Tag Archives: Manga

Paul Buhle on Comics: ‘The Minamata Story: An EcoTragedy’ and ‘The Many Not the Few’

The Minamata Story: An EcoTragedy

The Many Not the Few

Guest Review by Paul Buhle

The Minamata Story: An EcoTragedy. Written by Sean Michael Wilson and drawn by Akiko Shimojima. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2121. 205pp, $14.95.

The Many Not the Few. Written by Sean Michsel Wilson and drawn by Robert Brown. Oxford and Lancashire: Workable Press, 2019. 200pp, $18.95.

Sean Michael Wilson: Left Comics Sui Generis

A marvelously talented Scottish script writer, Sean Michael Wilson, is notable in the fast-emerging world of the nonfiction graphic novel, with a handful of awards and some twenty graphic novels to his credit. Like the most talented of left-wing film screenwriters from Hollywood to London to Tokyo and far beyond—suffering blacklisting and severe persecution in the Cold War era and not getting many good jobs right up to the present day—Wilson knows how to prepare his work for the next step in production. The writer works behind the scenes, so to speak, and  becomes in a sense invisible, all the more so because the artist “adapts” any script, by necessity, to the demands of art and audience.

The Minamata Story. Art by Akiko Shimojima.

The first remarkable thing, from a comic art point of view, is that Wilson is  clearly as much at home with Manga styles as with mainstream visual narratives.  The Minimata story is fairly minimalist when it comes to dialogue, at least until the grim lessons must be drawn. The Foreword by environmental journalist Brian Small reminds us that the telling began long ago, in one of the early sagas of environmental contamination. A Japanese factory in the postwar years released large doses of mercury into a river near a fishing village, with ever more devastating effects. Documentary photographer Eugene Smith “iconized” the suffering of one family, and famed essayist/art critic John Berger devoted his talents to describing the photos.

Here, as we read the story, a Japanese boy grows up to college age, and looking for a topic,  learns that the story has been a sort of local secret. Although strange symptoms appeared in the poplation,  the fishermen could not or would not acknowledge the full effects of the discharge. The factory had brought a new vitality to the impoverished area. Our protagonist, with the help of his grandmother, learns that as death spread from the ocean to the people, panic ensued. Decades later, it remained difficult for survivors to prove their illnesses had come form the most obvious source, and the companies used the legal system to  pay little or no compensation. Toward the end, the story turns didactic, inevitably. Those who protested or supported the protests during the late 1950s and remain in the field, despite aging, are heroic for the campaigners to follow.

The Many Not The Few. Art by Robert Brown.

The Many Not The Few is the finest graphic novel history of a nation’s working class ever published, or at least I have not seen any better. It was the first book ever introduced at a session of the British Parliament, and carries the stamp of the wider work of the national union federation, a partner, so to speak, with Labour’s day schools, theater and song workshops in various parts of the UK. It begins with a quotation from my very favorite character (along with the mythical Robin Hood) in English history: John Ball, the street preacher with the message that becomes the Radical Reformation idea across Europe, centuries later. “Things cannot go well in England, nor ever will, until all goods are held in common, and until there will be neither serfs nor gentlemen, and we shall be equal.”  I could only complain, mildly, that I do not find here the famous bit of contemporary folk wisdom that became a favorite iconography of the socialist movement, thanks to an illustration by Williams Morris’s friend Walter Crane: “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” That is; there were no capitalists or royals in Paradise. Never mind. The thought is felt throughout these pages.

Robert Brown, a veteran commercial illustrator with his own comics series (Killjoy, from 2011 onward) is more than equal to the task of moving from century to century, milieux to mileux. His adaptation has an old working class socialist sense to it  and includes a character important to the narrative who is a multi-racial granddaughter of Indian descent, who looks maybe 12 or 13. The fellow has been researching for years, on his own, and she is ready to hear what he has to say. She asks good, intelligent questions. Thus Wat Tyler of the 1381 Rebellion bearing the leader’s name and the message of John Ball, leads a seemingly successful rebellion against the Crown. Tyler was murdered through  conspiracy and massive suppression swiftly followed. History moves on. By page 30, we see famed historian E.P. Thompson and Karl Marx himself (no stranger to the British libraries) explaining the next step in oppression and fight back. “Enclosure,” the theft of the heretofore common lands to support and royalty and the expansive States brings misery beyond measure and deep resentments. Now we are in the sixteenth century with armed uprisings more intermittent but no less intense, leading to the famed Levellers and the Diggers of the English Civil War actually overthrowing the monarchy without themselves gaining power.

By the time we get to Pilgrim’s Progress, the granddaughter is the one who can do some of the teaching. More centuries pass and we arrive at something they both can chew on: William Blake, whose illustrations for the literary classic might be described as a proto-anarchist graphic novel. The old man is in his own with the rise of the Chartists, following the Tolpuddle arrests of peaceful marchers, a rare victory when 80,000 signatures proved too much for the authorities.  Asking only the simplest of democratic reforms, Chartists gathered three million signatures in vain. and then marched, in vast numbers. The ruling classes were put on the defensive through peaceful action, a major step.

Contradictions are not avoided in these pages. Craft workers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries too often shunned cooperation with the unskilled, through the rise and fall of unions and the often fractured organizations of the Left. Wilson plays to his own strong Scottish collective memory for a moment with the glories of the Clydeside shipbuilders of Glasgow and their 60,000 militants of 1919. Their struggle and the consolidation of the miners’ unions during the First World War set the background for the General Strike of 1926. No doubt, these events, however effectively suppressed in their own time, made possible the victory of Labour in 1946 and the creation of a modern welfare state, later diminished but never destroyed.

The coal miners’ defeat by the Thatcher government, the crushing conservatiism consolidated by the neoliberalism of Tony Blair’s Labour government, brings our story close to the present. Chapters earlier, granddaughter Arushi asks about the failures of the Left and “Granda” answers squarely: these are part of the old and long process toward liberation. Unions seem now, to many young people distant from them, no longer the building block of a better society. But as she says, “We should run our own lives, workplaces, communities. Have some real democracy.” It’s a good parting note before the pair head off for some fish and chips.

Paul Buhle

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews, Manga, Paul Buhle

Comics Grinder Video Review Recap: The Otaku Box and Current Hot Titles including Little Bird, The Wrong Earth, and Invisible Kingdom

A recap of current cool stuff, posted 13 March 2019

When people find out that I’m a cartoonist and especially that I write about comics and pop culture, the first question that is asked is, What do you recommend? Here are some answers. Over the weekend, as I escaped the heat, I decided to make a dent in my already unwieldy stack of review material. In the video below, we take a look at The Otaku Box, a new crate box service focusing on anime and manga plus a recap on some current hot comics titles: Invisible Kingdom, Little Bird, Captain America, Man and Superman, and The Wrong Earth.

I hope you enjoy this video and I invite you to like, comment, and subscribe to my evolving YouTube channel. I feel pretty good about it and any additional motivation from you folks is always appreciated. I will continue to add videos as time permits.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Grinder, Hatsune Miku, The Otaku Box

ECCC Interview: Camilla d’Errico, Pop Surrealism, Comics and Illustration

Camilla d’Errico has something for you: graphic novels, how-to creative books, coloring books, paintings, prints, and so much more. Welcome to the world of Camilla d’Errico! If you’re into manga, Pop Surrealism, or even classic Italian painting, this artist is for you! You can call her a commercial artist or a fine artist. She’s definitely both. In this interview, we explore as much as possible in a brief video format. I offer up a new buzzword in Pop Surrealism, the idea that we’re living in the era of the Anthropocene, a time when us humans are dominating over the climate and the environment. Hope you like this short and sweet interview. Just click above.

Camilla d’Errico at ECCC 2019

If you’re heading out to Emerald City Comic Con, March 14-17, be sure to visit Camilla d’Errico on the main Exhibitor Floor at Booth 108!

In the Studio.

As I say, there is so much to love from the world of Camilla d’Errico, which includes melting rainbows, fuzzbutts, and albino rhinos! Be sure to keep with her in 2019. She has a new book out and new gallery art show!

POP MANGA DRAWING

POP MANGA DRAWING is a new how-to book detailing how to draw in the d’Errico style with pencils, available July 2nd from Watson-Guptill.

ZODIAC

ZODIAC is a new art show at Haven Gallery in New York that will run from May 11 thru June 16, 2019.

Femina & Fauna, by Camilla d’Errico, published by Dark Horse Comics

Camilla d’Errico has been making waves in the fine art and comic industries with her manga-influenced style. Ever the prolific artist, d’Errico is an urban contemporary painter, illustrator, designer, character creator, and comic artist residing in Vancouver, Canada. Nominated for both Eisner and Joe Shuster Awards, she has worked with Random House, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, and Tokyopop. Her creator-owned properties include the graphic novel BURN and SKY PIRATES OF NEO TERRA. TANPOPO, d’Errico’s passion project, has been embraced by fans and independent comics collectors for its highly original combination of classic poetry and literature blended with her unique “West Meets East” drawing style. She has collaborated with Neil Gaiman, Sanrio, Disney and Mattel. d’Errico has distinguished herself through her ability to seamlessly weave manga and western comic art, creating a unique style that bridges cultural and geographical boundaries, while remaining totally relevant to today’s varied audience.

Visit Camilla d’Errico right here.

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Filed under Camilla d'Errico, Comics, ECCC, Emerald City Comic Con, Pop Surrealism

ECCC 2017: NEW HATSUNE MIKU VOLUME FROM DARK HORSE MANGA

Hatsune Miku: Future Delivery Volume 1

Hatsune Miku: Future Delivery Volume 1

As it makes its way to Emerald City Comicon in Seattle (March 2-5, 2017), Dark Horse Comics announces new plans for their latest Hatsune Miku manga license. The first of two Hatsune Miku: Future Delivery volumes is scheduled for a October 4, 2017 release with writer Satoshi Oshio and artist Hugin Miyama, the team behind the Overlord manga adaptation, telling the story first featured in their 2014 hit.

Press release follows:

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Review: THE OSAMU TEZUKA STORY by Toshio Ban

Osamu Tezuka, as a boy, shows promise.

Osamu Tezuka, as a boy, shows promise.

“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.

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

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: 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.

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Filed under animation, Anime, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Japan, Manga, Osamu Tezuka

Kickstarter: BAREFOOT GEN for Schools and Libraries Campaign Ends 9/10/2015

Barefoot-Gen-Last-Gasp

Our friends at Last Gasp need that last big push to get them over the top for such a worthy goal: a new hardcover edition of a landmark in manga, “Barefoot Gen,” for schools and libraries. This is the story of the bombing of Hiroshima told from the perspective of a young boy. It has moved Art Spiegelman, creator of the masterpiece in comix, “Maus,” to call “Barefoot Gen” a prime example of how the comics medium can bring ideas to life.

Barefoot-Gen-Nakazawa-Hiroshima

All you Kickstarter supporters know that thrill of making it to the finish line. Let’s all do what we can, spread the word, donate to the campaign, and visit often (the campaign ends this Thursday, Sept 10th!) right here.

FUNDING GOALS

Last Gasp estimates that $36,000 is the minimum needed to create and distribute 4000 copies (1000 each of four volumes). The cost would cover the following:

Redesigning the books for hardcover
Printing hardcover books
Mailing rewards to backers
Kickstarter and credit card processing fees

ABOUT BAREFOOT GEN

Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen in the original Japanese) is a semi-autobiographical story about wartime Japan and the bombing of Hiroshima. For many years, Last Gasp has published the English edition of this classic manga story.

Visit the BAREFOOT GEN for Schools and Libraries Campaign right here.

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Review: MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER

Mighty-Star-Koyama-Press

Alex Degen is working in a place that many cartoonists want to be working in. It’s a place of wonder and experimentation. He’s definitely someone I’d love to sit down and have a long talk with over tea, beer, whatever. What he does in this collection of comics hits close to home since it’s the sort of comics I like to create. I feel that I know a goodly amount about this as I’ve studied numerous similar work over the years and I know several cartoonists in a similar boat. That said, this is a pretty specific way of working.

Some label this type of cartooning as “dream logic” or “psychedelic.” What they mean is that the work evokes an anything-goes quality or follows a stream-of-consciousness narrative. This is seemingly loose work. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free pass to get sloppy. Instead, you want to be pretty clean and precise with your presentation in order to go to some weird places and have it read properly. All this Degen does quite well.

This book collects six parts of previous webcomics which add up to one wild journey. Each part ends with a “to be continued” and it provides an essential pause. I say this because that may help break things down a bit for you, if you’re totally new. What you’ll initially find is a world where it seems as if anything is liable to explode or melt or some such surreal craziness. Let’s get one thing straight, the definition of “cancatervater.” It means, “to heap into a pile.” Does that help? Well, does it? Okay, think of this Cancatervater as a most sinister force plotting to take over the world. Now, add Mighty Star, our superhero, to the mix.

A-Degen-Koyama-Press

What happens is, well, a little of everything. It’s science fiction, fantasy, manga, and bit of a bodice ripper. Twice, we have two pretty young women suddenly bare breasted. One is Bijoux, a typical manga type in skin-tight clothes. The other is far less obvious, an aerialist, Zoe Trala. In both cases, it seems that a certain amount of tension, made up of pent-up hormones and angst, has reached a point of no return. The women’s clothes are not ripped off of them. They simply find themselves without tops. So, needless to say, this book has mature content, more for older teens and above. In the end, this book is more cerebral than titillating.

It’s after this second incident with Zoe Trala’s missing top that more nudity is included but it has purpose. It’s always of a rather understated nature, not offensive or particularly gratuitous. And it leads us to one of the most compelling scenes in the narrative. Mighty Star’s journey leads him to a forest. And hanging from the trees are numerous naked bodies of both men and women. They aren’t hung dead bodies. No, instead, they fall from the trees just like apples. In fact, they each have a big apple stem where each head should be. This is the most explicit symbol of the forbidden knowledge that Mighty Star has been confronting all along.

Alex-Degen-comics

All the characters here are elusive and enigmatic. Moreover, the superhero motif is not obviously vigorous but mysterious. In a setting for action there is farce and ambiguity. The style here is a somewhat rougher version of King City’s Brandon Graham. Offbeat. Off–kilter. Dialed back to just the right frequency. When you expect conflict, you may end up with a muffled sedate response. Sex. Violence. Superheroes. Leave it to a cartoonist like Alex Degen to balance all that with such a wry and ironic sensibility.

Yes, Alex, I’ll be waiting with tea, beer, or whatever. I’m sure we’d have one hell of a good talk.

MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER is a 172-page, black & white, trade paperback, priced at $15.00, published by Koyama Press. For more details, visit our friends at Koyama Press right here.

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Filed under Alex Degen, Brandon Graham, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Koyama Press, Webcomics

Yoshihiro Tatsumi, RIP

Yoshihiro-Tatsumi

“Sensei is dead.” When he clicked on the email, that is all that the esteemed comics authority Paul Gravett had to read to know what had happened. Some will say that the work of the master cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi (1935-2015) has brought them to tears. That’s quite a tall order. But it is certainly plausible. The world of comics, as you may know, is more than one thing. One aspect of it can be so rarified to make the most glamorous and refined creatures on this planet pale in comparison. That’s what you get when certain people communicate with, “Sensei is dead.”

Just imagine getting a text with, “The king has died.” It’s a bit surreal. And, I’m sure, not what Tatsumi would have wanted. Yes, for authorities on comics, and regular everyday fans, Tatsumi knew his manga. He was a master of the more introspective gekiga. He was no king and yet he was a king. Take away the veneer of reserve from the most venerated authority on comics and you’ll find a child looking up in wonder. At least, I hope so. That would have come easy for Tatsumi. His comics are down to earth and irreverent. But, then again, he would likely have respected any goodwill gesture. “Sensei is dead.”

Gekiga-Yoshihiro-Tatsumi

“A Drifting Life” is the epic autobiography of the manga master. Arguably, it is Tatsumi’s work that has inspired graphic novels as we know them today. With “A Drifting Life,” you follow Tatsumi on his journey of self-discovery spanning 1945 to 1960 as he strives to attain the skills of his own manga idol, Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Apollo’s Song, Ode to Kirihito, Buddha). The book is designed by one of today’s leading cartoonists, Adrian Tomine. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Gekiga, Japan, Manga, Paul Gravett, Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Short Film Review: THE SHAMAN and exclusive manga

The-Shaman-Marco-Kalantari

There’s a touch of the poet, the adventurer, and the dreamer in Marco Kalantari’s short film, “The Shaman.” There’s a quirky intensity here like you might find in your favorite story or game. And I consider myself most fortunate to know about it now.

It’s bursting with originality and fierce energy that grabs you from the start. It is 2204. We fight our wars with intelligent machines. The only way to subvert their power is to engage with their souls. And it is only the shamans who can access these machine souls that exist in the Netherworld.

The world war has been raging for 73 years on. It’s some really strange and dark holy war or something quite bad. A scorched Earth is nothing new to anyone. But there’s the Netherworld and, perhaps, it is there that all souls will some day know eternal peace.

“The Shaman” packs quite a punch. It’s a dark and gothic mashup of “Star Wars” and “District 9.” The special effects are first-rate. And there’s plenty of new ground upon which to trod and take leaps of faith from. You’ll love the ritual involved in transporting a Shaman to the Netherworld. This short film provides a whole new set of terms and signs to behold.

And the scene between The Shaman (played by Danny Shayler) and the Soul of the Colossus (played by Susanne Wuest) is brilliant. This is a great battle of wits between shaman and machine. It’s wonderful to see and let’s hope that perhaps all this leads to a major full-length motion picture. I really think that’s possible. Whatever lies ahead, this is an excellent short film.

What follows is a prequel to The Shaman. This is a manga story setting the stage for what lies ahead in the main story:

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Filed under Movie Reviews, movies, Short Film, Tribeca Film Festival

Review: The Last Broadcast #1

Last-Broadcast-Archaia-Boom-Studios

“The Last Broadcast #1” is brought to you by Boom! Studios’ Archaia line and lives up to its promise of being “an urban exploration adventure.” Spelunking has been the subject of comics before, believe it or not. That goes back to 2009 and Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s “Underground.” That comic is a character-driven action adventure, which is saying a lot. Either you’re one or the other most of the time. Well, lightning strikes twice with “The Last Broadcast.” And all of the action is not just underground.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews