Bartkira!

My pages from James Harvey and Ryan Humphrey‘s ‘Bartkira’ project – a community project comic by more than four hundred artists where all of the two-thousand-plus pages of Katsushiro Otomo‘s Akira manga are redrawn with characters from The Simpsons!
There’s a cast list of who’s playing who here, and some more information on the project from Ryan Humphrey here.
There’s a Bartkira Tumblr here collecting the pages that’re finished, there’s some amazing work on there, and just trying to step back and look at the project as a whole makes you dizzy, just as it should do. The very keen can check out the Bartkira tag on Tumblr too.

Bartkira double page spreadBartkira page Bartkira pageBartkira double page spread

Mayor Quimby is Mayor Nezu! Bart is Kaneda! Lisa is spiritual leader Lady Miyako! One of Lisa’s friends plays Sakaki, the girl bleeding out. Akira is played by Ralph Wiggum, so the iconic double page spread of the entirety of Neo-Tokyo undergoing a cataclysm just had to change from an orb of pure psychic energy to Ralph’s unsuspecting, dome-like mug.
I think my favourite character drawing in these pages is the little Principal Skinner / Colonel at the top of the last double page spread. The amazing thing was that the pages I was assigned were the very same ones I read in the UK’s ‘Manga Mania’ magazine in 1994 that completely blew my unsuspecting mind and reformatted it into manga-loving jelly. I’d never seen – or could even have imagined – comics like this existed before I’d seen them with my own eyes. (And never mind what seeing the Akira animated film late night on BBC television did to my – once again – unsuspecting mind…)

Up next, these are Otomo’s original pages below. The man is clearly a genius of penmanship (among other things) so these were pretty intimidating to work over the top of. I only had to come up with a more fat, basic, Simpsons style line over his frenetic panels though, so I got off lightly. I’d like to think I’ve learned a little bit in poring over just a handful of this guy’s pages.

AKIRA page by Katsuhiro OtomoAKIRA page by Katsuhiro OtomoAKIRA page by Katsuhiro OtomoAKIRA page by Katsuhiro Otomo

My favourite Bartkira pages that I’d seen before I started drawing mine were the ones that seemed to bring some Otomo, Groening and something of the artist’s own style to the table, so I tried to head off down that tangent. It had to be in colour too.

Here are some scans of the artboards I printed out and then started inking over the backgrounds of…

Bartkira drawings over Otomo Akira page
Bartkira drawings over Otomo Akira pageBartkira drawings over Otomo Akira page
Bartkira drawings over Otomo Akira page

I drew the characters on a separate piece of paper so the Otomo and Groening anatomies didn’t clash too much…Bartkira character drawings from sketchbook
a character drawings from sketchbook

The Skeletons in my Closet Have Big Eyes

Me colouring up some old linework (2002? 2003?) from my sketchbook. Yeah, it’s more Vurt stuff. I once read in an interview that Jeff Noon gave – about his novel being translated into Japanese – “…The Japanese one’s great,” says Jeff, “but what I’d really like to see is the manga version. I’d love to see Scribble [the main character] with those big eyes…” And so this kind of happened.

The thing is, it was manga that got me drawing comics seriously in the first place… The work of people like Masamune Shirow, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Katsuhiro Otomo were like pure, distilled ideas and outlandism compared to any ‘Western’ comics about… In the mid-nineties the small U.K. monthly mag Manga Mania was the bible, as far as I was concerned… The slightly ironic thing was that from the mid-nineties to the turn of the millennium, even though I was was rabid for it, larger circles weren’t bothered with manga at all really. It was a level point between Manga Video‘s initial ‘violent cartoons for teenagers’ explosion, and Tokyopop‘s current dominance of bookshops.

If I can sound even more self-involved, think the linear aspect of my style – although flavoured later on by European comics – definitely came from Manga’s concise nature. My natural sense of pacing in graphic storytelling is also much, much slower, ‘glacial’, even – compared to the frame breakdowns in the scripts I artwork…

Not that I’m complaining or owt. :) The bottom line is though, it’s all comics, no matter which way you hold or read ’em. Yay.