“Keeping It Ghastly” is a bi weekly article on Japanese horror comics which have English print editions. Some are from famous authors, others are from unknowns and underground artist circles. Either way, it’s going to be to a terrifying/awesome ride to keep horror manga on our bookshelves!
Hideó Suzuki has a hard time with social interactions, but when he’s alone it all seems alright. He has locked doors to keep out intruders, an imaginary friend to talk to, and a rifle to remind himself that he is in control of his life, that he is a hero. Facing the growing reality that he may never make it as a solo manga artist and that the world seems to have left him behind, Hideó’s prospects don’t seem so good. To make matters worse he’s been hallucinating a lot, and after witnessing the mutilated victim of a car crash get up and walk away, he’s not sure what’s real anymore.
As a horror manga I Am A Hero has a lot to offer. The plot is in the same vein as The Walking Dead comics – a psychological horror story with zombies. Both are stories which have character driven arcs and a relatively slow pace. Kengo Hanazawa and Robert Kirkman both seem to understand that the zombie apocalypse is just a really great environment to explore the unvarnished side of humanity in. But besides the zombies, I Am A Hero plays on such fears as isolation, insomnia, mediocrity, and fragile self-image by creating a cast of layered and flawed individuals. I Am A Hero is a very, very slow, surreal story of how one man’s delusions are put in perspective.
Artist and author Kengo Hanazama is making his debut to North America with I Am A Hero. Prior works of his include other seinen comics like sci-fi/comedy Ressentiment (2004-2005) and the sports drama/comedy Boys On the Run (2005-2008). More recently he’s completed a collection of short stories entitled Tokkaten (2012). Published in English by Dark Horse Comics, I Am A Hero enjoys the now common placed right-to-left format, along with translation notes. The notes, by the way, are thankfully more than an explanation of honorifics or common Japanese terms. Reception thus far has been overall quite positive for this title, which bodes well for the translation of future volumes and hopefully the licensing of the 2015 live action adaptation. Indeed, I Am A Hero grabbed the #2 slot on this week’s New York Times Best Sellers list for manga. With 20 volumes and more still coming out in Japan it’s a possibility that this could become another long lived seinen series like Gantz. We can only hope.