Horror comics fans had at least one reason to be sad in 2004 – we had to go the whole 12 months without new work in English by world horror master Junji Ito.
Ito, who is responsible for what I hold to be the greatest horror comic ever in English, Uzumaki, last released new English work in 2003 when his Lovecraftian sci-fi tale of a cyborg fish apocalypse, GYO, was completed.
GYO, like its predecessor Uzumaki, was released by Viz, after Ito’s first English works, the two Tomie books and the companion anthology Flesh-Coloured Horror, were published by the now-defunct Comics One. And despite watching the advance solicitations for new comics faithfully all through 2004, there was no new Ito.
This was particularly hard to take after GYO ended on such a promising note: though the series was disappointing, the short that rounded out the second volume, The Strange Occurrence at Amigara Fault, was one of the best short horror comics I’ve ever seen – and perhaps one of the best works of short horror in any medium.
After that, that superlative moment of truly uncanny fear, we readers were left hanging.
And it wasn’t for a shortage of material – in researching my story on Ito for Rue Morgue, I found that there were at least 15 untranslated volumes of his work in Japan. So that library is there if some smart publisher chooses to release it.
2004 was considered by many – rightly or wrongly – to be a damp, boring year for comics. 2005 would be amazingly better if in it we were given the gift of new work by one of the world’s greatest horror artists, Junji Ito.
And Ito isn’t the only one I’m waiting for. After a solitary volume of his work – the interesting Orochi: Blood – was published in 2002, no more was heard from horror manga titan Kazuo Umezu. The world of horror would be a better place for those of us who don’t read Japanese if more Umezu – a groundbreaking manga creator who greatly influenced Ito – were published this year.