1990: Lost Continent

Lost Continent (1990) #1-6 by Akihiro Yamada.

The last and perhaps least of the Japanese comics published by Eclipse (in collaboration with Studio Proteus), we here have a quite peculiar publishing strategy: While this is in the normal early-90s format for these things (squarebound, 56 pages a pop), there’s very little on the cover that screams “this is Japanese, dude”. It basically looks like a European comic with a cheesy American logo on top.

When you open it, it’s clear that it’s Japanese, but it’s not done in the cluttered overload style that’s the most commercially successful one. Instead we’ve got what looks like photos that’s been through a very high-contrast Xerox machine and some Japanese guys that look kinda European.

The two female characters look very Japanese, though… and totally indistinguishable from each other, which is typical.

The lack of backgrounds in most panels is just plain bizarre. Perhaps Yamada is one of those year Japanese comics artists working within the children’s comics business that doesn’t have a stable of assistants to do most of the drawing?

That certainly would explain pages like the above.

After staring at some of these drawings, which basically don’t look like anything a human would draw…

Sobel! It’s the Sobel image transform! So Yamada is taking his photo reference (which he has a lot of, I suspect), running it through an SGI workstation (those were around at the time, if I remember correctly), and then tracing the results by hand.

It’s certainly a… look…

I knew my university course in image algorithms would be useful one day.

Anyway, with that mystery solved, I paid some more attention to the plot. The book is a very quick read, but it’s pretty exciting at the start. We’re presented with a bunch of mysterious happenings, and then there’s action, and lots of people are having a conspiracy, and everything’s going great…

… and then Our Hero finds a diary that explains everything, and any excitement disappears completely.

Not only that, but we also get a scene where the evil bad guys explain how evil they are to each other in details. *sigh*

So back to the art: The one female face Yamada knows how to draw is very appealing.

He has a lot more fun with his male characters. He’ll drop into this sort of rendering at random.

And then suddenly… MONSTERS! Body horror!

And then it’s gone again and he’s tracing photo reference again. It’s kinda confusing, art wise.

Hey, that’s a great one!

One thing that Yamada’s photo reference helps with is his depiction of these black men. Japanese mainstream comics are usually horrifically racist, but Yamada’s depiction of them, even as naked savages *gasp* is a lot less caricatured than you’d expect. Even if they get no lines to speak.

Oh, I forgot to mention the plot, but you’ve read and seen the exact same thing a million times before, so there’s no need. I’ll just tell you: A lost country (with dinosaurs) under the North Pole. You know how these things go, and that’s exactly how this goes.

I hadn’t heard of Yamada before, but he’s apparently a very successful illustrator now, which I can totally understand.

This series hasn’t been reprinted, as far as I can tell.

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