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Posted By Art Baxter

kazuo_umezu

Kazuo Umezu  (楳図 かずお) - September 3, 1936

I never thought I would ever see the manga of japanese master of horror, Kazuo Umezu. I first learned of his work in a pair of articles in the COMICS JOUNAL a few years ago. At that time only the most popular or classic manga was being published in translated editions in the US. Some weird stuff had also been published but only a very small amount. The insane, over-the-top, post-apocalyptic children's manga of Umezu-sensei being published in the US seemed unimaginable.

Imagine my surprise when Viz started publishing his masterpiece, the DRIFTING CLASSROOM (1972-1974) in eleven volumes in 2006. When I read the first volume I was not disappointed.  It's LORD OF THE FLIES on crack. The simple premise is that an elementary school, students and staff, are mysteriously transported to an apocalyptic wasteland in the future. It is a story of survival, who will and who won't. The adults all loose their minds and begin to kill each other and the children, almost from the beginning. Food and water become issues early. The older children, for the most part, keep their heads and look after the younger students. Soon rival factions vie for power over the meager supplies and things start to break down. It is a thrilling "end of the world" survivalist story that ranks with the best of the George Romero zombie movies. It pulls no punches. People die and it isn't pretty but it isn't gratuitous either. What's amazing is that this is manga for children. Frankly, I don't think it would be bad for a kid to read. It would have completely enthralled me as a kid. I would never give a kid a copy though. It would be better to let them find it for themselves. It could really alter their world-view. Most likely for the better.

/crusifiction
Child crucifixion on a pyre, anyone?

I have also recently read volume one of his earlier series, THE CAT EYED BOY (1967-1968).  The boy is a demon child who wanders into other stories and either takes part or comments on the action. There are some crazy and horrific monsters aplenty. The main characters are children as in his later DRIFTING CLASSROOM series and as in that series, adults are not to be trusted. The stories aren't as good as CLASSROOM, it was his first horror series, but it is a lot of fun. I find it excellent porch reading on a hot summer night.

FOOD!
A trademark image: the crazy-eyed scream of horror in close-up.

I'm hoping these books do well for VIZ and they continue to publish Umezu-sensei's work. I'm especially interested in reading, MY NAME IS SHINGO (1982-1986), LEFT HAND OF GOD (1986-1989), and FOURTEEN (1990-1995).

Why not check out some of Kazuo Umezu's manga for his 72nd birthday!

FURTHER READING ABOUT KAZUO UMEZU:
* THE COMICS JOURNAL #233 - May 2001
  "Umezu Kazuo: Japanese Overtures to Madness and Death" by Ng Suat Tong
* THE COMICS JOURNAL #248 - November 2002
  "Kazuo Umezu's FOURTEEN" by JamesThompson


 
Posted By Art Baxter

mort_walker

Mort Walker - September 3, 1923

To celebrate Mr. Walker's birthday I would like to present to you a strip from July 1, 1973, When I first saw it in the sunday funnies the top of my head blew off. It was one of the sexiest comics I had ever seen in the paper: a topless woman strolling down the beach as seen from the back. My early teenage imagination ran wild.

It may seem hard to believe that there was a time when BEETLE BAILY was a good strip. Mr. Walker's best work on the strip may have been between 1965 and 1975. Ironically, nearly the same decade as the Viet Nam war. While Beetle was up to his old tricks stateside in Camp Swampy the rest of the GIs were in 'Nam. But anyway, BEETLE BAILY was a good strip as were others of that era from the Walker and Associates factory: HI & LOIS and BONERS ARK.

Walker's work touched on sexuality more than most strips not that it happened all that often. Mostly it was in the form of General Halftrack's lusting after and sexual harassment of his secretary, Miss Buxley or the sexual prowess of the "pussyhound" character, Killer.

beetle_baily-detail
Click HERE to view the whole strip

In this strip, the only way Beetle to get his friend Killer off his ass is to present something that just about any red-blooded heterosexual American male would stop at nothing to see: a girl's exposed tit.  And Mort, god bless him, even gives us a hint of ass crack just above the bikini line. It was just too much for my barely teen brain to process. I still find the image of the girl and the scenario pretty damn sexy, yet in some way, wholesome. Note that the rest of the seaside background becomes irrelevant and vanishes in the final panel. The girl is all. It's interesting to also note that Killer is the one with his tongue hanging out not Beetle. He is also winning. Is Beetle only in it for the exercise? Hmmm.

Why not check out this strip for Mort Walker's 85th birthday!

This comic strip is reprinted in Mort Walker's excellent, long out-of-print book on living the  cartoonist's life BACKSTAGE AT THE STRIPS. I highly reccomend it.

backstage_strips

BACKSTAGE AT THE STRIPS
by Mort Walker
A & W Visual Library
1975 - 311 pp.
ISBN: 0-89104-057-9 (SC)

BEETLE BAILY is © King Features Syndicate


 
Posted By Art Baxter
henry-36

This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST. Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday.

Find out more about HENRY here.


 


 
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