Saturday, April 16, 2011

Child of the Atom


By David Blandy and Inko

Just before I left the UK I happened upon an art gallery showing a kind of neat exhibition. It featured action figures, comic books, a video game, and several video pieces all about the creator, David Blandy. Not that Blandy created all the stuff himself, rather he had hired other people to draw the comics (and maybe make the other stuff?) based upon his ideas.

It was a kind of neat idea, and the reverse of the art pieces I've seen that try to take a fictional character and make them real.

This comic is about Hiroshima, and if you'll allow me a brief moment I will tell you about my time there, as at this point I don't think I'm ever going to make a zine about that trip. I visited Japan in 2007 after living and traveling around Asia for most of the previous two years. I did the normal geeky stuff in Japan: went to Harajuku, went to the science museum, went to the Ghibli museum, looked at the homeless people's cardboard dwellings, hitchhiked on buses of old people (okay, so maybe my trip wasn't always normal).

And then I got to Hiroshima, which in many ways was my favourite city in Japan. There was a rad tram system, the food was good, there were art galleries, the people were friendly, and it just seemed nice. Except that you never knew when you would turn the corner and uncover a memorial to the people that died because of the nuclear explosion.

I cried looking at the monuments and museums. I cried reading Barefoot Gen (a really good, if brutal, comic you should read) in a library. I cried because to so many people this was just another tourist attraction to be bussed to. I cried because I don't know how the war could have ended with less loss of life. I cried because I remembered how the Japanese had kept their prisoners of war in Sandakan a few months before. I cried when I saw the paper cranes.

All of this is to say that I don't really know how to review a comic like this. The wordless comic and images of Hiroshima conjure up a lot of memories for me, but I have no idea what someone who hasn't been to these places will take from it.

One thing that is interesting, and the reason Blandy created this comic, is that he and his family sort of feel they owe their lives to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Blandy's grandfather was in a Japanese POW camp and believed that if the war hadn't ended the way it did, he wouldn't have survived. Which is something to think about at any rate.

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