Wine Comics

Did you read comic books when you were a kid?  I read some.  I was more of a SIFI, IMG_3429historical novel type kid.  Comic books are big business.  Japan is the largest market worth about  $7 to 8 billion! Sales in the United States is about $1 billion.

The history of comics is very interesting. I’m indebted to John Petty of  Heritage Auction Galleries for being my guide on this historical trip.  Comics have been around a long time. As far back as 1500 there were comics. By the 1780’s the familiar “dialog balloons” begin appearing.

First Modern comic appeared in 1895 R. F. Outcault’s Hogan Alley.  The story focused on a group of hooligans, and introduces the “The Yellow Kid” which became one of the most popular fictional character of the first few decades of the 19th century.  You know who Outcault’s other famous character was?  Buster Brown!  Comics soon became an essential part of newspapers; Orphan Annie, Buck Rogers, The Phantom all became popular serialized stories.

The Golden age of Comics 1938 to 1949.  Action comics.  Hero’s.  Superman first ran in 1939.  Batman, Wonder Woman and Capital American soon fallowed.  Comic books were in every battle of WWII.  When the war ended, comics days were numbered.

1949 to 1956 the Atomic age. After the war comics moved from heroes to crime, Science Fiction and horror.  Radio gave us Dragnet, The Shadow, Night Beat. Godzilla was born in 1954.  War of the Worlds, Robots, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  All of this was too much for Dr. Frederic Wertham who published “Seduction of the Innocent” saying these stories lead to juvenile delinquents.  Of course government had to do something. Comic book publishers banded together and created a comic code. Comic books declined. Except one little publication who skirted the code, a little book called MAD.

1956 to 1970 saw the return of the hero. Flash, Green Lantern and the old heroes were reborn.New heroes were created; Fantastic Four 1961 was a big smash. Spider man, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man and Ant Man all were big successes. Comics became “Pop Art”.  In 1973 Gwen Stacy, Spider-man’s girl friend was killed in a comic it shook the comic book world.  Death had come to comics  Comics were no longer safe. Happy ever after was no longer a guarantee.

1970 to 1980 the age of relevance!  Comics start taking on drug abuse, pollution, racism and poverty.  The heroes start questioning their governments.  Captain American questions being a symbol of the US because of Viet Nam, Green Lantern becomes and environmentalist.  Even Lois Lane in a precursor of Rachel Dolezal, aka Rachel Moore, submits to a experimental procedure that changed her from being Caucasian to African-American so she could better understand the plight of blacks at the height of the Civil Rights era. The social shift of American is felt in comics.

1980 to present who knows what age.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I have no idea what they are about.

So, Griffy, why does a wine geek take seven paragraphs and talk about cartoons?  To be honest I found it interesting.   And because  I learned that there are wine comics.  I saw a story in Wine Spectator; Swirl! Sip! Pow!  Wine comic books.

They even have an annual event and festival in France.  BD & Vin (translation “graphic novels and wine”). French, Belgian, and Italian authors and artists are meeting at Chateau Lacouture to celebrate.

A French author Etienne Davideau spent a year working with  winemaker Richard Leroy in the Loire Valley and wrote the graphic novel “Les Ignorants” translated to English as The Initiates.  The book details their exploits battling pests, pruning, picking, and fighting critics with cameos form biodynamic superheroes like Jean-Francois Ganevat.

Japan, are there vineyards in Japan?  A brother sister team Yuko and Shin Kibayashi writing under the pen name Tadashi Agi have authored a successful wine comic book with 56 volumes and was called The Drops of God. 

The story is about the son of a famous wine critic who is a beer salesman and has never tasted wine because he and his father didn’t get along.  He is notified his father has died.  To receive his inheritance the son must correctly identify 13 wines.  Twelve are called the “Twelve Apostles”, the finial wine is called “Drops of God”.  All the wines in the story are real.  The twist in the story is the son has a nemesis, a young wine critic his father has recently adopted as his other son.

The son has strong senses of taste and smell.  He remembers how his father described wines when he was young.  He submerges himself in the wine world and with the help of a trainee sommelier and his colleagues in the wine department of the company he works.  They set off to solve the mysteries of the 13 wines.  The story line also includes food pairings and fights to save favorite famous restaurants. The series ended in 2014.

What madness over a simply drink dives authors and artist world wide to produce wine adventures in the form of illustrated sequential panels and dialog bubbles?  Boggles the mind.  I love it.

For 6000 years wine has saturated the human condition. Our religion, philosophy, history, art  literature, psychology and biology.  From God and love, to what’s for diner and comics.  What is it about wine?  I’ve studied it for six years and I still don’t know.  It fascinates me.


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