AI, in the publishing industry, means Advance Information, and it’s doled out more carefully than the last remaining specks of Britain’s gold reserves. I can’t wait to show my book to the world, but, as I said in my earlier post, the promotional timetable has its own imperatives.
But I can show you the blad. Click here for the PDF: Osamu Tezuka Blad, July 09.
A blad, or Book Layout And Design, is a book in its foetal state, not yet fully evolved but growing towards what it will become. From the author’s first idea – which could be a scribble on the back of an envelope – through the formal proposal to the finished product, a book develops and changes shape, like any living thing. At an early stage it could become anything – the ideas are unformed, the cells, as it were, unspecialised. The blad is a snapshot to enable prospective trade buyers to see how this embryonic creature might look when it finally hits the bookstores.
It’s a slim brochure, the same size and shape as the proposed book, with front and back covers designed just as the book would be, and interior pages laid out in the proposed style. It provides a chapter listing, an outline, samples of the content and images – just enough to show how this might look ‘on the shelf’ and what kind of reader it would appeal to.
All of the content of a blad is subject to change, depending on trade and marketing feedback, but if the author, designer and publisher know their target audience and topic, the finished book probably won’t diverge too far from the overall style of the blad. As for content, a blad is both outline and teaser, and has to balance the inclusion of what’s expected with the lure of new insights and the need to reserve some surprises for the actual publication. The book has to give more than the blad promises – only very foolish authors, or publishers, would end up giving less – but the layout and arrangement of the material may change. Sometimes text has to be edited or page styles amended to make room for new material that emerges after the book is sold, but while it’s still being written.
The actual process of producing The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga was both rewarding and frustrating. The further I looked, the more interesting information and astonishing images I found. It was very difficult to edit such a wide-ranging body of work down to the word count and page count we had available, and still keep the book stylish and easy to read. For every image we chose and every manga and anime title we featured, there were others with strong claims for inclusion.
Because Tezuka set no limits on his own imagination, there’s no limit to the number of books that could be written on different aspects of his career: because his body of work is so enormous, anyone writing about him could come up with images as fresh as their ideas. I still remember the impact of the images Frederik L. Schodt chose when writing about Tezuka in his book Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics in 1983, and of the Tezuka chapter in Thierry Groensteen’s L’Univers des Mangas in 1991. Other authors, like Philip Brophy, Paul Gravett and Brigitte Koyama-Richard, have given tantalising glimpses of his work, but there is so much more to see.
In the past few years, new fieldwork has turned up early Tezuka comics which were either thought lost or completely unknown, and more of his later work is being translated into European languages. Tezuka Productions’ current project will make all his work available online in English, Chinese and Korean, opening up new areas in Tezuka scholarship, as well as enabling millions of comic fans outside Japan to fully grasp the range and scope of his genius. This is an exciting time for anyone interested in the development of anime and manga, and in Tezuka’s influence on that development.