‘The Pushman and Other Stories’, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (1969)
The best recent comic book I’ve read is from 1969. Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s The Pushman has been dug out by Adrian Tomine and lovingly reprinted by Drawn and Quarterly. (Ed. This piece was originally published at cityofsound.com at 6 July 2006.)
Tatsumi has been described as “the grandfather of Japanese alternative comics.” He mentions, in an insightful interview with Tomine, “I myself am a very normal person. Please do not interpret these stories as representative of the author’s personality.” Given the entirely bleak, surreal scenarios, I’m pleased for Tatsumi-san.
The inspiration instead comes from newspaper ‘human interest’ stories. Interesting human stories, indeed. They’re almost exclusively from a male perspective but never from a position of power, essentially revolving around impotence, fear, and lack of respect. The relentlessly alienating city itself — presumably Tokyo, though it’s deliberately unclear — is implicit in the humiliation of these men.
The drawing is spare and carefully lovely, as shown above, which reminds me of other favourites The Bloody Streets of Paris by Jacques Tardi and Leo Malet and Berlin: City of Stones by Jason Lutes.
The monologue accompanying these images also defines the general mood fairly well:
“Sundown in the city always makes me uneasy.
A pretty sky just gets me wound up, and my head starts pounding.
The city doesn’t need a sky.”
A beautifully bleak book. Enjoy!
Ed. This piece was originally published at cityofsound.com at 6 July 2006.
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