This is the one-hundred and eightieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and seventy-nine.
COMIC LEGEND: An apparent murder in Belgium involved the popular manga series Death Note.
Death Note is an extremely popular manga series that appeared weekly in the popular manga anthology, ShÅnen Jump, from 2003 until the series ended in 2006.
Like every other super popular manga, Death Note has been turned into basically any and all other media outlet that you can think of – an anime series, a live-action movie, a novel, a video game (and of course, American translations of the trade collections of the manga).
Suffice to say, Death Note is a big deal.
It was created by writer Tsugumi Ohba, who collaborated on the series with artist Takeshi Obata.
The concept of the series is that this teenager in high school, Light Yagami, is given a magical notebook from a “death god” that allows Light to kill anyone whose name he writes down in the notebook (provided he – or whoever writes the name – can visualize the person, or else it might kill the wrong person who happens to share the same name – heck, try searching for “Brian Cronin” – there are a bunch of me’s out there!).
The catch phrase of the series (particularly the anime series) is that Light will refer to himself, basically as, “Killer” (“Kira” in Japanese). He will cry, “I am killer!”
Well, late last year in Belgium, someone ELSE decided that THEY were, in fact, “the Kira.”
In September of 2007 (just shy of October), in Belgium’s Duden Park, body parts of an unidentified Caucasian males were found. The lower abdomen and two thighs, to be precise.
Next to the body parts were two almost identical paper notes (the only difference was that each note had different colored lettering), both saying “Watashi wa Kira dess,” which is almost certainly a misspelling of the Japanese phrase “Watashi wa Kira desu,” which means, of course, “I am Killer!”
So yeah, some sick person left ACTUAL Death Notes with human body parts.
Pretty twisted, no?
The body has not been identified as of yet, and no one has reported anything worth noting about the identity of the victim or the identity of the killers.
One possible (not AS sick) theory involved the situation being a prank by local medical students, who would have had access to human body parts.
But it’s just as likely that there is a twisted killer out there leaving actual Death Notes.
And that royally creeps me out.
Something that I think is worth noting is that no matter what the joke is that you make, someone is likely to take is seriously.
And if you make your joke as slyly as Neil Gaiman did with Sandman: The Dream Hunters, you are guaranteed that someone will take it seriously.
If you have ever read William Goldman’s novel, The Princess Bride, Goldman presented the work as an “abridged version” of “S. Morgenstern’s” classic novel.
S. Morgenstern, of course, was fictitious, although Goldman would use the gag many times more in the future.
Neil Gaiman made a similar joke with the afterward to his 1999 illustrated novel, Sandman: The Dream Hunters (illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano), where he credited the story of the Dream Hunters (about a fox spirit who falls in love with a Buddhist monk) to an old fairy tale he had read in Y. T. Ozaki’s Old Japanese Fairy Tales.
Of course, no such work existed, Gaiman had made up the story himself.
This did not stop fans and scholars from searching for the work (granted, unlike Goldman, Gaiman DID pick a real life person), and eventually, some fans felt that Gaiman was actually referring to Pu Songling’s Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio, which was a collection of a lot of wonderful fairy tales with a metaphysical bent to most of them.
Gaiman retorted to this claim this awhile back with a humorous statement that he really ought to get around to reading this book that he apparently based Dream Hunters on.
I was reminded of this story when the Dream Hunters adaptation was released this week, and Gaiman referenced the joke in his afterward for the first issue.
Do note that yes, my refutation here does rest solely upon Gaiman telling the truth, but I think that’s perfectly reasonable in this situation, as Gaiman has done plenty of works in the past that worked off of stories from the past (heck, one of his most famous stories ever was a riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream!), so there’s really no motive to lie here, especially since it’s not like it would affect either his wallet OR his well-deserved reputation.
Many moons ago, in what historians refer to as the “early 1990s,” Chuck Dixon and artist Gary Kwapisz got together on a few proposals at Marvel. Dixon and Kwapisz had worked together on Conan and worked together in the future on Moon Knight and various Punisher titles.
They tried a Ka-Zar pitch that did not go anywhere, but they got a lot more traction on an idea for a series that would put together a bunch of Marvel’s horror characters together on a team led by the Shroud. The team would be put together by none other than Doctor Doom, who would determine that it would be prudent to have a group that would protect the planet from excursions from otherworldly demon dimensions (sorta like a Hellmouth, I guess).
Here are a couple of Kwapisz’s pages from the proposal…
It progressed far enough that titles for the project were being bounced around.
Ultimately, though, Marvel decided to not use the proposal, but a year or so later, they decided to go with the idea of bringing their horror characters together, and the Midnight Sons line of comics was launched!
Check out Dixon’s cool website here for two MORE Kwapisz pages from the project (and a page from the Ka-Zar one)!!
Thanks to Jonathan Nathan for the suggestion!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!