The Shôjo-Sunjeong Alphabet: B

October 21, 2009

“B” is for…


What are some of your favorite shôjo titles that start with the letter “B”?

Birthday book: Salt Water Taffy

October 20, 2009


The Comics Reporter notes that it’s Matthew Loux’s birthday, and while I’m rather fried this evening, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to remind you that Loux’s Salt Water Taffy series of books (published by Oni Press) is an awful lot of fun. Here are my reviews of the first and second volumes. Need additional persuason? Here’s what Greg McElhatton had to say about volume one and volume two. And here’s Kate Dacey’s review of The Legend of Old Salty at Good Comics for Kids.

Upcoming 10/21/2009

October 20, 2009

Last Wednesday’s lean times are over, so check under your sofa cushions and empty the ash tray in your car, because it’s time for a look at the current ComicList:

real6It’s tough to pick a book of the week, as there’s interesting material in varied formats, but I ultimately have to settle on the sixth volume of Takehiko Inoue’s Real from Viz Signature. This excellent drama looks at the lives of wheelchair basketball players so vividly and with such specificity that you don’t need to have the slightest interest in sports to become engrossed. I certainly don’t have any interest in sports, and I think the book is terrific and deeply underappreciated. So please give it a try.

whatawonderfulworld1Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of the books in Viz’s Signature line and an admirer of the imprint in general. I honestly can’t think of one I don’t at least enjoy. That said I do question the wisdom of unleashing quite this much product on the market at once. In addition to the aforementioned volume of Real, there’s the fifth volume of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, the fifth omnibus installment of Inoue’s Vagabond, and both volumes of Inio (solanin) Asano’s What a Wonderful World! That’s $71.95 worth of comics, retail before taxes. It’s a lot. But perhaps strong sales of books like the first volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s RIN-NE (which arrives Wednesday) will help carry Viz’s less commercial titles. And RIN-NE is a lot of fun, as you would expect from Takahashi. Kate Dacey has an enthsuiastic review of the first volume at The Manga Critic, and you can sample the title at The RumicWorld.

Noted just for the novelty of it, Del Rey launches its floppy comics line this week with The Talisman: The Road of Trials, based on a Stephen King/Peter Straub property, written by Robin Furth and illustrated by Tony Shasteen. Del Rey Comics doesn’t seem to have a web site yet, but you can see a preview at Entertainment Weekly’s site.

bookaboutmoominThe New York Times ran a Reuters story pondering the potential international appeal of Tove Jansson’s Moomin properties without ever mentioning the fact that Drawn & Quarterly has been releasing beautiful hardcover collections of Jansson’s comic strips for a few years now. Whether Reuters notices or not, Drawn & Quarterly continues to earn excellent karma by releasing Jansson’s The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My. (Scroll down on to the bottom of this page for more details and a preview.)

underground2I enjoyed the first issue of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground (Image), a five-part mini-series about socioeconomic machinations and spelunking peril in a mountain town in Kentucky. I fully expect to enjoy the second issue as well.

I also enjoyed the first volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool (Yen Press), collected after serialization in Yen Plus. It’s a complicated supernatural adventure about various factions of night creatures and the humans who oppose them. It’s got terrific art and a promisingly chunky plot. The second volume arrives Wednesday.

I am speechless

October 19, 2009

So today’s mail included a review copy of Christopher Hart’s Superheroes and Beyond: How to Draw the Leading and Supporting Characters of Today’s Comics (Watson-Guptill), which isn’t really my demographic, but you know… I flipped through it and found this:

“The Athletic Female Figure

“Always show a thin waistline with wide hips, which give her sex appeal and also make her physique powerful. Small, boyish hips are no good on female characters. Comic book action heroines don’t promote the unhealthy thinner-is-always-better images so prevalent in other media. The legs are always full and shapely but without the harsh, articulated muscles seen on male superheroes. The interior muscles on women’s legs are mostly left undefined.”

Just a little fluffy gigolo

October 19, 2009


This week’s Flipped takes a look at the latest translated example of Junko Mizuno’s jubilant, demented genius, Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu from Last Gasp. I want to know when Last Gasp is going to publish the other two volumes, and I want to know now. Really, who needs mind-altering substances when they’ve got Mizuno manga?

While I was writing the column, I came to the belated realization that Enterbrain’s Comic Beam is an absolute gold mine. Any magazine that acted as cradle to Pelu, Bambi and Her Pink Gun, Emma, and Astral Project is a magazine to be treasured. And while King of Thorn isn’t my favorite comic by Yuji Iwahara, Comic Beam at least had the good sense to serialize something by him.

We have a winner!

October 17, 2009


In an high-security drawing witnessed by my dogs, Francene Lewis was chosen as the winner of the first volume of Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood. Congratulations, Francene, and thanks to everyone who entered.

Just for the record, I would probably go back to my senior year in high school, armed with the knowledge of who came out of the closet later. I would also use the timing to reconsider my choice of colleges, opting for something larger and more urban with a major in Japanese. Yes, I would relive my life based on boys and manga. I would also probably floss more often.

License request day: Saint Young Men

October 16, 2009


SYMcover1In a recent Unbound column at Robot 6, Brigid Alverson mentions books in what we might call the “Never gonna happen” category of comics from Japan… “culturally problematic series” “that are unlikely to ever be published in the U.S.” Brigid cited Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Young Men as an example of this kind of book. While the logical part of my brain can accept that the publisher who tries to package this title for an English-reading audience has an uphill hike ahead of them, the part of my brain that is responsible for the vast majority of this blog’s content is reduced to muttering “want… want.. want…” with increasing fervor.

The premise sounds like a micro-joke that you might see on The Simpsons as the family talks about the new season debuts on Fox. Jesus and Buddha take a break from their lives as divinities to share an apartment in contemporary Tokyo and see what the simple folk do. So you’ve got not one but two presumably satirical renderings of religious figures right there, which is always a recipe for a long, unpleasant freak-out.

SYMcover2MangaCast’s Kursten reviewed the first volume, and her take leads me to suspect that the series is of the oddly reverent variety rather than the scathingly satirical:

“This manga is pure genius. The art may not be that exceptional or groundbreaking but the story is. I can probably understand some apprehensions in reading Saint Oniisan due to its religious implications, but the genius of the manga lies in how Nakamura manages to depict the two dieties in a real context without insulting their divinities.”

I think it sounds like a terrific series, with two divinities hanging out and experiencing the everyday (though not the sordid). Nakamura even gives them a bit of an Odd Couple twist: Buddha is frugal and kind of uptight; Jesus goes with the flow.

SYMcover3It’s being serialized in Kodansha’s Morning 2, and by some weird coincidence (or miracle), I actually have a copy of an issue with two chapters in it, which is the source for the terrible scans included with this article. I suppose it’s possible in some distant future that Kodansha Comics might publish it in English, but perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting. Given the likely density of culturally specific references and remedial religious studies, along with the publisher’s demonstrated ability to manage them well, I’d vote for Del Rey to helm this one. They’ve published manga that seems like it should have been untranslatable, and Kodansha still seems to like them.

And really, the definition of “Never gonna happen” is changing all the time. That goalpost has never been fixed, and it seems to shift a little bit month by month, year by year. I can buy Detroit Metal City at the mall if I want. Is Saint Young Men really that distant a dream?



October 16, 2009


Time’s running out to enter to win a copy of the first volume of Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood (Fanfare/Ponent Mon). Click here for details.

From the stack: Underground

October 15, 2009

underground1I find it harder to review pamphlet comics, since there’s less content to consider, but Underground (Image) is a lively genre piece with a number of promising elements. Here they are:

It’s got a strong creative team. Jeff Parker has established himself as a smart writer of a variety of snappy, satisfying genre comics, even finding fresh approaches to timeworn franchise characters. Steve Lieber has a great way of drawing real-looking characters and evocative settings. Ron Chan provides a solid palette of colors that support the visual environment.

It’s set in Appalachia. There aren’t all that many comics that consider rural environments without condescension, and Underground looks like it will be one of those. It’s Appalachia without the menacing banjo soundtrack.

It’s got interesting, setting-specific undertones. The driving conflict is between environmental protection and economic development which, again, isn’t normal narrative territory for comics. Park ranger Wesley Fischer wants to protect the fragile ecosystem of a massive cave. Locals want to make the cave more accessible to tourists, boosting the town’s economy. Self-serving mogul Winston Barefoot may be the most public face of the development side, but that doesn’t mean the effort is entirely unsavory. It’s the kind of issue faced by lots of Appalachian communities, and Parker doesn’t minimize or simplify the conflict any more than he can avoid.

It’s got a strong woman protagonist. Ranger Fischer has principles and the force of personality to act on them. At the same time, she isn’t insensitive to opposing points of view. (Her likely love interest is both a local and a ranger.) She seems more than layered enough to carry the series.

On the down side, the socioeconomic underpinnings seem likely to take a back seat to cave-bound risk and rescue. I don’t imagine they’ll vanish entirely, though, as the creators have demonstrated the ability to juggle various narrative elements.

On the nitpick side, there seem to have been some proofreading lapses in the production process. Some dialogue just doesn’t scan, no matter how you try to read it.

On the whole, it’s a solid first issue of a series with engaging characters and interesting ideas. I’ll stick around to see where things go.

They really do

October 14, 2009

That’s more like it.


Thanks to correspondent Jeff and his awe-inspiring image manipulation skills for this.