When Japanese editorial giant Kodansha started publishing their priceless collection of Osamu Tezuka’s (nearly) complete works in the late ’70s/ early 80s, the manga genius was reluctant to include what is generally acknowledged as his debut book, 1947’s “New Treasure Island.” Only nominally related to R. L. Stevenson’s pirate classic, the story is as black-and-white simple as adventure gets, and Tezuka must have felt a level of shame at the general crudity of his youthful designs: the mature man sneering at the amateur. In a fit of ret-conning, Tezuka redrew the entire book, (allegedly from memory) to produce a new vision of his own artistic past, one that was dignified enough to stand side by side with subsequent classics.
Compare some more. 1947:
“Lost World” (once more, no relation to the classic novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or to Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” except for the presence of a dinosaur here and there) also comes from early in Tezuka’s career, and is actually more ridiculous in its story of scientists and crystals and plant people and what have you. But ridiculousness is rarely a minus in Tezuka’s work, because it allows for the type of left-turn surprises few other artists provide. No one ever told Tezuka that you can’t transition from cutesiness to thrills to horror to pathos to kids-fare to adult-angst to slapstick and then back to cutesiness within a same page – or, at his bizarre extremes, within the same panel. “Tone” is not one of his concerns, and it makes for reads that are exhilarating even when he’s working at his least sophisticated.
RATING: COOL preparation for future masterpieces.