« Hawaii can be heaven and it can be hell. » — Jeff Goldblum
I’ve long been quite partial to Dennis Fujitake‘s work, from his fan days providing spot illustrations and covers to the Rocket’s Blast Comicollector and the fledgling The Comics Journal, then on to his splendid SF collaborations with writer Jan Strnad, Dalgoda (1984-86, Fantagraphics) and Keith Laumer’s Retief (1987-88, Mad Dog Graphics). After that, his work began to appear more sporadically: a wee bit of Elfquest in the mid-90s, a short piece here and there. If memory serves, this lower profile coincided with Hawai’i native Fujitake returning to live in the Aloha State, where he resides to this day. The Hawai’i Herald, “Hawai’i’s Japanese American Journal” currently publishes his comic strip 8-0-8.
Anyway, our current selection, Lil’ Keiki, was a sadly brief collaboration with writer Len Yokoyama released independently and yielding two lovely issues in 2005. To my eye, Fujitake’s mature style occupies a cozy sweet spot midway between the influences of Steve Ditko (Fujitake always *got* Ditko) and Ernie Colón.
To coincide with the launch of Lil’ Keiki, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran this profile, which helpfully illuminates the circumstances of the feature’s creation.