Upcoming 6/16/2010

Time for a quick look at the current ComicList:

Fantagraphics reminds us that they’re more than just awesome, Matt Thorn-curated manga with Megan Kelso’s Artichoke Tales. Kelso’s previous big release is an excellent collection of short stories, The Squirrel Mother, also from Fantagraphics. This is Kelso’s first long-form effort, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with that length of narrative.

Viz has one of its Signature-heavy weeks with three enjoyable books:

  • The first volume of Kumiko Suekane’s I’m-not-sure-how-intentionally-hilarious tale of teen-aged clones of major historical figures, Afterschool Charisma
  • The third volume of Daisuke Igarashi’s environmental fable, Children of the Sea
  • The eighth ninth volume of Naoki Urasawa’s crazily entertaining 20th Century Boys.
  • Quick Previews review

    I’m packing and getting ready for some down time (restful!), but I did want to point out something for folks who pre-order at least some of their manga through Diamond’s Previews catalog. Guess what’s in the June 2010 edition?

    Page 290 in the Fantagraphics section, in case you want to go right to it. Here’s some of the solicitation text:

    “Moto Hagio is considered the most beloved shōjo manga artist of all time. Unconstrained by genre, she has built a career exemplified by intellectual curiosity, psychological authenticity and a mature aesthetic sense akin to Osamu Tezuka as opposed to Sailor Moon. For the first time in English, Fantagraphics is proud to present a Hagio primer: a selection of short stories spanning from 1971 to 2007 by an artist at the peak of her powers.”

    Needless to say, I’m super-excited and pre-ordering it as soon as I click “publish.” Of course, I’m also not even a tiny bit surprised that the blurb is obnoxious, since this is Fantagraphics. The dig at Sailor Moon, complimenting her by comparing her work to a man’s, even if that man is Osamu Tezuka… it’s vintage, really. And it has to be one of the most coherent Fantagraphics blurbs I’ve read in ages, so points for that. They usually scan like translated Latin from a codex plot device in an archeological thriller.

    Orphan refugees

    I know I’m getting my Kübler-Ross all out of order. I started with anger, then moved on to depression, and now I’m going to backtrack to bargaining. These are confusing times. And while it seems kind of ghoulish to be looking for new homes for orphan titles, one does what one feels one must, you know? Everyone has their own unfinished CMX title that they’d most like to see rescued, so I’m going to focus on three.

    First up is Usumaru Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her, which generated a lot of excitement when it was announced. It’s a survival drama, which is always promising, but more important is the fact that it’s by the gifted, bizarre Furuya. There just isn’t enough of his manga available in English, and while I would have loved to see CMX be the one to rectify that, I’d be equally happy to see Vertical swoop in on a rope, cutlass clenched in its teeth.

    The other two titles are CMX’s classic shôjo offerings, Kyoko Ariyoshi’s Swan and Yasuko Aoike’s From Eroica With Love. The most logical target for these titles is Fantagraphics. They’ve tasked shôjo scholar Matt Thorn with establishing a manga imprint, and Dirk Deppey was just bemoaning the fact that Swan would go unfinished. I’m not asking them to start over again, and Swan’s Shueisha origins might be tricky for Shogakukan-affiliated Fantagraphics to navigate, but it would be a lovely gesture to fans of classic shôjo. It would also seem like an enticing opportunity for Fantagraphics to clean up some of DC’s messes and then gloat about it. I’m just saying. Aside from the fact that classic shôjo doesn’t sell very well, it seems like a solution with no down side.

    I don’t even know where to start with awesome Hakusensha shôjo like My Darling! Miss Bancho and Stolen Hearts that really just began, but maybe Yen Press would like to beef up its shôjo offerings? They could put those profits from Twilight and Black Butler to really good use.

    Quote of the day

    Deb (About.Com) Aoki interviews Gary (Fantagraphics) Groth about their new manga initiative:

    Q: In my conversations with U.S. manga publishers, most, if not all of the mainstream U.S. manga publishers have said that they are not willing to take a chance on classic manga titles (e.g. published in Japan in the 1960’s, ’70s, ’80s or even early ’90s lately!) anymore. What does Fantagraphics hope to do differently to introduce new readers to the titles you’ll be bringing to the U.S.?

    Gary Groth: “Due to my almost complete ignorance of the manga publishing industry and the editorial strictures that guide it, and my pitiful lack of guile in these matters, I was insufficiently aware of how timid and craven our editorial choices should’ve been!”

    Ah, that’s just the kind of Grothian commentary I’ve been expecting.

    By the way, I’m obviously still linkstalking the story, so point me to your thoughts if I’ve missed them.

    Say it with comics

    So you’re among the legion of people who are grateful to Fantagraphics for their recently announced manga initiative, to be curated by Matt Thorn. Who isn’t? I know I am. And you may want to express that gratitude by buying something that Fantagraphics has published. If your comics interests rest primarily in titles from Japan, you may not have sampled other works published by Fantagraphics, so here are some books for your consideration:

    La Perdida, written and illustrated by Jessica Abel: This series got a really attractive hardcover collection from another publisher, but the five individual issues are handsome objects in their own right. It’s a great story about a young woman who moves to Mexico and finds her romanticized notion of the country very much at odds with the corner of its reality that she inhabits. (My review.)

    Escape from “Special”, written and illustrated by Miss Lasko-Gross: This is a frank coming-of-age story about a girl who’s making the adjustment from an experimental private school to the more perilous, less forgiving world of public school. It’s like really bleak shôjo without any bishies, and I liked it quite a bit. (My review.)

    Castle Waiting, written and illustrated by Linda Medley: You’ve read this book, haven’t you? If not, good grief, what are you waiting for? It’s absolutely gorgeous and utterly delightful. It takes place in a castle that “becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary.” I think we’re just about due for another collection, so now would be a good time to introduce yourself to Medley’s first collection of Castle Waiting. Of course, it isn’t as though there’s ever a bad time. (My review.)

    The Squirrel Mother Stories, written and illustrated by Megan Kelso: Do I need to make any other argument for this book beyond the fact that it has what amounts to Alexander Hamilton slash fiction in it? (My review.)

    I did a “Birthday Book” entry on Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar stories from Love and Rockets, so I’ll be lazy and point you at that instead of cobbling together a new paragraph.

    Upcoming 3/10/2010

    Let me just clear a little paperwork out of the way before we delve into this week’s ComicList. I’m keeping a running list of reactions and coverage of yesterday’s grand and glorious news from Fantagraphics, so feel free to drop me a line if you’ve shared some thoughts that I might have missed. Also, the second iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast is in full swing, with Matt (Rocket Bomber) Blind keeping track of everyone’s thoughts on Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX), which was originally serialized in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam, the same magazine that hosted Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. It all comes together.

    Back to the ComicList and sticking with CMX, DC’s manga imprint has some fine comics shipping on Wednesday. I posted a review of the first volume of Mayu Fujikata’s My Darling! Miss Bancho last week, and Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey rounds up some other early word of mouth in her look at this week’s arrivals.

    But, as exuberant pitch persons remind us, that’s not all! There’s also the second (and final) volume of Asuka Izumi’s adorable The Lizard Prince. And in a timely arrival, CMX reminds us that they’ve been putting out classic shôjo for ages. This week’s reminder comes in the form of the 15th volume of Yasuko Aoike’s From Eroica with Love.

    If for some inexplicable reason you missed Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage in its original, three-volume form or in its hardcover annotated version, Oni Press gives you yet another opportunity to enjoy this terrific period action yarn in the form of a softcover edition of the annotated collection. Chantler does an amazing job combining history and adventure, so treat yourself.

    As with Miss Bancho, I’ve already reviewed the first volume of Yuu Watase’s Arata: The Legend (Viz), and so has Danielle (Comics Should Be Good) Leigh. I’ll quote Danielle so as not to bore you by repeating myself:

    “In the end, the categorization of ‘shonen’ really only tells us that this was published in a shonen magazine and I suppose that makes it useful in some ways. What is more important, though, is the name of the creator attached to the work and in this instance, that name is a tried and trusted ‘brand’ in the world of fantasy manga aimed at a teen audience. Yet in spite of the Watase brand, I want to stress that nothing feels formulaic or stale here — somehow this work feels fresh and energetic and I’m quite looking forward to seeing how the two Aratas’ journeys progress in upcoming volumes.”

    In a very different corner of the Viz catalog, there’s the fourth volume of Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City, a distasteful and hilarious tale of an acoustic kind of guy thrust into the death metal limelight. It’s in the middle of its first multi-part epic, so you might want to pick up the third volume before you read this one. Of course, you probably already own all of the available volumes, right?

    And this is less a recommendation than an inquiry: I remember thinking the first volume of naked ape’s switch was kind of pallid Wild Adapter fan fiction, but I recently got a random later volume in a batch of review copies, and at some point it seems to have become very readable Wild Adapter fan fiction. So my question is this: when did that happen, and is it worth rounding up the previous volumes? Or was the 12th volume just an aberrant quality spike?

    Oh, and in case you were wondering what would top the next Graphic Book Best Seller List at The New York Times, Yen Press is releasing the first volume of the graphic-novel version of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight, adapted by Young Kim. The only question is whether it will topple Crumb in the hardcover section or Akamatsu in the manga list. I’m sure I’ll read it eventually. I don’t see any reason to rush, though.


    The indispensable Gia Mangry of Anime Vice spotted some intriguing listings on Amazon (while everyone else was pouncing on hardcovers), including a much-desired license request. I also got word of another manga offering from Fantagraphics in the form of a short story collection by the inimitable Moto Hagio. And just now, Dirk Deppey has revealed what’s behind these listings:

    “Fantagraphics has signed an agreement with Shogakukan to launch a full manga line edited and curated by Matt Thorn.”

    Fantagraphics wins spring.

    Reactions and coverage:

  • Anime News Network
  • Deb (About.Com) Aoki interviews Gary (Fantagraphics) Groth
  • Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi, plus follow-up thoughts
  • Michael (NonSensical Words) Buntag
  • Chris (Comics212) Butcher
  • Kai-Ming (boiled egg) Cha
  • Dirk (Journalista) Deppey
  • Johanna (Manga Worth Reading) Draper Carlson
  • Fantagraphics, with the news that Moto Hagio will attend this year’s Comic-Con International, plus a follow-up piece with lots of reaction links
  • Sean Gaffney of A Case Suitable for Treatment
  • Shaenon Garrity at The Comics Journal blog
  • Rich (Bleeding Cool) Johnston
  • Simon (Icarus Publishing) Jones
  • Heidi (The Beat) MacDonald
  • Gia (Anime Vice) Manry
  • Publishers Weekly Comics Week
  • Robot 6 breaking news, along with a follow-up piece
  • Robot 6 interview with Matt Thorn
  • Khursten (Otaku Champloo) Santos
  • Michelle (Manga Recon) Smith
  • Tom (The Comics Reporter) Spurgeon
  • Matt Thorn
  • Matt Thorn’s interview with Moto Hagio from The Comics Journal #269, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
  • Birthday books: the Palomar stories

    It’s Gilbert Hernandez’s birthday, and it’s tough to pick a particular book to recommend because he’s incredibly talented and surprisingly prolific. (That’s a lovely combination, isn’t it?) I’ll let sentiment guide my choice and point you to his Palomar stories, which originally ran in Love and Rockets from Fantagraphics and have been collected roughly 36 times in about as many different configurations.

    I would recommend you go with the handsome, affordable, focused paperbacks in the Love and Rockets Library: Heartbreak Soup, Human Diastrophism, and Beyond Palomar. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Palomar, it’s a small Central American town populated with interesting, complex people. It’s also populated with a variety of kinds of stories and tones, gritty realism one moment, magical realism the next. Hernandez really builds that web of community in these stories, exploring ties of family and friendship, lingering grudges, outside influences, sex, love and death.

    It’s also fun to play “if you like” with the Palomar stories, because there are so many possibilities. People who have been enjoying the comics on Viz’s SigIKKI site might like these, not because of any specific carry-over in style or content, but because they’re so good in ways that are specific to Hernandez’s talents. People who like soap operas, particularly smart, place-grounded ones like EastEnders, will find a lot to like as well. (Full disclosure: I’m only really familiar with the early going of EastEnders when it was really ambitious in its combination of economic reality and emotional intensity. I have no idea if it’s still any good.) And fans of the sensual, dreamy, unsettling movies by Pedro Almodovar will feel right at home, especially with Hernandez’s leading lady, sexy, formidable Luba.

    And since I’m on the subject, and since Hernandez is relatively prolific, I’d love to hear which of his non-Palomar comics people would recommend. I need to catch up.

    Update: Via its Twitter feed, AdHouse mentioned that today is also Jim Rugg’s birthday, so you could celebrate that by picking up a copy of Afrodisiac, which Rugg created with Brian Maruca. I reviewed it here. Or you could pick up a copy of Rugg and Maruca’s Street Angel from SLG, which is having a sale at its web store through Feb. 3, also discovered via that publisher’s Twitter feed.

    Birthday Books: Joann Sfar


    The Comics Reporter notes that today is the birthday of Joann Sfar, the wonderful and prolific French cartoonist. I haven’t read any of Sfar’s comics that I wouldn’t happily recommend, so I’ll cheat and suggest two.

    First up is Klezmer (First Second): “Klezmer tells a wild tale of love, friendship, survival, and the joy of making music in pre-World War II Eastern Europe… Tragic, humorous, violent, and tender, Klezmer’s rich watercolor art and simple but moving story-telling draws you into the lives of these fascinating characters.” Here’s my review of the book.

    Next is a companion piece of sorts, The Rabbi’s Cat (Pantheon): “The preeminent work by one of France’s most celebrated young comics artists, The Rabbi’s Cat tells the wholly unique story of a rabbi, his daughter, and their talking cat–a philosopher brimming with scathing humor and surprising tenderness… Rich with the colors, textures, and flavors of Algeria’s Jewish community, The Rabbi’s Cat brings a lost world vibrantly to life–a time and place where Jews and Arabs coexisted–and peoples it with endearing and thoroughly human characters, and one truly unforgettable cat.” Here’s my review.

    When nerd worlds collide

    I love the “Five for Friday” feature over at The Comics Reporter, but I very rarely remember to respond when the question goes out. This is because I’ve usually shut down the computer and curled up with Mr. Hendrick by the time the call goes out. I even forget when I’ve suggested the week’s topic in a previous Five for Friday; in this case, I suggested Tom ask contributors to “Name Five Comic Properties That Should Be Adapted Into Broadway Musicals.” So here are my choices:

    Fumi Yoshinaga's "Antique Bakery" Vol. 2Antique Bakery, by Fumi Yoshinaga (DMP): I think just about anything by Yoshinaga would translate well into a musical, because her characters could just as easily burst into song as they burst into monologue. I do think Antique Bakery would be a great starting point, as it’s got four solid male leads and a whole bunch of Tony-bait supporting roles in the mix. The leads also lend themselves to different musical styles for solo pieces, and their number holds promise for bizarre barbershop sequences. I admit that food-based stage productions are hell for the props crew, but there are ways around that.

    pollyPolly and the Pirates, by Ted Naifeh (Oni): Given the quantity of apparently horrible family-friendly stage musicals Disney has unleashed on Broadway in recent years, it’s probably cruel to suggest an adaptation of this delightful but underappreciated mini-series. Still, it’s got a lot of things going for it: a spunky ingénue part in the title character, a big chorus of rowdy pirates, an exciting plot, and some fun staging and design opportunities.

    10203010, 20, 30, by Morim Kang (Netcomics): Swinging in the other direction in terms of production scale, this look at the lives of three different women muddling through three different decades of life (teens, twenties, and thirties) would make a nifty chamber piece that would be very portable to university and community theatres. All you really need are interesting characters with distinct voices, I think, and this book has them.

    palomarPalomar, by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics): Hernandez’s Palomar stories have an embarrassment of riches for composers, lyricists, librettists, and directors. A cast bursting with great characters, a community that could easily function as a formidable chorus, a lovely setting with just enough of a magical-realism quality to justify the bursting-into-song aspect, and a magnificent “Big Lady” lead role in Luba all suggest a musical that would write itself.

    dragonheadDragon Head, by Minetaro Mochizuki (Tokyopop): Okay, this is probably me just being perverse, undoubtedly influenced by that PBS special on the Lord of the Rings musical that aired on PBS. In my defense, history has shown us that Broadway will adapt anything – ANYTHING – into a singing-and-dancing extravaganza, so I see no reason for them to shy away from this post-apocalyptic treasure. And someone’s probably still got that helicopter from Miss Saigon lying around, so there’s a cost savings right off the top. It could be Carrie: The Musical or it could be Sweeney Todd, and I think it’s worth it either way.