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The title alone evokes something under the skin, something slimy looking to crawl out of the flesh and walk free.The cover depicts a cartoon dog with oily dark skin, perhaps a kind of tar or well varnished leather (both dogs and leather are a recurring obsession in Deforge’s work).It all comes down to one boy, Sho, whose leadership forges a path to survival and whose devotion to his mother literally transcends time.Umezu’s comics are unlike any other manga, hyper-detailed yet crudely stiff, children’s faces like bottomless wells of terror and emotion.As I skimmed the book’s appealing pages on my trek home, I happened to glance upon a scene in which a little ballerina girl the size of a thimble climbs into a bird’s nest, hoping to be fed as one of the bird’s own hatchlings.

The cartoonist, filmmaker and Budō swordsman has drawn upon his painful childhood memories of WWII Manchuria over decades of graphically lurid, at times searingly personal, horror stories for readers of all walks of life, reaching into the fears of schoolchildren and gorehounds alike.I compared Deforge’s body horror mode to Cronenberg before, and the comparison is apt — both are very understated even when presenting truly gonzo transformations — but Deforge is a more emotionally tender storyteller.It’s in stories like “The Sixties” where we see this best, an earnest account of a teenage girl’s desire to leave her hometown enhanced by a surreal conceit I won’t dare spoil here.The artists and publishers of comics have been aware of the fascination horror provokes for as long as the medium has existed as an industry — horror and crime were once the two most popular genres in North American comic books until the rampant censorship laws of the 1950s quashed the flourishing scene (more on that another day).However, outside the United States the nightmare never ended, with some spectacular spooky stories coming out of countries like Japan and France, and by the 1980s North American horror comics had a comeback with titles like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and the early issues of Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur providing deeply personal takes on the body horror found in films like The Thing.

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