Paging Angie Dickinson!

yamato_highheelcopNow that CMX has begun publishing the ridiculously entertaining Fire Investigator Nanase (a glorious mash-up of Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Silence of the Lambs, and Quincy, ME, if that’s possible), I’m thinking they might want to expand their roster of tough cookies to include Waki Yamato’s High-Heeled Cop (variously translated as Shin High-Heeled Cop and Hi-Heel Cop). There’s precious little information about this series (in English, anyway), but with a title like that, how can you go wrong? If Angie Dickinson was still making femmesploitation movies, I’d wager it would be a terrific vehicle for her.

And while I’m at it, would it be too much to ask of an American publisher to license Yamato’s Yokohoma Monogatori, NY Komachi, or Haikara-san ga Toru? I’ve all but given up on other classic shojo titles (you know the suspects: The Song of the Wind in the Trees, The Rose of Versailles), but perhaps there’s hope here…

Don't make me beg

There are lots of books I love included in the recently released list of nominees for the latest round of Tezuka Cultural Awards. I can’t wait for enough of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku to be in print for someone to license it. (I hear it’s a fairly drastic creative departure for her, but it’s Yoshinaga, and I think there’s some international law that requires all of her work be made available in English. I have no problem with such a regulation. I also want her new restaurant manga to be licensed as quickly as possible.)

But North American manga publishers, if you love me, and you often act like you do, one of your number will license Moyashimon (Tales of Agriculture) at your earliest convenience. It sounds kind of like Mushishi (Del Rey) and Honey and Clover (Viz) got drunk one night and conceived an insane child.


Just a quick request to comic shop owners: if your hours are posted on the internet, and they match the hours posted on the door of your shop, you might do your best to be open during those hours. Because someone might have taken a half-hour subway ride to try and spend money at your shop, been disappointed and annoyed at his inability to do so, and ended up spending that money at a big chain bookstore instead.

I mean, that can’t be the preferred outcome for you, can it?

The fairness doctrine

So I’m reading Greg Rucka’s take on the whole “Characters from Underrepresented Groups Are Tragedy Magnets” discussion, and looking at the “Bad things happen to straight white men, too” argument. And that’s fair enough. I mean, you only have to look through just about any given run of Spider-Man or Daredevil to see a rich tapestry of misery and misfortune, and it’s by design. They’re underdogs, and part of the pitch is that their lives suck but they keep trying.

On the other hand, this argument jumped out at me, and not in a good way:

“We live in a world where women are treated worse than men — where they are abused and attacked and degraded on the basis of their gender alone. It’s wrong, and it’s vile, and it’s evil, but it’s the truth, and refusing to recognize the same in fiction leads to dishonest fiction, and that’s bad writing.”

I think I prefer the “I’m ladling out abuse with a blindfold on” position to the “Not reflecting grim societal realities in my escapist power fantasies is irresponsible” gambit. Super-heroic fantasy is at least partly about portraying a better world than the one we live in. There are lots of societal trends, positive and negative, that aren’t proportionately represented in comics, and arguing that you’re just being honest by folding in some of the fouler ones strikes me as specious.

And this:

“It’s the same thing here again — this double-standard that says female characters should be allowed only highs, and not lows; that they should be spared harm, and treated with kid gloves.”

Okay, this might carry some weight if there was a litany of highs in the canon that someone could point to – moments of triumph or achievement for women and gays and characters of color. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I read super-hero comics with any regularity, so I might not be cognizant of a recent spate of success stories for characters in this category, but I’m guessing that trend hasn’t exactly blossomed during my period of inattentiveness. (Maybe I should count Black Canary’s “Wedding Planner”? It’s every woman’s dream, isn’t it, to marry the old man who cheated on you over and over again? You’ve come a long way, baby!)

A few legitimate success stories for these characters might not be such a bad idea. The grim bits might be less glaring if they were balanced by some victories that the minority characters owned. People might not care so much that Northstar dies over and over again and gets brainwashed by villains if he affected his own escape from those grim circumstances. If, instead of being a sexual help-maiden allowing a straight, white male super-hero to overcome his bitterness, the Scarlet Witch got her act together and reclaimed her heroic nature. If, instead of being supporting character cannon fodder or prisoners of misfortune, these characters got to save the day and feel good about it.

There’s a difference between survival and triumph, and it seems to me like the two things are being disproportionately portioned out to a certain class of character. Part of that is the difference between an A-list character and those who are further down the alphabet, obviously, but the A-list might become larger and more diverse and more interesting if everyone else got a chance to be victorious.

Get on the omnibus

I’m a big fan of the omnibus concept, even though I’m usually too impatient to hold off on purchasing individual volumes of a given series. John Jakala has drawn attention to Del Rey’s omnibus editions of some of its popular series, and he’s even weeded through a panel report at Book Expo America to winnow out rumor of possible Naruto omnibus editions from Viz. And, just to take the concept even farther, he’s compiled a list of series that might benefit from the omnibus treatment.

There are several series that I think would benefit from an omnibus release, either to collect the content in a more handsome package or to provide inexpensive introductions to long-running series (like Bleach) and make it easier for new readers to catch up. I’d definitely second John’s votes for Love Roma (Del Rey), which I thought was underappreciated in terms of sales during its five-volume run, and Sgt. Frog, for the reasons John details.

Before I go any further, I should admit that I’m not really sure what kind of negotiations these repackaging would require. I’m guessing they’re pretty specific and that the prospect of a reprint in a different format would require a new round of licensing negotiations, so I might just be thinking wishfully. That’s obviously never stopped me before, so here we go:

Antique Bakery (Digital Manga): Critically acclaimed, and rightly so, this is a book that I think deserves a high-end omnibus treatment. That’s not to say that DMP’s treatment of the individual volumes looked bad, but a keepsake approach, with some additional extras and a gorgeous hardcover package would probably get quite a warm welcome. Ice the cake.

Chikyu Misaki (CMX): Only three volumes long, this series would fit quite neatly into an omnibus edition, and it would give a boost to a critically appreciated but (I think) underperforming series. As far as packaging, it could go either way. I can see it packaged as a higher-end novel-like product, or as a more economical done-in-one volume.

Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop): Five volumes of content might be tricky to jam into one book, but what content! And what a book it would be! As Stephanie Chan noted at Blog@Newsarama, Ai Yazawa’s fashion-student manga has broad appeal, and it would be a good way to take advantage of the increasing popularity of Yazawa’s Nana.

Planetes (Tokyopop): I think higher-end packaging would be the way to go with this series, which I still think would appeal to fans of science fiction in prose form.

Scott Pilgrim (Oni): Oni has demonstrated its willingness to play with the omnibus experiment, and they’re always good about re-listing older material, and this could provide some nice series support. They could also fold in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea as a bonus. (Oni might also consider putting together a Courtney Crumrin omnibus, now that I think about it.)

Hot properties in general: It might seem kind of odd to suggest this, given that the titles are still gaining new readers for individual volumes, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to consider omnibus editions of Fullmetal Alchemist (a glaring omission from my list of favorite comics from women creators, thankfully rectified by Kevin Melrose at the aforelinked Blog@ piece), Fruits Basket and Death Note, either in tricked-out or quick-and-cheap versions.

Shôjo in general: I think this would work on a couple of different levels. Shôjo series tend to have shorter runs than their shônen counterparts, so they’d be easier to package in omnibuses.

Yaoi and shônen-ai in general: I could be wrong, but I suspect there might well be an audience for keepsake versions of favorite series, or even omnibus collections of shorter works from favored creators.

I would also think that Tokyopop’s original works would really lend themselves to the omnibus treatment, once their initial three-volume runs are completed. Again, I’m not sure how contractual arrangements would influence that kind of strategy.

As far as existing omnibuses (why isn’t “omnibi” a word?!) that I would have snapped up if I hadn’t already purchased the individual volumes, I’d recommend Girl Genius (though I’d miss the gorgeous colors), Bone and Northwest Passage.