cover image The Push Man and Other Stories

The Push Man and Other Stories

Yoshihiro Tatsumi, , trans. from the Japanese by Yuji Oniki. . Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (202pp) ISBN 978-1-896597-85-0

Tatsumi's brief, disturbing stories, originally published in 1969, have a tone somewhere between contemporary short fiction and EC Comics' old "shock" comics. Each hinges on some kind of prurient or sexually twisted situation: a man's bedridden lover turns out to be a physically mutated sex slave; an office worker puts on his girlfriend's makeup and clothes and has an affair with another woman; a man who disinfects telephones for a living calls a prostitute, but can't think of anything to do but pull out his disinfection kit. Produced over a short period of time, the stories are variations on a theme of social maladjustment. Tatsumi draws marvelously evocative settings, and his stories flow with dreamlike ambiguity, speeding toward the inevitable tragedies at their ends, but his characters appear practically identical. This reinforces both the repetitive nature of his themes and Tatsumi's view of the common man's continuing struggle in a merciless world of menial jobs, impotence and abortions. Tatsumi is known as the "grandfather of Japanese alternative comics," and this is the first in a proposed series of authorized English-language collections of his work. His work anticipates American alternative comics, making it clear why American cartoonist Adrian Tomine, who edited this collection, was attracted to the work. (Sept.)