Upcoming 8/18/2010

August 17, 2010

It may not look like there’s any new manga of note on this week’s ComicList, but a lot of the stuff that I mentioned last week is actually shipping this week. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey has a handy run-down, and she also has a timeless warning on Japanese comics to avoid. (How could I have forgotten Pretty Face?) And there are a couple of very promising items due for arrival on Wednesday.

Goldilocks and the Seven Squat Bears isn’t from Japan or Korea, the usual sources for books from Yen Press, but it’s been written and illustrated by Émile Bravo, so it’s likely to be very, very good. Bravo brilliantly illustrated My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and published in English by Fanfare/Ponent Mon.

I really enjoyed Aaron Renier’s Spiral-Bound (Top Shelf), and I sometimes find myself wondering when his next book will arrive. The answer is apparently “Wednesday,” thanks to First Second and in the form of The Unsinkable Walker Bean. Here are the details:

“Mild, meek, and a little geeky, Walker is always happiest in his grandfather’s workshop, messing around with his inventions. But when his beloved grandfather is struck by an ancient curse, it falls on Walker to return an accursed pearl skull to the witches who created it—and his path will be strewn with pirates, magical machines, ancient lore, and deadly peril.”

Update: I inexcusably missed this one, but I have to mention the new Vertigo graphic novel Dark Rain because it’s been drawn by the incredibly gifted Simon (Paris) Gane. It’s a thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans, written by Mat (Incognegro) Johnson. There are some preview pages over at Techland.


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.


    Good girls don’t

    June 23, 2010

    I’m not sure why I’ve seen as many productions of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew as I have. Social obligation tends to force me into a seat watching a play I detest. I mean, I really, really dislike this play. I can’t even credit the effort of various directors to contextualize the story of breaking a woman’s spirit in ways that make it tragically tolerable. (I’ve never seen this work.) I don’t have the inclination to accept the play’s plot as representative of its time, because there are other Shakespeare plays that don’t make me sick to my stomach, so why bother trying to squelch active disdain?

    So I’m not really inclined to appreciate Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of… trilogy as an accurate representation of its time. I’m not a cultural historian, so I have no idea what things were like for women in pre-industrial Korea. I just know that I don’t really care for its portrayal of “good” women as passive and patient, no matter how elegantly drawn it is. “I think that the process of a girl becoming a woman is one of the biggest mysteries and wonders of life,” the creator said in an interview. I wish he had thought harder about that mystery and hadn’t imposed what strikes me as such a male notion of wonder upon it.

    Young Ehwa lives with her widowed mother, who keeps a tavern in the countryside. Mom advises Ehwa on womanhood, pounding in the notion of the woman as flowering shrub, patiently waiting and gently blossoming until a male pollinating insect will deign to settle upon her, and all will be well. Just look at Ehwa’s friend, the porcine Bongsoon, who actually lets curiosity lead to action. Bongsoon is less attractive than Ehwa, and her mother clearly isn’t giving her the lecture on the botany of desire or instructing her that true love waits. You can be damn sure that, should Bongsoon find a man stupid enough to marry damaged goods, birds won’t fly from the trees and every bell in the countryside won’t ring when that marriage is consummated. Bognsoon is an object of ridicule and contempt because she has the nerve to act on her desires.

    That’s so gross to me. And it unfortunately reminds me of an episode of The Gilmore Girls, another tale of a young single mother and a beautiful teen-aged daughter. The mother, Lorelai, is eavesdropping on a conversation between her beautiful daughter, Rory, and her daughter’s less beautiful friend, Paris, who is telling Rory about her first sexual experience. Lorelai breathlessly waits to see if Rory confesses any particular kinship with Rory, and while Rory doesn’t judge Paris, she reveals that she’s not ready yet. Later, Lorelai privately celebrates the fact that she has raised “the good kid.” I liked most of The Gilmore Girls a lot, but that sequence rang so endlessly false to me, given Lorelai’s circumstances and her honesty and willingness to act on her own desires. (Maybe the creators realized how icky this sequence was, given the circumstances around Rory actually losing her virginity.)

    I wouldn’t be inclined to excuse The Color of… as a period piece. It’s relatively contemporary in terms of when it was created, so it reads more as an exercise of nostalgia for a time when good girls remained pure. I’d much rather read something like Morim Kang’s 10, 20, and 30, another tale of a single mother and daughter, that actually respects female desire and development and the ways unique women deal with it.

    (The Color of… trilogy is the subject of the inaugural Manhwa Moveable Feast. Visit Manga Bookshelf for a list of links and resources.)


    Previews review May 2010

    May 2, 2010

    There aren’t very many debuting titles in the May 2010 edition of the Previews catalog, but there are lots of new volumes of slow-to-arrive titles that are worth noting.

    First up would have to be the omnibus collection of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi (Del Rey), offering volumes eight through ten. (It seems appropriate, since this is the title’s week in the Manga Moveable Feast spotlight.) These volumes were fairly meaty individually, and getting three in one for $24.99 seems like a really good value. (Page 292.) Edit: The tenth volume is the final one of the series, so this will conclude Mushishi in English.

    Also on the “good manga for relatively cheap” front is the third volume of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura Na Kiss (Digital Manga). What mishaps will befall our dumb heroine Kotoko in pursuit of the smart boy of her dreams? (Page 295.)

    I’m just going to come out and say that A Distant Neighborhood was my second favorite Jiro Taniguchi title of 2009. Topping that category was The Summit of the Gods, written by Yumemakura Baku. The second volume is due from Fanfare/Ponent Mon. (Page 304.)

    A new volume of Adam Warren’s super-smart, addictive satire, Empowered (Dark Horse), is always good news. It seems like Warren gets around to dealing with the rather loose definition of mortality among the spandex set, and I’d much rather read his take than something like Blackest Night. (Page 35.)

    Is it ungrateful of me to be really eager to see what Bryan Lee O’Malley does next? It’s not that I’m indifferent to the conclusion of the Scott Pilgrim saga (which arrives in the form of the sixth volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour from Oni Press), which I’m sure I’ll love as much as the previous five. But O’Malley’s been working on Scott for a long time. (Page 233.)

    Before we jump fully into the “all-new stuff” department, I’ll bypass quickly to Dark Horse’s release of an omnibus edition of CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth. You can get all three volumes of this magic-girl shôjo classic from the manga superstars. (Page 53.)

    CMX publishes a lot of excellent shôjo from Hakusensha, but they branch out this month with Rika Suzuki’s Tableau Gate. It originally ran in Akita Shoten’s Princess Gold, and it’s about a guy who must help a girl capture some escaped tarot cards. I’m sort of a sucker for comics with tarot imagery, and I trust CMX’s taste in shôjo. (Page 129.)

    I’m always game for a new graphic novel drawn by Faith Erin Hicks, and First Second is kind enough to provide one. It’s called Brain Camp, and it’s about oddballs dealing with mysterious forces, which is right in Hicks’s wheelhouse. The script is by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan. (Page 305.)

    It’s coming! It’s coming! Top Shelf’s 400-page collection of alternative manga, AX, finally hits the solicitation phase, and it should be very exciting to see. (Page 342.)

    Vertical continues to branch out of classic manga mode with the English-language debut of Felibe Smith’s Peepo Choo. For those who’ve forgotten, Smith has been creating the series for Kodansha’s Morning Two magazine. It’s about a kid from Chicago who gets mixed up with a model from Tokyo and a lot of underworld mayhem. (Page 346.)

    I don’t get a particularly good vibe off of Kaneyoshi Izumi’s Seiho Boys’ High School!, due out from Viz. It’s about the student body of an isolated, all-boys’ high school. Anyone who’s read more than one boys’-love title would know how these lads could deal with their isolation, but Izumi apparently decided to take a different approach. The series originally ran in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi.


    Previews review February 2010

    February 6, 2010

    There are some interesting arrivals and very welcome debuts in the February 2010 edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog. It’s also nice to think about what things will be like three months from now. Most of this snow might have melted by then.

    I really enjoyed Seth Grahame-Smith’s undead mash-up of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Chronicle Books). Del Rey has tapped writer Tony Lee and artist Cliff Richards to make the novel more graphic. It was only a matter of time. Here’s the listing at Amazon. (Page 230.)

    Speaking of adaptations, the only thing I know about The Last Airbender is that a lot of people like the Disney Nickelodeon series and that a lot of people were upset when the makers of the live-action movie version cast a lot of white people as non-white characters. Del Rey Manga will offer a Movie Prequel, which is notable for the fact that it’s been written by Dave (Agnes Quill, X-Men: Misfits) Roman, with Alison Wilgus, and illustrated by Nina (Yôkaiden) Matsumoto. (I’m not having any luck finding a cover image. Sorry!) (Page 230.)

    Chigusa Kawai’s La Esperança (Digital Manga) is quite a lovely series, full of semi-romantic schoolboy angst. DMP debuts another Kawai series, Alice the 101st, which features an elite group of musical students, one of whom is a complete novice who earns the contempt of his classmates. I’m guessing at least one classmate will probably revise his opinion in short order. (Page 245.)

    Ever since reading A Drifting Life, I’ve been eager to see some of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s early gekiga, the hard-boiled crime dramas that helped him build his reputation. Drawn & Quarterly will slake my curiosity with Black Blizzard, the tale of two convicts, cuffed together and on the run. (Page 249.)

    :01 First Second is sure to please fans of Gene Luen (American Born Chinese) Yang with the publication of his Prime Baby, which promises a “tale of mat, aliens, and sibling rivalry.” This was first serialized in The New York Times Magazine, but one can always expect nice packaging from First Second. (Page 255.)

    Viz offers more IKKI goodness in the form of Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow, the ruefully funny story of a schlub who tries to make a late-in-life decision to become a manga-ka, and Hisae Iwaoka’s slice of life in orbit, Saturn Apartments. You can sample hefty chunks of both over at Viz’s SIGIKKI site. They’re two of my favorite series in that rotation, so I’m really excited. (Page 301.)

    It’s just the month for the arrival of eagerly anticipated manga, isn’t it? Vertical releases the first volume of Ken Yaginuma’s Twin Spica. It’s about kids who attend the Tokyo Space Academy in hopes of exploring the stars. (Page 306.)


    Upcoming 1/6/2010

    January 5, 2010

    2010 hits the ground running, at least in ComicList terms. I hope you got cash for Christmas or are fit enough to supplement your income by shoveling the driveways of neighbors.

    It’s been available in English for a few years, but that doesn’t stop me from making the hardcover collector’s edition of Fumiyo Kouno’s glorious Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (Last Gasp) my pick of the week. In my opinion, this is still one of the finest comics from Japan ever to be licensed. Don’t believe me? Check out reviews from Lorena (i ♥ manga) Nava Ruggero and Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey.

    I only know what Drawn & Quarterly tells me about Imiri Sakabashira’s The Box Man, but I do know that they’ve got excellent taste in comics from Japan (and everywhere else). What does the publisher promise? An “absurdist tale in a seamless tapestry constructed of elements as seemingly disparate as Japanese folklore, pop culture, and surrealism. Within these panels, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the animate and the inanimate, the real and the imagined, a tension that adds a layer of complexity to this near-wordless psychedelic travelogue.”

    Quick, something a little more undemanding! CMX to the likely rescue! They debut The World I Create, written and illustrated by Ayami Kazama. It’s about students with the ability to create virtual realities, and it looks kind of charming.

    I was crazy about godly pantheons as a kid, particularly the Greek. It never translated into a particular love for comics versions of characters like Hercules, but I was always fascinated, probably because the mythology was so much like a soap opera with extra smiting. As I really admired George O’Connor’s abilities as a cartoonist in Journey into Mohawk Country as well, I’ll definitely give First Second’s Zeus: King of the Gods a good long look.

    I’m apparently not supposed to call them “pamphlets” any more, though I thought that was the preferred term over “floppies.” “Flimsies” it is. There are two such publications out this week that show much promise: the fourth issue of Brandon Graham’s King City (Image) and the second issue of Stumptown (Oni), written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Matthew Southworth, and colored by Lee Loughridge. Thanks again for making my browser crash, Image.

    Now, for the costliest portion of our program: the new shôjo, which I will simply list in alphabetical order because there’s so much of it:

  • Happy Café vol. 1, written and illustrated by Kou Matsuzuki, Tokyopop: I love romantic comedies set in restaurants, so I’ll certainly pick this up at some point.
  • Nana vol. 20, written and illustrated by Ai Yazawa, Viz: More awesome rock-and-roll drama.
  • Natsume’s Book of Friends vol. 1, written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa: I thought this supernatural series got off to a strong start.
  • Sand Chronicles vol. 7, written and illustrated by Hinako Akihara: Oh, the beautiful ache of growing up.
  • V.B. Rose vol. 7, written and illustrated by Banri Hidaka, Tokyopop: Awesome stuff about wedding dress designers and their impulsive apprentice.
  • So what looks good to you?

    Update: I forgot to mention this one, but Marvel does a really quick turnaround on producing a trade paperback of its Marvel Divas mini-series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Tonci Zonjic. I enjoyed it very much in flimsy form, though I’m sad to see that they apparently use that hideous J. Scott Campbell cover for the collection. You’ll understand if I don’t illustrate this paragraph with a thumbnail, won’t you?