Saturday, 25 September 2010

Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami)/Koike and Kojima






Don't take my word for it, ask Frank Miller and if you are no fan of Frank and don't trust his judgment then try Matt Wagner or maybe Bill Sienkiewicz.

And if you don't believe what they say then listen to the world's greatest living graphic arts author Alan Moore.
He and they confirm what most of the comic book world already know. Koike and Kojima are possibly the greatest partnership in the history of manga or La Bande Dessinee or comics or any other name you wish to apply to the graphic arts storytelling medium.

You may be forgiven for asking who? To which I can only reply, Koike and Kojima. The author and artist of the legendary Lone Wolf and Cub series.

Still none the wiser?

Let's see if we can give you some food for thought.

Goseki Kojima was born in Japan on November 3rd, 1928 which, coincidentally, is the same day that Japanese Manga legend Osamu Tezuka was born on.

His first job was as an artist designing and painting advertising posters which were then used in cinema theaters.

As with so many natural comic book creators/artists he had no love whatsoever for his initial profession and would work ceaselessly, whenever not at work, to improve his illustrative skills. In 1950, he took his chances and left his job and took up a career in Manga.

After the Second World War the economic climate in Japan was dire and so the audience was limited. Kojima moved to Tokyo where he created art for kamishibai (paper play) and then moved into the Kashi-bon market.

In 1967, he created his first Manga magazine storyline with Dojinki but it wasn't until 1970 when he began collaborating with Kazuo Koike on their epic Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub) that the spotlight truly fell on him. A spotlight that would forever seal his fame in world comic book circles.

Kazuo Koike was born on May 8th, 1936 in Daisen, Akita Prefecture in Japan. He graduated from college and became a pupil of Kiichiro Yamate, a famous Japanese historical novelist who gave him a valuable insight into the history of Japan. In 1968, he joined Goglo 13 on their production team and began contributing to the series.

In 1970, together with Goseki Kojima, he created one of the greatest comic soap operas in Lone Wolf and Cub, and he also forged one of the greatest comic book partnerships in the history of Manga or even good old-fashioned comics.

The two were known as the "Golden Duo" and their legend would grow as large as the series that they created.

Kozure Okami - (Lone Wolf and Cub)
1970. Nothing in the western world had prepared us for this and sadly we had to wait until 1987 to see it in all its gory glory.

But boy was it worth the wait.

The story of Lone Wolf and Cub is a strange mix of a beautifully crafted story with wonderfully cinematic illustrations and balletic violence. There is probably more blood and guts in a single episode of Lone Wolf and Cub than in any other comic.

It is an epic tale of a father's love for his only son and the way the child's innocence becomes damaged by their travels and the violence that they encounter. Ogami Itto is the father and the Lone Wolf of the story. He is a ronin assassin and is a deadly man to do battle with. His son is Daigoro and is the Cub of the story. He travels with his father in a souped-up baby carriage.
Once, Ogami was the Shogun's executioner but when the Yagyu clan murder his wife and frame him for the killing he loses his place in society and he becomes an outlaw.
He swears revenge upon his enemies and takes off cutting a trail of bloody vengeance throughout Japan.

The stories are well researched and extremely well written and feature a great historical knowledge of Japan. The dialogue that Koike uses is sparse and realistic and is used as sparingly as possible. Often there will be several pages without any form of speech balloon or caption in it whatsoever. Koike lets the tale and the illustrations do all the talking.

Kojima's artwork is equally impressive with its elegant black and white drawings that feature so beautifully the Japanese countryside. He also allows his drawings to function a symbiotic and natural way with Koike's script. So much so that you get the impression that one man has written and drawn the story.

In total, there have been 28 volumes of the tale with each one being a welcome addition to any serious collector’s shelves.

Sadly, on January 5th, 2005 Goseki Kojima died. Along with Kazuo Koike, he leaves behind a magnificent achievement in Lone Wolf and Cub.
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all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.

1 comment:

Doug said...

You know, I've been wanting to learn more about this stuff. The Toshiro Mifune looking dude settles it.