Avril showers

January 31, 2007

Simon Jones rounds up reaction to Del Rey’s announcement of its inaugural foray into global manga and offers his own perspective at the probably-not-safe-for-work Icarus blog:

“Whatever one may feel about such transparent marketing-oriented books, the silver lining of such appropriations of the medium by big multimedia companies is that it advances the cache of manga as a culturally relevant phenomenon…

“I wasn’t all too thrilled with Tokyopop’s CineManga, but I’ve mellowed out over time… if those books manage to give manga more exposure to young kids, that’s one in the win column. Make 5 Wishes will hopefully do the same.”

I tend to agree. Make 5 Wishes doesn’t immediately sound like it promises to be an artistic triumph, and in spite of my well-documented fondness for manga aimed at tweens, I probably won’t be rushing out to snag a copy. But if it sells well with its target audience, it might give Del Rey more leeway to take chances with global creators who don’t have to collaborate with the TRL set.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Del Rey demonstrates excellent taste in the manga it chooses to license, and its production values are among the best in the category. But I sometimes have to remind myself that they aren’t some plucky boutique publisher. They’re part of a huge publishing empire, Random House, and they’ve got a partnership with one of the largest Japanese manga publishers, Kodansha.

In other words, they’re a corporate division. Miraculously, their status as such has not resulted in crappy titles, indifferently produced, but in really, really good manga. I don’t love everything they publish, but I love a lot of it.

At the same time, corporate divisions have to show results, particularly when they’re trying something new. Del Rey isn’t just trying to sell the audience on global manga; they’re selling Random House on it as well. So, as Tina Anderson suggested in comments over at MangaBlog, if it seems like they’re skewing the experiment in an excessively populist direction to guarantee initial success, they probably are.

If they keep rolling out global manga inspired by collaborations with pre-rehab pop stars or the cast of Hannah Montana, then I’ll gladly grab my torch and pitchfork. But as an opening gambit, this seems sensible.

Previews review

January 31, 2007

It’s time again for a trawl through the current edition of Previews. There’s lots of interesting new stuff, but there are also new versions of excellent comics that have been published previously and re-lists of some great books.

The first in DC’s Minx line of books, The Plain Janes, rolls out in this edition, and DC provides some preview pages that look nice. It’s interesting to see how much effort DC is devoting to getting these books in comics specialty shops, but I sure hope there are concurrent efforts in the kind of outlets where the target audience actually shops.

On the CMX front, there are a few attractive preview pages of Tomomi Yamashita’s Apothecarius Argentum, another period poison piece. But will it be completely insane?

The solicitation for 801’s Affair by Shiuko Kano catches my eye with phrases like “real adult relationships.” It’s also a collection of shorts, which is one of my weaknesses.

I’ve already enjoyed David Petersen’s terrific Mouse Guard (Archaia) in floppies, but I’m glad to see that the publisher hasn’t wasted any time in putting out what will surely be an attractive hardcover collection.

The manga-with-princess-in-the-title wars rage on as Del Rey debuts Yasunari Mitsunaga’s Princess Resurrection. The tiara and the chainsaw balance each other out rather nicely, don’t they?

Also from Del Rey is the first volume Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, which has generated considerable anticipation. It’s one of their “older readers” books at the $12.95 price point.

Drawn & Quarterly re-lists the first volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip for anyone who may have missed it. I’m crazy about this book and will mention it at any opportunity.

The story described in the solicitation for Gipi’s Garage Band doesn’t immediately grab me, but First Second has demonstrated impeccable taste in the books they choose to publish, and I’ve been wanting to sample Gipi’s work.

I like the idea of the multi-generational story described in the blurb for Morim Kang’s 10, 20 and 30 from Netcomics. I’ll have to swing by the publisher’s site and sample a few chapters when they become available.

Oni focuses on new versions of already-published material, collecting Scott Chantler’s terrific Northwest Passage in an omnibus edition and delivering a “Definitive Edition” of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s bottom-of-the-world thriller Whiteout. They also re-list a bunch of great books from their catalog, so if you’ve missed stuff like Past Lies, Capote in Kansas, or Banana Sunday, now’s your chance.

New from Oni is James Vining’s First in Space, a 2006 Xeric Grant recipient, telling the tale of “a chimpanzee Americans trained for the first sub-orbital spaceflight.” I’m intrigued, but my “sad animal story” radar is pinging.

Say what you will about the prospect of OEL from Avril Lavigne. It’s bound to be The Rose of Versailles compared to the Bratz Cine-Manga (Tokyopop).

Tokyopop’s Blu imprint delivers more Fumi Yoshinaga in the form of Lovers in the Night. How many of her titles are left to license? It’s like we’re in the middle of a Yoshinagalanche. That’s not a bad thing, obviously. I didn’t like the opening gambit of Gerard and Jacques, but the series of explosions in the second volume was one of the funniest pieces of cartooning I’ve seen all year.

Top Shelf delivers a new volume of Andy Runton’s Owly, A Time to Be Brave, which would be generosity enough for one month. But after taking a look at the preview pages for Christian Slade’s Korgi (via Blog@Newsarama), I realize that they’re determined to spoil me.