That’s all the postings for today. I will leave you with the banner from the live action Barefoot Gen film.
Awhile ago, while I was still in school at Emerson College, I wrote a paper for a class called On Death and Dying, that explored different aspects of how we as people portray and ultimately deal with the inevitable ending of our lives. My case for this paper was to argue that the Comics medium, in the past few decades, has the ability to hold the same sense of emotional significance and conveyance when portraying traumatic events or wrongdoings that other media, like print and television, have. While I made my point, providing seemingly endless examples like Denny O’Neil’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow and specifically, a comparison of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, a true exploration of the content was never fully realized. I was merely stating facts about how books conveyed emotion and trauma but not how they helped us to learn from the events.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I hope to accomplish with this posting: a comparative look at how Maus and Barefoot Gen, two outstanding works about horribly traumatic events, show us the basic human levels of survival and how trauma ultimately affects the rest of the world around us.
To start, I want to get my artistic points out there, before I get to the meat and potatoes of the discussion. I think Barefoot Gen‘s artwork really detracts the stories more serious elements for me. I have never seen this specific point brought up before, instead the opposite (that the artwork is frighteningly horrific) has, but I find the artwork a little too cartoony; almost in a Disney-esque sense. It really takes me out of the context of the story and we all know for a fact that this wasn’t Nakazawa’s intention. His images have struck chords with other artists, including Spiegelman who states “I will never forget the people dragging their own melted skin as they walk through the ruins of Hiroshima, the panic-stricken horse on fire galloping through the city, the maggots crawling out of the sores of a young girl’s ruined face.” Maus on the other hand, takes the cake in this aspect, creating a clever method of representing race and prejudice through the guise of animals, intentionally taking a less harsh route artistically. The Jewish people are mice, with their German hunters portrayed as cats; feeble mice powerless in the face of their predator. It creates this fantastic, easily accessible imagery that allows the reader to understand the realty of the situation by an extremely commong association. Maybe its because I’ve never been in any traumatic accident myself (godbless) but for me, a cat chasing a mouse is more representative an image than a city in flames.
When you boil both stories down, looking past all the agonizing moments of each book, both works place a large emphasis on the importance of familial connections. Throughout Barefoot Gen, the main character, Gen, is almost always surrounded by a larger group of people and no matter who they are, whether blood relatives or other bomb orphans, he regards them as family. There is that real sense of community in that respect; that sticking together and utilizing their unique strengths to survive is the best option. It is also allegorical to how Japan, a nation who had its spirit broken by the effects of the bomb, has to now piece together what they have left and rebuild, creating a wonderfully universal lesson that can be taken away from the work.
The idea of family exists in Maus in a very different way. Maus is a story that focuses much more on the individual experience of dealing with Trauma, both in actual victims and how it extends to their next generations. In fact, by sharing with the younger generation, survivors teach them to appreciate what they have and what their ancestors went through to pave the road for their future, however, this constant reminder cane create a severe implication upon 2G’s or second-generation survivors. Many 2G’s try to separate themselves from their parents and the holocaust experience. It is a scar on their mind, letting them know that “there is nothing we can ever do that will be as important as our parents suffering.” For 2G’s to forget what they were told about the experience is awful; almost a sin. Forgetting brings shame and anxiety to second-generation survivors. Thus they strive to remember, to understand and build upon the teachings of their ancestors. To remember these experiences is to discover a part of themselves; to understand their heritage. Just like their parents, second generation survivors forge the road for the future by remembering the past.
Throughout the book, Art Spiegelman conveys his struggle to deal with the past, especially as a child. Growing up with the memory of the Holocaust in his house, something he could never understand or share with his parents unlike his brother Richeu. Art sees this “ghost brother”, his actual biological brother who died in the holocaust, as “the ideal kid” who “never threw tantrums or got in any kind of trouble. He would’ve become a doctor and married a wealthy Jewish girl…the creep.” This whole book is a result of Art’s attempt to reconcile these feelings of guilt he gets from his survivor parents, by understanding his father’s struggle, which I think within itself is an interesting contrast of Barefoot Gen. While Maus deals with the Holocaust, it is never really about the effect it had globally or on a historical level; if you look closely, there isn’t even a Hitler figure in the book. It focuses solely on individual experiences; Vladek’s survival in the camps, Art’s understanding of his father’s struggles and still dealing with unexpected suicide of his mother. The book takes a more indirect approach at how trauma affects people by exploring those intricate subtleties in how everyday is changed, over an extended period of time. Barefoot Gen is about a once proud nation struck down in their prime. Through Gen’s eyes, the reader experiences the immediate effects of tragedy; we are living in the present with him. We, as viewers, see Japanese families torn apart, talented artists and writers afflicted by disease, the rising of gangs and black market goods, famine, poverty, drug abuse and countless, endless deaths. It is the most direct way of discuss the effects of the bomb, by showing us how it effected the nation as a whole.
Here are your postings from Day Three:
ABCBTom provides an introduction to what he hopes to accomplish this MMF, a comparison of the film version of Barefoot Gen & Grave of the Fireflies and “the misuse and willful misinterpretation of victims’ literature”.
Here are the links from Day Two.
Before Gen started his plucky journey across Japan, Keiji Nakazawa produced an autobiographical work called Ore wa Mita or I Saw It, focusing more specifically on his experiences as a bomb survivor, how it effected his family (particularly in his mother’s death) and how these events lead him to want to produce a longer work about the struggles Japan underwent.
The 48 page one-shot first appeared in 1972 in the magazine Monthly Shōnen Jump, and was published in America by a company called Educomics under the title I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Survivor’s True Story in 1982. While it is not readily available today in stores, I was able to find a copy easily and for little money on Ebay.
This work was the spark that lite the fire for Nakazawa’s masterpiece. Barefoot Gen, as we know it today, started publishing in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1973, shortly after the original release of “I Saw It”. The series, for whatever reason (wrong demographic? inappropriate subject material for Jump?), was cancelled after a year & a half, moving between three different magazines (Shimin (Citizen), Bunka Hyōron (Cultural Criticism), and Kyōiku Hyōron (Educational Criticism)). The published works began to be collected in 1975.
While BFG may have not been as wildly successful at the time in Japan, the story in America was a bit different. Starting in 1976, as a way to raise awareness about the bombings of Hiroshima and other worldwide disasters, Japanese peace activists began a Transcontinental Walk for Peace and Social Justice. Two activists, Masahiro Oshima and Yukio Aki had a Japanese copy of Barefoot Gen and shared it with those people who were concerned about how the innocent Japanese people were effected, who then urged them to find a way to have this material translated into English. When the two returned to their homes in New York, they created Project Gen, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that was able to translate the first four volumes into English in the late 1970s. Project Gen has had a number of ups & downs over the years, as well as various incarnations but the project was finally realized in 2000 when a group of nine Japanese volunteers spent three years completing a translation of all ten volumes!
Keiji Nakazawa knew about and was involved in this project and in 2002, introduced the group to Alan Gleason, a member of the first Project Gen who had a relationship with the San Francisco publisher Last Gasp, who took the unabridged translation and republished the material, in its entirety for an American audience.
These covers is arguably the most accessible and well-known version of the series but I wanted to include a few snapshots of how Barefoot Gen was published otherwise. Enjoy:
I am happy to announce that starting February 13th til the 19th, A Life in Panels will be hosting the 11th Manga Moveable Feast – Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen.
For those of you not familiar with the series, it chronicles the events of the Hiroshima bombings through the eyes of a six-year-old boy, Gen Nakazawa, as he and the surviving members of his family deal with the aftermath of the bombing. Published by Last Gasp, there are ten volumes in total, as well as two films and a live action adaptation. This is a series that, as you will soon find out, is near and dear to my heart and I am ecstatic to see what kind of articles & opinions this MMF will produce.
If anyone reading this blog isn’t familiar with what the Manga Moveable Feast is, can take a look at Matt (Rocket Bomber) Blind’s handy introduction to the project. If you’d like to participate but don’t have a blog or don’t think the subject is right for the blog you already have, I’d be happy to host your guest pieces during the Feast. Just email me the post at skusek at yahoo dot com.
Here are links to the Feasts that have taken place thus far:
Nami is greedy.
This is an inarguable part of the One Piece series. No matter how smart, pretty or wonderful of a person she is, her quirky character trait is her inherent greed and love of money. This stems from her childhood, when she lived a poor life with her adopted mother and sister, often unhappy with the lack of funds they had for food & clothing. This is also true, not only in material greed, but in the need for survival. Nami is bossy and especially when it comes to fighting, will shout out commands to every member of the crew, even Luffy. This is because her main concern is her own survival; she can be a bit of a coward when it comes to taking on the big names of the Grand Line. Where does all this cowardice, self concern and greed get her though? Right smack dab in the Orange Lantern Corp!
Currently, the OLC consists of one member and one member alone, a creature by the name of Larfleeze (although Lex Luthor was deputized at one point.) The Orange Lantern, who sometimes goes by the name of Agent Orange, was sequestered to the outer most reaches of the Galaxy and was only re-introduced to the universe at large. He is unreasonable powerful, able to draw in the essence of the deceased and recreate them in the image of an Orange light construct. As the only member of the Corp, Larfleeze is also immensely powerful, holding up to 100X the power capacity as a normal Lantern. The one fault, the one drawback to this immense power is the insatiable hunger and wanting that comes with the wielding of the Orange Lantern. No matter what they consume, the OL’s are always hunting for something to fill them.
As for their costumes, they seem to fall into the same category as White and Black, meaning that there is no set uniform for this corp yet. When Lex Luthor became one of the corp, his trademark armor was bathed in an orange light. As such, Nami is no exception…
Keeping in the tradition of the last few posts, I didn’t change Nami’s normal attire but instead, worked around it. Lets start off with talking about the colors at play here: orange is obviously the main focus. It is vibrant and works more a base color than black or white had in the other designs we’ve seen. Orange brings an energy to the outfit, without being offensively loud or aggressive on the viewers eyes and I wanted to place that energy where it made sense, in terms of conveying greed (Orange is such a warm, inviting color that I’ve always thought it was a bit of an off choice for greed. Although I just learned that in Christianity, Orange is associated with Gluttony) I chose to put Orange on most of the ‘moveable’ areas of Nami’s person, being her joints, arms and torso, to signify the energy and activity. After all, what good is a thief without her hands and feet?
After enduring the loss of her home, her mother, the mentors who made her who she is and being on the run for twenty years, you would think that Nico Robin would’ve given up hope by now. She has been beat down, cursed at, betrayed and left to die but yet, she still gets up. She still has goals, dreams and hopes for the world. She has things to complete in life and faith that she can accomplish them. She, like many recruits of the Blue Lantern Corp, has never let her light die out.
The Blue Lantern Corp was started by two former Guardians of the Galaxy, an immortal race that is responsible for creating the Green Lantern Corp. Sick of abandoning emotion and sitting atop their high horses for so long, these two create a light so powerful that it can restore the life of a dying sun, heal wounds, neutralize the effects of other rings and create constructs that mainly target the target’s psyche. This light and corp are created to help guide the other lights & unite them, although none of this can be accomplished without the presence of a Green Lantern, as Hope is nothing with the Willpower to enact it. The Blue Lantern design is similar to a Green Lantern uniform: the main portion of the suit is black with a Y shaped blue crest covering the chest of the Corpsmen. Many of the members wear clothing or appear as figures that are normally associated with religions. For instance, Brother Warth is unmistakably the Indian God, Ganesha and Brother Hynn is dressed in Shaolin Monk robes. Even though Robin would look good in robes, I again, didn’t want to rob her of her individuality…
Once again, lets jump right into the colors there are happening. There is that presence of black, bringing out that sense of dominance and credibility but it really stays in the background in comparison to the blue. I kept the Y shape near the top of her jacket and chest to keep in accordance with the Corps common appearance but also tried to incorporate it everywhere in some way. Blue is meant to open the flow of communication, which is why I made it a point to have the bottom half of the jacket arm blue; I want to the people she is reaching out of to feel comfortable. The blue band on the hat represents broadening your perspective and trying to understand others and the rest (top, skirt, etc.) is just there is relax the viewer. Blue is meant to create an air of familarity. I added in the White (not normally a part of the costume) because I think its presence helps to clear away any other thoughts and focus on the calming effects of the blue.
All in all, and I think you are finding most of this with my redesigns, I don’t want to change who these characters are but focus on what I see in them and let that shine. I think Oda has done a great job with these characters; they are real, honest people and while they’re situations are much more extreme than ours will ever be, their feelings are so true to human life that it is uncanny. I can’t tell you how many times that this series has touched me and made me tear up, thinking about my own experiences in life. I hope it touches you in the same way.
Quite possibly the most loved character of the series, Tony Tony Chopper has been an amazing addition to the One Piece mythos. As the crew’s Doctor, he actually has the expertise and knowledge that characters, like Usopp only brag about, yet he isn’t cocky or overly confident in his abilities. In fact, Chopper has such a caring compassionate heart (just look at his backstory!); a real need to belong, that his main concern is finding friends and being a part of the group. He pals around with Luffy & Usopp, reveres the grand, tough manliness of Sanji & Zoro and adores Nami & Robin. He is the perfect fit for a Indigo Lantern.
A little background on the Indigo tribe before we get started. They are a elusive tribe of nomadic peoples who travel the universe, instilling compassion onto those who either need it or lack it. Meaning that the tribe helps those in pain, in suffering and subsequently punishes those who do harm unto others. They have a power ring, much like the GLC but instead of creating its own light, it has the ability to channel the other emotional lights & their effects. They also wholeheartedly devote themselves to the cause, forgoing any individuality they might have had previously. This leads their Corps appearance, unlike the GLC, to be absolutely one in the same; complete with tattered indigo loin cloths, painted symbols on the arms and legs and a collar depicting the Corps symbol, leaving Chopper to be no different:
Upon writing this, I realize that I didn’t exactly follow my own rules. Chopper’s trademark hat is still present, although the color and symbol has changed to fit his new job. I’ve also added some tassels and cloth to his horns intentionally.
Either way, I am pleased with this costume. The simplistic style fits Chopper well and I am glad that he isn’t too covered up; there is a nice balance of indigo and his natural fur color. Speaking of Indigo, it is a good color for Chopper, especially with his heightened intellect. Indigo, according to color theory, symbolizes a mystical borderland of wisdom, self-mastery and spiritual realization. It allows us to step outside of our boxes and look at the world in a new way, much like how Chopper felt when he joined the crew.