Samurai Showdown: Summer Grasses

Summer Grasses tells a sad and comic story from the life of legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

Author: Winston Conrad

Winston Conrad contributed as both a writer and artist in Mystery School Comics Group’s second anthology See Sharp Knives. The 5 page comic Summer Grasses is Winston’s first contribution as author. The story’s title references a poem by Bashō, a Japanese poet born around the time of Miyamoto Musashi’s death. It reads, in its entirety:

Summer grasses,

all that remain,

of a warrior’s dreams.

Winston’s choice of subject matter in this work, and Michael Conrad’s choice of kaiju and sentai subject matter in the script he wrote for Winston in the same collection’s Baka Destroyer were no accident. The brothers have shared an interest and respect for Japanese comics, animation, popular culture, and traditional philosophy since childhood.

Among these influences was the Go Rin No Sho (Book of Five Rings), a sword fighting manual written by Miyamoto Musashi in 1645. This book is similar to Sun Tzu’s more famous Art of War in that both books are ostensibly military manuals that also function as extended metaphors for Taoist and Zen Buddhist teachings. The books contain stark exhortations to avoid expectation, adapt to changes in situation, and give stern warnings against being led into disadvantageous positions by pride and hubris. Summer Grasses contains similar themes presented in a form that is meant to be as sparely minimalist as the Bashō poem from which the story takes its name.

Artist: Justin McElroy

Justin McElroy’s contributions to Mystery School Comics Group are many. In addition to Summer Grasses Justin McElroy also illustrated Just Outside Armadillo by Michael Conrad and both stories and sketch images of his are found in A Minor Spell.

McElroy’s artwork in Summer Grasses takes a fresh approach to subject matter famously covered by Takehiko Inoue’s manga Vagabond. McElroy seeks to highlight the humor and sadness in the incident at the center of the story rather than duplicate the hard-bitten and deadly serious style of Vagabond and other depictions of the master samurai. His imagery instead pays homage to early classic manga style of Osamo Tezuka’s Astro Boy and Akira Toriyama’s popular Dragon Ball Z.

Mysteries of the Mystery School Group

Although Mystery School Comics Group loves the grotesque and horrific our primary mission is to defy expectation. Like the zen master who gives the meditating monk a good crack on the head with a stick we hope that our efforts result in delighted realizations rather than headaches.

Summer Grasses appears in See Sharp Knives, available in the summer of 2016. The collection is the second anthology comic by Mystery School Comics Group, the first being A Minor Spell, available for purchase on our website and select locations. A saddle bound, booklet format minicomic; A Minor Spell is a 40 page collection of 10 stories and supplemental artwork.

See Sharp Knives is Mystery School Comics Group’s first standard format, perfect bound publication. The collection includes more than 50 pages and a dozen stories. The book reflects the group’s delight in surprise by containing stories read in standard format, horizontally, and in one manga-style story backwards.

Our comics commitment to you and to ourselves is to continue to provide crazy comics faster, better, and in greater quantity with each collection. To that end, the group hopes to produce their next collection Be Flat Broke in December, 2016.