When Hirohiko Araki began JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in 1987, his goal was simply to lampoon the hyper-masculinity of the male interest manga of his time, like Fist of the North Star. 29 years and 95 million copies sold later, JoJo has become a cultural phenomenon, owing much of its massive success to global accessibility.
JoJo’s vast and diverse cast of characters are known primarily for two things. The first, being originally an 80s manga, the cast are as homoerotic and “hair-metal” as the 80s was known for. The second is that Araki named most characters, aside from the many JoJos the plot centers around, after popular western bands that he liked. This can be seen rather humorously changing over the decades he’s spent writing JoJo. In the 80s stories, you have characters like REO Speedwagon and Steely Dan, while in the stories he wrote in the 90s you have Foo Fighters and Green Day (my favorite references are to Vanilla Ice and Yo-Yo Ma.)
Additionally, each branch of JoJo’s massive story takes place in different parts of the world during different time periods. The first arc taking place in Victorian England, the second during World War 2, the third taking place primarily in Egypt, etc. JoJo is more so a love letter to the world than it is an exercise in absurdity. Its global success is evidence of this. JoJo has become a media empire, spawning spinoffs, films, television, video games, and even a deal with Gucci.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure saw release in the United States in 2005, 18 years after it began. Unfortunately, we only got the third and most popular story arc “Stardust Crusaders” in a graphic novel format. As of 2013, the long and arduous process of digitally publishing the complete story of JoJo stateside has been ongoing (there are obvious copyright hurdles to struggle with when half your cast are named after the music industry across multiple decades.)
In any case, it’s interesting to see a Japanese manga draw so much influence from the western world for decades before finally branching out to the west. The influences previously mentioned aren’t the only ones either. JoJo is a gigantic inter-generational epic after all, so it’s packed full of all kinds of crazy things. This video here discusses a few fun facts about the series and even makes an interesting parallel between JoJo and The Doom Patrol from DC comics. On the whole, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a good read for anyone interested in comics and graphic novels from other cultures and multiculturalism in comics.