Hell is for children!

January 30, 2008

It’s a rather slim week in the comic shops, so I thought I’d cast an eye on one release in particular that seems to be racking up some fairly divergent reactions, as Katherine Dacey notes in the latest Weekly Recon. Here are a couple of other opinions on Miyuki Eto’s Hell Girl, in addition to the ones Dacey cited:

Blog@Newsarama’s Chris Mautner is unequivocal in his dislike:

“Here it is, not even the end of January, and what will surely be regarded as one of the worst manga series of the year (at least in my house) comes tromping through the gates.”

Johanna (Comics Worth Reading) Draper Carlson suspects the story might work better in a different medium:

“This was an anime series before it was a manga, and I think it probably works better that way. By the end of the book, I found the stories getting shorter and more repetitive, which would be less of a problem if they were stand-alone episodes.”

Julie at the Manga Maniac Café gave it a B:

“There were five chapters in this first volume, and they were different enough to hold my attention. Though the outcomes were predictable and the characters were two-dimensional, the cutesy, detailed art helped to keep events moving along.”

At ComicMix, Andrew Wheeler wonders if it’s being pitched to the right age group:

Hell Girl thus gets quite repetitive, and I have to admit that I was losing interest as I went along. The art style is full-blown shoujo, with immense eyes devouring entire faces with their dozens of points of light and welling tears. This is very much not for me, but – since it’s rated for teens 16 and up – it also seems aimed away from its natural audience, the overly dramatic young teen girl. There are still some of them at ages 16, 17, and 18, but they’re much more common at 13 and 14.”

I’m kind of indifferent to the charms of Hell Girl, so I will veer in an entirely different direction with a recommendation for the week: if you’re determined to spend money on manga but find the new releases uninspiring, go score yourself a copy of Osamu Tezuka’s totally insane, pansexual thriller MW (Vertical). It’s by no means perfect, but I can swear to you that you will not be bored for a single moment while reading it. How much more crazy-ass Tezuka gekiga is out there waiting to be licensed? I want more, because watching the God of Manga get his freak on is always worth every penny I pay. Both MW and Ode to Kirihito have been revelations, like finding out your kindly uncle was a cross-dressing jewel thief who dabbled in fomenting political unrest.


Language linkblogging

January 29, 2008

I got an e-mail from a retired educator named Thomas Hanson pointing me to three blog posts about comics as teaching tools over at Open Education.Net.

The first entry is an overview of the mediums potential, particularly for teaching reading and writing. (I hadn’t given much thought to the latter, but it makes sense.) The second offers an interview with Chris (The Graphic Classroom) Wilson, covering the subject in more detail. The third lists “The Twelve Best Comic Books for the Classroom,” which include some challenging, sometimes controversial books.

The subject of manga in the classroom doesn’t come up, and I was kind of surprised that a web search of the phrase didn’t yield many results. There are lots of sites that include Japanese comics on their lists of recommendations for younger readers, but there isn’t a whole lot that specifically addresses the category as a teaching tool. It’s not a criticism, just something that struck me as curious.

(My teacher education ended during my first year of college after a classroom observation course that convinced me that I would be eaten alive daily if I continued down that particular path.)

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At Shuchaku East, Chloe takes a fascinating look at the comparative qualities of language as they relate to manga in and out of translation.

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And speaking of translation (well, in a tangential way), Mely responds to the final volume of Kaori Yuki’s Godchild (Viz) in a hilarious, spoiler-filled essay. If you’re like me, you’ll happily read Television Without Pity recaps of shows you’d never actually watch because of the wit and enthusiasm of the writers. Even if Godchild doesn’t interest you in the slightest, go read.

(Prior to its actual publication, Godchild did interest me a great deal, but the script was so dire that I couldn’t actually read much of it without grinding my teeth to stumps.)


Chunky

January 28, 2008

They’re landing with an echoing thunk more and more often. They are the omnibi, and they’re the subject of this week’s Flipped.


Wild adapters

January 27, 2008

I was reading Yuu Asami’s A.I. Revolution (Go! Comi) yesterday, and it’s a very nice book. I’ll probably write about it in more detail later, but one of the things that really struck me was the sense that the translation and adaptation made for a very fluid, appropriate reading experience. Some scripts come off as inadvertently clunky from beginning to end, but translator Christine Schilling and adapter Brynne Chandler actually employ clunkiness in ways that serve the story. (Several of the characters are humanoid robots, so it makes sense that their evolving use of language would be stiff or inelegant, and Schilling and Chandler seem to consciously play with the counterpoint between robot and human speech.)

Anyway, that’s a long, inelegant introduction to a question: has anyone put together a web-based resource that lists translator/adapter credits? I think it would be useful. Maybe I should do it if there isn’t one already out there.


Crunchy

January 26, 2008

Valerie (The Occasional Superheroine) D’Orazio finds one publisher’s demographics that suggest that “(m)ore than 90% of the readers of mainstream superhero comics are male.”

Dave (Yet Another Comics Blog) Carter flips through the April solicitations from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image to see how many women are writing and drawing comics for those publishers.


Window shopping

January 25, 2008

I don’t know why this is on my mind. Maybe it’s all the recent talk about comics retailing. But what’s the most attractive exterior you’ve seen for a comic shop?

It’s got to be tough on the shops that have a great big window display to deal with. If you put merchandise in it, you probably have to rotate it fairly regularly so it doesn’t bleach in the sun, or call the window-display merchandise a loss from the outset. (And even then you probably need to rotate it, because nothing says “Come, spend” like bleached-out paperbacks in the window.) I can understand the desire to block out all of the light to protect stock, but making the glass opaque (particularly black) makes the place look like another kind of periodical vendor entirely, and I’m not sure that’s the ideal solution.

Packing the window space with posters seems like a good idea, because you can fill it with colorful, varied images. Unfortunately, most of those posters seem to fade and yellow even faster than a display of books would, almost before you’ve got the fourth piece of tape up. I’ve seen this solution applied at a few different shops, and you can tell who doesn’t bother to rotate their posters. (Seriously, if you thought some of those ‘90s Image posters were ugly in full color, take a look at them in sepia.)

The worst solution I’ve ever seen was to have someone paint various super-heroes in front of a neutral background to provide the desired opacity while keeping it from looking like an adult bookstore. And wow, those were some ugly, B-list X-Men in that window. Terrible anatomy (though not cheesecake-y, so points for that), just plain weird faces, and odd choices that I doubt any average person off the street would recognize (like Psylocke version 3.7, or something).


Tip sheet

January 24, 2008

So you want to write about comics for and by women. Or your editor has told you to write about comics by and for women. Before you get started, there are two recent examples you might want to peruse. This one is awful. This one is much better. Yours can be even better than the piece in The Guardian, if you remember some basic points.

Don’t conflate “comics” with “super-hero comics.” The latter is a subset of arguable size of the former, and you’ll open yourself up to all kinds of nitpicking from people like me if you fall back on that kind of shorthand.

Don’t wait too long to bring up manga. As Tom Spurgeon noted yesterday, “it’s weird reading an article about female comics readership where manga is the 11th graph below Wonder Woman, Minx and the Smurfs.” It could successfully be argued that the ascendance of comics for girls and women in the United States is significantly dependent on the popularity of manga.

Expand on manga and its various demographics. For a lot of people, the appeal of the category is its variety, and that variety extends to sub-categories. Saying that shôjo is a category of comics targeted primarily at girls is fine, but you’ll look smarter if you note that the category contains not only stories about fantasy and romance but science fiction, adventure, comedy, sports, horror, slice-of-life, and so on.

Don’t make the mistake that shôjo is exclusively the domain of a female audience, or that it’s the only kind of manga that girls and women read. Naruto and Bleach wouldn’t be bestsellers without a healthy female audience, and Fruits Basket wouldn’t achieve its numbers without some y chromosomes in the audience. (Books like Naruto, Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist also give you the chance to note that girls already like super-heroes, though perhaps not the ones that immediately come to mind.)

Name names. If you’re writing about manga, you’ll sound more informed if you throw out a few titles that provide examples of the subject. If you want to write about manga targeted primarily at girls, pick up a copy of Shojo Beat. If you want to write about manga targeted primarily at boys, pick up a copy of Shonen Jump. Both are available at just about any bookstore, if not the supermarket. Both of these magazines feature several series with varied subjects and artistic styles, the better to help you avoid stupid reductions about subject matter or visual style.

Do some independent research. There are excellent resources available on manga, including Paul Gravett’s Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics and Jason Thompson’s Manga: The Complete Guide. You might not be able to work in everything you learn about the art form, but hey, they’re great reads, and they’ll help you frame your questions and make sensible comparisons. (For bonus points, and if you’re looking for a slightly rounder survey of what the contemporary comics industry looks like, you might also check out Gravett’s Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know, which combines introductory pieces and samples from various categories.)

Don’t make Gail Simone do all of the heavy lifting. Even if you’re focusing primarily on super-hero comics (which you should specifically note as often as is practical), you’ll end up with a more interesting piece if you cast a wider net for sources. There are plenty of interesting women making comics and coming at it from different perspectives who would probably be happy to talk to you.

If Simone is one of your primary sources, try not to forget that she’s an excellent writer of super-hero comics. She’s not just a rabble-rouser who identified an unfortunate trend in super-hero comics. She’s also one of the better practitioners of the genre, blending action, character development, and humor into her stories.

Don’t believe everything a publisher tells you. Yes, DC is to be congratulated for developing the Minx imprint, but they’re hardly the first publisher to target an audience of teen-aged women with original material. Tokyopop’s been doing it for years, to name only one, and they’ve gathered a roster of creators that’s packed with talented women.

Don’t think that a woman finally serving as the regular writer for Wonder Woman is the beginning of the trend you’re covering. If anything, it’s a rather belated example of a trend that’s been healthily underway for some time. Super-hero comics are sort of the last guests to arrive at this particular party, and some could argue that they just found their invitations, so you have to decide whether you want to flatter your sources or examine their efforts in a larger context.


Upcoming 1/23/2008

January 23, 2008

Okay, I just have to say this. There’s no grief quite as unsettling and, frankly, often distasteful as nerd grief. To me, at least.

Now, on to this week’s comics releases.

AdHouse delivers the third issue of Fred Chao’s delightful Johnny Hiro, featuring a night at the opera and 47 Ronin Businessmen.

I don’t know how I’d feel if the protagonist of Masashi Tanaka’s Gon (CMX) actually ate baby penguins. He hasn’t (yet), so I’m looking forward to the third volume of this beautifully drawn manga. It promises vengeful baby wolf cubs, hungry piranha, and possibly psychedelic mushrooms.

Wow, two pamphlet comics in one week! The second comes from Fantagraphics in the form of the 10th issue of Linda Medley’s enchanting Castle Waiting. And hey, the revised Fantagraphics site has reasonably useful permalinks!

Wait, make that three floppies, all of which I love! The 19th issue of Jimmy Gownley’s funny, observant Amelia Rules! arrives via Renaissance Press.


Preacher-teacher

January 23, 2008

This week’s Flipped is up, and, eh, it’s not exactly one for the time capsule. You’d think I could squeeze more juice out of Scripture and a sex manual.


Tuesday linkblogging

January 22, 2008

Lots of people have posted really interesting pieces lately. I wish I could say I was one of them, but at least I can point in their direction.

Paul (Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics) Gravett contributes an appreciation of Tove (Moomin) Jansson, also reprinting a heartfelt introduction to a 1957 collection of Jansson’s comic strips from novelist Margery Allingham:

“On the Moomins themselves I find myself uncharacteristically reticent. Their appeal is so personal and so intricate that I feel chatter about them is like gossip in public about friends.”

At About.com, Deb Aoki conducts a lovely interview with Keiko (To Terra…, Andromeda Stories) Takemiya, covering her early days as a manga-ka and her views on how the industry has changed since she and her pioneering peers were turning everything on its head:

“Manga has become too much of a big business, which perhaps means that artists get pushed out into the public eye before they’ve achieved artistic maturity.”

Chloe (Shuchaku East) Ferguson launches a new column at ComiPress with a look at cover design and manga packaging:

“Part marketing compass, part demographic indicator; how manga is packaged can often tell you more than any press release ever will.”

Jason (Manga: The Complete Guide) Thompson launches a new column at Comixology with a look at manga of an historical bent.

And happily, The Overlooked Manga Festival hasn’t gone on hiatus just yet. Shaenon K. Garrity offers up The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse) for your consideration, and offers the following pearl of all-purpose wisdom:

“I’m not the kind of reader who’s impressed by gimmicky characters. I get enough of that in webcomics, where people are constantly pushing me to read some unfunny thing that ‘you HAVE to love, because one of the characters is an ANGRY ZUCCHINI who works as a HITMAN and likes PLAYSTATION, and isn’t that ORIGINAL and BRILLIANT?’ No, it’s not original and brilliant. A regular old human being with an interesting, well-written personality would be original and brilliant. Wacky gimmicks are easy.”


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