Today on the site:
Alex Dueben talks to Zack Davisson about translation and Kitaro.
For people who don’t know, who is Kitaro?
Zack Davisson: Kitaro is a yokai—the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe of underground dwelling monsters. He is nearly indestructible, and has a wide range of powers and objects like his hair which can be fired in in a needle attack, and his powerful chan-chanko vest sewn from the hair of his ancestors. He’s got magic sandals, a snake that lives in his stomach, and a remote-control hand.
Even though he is a yokai himself, Kitaro uses his powers to battle against bad yokai that threaten humanity—think of him as a Japanese Hellboy, only 1,000 times weirder.
I like that description of him as a Japanese Hellboy, which I think is very apt, though Kitaro skews a younger. Could you talk a little about what the yokai are? I know that you’ve studied this and written a lot about the topic.
That’s a deeply complicated question that has been the subject of several books! There’s not a single definition of yokai, any more than there is of “monster” or “spirit.” Everyone will have their own definition. For me, I go by the Edo period usage of the word, which is how Mizuki tended to use it; a personification of supernatural energy. There is an old belief in Japan that the world is infused with latent magical energy, and this energy occasionally manifests into physical form. This yokai energy can take almost any shape imaginable, visible and invisible. There are hundreds of thousands of different kinds. All of the mystery spots of the world, all of the beasties and boggarts, are all this same energy given form—yokai.
And we've added Michael Bartalos' childhood remembrance of Jack Davis to the late artist's tribute post.
Todd Klein remembers pioneering DC Comics letterer Gaspar Saladino in an excellent post about his life and work.
Ilan Manouach's comics-for-the-blind project is covered at Hyperallergic.
Paul Gravett interviews Alexander Tucker on the occasion of his new Breakdown Press book.
In a fascinating essay, Benjamin Schwartz describes teaching visual narrative to medical students.
And NPR profiles the late Kim Yale, co-creator of the Suicide Squad comic book.