Friday, January 1, 2010

History of Manga, Part 14

(Garo, July, 1971, cover for "Kamui")

In part 13, I mentioned the gekiga magazine, Garo, and Tezuka's response, Com. I'll take this chance to talk about both of them a little more. Because Garo had its circulation peak in 1971, I decided that I'd take one issue of each magazine from that year to place them side by side. I picked the July issue for each because that's when the final chapter of "Kamui" ran in Garo.

(COM, July, 1971, cover)

According to the wiki entry, Garo never really had a theme. Stories were chosen based on merit and on how well they conformed to the gekiga concept of "realism" (as in their being more for adults). The final Kamui chapter is close to 100 pages, meaning that Garo has fewer stories from different artists than usual. Garo is 233 pages, COM 288. Both magazines have some text-based stories mixed in with the artwork, but COM has a number of reader submissions as well as stories about Tezuka and some of the other artists. COM also has instructions for making your own light box for beginning animators. Over all, COM has the feel of being more "well-rounded" while still appealing to a younger audience. Garo is a lot grittier, and closer in feel to the American 1960's psychedelic underground magazines, with its anti-establishment, anti-authority themes. (To be fair, COM has its share of anti-establishment stories.)

(Infotainment page from COM)

Garo ran from 1964 to 2002, COM from 1967 to 1972. Both magazines contained stories from artists famous at the time, as well as up-and-comers who either went nowhere, or achieved success as manga artists in their own right. As to which was the better magazine? That depends on what you're looking for. In this one specific issue, COM was the more relaxed publication, with simple stories, and lots of reader participation. Garo went the deeper, intellectual route, exploring the nature of life, death and human experience. COM included a lot of "how-to" articles for new artists, but it really didn't have the staying power that Garo had (although, Garo did slide into obscurity pretty quickly in the '80s and suffered a slow death that wasn't actually realized until 2002). Probably, the biggest factor in Garo's fall was that "Kamui" had generated a faithful following up from the very first issue, and when it ended, they had nothing to replace it with. On the other hand, COM's primary title was Tezuka's own "Phoenix" (Hi no Tori), which was much lighter, fluffier fare when compared to Kamui, and couldn't prop up COM's sales on its own either.

(Reader submitted manga from COM.)

From a collector's viewpoint, neither magazine is in much demand. Mandarake, the used bookstore in Akihabara, did have the first issue of Garo for about 4000 yen ($45 US), but not for COM. Only the first 2-3 issues have much of a price tag. After that, they're both in the 300 yen to 800 yen ($3.50 - $9) range per issue. In comparison, 1971 issues of Shonen Magazine, which started in 1959, go for at least twice what COM and Garo do for issues from the same month. Apparently, modern collectors prefer stories aimed at a younger audience from that era.

I found one page that contains covers from many of the issues of both Garo and COM over several years. It's a great resource for anyone that wants to know more about either magazine.

I'll run sample pages from both magazines in the next 2 posts.

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