KC Deluxe (AKA KC Mario) is a series of Mario manga published by Kodansha, from 1989-1998

KC Deluxe (AKA KC Mario) is a series of Mario manga published by Kodansha, from 1989-1998.The comics were all drawn by Kazuki Motoyama but there wasn’t quite an official branding to them, instead each volume was named after the specific game it was based on, starting with Super Mario Land. It’s also not the only Super Mario Manga out there, Super Mario-Kun started in 1991 was written by Yukio Sawada, published by Shogakukan and still runs to this day; that version of the character even showed up in Super Mario Maker as a costume. Neither of these series have even been localized into English.

North American readers are much more likely to have seen the Super Mario Adventures comics that ran in Nintendo Power through 1992, with a small bonus in ’93. Drawn by Charlie Nozawa with a story by Kentaro Takekuma, that series was just re-released in a collection by Viz this past year.

Part of what I find interesting about these Mario comics is how they handle the problem of filling story into games that either barely had any, or none at all (The second volume of KC Deluxe is about Tetris), and how they insert characters that aren’t in the games themselves.

Super Mario Adventures is working off the Super Mario World aesthetics, but it’s basically just its own adventure. Princess Toadstool is kidnapped by Bowser, Mario and Luigi head off to save her, they meet Yoshi along the way, the Koopalings are involved, yada yada yada. What makes the story stand out is when the Princess manages to escape on her own, only for Mario to get himself captured. Then Luigi disguises himself as The Princess to try and save Mario, while Toadstool, dressed as Luigi, and Yoshi storm the castle to save the day.

Part of what makes the KC Deluxe comics even more interesting to me is that often they are straight up adaptations of the video games; each volume actually opens up with a few pages of the game map and tips.

But they still find ways to insert characters that weren’t in those games, like Princess Peach disguising herself as a robot to accompany Mario through the plot of Mario Land and save Princess Daisy.

I mean, how else was she gonna see Mario’s dick?

I appreciate the series dedication to depicting specifics of the video games, but still finding ways to make that visually dynamic. That’s the bread and butter of this series, accurately depicting the games as they are, but doing that in a way that still makes for good comics.

There also a bunch of great little character turns that make these stories so much better. In a way where I’m both super happy to learn that Nintendo allowed this kind of stuff to me made with their characters, and also super frustrated that none of this stuff ever really works its way into the actual video games. Even the RPGs, which are closer than anything else, never quite have the creative energy that I get from these comics. I just want a world where Peach shoots a rocket launcher at Mario and Daisy as they fly away at the end of Mario Land, is that too much to ask?

A lot of what I love just comes from Kazuki Motoyama’s drawings, and the fact that he gets to bring more anime-style weirdness to the proceedings than… any other Mario thing I’ve seen. He varies his style depending on the moment or just how he’s feeling, which is something that really appeals to me, and why this series stands out to me more than Super Mario-Kun which sticks to one specific style.

And he just injects so much energy into dramatic moments.

Also sometimes he draws Big Boos like they belong in The Binding of Isaac, so that’s neat.

Weird little things make all the difference. Like how much Daisy there is throughout the series because it starts with Mario Land 1, the one real game she appeared in. So she gets to show up in a bunch of comics about games she wasn’t in.

There are weird cameos, like the version of Yoshi from the live-action Super Mario Bros movie.

Or just batshit awesome weirdness like that the volume based on the puzzle game Yoshi ends with Bowser riding a giant dragon facing off against Mario on a giant Yoshi.

Also there’s a part where Peach puts on Mario’s hat and punches the shit out of Bowser.

So that’s pretty great.

Again, this series has never been localized, and is even out of print in Japan. The rights have transferred to Shogakukan, who has their own, still ongoing, Mario manga and no incentive to re-release this one. I only recently discovered the series doing an image search, but there’s a post on The Mushroom Kingdom forums where user The Chef has upload almost all the volumes to imgur. I highly suggest checking it out, even if you’re like me and can’t actually read them, the drawings stand on their own.

I mean where else are you gonna get to see Peach checking out Wario’s package.