be like once Tezuka began to work in his own anime studio.
You are in for a treat. Yes, here you are dealing with a mammoth book. Take it bit by bit and you will be rewarded. Frederik L. Schodt’s translation works smoothly with Toshio Ban’s original script and artwork which greatly emulates Tezuka’s own artwork. This is indeed a treasure trove. The original work was published in 1992, three years after Tezuka’s death. It originally came out as three books: Osamu to Osamushi (1928-1945), Dreams of Manga (1945-1959), and Dreams of Anime (1960-1989). With that in mind, it is more reasonable to see how we ended up with such a big book. I think a graphic novel should be as long as it needs to be. Some 300-pagers could easily be half as long. But, in this case, here is a story that is well justified in spreading out as much as it needed to.
“The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime,” by Toshio Ban
THE OSAMU TEZUKA STORY is a 928-page trade paperback, published by Stone Bridge Press. Visit them right here. You can also find it at Amazon right here.
“Over the Garden Wall,” is a new comics series from Boom! Studios imprint, KaBOOM! But it already has established a history over at Cartoon Network as a crazy popular show. It has the distinction of being Cartoon Network’s first-ever original animated miniseries. That said, this issue assumes some prior knowledge of the goings-on but it’s also totally newbie-friendly. The gist of it is that this is all set in a fantasy-type world. The characters are always on the lookout for the Beast and the land of the Unknown is not a good place to be. Alright, that’s plenty to work with already!
Well, let’s just to be clear and give credit where credit is due. The whole shebang originates with “Tome of the Unknown” a fantastic animated short by Pat McHale ((Adventure Time, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack). That’s what led to the ongoing animated series on Cartoon Network. Things just rolled from there. For instance, check out Pat’s limited series comic.
Okay, getting back to this new ongoing series, what grabbed me right away was the zippy quality to the panel-to-panel reading experience. There is an uncanny timing to things like when you have a frog belch, “Rorop!” That’s because the original team from the new ongoing animated series is working on this comic. Jim Campbell returns to join forces with fellow show writer Amalia Levari. Along with that talent, there is also writer Danielle Burgos; and, art-wise, you have Jim Campbell and Cara McGee. Well, it all adds up to some magical storytelling. No prior knowledge, indeed! All you need to do is observe, with a certain amount of glee, little boy Greg as he returns to Dreamland traipsing about, all Little Nemo-style.
Midway through, we make an abrupt switch in setting after Greg has had his adventure. We go back in the backstory to the land of the Unknown and follow the struggles of young Anna, the daughter of the Woodsman, as she must learn to survive in the woods on her own. Greg’s story, followed by Anna’s story, all makes for a nice mix of light and dark. This is a very engaging comic that will be worthwhile for any age.
Also included is a preview of a new Adventure Time title simply going by the name, “Adventure Time Comics.” This is a special opportunity to spread one’s wings and mix things up with brand-new “off-model” stories, as they say in the comics biz. That accounts for the story here involving the Pastry Princess and the Queen of Breakfast. These are most definitely not your regular characters from Adventure Time. I guess whenever I see some such character, like say, The Hamburger Prince, I should yell out, “Off-model!” Either that or I should make my way to my nearest fast food drive thru. Well, getting back to the story at hand, it is very cute and funny. Turns out that pastries are indeed a part of breakfast. Wonderful art and story by Katie Cook! You can expect to find the first issue of “Adventure Time Comics” to arrive this July.
“Over the Garden Wall #1” is available as of April 27th. For more details, visit Boom! Studios right here.
Olivia Olson has much to celebrate and share with fans. She is in the unique position of getting to do a lot of cool and creative stuff with her dad, comedy writer Martin Olson. For starters, both are voice talent on the animated series “Adventure Time” on Cartoon Network. This is one of the most creative, quirky, and strangest shows on television. If you know the show, all I need to say is: Marceline the Vampire Queen and, her dad, the Lord of Evil, Hunson Abadeer! It was Adventure Time’s very own creator, Pendleton Ward, who recruited Olivia Olson, and later on Martin Olson, to become part of the show and the rest is history.
Marceline Vampire Queen and, her dad, Hunson Abadeer stealing her french fries
As Olivia describes in this interview, it was just a natural progression that led her to follow in her father’s footsteps into show business. Sure, it can be a harsh business but, with the right guidance, special things can result.
In the case of this father and daughter, it has led to not only performing together but also writing together. The first Adventure Time book was “The Adventure Time Encyclopedia,” written by Martin Olson. And that sparked an interest in Olivia to join in.
Olivia Olson and Marceline the Vampire Queen
Now comes a new book that goes even further, “Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” You can read my review here. This one is a collaboration between the two. Martin Olson focuses on the Enchiridion. And Olivia Olson focuses on Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook. But there’s more to it than that and we cover it in the interview.
One thing that Olivia wanted to point out is that this book is not only two books in one. When you think about it, it’s actually four books in one! You see, the Enchiridion covers two separate books: one for Heroes; and one for Wizards. And Marcy’s Scrapbook is actually two books: a journal by Simon Petrikov, aka The Ice King, the man who raised Marceline; and a journal by Marceline.
The full interview with Olivia Olson follows and includes the podcast at the end.
Henry Chamberlain: I read that the idea for this book began on a subway ride in New York City with you, your dad, and editor Eric Klopfer. Would you tell us about that, what you were anticipating doing on the book?
Olivia Olson: It’s a funny story since originally I wasn’t going to be part of the writing process. I helped a little bit for our first book, the encyclopedia for Adventure Time. That was mostly my dad writing it and I had so many notes to give him because, at the time, he didn’t know too much about the show. He said, “How about if I keep the wrong information and you keep correcting me throughout the book.” That was my first little snippet of writing. We were at New York Comic Con, with the first book being so well received, and we just thought we needed to do another book. The first book had been successful. And we knew how much my dad wanted to tackle writing the Enchiridion.
At the time, we didn’t know how we were going to fuse the Enchiridion with Marcy’s Scrapbook. That came about way later. We sort of tricked our publisher, Abrams, into having me be a co-author on the book. I wrote my segments and submitted them and then, after they provided feedback, we revealed that the writing was mine.
HC: There’s such a literary quality to Adventure Time stemming from the original creators, your dad. And now you, part of the next generation. Would you describe to us growing up in that world, being exposed to all that creativity, getting to write with your dad.
OO: It’s so funny because, when I was a little girl, I always wanted to act and sing, all that kind of stuff. My dad, being in the business, did not want me to have anything to do with it since, you know, it’s hard on children being part of that. So, he frowned upon it. But here I was growing up among all these comedians and writers and actors so it was kind of impossible for him not to expose me to the world.
Not in a million years would I have thought that I’d be performing and writing right alongside him. It is such a funny coincidence as I grew up in animation. I grew up with all these people who worked in cartoons. But I never really thought that was to be my path. I always thought it would be more like Beyonce or Mariah Carey. It’s just so weird. People like Tom Kenny and his wife used to babysit me and my brother. Now I get to play a character with Tom Kenny. And I get to write with my dad.
HC: From what I observe, it looks like it’s all coming together naturally. For instance, your dad never considered himself an actor, even though he has that performing background.
OO: We joke about it. We’ve been doing this all our lives and now we have a job where we’re getting paid for it. Adventure Time has provided all these amazing outlets. I started off as an actor. My dad started off as a writer. Now, five years later, he’s an actor on the show and I’m a writer. It’s really amazing that Pen Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, gave us these opportunities to not only work as father and daughter but explore the range of our talents.
HC: You have a very distinctive voice and style for Marceline the Vampire Queen. And you bring her to life so well in this book. This is quite a unique two-books-in-one. Could you describe your take on your writing process–and how your songwriting background comes into play. I can think of some lyrics that you include in the book.
OO: There’s definitely a lot of poetry and lyrics spread throughout the Scrapbook part. It’s funny that we pitch it as a two part book because, if you really delve into it, you see that it’s a four part book. The Enchiridion side has two parts, one for Heroes and one for Wizards. And the Scrapbook has a journal by Simon Petrikov followed by a journal by Marceline.
The Scrapbook was originally going to be something completely different. I wrote summaries for every episode I’d ever done. I was following along with each episode and wrote a diary entry for what Marceline might write on that particular day. That’s what we originally submitted and then we end up scrapping all of that. We wanted to dive deeper into the backstory since Marceline is such a mysterious character. We really wanted to cover the Mushroom War and how tragic her story really is.
It was when I added the poetry that it kicked in. I had never written a work like this before. It was something new. I definitely started off by writing a lot of poetry for it. And that made me feel more connected to my character.
Marceline in “Stakes” from Adventure Time on Cartoon Network
HC: What do you hope readers will get out of the Scrapbook? I am thinking that, for young readers, they will get a fuller appreciation of how a character is depicted in a different medium. You see Marceline one way in an animated format and you see her in a different way in a literary format. Can you speak to how the character can do different things in different media?
OO: I think all the work outside of the actual series, and that includes the video games, comics, anything like that, is technically not canon to the show. We worked extremely hard with everyone involved to have our contributions match as closely to what is happening on the show. And that was a huge help in having us align with “Stakes,” the new mini-series that’s just come out. It gave us a platform to jumpstart where Marceline was going next and learn more about her.
I was so excited about this since Adventure Time fans really get down and dirty with everything. That’s what is so great about the show. It sparks the imagination. Fans have all these theories about what’s going on in the show. We went through so many drafts to stay true and do justice to the show. I was really impressed with what we ended up with, being able to go deeper into the characters, taking a different approach from the random humor the show is known for. When the show began to dig deeper into the characters, we wanted to do the same.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
HC: What are you reading now or what sort of books do you like?
OO: Right now, I’m reading a zombie apocalypse book. It’s called, “The Girl with All the Gifts.” It’s 20 years after a zombie outbreak. You start with all these children at a playground. You don’t know why they’re being treated so poorly. They’re half-human and half-zombie. They’re hybrids. I was drawn to it since Marceline is a demon hybrid.
I like all kinds of books. I’m definitely not someone who judges a book by its cover. I’ll be at the airport and give anything a try.
HC: What sort of music are you currently listening to?
OO: Well, I like how Apple iTunes organizes your music and makes suggestions. It has me now listening to Justin Bieber. My boyfriend wasn’t a fan but now he is. I’m also enjoying the oldies, like The Doors.
HC: Any new writing projects brewing?
OO: I don’t want to jinx it but we’re in talks with my publisher, Abrams, about a new book. And I’m working on new music. I’d say, right now, I’m not reaching a quarter-life crisis but more of a quarter-life reprocessing of what path I want to take. I’ve been so fortunate to be so successful at such a young age. So, if there are any young listeners out there, don’t worry about having to know what you’re doing since I don’t always feel that I do.
HC: I think you’re on a great path. I foresee more of the same with new discoveries along the way.
OO: Yeah, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’m a lucky girl but I always want to top myself and find what’s new.
HC: Well, great. Thanks so much, Olivia.
OO: Thank you, Henry. This has been a great chat. Really great questions.
The podcast is below:
“Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” is published by Abrams. Visit them right here. And be sure to catch Marceline the Vampire Queen on Cartoon Network right here.
I love good stuff that is for all ages because you can easily share it with family and friends and it’s hitting universal chords. That brings me to a book you will want to get for yourself and anyone you know looking for something odd and compelling: “Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” Yes, that’s a mouthful but for very good reason. I am guessing that you’re familiar with the celebrated animated series, Adventure Time, on Cartoon Network. Am I right? If not, think of it as offbeat humor of a rare kind like such classics as Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bugs Bunny.
The world of Adventure Time invovles some very funny misadventures along with a very colorful cast of characters. Lots of magic. Lots of weird humor. And a heck of a lot of style and whipsmart goings-on. Set in a post-apolalyptic world, there is nary a zombie to be found here but loads of other curious creatures. The authors of this two-books-in-one are, among other things, voice talent on the show. Olivia Olson is Marceline the Vampire Queen and Martin Olson is her father, Hunson Abadeer.
Okay, this is what happened. The creator of Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward, was so impressed with the work of Martin Olson that he brought him on board to write about Adventure Time. Now, fast forward to this year, Martin Olson is taking things further and has enlisted his daughter, Olivia Olson, to help make this latest Adventure Time book a reality. And, yes, you read correctly, this is literally two books in one! You get the fabled Enchiridion, the infamous book found in the animated series. Plus, you get an in depth look into the inner world of Marceline The Vampire Queen, one of the most intriguing characters on the show.
From Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! by Olivia Olson
Allow me one digression: there actually is another Enchiridion! It is a book filled with advice for gentleman originally published in 125 AD. It was written by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. And it offers bits of wisdom that you can boil down to one main theme: recognize what you’re in control of and you’ll lead a happy life. Ah, there is beauty in the spinning of universal truth. It sounds like something that Jake, the philosopher/party animal magical dog on the show would say. Some things never change.
The universal truth of the matter is that both Martin Olson and Olivia Olson offer you quite a special treat with this book. It is remarkable how well it all lives up to its ambition. It is the equivalent of handing to a fan of the show something snatched right off the screen that actually lives and breathes. Martin Olson turns in a virtuoso work of humor. And Olivia Olson proves to be an insightful and heartfelt author as well.
“Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” is a 224-page hardcover in full color, published by Abrams, with illustrations by some of the leading cartoonists working today.
I’ve always found this to be a very comforting way to settle into the holiday season. It was during this program that I found out about the upcoming animated feature movie, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day.
This one is a keeper. I think when you take the talent behind DESPICABLE ME and apply that to pets, you are definitely onto something. Based on the trailer and the all-around good buzz for this feature, I’m really looking forward to this when it comes out next summer. THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is the fifth fully-animated feature-film collaboration between Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures. The official release date is July 8, 2016 (USA).
Whether you are an artist, or would like to be, being able to draw without a model, but from memory, can be a challenge. With David H. Ross, you are definitely learning from the best. Mr. Ross has worked with all the major North American comic book publishers including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Dark Horse Comics. I can tell you, as an artist myself, that he knows numerous techniques that do indeed make it possible to work from memory. Look no further than his new book, “Freehand Figure Drawing For Illustrators: Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory,” published by Watson-Guptill Publications, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Here you will find the time-honored methods and practical guidelines that you need. In a lot of ways, it all seems rather easy and Ross makes that possible with very clear examples, one step at a time. I believe that clearing all the clutter is essential in art instruction. You address one aspect, focus on that, and move on to the next. Ross begins with the first place you need to go and that’s the space that your model inhabits. If you’ve ever felt a need for a refresher on perspective, you’ll find it here.
The basics and then some, that’s what this book offers. I have fond memories of art school and having my trusty little wooden mannequin as well as a skeleton and skull to keep me company. But, with this book, you find ways to internalize that reference. That’s a key point. So, when you do have your model in the flesh, you can work faster as you go deeper into your interpretation. Anatomy, posture, bone structure, all of this will already be stored away and allow you to concentrate on the unique character of your model. And, of course, with this book’s guidance, you can always work without a model at all.
“Freehand Figure Drawing” is a 208-page trade paperback, published by Watson-Guptill, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of July 28th. For more details, visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.
If you’re at Comic-Con, then you’ll want to make your way to Petco Park, at 100 Park Blvd, for a very special look inside Snoopy’s dog house. Explore within the walls of a giant inflatable Snoopy doghouse. The kids will love snuggling with beagles, snapping selfies with Snoopy, exclusive giveaways and lots more. July 9-July 12, from 9:00AM-6:00PM /PST.
From the imagination of Charles M. Schulz and the creators of the ICE AGE films, THE PEANUTS MOVIE will prove that every underdog has his day.
If you enjoyed the recent animated feature, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” (my review here) then you’re also going to want to see “The Peanuts Movie.” Presented by Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox, this is sure to please those of us who have loyally followed the Peanuts gang over the years all the way down to the newest of viewers.
The synopsis: Flying ace Snoopy (Bill Melendez) takes to the skies to chase his nemesis, the Red Baron, while best friend Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) embarks on his own epic quest.
The release date for The Peanuts Movie is November 6, 2015 (USA). Be sure to visit the official website right here. For even more about Peanuts, you’ll also want to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California. To be sure, they are celebrating this latest Peanuts venture. Find them here.
I was the guest cartoonist at the grand opening of “What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” at the EMP Museum in Seattle this Saturday, June 13, 2015. My role there was primarily to draw. I was there to do what I know and love, draw comics. In this case, comics with a Chuck Jones theme. I was simply there to express as much as I could about what I know and love about the world of Chuck Jones. Yikes! Where to begin? Well, one rabbit ear at a time.
Frank and Cora in 1946’s THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE
Bill Plympton Animation Available on iTunes as of April 2015
CHEATIN’ is Bill Plimpton’s seventh full-length animated feature. It is for adults who like an All-American gritty noir story and fans of great storytelling from such greats at Terry Gilliam and Federico Fellini. Read my review here. On April 3, CHEATIN’ opens in New York and then to selected cities throughout the month. It is also available online! You can see it on Vimeo. And you can see other Plympton features on iTunes starting in April. Yes, if you’re a loyal fan or are new to his work, Bill Plympton is here! For details, and to see the movie, just go to the CHEATIN’ THE MOVIE website right here.
A Gritty Tale and a Sexual Odyssey
CHEATIN’ is visually stunning and immersive. It features the journey one woman must take in order to find what she wants. In the tradition of noir, characters must go through the yin and yang to find their true selves. Light into dark. And then dark into light. Truly, a perpetual swirl of desire and searching. And you throw into the bargain a magical soul-transfer machine, and you’ve got yourself a Bill Plympton animated feature.
Disney Can Give Bill Plympton A Call
It is always a pleasure to chat with Bill Plympton. For this interview, we cover a lot of ground on the storytelling process. We chat about how CHEATIN’ and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE would make for a perfect double bill. And I asked Bill, the king of independent animation, if he’d ever consider working with Disney if the right project came along. Yes. Bill would take the call.
What if Hitler Opened a Theme Park Called, “Naziland”?
And we discuss some upcoming projects. You’ll want to listen to that.
Below is the podcast interview. Enjoy:
Be sure to visit the CHEATIN’ website right here. And, if you’re in the New York metro area, be sure to go to Village East Cinema on Friday, April 3, and you’ll see Bill Plympton in person! He will create a drawing for anyone who asks for one.
Not too long ago, I reviewed a John Allison comic under the same title. This first issue of “Giant Days” is different material and published by Boom! Studios. It is very cool to see this comic getting a higher profile. This one is by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. It is the same trio of college friends from the webcomic. But, just so you know, Allison only writes it. And it is Treiman who does the art. Now, I know Allison has a strong following that know his work as the result of his writing and drawing. For those fans, how do you feel taking his characters in a new direction as it were? It does not completely sit well with me. But should that really be the case? Probably not.
Having another artist draw one’s comic creates a whole new dynamic to say the least. The original Allison characters are delightful: very deadpan, droll, with an overall cool demeanor. This new version warms up Daisy, Esther, and Susan in a way that is subtle but still there. This got me to thinking. It seems like you can get away with that with Adventure Time characters being drawn by various artists. That’s because they’re such broad and elastic characters drenched in irony. But you could never truly get away with the Peanuts gang being drawn by someone else. That’s because they’re such personal creations. I submit to you the newer Peanuts animated TV specials for your review. The oldest ones, you know the ones, may not have been drawn by Charles M. Schulz but they sure had the look and feel of the characters spot on.
There’s definitely a shift in tone here. So, I thought some more. It’s like once you’ve seen Ricky Gervais in “The Office,” you’re kind of spoiled and won’t ever fully accept Steve Carell, even though he’s a comic genius. Hmm, that said, it has to be an honor for Allison to see his characters transcend his own depiction of them. That part is nice. And Treiman does a fine job. And, well, if you didn’t know this already, it is Allison who requested that Treiman pursue this latest run that revisits the girls getting used to university life.
But you see my point, right? Comics are a very tricky thing. They involve body language, style, and a whole way of looking at the world. Hmm, for me, the change in the art alone made this comic feel less British. It is, mind you, still set in Britain and the dialogue alone attests to that from time to time. Maybe some small adjustments have been made in the bargain so it’s just not quite as British. But, to heck with it, I do enjoy the American version of “The Office!” If you’re not easily won over, this different Giant Days may throw you threw a loop but, at the end of the day, it’s very funny. I dare say, what with all the changes, it has a nice charm about it.
“Giant Days #1” is available now. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.