I just got to take a look at Osamu Tezuka’s “M W” which was awesome and so amazing because it is still shocking how ballsey it is even today (originally published in 1975 and just released in the states in 2007). To preface, I am not making any judgment calls on the material in MW, but it was shocking to see some of the things that were in it, especially for someone as famous as to garner the nick name “the godfather of Manga/Anime.” He called it his “anti-Tezuka manga” with a story involving Catholic priest who is sworn to celibacy with women, so he gets his jollies in the loophole of sleeping with a guy who crossdresses as a woman for him. There are scenes of implied sex with children and even scenes that suggest things with animals (like a whole page of the crossdresser wrestling in the tub with his dog – framed to always show both the dog and human’s full bodies even though the lower half of their bodies serve no importance). Things that are less explicit but you can tell are meant to make you connect the dots. Making such notably odd comics as Charles Burns’ “Black Hole” look like Sesame Street by comparison.
There were some questions I had about the inconsistencies in his choices about how overt to be with his rendering of the story. Some scenes seem so graphically violent (explosions which throw severed body parts at the viewer and a murderer sticking an unconscious victims head in a furnace) and yet other scenes, especially sexual ones will skirt around the overt images, and I’m not sure if this is the case in the original manga or just how it was edited for American audiences: Things like an image framed to show full naked bodies will fade to white towards their waists leaving only a line or two to describe any detail, and yet leaving this blank space to occupy at least ½ the panel. Similar scenes cut to pure abstract shapes moving with the character’s dialog over the. Certain sexual scenes will become increasingly dimly lit the longer the scene lasts until they are purely silhouettes. I also noticed oddities like entirely black word balloons – which I’m not sure what it is supposed to mean.
It’s such an odd mix artistically because Tezuka’s characters’ are so cartoony and exaggerated and yet the props like guns and backgrounds will be photorealistic unlike Kirby’s backgrounds which follow the basic style of his figures. This may be due to Manga’s approach of using assistants specific to items and not processes, like a motorcycle artist, or gun artists, instead of the American process of a penciler and a an inker or finisher. And while Jack “the King” Kirby is reported to have drawn 20,000 pages over his career in comics, Tezuka is reported to have drawn over 150,000 – almost just less than 8 times as many pages – though I believe Manga’s storytelling at the time was much more decompressed than American comics – something we’ve started to match pace with over the last 10 years. Both men helped write the stories they worked on, and created much of their country’s comic visual vernacular, as well as did many things outside of comics, not the least of which for Tezuaka was pioneering the start of Japanese animation. It’s startling to see how these two seemed so similar and influential, like peers to compare and yet so vastly different I in their output, both probably effected by the culture and processes they worked in.