BOY TPB 1
seem to know who Astro Boy is, or at least recognise him, why this
is I'm not sure, but he's certainly become an iconic sci-fi symbol.
I certainly can't remember the first time I saw him; I know I've
never seen any of his comics or cartoons, but somehow I know who
he is. Of course, if you're a regular visitor to sci-fi/comic shops
you'll find out eventually.
Astro Boy or Tetsuwan
Atomu ('Mighty Atom') in Japan was created in 1951 by - the now
legendary - Osamu Tezuka, who many now describe as the Japanese
Walt Disney. Tezuka was educated as a scientist, but found his calling
in Manga, which he decided he was happier doing.
As an admirer of Walt Disney, Tezuka set up his own animation studios
and in 1963 produced the first series of black & white Mighty
Atom cartoons. NBC in the US later localized 104 episodes of Mighty
Atom, rewriting some of the scripts, overdubbing the voices with
American actors and changing the name to 'Astro Boy'.
Later, in 1965, an
Astro Boy comic was produced, but it was not drawn by Tezuka, and
it was based on the cartoon show. Later, in the 1980s, another Astro
Boy comic was produced, but again, not drawn by Tezuka.
Now, however, thanks
to Dark Horse Comics, westerners can see where the original Astro
Boy came from with this first of (I'm sure) many TPBs collecting
all of Tezuka's original Astro Boy manga.
It should be noted
first off that these aren't reprinted in their original order. For
example, the first story published in this book is 'The Birth Of
Astro Boy' which just tells the reader how Astro Boy came to being.
However, this story was first published in 1975, but obviously,
now Dark Horse have all of the comics, they can piece the somewhat
disjoined order of comics into a series which makes a little more
FAST IN THE SKY WITH JET
There are three stories in this first book, the first (as I mentioned)
is 'The Birth Of Astro Boy', 'The Hot Dog Corps' and 'Plant People'.
Each of the stories (with the exception of 'The Birth Of Astro Boy'
opens up with an introduction by a cartoon Tezuka, giving not only
his thoughts about the forthcoming story, but also posing somewhat
ethical questions that the story deals with.
This is a strange addition
in a way, because even though Astro Boy appears alongside him ('The
Hot Dog Corps') it can be a little more difficult getting drawn
into Astro Boy's world knowing that it is just a story being told
Besides that the stories
are compelling, but vary drastically in length. For example the
whooping 174 page 'The Hot Dog Corps' is thickly sandwiched between
the thin slices of the 24 page 'The Birth Of Astro Boy' and the
16 page 'Plant People'. This is the case with most manga though
and isn't really a problem with a compelling story.
The art is very cute
and cartoon-like, not really resembling what most Westerners would
refer to as 'manga', but with large noses, over-exaggeration and
distorted expressions at times resembling some of the early Japanese
cartoons we got dubbed and played over here like 'Wowser'. But considering
this was done in the 50's it's remarkable, and could easily stand
up against modern day comics, or be mistaken for modern manga.
A ROCKET IN THE SPACE
The only place where the comic does show it's age is when Tezuka
is talking about discrimination. These were written just after Japan
was recovering from the war and so I'm certain Tezuka, as well as
many other Japanese had certain discriminations of their own. Tezuka
goes on to mention that people in England accuse the Japanese of
eating dogs, for instance. Which of course is ludicrous, but 'The
Hot Dog Corps' mentions dogs being skinned for their fur like it's
a normal thing. But there is a sort of disclaimer at the start of
the book explaining about such content, which sort of sheds some
light on things.
You also get the feeling
reading the book that Tezuka really wanted to get a message across
about peace, empathy and good morals. Astro Boy, despite being a
robot, can be nice to people, know wrong from right and help those
in need. Maybe the message he was getting across was even though
he's a robot-boy he can still be more human than human; one of those
things that are easier said that done I suppose and a subject that
has been tackled in modern sci-fi since.
But even though Astro
Boy is a robot and has jet-boots and can fly and has guns in his
ass, Tezuka still makes him a very vulnerable character. It's quite
odd reading about a kind of robot super-hero and seeing him almost
killed. We sort of expect him to just fly down and kick some ass,
but it's not that kind of book. Of course he has an advantage over
others, but this doesn't make him invincible.
This first Astro Boy
is a great insight into the origins of this icon of sci-fi and comic
books, and is also very enjoyable to read and, at time, very funny.
There are some bizarre moments, like Tezuka's own strange little
character who pops into a scene to say "Here ta meet ya!"
for no reason what-so-ever. Again this is explained in the introduction.
But how many times has that sort of thing appeared in Manga and
Anime since? I know I've seen it quite a lot and just consider it
quirky and irreverent.
To sum up: Buy this
book. It's cute, it's funny and it fits in your pocket.
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