Choosing just one master of horror to cover every week is a daunting task. There are so many artists in the comics industry who deserve to have their work recognized and lauded, but perhaps no man in modern horror deserves it more than manga maestro, Junji Ito. Every time a list of great horror comics surfaces, Junji Ito is always found at the top. His work is sensational, insanely original, and downright terrifying. There are few creators in any field who are capable of building fear like Junji Ito. So hit the jump and let’s dive head first into the masterpiece that is “Tomie”.
Junji Ito is, unquestionably, one of the greatest horror manga artists to ever grace the industry, boasting an impressive repertoire of fantastically frightening artwork and distinguishably eerie tales. Even as a child he possessed a keen interest in creating horror manga, and began honing and developing his skills as a mere hobby. It wasn’t until he’d already established himself as a working dental technician in Japan that he’d finally decided to endeavor into the professional world of writing and illustrating.
Shōjo horror magazine, “Gekken Halloween”, sent out a call for submissions within their first year of operations, and Junji ambitiously answered their request. By 1987, the magazine featured “Tomie”, his first published story, to a widely positive reception. “Tomie” is the cursed tale of a dangerously manipulative high school girl who falls victim to various — brutally heinous — acts of violence, only to continuously regenerate in order to wreak havoc and exact pain on a number of different characters. Junji’s work on this piece won him an honorable mention, and ultimately the Kazuo Umezu award from a panel of distinguished manga creators. Since then, “Tomie” has been serialized, reprinted twice in the United States, and adapted into a series of Japanese Horror films spanning a whopping nine installments to date.
“Tomie” is a staple of Japanese Horror manga, and it’s because of its massive appeal that Bloody-Disgusting has chosen to feature artwork straight from the bizarrely surreal pages of this series. Specifically, page 188 of “Tomie” Volume 1, Chapter 4, titled “Mansion”. Not only is this chapter significant in terms of providing readers with a greatly anticipated explanation regarding Tomie’s regenerative powers, but it’s a stylistically perfect example when it comes to showcasing Junji’s recognizable, and exceptionally skilled, artistic abilities and techniques for illustrating horror manga.
In the photo below, the artist depicts a detailed and monstrous worm-like creature, with multiple Tomies protruding from its body. His signature black and white illustrations don’t adhere to the usual stylistic framework of most manga drawings, but evoke a tone and atmosphere that is so distinctly his. The beautifully crisp, clear, and intricate line work that emanates prominently off the page is due to the lack of colour in Junji’s palette, his consistent use of light grey tones, and his stark ink renderings that provide depth and shadow. Tomie’s dead eyes and sharply elongated nails produce a feeling of dread and discomfort in the reader, and that can be attributed to Junji’s knack for effectively mastering a perfect balance between disturbing art and psychological suspense. It’s both extremely beautiful and surrealistically grotesque, but it wouldn’t be “Tomie” otherwise.
From here, Ito would go on to create some of the most disturbing works of horror manga including “Hellstar Remina”, “Uzumaki” (which was adapted to the film Spiral), “Gyo”, and others. There are very few artists working in comics who don’t draw some inspiration from Ito’s work, so if you have yet to explore his unique brand of horror, dive it. “Uzumaki” was just re-printed in one big volume in North America, and most local comic shops should have a copy. Buy yourself an early holiday present, you won’t regret it.
If you want Bloody Disgusting to cover one of your favourite horror artists, or a fantastic piece of horror-related comic book art, head down to the comment section, or hit up Farah or Lonnie on Twitter.