I finally had a chance to read the first of Vertical's new collections of Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka, and I am really pleased with the work they've done. If you've not been paying attention, this is one of Tezuka's best known series, an over-the-top but nevertheless very effective melodrama featuring a surgeon-for-hire called in to assist with the most bizarre medical cases on the planet. It originally appeared in the pages of Shonen Champion in an eleven-year run from 1973-1983.
In 1987, Tezuka's Japanese publisher compiled Black Jack in an incomplete series of seventeen oversized volumes. (This replaced an earlier, 20-odd volume collection; that's kind of standard operating procedure over there, but it makes tracking down books awful confusing. Mercifully I don't often indulge in that habit!) A handful of the episodes, I am not certain how many, were excised at Tezuka's request for various reasons. Well, the first of the new English-language editions was released in September. In paperback, as I understand it, this is a straight adaptation of the seventeen Japanese editions from Akita Shonen. But there's a bonus treat for people who'd like to support their local comic shops. The first three volumes will also be available in very limited edition hardcovers available to the direct market (1500 of the first book and 1200 of the next two) which each contain one of those otherwise unavailable episodes. So this isn't just their first English language appearance; it's their first reprint appearance ever.
At any rate, the publishing plan is for one new volume of Black Jack every other month from now until the summer of 2011. You can advance-order the first six from Amazon or stop by your local comic shop, who'd appreciate your bizness.
I'm very pleased with the quality of the collection. Vertical's run features the pages in the original orientation, with translator's footnotes to explain Tezuka's use of wordplay and puns in character names. Vertical's books simply look better than the comparatively cheap production of digests from other publishers, with better paper and cover stock. It looks like a quality production, and it certainly suits the classic material. Black Jack is really a great comic, full of inventive situations, wildly imagined diseases and bizarre, grisly accidents, and I strongly encourage readers to give it a try!
Read more of what I've written about Tezuka at A Journal of Zarjaz Things.
Read other reviews of Black Jack:
David P. Welsh at Flipped
Jog the Blog
Dave Merrill at Let's Anime
Deb Aoki at About.com
Tangognat, Agent of L.I.B.R.A.R.Y.
Enter a contest to win the first two volumes of Black Jack at Precious Curmudgeon.
(Originally posted November 17, 2008, 15:02 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)