Before becoming the famed creator of Speed Racer, Tatsuo Yoshida made ends meet as an illustrator for DC’s manga version of Superman.
Before influencing a generation of American comic book fans through his cartoon series speed racermanga artist Tatsuo Yoshida illustrated DC Comics 1959 manga serialization Superman. It’s one of the first examples of cross-pollination between American comics and Japanese manga, two art forms that would continue to influence each other over the decades.
In the 1940s, Tatsuo Yoshida was a young man in post-war Japan who got into comics largely thanks to Superman and other comics he was able to obtain from American soldiers stationed in Japan at that time. According to Lambiek Comiclopedia, it was through this exposure that Yoshida taught himself how to draw in hopes of one day becoming a manga artist. After working as an illustrator for a local newspaper, Yoshida decided to become a full-time manga artist in the early 1950s. After moving to Tokyo and with the support of his brothers, Yoshida found success with several manga titles that have become popular. Ultimately, this success led to DC Comics choosing Yoshida to spearhead its Japanese market entry with Superman.
Yoshida was given considerable control over how to introduce and develop Superman into Japanese manga-comedy culture. Naturally, this led to a Superman and Clark Kent manga that featured a number of Japanese art elements missing from the American version, such as showing the full progression of a common manga action. For example, Yoshida would illustrate the full process of what happens when Superman breaks through a wall, rather than just showing the triggering of an action and its outcome, which was common in American Superman comics. Additionally, comic book “issues” in Japan were published in a comic book collection rather than as an individual title, similar to how manga is currently presented to American audiences through publications such as Viz Media’s. Weekly Shonen Jump. But generally speaking, Yoshida kept the stories and themes close to those that were developed and exhibited in the American iteration of the series. In other words, Yoshida recreated for a Japanese audience the most popular stories and themes from current issues of Superman comics published in the United States.
Interestingly, contrary to current manga practices, the first pages of each manga chapter were printed in color. As with his previous manga, Yoshida’s Superman adaptation was well received. Ultimately, his work on Superman took place between 1959 and 1960, and was later compiled into 14 individual issue volumes. It also provided him with the security that allowed him to branch out and eventually become the manga artist he dreamed of being. Following his success as a manga artist, which was largely greatly aided by his exclusive run as the sole Superman illustrator in Japan, Yoshida and his brothers decided to establish the company Tatsunoko Production, which focused on generating quality manga and anime.
Indeed, without a doubt, Superman was a factor in helping Yoshida gain fame and fortune to focus on his heart’s desires. With Tatsunoko Productions, Yoshida created some of the most iconic manga in the history of the genre. His greatest hits include speed racer and Battle of the planets. Tatsuo Yoshida‘work bringing DC Comics’ Superman to Japanese audiences is the first chapter in a legacy that continues to influence a generation of manga and comic book authors, artists, and fans on both sides of the Pacific.
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Source: Lambiek Comicpedia
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