Oh, Canada

June 30, 2006

Okay, America’s Independence Day is coming up, but tomorrow is Canada Day, and since Canadians have given me so many reasons for delight, I’ve just got to put together a quick (and by no means complete) list of some of my favorite Canadian contributions to popular culture.

As I said, the list is hardly complete, but I couldn’t let the day go by without at least making a weak stab at gratitude.


Creepwatch

June 29, 2006

Mely at Scoffing at Gravity gives a wonderfully thorough and insightful report on her visit to the Shojo Manga: Girl Power! show at the Pratt Institute.

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Digital Manga and Borders are hosting an autograph session with Izumi (Enchanter) Kawachi at the Block and Orange Borders in Orange, CA, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 1.

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Viz has announced its plans for this weekend’s Anime Expo in Anaheim July 1-4. Digital Manga’s schedule is here. FUNimation, Del Rey, and Tokyopop will be sponsoring CLAMP’s first visit to the United States. Most importantly, Pata has run down some of the programming highlights at Irresponsible Pictures.

The Los Angeles Times has a preview piece that notes, “Though it’s called Anime Expo, the driving force behind the projected growth at this year’s convention is not Japanese animation, but manga.”

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The march towards omnimedia dominance continues as Viz movies into live-action movies and Tokyopop cracks the downloadable music business.


Knights of the roundtable

June 28, 2006

So I read the PWCW roundtable thing, and I was disappointed that it wasn’t an actual conversation among the participants so much as them answering all of the same questions separately. It struck me as kind of odd, because MOCCA wasn’t that long ago, packed with people who would probably have interesting things to say about the past, present, and future of comics and graphic novels, not to mention ready availability of a bunch of PWCW writers who were either in attendance or are located in the New York City area. So why not gather seven or eight of them in a convenient watering hole, turn on the tape recorder, and do an actual roundtable?

I’ve got nothing against e-mail interviews, god knows, as I do them for my CWN column as often as subjects’ schedules permit. In this instance, though, so many people have spoken individually on the past, present, and future of comics that I think the real draw would have been the interaction among different personalities who represent different aspects of contemporary comics.

So I was relieved when I saw that Tom Spurgeon found that to be a problem as well. As bizarre as I found much of Michael Dean’s examination of on-line comics journalism in The Comics Journal, part of me wishes PWCW had launched prior to the conclusion of that series. I can’t shake the opinion that PWCW positions itself as the gold standard of online comics journalism (hardly a cage match to begin with), but if you point out relevant issues regarding PWCW’s reportage – potential conflicts of interest, factual errors, proofreading problems, what have you – you tend to get a response that suggests that, well, their intentions are good, so you shouldn’t nitpick so goddamned much, because who else is doing so much comics journalism in such a timely fashion? It’s not like they’re Newsarama. Jesus.

No surprise, then, that Spurgeon’s comments drew a response from PWCW co-editor Heidi MacDonald at her Beat blog. 1,300 words worth of response, actually, promoting the central thesis that there’s just not enough time in the day to proofread PWCW pieces thoroughly prior to their going to web:

“If you want to chastise us for bad proofreading that’s fine, but if you are the kind of anal ‘do as I say and not as I do’ type who can’t see the forest for the trees, I got two words for you: tough titty.”

Okay, here’s the thing, or one of the things. Not long ago, MacDonald posted a dead-on screed at The Beat about the journalistic failings of another comics news and commentary site. And while whatever problems there might be with PWCW don’t reach anywhere near the magnitude of the other situation, the bottom line is that journalistic standards are journalistic standards. Transparency and accuracy and thoroughness matter, even in the face of deadline pressure. And seriously, if you can write 1,300 words of passive-aggressive self-defense, you can certainly find the time to get Central Park Media’s name right. Can’t you?


Quick comic comments

June 28, 2006

Hot Gimmick Vol. 11 (Viz): Did she just…? With her…? Oh, EW. I’ve grown accustomed to Hatsumi’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back gait, but I think she’s achieved a personal worst with her choices in the latest installment of this exercise in psychological shôjo cruelty. Creepy? Check. Jaw-dropping? Check. Shamefully compelling? Um… check. Still, I’m kind of glad it ends with the next volume. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Anne Freaks Vol. 2 (ADV): I can barely keep track of the latest developments with ADV, but if the new partnership results in the reliable arrival of more Anne Freaks, I’ll be delighted. With the vengeful teen trio introduced in the first installment, Yua Kotegawa rounds out the supporting cast with a number of compelling additions. The kids are still the stars, but it adds interesting dimension to see them through the eyes of adults (each of whom has his or her own vested interest in the situation). Some want to protect them, while others want to use Anna and company for their own ends. Some even want to try and do both at the same time. Kotegawa is creating a juicy moral landscape here, infusing it with lots of energy, caustic humor, and appealingly squirmy moments.


Tuesday links and lists

June 27, 2006

Newsarama has posted a 13-page preview of the third volume of Scott Chantler’s wonderful adventure series, Northwest Passage (Oni). I’ve really enjoyed this series, and I’m happy to see it get some high-traffic attention. (It’s a little cruel to run the preview two months before the book comes out.) NP should also make for a very nice omnibus edition at some point after the individual chapters have all been released. (And it will be sturdier for library shelves, which would seem like one of its natural habitats.)

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The Pulse has a nice interview with Raina Telgemeier, who has done such good work translating The Baby-Sitters Club into a graphic novel. Telgemeier offers a lot of interesting insights into the adaptation process and her own evolution as a cartoonist.

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The New York Times takes a look at Superman Returns:

“Jesus of Nazareth spent 40 days in the desert. By comparison, Superman of Hollywood languished almost 20 years in development hell.”

That’s a great opening line, but the review itself is kind of unfocused. Manohla Dargis spends a lot of time evaluating it in comparison to those that starred Christopher Reeve. To be honest, I don’t feel any particular urgency to see it. I’m much more excited about Strangers with Candy and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

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I’ll have a nice stack of books waiting for me at the comic shop this week.

In all of Digital Manga’s deluge of June titles, La Esperança is one of my favorites. (That’s partly due to a fabulous back-up story in the second volume which has left me with a very lenient attitude towards the rest of Chigusa Kawai’s work. Of course, attention to character development and something resembling a proper story don’t hurt Kawai’s standing any.)

Ted Naifeh’s entirely delightful Polly and the Pirates (Oni) concludes with its sixth issue. This might be one of those extremely rare cases where I buy the floppies and the collected version, just because I want to have it readily accessible on a bookshelf instead of locked away in my arcane floppy filing system. (I probably should have surrounded system with quotation marks, come to think of it.)

It’s slush week from Tokyopop, but the flood includes the third volume of Dragon Head and the eleventh of Sgt. Frog, so it’s all worth it. (Well, I’d imagine that retailers who have to unpack all of that stuff probably have a somewhat less charitable view of the situation.)


Things I missed over the weekend

June 26, 2006

Love Manga is back! Love Manga is back! Love Manga is baaaaaaaack!

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Lea Hernandez is awarding grants to support women in webcomics:

“In order to foster women publishing independently, with economy, and as owners of what they create, I will award FOUR grants annually, of a year’s free hosting at WebComicsNation.com, to women making a regularly-updating new or existing webcomic of any genre or style. The recipients will have unlimited data storage and bandwidth, the ability to choose to support their work with ads, and a storefront for selling merchandise.”

Details are here.

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The folks behind the Doug Wright Awards for Canadian Cartooning are running another fund-raising auction. This time around, it’s a page of art by Chester Brown. When I checked, bids were up to $810. The auction is listed here.

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Speaking of Canadians, Christopher Butcher teases the prospect of laughter and tears in this week’s Publishers Weekly Comics Week.

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Last and least, there’s a new edition of Flipped up at Comic World News.


Har!

June 22, 2006

There’s one more reason to love Death Note. The movie version has supplanted The Da Vinci Code among Japanese filmgoers. (Of course, the average chapter of Death Note has more narrative, psychological, and moral complexity than The Da Vinci Code offers in its entirety, but that’s a separate issue. Or is it?)

I wonder if the film’s popularity will have any effect on sales of the manga digests in Japan, like the bumps enjoyed by Sin City and V for Vendetta over here?

The Reuters report neglects to mention the Death Note tribute album that’s in the works, which is disappointing. Of course, I might be the only one who is obsessed with this idea. I think a Scott Pilgrim tribute album by Toronto bands would be the most natural thing in the world. It’s probably unlikely that there will be a companion album for Joann Sfar’s upcoming Klezmer, but I hope First Second at least lists some recommended listening on their blog when it comes out.


Love and DEATH NOTE

June 21, 2006

Death Note has made quite a splash for Viz, but it’s nothing compared to the title’s popularity in Japan. The Mainichi Daily News writes a love letter to the twisty thriller and its growing cottage industry, and offers some interesting tidbits in the process:

“Mystery surrounding ‘Death Note’ has been compounded because [author] Oba’s true identity has been kept totally secret, even down to gender, with Tsugumi a name that can be used by either men or women.”

And…

“Also essential in the success of ‘Death Note’ was the attraction it received from bloggers. Blogging had only started to catch on in Japan when ‘Death Note’ began its run in December 2003. As the series continued, bloggers led the feverish online discussions about the manga.”

And…

“NTV has already decided to make an anime version of ‘Death Note.’ This winter, Konica Minolta Digital Entertainment will release a ‘Death Note’ video game. A tribute album comes out this month… Ishin Nishio, a writer known for producing gripping, suspenseful thrillers, is also due to come out with the novelization of ‘Death Note’ in August.”

A tribute album? Awesome.


115081735029812909

June 20, 2006

As delighted as I was to see Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness reviewed in Entertainment Weekly, I have to say… A-minus? What does it take to please you people? You’re just playing hard-to-get, aren’t you?

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Break out your medical equipment, because this week brings another exciting chapter in the ongoing bone density test that is Hot Gimmick. In volume 11, will readers find any evidence of the continuing development of a spine in put-upon heroine Hatsumi? Does it really matter when the manga is so tawdry and absorbing? Mely doesn’t call it “The Manga of Deep Feminist Shame” for nothing. And with only one volume left after this one, who knows what might happen?

Dr. Tenma continues to flee law enforcement and make total strangers better people in the third volume of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. It’s just like The Incredible Hulk television series, but with neurosurgeons and serial killers instead of salt-of-the-earth carny folk and down-on-their-luck truckers.

The first anniversary issue of Shojo Beat arrives in comic shops as well, featuring the debut of Vampire Knight and a how-to series from shôjo high priestess Yuu Watase. Back in my day, an anniversary issue meant Wonder Man was coming back from the dead again. This strikes me as a decided improvement.

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MangaBlog’s Brigid makes some excellent points on the yaoi-flap that wasn’t:

“This conversation makes me hopeful that there won’t be a major backlash against yaoi manga, or any other mature manga. If there is, we on Team Comix need to keep in mind that Christians are not monolithic. The most visible members of the religious right may thunder on about the evils of porn and the ‘homosexual agenda,’ but the people in the pews are more reasonable. (Certainly that’s been my experience as a Catholic.) Dismissing or insulting them will only make things worse, and possibly alienate a group that’s really on our side.”

That matches my experience precisely, that “the people in the pews” are often mortified by the people who appoint themselves as leaders or spokespeople (and that phenomenon doesn’t confine itself to conservatives by any stretch of the imagination).

I do find myself rather irritated that potential opponents would conflate yaoi with the gay agenda (whatever that is), which is the equivalent of conflating romance novels with the feminist movement. Yaoi manga may feature people of the same sex in romantic situations, but the stories themselves are generally froth with no agenda whatsoever beyond escapism.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if there has to be a backlash against some category of manga (and I’d rather there wasn’t), I’d hope it would focus on something more complex and challenging than, say, Sweet Revolution.


Two things

June 19, 2006

I had a great time at SPX last year, and there’s nothing like coming back from a trip to make me want to immediately start planning my next one. From what I can tell, though, there don’t seem to be any rooms available. Initially I thought this might just be a glitch with the host hotel’s site, but I’ve checked a couple of travel reservation spots, and it shows up as booked there as well.

Maybe they just haven’t released the rooms for booking yet? Is there another huge event at the venue that same weekend? Or has the terrifying success of NYCC migrated to the Mid-Atlantic to claim all our souls and crush us under its awesome power?

There don’t seem to be very many other lodging alternatives nearby. (The only other hotel that shows up on the Yahoo map apparently hasn’t inspired many happy memories in the people who have stayed there.)

Updated to note: You need to put in the SPX event code when checking availability. The only rooms left are in the show’s block, so you might want to reserve early. Thanks, Greg!

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It’s Monday, so there’s a new Flipped up where I don’t gush shamelessly about the books in question. For a change.


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