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Interview: Smudge Delivers Horror, Pulp, and Dark Fantasy

Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen


Have you heard of the manga that horror master Junji Ito called a "frightening but moving story?" How about Shirakawa Marina's 1976 sci-horror masterpiece UFO Mushroom Invasion? Smudge knows all about it, and the imprint is here to school you on the manga cult classics that time has forgotten. 

In the following interview, curator and editor Ryan Holmberg introduces readers to the dark fantasies of Smudge!  


What is the overall focus of Smudge? Is it talent? Genre? Something else?

It’s a line of horror, occult, dark mystery, and adjacent genres of manga, focusing on untranslated and sometimes obscure artists from the 1950s to the 1980s—i.e. the “classic” era of horror manga in Japan, before horror manga magazines became the norm and Ito Junji stormed the field.

What is your role at Smudge?

I’m the series editor and translator. I select the titles, contact the necessary parties in Japan to license the titles, and translate the manga and any other backmatter (like essays) we decide to include. When necessary, I will also write the backmatter from scratch, though the main goal is to highlight and translate Japanese specialists on the topic.

The debut manga is a title called Norikazu Kawashima's Her Frankenstein a story you’re translating. What can you tell us about Her Frankenstein?

You can get a synopsis of the manga itself from Living the Line’s website. But historically speaking, Her Frankenstein is important because it represents the end of classic horror manga in Japan in the mid and late 1980s—the end of book-based horror manga before magazines take over the genre. Kawashima is that world’s last great author. Her Frankenstein was originally published in 1986, so the year before Ito Junji debuted with Tomie in 1987. In that sense, we are starting at the end of the classic era Smudge aims to survey, in the process also highlighting the immediate prehistory of the present horror boom.

What other stories can we expect from Smudge?

The second volume of Smudge will be Shirakawa Marina’s UFO Mushroom Invasion (1976). You can find a brief synopsis of that title on the publisher’s website as well. The other titles in the hopper are mainly from the 1960s and 1970s, though nothing else is licensed yet. The plan is to stay close to the mainstream of horror manga by translating cult classics before branching out into more obscure artists or genres that are tangentially related to horror.

In terms of audience, who is this line for?

YA and above. Anyone who is into the weird and horrible.

If there is one thing that you want people to know about the SMUDGE, what would it be?

If things go as planned, Smudge will provide the most extensive survey of classic horror and dark fantasy manga in any language, complimenting the Ito Junji and Umezz Kazuo titles put out by Viz Media and the Hino Hideshi and newer horror manga titles put out by Star Fruit Books.


Smudge titles are available now at your local comic shop. Reserve your copy now using PREVIEWSworld Pullbox! More below.

Keep an eye on's TwitterFacebookYouTube, or Instagram for more. 

(W) Norikazu Kawashima (A/CA) Norikazu Kawashima
Dare to read the psycho-horror classic that horror manga master Junji Ito called a "frightening but moving story about an unfortunate individual who, lost in search of his true self, finds his own annihilation instead." Little Tetsuo is a wimpy mess. His parents don't love him. He meets the beautiful Kimiko, an ailing teenage girl obsessed with movies and mayhem in equal amounts. She doesn't love Tetsuo either, or anyone other than herself. But she needs him. So Tetsuo becomes the man she wants-the monster she wants. He becomes Her Frankenstein!
In Shops: May 08, 2024
SRP: $19.95
PREVIEWS Page #339

(W) Shirakawa Marina (A/CA) Shirakawa Marina
A flying saucer crashes deep in the mountains of Japan. Wary of the hyper-intelligent beings they find inside, the government hides from the public all news of the alien craft. But it's not the strange visitors themselves that they should be afraid of - the real danger is the parasitic spores smuggled aboard! Will Earth survive the UFO Mushroom Invasion?! Originally published in 1976, Shirakawa Marina's UFO Mushroom Invasion is a masterpiece of sci-fi horror. Pulling on his deep knowledge of Japanese folklore and the supernatural, Shirakawa serves up one of manga history's cult-classics and an unforgettably creepy entry in the canon of spore-horror. With an essay by weirdologist Udagawa Takeo, UFO Mushroom Invasion is the second volume of SMUDGE, a line of vintage horror, occult, and dark fantasy manga, curated and translated by award-winning historian, Ryan Holmberg.
In Shops: Sep 18, 2024
SRP: $19.95
PREVIEWS Page #380


Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the Consumer Marketing Manager for Diamond Comics Distributors, Editor of, and the producer/co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His published work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalypse '91BamnFight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.

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