‘Wayward’ and the Weird Mythology of Japan
Jim Zub and Steve Cummings' Image series Wayward offers readers a fantastical tour of the imagined supernatural underworld of Tokyo, with a cast of young heroes all touched in different ways by mystical forces. It's a fantastically entertaining series that's rooted in the real mythology of Japan, thanks in part to the research of expert monster scholar Zack Davisson, who also provides back-up essays in every issue of Wayward that shed light on Japanese culture and superstition.
Davisson has been kind enough to share with ComicsAlliance a series of slides detailing the mythological roots of Wayward's many monsters, describing where the monsters come from and showing how they've appeared in both traditional art and in the pages of Wayward. We'll let Davisson explain further, in his own words:
Godzilla. Kappa. Pokémon — Japan is monster country. There are few places on earth with such a vast menageries of supernatural beasts. Depending on how far you stretch into Japan’s distant past, they go by many names; like mononoke (物の怪; things of mystery); or bakemono (化け物; changing things). But the most common name comes from the Edo period — yōkai (妖怪), meaning something approximating mysterious phenomenon.
While yōkai are ubiquitous in Japan, they are have been shyer when appearing in American comics. Several nukekubi (抜け首; severed head) popped in the Mike Mignola Hellboy story Heads. Stan Sakai pitted his rabbit samurai against an army of them in Usagi Yojimbo: Yōkai. A bakeneko (化け猫; changing cat) battled Matt Wagner’s Grendel. But it is only in Wayward from Image comics that Japan’s mysterious monsters make up the core of the story. And in Wayward they are done right. And you can trust me on that. As Wayward’s resident yōkai hakase it’s my job to keep the monsters coming and provide the background.
Here’s a tour of some of the monsters you’ll meet in Wayward. Some are yōkai from Japan’s ancient past, some popped right off of the TV screen. But all of them make up the vast tapestry of Japan’s monster lore. And there are literally thousands more where they came from, lurking in the shadows.
Wayward #10 is on sale this week, Wednesday 29 July, wrapping up the series' second arc. The second trade paperback, Ties That Bind, is on sale August 26.