Keiji Nakazawa, creator of Barefoot Gen, died on December 19th 2012 from lung cancer. And there’s been little coverage I’ve seen over this side of the Atlantic. I should have caught this way earlier, and can but apologise for not covering it before Christmas.
Blame Christmas. Blame illness. Blame me missing the reports in my feed reader. I finally saw something when The Comics Journal ran this extensive piece.
Nakazawa’s most famous creations were the autobiog Manga ‘I Saw It’ and the 10 volume Barefoot Gen series. ‘I Saw It’ was a short but powerful comic showing the horror of Nakazawa surviving the Hiroshima nuclear bombing of 1945. ‘Barefoot Gen’ saw the author fictionalise and expand upon his experiences using young Gen to explore both the events of the bombing and the terrible aftermath that would affect the author for a lifetime.
Barefoot Gen’s position among comic history is pivotal, sitting alongside Spiegelman’s Maus as a work that bookshops and journalists could hold up and champion. And in many ways, we’re only now seeing the full implications of this recognition, as journos and bookstores fall over themselves to celebrate the Graphic Novel. But the foundations for these discoveries, these award winners were laid many years ago, and Barefoot Gen was one of the first. I can remember reading it for the first time in my late teens, when it was released in the UK through Penguin. And it was memorable, chilling, disturbing, perfect alongside Raymond Briggs’ When The Wind Blows to hammer home the anti-nuclear message.
Another great, another inspiration for so many gone.
We’ll leave you with the first page of this tribute from Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama). It’s touching and telling, a perfect evocation of his legacy….