Liza’s greatest hits

April 30, 2009

I’m sad to hear about Liza Coppola’s departure from her role as Viz Media’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing. I’ve always enjoyed reading interviews with her and admired her insights on the comics industry and her frankness. Here are some examples:

2007 interview with ICv2:

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • 2005 interview with ICv2:

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • Part 4

  • While I wait

    April 29, 2009

    The On-Sale Calendar in yesterday’s Publishers Weekly Comic Week notes the arrival of Byung-Jun Byun’s Mijeong from NBM. It doesn’t seem to be shipping this week through Diamond, but I appreciate the heads-up all the same.

    I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and considered just how much reading pleasure I’ve gotten out of NBM’s catalog. Maybe it’s because they have a very restrained publishing schedule, only a few books a month. Still, it’s remiss of me, because they’re one of those publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fanfare/Ponent Mon with an excellent rate of return for my comics dollar. I can’t think of many NBM books that I haven’t really loved, or at least appreciated for their ambition and craft. So while I wait for Mijeong, I thought I’d run down memory lane and revisit some of my favorite books from NBM.

    Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella

    Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella

    The second volume of Lewis Trondheim’s Little Nothings (The Prisoner Syndrome) just came out, and it’s every bit as charming as the first, The Curse of the Umbrella:

    “I just can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s charming, funny and sincere without being saccharine or remotely self-involved. There are plenty of cartoonists who have tried to strike this kind of personal, conversational tone, but I’ve rarely been so disappointed to see the conversation end.”

    Glacial Period

    Glacial Period

    Nicolas De Crécy’s Glacial Period came out just in time to make it onto my list of favorite comics from 2006:

    “I had some initial reservations about the book’s price — $14.95 for 80 pages – but those faded in the face of the book itself. It’s beautifully produced and carefully annotated; I wouldn’t call it a bargain, but it’s worth it.

    “Glacial Period is a delightfully imaginative, even loopy look at art. I hope NBM publishes the rest of the graphic novels created through the initiative.”

    The Murder of Abrahama Lincoln

    The Murder of Abrahama Lincoln

    It’s very difficult to pick a favorite from Rick Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series (and why try), but I think I’ll stick with The Murder of Abraham Lincoln:

    “Geary ticks off the events of the day, alternating between domesticity with the Lincolns and conspiracy with John Wilkes Booth. Against all likelihood, the sequence ends up being wonderfully suspenseful, quickly cutting between concurrent events. The combination of inventiveness and detail in these books always impresses me, and this is no exception, but The Murder of Abraham Lincoln achieves an even higher level of pathos than usual.”

    Run, Bong-Gu, Run!

    Run, Bong-Gu, Run!

    And since this whole post started with eager anticipation of Mijeong, I shouldn’t neglect NBM’s other Byun property, Run, Bong-Gu, Run!

    “I think it takes an enormously gifted creator to tell a sentimental story well, and I think Byun has gifts to spare. With a minimum of manipulation and unerring visual skill, he creates an unexpectedly moving work.”

    So what’s your favorite book from NBM’s catalog?


    Update your blogrolls

    April 29, 2009

    The marvelous Kate Dacey has finally set up her very own blog, The Manga Critic. While I’ll certainly miss her contributions here, I’ve been thinking for ages that she should have her own space on the web, and it’s already off to a great start.

    So if you aren’t familiar with her already, go meet Kate, then check out her “What to Read Now” roundtable. Oh, and she tweets, too!


    Upcoming 4/29/2009

    April 28, 2009

    A quick look through this week’s ComicList:

    parasyte7There’s a crazy amount of really excellent shôjo coming out this week, but more on that later. The comic I’m anticipating most eagerly would have to be the seventh volume of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte from Del Rey. This is the penultimate installment of this science-fiction classic about a boy and the shape-shifting parasite that’s taken over his hand. The book has just gotten more engrossing as it’s progressed. There’s plenty of crazy metamorphosing action, solid and surprising character development, dollops of bizarre humor, and an increasingly suspenseful plot.

    The list qualifies a bunch of Viz’s offerings with “release not confirmed by Diamond,” which generally means that you’re more likely to find them this week in a bookstore than a comic shop, I think. It’s probably just as well, as there’s quite a volume of crack, and it couldn’t hurt to divide your purchases up over a couple of weeks.

    I’ve fallen a bit behind on Hideaki Sorachi’s very funny Gin Tama, but I’ve enjoyed every volume I’ve read. The series is up to its twelfth volume. I’m more up to date with Yumi Yotta and Takeshi Obata’s marvelous Hikaru no Go, which reaches volume fifteen this week.

    Now, to the crushing deluge of truly awesome shôjo:

  • High School Debut volume 9: Charming and sharply observed relationship study.
  • Nana volume 16: Terrific soap opera about urban twenty-somethings.
  • Sand Chronicles volume 5: Heartbreaking but subdued drama about a girl coming of age.
  • Many people whose opinions I respect are also excited about the following: Kaze Hikaru volume 13, Love Com volume 12, Skip Beat volume 18, and We Were There volume 4. Of them, We Were There sounds most like it’s up my alley. I read a few chapters of Kaze Hikaru in Shojo Beat and found it baffling, but the depth of affection people have for the series may force me to take a longer look at it at some point.


    Carrion luggage

    April 27, 2009

    I’m sure I’ve used that joke before. Anyway, there’s a new Flipped up, in which I talk a bit about four-panel comics to camouflage the fact that I’m going on about Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro yet again.


    They stab at thee

    April 27, 2009

    This is what I get for dawdling in checking my Google news feeds. Big news from UPI, but what exactly does it mean?

    “Shogakukan Inc. said by offering an authorized version of the Japanese language comics online, it hopes to limit the spread of illegal copies of its comic books in Europe and the United States, Japan Today said Sunday.”

    Is Rin-Ne just the beginning?

    Other takes:

  • Japan Today
  • The Japan Times

  • At long last love

    April 26, 2009

    chad1

    Chad looks sad, doesn’t he? You can’t really blame him. You see, Chad is pretty much the only protagonist from Tite Kubo’s Bleach not to be featured in John Jakala’s list of great manga romances. This wasn’t a result of neglect or a lack of affection on John’s part, I assure you. You see, in spite of his redeemed-thug hotness, protective streak, and all-around lovableness, Chad can’t even seem to score a subtext romance. Who, we are left to wonder, is a worthy match for this still-waters-run-deep stalwart?

    After an exhaustive search, I believe I’ve found the right person for Chad.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Sitting in a tree

    April 24, 2009

    In the discussion of that list of the 25 greatest super-hero romances over at Robot 6, Tom Spurgeon makes a good point about one of my favorites, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch:

    “The initial Scarlet Witch romance worked for about 50 issues of subplots in some pretty good Avengers comics from back in that time, including the intrusion of the Swordsman’s hooker girlfriend, Mantis. I’m not sure anything about the marriage worked even a tenth as well as the initial “can you really fall in love with a robot” stuff did, though.”

    I think that’s true for any couple in serial fiction, at least in serial fiction with no anticipated end point. It’s the same in daytime dramas; the build-up is always more interesting than the tear-down, and the tear-down is inevitable, I think. Happy couples are more sustainable in comedies than dramas. Serial fiction is a furnace that needs to be fed, and when that fiction is predicated partly or even wholly on romantic pairings, you can’t maintain a status quo for too long. It’s why soap characters marry and divorce so often, and why Spider-Man seems like such a player on the aforementioned list.

    That’s one of the advantages of romantic pairings in manga, which generally has a designated end point. There are closing credits, and right before them, the couple can gaze into one another’s eyes and ponder their wonderful future together. Since it’s over, neither you nor the manga-ka need to dwell too much on the unpleasantness that can follow “happily ever after.”

    Which brings me to my favorite manga romance, Yukari and George from Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop), but I’ll save further discussion for after the jump, because I’m headed into spoiler territory.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    I need to read that “Secret Empire” story

    April 22, 2009

    Oh, such a wave of nostalgia at seeing this birthday announcement at The Comics Reporter.

    defenders-4avengers-128avg144

    It takes very little to get me to rhapsodize over either of the defining writing Steves (Gerber and Englehart) of Marvel’s 1970s super-hero comics. For me, Englehart embodied a number of qualities whose general scarcity led me to dump spandex comics a few years back:

  • He tended to take fallow ideas and inject them with new life and potential. (The Cat’s old costume + a retired romance comic heroine = Hellcat. Enchantress’s sidekick-weapon becomes independent character and first female Defender. And so on.)
  • His crossovers were generally restrained and sensible in terms of not derailing the momentum of any of the books involved. Just because comics companies have abused the concept doesn’t mean his Avengers-Defenders War wasn’t an entertaining story.
  • He tended to leave female characters more interesting and formidable than he found them. Male characters too, now that I think of it.
  • He managed to find the comedy in melodrama without undermining suspense or lapsing into self-referential cynicism. (Example: rivals Scarlet Witch and Mantis independently coming to the conclusion that Wanda must be the Celestial Madonna, because seriously, consider the alternative.)
  • Really, Englehart’s (and Gerber’s) comics are some of the few from my childhood that I can still read and enjoy without irony. Or at least too much irony.


    Upcoming 4/22/2009

    April 22, 2009

    Not a huge quantity of new arrivals on this week’s ComicList, so I’ll pad things out with a poll.

  • Chocolate Surprise, by Lily Hoshino (Deux): I swear someone told me that Hoshino created the kind of yaoi that I like – character-driven and emotionally grounded. Am I remembering incorrectly?
  • 20th Century Boys vol. 2 by Naoki Urasawa (Viz): See below.
  • Real vol. 4, by Takehiko Inoue (Viz): Inoue’s tremendously good comic about wheelchair basketball continues.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry vol. 2, by Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi (Yen Press): I read the first volume over the weekend, and I’m intrigued enough to see where it goes for at least another volume. I wish the characters were as involving as the creepy plot twists.
  • As you know, Viz is rolling out two series from Naoki (Monster) Urasawa at the same time, the aforementioned 20th Century Boys and Pluto. I like 20th Century Boys fine, but I suspect I’d like it a lot better if I weren’t reading it side by side with Pluto, which I think is superior. So I thought I’d throw out the question as to which book readers prefer.