While I managed to finish Boxers and Saints last night, there’s no way I’m ready to write anything about them yet — they’re too big. China is too big¹ and these books contain within them the smallest fraction of The Middle Kingdom’s history, and that fraction is enormous and must be thought on carefully. However, I realized something this morning that I do want to share, which is virtually everything I know about Chinese history, I know because of comics.
Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe has more than 100 pages of history from before the common era, and I have a collection of three comics treatments of Chinese military classics (100 Strategies of War; Three Strategies of Huang Shi Gong; Six Strategies For War, all illustrated by Wang Xuanming). They’ve taught me about the Warring States, Lu Pu-Wei, Liu Bang, Cao Cao, Liu Bao, the Spring and Autumn Period, the Battle of Red Bluff, and a dozen other centuries worth of history. It’s still just the surface, but it’s more than I was ever taught in school².
- Ever wonder what 14,000 books looks like? Like this. Ever wonder what kind of man could sign all those books and not die? The Toronto Man-Mountain, also known as Ryan North, Cyborg King of Awesome Things. We at Fleen wish Ryan North good fortune and hope that those books — he is their creator, they owe him their lives — treat him kindly and don’t cause his hand to fall off.
- At MoCCA Fest last year, I was talking with Ananth Panagariya³ was talking about projects not involving his long partnership with Yuko Ota, which conversation was rather roundabout and coy because he couldn’t talk about everything yet. He gets to talk about it now, it being BUZZ, a fully-contained story with Tessa Stone which was previously described as a regularly-updating serial at Oni’s website.
The plan had been for serials to launch in January and OniPress.com to be a daily-updating content hub, but I didn’t see any of that go live. Serious question here — did I just miss Oni’s version of the :01 Books preview books as webcomics sub-site, To Be Continued? Because I have no recollection of that happening. In any event, BUZZ will now be going to print in November, the story of one-on-one spelling bees as street-level contact sport. Looks sweet.
¹ Back in college, my political science professor asked us what we wanted to write our first paper on and one guy in class said, China!. Thad (that was his name, Dr Thad “Call me Thad” Smith) looked at him and said, You’ve got eight pages, you might want to narrow that down a little.
² This would probably annoy Gonick to no end, who groused in the introduction to Volume 9 of CHOTU — the first concerning China — that San Fransisco, his hometown, with its huge Chinese population that were instrumental in building the city, had not one street with a Chinese name. This may have changed since it was published in 1994, but the sentiment is the same — we have an enormous collective blind spot in our culture, one big enough to hide a fifth of the people on the planet and everything they’ve ever done.
Another thing not taught to me in school: romanization methods for Chinese names; I’ve taken the names as they’re presented in the comics, which may or may not match the most popular methods today. I imagine you’ll make do somehow.