Visit and support My Guest Post on Comparative Geeks. It shows, in part, the progression of art style by Osamu Tezuka from his earliest to later days. Also I tried to show and speak of lesser known works of his.
Possessed abilities no one else had. Saved lives in ways we may never know. When people saw his name there was a strange symbol indicating something was different about him. He could be found in comics, on TV, and on the big screen. He was the hero of his nation. He was a god.
Who was this hero in disguise–this very gifted man?
It’s May 1, 2015 and the April A to Z Blogging Challenge is completed. For those of you not knowing what that is, you blog in alphabetical order posts each day, minus Sundays for good behavior, from A to Z.
You can choose a theme or just seat of pants it. I chose comic book creators from around the world. Why? I grew up reading comics and I see them as being a part of why I read as well as I do, am as creative, and just plain goofy at times.
I learned a lot during the challenge, and not just about comic books, comix, albums, manhua, manga, or any other names they are called, oh yeah, Komiks.
I learned geography, cultural history, world history, societal influences. All of this learned while researching comic books. Each nation had commonalities that one might be surprised about. Comic books are treated differently depending on where you are in the world.
In the US they are still seen as a children’s book. They are far from that now. Very far. In other parts of the world they are seen as art work, graphic literature, which is what I like to call comic books, and they are not always about superheroes.
If I were teaching right now I would use an A to Z format to give students a way to learn those aspects I mentioned learning earlier. By researching something they are interested in, sticking to the challenge without wavering, and marking the countries, regions, provinces, or cities you visit, you learn a great deal, and through that joy of learning you remember those things as well as realizing learning can be fun.
Some will think I am stretching how much I learned about geography, cultural history, world history and societal influences but I’m not. Graphic Literature is a way people express themselves. Through fictional superheroes a person can tell a controversial societal or political issue using a down and out weakling who becomes a hero and then fights against the superficial popular hero who is really fake and a sham and scam underneath.
That’s how one gets away with telling certain stories in countries where one might be imprisoned or executed if coming out against the ruler of the nation.
Through this challenge, one I decided on at the last moment, and had no real idea of a theme until the very last moment, I’ve come to realize some priorities in life.
It’s no longer April, but I encourage any of you to do this challenge even now. But let me give some advice. If you are going to do an around the world thing, be careful. Some of those letters are tough to find people. Not many places for the letter X.
I’ll leave you with some last images of a book that was one of my favorites books, Ruse, by a company called CrossGen, which is now owned by Marvel Comics. A book about a Sherlock Holmes type character with a female Watson type. Powers in the book, yes, but one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork series ever.
Researching South African Graphic Literature history has been an interesting adventure. A big think I discovered is a great deal of the comics were photo comics early on. Actors would be in the positions of what Americans and Europeans would normally see as drawn panels. Text balloons would then be inserted.
There are rare examples of illustrated comics, and I’ll mention those as I discover them. Yes, I write as I discover as opposed to research then writing. You get to ride along with me as I get excited or disappointed, depending on what I find.
For instance, here is the first illustrated book I found. Mighty Man. This was Soweto’s version of Superman. Sounds like a good idea, right? The book was about a black policeman who is shot, then healed by some beings from beneath the earth and given powers. All good so far. But the point of the book was to have the blacks during apartheid basically subliminally, from an early age, given the thoughts that going against the rules of the white government was wrong, they should stay in their place, there should be no guns owned by blacks, and it just keeps going.
Back up stories were about local folklore and sports figures. Any efforts by the Americans involved in the creation were slapped down. They worked for the company and did the book. Even when not agreeing with what the books overall message was.1In truth the book was more a propaganda and advertising scheme.
I also found a great writer in Lauren Beukes.2 A writer of novels and and TV scripts. Her selection to write Fairest3 for Vertigo4, and imprint of DC Comics says a lot. Fairest is a spinoff of Fables, a highly acclaimed series. Fairest is about the women of fairy tales set in different situations and with actual lives. These aren’t fairy tales.
Beukes arc in the series, The Hidden Kingdom, deals with Rapunzel traveling to Tokyo to take care of a mystery from her past.
Next I stumbled upon a piece by Nobhongo Gxolo who speaks with a couple of South African creators.5 First there was Moray Rhoda, illustrator, designer, and writer. One piece comic fans may have heard of is Velocity, a Graphic Novel anthology with contributing creators. He shares a frustration with another up and coming creator, Loyiso Mkize, illustrator and writer of Kwezi, about a 19 year old cocky guy who suddenly has powers and how he handles it.
The frustration they have is distribution. Local publishers don’t want to invest, not seeing the potential local home grown comics have. Most books are Indie Books in South Africa with any mass published being from the US or Europe. Local creators have more interest from places like US who get what is being done and see the talent of the artists.
“The artwork is definitely international level, but the storytelling is not there”~Rhoda
The artwork gains attention across the ocean, much like many other countries, but the writing is the problem.
“There’s also the fact that as I got older I learned to appreciate the role of superheroes in young people’s minds: positive, encouraging and inspiring.”~Mkize
Comic strips, humorous and adventure were ongoing from the early 20th Century onward. I don’t mention the names here because I honestly am not certain how appropriate some might be considering the way the government segregated society so harshly.
When I begin a more comprehensive series I will include all that I find, but for now enjoy what we have here today. Talent. A lot of it, but with no local publisher support.
Oman may have some creators but I didn’t find any in my basic search. I do a decent search for a time then I move on. That being said, do you know how many countries start with the letter O? You got it, one. I decided to go with a province. Yes, I thought about searching in other languages to see if a different spelling came up for a country, but this is a fun project for me, and I do enough translating as it is.
Normally when doing a history I go in chronological order. I thought I would change it up a bit today. We’re going with two creators only. We’re going back in time. From end to the beginning. We’re going north. We’re going maple leaf country.
We’re going Canada.
To be precise—we’re going Ontario.
A lot of times when you start with the newest you end up talking the least about something in history. That has been especially true for Graphic Literature.
Today if you think that, you are wrong. Wrong in a big way. So wrong that wrong is not even enough of a word to say how wrong you and I are.
The Midas Touch
At the age of 39 Jeff Lemire is likely to tell you to be included with our later creator in an article would have been an impossibility. But maybe the reason he is, is because no one ever asked him that if it was possible.1After all, there are a lot of accomplishments out there that when asked of the people that did them, they say, no one ever told me I couldn’t.
I don’t know if Midas Touch applies here but when you start your career self-publishing your first comic, win an award, then go immediately into a company where Alan Moore, legend, is putting out a volume of his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and when an award with a series with that company, I think Midas Touch fits.2
“I like to tell stories that make people feel something. It takes too long to make comics to just do frivolous or throwaway work. I’m trying to create real emotion on the page.”~Jeff Lemire3
Reading more and more about Lemire you discover one thing about him, creating comics is the important part of his profession. Even with the recent blow up of his world with Sony optioning a comic project from Image Comics, Descender, he hadn’t even put out the first issue of yet, he made sure during the negotiations his role, his time, and his freedom was in creating the book he wanted. He got that deal.4That’s power. That’s talent.
Lemire is not your typical superhero storyteller. In truth that’s not his go-to element. Can he do it? He’s written, Batman, the Justice League, and Superboy. Yes, he can do it, but he’s likely to take them out of that super environment.
His early work, such as the Eisner and Harvey Award nominated Essex County Trilogy5 and even the graphic novel, Underwater Welder6 set characters in Canadian settings away from urban areas and mega-powered heroes.
With Underwater Welder he did some interesting work with the art. Yes, he likes to do all of the work on a book if time permits. Above water he has sharp, distinct lines, while below he has the looser imagery. And there is a purpose.
But I am here to see where he goes for the hero stuff. Call me selfish, I’ve learned about what he does, listened to a number of interviews, one of them above, to see consistency of his character over the years and of his devotion to the story and not to the sells or the fame. Now I want to talk about bookes he has worked on that I can geek out about. And seeing as today is the one year anniversary of this site, I’m going to enjoy and share what I like.
The big moment.
The graphic novel The Nobody in 2009 brings Lemire to DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. A retelling of the Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Lemire does all the work on the book except for the lettering.7
Now onto something more mainstream as far as what an average comic fan might now, Jonah Hex.8 I know, you are wondering who he is. Think of the Josh Brolin movie that came out. Lamire did the art on the Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti scripted book.9 The huge part here is the Jimmy Palmiotti part, former partner of Joe Quesada who became the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics for over a decade and eventually promoted to Chief Creative Officer.10 In other words he, Lemire had a cool moment there.
His first big accomplishment, I think, can be seen as a very long run on Animal Man from Sept. 2011-Mar. 2014.11 Why do I say this? He took a character that had apparently no real direction for over two decades since it’s revival creator, Scottish born writer Grant Morrison12, left and turned it into not only a relevant to this day and age, but so much so Animal Man became part of Justice League United.
But the one piece of work at DC that I believe shows the companies biggest vote of confidence in Lemire is when they picked him to step in when Ann Nocenti<13 left Green Arrow14.
I’ve skipped a lot of material but I want to leave off with this one. Lemire is now writing probably my second favorite comic book character of all time, Hawkeye. Although I will give him credit for being given a big gig on a Marvel Comics book, I have to say I don’t much like the ideas he has for it.15Sometimes a fan boy wants his favorite characters to at least remain the star of the book. But that’s the fan boy in me. Old school collector guy.
Rant of the Blog Birthday Boy.
But the ideas of Marvel these days doesn’t hold anything sacred. It’s my blog birthday so I’m speaking my piece here. By Marvel killing the sacred cows so to speak, they are doing more harm than good. I see a lot of what they are doing as more knee jerk reactions to placate to hopefully making sales and get publicity over maintaining long time fans, readers. It’s going to bomb at some point. There has always been something comforting in being able to pick up an issue of Spider-Man and have some idea of who the character is. They killed Steve Rogers, Captain America, brought him back, then aged him, forcing him out of the Cap roll. He’s still in the game as a commander of sorts and picked his longtime partner the Falcon as the new Captain America. I’m okay with that last part. It makes sense. But Steve Rogers not being Captain America doesn’t. Quesada has some problems with his thinking. He thinks the costume is the character. He thinks Thor is the hammer, so anyone picking it up is Thor. Marvel is awesome, but sometimes it’s just screwed up.
One of Lemire’s first DC writing jobs was to write Superboy, but not a young Clark Kent. Long story there, convoluted and a pain in the butt to work out. It seems DC Comics can’t decide what version of it’s universe it wants to keep. Every few years or maybe a decade or so they decide it’s time to destroy everything fans knew and start over. Yeah, Superman and Wonder Woman are making out now. Lois Lane?
Whose our other Ontario comic book artist? Who did work on Superboy? Who did draw Superboy?
How about the man who created him and Superman? It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a legend.
A legend? Yes. A happy ending? Wait and see.
Drawing on paper bags and the back of rolls of discarded wallpaper, Joe Shuster did what it took to break into the world of comics. Canadian? Yes. But it wasn’t until his parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio that IT happened.16 The meeting. The chemistry explosion. He met Jerry Siegel.17 You can’t say one name without the other.
If you are not a comic book person, Siegel and Shuster might not spark something in your brain cavity. If you are then you instantly think of the Big S.
These two young men created what is considered the first superhero of sorts. Two young Jewish boys doing what geeky comic book wannabe professionals wanted to do.
The boys did something they would regret. They sold the rights to the character when they began to work for the future DC comics. At the end of their contract with DC, Shuster did a little more in comics, then disappeared from the business disgruntled with what should have been a beautiful career.
He ended up as a delivery man living with his mother. Although it is believed he did continue drawing comics under other names at times during the 1950s in less than respectable genres. But it was a buck, a living.
For the man who created not only the Superman characters we know, but also detective Slam Bradley, and Doctor Occult, it is a sad ending. An ending that found him blind an in a home when he passed away.
Apparently Siegel and Shuster were the first to have a vampire in a comic book.18 A lot of firsts for a duo that was messed over for so many decades.
I knew of the legal battles between Siegel and Shuster versus DC Comics over Superman, which gave them their byline back and a yearly pension and healthcare in the 1970s, but I didn’t know about Shuster’s leaving the business.
Will Lemire, with better relations and with creator rights more firmly in place end up doing more work in comics than Shuster? Yes. Will he create Superman? No. But I don’t think anyone ever goes out with the idea of creating the next Superman. Thinking about it, why don’t they?
In Graphic Literature the political strip always seem to be a lead-in to other things in a countries history in Graphic Literature. And that’s where today’s country somewhat began with the art form. I’ll share a bit of that, plus some heroes as well. The art will of course pop up, well appear on the page. Let’s begin near the beginning. We’re headed to Mexico.
So we’ll start near the beginning.
First up is Gabriel Vargas and La Familia Burron (The Big, Dumb Family). Why am I starting with this one? I think a book running from 1948-2009 should be mentioned. The book was about a lower to middle class couple in Mexico, their teenaged kids and an adopted child.1 One site mentions a comparison to The Simpsons.2 Such a success from a man who had 11 siblings and was a draftsman for a newspaper around the age of 13.
Yolanda Vargas Dulché, an author who along with Alberto Cabreras, created her own legend and legacy with Memín Pinguín in 1943.3Memín Pinguín was noted for its use of clean language4with family values and handling of societal issues. Part of the societal issues handled and that were able to be addressed is that Memín and is his mother were Afro-Mexican characters. The characters in the book were based on children Yolanda had seen when she was young and had traveled.5 To be truthful, the manner in which the main character is drawn confuses me. A description has him with curly hair. But all images are of him with no hair, that I can see, and I at first thought the boy in the picture might have been Memín, but no, the boy in the read shirt is.
Another of Yolanda’s creations, along with her husband Guillermo de la Parra, Lágrimas, Risas y Amor (Tears, Laughter and Love), 1962 was said to have helped to raise the literacy rate in Mexico. Think melodramas aimed at women.6 The above examples are rarities. The majority of the material that was put out during the 1970s and into the 1980s was little more than illustrated porn.
Popular Books Today.
Two books mentioned as being the most widely circulated amongst Mexico’s historietas as they are called, are El Libro Vaquero (The Cowboy Book) aimed at men, dating back to 1952. and El Libro Semanal (The Weekly Book) aimed at women and set in the 19th century on the American frontier.7I’ll admit I like the idea of westerns as being a popular form of Graphic Literature as opposed to the normal superhero I am accustomed to.
The Dark Ages
It has been repeatedly mentioned in the main source I’ve used about how the industry did not go through the slump the United States did during the 1990s. I’ll take a moment for a personal comment here. If American comics had resorted to selling porn on cheap paper and and everywhere it could, most likely they could have floated through a a little better. Although American comics are not what they once were as far as being as family friendly, they aren’t porn. They are more like hard boiled detective novels.
A Family Affair.
Now let’s talk about a family with a superhero flare. Yes, I am tired of dealing with the somewhat overtly serious and direct.
I love when generations get involved in creating Graphic Literature. There are several in the United States among Marvel Comics. But we’re in Mexico.
Oscar González Guerrero is not what would be called a young man these days, born in 1926 he is now 89 years young. Perhaps the medium he works in is part of what keeps him that way. He started back in the 1950s but is still active today as part of a company with his son. Some books from his early days were Zor y los Invencibles. And then one classic, I just can’t help but laugh to look at. Hermelinda Linda.8
But let’s check out some of his son, Oscar González Loyo‘s work who formed ¡Ka-Boom! Estudio9 with his father. Two of his noted books are Karmatron and the Transformers and Las Aventuras de Parchís. He’s also worked on titles such as the New Speed Racer, The Simpsons, and even story boarded the the Latin American version of Sesame Street. Story boarding is where someone draws the images of how the show or movie is to go. That way people can see it visually before performing.He’s also a Will Eisner award winner.10
Well, that’s it for today. I have more but sometimes enough is enough for one day. You don’t want to know about the guy born in Mexico that ended up drawing Spider-Man and the X-Men anyway. Maybe another time. So what if the two guys above are the ones who made it happen for him.