Japanese writer Kazuo Koike passed away on April 17th at age 82, it was announced on his Twitter feed.. He had been hospitalized for pneumonia for some time. Koike is best known for co-creating Lone Wolf and Cub (with artist Goseki Kojima) but beyond that seminal, transformative work he was one of manga’s most revered writers, also co-creating the recent New Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner, Crying Freeman and Lady Snowblood ( the film adaptation for this was the partial inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.)
Koike also was an avid golfer and professional mah jong player – and he wrong long detailed manga about these as well.
He also dabbled in US comics, writing the Hulk manga in Japan and contributing a story for X-Men Unlimited #50 in 2003. Kazuo Koike was inducted into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2004 and attended San Diego Comic Con as a guest in 2013 – meeting him was a highlight for many that year.
A rarity as a writer only in the cartoonist-dominated manga field, Koike was one of the greats in any language, his work mostly concerned with the brutal world of men and effects of violence, a muscular, confident storyteller whose pacing never let up. Even Koike’s golf comics were rife with suspense and drama.Lone Wolf and Cub follows the adventures of disgraced royal executioner Ogami Ittō who wanders the world with his three year old son Daigoro in a baby carriage seeking vengence and redemption. It’s a relentless saga of mayhem and loyalty, rarely flagging despite its length (28 volumes), as the duality of experience and innocence plays out in nearly every panel.
As this is written, a few tributes are coming out on twitter…doubtless there will be hundreds more by the time you read this.
I just heard Kazuo Koike passed away just now. 83 years old. He was one of the first manga artists I fell in love with. I would buy Crying Freeman in Japanese even thought I couldn't understand it. An absolute legend. pic.twitter.com/Ka7JnMJJYh
— Zack Davisson @SakuraCon (@ZackDavisson) April 19, 2019
"But you will choose your own path. So, soon you may be seeing heaven. Choose the sword, and you will join me. Choose the ball and you join your mother, in death. You don’t understand my words, but you must choose."
RIP Kazuo Koike pic.twitter.com/MY5kTpzS45
— David Hyde (@superfanpr) April 19, 2019
Saddened by the passing of Kazuo Koike…Lone Wolf and Cub was such an important book series for me that I figured how to use it as a springboard for my history thesis in college and it was my first tattoo.
— Ben Abernathy (@Ben_Abernathy) April 19, 2019
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.