- Posted by Johanna on March 5, 2014 at 10:27 pm
- Category: Shopping Guide
What an amazing week! It took me so long to tell you about it because I couldn’t resist reading a bunch of these outstanding titles first. Here’s what I recommend from your local comic shop.
Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!) has been making and publishing comics since he was 15 years old. The Dumbest Idea Ever! (Graphix, $11.99) is his autobiographical story, in comic format, of how that came about. He was a star athlete and high-achieving student in Catholic school, but a bout of illness derailed his plans. He found comic books and realized he could tell his own stories, starting with tales of kids he knew. I think teens will particularly enjoy this story of someone like them, someone with a life where everything doesn’t go right but who followed their creative urge anyway.
Another anticipated all-ages title this week is the supersized hardcover Muppets Omnibus (Marvel, $59.99). It collects all the Roger Langridge comics previously published by Boom!: the original four-issue Muppet Show miniseries, The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson, the 12-issue (#0-11) Muppet Show Comic Book series, and the four-issue The Muppets that came out through Marvel (the Four Seasons stories). This is a wonderful way to get more stories with the characters beyond the movies and TV show. It’s a terrific job of work by Langridge with faithful portrayals of the beloved cast. I hope stores are stocking up now before the release later this month of Muppets Most Wanted.
If you’re looking for older reprints of animal characters, Hermes Press is collecting the Pogo stories from Dell’s Animal Comics as Walt Kelly’s Pogo: The Complete Dell Comics Volume 1 ($49.99). In addition to the 27 five- to ten-page stories, this book also has a profile of Kelly and his treatment of the South and race, particularly the character of Bumbazine, a young black child, seen here. The earliest stories were about Albert the Alligator, and Pogo was just supporting cast. Since the stories predate the better-known comic strip by a good deal, at the beginning, Pogo looks nothing like the character you’re thinking of. Instead, he resembles a real possum, which looks strange, although you can see the look develop as the stories progress.
If you’re interested in the history of comics, there are two collections of works by pillars of the field Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Following the genre-focused books Crime and Science Fiction, Titan Publishing has the The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror ($49.95). If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, Fantagraphics has Young Romance 2: The Early Simon and Kirby Romance Comics ($29.99). I found the previous collection a fun time capsule, and I’m eager to see more.
Also from Fantagraphics, Nijigahara Holograph ($29.99) is an amazing manga. I’m still trying to figure it out — I think I need several more reads to know what’s going on, particularly before I review it — but it’s remarkably drawn and enticingly enigmatic. There’s a group of kids who do something horrible, then the story shows us some of them grown up, and there are lots of butterflies, which are maybe souls or maybe symbols of the line between life and death. It’s a twisty tale that requires the reader to participate in figuring out its mysteries.
The sci-fi manga comedy Thermae Romae, the story of an ancient Roman architect who time travels through water to modern Japan where he learns to build ever-better bathhouses, concludes with Volume 3 (Yen Press, $40). It’s as funny as ever, although as the story wraps up, the plot elements change fast. Nice presentation, too, in an upscale hardcover.
For lighter reads, two shojo series I’m enjoying are also available. Strobe Edge (Book 9, Viz, $9.99) is a teen soap opera with the most basic of premises: how do you handle liking someone who might not like you back? Midnight Secretary (Book 4, Viz, $9.99), on the other hand, is a more adult tale of a woman in love with her boss, who’s also a vampire. Sexy!
- Posted by Johanna on March 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm
- Category: Manga Reviews
- CREDITS: by Io Sakisaka; adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane
- PUBLISHER: Viz; $9.99 US
The appeal of Strobe Edge, for me, is how Io Sakisaka takes everyday encounters and conversations and imbues them with such meaning and importance. It’s a welcome reminder of how much everything *feels* for the young and how the simplest moments can be so significant.
For example, early in this volume (following up on the previous book), Ninako is on her way to the train home. She sees Toda, and she wants to thank him for his cheerleading help. Ren, who just realized his feelings for her, prevents her from talking to the other guy, since he’s jealous. This basic sequence of watching who’s on the train and who’s on the platform and who’s aware of whose presence doesn’t sound like much when I describe it, but the silent moments of action, as Ren reaches out for Ninako, who’s facing away from him until she’s surprised by his grasp, are impressive. Sakisaka has portrayed something most people wouldn’t give a second thought with deep symbolism and suspense.
Ren is trying to tell Ninako he likes her, but although she hopes for it, she won’t believe it. He can’t quite come out and say it, and she brushes aside the implications. It’s too important to her to be wrong about it, so she won’t accept his feelings until he states them specifically. Yet that doesn’t happen, because they’re interrupted. This is a teen soap opera, after all, which becomes obvious later in the book. I admit, the particular reversal at that point struck me as artificial and stagy, but Sakisaka has to do whatever she can to keep the characters from the happy ending while the series is still running.
Plot-wise, we get to see the school sports festival. Lots of kids in t-shirts are running and cheering and rooting for each other. The other story thread involves Ando, another rival for Ninako’s feelings, having to run a relay with his ex-girlfriend. The teamwork and encouragement of the race signal a rapprochement between the two, which allows for a later coming clean of what really happened between them.
Ninako has come quite a way from the young girl she was when we first met her. Then, she felt immature compared to her friends, since she didn’t know what love was. Now, in contrast, there’s a three-page sequence that opens Book 9 where she nicely appreciates having a group of friends to talk to. More significantly, they aren’t sure they understand what she’s trying to tell them, but she’s comfortable with that. She’s gained a better understanding of herself just talking to them, and that’s what matters.
There are lots of monologues of advice, whether one character reminiscing with another or someone simply verbalizing their thoughts. The overall message is along the lines of “the heart wants what it wants”, that your feelings will be there regardless of what you think they should be. As one character puts it, “If I don’t take care of my feelings, no one’s going to do it for me.” It’s a rather indulgent take on the world, but as we’re reminded by a shocking dose of reality (one character has to quit school to go to work to feed his family), for most of these kids, this is the only time they’ll get to make such decisions without real-world factors coming into play. That’s why I like reading it: It’s a window into a simpler time, with characters I root for to be happy. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on March 5, 2014 at 8:17 am
- Category: Manga News
Viz is on a roll with its license announcements, but this one is the most exciting! Master Keaton by Naoki Urasawa, author of the wonderful Pluto, Monster, and 20th Century Boys, will be published in North America in December as a Viz Signature title. (It’s also coming to the United Kingdom, and Australia.) It’s a long wait, but boy will it be worth it.
The series runs 12 volumes. It’s described as a “post–Cold War suspense thriller”, the story of Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, who’s an archeology professor and insurance investigator. (A modern-day Indiana Jones?) “The son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman, educated in archaeology at Oxford and a former member of the SAS, Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, and pursue the truth.” The series ran 1988-1994 in Japan, and each volume will include 18 pages of color art at a cover price of $19.99. There’s also an anime adaptation, which was available translated here in 2003.
KC’s latest Westfield column is his monthly look at what’s in the current Previews catalog for purchase of upcoming items through comic shops. These items are due in May or later. (Mostly later, since he’s covering reprint books and collections, which take longer to print overseas and ship here.) Highlights this month include Fantagraphics’ complete witzend (Wally Wood’s prozine); The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo, a benefit book from Dark Horse; and the Marvel Rarities Masterworks.
- Posted by Johanna on March 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm
- Category: Manga News
Vertical, the manga publisher of unusual works, has published a reader survey to find out more about their customers’ buying habits and license requests. I found this question particularly interesting:
Would you consider participating in a Vertical subscription program supported through Patreon? (For a monthly amount, patrons could receive the Vertical catalog as it comes out for a year. Patron plans could be made for the novels, the cookbooks, the manga, or the entire Vertical catalog. Promotional goodies would also be provided to patrons.)
Earlier this afternoon, Vertical marketing guru Ed Chavez tweeted
Ohhh! If everyone who has signed up for the Patreon project (mentioned in our survey) actually follows through, this thing might work out!!
— Vertical, Inc. (@Vertical_Ed) March 4, 2014
Manga publishers have been at the forefront of exploring alternative publishing plans, from the first Digital Manga Kickstarter to Tokyopop’s print-on-demand plans. Patreon, which is a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter, but for subscription plans (continuing monthly funding), has recently been discovered by comic creators, particularly webcomic makers.
Vertical has been much more reliable in its releases than some of the other manga companies I’ve mentioned, so if they did a plan like this, the likelihood of getting what you pay for is high. (Digital Manga tried a yaoi prepay plan similar to this in 2009, but that was before these kinds of funding tools were widely known. I don’t know how well it worked out, or if everyone got what they paid for.) The question would be whether readers of some of Vertical’s manga would like all of it enough to commit to buying it all.
- Posted by Johanna on March 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm
- Category: Comic News
Jen Sorensen has won the 2014 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. This is the first time the prize, which began in 2004 and comes with an award of $15,000 and “a sterling silver Tiffany trophy”, has recognized a woman. Sorensen cartoons for alternative weekly newspapers including The Austin Chronicle.
According to Comic Riffs (the Washington Post blog on cartooning), the last three winners were alt-weekly cartoonists: Jen Sorensen, Tom Tomorrow (2013), and Matt Bors (2012), which I think indicates how “regular” papers have given up on leading the field of editorial cartooning. So many have fired their staff cartoonists and resorted to syndicated material that can’t be too edgy or relevant to the local audience.
Anyway, I’ve been following Sorensen’s work since Alternative Comics (the first version) published her Slowpoke Comix in 1998, so I’m thrilled for her. Her books include
Slowpoke: One Nation, Oh My God!, Slowpoke: America Gone Bonkers, and Slowpoke: Café Pompous, all of which are still available. I hope there’s another one coming soon.
- Posted by Johanna on March 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm
- Category: Comic News
The Society of Illustrators has announced the jury for the 2014 MoCCA Arts Festival Awards of Excellence. The members will be artist Gregory Benton, Drawn & Quarterly Managing Editor Tracy Hurren, designer Chip Kidd, publisher Chris Pitzer, and James Sturm, cartoonist and Director of The Center for Cartoon Studies. Excellent choices.
The press release has more on their backgrounds. There will six winners, named April 6 during the Fest, who will have their work exhibited at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art at the Society of Illustrators from April 29-May 17, 2014.
- Posted by Johanna on March 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm
- Category: Manga News
Vampires aren’t dead yet as a trend, and Viz is putting out a supernatural romance featuring them in October.
Honey Blood by Miko Mitsuki runs three volumes. Hinata’s high school classmate is attacked by a vampire, but she doesn’t believe the mythical monsters exist. Yet her neighbor, who wrote a vampire romance novel, makes her suspicious — is he a vampire? was he responsible for the attack?
November brings a 9-book magical girl series, Kiss of the Rose Princess by Aya Shouoto. Anis wears a rose choker to prevent a “terrible punishment”, but when it’s removed, she discovers she has the power to summon with a kiss four knights from four magical cards. It’s a fantasy quest with a young woman at its center.
Both titles will be available in print at $9.99 US and digitally.