• Viz (1997–1999)
• Akita Shoten (Weekly Shônen Champion, 1973–1983)
• Shônen, Medical Drama
• Unrated/13+ (medical gore)
In Japan, Black Jack Manga is arguably Tezuka’s most popular manga. It placed second in Comic Link magazine’s 1998 survey of readers’ all-time favorite manga (Banana Fish came in first) and continues to inspire other manga, from a running parody in Excel Saga to an origin-story homage in Ray. (It’s so archetypal that it’s referenced in the title of Shûhô Satô’s untranslated medical manga Black Jack ni Yoroshiku, “Say Hello to Black Jack,” about a somewhat less experienced doctor.) Sadly, the Surgeon with the Hands of God has only made it to the English-speaking world via two out-of-print volumes from Viz. They’re worth tracking down; Black Jack is Tezuka in full-throttle pulp mode, whisking the reader through outrageous, kinetic action and a generous helping of realistically rendered medical gore. The mysterious Black Jack, his stern two-tone face bisected by a scar, is a preternaturally gifted surgeon … but one who operates outside the law! He’s assisted by the cute/creepy Pinoco, a half-synthetic little girl constructed from a patient’s engulfed twin. Presumably Tezuka was inspired by his pre-manga education as a physician, but medical accuracy is not exactly paramount in these stories. Instead, Black Jack stoically performs such patently absurd surgical feats as, say, operating on his own intestines in the middle of the Australian outback while surrounded by ravenous dingoes. Black Jack is bizarre, intense, and melodramatic as only Tezuka can be, but also brilliantly told and immensely fun.