Panels by Kiyohiko Azuma make everything more cheerful, don’t you think? Anyway, here’s the link to this week’s Flipped, which will also be the last installment of that column. I explain everything there. It’s a good thing.
It’s Gilbert Hernandez’s birthday, and it’s tough to pick a particular book to recommend because he’s incredibly talented and surprisingly prolific. (That’s a lovely combination, isn’t it?) I’ll let sentiment guide my choice and point you to his Palomar stories, which originally ran in Love and Rockets from Fantagraphics and have been collected roughly 36 times in about as many different configurations.
I would recommend you go with the handsome, affordable, focused paperbacks in the Love and Rockets Library: Heartbreak Soup, Human Diastrophism, and Beyond Palomar. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Palomar, it’s a small Central American town populated with interesting, complex people. It’s also populated with a variety of kinds of stories and tones, gritty realism one moment, magical realism the next. Hernandez really builds that web of community in these stories, exploring ties of family and friendship, lingering grudges, outside influences, sex, love and death.
It’s also fun to play “if you like” with the Palomar stories, because there are so many possibilities. People who have been enjoying the comics on Viz’s SigIKKI site might like these, not because of any specific carry-over in style or content, but because they’re so good in ways that are specific to Hernandez’s talents. People who like soap operas, particularly smart, place-grounded ones like EastEnders, will find a lot to like as well. (Full disclosure: I’m only really familiar with the early going of EastEnders when it was really ambitious in its combination of economic reality and emotional intensity. I have no idea if it’s still any good.) And fans of the sensual, dreamy, unsettling movies by Pedro Almodovar will feel right at home, especially with Hernandez’s leading lady, sexy, formidable Luba.
And since I’m on the subject, and since Hernandez is relatively prolific, I’d love to hear which of his non-Palomar comics people would recommend. I need to catch up.
Update: Via its Twitter feed, AdHouse mentioned that today is also Jim Rugg’s birthday, so you could celebrate that by picking up a copy of Afrodisiac, which Rugg created with Brian Maruca. I reviewed it here. Or you could pick up a copy of Rugg and Maruca’s Street Angel from SLG, which is having a sale at its web store through Feb. 3, also discovered via that publisher’s Twitter feed.
I’m really going to miss Viz’s A la Carte collections of classic culinary manga Oishinbo, written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki. The last installment (I’ll say “for now” because hope springs eternal) focuses kind of loosely on Izakaya, or Pub Food, and it covers a lot of the territory that’s become so endearingly familiar over the course of the series. For instance…
That doesn’t strike me as a compliment, but the characters’ raptures over various dishes often don’t. They say things like, “Oh, the bones of the fish give it a nice crunch!” or “The muskiness is so refreshing!” But there’s absolute sincerity in these exclamations, and that’s part of the charm. I’m not saying I’m ever going to echo the sentiments based on anything I eat, but they do keep things lively and they help paint a taste picture.
I was a super picky eater as a kid, so I have what might be a misplaced level of empathy for the characters featured in Oishinbo’s food peril stories. Let me explain what those are: every now and then, the regulars run across a friend or acquaintance or co-worker who absolutely must learn to like a food they despise. If they don’t, their professional, educational or romantic prospects will go right down the drain. Now, I’ll try any food once at this point, and I’m pretty good at expressing honest dislike of this or that food without judgment or apology, but there’s that nagging anxiety of the picky child. So while the stakes in these stories can be a little ridiculous, I feel the characters’ pain.
Not liking potatoes, though… dude needs to get over that.
Preach it, sister. The panel above is from a story that embodies two big Oishinbo themes: booze is awesome, and kids these days don’t know squat. The latter is generally expressed in the lead’s rivalry with his horrible father, but I’m pleased to report that there are no scarring father-son showdowns in this volume. Instead, a young actor fears for his career because he can’t drink sake properly. Our heroes take him out of town to snack and drink and snack and drink some more until he racks up the right sense memories to really look like that sake hits the spot. Along the way, he learns to hold his liquor and to pace himself so he can drink and snack with the best of them. And that, my friends, is valuable information no matter where you live or how old you are.