Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: A Manga for Comic Book Readers
Why I am Talking about JoJo
Recently, Dark Horse released a new comic called NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT. It was buzzing all over my feeds for a bit. Admittedly, I didn't pay it much mind on its initial release. However, I kept seeing or hearing online that this book is "like a Western Jojo's Bizarre Adventure", "like reading One Punch Man in comic book form", and "heavy with the Dragon Ball influence". As someone who is a big fan of manga/anime as well as comics, this piqued my interest. I HAD to read it. Very rarely do I ever really hear manga being discussed in large volumes in the online comic book community. On most of my socials, I have a couple of friends who indulge in both.
What I found very interesting about all of the manga comparisons is that all three properties that were being thrown around are all vastly different. Dragon Ball is one of the most identifiable Shonen manga about a man named Goku trying to not only be the best fighter but also a protector of his world. One-Punch Man is a Shonen that exists to satire a typical shonen like Dragon Ball. Instead of having a male protagonist who is solely focused on gaining strength and being the BEST fighter, One Punch Man is about what happens when the protagonist is so powerful that he gets bored since he can beat any enemy with… get this… one punch. Then, there's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, while it is Shonen, it becomes something that transcends and remains unique in both the world of manga, anime and comics.
So, out of all of the media buzz surrounding No One Left to Fight, I was most excited to read it because of my love for JoJo. It was an awesome start to a book. The writing done by Aubrey Sitterson invokes so much inspiration from the character relationships found in Dragon Ball that fill me with nostalgia. The art is done by Ficcio Ossio is bright and colorful and captures the spirit of strong, brawling men you would find in Shonen. The lettering done by Taylor Esposito is fun and creative and invokes the feelings you would get from reading manga. That's wildly impressive. I WISH there was more comic/manga overlap. While NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT was much more influenced by Dragon Ball than to JJBA to my disappointment, it did spark a fire to catch up on it. So, let me convince you to adventure through the world of JoJo with this bizarre book.
For starters, let's describe what manga is. Manga is essentially Japanese comics. They are typically created in Japan or by creators in the Japanese language that come to the western world through English adaptations. The popularity of manga has been rising in recent years because of the ease of accessibility and anime becoming more mainstream. However, even though manga is comics, the crossover between people who read Marvel and DC and those who also delves into manga is not as large as it should be. Comics in America are largely divided by genre and publisher for the most part. Whereas manga is sorted by the demographic it sells to with one of it's biggest being shonen. Shonen manga is designated for young boys between the ages of 12-18 (think of Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, and Bleach). JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is shonen.
Most shonen revolves around fast-paced action, fighting, robots, and horror. JoJo has all of those attributes (minus the robots) but remains one of the most unique in the medium and also one of the easiest mangas to get into. Unlike Dragon Ball or One Piece, JoJo is self-contained. As a new reader, you do not have to worry about catching up on over 900 chapters. It has 8 parts all loosely connected through one another. JJBA has an evolving art style that shifts between each part making it never feel like it has gone stale. It is a brilliant and fun fusion of the action that many comic book readers love while mixing in horror and supernatural elements that are popular in Japan. Also, the book is filled with western influence via Araki's love of western rock music, movies, and fashion that any American reader would love. Araki develops and designs characters in a way that is accessible and seen only in JoJo. Not to mention that Araki does a lot of his coloring panels and they are brighter and more beautiful than most coloring down in any type of comic… period.
Part One: Phantom Blood
From the start, JoJo does not look like any other manga. Writer and artist Hirohiko Araki draw all of his men as hyper-masculine brawlers to reflect the popularity of muscle men from movies at the time, aka the late 80s. The two biggest inspirations for characters' body designs were shared between actors Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator and Slyvester Stallone from Rocky. With Araki's hyper-realism and attention to detail in his linework, Phantom Blood sticks out like a sore thumb to a lot of American readers who are used to more "idealized" male muscle bodies.
Phantom Blood introduces us to the epic battle between the Joestar Family and Dio Brando. Focusing on the character Jonathan Joestar in 1880 England we discover that he is the heir to a massive family fortune. Jonathan is a polite, strong-willed boy filled with strong convictions. His life gets turned upside down at the arrival of his adoptive brother, Dio Brando. Dio (named after the popular heavy metal band) is the absolute scum of the earth. He is the exact antithesis to Jonathan. He is cunning, manipulative, greedy, and deranged. He shoehorned his way into the Joestar family just to kill Jonathan and his dad and become heir to the family fortune himself. Seeing as he is selfish, he goes to every length possible to become powerful enough to obtain said fortune… including becoming a vampire. One of the biggest strengths of the first arc is just how well Araki characterizes how much of a threat Dio is. Dio commits some of the most horrendous emotional manipulations on Jonathan. Dio kills both people and animals if it helps him in his pursuits for money and power.
The story continues with having Jonathan learn a martial arts technique called HAMON to combat Dio's power. Part one is just about the struggle between Jonathan defeating Dio. It's short and sweet and is everything 80's manga was but MORE. Filled with intense fighting sequences, gothic horror references, and grotesque violence to showcase just how evil Dio is, JoJo stood out from the crowd enough to have received mixed criticisms on the completion of the first arc. Some sited Phantom Blood as a series that did not "fit in with the best of the best" at the time. But, lo and behold, that laid the foundation for one of the biggest and best manga series of Japan and captured cult-like status here in America. Admittedly, upon my first read-through, I was disappointed in reading it great about the start of the Joestar's adventure.
(Pictured is Dio Brando)
Part two is called Battle Tendency and focuses on the next Joestar. Set in 1938, we follow Joseph Joestar as he travels to Italy with a family friend at the discovery of others who have used the same type of technology as Dio to turn themselves into vampires. Joseph befriends another Hamon user named Caesar and then proceeds to train and use Hamon himself to take down the paranormal threat of the Pillar Men. This arc features one of the coolest ladies in manga named Lisa Lisa who is the woman who trains Joseph since she is the last Hamon master left. Part 2 has some amazing fights that deviate from the fight choreography of shonen in favor of utilizing Joseph's wits instead of his strength. It is wildly entertaining to read about how Joseph can out-think and predict his enemy's attacks to defeat them. It's refreshing to see an action/ fighting manga not rely on the tiresome trope of "who is more physically stronger."
The character designs in the second arc are when we see Araki shed these ideas of traditional masculinity. Part 2 Joseph wears a crop top, headband, and thigh-high boots that are stereotypically "female-gendered" but is just what Joseph wears because he wants too. No one ever comments on his clothing choices or makes fun of him or any other character. One of my favorite things about JoJo is how these characters are organically themselves and the world they live in lets them exist how they are. This also extends to men expressing emotions throughout the series. Often men will cry, and a key character does in this part and it's something special to see how these big muscle boys are dressed in their Haute fashion and can still cry and not be ridiculed or thought of less manly.
(pictured is Joseph Joestar)
Part 3 is called Stardust Crusaders and its main protagonist is Jotaro Kujo. He is the grandson of Joseph Joestar who is also a key character in this arc. This is the arc that solidifies JoJo as one of the best manga sold in Japan and is also a fan favorite. This time around, Araki introduces another type of power called Stands to replace Hamon. Stands are essentially a supernatural physical manifestation of a user's fighting spirit. These stands have special abilities and powers that are personalized, and often symbolic, to their users.
Jotaro and a rag-tag team of other strong Stand Users travel by foot to Egypt. The catalyst for their journey is because DIO has also awoken his Stand. Dio wants nothing more than to get rid of the entire Joestar family line. This battle between those who are pure of heart with a strong fighting spirit and the ultimate greed and evil of Dio is filled with amazing characterization on all ends. Jotaro is probably one of the most badass, cool and collected protagonists in all of JoJo. His stand Star Platinum has the power of precise movement and high speed, if that doesn't tell you who he is as a person, I don't know what will. His friends Kakyoin and Polnareff are two other men who shed the standards of masculinity with Araki writing them to freely express a wide arrange of emotions; as well as, care deeply for their sense of fashion and sense of self.
(pictured is Jotaro and his Stand Star Platinum)
Part 4 is called Diamond is Unbreakable and it's essentially a small-town murder mystery story. It follows Joseph Joestar's illegitimate son Josuke and his friends as they start to find out that their small town has deep dark secrets written into its past. Part 4 is when there is a dramatic art style shift. While it maintains the same art signature of Araki, the body types go from muscle men to slender, "feminized" men to JoJo's strength, There is a tonal shift from high-octane action to slice-of-life. I haven't read Part 4 but did watch the anime adaptation of it and it was quirky and fun while still having some gruesome action.
(pictured is the cast of Diamond is Unbreakable)
Part 5 I have not read either. It's called Vento Auro and centers around the character named Giorno Giovanna. He lives in Naples, Italy and wants to rid his home streets of crime but joining the local Italian mob and taking it down from within. Even though it focuses on espionage drama and noir- crime, there is still a lot of stand user action. Not to mention, this is the part where Araki's art takes the MOST inspiration from the world of fashion. So much so that the brand Gucci collaborated with JJBA for merchandise.
(Pictured is the JoJo Gucci Collab)
Currently Reading: Stone Ocean
Which brings me to why I haven't been very active with the comic book side of things lately. I skipped parts 4 and 5 to read part 6! Part 6 is called Stone Ocean and is one of the first shonen's to have a female protagonist and main crew. Araki felt like he never was able to do women justice in the previous parts so he wanted to organically do the best he could. To that he did, Jolyne Kujo is my favorite JoJo character and has incredible character features that range from strong fighting skills to loyalty to her dad and friends. Taking place in a prison, Stone Ocean explores the lengths that Jolyne and her friends would go to to protect her family line from the threats of Dio's servants. I'm not done with it yet, but I love it so much already!
(Pictured is Jolyne Kujo and Jotaro)
I hope I have been able to illustrate how innovative JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is. Its unique art style alone sells the book with no one else being able to draw or color like Araki (His sense of art deriving from western films, the fashion world, and greek art). It's the ability to have stand-alone arcs that make it so widely accessible to several casual readers. For those who love horror, action-adventure, fighting, murder mystery thrillers, crime, and spy stories, there IS a JoJo part for you. There is a slew of characters you will gush over and ones who you will love to hate one. It's weird, out there, and against the grain. It doesn't "fit it" with anything else in its respective genres. With the comic realm growing and being saturated with books that are so similar, give JoJo's Bizarre Adventure a shot. You're in for a hell of a ride.