Year of the Artist, Day 18: Seth Fisher, Part 3 – Vertigo Pop! Tokyo #3
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Seth Fisher, and the issue is Vertigo Pop! Tokyo #3, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated November 2002. This scan is from the trade Tokyo Days, Bangkok Nights, which was published in 2009. Enjoy!
As we saw yesterday, Seth Fisher was always pretty keen on Japanese culture, but this is the first comic he drew set in Japan, and it’s soaked in that culture. Once again, I’m not sure when Fisher moved to Japan, but part of the genius of the art in this book is the way he brings Tokyo to life. I’m not going to focus on the characters in this issue, but the way Fisher depicts the city.
First we see a typical Fisher street scene, as the protagonist, Steve, passes a burger joint. We have the dude standing there, advertising the place, with his burger head on. He’s wearing a polka-dot shirt, purple suspenders, and purple pants, because of course he is. Meanwhile, look at how Fisher jams so much onto the street, with the small store fronts, the vertical signs with prices on them, and the small windows looking out of the buildings. Much of the comic feels claustrophobic, because Tokyo is so crowded (it’s not one of the most densely populated cities, though, but it still has a lot of people in it), and Fisher deliberately packs buildings together in as small a space as he can. We also see Chris Chuckry’s tremendous colors on this book – the dude hawking burgers is colorful, sure, but so is the scene in general, as Chuckry uses yellow and red very well to link everything together.
Inside Crispy Burger, we get more of the insanity of Tokyo. Maki runs toward the counter, and while we don’t see her from the front, Fisher still gives her plenty of personality. She has magenta hair, with the two short pony tails on either side of her head (or are those pig tails? can we get a ruling?). She’s wearing a bright, spotted dress and several bracelets. Fisher puts all sorts of odd characters around the restaurant, from the eyed burger on the wall to the fish and his pals on the placard in front of Maki. The English descriptions of the food are good, too – “lovely value” for the fish burger, for instance. Fisher also makes sure that the vendors are bowing, which is a nice touch. Chuckry continues the bright color palette with a lot of yellow, which again ties the whole panel together.
Here’s another nice street scene. In the first panel, we get more signage, with the health salon, Soap World, the “Magic Love Salon,” and the hotel where you can rest or stay. In Panel 2, there’s a massage parlor which appears to be one of those parlors, and in Panel 3, we get an advertisement that features a topless girl. I don’t know what section of the city the characters are walking through, but I imagine it gets pretty wild at night. Meanwhile, Fisher once again packs the panels to make the scene feel more claustrophobic, and it’s interesting how he blends the ultra-modern with the more rustic, as we see the ancient stone steps and the weathered wall in Panel 1. Throughout this comic, Fisher “ages” a good deal of the architecture with cracks and other imperfections, so that Tokyo, while viciously hip, is also the slightest bit seedy. It makes the art even better, in my opinion.
Once again, we see two characters walk along a street, but in a far different section of the city (although, obviously, not too different, if the girl in the foreground is any indication). Fisher again shows a great deal about the culture without really commenting on it too much. The street is once again crammed with stores, and while they’re perfectly normal stores (clothing and sunglasses), there’s also the girl in the foreground checking out panties with spikes on them. Plus, what’s up with that green dude next to Hike and Maki? In the foreground of Panel 1, we also see two girls dressed in Victorian-style clothing, which I assume was a trend in Japan in 2002. In Panel 2, Maki wants to “do print club,” but I have no idea what that is. The small kiosk she’s pointing at could be a photo booth or a video game – the next page seems to imply that it’s a video game, but it’s unclear. Once again, though, there’s a silliness to Fisher’s artwork that makes Tokyo appear like a wild and wacky place even as the script becomes a bit darker. It’s a good contrast.
For this final panel, I wanted to look at some of the characters Fisher draws. You’ll notice that throughout this comic, Fisher draws the faces of his characters as abstract as he ever would. I have to think the reason he did this was because this is the most “manga” of his comics (well, it’s one of the two most “manga” of his comics, at least), and he wanted to make the faces as abstract as a lot of manga, although the manga I read doesn’t have faces this abstract (although, I should note, I don’t read a ton of manga). This is also a very “cartoony” work, so perhaps Fisher wanted to make it even more so with his face work. In this panel, of course, we get many stereotypical Japanese girls, dressed in many crazy ways. Again, Fisher was very keen on the culture and he did live in Japan, so I assume he knows what he’s doing, and this comic is supposed to be a bit “hyper-real,” so it’s all good. While Chuckry gives us a wider palette, yellow is once again the dominant color. It’s not always that way in the comic, but when the characters go outside, Chuckry tends to stick with yellow as a base, which is smart as it implies the sun but also is a good contrast to some of the darker (color-wise) parts of the book.
I know I didn’t have much to say about process or storytelling in this post, but that’s because I wanted to focus on Fisher’s ability to create such detailed worlds. Tomorrow, we’ll check out a comic where Fisher needed to do slightly more action. Be here to see what it is! Also, there are some archives for you to peruse!