Astro Boy (vols. 1-5) by Osamu Tezuka, translated by Frederik L. Schodt, lettering and retouch by Digital Chameleon
Astro Boy, the little-boy-robot-who-could is probably Osamu Tezuka’s most recognizable creation. Known as the “godfather of manga,” Tezuka created Tetsuwan Atom (Mighty Atom) in Japan way back in 1951, and continued to present his manga adventures for decades. Renamed Astro Boy in the West, in 1963, American audiences welcomed the beloved bot into their living rooms in a black-and-white animated television series (the first of its kind in Japan) that bore his new name. So popoular was the android’s adventures that American manga versions were not far behind, but unfortunately, these were not Tezuka’s creations.
Not until 2002 (the legendary Tezuka died in 1989 at just age 60) were Tezuka’s original Astro Boy manga translated into English and collected into multiple volumes by publisher Dark Horse Comics. Now new generations can discover Astro Boy all over again, while we oldsters can relive a delightful piece of our youth.
The initial volumes set up Astro’s beginnings [he actually doesn’t get “born” until April 7, 2003, as imagined by Tezuka when he was contemplating the future back in 1951] as the mechanized replacement for a scientist who loses his son Tobio in a car crash. Scientist Tenma is initially overjoyed to have his “son” back, but when he realizes that this new Tobio can’t grow up as his son would, he sells the android to a robot merchant who in turn sells him to a circus where he is billed as “Astro.” The kindly Professor Ochanomizu recognizes Astro’s mighty potential, saves him from circus slavery, teaches him to fly, to speak 60 languages, to sense good or bad in people, to amplify his hearing, to use his eyes as searchlights, and to harness his 100,000-horsepower-inner strength, complete with machine guns in his rear end! Tobio no more, he’s become the one and only Astro Boy!
The fearless Astro rescues his teacher Mustachio’s kidnapped dog-turned-drone-robot (vol. 1), prevents the evil Deadcross from taking over the world (vol. 2), stops the powerful-but-not-completely-evil-Pluto from killing the world’s greatest robots (vol. 3), frees the abused and enslaved robots trapped in Robot Land (vol. 4), and saves both Mustachio and Ochanomizu from various bad guys yet again (vol. 5). Thanks goodness his adventures are nearly never-ending!
For an updated, re-envisioned version of the Astro Boy story – makes for a fabulous companion series for teenage readers – do check out the Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka series, too!
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2002-2003 (United States)