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.