Random manga mentions

March 31, 2006

Dear retailers,

You might want to stock up on early volumes of Bleach. I’m just saying.

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See? It’s not just me. Tony Salvaggio has a very positive review of the charming and surprising Chikyu Misaki (CMX) in the latest Calling Manga Island.

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It’s here! Dr. Scott begins his examination of Monster over at Polite Dissent.

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Just as I was wondering if all these recent yaoi titles weren’t a little too similar, into my hands falls Shout Out Loud (Blu). Finally, a yaoi title that doesn’t take itself so damned seriously.

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I know he’s one of the lead characters and that we were bound to get some more extensive insight into his character at some point, but I really could have done with a lot less Yuki and a lot more Tohru and Momiji in the latest volume of Fruits Basket.


The layered look

March 31, 2006

We went to a really interesting lecture last night. It was by an artist, Judy Glantzman, who does these amazing canvases that have a wonderful cumulative effect. They seem really organic, but her process is to essentially paint over the same canvas over and over again, adding or subtracting elements until they’re really layered and complex. I would have loved to have seen some of the canvases themselves, just to get a closer look at the depth and texture they must have. It was really interesting to hear her talk about how her canvases come together, because they ultimately seem to have just sort of happened.

During the question and answer session, most of the questions were couched in comparisons to other artists, and they were all respectful and complimentary, but it was still kind of uncomfortable. It’s not like anyone was saying, “Did you mean to lift that technique from so-and-so, but not as well?” And the artist made a very sincere showing of being flattered by the comparisons, but it still made me decide to resist equating illustrators’ styles when I’m writing about comics, even if I mean it in a positive way.

At the reception afterwards, I was talking to a professor from another college, and his specialization is French cultural history. His spouse is an art instructor, so I asked if he’d ever read any bandes dessinées, since it seemed like a reasonable intersection between their scholarly interests. He wasn’t familiar with the category, so I started telling him about Joann Sfar and The Ticking and Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators and other stuff, which was horribly Team Comix of me. It was the cheap red wine, I swear.


Weekly, weakly

March 29, 2006

I didn’t think this was possible, but the quantity of content in Entertainment Weekly seems to shrink with each new issue that arrives in my mailbox. Since the quality bottomed out ages ago, I guess it’s all relative, but it sure seems like their white-space percentage has increased.

In spite of that, there are actually a couple of useful tidbits in the latest issue. First is a review of a new book, Alternatives to Sex, by one of my favorite authors, Stephen McCauley. For those of you who only know McCauley via the dreadful film version of Object of My Affection, I can only tell you that none of his books were ever designed to be a Jennifer Aniston vehicle.

His novels are funny and bittersweet, focusing on complicated relationships, contentious families (either of birth or choice), and flawed, endearing characters. My favorite is probably Easy Way Out, though The Man of the House has a wonderful subplot that’s both hilarious and sad and perfectly represents McCauley’s world view.

This seems to be the season where all of my favorite authors put new novel on the market at once. I see that Christopher Moore has a new one, A Dirty Job. It’s so nice to fall even further behind in my prose reading.

The other EW blurb of interest is a review of a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company in Cincinnati, directed by the genius whose revival of Sweeney Todd is destined to win a billion Tony Awards. What John Doyle is doing directing anything in Cincinnati is beyond me, but if you’re anywhere nearby, get a ticket if you’re able.

EW neglects to mention precisely where this production is running or for how long, though they do give a phone number. Because I care about you, I looked it up. It’s at Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park and runs through April 14.

And that’s all EW had to offer. So let’s move on to the week in comics.

If I hadn’t already picked up the singles, I’d certainly buy the collection of Banana Sunday (Oni). It’s great fun, especially Go-Go. There’s been some positive buzz about The Great Catsby (Netcomics), though the price tag ($17.99 for 224 full-color pages) is causing some distress. And Tokyopop brings the love with new volumes of Fruits Basket and Dragon Head. Well, it brings the love to me.


From the stack: MAN ENOUGH: a queer romance

March 28, 2006

I could be a serious mini-comic junkie if more of them were available locally. One of the major pleasures of SPX was being able to gorge myself on them and discover the work of creators like Bill Burg, Justin Hall, and Raina Telgemeier.

Another SPX encounter popped up in my in-box when I got an e-mail from Bill Roundy offering me a copy of his new mini-comic, Man Enough: a queer romance. It’s a really charming date comedy that makes excellent use of the short-story format.

Man Enough begins with David and Ethan meeting at a party. They flirt, connect, and make a date, even though David is a bit startled by the fact that Ethan is a pre-operative female-to-male transsexual. They chat with friends about the impending date, disguising their mutual infatuation with low expectations.

The date itself consumes much of the book. David’s instant attraction to Ethan is at odds with his preconceptions about what he’s looking for in a romantic partner. Ethan just wants to enjoy the evening without the hassle of playing “Trans 101 educator.”

It’s a nice conundrum for the characters, but Man Enough happily emphasizes the romantic elements. David and Ethan’s preconceptions and defenses fall away as the date progresses, and their initial connection overcomes their individual anxieties. It’s sweet, funny, and uplifting without being the slightest bit preachy.

Roundy has a wonderful way with dialogue and pacing. David and Ethan are both vivid characters, and there’s a really nice balance to the way they’re portrayed individually and together. Roundy isn’t as good an illustrator as he is a writer, but he does nice work with facial expressions. They really help sell the emotional arc and the individual beats.

Man Enough is a really fine example of one of the things a mini-comic creator can do – flesh out a quirky, personal story in a short format without losing any of the emotional layers. I liked it a lot.

(Man Enough: a queer romance will debut at the Alternative Press Expo April 8 and 9. It also features a full-color back-up strip written by Roundy and illustrated by Tim Fish, originally published by Young Bottoms in Love at www.popimage.com.)


Manga Monday II

March 27, 2006

More manga-related material, found at of The Engine:

  • Warren Ellis links to Frédéric Boilet’s Nouvelle Manga Manifesto, and weird discussion ensues.
  • Ellis also shares a press release announcing Tokyopop’s new partnership with HarperCollins that will “create a progressive new line of co-branded manga titles. The program will include several projects from bestselling author Meg Cabot, whose HarperCollins novels have sold more than six million copies to date. In addition, HarperCollins will sell and distribute the entire TOKYOPOP line in North America.” There’s lots more at the link, but the initial thrust of the partnership will revolve around manga adaptations of the popular young adult novels of Meg Cabot.

Monday manga

March 27, 2006

There’s some fascinating discussion of manga in libraries going on over at Love Manga. (Brigid at MangaBlog was the first to spot the news item in question, and offered her own insights.) David Taylor pretty much says it all:

“Already my mood is blackening, I do not need to see another story where some wily kid manages to get their hands on material not suitable for them.”

It’s a twisty issue, as demonstrated by the thoughtful comments following David’s post.

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I love it when a plan comes together. The inimitable Dr. Scott at Polite Dissent is going to take an in-depth look at Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (Viz Signature), a psychological, neurological thriller.

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The highlight of the weekend’s manga reading was the third and final volume of Chikyu Misaki (CMX). I really enjoyed the first two installments, and the conclusion is just as good. Don’t let the super-cute covers fool you: this is a smart, complex mystery-adventure with lots to say about good and evil and the vast gray area in between. (The occasional use of vertical lettering is annoying, I admit, but it’s worth enduring for a story this satisfying.)

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In this week’s Flipped, I gush shamelessly over Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators. There’s some breathtaking work on display in this anthology from some of the finest creators from the worlds of nouvelle manga and bandes dessinées. Jog wrote a wonderful review of it here.

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Absolutely unrelated to anything else in this post, but does anyone out there like onion dip? Because I made the most awesome onion dip in the world over the weekend from this recipe, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. (A warning: just reading the recipe is enough to raise your cholesterol levels, so proceed with caution.)


One of us… One of us…

March 25, 2006

I went to Barnes and Noble this morning to pick up some books I ordered, and guess what I saw?

Rurouni Kenshin and Negima! on the “New Paperback Releases” table up front.

Anyone else seen this happen?


GRAY HORSES give-away winner!

March 25, 2006

I got 16 entries for the Gray Horses give-away. Using the most stringent methodology and carefully supervised by one of my cats, I wrote all the entrants’ names down on a sheet of paper, cut them up, put them in a cereal bowl, mixed them carefully, and drew a name at random.

And it seems like the early bird gets the horse, as the winner was the first entry I received, from the talented web-comic artist known as Metrokitty:

“My favorite read-over-and-over graphic novel is Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn. It’s such a riot! The one-liners crack me up, and Kyle Baker delivers a great cynical take on aspects of modern life (dating, race, self-confidence). Plus the artwork is gorgeous – it’s rock-solid and less exaggerated than his current more cartoony style. This is the graphic novel I loan out to friends who don’t read comics but who are interested in them – it’s very approachable, it’s stand-alone, and I feel like it reads a bit like an episode of Seinfeld in comic book form.”

Here are the other books cited as perennial favorites:

From ArnCharl: “My nomination for most re-readable book is Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes. It’s so poignant and subtle; I always find myself thinking new thoughts and wondering new questions every time I read it.”

From Bill Roundy, who I met at SPX and has a mini-comic, Man Enough: a queer romance (which also features a two-page story written by Roundy and illustrated by Tim [Cavalcade of Boys] Fish) set to debut at the upcoming Alternative Press Expo: “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. I’ve read that thing at least five times in the last two years, and I’m sure I’ll reread it again which each new volume comes out. It’s just SO much fun!”

From Rachel Nabors, of SubcultureofOne.com and MangaPunk.com: “My re-readable graphic novel has to be Princess Mermaid by Junko Mizuno. I assure you that it is not your regular mushy shoujo manga. The art is Marilyn Manson meets My Little Ponies, and every time I read it, the characters seem more vibrant and tragic than before. The feminist statement comes out clearer with each pass, too.”

From Michael Denton of Silent Accomplice: “There are several GNs I enjoy reading over and over. The American Elf collection is great to re-read. From a more narrative sense, Goodbye, Chunky Rice and Box Office Poison are winners. For not-to-be-beat superheroics, Batman: Year One, The Authority, and Planetary are favorites. Lastly, my most favorite thing to re-read are the Sandman collections.”

Stever is “Reading Watchmen again!”

From Brandon Davis-Shannon: “I love to reread Berlin: City of Stones.”

From Eileen Mack: “Craig Thompson’s Goodbye, Chunky Rice. over and over. since I’m a “non-resident alien” in the US…”

From Michael Baird: “I think one of the graphic novels I find pulling me back over and over is Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Another I find indispensable for convincing people that comics deal with real, deep issues is Batman: The Ultimate Evil.”

From TangognaT: “I can reread Nausicaa over and over again!”

From Matt Huynh of Stikman Comics: “My favourite re-readable comic is Craig Thompson’s Blankets.”

From Scott Cederlund of View from the Cheap Seats: “A graphic novel that I read over and over again? The immediate one is Matt Wagner’s Mage: The Hero Discovered. I think I pull this book out every couple of months to either read the whole thing or just the last third.”

From Mark Purtill: “I’m not sure there’s any graphic novel I enjoy reading over and over, but I have reread the Usagi Yojimbo collections I have repeatedly with enjoyment. If you’d like a specific book, volume 2 (Samurai) is the one I’ve reread the most.”

From Bill Burns: “A graphic novel I enjoy reading over and over is Batman: Year One.”

From Richard Baez: “My rereadable title is Kill Your Boyfriend by Messrs. Grant Morrison and Philip Bond. I first read it one Friday night during my fifteenth year and proceeded to read it twice more as the evening progressed. It was a constant companion with me at school and got me in trouble on at least two occasions when I let it associate with my peers. It now exists sans cover but avec love in a much-thumbed through long box in my closet. It gets a good meticulous thumbthrough at least once a month, I imagine.”

And last, but certainly not least, Scott of Polite Dissent: “Far West, by Richard Moore (published by NBM) is the graphic novel I re-read the most.”

Thanks to everyone who entered and to everyone who linked to the contest on their blogs. This was fun!


Why I love Hiromu Arakawa

March 24, 2006

Her bio quote from the latest volume of Fullmetal Alchemist:

“Apparently, when my neighbor’s 3-year-old daughter found out that I’m a manga artist, she said with a sparkle in her eyes, ‘I wonder if she draws princesses and stuff?’ Sorry, little girl, I only draw grubby old men.”

Okay, so it’s just one of the reasons why I love Hiromu Arakawa.


Have you entered the GRAY HORSES give-away?

March 24, 2006

If you haven’t, and you plan to, time’s running out! You have until midnight tonight (Friday, March 24) to enter to win a copy of Hope Larson’s lovely Gray Horses (Oni).

Send me an e-mail (DavidPWelsh @ yahoo dot com) mentioning a graphic novel you enjoy reading over and over again, and I’ll do a random drawing to determine the winner. I’ll also list the re-readable titles in the post announcing the winner on Saturday, March 25.

Thanks to everyone who’s entered so far, and to everyone who’s mentioned it on their blogs!