Saturday, January 01, 2005


Far and away the best thing I bought on my trip to Chicago last week, and one of the top three comics I purchased last year, is MANGArt Tokubetsugoh [special number] Sugiura Shigeru (also known as the "Shigeru Sugiura tribute book," even though over half its pages are by Sugiura himself). Sugiura is an amazing, mind-boggling artist, who was a big influence on Japanese underground manga artists of the sixties and after: he's a bit like a cross between Rudolf Dirks, E. C. Segar, and Milt Gross, who then dropped acid. A lot of acid. The samples of his work included in the Gravett and Taschen manga tomes barely hint at his genius and range, particularly since his work doesn't look its best when reduced to quarter-page size. But if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Archer Prewitt, Daniel Clowes, Jim Woodring, Julie Doucet, and Peter Bagge, all of whom contributed tributes.

To get down to specifics, the book is a 192-page paperback, approximately 6" by 8" in dimensions. 112 of these pages contain Japanese-language comics and illustrations by Sugiura, mainly the former. There are some brief gag strips (including one starring Laurel and Hardy, here called Debu-san and Yase-san), presumably from early in Sugiura's career, which lasted from 1932 to his death in 2000. But most of the work collected here appears to be one- or two-page exceprts from longer stories (as far as I can tell--I haven't read it yet). There's also a seventy-page section containing tributes to Sugiura, both in writing (in Japanese only) and art, from over thirty artists. The Japanese contributions provide a nice survey of contemporary Japanese design and illustration, at least to my untutored eyes; the North American contributions mentioned above are in fact disappointing, except for Bagge's illustration.

The book is expensive--its retail price is 2500 yen, and I paid thirty bucks for mine--but it's worth every penny, even if you don't read a word of Japanese. Apparently some American comic shops are selling it; I bought my copy at Quimby's, which had another copy on the shelves. If you don't read Japanese, here's how to recognize it: the front cover (which would be the back cover if it were a Western book, remember) contains a lot of multicolored text against a bright green background, along with a few of Sugiura's characters. Across the cover in bright yellow type are the English words "This is" followed by some kanji (Japanese characters); below in smaller yellow type are the English words "Message from" followed by more kanji. If you can't find it in a store anywhere in your area, you might have a bit of difficulty ordering it: it's technically a journal, not a book, so there's no ISBN, and there doesn't seem to be an ISSN either. The publisher appears to be Sony Creative Products. You might try places like Last Gasp, or other online independent comic dealers, though I haven't looked into these myself (if anybody knows how to order this online, email me and I'll pass it on).

i realize you wrote this like, 7 years ago, but i REALLY REEEAAAALLLYY with ALL my guts want this book. I have been looking all over the internet for it for at least 2 hours, and I can't find a single tiny thing.
I have no idea where to get it. I don't know what to doooooooo.
I thought i would write to you on the off chance that you might, for some strange reason, see it and know something about how i can aquire it. any info you might know would be super helpful.

thank you,
this is my email if you know anything:
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