The first issue of "COM" published in 1967
The first issue of "COM," published in 1967
During the period when "Astro Boy" was televised, Mushi Production issued the monthly magazine "Astro Boy Club" for "Astro Boy" fans. Although this monthly was distributed by mail alone, it was a full-fledged magazine that carried new episodes of "Astro Boy" written by Tezuka himself, cartoons by Nagashima Shinji and other cartoonists, and other articles. With the termination of the broadcast of "Astro Boy," the "Astro Boy" Club was dissolved and in January 1967, it was reborn as the new commercial magazine "COM". Tezuka Osamu intended to make "COM" a gateway to success for young Manga artist, as was the case with the former "Manga Shonen" magazine. Popular cartoonists contributed new and original works to "COM," such as "The Phoenix" by Tezuka Osamu, "Jun" by Ishinomori Shotaro, and "Seishun Zankoku Monogatari" by Nagashima Shinji, which were appreciated even by adults. Invited Manga artists, too, took up the challenge of creating ambitious works that they could not have contributed to other boys' magazines. In addition, the magazine established "Gracon (Grand Companion)" to find promising young Manga artists. Many talented Manga artists, such as Aoyagi Yusuke, Adachi Mitsuru, Otomo Katsuhiro, Okada Fumiko, Takemiya Keiko, Noshino Junichi, Hasegawa Hosei, Miyatani Kazuhiko, and Morohoshi Daijiro got their starts with "Gracon." Furthermore, local chapters of "Gracon" were established throughout Japan, thereby laying the foundation for today's Manga boom.
Tezuka Osamu began work on "The Phoenix" with "Chapter of Dawn," which was published in the "Manga Shonen" magazine in serial form in 1954. The publication of "The Phoenix" was discontinued with the suspension of the publication of the magazine, and then, based on a new plan, publishing began in Kodansha's "Shojo Club" magazine in serial form. This was also discontinued and in 1967, with the foundation of the "COM" magazine, "The Phoenix" was published again starting with "Chapter of Dawn." The "COM" version of "The Phoenix" was designed with "The Phoenix" as a subsidiary character, and independent episodes, each with the common theme of "life and death: mystery of life," were spun from two historical perspectives: ancient Japan and the end of humankind. It was also planned that "Astro Boy" would appear in 21st-century episodes and that the entire work would end with an episode set in modern times. The episodes were interrelated, and the episode "Chapter of the Future," which depicted the end of humankind, implied that the history of new human beings, who appeared again after the passage of a tremendous length of time, would lead to "Chapter of Dawn." If "The Phoenix" had actually ended this way, what Tezuka Osamu conceived as the world of transmigration and rebirth would have been completed. After the discontinuation caused by the suspension of the publication of "COM," Tezuka Osamu continued to draw episodes of "The Phoenix" and contributed them to different magazines. He also worked out ideas for the episode "Chapter of Earth," the setting of which was laid in China during the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945, until just before his death. "The Phoenix" was literally one of Tezuka Osamu's lifeworks.
The first issue of "Big Comic" (1968)
A still picture for "Eulogy to Kirihito" (1970)
In January 1968, Tezuka established Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. to produce Manga. Just around this time, various comic magazines for youths started to appear, including "Manga Action" and "Young Comic" in 1967, and "Big Comic" "Play Comic" in 1968. Tezuka Osamu started to contribute the serial Manga "Swallowing the Earth" to "Big Comic" and "Under the Air" to "Play Comic." In these works, Tezuka Osamu was urged to change the content and style of his Manga. In "Eulogy to Kirihito" for "Big Comic," he developed a new method of drawing in which figures are depicted with jagged lines, making the Manga more dramatic. In terms of content, Tezuka Osamu's Manga coped with realistic themes of social significance, gaining him a favorable reputation.
Various manga drawn in April 1968
In 1966, Tezuka Osamu started to publish "Vampire" in Shogakukan's "Shonen Sunday" magazine in serial form. Although he had published his Manga for boys, including "Zero Man" and "Amazing Three" in the magazine, "Vampire" was completely different from these preceding Manga for boys. The greatest feature of "Vampire" was that the semi-leading character "Rock" was portrayed as a free and unrestrained villain. "Rock," who ran the gamut of evildoing in efforts to break established notions of right winning out over wrong, was appealing to readers. The success of "Vampire" led Tezuka Osamu to take up the challenge of creating altogether new kinds of Manga. He took up the issue of sex in "The Song for Apollo," and deep-seeded hatred in "Alabaster." In April 1968, when "Dororo" started to be published following "Vampire," he began to publish as many as 13 serial Manga in a wide range of new categories, including science fiction, mystery, adult Manga, and children's Manga.
The program for "A Thousand and One Nights" (1969)
The program for "Cleopatra" (1970)
Tezuka Osamu was of the opinion that animated cartoons should be enjoyed not only by children but also by adults. He wanted to convey the power of free expression and the beauty of animated cartoons to the adult audience as well. Nippon Herald Films, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its foundation, requested Tezuka Osamu to produce an animated cartoon for adults that could be exported overseas. In response to this offer, Tezuka Osamu started to produce the theater adult animated film "A Thousand and One Nights," whose subject was taken from "Arabian Nights." Although "Astro Boy: Hero of the Universe" and "Jungle Emperor Leo" had already been released at movie theaters (both produced by editing their TV animated cartoon versions), "A Thousand and One Nights" was Tezuka Osamu's first animated film designed for release at movie theaters. This work was named "animerama," an abbreviation of "animated cartoon drama," and in this new category, Tezuka Osamu explored all the possibilities of animation technology and cinematography available at that time, including the synthesis of animated cartoons and films of actual drama. It took about one year and five months to complete this work. A total of 60,000 staff members were mobilized for production, and the number of cell pictures painted reached 70,000. Celebrities from various circles repeated the dialogue in the animated cartoon, attracting public attention. The animated cartoon was released in 1969 and brought in an income of \320 million as compared to the production cost of \130 million, making it a profitable hit film. In the following year, "Cleopatra," the second in the series of animeramas, was released, and in this work, Tezuka Osamu used aerial synthesis technology in which actual footage and animated cartoons are interspersed.