Thursday, September 13, 2018

Retro Foreign: Japanese Weekly プレイボーイ #1 (January 1978)

Japanese publisher Shueisha is best known to comic fans for publishing Weekly Shōnen Jump.  Weekly Shōnen Jump was the magazine that introduced the popular Dragon Ball to manga fans and had circulation numbers north of 6 million copies a week in the mid 1990s and, while those numbers are down today, it still sells well over 1.5 million copies a week today.  Shueisha publishes many other magazines, including Weekly プレイボーイ or Weekly Playboy.  Like the U.S. counterpart it is fashioned after, Weekly Playboy is aimed at adults and contains nude pictures of females.  Unlike the U.S. magazine, this Japanese magazine heavily features manga.

The January 1978 issue of Weekly Playboy contains a black and white, 30-page Star Wars story.  The story is raunchy and focuses on Princess Leia, although it also contains Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Stormtroopers.

Weekly プレイボーイ #1a - Shueisha, Japan (January 1978)
What makes this manga interesting is not the smutty material, but the early date it was published with art by Go Nagai.  Star Wars was not released in Japan until June 30, 1978, making this possibly the first Star Wars manga released in the world and the first Star Wars comic material released in Japan.  Go Nagai's work paved the way for the Japanese view on eroticism in manga.  He is best known for creating Mazinger Z, imported into the U.S. as a Shogun Warrior, and Devilman.

The cultural influence of Star Wars was huge and this is an interesting and early example of the breadth of that impact.

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