Upcoming 10/12/2011

It’s a kind of weird ComicList this week, and I’m pressed for time, so I’ll just pick three things that either sound awesome or intrigue me in some way:

Cross Game Vol. 5, by Mitsuru Adachi, Viz Media: Digital delivery offered Melinda Beasi an entry point to this great baseball theory, so I think the Manga Bookshelf is now a full-fledged Cross Game Borg. Which is only appropriate, since the series is great.

Black Metal Vol. 2, by Chuck BB and Rick Spears, Oni Press: Man, it has been ages since the first book in this series came out, but I really liked it. Fans of Detroit Metal City and possibly Thor might have fun with it, too.

Veronica Presents: Kevin Keller Issue 3, by Dan Parent, Archie Comics: The insidious gay infiltration of Riverdale continues. Even more alarming, I realize that Archie apparently publishes variant covers. When did that start? Anyway, this is sure to offer more likable stories about nice kids.

What looks good to you?



Upcoming 6/8/2011

As we noted over in the current Pick of the Week at Manga Bookshelf, this is a positively crushing week for new releases from Viz. As it is at Midtown, so it is with the ComicList. As a result, I’m limiting my Viz picks to one, but it’s a doozy.

Yes, at long last, it’s time for the 57th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s smashing pirate adventure, One Piece. When we last joined would-be greatest-pirate-in-the-world Luffy, he was desperately trying to save his older but considerably less ambitious brother from execution. Along the way, he inadvertently staged a massive prison break and raised pirate-navy tensions to perhaps their highest pitch in the history of the series. An alternate title to this book could be “How to Succeed in Chaos without Really Trying.” As always, I’m enjoying it enormously, but I miss the heck out of the rest of Luffy’s crew and am eager for their return.

Vizalanche aside, there are a couple of pamphlets I’m eager to purchase. First is Adam Warren’s second Empowered Special which asks Ten Questions for the Maidman from Dark Horse. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, Maidman is one of the few peer superheroes who treats our titular heroine with anything resembling courtesy and respect. I fully expect another outing packed with equal parts satire and sincerity, plus a reasonable amount of equal-opportunity cheesecake.

There’s unlikely to be any cheesecake in Veronica 207, the first issue of the Kevin Keller miniseries created by Dan Parent for Archie Comics. Kevin, as you may recall, is Riverdale’s first openly gay character. As Brigid (MangaBlog) Alverson noted in this piece for Publishers Weekly, Kevin is one of the reasons that Archie has reasserted its relevance over the past couple of years and become, dare I say it, kind of cool for possibly the first time in its sturdy but fairly safe-and-steady history. I just like comics about gay people, provided they aren’t Chick Tracts.

What looks good to you?


Previews review May 2011

After a couple of months of fairly jam-packed Previews catalogs, I suppose it could seem petty to complain that the current listings seem a little slender. There aren’t even enough debuts to manage a dubious manga poll for the month. Fortunately, there are some highlights worth noting.

Book of Human Insects, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical, item code MAY 11 1268: How can one complain about a month that offers the English-language debut of crazy Tezuka seinen? This one originally ran in Akita Shoten’s Play Comic and has been published in French by Casterman as La femme insecte. It’s a mystery about an unscrupulous and manipulative woman. Vertical promises “more twists and turns than MW,” which hardly seems possible.

Veronica #208: Veronica Presents Kevin Keller #2: written and illustrated by Dan Parent, colored by Rich Koslowski, Archie Comics, item code MAY 11 0836: Okay, I missed mentioning the first issue of this, but Kevin (Robot 6) Melrose’s preview of part two of the mini-series about Riverdale’s newest resident, who happens to be gay, reminded me to be excited. (And just as a side note, who would have predicted that Archie would have proven to be the nimblest and most risk-friendly of pamphlet publishers? Not me, that’s for sure.)

Until the Full Moon, written and illustrated by Sanami Matoh, Kodansha Comics, item code MAY 11 1129: This isn’t a debut, per se, as the series was previously published by Broccoli Books. I thought the first volume was kind of dull back then, but I’m among the many who hold a special place in my heart for Matoh’s Fake (Tokyopop), so I thought this book’s return was worth mentioning.

That’s pretty much it as far as debuts go. Here are some particularly enticing new volumes of ongoing series.

Little Nothings volume 4: My Shadow in the Distance, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim, NBM, item code MAY 11 1142: These are smart, charming, observational-autobiographical comics from an incredibly talented creator, and they’re incredibly easy on the eye. You can check out a bunch of them at Trondheim’s blog for NBM.

And here’s a by-no-means complete list of new volumes of ongoing series that I’m looking forward to reading:

  • 20th Century Boys vol. 16, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Viz Media, item code MAY 11 1241
  • Arisa vol. 3, written and illustrated by Natsumi (Kitchen Princess) Ando, Kodansha Comics, item code MAY 11 1122
  • Black Jack vol. 17, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical, item code MAY 11 1269
  • Book Girl and the Captive Fool, written by Mizuki Nomura, Yen Press, item code MAY 11 1281

I’ll post another blind date experiment with the current batch of boys’-love candidates tomorrow.


Upcoming 9/1/2010

It’s an interesting week in ComicList terms. Let’s go right to the pick of the week, shall we?

That would be Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, the first result of the Fantagraphics-Shogakukan team-up that’s being curated by Matt Thorn. It’s a deeply glorious book that brims with Hagio’s psychological and emotional insights. I plan on posting a review on Thursday. You can order a signed copy from the publisher.

If that doesn’t slake your appetite for classic manga, Vertical is kind enough to offer Osamu Tezuka’s Apollo’s Song in two paperback volumes. It’s an example of deeply crazy Tezuka, with the added bonus of lots and lots of sex. If you can resist that description, you’re stronger than I am.

One of last year’s big books is now available in paperback. David Small’s Stitches (W.W. Norton) offers a beautifully rendered and stunningly bleak look at a miserable childhood. It’s a really great graphic novel.

There are also new issues of three very different and very entertaining pamphlet comics. First is the second issue of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, following the Young Avengers as they search for the Scarlet Witch to the dismay of most of the rest of the residents of the Marvel universe, who seem happy to assume that the longtime heroine is evil and crazy. Next is the penultimate (I think) issue of Brandon Graham’s King City from Image, whose website is so terrible that I won’t even bother trying to find a link to additional information on the comic. And last is the fourth issue of Stumptown, a smart tale of a down-on-her-luck private investigator from Oni.

What looks good to you?

Updated: I forgot one big pamphlet offering, the arrival of Veronica 202 (Archie Comics) and Riverdale’s first openly gay resident, Kevin Keller. I hope I can find a copy so I can be appropriately derisive when conservative groups condemn the comic.

The dark underbelly of Riverdale

Archie Comics were the first ones I ever remember reading, along with Harvey titles like Casper and Richie Rich. I can’t say with certainty that the presence of a gay character among the Riverdale populace would have enhanced my enjoyment when I was five, but the prospect delights me as a 42-year-old. I haven’t read an Archie comic in ages, even the wedding issues, but I’ll certainly pick up this one. (If you want to save energy and see the full spectrum of reactions to stories like this, please visit this comments thread at The Beat. You know what you’ll find, so I won’t waste time summarizing.)

I already like Kevin a lot for his ability to zero in on the core question of the sexual dynamics of Riverdale:

Don’t dwell on it, Kevin.

That preview page reminds me of an old Archie story I must have read in some station wagon back in the 1970s, though I can’t precisely remember when, or even which Archie comic featured it. In it, Veronica has been heaping abuse on Jughead, because that’s one of the things she does, and everyone accepts it as normal.

Jughead, however, privately conceives a revenge scheme. When no one else is around but Veronica, he slips into this predatory lothario mode that would have Reggie taking notes. He insists to Veronica that they’re meant to be together and that she knows it’s inevitable. She freaks out, as would anyone who rightly believed that Jughead could never muster amorous intent towards anything that didn’t come off of the grill at the Chok’lit Shoppe. No one believes her when she swears that Jughead is creepily wooing her, and she snaps by the end of the story as Jughead watches with malicious but concealed glee.

Has anyone else ever read this story? Does it actually exist, or has my memory started actually constructing twisted fan fiction?

Update: This story is described in Jughead’s Wikipedia entry, so I’m not crazy.

They really do

That’s more like it.


Thanks to correspondent Jeff and his awe-inspiring image manipulation skills for this.

Final thought for Friday

Dear cartoonists: Please draw an Archie cover where Betty accepts Veronica’s marriage proposal and Archie sobs in the background. Thank you in advance.

Update: An email correspondent points me to this cover:


And I appreciate it, but it’s sort of a “close, but no cigar” kind of thing. This reads more to me like Archie is horrified that both of the girls he’s inexplicably able to string along might have the notion of long-term commitment somewhere on their minds. Or, judging simply by his line of sight, Betty has carelessly neglected to button up the back of her gown, revealing otherwise concealed reptilian skin, or something like that.

Tween scene

There’s some good reading on comics for tweens floating around this morning. First is an interview at Comic Book Resources with Jim Rugg, who will be providing the art for Cecil Castelluci’s Plain Janes for DC’s Minx line.

Rugg provides an interesting look into his creative process, how his approach to Plain Janes differed from his work on the much-loved Street Angel (Slave Labor Graphics), and the impossibility of pleasing all the people all the time:

“In order to maintain the commitment necessary to produce a comic, I need a high level of enthusiasm for the material. I’m not trying to make work for some future audience, I’m trying to make a page or scene or story that appeals to me. I value clarity when I’m designing a page or sequence but to imagine what other people want is impossible because every single person wants something different.”

I think the please-yourself approach tends to result in the best comics (and any creative work, really). It can also result in some pretty terrible ones, depending on who exactly is at the helm, but even then I’d rather see something awful that comes from a specific, personal place than a comic by committee.

That brings me to the one point of the interview that made me shake my head a bit. I think Rugg has some generally good points about brand names being less meaningful in the long run than the quality of the product they represent, but this argument struck me as kind of circular:

“The only way a name matters is if it’s something atrocious, something hard to remember or pronounce – Minx is fine, and just in case it does matter, DC commissioned focus groups in order to test various names. Minx won. So assuming that the name of an imprint/company does matter, I will defer to the teenage girls in the focus group rather than my opinion or the opinion of other adults.”

Oh, well, if the focus group liked it… It’s probably just a personal aversion, but focus-group endorsement actually makes me less enthusiastic about a marketing choice, even though I know a lot of my beloved manga lives or dies on audience feedback. But I’m a geezer. And probably kind of a hypocrite.

(For supplemental reading, check out Jennifer de Guzman’s inaugural column at Comic World News, where she talks about the migration of talent from smaller publishers like Slave Labor to Minx.)

Elsewhere, conversation continues on the great Archie experiment. Johanna Draper Carlson has been doing a fine job of tracking reaction and developments, and ICv2 has a column from comics retailer Steve Bennett on the subject. Bennett makes the (to me) reasonable argument that presenting different versions of iconic characters for specific audiences is a good thing:

“Meaning, this isn’t an either or situation, you can have classic and post-modern versions of characters existing side by side with each other. DC is already selectively practicing this. To appeal to the mainstream super-hero reader there’s the Trial of Shazam Captain Marvel and for everyone else there’s Jeff Smith’s upcoming rendition of the classic incarnation. It’ll probably come as no surprise that I prefer the utter wish fulfillment of the original, but until a lot more kids start coming into Dark Star I can’t ignore the way copies of Trial of Shazam has been flying off our shelves.”