Category Archives: Comics

Graphic Content – Akira

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
86/501Title: Akira
Creator(s):
Katsuhiro Otomo
Year: 1982-1990
Country: Japan

Akira is one of the great animated movies. If it had not been for Covid-19, I would have been there at my local Cineworld theatre to watch the brand new 4K  version. Instead I watched it again on Blu-Ray and decided that now was finally the time to read the manga. Hell, given that the film successfully predicted Tokyo winning the right to host the 2020 Olympics and that 2020 would be pretty bad, I wanted to see what else there was.

As with most anime adaptations, especially for the big screen, there is a lot more in the manga. What’s especially interesting about the manga versus the anime is that the beginning and ending are broadly the same, it’s just that it’s missing pretty much the entire second half before we get to the cool body horror and existential big bang parts.

It’s especially interesting that in 1982 you saw the first publishing of Akira in Japan and then, in the West, the release of Blade Runner. Like something was in the collective air that allowed the co-evolution of the cyberpunk genre – of which Akira is so incredibly influential. Like, without Akira it’s highly unlikely we would have gotten things like Ghost in the Shell or even The Matrix.

The imagination on display here is incredible and even if the ending doesn’t quite stick the landing of 38 volumes of build up. Some threads are left dangling, yada yada yada, but boy it is one hell of a ride. Reading this really makes me yearn for an Akira anime series where they do the complete manga like they did with MonsterMaybe written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo so it can bring his creation to full life. I say this as someone who absolutely adores the 1988 film – a greedy person who wants more.

Who can say no to a full cyberpunk series dealing with psionic powers, cyberpunk themes, motorbikes and eventual body horror? Seriously though, screw the Hollywood live action version and let’s have it done properly!

Graphic Content – Uncle Scrooge: The Second-Richest Duck

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
85/501Title: Uncle Scrooge: The Second-Richest Duck
Creator(s):
Carl Barks
Year: 1956
Country: USA

Aside from general things online, this is the first thing that I have read since the first few weeks of the March 2020 lockdown. A mixture of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and ongoing depression meant I haven’t really been one for reading recently. Especially not then writing about what I read.

Okay so Uncle Scrooge: The Second-Richest Duck isn’t exactly War and Peace but it’s baby steps towards starting my reading again. Also, who can say no to a comic featuring the great Donald Duck? Sure, he’s a supporting character to the avarice of his uncle, but it’s just nice to see him with his lovely nephews.

I’m not entirely sure why this particular Scrooge comic is on there, but I guess this is an exemplar of his series. This is the beginning of Scrooge’s rivalry with Flintheart Glomgold, which becomes a big part of future comics – also the story is perfectly written over the 20 pages. This story of ‘who is the richer duck’ is balanced so well that even as an adult you can find so much joy in it. Although I am with Donald, I’d rather buy myself a milkshake than rummage through the garbage to save on buying a newspaper.

Graphic Content – XIII: The Day Of The Black Sun

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
84/501Title: XIII: The Day Of The Black Sun
Creator(s):
Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
Year: 1984
Country: Belgium

It’s strange when the list to include just the opening volume of a series. Especially when, in the case of XIII: The Day Of The Black Sun, it’s the beginning of a many volume arc where the first threads aren’t sewn up until book five. Makes me wonder if the list was meant to be about the whole XIII series rather than just the first book – so to be fair to the comic I stopped when there was a natural pause.

As a big fan of Archer, I cannot help but see so much of that show as having derived from some of the characters in this comic series – especially how Archer and Lana look like XIII and Lieutenant Jones respectively. To be honest though, that’s pretty much where the similarities end – although I would love to have seen Archer style animation bringing the world of XIII to life.

If you are a fan of action comics with a complex conspiracy story than this really is for you. Granted, every issue involves our main character from escaping yet another set of captors as he gets closer and closer to finding his real identity and that of the head of the conspiracy, who goes by I. Both of these mysteries are solved a number issues after I stopped reading.

For me, I stopped reading when I did because not only had he arc concluded, but also I was getting a bit tired of all the names and a lot of older white male characters who I kept confusing. Usually I am better with these things, but I think the art-style brought out the idiot in me. Still though, it made for an interesting change in pace after reading a lot of manga.

So, the coronavirus lockdown continues which means the ‘commuting’ time is me on the couch trying to create a dividing line between home me and work me. Not sure where this will leave me and my reading – especially with my new copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons fuelling an addiction.  Guess we’ll just have to see what strikes my fancy.

Graphic Content – Sailor Moon

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
83/501Title: Sailor Moon
Creator(s):
Naoko Takeuchi
Year: 1991-1997
Country: Japan

As I was growing up, Sailor Moon was a key series in starting off my love for anime. Where, to me, Pokemon was just another Saturday morning cartoon, Sailor Moon was the first series where I knew it to be something ‘other’. Fox Kids called it Japanimation at the time and it wasn’t until a few years later, once I had also grown to love Cardcaptor Sakura, that I knew is was more properly known as anime.

Now here I am finally reading the manga and… I have to say that I prefer the the anime. The Japanese version of the anime, not the English dub that figured the solution to lesbians was to have them be cousins who were a bit close.

For the uninitiated, Sailor Moon tells the story of five guardians of justice who defend the earth against alien and extra-dimensional forces. The focus of the manga is more on the relationships than the battles, to the point where the titular character never really feels in danger. One issue with the manga over the original adaptation, however, is how the characters who are no the titular character don’t get anywhere near enough development.

I know that an anime that has to play for time as the source material is written can bring forth character development with filler episodes, but that’s what this manga really needed for me to be better able to enjoy it. So much of the focus was to bring in the initial large cast of characters together that the likes of Sailor Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus get themselves lost in the shuffle despite ostensibly being more interesting than the central figure.

I’m biased, I guess, as I grew up loving Sailor Mercury and the Outer Scouts over Sailor Moon. I did enjoy reliving this through the original lens as well, but I think that if I want my Sailor Moon fix, I’m going to go back to the anime.

Graphic Content – Tekkonkinkreet

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
82/501Title: Tekkonkinkreet
Creator(s):
Taiyō Matsumoto
Year: 1994
Country: Japan

The Air Pirates was such a short comic, thanks to the legal troubles, so it made sense to pick out another one after I finished reading the manga of Erased. Lo and behold it is another manga where I have seen the adaptation – albeit that I saw the Tekkonkinkreet many years ago when I was back in university.

Tekkonkinkreet is an interesting one as it really does not conform to what you expect of a manga, especially the manga that I have read in the early 1990s. It’s incredibly violent, which isn’t out of the ordinary for a manga, but the way that it is done is more inline with a Western comic like Watchman whilst still keeping the frenetic Japanese movements.

The style of the art is very much influenced by France and America, especially the facial designs of Black and White themselves. Did their very similar deism gas make it difficult to tell them apart at time Since? Yes, it did, but I still don’t think I have quite seen such extreme looking character designs for boys in other manga – but am very prepared to be proven wrong.

The three volumes tell the story of two inseparable feral street children – Black and White – who are the perpetrators and targets of some pretty extreme violence. Much like the yin and yang that their names are meant to evoke, these two are complete compliments or the other – both going slightly mad when separation is enforced.

It’s an overall interesting, if slightly confused, read,that really made me look back in the film with a fondness. The issue with it being a manga rather than Western comic is that I really missed colour. The world of Tekkonkinkreet is one that screams for the use of vibrant palates. Like, I’ve never missed colour in a manga before now and this one what’re colour really could have added to the world building. Oh well, this is why they made a film after all.

Graphic Content – Mickey Mouse Meets The Air Pirates Funnies

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
81/501Title: Mickey Mouse Meets The Air Pirates Funnies
Creator(s):
The Air Pirates
Year: 1971
Country: USA

No.

I wish I could let myself get away with just one word here. This is an underground comic that got into legal trouble with Disney because of how they depicted their trademarked characters in pornographic positons. It’s also one depicting a gigantic caterpillar with multiple vaginas – that I had a misfortune of reading on the train.

Sure, this is on the list because of history… but no. Just, no.

Graphic Content – Understanding Comics

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
80/501Title: Understanding Comics
Creator(s):
Scott McCloud
Year: 1993
Country: USA

Understanding Comics is the only entry in the 1001 comics list under the Reference genre. It’s a bit of a weird genre to have in a list like this, but it’s a comic about comics which makes this a super meta part of the list and I’m really into that. In the end, it’s the equivalent of having a film about making films on the film list – which I don’t think is on the 1001 list as they didn’t include the very much acclaimed Histoire(s) du cinéma.

Anyway I digress. Being 80 comics in actually feels like an opportune time to be reading this. I’ve seen enough to get a boatload of the references that he makes – the fact that he regularly mentions my favourite painter (Kandinsky) doesn’t hurt either. It’s also really cool because there are comics he mentions, like Maus, where I am looking forward to reading them soon.

The best thing though is that McCloud has made the ultimate guide to how we read comics and how comics are able to convey different things like time, motion and the non-visual senses. How, so many things that we implicitly understand as comic language (such as motion lines) and just how those have developed. What I found especially interesting was when he went into how Japanese comics developed in isolation and actually how far back the history of comics extend.

In the end, if you are someone who enjoys comics and graphic novels, this is an essential read. Hell, it’s essential to have a physical copy in your bookshelf to use as a reference. Knowing what I know now, thanks to his easy to digest musings and explanations, I know that I am doing to appreciate my next pick from the comics list all the more. Even down to the use of guttering between the panels.

Graphic Content – Zenith

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
79/501Title: Zenith
Creator(s):
Grant Morrison, Brendan McCarthy and Steve Yeowell
Year: 1987-2000
Country: UK

To a crying shame when you end up reading or watching something that has no idea what it wants to be; especially when it starts out with the hopes of something better. When it started out, Zenith had a good art style combined with a superhero story that was heavy in the political commentary.

The first two collections, which actually focus on the titular Zenith – a spoiled brat of a hero who is also a semi-successful singer – are good fun and have an interesting take on how super humans growing up in the 1960s would turn out. I especially liked how one of them goes into politics and uses their psychic abilities to eventually become prime minister; albeit by controlling the body of a mental patient (who happens to be Tony Blair)

Then we get to the third collection where Zenith becomes a minor character in his own comic. The art style deteriorates and it becomes crushed under its own multiverse plot. The fourth collection undergoes another art change and, by then, I was so uninvested that I was glad to see the back of it. It’s a pity because it started well – would’ve been even better if they’d quit whilst they were ahead.

Graphic Content – Ayako

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
78/501Title: Ayako
Creator(s):
Osamu Tezuka
Year: 1972-1973
Country: Japan

Picking this up, I wasn’t immediately aware that Ayako was an earlier work by the same man behind another manga I loved: Buddha. Maybe the art should have tipped me off, but so many manga of this era have a similar look… because he created them. Man, I need to learn more about the major mangaka.

Anyway, I picked up Ayako mainly because the spreadsheet I have said that I needed something from the drama genre – boy did this not disappoint on the drama front.

Taking place over th course of 20 or so years, Ayako tells the story of the Tenge family to the backdrop of a post World War II Japan. This is a family who welded power, money and social cache in their area of Japan only to have it erode to the point of nothingness by the end of the manga. They lose it through their own greed, their twisted incestuous nature and because their type of power and landowning was pretty much stamped out after the end of the war.

There are two main characters in this series. First there is Jiro Tenge, the second son of the head of the Tenge clan who comes back after the war as an American agent who covertly carries out operations, including helping set up the murder of his younger sisters boyfriend. We see his descent and partial redemption as he ends up becoming a crime lord only to end up returning to his roots.

The other main character is the titular Ayako, who begins the manga at the age of four (the product of the claim leader sleeping with his daughter-in-law) only to spend the next 23 years of her life locked in a cellar so she cannot tell anyone about the crimes that she saw her brother-uncle commit. She unwittingly (as she didn’t know otherwise and remains childlike but with a woman’s urges) committing her own acts of interests and ultimately aids in the downfall f her family.

A lot of the events in this series are derived from actual events in Japan, but with names changed in order to insert the Tenge family into the mix. Ultimately I assume that a Japanese person in 1972 would recognise the events here, but to an outsider like myself I kinda get the context from other Japanese media that I have consumed.

Considering that this is from the same man who did Astro Boy and Buddha, Ayako is a far more complex and adult work than I could ever expected. It’s one of those where I can both understand why there hasn’t been an adaptation and kinda wish there was. Definitely one with seeking out.

Graphic Content – Jenifer

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
77/501Title: Jenifer
Creator(s):
Bernie Wrightson and Bruce Jones
Year: 1974
Country: USA

At 10 pages long, Jenifer is likely going to be the shortest entry in the 1001 comics lost that I’ll end up doing. However, in these 10 pages, Jenifer manages to do more and make you feel more than many comics or other visual media do with a lot more material. It’s interesting how a singular story within an issue of the anthology comic series Creepy managed to get it’s own entry in the 1001 list, but that just speaks to how different and influential it is.

In Jenifer we follow a seemingly cyclical story of this grotesque humanoid creature who is able to wordlessly assimilate and take over someone’s life to the point of madness. All is done through a silent and ominous pleading which, if we didn’t know this man to be the latest in a line of victims, could otherwise be read very much as the man’s very own neuroses brought to life.

As stories go it’s simple and horrifying and is able to touch on so many dark emotions at such a primal depth that the central creature herself is utterly mortifying. Yet, you still feel sorry for her. It’s so weirdly complex that I have no idea how this was pulled off in 10 pages. Similarly, I’m not sure how this could be adapted into an anthology TV episode without diluting some of the power.

I’m going to be interested how the rest of Creepy will stack up against this one shot. At some point in the future I guess I’ll find out. Not for a while though. Think it’s time for something a bit more lighthearted first.