(This post is part of a series I've tagged as early manga days, chronicling rare/weird gems from the beginning of manga's now 30+ year history of publication in English)
After everyone's great work on the early manga (in English) chronology, I'm stoked to dig deeper on some specific titles. Concurrent to creating that list, I've been digging around on ebay and at used book shops in the bay area for physical copies of some of these gems. Now that we have the list, I'm gonna dig in and highlight some scans and ephemera from these "artifacts" (haha) from the early publishing history of manga in English.
This post is to highlight the awesome covers and design of one of Viz's first three flagship titles, Mai the Psychic Girl by Kazuya Kudo and Ryoichi Ikegami. I remember loving this title when it was first collected in the early 90s, and the series held up really well when I re-read it last year. Like much of the manga selected to be published in the first wave, Mai is a boys manga with heavy science fiction & action elements.
You gotta love that front cover copy, haha:
"She is pretty. She is psychic. She is japanese"
In a nutshell, a dastardly and shadowy organization called the "Wisdom Alliance" (so good) is hellbent on taking over the world, and enrolling a squad of telekinetic children to help them destroy their enemies. The book follows the eponymous Mai (who is a 14 year old psychic girl) as she is hunted by the Wisdom Alliance and includes children having massive psychic battles, some 80s crime noir and international intrigue. Pretty badass stuff. Add to this the fact that it's all illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami (Strain, Crying Freeman, Sanctuary, etc!) and you have a pretty solid (albeit, stylistically dated) and fun science fiction/action series.
In the front inside cover of Mai the Psychic Girl #1, the editors included a message to readers of these first Viz comics books from 1987. This same note was included in the inside Front Cover of Area 88 #1 and Legend of Kamui #1 as well:
[Click for bigger version]
Here are the covers to a few of the first issues, along with the crazy back cover images- I'm not sure whose idea it was to do these floursecent/psychedelic color treatments, but I am loving them. The covers are entirely made up of colorized version of internal panels, along with goofy summary copy and blocks and lines; Each back cover (for the first 15 issues or so) includes a radical panel from the inside of the book.
[Click each for the large versions]
Next up in this series of posts, I'm going to reproduce three essays that were published in the back of the floppy issues of Mai The Psychic Girl, called "The Manga Story". These were written in 1986-1987 by the manga/Japan experts of the day, including stuff by Fred Patten, Frederik Schodt, and James D. Hudnall. These are fascinating essays on their own, and are all the more interesting for their predictions about the future of manga in English, nearly 25 years later.