last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 (7:11:39 PM)
I added a new section to my gallery today: Black Jack. Thought it would be fun to add some information about my favorite Tezuka character. Oh, our new webcomic installment goes live tonight. Be sure to stop by and read it, once it has been uploaded. Enjoy! http://welcomeconsumer.com
Black Jack is a medical mercenary, selling his skills to the highest bidder. He is a shadowy figure, with a black cloak, eerie black-and-white hair, a scar across his face and partially black skin. Black Jack cures patients indiscriminately, from common folk to presidents and yakuza leaders. To his VIP patients, he charges absurd sums. All this has given him a reputation for callousness and greed which he gleefully cultivates. However, to the reader it is clear that Black Jack actually is a good man: he is anti-wealth and anti-prestige, and believes he is actually doing rich people a favor by removing their material wealth. The opposition to wealth and power is a common theme in Tezuka's work: powerful men are almost always portrayed in a negative light.
Black Jack's real name is Kuro Hazama (間 黒男 Hazama Kurō). A bomb destroyed his home when he was a child, killing his mother and giving him a lust for revenge. Kurō's body was nearly torn to shreds, but he was rescued thanks to miraculous surgery by a Dr. Jotaro Honma (本間丈太郎 Honma Jōtarō). Marked by this experience, Kuro decided to become a surgeon himself, taking the name of Black Jack. Despite his surgical genius, he has chosen never to obtain a surgical license, operating instead in the shadows. He scorns such things as licenses as a meaningless symbols of social status, preferring to live in anonymity. He is based in a secret private clinic far away from the city, but frequently travels to hospitals around the world to covertly assist terminally ill patients.
Most of the episodes involve Black Jack doing some good deed, for which he rarely gets recognition --- often curing the poor and destitute for free, or teaching capitalist fat cats and his pompous fellow doctors a lesson in humility. They frequently end with a good, humane person enduring hardship, often unavoidable death, to save others.
Osamu Tezuka drew on his knowledge as a physician in writing Black Jack, and the manga contains frequent medical details. However, Tezuka chose to generally eschew medical plausibility in his manga: Black Jack is superhuman, regularly performing spectacular and impossible feats of surgical virtuosity.
There is widespread ignorance as to how Black Jack got his name. Some believe (wrongly) that it is because parts of his skin are dark (said by some sources to be skin grafts from a friend who was Black). Most believe (again, wrongly) it's a reference to the card game of the same name and/or the Jack rank in the deck of cards. Neither of those are the actual meaning of the name according to Tezuka. He once said that because Black Jack operated illegitimately (i.e. outside the official medical system), he was like a pirate and that the name referred to the universally known "skull and crossbones" Jolly Roger pirate flag-- which is also known as the Black Jack. Yet, Tezuka might have said this in response to comparisons to Captain Harlock who has a similar scarred facial appearance and is also a "by his own rules" outsider.
Black Jack made a brief cameo appearance in the 1980 movie Phoenix 2772 which was based on another Tezuka work. Here, he is seen as the foreman of the prison planet work camp.