Friday, August 20, 2010
The star of one of Osamu Tezuka's many lengthy comic epics, BlackJack is the rogue, unlicensed surgeon, saving lives and collecting a high fee. It ran for ten years from the eighties into the nineties, and spawned a animated television show and two movies.
A serious, morbid comic, the audience evaluates the human condition through the eyes of this surgeon, who really has nothing to lose and very opaque motives. The series is a serial at its best, self-contained issues that drop in clues of a larger storyline as time goes on- about his past, about why he became a surgeon, about the people he's loved and lost and gained, and what his mission is. An antagonist appears later on, a euthanasist who Blackjack loathes for killing people he's sure he could have saved. On the whole, Blackjack is a good man, working for good even when his patients and onlookers send him away with curses and scorn. Dramatic irony at its best and most heartbreaking.
The Blackjack comic is a masterpiece, and is being released stateside in a fabulous presentation and translation. Tezuka is a master of an artform that developed a bit differently in Japan than it did in Western comics, and the devices he uses can be a pleasant surprise to those used to comics in the West.