I always loved this song. When I was a boy, it was the song I would sing when I was alone in the darkness. It made me feel better, able to march toward home in spite of potential spooks and brain-eating zombies. The weight of the invisible future world could not drag me down if this tune was in my head, filling it with helium and good spirit; it allowed me to fly.
And when I listened to it playing on the radio… I always paused and listened to at least a couple of verses no matter what I was doing… I never once thought of Johnny Nash as a black man. I didn’t know he was black until I first saw a picture of him. But even then I didn’t think, “Oh, he’s a black man.” I thought, “Oh, he’s a man like me.” But, I, of course, am not black. I’m not really white either. I am a kind of pale pink to mauve mottled color with dark pink psoriasis spots in random places all over me. It is the man on the inside that is like Johnny Nash, full of uplifting things, and goofy grins, and… hopefully, hope.
But when I was young it wasn’t only singing “I Can See Clearly Now…” in my goofy farmboy voice that filled my head with air and allowed me to float away from the troubles of the world. I also learned to draw Manga style, in the tradition of Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy , filtered through hours of practice copying Walt Kelly’s Pogo characters and various Disney cartoons.
I copied the over-large eyes and big-headed cutsieness that informed the Japanese idea of the world after the atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I tried to capture innocence and wonder and adventure in drawings that took my mind off the terrible things of my childhood, being sexually assaulted, the assassinations of JFK and his brother RFK, and Martin Luther King Jr, the Viet Nam War, and Nixon with Watergate. You can reclaim innocence and peace of mind, if you get the lines just right, and the proportions are good, and the character has just the right expression on their sweet little faces.
Okay, maybe not always so sweet and innocent. This is not the Dorothy I would want to mess with. This girl is cocky, sure of herself, and more than a little impish. A destroyer of wicked witches, that one.
But that’s what Manga Art is all about. You whistle away the darkness one drawing at a time. And there’s plenty of darkness to whistle away anymore, isn’t there? What with Tronald Dump taking on the NFL over the American Flag and National Anthem, Tronald Dump taking on Jim Kong Oon in an insult war backed up by ICBMs, and Congress busily trying to take away all our access to health care. (I know I misspelled some names there, but I am tired of talking about that guy that Dorothy told me I should call the “orange-faced poop sack.” No, Dorothy, I can’t call him that. Using language like that robs my head of its helium.) So, what do I do now about the state of the world? Well, here is the Manga Art I drew last night.
Catgirl and White-haired Snow White with a ping pong ball in her mouth.