Saturday, September 29, 2012

Adolf's Secret Essays

(Alternate title; Hitler's Secret Essays)

With Vertical's re-licensing of the legendary Tezuka Adolph Manga (retitled to Message to Adolph), I thought it would be prudent to share the five individual essays that were present at the beginning of Viz's Cadence Books, along with my thoughts while reading this piece of work for the first time.  This isn't the first Manga to have an essay beforehand, but it's the most notable.  Other examples include an introduction to Domu, which is another Katsuhiro Otomo Manga deserving of wider recognition.  Another is an introduction to the anthology, Four Shoujo Stories, which had an aborted print run because the Manga creators didn't want their works compiled together.

The Adolf essay authors are as follows; Fredrik Schodt, Yuji Oniki, Matt Thorn, Annette Roman and Gerard Jones.  If there's any objections from any of the authors to having their introductions printed without permission, I'll take down the download link immediately.

In tribute to Covered's sudden retirement, I thought it'd be interesting to compare the American covers with the Japanese ones.  The realistic art come from some of Viz's editorial staff.  There's also some alternate covers that can be found here:

Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century 

Although this is the first volume, I wouldn't get to read this book until I ordered it MUCH later, when I'd already finished the rest of the series.  Before the Tokyopop Manga Explosion, there was a deprivation of available English Manga when I was beginning to grow an increasingly taste for more of the stuff, forcing me to scour the backlog of past books in a hope to feed my increasing addiction.  When you're in need of a fix, you're willing to try anything new, even if you know you'll hate it in the process.  I got the two Yoshihisa Tagami Mangas, Horobi (a talking heads monster story) and Grey, a dystopian future.  I reluctantly picked up the Nausicca Manga Perfect collection with the itty-bitty page size.  I collected Rebel Sword and Venus Wars both by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and released by Dark Horse.  I even collected the rather boring 2001 Nights once I'd gotten everything else.

My formula for getting any new comic was based on whether I'd read it beforehand, whether it was worth rereading a second time, and whether I would be able to get the whole story available.  I first became aware of Adolf when I saw that there were volumes of the stuff offered at comic book conventions at a discount.  But these were always the later books, and never the first.  Naturally, I declined paying for them, because why get something if you don't have the whole story?  Sadly, I passed over some Ranma 1/2 and Maison Ikkoku volumes that were going for $5 each when those books were selling for 4 times that amount at the Canadian price.  I foolishly thought I would get a second chance at the next convention when I brought some more money.

Coming into this after having already read the rest of the story revolving around the possibility of secret documents revealing Hitler's Jewish lineage, I was rather less than impressed with the overall setup.  The story begins and ends at an Israeli graveyard, with the claim that it's about three different men named Adolf.  Actually, it starts off with a sports reporter named Sohei, and doesn't begin to focus on the other Adolfs until about 100 pages in.  Starting out, Adolf Kaufmann, and Adolf Kamil, a German and a Jew are good friends, but circumstances will eventually drive them apart, despite all their attempts to prevent doing so otherwise.  Surprisingly enough, while mentioned as one of the three topical men, Hitler has the least screentime as the other Adolfs.

Interestingly enough, both covers deal with a dead body, but the Japanese version focuses on Sohei's brother's body, while the American version has the murdered Geisha, who winds up getting more investigation details later in the story.  In fact, she shows up more often even though she's dead, while Sohei's brother is practically an afterthought in comparison.  Special attention should be paid to the schoolkid with the letter where only the words "Der Fuhrer" can be seen.  The next two words, "Ist Jude" are only revealed inside, revealing a deep dark secret that would be the driving force of the story.

An Exile in Japan

For many who missed out on the first book, this would most likely be most people's introduction to the Manga.  It also brings a much more comprehensive explanation of the MacGuffin secret documents that would be the overall driving source of the story.  In the first book, it would be regulated to background rumours and such, and was only fully fleshed out and clarified here.  The rumours of the Fuhrer's Jewish ancestry was quite surprising the first time I read it.  I was used to Manga's style of cartoony expressions, so I wasn't put off by Sohei's exaggerated reaction to the documents, but didn't exactly feel drawn into reading more.  I skimmed ahead with the intent of seeing whether it would improve, and it never quite felt polished.  Turns out I wasn't alone in my disatisfaction with the craft of the dialogue and narration.

This volume also stars my favorite of Tezuka's star characters, the eternally grinning mustachoid man, Hamegg.  (Better known as Astro Boy's circus slavedriver)  He deals a tremendous amount of escalating violence and mental torture on Sohei in order to get the secret documents.  What's remarkable is that despite the amount of unwarranted brutality dealt out, when Hamegg gets his comeuppance later, it pales in comparison to the damage he's done to the point that you begin to feel sorry for him.  Quite a remarkable feat to accomplish for such a reprehensible man.

I'm quite enamored with Hamegg's overall appearance, simply because no other character quite looks like him.  It's not apparent at first, but the coolest incarnation of Hamegg would have to be Mudou, the scarf-wearing youth-balls villain in Kekkaishi.  Also check out Hamegg and Lamp's appearance in the BlackJack DS game, which looks like a cross between Trauma Team and Elite Beat Agents.  Needless to say, this game has never been attempted to try be translated, because of so much ingrained Manga text balloons and Lampe's portrayal as a Nazi agent in Adolf.

What really put me off was how after all the torture and suffering that Sohei goes through to save the documents, he winds up losing them along with everybody he's with and the book ends in an awful cliffhanger that felt like a pretty definitive ending.  After going through the wringer so many times, who would want to bother continuing to read some more?  That's probably why Vertical released Adolf as an omnibus collection, because they wouldn't want to scare off potential readers who'd been punished for investing so much of themselves into this story.

The Half-Aryan

After the depressing events of the last book, you'd think they'd relieve the tension of the fate of the secret documents, but no, the scene shifts instead to a female bartender who's taken a liking to Sohei, and agrees to help him recuperate.  Needless to say, it takes a good 40 pages before the documents are verified to be safe.  The act of delaying the reveal is very maddening for someone not accustomed to this kind of thing.

For anyone thinking that it would be far-fetched for a Jewish couple to be living in Japan, far away from prying Nazi eyes Japan wasn't the only Asian country to provide a safe haven; but China as well.  The story of how a Jewish family travelled there can be found in the biography Ten Green Bottles.

Near the end, there's a certain panel of a Jewish couple praying in a Christian manner (on their knees) rather than the typical autistic rocking method.  This is a minor technical mistake in a Manga noted for historical accuracy, and a footnote was added rather than change the artwork to reflect the correct religious method.  Though the confusion is understandable.  There are various methods of Jewish prayer, not just limited to going to the Synagogue, but also whether there's 10 men present, different rituals for men and women, torah readings, candle lightings, blessing foods, etc, etc.  Not to mention that visually speaking, kneeling with your hands clasped together is a more striking image.  Judaism is notoriously famous for actively discourage anybody into joining their faith.  They don't want any namby-panby followers - they want people who'll actually want to go the distance of going to the trouble of following their traditions.  But then, Adolf is more about WWII as seen from a Japanese perspective than a Jewish one.  Nowhere is this more evident than the focus of the next book: Ramsey.

Days of Infamy

Adolf Kamil decides to employ some outside help from Richard Sorge's information network in making the best use of the incriminating Hitler documents.  This was the first time I'd ever heard of Ramsey, and showed how differently other countries can focus on certain details depending on the realm they're in.  Russia is closer to Japan's waters, so it makes sense that they'd have more political ramfications there.

It also has the most references to the 1st book, particularly the murdered Geisha who continues to get screentime beyond the grave.  Interestingly enough, even though there's some inquiry over her past from what anybody who'd read the first book would know, the characters themselves have no idea who killed her.  (The killer's face is blocked out by a word balloon)

For the most part, the first half suffers from an exeunt of trivia and soap Opera-ish tendencies that dull an otherwise intriguing story.  The romantic elements that crop up feels amateurish and out of place, particularly the exposition of the characters spouting lines such as; "Why do I feel this way? I can't stop thinking about her!"  But it makes up for that with the second half, with Adolf Kaufmann's fully embracing the Nazi role he'd so heavily resisted during the early years of his life.  This is further exacerbated with Hitler's continuing internal rambling shouting tendencies that would be the foundation for the hundreds of Downfall Youtube parodies.  There's probably some unwritten rule requiring all dictators to do so.

One of the hallmarks of Manga is its ability to portray a series of events in such a way that the reader becomes emotionally invested.  If I'm not feeling a sense of being there, then the author/artist has failed to convey that sense of emotion in the story, and I consider the work to be wasted.  To this day, I STILL get chills while reading the DragonBall Saiyan Saga.  That's generally what I get when Adolf Eichman goes on his definitive journey back to Japan.

1945 and All that Remains

This is where it all comes together or falls apart under of its weight.  The two Adolfs finally meet each other again in a tearful reunion after nearly a decade apart.  But it soon becomes apparent that their ideologies are completely incompatible with each other, and a conflict begins that won't stop until one or the other is dead.
This intense rivalry was mentioned as a similar metaphor in Tezuka's other Magnum Opus, Phoenix.  In the Civil War arc (titled Turbulent Times in the essay for some reason) where two tribes of monkeys and dogs become fast acquaintances, but eventually their differences become too wide to fully reconcile, and their relationship disintegrates into a war between the two of them.  This was where I first learned the Japanese metaphor of dogs and monkeys being incompatible with each other, as mentioned on an episode of Medabots.  When I finally was able to read the relevant Phoenix arc, that subplot was all I could think of, and I was disappointed when it turned out to play a minor point, only cropping up near the end.

While the two Adolfs are fighting each other over the location of birthright documents, the most memorable finale of Adolf Hitler is shown.  What surprised me other about Hitler's last hours was how sad and pathetic he'd become compared to his charismastic behavior.  The last image of Hitler and Eva Braun's bodies being doused in gasoline was more sorrowful than I would've expected.  Particular note should be paid to the revisionist history of his suicide.

In the end, the documents turn up playing no real major outcome in the end of the war, though it's hinted that they might've contributed to the Fuhrer's mental collapse.  Possibly the real irony is how in his final moments, Hitler reveals a prophecy that after receiving a setback in 1945, he would make a comeback in 1948 to revive his great nation.  And yet, it was simply because of Hitler's fanaticism that made the foundation of Israel a reality when past anti-semitic measures failed to support the Jew's cause of having their own country.

It's only after you reach the end that we get some explanation for the man decked out in Arabic clothing.  The conflict doesn't simply end with the end of the war.  You'd think that having a genocide against a certain "race" of a faith would be proof enough to reach a consensus for playing nice, but as history has shown us, that is not the case.  Rather than one war leading to an everlasting peace, there are brief periods of peace continually broken up with various wars.  Already, there are rumblings that the Greek's Golden Dawn organization has anti-semitic overtones, along with their symbol that disturbingly looks like a swastika.

Despite Gerard Jones' discomfort with comparing the Nazis with the PLO, the metaphor is somewhat apt. Any nation that has the majority of its foundation completely demeaning and calling for the destruction of a religion 1000 times smaller than its own should raise some eyebrows.  As pointed out in The Wave, 90% of Germans weren't Nazis, yet they simply sat back and let them get away with the atrocities they later became well known for.  They knew what they were up to, and did nothing to confront them, because they were afraid.  Simply accommodating fanatics isn't going to discourage them - it's only enabling their activity.  How many times does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have to keep promising to wipe Israel off the map, while simultaneously saying that his Nuclear program is for peaceful purposes?  At some point, you've got to  connect the dots before it's too late.

Monday, September 24, 2012

From GlamourCerebus to FantastiCerebus?

Dave Sim of Cerebus fame just recently announced that his monthly project of using photo-referenced girls as a parody of fashion magazines, Glamourpuss, would be coming to an end because of low sales.  This was shortly after his failed attempt to emulate Maus with his Judenhaus one-shot, which failed to take the world by storm.  The fact that it focused on the same insular comic book market that increasingly became one of the many things that drove him around the bend at aiming his unorthodox material at a particular niche audience might've had something to do with it.  To get an idea of what I mean, Judenhauss was an analytical look at Antisemetism through the ages, and near the end, references were made to praiseworthy Jews who were spared from the Holocaust were mainly limited to comic book creators.  An admirable sentiment, if somewhat limited in the larger scheme of things.
The cancellation of Glamourpuss was probably inevitable, since there was no single coherent ongoing narrative, and the comic was devolving into insanity in later issues. In addition to his Cerebus Kickstarter program suffering a setback due to a fire destroying his originals has led to an outpouring of praise and recognization of the man's works around the comics blogsphere who put it much more succinctly than I could.  This has also led to a surprising offer from Fantagraphics to take ownership of Cerebus for one of their reprint projects, which would take some of the edge off worries of reprint  costs and keeping Cerebus in circulation.  So faced with this generous deal, what was his response?  An insistence to make this matter public rather than do a backroom deal.  Mystifyingly enough, he feels that his work wouldn't be up to Fantagraphics New York Times style reporting, even though no such claim was made.  Feeling insecure that Cerebus wouldn't be up to par for the high standards of Fantagraphics? Producing an influential and intimidating body of work isn't praiseworthy enough?
Ironically enough, there WAS a point late in Cerebus when he did a parody of the Comics Journal, part of the Fantagraphics editoral line. (These pages are a spot-on parody of the Comics Journal, right down to the blurbs distracting attention away from the attractive pictures) While the last arc is often lambasted for its heavy-handed religous screed, Latter Days also has some of the funniest Cerebus moments in it. It's probably just best to focus on the stuff at the beginning 2/3rds, and ignore the last half when Woody Allen appears. 
Trust me, it only gets worse two pages from here.

As Dave Sim admitted to himself, Cerebus was never quite a hot seller, even back when it was revolutionary.  Only a smattering of interested parties would even dare to crack open this intimidating tome.  Personally, apart from the few masterpieces early on, the majority of Cerebus can be considered for hardcore comic fans only.  Cerebus was always something of an odd beast, even when it was being published.  The few tie-ins that WERE allowed by the creator would've been impenetrable by anyone hoping for some explanation or clarity.  Upon flipping open the pages of a random book, the average reader would be completely flumoxified with the going-ons of the sequence of events, particularly anything to do with the Roach, the S-hero parody pastiche.  Anybody wanting to jump into this serious undertaking of the Earth Pig's "adventures" would have absolutely NO IDEA of what to expect, let alone get any satisfying explanation for anything that was happening.  They would be put off by all the rampant confusion, and go seek easier-to-understand comics elsewhere.  One such example was when Cerebus made a rare crossover appearance with other independent comic creators, such as the Ninja Turtles and Spawn.  These would happen outside of the main story narrative, and wouldn't be considered canon by Dave Sim's standards.  To someone who had absolutely NO IDEA of the many inside jokes that were inherent within Cerebus at the time, a new reader would've been absolutely mystified with a certain piece of fanart shown in the Spawn 3-issue miniseries, Violator, written by Alan Moore.  (Yes, THAT Alan Moore)
Imagine seeing this off-model character for the first time, and being clueless
as to why there was no "Sim" in the Spawn comics.

As has been pointed out, one of the major sales resistance points of Cerebus has always been the certain lack of explaination of exactly what Cerebus is about.  There's simply no description of the contents or summary on the back of any of the 200-500 phone book collections.  There's not even a blurb of the contents, or a list of the cast characters.  Disappointingly enough, any serious attempt to analyze Cerebus on a issue-by-issue basis have all been suspended before they even finished the first volume.  Of course, Cerebus is the kind of comic that defies categorization, and can't be simply pigeonholed into one specific category.  Is it a satrical take on Conan the Barbarian?  Is it a parodic take on the underlying face of politics?  Is it an analysis of religion and corruption of power?  Is it a look at the life of a single woman growing up on a mountainside?  Is it a biography of the last days of Oscar Wilde?  Is it an attack on feminism with ties to the Comic Book scene in the late 80s?  Is it a play on the author / creation mindset?  Is it a tribute to a bar?  Is it a homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway?  Is it an increasingly detoriating descent into madness?  Is it weird?  Cerebus is ALL of these things and more.

It would be nice to have the whole run of the legendary comic, as well as some of the one-shot comics that were never fully collected, such as the issues making up Cerebus Zero, ElfGuest, some of the colour short stories, and even a collection of the comic covers.  Including the run of covers with some problematic advertising on them.  (Only Guys has the ingrained covers essential to the story)  For all his devotion to his craft, it's surprising that Dave Sim hasn't taken full advantage of the unpublished works and promotional art of his Barbarian Aardvark in various comic anthologies and fan contributions.  Until Cerebus Fangirl pointed out a rare hardcover printing of all the covers (issue 113 isn't included, since 112 was a double issue), I wasn't even aware that such a thing existed.
Advertising in the pages of your own comic doesn't count.

While having Cerebus reprinted at a smaller size would be feastible for a more attractive model on the bookstore shelves, (something that's been done for foreign publication), it would also play havoc with the immensely teeny-tiny text that shows up in the later books; creating a discrepancy between volumes, something that readers hate.  There's also the question of whether some of the smaller volumes, particularly the Mothers & Daughters arc would be collected in a larger and more attractive format.  Of course, that also brings up the uncomfortable misogynic rant in Reads, which is where the slide into insanity begins.  (Some would argue it was always there to begin with - it just didn't become obvious until that point)  Of course, as it has been pointed out, Cerebus becomes immensely more enjoyable if you ignore the prose in the later books and just focus on the comic portions instead.

As a self-righteous self-publisher who's held steadfast to being in charge of his own comic for some 25+ years, Dave Sim is in a ballpark all by himself.  He was able to make his vision of publishing the comic equivalent of a Russian novel into a reality.  He foresaw the benefit of collecting his lengthy issues into one comprehensive package, when comic stores decried his practice for doing so, because they were detracting from sales of his past issues.  He constantly employed innovative use of the medium in ways that is STILL just barely influenced by 1% of current cartoonists.  And he did it all on a 20-page monthly basis.  (Having Gerhard do the backgrounds didn't hurt either)

And yet, Dave Sim probably feels reluctant to go hand in hand with another comic publisher after holding steadfast to not tying down to any comic company that would dictate their own agenda over the cartoonist's ideas. However, Fantagraphics is on a different level than the so-called Big Two that's been the main focus of the American comics industry, and is a completely different beast altogether. As an Indy publisher, they're closer to Dave Sim's onnus for self-creation, even though he's the most successful model AND the cautionary tale of being too involved with your own comic for too long.

Then again, Dave Sim claimed that Cerebus would never be translated into other languages, because of the immense translation and redrawing hurdles, and yet it's available in Italian and French. Likewise, being a Luddite, Dave eschewed any attempt to share his Magnum Opus online, yet finally broke down for sponsoring the Kickstarter program, which suffered something of a minor setback with the fire and all.  It's not obvious upon first glance, but these smattering examples are pieces of evidence that he CAN change his previous POVs. Maybe not the most problematic misogynist ones out there, but the ones that matter when it comes to staying fiancially active.

To be continued...

EDIT - it turns out that after a teasing fling with Fantagraphics, IDW will be printing the 300 Cerebus covers instead.  Whether this will lead to their publishing the remainder of the epic revolutionary descent into madness of the main comics remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

MAD's Magazine Wrappers

One of the more memorable gifts I ever got for my Birthday was a MAD subscription from a friend of mine.  I was aware of its self-mockery and put-downs, though paid more attention to the cartoony one-pagers such as Don Martin and Spy VS Spy.  My mental capabilities were such that I would've preferred their rival, Cracked magazine better, because it focused more on children's cartoons, which MAD regularly ignored.

Upon getting word that I would be getting this, I wrote up a thank-you letter to the friend who gave me this gift, and jokingly asked if my subscription could be cancelled.  My letter was proofread beforehand, and it was pointed out that my request might've been taken seriously.  I hastily added an amendment at the end saying that I was just joking (bleh).  I hadn't quite mastered the issue of sarcasm and my intentions on my end would've been lost upon arrival, very much how online sentences without emoticons can be taken the wrong way.

If that hadn't been caught earlier, I likely wouldn't have been subject to a certain humour magazine with a protective brown wrapper that displayed its interior contents for the whole world (or the postal service) to see:

I was already aware that MAD had a sense of humour bordering on the offensive, though it was a sore point for other subscribers who didn't quite appreciate the tone of the joke.  Fortunately, my parents didn't mind, since they knew that I was incapable of ordering anything without their help.  Other customers weren't as lucky, as pointed out in a letter in issue #327.

Some of these wrappers had more elaborate use of their space, and would extend their images to include both sides of the wrapper.

And here is the lovely discount card in all its glory:

Mind you, personally, I thought it would be funnier if it were the size of a postage stamp in the middle of that vast spanse of space.

Not all the MAD covers were individual commentaries.  Some reused some previous concepts, almost on a monthly basis.  The MAD Zeppelin was delivered for issues #328 and #329.

Likewise, for issues #131 and #133.

For the other covers, I was able to hide or remove my address stamp, but I'm unable to apply my rough paintshop skills here.  (Don't look too closely at the other samples)  To make up for that embarrassment, enjoy a pastiche of one of their more elaborate wrappers.

The back cover is filled with a pastiche of Alfred E. Neuman faces.  You're not missing anything much here.

Though particular use for the protective covering was to eventually remind their customers that their issue subscription was going to run out.  Given that there was more variety in their wanting to keep you on, why would anyone want to settle for the two or three year plans, when you wouldn't see them otherwise?

It's disappointing to realize that the very same magazine that makes a mockery of the establishment still requires payment like any other company.

The loss of a comprehensive collection isn't exactly anything to lose sleep over.  This isn't quite on the same level of MAD fold-ins, but it still feels like a non-essential part of history that's otherwise lost.  I let my subscription run out because I was dissatisfied with how the mailman kept rolling it up in the mailbox, further making it more difficult to do the fold-in, since the pages were bent out of proportion.  As Opus the Penguin would say; "Notice how I went full circle on that one?"

I continued to purchase future issues of MAD from the newsstand, thereby depriving me of the innovative covers, but giving me more choice at deciding whether to naturally stop picking up new issues when I felt I wasn't getting enough entertainment value.  After the 350th issue, I began sporadically previewing the inner contents to verify whether it was worth purchasing or not.  Needless to say, my MAD issues began to drop substantially after that.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Manga Page Count

In the past week, my sister lent me a copy of the Dororo omnibus she'd bought on a whim because it was by Tezuka, and she thought I'd like it. On an unrelated note, I managed to borrow the French version of Kamui-Den from the library. I'd been alternating between the two on and off for several days before I eventually noticed that the dimensions of the two books were coincidentally identical.

Well, the exteriors were similar, but the interiors were not. I'm not talking about the artwork or subject material, though there's quite some similarity between Dororo and Kamui, although both take place during the Edo period, they could not be more drastically different from each other.  One is a cutesy wandering Tezuka Swordsman hunting demons to get his body part back, and is constantly tailed by an annoying sidekick kid thief. Dororo was even described as the main inspiration (and rip-off) for Blade of the Immortal in Viz's retired Pulp magazine. There's also shades of Kentaro Miura's Berserk in how the Swordsman Hyakkimaru is constantly hounded by demons wanting to devour his remaining surviving flesh, and never give him a moment's respite or rest.

Interestingly enough, Dororo was largely influenced by Kamui. American Manga veterans are most likely to be familiar with Kamui as Viz's earliest attempt at marketing Manga to a comic audience, and was targeted at the same kind of people who would've enjoyed Lone Wolf & Cub. However, the earliest inceptions of Kamui-Den is the precursor to the more serious artwork that would appear in later years. Kamui-Den is often described as the definitive Ninja Manga before Naruto came along, though there's very little actual Ninja-ing in Kamui. It's more about life in Edo period than actual acrobatics and sneakery.

While Kamui-Den has artwork that's reminiscent of a simplified calligraphy style, don't be fooled by its kiddy outlook. It's actually a pretty gritty look at the life and times of people living during that time period. And yet, for all the trauma and violence that happens, it doesn't feel sensationalistic at all. It focuses much more on how people back then lived that you practically feel like you're actually living there, and can better understand the historical archaeological implications than any stuffy dry textbook could convey. To me, it feels more authentic than the watered-down episodic comics of Usagi Yojimbo.

No knights in shining armour to save damsels and their children on death row here, though there is some occasionally violent swordplay involved.

Let me give you a close-up of that pivotal larger panel, because; HOLY CRAP.

A reoccurring theme of Kamui is that it'll often go into segues into animals and their lives, interspected with shots of Nature. In the second chapter, the story diverges away from the people and focuses on an albino wolf being the runt of his family. This metaphor will be seemingly dropped in the next chapter, but this wolf becomes a reoccurring element some 600 pages later. In fact there are numerous side and secondary characters that make short appearances early on, only to briefly pop up again some hundreds of pages later. The titular Kamui appears in MAYBE 300-400 pages throughout his own book.

The constant shifting of viewpoints would be considered annoying if it were released in individual 200-300 Manga volumes, which is why I suspect this was collected together in such a large amount. To release them in any other way would be narrative suicide. The number of pages for the Kamui omnibus may seem like overkill considering the high panel content, until you actually take a look inside. Each chapter is about 100 pages of smaller stories broken up throughout, but it all goes so seamlessly that it's impossible to imagine anything being left out.

So what was it about the two books that I noticed? Well, when placed side-by-side, they look practically identical in size and volume. This view reminds me of the sadly retired Grotesque Anatomy example of the now defunct Shonen Jump magazine comparison of American comics and a cereal box.

Yet a closer look shows that the content is radically different. Dororo is an impressive 800 pages served up in one neat package. But Kamui-Den comes in at just under a whopping 1500 pages. That's almost twice as much as the other. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Dororo is on the left, Kamui is on the right. I just removed the library hardcovers on both sides to even out the equation.

I saw that the page thickness of the French book was significantly thinner than the American stock. While there's some concern that pages might get torn, or the artwork may be visible on the other side, that's apparently not much of a concern in international markets. This is the kind of detail that I notice for printed paper quality. Some printers seem to have higher quality paper stock, while other markets are perfectly satisfied with lesser ones. It's as if the sophisticated American market prints these high-value papers out of a displaced sense of fear that if the book binding and paper isn't top notch, the interior work won't be taken seriously. I suppose it all comes down to personal preferences. I'm not so much a fan of high-glossy pages that reflect the light if the book isn't held at a proper angle. I don't want my reading habits to be controlled by the medium I'm used to, which is an argument I've ironically heard from people resistant to reading comics on the computer. By the same token, I'm perfectly content with soft pages that are easy to flip through, and don't get stuck together.

I think this is important to point out the differences of which Manga markets that have yet to catch on for various reasons. If Kamui-Den was ever licensed (a pipe dream, but I can fantasize) there would have to be some serious devotion and backing to overtake such a potentially risky outcome. It could be a serious contendor for a Kickstarter program if there's any interest out there. So far, this impressively ambitious project is already up to the 4th volume in French, when even scanlation projects won't even dare touch this Manga. No doubt they're justifiably intimidated at the scope and length of this cult classic.

Even so, I was impressed enough with the description of Dororo's plot that I even wrote a short story satarizing the cliched themes of Fantasy tropes into one neat package.


There was a legend that a newborn baby would be a future threat to the King. The King, not wanting to risk his life to someone else’s incompetence decided to take care of the matter himself. First, he shook the baby violently so he would suffer from sudden death syndrome. Next, he chopped off the baby’s limbs and had them for lunch. Then a poisoned knife was stabbed into his chest.

Finally, just to be doubly sure, he threw the baby’s remains into a boiling volcano.

Miraculously, the baby survived.

He was raised by the volcanic hermits who lived there, and grew up with artificial body parts. And when he came of age, his parent's house burned down. With their dying breath, they revealed his secret heritage.

With his prosthetic limbs, adapted as various tools, he climbed out of the volcano crater, vowing to kill the man who so violently tried to end his life. Never knowing... that the King had already died of an infant leg bone lodged in his throat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seeing is Believing

leI've been feeling kinda lackluster creatively, and haven't found much of a topic to latch myself to, so here's some more obviously copied Wizard of Id comics.

Even though the accessories and clothes from the guards in the throwaway panel are changed, there's still an obvious similarity between the two to mask any differences.

The last one is the most radically changed from the other two, but it still shows many of the similarities as before, even if the setup is similar.

You'd think that would be the end of it, but that's not the only triple-whammy here. There's also some speeches made by the King towards his "admiring" subjects.

Another speech fittingly enough with some borrowed elements that we've all heard elsewhere. You'd think somebody would've made a more convincing sales pitch by now.

As before, there's one odd comic out of all the other. Can you tell which is not like the others by the time I finish my song?

So you're saying that these are exceptions to the rule? Okay, how about best two out of three?

Let's see if those results aren't skewed, shall we?

While there's no official third comic using the similar template, I thought that these poll number strips conjoined the overall theme pretty well.

Let's just double-check to see if we've got those results right. Who knows? A recount of rejected ballots could have a completely different account. Remember, it's not biased if they rule in our favor.

I'd end it here, but there's so much connectivity between these comics and the ones below that it seems almost a shame to split them apart for a later post. Normally, I post the earlier version first to compare it against later revisions, but it's not an ironclad rule. Generally, I group the comics together in a pattern that makes sense.

So what's our verdict of all these reused comic panels?