Takao Saito was born in Osaka on November 3, 1936. Ten years younger than Osamu Tezuka (Phoenix, Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century), Saito grew up reading him as part of Japan's own first postwar generation of manga fans. In the 1950s and 60s, however, Saito and his peers such as Yoshihiro Tatsumi (The Push Man & Other Stories) began to find an artistic voice of their own, creating adult-oriented graphic novels and magazine stories for the gekiga ("drama pictures") movement, whose name set itself apart from "manga"a term then still associated only with works suitable for children.
Gekiga style gradually made itself respected within the manga industry as a whole, and by 1965 Takao Saito was well-known enough to be asked to create the authorized manga adaptation of Ian Fleming's original James Bond novels, an experience that prepared him well for Saito's own creation, Golgo 13, a ruthless secret agent out not for his country, but for himself: a reflection of the darkening era of Vietnam, political assassinations, and Watergate. Since its premiere in the January 1969 issue of Big Comic magazine (home of Viz's multiple Eisner-award nominated Eagle), Golgo 13 has remained topical, growing into a phenomenon even by manga standards, with 137 volumes in Japan to date and total sales of well over 200 million.
A longtime publisher as well as an artist, Takao Saito formed his own production company in 1960, that by 1974 developed into Leed Co. Ltd, which continues today to put out its own line of manga, books, and contemporary-interest magazines. Leed was itself an early pioneer of the American manga market, in 1986 releasing its own four-volume English-language edition of Golgo 13 graphic novels for distribution in the U.S.a full year before American companies began to publish manga on a regular basis in comic book format, and more than fifteen years before the Japanese graphic novel format would become standard in the U.S. manga industry.