December 6, 2006

As people talk about downloadable comics, one thing that puzzles me is how rarely anyone mentions Netcomics, which has been offering pay-per-view versions of chapters of its manhwa titles since its inception. They aren’t downloadable comics per se, as you don’t get a file to keep on your hard drive, but the publisher has been offering inexpensive digital delivery of their manhwa for almost a year now.

I like Ed Chavez’s take on the Netcomics model, viewing it as the equivalent of a digital anthology. It allows readers to sample different titles cheaply (for around a quarter a chapter), possibly being driven to pick up the print versions if something really clicks, or motivating browsers to follow a title on-line with more frequent doses of a favorite story than paperbacks provide.

So good for Devil’s Due and Slave Labor, but once again, good ideas don’t necessarily equal new ideas.


I was happy to see Graeme McMillan put out a call for resources on comics for younger readers at Blog@, thinking it would result in some attention for great sites like No Flying, No Tights, and possibly introduce me to some other resources. And there’s some of that in the comments section, particularly from Kat Kan, but there’s also plenty of “Why can’t they just read Justice Society?” on display.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see a Marvel-and-DC-centric response to the question, even though it wasn’t central to the question in the first place. No one’s really saying that some Big Two titles aren’t great choices for younger readers (though it’s probably easier to point to ones that aren’t), and the suggestion that all-ages comics are automatically condescending and moralizing is just weird to me. Neither of those failings are exclusive to comics for kids, are they?

And really, are “all-ages comics” the same thing as “comics for kids”? My definition of a great, all-ages book is one that someone from any age group can enjoy, and the ones that I place into that category don’t talk down to any of their potential audience members, no matter how old they are. Some of my favorite comics and graphic novels are aimed at readers much, much younger than myself, and I like them because they’re great stories, executed with skill and imagination, and populated with interesting, appealing characters.

From the stack: PROJECT: ROMANTIC

December 6, 2006

Project: Romantic (AdHouse) is one of the most exuberant books I’ve read this year. Beneath its sleek, Good-&-Plenty-colored cover lies an appealing riot of colors, styles, and narrative tones.

I admit that I anticipated the book with some stereotypes in mind. The prospect of a group of alternative cartoonists telling romantic stories suggested the potential for glumness to me. That’s certainly part of the emotional palette here, but it doesn’t come close to pervading. If anything, the book could just as easily have been called Project: Comedic, given the general light-heartedness and good nature of the stories.

Creators who are familiar to me (Debbie Huey, Hope Larson, Junko Mizuno, Aaron Renier) deliver appealing work, as expected. (Mizuno’s “Lovers on a Flying Bed” is especially stunning, an intense, dreamlike fable in her adorably disgusting style.) But the overall quality of the work is very high. There are a lot of delightful discoveries here.

I’m particularly crazy about the “Sweetie ‘n’ Me” shorts by Joel Priddy. The four pieces take a sunny, funny look at the domestic life of two mad scientists. I could have happily read an entire collection of these stories; my favorite would have to be the meditation on the pros and cons of their “starter island.”

Kelly Alder effectively heads for the darker end of the romantic spectrum with his gruesomely metaphorical “In & Out,” one of the few black-and-white pieces. Evan Larson’s “Cupid’s Day Off” seems to owe a lot visually to James Kochalka, but I like the story’s combination of wit and coarseness.

The book is primarily short narratives, four to eight pages in length, but there are also one-page strips and evocative pin-ups. The visual styles of the creators range wildly from cartoon-cute to stylish and elegant, with just about everything in between.

The variety, to me, is the greatest strength of the book. It’s like going to a tapas restaurant, with a whole lot of small plates of intense flavors on offer. Not all of them are precisely to my taste, but there’s always something to cleanse the palate coming up next. Even the ones I don’t especially like feel like they belong in the book.

Project: Romantic is just plain fun. It’s packed with appealing, diverse work, and it’s well worth a look.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)