Monday, May 9, 2016

Manga Monday: Ghost in the Shell (Dark Horse Comics)

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell manga has reached an iconic status. Though, considering Shirow's masterwork was released in the US during the mid-'90s, it should come as no surprise that it had a bit of a troubled publication history in the West.

Translated into English by Studio Proteus, Dark Horse Comics initially published Ghost in the Shell as eight separate issues (in standard Western comic format) in 1995. As was standard practice in the '90s, the manga was "flipped" to the left-to-right format for American readers.

By the end of the year, Dark Horse released the "issues" into a single collected volume. Along with the trade paperback, a limited edition hardcover was also available.

At the time, Dark Horse's Ghost in the Shell release sparked a bit of contention among fans, due to the omission of a two-page sex scene. It wouldn't be until 2006 when Dark Horse re-released the trade paperback, with the scene included. But then Kodansha Comics USA botched it up again in 2009 when they reprinted the Dark Horse's censored version!

The version I own is the original 1995 version and, to Dark Horse and Studio Proteus's credit, barring the reversed American format and two missing pages, it's a great release.

Shirow is known for his meticulous attention to detail and Dark Horse includes an "Author's Notes" section at the end of the trade paperback, where Shirow provides commentary on select panels, whether it's concerning the gun a character used or some obscure tech-reference.

There's also a one-page author's bio, which is a nice inclusion. But I really like the cover gallery, from Dark Horse's individual issue releases, featuring Shirow's color artwork.

While I'd suggest tracking down Dark Horse's uncensored 2006 reprint, the 1995 version, and even Kodansha's 2009 edition, are still worthwhile versions to check out. For cyberpunk fans, owning Ghost in the Shell is a no-brainer.

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