Before we get to this week's column, featuring the work of Hiroaki Samura and Sarah Horrocks, a special treat...
Zack Davisson is a prolific and talented and Eisner-winning comics translator. In addition to this impressive line of work, he's also a writer, providing back matter for Jim Zub, Steve Cummings and John Rauch’s Wayward and working on scripts for his own self-published effort, Narrow Road, with illustrator Mark Morse. He recently reached out to thank me for my review of Queen Emeraldas, but also suggested that I'd been pretty remiss in not crediting the translation work. Ever eager to turn a negative into a positive, I asked if he'd stop by here to answer a few questions about comics translation, which you can read below.
Hi Zack, thanks so much for your time.
What was your first exposure to Japanese culture and what was it that led you to become so immersed in it?
I was hooked from a pretty young age. My mom took me to see Seven Samurai at an arthouse theater when I was like 9 or 10, I think. It was my first real exposure to a foreign language, and I was fascinated. I wanted to know what it was like inside their heads, to think in those words that sounded like gibberish to me.
This was the early ‘80s, so it isn’t like how it is now. Finding anything “Japanese” meant lots of hunting. I tried taking a language class at Jr High, but it was canceled because only 2 students registered. I kept studying through college and on my own, but never really got anywhere. I realized the only way I was going to make any actual success in the language was to move to Japan, and that lead me to the JET programme and everything that came after.
How did you break in to the industry as a translator?
Partly though timing, and partly sheer willpower. I was never really interested in being a “translator” as I was in translating specific cartoonists. My main love is Shigeru Mizuki, and I tried for years to bring his works into English. When I saw Drawn & Quarterly had the license, I went to their website and found their “Contact US” button and wrote them this impassioned email telling them how much I needed to be involved.
Fortune was kind to me, and my email came in right when they were looking around for a new translator. They gave me a shot, and it has clearly been working out since we are still putting out comics!
Why does the profile of translators in comics need to be raised? Can you give us a sense of what a good translator can really bring to a comics project?
Translators have a huge impact on a finished work. In Japan, the name of the translator is usually listed on the front cover, underneath the author. They recognize that contribution.
It’s very much an art form, and the final product is a collaboration between artist and translator. The flow of language, the ability to evoke emotion … all of these are going to come from the skill of the translator. In my Confessions of a Manga Translator article I mentioned the Rule of Rubin, which I named after Murakami Haruki translator Jay Rubin—he said that when you are reading a Murakami book, about 95% of the words on the page are Jay Rubin. People don’t like to hear that, but it is true.
I think the best description I have heard is that reading in translation is like trying to play a piece of music on the oboe that was composed for piano. A translator’s job is to re-score the piece so that it sounds like it was originally intended for an oboe.
There's probably a general feeling that translators merely, in the most reductive sense of the word, "translate," take the foreign language and write it out as English. Take us through your work on a favourite individual scene or page if you could and explain your process to really dispel this misconception.
I’ll give you an example from Queen Emeraldas. There was this one bit of dialog that was going to be repeated, so I knew it was important to get it right. The Japanese is:
Anata ga honntou ni yuki no aru otoko no ko nara kitto mata uchu no dokokade meguri aeru desho. Dakara watashi ha sayonara ha iwanai …
A literal translation of which would roughly be:
You / actually / courage / boy / if / certainly / space / somewhere / again / traveling around / again / meet / it is likely that. And so / I / Goodbye / will not say …
Which could be translated any number of ways. Something basic like:
If you are actually a courageous boy, we will certainly meet again while we travel around in outer space. And so I won’t say goodbye …
Or something fancier:
If you prove yourself to be a courageous young man, then our paths are sure to cross again somewhere as we both travel across the universe. So I bid you not adieu …
Or you could slice it more creatively:
A lad of courage. It that is what you are in your heart, then let us not say farewell. For our travels through space shall surely bring us together again …
Here’s mine. I was trying to establish the rhythm of Matsumoto’s language, as well as the operatic feel. So I used techniques like internal rhyming to give it a musical flow:
If you are truly brave, boy, we shall surely meet again in the vastness of space. And so I will not say goodbye …
Any of those are “accurate” translations. They are all “correct.” It’s a question of style, and what effect you are going for. It also shouldn’t be taken in isolation—the line depends on the scene, on what came immediately before it and what comes immediately afterward. Emeraldas has her own voice, her own way of talking, and the dialog needs to match that.
That’s what makes translation a creative writing job, not a technical skill.
Are there any aspects of comics translation in general that, in your opinion, need to be worked on? Do you have any pet peeves when reading other people's translations?
My biggest pet peeve is playing to the “manga reader” audience. There is a certain amount of cultural gatekeeping in manga, this sense that you need to “in the know” or require some education on lingo to really get into manga. English readers like to throw around Japanese terms like “shonen” and “seinen” and keep honorifics. To me that smacks of Orientalism, of romanticizing the “foreignness.” It emphasizes the differences instead of the similarities.
I want to remove as many barriers as possible. That’s why I don’t use Translator’s Notes. Everything should be on the page. Reading a work in translation should feel the same as reading it in the original; if you are flipping to the back for Translator’s Notes then that experience is lost. You are taken out of the immediacy, out of the moment of the story.
I don’t even like using the word “manga”—they are comics. I lobbied with D&Q not to refer to Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographic series as Showa: A Manga History of Japan. I argued that it belonged on the shelf with Maus and Fax from Sarajevo, not in the manga aisle. I’m glad we agreed on that.
Take us through the differences between your work on Queen Emeraldas and the Kitaro books, the latter of which I believe you're doing far more editorial work as well as translating. Is that correct?
They are quite different. With the Shigeru Mizuki line from D&Q I play a much larger role, curating the stories, writing support material, writing ad copy, and whatever else is required. I work with an editor, Tracy Hurren, and she is fantastic to work with. We go over the final pages together, and it is a real collaborative effort.
Working for other companies, be it Kodansha for Queen Emeraldas or Dark Horse for Satoshi Kon’s Opus, it is much more of a work-for-hire situation. I send of my scripts, and rarely hear anything back until I get my copies of the book. I have no control or voice in any editorial changes made to my translations. That can be frustrating, but it is part of the job and you have to accept it. It depends on the editor. Sometimes it works out great: Queen Emeraldas is pretty much 100% my work, and same with most comics I translate. There have been a few rare times where the editor essentially re-wrote my script, which was a bummer but I can understand it. There are different styles, and my style doesn’t always mesh with an editor. Fortunately those are the exceptions!
I saw a tweet from you the other day mentioning how you dug out old '50s Japanese sound effects for Emeraldas in order to evoke a kind of nostalgic feeling. How difficult are aspects of your work like that to achieve?
It’s one of those things that most people never consciously notice, but I hope ads to the fabric of the experience. Some of it is just challenging myself as a translator; how can I achieve the mood here that the cartoonist wanted? What can I do to ensure an emotional connection with the work similar to what is achieved in Japanese?
On that note, onomatopoeia is a very important aspect of Japanese communication, they love speaking in "sound effects" and manga is filled with all sorts of sound effects from explosions to characters moving their heads quickly. Do you have any idea how this developed and can you give us any examples of how sound effects have changed over the years in manga?
In Japanese comic art, sound effects are very much a part of the art. Translating them and visually representing them is one of the most difficult parts of putting manga into English. There are different tactics, different styles …
I don’t really know much of the history of it, other than the Japanese language is used as visual decoration across Japan. You see sound effects like that on TV, or on posters, or in magazines. It’s an important part of the visual culture.
Do you have any dream projects? I'm personally dying for a lot more Atsushi Kaneko to be translated and it's mind-blowing to me that Keiichi Koike's Ultra Heaven has not been translated.
So many. Too many. I have them in categories of “Likely,” to “Possible,” to “Complete Long Shots.” Many of my dream projects I have already done, like Kitaro and Queen Emeraldas. I’d love to do more by those same cartoonists. Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato is high on my list. Shigeru Mizuki’s Tono Monogatari. Satoshi Kon and Katsuhiro Otomo’s World Apartment Horror.
Then there are titles like Hayao Miyazaki’s manga like Journey of Shuna and The Age of the Flying Boats that I can’t believe are still untranslated. I can only assume there are some complicated rights issues there, which is a part of the business I know little about. And I don’t know if the editors would chose me to translate. Lots of factors involved.
In the “Complete Long Shot” category are the 60s horror comics like Miyuki Saga. I dig those, but I can’t imagine any company taking a risk on them; the art is too dated and the appeal is just not there. Basically I would have to start my own publishing company to do those. Maybe I’ll do it someday when I am in the mood to lose money.
What's the most challenging project you've worked on so far?
That’s a tough question. Showa: A History of Japan is probably the most challenging, in both length and complexity. That was a hell of a comic to cut my teeth on. That was an immense work, in both dialog and ensuring historical accuracy. Multiple Eisner Award wins tells me that I must have done OK though!
Seraphim: 266,613,336 Wings was also a challenge. It was by Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon, and they famous struggled for control while working together, and that showed in the dialog and story. Oshii also has a penchant for obtuse language and obscure religious references.
A recent one, Black Museum: The Ghost and the Lady also was a challenging comic. Set in the Victorian era, it needed period-appropriate dialog and titles. The editor Ajani
Olaye did an amazing job with that, even bringing in a Victorian English expert to help with the script. That one was a team effort for sure.
They are all challenging in their own ways, but that’s a good thing.
What's the best part of your job?
Being able to bring these great comics and cartoonists to a wider audience. For me, that is the passion. There are all these wonderful works of art locked behind the gate of language. In my own contribution I forge a key to unlock that gate. I honestly think that the world is a better place having Showa: A History of Japan available to a larger population. The concepts and history in there are invaluable, and I am proud to play a role in that.
What else are you working on at the moment? Any projects of your own upcoming?
Several series are ongoing. I finished the second volume of Black Museum, so now I have the next volumes of Kitaro and Queen Emeraldas. I have a few new series lined up that are not announced yet, as well as a couple of new books I am working on. All good stuff! But it nothing I can talk about yet.
On top of that I do my own self-published comic Narrow Road with my pal Mark Morse. I like to write as well as translation. They are similar skills, and both satisfying in their own ways.
Finally, I'm looking at Hiroaki Samura's Die Wergelder this week and tying it into both ero guro and pinky violence. Could you possibly give your interpretation of both of these distinctly Japanese genres for those unfamiliar with them?
Yikes! That’s quite the question! I think you would need a book to properly explain those terms, especially ero guro. The English translation would be Erotic Grotesque Nonsense, and is related to a period of 1920s Taisho period Japan of extreme nihilistic hedonism, when people played with extremes in art. It relates to Sigmund Freud’s book Beyond the Pleasure Principle and the two main human drivers, Eros and Thanatos—sex and death. This has influenced modern films and artists, pushing boundaries and playing with erotic gore and filth.
Pinky violence is much more about a specific time in film, which is syncretic with the sexploitation or grindhouse genres films popular in the West at the time. They balanced in-between that line when actual hard core pornography was still illegal, but freedoms were being stretched on what could be shown on film. I’ve only personally seen a few pinky violence flicks in my time. Good fun, and I should probably see more.
COMIC OF THE WEEK : DIE WERGELDER VOLUME 1
By Hiroaki Samura
Translated by Stephen Paul
Published By Kodansha Comics
"Sex! Trash!! Dynamite!" -- slogan on the cover of the Japanese book, Pinky Violence: Toei's Bad Girl Films.
"I think you can safely see that this is a manga without any dignity." -- Hiroaki Samura on his Die Wergelder project.
As he fanboys his way through a range of cinematic and artistic influences, it's not hard to understand why a reader might consider Hiroki Samura's Die Wergelder a bit of a hot mess. This follow-up to the artist's mega-hit series, Blade of the Immortal, is a chance for Samura to wallow in the seedier aspects of his earlier epic. Die Wergelder is nasty, overly convoluted, at times almost impossible to follow, cuts between time and location at an almost brain-frying pace and is saddled with a translation that is at times pretty clunky.
Yes, Die Wergelder is Samura at the peak of self-indulgence. It's his Death Proof, if you will, largely a triumph of style over actual substance. However, when it clicks, Die Wergelder is a thing of comics beauty, recreating and updating the mad energy of 1970s Pinky Violence movies and the striking, confronting imagery of the ero guro movement, both of which form its aesthetic backbone. Samura soaks this work in elements of Japanese exploitation genres and tips his hat to his influences throughout. As a result, Die Wergelder feels like a crazed exercise in attempting to meld the experimentation of '70s Japanese genre film with the comics page. There's a certain something about Japanese genre films of this period - a theatricality, a love of over-saturated colour and visual excess that's almost impossible to replicate on the black and white comics page. But, man, does Samura give it a shot.
Some knowledge of Samura's obvious influences is of course not necessary for readers to enjoy the book in all its bonkers glory, but may provide some context to fully appreciate the vein which Die Wergelder taps - a distinctly Japanese vein - and rather than seeing Die Wergelder as something of a closed text, hopefully could lead readers to explore Samura's influences further, particularly if you have any interest in what we casually lump together as "Grindhouse" these days.
In Die Wergelder, three female characters from different parts of the globe jostle to steal both the lead role and the attention of their readers. Their motives are varied, their allegiances shift and overlap. Each of the three is distinctly costumed by Samura, cleverly milking the now retro-cool of his influences, but given a modern spin in the form of strange weaponry or cybernetic modifications. Each of the three is also modeled on a different type of Asian cinematic "Bad Girl,"each empowered in their own way, despite the exploitation that necessarily must come with stories of this type.
From Kiebitzenberg, Germany, comes Träne, a striking blonde sniper with a cybernetic hand and a missing eye. Träne is in many ways the engine of Samura's bewildering international plot, a vengeance-seeking furie, spouting lines from Germanic operas as she shoots her enemies with a sniper rifle or uses her metal hand to wrench their faces literally upside down. Visually, in her wide-brimmed black hat and trenchcoat, she resembles a legendary figure from Japanese exploitation cinema - Nami Matsushima: Female Prisoner Scorpion. In the revered four film series which ran from 1972-73, Nami Matsushima is played by Meiko Kaji, herself something of a firebrand, a woman who took little shit both on set or off (she also famously played another manga heroine, Lady Snowblood), and is a woman-done-wrong, set on a seemingly never ending quest for righteous and bloody vengeance.
Sasori (scorpion), as she becomes known throughout the series, is such a potent avenger that her presence becomes almost supernatural, kind of like how Lee Marvin's Parker haunts the psyches of those he hunts in John Boorman's film Point Blank, only way, way weirder. The Sasori films go much farther in their literal supernatural elements than Marvin's tough guy, invading the dreams of those who've wronged him.
The Sasori films (the first three of which are directed by the brilliant Shunya Ito) convey both a comic book theatricality as well as a comic book bending of reality - Sasori slices "through" the screen at one surprising moment - and the colors and sets flare and rotate, shifting to match her mood or to create a highly stylised look that auteurs like Dario Argento and Nicolas Winding Refn would later appropriate and make their own for their own arthouse spins on grubby genre fare.
Fittingly, the character of Nami Matsushima, Sasori, first appeared in comics. Created by Toru Shinohara and first published in 1970, Sasori's manga adventures garnered a substantial female following and, although much less extreme in content than the movies ended up being, creator Shinohara states (in an interview for Arrow films wonderful new Blu-ray set of the films) that his Nami Matsushima nonetheless embodied the "whatever happens to me, I'll always pay it back double" attitude that makes Kaji's cinematic performance so compelling. Shinohara's Nami, physically at least, is world's away from actress Meiko Kaji. In the Sasori manga, Nami is blonde and quite European in appearance. Here's Shinohara's Nami and Meiko Kaji's Nami for comparison:
With Träne, Die Wergelder's Germanic vengeance-seeker, Samura marries the attitude and fashion sense of Meiko Kaji's onscreen Nami Matsushima with the physical appearance of the manga original, creating an obvious homage to both iterations of the character. Not only that, but Träne takes the alias of Nami Savrasova, clearly marking herself in the minds of knowing readers as the metaphorical descendant of all things Sasori. The iconic hat and trenchcoat, with this knowledge, take on an extra sense of foreboding and ominousness in scenes that otherwise could just look like pretty pages.
One of my favorite things about Samura's work is how beautiful, ornate and fashionable his characters can be. He's not merely obsessed with the violence and sex of Japanese exploitation, but the overall aesthetic of the films, their creative framing of shots and, obviously, their effortless visual cool. Here's a promo piece of Träne, a character clearly stitched together from two different visions of Sasori, chicly clothed, glamorously retro in a floral blouse under Meiko Kaji's black trenchcoat and hat:
The second of Die Wergelder's femme fatales, Shinobu Aza, is described as a "bad bitch without a home or a job." Originally hailing from the remote island of Ishikunagijima, Shinobu is a tough, homeless heartbreaker, beautiful and manipulative. When she hooks up with a low-rent yakuza who has stolen millions in yen from his gang, trouble inevitably follows our young, chain-smoking delinquent, leading her back to her birthplace, where an insane conspiracy awaits her as well as a confrontation with Träne. Very much the "everyman" of Die Wergelder, brave Shinobu is also very much a sukeban - a "girl boss" or "delinquent girl,” drawing on yet another once popular Japanese genre.
Where the Female Prisoner Scorpion movies could be generally looped into the Pinky Violence genre (see Zack Davisson's spot-on description above), the "Girl Boss" series, with its near-constant breast-baring among the fisticuffs, falls front and centre. Largely anchored by two fierce lead actresses, Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, films like Girl Boss Guerilla and Delinquent Girl Boss are essentially gender-swapped Yakuza movies, films where rival gangs of girls growl at each other in affected tough-guy voices and battle it out in the streets and in the schools. In the process they brazenly (and at times almost defiantly) bare as much flesh as censorship would let them get away with. The sexual violence quota can run pretty high in these films, but, as we shall also see with Die Wergelder, these are strong, empowered female protagonists, unafraid of being tougher than their male foes to get their vengeance. Die Wergelder's Shinobu goes from blackmailed street urchin, to member of a yakuza gang, to appearing to almost be boss at times, as her importance is recognised and her familiarity with her home of Ishikunagijima island becomes a focal point of the plot.
Although Reiko Ike is my personal favourite of the two main Sukeban film leads, there's no doubt that Samura's Shinobu Azu is a comic book Miki Sugimoto. Here they are side by side:
Jie Mao is a Chinese kung-fu killer contracted to the Hill-Myna corporation, the outfit whose machinations are at the centre of Die Werglder's labyrinthine plot. From what we largely see of the Hill-Myna workers, they resemble employees from Marvel's Hydra gone medical. Strange white lucha mask/hoods adorn their heads, flowing labcoats and smocks make up their rest of their outfits; they are mad scientists taken to the creepy visual extreme. Jie Mao, their hired gun, by contrast comes straight from a Chinesewu xia flick, her 1920s-inspired outfits a practical, but still elegant "update" to the kind of ornate flowing finery Zia Zhang wore in House of Flying Daggers or Qi Shu wore in The Assassin.
PLEASE INSERT ZIA ZHANG, THE ASSASSIN AND DW 5
As with her clothing, Samura's wu xia warrior is given a weapons update. Jie Mao can fly like the best of her cinematic wire-fu analogues, but none of them had revolver-nunchakuor electrified slippers to aid them in battle. Her fight scenes are beautiful, her legs and weapons turning to a scratchy whirlwind of motion lines as she throws spin kicks and swings nunchaku, her face ever stoic and composed. Her greatest battle comes when she faces our German Sasori, Träne.
The object of Träne's vengeance is Jie Mao's employer, the Hill-Myna corporation, which has a vested interest in her native Kiebitzenbergas well as the red light districts of Shinobu's home of Ishikunagijima island and China's Hwamei and Guizhou for particularly evil and nefarious reasons. It takes some time for all of the story's numerous plot threads and time jumps to finally entangle, but when the lives and missions of Träne, Shinobu and Jie Mao overlap, Die Wergelder kicks into high gear with beautifully kinetic action sequences, strikingly offbeat plot developments and numerous throwaway moments of ero guro weirdness.
Ero guro nansensu, or erotic grotesque nonsense takes often fairly extreme sexual situations, S&M is a frequent theme (you'll find plenty of that in Die Wergelder), and matches it with something bizarre, disturbing or both. Not merely limited to visual art, ero guro spans all manner of artistic mediums, even comfortably finding a home in Literature. One of it's early adopters was the writer Edogawa Rampo (1894-1965), a man considered to be the Godfather of Japanese crime fiction but who also filled his works with strange, surreal and perverse elements. Arguably Rampo's best known work is "The Caterpillar," a short, sick tale of a soldier who’s lost all his limbs and most of his face in battle and is now tended to, in near-seclusion, by his pretty young wife, Tokiko. The strange, writhing thing on the tatami stirs some well-hidden perversities in Tokiko, who grows to love the cruelty with which she can now treat her husband. "The Caterpillar" is a weird, strong brew, filled with grotesque descriptions of fleshy nubs and swollen bellies. It’s a beautifully bizarre idea, with a grim ending and a horror-dominatrix additive to the anti-war message.
In comics, the artist Suehiro Maruo champions ero guro most prominently. Maruo's gifted with the ability to create some of the most unsettling comics you will ever read and it's his use of ero guro that lends the off-kilter strangeness to his work. Some of what he depicts on the page is hard to digest, but rendered with undeniable beauty and skill, the hypnotic effect of ero guro - this juxtaposition of the beautiful with the horrific and strange - is undeniably potent. Maruo is particularly fond of adapting Rampo's work and he does so lovingly and with fitting grotesqueness. Here's a typically disturbing panel from "Imo-mushi," his particularly disquieting take on Rampo's "The Caterpillar":
Samura's work has never shied away from S&M and ero guro elements (his art book, Brute Love, is a proof enough of that) and there are similarities to Maruo's comics in the strangeness of the sex scenes, the perverseness of the characters, the ornateness of the violence, the elaborate lengths to which warped desires play out. Die Wergelder is no different with its scenes of extreme bondage and fetishised sex. Most strikingly, however, is a scene in which a man makes love to a legless young woman who has been surgically turned into a mermaid. It's virtually a throwaway scene yet it's a cartoonish spin on ero guro, and in direct contrast to the violent bondage-fetish filled sex that fills the rest of the book.
As with both the Female Prisoner Scorpion and Girl Boss movies, the male characters in Die Wergelder are basically ineffectual, libido-driven buffoons, fodder for the weaponry and vengeance of the females or mere devices added to keep the plot (largely doled out in info-dump exposition) rolling forward into the next offbeat sequence, and the one after that and then - ah ha! - some beautifully choreographed action. Toward the volume's end, an intrepid reporter gets the scoop and is promptly slaughtered. Midway though, various low-rung bandage-covered yakuza congregate in a bar to lick their wounds and lament the fact that they were bested, and violently at that, by a woman. Early on, another yakuza is hooked up to a modified exercise machine and brutally maimed by female torturer, and the book's fourth major character, Soli Kil.
And then there is this image, the perfect visual summation of Shinobu's growing power throughout the narrative:
Stick with Die Wergelder. Kodansha was smart to put this out in omnibus forms, with two of the original volumes sandwiched together. It's really not until the midway point that everything begins to tie together and make anything approximating narrative sense. Samura's art is beautifully messy in its highly detailed scratchiness and, as Sarah Horrocks points out in the suggested reading below, his use of zipatones is remarkable - such a smart way to approximate the extreme lighting, colours and stage effects of his filmic influences and "translate" them into a black and white comic. The fight scenes are a joy and despite the degradation they suffer at times during the narrative, his three female leads are distinct and strong - more than up to handing the craziness that comes their way in ever-escalating doses. It's not for the weak of heart or those with delicate sensibilities; it's potentially offensive and carries an 18-plus tag with good reason. However, if you're a fan of strange films, offbeat horror and crazy action, you'll have a good time it. It's also much, much smarter than it appears. Hopefully Kodansha gets the second (and concluding, I believe) omnibus out soon and we can see just how crazily and passionately Hiroaki Samura signs off his love letter to all things Pinky Violence.
FURTHER READING & VIEWING FOR THE CURIOUS:
If anything here has piqued your interest beyond Samura's manga, here's a few thing you may want to check out.
* Sarah Horrocks on Die Wergelder.
*Vice on ero guro.
* Arrow films newly released Female Prisoner Scorpion Blu-ray boxset, with art by Ian MacEwan. The films look amazing in their 2K restoration, the extras are bountiful and MacEwan's art alone is worth price of entry. Put this on your Christmas list.
* The Pinky Violence Collection from Panik House. A fittingly lurid pink beams out from the plastic cover of this DVD boxset that contains four Ike/Sugimoto sukeban epics, great essay material and a CD copy of Reiko Ike's music debut which features her moaning over some '70s lounge music for 40 minutes. Amazing.
* Rampo Panorama (or Ranpo Panorama in Japanese) by Suehiro Maruo. Difficult to find online, easy to find in Japan, Suehiro Maruo' s oversized art book features gloriously deranged imagery based on the works of the ero guro master and godfather of Japanese crime fiction, Edogawa Rampo. Also contains a short comic based on one of Rampo's works, "The Midget is Dancing." Oh, yes.
WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : THE LEOPARD
By Sarah Horrocks
Sticking with extremely strange, highly stylized genre fare, there is nothing more appropriate to feature here this week than Sarah Horrocks’ The Leopard, a twisted, hyper-coloured family history and a love song to all things giallo. Like Samura, Horrocks' influences are on clear display. She uses the motifs of the giallo film - the black leather gloves, the vibrant colours, the wealthy and fashionably dressed characters, the grisly but oddly beautiful murders, the psychodrama -- and melds that with the scratchiness and experimentation of the work of Guido Crepax.
Boldly experimental, The Leopard gives us a scenario where a family has congregated on an island with an inheritance at stake. Horrocks is publishing her serial through Gumroad, charging a minimum of $2 for each completed issue. The money generated will go towards an eventual print edition of the book. It's a publishing model I like and a project I support. I can't wait to see how Horrocks will continue to stretch the limits of her pages in future blood-soaked issues and I'll be revisiting this series here in lengthier fashion in the future.
COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : ART GALLERY HIROAKI SAMURA
If my ramblings have you on the fence about the quality of Samura's artistry, this video should dispel all doubt. A collection of both graphite and inked drawings as well as painted covers and other assorted Blade of the Immortal imagery, this is a nice little visual feast and should whet your appetite for the forthcoming omnibus editions of Blade...and the Pinky Violence lunacy of Die Wergelder.
See you next week.
Love your comics.
Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you'll likely never read. He's the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.