God of Comics

God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga

Natsu Onoda Power
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvgb5
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  • Book Info
    God of Comics
    Book Description:

    Cartoonist Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) is the single most important figure in Japanese post-World War II comics. During his four-decade career, Tezuka published more than 150,000 pages of comics, produced animation films, wrote essays and short fiction, and earned a Ph.D. in medicine. Along with creating the character Astro Boy (Mighty Atom in Japan), he is best known for establishing story comics as the mainstream genre in the Japanese comic book industry, creating narratives with cinematic flow and complex characters. This style influenced all subsequent Japanese output.God of Comicschronicles Tezuka's life and works, placing his creations both in the cultural climate and in the history of Japanese comics.

    The book emphasizes Tezuka's use of intertextuality. His works are filled with quotations from other texts and cultural products, such as film, theater, opera, and literature. Often, these quoted texts and images bring with them a world of meanings, enriching the narrative. Tezuka also used stock characters and recurrent visual jokes as a way of creating a coherent world that encompasses all of his works.

    God of Comicsincludes close analysis of Tezuka's lesser-known works, many of which have never been translated into English. It offers one of the first in-depth studies of Tezuka's oeuvre to be published in English.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-478-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. NOTES ON JAPANESE NAMES, TITLES, AND READING ORDER
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION AND SOME DEFINITIONS
    (pp. 3-18)

    A certain generation of North Americans may remember the TV animation seriesAstro Boy. The series’ superhero, Astro Boy, was an adorable and somewhat androgynous robot boy, with red boots and a shiny black head that had two spikes that never overlapped no matter from what angle you were looking at him. He had an IQ of three hundred and strength equal to one hundred thousand horsepower. His legs turned into jets so he could fly through the sky, and his eyes turned into searchlights so he could see in the dark. He made a very characteristic squeaking sound when...

  7. Chapter 2 TEZUKA IN HISTORY/HISTORY IN TEZUKA
    (pp. 19-37)

    While Tezuka’s responsibility in the boom of story comics in post–World War II Japan is undeniable, it would be a mistake to say that comic books, or comic book culture, did not exist in Japan prior to Tezuka. Comics and visual storytelling have always been important elements of Japanese visual culture, and Tezuka often made references to older forms of comics in his work. Many characteristics of modern comics, such as animal anthropomorphism, movement lines, and graphically represented sound were already well established before World War II. References to film, self-conscious humor, crowd scenes, and other techniques strongly associated...

  8. Chapter 3 MOVIE IN A BOOK
    (pp. 38-65)

    Tezuka Osamu’s professional career started in 1946 with a comic strip,Mā-chan no nikkichō(The Diary of Mā-chan). This classic four-panel comic strip was serialized in a local children’s newspaper,Mainichi Shōgakusei Shinbun, depicting humorous incidents in the daily life of a young boy named Mā-chan. The Allied Occupation Forces controlled not only the contents of all print material but also the paper supply in Japan during the postwar years, which meant that the newspapers were thin, with little room for comics. Mā-chan’s adventures were restricted to the standard four-panel form. After a long absence of newspaper cartoons in Japan,...

  9. Chapter 4 STARS AND JOKES
    (pp. 66-88)

    There is a unique sense, which a reader starts to experience as he or she gets to know more than a few of Tezuka’s works, that all Tezuka’s works, regardless of genre, topic, or style, are somehow connected. While each work is independent and coherent, there emerges another layer of meaning—a kind of metanarrative— when one reads it in context of other works. This sense of inclusiveness is far more extensive, far more complete, and far less common to simply call a “style.” The two important techniques that Tezuka used in creating this sense of unity were the Star...

  10. Chapter 5 COMMUNITIES AND COMPETITIONS
    (pp. 89-110)

    It is well known that Fujiko Fujio, one of the most accomplished cartoonists of twentieth-century Japan, was “discovered” by Tezuka Osamu. Fujiko Fujio is a pseudonym shared between two artists, Abiko Motoo and Fujimono Hiroshi, who met in fifth grade and became best friends. They worked under one pseudonym until 1988. Their styles were so similar that most people could not distinguish one from the other; some thought they were one person. As high school students, Abiko and Fujimoto often sent fan letters to Tezuka, enclosing their comic manuscripts—originals, since Xerox machines were not invented yet. Tezuka recognized their...

  11. Chapter 6 SAPPHIRE AND OTHER HEROINES
    (pp. 111-127)

    In figure 6.1 we see a scene between Princess Sapphire—cross-dressed as “Prince” Sapphire—and a pirate captain, Brad, in Tezuka Osamu’s 1958 girls’ comics,Ribon no kishi(Princess Knight). The events leading up to the scene are as follows: Brad and his men save Prince Sapphire from drowning in the sea. After hearing about Sapphire’s circumstances, Brad offers to assassinate Duralmin, the Grand Duke, whose evil conspiracy caused Sapphire to be exiled from her country, Silverland. Sapphire asks Brad what kind of reward he expects. Brad responds: “No, I don’t want any of that. What I want is ....

  12. Chapter 7 TORMENTING AFFAIRS WITH ANIMATION
    (pp. 128-139)

    Tezuka Osamu often remarked: “Comics is my wife, and animation is my lover.” Tezuka’s relationship with animation was long and complex, characterized by a constant mix of love and hate, enchantment and disappointment, devotion and betrayal. This passionate, albeit tormenting love affair started at a young age, seeing animations on his father’s film projector, or at the movie theaters. Asahi Kaikan, one of the larger movie theaters in Osaka, held an annual “New Year’s Animation Festival” on January 3. Tezuka’s mother took her three children to this event every year, and young Osamu grew familiar—as other Japanese children did—...

  13. Chapter 8 LOW HUMOR/HIGH DRAMA, THE TWO FACES OF ADULT COMICS
    (pp. 140-151)

    The morning after Tezuka’s death,Asahi Shinbunprinted a column titled “Tetsuwan Atom no message (The Message of Astro Boy),” which read as follows: “Why do the Japanese love comics so much? The sight of passengers on commuter trains all reading weekly comic magazines strikes most foreigners as strange. [. . .] Why haven’t people of other countries been reading comics (like the Japanese) [. . .]? One of the answers is, that they did not have Tezuka Osamu.” While this statement neatly (and movingly) sums up Tezuka’s impact on twentieth-century Japanese popular culture, it also contains a bit of...

  14. Chapter 9 GOD OF COMICS, MASTER OF QUOTATIONS
    (pp. 152-170)

    Throughout this book, I have discussed how various art forms, cultural products, and social and cultural discourses that surround them have entered Tezuka’s works, functioning as powerful intertexts that bring with them a set of meanings and histories. The scene fromThird Maninserts emotional gravity intoMonster on the 38th Parallel, and the long history of comics in Japan suddenly becomes a part of the world inTree in the Sunby the cameo character of Charles Wirgman. InIntertextuality: Theories and Practices, Michael Worton and Judith Still point out: “a text [. . .] cannot exist as a...

  15. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 171-174)

    The train sped through the countryside and my bag was heavy on my lap. As we were pulling away from Nagoya station, a middle-aged man asked me if I needed help putting it up on the shelf. I said I would rather hold onto it, it was important. The bag was full of comic manuscripts that my brother and I had slaved over for the last year or so. There was also a plastic container full of sugar cookies that I spent two days baking in my little toaster oven, carefully cut and elaborately iced in the shapes of Tezuka’s...

  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 175-194)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 195-202)