Meanwhile, up at Javits

September 30, 2009

I’ll get into Vertical’s announcements from the New York Anime Festival at a later date (Monday, to be precise), but I did want to highlight some of the other on-deck properties that caught my eye. (Deb Aoki has the full list at About.Com.)

genteI’m finding myself increasingly taken with Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves with each new chapter that Viz posts, so Ono’s Gente will definitely be on my radar. I don’t really think older Italian men in aprons, at least of the kind who might appear in manga for grown-ups, need any help looking sexy, but that might just be me. It’s a follow-up to Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso, which Viz has scheduled for release in March 2010. Gente is due in July 2010.

My desire to read about ass-kicking fictional librarians has often left me disappointed, but I remain optimist enough to give Hiro Arikawa and Kiiro Yumi’s Library Wars: Love and War a try. It’s due in June 2010.

On the Del Rey front, I liked Kitchen Princess a lot, but I liked it mostly for Miyuki Kobayashi’s surprisingly moody writing rather than Natsumi Ando’s cute but generic art. That said, I’ll certainly give Arisa a try, even though it’s about identical twins who meet later in life, and I’m still gun-shy on that subject after the clinically insane second volume of Papillon.

Bonus points to Del Rey for publishing the rest of Hiro Mashima’s Rave Master after Kodansha pulled the license from Tokyopop three volumes before the end.

Tokyopop has certainly published an awful lot of Natsuki Takaya’s manga, and that will continue with Songs and Laughter. In spite of (or maybe because of) my love for Fruits Basket, I’ve been hesitant to pick up other translated work by the creator, fearing disappointment. Can anyone recommend a title in this category?

Extras, extras

September 29, 2009

In addition to really good free comics, Viz’s SIGIKKI site also posts some fun supplementary content. Senior Editor Eric Searleman asked a bunch of nerds (me included) to describe that moment when they knew they were irretrievably lost to manga, and the results (with photo evidence) are here.

And for a company known for its professional decorum, the site’s blog is pretty freewheeling. It even recalls the glory days when Anne Ishi was tearing things up for Vertical. By way of example, here’s a piece by Senior Editor Leyla Aker on her attempts to purchase a trade paperback that ended up spanning two coasts and running the gamut of unfortunate things that can happen in a comic shop:

“Stand in front of guy at desk for a minute. He’s reading. No reaction. Out of curiosity I continue to stand there, shift my bag/jingle my keys so I’m sure he knows I’m there. No reaction. Finally I hazard human speech, excuse myself, say I’m looking for a certain DC compilation, and ask if they might have it. Without lifting his eyes, he’s says ‘No.’ The end.”

It might be safest for comic shops to assume that someone with a blog is visiting their premises at all times, you know? But the main point of Aker’s post is a nice hands-across-the-water story:

“But, like mom always said, you need a balanced diet to stay healthy, and at some point I’d fallen into the blinkered trap of disparaging superhero comics. I became U.S. comics anemic.”

I thought the comic that inspired this quest was kind of awful, but I appreciate the overall sentiment.

Upcoming 9/30/2009

September 29, 2009

With recent travels significantly augmenting my already menacing “to read” pile, it’s not like I need new comics, but there’s a new ComicList all the same. Fortunately, it’s manageable.

aya3If you haven’t been enjoying Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie’s charming, multi-generational soap opera about life in the Ivory Coast during the 1970s, then you probably aren’t prepared for Aya: The Secrets Come Out, the third volume in the series. You should rectify this, because the book is a real treat with an endearing, cantankerous cast and pitch-perfect illustrations. The book sold out at SPX, which made me happy.

refreshrefreshI really enjoyed Danica Novgorodoff’s mini-comic, A Late Freeze, so I’m looking forward to Refresh, Refresh, Novgorodoff’s graphic novel adaptation of a screenplay by James Ponsoldt, which was in turn adapted from a short story by Benjamin Percy. It’s “the story of three teenagers on the cusp of high school graduation and their struggle to make hard decisions with no role models to follow; to discover the possibilities for the future when all the doors are slamming in their faces; and to believe their fathers will come home alive [from the war in Iraq] so they can be boys again.”

Ah, and it’s time again for a new volume of Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics anthology, this time guest-edited by Charles Burns with series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. The contributors list seems a little “usual suspects” to me, but the collection is always worth a look. And the seasonal outburst of “best according to WHO?” discussion may again warm us during these chilly early days of autumn.

One last thought

September 29, 2009

suitcaseI don’t go to enough conventions to know if this is now standard behavior, but I have to say that I ground my teeth whenever I saw someone dragging one of these around the crowded con floor. It’s more irritating when someone pretends they’re carry-on luggage on a plane and rolls them down the narrow aisle instead of just… you know… carrying them, but it’s also a nuisance to see them fully extended behind some con-goer who has no apparent regard for the ankles and shins of others.

Back from SPX

September 28, 2009

spxgahanwilsonposterfullSome random thoughts from this year’s Small Press Expo:

I really wanted to adhere to Tom Spurgeon’s suggestion to do a full circuit of the floor before buying anything, but Fanfare/Ponent Mon was right there by the main entrance. I’m not made of stone. After that, I did get back on the Spurgeon track. By the time I got back to the NBM table, the last copy of Miss Don’t Touch Me was gone. I think that was my punishment for ignoring Tom’s advice… or trying to follow it.

I did pretty well resisting the urge to buy books just because the creator was there signing them. I bought books I meant to get eventually because the creator was there signing, which feels different. And I refrained from buying new copies of books I already had because the creator was there, though the temptation was strong. And I think I seemed less stalker-y and creepy when complimenting these people than I have in the past. (Feel free to correct me in the comments!)

signatureAnyway, the exception I made was for R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics (Drawn & Quarterly), which looks great. And he drew a great cockroach in a Charlie Brown sweater for me.

Speaking of Sikoryak, he was putting his coat on when I asked him to sign my book on Sunday, so I thought he was about to take a break and offered to come back, but he was just freezing cold. Apparently, the Miss Maryland Pageant event in the next hall asked to keep the air conditioning on the frosty side so nothing essential melted and slid off. Now, it’s fair enough to ask, but many cartoonists are on the anemic side, and they were suffering for their neighbors’ freshness. (The pageant event was sponsored by a “tanning system.” I’m assuming this is necessary if they require climates roughly akin to a florist’s case and want to avoid the damaging heat of the sun’s rays.)

minisI bought lots of neat mini-comics about things like baking, menstruation, sharks… you know, the usual. But my favorite had to be Hairyola by Tom Batten and Patrick Godfrey of Coldcock Comics. It’s a moving story about professional jealousy among independent cartoonists complicated by malevolent, sentient nipple hair. I only made it through a third of Blankets, so I thought it was hilarious.

My second-favorite mini-comic was Bill Roundy’s really charming piece of what I can only describe as gay super-hero doujinshi where a well-known mutant speedster tries to ditch last night’s trick so he can make his brunch date with his sleek, reformed-villainess colleague.

There was some interesting discussion in the “Future of the Comic Book” panel on Sunday. (There was also an avalanche of “ums” and “likes,” to be totally honest.) It featured a group of creators and a publisher who are committed to pamphlet comics as worthy objects in spite of distribution woes and the lure of digital opportunities. It’s weird and kind of sad that this has become a quixotic endeavor. And, yes, current options for widespread distribution make things worse, though Diamond has apparently tried to work with small presses up to a point. (I don’t know if this was ironic or not, but someone brought her two young daughters to the panel, and they were perfectly content to sit there and read their new copies of Raina Telgemeier’s adaptations of The Baby-Sitters Club books.)

The critics panel wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would be more of a round-up of some of the year’s best books, but it was actually a lively discussion of being a comic critic. It was really nice to meet Jog, Chris Mautner, and Tucker Stone in person. And for those of you who were wondering, Tucker isn’t adopting a persona for his reviews. He talks like he writes, and he’s hilarious. At one point, he kind of eviscerated the idea of the need for a shared critical discourse on books of import, which was awesome. Alas, he did not get the opportunity to respond to another panelist’s disdain for snark, though I sensed the audience shift towards the edge of their seats in anticipation of such a rejoinder. Alas, it will have to live in our imaginations.

I sat next to Johanna Draper Carlson at the panel, and it was nice to catch up with her. She’s probably hard at work on a fuller write-up of the critics’ panel and posted a photo of me from the convention, taken during the three or four minutes when I actually had any responsibility of any kind. (Update: Her panel wrap-up is here.)

Aside from being an interesting panelist and a very accomplished comics critic, Douglas Wolk has amazingly floppy hair. It’s like it was styled by a shôjo manga-ka.

I finally had the pleasure of meeting First Second’s Gina Gagliano in person, though we’ve been e-mailing back and forth for ages. She’s a delight, and I was so happy that she didn’t like Hero either. Adding luster to the encounter was the fact that I also met Bully and his handlers at the same time. This all took place at the Oni Press booth, where everyone was busy selling books, signing books, and doing sketches. They were all so bustling and good-natured that I now suspect the publisher doesn’t have an office so much as a magical, hollowed-out elm tree.

Having grown up in a place without a subway system, much less one as good as the District of Columbia’s Metro, I always take nerdy, hick-ish glee in riding around on such systems when I have the chance. I feel like a muggle being allowed to travel by Floo Powder. That said, the Bethesda station was a sauna. Add a few skylights, and you could raise artisanal mushrooms in there.

My overall impression of the convention, which admittedly comes without much of a point of reference, is that it’s “just right.” Not too big, too hot, or too hard. I liked the layout, with larger publishers sprinkled around the floor and giving everyone a reason to visit the whole layout. The staff and volunteers were all enthusiastic and helpful, and the experience in general seemed professionally run but not rigid. The crowds were healthy both days – not dauntingly mobbed but full — and seemed pretty diverse in just about every way. The variety of books was amazing, from polished productions to cleverly crafted homemade pieces, with a great range of subjects and approaches on display.

And last but not least, I’m proud of myself for refraining from complimenting anyone on their Scott Pilgrim cosplay. If I’d started, I might never have stopped.


And there was much rejoicing

September 25, 2009


Word comes via Brigid Alverson on Twitter that Vertical has acquired the license for Chi’s Sweet Home. Can I pre-order it yet? Also, Vertical earns the distinction of being the first publisher to fulfill one of my license requests. I should come up with some kind of fabulous prize for them, aside from the run-of-the-mill eternal gratitude.

While in Bethesda…

September 25, 2009

I’m sure I’ll miss a lot of excitement at the New York Anime Festival this weekend, but I’m profoundly consoled by one thing: Fanfare/Ponent Mon will be at the Small Press Expo. Here’s there press release:


Limited quantities of Years of the Elephant and A Distant Neighborhood #2 to be available to attendees.

yearsofelephantFanfare/Ponent Mon, publishers of quality translated European and Japanese graphic novels, makes its inaugural visit as exhibitor to SPX this year. To mark the occasion, the company is scheduling a special drop-shipment of two of its most anticipated titles — Years of the Elephant and A Distant Neighborhood #2 — to be available for purchase at the show a month prior to their official release. Pick up a copy at table F16!

Years of the Elephant by acclaimed Belgian artist Willy Linthout is the touching autobiographical exploration of his son’s suicide, a moving story made all the more powerful by Linthout’s use of pencils sans both color and inks.

Renowned Japanese manga creator Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood #2 is the haunting conclusion to middle-aged businessman Nakahara’s reliving of his childhood as himself only with his elderly thoughts and experiences left intact.

Both titles exemplify the quality graphic storytelling that is the hallmark of Fanfare/Ponent Mon, whose much-lauded The Summit of the Gods Volume 1 and A Distant Neighborhood #1 by aforementioned Jiro Taniguchi premiered at San Diego this year and will also be available at SPX.

SPX is the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comic books and the discovery of new creative talent. In its fourteenth year, the show will held the weekend of September 26 and 27, 2009 at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center in Bethesda, MD.

Simon says

September 25, 2009

As many of us hoped he would, Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing (whose blog may not be safe for work) has weighed in on the leaked draft of a pitch letter from a scan aggregation site to a major publisher of translated manga:

“The reason print publishers have yet to fully embrace free online ad-supported publishing on the PC is largely because ad profits do not outweigh the diminished print sales due to free distribution. It doesn’t matter that scanlations have legit promotional qualities when the result is still a net loss for the publisher. Otherwise, publishers would be doing this themselves.”

Go read. Or wait until you get home, then go read. Either way, you should also go read the lively commentary on the subject at MangaBlog.

License request day: Tasogare Ryuuseigun

September 25, 2009

I’m actually closer to retirement age than adolescence. (I’m probably not closer to actual retirement, and some portion of me will probably never move past adolescence entirely, but that’s neither here nor there.) So perhaps it’s natural that I would start looking for sensitive comic-book portrayals of senior citizens. Or maybe I’m just perversely looking for drastically unlikely properties to request for publication in English.

Whatever the reason, I’ve had a needling fascination for the niche category known as “silver manga” ever since I read about it in Paul Gravett’s Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (Harper Design). Even I doubt that the documented college-student fondness for Golden Girls reruns would translate into demand for comics from this category, and today’s featured title has a number of other strikes against its likely licensing, but it never hurts to ask.

So let’s carefully immerse ourselves into the deep end of the pool during adult swim, shall we? Let’s take a look at Kenshi Hirokane’s Tasogare Ryuuseigun (or Like Shooting Stars in the Twilight), originally serialized in Shogakukan’s Big Comic Original.


Here’s Gravett’s description:

“They can also find respectful portrayals of senior citizens in new, so-called ‘silver’ manga, in which they are no longer reduced to the cliches of either wise elders or grumpy old fools. Like Shooting Stars in the Twilight is the metaphorical title of one series, in which protagonists in their sixties and older are shown still enjoying romance and sex to the full.”

shootingstarcoverAs lovely as that sounds to me, I can easily picture a lot of the primary audience for manga in English recoiling in abject horror from the very idea. For me, that reaction just offers bonus points, but I know that doesn’t reflect a particularly commercial mindset.

You’re probably familiar with Hirokane as the creator of Section Chief Kôsaku Shima, the ultimate salaryman manga. If you aren’t familiar with it, check out John Jakala’s tribute to the title. I certainly share John’s desire for more of that book and for office manga in general, but John’s covered it nicely, so why be redundant?

bcocoverLike Shooting Stars won an Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2000, so there’s that in its favor. Working against it is the fact that the series is 35 volumes long and, as near as I can tell, still ongoing. And that’s putting aside the fact that it features dignified portrayals of senior citizens in a market that’s yet to demonstrate consistent demand about portrayals of people in their twenties. But as I said, it never hurts to ask.

Shopping spree

September 24, 2009

MOOM4.cover.qxd:Layout 1Helping people clean out their garage is not usually an enticing prospect, but Drawn & Quarterly has made it so with their Warehouse Sale for online shoppers. Bargains abound on great books like the following:

  • Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s fascinating autobiography, A Drifting Life, $17.98 compared to its cover price of $29.95 or Amazon at $19.77
  • All four volumes of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, $11.97 each compared to their cover price of $19.95
  • Aya and Aya of Yop City, charming Ivory Coast soap opera from Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie, each for about half price at $9.97
  • Either the paperback ($8.97) or hardcover ($11.97) edition of Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings, one of the very best comics about an emotionally stunted twenty-something loser, and that’s a huge category
  • There are lots of great discounts on some amazing comics. Go look.