Saturday, 14 March 2015

Yoshihiro Tatsumi, A Master

My first Tatsumi book
It was a very powerful moment when I discovered Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s work. I mentioned in my review of Lost cat that I discovered Jason’s work at a time when my interest for comic books was waning. I needed something better to read. This medium has so much potential, how can the landscape be littered with only garbage corporate crap? Hey, Wait… may have kickstarted my love of comics, but Yoshihiro Tatsumi cemented it. I was looking for novelty in a pile of sameness when something bold, innovative and touching came right out of the mass to punch me in the face with it’s wonder. I knew I was holding a powerful piece of art.
A filthy city
The Push Man and Other Stories will forever remain amongst the best historical work I’ve read. It was so ahead of it’s time. I have a hard time processing how anyone reading it back then must have felt. I’ve kept it on my bookshelf, periodically revisiting it and always surprised to find such strong and innovative stories. It is fascinating to read these short stories that are so profound and honest yet very bleak and with a dark sense of humour. It will forever stay amongst the best works I’ve read. Yet, I have never gone beyond it. I always knew I should, but I kept pushing it back. Never reading Black Blizzard or Drifting life. I always postponed it until the next day, the next time I`d be at the library, the next bookstore visit. And almost 10 years after being so enthralled with the work, I still haven’t explored Tatsumi’s oeuvre. I will remedy this, sooner rather than later. I will forever be grateful for the place Tatsumi’s work had in rebuilding my appreciation of the medium. Without him, I never would have read Seiichi Hayashi, Gilbert Hernandez, Susumu Katsumata, Shigeru Mizuki, Seth, Joe Sacco. He unlocked the door to so many good stories. He changed the way I read, the way I think. I will recommend to anyone who isn’t familiar with his work to immediately seek it out. Go to your comic shop (the better one in town if there is more than one) and get his book. The shops usually close at 6:00 pm. Or encourage your local library. Get Black Blizzard. Get A drifting Life. Get to know the life of this man, one of the great masters.
I’m reminded of this show from CBC: Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays. It was about Michael, a man with mental health issues, who saw his psychiatrist every Tuesday and Thursday. Michael was a huge fan of Tatsumi and whenever you saw his apartment, he had a Black Blizzard poster in the background. It was referenced once, when his new girlfriend visits his apartment for the first time. He tries to impress her by not looking like a comic book nerd and changes the poster to a boring Paris photofrom IKEA. But try as he might, he couldn't get rid of his Tatsumi poster. She eventually goes to his apartment and is surprised it looks so bland, "You don't even like Paris". He then shows her what he normally has on the wall. She makes a snarky comment “If you're going to have a Tatsumi poster, why'd you go with Black Blizzard? A Drifting Life is a masterpiece”. I was stunned that his work was referenced in such a way. You can watch it here.

My sincerest condolences to his family on his passing last week. He will be missed by his fans and peers. 

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