Buddha, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
Originally published in the late 1980s in Japan, this epic retelling of the life of Buddha is presented in gorgeously realized black-and-white comic art by the “Godfather of Manga,” Osamu Tezuka. As it says on the imprint page, “This work of fiction contains characters and episodes that are not part of the historical record.” But what it does contain is a mixture of fable, myth, parable and modern storytelling that convey the essence of Tezuka’s interpretation of the meaning of the Buddha’s life and teachings. The artwork in the first two volumes (Kapilavastu and The Four Encounters, respectively) is stupendous, mixing hyper-realistic landscape, jungle and architectural depictions with human characters drawn in a more decorative, cartoonish style, creating a symbolic duality between the civilized humans and the natural world. The entire epic will fill eight hardbound volumes packed with passion, tragedy, humor, suffering, desire and, one assumes, enlightenment. Certainly one of the greatest stories ever told, told beautifully.