SDCC 2023–Stranger Things meets Clive Barker in Junji Ito’s “Ito-Verse” horror manga

His artwork evokes the dense fantastical illustrations of Alex Niño.  His storytelling will appeal to fans of Tim Seeley’s Revival, Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising, Clive Barker, and the darker elements of Stranger Things.  He’s Japanese writer-artist Junji Ito, and VIZ Media has released a 265-page anthology of chapters from some of his best horror manga, called Welcome to the Ito-VerseIn conjunction with an event at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, a free preview of the entire Welcome to the Ito-Verse anthology is available here in digital format now at the VIZ Media website.  Readers will encounter chapters from eight books by Ito, which illustrate the range of his creepy ideas and scary characters.

The volume includes a story about teen girls ensnared by their ever-spiraling hair in the Eisner-nominated Uzumaki, and readers meet a boy ignoring the realities of a city reeling from a serial killer committing unspeakable murders in the Eisner winning Venus in the Blind Spot.  From Ito’s collection Tombs, a seaside community encounters a dead, giant sea creature washed ashore, holding terrible secrets–and worse.  In the selected story from Deserter, a girlfriend gets too close to a young man who is fighting himself, literally.  Hypnosis sessions go incredibly wrong in a story from Ito’s collection Soichi.  In another story readers see Ito’s Eisner-winning interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  The eeriest, shocking psychological horror tale comes from Sensor, a story about a group of young people and a suicide pact.  And finally, Clive Barker meets Edward Scissorhands and The Fly in a dark tale from Black Paradox.

According to marketing for his works, “Junji Ito seamlessly weaves the unknowable into cosmic horrors that exceed the boundaries of manga.  His works subvert the genre by bending, twisting, and blending it far beyond the familiar, resulting in the greatest chilling, thrilling, and grotesquely horrific storytelling of our time.”  That’s a pretty good summary.

Because of the shock and horror content, the target audience for Ito’s works is probably around 14 years and older.  Ito grew up in a small town near Nagano, in a house full of spider crickets, which he said inspired his work.  It’s easy to find H.R. Giger, H.P. Lovecraft, Guillermo del Toro, and Salvador Dali as influences, too.  Consider all the trigger warnings given, Ito’s work has all the fears and frights in it.

Attendees of San Diego Comic-Con 2023 this week won’t want to miss the Welcome to the Ito-Verse: The Junji Ito Experience at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, Sunday through Thursday.  The exhibition will feature Ito’s artwork.

Check out Welcome to the Ito-Verse in digital format now, and purchase Ito’s complete volumes at the VIZ Media website.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

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