A gritty collection of graphic short stories by a Japanese manga master depicting life on the streets among punks, gangsters, and vagrants.
Tadao Tsuge is one of the pioneers of alternative manga, and one of the world’s great artists of the down-and-out. Slum Wolf is a new selection of his stories from the late Sixties and Seventies, never before available in English: a vision of Japan as a world of bleary bars and rundown flophouses, vicious street fights and strange late-night visions. In assured, elegantly gritty art, Tsuge depicts a legendary, aging brawler, a slowly unraveling businessman, a group of damaged veterans uniting to form a shantytown, and an array of punks, pimps, and drunks, all struggling for freedom, meaning, or just survival.
With an extensive introduction by translator and comics historian Ryan Holmberg, this collection brings together some of Tsuge’s most powerful work—raucous, lyrical, and unforgettable.
Tsuge is one of the pioneers of gekiga, manga for adult readers, and this searing graphic short story collection plunges into the surreal, hardboiled world he created for alternative magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. Set in the tumult of postwar Japan, the narratives follow tough men and women trying to survive after society has collapsed and "the city's streets were turned into a merciless landscape of burned ruins." Some stories are unflinchingly realistic, while others drift into nightmarish fantasies. A few recurring characters pop up, most notably a strong, silent type named Sabu in stories such as "Sentimental Melody" and "Legend of the Wolf." His skill at street fights makes him a legend in his hardscrabble neighborhood. In the longest story, "Vagabond Plain," drifters build a shantytown in a vacant field and create their own society, independent from the cruel new urban landscape growing out of the ruins of Japan; in much the same way, these comics represent a gritty reflection of what most comics fans know as manga. Tsuge's art veers wildly from cartoon abstraction to painstakingly detailed drawings of shadowy figures and looming city streets, rendered in harsh, energetic linework that propels the eye from panel to panel. The stoic attitude of these excellent pieces is summed up in one character's reflection: "Without receiving a dose of pain once in a while, it was hard to remember the point of staying alive." This period piece holds lasting resonance.