Birthday Book: Doonesbury

July 21, 2009

mayjuneThe Comics Reporter notes that today is the 61st birthday of Garry Trudeau, creator of the essential, still-vibrant Doonesbury. I don’t talk about comic strips as much as I probably should, but I’ve loved them longer than I’ve loved comic books, and Doonesbury is one of my all-time favorites.

It’s hard to point to a specific Doonesbury collection, because all of them have something significant to recommend them. I’m disappointed to see how much of the Doonesbury catalog seems to be out of print. I remember a visit to my older sister’s house during my teen-aged years when I saw a neat row of slim Doonesbury paperbacks like Ask for May, Settle for June, As the Kid Goes for Broke, Do All Birders Have Bedroom Eyes, Dear? and lots of others.

The strip has always struck just the right blend of topical satire and ongoing, multi-generational soap opera for me. Trudeau can deal with challenging subjects – war, AIDS, divorce, unemployment, you name it – with grade, humor, and a wonderfully consistent tone. There’s really no such thing as a “very special Doonesbury.” They’re all pretty much special because of the affection and intelligence Trudeau applies, regardless of specific subject matter.

As I said, it’s said to me that there doesn’t seem to be a big, hulking Doonesbury collection that spans the strip’s history. The closest to that seems to be the Flashbacks: Twenty-Five Years of Doonesbury (Andres and McMeel), but it’s 15 years old and only 331 pages, so I’m not sure how comprehensive it can be. The publisher also lists it as “out of stock.” Why are some these great, ambitious strips so intermittently available in collected form?


Upcoming 7/22/2009

July 21, 2009

The books on this week’s shipping list may not appear on any best-seller rosters, but they certainly top the Comics That Delight David List. And though Viz is clearly trying to leave me impoverished with periodic front-loading from its Signature line, I can’t help but be happy at so many wonderful arrivals.

childrenoishinbofish
pluto4real5

I mean, just look at that. Who couldn’t be happy?

Okay, technically, Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea is not on Diamond’s shipping list for the week, but it’s on the “what’s arriving” list at my local shop, so that’s all that really matters to me. You can read an extremely generous sample of this marvelous title at Viz’s SIGIKKI site. It’s an alluring combination of fantasy and environmentalism, which seems to be Igarashi’s stock in trade. Play to your prodigious strengths, I say.

The fish may be disappearing in Children of the Sea, but they’re popping up on tables all over the place in the latest volume of Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi and Sashimi, written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki. If you haven’t treated yourself to a book from this series yet, here’s the short version: a know-it-all young journalist is working on an “Ultimate Menu” for his newspaper, and his blowhard father is working on a “Supreme Menu” for a competitor. Father and son detest each other, and I honestly can’t blame either of them, but their over-the-top dysfunction is often a lot of fun, and the food facts are absolutely fascinating.

The fourth volume of Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto arrives, continuing Urasawa’s extrapolation on a classic Astro Boy story by manga grandmaster Osamu Tezuka. It’s a rich suspense story with great characters, terrific art, and heartbreaking, slightly creepy child robots. What more could you want?

It wasn’t nominated for this year’s Eisner for Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Japan, which is unfortunate, but if Takehiko Inoue’s wheelchair-basketball opus Real isn’t nominated next year, it may actually qualify as a scandal, because the two volumes that have come out so far this year have taken the series from excellent to transcendent, and I have no reason to expect that the fifth volume will buck that trend in any way. I tend to refrain from doing full reviews on new volumes of ongoing series unless something changes drastically, but I’ve decided to loosen up on that policy with Real, because it’s simply one of the best ongoing series on the shelves, and it’s rather neglected.