Tuesday links

September 30, 2008

Matt Thorn takes a well-informed, two-part look at some recent statistics from Japan on who’s reading manga and how much.

John Jakala contemplates re-readable manga over at Sporadic Sequential and baits me into composing my own list in the process.

Manga Recon has a handsome new portal.

Good Comics for Kids has joined forces with the School Library Journal, which makes total sense. Also, I covet the adorable new avatars for the contributors.

And, just because I’m trying to keep track of my nieces and nephews and see who else from my high school graduating class came out of the closet, I now have a Facebook profile.


Opportunism knocks

September 29, 2008

The demise of Minx gives me the chance to talk about some of my favorite comics in this week’s Flipped: shôjo that features real girls in the real world.


Sunday squeeage

September 28, 2008

This just in from Del Rey:

NEW YORK, NY – September 27, 2008 – Del Rey Manga, an imprint of Ballantine Books at the Random House Publishing Group, today announced an eclectic range of new manga titles to be published in Summer and Fall of 2009. The new series acquisitions feature some of the best characters that the manga world has to offer, including fighting maids, a temperamental rain goddess, and—in a unique twist—cute, talking bacteria.

Take a look at the world of bacteria through the lens of manga! MOYASIMON: TALES OF AGRICULTURE, by Masayuki Ishikawa, follows Tadayasu Souemon Sawaki, a first-year college student at an agricultural university in Tokyo. Tadayasu has a one-of-a-kind talent that may just come in handy at school: the ability to see and communicate with adorable bacteria and microorganisms! While this series showcases the author’s zany sense of humor, the series is so scientifically accurate it’s legitimately educational, too! The cute creatures have been a merchandising hit in Japan. A hilarious comedy and fantastical drama, MOYASIMON: TALES OF AGRICULTURE is otaku-friendly and filled with scientific facts, making for a unique manga experience. Del Rey Manga editor Tricia Narwani says, “Del Rey Manga has always ventured into new territory with our list, but this time, we’ve licensed something that has a true claim to total originality: the wholly unique and irresistibly charming Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture.” The manga will make its North American debut in Fall 2009.

Oh, that makes my weekend.


Half measures

September 25, 2008

Hope Larson hits the nail on the head regarding DC’s recently discontinued Minx line:

“Minx could have been good, and important. I really believe that, and I’m sorry to see them go, but most of the books they published are not very good. They have suspect artwork and dull, predictable plots, and would probably seem pandering to anyone over the age of 12. They’re safe. To quote some ad copy from the back of Marjorie Dean, College Junior, a girls’ series published in the ’20s: ‘These are clean, wholesome stories that will be of great interest to all girls of high school age.’ I don’t think kids in the ’20s believed that, and neither would kids today. (Although, haha, their parents might.)”

My strongest impression of the Minx books I’ve read (all of the books in the first wave and some of the subsequent ones) is that they felt incomplete, that they were at least two rigorous edits away from being a finished piece of entertainment. Whether DC was assuming lower standards among the books’ target demographic or not, I have no idea, but all of the marketing in the world really shouldn’t excuse generally mediocre product. It does all the time, I know, but I always prefer it when rigorous marketing is applied to a product that matches in merit the effort expended to sell it.

Listen, every demographic group needs to settle at least a little. “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” and so on, whether you’re talking about movies or television or mystery novels or video games or what have you. But it strikes me that girls who like to read don’t have to settle as much. The television shows aimed at them may be moronic, the movies rare as hens’ teeth, the cartoons nonexistent, but the books that respect their taste and intelligence seem relatively abundant. The books that don’t respect their taste and intelligence but do so with polish and verve are even more abundant, so why should this audience go outside of its comfort zone from prose to graphic storytelling when the return isn’t all that hot?

And while it might only demonstrate my own biases, even girls who like graphic novels don’t need to settle for half-hearted efforts. Even if 90% of shôjo manga is crap, the remaining 10% is readily available and dwarfs Minx’s line in volume. Even if Minx had made its best possible creative effort, it still would have faced an uphill battle, and I really don’t think DC devoted its best editorial efforts to Minx.


Upcoming 9/24/2008

September 24, 2008

So the big question posed by this week’s ComicList is, “Will there be another ‘Category 5 S**tstorm’ over this year’s Best American Comics collection from Houghton Mifflin?” It’s hard to say, though I find it difficult to believe that most people didn’t get that sort of thing out of their systems last year. And 2008 editor Lynda Barry and series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden did at least try to include a Batman comic in the mix, even if DC couldn’t accommodate them.

But why dwell? It’s an interesting week otherwise, with Del Rey launching the intriguing-sounding Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, from CAPCOM.

I enjoyed the first volume of Takako Shigematsu’s Ultimate Venus (Go! Comi), maybe not quite as much as Shigematsu’s Tenshi Ja Nai!!, but that set a pretty high bar for nasty shôjo comedy. Still, I’m looking forward to the second installment.

And while I’m hopelessly behind on any kind of reading, it’s hard to imagine a world where one couldn’t safely recommend manga by Osamu Tezuka. Vertical once again obliges the audience for such comics with the first volume of Black Jack, featuring hyperactive medical madness. (I will admit to wishing I could see what Chip Kidd would have done with the cover design, but it’s also hard to imagine a book that wouldn’t look better if Kidd designed it.)


September 20, 2008

This is really awkward for me for a number of reasons, but I feel like I need to do it, so here goes.

My Mom passed away on Monday after a long illness. I have a big family, and everyone pulled together, so we’re all doing okay. We were able to move Mom to a hospice before the end, and it was a tremendously comforting place staffed by wonderful people.

If you’re making decisions about charitable donations and there’s a hospice care agency in your area, you might give it a look. It was a real haven for us. And if you haven’t thought about end-of-life care and talked about it with your loved ones, please do. Having your wishes known can really make a difference and add some measure of peace to a tumultuous situation.


Easy money

September 11, 2008

Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself, “This would make a pretty cool comic?” I found myself doing that with Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which has already been adapted into a television series for Showtime. It’s about a serial killer who solves crimes. And I think we’ve officially maxed out on the careers you can plug into the phrase “(blank) who solves crimes,” which saddens me a little bit, but I’ll soldier on.

Dexter, who works in a Miami crime lab, moonlights as a sociopath who focuses his attention on other sociopaths. Raised (or programmed) by a foster father who also happened to be a police officer, Dexter manages to direct his recreational homicide at deadly creatures like himself. It’s both ridiculous and strangely plausible, and Lindsay has a light, charmingly perverse touch that helps mitigate the flat, stupid bits. (For example, Dexter’s foster sister is an entitled whiner, but Dexter makes enough of a mockery of her relentless, do-gooder brattiness that it’s almost tolerable.)

Dexter is the kind of anti-hero who’s reasonably interesting on his own terms and can function ably as a plot generator. I’ve only been through Miami once, but I can certainly believe it has no shortage of serial killers among its populace. It’s an absurdly scenic, colorful place too, except for the parts that are dynamically ugly, or the parts that are both scenically colorful and dynamically ugly at the same time. Combine the setting with the arresting violence on display, and an able illustrator could have a good time with it.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of mythos to the books, which suits me fine. I don’t think this kind of pulp benefits too much from world-building and arch-nemeses and self-important clutter that has tripped up other smart splatter-novel series. (I’ve only read the first book and part of the second, so that could change and I could find myself back in the Kay Scarpetta weeds again, but so far, so good.)

So here, to summarize, are the things I think make the book eminently adaptable:

  • A solid premise that’s just stupid enough to catch the eye of a casual reader
  • Visual opportunities for an illustrator who likes the tropics and dismemberment
  • A morally ambiguous protagonist, something comics love
  • A kind of purist-resistant uncomplicatedness that lends itself to adaptation in other media (though I know purists of every stripe are not to be underestimated)
  • Having Random House as a publisher, since they’re already developing comics adaptation properties
  • Dexter actually sounds more Dark Horse to me, but maybe Del Rey could partner with them or something.