Grotesque Anatomy
Sunday, November 30, 2003
  Mundane Morrison Madness
Finally got around to reading the Grant Morrison interview over on The Pulse.  There's some fun stuff in there:

I see I'm not the only one wondering where Jen Contino got the idea that ten-year-olds wrote and drew Golden Age comics:
THE PULSE: In the Golden Age ten and eleven year olds could get jobs drawing and working on comics. Why do or don't you think comics are better now because that isn't likely to ever happen again?

MORRISON: I was 17 when I did my first professional comics job, which is ancient when you think about it. Jim Shooter was the youngest writer at 14, I believe. Joe Kubert's first pro outing was when he was twelve but ... apart from that, who ever told you there were ten year old creators in the Golden Age?

That sounds like one of those Mark Millar things ....

We learn that there's a popular comics creator desparately trying to copy Morrison, but it's not Mark Millar:
Even Alan Moore himself ran screaming from this kind of story and began an ungainly, 15-year long attempt to reinvent himself as me.
Morrison reveals that he's created a religion based on the story from Earth X:

Like skin cells or perhaps more like immune cells, we as individuals are all part of one immense intelligent living creature which has its roots in the Cryptozoic era and its living tendrils - including us - probing forward through the untasted jelly of the 21st Century. The body of this vast and intelligent lifeform - the biota as it's known - is still in its infancy and still at the stage in its life cycle where it must consume the planet's resources like a caterpillar on a leaf. What looks like environmental destruction to us is, I believe, the natural acceleration of an impending metamorphosis; just as a caterpillar gorges itself to power its transformation into a butterfly, so too does the biota consume everything in its path, in preparation for its own imminent transformation into adult form.

The Pulse is able to baffle the Master of Mad Ideas himself with one of their unintelligible questions:

THE PULSE: Are you of a Kid Eternity and [Captain Marvel] Jr. are brothers mind or of a how could anyone of EVER done that to those two characters type of mind?

MORRISON: Brothers? Are they supposed to be brothers in some weird League of Everybody-Knows-Everybody-Else universe? It all seems a little desperate.

Morrison (deliberately?) engages in a bit of double-speak:
This will not be one of those ... "We're completely reimagining the characters to be exactly the way they've always been" kind of things we're seeing so much of lately. These are new approaches to the material and some completely novel ways of recreating the whole concept of the "adventure hero" comic, using established templates. [Emphasis added.]
Uh, aren't you saying the same thing that you just criticized, Mr. Morrison?

All in all, an appropriately bizarre interview with Grant.  I look forward to reading his upcoming work.  The titles alone (Vimanarama, We3, Seaguy and the Wasps of Atlantis, Indestructible Man, C.O.O.L., Supertrendy Young Doctor) sound more imaginative than many comics out there.  And the artistic talent involved--Cameron Stewart, Frank Quitely, Philip Bond, Rian Hughes--certainly doesn't hurt.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Not much to contribute today.  I see that the rush to wrap up 2003 is on.  I suppose these guys already have their holiday shopping done, too.  About the only thing that stirred much of a reaction was Steven Grant's piece on criticism, particularly this passage:
As reviews editor at a music paper, I annoyed other reviewers by banning the word "I" from reviews — one woman complained "If I don't say 'I think' the readers won't know it's just my opinion," to which I commented, "Believe me, they will, and if they don't..." [Insert shrug.]
I understand what he's getting at:  Hopefully readers are sophisticated enough to distinguish fact from opinion.  But sometimes reviewers write as though they're unaware of that distinction themselves.  As an example, here's a recent commentary from my local paper on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time:
In its list of the 500 best albums of all time, published Friday, rock's old-guard fanzine gave top props to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and a whole lot of other overrated rock fossils.

The choice of "Sgt. Pepper's" -- followed by the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," and then the actual best Beatles album, "Revolver" -- was utterly predictable.
I had to stop there.  Any reviewer who uses the phrase "actual best" isn't worth my time.  I'm all for strong opinions, but I like them better when they're strongly supported, not just strongly worded.  Or to rephrase as though Steven Grant were editing this:  Strong opinions are great, but they're better when they're strongly supported, not just strongly worded.
Monday, November 24, 2003
  Topics That Will Not Die: #3 - Series That Will Not Die
Reflecting more on David Fiore's post, I realized that I neglected his points about the interactive nature of monthly comics.  Before getting into his thoughts on the "open-endedness" of perpetually serialized comics, David wrote that "serially published super-hero comic books (those which feature letters pages as integral parts of the text, anyway), beginning with Marvel in the early 60's, offered a wonderful paradox to the world: synchronic, interactive narrative!"  David elaborated more on why this aspect of comic books interests him over in the comments section of Rick Geerling's 11/19 rant:
[S]peaking as a person who wants to write a dissertation about the aspect of the medium that you deplore--namely that it's the only artform in which the creator/public boundary is somewhat effaced by the texts themselves (thanks to the letters pages--which I hear are disappearing...)--I think you're underestimating how wonderful and unique these "neverending stories" are!

It's easy for me to say, since I write prose fiction, not comics, and I don't have to deal with people interfering with my most cherished ideas, but as a critic I find the creator/readership of monthly comic books absolutely fascinating...

One thing I will say is that I don't believe in endings anyway, never saw one in any medium that didn't feel like a con, so "seriality" has never been a problem for me.
I don't quite understand how David sees all these elements as intersecting.  For one thing, as David himself notes, most monthly mainstream comics are closing down their letters pages.  But even back in their heyday, did fan letters really have much of an impact?  I doubt they influenced many creators to change their stories (except perhaps when the letters called for more gorillas).  Perhaps the sphere of influence was somewhat different:  Fans may not have had much impact on pros, but fans could influence each other ("Oh, I see--I didn't understand why Lois rebuffed Clark like that, but reader K.B.'s detailed analysis brings it all into sharp focus now!").

Obligatory Manga Boosterism:  If David feels that fan interaction is a vital part of the appeal of sequential art, then he should really like manga.  Not only are manga anthologies such as Shonen Jump, Raijin Comics, and Super Manga Blast some of the last comics around to publish letters from readers, but Shonen Jump even publishes fan art each month!  And Raijin Comics, adopting the practice of Japanese manga publishers, solicits fan feedback to see which serials will continue to see print!  Just think if Marvel and DC operated this way:  Publish thick anthologies with new material, and fans get to vote on which series would survive month to month.  Why isn't anyone doing this here?  It would combine America's love for crappy reality TV with big, cheap comics!  It's a natural!!  It can't miss!!!  (Disclaimer:  I am not an industry insider, either, so my enthusiastic armchair opinions should not be mistaken for sound business advice:  It could very well miss.)

As for David's point about not believing in endings, I'm somewhat sympathetic to this view.  Often a story's resolution feels forced and tacked-on, and some authors try to make an ending "mean" too much, when in reality things wouldn't be so tidy.  But at the same time, I've never really had an across-the-board problem with endings, mainly because I think of them more as "stopping points."  Although there are times when I'm so engrossed in a story that I don't want it to stop, for the most part I realize that, practically, stories can't simply go on forever.  For one thing, even if a story were truly endless, I would still reach an endpoint, so the result would be much the same.  And even if a work were only ridiculously long (rather than truly endless), this would still cause problems as it ate into the time I had available to devote to other stories.  I also worry that long-lived works would wear out their welcome:  Eventually a story reaches a point of diminishing returns as an author (or series of authors) dilutes a concept in order to keep it running.  I'd rather see a story end in its prime instead of becoming a weak, watered-down shell of its former self.

Further, I think in many cases a story's finiteness actually contributes to its open-endedness.  I certainly felt that The Matrix was more open when it stopped with Neo flying up, up, and away out of that phone booth.  At that point, the story was still interesting in my mind:  Sure, Neo looked like a badass Man of Steel, but there was still so much work for the resistance to do--so many minds to free from the matrix.  Just think of all the possible stories...  So it was a little disappointing when Reloaded came along and closed off certain storytelling possibilities.  Instead of conjuring up our own visions of Zion, for example, we were now locked into a lame rave-happy version.  I hear fanboys experienced similar disappointment when a bit of Wolverine's mystery was chipped away with Origin.

I know it's a natural impulse when a story reaches its stopping point to wonder:  What happened next?  But do we really need someone else to show us?  Isn't it better in some cases to leave it up to our own imaginations?  (And just to close off certain avenues of response right away:  This isn't a call for bad fan-fiction.)  I do think that the stretched-out seriality of corporate comics can lead to some interesting effects (retcons, revamps, reinterpretations, etc.), but I don't know if extended seriality strikes me as an intrinsically good thing, especially when it comes at the cost of creative ownership and control.
  Topics That Will Not Die:  #2 - The Floppy Format
This topic will probably persist until the single-issue format fades away.  Laura Gjovaag has blogged quite a bit about this topic recently.  According to her, David Fiore has the last word on the issue, although I'm not sure why.  David argues that the "seriality" of comics makes them unique:
I would submit that the very things that intelligent fans seem to deplore these days (characters that don't change, zero opportunity for "closure", endless permutations that grow out of minute variations in the approach to a very limited number of existential situations, etc.--the super-hero comic, in its "open-ended", monthly form is a bonanza for structuralist analysis!!) are the things that make this genre unique and fascinating.
A bit further down, David claims that the monthly format of floppies contributes to this "open-endedness":
I'm not saying that self-contained "sequential art" is devoid of interest, but I am saying that the "traditional" model for the presentation of these narratives is actually far more compelling (formally!) than the types of works that mature fans seem to be clamoring for. My message to the proponents of the monthly, "single" super-hero format? Do not equivocate, and do not apologize!
I'm not sure I see the connection between David's two points.  As far as I can tell, a story's "open-endedness" is entirely independent from the format the story is told in.  Even if comics were all published as big, thick OGNs the story could still remain unresolved from book to book.  And big, thick anthologies can be monthly as well (Shonen Jump, anyone?), so even if "open-endedness" is somehow tied to publishing frequency, this doesn't resolve the matter in favor of the floppy format.  Heck, if how often a comic comes out determines its resistance to closure then fans such as Fiore must have been crushed when Raijin Comics switched from weekly to monthly publication.  Perhaps this is an argument for the return of the weekly anthology à la Action Comics Weekly?  That way you could split many monthly comics into shorter serials that come out weekly.

I think other factors are more critical in determining most comics' "open-endedness":  Lack of creative ownership/control and publishers' desire to maintain properties in a recognizable state so as to maximize their licensing potential.  But I've already rambled on long enough (especially considering Sunday's entry), so I'll leave that argument as an exercise for the reader.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
  Topics That Will Not Die: #1 - Manga
Dave Intermittent continues to press his question about whether manga is handled with kid gloves because kids read it.  He adds an interesting element to the issue, pointing out that American comics were still the target for pointed criticism even back when they sold in much higher numbers and were read by children:
At one point, superhero books sold better than manga sells today; and during that time, their popularity did not insulate them from fairly pungent criticism. There were some people who argued that their popularity was in fact a disadvantage, since people would look past good books on the assumption that all comics were was four color beatdowns for kids. Too popular; go figure.
These remarks spurred a lot of thought on my part, so please bear with me if I begin to stray from Dave's original starting point.  (Or in other words:  WARNING - LONG-ASS RAMBLING ENTRY AHEAD.)

First, I think the type of argument Dave is referencing here is completely distinct from his earlier concern about bad manga being immune to criticism.  The argument that the popularity of superhero comics is bad for comics overall doesn't necessarily entail anything about the quality of specific superhero comics.  Each and every superhero comic book published could be an undisputed brilliant work of art and one could still argue that the stranglehold of one narrow type of comic on the medium is bad for the medium.  The argument that diversity of subject matter is important for comics is logically distinct from issues of individual comics' quality.  It's a macro-level "emergent" argument that relies on the overwhelming existence of one specific type of comic.  If one type of manga (say shoujo romance manga) comes to dominate comics in the future, a similar argument could then be made that the prevalence of that genre is bad for the respectability of comics.

It's difficult to say without knowing which particular arguments Dave has in mind, but perhaps some versions of the "stranglehold" argument supplemented that basic approach with the addition of Sturgeon's Law:  If all comics are superhero comics and 90% of anything is crap, people will be more likely to come across crappy superhero comics whenever someone tells them to try out comics.  Thus, people will come to associate comics with crappy superhero comics.  This strikes me as more of a psychological argument about how people form classifications of things.  It assumes that most people will fail to distinguish between the potential of an art form and the particular realizations of that art form.  Nevertheless, I think the remedy would be the same as for the above scenario:  Diversity.  A wider-ranging line of subject matters in sequential art might make it harder for people to lump all comics into one easily written-off group:  "Well, superhero comics still seem kind of lame to me, but there sure are a lot of good horror comics out there."

Speaking of stereotypes, it's interesting to consider the general conceptions that surround comics.  Are they still thought of as being kids' stuff?  I guess that assumption still seems to pervade most mainstream articles on comics (especially when they're trying to counter that notion and they self-defeatingly title the article with something like "Zap! Bam! Pow! Comics Not Just For Kids Anymore!")  This perception is generally attributed to the dominance of superheroes to the near exclusion of all else.  Conversely, it seems to be part of the general understanding of manga that it's not just for kids, at least not in its homeland of Japan, where adults read manga unabashedly.  (I'd also add that my personal perception of European comics is that they're targeted at all age groups.  In fact, walking into most comic stores or bookstore graphic novel sections in France, my impression was that comics are primarily geared toward adults.)  Unfortunately, the stereotype of American superhero comics being for children doesn't even carry the comfort of kids actually consuming such comics:  Most pundits agree that whoever is buying superhero comics these days, it ain't kids for the most part.

So perhaps the excitement over manga's growing popularity does color some commentators' critical faculties when it comes to manga:  After worrying so long about the declining sales of comic books (both in general and specifically with respect to younger audiences), seeing increasing sales, largely to children, may be causing some critics to turn a blind eye to any shortcomings specific manga may have.  On the one hand, I can see why certain members of the comic community would give more weight to sales than quality:  Retailers and publishers have reason, especially in such a soft economy, to be concerned primarily with sales.  (This isn't to say that sales is their exclusive concern:  Publishers and retailers may both have motivations for promoting quality work, but I think the nature of each business demands that they give greatest weight to economic considerations.)  On the other hand, sales can't excuse everything:  Just because something is popular (with any audience segment) doesn't necessarily mean it's good.  (Popularity doesn't necessarily entail poor quality, either, a fallacy that seems more pronounced with cynical/cranky critics.)

The question of whether the fact that kids read something changes the standards of evaluation is an interesting one.  I touched on this briefly in my response to Dave's original entry, but now I realize there's much more to say about this topic.  If something is targeted for kids, shouldn't we judge it according to that aim?  After all, it's generally accepted that one standard of fair criticism is to consider the goal of a work when evaluating it.  Taken literally, this principle has always bothered me:  How can I know what the artist's intent was in crafting his work?  How do I know what audience a work was really aimed at?  With Shonen Jump we might point to the fact that the magazine identifies its intended demographic in its very title.  For other, less precisely named works, one might attempt to address such issues by focusing on their "effects":  If a work elicits a certain response or attracts a certain audience, then we can assume that those were the intended effects.  The problem with such an approach is that it ignores the possibility of unintended consequences.  Was the original Star Wars movie really intended as a work of myth, or did Lucas simply graft that language on after critics such as Joseph Campell started analyzing the movie in those terms?

My own way of resolving this tension has been to approach reviews from a "charitable interpretation" standard:  I may not have access to an author's intent, but I certainly have access to my own imagination, so I can attempt to construct scenarios under which a work "works."  Of course, this approach sounds great in theory, but it runs into its own problems in practice, namely the limits of my charity and interpretive abilities.  My dislike of something may be so strong that I may ignore charity in order to go on the attack more fully and freely.  In such cases, others may rightfully call me on my abusive lack of impartiality.  Or there may be an interpretation under which something "works" but I may fail to consider it.  In this case, others may rightly charge that I've missed the point of the work.  There's also the practical difficulty of knowing how many possible interpretations one must run through in order to be reasonably charitable.  Even if I could generate endless interpretations for a work, do I really want to?  How would I ever satisfactorily review even a single work in such detail?  Finally, there's the worry that one can be too charitable.  A review probably isn't going to be of much use if it only offers advice to the effect of "Some people may find this comic entertaining to one degree or another, but other may not."

So how do I resolve all these tensions in my own reviewing?  I don't know if I ever do, at least not fully.  I try to be aware of such concerns, but mainly at the level of doing a "sanity check" on a review after I've written it.  Is it excessively uncharitable or unfair?  Is it too bland or boring?  And to be completely honest, not all reviews will be written with the same goal in mind.  On occasion I may be one of the first to review something, so I have to do a little more work outlining what the comic is about.  And if I like the book, a degree of evangelism may enter the recommendation.  Kind of like ADD or Shawn Hoke and their reviews of Palomar.  Conversely, if I think something is receiving undue praise, I may write a review slanted more towards exposing the deficiencies of said work.  I still try to keep the reviews "honest"--I never want to boost or bash something that I couldn't back up with genuine opinions I actually hold.  But I'll admit that my reviews can often be written in reaction to factors other than just The Work Itself.  Some might find this distasteful, believing that criticism should be as entirely objective.  But I don't see how criticism can ever occur in a vacuum.  We all have beliefs and biases that impact our opinions.  I think the key thing, as Dave suggests, is to be as upfront as possible about the factors influencing one's opinion.

Which leads quite naturally to wondering:  OK, John, what factors are influencing your opinions on manga?

One thing might be that, whereas Dave feels as though manga is getting a free pass, I actually feel the opposite way.  Reading many message boards, it seems as though most comic fans already dismiss all manga as crap.  I'm sure everyone's seen the threads where fanboys gripe that all manga contains the same "big head, big hair, big eye" art.  Over on his blog, Dave Lartigue offers a similar complaint, writing that "many many manga that are brought to America fall easily into three categories: books about schoolgirls and their panties, books about giant robots, and books about schoolgirls who pilot giant robots in their panties."  He acknowledges that this doesn't describe all manga, but he feels that the good stuff is getting lost in the sheer amount of crap being brought over from Japan:
I realize there are many manga titles that aren't schoolgirls and robots and wacky Japanese "humor". My point is, you have to really search to find them. Book and comic stores are simply unloading manga on the public by the shovelful, and nobody I know has the time or desire to sift through the crap and find the quality stuff. Until the manga aficionados are willing to admit that there are good comics and bad comics, and some are Japanese and some are American, their arguments are going to be drowned out by the sound of a million otaku happily kissing the ass of anything Japanese.
So maybe we already are at a point where manga is suffering from a generalized "guilt by association":  Because most of the manga the casual observer sees seems to be crap, it's assumed that all manga is crap.

To a certain extent, then, my own musings on manga may be seen as a reaction to such animosity.  But I still think my arguments have a specific grounding beyond a desire to offer a contrarian position.  My own belief that manga isn't (necessarily) crap was formed in much the same way as my belief that comics aren't (necessarily) crap:  It's much too sweeping of a statement.  I'm sure there are bad manga comics out there, just as I'm sure there are bad superhero comics, bad autobiographical comics, bad "art" comics, and all kinds of other bad comics out there.  How can I be so sure?  Well, I've read bad comics in all those categories.  But I've also read good comics in all those categories, too.  I'm not sure how I'd break down the division of Bad/Good, but 90/10 seems rather high (and simplistic) to me.  I'd rather focus on specific cases, and even then it can be hard to make a blanket "good/bad" judgment.  Most individual works have elements of good and bad in them.  I'm most interested in critics who can address both aspects and everything in between.  I've tried to do that in my own reviews, whether I'm reviewing manga or American comics.  My review of Gyo #1, for example, was fairly critical even though I consider myself a fan of Junji Ito's earlier horror manga.  And if I ever get around to writing reviews for Berserk and later volumes of Sanctuary you'll get to see more of me being "negative" toward manga.  It's just that my negativity will be directed at specific manga, not manga in general.
Friday, November 21, 2003
  Locking = Comic Genius
Nick Locking cracks me up.  Here are some of his recent "speed-round" reviews:
More at link.  And if you enjoy Locking's sense of humor humour, I just discovered he has his own (languishing) blog, with yesterday's entry being an interesting vision for The New Trial Of Michael Jackson.
  The Trouble With Blogging
I think I'm gradually realizing there's one thing I'm not crazy about with blogs:  The tedium of tracking a discussion that wends its way through multiple blogs.  It's especially frustrating when I just want to respond to one specific thing that's sandwiched in a fairly long entry.  Example:  Sean Collins takes issue with my description of Bendis' dialogue as "Tarantino-esque," stating
John was certainly mistaken in calling Bendis's dialogue ripped-off Tarantinoisms--it's actually ripped-off Aaron Sorkinisms. But Bendis is actually better than Sorkin, because the dialogue is crafted (as Jason suggests) not to sound clever, but to sound human.
It's an interesting, if somewhat fine, distinction.  And I'd like to react to it, but at the same time I feel it's not something that merits its own blog entry.  (So instead I craft an entire blog entry around why it doesn't deserve its own blog entry.  Yeah, I know.)  So I guess one thing message boards do better than blogs is facilitate discussions in smaller increments.  Perhaps it's only a personal preference, but I find it much easier to scroll through a thread than to click through multiple sites.  (Immediate counterargument:  Except when message boards grow littered with irrelevant comments, trolling, flaming, unwieldy quotes and sigs, and general inanity.)

At the very least I really wish Sean (and others) would reconsider implementing a comments feature on his (their) blog(s).  I know it's not a democracy and he runs it as he sees fit, but as a reader, there are times I'd much prefer to fire off a quick reply instead of composing a new entry on my own blog, linking to the appropriate entry on his blog, and finally writing out my short response.  (As an incentive (?) for Sean to add a comments feature, I'm going to withhold my thoughts on his opinion, saving them for such a time when I can post them on his blog in some form.)

As an example of why I think allowing comments can be good and useful, consider this exchange:  I linked to one of Jim Henley's entries to bolster my own argument; Jim read my piece and thought I misconstrued his point, so he clarified his position in a comment; I explained that I understood his original point but admitted that I may have phrased it poorly.  Issue addressed without either of us having to wait for the other to update his blog with his take on the other's post.

Now to touch on the hot memes of the week:
Finally, regarding Tuesday's same-sex decision in Mass., I'm still mulling everything over.  I'm at the stage where I've succeeded in confusing myself so thoroughly that I can't even justify why I'm married, let alone why anyone else should be.  (No offense, honey.)  So I'm not going to blog anything about SSM or the court's ruling until I can make sense out of my own thoughts.  This may take some time, especially if I decide I need to go to law school before I can parse out just how and why marriage is a fundamental right and how the strict scrutiny analysis should play out.  I also realized that I skipped the endnotes when I read the decision the first time, so I'd like to go back and reread everything.  (The HTML version makes it especially easy to jump back and forth between the main arguments and the endnotes.) 

In the meantime, I thought I'd recommend this article by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick.  Dahlia, one of my favorite pundits (her Supreme Court Dispatches are hilarious and insightful), raises a lot of issues I'd really like to see addressed by those who kvetch about the "sanctity of marriage" and how allowing SSM will "irreparably harm" the institution.  I'd like to be an idealist about marriage, too, but I don't think it's fair to hold same-sex couples to some abstract, impossible-to-actualize Platonic Form of Marriage when opposite-sex couples get an "Anything Goes" license along with their marriage one.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
  Marvel Comics for Feb. 2004
Can't wait til Monday noon Eastern?  Courtesy of Diamond [links to big text file], here are the Marvel comics shipping Feb. 2004:
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #504 (#63)    $2.25                                
ANT-MAN #3 (Of 5) (MR)    $2.99                                        
AVENGERS #79    $2.25                                                
CAPTAIN AMERICA #23    $2.99                                        
CAPTAIN MARVEL #20    $2.99                                        
DAREDEVIL #57    $2.99                                                
DAREDEVIL VOL 3 HC    $29.99                                        
ELEKTRA #33    $2.99                                                
EMMA FROST #8 (Note Price)    $2.99                                
EPIC ANTHOLOGY #1    $8.99                                        
EXILES #42    $2.99                                                
EXILES #43    $2.99                                                
FANTASTIC FOUR #510 (#81)    $2.25                                
HAWKEYE #5    $2.99                                                
HULK GRAY #6 (Of 6)    $3.50                                        
HULK NIGHTMERICA #6 (Of 6) (RES)    $2.99                        
HUMAN TORCH #10    $2.99                                                
INCREDIBLE HULK #67    $2.25                                        
INHUMANS #11    $2.99                                                
IRON MAN #77    $2.99                                                
KNIGHTS 4 #1    $2.99                                                
KNIGHTS 4 #2    $2.99                                                
MARVEL 1602 #7 (Of 8)    $3.50                                        
MARVEL MASTERWORKS DAREDEVIL VOL 2 2ND ED HC    $49.99                
MYSTIQUE #11    $2.99                                                
NAMOR #12    $2.99                                                
NEW MUTANTS #11    $2.99                                                
NEW X-MEN #153    $2.25                                                
NEW X-MEN VOL 6 PLANET X TP    $12.99                                
NYX #5    $2.99                                                        
PULSE #1    $2.99                                                
PUNISHER MAX #3 (MR)    $2.99                                        
PUNISHER VOL 6 CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES TP    $14.99                        
RUNAWAYS #11    $2.99                                                
RUNAWAYS #12    $2.99                                                
SECRET WAR BOOK ONE (OF FIVE) (Note Price)    $3.99                
SENTINEL #12    $2.99                                                
SILVER SURFER #6    $2.25                                        
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #10    $2.25                                
SPIDER-GIRL #70    $2.99                                                
SPIDER-MAN DOC OCTOPUS  OUT OF REACH #4 (Of 5)    $2.99                
SUPREME POWER #7 (MR)    $2.99                                        
THANOS #6    $2.99                                                
THOR #74    $2.99                                                
THOR VIKINGS TP (MR)    $13.99                                        
TROUBLE VOL TP    $13.99                                                
TRUTH RED WHITE AND BLACK TP    $14.99                                
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #3    $2.25                                
ULTIMATE SIX #7 (Of 7)    $2.25                                        
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #53    $2.25                                        
ULTIMATE X-MEN #42    $2.25                                        
UNCANNY X-MEN #439    $2.25                                        
UNCANNY X-MEN #440    $2.25                                        
VENOM #11    $2.99                                                
WEAPON X #20    $2.99                                                
WOLVERINE #11    $2.25                                                
WOLVERINE CAPTAIN AMERICA #1    $2.99                                
WOLVERINE CAPTAIN AMERICA #2    $2.99                                
WOLVERINE CAPTAIN AMERICA #3    $2.99                                
WOLVERINE CAPTAIN AMERICA #4    $2.99                                
WOLVERINE THE END #3 (Of 6)    $2.99                                
X-MEN EVOLUTION VOL 1 DIGEST (O/A) (SEP035142)    $5.99                
X-MEN UNLIMITED #1    $2.99                                        
X-STATIX #19    $2.99                                                
X-TREME X-MEN #42    $2.99                                        
X-TREME X-MEN #43    $2.99                                        
X-TREME X-MEN VOL 7 STORM THE ARENA TP    $16.99                        
Some comments:
  Personal to ADD:
Alright, alright already!  I ordered the damned book off Amazon this morning!!  Happy now?
  After Mass. Aftermath
Stuff I've run across recently while reading about Tuesday's same-sex marriage ruling:

Strange Hypotheticals.  From David Bianco on the Marriage Debate blog:  "Ask yourself: If a child's parents were killed in an accident, all other things being equal, would it be better for that child to be raised by an aunt and an uncle, or by two aunts? If a little boy's mother died in childbirth, would it be better for him to be raised by his father and aunt or by his father and uncle?"

Answer:  Insufficient data.  Simply knowing the genders of the involved parties tells me nothing about who would be best suited to meet the interests of the child in either scenario.  Bianco can stipulate "all other things being equal" all he wants, but in the real world all other things aren't equal.  You'd have to look at the details of a particular case to decide.  There's no fixed formula for deciding such matters.

Great Quotes.  From Salon : "The right wing is not just anti-marriage for gay people, they're against gay people period. If we were asking for oxygen, they'd be against it." - Evan Wolfson, leader of the Freedom to Marry project.

Job Confusion.  OK, I'm no lawyer or constitutional scholar, but isn't it the courts' job to make sure the legislative branch is legislating properly?  I'm tired of hearing people bash the judiciary as "tyrannical" when they don't agree with a decision.  Yes, the legislature makes the laws, but they have to do so within certain boundaries.  It falls to the courts to tell the lawmakers when they step outside those limits.

Part of the reason I sympathize with the courts is because, in my day job, I'm a Quality Assurance Analyst.  So I know what it's like to be resented for telling others they're not doing their job properly.  And it's not as though I can't understand that feeling--that bristling that occurs when your performance is under evaluation:  It's part of the QA process that quality assurance team members are audited as well (so enough with the "Who watches the watchmen?" jokes already).  But I believe that such a system of checks and balances keeps things running smoothly in the long run, even if there is some friction from time to time.

Political Advice: Slate's William Saletan suggests that Democrats embrace the same-sex ruling and champion the issue as follows:
Marriage is a broadly shared American value. You don't have to support homosexuality to support marriage. A politician can say, "I'm pro-marriage. The issue isn't whether you're straight or gay. The issue is whether you support marriage."
It's a nice idea, but I doubt any Democrat is brave enough to try it.  Besides, for many people marriage simply means "exclusive, legal union between a man and a woman" so a Democrat saying he supports marriage for gays might play like a Democrat saying he supports squareness for circles.  Unfortunately, I think the Republicans have already succeeded in cementing their repugnant position as the "pro-marriage" one.

Talking Past Each Other.  For the most part, the full decision reads like an everyday argument regarding same-sex marriage.  The majority opinion frames the issue as citizens being denied equal access to a fundamental right already in existence.  The dissenters (each writing a separate opinion) see the matter as attempting to create a new right for a distinct group  It's as though the two sides are discussing two completely different cases. 

At least until the third and final dissenting opinion comes along.  Justice Robert Cordy actually examines the majority's opinion and makes specific, supported arguments detailing why the decision may be bad law.  In a nutshell, Cordy argues that "[s]o long as the question is at all debatable, it must be the Legislature that decides."  He then outlines plausible scenarios in which a "rational Legislature, given the evidence, could conceivably come to a different conclusion, or could at least harbor rational concerns about possible unintended consequences of a dramatic redefinition of marriage."  Hmm.  I guess part of being a Watchman is realizing when something is beyond the scope of your own authority, or when your own actions might subvert the very procedures you're entrusted to safeguard.  To indulge in geek speak, it might not be the best idea to slam in a patch without following proper change control processes--even if you're sure the fix will work. 

I still think same-sex marriages should be legal, but perhaps the Massachusetts ruling isn't the best way to go about it after all.  I'll have to reflect on this more.
  "If It's Not Japanese, It's Crap!!"
Dave Intermittent poses an interesting question:  Does crap manga get a free pass because (1) it's manga and (2) kids are reading it?  I know Dave wasn't directing the question at me (he was reacting to an off-hand comment Dirk Deppy made in response to Johnny Bacardi), but I'd like to jump in anyway (again).

Personally, I believe crap is crap, regardless of whether it's "exotic" or beloved by small children.  I know 'crap' is a term tossed around pretty lightly (especially online) but I generally try to reserve it for work that's so abysmally bad that it doesn't have even the smallest shred of entertainment value.  Going by that strict definition, I don't know if I've read anything recently that I would dismiss as crap.  Terra Obscura probably comes closest off the top of my head.  Using the term more loosely, there might be other stuff I'd place underneath that umbrella, but let's ignore that for now.

Moving on to Dirk's remarks, he can probably better explain what he meant by them, but I didn't read them as saying that "transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas and big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas (sometimes all at once)" are crap; I took him as saying, essentially, your mileage may vary, but it'd be a big help if you were 12 years old again.  I don't think that's necessarily denigrating such comics.  It's just recognizing the audience the stories are aimed at and admitting older readers may not get the same thrill out of them.  (Personally, I think the stories in Shonen Jump are well-crafted and fun.  True, I grew tired of the repetitious nature of the series after a couple chapters, but they're still well done.  For one thing, the serials in Shonen Jump are actually structured as satisfying episodes.)

I think the same standard should apply to superhero comics.  A comic doesn't have to be mature or sophisticated to be good.  It can be simple and entertaining and aimed at kids.  I think superhero comics get such grief because they fail to meet either of these goals.  Face it, most superhero comics aren't for children anymore.  Even when you give kids unqualified access to superhero comics, kids aren't interested in them.  Perhaps this is further evidence of just how bad most superhero comics are.  Or that they're all geared toward an older audience.  I don't think it's a bad thing that there are superhero comics targeted at adults, or that adults read them.  I just think it's depressing that there aren't more mainstream American comics that appeal to young kids.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
  Manga Musings
The Pulse has an interview up with Tim Ervin-Gore about Dark Horse's manga line.  He talks about which manga titles have exceeded expectations, and which series aren't doing so well.  He also states "I don't think manga sales have reached the apex yet. I still perceive an expanding audience due to more anime hitting television, and the ever-widening television experience."  He does acknowledge that "the market is fickle" and things could change unexpectedly, but he sounds optimistic overall.

When asked "How do you decide NOW which titles to introduce to Western audiences?", Ervin-Gore offers this humorous response:
First we consult the Hagakure, and then the I-Ching. After this is a period of meditation, concentrating on the image of a salivating otaku, and eventually, it drives us nuts and we can't sleep for days. Of course, not sleeping for days and still having to work, we're driven to drink lots of tea, the leaves of which tell us, in a state of insanity, which books we should nab. Of course, at that point, we're speaking in tongues and we have to call down our Tibetan translator, who is only paid in blocks of ghee and gold bullion. Sometimes these elements are hard to come by, so it's not uncommon for other companies to swoop down and negotiate contracts out from under us. I think it's time to rethink the transcendental method, really.
I think this is similar to Grant Morrison's answer to the question, "Where do you get your ideas?"  (Ervin-Gore seems to become increasingly irritated with The Pulse's questions as the interview goes on, which makes for some interesting replies.  Go read.)

Johnny Bacardi wonders what's up with the name "Shonen Jump"?  James Moar beats me to the punch in the comments thread, explaining that, short answer, that's just what the mag was called in Japan; longer answer, Japanese mags like goofy-sounded titles with one English word in it (e.g., Shonen Champion, Shonen Ace and Shonen Captain).  As for Johnny's bigger issue--why the heck is manga so popular and why doesn't he get it?--Dirk Deppey offers the start of a reply, but I'd like to suggest that Johnny has framed the matter wrong.  Manga isn't all "transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once"--heck, I don't think Shonen Jump had any "transformer-style robots" in its first twelve issues.  As Shawn Fumo proclaims tirelessly, manga is all about diversity.  We might not see all that diversity reflected in the translated manga that's made it over here so far, but even looking at the smaller pool of translated manga, there's still an amazing amount of diversity in genres.  Just look at the three manga I reviewed a couple days ago:  Bawdy comic strip humor (Crayon Shinchan); action/horror (Island); political crime thriller (Sanctuary).  If you want "transformer-style robots" and the rest, I'm sure you can find it.  But don't let those subjects blind you to everything else manga has to offer.  To do so would be equivalent to someone looking at all the superhero comics dominating a typical comics store and ignoring evidence that Fantagraphics exists.  If you're looking for recommendations, I'd suggest starting with Uzumaki (horror) or Akira (sci-fi action).  Both of these are durn-near masterpieces, and they have the added benefit of being "flipped" (they read in the familiar Western left-to-right format).  If these don't sound up your alley, let me know what your reading tastes are and I'll try to think of something more fitting.

Speaking of recommendations, yesterday I wondered what would be a good shoujo manga to start with.  Several people have offered suggestions in the comments thread, and Kiril Jones was even kind enough to include some links to reviews over at  I'm reproducing the links below in case anyone else is interested in learning about shoujo manga:
Other shoujo manga recommended were: Fushigi Yugi, Magic Knights Rayearth, Kare Kano, and Kodocha.  I'll probably research these a bit and then pick up whichever one sounds most appealing.  If I were going strictly by title, I'd probably get Please Save My Earth --it just sounds goofy, yet so polite.  Thanks to everyone for their recommendations.

UPDATE:  Kiril has also provided a helpful link listing all the manga reviews in AnimeOnDVD's manga forum:  Manga Review Thread Index.

UPDATE II:  Shaenon, who used to work for Viz, reveals that other names were bandied about for the American version of Shonen Jump, including the "blander" Manga Tsunami.  Hmm...Shaenon's right that it does sound bland.  But why does it seem so familiar?
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
  So Bitching Drives Up Site Hits, You Say...
The new Previews Review is up, detailing books coming out tomorrow, November 19th.  Christopher Butcher opens with an interesting reflection on news about Shonen Jump's skyrocketing sales, and works in a little Comics Activism as well.  Christopher also covers a lot of manga in this week's edition, stuff I've never even heard of.  I realized reading Christopher's blurbs on various manga that I don't think I've read an honest-to-gosh shoujo (young girls) manga.  Any recommendations on a good place to start?

Oh, and Christopher has also written a nice follow-up to his opining from last week.  It's over on his blog, which I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't even know he had til now.
  Very Gay News Indeed
I find this news very heartening.  For the moment I'm suppressing my inclination to worry that the Massachusetts legislature will screw this up somehow.  And I think describing marriage as "the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others" is a very workable definition.

UPDATE:  I'm going to have to read through the full decision (PDF) later, but I glanced at the opening paragraph, just wow.
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.

UPDATE, TAKE TWO:  Still haven't read the full decision (HTML version), but I thought this piece on Slate did a nice job explaining why the Massachusetts ruling differs from earlier decisions in other states.  Only thing it doesn't cover is how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could still screw things up on the federal level, even if same-sex couples end up able to marry in Massachusetts in six months' time.
  Liefeld Watch
Yesterday's LITG has been updated with comments from Rob Liefeld (I'll reproduce Liefeld's comments below, but visit LITG to see the full item in case you don't know what Rob's responding to):
Rob Liefeld chose to comment on this rumour and speculation...

"The update on all my plans, Arcade, Marvel and beyond are as follows, both Genesis and Brigade have fallen victim to talent jockeying, specifically, coloring and inking setbacks. The colorists and inkers I have been working for have become much more popular with the two big pub's following the release of 'Youngblood: Bloodsport' and 'Youngblood: Genesis' and as a result, I have patiently pushed back deadlines in order to accomodate the quality of the work on these titles. I have made no bones about the fact that I would rather have a job I liked than one that is slapped together by interns in order to meet a dealine. I also don't mind pushing back some deadlines in order to accomodate the aspirations of the extremely talented folks around me. Marvel and DC seem to be the only career facelifts worth a lick to young talent and in the long run if it makes folks happier and the work is better than it's a good thing.

"'Youngblood: Bloodsport' is my fault as always as I continue to re-draw pages until they are as good as my meager talents can produce. Unfortunately, my main career earnings for the last half decade have come outside the comic business and as I uphold those commitments it pushes everything back. I fully understand that whether it's a big 100 million movie like Disney's 'The Alamo' or my little 'Bloodsport' projects being shuffled around the schedule, the media has an interest and a right to know the facts behind the decisions that drive the public batty. That said, 'Bloodsport,' 'Genesis' and 'Brigade' are on target for release early in 2004, say around January-February.

"As for any Marvel plans, for now my sole contribution to Marvel is providing 'Cable/Deadpool' covers.

"I am not intimately aware of Marat's commission prices, but if he has cut them in an attempt to generate more interest it is no doubt in direct correlation to his being stiffed by CrossGen after producing issues of 'The First' that are currently on sale. He was hired at San Diego to do a number of fill ins for CrossGen and after failing to receive a single penny for the issue that was released 2 weeks back despite their numerous promises to pay him, I have increased his workload in the hopes to take his mind off of the runaround he is experiencing. He is currently producing 'Brigade' #2 and another top secret project for next year."

As for Arcade, Liefeld tells me, "No chance of bailing and that revolution is still on it's way, look for an exciting partnership coming to a computer hard drive near you in the very near future..."
Rob is "working for" his colorists and inkers?  I suppose, considering past allegations about Liefeld not paying creators who worked on his books, it makes more sense to say he's working for them if that's the only direction money is flowing in.  And I can see why the colorists and inkers would turn to the Big Two, where they're more likely to receive actual payments for their work.

Also, the line "look for an exciting partnership coming to a computer hard drive near you in the very near future" made me mentally equate Arcade Comics with a computer virus.  If he can't get people to buy his comics, Liefeld will just surreptitiously install them on your PC.  So watch out for future spam with the header "Craving More SHAFT???"
  Clogged Pipeline
Since Augie has announced in his Pipeline pseudo-blog that he's no longer able to accept any more comics for review, I've graciously agreed to step in and help Augie out.  Please send all comp copies (especially expensive hardcover books like the TwoMorrows Wally Wood retrospective) to:
John Jakala
4800 France Ave S
Edina MN,  55410
I thank you, and Augie thanks you.
Monday, November 17, 2003
  Embargo Endrun
Kevin Melrose turned me on to a neat trick:  Can't wait for the midnight embargo on DC's upcoming solicitations to pass?  Well, just head over to DC's website and peek at the February 2004 solicitations for DC's DCU, Vertigo, and Wildstorm books.  Here's what catches my eye:
If you want to see some of the purty covers DC puts out month after month, go here.  For boring, bland covers, go here.
  Because Sean Collins Doesn't Allow Comments
"[D]on't let's forget that some superhero books are still a hoot and a half":  YES

Citing "Brian Bendis and Mark Millar" as examples of "the entertaining mainstream":  NO
  When Comic Book Movies Go Bad
Caught the tail end of Judge Dredd on TV over the weekend.  Good lord, that was bad.  Some of the standout low points:
If the entire movie is this bad, I may have to rent it sometime just for kicks.
  Manga, Sequential Art's Messiah
Over on ICv2's "Talk Back" forum, retailer John Robinson of Graham Crackers Comics wrote a piece entitled "Long Live the Pamphlet."  Part of Robinson's argument is that pundits shouldn't draw hasty conclusions based on the spectacular sales of Shonen Jump.  And he's right:  Shonen Jump is only one example, so it would be premature to decide that from now on all sequential art must be packaged in thick anthology formats.  After all, there are other manga anthologies out there, one which supposedly has newsstand distribution like Shonen Jump, but I doubt Super Manga Blast and Raijin Comics are seeing the sales that Shonen Jump is.

So why do I (and others) get so excited about Shonen Jump?  Well, I've laid out some of my reasons before, but--at the risk of branding myself a manga apologist--I'll try to explain in a little more detail why I think big anthologies provide a promising possibility (not a definite answer) for comics.

Reason Number OneValue.  Robinson complains that "over the last 21 years in business, the one constant I can always count on is that anthologies will suck wind in sales figures over a very short time." As he argues, "People don't want 64 pages or 100 page of comic material that only contains about 22 pages that they care about."  The problem, however, is that Robinson is still thinking too small:  64- or 100-page comics are nothing.  The twelfth issue of Shonen Jump had 350 pages of material for only $4.95.  That's value.

Reason Number TwoNewsstands.  Because of the higher page count and price-point, big comic anthologies could be sold on magazine racks.  Robinson only seems to be concerned with how anthologies have typically sold in the Direct Market in the past, but I think we need to look at other markets as well.  After all, I doubt Shonen Jump is seeing much of its sales inside the Direct Market (a suspicion confirmed each month by ICv2's numbers), yet it seems to be doing all right.

Reason Number ThreeDurability.  Somewhat related to the newsstand point.  I've seen comics (individual floppies) in bookstores and drugstores, but they're always horribly beat up.  Often times, I don't even think anyone's read the pamphlets; I think the floppies are just so flimsy that they slide down or flop over in the rack.  Thicker anthologies like Shonen Jump stand up well on their own and fare better with everyday wear-and-tear.  Heck, my floppies seem to crease if I look at them wrong; but I can toss around an issue of Shonen Jump and it still looks like it's in pristine condition.

Reason Number FourSubscriptions.  With durable product, it can be shipped through the mail with the expectation that it will arrive in reasonable shape.  Viz's subscription service for Shonen Jump was top-notch, and the magazines always arrived (1) shrink-wrapped (2) before they hit the newsstands.  Plus, the subscription rates were incredible bargains on an already great deal:  The regular subscription rate is half the newsstand price, and the "special charter rate" was even cheaper than that (67% off cover).  Make it cheap and easy to sign up for subscriptions, and I'd be sending my nieces and nephews Marvel and DC anthologies along with their Shonen Jump subscriptions.

Reason Number FiveExtras.  You say it's not fair that Shonen Jump boosts circulation with extras like CD-ROM games and free gaming cards?  Well, why play fair?  Especially for books aimed at younger readers, put in plenty of free extras so they feel like they're getting something special.

Reason Number SixContent.  But aside from the bonuses, you've got to make sure that the core content is strong.  I don't know if this necessarily means it has to be new content, although I think that would definitely help, but it should be related thematically.  I think this is one reason why Shonen Jump succeeds where other anthologies fail:  It focuses on series appealing to (and about) young boys.  Raijin Comics, on the other hand, has series that are too disparate in tone.  The cutesy romance and animal stories of Bow Wow Wata are probably not going to appeal to the same audience that enjoys a more mature political manga like First President of Japan.  I think DC and Marvel could easily put together anthologies that would appeal to well-defined audiences.  Simply collapse the various Bat-books and Superman titles into their own anthologies; the same thing could be done over at Marvel with the growing number of Spider-Man and X-Men titles.  Or put "pockets" of a publishing line together--like the Vertigo or ABC lines.  Or organize anthologies by creator.  Heaven knows some creators generate enough material to put out their own anthologies every month:  Brian Michael Bendis; Geoff Johns; Chuck Austen.  (This would also have the added benefit of quarantining certain authors from the rest of a company's titles.)

I'm not saying that everything should be moved over to a big anthology format.  I think that would be just as short-sighted as leaving everything in the same old 32-page pamphlet form that's been around forever.  But I do think Shonen Jump's impressive sales via bookstores, newsstands, and subscriptions should give American comic publishers something to think about.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
  November Preorders for January 2004 Comics
It seems that comics malaise is getting worse:  Several of the usual "Previews Reviewers" haven't written anything up for the latest catalog, and those who have seem downright grumpy about the latest Previews:
About the only person I've read who seemed enthusiastic about reading through the new Previews was Laura Gjovaag.  Her only unhappiness stems from the fact that she can't afford everything that looks interesting to her.

I did notice after putting my (tentative) order together that it was smaller than previous months, but that's fine with me.  I've been spending too much on comics lately anyway.  If I really needed to pad out my order, I could pick up trades for some of my favorite series (Club 9, Slam Dunk, What's Michael?) but I think I'll hold off on that as well.  I still have plenty of comics to catch up on, so there's no real urgency to get the collected editions of stuff I've already read.

But no one's excited about the DAN CLOWES' GHOST WORLD ENID HI-FASHION GLAMOUR DOLL (p. 384)?
  Manga Stack of Intimidation In The News
The Manga Stack of Intimidation is unstoppable.  Unable to be constrained, it has broken free of this blog and found its way into other columns, such as Matt Maxwell's Full Bleed [not a permalink] and Tony Isabella's Tony's Tips (scroll down to the "More Mailbox" section).  Please report any other sightings of the Manga Stack of Intimidation to the proper authorities.

Even if their columns didn't have such great pictures, I'd still recommend Matt's and Tony's pieces.  Matt discusses some of the more serious problems plaguing the floppy format.  (I'd like to note that the serials in Shonen Jump and other manga anthologies satisfy Matt's request for actual episodic storytelling:  Each chapter is good about developing the storyline instead of just marking time til the next issue.)  And Tony has some sage advice for both creators and reviewers regarding negative reviews:  Let it go already.
Friday, November 14, 2003
  More Mainstream Magazine Mentions
In the November 21, 2003 edition of Entertainment Weekly (#738), the subscribers-only supplement "Listen2This" has more comic reviews:
Mike Mignola reveals that his all-time favorite graphic novel is Challengers of the Unknown Archives vol. 1.

Upcoming comics mentioned are:  Plastic Man, Michael Chabon Presents...The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, Brit: Cold Death, Ultimate Fantastic Four, The Mirror of Love, and Sleeper: Out in the Cold (which is described as "a perfectly paranoid super-powered espionage tale")

And in the November 17, 2003 issue of The New Yorker ("The Cartoon Issue"), Pantheon Books ran the following full-page ad:

Pantheon Ad

Nice targeted advertising.

EDIT:  Gah!  Forgot to mention the one-page collaborative strip by Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb in EW's regular content (p. 19). I can't wait for the Crumb/Pekar reunion tour to hit Minneapolis.
  The Trickle-Down Manga Theory
Dave Intermittent  wonders why the news about Shonen Jump's growing sales should matter much to non-manga comic book fans.  Dirk Deppey has already replied with two reasons (steady bookstore sales keep the Graphic Novel section alive; competition from the manga publishers might encourage The Big Two to produce material in varied genres and formats appealing to younger readers), but I'd like to add a third:  It promotes the art form of sequential art.  Even if the sales of superhero and small press comics never equal that of Shonen Jump, at least the people buying manga are buying comics.  As Ralph Phillips pointed out, even if one portion of comics struggles or withers away, that doesn't mean comics full-stop cease to exist.  And as I believe Shawn Fumo has argued from time to time, today's Chobits fan may grow up to read Cheat or other indie romance GNs in the future.  I would imagine very few of us started out reading black-and-white autobiographical comics when we were in grade school.  We were probably introduced to comics through colorful characters pounding the crap out of each other.  Later (assuming we didn't give up on comics completely) we sought out other, more mature works of sequential art (assuming our tastes evolved or expanded).

A fourth reason might be that readers growing up on manga might become creators of sequential art themselves, and because they weren't immersed almost exclusively in superheroes, they might set out to create more diverse comics.  In fact, this might already be happening:  As Shawn Fumo notes, American creators who grew up on manga and anime are now getting published as part of Tokyopop's ongoing "Rising Stars of Manga" contest, and their topics aren't all about giant robots or teen romance.  Getting newer generations of sequential art enthusiasts to think of comics in terms broader than just "superheroes, superheroes, and more superheroes" could be a very good thing for American comics.

So much for the broad, abstract point.  Now to consider a specific question Dave raised:  How is the "Amerimanga" book Death: At Death's Door doing?  I don't know if there have been any reports on bookstore sales (ICv2 noted that sales were "strong" and that it made the bookstore list of Top 50 Graphic Novel Titles; Publishers Weekly referred to it as "one of the most successful American manga-style books" and listed it as number eleven on its list of "Top-selling Graphic Novels of 2003"), but in the Direct Market sales have been good:  It was the number one graphic novel in July 2003 with estimated sales of 15,364 copies, and it showed up on the Top 50 GNs list again in August and October, with sales of 1,780 and 2,483, respectively.  (Of course, this book undoubtedly owes much of its success to the extremely loyal Sandman fan-base, but Dave wanted to know.)


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eBay Auctions (Give old comics a good home)