CBABIH 4 - Show Notes

Being a series of comments on Episode 4 of the now-established, faintly boring Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a *yawn* podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: It was really big of Philip Roth to do this introduction, despite his sore throat. He was played in this instance by Tucker. Wait, was I supposed to say that? Is that what people want to read in the show notes? The walrus was Paul, gang.

00:48: Somewhat unexpectedly, we (read: Tucker) managed to improvise a bookend joke around Tucker cutting me off when I'm trying to say my name. I wish I could say we were furiously pursuing this new frontier in comedy via texts while laying down the hottest (comic book review-style) licks around, but it sort of just happened. Now that I think of it, the true function of these notes is clearly to draw attention to stuff like that, as my houseplants can only take so much internet audio-related boasting.

01:12: This line of Pennsylvania reverie is strictly aimed at Chris; episodes 3 and 4 were recorded on Friday, July 20, a slightly irregular date for us, because (among other things) Chris had wanted to see Dawes that Sunday. Note that I totally fuck up my podcast kayfabe by referring to the concert as "this" weekend, as opposed to a temporal designation applicable to the episode's date of release. Apologies to any brokenhearted Dawes fans in the Lancaster area that only get their concert updates from comic book podcasts.

01:43: Phoenix, by Osamu Tezuka. Tucker wrote a little about vol. 5, Resurrection, here. Viz's 12-volume edition of the material contains a small readers' guide in the back of most copies filling you in on the circumstances of the series' creation. The earliest iteration of the project dates to 1954, although it didn't 'officially' (retroactively) debut until 1967, making Tezuka an early master of yet another vital comics skill set: the relaunch. The most recent storyline was completed in 1988, the year before Tezuka died.

04:54: Garo launched in 1964, COM in '67. Of course, by that time Garo had shucked off its initial incarnation as a vehicle for leftist education for Japan's comics-hungry youth and become more of a forum for less-commercial (or simply amateur) manga, although the recurring socio-political point(s)-of-view among the contributor base have been a matter of study.

05:24: To wit:

"For all his humanism and gentleness, Tezuka was an extraordinarily competitive person. Although he rarely faced serious intellectual competition in the manga world, fads in art styles changed regularly, and he constantly had to struggle to remain current. When gekiga... became popular among increasingly older readers, and when Tezuka's traditionally rounded, Disney-esque style fell out of favor, he began drawing more realistically. When young artists, such as the French-influenced Katsuhiro Ōtomo... became the darling of manga critics in the eighties, Tezuka had a hard time hiding his jealousy, for he had a burning desire to be at the top of the popularity list in all genres for all age groups at all times. It was certainly this competitive spirit, in addition to his talents, that allowed him to so dominate the manga industry for so long."

- Frederik L. Schodt, from Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (3rd ed. 2002)

06:40: The full title of the earlier Schodt book is Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, first published in 1983 and almost immediately deemed a foundational text for Japanese comics fandom in the English-speaking world. Copies are still fairly easy to come by, though the text is now as interesting for how utterly divorced it is from the aesthetic tastes of contemporary fandom as its still-relevant historical information.

07:01: Phoenix was also perhaps intended as a summary of Tezuka's life on the page; in his 2007 collection The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, Schodt notes that "[o]ne of the most intriguing rumors circulating in the Japanese manga industry is that Tezuka planned to merge the Mighty Atom [Astro Boy] characters into a final volume of his beloved life work, the Phoenix." This concludes my survey of the Frederik L. Schodt writing-on-manga trilogy, all portions of which are commended to your attention. The notion of the last Phoenix as a potential "autobiographical" comic is my own conjecture.

09:27: Not that I recommend watching entire feature films on YouTube, but the first reel or so of Phoenix 2772 (1980, dir. Taku Sugiyama) is worth seeing for its total absence of dialogue, in a rather Fantasia-like symphonic manner. Certainly the Disney influence had not dissipated from co-writer Tezuka's mind; the Firebird Suite sequence from Fantasia 2000 might also be read as a nod back, although famed Tezuka skeptic Hayao Miyazaki makes for a handier reference point.

10:04: The creator and director-for-life of the Armored Trooper Votoms television and OVA franchise is Ryosuke Takahashi, who adapted another vintage manga -- a war story by Leiji Matsumoto -- in vol. 3 of the 1993 OVA series The Cockpit. Link not in English!

13:33: Schodt also liked Resurrection quite a lot; a capsule review can be found in the aforementioned Dreamland Japan, if you're curious. You should read it anyway!!

14:18: Future, the second volume of Phoenix, is probably the easiest to track down, as Viz released a slightly different edition of it before the rest of the series, presumably gambling on the sci-fi content acting as a special draw. This earlier edition was much larger -- about the size of one of Dark Horse's Akira releases -- while later printings adopted the digest size of the remaining volumes. Second hand copies of Karma, the best of 'em all to my mind, is presently going for roughly $50.00 on Amazon, although some other volumes can still be had for under cover price.

17:00: You can enjoy some limited interaction between Tezuka and his studio assistants on the bonus dvd to Helen McCarthy's all-around excellent The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga; it's a mid-'80s NHK television documentary on Tezuka's day-to-day life that manages the fine trick of making the artist seem like the most endearing, loveable dude ever, while also not demanding too much reading-between-the-lines to convey how he could be an absolute terror to work with.

17:47: Thickness #3, eds Ryan Sands & Michael DeForge. The old Same Hat! blog (est. 2005, w' Evan Hayden) is still accessible. I remember when it was all Koji Aihara scans, sob cry! Matt & I discussed the first two issues with Tim Hodler on a 2011 episode of Robin McConnell's Inkstuds. Folk mentioned: Lamar Abrams; Edie Fake; Andy Burkholder; Sean T. Collins & William Cardini (it's Hyperbox); Gengoroh Tagame; Jimmy Beaulieu; Julia Gfrörer

23:11: This would be my primary criticism of the Thickness project as a whole (not a big criticism, I do love these things) - there's a lot of fantasy elements, a lot of comedy, mark-making, horror, genre riffs, etc., but not an enormous amount of tactility, or even verisimilitude to the sex, which is too bad. When I look at smutmaster supreme Guido Crepax's work, there's a lot of usage of the comics form to slow down tantalizing moments, to draw attention to crucial, erogenous contact to as to express the scattered thinking and feeling of sex, the little plumes of excitement and the honing in on specific touches, textures - granted, some of the Thickness contributors don't work in an anatomically solidified enough of a style to perhaps communicate this (and the expression of their marks is typically put to alternate use, like conveying absurdity or anxiety). It's not a matter of subject matter, at least, since Brandon Graham's Dirty Pair comic in issue #2 came closest to what I describe; query whether Graham's background in commercial comics porn didn't come into play. To be fair, though, there's some of this in Beaulieu's piece in #3...

24:03: The technical term for Tagame's type of manga is bara, which is sometimes used as a catch-all for adult manga aimed at gay men, although the understanding in North American readerships typically carries some suggestion of ruggedly masculine, muscular characters.

31:14: The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, eds Bill Blackbeard & Martin Williams. First published in 1977, in such quantities that you can still get "good"-graded used copies for under two bucks on Amazon (before shipping). It's 14.4" x 10.5", in sturdy hardcover. Charles Forbell was the creator of Naughty Pete, which ran in 1913; he was later a major contributor to the design of Pennsylvania favorite son Mr. Peanut. I forgot to mention that Chris Ware actually writes an essay about Naughty Pete in Sunday Press Books' completely awesome Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915, which reprints the full run at 16" x 21".

37:14: Listener Jeet Heer notes that The Smythes creator Rea Irvin -- an OG at The New Yorker who developed the look of Eustace Tilley -- was, in fact, male.

38:41: Fantagraphics recently published a 14" x 18" best-of collection for Mr. Twee Deedle under the title Mr. Twee Deedle: Raggedy Ann's Sprightly Cousin - The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpiece of Johnny Gruelle; I suspect it'll wind up a real contender for 2012's 'thru the cracks' award for most sadly obscure release, although I haven't obtained it myself.

40:52: This was not planned. Tucker genuinely latched onto my wishy-washy Mort Walker joke-apology and on the fly transformed it into the episode's earth-shattering finale, which additionally calls back to his cutting me off waaay back at the beginning of the show. That is how you do it. We even tried to have a 'proper' ending afterward, and immediately decided that we'd happened upon our very own Gengoroh Tagame hook-down-the-urethra denouement, and that there was nothing left to do but just... end.