Peeps at Foreign Comics – Shonen Kurabu, November 20th 1943

I’ve taken a look at numerous Japanese publications on my Things Japanese blog, but I think this one is worth airing here. I’ve long dreamed of getting a story paper or comic from one of our enemies during (or, in the case of WW1, the years immediately before) the world wars, and in 2014 I finally got an issue of Kodan Kurabu from 1942! … but, aside from some funny cartoons, it’s not that interesting (I’ll still “do” it on Things Japanese one day). Then, in 2015, (from the same shop, even) I got a Boys’ Own story paper from 1943. This one is full of derring-do, talk of how the allies will be smashed by the might of Japan, etc… yet is tempered with air-raid advice, which indicates the situation on the “unreachable” Japanese home islands wasn’t as in keeping with the government propaganda as they would have liked.

sk43_01

Much is written in English about American and British comics during the war (most of it, in recent years, sneering contempt for “propaganda”, or mock-shock at the depiction of children in battles), but virtually nothing is said about the other side, so let’s say it! (Actually, there are a few English-language articles about Shonen Kurabu. But they’re all full of critical theory).

Unfortunately, even my modern Japanese is hardly up to scratch, so I can’t say very much. The written language underwent a number of rationalisations and simplifications in 1946, getting rid of a number of irregularities, such as words that are said with U (う) at the end being written with Fu (ふ), and also the “long Ku” (く), which actually means “repeat the previous two letters”. Even my old Japanese teacher managed to slip up on that, pronouncing it “Kuuuu” in front of a bunch of Japanese historians. This probably also explains my bizarre / incomplete translations on previous occasions. I knew some kanji had been removed from circulation, but not about words being “spelled” differently!

Anyway, this particular story paper is the issue of Shonen Kurabu (Boys’ Club) from December 1943. You might think that “Kurabu” being used for “Club” indicates a loan word, taken from English, which would be written with the katakana クラブ. But actually it’s written with the kanji 倶楽部, which also means “Club” in Chinese. The fact they are pronounced Ku Ra Bu in Japanese appears to be nothing more than an incredible coincidence! That didn’t stop them from going over to katakana after the war, anyway.

sk43_02

This one’s from 1951. Note the writing now goes in the other direction.

But, to drag ourselves back to the issue in hand, it opens with the usual ads and contents page, many of the adverts have a greater or lesser war theme…

sk43_04 – sk43_48 – sk43_49

We also get this page, which appears to be an imperial edict, right from the pen of Emperor Showa himself! Old British story papers used to get celebrities like Lord Baden-Powell (who may be familiar as the founder of the Scouts) to write to them, but I’m not sure one ever secured the reigning monarch! Anyway, it’s written in “court Japanese”, which is heavy on kanji, broken up by small katakana. There’s no hiragana at all! You can see a rather more famous example of court Japanese on this Wikipedia page.

sk43_05

The contents page is not the “usual” fold-out thing, due to paper shortages. It does contain some happy islanders, greeting their liberators, though. It also repeats the slogan from the cover, which is something along the lines of “Victory in the great East Asian war number” – perhaps indicating that this was an especially war-themed issue, even for the time?

sk43_06

Following that, the coloured plate that many Japanese magazines of the period seem to have (see my look at King from 1939). This one shows patriotic school children bowing to their teacher. The title is “Reliable / Level-headed Pupils”. Perhaps they are being rewarded for the best attendance record, or highest score in thier exams?

sk43_07

After a page on how some ancient Chinese “bone script” characters evolved into modern Kanji, there’s some more wash plates. This time thrilling accounts of derring-do at the front. Here some soldiers bravely charge an enemy tank. The title appears to refer to “meat bullets” who “sacrificed themselves”. Was it a suicide bombing (one guy’s got some big cylinders on his back), or just a last-ditch charge to avoid the shame of surrender?

sk43_08

Another plate shows an artilleryman, who has somehow ended up in the sea, with his gun on a raft, tellling sailors to rescue the gun first. That really is straight out of Commando!

sk43_09

Well, War Picture Library, actually…

sk43_10

The main body of the paper is, of course, the stories! They cover the land, sea and air campaigns (with some very faint and ghostly illustrations). There’s also the usual samurai tales, and a story that looks-like-comedy-from-the-illustrations-anyway. The first of the stories has an odd character in it, but the title is something to do with the water of a river (though it’s not “the river water flows”, or anything like that). It’s subtitled as an old legend of Japan.

sk43_11

The first adventure story is called Marai no Tora, or “The Malay Tiger”. I would have thought “Malay” would have been Marei (マレイ), not Marai, but there ya go. Anyway, it seems to be about a spy in Malaya, witnessing the cruelty of the British, and helping to lay the groundwork for the Japanese invasion. Just look at this picture of an old man about to be run down by grinning Tommies. The art style actually reminds me of Commando. Maybe they ought to do this same story from “the other end” XD.

sk43_12 – sk43_13 – sk43_14

There’s another very short story, or article, which I couldn’t initiallly understand the purpose of (it’s only over one spread). Until I realised it was called “The 8th of December”. In Japan, the date of Pearl Harbour!

sk43_15

Airmen are represented by this story, called Homeward Through the Jungle of Death. As the name implies, it doesn’t involve much flying – instead, it’s about a shot-down pilot on a trek through the jungle, meeting giant bats, alligators and a hulking native with an axe!

sk43_16 – sk43_17 – sk43_18

On the subject of the navy, the story Kuri Sailor’s War Account (“Kuri” meaning Chestnut, but I assume it’s the name of the ship, in this instance) is about sailors – seemingly either ratings, or young, junior, officers – as was common in old British navy stories, too. Anyway the illustrations are very faint and murky, but they show a torpedo tube being fired at a distant ship, and, in this one, a line being tied onto a burning carrier, probably so it can be towed to safety. It also starts with a section labelled “previous number up until”, aka “the story so far”, indicating a serial!

sk43_19 – sk43_20

The next story is Appare Katsu Tachira-kun, or “The Praiseworthy Boy, Katsu Tachira”. It’s billed as a true war story and seems, from the illustrations, to be about some boys who kept a lookout for spies / enemy soldiers, allowing a boatload of them to be machine-gunned before they reached the beach. This sounds like the sort of cautionary tale that was also rife in British comics of the time, even Tiger Tim’s Weekly! (Though in that, of course, the spies just ended up arrested).

sk43_21 – sk43_22

Except, there’s actually photos of Katsu Tachira and his friend, as well as the machine gunnners! There’s also a picture of some sort of list they kept, counting the numbers of men and women “seen” (it says “investigated”) in the north of… something.

sk43_23

Those letters, written over and over, mean “correct”, but they’re also the Japanese version of tally marks, as they take 5 strokes to write.

The first of the “historicals” appears to be called “Become the Camphor Tree of Justice”. I guess I’m missing some samurai metaphor. Anyway it has sword fights and archery. This one’s also a serial, it has a “story so far” section, and the first chaper appears to be numbered 14 (though, oddly for the time, written as “1 4” and not “10 4”).

sk43_46

There’s another historical tale called Book of the Spirit Times. Though “spirit” in this case is more “the essence of” something, rather than ghosts. Maybe it’s Book of Ages? Anyway, it has an illustration of some very angular-looking samurai…

sk43_24

There’s one main comic strip, 30 panels long (they’re all numbered). I can’t make head nor tail of the main title. It’s something about “flying big son XX’s look study”. It’s about a kid who goes to visit a training camp for pilots, called “Bear Valley Military Flying School”, with some incredibly primitive-looking equipment. I doubt “the west” was much better, though – no computerised simulators in those days!

sk43_25

There’s some sort of contraption with a bicyle-powered cockpit, and a model plane on the front (probably a general primer for how an aircraft handles). There’s also a fake fuselage with a box over it, perhaps for training pilots to fly by instruments.

sk43_26

Later there’s a cockpit on a zipwire (landing training?), and a big spinning wheel with a seat on it (a fitness test, for flying upside down?). The boy has been taken to the camp by his high-ranking dad. On the train back he falls asleep, then suddenly wakes up, saluting, and shouting that he wants to be the first pilot to bomb “Washinton”.

sk43_27 – sk43_28

“Washinton” doesn’t do too well out of the other comic strip, either. It opens with a formation of American bombers approaching Japan (at this stage, only Kyushu was in range, though the Doolittle raid, an effective “kamikaze” mission, had made token hits on other cities in 1941). Then some sort of intercontinental ballistic missiles get launched, with magnets on the end, drag the bombers all the way back to Washington DC (surely all those big, square buildings are the stereotyped apperance of New York?), and blow the city to bits. You wonder what the Germans would have thought about this strip “giving away their secrets”! (The only time Jane was censored was when there was a storyline about a secret plane called a “Meteor”, only weeks before the real thing went into service).

sk43_29

Another “comic”, of sorts, is this page of “Japanese-style songs”. And two other letters I can’t make out at all! Anyway, they seem to be short poems, actually, not songs. Or maybe they’re all verses of one song. Anyway, they show kids doing things like obeying thier teacher, taking food and water to women who are working as air-raid wardens / fire watchers and, erm, stealing apples. There’s probably meant to be a point of contrast, somewhere!

sk43_30

There’s a later section called “Poems for People in Small Countries”, which features a Burmese teacher (and, on the next page, Japanese soldiers coming away from a shinto shrine, cheered by schoolboys). The text doesn’t look much like poems, though.

sk43_31 – sk43_32

As for factual content, though the horrors of sustained firebombing were yet to come, Kyushu was experiencing sporadic air attacks, so there’s an article about air-raid precautions. Readers are advised to sleep near their bundled-up possessions, ready to head for the shelters. There’s also diagrams of American bombs, and advice to wear padded clothes and an “air raid hood”. I’ve seen one of those hoods in the Osaka Peace Museum, it’s not much more than a padded balaclava; I wouldn’t trust it to protect me against a thrown stone, let alone bomb fragments!

sk43_33 – sk43_34 – sk43_35

There’s another diagram showing the lethal range and height of shrapnel from a high explosive bomb. Note the nearby shelter – unlike Britain’s corrugated Anderson shelters, the usual Japanese bomb shelter was a short trench, with wooden planks over it. By the time of the major city bombings, the Americans had developed cluster incendiary bombs, especially designed to start the most intense fires possible in Japan’s wooden residential areas. The resulting firestorms sucked up oxygen from the lowest spaces first, suffocating families to death, even if they were untouched by the explosions.

sk43_36

Another article is about an assault course youngsters can build (or, perhaps, get their teachers to organise). It features bars to balance on, walls to climb, nets to crawl under, etc. All as a primer for future military training, when the readers are old enough. There’s also another article about general fitness, with push-ups, running, etc. One picture shows how you should motivate yourself by imagining you’ll one day be a soldier, charging into battle!

sk43_37

There’s also an article called Minna Sendo Da, which is roughly “It’s Everybody’s War!”. An illustration shows Japanese and American boys building model planes, while the men fight in the skies above. Basically it’s like those poems in the contemporay Beano, telling children to “do their bit”, even if it’s just saving waste paper. Fortunately, the Kyoto kid who bought this one hung on to it, instead!

sk43_38 – sk43_39

Still, it wasn’t all worry and self-sacrifice. The article Sea Eagles Hitting the Enemy’s Fleet is about successes the Japanese naval air arm have had against allied ships. Pearl Harbour is well known, they also sank HMS Prince of Wales, which had survived the infamous encounter with Bismarck, where the Ark Royal was blown to pieces by a shot in the magazine. The artist doesn’t seem to have had many reference pictures, though. An American carrier is drawn in the “top heavy” Japanese style, and a battleship, seen later, looks a bit Yamato-ey too. No internet image searches in those days!

sk43_40 – sk43_41

This is accompanied by Filming The War at Sea, which is apparently (from the pictures, anyway) an account of a Japanese ship being attacked by American planes, but it survives, and the crew rescue one of the pilots.

sk43_42 – sk43_43

More light-hearted is an article called Koko ni Konna Kufuu, or “How to Make These Useful Devices”, including a frame apparently designed to stop roosters, but not hens, getting seeds, and a thing for clipping an umbrella to a belt, leaving your hands free.

sk43_44

This section advertises the next issue, as a “New Year Number”. As well as the continuing adventures of The Malay Tiger and the good ship Chestnut, there’s an article / interview with a submarine captain who sank a ship, and got a picture of it through the periscope.

sk43_45

I beleive the Japanese government banned all “entertainment publications” at some point in 1944, as the paper shortage became desperate (and, no doubt, to free up the lumberjacks, paper factory workers, and writers, for army service). But Shonen Kurabu was among several magazines re-started after the war. The picture I showed earlier is from 1951, but, if we look at the publishing details (which, at the time, always gave the date of first publication), we can see they both have the same “first published” date:

sk43_03

Continuity was clearly intended, though the later Shonen Kurabu is quite a different publication (more comics!). I’ll also give it a review on Things Japanese one day.

sk43_47

(And there was a spare image left over… erm…)

Return of The Deatless Men?

I should think every reader of this blog is already familiar with one of the greatest stories ever published in a British comic.

It is a tale of a ruthless fascist regime under which the downtrodden people long for freedom. It is the tale of a rebellion against this regime by faceless killers, clad in anonymous masks and with a seemingly supernatural ability to cheat death and be in many places at once. Above all it is the tale of the police of this regime desperately trying to catch the man responsible for the endless string of outrages that threatens their rule. It is the tale of their chilling discovery that those responsible for the attacks on their leading officers ought to be dead – having been incarcerated in their sinister death camps. And it is the tale of betrayal at the highest levels as we learn that all the time the rebellion has deep inside knowledge of the regime’s hunt for them, and can always remain one step ahead.

This tale is of course V for Venegance, first published in The Wizard in 1951!

vizard

The first series of which was reprinted in 1959, of which I own in a bound volume.

Anyway, today I was looking at the titles of the next Commando comics to come out and noticed this:

vommando

Number 4322 is going to be called “V is for Vengeance!”

Could this possibly be DCT digging into their past to bring us an abridged/complete story of The Deathless Men? Sadly probably not, I don’t believe any of the recurring  characters from their other adventure comics (not even during a time when those comics were still running alongside Commando) have ever made the leap into the title. Though somebody did once on one website mention that “The Wolf of Kabul” a character from text stories who later appeared in a picture-story in The New Hotspur or Victor had re-appeared in Commando, it was actually a different character entirely (though with a similar setting in the middle east).

Actually the main character of those “wolf” stories was not a man but a book, passed down through many generations of a family from before WW1 up to the Gulf war of 1991. And not a comedy sidekick with a cricket bat in sight!

A new post at last!

Well, it’s been a while since this site got updated eh? But university is finished and job-finding is not going very well (according to probably third-hand information from my mum, one job i applied for at a nearby laboratory got several thousand applicants -_-). I was also working on a videogame but now that is finished i intend to give some attention to comics and story-papers once again. Though primarily my own! It’s well over a year since the last issue of The Red, White & Blue was finished.

To begin with, here’s a scan of a cool page from last week’s issue of 2000AD (prog 1645). If you ask me it perfectly sums up the quirkiness of British comics…

does anybody read these titles?

(2000ad copyright 2009 Rebellion inc).

And now, the logo’s of my own two comic projects. Here is the re-designed logo for my main comic, The Red, White & Blue, which is a mixture of picture-strips and text stories.

RWB logo

Very grand, eh? The pictures depict numerous British (or at least half British for some of them) discoveries, inventions or works that have had a large impact on the world. They include Antibiotics, the Lee-Enfield rifle, an A4 class steam locomotive, Association Football, Cricket, SS Great Britain, Boolean algebra (at the heart of almost every computer), DNA, Newton’s Phiosiphae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, a Spitfire, a Newcomen steam engine, Lawn Tennis, a Mini (far from the first front engine front wheel drive car, but one that gave rise to the imitators that in turn gave rise to almost every car on the roads today), Concorde and of course Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Phew! Left out due to space constraints were Magna Carta, a speech baloon representing the English language, a map of the empire, some representation of Shakespeare, a King James bible (for it’s language, not it’s effects on it’s readers!), Collosus, Television (the invention of this is disputed), a Telephone (and this), an Iron cannon and The Magnet … because Shakespeare was forgotten for a long time then rediscovered and hailed as a genius, in the same way Charles Hamilton will one day be.

Trident logo

The logo of The Trident, this will be an A5 sized all-text story paper. With the occasional full-page illustration, depending on the length of the story the number of these will vary. The first story is going to be an epic Sexton Blake tale set in 1916 which will see him caught up in the mire of the Western Front (i’m aiming for a balance between the jingoistic “let’s get ’em!” of the contemporary story papers and the sombre reflections of Charley’s War), he then travels to a castle in Germany where secret weapons are being tested. After a lot of cloak and dagger (literally, in one scene!) action, during which the “German Blake”, Herr Milzinger, will be introduced to the world, Blake and Tinker escape back to England. Here they find Herr Milzinger has preceded them and a final showdown occurs in the cosy confines of Baker Street.

I hope that issue 3 of the Red, White & Blue, and issues 1 and 2 of The Trident, will both be ready for sale at the UK Webcomix Thing 2010, which is to be held at the Great Hall, Mile End Road, London on the 27th of March. As i tend to be highly lazy with regards to buying envelopes and stamps &c, it’s unlikely i’ll ever be setting up an online shop for my comics – so this event will probably the the only chance to buy them! But watch this space.