Archive for April, 2010

Manga Meets Nouvelle Vague: Red Colored Elegy

Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi

Red Colored Elegy is a story told in the space between words. Two young lovers named Sachiko and Ichiro are living a simultaneously simple and complex life. They are mirrors to one another, and are finding their voices through a difficult period of trial and error, presence and absence. Dialogue in Red Colored Elegy is used with restraint; the book’s narrative is fragmented and riddled with despair, and just holds together on a first reading. Some speech balloons are populated with emptiness, others with nothing more than an ellipsis.

The faces of Hayashi’s characters are at times rendered with only the eyes drawn in, which gives them a ghostly appearance. His artwork possesses a quality reminiscent of naïve and primitive artists, with a softness of line that depicts bodies with the innocence of children’s drawings. And though Red Colored Elegy was not written for children, it does address the hardships involved with growing up. Continue reading ‘Manga Meets Nouvelle Vague: Red Colored Elegy’



Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

With the remarkable influence of Osama Tezuka’s work beginning in 1947, manga were legitimized and embraced in Japanese popular culture.  The majority of the volumes were published in Tokyo, but an alternate industry competed  with the monthly magazines that were voraciously purchased by readers. Based in Osaka, kashibon’ya were pay-libraries that charged a small fee to loan out manga according to the number of days they were borrowed. In the 1950s, as many as 30 000 lending shops operated in Japan. The readership of these comics grew to include many young adults and factory employees. Consequently, the stories in these volumes began to introduce increasingly mature storylines. Yoshihiro Tatsumi was among the vanguard of artists experimenting with this form.

Especially with the publication of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life in English, it is fitting to revisit Abandon the Old in Tokyo (Drawn & Quarterly, 2006), one of Tatsumi’s highly acclaimed early works.

Edited, designed and lettered by Adrian Tomine, the stories in Abandon the Old in Tokyo marked a turning point in graphic narrative in Japan. At the end of the collection, Tatsumi remarks in a written interview between Tomine and Tatsumi that these works were among the first instances of gekiga:

Translated literally as “dramatic pictures,” gekiga is a term Tatsumi coined in 1957 to describe the darker, more realistic style of cartooning that he and his peers were pioneering. Gekiga might best be thought of as a style or genre within the broader term of manga, in the way that “underground” or “alternative” are subsets of the term “comics” (197).

The dark tales that Tatsumi was developing at the time were a reaction against the gag humour that was omnipresent in the early manga of Japan, and which continue to flourish to this day. Continue reading ‘Gekiga’

Moore on Comics

Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics by Alan Moore

This guide (Avatar, 2008) was originally written for a fanzine back in 1985, when independent comics publishers were only beginning to flex their muscles, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale had not yet been published in an anthologized format. At that time, even the majority of independents were printing superhero books that didn’t look all that different from what was being published in the mainstream, though there were notable exceptions. Moore acknowledges the early work of Eddie Campbell, Harvey Pekar, Jaime Hernandez, and Frank Miller in his pages, all authors who would continue to create groundbreaking comics long after the publication of this essay.

Criticizing the Comics

In Writing for Comics, Moore is critical of the cliché approaches to plot and characterization being used in the vast majority of comics writing (remember that this is 1985), and argues that the rut is endemic of how people think about the medium.

Moore suggests,

I’d like to talk about the approaches and thought processes that underlie writing as a whole rather than about the way those processes are finally put down upon paper (2).

In this endeavour, Moore only partially succeeds. The distinction that he draws between how one thinks about the “processes that underlie writing” and the “way those processes are finally put down upon paper” is an artificial one. Prior to actively engaging with the creative process, thoughts are little more than just that—thoughts. And if Moore is writing about those thoughts, then do they actually precede the writing process? So long as he is putting them down on paper it’s hard to see how that is the case.  As Moore concedes himself in the “Afterwords” section, his essay “…was composed in simpler, far less complex times, and by a simpler, far less complex individual (43).” Continue reading ‘Moore on Comics’

Long Live Da Comix!

Comix: The Underground Revolution by Dez Skinn

I finished reading Comix: The Underground Revolution (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004) right after reading Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones. The two books are a perfect match for one another. In many ways, Skinn’s work begins where Men of Tomorrow leaves off—with the birth of Mad magazine, and the undergrounds that followed suit from Harvey Kurtzman’s lead.

I am a late arrival on the comix scene, so for me to find what serves both as an itemization and a brief history of the period in the pages of one volume is a real gift. The book is visually rich, including huge amounts of source material, none of which has been watered down for more sensitive audiences. Continue reading ‘Long Live Da Comix!’

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