41OQVakH6eLWhile the influence of the “Parker” novels by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake) and the crime films of Lee Marvin on Gravedigger are readily apparent, one of the other big inspirations for the character may be less obvious: Golgo 13, a manga series written and illustrated by Takao Saito.

Golgo 13 is the oldest manga still in publication, having begun in 1969. It has sold over 200 million copies in various formats, including compilation books. It has been adapted into two live-action feature films, two animated movies, a television series and five video games. I’ve been a great admirer of Saito’s creation since I discovered a handful of English-translated G13 graphic novels back around 1988-89.

Golgo 13 is the codename of a ruthless professional assassin named Duke Togo.  Saito gives the reader virtually no insight into Togo’s personal history (we pretty much only know that he is of mixed, Eurasian descent), his motivations, nor even his emotions (if he has any, they’re deeply buried). Even on the rare occasions that Togo is given a thought balloon, it usually contains only an ellipse! (“…”) All we really know about him is that he’s an expert marksman, capable of making extraordinarily difficult shots under extreme conditions, and that he is well-paid for his talents.

91AB23C69hL._SL1500_Still, despite this, the stories are intricately plotted, usually centering around “impossible” assassination plans, and Togo’s coldly efficient approach to pulling them off. As an aspiring comic creator at the time that I discovered G13, I was impressed by Saito’s ability to make the reader root for a clearly irredeemable bad guy… a trick I’ve tried to pull off with Gravedigger – although I think “Digger” McCrae is a lot more human than Saito’s creation.

Over the years, I’ve picked up a handful of English-language Golgo 13 comics from various publishers. I have no idea whether there are any editions currently available, but they’re worth hunting down.

I do know that episodes of the recent anime series are available for streaming online through Netflix and Hulu Plus. They’re pretty cool, too, although I prefer the manga.

You, know, I was just thinking that I have no idea if Rick is familiar with Golgo 13; I don’t believe we’ve ever discussed the long-running manga nor its influence on my writing. I’ll have to bring it up next time we speak.

– Chris