Whither and yon

December 18, 2006

A Comics Journal reader stops by the magazine’s message board to ask:

“[D]oes anybody else find it disheartening that Michael Dean’s opening shot (in which he discussed the possible futures of comics in general and the Journal in particular) failed to even hint that manga exists? Michael talked a lot about the pros and cons of covering super-hero comics, and even promised a new super-hero column, but there was at best, only a single, oblique reference to shoujo and its (relatively) enormous audience.”

Dirk Deppey first suggests that the reason TCJ’s manga coverage hasn’t expanded since the shoujo issue isn’t due to a lack of interest on the magazine’s part, but owes instead to finding writers who combine ability, knowledge, and availability. But he comes back to point out another conundrum for some comics pundits: that manga often manages to be both commercially and creatively successful:

“The contradiction that writers will need to overcome is the fact that the better manga are simultaneously populist yet still well-constructed and even literate. We’re conditioned by American comics history to assume that most genre comics are created (at best) under assembly-line conditions by creators using comics as a way station until better, more legitimate work comes along, or (at worst) hacks with low standards who genuinely think they’re the soul of the medium. This isn’t true in Japan — its better creators approach genre work as the fulfillment of their worth as creators, strive hard to be worthy of such fulfillment, and it often shows.”

It’s an interesting thread, and a nice palate cleanser for another recent conversation in that forum.


And speaking of commercially successful (at least in the context of comics specialty shops), Brigid sifts through ICv2’s November graphic novel sales figures for the manga and finds the usual suspects: comics for boys and young men, and comics about boys and young men falling in love with each other. Not that those two categories suggest mutually exclusive audiences, obviously.

French fried

December 18, 2006

I think I’ve achieved something of a personal best in terms of laziness with this week’s Flipped. It’s basically just a trawl through the Angoulême catalog to see what licensed manga made the short list for 2007. And can’t we always stand to freshen up the roster of books we wish North American publishers would license?

Understated, underrated

December 18, 2006

Every time a new volume of Chigusa Kawai’s La Esperança (Juné) arrives, I wonder why more people aren’t reading it and talking about it. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it has an abundance of really lovely moments.

Okay, so it doesn’t move at lightning speed. The pace is generally measured at its briskest. (It took five volumes for anyone to kiss.) Kawai has a tendency to milk her characters’ ambivalence, sometimes to excess. But the delicacy of her approach also allows for tremendous depth of character development, in spite of the accompanying impatience. Angelic Georges and bitter Robert have layers, and their initially simplistic, even stereotypical dynamic takes on additional detail with each discovery.

The book also has an extremely solid supporting cast. The leads aren’t isolated in their romantic angst. I love the scenes between Georges and his deceptively frail mother, and her more recent encounters with Robert have been filled with surprises and nuance. If there’s a better best friend in manga than Henri, I can’t think of him. His combination of protectiveness, impatience and support rings very true.

Maybe the pacing is less problematic than I think, because the careful unfolding of the story places more emphasis on its themes. It’s all about how people cope with pain and how they can unintentionally cause more by isolating themselves. Kawai finds ample modulations on her themes, making for ultimately rewarding reading.