DRAWING WAR: Arrayed in Erlangen

One awesome aspect of the recent Internationaler Comic-Salon Erlangen that I attended in the old university town of Erlangen, Germany, near Nuremberg, was the staging of two contrastingly presented exhibitions of comics art on World War I by Joe Sacco and Jacques Tardi.

COMIC SALON exhibition signboard in the city (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

COMIC SALON exhibition signboard, with Tardi image, in the city (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Joe Sacco’s The Great War was displayed as an open-air exhibit in Schlossplatz, enlarged on display boards arranged in a long series of folds. Seeing it spread across the square magnified the herculean task that Sacco undertook in drawing this epic, concertina work of one day of the Battle of the Somme and fitting it all into one panel.

Open air exhibition in the city at Schlossplatz of Sacco's The Great War (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Open air exhibition at Schlossplatz of Sacco’s The Great War (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

His wordless comic is structured around a single seemingly endless panel that has been folded into 24 segments that unfolds to form a single piece. It depicts events in a continuous, cinema-pan like take, spread across time and space with soldiers assembling, then attacking and returning to their lines. The unfolded published comic is too long for a table and has to be spread across the floor of two adjoining rooms or a long corridor. In Schlossplatz it ran right across the width of the square necessitating a reading whilst walking approach and with so much detail it required several passes to take it all in.

Fold-out art work of Sacco's The Great War (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Fold-out art work of Sacco’s The Great War (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Closer view of fold-out art work of Sacco's The Great War (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Closer view of fold-out display of Sacco’s The Great War (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

The panels above show the trenches and the movement of the soldiers from them into the hostilities of ‘No Man’s Land’, their exposure to artillery attacks and its associated schrapnel, plus machine gun and rifle fire.

Sacco being interviewed on site of The Great War exhibition. (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Sacco being interviewed on site of The Great War exhibition. (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

On the other hand the war comics art by Jacques Tardi was exhibited indoors. Low level lighting created a sombre mood appropriate to the theme and also perhaps to protect the original art work that showed corrections such as the whiting-out of errant black border lines and some alignment and registration marks. This was the original art on display, not it’s cleaned up and reduced size reproduction as seen in the published comics.

Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

The work, titled Landscape of Death, was very bleak, expressing the agony of those who fought in World War I. Many of the images were painful to view such as soldiers’ bodies being torn apart by flying pieces of shredded metal, lacerated, disfigured or rendered limbless, and with some surviving in this state.

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Images from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Exhibited in a darkened theatre inside the Civic Centre, the low level of the light created a reverence for the images as well as a canopy of protection for the original art work as protection from fading. The work was housed in a series of narrow wooden walled and roofed walkthroughs with some shapes cut into the walls so that one could see out to lessen the confined effect. Tardi’s use of colour was impressive with his delicate watercolour brushwork adding a poignant hue to his poppies, pools of blood and rising smoke.

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Image from Landscape of Death: Jacques Tardi and the First World War exhibition (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

These two exhibitions, Sacco and Tardi respectively, with contrasting presentations: open-air/ indoor; spacious/ confined; sunlight/low level artificial illumination; expansive/confined; complete/edited, served to express and communicate aspects of the texts: open, the vulnerability of soldiers out of the trenches and restricted by the narrow confines of the trenches; and time-one day or six years of living with gas masks, flame throwers, helmets, barbed wire, dampness, misery, the stench of rotting bodies, despair and the ongoing expectation of death made a memorable imprint on me.

Pages from my Germany journal with Tardi press clippings and sticker (© 2014 Michael Hill).

Pages from my Germany journal with Tardi press clippings and sticker (© 2014 Michael Hill).

UPDATE MAY 2017: I FOUND THIS JACQUES TARDI STICKER (below) FROM THE SET THAT THE ERLANGEN ORGANISERS WERE DISSEMINATING, 300 IN ALL IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY, SO I HAVE ADDED A SCAN.

 

COFFEE TABLE tenth fix

It’s a yōkai Xmas with master mangaka Shigeru Mizuki material on my coffee table this month! This marvellous creator of both autobiographical and fantasy manga with the gekiga approach to graphic storytelling of placing cartoon style characters over realistically drawn backgrounds has legendary status in Japan but really needs to be better known in the rest of the world.

Mizuki GARO cover.

Mizuki GARO cover of Kitaro carrying a basketful of yokai characters.

After serving in New Guinea in World War II Mizuki got his start in graphic storytelling as an apprentice artist in kamishibai, or paper theatre, in which successively shown painted cards operated and accompanied with vocal and musical narration by a street performer, told a story to audiences standing on street corners in Japan.

Early shape and form of Mizuki 's popular character Kitaro

Early shape and form of Mizuki ‘s popular character Kitaro.

Mizuki moved on to the print media from street theatre, making manga for the rental market and participating in the emerging gekiga form of alternative comics developed by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Interested in the ghosts and spirits of Japanese folk tales he developed his Kitaro character in a series of yōkai stories based on a popular kamishibai play by Masami Ito called Hakaba Kitaro from 1930s.

Early shape and form of Mizuki 's popular character Kitaro.

Early shape and form of Mizuki ‘s character Kitaro with his father Medama Oyaji.

Mizuki found an outlet for his stories in GARO magazine, an anthology publication of alternative manga. There he gained an assistant, Yoshiharu Tsuge, the developer of nejishiki, or Screw Style manga.

Early shape and form of Mizuki 's popular character Kitaro.

Kitaro’s father Medama Oyaji.

In the stories Kitaro’s deceased father reanimates himself as an eyeball and, with the eyeball as a head, grows a new body, hangs out in Kitaro’s hair and his hollow eye socket(Kitaro has lost one eye) and tries to help his son with his adventures.

Early shape and form of Mizuki 's character Kitaro. with Ratman.

Kitaro with father and Nezumi Otoko.

Shigeru Mizuki 's popular character Kitaro.

Shigeru Mizuki ‘s popular character Kitaro.

Recently four of Mizuki’s works have been translated into English and published by Drawn & Quarterly. I expect he will become more better known outside Japan both for his manga GeGeGe no Kitaro and his interest and expertise in yōkai. 

The Mizuki manga about the old woman who taught him yokai.

The Mizuki manga about the old woman who taught him yokai.

Autobiographically based war comic.

Autobiographically based war comic.

In Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths (originally published as Soin gyokusai seyo! in 1973) based on his own experiences in the Japanese army in New Guinea during World War II, he portrays the sadistic officers who, driven by their ideological beliefs, were cruel to their own troops. Still, Mizuki manages to find several humorous anecdotes of life in wartime and the determination to survive.

Japanese history gets the Mizuki mix of cartoons and realism-Vols.1 & 2

Japanese history gets the Mizuki mix of cartoons and realism-Vols.1 & 2

Japanese history gets the Mizuki mix of cartoons and realism-Vols.3 & 4

Japanese history gets the Mizuki mix of cartoons and realism-Vols.3 & 4

SHOWA 1926-1989 is a four volume history presented in manga form with contrasting graphic treatments of the history portrayed-the newspaper/media representation running alongside the cartoon adventures of Mizuki and his family living that history or the effects of it. Happy Xmas Shigeru!

UPDATE 30 NOV 2015: Sad news breaking that Mizuki has died today, aged 93.

CupofCoffee-1RRead the other coffee table entries:  COFFEE TABLE first fix(Day of the Dead/Halloween comics)   COFFEE TABLE fourth fix(Football comics)     COFFEE TABLE eighth fix(Hergé and Tintin)    COFFEE TABLE tenth fix(Shigeru Mizuki)