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Atomic heroes and atomic monsters: American and Japanese cartoonists confront the onset of the nuclear age, 1945-80.

IN THE IMMEDIATE YEARS after the close of the Second World War, American and Japanese comic book/manga artists both reflected and helped shape their respective worlds of popular culture. Perhaps the picture-and-text combination of comic books/manga might best be understood as a medium of popular storytelling. Rivaled only by radio, film, and (eventually) television, for a quarter century after the war, the lowly comic book reached a vast, if ultimately unchartable, audience. Read by millions, these easy-to-comprehend stories helped forge the atomic outlook of each generation.

For years, American and Japanese cartoonists produced a wide variety of atomic-related tales, many of which featured super heroes battling an assortment of outrageous villains. Although some of the American stories--especially those involving Captain Marvel in the late 1940s--conveyed a profundity not often associated with the medium, the majority of U.S. atomic-related stories remained somewhat superficial, even simplistic. In Japan, however, the manga artists created stories with far more biting edges; their heroes confronted not just villains but also suffering, tragedy, and--eventually--a call for responsibility.

Consequently, the U.S. comic book characters of Atom the Cat, Atomic Mouse, and Atomic Rabbit operated on a far different plane from that of Astro Boy (tetsuwan atomu), Godzilla (Gofira), and Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen. Although the comic book/manga industries played very different roles in their respective societies, postwar cartoonists on both sides of the Pacific spilled a great deal of ink in trying to come to grips with the promises and perils created by the onset of the atomic age. (1)

Of course, monumental historical reasons existed for this disparity of views. Numerous historians, including Laura Hein, Mark Selden, John W. Dower, and Timothy Moy, have observed that the American and Japanese versions of the saga of the Manhattan Project come in two incompatible forms. For the United States, the story reflected the Allied triumph over nearly insurmountable odds and essentially ended with the opening of the bomb bay doors of the two B-29s, Enola Gay and Bock's Car, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the Japanese, however, that was when the story actually began. (2) As an observer recently noted, the horrors of Hiroshima have formed the dominant image of the "Japanese collective memory of the war...." (3) For years, many Japanese viewed themselves primarily as "victims" of unwarranted aggression.

Yet numerous American and Japanese observers also found themselves in search of common ground. After 6 August 1945, virtually every thinking person realized that the world had turned a page of cosmic history; the power unleashed by the fissioned atom needed to be both understood and controlled. From the first week of August forward, the U.S. media--ranging from the New York Times to Time to the humblest farm weekly--desperately tried to comprehend the meaning of these events. "Gentlemen, is the atomic bomb good or bad for the world?" Chancellor Robert Hutchins asked his panel of experts on the 12 August 1945 popular NBC radio show, "The University of Chicago Round Table." (4) Within weeks, a bevy of publications continued the analysis, beginning with physicist Henry DeWolf Smyth's official government report, Atomic Energy for Military Purposes. The so-called "Smyth Report" was officially released in August 1945; by 1947 it had gone through seven printings and had sold 120,000 copies. Additionally, a Russian translation was produced. (5) Japanese scientists, of course, read the Smyth Report with special interest. Three significant, albeit less technical, books followed on its heels: Pocket Books' The Atomic Age Opens (August 1945), the Federation of Atomic Scientists' One World or None (1946), and the U.S. State Department's official report on The International Control of Atomic Energy (1946). The essays in these volumes essentially shared the same perspective: the splitting of the atom had produced both a powerful force for destruction and an alluring prospect of cheap, limitless energy. Moreover, this discovery was inevitable; no group could possibly have prevented it. (6) Atomic bombs would completely alter the nature of warfare, for no nation could defend against them. Had the Germans attached atomic bombs to the V-2 rockets that hammered London, they would easily have won the war. (7) The world had no choice, as the Time reporter phrased it, "but to grope ahead into the Atomic Age." (8)

The American occupation of Japan (1945-51) censored all references to atomic themes from Japanese writers for over six years. But from the mid-1950s forward, the voices of Japanese politicians, intellectuals, novelists, cartoonists, and the hibakusha (people affected by atomic or hydrogen bombs) gradually began to emerge. In 1955, Hiroshima hosted the world's first Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen bombs, and a decade later, novelist Kenzaburo Oe wrote his classic Hiroshima Notes, gracefully portraying the dignity of the hibakusha and the dedication of the many physicians who helped care for them. (9)

The postwar popular cultures of each nation reflected this polarized perspective--triumph or tragedy--as well as a search for shared understanding. This can clearly be seen in the shared cartoon realms of "Funny Animals" and Superheroes. When one examines the world of Funny (that is, anthropomorphic) Animals, Hein, Selden, Dower, and Moy are right on target. In the equally popular genre of Superheroes, however, widespread anxiety over the atom proved so pervasive that major cartoonists on both sides of the Pacific often wrestled with identical dilemmas.


Born in the United States during the Great Depression from a fusion of newspaper comic "strips" (which dated from the 1890s) and the dramatic world of pulp fiction (whose heyday lay in the late 1920s and 1930s), the comic book industry received new life in 1938 when two Cleveland teenagers, Jerry Siegal and Joe Schuster, created Superman. By the time of Pearl Harbor, the American comic genre was dominated by such larger-than-life heroic figures as the Man of Steel, Barman, Submariner, Torch, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, and a host of others. In issue after issue they bested assorted villains with predictable regularity. (10) During the war era, writers and artists also created over sixty "Patriotic Heroes," bearing such names as The Flag, the Shield, Captain Freedom, Miss Victory, and Liberty Belle. The most prominent of these--Captain America--played an iconic role for an entire generation. (11)

Although many writers and artists were drafted, from 1940--45 the industry tripled its production. Thousands of enlisted men and women, scattered on scores of military bases around the globe, bought comic books by the bushel basket. As many enlistees were hampered by Depression-era education, the picture-and-text-combination became an ideal way to convey both information and entertainment. Army officers recalled that comics reigned as the soldiers' reading material of choice. (12) Superman sales alone approached 10 million dollars a year during the war, and by 1943, the publisher, DC, was mailing 35,000 copies of Superman monthly to American troops all over the world. The Nazi propaganda organ, Das Swartz, took notice of this and in one issue branded Superman as "a Jew." (13) A mid-war survey by Newsweek--the first of its kind--revealed the extent of the readership: 95 percent of Americans in the 8-11 age group read comics, 84 percent in the 12-17 age range, and 35 percent of those between 18-30. (14) With the possible exception of film, never had a mass medium achieved such power in so short a time.

Consequently, when President Harry S. Truman announced the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the world, the industry was well situated to explain the onset of the atomic age to American readers. Some of the first attempts came via the numerous factual or "true" comics--a watered-down equivalent of Time or Life intended for young readers. Picture News, for example, featured atomic bomb stories in six of its first ten postwar issues. In 1949, King Features Syndicate loaned its characters for Dagwood Splits the Atom, which explained atomic power in simplified form. Former Manhattan Project head General Leslie R. Groves actually wrote the introduction for this widely praised comic book. (15)

These nonfiction books invariably displayed a rosy view of the future of atomic power. During the early 1950s, General Electric Corporation produced at least eight different "giveaways," bearing titles such as Adventures in Electronics and Science in Your Future, all of which urged young people to make nuclear engineering their career. Perhaps the most optimistic statement in this regard came with M. Phillip Copp's The Atomic Revolution Comic Book (1957), which saw no downside to the nuclear future. Japanese popular culture, incidentally, produced no counterpart to this factual subgenre of the American comic book industry.

Over time, the educational comics slowly faded from the scene, as young readers clearly preferred tales of adventure to pictorial instruction. But when American comic book writers and artists matched their traditional heroes with various atomic villains, they faced an awkward dilemma in storytelling. It was not long before the plot line became eminently predictable. At the last moment, the hero sidetracked the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Story lines such as those found in "The Stolen Atomic Bomb" (Star Spangled Comics, June 1947)--where Batman's sidekick Robin forced the villain to drop a bomb into the ocean-quickly became routine. In 1952, at the last moment, Captain America and Bucky his sidekick saved the nation's atomic secrets from "The Executioner." Two years later, T-Man defused a hydrogen bomb that had been placed in a statue in the main plaza of an unnamed European city. Such last-minute resolutions borrowed heavily from standard Pulp Fiction scenarios. (16) They were repeated hundreds of times during the postwar decades, losing none of their power in the retelling.

The more established superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Marvel family of characters all discovered that the atomic bomb exceeded even their powers. This made for some rather painful storytelling. In an October 1946 Action 101 story, Superman was forced to swallow a drug that made him temporarily insane (he did this only to save Lois Lane's life). In this befuddled state, he mistakenly flew into the Bikini atomic blast, which, fortunately, cleared his mind. In gratitude, Superman borrowed a camera to photograph the mushroom cloud from above. He did so as "a warning to men who talk against peace." (17) In radio and film incarnations, Superman confronted a villain named "Atom Man," and his well-known vulnerability to kryptonite surely resonated with listeners as "radioactivity."

In 1947, Fawcett's Captain Marvel, Jr., battled a villain who had stolen an atomic bomb (drawn as the size of a shoebox). The terrorist threatened to drop the weapon on a city unless he received 10 million dollars. Captain Marvel, Jr., steered the villain's aircraft into a fog and tricked him into dropping the bomb into the ocean. Although artists depicted a gigantic mushroom cloud, the world remained safe for another issue. (18) Similarly, in 1950 Wonder Woman stopped a villain who had planned to establish an assembly line of atomic weapons. After dispatching him, she warned that those who lived by violence were likely to meet a similar end. (19)

The most imaginative comic book treatment of postwar atomic concerns came from the Fawcett Company "bullpen" in the c. 500 stories involving Captain Marvel. Former pulp fiction writer Otto Binder wrote most of them, and they were usually drawn by master artist C. C. Beck. These two artists combined their talents to create a kindly, often obtuse, even whimsical superhero whose sales eventually topped those of Superman in the late 1940s (his enemies called him "the Big Red Cheese"). (20)

Binder and Beck created a number of Captain Marvel "atomic parables." In October 1946, Captain Marvel confronted the onset of Atomic War. The cover depicts him vainly attempting to halt two incoming atomic bombs. In the story, Beck drew the destruction of Chicago and the death of a mother and child whom Captain Marvel had just rescued from a burning house. "Everyone died in this atomic war!" the hero despairs. "I'm ... I'm the only man left alive." The story proves to be only a television dramatization. In the last panel, the children watching the show realize, "I guess we'd all better learn to live and get along together ... one nation with all the other nations ... and one person with all other persons so that the terrible Atomic War will never occur!" (21)

In another adventure, Captain Marvel tricked "Mr. Atom," an atomic robot who had tried to rule mankind, into entering a lead-lined prison. As Mr. Atom could break out at any moment, Billy Batson (Captain Marvel's alter ego) warned readers that "Mr. Atom is a menace that the world cannot safely ignore!" (22)

In yet another story, Captain Marvel resolves a conflict between ants and wasps, who were on the verge of an atomic war to decide which species would dominate the globe. (Because of their size, ants had slipped through the U.S. defense plants to steal atomic secrets. In turn, the wasps had stolen the secrets from the ants.) In solving this dispute, Captain Marvel helped the ants and wasps form the "UI"--a United Insects organization: "Like our United Nations, it will promote peace here in your insect civilization!" (23)

In 1951, Captain Marvel battled an "atomic fire" that could not be extinguished on earth. He solved the problem by cutting out a one hundred-mile flaming circle of soil and flinging it into the sun. In the last panel, the indestructible hero nearly collapses at the realization that if he had failed, this would have been the end of the world. (24)

Binder and Beck also made their hero confront the question of nuclear energy. A visit from "the Atom Ambassador" warned of the dangers involved in smashing atoms, and in 1951, radio station WHIZ (where Billy Batson works) obtained "atomic power." Like the tale of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, this power begins harmlessly enough, but it soon threatens to run amok. Although Captain Marvel safely brings atomic power under control, the reader is left with an anxious feeling about the whole affair. (25)

Binder and Beck's atomic allegories came to an abrupt end in 1953. Shortly after Beck had helped create Captain Marvel, DC Comics sued Fawcett for breach of copyright, claiming that the Big Red Cheese borrowed too many characteristics from Superman. After sagging sales and several years in court, Fawcett withdrew the character in 1953. When Captain Marvel disappeared from the newsstands, so did the most imaginative American comic book allegories of the atomic age.

The comic book genre has seldom been praised for depth of analysis. Yet the atomic parables crafted by Binder and Beck display an ambiguity about the onset of the atomic era that eluded the other writers of their day. After the arms race with the Soviet Union intensified in the early 1950s, however, this initial subtlety disappeared completely. None of the subsequent American superhero characters would ever reflect the atomic uncertainty of the period between 1945 and 1953. A variety of atomic explosions or spider bites might give later characters such as the Hulk, Firestorm, X-men, or Spiderman their powers, but these characters seldom wrestled with the same type of cosmic atomic questions that had plagued the postwar superhero generation.


The manga artists of Japan approached the atomic age from a rather different perspective. Although Japanese comics may be traced to the mid-1920s, manga as we know it did not really emerge until the years of the American occupation. Yet in a sense, manga roots stretched deep into Japanese history, with its traditional emphasis on visual presentation, as seen in historic scroll paintings and in the iconic imagery of such nineteenth-century master artists/engravers as Hokusai. (26) Some have argued that Japanese society is "traditionally more picto-centric than cultures of the West." (27) Others have described manga as both a powerful medium of entertainment and a channel for the widespread diffusion of values. (28) Similarly, historian Frederick Schodt has argued that no outsider can hope to comprehend contemporary Japan without some understanding of the role played by manga. Indeed, manga may account for 40 percent of the literature published in Japan today. (29)

In the fall of 1945, Japanese young people--who had been fed almost entirely on nationalistic propaganda during the conflict--found themselves starved for entertainment. An estimated 10,000 traveling storytellers eked out a living by walking from village to village to ply their trade. Although American comic books arrived with the occupying soldiers, the 1930s world of Walt Disney had already sown the seeds for the creative genius of Japan's most famous cartoonist--indeed the person who virtually created the nation's manga industry--Tezuka Osamu (1928-89). A medical doctor turned cartoonist, his enormous creative output-over 150,000 images--had direct links with his wartime experience. As he later recalled, the day that peace was announced, he looked over his native city of Osaka and thought: "With the view of the city of Osaka in sight on August 15, I indeed felt that I could live for another several decades. Never in my life had I felt happier. I still remember the feeling vividly." (30) Tezuka continued: "[t]he feeling that I am alive, or something like an ode to life, unconsciously shows in whatever I create." (31)

As a child in the 1930s, Tezuka had been exposed to the numerous American films that his father had brought home, such as Buster Keaton's and Charlie Chaplin's comedies, as well as several of the early Disney cartoons. (32) He later admitted that much of his creative energies drew from his prewar exposure to those American works, added to the simple fact that he had survived the conflagration. (33) Thus, the atomic bomb always loomed large in Tezuka's mind.

Abandoning his medical career to become a full-time cartoonist, Tezuka first explored these themes in the manga Metropolis (1949) in which a Dr. Lorton creates an androgynous superhero, Michi, who, thinking he is human, attempts to discover his nonexistent parents. When Michi learns from the villain that he had been created from artificial cells and has no parents, he falls into a rage of despair and tries to destroy Metropolis. But at the last moment, he loses his power and melts away. The manga ends with the following cautionary message: "Michi's life is over. The creation of life made possible by the consummation of modern technology has only resulted in disturbing our society. Technology may get out of control and be used against mankind someday." (34)

Metropolis was followed by The Future World (1951), Tezuka's personal response to the cold war between the United States (Star Republic) and the Soviet Union (Uran Union). In this tale, Dr. Yamadano, a physicist, discovers a tiny creature named Rococo on Horseshoe Island, where the Star Republic had conducted hydrogen bomb experiments. The creature is a "Fumoon," an advanced species mutated from humans as a result of the effect of atomic experiments. Dr. Yamadano believes that terrestrial flora and fauna will go through similar mutation because of the lingering radiation, and he brings this issue before the International Conference on Atomic Energy, but to no avail. Eventually, the Star Republic and Uran Union declare war on each other. Meanwhile, a burgeoning mass of black gas emerges in outer space and threatens to swallow up the earth. While the Star Republic and Uran Union battle, the Fumoon, like Noah, plans to rescue a select few of all living creatures of the earth, including humans, by transporting them to another planet on a flying saucer. But suddenly, after realizing that neither side can win, the two protagonists hastily conclude a peace treaty, whereupon a miracle occurs: the mass of black gas turns into harmless oxygen, sparing the earth from annihilation in the nick of time. The manga concludes with the following message by Dr. Yamadano: "Just as we conquered apes, we will be conquered by those more advanced than us someday. This is the law of nature. If we wish to coexist with them, we must stop fighting against each other." (35)

In 1951, Tezuka created the most popular and enduring postwar Japanese atomic hero--Mighty Atom, or, as he was later known in the states, Astro Boy (tetsuwan atomu). Astro Boy initially began under the name of Ambassador Atom (atomu taishi). The work was serialized in the popular boys' magazine Shonen in April 1951 and concluded in March the year after. Popular culture critic Eiji Otsuka has argued that the name "Ambassador" was directly related to the fact that the Japanese had recently signed a peace treaty with the United States which also inaugurated a military alliance. In a sense, Ambassador Atom was a direct product of this sociopolitical development: in one story, the "aliens" [U.S.?] visiting earth [Japan] are not really "enemies" but simply externalized forms of the inner selves of other human beings. Thus, in a strange sense, the Atom was assigned the role of "ambassador" of peace and goodwill between the two nations. (36)

Ambassador Atom began anew as Astro Boy in April 1952 and a decade later emerged as a popular anime in the United States. Clearly modeled after Mickey Mouse, Astro Boy is a robot with super powers: he has machine guns as part of his hips; he can fly; he has strength equal to 100,000 horse power; he has super hearing and can turn his eyes into searchlights; and he can sense whether people are good or bad. The source of his power is atomic energy. (37)

But unlike other "manufactured" creatures, Astro Boy shares human emotions. He even attends school, where he studies alongside his human peers. Astro Boy has all the hallmarks of Tezuka's other masterpieces: compassion for "others," such as alien species, robots, and foreign tribes; a warning against human arrogance in abusing modern technology; and a call for peaceful coexistence among different groups. In Tezuka's world, the robots, such as Astro Boy, are often more human than humans themselves, as they deal with sadness, fear, sorrow, and even remorse. Humans cause most of the problems in his stories. If robots ever strike out against humankind, they usually do so because they have become victims of circumstances. (38)

Astro Boy also appeared briefly in the United States as a Dell Comic, but its greatest American appeal came through the 200 weekly television episodes that NBC showed beginning in 1963. (39) The original Astro Boy manga stories did not reach the United States--in a multivolume edition translated by Frederick L. Schodt--until the twenty-first century. (40)

In an autobiographical statement, Tezuka recalled that during the occupation, an American soldier once struck him in the face because he could not respond to a question posed in English (which he did not understand). In a sense, Astro Boy became an outlet for Tezuka's outrage against both personal and national humiliation.

Many of the Astro Boy stories reflect contemporary Japanese concerns. Tezuka wove the prevailing anxiety over the atom into numerous tales. In a manner echoing his American Superhero counterparts, Astro Boy periodically saved Japan from destruction from atomic or hydrogen bombs. Because of his medical training, Tezuka knew well the world of science, and he infused scientific themes into many of the Astro Boy stories. Still, he never succumbed to the idea that science could answer all human problems. "I was a foolish scientist, and now I'm paying the price," one character confesses before he expires. "He [Garon] really did not destroy himself...." a character remarks in another story. "It shows what happens when a person has too much power...." (41) American comic artists often drew on this theme as well.

But Tezuka's work clearly reflects the culture from which it sprang. Unlike the American stories, many of the evil characters sincerely apologize to Astro Boy or to his teacher Mr. Mustachio--to have the Joker apologize to Batman or Lex Luthor to Superman would have been unthinkable. Surely this theme of apology reflected Japanese cultural norms, but it may also have pointed to a national yearning for an official American apology for the use of atomic weapons, an apology that never came. (42) Not only did a number of villains apologize, Astro Boy and his friends often recognize a spark of goodness in even the most fiendish of opponents. As the professor notes in a 1968 story, "He [Judas Pater] was an evil man, but sometimes God gives even evil people a spark of good...." (43) Similarly, Astro Boy observes: "So if you see any people acting bad around you ... they may have been possessed by a strange mist! But they're not really bad!!" (44)

In Hiroshima Notes, Kenzaburo Oe observed that, because the race to build atomic weapons would likely never cease, he sought only "decent and humanistic ways to contribute to the healing and reconciliation of all peoples." (45) In a similar vein, this theme of "reconciliation" lies at the heart of many an Astro Boy tale. While the last panels of most American Superhero comics show them sending the captured villains to prison--and well they deserve it--Astro Boy offers an alternative to incarceration. Consistently he tries to smooth over tragic conflicts, be they between humans and animals, robots and robots, or robots and humans. In a number of early tales, Astro Boy--who was once enslaved himself--attempts to prevent humans from treating other robots in a similar fashion. (Perhaps a reference to other nations looking down on a defeated Japan?) "Robot citizens," a speaker says to his human compatriots in one story, "... We cannot live without you ... but neither can you live without us." (46) Clearly, the suffering caused by the bombs propelled artists like Tezuka into a search for models of reconciliation and a concern over an overreliance on science.

Equally important, from 1945 through 1951, strict American censorship during the occupation dictated what could be presented to the Japanese public. For example, the occupying forces employed over 8,000 censors who virtually silenced the voices of those who had suffered from the atomic bombs. (47) One censor even punished a cartoonist for depicting Americans with red noses. (48) Although the Americans departed in 1951, cautious Japanese governments continued the policy of suppressing overt atomic-related themes as late as the 1970s. (49) Such censorship often allowed manga artists a freedom in their fiction that was denied other commentators. Under the guise of fantasy and allegory, Astro Boy and Godzilla could present views on the atomic age that a Japanese editorial columnist or magazine writer could voice only with difficulty.


If American and Japanese Superheroes such as Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Astro Boy could all voice anxiety over atomic power and the dangers of atomic war, the commonality disappears abruptly in the second area of comparison: Funny Animals. Only slightly less popular in the states than the Superhero genre, the anthropomorphic animals essentially began with Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse of the late 1920s. Fifteen years later, Disney's famous rodent, as well as his Donald Duck, had earned worldwide recognition. So, too, had Warner Brothers' Bugs Bunny, Walter Lantz's Andy Panda, and MGM's Tom and Jerry.

During the war, the American Funny Animals donned a number of hats. In 1943, Animal Comics showed characters in a carnival scene heaving balls at a portrait of Hitler. Similarly, in February 1945, a short-lived character, Bee-29, denounced Hitler and urged the nation to meet its "honey production goal." Other animals became miniaturized echoes of the superheroes. For example, Terrytoon's Mighty Mouse (1942) became both a parody and mouse version of Superman. In Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, Fawcett artists echoed the theme of Billy Batson. Just as Billy had only to say "Shazam!" to turn into Captain Marvel, when mild-mannered Hoppy spoke same word, he turned into a rabbit superhero with similar powers. Hoppy later starred in his own postwar title.

Another Fawcett Funny Animals figure, Billy the Kid (an anthropomorphic goat), rode his own horse, with the motto "Hi-O Paint. Let's git whar we ain't." Likewise, "Red" Rabbit Comics--featuring a bunny Western hero copied from Red Ryder--observed that "anyone on the side of law and order always comes out on top." (50) Later, the industry created Supermouse (the mouse of stainless steel), Super Cat, Super Duck, and Super Rabbit.

Every major comic publisher of any size tried to grab a share of this popular market. The titles reflected their similarity: National Periodical's Animal Antics, Fawcett's Animal Fair, Advanced Global Connection (ACG's), Funny Films, Red Top Comics' Funny Fables, Holiday Comics' Animals on Parade, Walter Lantz's New Funnies, Fawcett's Funny Animals, Carleton's Frisky Fables, Harvey's Funny 3-D, DC Comics, Funny Stuff, and Parents' Magazine Press's Funny Book. The list could easily be extended. Although the majority of these stories proved eminently forgettable, their popularity persisted among young readers for decades.

Thus, in the immediate postwar years, the funny animals formed an important subset of American comic book offerings. In 1952, for example, six of DC Comics' thirty-nine books were of this ilk, starring long-forgotten characters such as Doodles Duck, Ozzie Owl, and Nutsy Squirrel. (51) Around the same time, the far more popular Looney Tunes, featuring Bugs Bunny, sold an enormous three million copies every month.

Given their widespread appeal, it was not long before the talking animals ventured into the atomic age. Disney artist Carl Barks created the first story, "Donald Duck's Atom Bomb," for a 1948 Cheerios "giveaway." By mixing "mashed meteors, brimstone, and a lightning bolt," Donald created an atomic bomb in his kitchen. A villain stole the formula--only to discover that Donald's "atomic bomb" simply caused people's hair to fall out. (52) (Today, Disney Studios are very reluctant to have this story reprinted.)

Although Barks' atomic animal allegory was never duplicated, other animal heroes similarly edged into the atomic world. In 1949, Pete Pixie invoked the magic words--"Pick a Peck o' Pixies"--to become (briefly) "The Mighty Atom." (53) (His momentary presence forced American producers to use the name "Astro Boy" for Tezuka's character so as to avoid duplication.) Three years earlier, All Humor Comics introduced "Atomic Tot," an elf-like newsboy who becomes a defender of justice because: "[his] size and ragged clothes conceal the fact that through his veins Atomic energy flows!" (54) Unlike their Japanese counterparts, American Funny Animals expressed no concern over issues of radiation. In fact, radioactivity provided most of them with their superpowers. In 1957, Carleton's Tom Cat fell asleep next to "atomic rays," absorbing them to become "Atom the Cat." Atom the Cat revived his atomic power by consuming fish. During the early 1960s, Hanna-Barbera Studios created "Atom Ant," who drew on his proportional strength to serve justice. Atom Ant also enjoyed a brief television career. (55)

The most popular of the postwar "Atomic animals" were Al Fago's Atomic Mouse and Atomic Rabbit published by Carleton. Born in 1953, meek "Cimota" Mouse was badly treated until he swallowed some [U.sup.235] pills, donned cape and costume (with a large "A" on the chest), and reversed his forename. Afterward, he assumed a new role: "helping to keep peace and order throughout the universe." Whimsical and cleverly drawn, the Atomic-Powered Mouse lasted fifty-four issues, with both television and movie tie-ins. (56)

Two years later, Fago's artists tried to replicate this success by creating Atomic Rabbit, who gained his particular powers from munching radioactive carrots. On a 1957 Atomic Rabbit cover, "the President" proclaimed that "Atomic Rabbit is the fastest and most powerful crusader for law and order in the world." A representative 1958 story is entitled "Dig That Uranium." (57) The name changed to Atomic Bunny the next year, but the colorful atomic rabbit hero disappeared after only nineteen issues. (58) The American Funny Animals reflected none of the atomic anxiety that so perplexed the Superheroes of the same era. In their worlds, "atomic" meant simply "energy." In truth, the term became reduced to the lowest common denominator: a source of endless strength that enabled the atomic mouse/rabbit/tot/pixie/cat to best a wide assortment of foes, usually cats, foxes, or, on occasion, the odd mad scientist. These were no atomic animal villains. Evil, it seems, would always be defeated by proper use of atomic strength. In the hands of the postwar American Funny Animal artists, all earlier atomic ambiguity quietly disappeared from the stories.



If "atomic power" produced a bevy of American animals determined to bring about justice, Japanese writers approached the theme from a very different point of view. Somehow Funny Animals never had much appeal to Japanese children. For reasons not clearly understood, they seemed to prefer robots such as Astro Boy or (later) the blue Robot Cat from the future, Doraemon. Yet the classic example of a "radiation-powered creature" rests with the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla.

On 1 March 1954, the United States conducted a hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (59) When the bomb (code name Bravo) was detonated, Lucky Dragon No. 5 (Daigo Fukuryumaru), a Japanese tuna fishing ship, happened to be approximately one-hundred-sixty kilometers northeast of the test site. As a result, all of the twenty-three crew members were exposed to radioactive fallout for five long hours and later suffered from severe radiation sickness. When the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun broke the news on 15 March, it sent a shockwave across the whole nation, fanning the flames of anti-American sentiment. After all, it had only been nine years since the end of the war, and the memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in the mind of Japanese citizens. Many viewed the incident as the "third nuclear attack" on Japan. In their eyes, Japan had become not only the first atomic bomb victim, it was also the first hydrogen bomb victim. This chain of incidents acted as a catalyst for the growth of numerous antinuclear campaigns.

The tuna from the vessel was immediately disposed of in Tokyo but not before some had reached consumers in Osaka, spreading a fear of irradiated tuna (genbaku maguro) throughout the nation. Over 450 tons of fish were confiscated and buried underground. Later surveys by Japanese scientists discovered widespread contamination of the North Pacific. (60) Meanwhile, rain contaminated by the radiation from the explosion fell in many parts of the country. The crises reached a tragic conclusion when Kuboyama Aikichi, the radio operator of the boat, died six months later.

From this heated atmosphere came the most infamous fictional monster in history: Godzilla. Tellingly, the film opens with Godzilla attacking a fishing boat. (61) The story suggests that Godzilla belongs to an obscure prehistoric species--some form of cross between an oceanic reptile and a terrestrial animal that had survived 2 million years since the Jurassic period. (62) But after being exposed to radiation from a hydrogen bomb test, the creature emerges as a forty-five-foot monster. Thus, Godzilla essentially functioned as a walking nuclear reactor, breathing out radiation. It also seemed attracted to light, for it usually attacked Tokyo at night--perhaps a reference to the wartime blackouts and the omnipresent B-29 bombers. (63) After ravaging downtown Tokyo, Godzilla is finally dispatched by the powerful weapon named "oxygen destroyer" invented by Dr. Serizawa, a oneeyed scientist. Dr. Serizawa believes that modern technology should be used for the welfare of humankind--and not for its detriment, as the A-bomb had been. Fearing that the weapon could fall into malevolent hands, Dr. Serizawa destroys all his research and takes on a kamikaze-like suicide mission to annihilate Godzilla. The film ends with the elegiac music composed by Ifukube Akira soaring in the background while Dr. Yamane, a paleontologist, played by Shimura Kyo, states the following: "I don't think that is the last Godzilla. There will be another somewhere in the world if we keep conducting hydrogen bomb tests." Not only does Godzilla underscore the fear of the Japanese over atomic energy, it also serves as a warning against potential human folly over modern technology.

Originally a powerful allegory for the dangers of hydrogen bombs, Godzilla soon became an industry all its own. Twenty-eight subsequent Godzilla films, plus a host of spin-off artifacts, followed. When American producers released their own version in 1956, the tale conveyed a completely different message from the original. From 1977-79, Marvel Comics published a twenty-four-issue monthly series detailing Godzilla's adventures for American readers. Here, the artists attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to enlist him on the side of virtue. (64) Similarly, in 1976, the film Godzilla vs. Megaton portrayed Godzilla as a benign monster, noting: "[w]hen the fight is monster against monster the outcome is irrelevant ... because good will always triumph over evil." (65) Neither of these American ventures had any lasting impression. It is artistically difficult to turn a radioactive monster destroying Tokyo into a variety of Funny Animal deriving his power for good from radioactive carrots.


In its initial form, Godzilla functioned as an allegory, not a direct atomic statement. Because of this relative silence on the moral issues involved, Keiji Nakazawa's manga Barefoot Gen (1972; turned into an[me in 1995) holds a unique position in the history of the literature of the hibakusha.

From 1945 to the 1970s, few American or Japanese creative artists raised the question of the "responsibility" for the decision to use the atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reason for the American silence is obvious, but the relative reluctance of Japanese artists is harder to explain. In The Bells of Nagasaki, Roman Catholic physician Nagai Takashi suggested that the atomic bomb must be understood as part of God's providence, and that the lost lives were sacrificial lambs offered to God for the sins of humankind. (66) Although drawing primarily from a Buddhist rather than a Christian perspective, the early hibakusha films shared a similar point of view. "Children of Hiroshima" (1952) by Shindo Kaneto, the first hibakusha film released in the post-occupation period, conveyed an overarching atmosphere of sadness and elegy. (67) There was no fist shaking or naming names in these works. Instead, the sorrow and anger of the survivors seemed to be directed inward. By strictly refusing to be political, Japanese hibakusha cinema succeeded in appealing to the popular sentiments of the Japanese to see themselves as victims without explicitly blaming any particular party. They clearly helped transform Nagasaki and Hiroshima into the symbols of peace with which the Japanese could readily identify. (68) The questions of how the tragedy occurred, and of who should be held accountable for it, are conspicuous by their absence. (69) Even Astro Boy and Godzilla are no exception. This silence is what makes the cartoon story of Barefoot Gen so unique.

Born in 1939 in Hiroshima, Keiji Nakazawa was only six when the atomic bomb was dropped on his hometown. Thanks to the concrete wall of his school, he survived with only minor injuries, but he lost his father, sister, and brother to the ensuing conflagration. (70) He later credits his artistic inspiration to his father, a painter, and to Tezuka Osamu. Like Tezuka, he also had been exposed to the Walt Disney comics and the comic strip Blondie in his childhood. "I thought American comics were second to none when it came to the quality of the drawing," Nakazawa recalled. The fact that Nakazawa was an A-bomb survivor and had lost his loved ones dominated his artwork. Once, when asked how he felt about comics that addressed social issues, Nakazawa replied, "I think the best cartoonists all do that. That's why I admire Tezuka so much." (71) When it came to comments on ultimate responsibilities, however, even Tezuka's works pale in comparison with Nakazawa's.

The manga Struck by Black Rain (1968) presages all the qualities that would later go into Barefoot Gen, and its no-holds-barred accusations against the Americans are boldly stated. The protagonist of this short manga is an assassin named Jin, whose mission is to kill American businessmen living in Japan. The Americans are black marketeers trading weapons, and they miserably beg for their lives on all fours as Jin kills them. Other Americans in the story are depicted just as negatively. When Jin comes across American drunkards making a pass at women, he strikes them, saying "I cannot bear to see those barbarians that have just been to Vietnam walking around in Japan." (72) When he spots an American tourist spitting out his gum at the peace memorial park, he punches him in the face and demands that he pick up the gum: "What kind of place do you think Hiroshima is? Under the ground you are standing on are buried millions of humans. I can't bear to see you desecrate this place." Jin then shouts: "You murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians just to test the atomic bombs. You are more brutal than the Nazis." (73) Later, Jin comes across a little girl named Heiwa (meaning "peace"). Born blind because of the effect of the A-bomb disease that her mother suffered, Heiwa lives with her grandfather. The only way to restore her vision rests with a cornea transplant, but she has yet to meet a donor. Heiwa's grandfather, who suffers from A-bomb disease himself, complains that the government does almost nothing to assist them. Jin then goes out to kill an American marketeer, but in so doing he sustains a fatal stab wound himself. As he drags himself back to Heiwa's, with a knife sticking out of his back, he offers to give his corneas to Heiwa. Jin's last message to her: "Heiwa, you can soon have your vision. But promise me one thing. Please see to it that Japan will never let a war happen again, and that an atomic bomb will never be dropped again." (74)

Struck by Black Rain was written in the wake of Nakazawa's mother's death in 1966, when she finally succumbed to the radiation sickness that she had been suffering from since 1945. Having received a telegram telling him of his mother's deteriorating condition, Nakazawa rushed back to Hiroshima, only to find her in a coffin. He then went to the crematorium to collect her ashes but was dismayed at what he found. Nakazawa recalled: "It was an incredible shock to me. I think the radiation must have invaded her bones and weakened them to the point that they just disintegrated in the end." (75) Until then, Nakazawa had largely bypassed the nuclear theme in his art. But he was so enraged by his mother's death (and the way she died) that he decided to take Atomic themes more seriously. "The more I thought about it, the more obvious it was that the Japanese had not confronted these issues at all," Nakazawa said. "They hadn't accepted their own responsibility for the war. I decided from then on, I'd write about the bomb and the war, and pin the blame where it belonged." (76) The sociopolitical atmosphere of the late sixties made it much easier for both cartoonists and publishers to take on political issues. His resolution crystallized into one of the most significant manga books ever published in Japan: Barefoot Gen.

Serialized in 1972 and 1973 in the boys' comic weekly Shonen Jump, Barefoot Gen is Nakazawa's semi-autobiographical story, and Gen (roughly translated as "everyman") experiences what Nakazawa himself went through. The work is composed of two parts: the first half illustrates how Gen and his family lived through prewar and wartime Hiroshima, followed by how they survived the bombing and its aftermath; the second half brings the story to the uplifting conclusion where Gen, who is finally reconciled to the deaths of his younger sister Tomoko and his mother, leaves Hiroshima for Tokyo in pursuit of a professional cartooning career. (77)

Barefoot Gen differs from many other hibakusha films or manga in several important ways. Whereas most protagonists in the hibakusha films are women who suffer and endure, Barefoot Gen features men as the main characters. (78) That Barefoot Gen is essentially a father-and-son story adds to the masculine nature of the work. The tone is set at the outset when Daikichi, Gen's father, brings his sons' attention to the fact that wheat bears fruit no matter how many times it is trampled upon, and tells the boys to grow like wheat. (79) Daikichi's message appears as flashbacks at every critical juncture of the work; every time it appears, Gen takes the message to heart. Nakazawa once recalled his father's comment that "the war was wrong, that Japan would lose for sure, and that maybe then, and only then, the country would get better." (80) The cartoonist's views about the war were clearly shaped by his father. Yomota Inuhiko, a Japanese critic of popular culture, has argued that eyes are used most frequently to distinguish one character from others and that a major protagonist is often characterized by large, wide eyes as well as a prominent nose. Yomota concludes that all the major characters in Barefoot Gen share these facial features--a way to express their strength and will to protest. (81)

What makes Barefoot Gen truly special among manga, A-bomb-related films, and atomic anime lies in the way it deals with the hibakusha. While most other works dealing with the hibakusha usually focus on the lives of the survivors in the postwar period, Barefoot Gen provides wider vistas. It does not shy away from such crucial issues as the restriction of freedom of thought and freedom of speech in prewar Japan; the subsequent discrimination against the hibakusha after the war, even by their relatives; and the terrible conditions of the war orphans, who often fell into the hands of the Yakuza (an organized crime syndicate) amid the chaos and confusion of the postwar era. In addition, Barefoot Gen is also one of the few major A-bomb-related works written in Japan to address the issue of how Korean residents were treated during that time period. Mr. Pak, Gen's Korean neighbor, is portrayed quite sympathetically. He is the only one who stands on the side of Gen and his family throughout the story.

In spite of the gravity of the theme and the tragedies that occur throughout the tale, Barefoot Gen is infused with life-affirming joviality. This is in no small part because of the way that Gen and the other children are portrayed. Living by their own wits amid the postwar confusion, the children are far more energetic and resilient than many of the adult characters. If they occasionally despair for their lives, they soon rise to the occasion and move on with renewed vigor. Barefoot Gen is indeed the story of the ultimate victory of the trampled masses. Just as John Steinbeck's classic novel Grapes of Wrath (1939) concludes with a powerful ode to life, so, too, does Barefoot Gen. Struck by the fact that his hair has finally started to grow back, plus a vision of his father's recurring accolade to the enduring strength of spring wheat, the young hero eventually concludes: 'I'll go on living whatever it takes! I promise." (82) The last panel shows him skipping merrily into the sunset.

Excluding Art Spiegleman's two-volume cartoon story of the holocaust, Maus--which was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992--no American comic book publisher has produced any counterpart to Barefoot Gen. Although volume one of Nakazawa's work was first translated into English in 1978--probably America's first acquaintance with manga--Barefoot Gen is still not well-known in the United States. The first American comic book version only survived for two brief issues. (83) In 2002, U.S. publishers began a new multivolume edition, but whether it will succeed with the American reading public remains to be seen. For most American readers, the Holocaust retains far more public visibility than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. (84)


From 1945 through the 1970s, the comic book/manga artists in both Japan and the United States wrestled with Atomic-related concerns via their popular storytelling medium. From earnest appeals to American youth to enter the field of nuclear engineering to last-minute escapes from potential atomic conflagration to clever atomic parables containing pleas for world peace, the two nations' cartoonists brought multiple levels of understanding to their popular presentations. As Tezuka once said, "Comics are an international language. They can cross boundaries and generations. Comics are a bridge between all cultures." (85)

From a perspective of over sixty years, however, it is clear that the U.S. and Japanese understanding of this "bridge" contained both contrasts and similarities. The contrasts are painfully obvious in the realm of Funny Animals. On the one side, the atom provided power for virtue; on the other, it sowed havoc and destruction. Unlike their Japanese counterparts, the U.S. Funny Animal cartoonists always depicted radiation as a synonym for benevolent power. The gap between Atom the Cat gaining his strength by eating fish and the civilians of Osaka unknowingly consuming radioactive tuna is not easily bridged. Yet there were cartoon similarities as well. These may be easily seen in the shared anxieties expressed by the various Superheroes as they confronted a variety of atomic dangers. Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and--especially--Astro Boy all shared the same sense of ambiguity regarding technology and the onset of the nuclear era. And with Barefoot Gen, Keiji Nakazawa boldly called for someone to step up and assume responsibility.

Aside from the obvious, perhaps the central key to this difference lies in the manner by which the creative artists in the two nations responded to the themes of victory or defeat. Although few victors would ever wish to exchange places with the vanquished, no victory--no matter how complete--can ever produce all the hoped-for social changes. Defeat, however, can often fuel enormous creativity. From the perspective of the conquered, the world of "might have beens" remains an ever-present reality. And because a tragic loss of life usually unites a people, these sentiments are ever laced with the theme of "never again."

From the early 1950s forward, manga clearly played a far more significant role in Japanese society than American comic books--which had begun to feel the impact of television--did in the United States. In America, comics are usually dismissed as "inferior children's literature," whereas manga offerings have been able to reach out to all sectors of Japanese society. (86) Some of the weekly magazines sell as many as 3 million copies each. (87) Thus, the collective thrust of the manga stories in Japan, with their relentless television and video spin-offs--have probably had far more impact than their American comic book counterparts.

Finally, one senses a distinct difference of tone between the two comic book worlds. No American superhero voiced the hope of peace among differing social groups more earnestly than Astro Boy. And no American comic book conveyed the cri de coeur of Barefoot Gen. In Japan, later manga/anime stories such as Akira (1988), The Legend of Mother Sarah (1995), Akaikutsu Haita (Wearing Red Shoes) (1995), as well as countless others, continue to reflect the themes of atomic/post-atomic catastrophe. (88) The atomic holocaust theme reappeared briefly in American comics during the Cold War tensions of the 1980s, but it lacked staying power. It is perhaps no coincidence that a 2005 exhibition of contemporary Japanese art held in New York City carried the title of "Little Boy." (89) The legacy of the Manhattan Project is never far from the minds and pens of the Japanese manga artists. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, ever since 1945, manga artists have placed the atomic theme at the very heart of Japanese popular culture.

(1.) See Robert Beerbohm, "The Atomic Genre," Comic Book Marketplace 46 (April 1997): 19-23; Paul Gravett, Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd., 2004).

(2.) Laura Hein and Mark Selden, "Commemoration and Silence," in Living With the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age, eds. Laura Hein and Mark Selden (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), 3-34; John W. Dower, "Triumphal and Tragic Narratives of the War in Asia," in Living With the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age, eds. Laura Hein and Mark Selden (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), 37-51.

(3.) Franziska Seraphim, "Atomic Bombings," in Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture, ed. Sandra Buckley (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 35.

(4.) Quoted in The Atomic Age Opens ed. Donald Porter Geddes (New York: Pocket Books, 1945), 206.

(5.) Henry DeWolf Smyth, Atomic Energy for Military Purposes: The Official Report on the Development of the Atomic Bomb Under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1947), iv-vii.

(6.) Arthur H. Compton, "Introduction," in One World or None, eds. Dexter Masters and Katharine Way (New York: McGraw Hill, 1946), v.

(7.) Louis N. Ridemour, "There Is No Defense," in ibid., 33-8.

(8.) Time, 20 August 1945, 29.

(9.) Kenzaburo Oe, Hiroshima Notes, trans. David L. Swain and Toshi Yonezawa (New York and London: Marion Boyers, 1995).

(10.) See Nicky Wright, The Classic Era of American Comics (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2000) and Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

(11.) Michelle Nolan, "Patriotic Heroes ... The Red White and Blue of WWII," Comic Book Marketplace (June 1997): 13-18; John Beek, "National Comics: The Most Patriotic Title of Them AU!", Comic Book Marketplace (June 1997): 35-45.

(12.) Interview with Captain Frank Kelly, 17 March 1998.

(13.) Jerry Robinson, The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974), 166; Mike Benton, Superhero Comics of the Golden Age (Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1992), 4.

(14.) "Escapist Paydirt," Newsweek 32 (28 December 1943): 55-58.

(15.) Ferenc M. Szasz, "Atomic Comics: The Comic Book Industry Confronts the Nuclear Age," in Atomic Culture: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, eds. Scott C. Zeman and Michael A. Amundsen (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2004), 11-33.

(16.) T-Man 20 (December 1954), Quality Comics Group of Comic Magazines; Young Men 25 (February 1952), Interstate Publishing; Star Spangled Comics (June 1947), National Periodical Publications/Detective Comics.

(17.) Action 101 (October 1946), National Periodical Publications/Detective Comics.

(18.) Captain Marvel, Jr. 53 (September 1947), Fawcett Publications.

(19.) William W. Savage, Jr., Comic Books and America, 1945-1954 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 20.

(20.) See Joseph Kary, "Superman vs. the Big Red Cheese," Comic Book Marketplace 55 (January 1998): 18-24.

(21.) Captain Marvel Adventures 66 (October 1946), Fawcett Publications.

(22.) Captain Marvel Adventures 78 (November 1947), Fawcett Publications.

(23.) Savage, 20-21.

(24.) Captain Marvel Adventures 122 (July 1951), Fawcett Publications; see also Captain Marvel Adventures 131 (April 1952), Fawcett Publications.

(25.) Captain Marvel Adventures 76 (September 1947), Fawcett Publications.

(26.) Gravett, Manga, Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), esp. chap. 2.

(27.) Susan J. Napier, Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke; Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation (New York: Palgrave, 2000), 7.

(28.) Cited in Lee A. Makela, "Manga! The Great Japanese Comic Book Invasion," The Gamut 30 (Summer 1990): 134-44.

(29.) Frederick L. Schodt, Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), 21.

(30.) Tezuka Osamu, boku no manga jinsei [My Cartoonist Life] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho, 1997), 64.

(31.) Ibid., 64-65. A nice summary of his career may be found in Gravett, Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (New York: Harper, 2004), chap. 3.

(32.) In the late 1930s, Japanese companies even produced bisque miniatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, both for home and foreign consumption.

(33.) Osamu, boku no manga linsei [My Cartoonist Life], 63-67.

(34.) Osamu, metolopolisu [Metropolis] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Bunko, 2003), 160.

(35.) Osamu, kitaru beki sekai [The Future World] (Tokyo: Kadansha Bunko, 2003), 149.

(36.) Otsuka Eiju, atomu no meidai: Tezuka Asamu to sengo manga no shudai [Atom's Proposition: Tezuka Osamu and the Subject of the Postwar Manga] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2003), 246. See also Tom Gill, "Transformational Magic: Some Japanese Super-Heroes and Monsters," in The Worlds of Japanese Popular Culture: Gender, Shifting Boundaries and Global Cultures, ed. D. P. Martinez (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 33-55.

(37.) Osamu, "The Birth of Astro Boy," in Astro Boy, 18 vols. (San Francisco: Last Gasp Press, 2003), 1, passim. Originally published in 1975.

(38.) Osamu, tetsuwan atomu [Astro Boy], 12 vols. in Japanese (Tokyo: Kodansha manga Bunko, 2002).

(39.) Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics (New York: Kodansha International, 1983) is the best treatment of the subject; Fred Patten, Watching Anime, Reading Manga, 46.

(40.) Astro Boy, translation and Introduction by Schodt (Milwaukie, Ore.: Dark Horse Comics, 2002).

(41.) "Astro vs. Garon" (originally published in 1962), in Astro Boy, vol. 10, 58; "Crucifix Island," (first serialized between January and April 1957 in Shonen magazine). As found in Astro Boy, vol. 5, 51.

(42.) The forgiveness theme may be found in "Roboids," Astro Boy, vol 12. Originally published in Shonen Magazine (1965): 110; "Gas People," Astro Boy, vol. 15; originally published in Shonen Magazine (1952): 196; and "Crucifix Island," among other stories.

(43.) "The Man Who Returned From Mars" (originally published in 1968), in Astro Boy, vol. 11, 201.

(44.) Astro Boy, vol. 15, 231 (originally published 1952).

(45.) Oe, 11.

(46.) Osamu, "His Highness Deadcross," Astro Boy 2 (Milwaukie, Ore.: 2002), 41.

(47.) See Monica Braw, The Atomic Bomb Suppressed (Armonk, N.Y.: M.S. Sharpe, 1991), 89-133.

(48.) Schodt, Manga! Manga!, 128.

(49.) Jun Isbiko, "The Bomb Did Not Just 'Fall,'" (originally published in 1975) in Barefoot Gem Life After the Bomb, vol. 3, ed. Keiji Nakazawa (San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2005), iii-v.

(50.) See Fawcett's Funny Animals 35 (February 1946) and "Red" Rabbit Comics (July 1947), Deerfield Publishing.

(51.) Hollywood Funny Folks (July/August 1952).

(52.) Donald Duck's Atom Bomb (1947), Cheerios Giveaway, Walt Disney Corporation.

(53.) Atom the Cat (October 1957), Carleton; The Mighty Atom 1 (1949), Magazine Enterprises.

(54.) "Atomic Tot" in All Humor Comics (Summer 1946, No. 2), Comic Favorites, Inc.

(55.) Atom Ant 1 (January 1966), Hanna-Barbera Studios.

(56.) Atomic Mouse 1 (March 1953), Fago Publications.

(57.) Atomic Rabbit (January 1958), Charlton Comics.

(58.) Steve Sirba, "Atomic Animals," Comic Book Marketplace 2 (April 1947): 30-34; Atomic Rabbit 1.8 (August 1957).

(59.) Glenn D. Hook, Militarization and Demilitarization in Contemporary Japan (New York: Routledge, 1995), 171.

(60.) A Call From Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Damage and After-Effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, July 2 l-August 9, 1997, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Tokyo: Japan National Preparatory Committee, 1928), 73, 183.

(61.) Mark Schilling, The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture (Trumbull, Conn.: Weatherhill, 1997), 57-62. Also see Joanne Bernardi, "Teaching Godzilla: Classroom Encounters With a Cultural Icon," in In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage, ed. William M. Tsutsui and Michiko Ito (New York: Palgrave, 2006), 117.

(62.) Dr. Yamane, played by Shimura, does say "two million years" in the film, but the geologically correct information is 150 million years.

(63.) Takahashi Toshio, Gojira ga kuru yoru ni [The Night Godzilla Comes: Forty-Year History of Monster as a Thought] (Tokyo: Kosaido, 1993), 109.

(64.) They have been collected as Godzilla: King of the Monsters (New York: Marvel, 2006).

(65.) Comic book giveaway, Godzilla vs. Megaton (1976), Cinema Studies.

(66.) Yoshiaki Fukuma, Hansen no media shi [History of Antiwar Media: A Conflict Between Popular Sentiments and Public Opinion in Postwar Japan] (Tokyo: Sekai Shisosha, 2006), 208.

(67.) Shindo would later comment that he did not want to create political films but artistic ones. Shindo Kaneto, genbaku o toru [Shooting A-Bomb Films] (Tokyo: Shin Nihon Shuppansha, 2005), 206.

(68.) Fukuma, 236.

(69.) Donald Rich[e, "Mono No Aware: Hiroshima in Cinema," in Hibakusha Cinema: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Nuclear Image in Japanese Film, ed. Mick Broderick (London: Kegan Paul International, 1996).

(70.) Keiji Nakazawa, "The Keiji Nakazawa Interview," The Comics Journal 256 (October 2003): 38; "A Note From the Author," in Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, vol. 1, ed. Keiji Nakazawa (San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2004), viii-x.

(71.) Keiji Nakazawa, "The Keiji Nakazawa Interview," 46.

(72.) Keiji Nakazawa, kuroi ame ni utarete [Struck by Black Rain] (Tokyo: Dino Box, 2005), 8.

(73.) Ibid., 12-13.

(74.) Ibid., 30.

(75.) Keiji Nakazawa, "The Keiji Nakazawa interview," 46.

(76.) Ibid. On the forefront of the public discourse of Japan from the late sixties to the early seventies were such important political issues as the anti-Vietnam War protest, the restoration of Okinawa, and the controversies surrounding the United States-Japan Security Treaty. Antiwar sentiments were running high in Japan during that period.

(77.) There are two four-volume English translations of Barefoot Gen. The first appeared in the 1990s from New Society publishers and the second from Last Gasp of San Francisco. The translations come from a nonprofit, all-volunteer Tokyo group called Project Gen. The books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Portugese, Swedish, Norwegian, Indonesian, Tagalog, and Esperanto. See "About Project Gen" in Barefoot Gen, 1, 254ff.

(78.) Black Rain and The Face of Jizo (Living With Father) both have women as their protagonists but were written by male writers. Yumechiyo Nikki also deals with the life of a female innkeeper who succumbs to radiation sickness. Children of Hiroshima features a female school teacher as a main character. See also Omote Tomoyuki, "Gen's Place in the History of Comics, "in hadashi no gen ga ita fukai [Barefoot Gen and its Social landscape], ed. Fukuma Yoshiaki and Yoshimura Kazumai (Tokyo: Azuma Shupaan, 2006), 61, and Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2004), 1.

(79.) Keiji Nakazawa, "The Keiji Nakazawa Interview," 40; Barefoot Gen, vol. 1, 1.

(80.) Yomota Inuhiko, manga genron [Principles of Comics] (Tokyo: Chikuma Gakugei Bunko, 1999), 168; Barefoot Gen, 1; Keiji Nakazawa, "The Keiji Nakazawa Interview," 40.

(81.) Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, vol. 4 (San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2004): 281; Inuhiko, manga genron, 168, 197.

(82.) Ibid.

(83.) It appeared as the comic I Saw It published by Leonard Rifas.

(84.) Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor's Tale, 2 vols. (New York: Pantheon, 1986, 1991).

(85.) Tezuka, as quoted in Astro Boy, volume 10, 214.

(86.) Cynthia Ward, "Manga: Another SF/F trend missed by SF/F," 24 May 2006 cited at, 11.

(87.) Spiegelman, "Barefoot Gem Comics After the Bomb," in Barefoot Gen, vol. 1, ed. ed. Keiji Nakazawa (San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2004), iv.

(88.) Schodt, Manga!, Manga!, passim.

(89.) "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture. An Exhibition and Public Works Curated by Takasbi Morakami." This was a major exhibition at the Japanese Society Gallery of New York City.

Ferenc M. Szasz is Regents" professor of history at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Issei Takechi received his MA in history from the University of New Mexico and is currently a lecturer at Digital Hollywood University in Tokyo.
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Author:Szasz, Ferenc M.; Takechi, Issei
Publication:The Historian
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Date:Dec 22, 2007
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