Early Efforts

*Edifying Reads Dept: I've been having a good time with the new Frederik L. Schodt book, The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, which is out in bookstores right now, cleverly published only slightly wider than a typical manga digest, so booksellers can easily hide it away to be forgotten. I'll probably have a full review up tomorrow.

I've already learned a lot of new things about Tezuka. For example, did you know that Tezuka had created something like 2000 pages of comics prior to his 1946 professional debut, drafted throughout his wartime adolescence? I sure didn't. Among them is an unpublished longform work titled (via Schodt's translation) Until the Day of Victory, an experiment in influences both artistic and political.

Political in that Tezuka was exposed to much nationalistic fury as he came of age. Artistic in that he really loved American cartoons and comic strip characters. So naurally, the work bears these twin forces out by chronicling a war fought between Japanese and American cartoon icons, splashed with the violence the young artist no doubt saw very often while working in Osaka, threatened with whippings as he drew manga while on the factory shitter, and narrowly escaping death in bombing raids. He was roughly 16 years old.

All that conflict turns up on the page. A handy sample image depicts what looks to be the vintage Looney Tunes pickaninny stereotype 'Bosco' happily marching around his bomber, arms full of incendiary payload. "Jap houses are made of wood and paper, so this oughtta be enough to turn all of Tokyo into ashes!" declares the lovable talk-ink kid, as related in the vernacular by Schodt. I never liked Bosco in those Nickelodeon reruns, but yeah... Tezuka pegs him with firebombing Tokyo, its loose, blobby population standing in stark contrast to ultra-realistic architecture.

Even bigger names wait to join the fight - we're told that elsewhere in the story, no less than Mickey Mouse himself strafes Osaka, having no doubt picked up a trick or two from the Air Pirates. Meanwhile, popular Japanese character Fuku-chan takes the battle to America's very heart, by striking a terrible blow against a most beloved landmark: the home of Maggie & Jiggs. Which explodes. So much for the Irish Sweepstakes.

Schodt leaves us hanging at that point, and a thousand questions remain. Does Popeye launch his muskles overseas, or stay to defend the home front? Where does Happy Hooligan stand? Does the Captain plan retaliation, and do the Kids know? Which side did Augustus Mutt bet on? Who would win in a fight: Superman, or Norakuro the fighting pup? Is the ending anything like Suehiro Maruo's Planet of the Jap, only with Daddy Warbucks getting beheaded instead of General Douglas MacArthur? The list goes on and on.

All I know is that somebody needs to petition to crack open the Tezuka vault and bring this bad boy home. We don't need Dororo. We need this. For history. For comics.