MW by Osamu Tezuka

July 21st, 2008 at 5:45 pm

MW by Osamu Tezuka

MW by Osamu Tezuka is a thoroughly entertaining graphic novel. I just finished it and found it to be quite, quite enjoyable.

Soon after setting down MW, I picked up Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. So I do not yet have an adequate framework to be much more articulate and informed about how and why MW is so good. Yes, I am that confident in Reading Comics that after absorbing its content, I will be forever eloquent and wise on the topic of comic criticism. Even though I have read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which Reading Comics has already taken issue with on a few finer points of comic lore and craft. So it’s sure to be an enjoyable read of comic nerd in-fighting.

How’s that for establishing your form as a legitimate medium? Splinter into competing sects of disagreeing “experts” and engage in petty and nonconstructive debates. Now that’s a classy, established medium! If only we could get Chris Ware and Alan Moore to engage in a widely publicized tiff, a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. Then you comic-kazes would know you’ve really arrived.

But back to MW. It’s good. It is.

And don’t just take my word for it. According to the flap copy, Osamu Tezuka is a comic god, the godfather of Japanese manga comics, who spurned his doctor’s degree to pursue the then-considered “frivolous medium” of comics.

The protagonist of MW is a scion of a famous Kabuki family. There’s a secret military cover-up. Finance. Politics. Murder. Rape. WMDs. A public prosecutor. A Catholic priest. And homoeroticism. Don’t forget the homoeroticism. You know how those graphic novelists revel in good old-fashioned sexual obsession.

If you’re looking for even more elements of intrigue combined in a single graphic novel of “sweeping vision, deftly intertwined plots, and indefatigable commitment to human dignity,” I think you’re asking too much. But there’s probably a comic out there for you. Keep looking.

Try starting with Battle Pope.

If one reads McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Wolk’s Reading Comics, The New Yorker’s comics issue, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern all-comics issue 13 edited by Chris Ware, Michael Chabon’s championing of the medium, or even the Best American Comics series, you will be amazed at the indefatigable lengths guardians and cheerleaders of the form go to in order to establish comics as anything but a “frivolous medium.”

Not to discredit the admirable and necessary actions that have thankfully lifted comics out of the doldrums brought on by a prejudice of childish obscurity and pretentious elitism, to me the debate has already been won. Comics are without a doubt, a legitimate artistic craft worthy of serious reading, and as novels go the way of five act plays in iambic pentameter, comics will burgeon into a significantly dominate form of published entertainment. Turn a couple of these graphic novels into video games, and boom, look out Hollywood. Brilliantly talented nerds: 1. Naysayers: 0.

But this leaves me to ponder what fringe form will next emerge to demand the acknowledgment and serious criticism its proponent’s feel it so urgently deserves?

I’ve already mentioned one: video games?
Graffiti?
Tattoos?
Fake memoirs?

I personally want there to be an annual competition for the finest fake memoir awarded to the autobiography that best duped the general public and publishing industry into believing that it was absolutely true. Authors will keep their lips sealed until the submission process in which they can then discreetly admit that, “Oh yeah, I made that all up. Hehe. Clever me.” They could call the competition The Big Get and it could be a legitimate genre that authors set out to execute instead of a highly embarrassing mistake.

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