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.

Recent reading

October 22, 2009

Interesting things I’ve read lately:

A roundtable on digital piracy of comics featuring representatives of Fantagraphics, Dark Horse and Top Shelf: It kind of surprises me that Aaron Colter from Dark Horse never mentions the impact of piracy on the publisher’s licensed products, though it doesn’t surprise me that Fantagraphics experiences more piracy in its Eros line, a lot of which is translated product from Japan. I sometimes suspect that respect for a creator’s rights doesn’t always extend beyond one’s continent of residence, or it at least loses some of its ideological vigor.

Musings on the National Book Award categorization of David Small’s Stitches over at NPR’s Monkey See blog: This is a curious turn of events. I admire the book a lot, but I don’t think the hubbub over its nomination does it any favors, though it obviously doesn’t diminish Small’s achievement. As Tom Spurgeon has said so often, book publishing is gross. (And I also wanted to note that the Monkey See blog is generally a lively, entertaining read. I’ve been enjoying its comics content, though I hope Glen Weldon writes about manga at some point.)

The Robot 6 coverage of the Big Apple-New York Comic-Con situation by Sean Collins: The actual outcome of this is really only interesting to me in the abstract, because I’m unlikely to attend either event, much less both, but Collins approaches the subject with wry thoroughness.

A story at Publishers Weekly that provides some clarification on those Federal Trade Commission guidelines for blogger disclosure: Well, “clarification” is probably as optimistic a term as “guidelines,” but the story makes the guidelines seem less draconian. Or at least it presents the comforting notion that the FTC has no idea how to enforce the guidelines, if and when they figure out what those guidelines actually are.

Out and about

October 13, 2009


Oh, to be 14 again and able to drink like that! Ah, nostalgia. Anyway, just a reminder that I’m giving away a copy of the first volume of Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood (Fanfare/Ponent Mon). Click here for details, or… y’know… scroll down a little bit.

In other Taniguchi news, Kate Dacey has posted a thoughtful review of Taniguchi’s other recent release, The Summit of the Gods. Over at About.Com, Deb Aoki offers a manga-rich preview of this weekend’s Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. Fanfare will be there, along with other providers of high-quality comics from Japan. And you should buy a copy of the new hardcover of Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms from Last Gasp, because it’s one of the most beautiful comics ever made.

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?

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.


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.

Weekend update

September 24, 2009

I should probably be heading to the New York Anime Festival, but what can I tell you. I find the District of Columbia a lot easier to navigate than Manhattan, and I really enjoyed the Small Press Expo the last time I went, so that’s my choice of weekend destination. If you see me shambling around and looking baffled and skittish, feel free to say hi.


July 27, 2009

Comic-Con International 2009 is over, and many people have provided engaging coverage of the event’s panels, products, and people. To find the best round-up of manga-related links, you need only visit Brigid Alverson’s MangaBlog (as always). You might want to start here and here. The number of license announcements seems lean to me, but there are some eye-catchers.

51waysOf greatest interest to me is Usumaru Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her, which was snatched up by CMX. Furuya’s Palepoli strips from Viz’s out-of-print Secret Comics Japan still amaze me, so I’m thrilled to see more of his work headed for English release. 51 Ways was originally published by Shinchosa. It’s a disaster drama, but I suspect that anything by Furuya will defy simple categorization.

The other highlight from CMX’s roll-out is Sato Fujisawa’s Nyankoi!, a Flex Comix property. I know next to nothing about it except for the fact that it’s got an awesome premise for a cat-lover: a guy who’s allergic to felines falls in love with a girl who dotes on them and must do 100 good deeds for cats or face the wrath of the local cat-god.

bakumanOn the Viz front, there are two new Shonen Jump titles, one by the creative team behind Death Note. Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata reunited for Bakuman, about two students who dream of becoming successful manga-ka. Here’s the Wikipedia entry, and here’s Shueisha’s entry for the book.

Providing nightmares for vegans and animal rights activists is one possible side effect of Toriko by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, about a guy who hunts down rare beasts for finicky chefs. Okay, so I won’t be finding any useful recipes from this one, but cooking manga is cooking manga. Here’s the Wikipedia entry, and here’s Shueisha’s page.

artoftezukaI’m not sure if this was announced first at the convention or if I just missed it when mentioned elsewhere, but I’m also looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Helen McCarthy’s The Art of Osamu Tezuka from Abrams ComicArts. By the way, I take total credit for Tezuka’s Eisner win, as I spent weeks passive-aggressively suggesting people vote for Tezuka’s Dororo.

Con Jobs II: This time, it’s personal

February 2, 2009

If you only do one thing at NYCC this year, buy a copy of My Mommy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill at the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth. If you only do two things at NYCC this year, attend “News Flash: Teen Girls Read Comics” on Friday morning, then score a copy of Buffalo Bill. Here’s the official description from the NYCC program:

The wider media still seems to be amazed that female readers are a huge part of the boom in the manga market, but while the stereotypical manga and anime fan has long been the male otaku, we know that women are making massive contributions to fandom, the industry, and beyond. This panel will discuss the state of women in the manga industry, female fans within the manga community, and just where we might go from here in supporting and advocating for the media we–both women and men–love.

I realize that this is old news for most manga fans, given the robust sales of Fruits Basket, Kitchen Princess, and Vampire Knight. But I still encourage you to attend, as I think the panel will be fun and thought-provoking, and will feature three of the smartest manga lovers I know: Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner, and Tricia Narwani. The details:

Newsflash: Teen Girls Read Comics!
Friday, February 6th
10:15 – 11:15 AM
Room 1A24, Jacob Javits Center
Hosted by Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner, Katherine Dacey, and Tricia Narwani

For a complete list of panels, screenings, and events at NYCC 2009, click here. Special thanks to Robin Brenner for organizing the panel and inviting me to participate–this is a genuine honor!