Tag: manga (page 1 of 2)

Researcher Spotlight: Eike Exner

Eike Exner was one of two recipients of the 2022 Lucy Shelton Caswell Research Award. Exner received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and is now an independent scholar. His revised dissertation, Comics and the Origins of Manga, was recently published by Rutgers University Press. He is currently researching representations of women in pre-war manga for a book chapter in an anthology on women and manga and for a book-length history of modern manga. The following is his report on his time spent at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Spring of 2022.

Eike Exner in the Lucy Shelton Caswell Reading Room

I could spend weeks at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (BICLM) just comparing original issues of Happy Hooligan with their translations in the Jiji Shinpo newspaper’s Jiji Manga supplement between 1925 and 1930 (I actually think this would make a great coffee table book). I had never seen both in color next to one another before (BICLM is the only place in the world where this is possible!), and realized for the first time that the coloring of the Japanese version must have been done without being able to reference the colors used in each original episode, since colors often varied wildly.

Fig. 1 Happy Hooligan by Frederick Burr Opper, April 26, 1925

Fig. 2 Happy Hooligan, Japanese edition

I was also able to confirm that panel shapes and speech balloons were altered in translation: Since the drawings are reproduced too precisely to have been traced by hands, this means that panels were likely cut up and rearranged on a new sheet of paper to make room for upward elongations (presumably to accommodate the larger speech balloons in Japanese). These edits must have then been made by hand, probably by pasting white paper over the upper portions of the panels. The edited version was then photographed for printing.

This complicated editing process may have given Kitazawa Rakuten, editor of the Jiji Manga supplement, an idea for an experimental comic: In March 1925, two months after the start of Happy Hooligan’s run in it, Jiji Manga featured a page-long comic strip starring Kitazawa’s character Mr. Teino with panels intentionally placed out of order. An explanatory note in the upper right instructs readers that they should cut up the page and rearrange the panels so that the story makes sense. It seems highly plausible that the process of cutting up (or seeing one of his disciples cut up) a Happy Hooligan episode into individually panels and placing them in the correct order on a new sheet of paper each week gave Kitazawa the idea to draw a comic strip that had to be cut up.

Fig 3. Mazekoze manga from Jiji Manga, March 15, 1925, page 5

The plot of this self-identified “jumbled-up comic” (mazekoze manga) shows Mr. Teino being paid to hide in a fake radio (broadcasting had just started in Japan at the time) and imitate radio broadcasts, so that his employer can sell this ‘radio’ to a client. The plan fails when Teino falls asleep and the fake radio’s new owner attempts to investigate the snoring sounds. As I argue in Comics and the Origins of Manga, the rise of the archetypical form of modern comics (e.g. multiple panels per scene, no narrative text, and characters hearing and reacting to other characters’ speech balloons) in both the United States around 1900 and in Japan in the 1920s was closely tied to the spread of sound-related technologies like the phonograph and the radio, and I’m fascinated by direct intersections between the two such as in this experimental comic strip.

Fig. 4 – Herr Professor Binglespitz and the Phonograph, New York Journal, December 3, 1899

Fig. 5 – How Braunschweiger Tangled the Telephone Line, New York Journal, April 1, 1900

This direct intersection also happened in (well, adjacent to) my favorite discovery during my stay here: a 1906 Japanese adaptation of the Katzenjammer Kids, already in modern comic strip form (the format didn’t become widespread in Japan until 1923). I had previously seen the Katzenjammer Kids appear in Chinese cartoons from the 1900s, but had never seen them in Japanese publications before the 1920s. It is fascinating how ubiquitous accounts that link contemporary manga to traditional Japanese art still are when early American comic strips were known, and adaptations of them published, in Japan as early as 1906. The Katzenjammer Kids adaptation was featured in the cartoon magazine Joto Ponchi, apparently edited by none other than Japanese novelist Kunikida Doppo. This discovery was made even more exciting by the presence of a similar modern comic strip about using a phonograph for language study on the opposite page. This means that people who were interested in visualizing sound on paper even before it had become a common occurrence around them simultaneously showed above-average interest in sound-recording technologies.

Fig. 6 – double page from third issue of Joto Ponchi

I could talk about this stuff all day, but there are two other discoveries I should mention. One of the core points I make in Comics and the Origins of Manga is that World War II represented far less of a rupture in manga history than is sometimes suggested by histories of manga (see the recent Google/Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry project). I was previously unaware how obvious the continuity between postwar and prewar narrative manga still was in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The back cover of the first issue (January 1948, though published at the end of 1947) of the influential early postwar manga magazine Manga Shonen, for example, featured an image of famous prewar manga characters like Jiggs, Dankichi, Norakuro, Minnie Mouse, Nonto the “Easygoing Daddy,” Kurosuke, and Popeye playing baseball together, for example. In a later issue Tezuka Osamu himself, in his “Manga Classroom” feature introduced young readers to some of the ‘foreign’ characters he had grown up with, such as Jiggs and Adamson.

Fig. 7 Manga Shonen January 1948

Fig. 8 Manga Classroom Osamu Tezuka, Manga Shonen, June 1953

And speaking of Norakuro, the most popular native-born manga character of the 1930s, I was able to read reprints of the comic strip serialized in the boys’ magazine Shonen Kurabu between 1931-1941, of the ten Norakuro comic books published during the same time period, and of entire Shonen Kurabu issues originally published in the early 1930s. In my writing on manga history, I have previously avoided delving into the question whether the support for Imperial Japanese military conquest shown in Norakuro was simply par for the course at the time or noticeably worse than average. Since my main interest in comics and manga has been as an artform/medium, I had not paid close attention to Norakuro’s *plot* before. Some manga historians have argued that Norakuro was no worse than other manga of the 1930s, but its author, Tagawa Suiho, went far beyond what the totalitarian military government required of cartoonists at the time.

Many cartoonists, including Aso Yutaka and Yokoyama Ryuichi, used their popular manga characters to encourage citizens to buy war bonds and the like, but Tagawa used Norakuro to support the Japanese war effort more extensively than others. For those not familiar with the character: Norakuro was an anthropomorphic canine soldier in the “fierce dog brigade,” an obvious, sometimes explicit stand-in for the Japanese military. In 1932, the year after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Norakuro’s friends reenacted a famous Japanese suicide bombing (or embellished accident), with the bomb-carrying dogs commenting on how glad they are to give their lives for their country shortly before exploding. The story ends with Norakuro lamenting that he survived. Fan art published in Shonen Kurabu showed Norakuro shaking hands with the Japanese Minister of the Army, demonstrating that children understood the connection between the fierce dog brigade and the real-life military, and that this connection was encouraged by the magazine (the majority of whose covers in 1932 used pictures of soldiers, warplanes, and other martial imagery). Norakuro likewise taught children about chemical warfare and dismembering anthropomorphic pigs (who Tagawa used as a stand-in for Chinese people) with a Japanese sword (something that some Japanese soldiers infamously did with Chinese prisoners of war).

Fig. 9 + 10 Shonen Kurabu, May 1932 

Fig. 11 Shonen Kurabu August 1932 

Fig. 12 Shonen Kurabu March 1932 

Fig. 13 Shonen Kurabu May 1932 

Fig. 14 Shonen Kurabu August 1932

Not all Norakuro episodes or comic books were propagandistic in nature, many featured harmless slapstick humor. But three of the ten Norakuro books are about brutally conquering “pig” cities easily identifiable as Chinese by their architecture (although these assaults are happening overseas from the dog country, they are a purely defensive measure, Tagawa explains in an author’s statement: the pigs provoked the war and must be completely destroyed, so that they will never be able to rise and threaten the dog country again). Several author’s statements (which were featured at the beginning of each book) remind the child readers that they must play a role in the war effort and be prepared to eventually fight as well.

Fig. 15 Norakuro Soukougeki

The “discovery” I was alluding to was that the 1975 reprints of the Norakuro comic strip do not include any of the more ‘problematic’ episodes, such as the ones showing the dismembering of “pigs” or glorifying dying in war. The reprints do not mention that any episodes have been left out, which may explain why some scholars have underestimated the extent of Norakuro’s role as pro-war propaganda.

In order to end on a more uplifting note, let me conclude with one of the many smaller fascinating things I stumbled across, this avantgardistic comic about “the worlds of newspaper readers” from the November 10, 1924 Jiji Manga.

Fig. 16 Jiji Manga November 10, 1924

Finally, I want to thank everyone at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum for all their help and hospitality during my research stay there. 5 out of 5 stars, highly recommend.

Found in the Collection: Unfinished art by Osamu Tezuka

Unfinished original art by Osamu Tezuka for Astro Boy

Shown here is an unfinished and most likely unpublished work from the “Godfather of Manga,” Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989). It is a story set during the U.S. Occupation of Japan, and the story behind its purchase is on par with the fascinating narrative of the piece itself.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5mW-FdUxs0&w=560&h=315]


In 2001, our then-Japanese Language librarian by the name of Maureen Donovan went to Japan in search of materials for an exhibit celebrating Astro Boy, one of Tezuka’s most famous works. Tezuka was a prolific creator; he created over 700 volumes of manga as well as 60 anime programs, so this piece that Maureen Donovan found in a specialty shop called Nakano Shoten in Tokyo is rather special. In an email interview last week, Professor Donovan reminisced that she chose the piece because of its depiction of the U.S. occupation as well as how it demonstrates “Tezuka’s mastery of traditional cartooning techniques.”[1]

In addition to the sound effects I discuss in the video, I can also discuss the dialogue in the piece using translations provided to me by Ann Marie Davis, the current Japanese-language librarian. Tokichiro is our protagonist, and he is being bullied for shining the shoes of U.S. soldiers. The bullying is stopped by the adult who accuses the other young man of being a coward for hitting Tokichiro first. We then transition to outside the U.S. base where Tokichiro is talking to his father and asking him if they could stop shining these shoes because he’s being teased and bullied for it. His father tells him to ignore everyone and focus on being the best shoe-shiner. However, his father is so busy telling him to focus on being the best at his job that he shines away the soldier’s boot.

Special thanks to Maureen Donovan, Professor Emerita of Ohio State University Libraries, Ann Marie Davis, Assistant Professor, Japanese Language Librarian, and Kayo Puthawala, Japanese Language Professor at Columbus State Community College.

-Dr. Kay Clopton, Visiting Assistant Professor & Mary P. Key Resident: Cultural Diversity Inquiry

[1] Donovan, Maureen. “Re: Tezuka Original.” Received by Jeny Robb and Kay Clopton, 6 May, 2020.

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