Posted by: nastypen | October 14, 2006

Friday the 13th and coping with memory and prospect of comics

It’s Friday the 13th and i overslept.  I’m going to miss the convention and my plans for the national art gallery are in the fritz.  But I’m ok.  I still have a couple of days here and I’m going to wear black to celebrate this day.  I’m listening to the Best of Billie Holiday as my amulet against the bad juju.

I’m going to watch Infamous and I’m going out to a party tonight.  So, bad luck, leave me alone.

Well, after walking the kilometric way yesterday, I reached my friend’s pad, took a bath.  Chatted a bit and collapsed on the bed.  I was awaken by the cold.  The building’s heater will not kick in till the 15th.  i’m seeping on the couch and it was near the balcony where the cold just said hi to me.

I normally like the cold.  But last night, my friend was screaming at me on the phone that I might die of hypothermia.  I just rummaged through the closet and wrapped myself with a comforter.

I woke up at 6am from my alarm and told myself “five more minutes.”  it was four more hours later that I was awaken.  Oh well.  I would like to enjoy sleeping once in a while and not be a slave to te schedule.  So, I’m not really sad nor dejected for this “development.”

I would like to expound on my comics experience yesterday because I do believe in this medium.  I was having a big smile when I saw the Library of Congress.  The event was next door at the James Madison building, but i detoured for some tourist shots.

the library of congress

I wish this is my house.  All those books!  The history!  The collection!

fountain by the entrance stairs 

Oooh, a fountain!  Must be a good tourist and take a shot of this “reinterpretation” of Rome’s Fontana de Trevi.  Actually, I took a closer look to take a photo of this:

spitting turtles!!!! 

I took this photo of perpetually spitting turtles for the kitsch factor.  Besides, I know a friend of mine would like a photo of spitting turtles, right, my Diet Nazi?

So, i went to the ICAF and was greeted by this sculpture by the entrance:

Books in flight?  Mom, I want that in my room’s wall, too.  But i would add some comics in flight, too.  This frieze just made me smile and let all cool poseur moves thrown out of the window as I took a shot of it.  I am celebrating bibliophilia.

Comics, included, of course.

I was very much fascinated by the talks yesterday by select academics on this medium seen as disposable and juvenile by many. I was a bit late due to my tourist endeavor.  I got in at the start of Bart Beaty‘s talk on “Appropriating la nouvelle bande dessinee:  The Question of Cultural Exchange.”  My indie friends back home would find this interesting, as did I, on the look on French small presses.  So, these comics are more brave and more authentic than the ones churned by big time publishers simply because they create stories for a market and not created by a market.  A paralellism would be the music of corporate-backed sexuality of Britney Spears; created by a massive market demanding for shallow music by a pop princess.  As opposed to an indie hip hop record that supports artists who sing of their life in the street, ghetto where there is an audience for such introspection.  i liked this comparison because Beaty mentioned of the hip hop artists who have “street cred” ergo more authentic than the shining machinations of big music companies with apt marketing collaterals.

His talk jsut reinforced my ideal for an indie existence to strive for a more authentic narrative and not be driven by a sad Sisyphus-esque existence of a market telling me what to do.  

Kukhee Choo (love that name, I swear!) from the University of Tokyo did a talk on how the Japanese governemt utilized manga (Japanese comics) as part of a massive marketing strategy.  When the economic bubble burst in Japan during the late 80s and early 90s, only one industry was not really affected by this conomic tailspin, the manga and anime (animation) industry.

She chose to highlight manga because according to her charts, most of the anime are based on stories from these Japanese comic books.  She said out of the hundred most popular Japanese live-action television series, 15 are based in manga.  Initially, the Japanese government said that the manga and anime are not intrinsic to the Japanese culture.  these are not as refined as, say, the dignified Japanese tea ceremony.

But, of course, money changes everything.  In Japan, according to Khoo, 40% of the publishing industry is dominated by manga.  This is the only nation on earth where comics have a massive billion-dollar impact in a market.  US$20 billion is raked by the Anime industry and, from that, US$200 billion more for the merchandising materials.  I don’t think the tea ceremony is as lucrative.  Ergo, the Japanese governemtn had a paradigm shift and focused on manga and anime and clump them together with Japanese films, pop music under a “Contents Industry” worth billions of dollars.

Khoo posists that manga and anime “should not be viewed as a hyped-up popular culture phenomenon, but examined as a critical market strategy conducted by the Japanese government.” This was suppoprted by the panel chair Ana Merino who observed that she has seen Cuban manga or Argentine comics with a heavy manga influence.  Merino even mentioned that she grew up watching Candy, Candy!  I smirked and thought of my sister and i squealing for Terrence to whisk Candy away.  Such is the broad cultural imperialism of the Japanese manga and anime.  I thought it was funny and appropriate that Choo entitled her piece “Embracing the Embarrassing” to cattily point out how the Japanese government did a 180-degree turn to manga and anime.

Yale University’s Ryan Holmberg had an interesting take on “Japan, a country with guns: Armament and Manga in the 1960s.” He emphasized on the role of manga for “techno-nationalism” post World War II.  After Japan has been defeated, even up to this very day, it was writeen in their constitution that they do not have a Military.  Instead, Japan relies on its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to protect the nation and that the SDF is not to be sent abroad due to the fact this might be seen as a redux of the Military action of the Japanese imperial Army pre and during World war II.  Interesting note, this proviso was ignored recently as the Japanese SDF was sent to Iraq.

Anyway, manga was a platform to teach military history, and as well as a promotion of techno-nationalism (I’m guessing this is an act wherein a nation celebrates its sovereignty and might by purchasing and developing arms; ie. India’s and Pakistan’s entrance into the nuclear foray in the late 1990s).  he cited mangas in which there is a juxtapostion between the cartoonish depiction of humans and the hyper-realistic rendering of armaments like a battle ship.  Holmberg said that these were not drawn but actual photos of ships and aircraft grafted into the panels.  This is a manifestation of a techno-nationalism.

One example he showed was a sad story of a young Japanese kamikaze pilot off to a mission as his dad, the aircraft carrier’s captain, saw him off to the fatal mission.  they were part of a lineage of miltary personalities.  The father screamed that his son will die before him and he yelled his son’s name.  The last panel is that of the son’s plane about to be attacked and dive into the fleet of American war aircrafts.  It was sad and, in a sense, anti war.

However, there was  a comics magazine in Japan that had a promo for its readers in which they could stand a chance to win some “cool” prizes like a historically-accurate military uniform, some helmets with the Nazi Swastika, a Nazi Iron cross and other stuff.  i remember a South Korean boyband donning Nazi outfits, complete with swastika armbands, and a Japanese Nazi cafe with Nazi memorabillia; for a while, there was a movement in North East Asia to label these things normally attached to wartime atrocities as cool.  These things caused the ire of Israeli officialsand i have to agree with them.  So, a promo on winning these toys that boast of near-authenticity is problematic for a society that claims to devote themselves to peace after being ravaged by two atomic bombs.

Another speaker of the manga genre is Steven Clark.  He’s an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his topic deals with “Boxing manga and the Ficitional Vector.”  I thought this was the most interesting in the cache of the manga topics.  I know there are mangas dealing with the boxing world.  There was a manga Ashita no Jo (tomorrow’s Jo) which did a pretty interesting turn of events.    One of the characters died from a bout when a nerve in the brain ruptured from the force.  This was in March 1970.  Clark mentions Bob Dylan‘s tribute to the fallen boxer Davey Moore in his song.  In a same manner, the manga deals with a harsh reality of boxers having to die because they starved themselves to meet a certain weight class.

The impact of a character’s death was so massive that there were obituaries in the newspapers.  An actual funeral rite was performed with a Buddhist monk chanting the sutras on a boxing ring!  The organizers thought that they might only get about 300 people to go to this funeral but more than 700 showed up!  After week of the funeral, a group of college students hijacked a Japane Air Lines plane and they demanded that they be transported to Pyongyang, North Korea.  the students brandished swords in Japan’s first hijacking and they screamed “We are Ashita no Jo!” before they were flown to North Korea where they are still there to this very day.

japanese media churned out editorials of the death asking whether this was an expression of discontent of the times.  Folks, this is from a comic book.  I am elated to note that comics have more substance than the general public perceives them to be just comics.  With these studies and researches, comics are more than that.

I’ve always known this and these people share that sentiment.

Whoa.  Such an interesting topic!  I have this afterglow from the satisfaction of murdering my feet to walk to that place.  It is so worth the money i shelled out for this trip.

I wrote earlier of  Georgia Higley‘s talk on how to research comics in the Library of Congress.    She even brought samples with her.  She laid them out at the back of the room.

Higley mentions that there are people who drop by the library and demand, “I want to see your comic book collection.”  At first, there were just boxes and piles.  But higley noted that there must be an upgrade of standards due to the immense cultural value of these comics in America’s history, economy and identity.

She and her staff designed a special envelope to store comics to arrest deterioration and these envelopes protect comics who underwent the process of de-acidification.  She mentions that the one who produced these envelopes is selling this in the market now.  It was a pretty sturdy envelope with a plastic face to show the cover of the comics.  It was an envelope so they can stick in identification markers at the back for easy filing and organization.

Higley beams that she is happy that there are more interesting subjects and research dealing with comics.  She and her staff get to meet people with such a passion and ask such interesting questions on the subject.  She is proud to increase the Library of Congress’ cache of underground comix.  I actually gushed when i saw an issue of Zap Comix.  I only get to see it in books or in the internet.  It was just three inches away from me.

She showed us a highly prized Superman acquisition.  She said that due to budget constraints, the Library of Congress cannot get a hold of geek holy grails in comicdom. 

She even mentioned of an exorbitant process on how they conserved the old (really old) issues of the New York journals with the Yellow Kid comics.  the Yellow Kid is essential to the American Comics History because it is said to be the first of its kind.

The process was developed in Germany.  the entire process happened in a room as big as a football field.  what happens is that the paper is sliced.  So one paper back to back will become two papers; the front and the back page.  Then these pages are reinforced on a sturdier paper and bound. 

the Yellow Kid celebrates the entrance of 1897! 

this is a page from the celebration of the entrance of 1897.  That is a year before the Philippines successfully staged a revolt against Spain but was usurped by american “Benevolent Assimilation” as dictated by “Manifest Destiny.”  So, i was all heady and awash with history as i saw the gags and puns and the drawings.  

So, i saw an ACTUAL Yellow Kid comic strip.  With my pinky finger i touched the page’s fringe.  This was worth the hundreds of dollars i shelled out for the trip.

I am still smiling.

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  1. […] Washington DC nightlife Friday the 13th and coping with memory and prospect of comics » Feet torture and a case about a pedophile October 13th,2006 […]


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