Upcoming 12/22/2010

December 21, 2010

It’s a jam-packed ComicList this week, so much so that I must engage in speculation: if I could only pick one of the thumping stack of Viz Signature titles that are arriving this week, which would it be? Keep in mind that I’ll buy all of them at some point, but that’s a lot of books, you know?

So, to start, I would theoretically postpone purchase of the SigIkki titles on the assumption that I’m up to date on having read them online and thinking that a little more distance between reading them on the web and in a physical book would improve the experience. That’s three out of the mix, and they’re really good, so ouch. And there are still three left.

There’s no shame in losing to Fumi Yoshinaga and Naoki Urasawa, so I’m afraid that Natsume Ono’s charming Gente would have to wait. Much as 20th Century Boys is my favorite Urasawa series, I’m not quite as starved for a new volume of it as I am for the next installment of the final contender…

… the fifth volume of Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers. Yes, it’s got some adaptation issues, but I find that it takes fewer and fewer pages for me to adapt myself to them and throw myself into the very beguiling story.

And, just for clarity, here’s the order of choice for all of Signature’s avalanche:

1. Ôoku: The Inner Chambers vol. 5, Fumi Yoshinaga
2. 20th Century Boys vol. 12, Naoki Urasawa
3. Gente vol. 2, Natsume Ono
4. House of Five Leaves vol. 2, Natsume Ono
5. Children of the Sea vol. 4, Daisuke Igarashi
6. I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow vol. 2, Shunji Aono

Vertical isn’t making things any cheaper.

I think the fourth volume of Kanata Konami’s Chi’s Sweet Home is the best yet. Konami really seems to have found a rhythm by this point and a solid handle on the comic potential of human-feline interaction. And I’m really looking forward to how Felipe Smith wraps things up in the third and final volume of the deranged cross-cultural theater-of-cruelty comedy, Peepo Choo.

And if you’ve never much cared for Marvel’s comics, I don’t know how meaningful this will be for you, but I’m really, really enjoying Secret Avengers. Last issue, Valkyrie, the Asgardian chooser of the slain, kicked the asses of a whole bunch of ninjas. That will either light a spark in your soul or not. The eighth issue comes out Wednesday, written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Mike Deodato.

What looks good to you?

Update: Major omission alert!

Drawn & Quarterly gets its gekiga on with Oji Suzuki’s A Single Match, a “collection of hauntingly elliptical short stories.”


For your 2011 Eisner consideration

December 16, 2010

Submissions are being accepted for the 2011 Eisner Awards! I enjoyed cobbling a list of suggested manga nominations last year, so I thought I’d try again.

There could be a number of Japanese works that make it into the Best Short Story category, as both Fantagraphics and Top Shelf published highly regarded collections of short manga. If forced to pick just one story from Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, I think it would have to be “Hanshin/Half-God.” There’s a lot of terrific work in Top Shelf’s AX anthology, but the one that keeps coming to mind would have to be Akino Kondo’s “The Rainy Day Blouse & the First Umbrella.”

Whether or not any Japanese titles show up in the Best Continuing Comic Book Series category is always kind of a crap shoot. If one shows up, there’s a good chance it’s probably by Naoki Urasawa, so I wouldn’t be surprised or at all displeased if we saw 20th Century Boys or Pluto (Viz) in this roster. I would be surprised and delighted if we saw that stalwart, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, take a slot. The same goes for Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece (Viz), which experienced a big push this year and put Oda’s multifaceted gifts on flattering display.

The Best New Series category is tricky for similar reasons. You never know how they’ll define the category, and, hey, it’s not like the rest of the comics industry is hurting for good new titles. But if they want to mix it up with some newly launched (here, at least) manga series, here are four they might consider:

  • Twin Spica (Vertical), Kou Yaginuma’s heartfelt examination of a school for astronauts
  • Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Yumi Unita’s observant take on single fatherhood
  • House of Five Leaves (Viz), Natsume Ono’s alluring tale of an unemployed samurai who falls in with the right/wrong crowd
  • Cross Game (Viz), Mitsuru Adachi’s coming-of-age baseball drama.
  • Technically speaking, neither of the following titles was originally conceived of for kids, but I have no problem putting them forward as likely candidates for the Best Publication for Kids category. Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical) is charming and funny, and it offers a point-by-point run-through of the responsibilities of pet ownership, which is a great thing to hand a kid. Very few people don’t like Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (Yen Press) for the simple reasons that it’s hysterically funny and wide open to just about anyone who cares to read it. It’s the kind of book that I think people want to read with the kids in their lives, which is certainly an enticement for voters.

    If there’s a category that’s hard to pin down, it would probably be Best Publication for Teens, partly because I don’t think teens really like being told “We know you’ll like this.” So I’ll go with two that are rated “Teen,” because I’m lazy like that. Cross Game has pretty much everything you could ask for from a coming-of-age novel: joy, sorry, confusion, comedy, great characters, and completely recognizable slices of life. Yuki Midorikawa slices up a more supernatural life with Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), but it has hearts and smarts in common with Adachi’s baseball comic.

    Not much has changed as far as my Best Humor Publication recommendations go, at least in relation to Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey). The aforementioned Yotsuba&! is routinely one of the funniest comics I read, and Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (Viz) has a lot of vulgar high points.

    Unless there’s some utterly arcane bit of rules of which I’m unaware, there’s no reason on Earth for AX not to snag a Best Anthology nomination. It’s everything an anthology or collection is supposed to be, isn’t it? Purposeful, varied, significant, with bonus points for being frequently entertaining and nicely produced.

    Nominees in the Best Archival Collection apparently need to focus on work that’s at least 20 years old, so I suspect that might disqualify A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, but there’s plenty of material to choose from. Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako (Vertical) is perhaps not my favorite of his works, but there’s always Black Jack from the same publisher. There’s also Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly), which offers a worthwhile glimpse into his earlier, long-form works.

    Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material — Asia opens its own can of worms for me in terms of recommendation, because what I’d suggest would depend on what’s nominated elsewhere. I’m always for spreading the wealth, if possible. Assuming there’s an absence of comics from Japan in the other categories, I’d say these five are essential, though: A Drunken Dream an Other Stories (Fantgraphics), AX (Top Shelf), Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Twin Spica (Vertical), and Cross Game (Viz).

    It’s unfortunate that the Best Writer/Artist categories are divided into Humor and Drama, because the greats balance both. I would love to see Fumi Yoshinaga nominated, possibly in the humor side of the equation. Still, her year included All My Darling Daughters (Viz), new volumes of Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (Yen Press), which seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to nominate her for an award she’s deserved for years. I’d feel fairly secure in placing Moto Hagio in the Drama category, since that is the essential nature of the short stories collected in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. They aren’t entirely void of humor, but…

    Chi’s Sweet Home’s qualifications for Best Publication Design may not be immediately obvious, but the care with which its reading orientation was flipped and color was added to each page are worth noting, especially in the ways that they opened the book up to a larger audience. There seem to be a lot of gorgeous, immense package jobs this year, slip-cased volumes that you could use as an ottoman, and there’s some snazzy design for books that doesn’t really enhance the actual comic in question, but the design for Chi’s Sweet Home served the product and was subtly beautiful at the same time. [Update: I’m reliably informed that the book was in color before it was flipped and translated.] The cover designs for 7 Billion Needles were perhaps less cumulative work, but their style and texture are real winners.

    What did I miss? What books and creators would you recommend for Eisner consideration?


    Thanks!

    November 25, 2010

    To celebrate Thanksgiving in the laziest way possible, I thought I would mention some ongoing comics that debuted (if only in print and in English) in 2010 so far for which I am grateful. And there’s still more than a month left.

    And here are some stand-alone works that made the year sparkle.

    The manga industry may be correcting itself, but we’re still getting great books, don’t you think? The images above are all linked to commentary of varying lengths. And added thanks to everyone who makes the comics blogosphere and twitterverse such a delightful place to visit.


    The news so far

    July 23, 2010

    Updated: Awesome as the two titles below sound, Yen Press pulled into the lead of winning Comic Con International by announcing the following license:

    Yes, they will be publishing Kaoru (Emma) Mori’s Otoyomegatari, which moves Yen into the august group of publishers who have fulfilled one of my license requests. Others include Vertical and NBM.

    *

    Updated again: But the Mori book still holds the top spot. Brigid (Robot 6) Alverson reports on a couple of upcoming books by Shigeru (GeGeGe no Kitaro) Mizuki from Drawn & Quarterly. At least one has been published in French by Cornélius. With the other, I’m not sure what the original Japanese title might have been or how it might have been translated. Sounds dramatic, though. Updated: It was confirmed for me that the second book has also been published in French.

    *

    They may not have been on my wish list, but Comic Con International has already yielded two really interesting-sounding licenses, so we’ll take the week off from requests in favor of pointing you towards more information on these announcements.

    Vertical will be publishing Usumaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club. Brigid Alverson has the details at Robot 6. Maybe this will do really well, and someone will decide to rescue Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her. Think of the headline puns!

    Brigid also has details and some preview pages of Masahiko Matsumoto’s Cigarette Girl, due out from Top Shelf, who seems to want to give Drawn & Quarterly a run for their gekiga money. Competition is healthy!


    Making Eisner book

    July 22, 2010

    The Eisner Awards will be presented tomorrow night, and I thought it would be fun to handicap the chances of the manga and manhwa nominees in various categories:

    Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys (Viz) is nominated for Best Continuing Series. This is quite a feather in Urasawa’s cap (which, come to think of it, is more of a headdress at this point), and this is my favorite of his series that are available in English, but I don’t think it will win. There are some Eisner favorites in this category, and Urasawa has a bunch of other nominations in other categories.

    Urasawa’s Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka (Viz) is nominated for Best Limited Series or Story Arc. I suspect Pluto will win another award, so it likely won’t claim this one. It’s also kind of strange that the series is nominated in this category. When a manga series concludes, is it put in the Limited Series or Story Arc category and nominated in the Continuing Series category when more volumes are on the way after the end of the nomination period?

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly) is nominated for Best Reality-Based Work. Tatsumi certainly deserves the nod, but more recent and widely acclaimed books like Footnotes in Gaza and The Photographer will probably take the prize.

    Jiro Taniguchi’s two-volume A Distant Neighborhood (Fanfare/Ponent Mon) is nominated for the Best Graphic Album – New prize. This is another nomination that seems a little off to me, as the category seems best suited for stand-alone work rather than something in two volumes. The competition is also rather fierce here, and this isn’t even my favorite Taniguchi work that came out during the nominating period (though he only drew Summit of the Gods, also from Fanfare/Ponent Mon). I would love to see My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill take this one, but again, this category features some serious heavy hitters.

    I think Urasawa’s Pluto will claim the Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia prize, and voters in a poll that I ran agree. They also think it should win, though I disagree. It’s a very strong series, but I found it a little overly serious on the whole. But it’s a lot like Watchmen in its dramatic, revisionist take on a property for children, and those are apparently very hard for people to resist. Of the remaining nominees, I’d rather see Oishinbo a la Carte (Viz), written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki, win, because it would boost sales for the existing volumes of this fascinating series and increase the possibility that we might see more. I don’t think it stands much of a chance, as it cherry picks stories from the series’ very long run rather than offering a contained narrative. There’s an okay chance that Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life might take this prize, but I still think Eisner voters have been looking for a chance to honor Urasawa for a while now. I hope to heaven that The Color Trilogy (First Second) doesn’t win, but the last time I mentioned my dislike of that series, I was subjected to condescending psychoanalysis, so I’ll just move on. If you’d like to see my dream Eisner ballot in this category, click here.

    Urasawa is nominated again in the Best Writer/Artist category. Given the number of nominations he’s received this year, you’d think he would be a lock, but he’s up against stalwarts like Darwyn Cooke, R. Crumb and David Mazzucchelli. This might be one of those “honor just be nominated” moments.

    Adrian Tomine is nominated for Best Lettering for A Drifting Life. I don’t remember the lettering being particularly noteworthy on that book, especially in comparison to Mazzucchelli’s on Asterios Polyp.

    What are your thoughts on the chances of the various manga and manhwa nominees?


    Vive la France!

    July 14, 2010

    It’s Bastille Day, so I thought I’d put together a quick list of some of my favorite comics by French creators and some of my favorite comics set in France. It’s tough, because so many of them are so great, but I’ll try not to go overboard. Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite comics by French writers and artists:

  • Aya, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): Wonderfully funny and thoughtful multigenerational soap opera about coming of age in the Ivory Coast of the 1970s.
  • Little Nothings, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim (NBM): Really terrific slice-of-life and observational humor from a wonderful cartoonist.
  • The Rabbi’s Cat, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (Pantheon): A rabbi in Algeria finds his cat can talk, and the cat has no shortage of distressing philosophical opinions.
  • Klezmer, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (First Second): I really like Sfar, what can I say? I even liked Vampire Loves, and I usually hate vampire comics. When are we going to get more of this wonderful tale of Jewish musicians in Eastern Europe?
  • Get a Life, written and illustrated by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian: Why haven’t there been more collections of Monsieur Jean stories published in English? This one’s a treasure.
  • Glacial Period, written and illustrated by Nicolas de Crécy (NBM): Still my favorite of the comics created in conjunction with the Louvre. (Holy crap, NBM is going to publish Salvatore this winter! My wish came true!)
  • My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and illustrated by Émille Bravo (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Deservedly nominated for a few Eisner Awards this year,
  • Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, written and illustrated by various creators (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Half of this book constitutes an invasion of Japan by various wonderful French comic artists. The other half is wonderful Japanese comic artists telling stories about their hometowns. There is no losing in this book. I’d love to see the same group take on France as Viewed by 17 Creators.
  • And here are a couple of comics set in France that I really like:

  • Paris, written by Andi Watson and illustrated by Simon Gane (SLG): This tale of young women in love in the Paris of the 1920s is so gorgeous it almost hurts.
  • Gerard and Jacques, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga (Blu): Over time, I’ve willfully forgotten the fact that this series opens with coercive sex, because I love watching the characters natter at each other in between bouts of steamy, consensual congress.
  • What did I forget? Or what should I look into? What about comics from or set in France that have yet to be translated? Between their indigenous talent and the volume of licensed manga they enjoy, the French are sick with awesome comics.


    Previews review April 2010

    April 5, 2010

    The first thing I’d like to note about the current edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog is that the addition of new “premier publishers” to the front makes the midsection look even sadder and slimmer. That said, there are still many promising items contained there.

    CMX offers a one-shot, The Phantom Guesthouse, written and illustrated by Nari Kusakawa, creator of the well-liked Recipe for Gertrude, Palette of Twelve Secret Colors, and Two Flowers for the Dragon. It’s a supernatural mystery that was originally published by that stalwart purveyor of quality shôjo, Hakusensha, though I can’t tell which magazine serialized it. (Page 127.)

    It’s been some time since the last collection of Tyler Page’s Nothing Better (Dementian Comics), the story of college roommates with very different backgrounds and personal philosophies. I’m glad to see more of the web-serialized comic see print. (Page 279.)

    It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we got the fourth volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s lovely collection of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, but here comes the fifth. According to the blurb, “this volume features the final strips drawn by Tove Jansson and written by her brother Lars for the London Evening News.” It’s utterly charming stuff. (Page 280.)

    Speaking of utterly charming stuff, how can you possibly resist a book subtitled The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans? Well, okay, knowing nothing else, that’s pretty resistible. But what if I told you it was the new installment of Rick Geary’s outstanding A Treasury of XXth Century Murder? Singing a different tune, aren’t you? (Page 298.)

    Netcomics busts out what seems to be the manhwa equivalent of josei with the first volume of Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool. It’s about a pastry chef who gets dumped just after her trip to the altar and, rebuilds her life, and then is faced with her “lawyer ex-husband and her gay would-be lover.” I hate when that happens. (Page 299.)

    In other josei news, Tokyopop spreads joy throughout the land (or at least the corner of it that I occupy) by listing the fourth volume of Mari Okazaki’s glorious office-lady drama Suppli. (Page 317.)

    Vertical really brings the joy, though, offering not only the first volume of Kanata Konami’s eagerly anticipated Chi’s Sweet Home but also the second of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica. I’ve already discussed Chi’s Sweet Home at perhaps monotonous length, but you should really consider this the eye of the storm, because I’m sure I’ll natter even more as we approach its summer release. I read the first volume of Twin Spica and liked it very, very much. It’s the kind of low-key, serious, slice-of-life science fiction that will probably appeal to fans of Planetes and Saturn Apartments. (Page 324.)

    Did you enjoy Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso (Viz)? I did. If you did, you can learn more about the mysteriously handsome, bespectacled restaurant staff in Ono’s Gente and “follow these dashing men home and witness their romances, heartaches, hopes and dreams.” (Page 325.)

    That’s a good month right there.