Markley’s Fevered Brain: Oh! The Horror

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

When I think of horror in comics I generally think of two periods in comic history. There was the 1950s boom, the EC glory days with such great story tellers as Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Graham Ingles, and many others, doing such great titles as Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, and others. There were also the numerous knock off tiles from almost every publisher in the late ‘40s and early to mid-1950s. Many of these stories can be seen in Craig Yoe’s fun Haunted Horror comic every other month which reprints a wide selection from the non-EC titles. Then I think of the mid to late ‘60s and the revival of horror by Warren Publications with Creepy and Eerie magazine with such greats of modern horror as the late Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben, who is still producing a monthly horror comic for Dark Horse called Shadows on the Grave. And of course there were all of the knock off magazines from Eerie Publications, Stanly Publications, etc. DC also joined the fun in the late ‘60s with House of Mystery and House of Secrets turning into horror anthologies with work by Neal Adams, Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Alex Toth, and many others. These two classics series from DC are going to be collected into deluxe hardcover collections this fall. But none of this work, as good as it is, and some of it is great, is what I am going to be writing about. I am going to write about Junji Ito, who is considered the master of Japanese horror manga.

Ito started out life as a dental technician and did manga on the side. He quickly gained fame for his horror stories and went on to become the leader of Japanese horror manga. As with much of Japanese horror, and if you follow their horror films, you know they can truly be out there and are most definitely original and creative. They do not shy away from the blood and gore while at the same time they do some of the most suspense filled films you will ever see. One of the most popular Japanese horror films that was released in America was Tomie, where there were a total of three films based on the demonic girl. (There are a number of other movies, many direct to video based on Tomie in Japan). Most of Ito’s horror stories tend to be based on a personal struggle within a group of people or of an individual. Often these stories lead to physical deformities of the person and his art lends to the grotesque and twisted. Ito has often sited H.P. Lovecraft as an influence on his storytelling and it does come through quite often in his stories.

Tomie Complete Deluxe Edition

Tomie Complete Deluxe Edition


Viz recently released a deluxe hardcover version of Tomie called the Tomie Complete Deluxe Edition. This is a beautiful package that collects all of Ito’s Tomies stories. This is a massive story coming in at over 750 pages and tells the tale of Tomie, a young dead girl who keeps coming back only to die again and again. This is far less gruesome and more suspense filled than some of his other work, but it does keep you turning the page and gives you a creeping feeling in the back of your head as you read it.

Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror

Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror


Viz has also released a fancy deluxe version of my favorite Ito book, Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror Deluxe Edition HC. Originally released as three trade paperbacks, this book collects everything into another massive hardcover (over 650 pages) telling the story of a small fishing village in Japan that is cursed. The town is designed around a spiral and the spiral theme runs throughout the entire novel. This story is very Lovecraftian and it is one of the few comics I have ever read where I felt a sense of dread and creepiness while reading it. Much like Stephen King when he is at his best. You are afraid to read what comes next but you keep turning the page because you just can’t stop. I thought this was Ito’s best work. There is also a movie adaptation of this horrific story.

Gyo

Gyo


Gyo is a third collection of Ito’s major manga efforts collected into a deluxe hardcover edition by Viz. Once again this is two single volumes collected into a new deluxe hardcover format. This story is also very H.P. Lovecraft-like as it tells the story of a small island that smells of death, and then a strange legged fish appears and the decent into hell begins. Not as creepy as Uzumaki, it is still a very good story that leaves you feeling uncomfortable by the end. Once again Ito is able to create this sense of fear not only due to his storytelling but also his unique art style that is a mix of realism that is twisted into surrealism.

Dissolving Classroom

Dissolving Classroom


The most recent of Ito’s work to be released is The Dissolving Classroom from Vertical Comics. This is a collection of short stories about a brother who is obsessed with the devil and his younger sister who is easily the worst human being to ever live, and the havoc they cause. This is a fairly small book coming in at only a 178 pages. This is more violent horror than the subtle psychological thrillers he did in Uzumaki and Gyo.

There is also Fragments of Horror which is also published by Viz and collects the more recent horror stories by Ito. These tend to be more towards explicit horror than suspense, but never the less they are very good.

There is also the long out-of-print (in America at least) Junji Ito Horror collection 1-16. This series from Comicone reprinted a lot of Ito’s work, including the first American printings of Tomie and others. I know in Japan there are 16 volumes but I think only the first 10 were reprinted in English. They can be found on Amazon, but at insanely inflated prices.

As with the title above, Dark Horse also did three volumes called Museum of Terror, all collecting short stories by Ito. These range from the suspense filled to the gorerific. I have read there are actually ten volumes in this series but Dark Horse only did three collections and all three demand huge money in the aftermarket as they are all out of print. Hopefully Viz will issue new collections of these short story collections in deluxe hardcovers as they have done with Ito’s other work.

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu


Finally there is Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu. This is unlike any of Ito’s other work as it is a tale of his two cats. This is an autobiographical tale that at times is quite funny as Ito’s girlfriend and her two cats move in with him and this story chronicles how a dog person (Ito) learns to adapt to cats, and all of cats strange behaviors. This book was one of his most recent books in English as it was published in 2015 by Kodansha.

Overall I rate Junji Ito as one of the modern masters of horror. While his work is as far away as you can get from the EC greats, or the Corben’s and Wrightson’s of the world, it is perfectly suited for the style of story he tells. I would highly recommend any of these books to any horror fan whether or not they like manga. If you are looking for a creepy good time, and not in the monster way (vampires, Frankenstein’s Monster, werewolves, etc.), then these books are for you.

That is it for this time. Everything I have written is my opinion and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. Have you read Junji Ito’s work? What do you think? What horror comics would you recommend? I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or at Wayne Markley on Facebook. As always…

Thank you.

 

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