Tag Archives: 1001 comics

Graphic Content – Torpedo 1936

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
89/501Title: Torpedo 1936
Creator(s):
Enrique Sánchez Abulí, Alex Toth and Jordi Bernet
Year: 1981-2000
Country: Spain

Usually I like to read a lot of a comic before I am done with it – being sort of a reflection of how, when I do the books list (which I swear I will get back to one day) I try to actually finish the book before writing a blog post… unless I really really hate it. With Torpedo, I stopped a fair bit earlier than normal because – this is a comic trying to create an assassin anti-hero, who likes to rape as payment for his work.

Some background first. Torpedo is a Spanish comic that is set in New York where the titular character is a very accomplished mob hitman. The individual stories involve him either executing a contract or him trying to outwit another hitman that has been sent to kill him. Some of the issues go into his psychopathic backstory where he bludgeoned a rather nasty cop to near death… so he could steal the pretty gun.

On the whole, the stories were fine but nothing that made me think I had to read every issue. Then the first story happened where he forced himself on a woman as payment “because he isn’t a charity”, the next scene showing her husband talking to his son about how good a man Torpedo was. It then didn’t take long until the second time, the writer making it clear that both women really did not want this… and so Torpedo wasn’t quite satisfied.

The artwork is good for this sort of hard-boiled style of mob comic, but other than that I can’t see a reason why I would want to continue with it. There are many other comics on this list that are worth the time over this rapey assassin.

Graphic Content – Sardine In Outer Space

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
88/501Title: Sardine In Outer Space
Creator(s):
Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar
Year: 2006-2008
Country: France

This is likely to be a short write-up because, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to think about how to place this in terms of the canon. As a 31-year-old reading this for the first time (especially soon after reading Akira and Even Monkeys Can Draw Manga) it is incredibly different… and not necessarily in a good way.

In a way, I don’t think I am really the best person to talk about this as it really is more aimed to be shared with a 5-year-old child. Pretty much everything in these stories would appeal to a small child, from the humour to the art style to the childish resolutions to all the plots. For example, you have Sardine (a girl who travels through space with a crew of space pirates) start an ice cream fight when it appears their sundaes have been poisoned by their arch-enemies.

Again, a cool sort of rebellious spirit that a small child might enjoy. However, it didn’t quite connect with me and so I’m just happy to have been able to cross it off quickly so I’m able to move onto whatever comic is next.

Graphic Content – Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
87/501Title: Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga
Creator(s):
Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma
Year: 1990-91
Country: Japan

I am writing this in the hope that, in the week prior to this being published, I have been able to do something akin to what I normally do during the run up to the Oscars – even the only things I end up seeing are because they were created by Netflix or Amazon. Anyway, that’s over five months away and I just finished reading this rather interesting manga.

From the title, I was pretty much expecting the manga equivalent of Understanding Comics – completely missing the entry in the 1001 book that listed this as a comedy. In a way I wasn’t completely off the mark when i thought this would be instructional. After all, this goes through many different genres and sub-genres of manga, with the intent of the authors explaining the way to make a success out of them.

Of course, it’s all written heavily tongue-in-cheek with a lot of nudity gags – because that’s what they say sells. It’s pretty over the top with recurring jokes that get more and more ridiculous as they go on. The problem is that, rather quickly, they run out of major genres to cover and you end up with sections on obscure things like ‘mahjong manga’. By this point the whole thing has run its course, but it made for an entertaining read whilst it lasted.

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.