Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fujitani Twin Mystery

Even the greatest detectives get stumped.

In comic history circles, no two men are more respected than Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. and Hames Ware. Hames, a talented artist himself, pioneered the identification of comic art identification and was co-founder, with Jerry Bails, of the WHO'S WHO OF AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS project. Jim V. was also a major contributor to the WHO'S WHO, author of many articles and books, and publisher of IMAGES MAGAZINE, a beautiful publication devoted to classic illustration art. Jim also has one of the keenest eyes of all comic art identifiers.

But these two Art Identification Gods have a problem.

For years they have debating the uncanny similarity between the artwork of the great Bob Fujitani and that of the lesser known George Gregg.

(I could devote the rest of this post just listing Fujitani's comic book credits, but that's not the topic at hand. At some point we will discuss Fuje in greater detail, I promise.)

What Hames and Jim saw was an artist (Gregg) who was either a close associate of Fujitani or a devotee of his work. The closeness of the styles was so similar, Jim wrote, that he found, "...signed George Gregg stories that I would swear were Fujitani's."

Case in point. While I have been a recent participant in their search, I found two panels in issues of CATMAN for comparison:

Fujitani                                        Gregg

The left panel is from a signed Fujitani Catman story in #29 (Aug. 1945). The right panel is from a signed Gregg story in #31 (June 1946) of that title. Obviously, Gregg copied Fuje's art. This is far more than a coincidence.

So who was this George Gregg? Fujitani had to know.

Recently Michael T. Gilbert, artist and comic historian, had told me, "I also asked him if he worked on a couple of strips signed by George Gregg, or if that was one of his pseudonyms. Bob said he didn't know Gregg and it wasn't him under an assumed name."

Hames and Jim speculated that Gregg may also be a pseudonym of an artist--perhaps the first and middle names. I pursued that hunch and found on the online WHO'S WHO, a reference that Gregg's real name was "George Machubi". A subsequent conversation with Jim Amash, ALTER EGO associate editor and interviewer extraordinaire, revealed that it was in his interview with Bill Fraccio (in AE #29) that this information appeared. Furthermore, George/Machubi, attended the American School of Design with Fraccio and like Fuje, was also Japanese-American, even having been born in that country.

With that in hand and at the urging of Hames, I wrote Mr. Fujitani. His reply to me was that same as his to Michael T.: "I'm sorry but I have no recollection of George Gregg or Machubi."


When I relayed this disappointing response to Hames, Jim V. and Jim A., Amash emailed me back that the spelling of the last name should have been "Mabutchi", not "Machubi". In any case, Fujitani seems unaware of his existence.

Now I come to you, dear readers. Is there anyone out there who can help with this mystery? Does anyone have any information about the mysterious Mr. George Mabutchi and/or what was his fascination with the artwork of Bob Fujitani?

Inquiring minds want to know.


  1. George R Mabuchi. Born: 17 May 1924. SSN: 213-XX-5751. State issued: Maryland. Died: 28 December 1999. Last Known Residence: Marco Island, Collier County, FL (Florida), 34145.

    George Mabuchi worked in comics (as George Gregg) from approximately 1944 to early 1950s.
    George Mabuchi spent a lot of time living in Puerto Rico painting portraits of tourists in Hotel.
    The walls of El Batey Bar on Calle Christo in Old San Juan are covered with Mabuchi’s
    caricatures of the regulars. Here’s a link to a poster for El Saloon:

    Here’s a link to a picture of singer Dionne Warwick posing for a portrait by painter George
    Mabuchi at the Caribe Hilton:

    Hope this helps. ~Jake Oster

  2. Thank you, Jake! This is indeed very helpful!

    You've help solve a mystery that has intrigued me and others for years and for that, I am truly grateful.

  3. Hi Ken,

    We have a pastel portrait of my sister from when she was a child signed George Mabuchi, '89. My dad asked me to do some research on him and I came across your site. In google searching I found another George Mabuchi doing a portrait of Dionne Warwick, that could be the same guy. Have you found any more information about Mabuchi? It looks like maybe he was a comic artist and a fine artist? I can't find much information on him at all.


  4. What I know about George Mabuchi is all in this post, Lauren. He was indeed a comic book artist and later, he did go into fine art.

    Hopefully you've also read the comment preceding yours from Jake that fills in a bit more detail about the elusive Mr. Mabuchi.

    Good luck!