This is a group research project of sorts, as he's looking for our help (and the help of the greater comics/mangasphere) to dig up details about the American reaction to the translated works of Koike Kazuo. I'll let him take it away below, and please add your thoughts/links/contributions in the comments. Some answers to these questions may be in interview with Frank Miller and Dark Horse editors, along with books by Paul Gravett or Frederik Schodt. But I also I know there are lots of other writings from the 80s and 90s, along with personal anecdotes, that can fill in the details. Thanks in advance!
(Frank Miller/Lynn Varley's cover to the first issue of First Comics' run of Lone Wolf & Cub. Check out the complete covers from those floppy issues)
From Ryan Holmberg:
A colleague of mine in Tokyo is currently writing about the famous manga script writer Koike Kazuo of "Lone Wolf and Cub" and "Crying Freeman" fame. He recently asked me some questions about the reception and reputation of Koike Kazuo in North America. Having first come into contact with his work in Japan, I was not sure how to answer. So on his behalf, and to satisfy my own curiosity, I wonder if readers of Same Hat might be able to share some facts or general impressions or anecdotes? The more specific people can be about dates and places et cetera, the more helpful it would be.
First, does anyone know the history of how Koike's work came to be translated in the United States? Is there an industry back story of any note? Also, any thoughts about what kind of audience his work was initially marketed to – age-wise, reading taste-wise, et cetera? Was there any substantial critical response at the time?
Second, Frank Miller's admiration of Koike Kazuo is well-known. I wonder if anyone could flesh out the details of that, and the various ways in which it shaped Miller's work, or how Miller was involved in popularizing Koike's work? I am aware that Miller/Varley did covers for Lone Wolf and Cub, and the impact on Ronin and Sin City…but I am wondering if anyone might be able to expand on that.
Third, it seems the status of writers is much lower than that of artists when it comes to comics in North America. Do you think this might also be the case for Koike? In other words, do people first think of Kojima Goseki and Ikegami Ryoichi when the titles of Koike's work come up?
Last, in the early 70s, Koike was writing a Japanese version of the "Hulk" for Bokura Magazine. It has never been collected, and probably never will be because of copyright issues. My colleague is wondering whether, in North America, at the time of "Lone Wolf and Cub's" release, would it have had the same readership as the Hulk? He’s trying again to get a sense of if the readership of Koike's work in Japan overlaps with that elsewhere?
Sorry for the many and lengthy questions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
(Lone Wolf & Cub board game by Mayfair Games, 1989. Cover by Grendel artist Matt Wagner)
UPDATE: Received this update from Ryan Holmberg:
Thanks for this treasure trove of information. It's amazingly helpful and much much more than I had hoped for. I apologize for not being active on the posting myself. On the one hand, I couldn't be of much use as my contact with Koike's work has been almost entirely in Japan. Also, I have been too buried in circa 1960 "hardboiled" manga the past few weeks -- essentially the breeding ground for Koike-type gekiga. Maybe I can return the favor in a week or so with some gems from that world. Again, thank you thank you
[From Ryan: Covers from Bokura Magazine, 1971]