Thursday, October 22, 2009


Alternative Press Expo 2009 was a blast, and a great excuse to hang out with a bunch of friends and pick up some cool minicomics. Manga is not really the focus of APE, but this year Viz had a booth to promote their SIGIKKI line (and had a promo copy of Taiyo Matsumoto's GOGO MONSTER in English), and Fanfare/Ponent Mon and Last Gasp were pushing their new manga books.

However, there was one surprising and amazing manga-related find at APE, which I was alerted to by Dash Shaw. Groundbreaking and mayoral comics colorist Steve Oliff had a table, and was selling the the majority of the 2000+ original color guides for the Epic color edition of AKIRA. Each page was reasonably cheap ($30) and lush, with the extra importance of having been one of the first ever uses of computer coloring for comics.

For this process (as I understand it), Steve hand-colored each large xerox of the original B&W page using markers, colored pencils, airbrushing, felt pens, and gouache; This work was done in conjunction with guidance and approval from Otomo himself. The color guides were then used by their company Olyoptics as guides for computer color separation.

I had first really learned properly about all of Oliff's work from this interview by Frank Santoro at Comics Comics blog. Steve also wrote a fascinating essay about the experience working on the color edition of AKIRA. From that essay:
About this time, I was given 4 pages to color as a test for a big series. Something called Akira from Japan, written and drawn by Katsuhiro Otomo. Comics in Japan are black and white, but for the English translation they wanted it to be in color. I'd never heard of Akira, but I decided to pull out all the stops on my color test. It was great art and good paper, so I used every trick I had. Airbrush, colored pantone film, colored pencil, rich saturated felt pens, paint, everything I could think of. I don't know what the other colorists' samples looked like, but I know they couldn't have looked anything like mine. Needless to say, I got the job. They flew me to New York to meet the artist and his editor. On the flight east I looked at the pictures in the two collected volumes of Akira that my friend Ken Macklin had loaned me. Parts of it had been translated by a friend of Ken's, but not much. I met with Archie Goodwin, Otomo (the artist/writer) and Yuri-san (Otomo's editor), and we talked about color styles, then we went to get sushi and drink beer.

I picked up two of the original pages, but I saw dozens and dozens of remarkable and beautiful others that I wanted. Not only were the pages stunning and rad, they also represent a major leap forward made in the 80s in the history of manga publication in English.

Here are the pages I snagged:


And the other page:


I know Dash, Anthony, and Aaron all bought pages as well, so I'll post those if they happen to send photos along too.

UPDATE! Dash posted the two (awesome!) color guides he bought at APE; Scenes of Kaneda inside the hospital, and more pink beams of destruction from space! Check 'em out here on Comics Comics Blog.

UPDATE 2! Our buddy Aaron Mew also posted a picture of the coloring guide be bought at APE. It's a bit more fleshy and less explosive, really amazing. Check it out HERE.


Joseph Luster said...

I always thought the coloring on those was incredible. I used to have about a dozen issues but I think I sold them all at some point in my early college days, sadly.

Giannis said...

Great buy, man.
These seriously make me want to pull out my own coloring stuff.
What size are the pages?

Ryan S said...

@Joseph: I would love to track them down not that I've seen the original guides. I was like, literally gasping the entire time at the pages. So diverse and weird! I don't think I've even seen the original Epic issues.

@Giannis: Oh nice, I would love to see those :) The original pages are pretty big like.. 11" x 17" xeroxes of of the B&W pages on pretty stocky paper.

Joseph Luster said...

Yeah, those and my Lone Wolf & Cub FIRST editions were some of my prize possessions. Still have some of the LW&C issues at least.

In fact, when I go back for the holidays I'm going to remind myself to check for any stray Akira issues too.

Eoin Marron said...

Oh fuck I'm frothing at the teeth with jealousy right here. Goddamn those pages are fucking gorgeous (especially the second).
I'd love to get one of the Tetsuo/Akira explosion aftermath in volume 6. In particular, the one that shows all the Neo Tokyo citizens wandering around the destroyed city, with one panel of one of Miyako's monks sitting on a ledge hunched over staring at the ground. I'd get it just for that panel itself, its mindblowing.

Ryan S said...

@Eoin: Yeah, the color work is so awesome, and there were lots of pages to choose from. I went for giant scenes of destruction, but my friend Aaron grabbed one of Tetsuo on his throne with nude girls crawling around. A different use of color, ahem.

It was cool of Steve to sell them at an affordable price. I wonder how much Otomo's ACTUAL original pages would go for? Hundreds and hundreds each? more?

Rick Kinney said...

Awesome stuff, Ryan. Thanks for sharing the scans. Man, I loved the colorized Akira. I know I'm supposed to hate the flipped for gaijin eyes business, but the color is just frickin' amazing in the Large-E Epic reprints.

I own some original American comic art. If the market for Japanese original art is anything like the American market, art from a phenomenally popular series like Akira will cost you plenty- the hundreds being a good start with thousands for some of the more famous pages.

DrSenbei said...

Thirty bucks is an absolutely insane price. Those should almost be framed. My only question is why didn't you get more?!

Ryan S said...

@DrSenbei: Yeah, totally! I should have bought more but I only barely had $60 to spend. Also, there were too many to choose from!

I'm definitely gonna pop these suckers in a frame :)

Anonymous said...

I am so insanely jealous. Otomo's buildings are jsut the best aren't they? In Domu the apartment block is scarier than any character in the comic.

Azraelito said...

Kazuo Umezu documentary!!!


saludos from argentina!!

Luiz H. said...

It's a bit off topic, but hey! my postcard arrived yesterday. Just as I foresaw :P


Ryan S said...

@beefknuckles: Totally! When I lived in Osaka, my buddy Oliver's apartment (between kyoto/osaka on the hankyuu) was near a series of terrifying apartment buildings that were straight out of the manga. We walked around them at night, so creepy.

@Azraelito: nice!! It's gonna be so cool, the guys from Tokyo Scum Brigade got to see the movie :)

@Luiz: Glad it arrived safely :) Thanks for reading!

Okada said...

Wow! Wish I could paint like this.

@Ryan: Received my Electric Ant postcard today! Thank you!

Ryan S said...

@Okada: oh good, glad it arrived safely!

tomorrowboy 2.9 said...

Have you had a chance to check out the Tezuka art book that came out recently? It is nice.

Ryan S said...

@tomorrowboy: Ah, I had heard of the book but not seen it yet. Glad to hear it's cool! The price is a bit steep, but i hope to pick it up eventually (or borrow someone's copy). Does it cover every series he's done, or is it more focused on his main series...?

tomorrowboy 2.9 said...

I don't think it covers everything, but it goes through a lot of different series, showing art examples and talking about them. There's even a section on the manga he left unfinished when he died.
I haven't really had a chance to read it yet, just looked through it, but there's a lot stuff I'd love to read. The movie on the dvd it comes with is pretty neat too. Tezuka was a machine, he just pumps out pages.

Desert Island said...

We are tentatively planning a one-day exhibition of the color guides at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival on December 5th. More info here as we get confirmation.

Ryan S said...

@tomorrowboy: Oh cool, thanks for the details. I'm gonna check it out eventually!

@Gabe: Sounds like a great coupling and exhibit... so many pages to choose from :)