On 10 August 1967, Manga Action Weekly debuted a new series "Lupin III" by "Monkey Punch". The series detailed the exploits of Arsène Lupin III, Jigen Daisuke, Ishikawa Goemon, and Mine Fujiko. The art style was heavily influenced by Mad Magazine and contained strong sexual undertones. During his adventures, Lupin would endure a lot of physical punishment but survive it all. While Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon usually worked together, Fujiko would try to steal the treasure for herself while fending off Lupin's sexual advances.
Monkey Punch's inspiration came from the Arsène Lupin: Gentleman Thief series of novels and short stories written in the early 1900s by the French author Maurice Leblanc. Arsène Lupin was the Sherlock Holmes of thieves; no building or safeguards could keep Lupin from stealing what he wanted. Lupin would warn his latest victim by attaching a note to their mansion door containing a list of the items he wanted; the person could either turn over the items on the list or risk having Lupin take everything in the mansion. Most of the victims would notify the police; an inept inspector would be sent out to investigate and fail to prevent Lupin from using his ingenious tricks to steal everything in the mansion. All of Lupin's exploits were told to a reporter who would then print them in his newspaper articles. In one story, Sherlock Holmes (renamed to Herlock Sholmes) is brought in to stop Lupin, but he can only explain how Lupin committed the crime after the fact.
Monkey Punch's main character was the grandson of Arsène Lupin, but Lupin III was far from being a gentleman like his grandfather. Lupin was constantly pursuing money and women. When the manga debuted, Japan did not enforce trade copyrights; Monkey Punch never informed Maurice Leblanc's estate that he planned to use the "Arsène Lupin" name in his stories. Leblanc's estate later went on to object to this plagiarism; because of this, United States companies translating some of the Lupin III movies had to use a different name such as "The Wolf" (a rough French translation of "Lupin") or as "Rupan" (a romanization of the Japanese spelling of "Lupin"). Leblanc's copyright has since expired, and only old licenses are required to use an alternate name.
In April 1972, the first manga series came to an end after a run of over 190 stories; it was over five years before Lupin would rejoin his gang. A new manga series called Shin Rupan Sansei began on 23 June 1977 and ran for 184 stories. Over time, the art style settled down, but the stories remained as wild as ever. Both manga series have been compiled into two sets of large hardback volumes. Both sets were labeled and numbered exactly the same. The second manga series collection contains the kanji for "new stories" on the spine. Numerous reprints of the manga volumes have been put out in recent years.1
January 1997 saw the creation of a third manga series. Lupin's exploits were now being penned by Shusay and Takaguchi; the art style departed from looking like Mad Magazine and began to resemble the television anime.
Additionally, several color manga have been made over the years. The first series episodes have been serialized in by Comic Souris. Cagliostro has seen a few different color manga sets released; among these are a three volume set from Comic Souris and a four volume set from Action Comics. Mamo has also been serialized in a color manga series but is considered to be a waste of ink and paper.
US fans are now enjoying Lupin manga in english for the first time as well. In 2002, Tokyopop began releasing the first manga series in the US as part of their "100% Authentic Manga" line of books. A new generation of fans will get to enjoy the magic of Monkey Punch's work.
1 Nelson, Reed. "Manga series Information" From a post to the Yahoo! LupinTheThird Group (6 March 2003).