Preview: Tank Tankuro

We are pleased to present a preview of Tank Tankuro by Gajo Sakamoto (Press Pop, July 20). Originally published in 1934 and 1935, it tells the playful adventures of a superhero robot-like creature of friendly demeanor. With Suhiro Tagawa, Sakamoto was the great iconic innovator in pre-WWII manga. He used a loose, almost cubist drawing style that, in Western comics, finds its closest echo in Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals. Tank just rolls along in each adventure, transforming into whatever his iron-ball structure allows, engaging in one battle after the next, often with variations of traditional Japanese monsters.

This volume, sporting a gorgeous case and cover design by Chris Ware, includes substantial essays and biographical material, along with 240 pages of beautifully printed comics. It's cartooning at its best, and aside from the Tagawa reprints in Kramers Ergot 6, our only reprinting of cartoon-centric (as opposed to realist) manga from this period. It allows us to better understand "The Forgotten History of Japanese Comics Before Osamu Tezuka", as Shunsuke Nakazawa titled his excellent essay, and, like Pete Maresca's Forgotten Fantasy, forces us to reevaluate comics history. I can't recommend it highly enough, both as great comics and a fascinating document. I asked Press Pop's Yasutaka Minegishi why he chose Tank Tankuro for the company's first foray into pre-WWII manga. I'll let Yasu take it from here.

Looking at the variety of Japanese manga published in English up till now, from mainstream manga, alternative manga, shojo-manga, to the genre of "gekiga," I felt that in these past few years, the English-speaking audience became ready for manga that could bring them one step further into the real history of Japanese comics. As a publisher from Japan, I want to make known to the rest of the world, the really "good" stuff that is hidden or remains undiscovered within my country. I've always been fascinated by pre-war manga, and Tank Tankuro shines amongst the many great works with its innocence and wild energy. Compared to other works from around that time, Tank Tankuro is really innovative and experimental for that time and age.  And when I came to know the son of Gajo Sakamoto's son I learned about Sakamoto's determination, strength, and charm as a very special artist that fought for freedom of creativity during the much oppressed pre-war era Japan filled with war propaganda….I knew I had to get his work out to a much broader audience around the world. Sakamoto fought to try to bring some joy to the children of those days and expressed his creativity in the spirit of Tankuro.

Also, I thought Tank Tankuro would be a great vintage manga to start with because it's one of the first robot and superhero manga, and that theme is universal.

We have many many more fascinating works lined up for publication, so I hope people will buy this book so that we can release the next work!

Click here for the preview.


7 Responses to Preview: Tank Tankuro

  1. Francis Dawson says:

    Cool stuff. A bit like a Japanese Milt Gross.

  2. Jay says:

    Chris Ware and Seth need to stop designing book covers. They’re beautiful, yes, but they don’t capture/represent the content inside the covers. It just looks like you’re going to read a Chris Ware/Seth comic. And that’s bad book design.

  3. Sean Michael Robinson says:

    Totally agree about this cover, and the Ware designs for Krazy and Ignatz, but there are some exceptions–I think Ware’s Walt and Skeezix designs are amazingly sympathetic to the material. I wrote about this just yesterday, actually– http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/07/gasoline-all

    The preview looks really interesting. Can’t wait for this book, and would probably check it out if it were covered with roughly stapled cardboard.

  4. DanielJMata says:

    I actually like Ware’s Krazy Kat covers. He’s playing around with the actual characters, the actual drawings. The placements and aprpriations he’s using are very respectful. Seth’s redrawings (and the book’s obvious omissions) are slap to John Stanley and Doug Wright, and the limited design range he has only makes it look like a Seth book. They’ve become his when the really shouldn’t have been.

  5. David says:

    I’m always in favor of using the original artist’s work for cover design, but Ware is such a virtuoso designer that I’m still OK with just about anything I’ve seen him do. This is not his best work, but is still impressive. Seth, on the other hand, is, by his own admission, not a designer, and should not be allowed to “design” a cover ever again.

    Best classic reprint cover design of the past few years: Jacob Covey’s Popeye covers.

  6. Sean Michael Robinson says:

    I understand liking this cover on its own — http://www.copaceticcomics.com/comics/1093

    But the broader question in cover design, at least to my mind, is does it prepare someone for what they’ll be experiencing on the inside? This is even more important in the case of comics or some other kind of book heavy on visual material–is something about the interior communicated through the outside? Style, tone, even time period…

    I suppose it’s really irrelevant in this case since most of the people buying the Krazy and Ignatz books are already familiar with the content, and see the cover as a kind of bonus rather than something that should be integrated into the material. Of course, it’s also worth pointing out that even if Ware’s designs aren’t often visually sympathetic to the material, they’re striking, and most importantly, they’re not this-


    Or this-


  7. Danny Ceballos says:

    This cover design is awesome – you people is nuts

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