In 1967, the legendary Japanese comic book creator, Osamu Tezuka, was asking many of the questions of the Japanese comics market that we find ourselves asking today of our own marketplace. Specifically, how do you diversify and expand comics into more mature and sophisticated subject matter. Being the creator of Astro Boy, perhaps the most popular kids adventure strip of all time, Tezuka was in an interesting position to re-invent himself and the field. The answer he came up was PHOENIX.
Intended as his "life's work", PHOENIX was planned as a collection of self-contained graphic novels that would study the history of humanity from 240 AD until the year 3404 AD and beyond. The volumes would alternate between the past and the future, spiraling forward and backward until they met at the present timeline. Tezuka worked on the project for decades -– completing twelve volumes before his death -– leaving behind a legacy that is only now being translated to English.
DAWN, the first volume in the series, starts appropriately enough at the primitive times of warring barbarian clans and the formative days of the Yamato state in the dark ages of Japan. The primary narrative follows the life of a young boy, Nagi, from his times as a slave through his rise as a hunter and a warrior, a journey that intersects with dozens of other characters and plotlines, including the ever-present Phoenix itself, a great firebird of mythic legend. At nearly three hundred and fifty pages, it's an extremely dense work that blends tragedy, comedy and drama into a comprehensive study of the human spirit that remains unrivaled today. PHOENIX is a genuine masterpiece from one of our most influential comics creators.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.