By Josh Hechinger
Welcome to From Strip to Script, where I take a page of finished comic art and try to derive a script from it.
Partly on a whim, partly because it was on sale at the time, but largely because I've still got something about Japanese superheroes percolating in the back of my head ever since I saw Samurai Flamenco, I picked up the first volume of Shotaro Ishinomori's Kamen Rider.
I went in not knowing too much about Kamen Rider, other than that he rides a motorcycle (obvs) and kicks the hell out of monsters. Both of those facts were readily confirmed, but mostly I was pleasantly surprised that these comics reminded me of Go Nagai; Ishinomori and Nagai both draw characters like someone rolled a Tezuka figure through a dirty press, both tend to draw monsters as leering grotesques, both kind of cartoonishly exaggerate their figures, while also throwing a gritty and/or realistic texture into things like impacts and explosions; anatomy and perspective are fluid, but there's an unerring sense of when a moment of action needs to be hot-blooded and dynamic.
All that said, the thing that especially struck me about Ishinomori, though, was his sense of motion…or rather, watching him try to replicate or invoke very, very specific filmic effects in his comics.
(Remember to read right to left)
PAGE TEN (FIVE PANELS)
P1. A horrified TACHIBANA is lit by the flaming wreckage.
– TACHIBANA Takeshi!
– TACHIBANA Oh, dear me!!
P2. Close on the wheel of TAKESHI'S destroyed motorcycle, upended, but still spinning.
P3. The spinning wheel's form starts to abstract into spinning lights.
– SHOCKER (no tail) Takeshi Hongou….
P4. The wheel spins faster, becomes more abstract as it takes turns into light.
P5. The seven lights of Shocker's surgical theater, with a spinning ring of cosmic energy around them. Below, TAKESHI jerks up from the table, though still restrained by the chains.
– TAKESHI Ugh…
– TAKESHI Wh…
– TAKESHI …Where am I?
So, What'd We Learn?
– Not to reveal the depths of my ignorance or anything, but while I get what Ishinomori is trying to do in P2 through P4, I'm not wholly sure how to describe it. Like…it's that psychedelic film technique where you zoom in on one object as it spins and kaleidoscopes into abstraction then pull out as it resolves itself into a different object in the next scene, right? That feels like a '60s/'70s film trick (Kamen Rider's from…'71, I think?), and it's super interesting to see someone try to jack that of all things for their comic.
– Composition > reality. It's physically impossible to be able to look dead-on at the surgical lights while also catching Takeshi sitting up in profile in the last panel, but it makes for a helluva image, doesn't it? This is where I just get a bit dreamy over comics, but: we're seeing Takeshi's POV and catching him from a third person perspective in a seamless shot, and I'm not sure where you could pull that off outside of comics.
Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+.