9 Must-read/play/watch/listen Examples of Tezuka Magic

Osamu Tezuka has an almost inexhaustable library of genius work to his name but I want to share with you some of my own personal favourites, either created or inspired by the godfather of Japanese comics and animation.

I can’t honestly say I’ve even managed to scratch the surface of what he has to offer but I hope this list (in no particular order) gives you some idea of what’s available and if you’ve never seen his work before, I would strongly encourage you to pick up any one of these if you’re even remotely interested. If you do, you’re almost guaranteed to become as big a fan as I am.

Black Jack

This long running manga series stars Black Jack aka Kuroo Kazama, described on wikipedia as a “medical mercenary”, an exceptional surgeon of superhuman skill who sells his services to whoever can afford them. The stories are usually dark in tone and feature Black Jack as a kind of dark avenger, operating (pun intended) outside the law, often saving the downtrodden whilst punishing those he considers immoral or corrupt. Tezuka was trained in medicine and uses his expertise in the depiction of the medical scenes, lending a sense of reality to the largely fantastical scenarios. Vertical Press has published English versions of the first few volumes with really nice minimalist cover designs worth looking out for.

MW

Available as a single volume with a Chip Kidd designed cover, this thriller deals with the relationship between a respectable banker who lives a double life as an insane murderer/kidnapper and the priest to whom he confesses his crimes. The two men are lovers linked by a mysterious past which may eventually lead to the destruction of all life on earth.

Metropolis


The film adaptation of Tezuka’s 1949 sci-fi manga, said to have been originally inspired by seeing the poster for Fritz Lang’s classic film of the same name. Directed by long time Tezuka collaborator Rintaro, I believe this to among the best anime films ever made. Visually stunning with great use of combined CG and traditional animation, it tells a tale of class warfare and discrimination between coexisting humans and robots in the future. Bursting with well-realised characters and relationships, the above trailer doesn’t quite do it justice.

Astro Boy: Omega Factor


I absolutely loved this Game Boy Advance title when I got my hands on it. From legendary developer Treasure (Ikaruga, Gunstar Heroes, Freak Out) comes a supremely polished shooting game starring Tezuka’s most famous creation. Featuring loads of Tezuka’s other characters too, this game is great fun and ultra challenging (in a good way) on any difficulty setting above easiest. The Gamespot guys do a good job of summing it up in the video.

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka

This recent manga series created with the cooperation of Tezuka’s estate, is a reinterpretation of a classic Astro Boy arc – The Greatest Robot on Earth. Retold by Naoki Urasawa (Monster, 20th Century Boys) as a murder mystery tale for mature readers, it adds new dimensions to previously familiar characters and unites one of my favourite manga creators of modern times with his spiritual ancestor.

Phoenix

Unfinished at the time of his death, Phoenix was considered by Tezuka to be his life’s work. The series of comics move from prehistoric times into the distant future and stretching out into deep space, all held together by themes of death, eternal life and reincarnation. The volumes Resurrection and Nostalgia have probably stayed with me the most but they are all worth seeking out.

Jumping


A 1984 animated short by Tezuka and his animation studio. Fun, innovative and full of cool little touches.

Ode to Kirihito

A young doctor contracts the disfiguring and deadly disease he is investigating and ends up resembling a dog-like creature. Following his transformation he embarks on a journey of vengeance and redemption, trying to maintain his dignity as a human being despite his affliction.

Ravex in Tezuka World

I’m including this because it involves one of my favourite musicians, Shinichi Osawa. Alongside fellow producers Taku Takahashi and Tomoyuki Tanaki they form the electronic music group Ravex. Their album Trax, made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the label Avex, is an excellent dance-pop record featuring loads of J-pop stars, and includes artwork and animation by Tezuka Productions. I had the pleasure of seeing the group DJ live in Fukuoka and it was indeed a treat.

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Doffers’ Theatre of the Unconscious #5

The fifth in a series of comics detailing the slumber-time adventures of a madwoman. This week’s comic is a bit of a cheat in that it only has one panel. But I reckon it’s a pretty good panel, and it tells you the whole story. Nothing much interesting or comprehensible happens in the rest of the dream but at least I got the chance to draw one very cool image.

That’s Doff rescuing my dog, Suzie, who can be seen in the post banner above too. In-progress pics and notes on some new inking and colouring techniques after the jump.

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Doffers’ Theatre of the Unconscious #4

The fourth in the series of Doff’s dreams translated into graphical goo.

This one is a bit rougher than the last because I didn’t have too much time to spend on it but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Below is a sketch of the beast provided by the dreamer herself, for use as reference for this episode. Note the “pumpkin” mouth.

 Thanks for looking, see you next time.

Doffers’ Theatre of the Unconscious #3

Apologies for the delay but finally here’s the latest episode in Doff’s dream saga. Click the comic for a larger view.

Despite spending several hours wrestling with channel settings to get the colours to come out how they looked in Photoshop, this was a fun one to make. Plenty of swiping from Mike MIgnola’s drawing style and Dave Stewart’s colouring as I tried to mimic their tone for this little story. I’ve also been reading the DC Comics Guide to Colouring and Lettering Comics by Mark Chiarello and Todd Klein which I can’t recommend enough.

Layout thumbnails, notes, and inked page after the jump.

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Doffers’ Theatre of the Unconscious #2

It’s time for my second installment of Doffers aka The D-Man’s dreams in comic form, now IN COLOUR with even more ANTARCTIC DWELLING CREATURES! Although I have a terrible eye for colour, looking at the super-vibrant work of the incredible Dan Hipp inspired me to at least add a little bit of colour to this one. This comic takes place at night, which also allowed me to keep it simple and muted. Click the image for a larger view.

I was told specifically that it was the Danny DeVito version of The Penguin from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns so that’s who I tried to depict, but turning it down a few notches on the creepy factor. 

Thumbnails, pencil sketch, completed inks, and notes after the jump. Thanks for looking and see you next week. Continue reading

The Sentinel of Liberty and I.

After watching Captain America: The First Avenger at the cinema last night – a film I found to be great fun – I thought it would be interesting to look back at my own personal experience with the character, starting as a young British comics fan. I’ll also explain why my fondness for the character has grown, and share five of my favourite moments featuring the Star-Spangled Avenger. Continue reading

Doffers’ Theatre of the Unconscious #1

Here’s the first of a new series of comics based on the incredibly bizarre dreams of Doffers. This is my illustrated interpretation based on her own descriptions. This particular dream made me realise the high entertainment value in her slumbertime adventures, and may also give the reader some unknown insights into the workings of her twisted mind. I’ve been collecting notes on the best ones, gathering plenty of material for future installments. Hopefully I’ll post a new comic every week.

Notes on process after the jump. Continue reading