Category Archives: Comics

Graphic Content – Mopsy

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
37/501Title: Mopsy
Creator: Gladys Parker
Years: 1939-1965
Country: USA

It isn’t too hard to believe that there weren’t many female comic writers back in the 1930s, hell there aren’t enough of them right now. This alone explains the inclusion of Mopsy on the 1001 comic book list and why it is influential in of itself.

Considering that this comic peaked in popularity in the 1940s and 50s, Mopsy is on the road to being feminist. I say on the road because Gladys Parker made the conscious decision to have the character of Mopsy not be too intelligent as it would negatively impact the success of the comic.

Still there are ways that Mopsy helps to break some of the moulds. Following the example of Katherine Hepburn there are many times that Mopsy walks around in trousers. We also see her hunting, fishing and playing sports as well as some more stereotypically feminine pursuits.

I’m not sure how much ground, if any, this broke – but it feels like something I haven’t seen before. Mopsy is self-determined and independent. Sure she spends a lot of the time looking for a man… then again so would I be if I hadn’t met my husband 9 years ago. It’s an interesting comic to read for the historical context alone.


Graphic Content – Great Teacher Onizuka

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
36/501Title: Great Teacher Onizuka
Creator: Tooru Fujisawa
Years: 1997-2002
Country: Japan

After the earnestness of The Sojourn and David Copperfield it was a bit of a culture shock to enter the world of Great Teacher Onizuka. Honestly, I don’t know if there was any amount of preparation that could have lessened this.

Great Teacher Onizuka is a multi-award winning comic in its native Japan, with a critically acclaimed anime adaptation (which I will be watching for my anime list) and some fairly successful live-action versions. It is also one of the most sexist things I have ever read. The number of frames in this comic depicting characters looking up skirts, squeezing arses and in various states of undress made me feel genuinely embarrassed to be reading this on a commuter train.

And yet. There was some kernel of truth in this comic book. Yes the sexist behaviour is deplorable, but it is a recognised problem in Japan. This leads us to what has probably made Great Teacher Onizuka so successful – it acts as a satire of both actual Japan and Japan in fiction.

Delinquency, flawed school systems, adults yet to lose their virginity, the oversexualisation of Japanese schoolgirls. All are things that are rife for satire, it’s just that Great Teacher Onizuka does so in a very ham-fisted way. I know of the whole idea of the only one being able to mock the king is the jester, but this is beyond the pale.

Storywise. there isn’t too much to Great Teacher Onizuka. A delinquent wants to become a teacher so he can be around attractive young girls. Along the way he finds that he actually wants to be good at this and decides to be the teacher he wished he had had as a kid. Not a bad turn of events and you do have some legitimately weird and funny set pieces.

It’s just… I am guessing that I am not the audience for this. I also wonder if watching this as an anime in the comfort of my own home would be the better way to watch this. I guess I’ll get their eventually.

Graphic Content – The Sojourn

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
35/501Title: The Sojourn (Le Sursis)
Creator: Jean-Pierre Gibrat
Year: 1997
Country: France

After the madness of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure it was sobering to get to a graphic novel like The Sojourn. It helps to prove the point, if it needed proving, that the medium of graphic novels can deal with the same serious subjects as regular novels.

The story starts with a man having escaped from enforced labour in World War Two by jumping off a train. Having been declared dead, Julien takes up refuge in the attic of an old building and watch as his hometown deals with being occupied by Germany.

Yet, whilst this is story is set during France’s occupation, this is a story very much about the average citizen rather than military men. Through his art and storytelling Gibrat gives us sight of the human drama that unfolds from a community divided. He recognises the work done by those in the resistance, the acts of those who sided with the occupational forces and those who just let the occupation take it’s course.

It’s these human interactions (and the interaction of Julien with the coat stand he takes up residence with) that makes The Sojourn a good read. Much like Julien spying on the town below, we too are given a voyeuristic vantage point into their lives; albeit through Julien’s sometimes glib commentary.

At no point does this graphic novel fall into sentimentality or comedy. Everything is character driven and very much grounded in the perils of war. People get shot, loved ones get injured and there is a real sense of danger throughout both books. I mean, Julien isn’t always careful when he leaves the building at night and you just know that he is going to get caught eventually.

Being two books long it does not take too long to read all of The Sojourn and yet you get extremely attached to these characters and their problems. As with anything slice-of-life, a lot of things end up unresolved… then again it goes keep you thinking about what would happen next.

So that’s going to be it for the comics list for a while. It’s been a few months since I last completed a non-graphic novel and I believe it is time for me to actually read again. Being the person that I am it will likely be one of the longest novels that I have left… so that’ll be Middlemarch or David Copperfield.

Graphic Content – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
34/501Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Creator: Hirohiko Araki
Year: 1987-now
Country: Japan

What a fantastic name for a manga series. I have been holding off starting the anime adaptation until I got a chance to sit down and actually read it first. From the images of the recent Diamond is Unbreakable seasons I was not entirely sure of what to expect when the manga started in the 1880s. Now it makes more sense.

It takes a lot for a manga to be able to last for 30+ years and still find commercial success. The genius with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure being that the titular JoJo has changed a number of times in the manga’s run. All are descendants of the original 1880’s Jonathan Joestar and we move between them (and eventually different timelines) between the story arcs.

Doing this was a real gamble; especially since the first JoJo dies rather unexpectedly at the end of Phantom Blood. Full credit to Hirohiko Araki though – by going down the family line it helps to keep the story fresh whilst still keeping it in the same world. A world of vampiric masks, column-bound demigods and powerful auras based off of tarot cards.

It’s all good fun, but there are times where JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is let down by the artwork. Especially early on. In the later chapters there is a substantial improvement where it kept the slightly over the top burly look of the male characters, but everything felt more detailed. I guess the budget went up or something.

Getting back to the name – it feels a little bit loaded and, honestly, it takes a good while until things start to feel truly bizarre. For me that moment where the bizarre truly hit me was in the third JoJo incarnation where they were battling a pissed off orangutan on an imaginary boat. Nope, it wasn’t the robot Nazi or the killing people with soap bubbles that did it – it was that weird orangutan.

As of writing this I am coming to the end of the third section, which means I haven’t even gotten to the Diamond is Unbreakable section that I mentioned at the top. I will, however, be continuing with the JoJo family for as long as there are still manga for me to read.

Graphic Content – Squeak the Mouse

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
33/501Title: Squeak the Mouse
Creator: Massimo Mattioli
Year: 1980-1992
Country: Italy

Of all the comics in the list this is the one that grabbed my husbands interest. Okay sure, I mean how many comics do you come across that inspired Itchy and Scratchy?

Squeak the Mouse is one of those comics that you do not want to be reading on the train to work. When we first looked this up it was pitched as a violent take on Tom and Jerry as a comic. With that, I am on board. I was similarly on board with the idea of the cat managing to kill the mouse, only for the mouse to come back as a zombie and kill a bunch of other cats.

But then there’s the cat and mouse penises and vaginas. That is not something I expected. I especially did not expect the orgy sequences. It feels as graphic (or possibly even more graphic) than Fritz the Catwhich is not something I thought I would be saying about another comic featuring animals.

At only two volumes Squeak the Mouse is an interesting read. Especially if you always felt sorry for Tom not being able to catch Jerry – or like weird cartoon violence. Just make sure you do it at home because you will get weird looks on the train as you quickly flick through parts featuring mouse orgies…

Graphic Content – Tomorrow’s Joe

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
32/501Title: Tomorrow’s Joe (Ashita No Joe)
Creator: Ikki Kajiwara and Tetsuya Chiba
Year: 1968-1973
Country: Japan

From what I’ve read Tomorrow’s Joe was an early example of a widely serialised manga that touched a real nerve with a large section of society in Japan. The release of this series coincided with an increase in prosperity following their defeat in World War II, so a number of readers began to sympathise with the story of this street orphan’s ascent through boxing.

The central character is Joe – a delinquent kid who bounced from orphanage to orphanage and has a natural ability to box. He has a hatred of authority and generally anyone who tells him what to do and is pretty damned rude. You can probably start to discern that I didn’t like him as a character.

Having recently watched Hajime no Ippo it is astounding how different the characters of Joe and Ippo are. There is only 20 years between the release of these two manga series and yet the type of boxing protagonist is the polar opposite – other than the fact that they are both stories about the ascension of an underdog.

Where Ippo was kind-hearted, shy and a bit goofy, Joe is selfish and naturally violent. Sure the circumstances surrounding both of their upbringings are different, but it’s not as if Ippo cane from privileged stock.

The other stark-contrast is that where Ippo is eager to learn and never stops practicing, Joe is initially work-shy and has to be tricked into learning how to harness his potential. I say initially… as eventually he starts to take it seriously.

Boxing becomes something other than a vendetta against one of his former prison inmates (oh did I mention Joe ended up in prison?). However by this point my interest in the manga started to wain. I had hit my minimum read and I was glad to be giving this up. When I dislike a protagonist that is pretty much it for me and Tomorrow’s Joe just never struck a chord with me. Maybe I’ll get it more when I watch the anime, but for now I am happy to stop reading this.

I now only have a few titles left on both the manga and anime list. Since it is the hub’s choice on which comic to read next I have no idea what to expect… but I know that I will be soon experiencing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure when it is my choice again.

Graphic Content – American Born Chinese

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
31/501Title: American Born Chinese
Creator: Gene Luen Yang
Year: 2006
Country: USA

After a graphic series as complex and compelling as Monster it was a weirdly massive shift to start on American Born Chinese. At least when I was reading Monster I didn’t have to look over my shoulder every time a racist character came onto the page.

As a graphic novel, American Born Chinese deals a lot with stereotypes. It deals with the idea of stereotyping across three separate story arcs that end up being neatly tied together in the end. Almost a bit too neatly to be honest, but hey it was an interesting ride.

The first of the threads is a retelling of the backstory of the Monkey King from Journey to the West. It’s a cute way to start the graphic novel and it features the best artwork of the three. It makes me think that I should read that old epic, but I’m sure that feeling will pass.

The remaining two tell the stories of stereotyping against Asian-Americans in high school. The first one is a straight telling of the main protagonist as he negotiates being one of only three Asian kids in his classes. The level of racism encountered in these threads is actually upsetting. As an ex-teacher who witnessed this between students, and as someone who went to a school where racist jokes were not punished they should have been, I was taken aback.

However, the racism is there to make a point. The whole piece is about stereotypes and how they can isolate and trap you or even force you to homogenize in order to feel some form of acceptance. The way that the concept of stereotyping is done differently depending on the thread, but the most blatant is the character of Chin-Kee (yes, I cringed too).

Both the extreme negatives and positive Asian stereotypes (e.g. Engrish vs high school attainment) feel extremely on the nose as you read through this graphic novel for the first time. However, once the three stories tie together you get a better idea that this was meant to be a deconstruction rather than pure shock tactics.

Personally I found the way that the three lines tied together in the end to feel a little bit forced, but it doesn’t prevent the enjoyment of American Born Chinese. Nor does it diminish the fact that this is a fairly unique third culture voice in a 1001 book full of superheroes, talking dogs and assorted manga.

Graphic Content – Monster

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
30/501Title: Monster
Creator: Naoki Urasawa
Year: 1994-2001
Country: Japan

And this is why I read manga. It has been a while since I have been so drawn into a work of fiction. I’m not sure what book or manga/comic I found to be as ‘unputdownable’ as Monster, might be The Sandman and that was over a year ago.

So, let’s start at the beginning. The central character is gifted brain surgeon Dr Kenzō Tenma who finds himself on the run when he is under suspicion of murdering a number of his hospital superiors. The culprit? Well, it just happens to be the young boy whose life he saved.

Oh and that’s just the beginning of how deep this rabbit hole goes. We are talking about a massive international conspiracy where children are psychologically experimented on and the end result is the one of titular monsters: the charismatic and creepy Johan Liebert.

The whole story takes place over the course of 18 volumes (162 chapters) and it is amazing how none of the pages feel like they have been wasted. The story is tight and is able to do it in a number of varied ways. My favourite diversion was when 1-2 chapters was spent telling a rather twisted children’s story (with the appropriate creepy art style).

Whilst the conspiracy theories and the mind control are the bread and butter of what makes this an exceptional manga series, it is the characters that truly make it. By the time you reach the end the cast is massive. A cast of characters that spans two countries and features people from every walk of life.

Other than the main three characters of Tenma and the Liebert twins (Johan and Anna), the best character have to be Grimmer (pictured) and Inspector Lunge. Both of them find themselves entangled in the incredibly complex web and for very different reasons.

I don’t think there is a single person in Monster who isn’t messed up in some way. Grimmer and the Liebert’s are both victims of psychological manipulation, Tenma loses everything that he had after being falsely accused, Lunge is an obsessive… the list goes on.

On another tact here – I loved how the manga treated Germany and Czechia. Sure there are moments where the Japanese manners creeps into the character interactions, but most of the time it feels remarkably authentic. Hell, you have someone whose favourite food is weisswurst – now that is writing I can get behind.

The reason I read this so soon was because of the anime series being so renowned. I figured it would be better to read it first, and now the animated series sure has a lot to live up to. I mean, I know it’ll be better than Hajime no Ippo, but I do wonder how well they’ll bring Tenma and Johan to life.

Graphic Content – The Perishers

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
29/501Title: The Perishers
Creator: Maurice Dodd
Year: 1959-2006
Country: UK

The Perishers was the UK’s answer to the Peanuts strip. I have never read a Peanuts strip, although I have seen some of the animated shorts. Honestly, I think it might have been a bit of a mistake doing The Perishers first. Hey ho, it’s easily available online and sometimes you need an easy win.

For those who have never heard of The Perishers – this was a daily comic strip that was featured in the UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper. It centres on 3 children, a dog and a baby living in a bit of a blah suburban area of London.  They would get up to ‘humorous’ adventures the way that kids seem to have in the world of comic strips.

I never read these strips expecting something ‘laugh out loud’ funny. How many people can say they have had a good belly laugh from a newspaper comic? I mean I’ve chuckled a bit at a Dilbert or two. but that’s about it.

Needless to say, this was fine. As comics go it is very much of it times when it comes to the gender roles occupied by the two boys and the girl. She’s bossy, one boy’s lazy and the other is messy. I am sure if I read more of it there might be more to it but I think I got the basics down there.

The best strips that I read had Boot (the dog) or the baby as the central character. Why? Because the point of the strip is that you are hearing their thoughts as they comment on the voiced characters. Those comments on life and being a dog or baby still felt accurate some 60 years after being written. Some of the other antics… not so much.

For many Brits The Perishers was a real part of their routine. I mean this ended 11 years ago and it did not take long for re-runs to start up again because of readers writing in. For me, it was an interesting snapshot of some parts of life back in the early 1960s.

Reading dailies for this list will always run the risk of repetition and being very much of their time. Honestly, I do prefer it when I look at proper comic books or graphic novels. Still, it’s an education.

Graphic Content – Lady Snowblood

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
28/501Title: Lady Snowblood
Writer: Kazuo Koike
Illustrator: Kazuo Kamimura
Year: 1972-1973
Country: Japan

Right, so the first thing I had to remind myself of whilst reading Lady Snowblood is that it was originally published in the Japanese edition of Playboy. I bring this up because there is a whole lot of nudity; something that I had to deal with as I was reading this on a crowded train.

Does the nudity make a lot of sense in the narrative? Sometimes, yes. Most the of time it is gratuitous, as is a lot of the sex (both hetro- and homosexual), but you can kinda take it as artistic license. Like how you would feel a lot of the swearing in a Quentin Tarantino film is down to his choice as a director.

I bring up Tarantino becuase Lady Snowblood and the films based on this manga were a source of inspiration for Kill Bill. Once you’ve read this you can see where he got a lot of inspiration for a bunch of the scenes.


In essence, Lady Snowblood is a story about retribution. The main character, Oyuki, was born to a woman in prison (who seduced prison guards in order to get pregnant) and has become an assassin to take revenge on the four people that wronged her mother.

Over the course of the four volumes we watch as Oyuki takes on a number of contracts, prepares for them with different pieces of training and then goes about executing her plan. As you would expect she always succeeds, but it plays well with the expectations since there were times where I thought she might be in some legitimate danger (such as the time when she was tied to a tombstone and was about to be assaulted by a man with a gargantuan penis… )

The central thread of revenge, although deviated from, is never forgotten though. By following it you cannot help but feel awful for Oyuki. Her life is dedicated to avenging the mother she never got a chance to meet. We never really see her have fun or, aside from a short chapter, do anything that could be described as familial. It’s all work to satisfy the end goal and she’s never truly happy.

By the end of the manga she completes her mother’s retribution and we see her weapon (a sword concealed in an umbrella) floating away on the tide. I saw this and had the hope that this means she was able to carve out her own identity and live a quasi-normal life.