Julio Shimamoto is a Brazilian artist of Japanese descent, also known under the abbreviation "Shima". Since the 1950s, he has alternated his work as a fulltime comic artist with successful stints in advertising. Shimamoto worked for all the leading comic book publishers (Continental, Grafipar, Vecchi, Bloch), was a pioneer in Brazilian superhero, horror and martial arts comics and an important instigator of a national comic industry. His later comics were mostly based on historical figures from either Japan or Brazil, such as the 16th-century samurai Miyamoto Musashi and the Brazilian outlaws Madame Satã and Lampião.


'Musashi'.

Early life
Julio Yoshinobu Shimamoto was born in 1939 in Borborema, a town in central São Paulo. His father Kioichiro originated from Shingu in the Japanese Wakayama province, and emigrated to Brazil in 1927. When Julio was three years old, the family relocated to a farm near the border of Mato Grosso, a region with much violence between land owners and squatters. The Shimamoto family were not spared in this lawless war over land. On his website, Shimamoto remembered a defining moment in his childhood, when his father was ambushed by a bad-tempered local and narrowly escaped. At school, young Julio was also bullied for being "foreign". To boost his son's morale, Kioichiro Shimamoto taught Julio about the family ancestry: they descended from samurai aristocrats serving under the 16th-century feudal lord Oda Nobunaga. Julio also learned the basic rules of martial arts, so he could defend himself.

At home, the boy escaped from everyday worries in local comic almanacs like Tico-Tico and Globo Juvenil. He specifically enjoyed translated American comics, such as Ham Fisher's 'Mutt and Jeff'. He got hooked on drawing too, copying drawings from comic books. American stories in which superheroes defeated Japanese soldiers inspired him to create his own stories where the Japanese defeated Americans His expanding comics collection and increasing urge to draw were reflected in his school results. His father saw no other option than to burn all his son's comic books! Julio continued to read in secret, however, hiding his magazines in a camouflaged hole outside the family house. Until someone found his collection and stole it!

American artists like Syd Shores, Harold Foster, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert and Frank Frazetta were important inspirations for his own artwork, as were the South American masters José Luis Salinas and Alberto Breccia. Coming from the countryside, he also identified himself with western literature and films, as well as Akira Kurosawa's movies, influences that were reflected in his graphic narrative.

Early career
By 1953 the region's turmoil became unbearable, and the Shimamoto family moved to São Paulo's metropolitan area. To supplement his father's meagre income, 14-year old Julio Shimamoto went to work as a stockist and then as an advertising artist for the Sears department store. He eventually tried his luck with comics. At age sixteen, he presented his comic story about the Brazilian-Bolivian conflict, 'A Conquista do Acre', to Miguel Falcone Penteado, a local illustrator and the editor of the Novo Mundo publishing house. Penteado instantly refused the story because of its poor quality and the unflattering way Shimamoto portrayed the Colombians. Shimamoto persisted, improved his drawings, and was offered the fun fact feature 'Acredite se Quiser', which replaced the imported 'Believe It or Not!' by Robert Ripley in Novo Mundo's comic books.

The young artist proved a worthy assett, and was quickly given other tasks. These included drawing 'Satanásia, a Mulher do Diabo' ("Satanasia, the Devil Woman", 1957). Together with Gedeone Malagola's 'Concerto para Horror' (1953), this was one of Brazil's earliest comic stories in the horror genre, that would dominate the local comic book market in the following decades. Shimamato played an important role in its popularity, especially after associating himself with the Portuguese comic artist Jayme Cortez. Cortez was art director at Editora La Selva at the time, and originally invited Shimamoto to make celebrity comics with popular clown duos from Brazilian television: 'Fuzarca e Torresmo', 'Arrelia e Pimentinha' and 'Carequinha e Fred'.


'O Cortejo Fúnebre' (Historias Macabres).

Editora Continental/Outubro
In 1959, Shimamoto joined Cortez and Miguel Penteado at their new publishing imprint Editora Continental. The company, which changed its name to Outubro in 1961, was groundbreaking in more ways than one. It not only filled its comic books with work by only Brazilian authors, but also printed the first Mauricio De Sousa magazine ('Bidu') and pioneered with local superhero and horror comic books. Shimamoto and Cortez developed a comics version of the popular Brazilian TV show 'Capitão 7'. With its first issue, released in November 1959, the costumed captain became the first Brazilian comic book superhero. Contrary to the limited TV medium, the comic authors had way more possibilities to use the hero's superpowers. In the days before high-tech special effects, it was impossible for the TV series to show the captain flying around freely or lifting heavy objects, but in the comics he could. Instead of modelling the captain's face after the TV series' actor Ayres Campos, Shimamoto used Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' as inspiration. Besides Shimamoto and Cortez, the books were filled by several writers (Helena Fonseca, Hélio Porto, Gedeone Malagola) and artists (Getulio Delphim, Juarez Odilon).


'O Bruxo!' (Histórias Macabras #31, 1961).

With the comic books 'Histórias Macabras' (1959-1966), 'Seleções de Terror' (1959-1966) and 'Clássicos de Terror' (1960-1962), Continental/Outubro stood at the vanguard of local horror comics (the Brazilians generally refer to the genre as "terror"). Graphically, Shimamoto stood out for his dynamic action scenes and choreographed violence. The artist returned to his roots in 'Os Fantasmas do Rincão Maldito' ("The Ghosts of the Cursed Corner"), published in 'Histórias Macabras' #19, which is considered the first Brazilian samurai comic story. Another artist of Japanese descent, Cláudio Seto, later expanded the samurai genre with his work for the publishing house EDREL. Shimamoto also brought Count Dracula to Brazilian comics with 'A Volta do Dracula' ("The Return of Dracula", 1959), the first issue of Continental's 'Seleções de Terror' comic book. He additionally adapted the western film 'High Noon' ('Matar ou Morrer') to the comics format for the Outubro title 'Clássicos de Faroeste'.

Nationalization of comics
During the 1960s, Julio Shimamoto was one of the forefighters of the nationalization of comics. Together with Mauricio de Sousa, he spearheaded ADESP (Associação de Desenhistas do Estado de São Paulo), an association that defended the rights of São Paulo comic authors. Ely Barbosa, Gedeone Malagola, Lyrio Aragão and Luiz Saidenberg were also involved. However, the idealistic team dissolved after only a couple of months, because publishing houses began to boycot them. Around the same time, comic artists from other states united as well. In Guanabara and Rio de Janeiro, Zé Geraldo's ADAGER (Associaçio de Desenhistas e Argumentistas da Guanabara e do Estado do Rio) tried to stop the overflow of cheaply imported American comics.

In 1962, Shimamoto joined CETPA (Cooperativa Editora de Trabalhos de Porto Alegre), another cooperative effort to boost the local comic industry, supported by governor Leonel Brizola. Shimamoto drew one of the collective's early projects, a political propaganda serial about the history of Rio Grande so Sul: 'A história do Rio Grande do Sul'. Shimamoto, however, left the group shortly afterwards, because he didn't get along with the group leader Zé Geraldo. By request of De Sousa, Shimamoto then created the newspaper adventure strip 'O Gaúcho' (1963-1965). The stories were published in Folhinha de São Paulo (the children's supplement of the daily Folha de S. Paulo), and told the adventures of former gaucho soldier Fidêncio, shortly after the Paraguyan war (1864-1870). For the same newspaper, he also illustrated 'Coisas do Futebol', a fun fact series about São Paulo soccer, written by Luís Hamasaki and Maurício de Sousa. Carlos Edgard Herrero was another artist for this feature.

Military dictatorship
The (U.S. supported) military coup of 1964 and the new dicatorial regime of president Humberto Castelo Branco ended the rise of the national comics movement. Initiatives like CETPA were shut down, and Shimamoto and many of his colleagues were accused of being communists. Outubre was rebranded to Editorial Taika and continued to release horror comics, although mostly reprints now. Like many of his colleagues, Shimamoto had to resort to other markets, such as the advertising industry. Through his friend Luiz Saidenberg, he was hired by the international advertising agency McCann Erickson as a storyboard artist and visualizer. This didn't mean Shimamoto was out of trouble. In 1970, he was arrested for "supporting terrorism", because his name was linked to the exiled publicist Carlos H. Knapp, his former boss at the Standard Propaganda agency, where Shimamoto was art director. Knapp's wife commanded a group of subversives in the assault of the Banco América do Sul in São Paulo's Penha neighborhood. A guard died, and one of the attackers was shot in the head. The group retreated to Knapp's residence, who clandestinely took the armed group to a blood bank. Following a police siege, Knapp managed to run away, disguised as a priest, and board a plane to France. Even though they were not involved in the turmoil, Shimamoto and other Knapp co-workers were handed over to the OBAN, the Second Army's organ of political repression. After weeks of questioning and monitoring, they were released.

Back home, the idea of remaining under surveillance made him paranoid and unable to do his work. In 1972, Shimamoto decided to relocate to Rio de Janeiro, where he joined the small advertising agency Caio Domingues e Associados. There, he regularly worked with the famed copywriter Carlos Eduardo Meyer, with whom he collected several awards for their advertisements and other promotional material.


'A Múmia Viva'.

Return to comics
Despite the success of his commercial work, he was drawn back to comics in the mid-1970s. In 1975 Editora Noblet reprinted 'O Gaúcho' in their western magazine Carabina Slim. For the same publisher, Shimamoto made new short comic stories with writer Rubens Francisco Lucchetti in the Brazilian edition of Vampirella magazine. He returned at the forefront of Brazilian horror and martial arts comics with his many contributions to magazines published by Editorial Vecchi ('Spektro', 'Pesadelo'), Grafipar, Bloch Editores ('Mestre do Kung Fu', 'A Múmia Viva'), Press (Medo) and D-Arte ('Calafrio', 'Mestres do Terror'). Bloch's 'A Múmia Viva' was originally a translation of Marvel's 'The Living Mummy' by Steve Gerber and Rich Buckler. But when the publisher lost the license, Shimamoto and scriptwriter Rubens Francisco Lucchetti created a new mummy called Kharis, so the title could continue.


'Carga Pesada'.

At Grafipar, Shimamoto was the illustrator of 'Kiai - Faixa Preta em Quadrinhos' ("Kiai - Black Belt in Comics", 1979), a martial arts anthology comic book based on bushido, a Japanese moral code inspired by Zen Buddhism and Shinto. One of his recurring characters in the title was 'Meia-Lua, O Rei da Capoeira' ("Half Moon, The King of Capoeira"), co-created with scriptwriter Hayle Gadelha. Shimamota additionally illustrated female-oriented erotic stories in 'Horóscopo de Rose' and 'Rose', written by either the poets Paulo Leminsky and Alice Ruiz or Minami Keizi (under the pen name Rose West). Anonymously, Shimamoto also worked on the local story production with Lee Falk's 'The Phantom' for Rio Gráfica Editora, although he often hid his "Shima" signature in one of the panels. He also contributed to that publisher's comic book series based on the TV show 'Cargo Pesada' (1980). In 1978, he illustrated the satirical horror story 'A Maldição do AI-5' ('The Curse of AI-5") for the Pingente supplement of the newspaper O Pasquim. It was written by the cartoonists Reinaldo Figueiredo and Nani.


'A Maldição do AI-5'.

By the early 1980s, an economic crisis forced most comic book publishers to close their doors, ending Julio Shimamoto's second tenure as full-time cartoonist. The artist reluctancly fell back to advertising work, and only returned to the comics medium on a couple of occasions. During most of the decade, his main body of work was done through the agencies Salles-Interamericana, Denison Propaganda and J. Walter Thompson. Since 1990, he has worked as a freelance illustrator (for training manuals, among other things), storyboard artist and comic artist.


'Nos Tempos de Madame Satã'.

Later comics
In 1985, Shimamoto and scriptwriter Luiz Antônio Aguiar created the graphic novel 'Nos Tempos de Madame Satã' (Editora Marco Zero, 1985), about the famous 1930s drag performer, street fighter and outlaw from Rio's Lapa district, João Francisco dos Santos (AKA "Madam Satan"). In 1995, he was one of the artists contributing to a special book released by the Brazilian edition of Heavy Metal magazine. For Opera Graphica, he created two graphic novels about the 16th-century samurai Miyamoto Musashi: 'Musashi I' (2002) and 'Musashi II' (2003). Shimamoto also contributed to 'Sertão Vermelho - Lampião em Quadrinhos' (2004) and 'Sertão Vermelho - Lampião em Quadrinhos 2' (2005), collective albums about the Brazilian outlaw Lampião, written by Haroldo Magno and financed by the municipality and some local companies of Paulo Afonso, Bahia. Together with Adauto Silva, Shimamoto illustrated 'BANZAI! História da Imigração Japonesa no Brasil' ("BANZAI! Japanese Immigration History in Brazil", 2008), a book in commission of the Japanese Immigration Centenary celebrations, written by Paulo Fukue. In the same year, he made a dramatized story based on events from his parents' lives for a special edition of Front magazine.


'Banzai'.

Since 2001, several collections with his older horror and martial arts stories have been released through Opera Graphica, Mythos Editora, Criativo Editora, Atomic Editora and MMarte Produçoes. 'Samurai' (Mythos, 2009) and 'O Ditador Frankenstein' (MMarte, 2019) also contained new material. For Mythos, he also illustrated the books 'Lendas de Musashi' (2007) and 'Lendas de Zatoichi' (2007) by Minami Keizi. Zatoichi was a blind samurai from Japanese cinema. Besides illustrating the book about him written by Minami Keizi, Shimamoto also created a comic story with Zatoichi in his story collection 'Samurai' (Mythos, 2009): 'Tragam-me a cabeça de Zatô' ("Bring me Zatô's head").

Together with scriptwriter Fernando Azevedo and colorist/letterer Adauto Silva, he also created the mysterious horror story 'Painkiller' (2009), distributed to digital devices through Oi telecommunications. In 2011, the veteran cartoonist designed the character sheets for a short animated film based on 'The Ogre' ('O Ogro'), one of his best-remembered horror stories published in 1984 in Calafrio magazine issue #27. In later years, Shimamoto has contributed to fanzines and indie comics publications. In October 2017, a new story by him appeared in Neo Tokyo magazine by Editora Escala. He additionally worked with scriptwriter Gonçalo Junior on new horror-related works such as 'Claustrofobia' (Devir Livraria, 2005) and 'Até Que a Morte Nos Separe' (Editora Noir, 2017). MMarte released his crime graphic novel 'Cidade de Sangue' (2018, written by Márcio Jr.) and the erotic book 'O Lobisomem Errante' (2020).

Recognition
Julio Shimamoto is widely considered a master of Brazilian comic art, both for his horror stories and for the way his Japanese roots are reflected in his work. In 2002 and 2005, he was honored by, respectively, the municipalities of São Paulo and Jaboticabal. He was guest of honor at the 2007 edition of the International Comics Festival of Belo Horizonte, which had Japan as its theme. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the cartoonist was inducted in the Artists' Alley of the Comic Con Experience in São Paulo in December 2019. Shimamoto also designed the event's promotional poster. In December 2020, he was honored again, this time at the 5th Rio Fantastik Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantástico.

www.julioshimamoto.com.br

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