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.

From the stack: There's Something About Sunyool

The title of Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool (Netcomics) is accurate, though it takes a while to figure out what that something is and if you’d like to see more of it. By the time I’d finished the first volume, she had gone from blandly quirky to confidently madcap, and I was very much in her corner.

Sunyool is the illegitimate daughter of an ambitious politician, and she joins his family rather late in life. She’s an unruly, borderline cynical teen-ager before she goes to live with her dad, but her father eventually sees the advantages in having an attractive, marriageable daughter in his political arsenal. When she reaches her early 20s, he offers a slate of matrimonial candidates for his now fully cynical daughter to evaluate. Any of them could further his career, so it’s only a matter of which beau strikes her shifting fancy.

I always feel a certain resistance to arranged-marriage comedy, particularly when it isn’t a period piece, but Youngran Lee approaches it with such a bemused smirk that it’s hard to get too bogged down in my western perceptions. Sunyool sees the set-up as an unavoidable lark, a chore with benefits. While there are bits of her selection process that are kind of cute, it isn’t until she selects and weds the nicest of the candidates, Sihyun, that things really fall into place in a comedic sense.

The newlyweds address the fact that they don’t know each other very well, and they admit that they’d like a real marriage, at least in contrast to all of the marriages in their immediate circle. Sunyool may be in it mostly for the laughs, but she’s not immune to romance or lust, for that matter. She and Sihyun come to appreciate each other’s attractive attributes, and they eagerly anticipate the moment when their marriage of convenience will become a real love match. (They’re so eager and ardent that they make their respective best friends kind of nauseous, which is funny and reassuring to readers who might have been feeling the same way.) Then things fall apart through no fault of the lovebirds, and Lee’s capacity for cynicism fully reveals itself.

Through it all, Sunyool displays a withering capacity for bluntness and an uncanny instinct for deflating the smug, the bullying, and the deceptive. And since she moves in political circles, she never suffers a shortage of victims. This mutant ability to prick a hypocrite’s balloon is likely the “something” of the title, or at least it is for me. It might also be her ability to adapt to given circumstances, which is also charming and enviable. She’s cannily playing a game of low expectations, which even she admits, but she’s not immune to possibility. I’m looking forward to seeing her refuse to suffer new fools and roll with life’s nastier punches as the series progresses.

Upcoming 7/14/2010

It’s a momentous, manga-influenced week for the ComicList! Let’s take a look.

I can’t do any better than Oni in describing the sixth and final volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wonderful Scott Pilgrim Series, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour:

“It’s finally here! Six years and almost one-thousand pages have all led to this epic finale! With six of Ramona’s seven evil exes dispatched, it should be time for Scott Pilgrim to face Gideon Graves, the biggest and baddest of her former beaus. But didn’t Ramona take off at the end of Book 5? Shouldn’t that let Scott off the hook? Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t, but one thing is for certain — all of this has been building to Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour!”

O’Malley could be said to embody one version of the dream of creators who list manga among their influences. He’s got a hugely successful series, critically and commercially, with a major movie adaptation about to hit theatres. Another enviable outcome went to Felipe Smith, who first saw print as one of Tokyopop’s Original English Language manga creators with MBQ. He then went on to secure a spot in Kodansha’s Morning Two line-up with Peepo Choo. The three-volume series is now being released in English by Vertical, and the first volume arrives in comic shops tomorrow.

I read a review copy from the publisher, and I wish I liked the book’s narrative as much as I like the story behind the comic. It falls into the category of comics that aren’t really for me. It’s about a young American otaku who wins a dream trip to Japan. The kid has romanticized Japan beyond all proportion, picturing it as an Eden of manga- and anime-loving cosplayers who can all get along by virtue of their shared love for a particular character. Little does the kid know that he’s going to be mixed up with vicious gangsters, assassins, brutal teen starlets, and the far-less-idyllic reality of indigenous otaku.

Smith shows terrific energy as a creator, and I appreciate his satirical intent, but Peepo Choo is a little coarse for my tastes. I know that’s weird to say, given how much I love Detroit Metal City and Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, but Peepo Choo doesn’t quite have the precision with which those books use their gross-out material. The vulgarity doesn’t say as much as it could, and the satire is a little too broad to be as effective as I’d like. Still, this book should have no trouble finding an audience of comic fans who like to see their hobby tweaked and their fandoms punked, and it’s amazing that Smith has been published in a highly regarded manga magazine by a major Japanese publisher.

Over at the Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi is running a mid-season poll on the year’s best new manhwa so far. I’m hoping that I can include Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool (Netcomics) on this list, as it looks really promising. Here’s what Melinda had to say:

“Born the illegitimate child of a big-time politician, Sunyool has been accepted officially into her father’s household as an adult and thrown straight into negotiations for arranged marriage. While the premise seems rife with cliché, the execution (so far) is anything but. What could easily be a typical rags-to-riches or fish-out-of-water story actually appears more likely to be a thoughtful, wry look at two young people from vastly different backgrounds learning to make a life together within the cold world of politics. Sunyool’s smart (occasionally cruel) sense of humor and self-awareness make her a very appealing female lead, while her pragmatic young husband is still a bit of a mystery.”

I also might have to pick up a copy of the Young Avengers Ultimate Collection (Marvel), written by Alan Heinberg and penciled by various people, mostly Jimmy Cheung, just so I can have all those stories in one convenient package. I really enjoyed the first issue of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade that came out last week, mostly for the adorable gay super-hero boyfriends being adorable with each other, and also because a Marvel character finally suggested that there might be more to the Scarlet Witch’s behavior than her just having a bad case of babies rabies and not being able to handle her powers because, well, chicks. Also, no one suggested killing the Scarlet Witch, though her fair weather friend Ms. Marvel seems like she’d be more than happy to do so. Shut up, Ms. Marvel.

Previews review April 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.

Saturday speculation

I don’t really want to wade into the whole scanlation argument. It’s been ably covered by people on all sides of the issue, and if I started fixating on interesting or (in my opinion) arguable points, I probably wouldn’t be able to stop until Wednesday.

I would like to restate my position, which is that I choose not to read unlicensed translations. I prefer to consume comics in ways that directly benefit the creators or at least have the creators’ consent. It’s entirely possible that, had I come of age when download culture was first emerging instead of later much, much earlier or had more of an interest in the kinds of media that were a big part of the first wave of illegal content (like music), I might have a different opinion on the subject. There’s no way for me to know. Another factor is that I tend to prefer reading physical comics rather than reading them on a computer screen. And last, and probably not least, I don’t have the time to read all of the actual comics I want to read, so the prospect of adding a great volume of legally questionable content to the stack isn’t really alluring to me.

I would also like to restate that I find those aggregator sites that keep cropping up in online advertisements perfectly revolting, and if I never see one of those ads again, it will be too soon. If people discussing this issue can agree on nothing else, I would hope that we can all concur that those for-profit piracy sites are completely indefensible.

But I’m all in favor of people being able to sample series online, provided all of the elements of creator consent and participation are in place. I like sampling comics of varied provenance over at the Netcomics site, and I like plunking down my micropayments for series I enjoy. I also have high hopes for Viz’s various online initiatives, the simultaneous release of Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne and the magazine-specific SigIKKI and Shonen Sunday portals.

I would love it if Viz developed a similar infrastructure for its Shojo Beat imprint. Since the demise of the magazine, they’ve lost some exposure, and I think online serialization would be a good idea. Viz does have a large number of preview chapters available for online perusal, so that’s a start. But there is a huge catalog of Shojo Beat titles. Some of them do very well in terms of sales, but some really terrific books could probably benefit from online serialization, especially when full runs get squeezed off of bookstore shelves by longer, more popular titles.

I know there are complications to developing this kind of initiative. In one of the many contentious comment threads that have cropped up over the last week, Erica (Okazu) Friedman noted that many manga-ka aren’t keen on digital distribution of their work. Getting permission to digitally serialize any of the Shojo Beat titles would probably require complicated renegotiation with the creators and original publishers. (Viz was able to do this with the Shonen Sunday books, many of which have been in print for ages, and for a number of series at The Rumic World, some of which were virtually out of print, so it’s not impossible.)

Then there are potential publisher rivalries. Unlike the Shonen Jump magazine (all Shueisha titles) or the Shonen Sunday site (all Shogakukan), the Shojo Beat imprint is composed of a number of different publishers, including Hakusensha. The Sunday-Jump content divide indicates to me that even co-owning a stateside publishing outlet isn’t enough to negate publisher rivalries, but perhaps the shôjo scene is a little more cordial. The Shojo Beat magazine simultaneously serialized titles from Shueisha, Shogakukan and Hakusensha, so maybe they’d be a little more open to sharing web space. I have no idea. They might go at each other with broken bottles when not in the public eye for all I know.

But if they do decide to pursue something like this, I think the Shonen Sunday composition of titles would be ideal – one brand-new title with the allure of simultaneous release, a scattering of series that are new to an English-reading audience rolled out before print publication, and a healthy quotient of long-running or completed series to invite new readers to sample stuff that’s already available. And since Viz seems determined to fold some josei into this imprint, I think an online venue would be a great way to build an audience for that tricky demographic.

It goes without saying that I have no idea if this would be beneficial in terms of building audience or reducing piracy. You need only to look through my license requests to realize just how shaky by commercial sense can be. But a number of reasonable people seem to agree that the best way to minimize the reach of pirated content is to offer a legitimate alternative. This would build on an existing infrastructure and engage another demographic.

And I won’t lie, it would be cool for me personally, which is really the only reason I suggest anything in terms of business models or licensing decisions. There are lots of Shojo Beat series I’d like to be able to sample in this way.

Second chances

I mentioned yesterday that Fanfare/Ponent Mon is re-offering Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators in the new Previews catalog, and I felt like I should note some other “offered again” items of note:

  • Dining Bar Akira vol. 1, written and illustrated by Tomoko Yamashita, Netcomics. I’ve heard great things about this boys’-love series.
  • Mail vol. 1, written and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, Dark Horse. Supernatural sleuthing and a nice mix of humor and horror make this a fine companion series for The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.
  • Manga: The Complete Guide, written and edited by Jason Thompson, Del Rey. This is a terrific buyer’s guide filled with succinct reviews and informative essays. I can’t tell if this is an updated edition or just a reprint, though.
  • Satsuma Gishiden vol. 1, written and illustrated by Hiroshi Hirata, Dark Horse. This series got a lot of praise but fell off of Dark Horse’s schedule halfway through. Three of its six volumes have been published, the last in March of 2007.
  • Translucent vol. 1, written and illustrated by Kazuhiro Okamoto, Dark Horse. I like this series a lot. It’s a coming-of-age drama about a girl who turns invisible against her will. It was originally serialized in a seinen magazine (Media Factory’s Comic Flapper), but I think it would click with the shôjo audience. Dark Horse just solicited the fourth volume after a long hiatus.
  • As you may have surmised, Dark Horse is re-offering just about all of their first volumes.

    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.

    Manwha 100

    9781600099519As a reviewer, I’ve found Manga: The Complete Guide (Del Rey), Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (Stonebridge Press), and Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics (Laurence King Publishing) indispensable references, whether I’m searching for information about a series’ publication history or looking for insight into a particular artist’s style. I hoped that Manhwa 100: The New Era for Korean Comics would provide a similar perspective on the Korean comics industry. Unfortunately, Manhwa 100 turned out to be an ambitious but poorly executed attempt to highlight the medium’s most popular, influential series.

    In terms of organization and metholodgy, Manhwa 100 falls somewhere between Manga: The Complete Guide and Dreamland Japan, offering summaries of one hundred books, some of which have been translated into English. Each entry includes basic information about the series’ print run (e.g. number of volumes, magazine of serialization), its author, and its crossover into other media (e.g. videogames, television programs), as well as a plot summary and an assessment of the work’s artistic merit. Entries are grouped according to audience, with sections devoted to sunjeong (girls’) comics, boys’ comics, adult comics, and “webtoons,” comics that debuted online but were later anthologized in print.

    We learn in the introduction that a committee of thirty industry professionals chose the books featured in Manhwa 100. The exact selection criteria are never satisfactorily explained, though it’s obvious the committee made a concerted effort to represent a broad spectrum of styles and subjects; no artist has more than one entry devoted to her work. Most books are of recent vintage, with only a smattering of titles released in the 1970s and 1980s.

    And here I have a confession to make: I was sorely tempted to call my review “Manhwa 100: Cultural Learnings of Comics for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Korea.” Why? The text is comically awful, awash in awkward phrases, grammatical errors, egregious typos, and ill-advised attempts to keep it real with slangy, conversational phrases that clash violently with the prevailing tone. The entry for Blue, a title by Lee Eun-hye, is typical of the book:

    Comic book characters are used in many character merchandises now, but it was [sic] not very actively used in the 1990s. However, the comics of Lee Eun-hye were widely used in character merchandises, even in the 1990s. This is because the author has the knack of using colors as one of her main themes. As she said in her own words, “color in itself is a story.”

    As she proclaims in Jump Tree A+, her previous work to Blue, the teenage years are the “Green Age.” Her new story, Blue, represents the young adult age. The color blue in the comic has two sides. It represents a bright fresh side of youth, and it also represents sadness and gloom. The twenty-somethings in the comic are both fresh and youthful, but at the same time lonely and nostalgic.

    A rich man’s illigitemate [sic] son Seung-pyo, passionate dancer Hae-joon, his faithful follower Yeon-woo, smart but cold Hyun-bin, and strong charismatic rocker Ha-yun: Blue revolves around these five characters. The loneliness in Blue was sprouted from self-pity and narcissism. Like in many of her other comics, author Lee Eun-hye pushes her characters into their own narcissistic world disconnected from each other.

    That is why Blue is beautiful. The earnest characters express their life honestly. And the poetic narration and symbolic monologues add to its beauty. In 1997, an OST disc, inspired by the comic, was…

    Yes, the entry really does end with an incomplete sentence.

    If I’m reading the text correctly, this confusing verbiage could be boiled down to three talking points: (1) Lee’s manhwa was among the first to inspire “character goods” (phone cards, figurines, stationery, keychains, etc.); (2) her books feature beautifully drawn, emotionally stunted characters; and (3) her books are popular enough to be adapted into TV shows, CD dramas, and the like. Though it’s obvious she views color as a metaphor for age and mood, it’s not clear how or if she uses color in her work—a crucial point, given the increasingly important role that color is beginning to play in manhwa. It’s also unclear what distinguishes Lee’s work from other sunjeong titles, as symbolism, emotionally-charged conversation, and interior monologues are staples of the medium, not personal idiosyncrasies.

    If the book synopses are frustrating, the contextual essays are downright obtuse. With titles such as “Open a Manhwa Book, Become a Friend of Korea” and “Manhwa in America: The New World of Charms Yet to be Discovered,” their stilted language and boastful claims for manhwa’s international importance make them sound like Pravda articles. Anyone hoping for insight into the differences between manhwa and manga (or other sequential art traditions, for that matter) will be frustrated by the maddeningly vague, jingoistic text which acknowledges stylistic similarities between manhwa and manga while arguing for significant differences in subject and approach. As manhwaga Lee Hyun-se explains:

    While the Japanese samurai pulls out his sword for the completion of his skill, the Korean warrior draws his sword in revenge of his family or to fight against his or her sworn enemy. The Japanese hero walks the glorified path of the hero, which is as clear as the blood he spills, but the Korean hero trudges, stumbling upon his own defects.

    Lee attributes the difference in approach to Korea’s lengthy history of occupation, contrasting it with Japan’s long period of isolationism and political intrigue. “The endless internal strife of the Japanese builds up a sense of hubris and elitism,” he argues, “while being on the defense instills a sense of humility and compassion for others… The hero of Japanese manga is ‘I’ while the hero in Korean manhwa is ‘We.'” It’s an interesting but flawed thesis, akin to suggesting that Howard’s End and Finnegan’s Wake are utterly different because one was written by a British imperialist and the other by a downtrodden Irishman. Lee seems to forget that avenging one’s family (or village, or sweetheart, or mentor) is one of the most basic manga plotlines, transcending genre and time period. He also overlooks the important role of community in manga; for every Lone Wolf, there are just as many characters who discover their purpose when they join a particular group, whether it be the school council (a la Love Master A) or the Shinsengumi (a la Kaze Hikaru).

    Given Manhwa 100‘s limitations, I’m reluctant to recommend it; anyone hoping for an indispensable reference or an introduction to Korean comics will find this book baffling. For those already enchanted with manhwa, however, I’d suggest reading Manhwa 100 in the same spirit that our grandparents and parents flipped through the Sears Roebuck catalog: as a book of possibilities, a wish list for readers who enjoyed Shaman Warrior, One Thousand and One Nights, Bride of the Water God, or Dokebi Bride. I’ve already spotted dozens of great candidates for licensing, from Be Good, a comedy about a gangster who goes back to high school at 40, to Buddy, a sports drama set inside the ultra-competitive world of women’s golf.

    POSTSCRIPT, 2/3/09: I corresponded with the editorial staff at NETCOMICS, who explained that they had a contract with the Korea Culture and Content Agency (KOCCA) to distribute Manhwa 100 in North America. The book was written and produced by C&C Revolution, a private company. (No individuals are named as authors.) NETCOMICS is not responsible for the book’s editorial content, just for its distribution.

    Upcoming and incoming for 1/28/2009

    A few quick links before we get to new arrivals from this week’s ComicList:

  • Deb Aoki posts results from the 2008 Best New Shonen readers’ poll at About.Com.
  • Johanna Draper Carlson shares a preview of Mijeong (NBM), another book from Byun Byung-Jun, the gifted creator of Run, Bong-Gu, Run!
  • GLAAD appreciates people who like us, who really, really like us.
  • Now, onto the Wednesday haul.

    Del Rey has three books that catch my eye: the fifth volume of Hiro Mashima’s fun, lively Fairy Tail, the second of Miwa Ueda’s twisted-sister drama Papillion, and the sixth of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s enduringly awesome Parasyte.

    HarperCollins delivers a second printing of Paul Gravett’s excellent Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know. It’s a terrific overview of a medium that’s tricky to summarize. Gravett pulled off a similar trick with his essential Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics.

    In a similar vein, Netcomics offers Manhwa 100: The New Era for Illustrated Comics, promising a compilation that represents the Korean comic book industry.

    Tokyopop’s big offering for the week is Benjamin’s full-color manhua Orange. Brigid Alverson shared a preview at MangaBlog, and Paul Gravett recently posted an interview with the creator conducted by Rebeca Fernandez. The other highlight from Tokyopop is the fourth volume of Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret, gender-bending comedy at its very best.

    Or as I like to call it, "Poverty Month"

    It’s Manga Month again in Diamond’s Previews catalog, and there’s quite a mix of stuff for varied tastes. Oddly enough, there’s isn’t a Manga Month spread at the front pointing to items of particular interest or even any indication of the occasion on the cover, but why dwell?

    Dark Horse has been making some interesting choices lately, stretching further and further out of its seinen mold. This month, they’re offering four books from Akiko Ikeda’s Dayan Collection series of children’s books featuring “the mischievous cat… and his woodland friends.” The illustrations look gorgeous. Dark Horse has a bunch of preview pages up at its site. (Pages 30 and 31.)

    Del Rey really gets on the Manga Month bus. I’m most interested in the first volume of Faust, “a fiction magazine showcasing innovative short works by young authors. Deb Aoki interviewed Faust editor Katsushi Ota over at not too long ago which really whetted my interest. (Page 256.)

    In addition to new volumes of lots of series I love, there’s also the debut of the Odd Thomas graphic novel, In Odd We Trust, by Dean Koontz and Queenie (The Dreaming) Chan. I haven’t read Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels, but it’s about a guy who talks to the dead, and it’s drawn by Chan, so I’m almost sure to like it. (Page 256.)

    Drawn & Quarterly’s third collection of the works of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Good-Bye (Page 283), will undoubtedly get lots of well-deserved attention, but I’m more drawn to the possibilities of Seichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy. It follows “the quietly melancholic lives of a young couple struggling to make ends meet” during “a politically turbulent and culturally vibrant decade that promised but failed to delivery new possibilities.” (Page 284.)

    I’m only going by what Go! Comi’s solicitation tells me, but I like the concept behind Shino Taira and Yuki Ichiju’s Bogle, promising a contemporary teen-girl Robin Hood. (Page 293.)

    Netcomics offers another title with a josei vibe, Wann’s Talking About. “Three lonely women in search of “happily ever after” in one modern city filled to the brim with difficult men.” (Page 316.)

    That sound you just heard was probably Kate Dacey’s head exploding. Viz is offering a second edition of Rumiko Takahashi’s One-Pound Gospel, forbidden romance between a budding boxer and a beautiful nun. (Page 375.)

    General head explosion will probably result from the announcement of two fat collections of Kazuo (The Drifting Classroom) Umezu’s Cat Eyed Boy. Horror fans will undoubtedly want to take note, as Umezu is an insanely gifted practitioner in this genre. Here’s some early, illustrated enthusiasm from Same Hat! Same Hat! The softcover books offer about 500 pages a piece for $24.99, but you can hack about a third off of that price if you pre-order at Amazon. (Page 377.)

    In addition to a fair number of former Ice Kunion titles, Yen Press deliver’s the first volume of a manga that instantly hooks me with its title: Shoulder-a-Coffin, Kuro! by Satoko Kiyuduki. I don’t even care what it’s about. (Page 379.)

    In the realm of comics not from Japan, there’s still plenty of interest. Phil and Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright offer the seventh volume of Girl Genius: Agatha and the Voice of the Castle. I really enjoy this funny adventure series, which is also available online. (Page 203.)

    Based on the strength of La Perdida, I’ll read just about anything by Jessica Abel, even if it’s about underemployed hipster vampires. Abel collaborates with Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece on Life Sucks from First Second. (Page 289.)

    I really need to read Matthew Loux’s Sidescrollers (Oni Press), which has gotten tons of praise. Loux has a new book coming from Oni called Salt Water Taffy. The new quarterly series follows a bizarre family vacation to a small fishing port in Maine, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. (Page 317.)

    New comics from Hope Larson always make me happy. Her latest is Chiggers from Simon and Schuster, which promises friendship crises at summer camp. Larson is one of the most imaginative visual storytellers around, so it should offer an intriguing on familiar-sounding material. (Page 337.)