Also, Andrew's opus, The Chronicles of William Bazillion, continues apace:
We apologize that only one of the above comics currently features Hitler punching Lincoln.
Also, this week I'm interrupting our regularly scheduled Overlooked Manga Festival for an Overlooked Manga Festival Special Event!
This week's OMF Special Event is a loving tribute to the greatest manga magazine in American history. Manga-oriented magazines have had a colorful, if spotty, history here in gaijin land. In Japan, of course, nearly all manga are serialized in one magazine or another before being published in those squarebound little books we've all come to know and love. The most popular manga magazine in Japan is the megalithic, phone-book-sized Shonen Jump, which has its own annual convention and a circulation that topped 6 million readers a week back in the '90s. Even ordinary, non-nerdy magazines in Japan often include manga. The great shojo manga Paradise Kiss first ran in the fashion magazine Zipper. Ultimate Muscle, one of the manga I proudly edit, ran in Weekly Playboy. I am so not kidding. You open the magazine, it's all photos of naked women, then Ultimate Muscle, then more photos of naked women.
America, alas, has yet to reach this enlightened state. Over the past twenty years, there have been many efforts at manga anthology magazines and manga-themed pop-culture magazines, some successful, some unsuccessful, some really unsuccessful, some really incredibly unsuccessful, some just total bombs...Look, the American magazine market is tough. If Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat see far today, it's only by standing on the shoulders of fallen Viz-published comrades like Animerica Extra, Manga Vizion, and, of course, the subject of today's OMF Special Event, the greatest manga magazine in American history...
The greatest American manga magazine is the August 2002 issue of PULP.
The "Manga Hell" issue was the last issue of PULP, a noble experiment in manga and related J-pop for adult readers. Really nerdy adult readers, admittedly, but adults all the same. Roughly half of each issue was devoted to manga, and half to articles on manga and general Japanese pop culture. It was headed by Alvin Lu, who has since been promoted to Emperor of All Manga or something (I can't keep everyone's titles straight these days), and mad genius Carl Gustav Horn, who now edits manga over at Dark Horse. Regular contributors included Jason Thompson, who has since descended into madness induced by reading every single manga ever published in English, and Patrick Macias, who has, like all otaku who are pure and true of heart, boarded the White Ship and passed into the East (i.e., moved to Japan to blog about maid cafes). PULP was the first magazine to publish my writing on manga; I interviewed Colleen Doran for the two-part "American Manga" issue (another high point in the magazine's five-year run) and covered the very first Yaoi-Con. Sadly, I was not able to contribute to the final issue, although I must concede that anything I could have written would only have diluted the magazine's otherwise unadulterated awesomeness.
First, the manga lineup in PULP at that point was excellent. This issue featured the final installment of Junji Ito's stunning horror manga Uzumaki, about a town infested with sinister spirals.
Readers also got a chapter of Dance Till Tomorrow, by Naoki Yamamoto, a sex comedy for mature readers (translation: nipples drawn in) about a guileless college boy who stands to inherit a fortune and the gold-digging floozy who is his OTP. I really wish more of Yamamoto's work was available in official English translation; he's a great cartoonist and storyteller with a bracingly cynical point of view. I think Dance Till Tomorrow is the only one of his manga that's been published over here, and it probably deserves the Overlooked Manga treatment one of these days.
Also on the bench: Short Cuts, a surreal gag manga by Usamaru Furuya, a fantastic draftsman with a weird, imaginative sense of humor. The strips in Short Cuts are linked only in that they all feature teenage schoolgirls, apparently just because, hey, teenage schoolgirls are hot. (There's actually a sequence making fun of the schoolgirl fetish, in which Japanese men start going gaga over younger and younger women, and end up staring lecherously down a microscope at a just-fertilized embryo. All the other strips, meanwhile, happily indulge that same fetish.)
And last but never least: Banana Fish, subject of a recent OMF. Ash Lynx, will you eulogize PULP for us?
Now that's a solid lineup. That's like the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers of manga. But that's just the back end of PULP. The real meat of this issue is in the features, wherein each contributor writes about his or her interpretation of "Manga Hell."
It kicks off with an intro by Carl Horn about "American doujinshi," which was a new and mysterious fringe movement at the time, as opposed to the bulk of the current Tokyopop website. Carl, rocking his intro in true Carl Horn style, manages to namecheck his favorite OEL, Ed Hill's short comic "Fairy Princess Yukio Mishima," while simultaneously coining the term "neuromanceasthenia." Now that five years have passed, I can probably safely reveal that Carl honestly wanted to publish "Fairy Princess Yukio Mishima," a story casting the famous suicidal transvestite militaristic genius novelist as a Sailor Moon-type magical girl, in PULP, and probably would have done so had the magazine survived a little longer. Let's all pause for a moment of silence to honor what might have been.
Then it's on to Manga Hell! Tomo Machiyama contributes a list of "The Most Hellish (Untranslated) Manga...Ever! (Maybe)." A few highlights:
Machiyama's closing paragraph:
Izumi Evers, who was also the PULP graphic designer, provides lengthy descriptions of two classic creepy-ass manga. The first, The Domestic Yappo, is an adaptation of a novel by "king of masochists" Numa Shozo, given manga form by kiddie cartoonist Shotaro Ishinomori (who will appear in a happier context in a future OMF). Both the novel and the manga describe a far future ruled by white people, where the Japanese have devolved into subhuman, unintelligent little creatures called "Yappo" which are manipulated for the pleasure of the aristocracy. As Evers puts it, "Although SF tools and gadgets usually make people excited about the future (like Doraemon, for instance), the Yappo is a more problematic invention. To enjoy this future, one must give up an ordinary sense of morality." Um, yeah.
Evers' second feature covers Rally Up Mankind!, a bizarre sex comic by none other than Osamu Tezuka. If you weren't aware that Tezuka included sex comics in his arsenal of Every Manga Genre Ever Invented, I believe Vertical is planning to educate you with the publication of Apollo's Song later this year. Rally Up Mankind! features asexual mutants and a protagonist who inexplicably looks like Adolf Hitler, and it doesn't sound like it makes a whole lot of sense.
Patrick Macias writes about Kazuo Koike, just like everyone knew he would: "But for me, Manga Hell is real and palatable. In short, it is typified by any manga written by Kazuo Koike. It burns. It hurts, and it is sinful beyond belief. And as a card-carrying bad-comics masochist I kind of like it that way. Besides, one can only imagine what kind of real trash gets to rest on puffy white clouds with angel wings up in accursed manga heaven--a place where Koike's best-known title, Lone Wolf and Cub, probably plays the harp."
This leads neatly into "The Wounded Man Interview," an instant classic by Dean Blackburn, who was also Viz's IT manager. It's not an interview with the creators of the manga Wounded Man. It's an interview with Wounded Man. Out of the kindness of my heart, I'm reproducing it here in its full glory.
But for me, the "Manga Hell" issue of PULP reaches its glorious climax with "The Cantos of Manga Hell: The Most Hellish (Translated) Manga," a labor of love by Jason Thompson. Thompson divides all the worst manga published in English into the nine circles of Dante's Hell, with softcore T&A romps condemned to the eighth circle (The Panderers) and formulaic fighting manga landing in the seventh circle (The Violent), where they are "forced to undergo training excercises while weighed down with tons of shackles and chains, and taunted with cries of 'Show me your power!' while being bludgeoned with copies of Shonen Jump magazine." I'll share just the first two pages.
Remember, this was in 2002. Just imagine the stunning tour of Translated Manga Hell that would be possible today, when a quick trip to your local Barnes and Noble can provide you with armloads of manga far shittier than Slayers. In fact, I'm going to try to get Jason to write one for me.
There's more. An article on "gekiga movies," crazy manga adaptations of American and Hong Kong movies (case sample: Dog Day Afternoon rewritten to remove the gay element because it ran in a kiddie magazine), reprinted from the Japanese movie magazine Eiga Hi-Ho. Chuck Stephens on brutal action director/star Takashi Miike. Jason Thompson's monthly manga review column, "The Manga Browser," which was moved to Animerica magazine after PULP's demise, giving me the chance to write a bunch of reviews. A profile of the band Buffalo's Daughter. Happy Ujihashi's diary comic, "Happy's Tokyo Scene."
Why? Why must the good die young? Why did the public not embrace PULP and cradle it to its collective bosom? It was a monthly spotlight on manga most people just weren't ready for, stuff that was too smart, sexy, bloody, creepy, surreal, or just plain untranslatable for prime time. It was, in fact, in many ways, the Overlooked Manga Festival in magazine form.
Farewell, August 2002 issue of PULP magazine. Go in peace into the cleansing fires of Manga Hell. Your deeds here on earth will not be forgotten. And for the dignity of humankind, kill the savages!
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi