Today is August 6, 2015. That marks 70 years since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, the morning of August 6, 1945. A day that changed the world forever. A day that artist Keiji Nakazawa lived through as a young boy, and then went on to write a comic autobiography that would one day change my life forever.
Barefoot Gen is a raw, gripping, heartbreaking first-person account of living through the bombing of Hiroshima. I read the book for the first time the summer between fourth and fifth grades, and it shook me to my core. It told me grave truths about the world. It showed me the capacity of the human spirit. It made me an instant pacifist. And it showed me, plain as day, the enormous power of comics as a storytelling medium.
Last Gasp (Gen‘s current American publisher) is running a Kickstarter to publish a new, hardcover edition of the first four volumes of Barefoot Gen, for distribution to schools and libraries. I couldn’t be more pleased to put my support behind this project. I believe this is a book every human being needs to read. It’s a difficult story to process, but it pulls no punches in showing the reader just how awful war can be. Keiji Nakazawa passed away at the end of 2012, and I’m proud to be part of a movement that does not want to see his or Gen‘s legacy be forgotten.
Back in 2002, during my last semester in art school, I was assigned to write a short comic about ‘the first comic I ever read.’ While Gen was not technically my first comic (that was Calvin and Hobbes!), it was the first graphic novel I ever read, and had such a profound effect on me that I had to write about it. The result was my short comic, Beginnings (below), which ended up being the first comic I had re-published in an anthology, the reason Scholastic noticed my comics and wanted to work with me, and the small puzzle piece that has connected me with a wide and wonderful network of readers around the world. Last year it was also translated and published in Japanese, and as a result, I was able to have a dialog with many, many like-minded people who have supported Gen in Japan.
So please, support the Barefoot Gen Kickstarter, create art and stories about the things that move you, and don’t be afraid to speak up for a more peaceful world.