Amazon deforests

April 12, 2009

Remember how seemed marginally less provincial than some other big book vendors? Cherish those memories:

“Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be ‘adult’ material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of ‘adult’ literature out there that is still being ranked – Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive.”

This open letter to Amazon from Booksquare sums it up nicely.

Update: Christopher Butcher points to this comprehensive post at Jezebel.

Update: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s blog shares a statement from Amazon admitting to a “ham-fisted cataloging error.”

The Eisner ballot… of the FUTURE!

April 12, 2009

Okay, the order forms from the current issue of Diamond’s Previews catalog were due yesterday. I apologize for the tardiness, but the day job has been rather distracting lately. (Not bad, just busy.) And there’s abundant genius being solicited, so maybe it’s not too late for you to nag your local comics shop, or at least pre-order online from some other vendor.

Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 12 (Dark Horse): Hiroki Endo’s dense, absorbing science-fiction series continues. (Page 44.)

Emma, Vol. 9 (CMX): More glorious period soap opera from Kaoru Mori. (Page 124.)

Johnny Hiro Vol. 1 (AdHouse): The first three issues of Fred Chao’s very funny genre mash-up are collected here. (Page 186.)

Swallowing the Earth Vol. 1 (Digital Manga Publishing): It’s by Osamu Tezuka, which is really all you need to know. It’s also about a mysterious demigoddess “wielding her mysterious power over all men to exact revenge for their crimes against women since the beginning of time,” which sounds ceaselessly awesome. (Page 245.)

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Vol. 4 (Drawn & Quarterly): So funny, so quirky, so sweet. It’s one of the few perfect things in the world. (Page 249.)

The Summit of the Gods Vol. 1 (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Jiro Taniguchi heads back to the mountains, accompanied by Yumemakura Baku. The slope in question this time around is Mount Everest. (Page 251.)

A Treasury of 20th Century Murder Vol. 2: Famous Players (NBM): Rick Geary applies his unique and abundant cartooning skills to the case of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor. (Page 275.)

Salt Water Taffy Vol. 3: The Truth About Dr. True (Oni): More delightful adventures for all ages from Matthew Loux as the Putnam brothers discover weirdness in Chowder Bay. (Page 279.)

Fruits Basket Vol. 23 (Tokyopop): The mega-popular series from Natsuki Takaya comes to what will undoubtedly be an amazingly moving conclusion. (Page 288.)

Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi and Sashimi (Viz): Viz continues to offer highlights from Tetsu Kariya’s culinary manga masterpiece. (Page 298.)

Cirque du Freak Vol. 1 (Yen Press): I can’t honestly remember the context or the content, but I swear I heard something really extreme about Cirque du Freak, which makes me curious. (Page 302.)

The new real

April 10, 2009

I’ve been using some various social networking platforms for my day job. I haven’t been using them very aggressively, because the platforms are free, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to see how these things evolve. How many people find them naturally, and how do they use them to meet their own needs?

(For me, there’s also a certain amount of diffidence in play. A lot of these platforms are big with people a generation younger than me. While that certainly doesn’t preclude people from other age groups from using them, I don’t want to seem like the old man showing up on the playground trying to start a kickball game, because that’s creepy. I can form theories on what people younger than me is cool, and I may well be right, but I think the chance that an incorrect surmise would backfire is a lot worse than the peril of appearing stodgy.)

This does relate to comics, I promise, specifically to the discussion of the Eisners and the possibility of a manga-centric awards program. At the Hooded Utilitarian, Noah Berlatsky expands on what Simon Jones was suggesting the other day. More accurately, he was flipping the argument and wondering if the Eisners need manga more than manga needs the Eisners:

“So you would think, maybe, that the industry might want to celebrate that. Maybe comics might want to use their awards show as a chance to point out to the world how things have changed, to embrace new readers, to paint itself as dynamic and exciting and forward looking and inclusive.”

Berlatsky’s piece is really interesting to me, and think what he says is applicable to any of what I might call the brick-and-mortar awards programs, whether they’re focused on movies or plays or books or television. They don’t evolve quickly or consistently, you know? Some years, they cast a wide net from mainstream to obscure, predictable to unexpected, and some years, they’re utterly central-casting. The Eisners seem a little more fluid, because the nominating committee changes every year. I think that’s a good thing, and I rather like that the categories can shift a bit based on what happened during the nomination period. But it doesn’t always guarantee results that are forward looking and inclusive, or at least not forward looking and inclusive in the same sense that I use those terms.

And this takes me back to those social networking platforms, which emerged very much as a way to bypass brick-and-mortar ways to find information and communicate. The brick-and-mortar outlets weren’t fluid enough and didn’t evolve fast enough to meet needs, so the audience took things into their own hands. And that’s a really good thing, in my opinion. At their best, venues like blogs and Facebook and Twitter let people cherry-pick what works for them, what’s fun and useful and informative. And if more old people are showing up with kickballs, that doesn’t mean the core audience has to listen to them.

So I think when I said that Deb Aoki’s great new best-of ballots at About.Com might need “tweaking,” it came from a misguided notion of making them more brick and mortar. Thinking more carefully about that prospect, of trying to put some kind of “official” spin on things, I’ve decided that would be counter-productive. The polls are wide-ranging and inclusive right out of the box, and I don’t think there’s any benefit to be gained from putting them behind a podium. And they will evolve with each passing year as more people hear about them and vote, because I think that’s just what happens when someone puts something good and useful on the internet.

And since everyone’s voting from home, we can all drink as much as we like with no risk of embarrassing pictures from the ceremony showing up on Flickr.

There will never be too many prizes

April 8, 2009

You know, I sometimes think I should just start a category called “I agree with Simon Jones.” This time around, he’s considering the recently announced Eisner Award nominations and the relative dearth of manga in the mix.

“Awards shows are about promoting industry and rewarding creativity, more than being the final word on objective quality with a clause about equal time. If we all want to see more manga being recognized, then the impetus is on manga industry pros and fans to create and fund our own respectable manga award. Granted, the track record on that front isn’t sterling…”

I might only add that award shows, at their most cover-the-eyes delightful, are also about mortifying dance numbers, but other than that, his sentiments did effectively preempt what would probably have been a rather half-hearted bit of snark on this year’s roster.

Okay, so the slate for Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Japan is safe as houses. It’s also unimpeachable, and I’m really happy that the committee picked Dororo instead of Black Jack for its perennial Tezuka slot. (I love Black Jack, don’t get me wrong, but I really thought Dororo just sang.) Based on the books that I’ve read and what I’ve heard of the rest, the Best Publication for Teens/Tweens slate is pretty much unimpeachable as well. (Could I fill a slate of Best U.S. Edition of International Material for Teens/Tweens–Japan? Good grief, how many slots do I have to work with?)

But really, it’s well past time there was some kind of serious, sustained annual awards program for manga. I think Deb Aoki’s polls of the best new manga titles of 2008 would be an outstanding foundation for such a program. If she can be persuaded to keep doing it year after year, they could (with periodic tweaking) really evolve into something enduring.

Upcoming 4/8/2009

April 7, 2009

Lots of interesting items on this week’s ComicList. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Gantz Vol. 4 (Dark Horse): This book is about a weird computer that plucks people from their lives to kill aliens or die trying. I think it’s trashy and not very good, but I’m sort of obsessed with it.

Venus in Love Vol. 6 (CMX): This book is about a co-ed love triangle. I’ve fallen a bit behind, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read.

Shortcomings TPB (Drawn & Quarterly): I read this in hardcover and really enjoyed it. It’s about a kind-of jerky guy facing disappointment in love. In many instances, this would be presented as a great tragedy, but Adrian Tomine seems to realize that it’s okay to laugh at unfortunate things happening to a person who kind of deserves it.

Color of Earth (First Second): A coming-of-age manhwa from an imprint that demonstrates pretty good taste in general and really good taste when it picks comics from other countries than the United States. I like what I’ve read so far.

Beauty Pop Vol. 10 (Viz): This one’s about a girl who’s really good at cutting hair but doesn’t want to make a big deal about it, and a boy who’s really good at cutting hair and wants the whole damned world to kiss his feet for it. It’s very funny.

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child Vol. 4 (Yen Press): The title kind of gives away what this one’s about, but that’s no reason not to give it a look. Again, I’ve fallen behind, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read.

Made a lot of stops

April 6, 2009

I’m glad I didn’t hear that PRI piece on “Urban Pac-Man” until today, because I never would have been able to focus enough to finish this week’s Flipped column. It takes very little to get me imagining myself in Lyon, and the prospect of gourmet cuisine, glorious architecture, and a city-wide recreation of an arcade favorite from my childhood? I’m hearing the theme song with a plaintive, Édith Piaf quality.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. This week’s column focuses on a title that examines another kind of armchair travel: Astral Project from CMX. Mysteries, metaphysics, jazz, call girls… this one’s got it all, or at least most of it.

Find. Buy. Love.

April 5, 2009

If good taste was all you needed to make millions in publishing, Fanfare/Ponent Mon would be drowning in its own extravagant wealth. They’ve never published a book that wasn’t at least very good, and many of them are exquisite. My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and illustrated by Émile Bravo, is the latest exquisite book to be published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon, and you should find a copy and buy it, because I’m frankly a sick of people not going broke underestimating the taste of the reading public.

Anyway, it’s a lovely graphic novel about death and childhood. I worry that saying a single other thing about what happens in the book will taint the reading experience for anyone who reads this. It’s the whole “dissecting the frog” concern, you know, when you might learn something about the frog, but the frog comes out worse for the experience.

Regnaud and Bravo are so honest and gentle and pure in their approach. Every moment feels fresh and familiar at the same time, fully realized in ways I’d imagine any comic creator dreams of achieving in their own work, no matter what the work is about.

Seriously, just go find a copy and buy it. It’s so, so good.

Eve as violent yet nurturing cyborg

April 2, 2009

There’s a new Flipped up at The Comics Reporter. I was pleasantly surprised to see some of Dark Horse’s seinen-iest seinen series show up in an early Graphic Book Best Seller List at The New York Times, so I decided the time was (relatively) right to take a look at Hiroki Endo’s Eden.