Momentous occasion

November 3, 2010

Vertical’s Ed Chavez reminds his Twitter followers that Osamu Tezuka was born on this day in 1928.

I’m really looking forward to Ayako. While it’s frustrating that there’s still so much of Tezuka’s work that has yet to be translated and published in English, it’s also kind of great that there’s still so much of Tezuka’s work that has yet to be translated and published in English. Anticipation, you know what I mean?


Birthday book: GoGo Monster

October 25, 2010

The Comics Reporter reminds us that today is the amazingly talented Taiyo Matsumoto’s birthday. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you mark the occasion by reading his GoGo Monster (Viz). I reviewed the book in this Flipped column:

“Beyond his marvelous illustrations and elliptical storytelling, the fascinating thing about Matsumoto’s work is his ability to make me root for undesirable outcomes. In Tekkonkinkreet, I found myself hoping that its protagonists would accept the futility of their fight for Treasure Town, that they would cut their losses. In GoGo Monster, I found myself siding with the forces of conformity. Admirable as Yuki’s sense of self is, and enviable as his immunity to social pressure may be, I still was persuaded by Matsumoto’s argument for a healthy, happy Yuki, even if it resulted in a less interesting, less special Yuki.”

It’s a great, great book, as is Tekkonkinkreet (Viz).

I’m still hoping that Viz will take another crack at Matsumoto’s No. 5. I think Blue Spring is still in print. Christopher (Comics212) Butcher posted a wonderfully thorough round-up of Matsumoto’s work and adaptations of it.

What’s your favorite Matsumoto title?


Birthday book: The War at Ellsmere

September 29, 2010

I learned via Twitter that today is the birthday of one Faith Erin Hicks, so I would suggest you celebrate this occasion by picking up a copy of her fun look at clique warfare, The War at Ellsmere (SLG). Here’s a bit of my review of the book:

“For all of the book’s easy charm, it’s very tightly written. Hicks finds a solid, compelling plot in Jun’s first year at Ellsmere. She fleshes it out nicely with well-developed characters and, more importantly, chemistry among those characters. That’s a really important next step, and I think some creators may neglect it. There also seems to be more confidence in terms of voicing characters here than in Zombies Calling; there’s a similarly metatextual quality to the dialogue, but it’s dedicated more to the characters’ feelings than the shifting rules of zombie combat.”

Just for the record, I’d still happily read a sequel to this.


Birthday book: Underground

May 19, 2010

It’s Steve Lieber’s birthday, and if you’d like to mark the occasion while scoring a really good mini-series in the process, I recommend you pick up the collection of Underground (Image), illustrated by Lieber and written by Jeff (Agents of Atlas) Parker. Lieber and Parker tell the tale of a principled park ranger trying to protect a cave system from greedy developers and trigger-happy thugs, and it’s a nifty bit of genre entertainment that doesn’t usually get much play in comic-book form, unless someone folds in vampires or werewolves. Here’s my review of the first issue. The series held up nicely throughout, and I’d love to read a sequel.


Saturday checklist

May 8, 2010

I really need to get to the Toronto Comics Art Festival some year. The stars just didn’t align this time around. But if I had made it to this weekend’s event, I would definitely stop by the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth to say hi to Deb Aoki and pick up a copy of Korea as Viewed by 17 Creators.

It’s Hiromu Arakawa’s birthday, so I should spend some time catching up on the last few volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist (Viz), which is hardly a chore. If I felt more motivated, I’d take myself to the bookstore to find a volume of Hero Tales (Yen Press), but I’m feeling lazy. Maybe tomorrow.

And I’ll definitely spend some time thinking of how many of Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey’s “Seven Deadly Sins of Reviewing” I’ve committed. All of them, I suspect. It’s an excellent read with lots of good advice.


Birthday book: The Saga of the Bloody Benders

February 25, 2010

It’s sometimes a little tricky to recommend a particular birthday book when the creator’s body of work is so strong overall, and that’s the case with Rick Geary. I could go with Dark Horse’s hardcover collection of the charming The Adventures of Blanche, but I first became familiar with his work in the context of his excellent true-crime comics, so I’ll dip into that well.

But even with that set of boundaries, which one should I choose? They’re all good, and they don’t need to be read in any particular order. I could throw the titles into a hat and pick one at random, but one volume has managed to inch ahead in my mental Geary library: The Saga of the Bloody Benders.

Geary’s approach to true crime has always got some added value to it, as he takes the time to explore historical and cultural circumstances that either influenced or provided context for the atrocity in question. This tale of an opportunistic family of cutthroats in Kansas is no exception. And there’s just something creepy about such a nest of vipers occupying those wide open spaces (even wider and more open then than now) in the midst of so much homesteader optimism.

A distinguishing characteristic of The Bloody Benders is that I feel like it netted more effusive critical attention than Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder books had up to that point. The quality of the reviews was as admiring as always, but the number of them was higher, which was gratifying to see. Here’s a representative snippet from Tom (The Comics Reporter) Spurgeon:

“The story stays with you. Something about the way Geary delineates the proportions of the living area gives the recurring crimes a horrifying intimacy, and when the nature of what’s going on is revealed as the narrative progresses the thoroughness with which the Benders cleave to murder and atrocity astonishes.”

The book also made the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2008 list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens.


Birthday book: Lost at Sea

February 21, 2010

It’s Bryan Lee O’Malley’s birthday. I can always happily recommend his Scott Pilgrim books, which Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey puts in the number one slot of her list of ten great global manga. (That’s a great list, by the way. I can’t think of a thing I’d add.) But chances are good you’ve already read all of the Scott Pilgrim books at least once.

Fortunately, there’s a pre-Pilgrim book I can recommend without reservation, Lost at Sea (Oni). Here’s the publisher’s description:

“Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it – or at least that’s what she tells people – or at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs – or maybe it can help her find what she needs – or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along.”

And here’s a bit from my review of the book:

“It’s a fairly universal state of mind, but O’Malley portrays it [in] articulate, sensitive ways that are entirely specific to his protagonist. He gives Raleigh a barbed, revealing stream-of-consciousness narration that never becomes tiresome. It’s not some dreary poetry journal; it’s the often jumbled thinking of a smart young woman who doesn’t know if she’s actually in crisis or is really just like everyone else, or which of those states would be less comforting.”

If you haven’t read Lost at Sea, celebrate O’Malley’s birthday by picking up a copy. I think you’ll really enjoy it.


Birthday book: Ohikkoshi

February 17, 2010

Hiroaki Samura may be best known for Blade of the Immortal (Dark Horse), but if you want an easier (and less expensive) way to observe his birthday, I strongly recommend his one-volume Ohikkoshi (also from Dark Horse). It’s a unique collection that includes the titular novella and some appealing short stories. But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s see what some other reviewers have to say:

Brigid Alverson of MangaBlog:

“Samura doesn’t give us clever plot twists or neat endings. His characters are messy, and the stories are as illogical as real life. This work is full of caricature, exaggeration, and just plain ridiculousness, but in a way, it also feels more real than other manga.”

John Thomas of Comics Village:

“A romance comedy by the writer of Blade of the Immortal with cover art based on a Thin Lizzy album cover…translated into English? Yes, yes, (the album ‘Fighting’) and an enthusiastic yes! Welcome to the unique and rarely explored modern world of Hiroaki Samura’s Ohikkoshi.”

Jarred Pine of Mania:

“I definitely applaud Dark Horse for not only supporting one of their top artists and rewarding fans of Samura’s, but also for releasing a manga that while still niche, is also something off the normal beaten path of dudes and swords.”

Jog:

“So this is a turbulent, endearing work. I think it’s very flawed, but also very interesting in the way that only a real talent’s hazardous steps toward something not entirely familiar can be. Surely there’s no self-delusion: in that Afterward, Samura himself deems the works collected here as ‘just another average achievement.’ He’s both right and wrong, but his honesty will take him places, with the skills he obviously has.”

If you’re looking for something a little unexpected, particularly from Samura, give Ohikkoshi a try.


Birthday books: the Palomar stories

February 1, 2010

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.


Birthday book: Real

January 12, 2010

Hey, today is the birthday of manga superstar Takehiko Inoue! How, oh how, shall I choose to observe this special occasion? Well, since I never pass up an opportunity to do so, I’ll suggest you celebrate by once again recommending that you buy yourself a volume or seven of Inoue’s brilliant Real (Viz).

If you’re sick of hearing me make recommendations of this kind, well, that’s just tough, because it truly is one of the best series of any provenance to be published in English in the last ten years. It just is.

And if that’s not enough, I’ll simply have to hit below the belt, because you know what? You people owe Inoue, not just for his own great comics, but for the fact that, were it not for Inoue, there might be no Fumi Yoshinaga as we know her. Yoshinaga came from the world of doujinshi, fan-created comics. And do you know what one of the series was that she repurposed to her own glorious ends? That’s right. It was Inoue’s Slam Dunk.

So if the fact that Real is amazing isn’t enough for you, if the fact that it’s Inoue’s birthday isn’t enough for you, do it for Yoshinaga. There must be sufficient incentive in there somewhere.