A semi-regular column about great comics you probably don’t know about. These could be Indie comics, comics with small print runs, or foreign comics. As reader and lover of comics for over 35 years, I’ve accumulated a huge collection. And this collection runs deep with the weird and the esoteric.
Suehiro Maruo might be one of the most divisive artist working in manga today. People either love his work or loathe it. Or, if you’re like me, you sit squarely in both camps simultaneously.
There is no denying the beauty of Maruo’s images. His sense of composition, his fine line, his attention to detail, it all combines to make his art pure delirium for the eye. Except, he will use all of these talents to create works of staggering horror.
I’m going to stay away from putting anything too hardcore in here, as that’s not really the kind of column I want to do. But I do think Maruo is an important artist and people should be educated about his work.
In other words, it won’t be as bad as it could be, but this Comic Exotic is definitely NSFW.
Here’s a sampling of some color work Maruo has done, just to give you an idea of his style.
I was going to do this column about Maruo’s book, ULTRA GASH INFERNO. Then, I flipped through it to refresh my memory. Hahaha, no! There’s no way I can talk about that book in semi-polite company. It’s extremely graphic and grossly scatological.
Instead, we are going to talk about MR ARASHI’S AMAZING FREAK SHOW, published by Blast Books in 1997.
Here’s the back-cover blurb: “Suehiro Maruo’s astonishing and powerful illustrations create a masterpiece of surrealism in his retelling of this classic Japanese tale of a little lost orphan ensnared in a travelling freak show.”
After a beautiful title page…
We jump right into the rough stuff.
These are the kind of sights that the freak show is all about. And with its mix of sex and violence, it’s really no place for a teenage girl. The fact that Midori is in the middle of all this horror is probably one of the most disturbing aspects of this book. This is hard stuff for an adult to take, but seeing this (fictional) young girl witnessing this stuff, it’s almost too much.
Midori is not well taken care of by Mr. Arashi and the freaks. She is taunted mercilessly and forced to be their domestic servant.
The only happiness Midori has is spending time with her puppies. And Maruo gives these puppies a real lifelike quality.
So, it’s truly horrible when a jealous boy/girl stomps Midori’s puppies to death, all shown in gruesome, head-popping detail. I know you don’t want to see that. We won’t show it here.
With the arrival of a mysterious new performer, the story takes a more upbeat turn.
The stranger is named Masamitsu and he quickly takes Midori under his wing. He is protective of her and he’s nice to her. They fall in love almost immediately.
But that doesn’t stop the freaks from hassling her. After the Bandaged Man forces himself on Midori, Masamitsu uses his mental powers to exact a cruel revenge.
When the entire group of freaks gang up on Midori, Masamitsu uses his mental powers to turn Midori into a giant.
The climax comes as a large audience heckles and humiliates Masamitsu and the performers. Again, Masamitsu uses his powers. This time, he distorts and transfigures everybody in the crowd.
When the crowd has learned their lesson, they are changed back to normal.
And at long last, Midori and Masamitsu walk off into the sunset together.
But the story doesn’t end there. Events take a tragic turn as the lovers are separated in a ruined town. Moments later, unknown to Midori, Masamitsu is stabbed and killed.
Midori is left all alone, thinking she has been abandoned, feeling lost and rejected.
See, that wasn’t so bad.
And isn’t Maruo’s art some of the “prettiest” you’ve ever seen?
Even if it is so ugly at times.
Next time in The Comic Exotic; a Marvel comic printed in a rather unique way.
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See ya’ next time!