Monday, March 05, 2012

Comic Book WTF?: Ghost Dog (2000)

Comic book adaptations of films and movies are a time honored tradition that goes all the way back to the Roy Rogers books of the 1940s and continues up through the very recently published Game of Thrones. In most cases these are meant as a means of cashing in on hot list entries such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and even Dark Shadows. Sometimes though, despite artistic merit, and even an interesting story or two, the effort just makes one think "WTF?"

While digging through some ancient long boxes in the crawl space, I came across a title purchased over ten years ago that had been forgotten among old manga and Valiant books. About twelve years ago, Jim Jaramusch wrote and directed a little film entitled Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. A moderatlely successful art house gangster flick starring Forrest Whitaker as a Hagakuri spouting rertainer for New York City mobsters, and featuring a soundtrack (as well as a brief cameo by) the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, it hardly seemed a likely candidate for adaptation. Even more suprisingly, warranting new content being produced and published for this particular medium. But, Oni Press had a way of trying radically off the wall licensing. (The back of Ghost Dog promotes an ongoing title to be called The Blair Witch Chrionicles, sadly, I actually have that somewhere, too.)

Oni Press's Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai one-shot written and illustrated by Scott Morse includes a single story, "Ghost Dog: Retainer" which successfully imitates in tone and presentataion the original film. Ultizing a stark black and white approach, and slightly cartoony design, Morse follows Jaramusch's lead by integrating quotes from the Hagakrui as a means of reflecting the code by which Ghost Dog lives... and kills.
Nothing like some comic book Japanese wisdom! 
If interested, Ghost Dog's comic debut (and ultimately his finale) is worth the likely $1 cost (with an original cover price of $2.95 in 2000) you'd pay in the discount bin at your local comic store.

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