Tezuka's Black Jack Returns
By Kai-Ming Cha -- Publishers Weekly, 10/29/2007 1:54:00 PM
Japanese pulp fiction and classic manga publisher Vertical Inc. announced plans to publish Black Jack, legendary mangaka Osamu Tezuka’s popular series about a genius surgeon, in its entirety beginning in fall 2008.
Black Jack originally ran in Japanese publisher Akita Shoten’s magazine, Weekly Shonen Champion,from 1973 to 1978. The series is approximately 12 volumes. According to Ada Palmer, founder of the Web site Tezuka in English, which is devoted to introducing Tezuka to an English speaking audience, Viz Media published the first two volumes before licensing conflicts with Tezuka Productions forced Viz to cancel the series. A new Black Jack anime—which included the collaboration of Tezuka’s son—recently finished airing on Japanese television after a two-year run. An older version of the Black Jack anime, originally created in the 1980s, was made available unofficially by fans over the Internet and is now available on iTunes.
The series stars title character Black Jack, an unlicensed but gifted surgeon who saves peoples lives, often against all odds. The series is a childhood favorite of Vertical editorial director Ioannis Mentzas. "[Black Jack] is probably the most influential book of my early years,” explained Mentzas, “and I've heard that sentiment from many Japanese." Mentzas added that the character’s appeal lies in its psychology. "Black Jack reflects the glory and squalor of early adulthood,” he said. Mentzas believes that the series will draw an audience in the late teens to early 20s. "I think any high school or 20-something person of the slightest intellectual bent will identify with BJ."
According to Palmer, founder of the Web site Tezuka in English, which is devoted to introducing Tezuka to an English speaking audience, Black Jack is the second most popular character in Japan. "Black Jack is Tezuka's most exciting adult character,” Palmer said, citing the Japanese medical and technology company Hitachi, which recently licensed the Black Jack character to be the spokesman for its medical equipment.
Palmer, whose site attracts an international crowd, said that most English-speaking anime and manga fans don't read Tezuka and aren't usually familiar with works like Buddha, which were formerly marketed to the Japanese literature-reading audience. Because of Viz’s earlier release of the Black Jack manga and the circulation of the anime series, Palmer said that Black Jack is better known among American manga and anime fans and has the potential to broaden his appeal.
"Black Jack is clearly the one that will sell the best in the U.S.,” Palmer said. "This is the title that will make or break his reputation in the U.S."
I first wrote about Black Jack in July. Good work, publishers! What is next?
(Originally posted October 31, 2007, 13:11 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)
The Black Jack entry