Running around all day, but at least I got fed.

*Short review: X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #3 (of 5) is still aces. You should all not stop buying it.

*A tip for today’s youth, as witnessed earlier today - if you’re going to drive up to someone’s home, beep the horn and scream out the window, then peel away in a blast of burning rubber and loud music, it does sort of kill the effect when you stop for a stop sign three houses down the road. Just saying.

*MAX Dept: All-consuming darkness. Blood spraying from lips. Eyes forced out of sockets. Leering villains ripping women’s shirts off. The pervasive threat of sexual violence. The tops of heads blasted off with gunfire. Youth suicide. Environmental calamity. Waterways choked with heaps of dead fish. Angry student protests. Faces violated by snipers’ bullets. Wholesale highway slaughter. Sympathetic love interests sent off to the ER with massive injury. Countless deaths in war. Angst and urban pressure and decayed panoramas everywhere, pressing down on the saddened individual.

Nothing quite like the later issues of the Spider-Man manga by Ryoichi Ikegami!

I’ve just gotten around to reading some of these later stories, and it’s really quite a trip to see Ikegami's 'mature' style begin to seep into generally simple artwork - this stuff was created from 1970-71, when the author was primarily known as a veteran of the alternative manga magazine Garo; stuff like Crying Freeman and Sanctuary would still be years away (in an odd bit of synchronicity, there was one other Marvel superhero manga running at the same time, Hulk - written by future Ikegami collaborator Kazuo Koike, and apparently never reprinted after its initial serialization). Granted, we do have a gap of quite a few years (the mid-to-late '70s) without any of the man's work in English, including his breakthrough work on Gallant Gang, so a full analysis of his visual development isn't in the cards. But just the leaps taken across the breadth of Spider-Man is impressive enough, almost like Dave Sim going from Cerebus #1 to the opening bits of Church & State.

I don't have the partial translation of the manga that Marvel put out in pamphlet form from 1997-99, on an irregular schedule; I look over my copies of three out of the five Japanese tankoubon collections that compile the series (Vol. 1-2 and 4), using the SpiderFan.org plot summaries to guide me over the rougher story bits, since I can't read Japanese. The Marvel English-language release died at issue #31, having already skipped over several storylines (I've read one of them, and it was rather juicy), and sputtered out in the first issue of another likely questionable one. My cynicism tells me that the wholesale carnage wouldn't have been too much of a problem (after all, we just got a nice injury-to-eye bit a few months ago), though there's no damn way Spidey's gonna appear stateside in a story with naked breasts; it'd either be censorship or that particular stuff not showing up at all. Maybe sales were bad enough that Marvel decided not to bother. Plus, according to Wikipedia, Marvel was already covering up some of the graphic violence anyway.

That does put a damper on possible future releases of the material, though. It'd sure be nice in this manga-friendly climate to have a quintet of $9.95 Spidey books, tracking Ikegami's development as an artist (not to mention offering a rare glimpse at his writing abilities, though Vol. 3 saw Kazumasa Harai climb aboard as writer, making the whole thing even darker). They'll sell, though I guess some form of parental aid would be in order. But all questions of shrinkwrap aside, I wonder if Marvel will ever want such stuff readily out, given how protective they are of their prized characters in certain ways? We're a long way from 1970, I guess, and some things maybe just can't be done anymore.

*And over at the Comics Journal board, everyone is talking about their favorite dirty European cartoonists, inspired by the news that Milo Manara is going to do an X-Men book with Chris Claremont. Much chit-chat as to edits made to English language editions of Manara's work, plus Kim Thompson's official naming of Manara, Paolo (Druuna) Serpieri, the late Guido Crepax, and the late Georges Pichard as the Big Four of filthy European comics. I did enjoy Manara's work with Neil Gaiman on that Sandman: Endless Nights book, and his recent book with Alejandro Jodorowsky, Borgia: Blood for the Pope, is a good choice for those hungry for an exploitation film on paper...